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.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!)
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?"
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.]