Friday, May 19, 2006

Different = Bad

Cowed by convention

Dear old Dad is a bit of a homophobe. And when I say “a bit,” I mean “a lot.” Evidence for the prosecution? Consider this: Several years ago my father was mistakenly diagnosed as terminally ill. Family and friends came from miles around to commiserate and bring traditional gifts of food (way too many casseroles; thank you, but really). Although he thought he was dying, Dad refused to risk a single bite of the lasagna brought over by his nephew because, you know, my cousin is “that way.” It'd be hilarious if it weren't so creepy and wrongheaded. In any case, it was the best meal anyone had that week (except for Dad, of course) because—as we all know—gay bachelor nephews are great cooks.

This memory popped into my head when I read a recent post at Bitch, Ph.D., wherein Mr. B (Dr. B's spouse) recounted a close encounter of the close-minded kind:
You may or may not know that my son has beautifully long hair. In any case, now you do and so may better understand what at least part of what happened to us today in Value Village.

Me, "scuse me Ma'am. Can you point me to where I might find a raincoat for my son?"

Value Village Woman looks at PK.

VVW, "You mean for her?"

Me, nodding, "For him."

VVW starting to frown, "For HER?"
My father would undoubtedly agree with VVW that long hair on a boy is a bad thing, especially if it's really long and really nice looking. (Ratty long hair on a boy could be easily dismissed by classifying the boy as a worthless hippy. Problem solved!)

Once I embarked on this line of reminiscence, I remembered an incident at a large family gathering at a sibling's home. A young nephew of mine had gotten into his mother's cosmetics earlier that day and adorned his toenails with gold nail polish. Glitter gold. It was, as you can imagine, to die for. I wondered if Dad would kill him.

To my surprise, Dad was remarkably unfazed by his grandson's exploit. Cool as a cucumber. Of course, his grandson was just a tyke (five years old or so, as I recall), so it was a bit premature to categorize his role in the sex wars, but premature conclusions have never been foreign to my father. Was it because the little boy could not threaten him with “the AIDS,” well-known to be vectored by gay lasagna? Dad's complacency seemed uncharacteristically mellow, especially for a man who never drinks to excess. (My Dad embodies all the conventional virtues, except for that tolerance thing.)

I now believe that I have the answer. My gold-glitter nephew is my father's step-grandson, not his biological descendant. My gay cousin, on the other hand, is the offspring of Dad's older brother. You see, as long as there's a break in the DNA chain, my father is not threatened. His grandson is not engaging in gender-inappropriate nail-polish experimentation because of anything in Dad's genes. He's free and clear, with a perfect alibi at the ready.

Could it be that simple? I wonder.

No, I am not going to ask him. Are you crazy?

[See the full-size nail polish illustration by Joseph Nero here.]


Wegrit said...

I happened to stumble on this post today and was completely amused. I live in Texas, work in the theatre and volunteer with the local AIDS support organization. I meet my fair share of bigoted people. It's nice to see someone point out the humourous side of it, which I suppose is slightly easier when dealing with one's own family than some random stranger off the street!

Thanks for the anecdotes!

llewelly said...

For reasons I have never understood, my otherwise conservative Mormon mother seldom took me to get my hair cut. Since my hair grew very fast until my mid-20s (about an inch a month), I had long hair for most of my childhood. I liked long hair, so I didn't complain about this. However - it got me a great deal of teasing at school (along with my home-made clothes, my strange name, my geeky interests, and so on). I was called a "girl" all the time - sometimes mistakenly, sometimes not. Oh, and until my hair darkened at about the age of 16, it was bright blond. I was also called a "faggot" and a "lesbian", and every variant of those two you could imagine. Yet, as far as I know, nobody "caught teh ghey" from me. However - as I got older, people stopped calling me a "girl", and started asking them if I would sell them some pot. I never had any, so I didn't make any friends that way.

Jamie said...

My oldest sister is pretty religious and she even showed me the part in the bible about men not lying with men. I'm pretty heterosexual, but I've considered before having a lesbian fling to shake things up.

Margaret said...

As a girl I was often mistaken for a boy, and have some trouble that way even now in my 50's. A woman being told "Good morning, sir" by the guard checking IDs at the gate does not inspire confidence in said guard's thoroughness.

These days people get it right if/when they actually look at me instead of just my height, but when I was a kid there was an incident with a librarian who kept demanding that I admit that I was trying to check out a book using my mother's library card instead of my own. She eventually let me check the book out even though she didn't believe it was my own card. It wasn't until later that I realized that she must have thought I was a boy and so couldn't be the Margaret that the card belonged to.

And then there was the woman who gave a little scream when she walked into a public bathroom and saw me washing at the sink and then apologized when I turned around and looked at her. She must have thought I looked like a guy from behind.

unapologetic said...

Margaret, I've been saved by the converse of that last one. I once pushed another exit on the NJ Turnpike, only to find that the next one (30-some more miles) was actually closed, and the next one was 40-some more miles past that.

By the time I got out of my car and raced inside, I turned the wrong direction accidentally and didn't realize I was in the ladies' until I was in the middle of things. Luckily, I was a graduate student and had grown my hair into a ponytail that reached about to my waist, and I wasn't sporting a beard at that point. Moving swiftly out, nobody seemed to notice.