Monday, March 15, 2010

Accidental outing

Though I can console myself that it was a self-inflicted wound under the best of circumstances. What happened was the 2nd-biggest fear men like myself have -- outing himself via a slip of the tongue in an otherwise innocent situation.

I was having dinner with a fairly well-known conservative blogger (whom I'll call "K"). By the time the subject rolled around to Andrew Sullivan and his infinite wickedness, we were both on our third beer, and I mused aloud, "the guy makes me ashamed to be gay and Catholic."

Ooopsie ...

My face went red, though I will go to my grave uncertain whether K immediately caught it and registered it. Perhaps if I had not drawn attention by my reaction, it would have passed in one ear and out the other, like the lyrics to a pop song you've heard a thousand times.

All I said was "oh, man."

But K's reaction is what I want to share with others -- partly because it gives the lie to the "homophobe" narrative, both in the Christian religion and political conservatism. The fact is that very few conservatives, even those of a religious sort, really care what someone does in the bedroom as long as, as they say, we don't do anything to frighten the horses. (The public issues that surround homosexuality are ... well, public issues.) And I have never personally been treated badly by a religious or conservative person who knew about my homosexual attractions or behaviors (though I have seen the anti-gay hate in online or otherwise impersonal situations).

K was raised Southern Baptist and still hews to that ol' time religion (he's always been suspicious of my ties to the Beast of Rome). But his dominant reaction was to feel sorry for my embarrassment at that moment. He immediately referred to the lesbianism of one of his favorite link-buddies, whom I knew about, and said "we went back and forth on this and it never affected anything." He assured me it didn't matter and he didn't care, though he professed some surprise. When I asked K whether I tripped his gaydar, he said "no, but my wife did ask me" after one of the several occasions we met. "And I said, 'no, he's Catholic and just a celibate'," K told me.

However, in an unrelated context a long time ago, K had once told me that women had better gaydars than men. I asked him how he knew that, and he said that his 16-year-old daughter had surmised upon a single meeting that an adult friend of K's was gay (and not because the subject came up). K said his wife backed the daughter up, saying that the friend tipped them both off via his eyes. He was not scoping them out, not checking them out as eye candy. The wife said K's friend also apparently gave no detectable hint of interest in his interactions with other women to which she was witness. Women are so used to being visually assessed by men that they can spot it right away when it's not happening, K told me back then. It's much easier to fool a man, I guess, with overt behavior. I'm pretty masculine acting and have no difficulty "picking up" (if that's the right term) drinking buddies and single-serving friends.

So if we wanna stay closeted, guys, we gotta have to practice at scoping out the chicks. Otherwise we're only fooling half the human race. Here's a photo of Kim Kardashian for practice.

Things I don't understand

A couple of nights ago, a bit after 11 pm, I was at a bar where I'm a regular and the bartender let out a couple of yawns a couple of minutes apart. I asked Todd when he'd been up since, and he said, a two-hour nap aside, since 4 am. He elaborated that "newborns will do that to you." I remembered that he had mentioned months ago that his girlfriend was expecting.

I "demanded" to see pictures of the baby, and he handed me his phone to show his daughter, and I handed him my iPhone to show the picture of Elizabeth (this being 2010 and not the "I Love Lucy" 1950s with the Ricardos and Applebys). He joked about having fallen asleep that afternoon with his four-day old daughter cradled in his arms and how he was glad he didn't have any weird or vivid dreams.

I then jokingly asked Todd, "so when are you gonna go legit?" And I got an answer that I still cannot comprehend. He told me, "We're not. We're gonna share custody."

Now, there are a lot of immoral or inadvisable things that I perfectly well "understand" or can "get." I can understand not waiting for the wedding night. I can understand shacking up if you plan to marry. I can even understand finding oneself in an unwanted pregnancy and, even if only for the fleeting instant Sarah Palin once mentioned, going to the clinic to have it "taken care of." And sometimes marriages don't work well or become impracticable and, in such a situation, it's easy to believe (and in some cases it is the case) that joint custody might be the least bad state of affairs.

But even after all that bending-over-backwards (my skull and heel are now neighbors) -- i still don't get this. What kind of person or couple will aspire merely to joint custody right at the start? Without even making a go at marriage or living together (and maybe marrying later)? How little love can there be between the two of them that even a child can't awaken any sense of duty or aspiration? And it's not as if Todd (at least in his public persona) is particularly a "playa" or "party animal." Indeed, he told me once in an unrelated conversation that he goes to Mass every week, taking along his grandmother.

I know Todd well enough to bust his chops bartender/customer-style about "going legit," but not so well that I could appropriately ask him "what the hell are you thinking?" But frankly -- that was my reaction. And I don't even want to think about what's gonna happen when the mother acquires some (but not too much) sense and realizes she needs a concrete guarantee, beyond his mere word, of support for their daughter. A co-worker to whom I told this said it sounded to her as if the two had broken up and had breakup sex, or maybe thought about reconciling and decided to celebrate right away, and ... ooops.

I remember seeing an episode of some shout-gab show about 20 years ago, on which some libertine, a woman, was defending shacking up and was asked by a religious-right woman "what happens when you have four kids and he walks out on you, legally untied to you?" And the libertine responded, "oh, I'd have a legal tie to him before I even had one child." Remember back in the 80s when sexual revolutionaries were smarter than now (thanks to 20 fewer years of the sexual revolution)?

I can only reflect on how screwed-up sex makes us, how irrationally we can behave under its spell. And pray that God can enlighten a better path for Todd and his girlfriend, toward a marital love that will bless the child with whom they've been gifted.

UPDATE, 6 MAY: Well, a couple of nights ago, it was almost 2am and I was at the same bar and had a conversation with Todd that was ... something less than encouraging. In fact, if it was serious, it was profoundly discouraging. He walked up to where I was, after he had served on another floor of the same bar. Here is the conversation, best I can recall (keep in mind, he doesn't know about Topic H, otherwise I would not have started this conversation as I did).

HIM: What are you doing up so late? Isn't it past your bedtime?
ME: Is that an invitation?
HIM: I don't think so.
ME: That wasn't what your wife said last night.
HIM: I don't have a wife.
(At this point, I'm mentally kicking myself for blowing the joke "I knew that.")
ME: OK, your girlfriend.
HIM: She's not my girlfriend.
ME: OK, your baby mamma, whatever you wanna call the chick.
HIM: Hey, fine with me. You wanna take her you're welcome to her and take the kid off my hands as well -- great.

I said nothing more after that and chuckled a bit. And obviously, "take my wife, please" jokes go back far before even Henny Youngman. And obviously this was ball-busting bar banter.

But ... nevertheless ... there was something about Todd's insistence that she wasn't even a girlfriend to him and the precise way he said the last line that told me "he's not really joking." Or if he is joking, he's doing so to ironize and minimize some ugly truth about himself in order to make it tolerable (like how WC Fields played a souse while being a bona-fide alcoholic). Easier to joke about something rather than stare into the reality that you have a child you don't want by a woman you don't love. (A temptation I'm prone to myself, I hasten to add.)