Sissy Sisters

I asked my best friend and roommate from 1991-2003, Jim Westerland, to write a blog entry about his perception of my book and living with me during the height of my OCD and paraphilia. Here is what he had to share:

I met Dennis in 1986 when we were both theatre majors at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. I think it was probably inevitable that we become friends. We shared similar experiences growing up. We were both sissies and were teased a lot about it by other kids at school, some of our teachers, and even family members. However, there were some big differences. With me, it stopped at teasing; with Dennis, it escalated into abuse, both physical and emotional. Neither of our parents really understood us as children, but I think Dennis’ parents were truly concerned and confused by his behavior. I think they cared about him deeply, but they just didn’t know what to make of him. Dennis has said that he loved his parents, but had absolutely nothing in common with them. And that’s absolutely true.

When we first met, I “scared” him because I was so … let’s say gregarious. The first time I remember speaking to him, I complimented him on a costume he had designed. He got that deer-in-the-headlights look on his face and shyly mumbled, “Thanks.” I later learned that he was married (MARRIED?) and I didn’t believe it. I’m surprised I didn’t write him off as a hopeless closet case right then and there, but I must have seen a spark of something promising, and I pursued a friendship with him which has lasted to this day.

Dennis divorced his wife and came out of the closet by 1988. College ended, and we both went our separate ways, (literally, he went east, and I went west). But we stayed in touch. Then in 1991 Dennis left Chapel Hill, NC, where he had been working, and moved in with me in Seattle. We were roommates for 12 years, and that’s when I really got to know the real him. We had been living together for several years when he first admitted his attraction to cutting other men’s hair. I had heard of haircut fetishes before, so I didn’t find it too terribly shocking. What I did find shocking was the fact that Dennis was so very much embarrassed and ashamed by it.

Dennis went through a lot coming to terms with his need to cut men’s hair and his OCD. He went through some really dark times, but with the help of some counseling and some appropriate medications, he was able to pull himself together.

I was surprised in 2000 when he told me he had written a book about it, titled “Can I Cut Your Hair? Memoirs of a Paraphiliac”. If I was surprised he had written the book, I was flabbergasted when he told me that he intended to publish it. This from the man who less than ten years before had barely been able to tell me, his most trusted friend, that he was aroused cutting guys’ hair. Now he was going to publish a book and tell the world, his coworkers, his employers.

He asked me to read it, and give him some feedback. He told a lot in that book — A LOT more than I thought he would — but it wasn’t really the whole story, and maybe that was the problem (he barely addressed being molested, being bullied or being married in the books first incarnation). He shopped it around for a while, looking for a publisher, but no one seemed interested at that time. After a while, he sort of let the idea of the book drop.

There was some mumblings of adapting it for the stage. Then, about a year ago, he pulled the old manuscript out and revamped it, telling his WHOLE story. Again he asked me to read through it, and I did, offering a lot of suggestions between the laughter and a few tears. There were a few things in the new version that I had no idea about, despite our long friendship. For example, he had never told me (or anyone else, for that matter) about his imaginary friend, “Stefeny Calvert”, and the chapter titled “The Triangle” was a complete shock to me. I never knew how desperate he had become, even though we were living under the same roof at the time.

Although Dennis moved out in 2003, we still talk on the phone at least every other day, and we see each other all the time. He’s certainly come a long way from the shy boy who could barely look me in the eye in 1986. It is amazing that there is a play and a book about his struggles … and I am a character in both.

About Dennis

Dennis Milam Bensie’s poem “Eight Ball” was published in Greater National Society of Poets, Inc in 1980 when he was a freshman in high school. It was featured thirty years later in his memoir, Shorn: Toys to Men. His short stories, poetry and essays have been featured all over the web and in print. His second book, One Gay American, was chosen as a finalist in both the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the Indie Excellence Book Awards. His latest book Flit: A Poetry Mashup of Classic Literature has been featured in Kolaj Magazine and was a part of Tribe Magazine’s “Anti-Shame Week”. The author has been a presenter at the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans and at Montana’s very first gay pride festival.
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