Friday, December 15, 2006

the big old gay post

This is the third in an occasional series: Reader Requests. The indefatigable Hughman has requested that the Drunken Housewife write about gayness, which could mean retelling humorous anecdotes about Gay People I Have Interacted With In A Hilarious Way, or, more seriously, talking about educating my children about gayness, and in the event, I'll attempt a little of both.

As Hughman could discern from between the lines, the Drunken Housewife has a big ol' fag hag streak. I like the gay male culture (I'm differentiating here between mainstream gay male culture, which I am somewhat immersed in as I live in the Castro in San Francisco, which pretty much sets the pace for gay men around the world, and mainstream lesbian culture, which is much less in-yer-face. There aren't so many lesbian bars, lesbian nightclubs, lesbian t-shirt stores, lesbian restaurants, etc...).

In college, I had an openly gay friend who was one of my closest companions (he now works for "The Amazing Race", which was one of my all-time favorite shows even before I found out my beloved college friend was on the staff). I also briefly and frustratingly dated a very hunky and adorable guy who was sort of the Universal Object of Desire. That didn't work out, but we still are friends, although he's a lousy correspondent (as students, we both worked at an NPR station in Boston, which hired both of us full-time after graduation. I left after a year, but he's still there, now working on nationally syndicated radio shows).

Several years after graduation the Universal Object of Desire came to San Francisco a few times. Once he came with a friend and stayed at my apt., where I then lived with Husband 1.0. We hooked up with another, now openly gay, college friend who'd also worked at the radio station and moved to SF (sidenote: I was puzzled in college that this other friend had not asked me out, and when a few years later I walked past the Dolores Park tennis courts and saw him playing tennis with a hunky gay guy, I instantly thought, "Oh, so THAT'S why he didn't ask me out." And another sidenote, if you're puzzled about why I was puzzled over a given man's lack of pursuit, you'll have to ask me later about my college years. I was one of the belles of Boston University, and no one would have predicted that I'd end up a frumpy, Drunken Housewife). At the time, I was leading sort of a lame double life: during the days, I put on conservative business suits and went to work at a large law firm, hiding my piercings and tattoos, and during the nights and weekends, Husband 1.0 and I led a funkier, grungier existence, associating mainly with SM friends and going to shooting ranges for recreation. During this visit, the Universal Object of Desire was the inadvertent cause of a huge fight between the other gay college friend and his boyfriend, as the old gay college friend was talking at dinner about how "I used to always think I could really see myself settling down with" the Universal Object of Desire, and we were reminiscing about how everyone had had crushes on him.

After this visit, the Universal Object of Desire wrote us a letter, saying that he was coming out of the closet. Visiting us and seeing how I led my adult life, not being afraid, supposedly inspired him to do this. This was very hard for him, because he'd been raised by a very close, very conservative Catholic family (we used to sit together at mass in college; although I was never Catholic, I used to go to mass at B.U. because it suited me better than the Protestant services and I had various Catholic friends). I felt after he came out that we could have a full, authentic friendship, without any weird blank areas.

Anyhow, I am myself not homophobic (if anything, I'm predisposed to like an openly gay person). When I was pregnant, I said, "If I have a son, I hope he's a drag queen, so we can go shopping together." I ended up having two girls, and one of them is an illustration of how sexual orientation is something you're born with (the other one is more of a mystery in this way). Iris is a straight girl, all right (sidenote: her middle name, "Alison", is in honor of amazingly talented lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel). She has had incredibly strong crushes on boys and adult men from phenomenally early ages. She was the five year old femme fatale of pre-k, going after one little boy and, after winning his affections, moving on to another, who ended up proposing to her on a field trip. (I was engaged at age four myself to an older boy who lived down the street). One of my mommy friends said to me, after seeing the normally quiet Iris acting up around her cute, beloved gymnastics teacher in order to get his attention, "You better put that girl on birth control the moment she turns 13." (Anton was appalled by that. He says loudly and often that he doesn't want the girls to engage in any premarital sex. My sarcastic response? "Oh, that was certainly one of your core values when I met you." He propositioned me on our first date).

I assumed that raising our children on the fringes of the Castro was all I needed to do to educate them about gay people and ensure they were not homophobic or ill-behaved. After all, we have gay neighbors all about us (we adore our next-door neighbors, a gay couple who have been together now for a mind-boggling 25 years; that's mind-boggling as they are only in their forties. They met in college and lived happily enough ever after). Lola's preschool has so many lesbian families that she and I once engaged in a spirited debate about whether one little playmate had two mommies or a mommy/daddy set. (There are so many lesbian families in the San Francisco upper middle class-lower upper class circles we travel in, that one lesbian mommy friend reported to me that on a school tour, she was told firmly by the director that being a lesbian does not count towards increasing the school's diversity; "There are so many lesbian family applicants that we can't just admit all of them.").

But then I was shocked one day when after kindergarten, I heard Iris call someone "gay" as a put-down. I immediately called her on it. "How can you say that like it's a bad thing?" I reminded her of various gay people we know and love and asked her if she thought they were so bad that saying someone was like them would be a good insult. She seemed to get my point, but she also seemed to want to cling to the word "gay" as a put-down.

At the time, I was volunteering in the school library, and I ran into the lower school's glamorous art teacher, who is incidentally an out lesbian. (There is a rumor among the parents that she is dating k.d. lang, who was supposedly spotted as the teacher's date at a school function). I shamefacedly told the art teacher about this recent, shocking-to-me event and asked for advice. She told me that Iris had undoubtedly picked this up at school and that the girls did use this as a put-down. The art teacher, who keeps a picture of herself with a girlfriend (I resisted the urge to ask if it was k.d. lang) on her desk, calls the girls on this homophobic talk. She told me that she'll say to the girls, "You know I'm gay" when she hears this, and they never know how to respond. It makes them realize that this slur hurts real people's feelings, and indeed, since this art teacher herself is an object of great admiration the girls must feel ashamed. Coincidentally the art teacher was in the library at that moment because she was asking that copies of "And Tango Makes Three" be ordered, and she learned about that infamous gay penguin picture book because Iris brought a copy to school. (This book is a beautifully illustrated account of how some gay penguins in the New York zoo were given an orphaned egg, and they hatched it out and raised the baby. The book leaves out that later one of the gay penguins dumped his gay mate and took up with a lady penguin hussy. Iris saw it in the gay bookstore in the Castro and asked for it, and I bought it for her because I can never resist her when she asks for a book and also because it is a beautiful book).

So anyhow, even raising a child in the epicenter of gay culture, naming her in part after a lesbian artist, and buying her "And Tango Makes Three" doesn't ensure that she'll always be a paragon of politically correct behavior. I haven't heard the word "gay" used as a slam since then, so hopefully that episode has concluded. Indeed, at the end of her kindergarten year, Iris announced that when she grew up, she wanted to have a girlfriend like her art teacher has a girlfriend, and she wanted that girlfriend to be a triplet (this is undoubtedly because one of our next door neighbors is one of triplets, a fact fascinating to Iris and me). I'm not expecting her to bring home any cute triplet dykes anytime soon, though, given her overtly heterosexual behavior from babyhood. Also, I'm suspecting that it could be hard to find just the right lesbian triplet.


the Drunken Housewife said...

The next time you run into k.d. lang, Hughman, ask her if she's dating Ms. Herman from San Francisco!

Anonymous said...

A comment on your dicta:

"upper middle class?" "lower upper class?"

Here, let me help: Upper class.

That's it. Don't feel bad. It's ok--I come from an upper class background myself and seem none the worse for wear. OK, a little the worse for wear. But the fact is that anyone seeking to differentiate so nicely is upper class to begin with. True, there are a few orbits even further out in the stratosphere, but you've got to be upper class in the first place for the distinctions to be meaningful in the least. To the rest of the world, it's a distinction without a difference.

I like your blog.

Anonymous said...

i can get the class distinction.

upper middle class = private school
lower middle class = pubic school or private school with a struggle

i grew up with a lower middle class background and an upper middle class trust fund. meaning when i was in school, i always knew i was the poorest.

i feel class is important only when you're npt in the upper.

but that's just me.

the Drunken Housewife said...

Why do I say "upper-middle-class/lower-upper-class" ? Because we're technically in the upper class due to our household income, but we are certainly not rich. Why? Because we are a special kind of poor known as "house poor." We pay a ton of money for our house, and we sometimes (for whole years at times) live beyond our means.

I'm originally from the lower middle-class; my father was out right poor growing up. I have relatives who have been on welfare and who have lived in trailers. My husband is from a wealthy background; his mother has NEVER worked for a living (first she lived off a rich father, then a rich husband). My poor husband never worried about money until he married me and suddenly had a pregnant wife and a mortgage and no more savings (spent all his once handsome savings on our wedding, honeymoon, and down payment on our house).

My older daughter has playdates with children who live in mansions in Pacific Heights and Presidio Heights, with full-time servants. I certainly don't feel like a member of the upper class in that situation. On the other side of the coin, I'm sometimes embarrassed when people come over to my house, because many of my friends live in little apartments with roommate problems, and it's embarrassing for me to have them see my pretty, colorful house and me in it sitting on my overly voluptuous rump with no job at this time. But to keep this menage afloat, the poor old husband sometimes does a second, consulting gig on top of his regular job (and when we had the Huge Fucking Traumatic Awful Plumbing Disaster, I ended up working for a while).

Class fascinates me. I have a HUGE chip on my shoulder about rural people, which is a class thing, and I go off when people diss "hicks." I've come up some socioeconomic levels in life, and my children are probably going up higher than I did.

Hughman, I would love to hear from you about perceiving yourself as the poorest one at your school.

I will blog about all this stuff sometime; I have more to say.

Freewheel said...

One of things I love about your blog is all the juicy stuff you tuck away in parentheticals.

Anonymous said...

Conservies getting all rialed up about a pair of gay(bi in Silo's case) penguins is el stupido.

Chinstraps don't mate for life, in a study they were shown to be 94% failthful to there partners each mating season, but all in all, nothing to get crazy over.

Roy was feeling the hurt, but Penguins move on easy enough. Poor Roy D:

Poor stupid Conservies D:

Oh, and Tango has started a nest with a female named Tazuni. :D I don't know how long that lasted though. You know how fickle women are.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to know a swanky sweetheart in SF who sticks up for us rural hicks!

LOVE your blog, too! Your posts are always a world away from my life... I've thought for years that you should write for a living.

vtpaperjunkie... the fucking system refuses to recognize my password.

Anonymous said...

If you wrote a book about this stuff, I would buy it and read it. (If you wrote a cookbook, I would buy many, copy down the easy recipes, and give them as gifts.)

I love your house. It has colors and it's warm and comfortable and has lots of books. I don't feel like you mind when I touch things.

I grew up lower-upper middle class. Everyone flew to Florida for every three-day weekend. I went to Queens to see my grandparents, and didn't get to Florida until I was in 6th grade. They had second homes out in the Hamptons - we had a timeshare in New Hampshire. They got their parent's old Mercedes or Audi upon getting their permit. I was allowed to drive the Volvo my mom had gotten when I was in 1st grade. I could go on and on.

the Drunken Housewife said...

I think they hire every year; there's always something (people move away; also in the lower grades there are assistant teachers, who then move on typically to other schools after a year or two in order to get their own classroom).

I have heard fun anecdotes about a staff member of yore, no longer at the school, who was transgendered and did not read to the girls as either gender. This staff member dealt with this with panache and told the girls to use the honorific "Captain", rather than Ms. or Mr. or he or she. The girls loved this and loved the Captain, who was there for years.

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