Monday morning we all had an early breakfast and headed to the dock to board the canoes and get started. We were loaded very lightly, with only life jackets, lunch and personal packs-mainly suntan lotion, and water. We would be going two to a canoe. Of the boys that you have met so far in this story Tim, Carl, Hal, and Franklin were going. Carl was paired with another camper from his group, and Hal and Franklin were paired. Tim was going with me.
Had Hal been who he started out to be, we would have had misgivings about his ability to keep up. But Hal was changing.... I am ahead of my story. Hal would do fine, and he and Franklin would make a good team.
Tim and I headed for our canoe, and Tim hopped right in and sat in the bow seat, ready to go. He seemed excited about the trip, and I wasn't sure whether it was the canoeing-which I knew he loved-or being alone with me for the day that was exciting him. I called out to him as I approached the canoe, "You get in the stern."
"I thought you would want to paddle the stern."
"Nope, that's your job. You're the experienced canoeist."
The change seemed to please Tim, and he moved to the stern. He held the canoe steady next to the dock as I got in. I sat facing him while we waited for the other canoes to load. Soon we were ready. I shifted to face forward and we pushed off.
Tim handled the stern quite well and the canoe moved straight and fast toward the far shore where we would start the first portage. We quickly found ourselves to be the lead canoe. Tim's first question was, "Explain why you were so positive that I should be in the stern."
"OK, there are several reasons. First, that is the skilled job. It is where the camper, who is paying for the experience of being in camp should be. You will learn more, practice more-the whole nine yards."
"There is more than that, isn't there?"
"Yep. Second, I am stronger than you, based solely on my size. I am not in as good shape as you-I am certainly more overweight than I should be-but since I am a almost a foot taller and 60 or 70 pounds heavier, I have more weight and strength to put behind each stroke. Because the stern paddler spends a third or a half of this time steering, either with a "J" stroke or a rudder, putting the stronger paddler in the bow is a net gain in power."
I turned and looked toward him so that I wouldn't have to shout the last answer. I also looked around to see that our lead was large enough to insure that my comment would be private. "Finally, I am not sure that I could survive a day looking at your almost nude body, and those wonderful buns sticking out of that tiny swim suit." Having said that I wasn't sure that I should have, but it was out and there was no taking it back. But I felt that Tim had been honest with me. Incredibly honest. He deserved honesty back. And that certainly summed up my true feelings.
"What makes you think it is any easier for me to sit in the stern and watch you?"
"At least I don't have your tan and therefore must keep my shirt on most of the day."
"Score one point for you," replied Tim.
We paddled on in silence, listening to the sound of our paddles in the water, enjoying a lovely warm day that wasn't too hot-at least it wasn't too hot at this hour of the morning, but recent weather patterns suggested it wouldn't get much over 80 or 85 during the afternoon. There was a little breeze that kept the mosquitoes under control.
I know that my mind was not concentrating on the beautiful lake, the approaching portage on the far shore, nor the sounds of the paddles. It was thinking about Tim. I spent a lot of time wondering what Tim was thinking as he paddled along-with me the largest object in his field of vision. What did Tim think of me? Surely his fascination with me had to stem from the fact that I was the first gay man that he had met-at least the first one that admitted to being a gay man. I was pretty sure that he had fallen for an idea, not a person. How did I get him to see that? How could I get him to understand that a relationship, either romantic or sexual, between an adult (me, age 20) and a boy (him, age 14) was unacceptable. As was a relationship between a responsible staff person and a client camper. As was a relationship built on knowing the other person only one week. Strike three, we were both out. Forget about it. Would Tim accept that? Probably not, but he had no choice. I had to figure out how to get him to figure it out. He was smart, so was I; this could be worked out.
Bump! We hit the shore. I hopped out, lightening the front end of the canoe so that it could be pulled up further on the shore. Out hopped Tim. We sat on the shore and watched the 7 other canoes approach. Hal and Franklin were the next to arrive, but they were a good bit behind us. The others straggled in over an eight minute period. Since it was only a twenty minute paddle for Tim and I, it meant that there was quite a speed difference.
Jeff, the camp program director who was in charge of the trip, shifted a couple of kids from one canoe to another to balance their strengths, hoping to even the speeds. He thought about separating Tim and me, but couldn't decide who to move where. Besides, the dirty look he got from Tim made it clear that we were going to be separated only over Tim's dead body. Tim's response was a challenge: "I'll bet we can be the first over the portage as well."
With that he picked up my pack of food and water and tossed it to me. He put his own on, motioned to me to pick up my end of the canoe, and we heaved it upside down over our heads and started off. It was about a half mile. We easily arrived ahead of everyone-partly because we started first. Ahead of everyone except Hal and Franklin. About half way over the portage Hal jogged past us carrying two packs. A little later Franklin, carrying the canoe over his head by himself, passed us as well. We simply couldn't keep up with him.
We had arrived at The Pond, a small lake with no evident inlet or outlet. It would be a quick paddle across and then another portage to Misty Lake. As people arrived I held them, so that we would all cross The Pond together. A quick paddle took us to the next portage. We beat Franklin across this portage, because he decided to show off. He put Hal on his back and carried both Hal and the canoe over the portage. It was short, only about a quarter to a third of a mile, but I am still not sure how he did it. And he didn't seem particularly tired.
Now we were ready for our long paddle. We would go through three lakes and two connecting streams before we got to the final portage back to White Elk Lake. We expected the total time for this paddle to be about 4 ½ hours, but we weren't sure. We only had a rough estimate of the distance. Jeff indicated that Tim and I should take the lead and he would bring up the rear. All others were to stay between us. Tim and I let the others shove off first, and then we started, easily passing the other canoes.
Conversation wasn't easy with Tim facing my back, so we didn't try much. Just a few comments about the weather, canoe, the other boys, when we would stop for lunch, remarks about how far ahead we were. No talk of sexuality, romance, closets, and the like. I suspect both of us were thinking of those things, however. I know I was.
What did Tim see in me? I wasn't sure. What did I see in him? Oh, God, what didn't I? Drop dead gorgeous. Handsome? No, that's for girls to use about men. This kid was gorgeous-no other word would do. Obviously smart; his brother told me he got straight As. His conversation confirmed his intelligence. Mature? He handled our conversations about sexuality like a mature adult. He seemed more at ease with himself than I was. Athletic? Just a diver, gymnast, and trampoline artist. I had to admit that I knew nothing about his gymnastics skills, but my imagination filled in the blanks. I could just see him doing floor exercises and swinging on the parallel bars. I enjoyed the image of me lifting him up to reach the rings, and then his holding the "T" position for an interminable length of time! What didn't I see in Tim?
But where would this lead? It couldn't lead anywhere. He truly was off limits. Even if you allowed for the acceptability of love at first sight, or at least love in a week, there were still two impossible strikes against us. And I didn't think those strikes were unfair. You could argue about when the age of majority should be in matters of sexuality. But in western society, clearly 14 was underage. 20 was over. The end. The line may be arbitrary, but there had to be a line and we were on opposite sides. Couldn't get around that. I was his counselor. Couldn't get around that either. And Tim knew both of those things. Yet he didn't seem discouraged.
What about Tim's parents, Norman and Betsy? They didn't seem in the least worried about Tim and me being together, even if we were both homosexual. Was that faith in me? If so, I certainly wanted to earn that faith. But what could be the basis for that faith; they hardly knew me? Or was it an incredible faith in Tim? If it was, it seemed that their faith was misguided. I got the clear impression that Tim would jump into bed with me at the first opportunity. Or, at least, would have his hands-and maybe more-all over my genitals if I let him. But I certainly wasn't going to let him.
I looked back at the other canoes. We were too far ahead. I told Tim to put up his paddle, we would rest a few minutes and let folks catch up.
Tim set down his paddle and said, "How are we going so much faster than everyone else?"
"You are handling the stern very efficiently."
"Bullshit, it's not me, it's you. I have been watching you. You have been churning out strokes on a hard, fast count from the time we started till the time we stopped. Strong, even, deep, efficient strokes. You are a master bow paddler. That's why you wanted to be in the bow. That's your forte."
He was right, but bragging wasn't my strong suit. "OK, I have been pushing, but without skill in the stern it would be effort wasted."
"You know, some of the kids and counselors in the other canoes are strong, I can't believe that we are this far ahead. I wonder if there is another pair in the crowd that can beat us?"
"I'm sure some could with a sprint, but I am not sure any pair could beat us in the long haul."
"How about Franklin and Carl?"
"Is Carl as good in the stern as you are?"
"No, but he's good. And Franklin is very strong."
"But Franklin doesn't have canoe experience. Maybe Franklin and Jeff."
"Let's issue a challenge."
"You sure? We could easily get beat?"
"I don't think there is a pair there that can beat us."
Tim issued the challenge. It was agreed that Jeff and Franklin would pair up, and we would lead the pack together, finding out who would be fastest over the long haul. Jeff and Franklin took a quick lead, paddling very strong and hard. Tim was upset that they were ahead, and urged me to pull harder. I responded, "Keep your pace. We know we can keep this up indefinitely. I'll be they can't."
They couldn't. In about fifteen minutes they were exhausted and couldn't keep up the pace. We easily passed them. Soon we arrived at the creek to High Lake. I called another halt to regroup. Jeff and I called off all racing in the creek; we didn't want to disturb the shore or other boaters in the confined spaces. The creek was about a half mile long, and we went through it single file as a group. We now faced large, open water. It was almost a calm day, with only little waves from the breeze blowing. The lake was not so large that we were in any kind of risk leaving the shore, so we determined to take the short route up the middle of the length of High Lake. A two hour paddle.
I quietly suggested to Jeff that Carl might pair with Franklin. Jeff agreed, and traded places with Carl. Tim and I felt that we now faced our toughest competition for the lead. That turned out to be true, but they never really amounted to serious competition! It seemed that no pair in this group could keep up with us.
We stopped dead in the middle of the lake to eat lunch. As we waited for the other canoes to arrive, Tim and I had a chance to talk a little. Tim said, "I can't believe your paddling. Everyone looks at you and sees your weight in the middle and makes really false assumptions. Your stamina is incredible. And your muscles have to be incredible to keep up our speed. I am impressed."
I simply glowed inside. Praise like this from the Nordic God was incredible! I think Tim knew exactly what he was doing. Damn that kid. Too smart for his own good.
Carl and Franklin arrived ending any private conversation. Carl said, "I can't believe the two of you. Charlie, you are a Hell of a lot stronger than you look. And Tim, you handle that canoe like a master."
Another glow. Praise from the Nordic God's brother was almost as sweet as from the God himself.
Soon we were a group of 16 with 8 canoes tied together while we ate. Then back to paddling. The next stop brought Tim to the subject I was dreading. "I have fallen completely in love with you," said Tim out of the blue.
"You heard me. I wasn't completely sure until I spent the morning watching you paddle. It is not that you are incredibly good at it, though you are. It's just been watching you. I can't take my eyes off you, and in this canoe I don't have to. Your head, your back. I wish you'd take off your shirt. Your butt. I wish you'd take off your swim suit. Every part of you."
"Tim. You are crossing a boundary, and you know it."
"Yeah, I know, and I intend to stay across it."
"Tim, you can't."
"I know I can't cross a physical boundary. I guess the talk of taking off your swim suit was going too far. But I don't accept a verbal boundary."
"Tim, whether you accept a verbal boundary doesn't matter. I have no choice."
"You have an obligation to be honest with me don't you?"
"Yes, of course."
"OK. Answer me, 'Do you love me?' Wait, I'll rephrase that. Could you love me?"
I had to think about that. I decided that I would answer. "Yes."
"Ha. I knew it. OK, now, 'Do you love me?'"
"Tim, that isn't a fair question."
"I think it is a very fair question. There are three possible answers. 'Yes.' 'No.' and 'I won't answer.' If 'Yes' the conversation goes one way. If 'No' the conversation more or less ends. I'll cry myself to sleep tonight. And tomorrow night. But I'll get over it. The problem answer is 'I won't answer.'"
"Well," I said, "I won't answer."
"Ha. You have answered. If the answer was 'No' you would have said so. You would have had to in fairness to me. You would have been obligated to bring closure to this whole business. If there was any way you could honestly have answered 'No' you would have. Ergo...."
"Ergo, nothing," I said. "You are reading too much into this."
"No, I'm not. You are falling in love with me and are desperately trying to figure out where this could possibly lead. Don't deny it."
This kid was entirely too smart for his own good. Or for mine. He had me dead to rights. He knew it. I knew it. We both knew the other knew it. Where to go from here?
Tim continued, "You haven't denied it, have you?"
Thank God Carl and Franklin came into hearing range and the conversation ended. At least I had never said, "I love you." to him.
Carl immediately sensed something electric in the air. Franklin did too.
"You guys fighting?" asked Carl.
"Not fighting," said Franklin. "But I think they are upset with each other. Would you like us to get out of the way?"
"No," Tim said. "You are partly right, and we need a breather. And, no, it is none of your business."
"I didn't ask a thing," said Carl.
"No, but you wanted to," said Tim. I haven't been your brother for fourteen years not to know of your abnormal curiosity level."
"Shit," said Carl.
Others joined us, but didn't pick up on the level of tension in the air.
For the next half hour I slowed our pace and Carl and Franklin paddled side by side with us. They had given up trying to spring ahead and tire themselves out without being able to stay ahead. It killed the conversation between Tim and me, and gave me a chance to think. I suspect that Tim's mind was racing as well.
As I saw it, I had three choices. First, and probably best, would be for me to simply deny any affection for Tim. That would mean lying to him. A white lie? Was their such a thing as a white lie? I didn't know. But I was totally uncomfortable lying to Tim. I pretty much had to rule out this choice.
Second, I could admit my feelings and simply tell Tim that they were inappropriate and had to end. And then stick to it. But how to get Tim to stick to it? He simply wouldn't. Choice two was probably the only way to go, but it didn't look to me like it was going to bring any kind of closure.
Third, I could admit my feelings, and try to explore what that meant for Tim and me in our present situation and ages. Clearly Tim was ready to explore this, but I hadn't the slightest idea what he had in mind.
At the next chance I decided to bring Tim into the equation. I laid out my three choices, saying that I had too much respect and feeling for him to lie to him, so option one was out.
He thought for a while and said, "Let's just explore option three. You don't have to put anything on the table. Don't admit to anything. Let's just pose the hypothesis: Charlie and Tim are madly in love; where do they go from there?"
"Nowhere," I said.
"No, not nowhere, it has to be somewhere. We need to explore where."
"Tim you are setting yourself up for a terrible fall. Going anywhere with this means doing nothing about it for four years, until you are eighteen. Not to mention what your parents or the camp would think. But put that aside for a minute. Four years in which you are going to meet other boys, including gay boys out of the closet, and either you are going to cheat yourself out of wonderful experiences, and perhaps the perfect partner, or you are going to abandon your love for me with a huge sense of guilt. It is a perfect set-up for disaster."
"Point well taken. But wrong. I am in love. As they say, 'You'll know it when you see it.' I saw it the day I arrived. It was furthered by the conversations we had. Today I know for sure. Believe me: For sure."
"You can't be sure."
"Who know's what 'sure' means. But as far as the human mind can be sure, I am sure. That, to me, is what love means. Yes, I want to meet other gay boys. I am eager to. Sex with them? I don't know. We would have to talk about what a commitment to each other meant. But romance, love, with them. No. I love you."
"Tim, I simply can't let this go forward. I have allowed us to cross a boundary, and we have to pull back."
"I mean it. Bullshit. This is love, romance, you and me, not some set of rules."
"The rules are not unreasonable. I affirm them. I agree with them. And I have agreed to abide by them. I must, and I will."
"Talk is not against the rules."
"This talk is."
"Love is not wrong. Physical sex may be. Not love. I love you."
"God, Tim, I love you too. But we can't go there."
"We already have."
"We have to come back."
"Yes, you can. And I can."
"Bullshit is the word you use when you know you have been defeated, but aren't willing to admit defeat."
"That's right. Bullshit."
Others were coming into earshot. The trip was coming to an end. We were approaching the last portage-back into White Elk Lake. Our conversation was over-for now. But clearly, it couldn't end with 'Bullshit.'"
The next four days were Hell. I had several talks with Tim, and none got further than 'Bullshit.' I was beginning to wonder if Tim was right, the boundary was 'Bullshit.' Luckily, Tim never crossed the physical boundary. No inappropriate touching, no kissing, no suggestions in that regard.
Tim was, however, a very sexual animal. He did strip teases as he changed into and out of his suit. He mooned us frequently. In the cabin with just our group, he would pull his shorts down part way and scratch his balls. What a tease. It drove me crazy. And he damn well knew it. But it was always aimed at fellow campers, never at me.
He often managed to instigate his favorite chase game, and it became clear to everyone that the prize was pulling off his shorts or swimsuit. Finally, Carl organized the right three-man team to chase him and they were ready when one afternoon he tweaked Franklin's butt and was off in a flash. Franklin lumbered after him, but instead of catching up he let the chase go a while. Carl and Jim, our wrestler, moved into the two wing positions. Tim saw this, and that Carl was calling the signals, and he knew he was beaten-I don't think he was unhappy. Franklin poured on speed, Tim cut right-the side away from Carl-and almost bumped into the waiting arms of Jim. Who took him down to the ground immediately. Franklin came up slowly and picked Tim up with the greatest of ease. He threw him over his shoulder and made for the center of camp. There he was unceremoniously dumped on the ground and Franklin and Jim methodically removed his clothing-what there was of it. His shirt, shoes, shorts, and Jockeys were immediately handed out to the others in the group. Then Franklin smacked his butt, pretty hard, and said, "Chase."
Tim was off like a shot. But now most of the camp was gathered around and there was no place for him to go. He didn't try very hard. Soon he was back down on the ground and several boys were tickling his ribs, and feeling his dick and balls rather thoroughly. Paul and I watched from a distance, wondering how far we should let this play out. Then Franklin stepped into the middle, picked up Tim again, threw him over his shoulder and marched him to the lake and tossed him in. Franklin then announced that Tim had free passage back to the cabin, the game was over. Franklin's sense of timing was wonderful. Another minute or too and things would have been out of hand, but he stopped just on the safe side of the line.
Tim went back to the cabin, pulled on clean clothes, laid on the bed, and could hardly stop laughing. It was clearly what he had been waiting, and wishing, for-for at least a week!
Meanwhile, I was spending nights trying to figure out what to say to Tim as camp ended. Friday we had what might prove to be our last conversation. It was very brief. Before I could say much of anything Tim spoke. "I love you. I know you love me. I know we haven't been able to make any sense of it for a week. Now I am going to have to trust you. I called my folks on the phone this afternoon and asked them not to get here until after lunch. Everybody else will be gone before lunch. Right after lunch we can talk. Alone. But I am not going to talk. I have said everything I know to say. You know how I feel. Don't you dare say I am too little or too young or too immature to know what I am saying. It's real. It's mature. It's love. But not all love is meant to be. I know that. Tomorrow, you must tell me where we stand. I leave it in your hands. I don't know where else to leave it. I love you and I trust you."
With that he was gone. Back to the cabin. I knew he was going to have a lonely, troubled night. He knew the time for argument and discussion was over. Time was running out. We had both said our share of truth and Bullshit. Now it was up to me. I had always been in control: as the older, and as the counselor, I could have stopped any of the conversations, but I didn't. Sure, I had the excuse that his parents wanted me to "talk" to him. But they didn't say "love" him. But I did. I couldn't avoid that. I hadn't stopped the conversations. They had continued. I had allowed him to be my partner on the canoe trip. I didn't have to do that: I could have said that Hal needed my time. Shit, I had probably been a pretty poor counselor to the others, though they seemed to be having a good time, and certainly liked me.
So now I had the night before me to figure out what I would say to Tim. Would I end it? Should I? Well, yes, of course, that was pretty obvious. Could I? That was tougher. Was there some middle ground that would allow me to be true to both my emotions and my morals? What was it? I didn't know. Sleep finally overtook me. I am sure that both Tim and I slept very little that Friday night. I heard him toss, and I am sure he heard me. But no words passed. My temptation to go over and touch him-my mind considered both appropriate places and inappropriate ones-was resisted. The night passed.
Morning brought the beginning of an idea. As the morning progressed, it became more formed. As I said goodbye to each of the campers, it became more clear. It was with great reluctance that I said goodby to Franklin. He had been a rock. A truly wonderful young man. Had he been older; had Tim not been there.... His parents got into the car and were waiting for him to get in. He started to, then paused and said, "Mom, Dad, just a minute."
He looked toward me and pulled me aside. He then floored me with, "Good luck, Charlie. You and Tim are great together. Yeah, I'm gay too. Bye. Keep in touch." And he was in the car and gone.
I was frozen to the ground. You could have driven me in like a tent stake if you had a big enough hammer. What had he guessed? Who had told him what? Who else had guessed? I didn't know. But I had learned to trust Franklin and his judgement. I sensed that I had nothing to fear from this huge, loveable boy. And now I knew just how loveable he was. And I had missed it.
Saying goodbye to the others was difficult, but not like that. Tom had been wonderful. Ronnie was still a loner, but a good kid. Jim was the one I wished I had gotten to know better, but he had found a good friend in Andy, and in fact they were going home together and would spend a week vacationing together with Jim's parents. Hal was almost a new boy, but that is another story.
Only Tim was left. It was time for our little talk. We went for a walk, for this first time into the woods where it was secluded and we could be alone and private. With the campers gone we were certain not to be disturbed. Stop your dirty minds, that was never on my mind or in the cards. Wait, that's a lie. It was always on my mind. But actually doing it wasn't.
Tim didn't speak, clearly waiting for me. It was all up to me. Could I be faithful to love and to the morals I understood and professed? I would try.
"Tim, I can't deny I love you. Love can't be explained, and I have given up trying to figure it out. I don't understand how or why you love me, but I have to accept that. I accept that you truly believe it. And I know you to be a pretty mature fourteen year old. So we will start with those two facts as a given. Right or wrong, they become our hypothesis."
"Thank you for having faith in my ability to know my own love. Many people wouldn't give that much credit to a teenager."
"After two weeks together, regardless of our ages, and regardless of our relationship as camper and counselor, we cannot make a commitment to each other. I refuse to make one to you, and I refuse to accept one from you."
"No. Listen. Just listen. I will make two smaller commitments to you, if you will make two to me."
"First, I will commit to tell you if my love for you ends. If I fall in love with someone else I will tell you before I do anything about it. If I come to not be able to say, 'I love you, Tim' as I go to sleep at night, I will tell you. That I promise. I can't promise a commitment beyond that. We need to see if our love can survive. If it doesn't we need to be honest with each other. And sooner, not later."
"OK, I will make the same promise. But where do we go from here?"
"Nowhere. You are fourteen and I am twenty. It goes nowhere for four years."
"I'll be eighteen in three and a half years."
"OK, three and a half. We don't see each other. We don't' talk on the telephone. We love our memories."
"No, here is the deal. My second commitment. If you commit to writing me one letter each month, I will commit to answering it."
"We have other things to do in life. We could get into the rut of writing every day. With nothing to say. Wasting time. No, one letter a month."
"And my commitment?"
"To write once a month and only once a month, unless or until one of your letters says the love affair is over."
"And in three and a half years?"
"We celebrate your 18th birthday together. I won't be your counselor. You won't be a child. We will decide then where we go from there. You will be eighteen, and I will be twenty-four. You will still be in high school, I will be out of college with a job. There will still be a world between us. But the decisions we make will be ours. The outside world may have opinions, but we will be morally free to make our own decisions. That is what being an adult means. Can you wait?"
"Do I have a choice?"
"Of course. We can say goodbye this afternoon, cry ourselves to sleep tonight, and tomorrow will be a new day."
"I love you, Charlie. I can wait. I will wait."
"No commitments. Tim, except to be honest with each other. You are not committing to forty months of celibacy, not forty months of loneliness, not forty months of anything. I don't want you to pine away for me for forty months. Date. Find a boy. Explore him sexually. Become a man. But no secrets from me. If you fall in love with him, tell me. And I will do the same for you. In forty months, who knows?"
"Charlie, it is the best deal I could be offered. It is far better than my wildest dreams. Thank you. I love you."
And I kissed him. Hard. On the lips. I figured that I hadn't crossed the boundary. Just moved it a little. Our tongues didn't touch.
A fellow IOMFATS author very kindly read the first few chapters of this story and made helpful comments, as well as pointing out stupid mistakes! His most serious comment was to question whether or not Charlie's magic age of 18 was an anachronism. The following note gives some technical background on the age question. If you weren't bothered by Charlie's choice off the age of 18 for the story, then this note is not for you.
The laws of the states in the United States vary and varied a great deal. In Michigan, the locale of Camp White Elk, the age of majority was 21 until it was lowered to 18 in 1971. The age of [sexual consent] was 13, unless the sexual relationship involved family or a position of authority, such as Charlie's counselor position. In that case the age of consent was 16. In some states that age varied for boys and girls (lower of girls), but not in Michigan.
Michigan had no law against physical homosexual relations unless anal intercourse was involved.
Of course, this story involves a number of states, and to look at the laws in all of them seems pointless. Of much more importance in the United States is not the letter of the law but the reality of enforcement. Rarely, except if very conservative locales, were sodomy laws enforced in this period, except for people caught in public parks and rest rooms, or people caught soliciting. Private, consensual homosexual relations, in homes or other private places, rarely, if ever in most locales, led to police involvement, and still more rarely with prosecution.
The facts change somewhat when the sexual relationship involves an adult with a child. Even if the legal status is the same, American society is very hostile to adult-child sex, and it is likely to be prosecuted using whatever laws are available, including ones that are not ordinarily enforced.
Charlie is quite right to beware of sexual relations with a child under 18. Under most laws the legal status of such relations would not have changed on Tim's eighteenth birthday, but the likelihood of Charlie running afoul of the law would dramatically decrease as Tim became and adult, and there was a growing tendency in America in the 1960s to think of 18 as adulthood, thought that became the legal situation in Michigan in 1971.
The federal Mann Act would have made taking Tim across a state line for sexual purposes a federal crime until Tim was age 18. And that law was enforced, regardless of gender.
Charlie, of course, is basing his actions on both a moral and legal basis. I believe that the original ages of 20 and 14 would have made a sexual relationship both immoral and prosecutable. Charlie would have been on firmer legal ground in the 1960s if he had chosen the age 21 for Tim, but it would have ruined the story! However, I do believe that Charlie was pretty safe, though not 100% safe, in choosing age 18.
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