One night over the recent Christmas holidays I watched a movie about three drag queens with a gay man. Just the two of us. I enjoyed it. A great deal.
Okay when the movie started I wasn’t thrilled with the choice. But there were two women in the room when the movie started so I had a buffer, until they left me alone with . . . the gay man . . . watching a gay film.
As the very, very patient followers of this blog appreciate, the spirit of startingoverat55 is discovery. Reassessment of life’s changes, both in my life and in the world around me. An awareness of the gay community is one of the more striking of those changes. Growing up the son of a Marine father in a middle class blue collar New Jersey neighborhood, the only reference point of homosexuality was as a taunt delivered by cool athletic guys to geeky and too obviously sensitive unathletic guys. It wasn’t real. There weren’t really guys who did THAT. The priest didn’t rail against it in Sunday mass. Neither Democrat nor Republican found it worthy of a plank in their platforms. Even the hippies of the 60s didn’t find it an issue. There simply were no gay people until sometime in the 90s (with limited exceptions). So I thought.
Sometime around the early 90s, I was a manager in a prestigious international consulting firm; specifically in a small department specializing in a niche nurturing entrepreneurs with the objective to grow them into companies large enough for our other departments to milk large fees from them. I was proud of our ability to recruit very bright recruits from the best local colleges into our department. In particular, I was proud of our success in recruiting very bright recruits who had actual personality into our department. There were about twenty in our group. It was a tightknit department. Worked hard and enjoyed each other enough to play together. Ski trips. River rafting. The entire group attended, always. The best in what anyone could ask for in a team. One morning, hungover, I was awakened by a call from one of our staffers congratulating me on my performance the previous night. Apparently I had danced solo on a block on stage at a “progressive” local club, then been joined onstage by one of my staffers, a handsome Adonis type guy. Yeah I remembered it, so what, glad I entertained everyone. Said caller, “yes you did and it did so much for <the guy> and the rest of us”. “Okay thanks, huh, what?”
“You don’t have any idea do you?”
“Again, huh, what?”
“Certainly you noticed <the guy> always showed up to our skiing and camping trips with another guy who was equally muscular and handsome with an equal fixation on his hair.”
“Wait a minute, that guy’s . . . gay . . . no way” . . .
Fast forward a couple years. One of my fellow straight managers produces an article from this new thing called the internet. One of our other staffers – one of the smartest people I’ve ever known – for whom I had written a letter of referral to <prestigious school> law school, is identified as head of the gay student union. Holy shit. Subsequently our three man – white, straight, conservative, golfing, beer drinking, dude – management team learns that over half of our department had been gay. We hadn’t a fucking clue. We had no idea. They were among us and we had no fucking idea.
And ya know what, after considering the matter thoroughly through our conservative, golfing, beer drinking dude brains . . . what the hell. We liked them. They worked their asses off and we had fun together. JUST LIKE IF THEY WERE REGULAR GUYS.
I felt like a moron and learned a simple, what-should-have-been-obvious lesson. They are among us. Guys like me can’t always tell who they are. And it doesn’t matter. Many years have passed since and my gaydar still isn’t so good but so what. I have gay friends and others who may be. I’m not.
I wrote this yesterday and on second read a day later it seems trivial, obvious and stupid. Part of me argues to delete. But in our present world, trivial, obvious and stupid is frighteningly fashionable. Maybe some of my readers are homophobes. Maybe others are just dudes with good hearts who don’t get it. For both – as well as the guy I watched the movie with, and for me – I publish.