Originally published in the SoMA Review (http://www.somareview.com/gayoldtimewatching.cfm)
In the past, I have not been open with my friends about watching the Oscars. After all, they already know I don’t watch the Super Bowl, and well, liking the Oscars—and especially those outfits parading down the red carpet!... Well, let’s just say I didn’t want anyone to draw any unnecessary conclusions about my lifestyle.
I happen to be gay. But not in the way you think. I don’t go for guys. I just like gay things. This revelation occurred to me one night when I was standing on the porch of my house, staring at the only star visible in the Southern California sky and trying to remember what play won the Tony last year. That was when it hit me: I’m gay! It didn’t matter that men did not sexually arouse me—in fact the thought didn’t even cross my mind when I announced my gayhood to my newly liberated soul. I simply felt free at last, to care about the Tonys and the Oscars, or the latest episode of “Desperate Housewives,” or how to knit myself a pair of socks.
How to explain this to others, however, was a little more difficult. Had I been born a century or two ago, it might not have been a problem; there was a time, after all, when gay and homosexual were two very different things. One could in fact have a very queer night and there would be nothing homosexual about it. After all, Abe Lincoln slept with his best friend Joshua Speed in a double bed for four years, and wrote him intimate—by today’s standards even mushy—letters, and nobody back then had a second thought about it, especially since Lincoln was in love with one woman, married another, and went on to sire four sons. But today, since being gay means having feelings for the opposite sex, I was in a pickle. Who, exactly, was I? A straight man with gay interests—a “stray?” I almost felt that way, as if I didn’t quite have a place to call my own.
I finally concluded that I belonged to the class of The New Gay—men who exhibit all the characteristics of being gay except for the “guy-on-guy” factor. It all harkened back to those olden days of chaste brotherly affection and Victorian sentimentality that allowed men to be girls without fear of reprisal. And it all seemed very logically chic. If corduroys could go retro, why couldn’t gay? The whole idea seemed enticingly postmodern, and I couldn’t wait to test it out on my family and friends.
I first broke the news about my new lifestyle to my family. I minced no words. “Family,” I said in my most commanding voice, “I’m gay.”
“You’re a conservative Republican—you can’t be gay!” was my uncle’s response. I reminded him that I was actually a confused conservative Independent, but that made no impression. Then I tried to explain my New Gay theory.
“Already heard too much,” my cousin replied, “Please spare us the details of your lifestyle until after dinner.”
My other cousin started laughing, and soon everyone followed. Grandpa silenced the family by telling me to “Go with the women to the kitchen. The men have guy things to discuss.”
He issued the order like it was a punishment, but I was absolutely elated! The kitchen! I had always wanted to venture into this mysterious, enchanted domain while the men talked about football and such, but had restrained myself out of a sense of straight decency.
The kitchen had turned out to be everything I had imagined. The women sat around the table drinking tea and talking about gardening, romantic comedies playing at the local theater, and party themes for the baby shower they were throwing for a friend. At one point my aunt said, “I have the best gossip!”
Guys never gossiped! “Tell us! Tell us!” I egged her on. Her voice fell to a conspiratorial whisper.
“I heard that Bruce Willis is going out with a girl who just turned 18.”
Everyone giggled, especially me. I had always dreamed of having such a conversation! Then, at the height of the wonderful discourse, Grandma showed us how to crochet hot pads from yarn.
My heart leaped; it was something I had always wanted her to show me, but I had never had the courage to ask. Could it really be happening at last?
My friends took the news better than I expected. “Big shocker!” most laughed. “Been wondering how long it would take you to come out.” Friends, it turns out, usually know you’re gay before anyone else (including yourself). After one awkward night of explaining that it didn’t mean I had feelings for them, that I would not start inviting them to ballets and would not email them pictures of nude men, everything was cool.
I never imagined my new lifestyle would leave me so stress-free. I no longer had to come up with excuses for why I couldn’t go to the latest action flick movie with my guy pals. Guys would call me late at night to ask me for tips on getting a girl. My best friend called me last week to ask me for a quick synopsis of the latest Oprah book selection—it was one of the most engaging conversations we had ever had. I got so emotional that I started to cry, and he ended up hanging up on me. Another friend called to ask if I had any boyfriend connection who could help him get on “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” I told him I would ask around, and the next day he sent me a thank you gift of chocolates and bath bubbles.
Best of all were the girls. Girls I hardly knew suddenly wanted to hang out. They were eager to hug me and tell me how wonderful it was to have a “sensitive guy friend.” “If only you weren’t gay I would love you forever,” they would whisper in my ear. I was always quick to tell them I was not homosexual, just gay, but they would always be equally quick to reply that they “didn’t go for that sort of thing.”
It wasn’t long, however, before people started talking. “If he’s so gay then why doesn’t he have a boyfriend?” I tried to explain that I was gay in the non-sexual sense of the word, but no one seemed to understand this. I knew what I needed: a guy friend to whom people could point and whisper, “There’s Scott and his ‘special friend.’” So I found Tom.
I met him while waiting for a bus. You meet lots of great people waiting for a bus. It seemed like fate—the same day I realized I needed a "special friend," was the same day Tom had broken up with his lover of five years, Patrick. Destineee…when you sit down next to meee…?
Tom and I started doing all kinds of things together—movies, Gay Pride Day at Disneyland, shopping, trying exotic foods, roller-skating... He was the first guy I had ever seen an art house movie with, and he didn’t care what people thought when the two of us would sit on the beach and just talk.
I saw Tom as a friend, but unfortunately he began to view me as something more. Finally he mentioned that he thought we were a “good match” and that maybe we should get “a little more physical.” I had no problem with that—hugging was perfectly fine with me—but Tom’s idea of physical was a little more expansive.
I knew then that I had to tell him the truth. I took him to a Starbucks with lots of people.
Tom,” I said resting my hand on his shoulder, “I’m afraid you’ve misunderstood our relationship. I’m New Gay. That’s gay in all respects but the sexuality part, and I could never care for you in that way.” Tom responded by bitch slapping me and calling me a poser. Then he split, before I could tell him I still wanted to be friends. He took it harder than I expected, but then again, sometimes Tom could be such a guy.
Anyway, I’m still having a gay old time as a New Gay. I’ve learned the art of scrap booking. I officially enrolled in a step aerobics class. And I started writing poetry. I’ve never felt so alive!
Best of all, for the first time ever, I’m being invited to Oscar parties. And my male friends have been calling me up and asking who I think will win Best Actor—Heath Ledger or Philip Seymour Hoffman, two straights playing gay, something I should know all about, right?
So who cares about same sex marriages? Who cares about sex? I’m a straight guy who enjoys being a girl, and that’s really all there is to it. Pass me that crochet hook, dear.