Eastern Standard Time:
This column appeared in January, 1993, in The Washington Blade.|
By Lawrence Biemiller
"Jesus -- Light of the World, Hope of Man, Treasure of the Heart," says the Christmas card from my father and my stepmother. A salutation and a printed Bible verse appear inside. My stepmother has added two notes. One says: "God's blessings are yours. -- Deut. 28." The other: "Please come to an early dinner New Year's Day. We love you."
"Passive-aggressive," I mutter. Lately I've been quick to look for faults in others.
I dust off a Bible. It turns out Deuteronomy 28's promise of blessings has a big if attached -- "If you will obey the Lord your God by diligently observing all his commandments which I lay upon you this day." The list of commandments starts way back in Deuteronomy 12. Roofs must have parapets; a widow must be claimed by her late husband's brother; an ox treading out the corn must not be muzzled; a woman must not wear men's clothing, nor a man women's. For the disobedient there are two full pages of curses: "May your bodies become food for the birds of the air and the wild beasts, with no man to scare them away."
My little brother got "the accounting card" this year -- the nonreligious card my father sends to his accounting clients. This is puzzling. My brother is the one who goes to church. I don't. I'm sure my father and my stepmother know this, although I'm not sure of much more because I never call them and they never call me. Their being Baptist fundamentalists and my being queer make for an awkward conversational mix. I try to guess whether they mean the card to provoke me or merely annoy me. Then I toss it in the basket on the hall table and go in to get dressed for the Erasure concert that j.-with-a-small-"j" is taking me to.
Three hours later we and all the crowd around us are screaming for Andy Bell, who has just finished "Oh l'amour" and who is in fact wearing women's clothing -- a tight red camisole, sequined and fringed, with spike heels that show off the long curves of his legs. His hair is clipped short, and he is fabulously beautiful. He has thrown his white feather boa into the wings and now he stands perfectly still at the front of the stage -- head bowed, arms fully extended, fingers pointing oh-so-elegantly down.
For two roaring minutes Bell doesn't move. Then a dancer with his chest bared comes onstage carrying a black feather boa. I see then that Bell isn't a singer acknowledging applause; he's royalty awaiting his due homage. The dancer approaches from behind and drapes the boa over Bell's still-outstretched arms and in doing so brings Bell to life. Bell reaches back to pull the dancer's face next to his own and then slowly kisses him. Bell is grace and defiance in feathers and heels. The crowd goes wild.
"Eyeliner," I shout to j.-with-a-small-"j." "If I go to Dad's on New Year's I'm wearing eyeliner. And I'm gonna be dripping earrings." On Halloween my friend Mark in San Francisco painted my face and gently traced beneath my eyes with eyeliner. Frankly, I thought I looked fantastic.
"Uh-oh," j. yells back.
"Yeah, well," I shout. "It's not like they worry about offending me. If they can be proud of what they are, I can be proud of what I am."
By the second half of the concert everyone is dancing and singing and I hit -- and hold -- the high note on "Oh baby pleeease" in "A Little Respect." We leave happy and soaked with sweat. I don't go out much; in my long intervals of being Gay alone I forget how exhilarating, how empowering, it is to be Gay with other Gay people. I complain, sometimes bitterly, that youth and beauty are the only hard currency among Gay men, and of course this is true. But Andy Bell reminds me of the coin's obverse: When we are fabulous we are more fabulous than anyone, and when we love each other it is sublime.
Every year at Christmas Tom goes with me to buy a Scotch pine for the living room, and at the beginning of the tree-trimming party he and I put up the strings of lights. By now we are old hands at this, which makes it all the more surprising that this year we get to the bottom of the tree and over to the wall outlet and I am holding not a plug end but a receptor end. I stare at it in disbelief.
"Tom?" I say. "Tom, darling?" I hold the receptor end up and look at him.
"But how -- " he says. "They're double-ended -- "
"Not this one." Some, but not all, of my strings of lights have hermaphroditic ends, with both receptor slots and plug prongs. Meanwhile, eight people are milling around, waiting to hang ornaments.
"I think," says Tom, "that what we have to do is -- " Just then Mark-my-ex and his boyfriend walk back into the room. The boyfriend, whom I have just now met, is big, handsome, and searingly confident. He looks at the receptor end in my hand, then at me.
"Minor technical difficulty," I say. "We don't seem to have any plug ends."
"Always such a problem in Gay life," says the boyfriend. "There are just never enough plugs, are there? And you can't put receptors with receptors."
"I've got it figured out," says Tom. But I'm not listening. I'm parsing the never-enough-plugs line, wondering crossly just what it was supposed to mean.
Later, when everyone has left, I calm down some and stand looking at the tree and its glowing lights and the ornaments friends have brought me over the years. I remind myself that Andy Bell didn't search out our faults as a condition of loving us. I remind myself that j.-with-a-small-"j" treated me to that concert, that Tom always helps with the tree, that Mark-my-ex has worked hard at keeping our friendship intact, that San Francisco Mark has promised to bring me eyeliner and take me dancing when he visits. That, when all is said and done, I count myself extremely fortunate to be queer.
I hope you do too. Happy New Year.
Copyright © 1993 by Lawrence Biemiller. Published January, 1993, in The Washington Blade.