“If I had a nickel for every time someone thought I was gay, I'd have change for a $3 bill!”
I start off this story with that glorious sentiment, because it is both witty and hapless at the same time. I just have to hope that the proprietor of this powerfully poignant proclamation knowingly conjured it up, and did not just stumble into one-liner greatness.
The orator of the statement was a handsome yet simple looking guy in his early thirties. He had a wannabe hipster vibe written all over him. He was wearing a V-neck sweater, pre-faded jeans, with the strap of a man-purse crossing his chest, a generous growth of hair adorning his face, and his drink of choice was a Pabst Blue Ribbon (or PBR for those of you “in the know”). He was sitting along the wall on a raised pew in my favorite bar. He was surrounded by a group of other thirty-somethings; all of which had been drinking for an ample amount of time. They didn't seem to be close friends, but rather, they were old acquaintances that were catching up after spending a long time apart. I could tell, because most of their stories started with “Do you remember when...?”
It was obvious that at least one (if not three) of the men around him were members of the homosexual community. The loudest (and most inebriated) one of them all could only be described as a short medium-sized ginger with very big hair. If the group were having a “gay-off”, he would have left the others in his dust. There were two women in the group as well. One referred to herself as “Gay Mecca”, and the other was happy just listening to the stories and smiling.
The orator quickly took over as the main attraction in the conversation. He told stories of going to prom with two different men in two successive years. Those tales were quickly interrupted by a qualifier. He said that each time, he went with his girlfriend, and the double date was completed by a male friend and what turned out to be their final heterosexual relationship.
He spoke of nicknames he had received over the years. One of his gay friends called him a “Fruit Fly.” Another referred to him as a “Fag Stag.” But the one that he seemed to adore most was “The Enigma.”
After announcing to the group that he had been given the name, he immediately explained why it was bestowed upon him. Apparently, it was a common occurrence for him to be among his circle of gay friends and repeatedly asked by those who he had just met if he too were “one of them.” His closer friends would explain to their rainbow congregation why he was called “The Enigma.” Basically, he was just a well dressed 100% heterosexual male who felt comfortable around anyone.
It was only when The Enigma was asked bluntly how often he was mistaken for a gay man, that he brought forth his gold-plated one-liner, “If I had a nickel for every time someone thought I was gay, I'd have change for a $3 bill!”
He followed up the statement with stories of Drag Queens and their love of bingo, the difference between bears and otters, and just exactly how easy it is to win at Gay Chicken (hint: everyone wins). He was like a hipster version of Abe Lincoln, and the crowd to his left and right were his own drunken version of the Springfield townspeople.
After being asked questions about how or why the moniker was given (or earned), The Enigma would shrug his shoulders and glance over at Gay Mecca for backup. As it turned out, Gay Mecca and The Enigma were married. She would always give a similar smile and shrug, but hers had a little less sheepishness to it. She too was someone who always just found herself feeling at ease around others who were comfortable in their own skin. That is a standard trait of the non-straight, and something that she and The Enigma had in common. It was probably the way those two had met, and I for one, applaud them for finding each other amid a flamboyant ocean of gay.
I thought The Enigma was a prime candidate for what I like to refer to as “heterosexual hubris.” You know, the kind of guy who is so sure of his heterosexuality that he was doomed to be gay (okay, maybe doomed isn't the right word to use there). One minute he would be telling a story of his experience at a gay bar in Syracuse, then on a dime (or two nickels) he would turn to his wife and plant a heartfelt kiss on his beautiful Mecca.
I guess it is possible in this day and age for someone to be so comfortable with their heterosexuality that they could embrace such a nickname. I can name a few guys that I always knew were gay, but turned out to just have a lisp and enjoy a White Wine Spritzer every now and again. However, I've also known a few guys who I never would have thought were gay. One was a 6'4” volleyball player, another joined the Marines right out of high school, and the third was more obsessed with female breasts than I will ever be. I've been fooled before, and I'll be fooled again. I might even go as far as to say, “If I had a nickel for every time I thought a friend of mine was straight, and turned out to be gay, well... I guess I would have three nickels.”