I know it’s hot out because the skin on my neck has tripled in mass. I don’t understand the physiology of this, but somehow, when I’m hot, my neck skin stretches out. It’s the grossest feeling. I don’t notice it when I’m out and about, but when I’m sitting or slouching, and I turn my head downward, it feels like there’s a vagina on my throat. It’s hot, is my point.
Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I can’t believe that May’s not even over and we’ve spent the last week in the 30′s (the degrees, not decade; man has yet to master time travel). It’s been this hot since Victoria Day! And I know the rest of the country is unseasonably cold, and that’s terrible. But I just can’t beat the heat. I don’t wear shorts because my legs are pasty and lumpy, like sausages covered in that powder gymnasts use on the parallel bars. Is that just chalk, by the way? If so, what a boon to the chalk industry when they discovered that! Busiest times in the chalk industry? Back to School, and Summer Olympic Games. Anyway, no shorts, my sweats all get weird crotch-holes, and I’m loathe to wear jeans every goddamn day. But I do anyway, because the alternative pant makes me uneasy. Jon has a pair of these pants, so did another fellow I kept company with for some time, and a few other folks I could mention. They are linen pants. They look so comfortable, and light, and flimsy, I just know they would keep me cool, while modestly concealing my chalk-sausages. However, one thing always stops me from obtaining a pair, one thing keeps this Dream at bay. Linen pants are the gayest thing ever.
Dream: To own and comfortably wear a pair of linen pants.
Goal: Achievable. If I cut my Swiss Chalet budget in half for a fortnight, I could definitely afford a pair.
Plan: Accept the connotations, put them on one leg at a time like everybody else and just get fucking comfortable with the world’s most comfortable pant.
I’m aware of how ridiculous it is to worry about being outed by your pants. But cabbies and South American bandleaders aside, no straight man would be caught dead in linen pants. With linen pants comes the obvious identification of ones sexual preference. And why, oh why, should that bother me so?
I like to think that, particularly in my twenties (the age, not the temperature, there’d be no call for linen pants then), I’ve been proud of who I am. There’s no one in my life anymore to whom I am not “out.” These last five years, Jon and I have been a package deal of sorts. We know each other’s friends, coworkers, and families. I’ll always fondly remember bringing Jon to meet my 80 year-old grandmother, with the prepared excuse of having to be someplace else in half an hour, so we could get one cup of coffee down and get out of there. Two hours later with an overflowing ashtray of Du Maurier and Peter Jacksons between them (his brand and hers, respectively), they were the best of friends, comparing notes on Sweden, politics and The Bold and the Beautiful while I browsed her Sears catalogues.
And I live in such a pro-linen pants part of the world. The other night I was walking through a park with some friends, and two young guys were sharing a park bench. One guy was sitting, and the other guy was stretched out with his head in the first guy’s lap (not in that way, pervs; in a “looking up at the stars” way). They weren’t the least bit self-conscious and my friends didn’t even notice, but I had that awful inner twinge. The little voice that goes, “What the hell are you doing? You’re gonna get yourselves killed!” Clearly, I am the one with the issue, here. The internalized homophobia that makes me shrug Jon’s arm off my shoulders when we’re on the subway, or kept me from the Gay & Lesbian Film Festival in town last weekend. What’s up with that?
As many of you I’m sure want to point out by now, I don’t need the fuckin’ pants. Spend ten seconds with me and you’ll figure it out. Spot me ordering a coke with “a twist of lemon” at a restaurant, or watch me rush to catch a bus trying to keep my latte from spilling on my manpurse, nobody thinks, “I bet he’s hurrying home to his wife.” But there’s some perverse need not to broadcast it, and I don’t know why. The other day I was walking home from the liquor store, case of beer under my arm. It was about five-thirty so the sidewalks were full of people. I pass these two guys, probably a few years my junior; frat-looking guys, good ol’ boys who probably close down the bars on a Friday night, and one catches a glimpse of me, nudges his friend and says, “Look at this faggot.”
I don’t know why it was so disheartening. “Look at this faggot.” The word doesn’t bother me, it’s hardly as derogatory as the c-word or anything racial, it was just the instant categorization, and dismissal therein. I didn’t do anything, of course, just kept walking. What could I have said? “Excuse me, gentlemen, but where you referring to me just then? Because I’ll have you know…” What? What could I say? “I’ll have you know I am a faggot, so points for accuracy.” I immediately took stock of my appearance and demeanor in that instant too. Was it my clothes? My hair? Was I walking in a faggy way? It wasn’t like I was dancing down the street with some guy’s cock in my mouth. I briefly entertained the idea that maybe there was a second part to that sentence I just didn’t hear, like, “Look at this faggot! I like the cut of his jib! Or, “Look at this faggot! He’d be perfect for your Dad!”
Victoria Day is a big deal here, for some reason. There were events all over the city, including a Queen Victoria look-alike contest. And the fireworks went on for hours! Jon and I spent the evening with a friend, then made our way home. There was a man on our street setting off his own fireworks, and the whole block was out to watch. Two little girls live in the building next to ours. They were squealing with each explosion, barefoot in their jam-jams. “I tried to put them to bed,” their Mom told us, “but they wouldn’t settle down, not with this going on. As is typical of Jon and I after an outing, I really had to go to the bathroom, and he really had to smoke five cigarettes and talk to all the neighbours. So while he was chatting with the Mom, I took my place on the stoop, careful to protect my bladder, and one of the girls approached. She’s maybe seven. “Can you count high?” she asked. “When I can’t sleep I start counting and last night I almost made it five hundred almost! I love fireworks! Even though they’re loud, I’m not scared because I love fireworks!” She went on and on while I tried not to think about peeing. Finally, I saw my escape in the conversation and tried to politely excuse myself to go upstairs to the apartment. “You can’t go yet! “ she said. It was a statement, not a plea. She pointed to Jon, “He’s not ready to go inside so you can’t go inside! You have to wait for him!”
This was just as arresting as the last random comment slung my way, but for different reasons. She knew, somehow, in her seven year old way that Jon and I were the kind of guys who watched fireworks together, who stay where the other person stays, and goes where they go. It was touching.
So maybe there will always be a part of me concerned that my appearance, my manner, and my linen pants will indicate that I like dudes. But I hope that will be balanced by the part of me that’s proud to indicate just how much I like one dude in particular. And we’ll just endure the heat together, no matter who wears the pants.