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uncle

No Mom, I’m NOT Gay

by Jonathan Butch Perry

Totally not gay Bert and Ernie

So, I enjoyed watching Queer Eye for the Straight Guy when it first came out (Haha!  Came out.).  This fun show speaks to me in many ways. It reaches me on different levels.  Well, maybe two levels.  First, I identify with the sloppy heteros (straight dudes) in need of special direction as these are my people and I, too, am in need of free clothes (See how I start with clarification?).  Secondly, the effeminate are often an amusing folk.  They are a peculiar people.  I have been amused by the effeminate since I discovered Dana Carvey’s Church Lady during the golden age of Saturday Night Live in the 80s, and since I learned that my uncle Bud and his friend Frank were more than just roommates like Ernie and Bert (I still don’t buy into that Ernie and Bert gay thing and my letters to the Children‘s Television Workshop have gone unheeded).

Frank, whom my brothers and I somehow learned to call Aunt Frank, successfully plays up his gayness and this has perhaps increased his hilarity manifold.   Even before we knew about homosexuality, my younger brother Jay, at a rather young age, was impressed enough with Frank that one day at dinner he told Frank he wanted to marry him.  Later that evening, our frightened parents sat us down and delicately explained for the first time the special nature of Uncle Bud and Aunt Frank’s relationship.  Oh, and homosexuality.  Perhaps our parents prayed long and hard in an all night vigil filled with weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Jay and I were probably aged 5 and 7 (Chris wasn‘t alive yet), so there might have been a small comprehension gap.  As we were pastor’s kids, it was also explained to us that though homosexuality is a sin, we still love the people even though they are condemned to an eternity of dry skin and bad hair days.  So, there you go.  As I write this I feel a little dirty, like I’m outing someone (My brother Jay is married, by the way.  To a woman.).  It’ll be ok.

Now, because I am a single male past the marriageable prime of college age and don’t date excessively it has been suspected by various members of my family, mostly aunts, that I “play for the wrong team“.  I would like to take this opportunity and state for the record once and for all that, though I am a San Francisco Giants’ fan, I am not gay.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that (if you don‘t mind eternal dry skin).

Once, when I was about 18, I went with my family to San Francisco to visit Uncle Bud.  While we were there being tourists and waiting for the cable car, I got separated from my family in a way I cannot recollect.  I dutifully stood at the corner alone waiting for the family car to collect me.  In the meantime, a fine fellow emerged from the cocktail bar across the street, made his way over to me and started talking.  It became apparent that he was gay.  And on a mission.  Or something.

ad hoc Halloweenery in college. I’m hamming it up in the horns. Preemptive blackmail pic posting.

“My friends and I have been watching you for a while and we’re not sure what you’re doing, but I wanted to invite you over for a drink.”

My memory is a little fuzzy at this point as I seem to have had several moderate brain spasms.  Possibly strokes.  Am I being hit on by a gay man?  Does he think I’m gay?  Oh Lord!  He thinks I’m an amateur male hooker!  You know, I do actually look pretty good today. As if the wind had been knocked out of me, I weakly responded with something like “No thanks.  I’m just waiting for my ride”.  (I should have clarified that my mom was my ride and not some random John.)

Not easily dissuaded, he responded, “Well if your ride doesn’t come, come on over and join us.”
(Join us!)  It’s fun to stay at the YMCA!

Thankfully, the fine fellow returned to his cocktail bar (apropos name, no?) and my ride came a few minutes later, but I swear to you, that as the family car pulled up, I saw the guy leaving the bar again and coming back in my general direction.  And I never did get to ride the trolley.

Now, it may seem I’m protesting too much and this may seem suspicious.  It’s possible that I don’t help matters when I goof around and act effeminate for laughs or dress up in drag (rarely) just for kicks.  I may have confused a few people there.  Also, I’m not especially butch (though I totally outbutch my brothers).  It’s not like I hunt, race cars, or go to strip clubs.  In fact I enjoy the fine arts, classical music, dig the music of the Pet Shop Boys, and can be seen watching HGTV for hours at a time.  But I also enjoy sports, own a power drill, have a cool hockey scar, and love women, not in the way gay men love Cher or Madonna, but actually love women.  I am very much attracted to women.  At least the attractive ones (of course intelligence, personality, humor, and superior baking skills are also prized).

This last year, when I made a brief visit to Chinatown in San Francisco I walked past a gay couple who were dressed alike in leather vests with no shirts on underneath.  I actually felt bad for their poor taste in fashion and thought that they’d just fallen into a tragic gay stereo-type that should have long ago been amended.  It seemed a bit ironic considering gays seem to have fashion figured out.  Usually.  Also, when I walked by these oddly dressed guys, I was careful not to look away too much or stare too much.  It was the sort of awkward situation where you try not to look away or stare at the person with the extra nose or very large mole, but acknowledge the person as if he were normal and nothing to gawk at or flee from.  It’s hard sometimes, like walking a P.C. tightrope.  Curse you, P.C.!

There was an awkward moment in college when one guy wanted to hang out, you know, like that.  It’s cool when people are attracted to you, but weird when such a person is almost female, but not quite.  Barking up the wrong tree.  Once, when pressed in kind of a joking way, I actually told my mother and aunt that I was not (and still not), in fact, gay.  I’m not completely sure I convinced them.  Strangely, they would be ok with this.  It would resolve the problem of my non-married state and they would be on the front line of the codebreakers.  But there is no code.  It seems I’ll have to start peppering my conversations with more words like ‘boobs’ and ‘babe’ and ‘dude’ (maybe not ‘boobs’ at work).  This should clarify things.

What assumptions have people made about you because of your marital status?  Have family members ever asked you this sort of stuff?  What did you say? Did you start acting really tough and macho, overcompensating?

The Secret word is really.

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Being An Uncle

piggybackby Jonathan B. Perry

I love being an uncle.  I really enjoy my niece and nephews and being the only bachelor uncle has positioned me well for being the favorite uncle, which rocks.  I don’t come with my own kids at this point, so I won’t have them to favor and I can drop by on holidays or on weekend visits and shower the little monkeys with an inordinate amount of attention, then duck back out in time for the disciplining or whatever unpleasant parenting is required.

I can play trains with Nathaniel on one trip, then put on a puppet show with Blake and Raya on the next.  Maybe read them a book before bed.  I’m free to spoil them and teach them bad habits like burp-talking and they love me all the more for it.  I even got my two year-old nephew Nathaniel to say “Have mercy upon us, oh great Uncle Jonathan!”  I was pretty proud of that one.  I mean, he did give me a suspicious look, but ultimately was compliant.  Your will is mine!

I remember how much fun I had with my own bachelor uncles and I want things to be like that:  little excursions to the park or museum; ballgames or trips to the zoo.  The San Francisco Mint.  I helped two of them make their first snowmen in my backyard this winter.  Time spent with them is a great reward.  I live to hear “I love you Uncle Jonathan.” or “I’ve missed you Uncle Jonathan.”  That’s awesome!

Then, of course, there are those hugs.  Little kid hugs.  Living away from family I might go weeks or months without hugging anyone, which is kind of lousy, but once I see those sweet children, I know I can stock up on the best hugs to carry me through the long lonely months.  I can’t get enough of it.

Ok, well, I’ve depressed myself a little, now.  Hmm.  I need to go plan a few trips.

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