Monday, November 18, 2002

Shopping, Parties, Musicals... and Straights

Hello, my name is Robert, and I am a heterophobe. There, I've admitted it... I'm not proud of it, but there it is. Straight people get on my nerves. Not individually, mind you — I have no problem with straight people in and of themselves (so long as they don't act too straight)... but in large groups, they tend to make me very uncomfortable.

(As an aside, I feel it necessary to expound a little on the mild inaccuracy of the word I am using here, "heterophobia," and the wild inaccuracy of the word I am using it to contrast, "homophobia." Homo-Phobia, in the meaning of its roots, would have to translate as Fear of Same... one would hate that which is like oneself. In Hetero-Phobia, Fear of Different, one hates that which is different from oneself. The word "homophobia" is really just a sort of shorthanded corruption of homoerotophobia, which is the correct word for hating people or things or ideas which are related to same-gendered sexual behavior. Then, the opposite of this word would be heteroerotophobia, which isn't exactly correct as I have no particular dislike of them because of their sexual behavior, but rather because of their social behavior. So, to use a word that is the opposite of an incorrect word, and yet happens to be the nearly-correct description of the situation — i.e., I dislike that which is different from myself, though only in this particular aspect — is essentially a laziness of language, which I am loath to continue. But I would like to continue what I was saying, so we will have to take it as read, with cautions, and go on...)

I'm sure I'm just projecting, and that this feeling is based on ignorance and prejudice, but when I find myself in a large group of straight people, I feel that I can't talk about myself, or about anything that's important to me, because they won't understand me. I'm afraid that they will ask perfectly earnest and innocent but no less insulting questions. I'm afraid that I will say the wrong thing or respond in the wrong fashion to what they say about themselves and that which is important to them, which I might not understand. In short, I'm afraid they won't like me.

And aside from this fear, there is a certain amount of loathing (any good phobia must have both); this loathing is based largely on my own envy, a jealousy of the apparent ease and acceptance that straights enjoy which gays do not... the knowledge that the laws of the nation are designed to protect their rights to marry and to inherit and to reproduce... rights that gays have to fight tooth and nail to procure. There's an envy of people for whom things are designed and addressed, people for whom romantic comedies and television dramas and Holiday specials are written and produced and aired... the knowledge that I will know and understand what they're saying and what is important to them because I have read it and heard it and seen it all of my life, where they will have had considerably less exposure to my lifestyle. It's the jealousy that any oppressed and/or minority person will feel at least once in his or her life, the envy of the members of the dominant paradigm, in which one plays no part and owns no stake oneself.

The result of this is that I have no straight male friends whatsoever, have only a small handful of straight female friends (and most of these aren't really "straight," they're simply heterosexual), I never go to straight AA meetings, I seldom attend parties of mostly straight people, and I pretty much just avoid straights whenever it is convenient. I often feel the limitations of this, especially when I find myself thrown into a large group of straights for whatever unavoidable reason, but I haven't really found it necessary to change it.

At any rate, on Saturday I spent the day doing things that I often think of as being generally Gay (not exclusively gay things, but things that gays tend to enjoy) — I went shopping, went to a party, and watched a musical — and in all three of these things, I was unendingly and almost unbearably surrounded by straights. Of course, the fact that I was with my Grandmother through all of these had more than a little to do with it, but it still brought itself to my attention with the intensity of heterophobia I felt (this is almost a theme developing, here... me being surprised by the intensity of my own feelings).

So the Grandmother and I went out shopping at Southland Mall in Hayward, because there were some sales at Macy's and Mervyn's she wanted to check out (she wants new bathroom mats and sheets for her bed), and maybe get a head-start on the Christmas giftery (we usually wait until the week before Christmas to do both our shopping), and try to find a gift for a housewarming party to which we were invited later that day.

All the time I was there, I was surrounded and overwhelmed by straights and their offspring. Every time we got on or off an elevator (Grandmother sits in her wheelchair for these outings), we were barraged by at least one multi-person family, and often two or three, each with vast and complicated-looking stroller/pram combinations and a passel of brats swarming around their feet. As we made our way down the mall concourse, to or from or in or out of a shop, we had to wait for these vast families to pass like the Crimson Tide. And those who were just couples, rather than whole families, were just as irritating in their seeming inability to move from place to place unless maintaining full-body contact at all times. But mostly, it was the absolute oceans of children and the vastness of families that caused my ire.

See, this is one of those things that your average straight person doesn't grasp: there are too many people in the world already, so fer chrissakes stop making more! If you suggest to a straight couple that it is perhaps irresponsible on a global level to have any children, much less three or more, they will just look at you blankly, as if you had suddenly started speaking Chaldean. If you go so far as to suggest that the child they have is one too many, they will actually get angry at you. Billions are spent developing and purchasing fertility drugs so that everyone can do their part to overpopulate the world to a crisis level that might just destroy the species altogether. Apparently, every straight person has the right, if not the sacred duty, to pollute the planet with another generation of offspring, as many as possible.

I know, of course, that there are many gays and lesbians who wish to (and often do) reproduce biologically. And there are many straights who have no desire to raise children. But by and large, straights take for granted the idea that they will produce offspring, the concept of not reproducing is a minority whim, while gays have to actually address it as an intellectual question. And to someone for whom the very idea of reproduction is vile (like me), someone who doesn't particularly like children and has no urge whatever to see his rather questionable DNA passed on to yet another generation, this taking-for-granted seems bizarre, inexplicable, and wildly irritating.

Please address hate-mail on this topic to

After we got home from the mall, we turned right around and went next door to the housewarming party of our new neighbors... whom we shall call "Tate and Kristin" (for Tate Donovan and Kristin Davis, who the new neighbors closely resemble). The turnover of real estate in my neighborhood has been amazing the last few years, and there are in fact four sets of new neighbors in the twelve houses on my street this year alone. We haven't met many of the new people (mostly young yuppie couples), but since Tate and Kristin are right next door (in fact their bedroom overlooks my bedroom, and my bedroom in turn overlooks their living room and patio), and we always have to know the people in that house, we were glad of the invitation.

Well, I should start off saying that they're very nice people, both of them. I spent a good deal of time talking with Tate, though not so much with Kristin... you could tell she is the Social One in their relationship, by the way that she talked to absolutely everyone present, briefly and with great hilarity, and then moved on to the next person or group to repeat the performance, while Tate tended to talk to one person for a while, or else busied himself with refreshing the drinks. He's in Finance (I swear to God, he pronounced the capital F), doing some incomprehensible thing in the Entertainment division of a Canadian bank. I think Kristin does something in Finance as well, judging from the comments of her friends, but I'm not sure. Whatever it is, they're doing something that affords them an $850k home in a desirable neighborhood. Need I mention that they are both younger than I? But that's the topic of a different rant.

However, even dismissing the hampering effect of having the Grandmother right at my elbow, I felt very uncomfortable and reserved at this gathering of apparently successful straight people (who were mostly younger than I). I heard myself talking about the most unbelievably banal things, like weather and traffic and home repairs and the other neighbors, much to my own chagrin. I only met four of their friends, who happened to wander into the living room where Grandmother and I were... they were women, and they talked only to Grandmother, discussing how long Grandmother has lived in our house and where she came from, and then where they came from and how they know Tate and Kristin. Inexpressibly dull, and there I stood with a little plate of cheese and crackers and a cup of soda, saying absolutely nothing at all, just nodding and chewing and standing.

Oh, and did I mention how many incredibly good-looking guys were there? Each with a girlfriend in tow? Each casually and irksomely proclaiming his straightness, despite the Prada shoes and cashmere sweaters and well-tended skin, with that strange aura of smugness that corporate-type straights tend to give off? Let's just say that I was glad to leave, and yet I will be keeping an eye on their patio, particularly in the summer months, whenever Tate and Kristin entertain.

Eventually we did manage to ooze out of the house and back to our own, where we sat down to watch TV... settling on what I believe is the straightest movie musical ever made, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I was actually repulsed by much of what went on in this film, its theme being exclusively devoted to mating (not really love or romance or relationships, but plain old down-home Mating). Okay, some of the brothers were pretty damned hot (and the Barn Raising Dance was fairly exciting), and one of the brides was the überfabulous Julie Newmar... but with sappy music and sappy themes and all that mountainous countryside and all the barnyard shenanigans, with nary a sequin or rhinestone in sight, it was very simply disgusting. It made me want to bathe in epsom salts. After that was a John Wayne movie, McClintock, and that was even straighter... so I went to bed early and read a book for the rest of the night.

So anyway, that's what my Saturday was like. I was going to write about it all on Sunday, but my wrist, though better, was still bothering me... so I decided to stay off the mouse and keyboard for another day. I'm glad I did, because now my wrist feels just fine. Plus, it gave me some time to go shopping, and I bought something I've been wanting for a long, long time... and I will write about that tomorrow or the next day, or whenever. In the meantime, I am going to wash the taste of Straight out of my mouth with a lot of online porn (most of those models are straight, though), a bit of video camp (either Priscilla or Pink Narcissus... or hell, why not both?), and a nice healthy dose of Ethan Mordden (I think Buddies would be the best choice).

In the meantime, I apologize to my straight readers and heterosexual friends who may have been offended by the above rant. I will try and grow and become a better person. It's what I expect of others, so I must try doubly hard to be more understanding and tolerant of people who are unlike myself.

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