Eastern Standard Time:
This column appeared in The Washington Blade in -- I think -- the summer of 1991.|
By Lawrence Biemiller
"Okay," I said to G. Hiroshima as our waiter left with my Visa card, "let's say you're blond, you're cute, you have legs like those, and you're, what, 22? You're spending your summer working at a gay restaurant at the beach. How many men are you meeting? Nothing that I'm jealous or anything."
"He's probably not meeting the kind of men you'd want to meet, Lar."
"Or say you're that bartender over there with the flattop, and you're so handsome they had to put in track lighting just to illuminate your cheekbones, and -- "
"He's been in a committed relationship for eight years," said G. Hiroshima. "He doesn't need to meet men." Ever since he and Ed got joint checking, G. Hiroshima knows how long every gay couple we see has been together.
The waiter reappeared with a charge slip. "Thanks, guys," he said. "Are you from down here?"
"Gregory is. I'm from D.C."
"Really? Me, too," he said. "Gregory and -- " He raised his eyebrows.
"Gregory, Lawrence," he said slowly, as though to commit our names to memory. "I swear I've met about 500 people this weekend. You guys coming to the party later?"
"We can't," I said. "We didn't dress monochromatic."
"It's just a theme," he said. "It's not like they won't let you in."
"But we'd hate to be gauche."
Instead we went for a long walk on the moonlit beach, carrying our shoes and letting waves splash our feet.
"Monochromatic," I said. "Really. Sometimes I think gay life could use a little cleaning up."
"What would you clean up?" G. Hiroshima asked. "I love being gay. I meet the nicest, most interesting people. Yeah, I could stop dressing gay. I could even stop talking gay. But I want people to know. I wouldn't have it any other way."
"That's not what I mean," I said. "I just wish gay life were a little less A-list, B-list. We can be so superficial, you know? If a boy's not perfectly sculpted, or dressed right, or if he doesn't have a good haircut, we don't give him the time of day. I guess that was what was most surprising about last winter. I wasn't the kind of boy he thought he wanted, and he wasn't the kind of boy I thought I wanted, but something clicked. It had nothing to do with the way either of us looked. But the only thing any of those 5,000 men on Poodle Beach this afternoon would have noticed was a great body."
"Well, I certainly don't think Gay society welcomed me because of calves like these," G. Hiroshima said, extending one leg.
"You have lovely calves," I said. "I don't know why you insist on wearing long pants all the time. Lots of people think you're very cute, Gregory, and you know it."
It was a beautiful night. Here and there on the beach straight teenagers cuddled and kissed.
"I guess what I want," I said, "is for gay life to be more genuine. I don't want to lie on the sand and see 5,000 identical weight-machine bodies that spent all winter in tanning salons, and 5,000 carefully selected bathing suits that are color coordinated with 5,000 pairs of sunglasses. I don't want to fall in love with men who go pump up at the gym right before they come to the beach. That guy Michael was waving at this afternoon? In the neon-green thong? I mean, yeah, nice pecs, but attitude from here to Europe.
"And so many people are like that, Gregory. I'm sick of attitude. I'd rather see a guy whose muscles came from playing softball and mowing the lawn. A man who's real, for God's sake. Or am I just a hopeless romantic?"
"Yes," said G. Hiroshima. "A hopeless romantic who flirts shamelessly with cute waiters, I might add, and complains if he gets one who's not cute."
"I wonder," I said. "What if when we were 15 we could have cuddled on the sand with boys we wanted to cuddle with? I mean, instead of being terrified that they'd notice us staring in gym class. Think how different growing up would have been if what we'd wanted was OK, if we could have had our first innocent kisses at the beach in the summer."
"Oh, I don't know," said G. Hiroshima. "The first man I kissed was wonderful, on top of being gorgeous."
"Yeah, and you were 26. I'm talking about being 15 and sneaking away from your parents to meet someone in the sand. I'm talking about growing up when everybody else does, instead of 10 years later."
"Maybe I'll fix the potatoes first thing tomorrow," said G. Hiroshima. "Before it gets hot. That way the house will be cool when everyone shows up for dinner."
In the morning I left G. Hiroshima in the kitchen and went out biking. On my way back I reached the drawbridge over the canal just as the warning bells sounded and the gates came down. For a while, I did figure-eights in the road. Then I explored an old motor court whose driveway adjoined the canal. Two tiny girls tumbled out of one of the cottages, followed by a Blanche DuBois grandmother in a print sundress. The girls ran over to the canal to watch a sailboat pass beneath the bridge.
A minute later the door of another cottage opened and a young man with a military-style crewcut emerged, rubbing his eyes. He pulled on a rumpled T-shirt, and then two other young men with crewcuts stepped out of the cottage and pulled the door closed. The three of them climbed into a Jeep and the first one backed it into the driveway. I decided they were going to the 7-Eleven for coffee and a box of doughnuts.
The Blanche DuBois grandmother looked away as they passed, but I didn't. The one in the passenger seat stared back at me, his face expressionless. They seemed more genuine, less self-conscious, that anyone else I'd seen at the beach. Then the warning bells rang again, and the drawbridge gates jerked up, and I raced away from a reverie it was pointless to have.
Copyright © 1991 by Lawrence Biemiller. Published in The Washington Blade.