Thursday, July 7, 2011

Karl Gardner: Lesbians, Otters, and Bears. Oh My!

This story starts with my being thrown into a culture I’m not entirely used to, I hope it is in no way offensive. It just so happens that the weekend I stayed with my cousins in Seattle, was Gay Pride Weekend. It had been, oh, six years since I stumbled upon the same occurrence in Germany, and now I found myself knee deep in yet another. However, it did allow me to overhear some memorable gems of conversation, and for that I am thankful.

I was scheduled to meet my cousin and her fiancé at a local bar. I initially walked right by it, as it was clearly a gay bar, and it took a minute to sink in that that was probably exactly where I was supposed to meet them. As it turned out, it was, and they quickly took me into the crowded patio area toward the back. Feeling slightly out of my comfort zone, I took a few sips from the great equalizer – beer, and relaxed a bit. That was when I heard the first gem. It really was quite crowded, and as one gentleman made his way through the sea of queens, he was trying to squeeze past a couple of larger fellows, I heard him comment, “It’s like a car wash of bears in here” (a “bear” is a term used by gay men to describe a husky, large man with a lot of body hair- thanks Check. Cross that off the list of things I needed to hear before I die. Apparently my cousin and her fiancé were the tomboys of the lesbian world. I hadn’t realized that lesbians and gays are normally quite segregated, and that it’s a little uncommon when they hang out in gay bars together. At least, that’s what I gathered. Of course, I’m playing with broad generalities here. But, back at the bar, I met a few of their friends, most of whom I liked. Actually, I met my cousin’s fiancé for the first time, as well. And I loved her! She’s awesome. After a while they decided to move to a bar closer to their house, which was where the unofficial opening ceremony was being conducted for Pride Weekend.

We changed bars, and this one was more of “local” hang out. They had brought in one-half of a female duo to open the ceremony. The performer did an absolutely amazing job of using Michael Jackson song titles in her opening speech (keep in mind, this was right after The King of Pop had just passed away). Then, they passed around tray after tray of mini-hot dogs for all to enjoy. Beer and miniature hot dogs. Sort of a Eucharistic twist.

I met two more coupled friends of my cousins, who I also liked. The second gem was when one of the ladies walked away, and I heard the other girl call her “a womanizer.” I would say that evening was a success. Headdresses were passed around, photos were taken, I was sat upon the lap of the womanizer (or her partner. I forget), received a kiss on the cheek from one of the guy partners, and somebody called me “adorable.” There you go. Gays and lesbians love me. It’s clearly because I’m so adorable.

The fiancé drove us the short trip to their house, but not before having her own solo adventure. It involved her running full out for the car, then thinking, “Why are you running? You know you can be clumsy, and there’s no rush.” So she started walking, thought to herself “screw it”, and ran full speed through the pouring rain toward the car, only to trip and slide face first across the sidewalk. She eventually got up, brushed herself off, made her way toward the car, and drove us straight to a late night Chinese restaurant to get a “platter of meat.” I don’t make this up. She parks, runs into the store, and shouts loudly at the startled cashier for a “plate of meat... to go”, not realizing that half of her face was covered with blood. Her palms were torn to shreds and her hair was coated in wet leaves from the sidewalk. Yet, all she wanted was to pay for her meat platter and be on her merry way.

The next day was the parade (keep in mind that I had absolutely no idea any of this was going on when I made my trip plans). So we spent most of the day there.  I applaud any outside event that encourages a cup or three of beer in the morning. If it’s pre-noon and you’re at home in your pajamas drinking a beer, it’s a problem. If you’re outside for an event, it’s an acceptable treat, and nobody will judge you. The parade was tamer than I expected. Some people mentioned that it’s very politically correct now, with businesses taking pains to show how accepting they are of gay culture. Quite a difference from their original purpose. Originally it was a way of showing solidarity within a persecuted group. It was a fight to be accepted as they were (which was here, queer, and demanding for all within earshot to “get used to it”). Now, the businesses and politicians make it about them, flaunting their tolerance in everyone's faces, just to get attention. It's sick, really.

The evening ended with great awkwardness. Which is weird, because I’m never awkward. Normally my suaveness slides right off the page like an otter onto the lap of a bear (an “otter” is a term used by gay men to describe a skinny gay man with a lot of body hair- thanks again We ended up back at the bar where this story began. My cousin and her partner had teamed up with another lesbian couple to storm the gay bar, and I was simply along for the ride. A few awkward things happened while I was there. I noticed a guy wearing a shirt stating, “I love my hates.” I found this odd, and asked them if they understood it. The fiancé offered to ask him for me, but I somehow took this as a challenge, as though I wouldn’t normally dare to ask the question myself. So I asked him, and regretted it immediately. Actually, that’s not quite how it happened.

I tried to ask him twice, and was ignored by him, though his shorter companion (or “pocket gay”) seemed to take it in the wrong manner, and started glaring his own hate at me. The fiancé then got his attention, asked him what the shirt meant, and he proceeded to lecture me on the intricacies of all his “hates.”

He explained, “It's the stupid, petty, and self-congratulatory things.” He went on to inform me that he loves that he hates when people wear socks with sandals, and other trivialities such as that. Unfortunately, he also loved to hear himself talk, and didn't stop until he was satisfied that he had made his point. He suddenly began to aim his wrath at me. All the while, his little friend was grinding his teeth in anger toward the situation, and I was still trying to get out of the conversation. At one point he was called away by an angelic voice from amongst the crowd behind me, I thought I was free, until he came back. He looked me dead in the eye (while his friend was staring me dead in the navel), and asked me if I was straight or gay. I replied quickly and distinctly, “straight.” Before he was able to catch a second wind for another nonsensical dissertation, and while he was distracted, I tagged the fiancé for help. We swapped conversation partners, and in less than a minute, he was gone. When I ask how she did it, she replied plainly, “I dyked him out.” I then proceeded to go inside to the bar to buy a round of drinks to celebrate the “dyking out” that had saved my evening. Unfortunately, more awkwardness ensued. A hefty bit more actually.

I made my way to the bar, and I was about to order our drinks, when arms suddenly appear around me, and someone started rubbing my belly. Yes, rubbing my belly. I freaked slightly, but thought to myself, “maybe it’s one of the couples I’ve met, just goofing off.”  I turned around quickly. Nope. I don’t know this person. Some older drunk guy was rubbing my belly. That went way, way beyond “Stranger, Danger.” He then asked if it made me uncomfortable. I said, “YES! Uh, er, yeah, kind of, er, please stop.” He didn’t stop.

I was completely out of my element, freaked out, and didn’t know how to get out of the predicament I had unknowingly gotten myself into (now, please, please don’t judge me here). I was in a panicked state of mind, trying to extricate myself quickly and smoothly, while simultaneously trying not to be rude. So, I bought him a drink. Yeah, I know. I bought him a drink. I didn’t really think that one through. My thought was to distract him and his grabby hands, and then make my getaway. And it worked, thank you very much. He grabbed his drink. I grabbed mine, then quickly bolted to safer ground amongst my lesbian protectors. I explained what happened to the others, and that I was ready for a break, so they snuck me out of there like a team of butch Navy Seals.

I learned some very important lessons that night. First, bears and otters are not always what you think they are. Second, don't ask a question about a enigmatic t-shirt slogan if you don't really want to hear the answer. Third, and I share this with you in hopes that you will use this knowledge responsibly, apparently, if you rub my belly, I will buy you a drink.

1 comment:

  1. It is hard to blame you for what had happened. I doubt if I would do things differently if I am in your situation. Some people are just hard to understand.

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