This weekend, while attempting to console me during a particularly difficult moment, The Handsome Prince wiped my whiskey tears and reminded me that I came out rather late in life. I was telling him my fear that I'll never find the right person for me. I have worried lately that I might seem like a rather pathetic person.
The Handsome Prince is my best friend for many reasons. One reason is that he doesn't coddle me, but he also won't allow me to be overly hard on myself. He reminded me that I shouldn't feel pathetic for feeling lonely and not having a boyfriend because I didn't even start dating men until I was 29. Then I went right into a relationship that lasted seven years. I didn't even start dating until I found myself single at age 36. Now I am 38, and I always thought I would be firmly entrenched in a lifelong relationship at this age.
Life has other plans for me, I guess.
This Friday I am going to attend a wedding outside of Los Angeles. My friend, Carolyn, who originated the role of Hot Toddy's Fag Hag, is getting married. She was the first person I ever told I was gay. I had just moved to Dallas, Texas and was performing in a musical with Carolyn. One night I revealed my deep dark secret to her. She was delighted. Carolyn has always identified as a gay man in a straight woman's body, so she embraced my homosexuality with all her heart.
Soon after I dropped the gay bomb on her, Carolyn invited me out for a night on the town with her gay entourage. The group of about 12 flamboyant gay men were very interested in meeting me. I was what you might refer to as "fresh meat" for this brood of cackling, shrieking, very horny gay men. On the agenda for the evening was a viewing of "Priscilla Queen of the Desert" followed by a late night dinner at Good Eats.
By the time we sat down to dinner, I was feeling completely overwhelmed. I had been called "girl" all night. The pronoun "he", which I'd become quite accustomed to, had been replaced by "she". "She's cute," the other guys would say about me. "Girl, why don't you come home with me," another, um, "guy" said. Everything we talked about had a sexual undertone. The food, the straws, the silverware, the servers, and the other patrons were all fodder for sexual jokes. Our big fat gay table held center stage, and I slumped as far down in my chair as I could go.
They screamed, "We're here! We're queer! We're the most obnoxious group of screaming queens you'll ever encounter!!"
Well, they didn't really say that, but they may as well have. At the end of the night I sat in Carolyn's car. She asked if I had fun, and I started to cry. "Carolyn, I don't want to be that way. I know I'm gay, but I don't want to be called a girl. I don't want to shriek and camp it up. I don't fit in with gay men, I guess."
Carolyn just laughed and said, "Honey, my friends are weird. All gay men don't act that way. You can be any kind of gay man you want to be." I felt so relieved at this reprieve from a life of effeminate affectation. I was under the mistaken notion that being gay meant you had to "act gay". I've learned over the years that being gay just means being yourself in whatever way that is manifested.
I've loosened up a lot over the years. Now I'm the one who makes lewd remarks about phallic food and comments on hot waiters. But I always do it in my natural baritone voice. I don't sashay around, but I do stumble a lot if I've had too much Maker's Mark. I like Bette Midler, but I don't love Bette Midler. And I've never once called another man a girl.
I guess I've found my own identity as a gay man while still enjoying my community. I feel comfortable around all types of gay men now, from the most nellie queen to the butchest bear. But I no longer feel as though I have to adopt the gay mantra. In fact, my own gay slogan is much less intrusive. I am, after all, a Libra.
"I'm here. I'm queer. You don't have to get used to it, but I'm not going to change, so just tell me if I get too loud in the restaurant, and I'll try to keep it down. Can I have your phone number in case you're 'The One?'"