From: (Todd Morman)
Newsgroups: soc.motss
Subject: Just another small negotiation with straightness
Date: 7 May 1996 05:06:58 GMT

So I'm on my way to a club, right, where a friend is gonna present her
fashion show-cum-final design school project (very cool, btw, all the
outfits made from materials bought in a hardware store, one-piece
astroturf pullovers, skirts of mesh screen, hats from roof vents, etc.),
and stop off at a sub shop on the main college drag in Raleigh. 

I'm waiting in line to order my veggie and cheese when up over the rail
jumps a happy-looking curly-headed guy, for some reason all eager to chat.
He kind of shocked me by leaping into line like that, but I gained some
time to recoup by pointing out the cigarettes that had flown out of the
pack in his shirt pocket onto the floor. So jumpyboy gets the cigs and
jumps up and says "Women! God I love women!" And I'm like, uh, ooookay,
and look around to see what's taking mr. submaker so long, but jumpyboy's
ready to make friends and he starts babbling about how, if he had to
choose, he'd take women over air and food, women would be number one and
air would be second with food a close third, but women! sex with women!
would be number one! and by this point I'm reconciled to the guy (alas, I
had no book or newspaper to ignore him with) so I take the logical route
and say "Really? You'd give up breathing? And eating? You'd live, oh,
about five minutes" etc etc and it's not quite the response he wanted but
then *he's* not quite what I wanted either and he backtracks a little,
trying to hedge, and we go back and forth like this, and I'm looking for
mr. subguy who seems to have disappeared into the back for an unusually
long time, and then jumpyboy sez, with confidence, as if he's got it
figured out, "Ok, if you had to choose between sex with women and
great-tasting food, like if you could have all the women you wanted but
had to eat bland rice for the rest of your life, which would it be?" and 
he leans back and smiles, waiting.

I'm thinking, I can't believe how easy you're making this.

So I just look at him and say "No contest--the food" and he laughs, and
then stops, because he sees I'm being serious (literally wide-eyed, he
was) and I'm having fun now, keeping as straight a face as I can and
talking about how great food is, all the flavors and spices, and sure sex
with women ok but food! how can he *think* of giving up great-tasting
food! and somewhere along the line the lightbulb goes off in my head and I
realize the reason that jumpyboy's so happy and jumpy is probably because
he's recently fucked someone, a woman, I presume, and now, of course, now
I'm wondering why I just don't tell him that I'm gay, and as he starts to
babble on again (albeit more carefully) a part of me is keeping distant,
sizing him up, sizing up the shop (table full of drunken muscleguys over
by the door, only one woman in the place), trying to figure out if things
will get dangerous for me if I let it slip that I'm gay, and I realize
that that same shrewd little part of me (which seems to have kicked in
automatically) is also *mad*, mad at him for assuming I'm straight, mad at
myself for not being able to be casually honest, mad at the culture which
puts me in the position of having to consider whether it's *worth the
risk* to be honest, and then mr. subguy shows up (hope he washed his
hands--jeez) and takes my order and we're back to waiting. 

And now jumpy's asking me what my ethnicity is and--surprise--we're both
Jewish (although I said Semitic at first) and I'm surprised by the small
feeling of relief that passes through me, as if I can rely on the shared
cultural stuff to keep him from being a jerk if I tell him I'm gay (which
is weird when you consider how vitriolic some Jews can be about
homosexuality but not so weird when you factor in the heavy childhood
indoctrination about our oppressed-minority status), and I still haven't
told him, partly because part of me feels like he doesn't *deserve* to
know, you know, like why the hell do I have to tell this stranger that I
like guys, just because he mistakenly included me in his Buddy Circle,
and, you know, I resent that it's even an issue, but it's not me who's
made it an issue, and, while I can certainly see the value to waiting out
this trivial episode and forgetting about it when I leave, I'll be damned
if I'm going to lie about who I am to some just-fucked jumpyguy who
assumes every man he meets is gonna pat him on the back for finally
getting his ass laid (did I tell you I was mad?) and join in the bonding
about How Great It Is and there's another thing, too, there's the weight
of all that hiding to consider, all my past hiding, and along with that
comes the feeling that (christ!) if I don't do it, then who's gonna do it
for me (for Us, I think, for The Cause), and besides, if not now, when and
all that, and really, it's a pretty small thing to do, isn't it, in the
vast queer scheme, and so I decide to do it, and immediately feel better. 

So now it's just a question of negotiating how to tell him, and I decide
to do it as I'm leaving, as an aside (so much for eating there, but that's
the price I pay for being scrawny), so after paying, and after jumpy
orders from the other subguy (now, of course, there are two of them at the
counter), and after we nod a cordial goodbye, I turn to him and say, "Oh,
btw" at which he turns, "If you had asked me about choosing between food
[long pause, during which he looks confused] and *guys* [his eyebrows go
up and his body leans back and holy shit he almost looks scared is the
disdain showing that much on my face? I guess it is, though I didn't mean
for it to show that clearly], it would have been a different story." 

And off I go to the fashion show, feeling like I'd just been through
something sort of intense, but knowing it was much smaller than I felt it
to be, much less harrowing than many other negotiations with straightness,
that's for sure, but still for a while there my heart was beating fast and
it felt like something really important was under attack and needing to be
defended, and damn if I didn't feel good about defending it, in a little
way, as I went about my small queer life. 

todd and then of course I thought of y'all morman
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