my straight neighbor
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SETTING MY SCARED NEIGHBOR STRAIGHT

by Gabriel Rotello - NY Newsday, March 10, 1994

 

 I KNEW I WAS IN TROUBLE with my neighbor Thompson the minute Roseanne Arnold and Mariel Hemmingway locked lips on network TV.

Thompson lives next door, and he's always razzing me about how promiscuous we gays are. "You gays,” he always says. "You're just so promiscuous.”

I'll be getting off the elevator with my arms full of groceries and kitty litter and he'll be walking that sniveling dog of his and he'll bark out, "Backs to the wall, mates!" To his dog, no less, which I don t find amusing at all. But there's no talking to Thompson. He's convinced that the only reason we gays don't constantly put the make (or worse) on unwilling heterosexuals is because we live in hostile territory, and that as soon as we're on our own turf - say, inside a gay bar - straight people become just so much raw meat.

Now, I don't want to complain too much about Roseanne’s famous kiss. I know there are people out there who think we gays complain too much already and that we'll never be satisfied until a repentant pope marries Martina Navratilova to k.d. lang in a Vatican cleansed of fig leaves, and I don t want to feed into that. I have boundaries, even if my friends don't.

So, yes, I freely admit that airing the kiss episode was a victory in the political department. And the fact that Roseanne visited a lesbian and gay bar on national TV was certainly a victory in the visibility department. But when I realized that the bar was having something called "Convert a Hetero Night," I knew I was in trouble in the Thompson department. And when the character played by Mariel Hemingway sucked Roseanne into that lesbian lip lock without asking for permission and I heard this muffled "Ah, ha!" through the thin walls of my apartment, I realized the situation was grave indeed.

Sure enough, the morning after the episode aired, I went out to the hall to get my mail and there was Thompson, waiting. "You see," he snickered. "Even that fat old Roseanne isn't safe."

I decided that the only way to shut him up was to take him to an actual gay bar. "Thompson," I said, "come with me. I'm taking you to a gay bar."

"I may not be able to control myself when they all start pawing at me," he warned, but I wasn't worried. Thompson hasn't darkened the door of a gym since college, lo these many years ago, and there's his spreading bald spot, which I personally don't mind, but who am I kidding?

That evening I took him to a bar in Chelsea called Splash. The men there, like the men in most gay bars, essentially fall into two categories: nubile twentysomething swimmerbodies, and chiseled thirtysomething studpuppets. Poor Thompson wedged his spreading fortysomething waistline into this washboard jungle with that I-know-you-all-want-me smirk some straight people affect around homosexuals, and placed his back defensively against the wall.

As I expected, not only did nobody notice him, they went out of their way not to notice him. You might even say he was rudely ignored. After ten minutes he was nervously examining his face in a mirror for any embarrassing food trapped in his front teeth. It was clear that his vanity circuits were dangerously overheating and his hypothalamus, such as it is, had no way to process what was happening.

About a half-hour later his entire belief system collapsed. I left him muttering in the middle of the floor, drinking heavily, absorbing a hard lesson the writers of "Roseanne" apparently have yet to learn: Unless you look like Marky Mark, you can't get picked up in a gav bar in 1994.

 Trust me. I know.

     

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