is the last place a person would expect to meet a flamboyant gay man, let alone get hit on by one. Redneck Pub has NFL pennants, NASCAR decals, a pool table and dartboard, Vietnam POW-MIA drapings, live country bands and a dance floor, and a steady diet of Michelob Ultra, Miller Lite, and Budweiser. Yet on Friday, the unwanted advances of a gay man are exactly what happened.
I went to Redneck’s with my friend Angela. I was the designated driver, but at the start, I still had fun. We even played darts with a couple of locals. Soon, the monotony of middle-aged mustachioed men was delightfully disrupted by the entrance of the most beautiful woman I have seen to date in my year and a half living in the North Country.
If I were a romance novelist, I’d give a metaphor-filled description, starting with, “Her flowing curly blond locks radiated…” But I am terrible at describing, so I will break the unwritten bad writer no-no by comparing her to a celebrity. I will just say, “She was in her early 20’s, and looked kind of like Taylor Swift, and just as beautiful.”
She walked in with her slightly less hot, but still very attractive, female friend (no problem there). But right behind followed their two good looking mid 20’s male companions (darn!). No sooner did I glimpse her, than I got tapped on the shoulder by a man who looked like Al Franken. “Al” (not his real name, but I will call him “Al” for anonymity purposes), was very friendly and very flamboyant. He talked like Stuart Smalley. He introduced me to the man and woman standing with him. They were not with him, just people he’d met, like me. I though, ‘Okay, he’s a friendly gay man introducing himself to everyone since he likes to make conversation. No problem.’
My mind (and my steady shifting glances) was still on the curly blond haired beauty. To my delight, Al called her over. “Come here. I just HAVE to talk to you.”
The conversation was interesting. “You know, you’re gorgeous, right?”…“I LOVE that jacket! I designed it myself!”
She responded to his compliments with head nods, thank you’s, and delighted (‘delight’ and its variations will be my overused word for this essay) blushes that augmented her natural beauty.
Al introduced “Taylor” (what I shall call her for purposes of anonymity) to me and the others in our group. ‘This is great,’ I thought. ‘The gay man is going to help me talk to the pretty girl. Too bad she is with those guys over there, but it’s always good to get practice talking to beautiful women, whether they are available or not.’
Of course, I wasn’t sure what to say. ‘So, you come here often?’ roamed through my head, until I quickly swatted that pathetic cliché out of my mind. ‘Are you from here?’ wouldn’t work either, since she already told Al she lived in Ogdensburg. Like I usually do, I froze up, didn’t know what to say, so I just said, “Hi, I’m Sean,” and smiled.
Then, Al re-grabbed the reins of the conversation and took things in a great direction. He asked Taylor, “So which one of those pieces of man-candy are you with?”
“None of them,” said Taylor. “I’m single. They aren’t my type.”
“We need to talk,” said Al. Al and Taylor went off to chat, and I went to the bathroom. I played some more darts with my friend Angela and the locals. Soon, Al came strolling over. He asked me about my hair, what I did with it, complimented me on it, and even suggested where I should go to get it cut and styled. He even asked me how old he looked, and since he was acting like a middle aged woman, I treated him like one, and gave him friendly compliments, just like I would to placate a middle aged woman. “You can’t be older than 35,” I said, even though it was obvious he was in his 40’s.
“I’m 49!” he said.
I thought to myself, ‘this is fun. He noticed me glancing over at Taylor, and he came over to help me out. He’s going to be my “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” helper. He’s giving me style tips so I can go talk to Taylor.’ And, I certainly needed all the style tips I could use, seeing as a pack of 20-something-year-old meatheads swarmed around Taylor, all vying for attention. I had one of those jungle kingdom flashbacks, just like Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls. If I was going to break through the lion pack and assert myself as King of the Jungle, I had better listen to Al and play along.
“Have you ever heard of this restaurant in Potsdam?” asked Al. “It has nice Italian food, a great wine selection, and a full Starbuck’s coffee bar.”
‘Wow, what a nice guy,’ I thought. ‘He’s even giving me dating suggestions.’ ‘Gay guys have so much style, it’s a good thing they aren’t into girls,’ my thoughts continued, ‘or we straight guys would never get any dates with the ladies.’
“So, you wanna go sometime?” asked Al. Wow! That question was a huge sucker punch to my naiveté. I just gave him a blank stare.
It got worse. He put his hand on my arm and said, “Ooh! Do you work out?”
I bluntly said, “No.” My mind started going into hyper-drive. ‘What did I do wrong? How could I have possibly led this man on? Do I exude Gay-Dar? Do I really need to wear a “Do Not Enter” sign on my back just above my pants? Did I make a mistake—is the name of this bar not “Redneck’s” but “Bathhouse”?’
Now, I’ve always thought of myself as tolerant. Yes, my beliefs on dating are similar to the teachings of my Catholic faith. But, I am against gay bashing. I am against employment discrimination. I think “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” should be abolished and gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military. I think gay and lesbians should be able to do anything they want in their personal life, free from state interference. And, just as I would never judge or condemn a straight couple living together outside of marriage, even though I believe it is wrong, I would never dream of judging gays in person, no matter my personal beliefs on the lifestyle. I believe gay couples should receive government benefits, even if I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.
I had never before thought of myself as homophobic. I had always enjoyed meeting gay men and lesbians. I had always found gay flamboyance (and—yes—I know not all gays are flamboyant. Probably most aren’t. I’m just saying…) entertaining. But, I had never been hit on before. I was uncomfortable and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to just come out and say, ‘I am into women,’ because, maybe he really wasn’t hitting on me (maybe he just wanted to make a new friend. Doubtful, but still…), and that would be interpreted as awkward and rude. Also, I had already told him my age (27). I thought it was creepy that someone 22 years older than me—someone old enough to be my parent!—was hitting on me. I mean, “middle-aged-man” is the exact opposite category from the type of people I am attracted to. I like 20 to 30 year old women.
If I were a woman, it would have been perfectly socially acceptable to flat out say, ‘you’re a creepy old man. Get away from me.’ But if I said that, it could come across as homophobic. So, I couldn’t just tell the truth—I am straight—since it might come across as awkward. I couldn’t point out the creepiness of the age dynamic since that might be interpreted as a homophobic excuse. And, I couldn’t lie and tell him that my friend Angela and I are dating, since I had already told him that Angela and I are just friends.
If Taylor, the beautiful curly haired blond, was not there, I would have lied and said Angela was my girlfriend. But I was hoping for the chance to talk to Taylor, so I had told the truth. Since I was the designated driver, I played that up and said I needed to get going, and after awhile, Angela and I were finally able to escape Al’s conversation and fake pouting at my reticience towards his advances, and we left without me getting the chance to talk to Taylor (who was still surrounded by the herd of every twenty-something male in the bar).
I am not a redneck gay basher. I am also not a 21st century enlightened tolerant man. I am probably smack dab in the middle, the embodiment of Seinfeld’s comment on gays, “…not that there’s anything wrong with that.” I am a typical male who tries to be tolerant and open minded, but is still slightly uncomfortable around gay men. I realize the flaw lies with me. But on the bright side, I used to always get made fun of in high school for wearing mismatching clothes. This proves my fashion sense most certainly has improved since then.*Name of the bar changed for purposes of anonymity AND to give a better picture of the environment.