I Don’t Believe It!
“Well, it’s true. I’m gay and so are my friends.”
That was the start of what turned into a fifteen minute conversation at a restaurant bar a few weeks ago. Prime Timers of South Florida, an organization which bills itself as “…for mature gay men and those who admire them” was having its monthly dinner meeting, this time, at the Fifth Avenue Grill in Lighthouse Point. I arrived a bit ahead of the scheduled dinner and joined several other Prime Timers in the bar. To my amazement a good Manhattan was only four-fifty. It was still happy hour.
As our foursome left the bar to enter the dining room, a frizzy haired middle aged blond in a billowy white top and dark slacks sitting at the end of the bar, grabbed my arm. “What’s with the name tags?” she questioned. Her male companion-escort-husband, or significant other, remained silent.
I’d forgotten I was wearing a name tag, but I responded, “It’s the monthly dinner meeting of the Prime Timers and we always wear name tags. At my age I sometimes have trouble remembering my own name, so the tag helps.”
“Prime Timers? What’s that? Do you come here for aged steaks?”
“We are aged steaks,” I replied. “Actually, Prime Timers is a group of gay old farts and we get together to enjoy dinner, tennis, movies, a whole variety of activities.” That’s what led to her saying, “I don’t believe it.” My friends and I spent another fifteen minutes in the bar trying to convince Blondie and her man that we were gay. Repeatedly, she said, “You’re pulling my leg; you’re joking.”
When I told her I’d been married for thirty-five years and have been with my male partner now for twenty-two years, her jaw dropped. She said, “Now I know you’re lying. Why would anyone in their right mind divorce after thirty-five years together?”
“You can reverse the question,” I said, “and ask why would anyone who is gay stay in a straight marriage for thirty-five years? But it’ll take more than one Manhattan to fill you in on that scenario.”
“I still don’t believe you’re telling me the truth.”
“You know what I believe?” I smiled. “I believe my steak is turning into charred shoe leather as we speak.” We headed into the dining room and I added, “Have a good evening.”
“You know?” one of my friends offered, “If you’d gone to your car and come back wearing a pink boa she might have believed you.”
“That’s the crux of the problem. I don’t own a pink boa, or any boa. She might not believe that either. Her stereotype is that all gays are effeminate and swish—the drag queen type. None of us at the bar fit her mold.”
“And stereotypes are just another form of assumption,” my friend observed. Sooner or later the ass part of assumption dominates.”
My steak really wasn’t charred and, since I rarely eat steak, it was a treat. But as I left the Fifth Avenue Grill my mind mulled over my bar encounter. Perhaps the interchange had modified the opinion of Blondie and her associate as to who and what gays are, or perhaps it hadn’t. Perhaps she was still in a state of disbelief.
But I was aware in the few minutes we were together at the bar how important it is for all of us who are gay to be out of the closet and proud, day in and day out. Gay Pride should never be a season or an event. It’s a life-long adventure. It’s a part of who I am and how I behave for the sake of all the Blondie’s in the world, and for myself.
John Siegfried, a former Rehoboth resident, lives in Ft. Lauderdale. His newly published book, Gray & Gay: A Journey of Self-acceptance, is available from Amazon.com. CAMP Rehoboth will host a book-signing party on Sunday, October 2. Email John Siegfried