If not now, when?

One American woman. Twenty acres and a 1650 farmhouse in Tuscany. Random introspection and hilarity, depending on the day.

17 December 2005

I didn't see it coming.

I have spent ample time observing ‘The Gays’ in their natural habitat.
(That’s a big broad-brush statement, but go with me for a minute, from a cultural anthropology perspective.)

I lived happily for many years in what some call the ‘Gay Ghetto’. I’ve (both affectionately and cattily) proudly been called the crude-and-tacky-yet-still-somehow-appropriate “Fag Hag.” My mother has often teasingly mused that my dating status might improve if I, every now and again, brought a guy home who liked kissing girls. (A friend mused just the other day that my conversion talents are, um, lacking.) To be sure. Clearly, it's 'nature' not nurture, I say.

All this is to say, imitating the wacky parlance of Sean my blogdaddy, “I knows me the Gays.” I presume it’s a bit like birdwatching. It takes a little time, but eventually, training your eyes and ears, and they’re easy to spot even when they believe they are relatively well camouflaged.

It’s been humorously called “Gay-dar,” for those of you looking for a little '90s streetlingo enlightenment. And mine has almost always been 20/20 (occasionally even before someone sees, or admits, it themselves.)

Yesterday night, my Gaydar got the 'blue screen of death' .

In a nutshell, I had done some business this fall with a guy. Without going into too many identifying characteristics, suffice it to say we had a legitimate reason to work together, and it went off relatively well (though they were at their end particularly inexperienced in what I needed them to do, so he relied rather heavily on my guidance.) I was happy to give it; it’s all about the connections, and I knew that it would be helpful to have him as a contact in the future.
He doesn’t seem to be a particularly pleasant man. Not nasty, just sort of … perpetually cranky. Uncomfortably abrupt. Not a lot of nice things to say about most people or situations. Really, an odd duck in many ways. My perception, the few times we had occasion to meet, was that he was one of those ‘crabby, sour, aging hippy, flip-flop wearing queens.’ And, living here in the middle of nowhere with a distinct lack of a kindred spirit social circle, who could blame him? I am famous for being able to determinedly charm these types of folks.

He is also one of the few people in my neck of the woods who speak English. And his business will be useful to me in the future. I suspect he thinks I will be useful to him as well. I can’t decide if he’s threatened by my presence here or not, but that’s a possibility. So when he called last week – after the end of the busy season - to follow up on a dinner invitation (he had repeatedly mentioned this great local restaurant that I had not been to), I decided it was both polite and good business to accept.

It was supposed to be for Wednesday, or so I thought. He called Wednesday to see if Friday would work for me. As much as it was not my idea of a ragingly fun Friday night, I knew that coming into the holiday weeks, I wouldn’t have another chance for a while (and, truthfully, I just wanted to get it over with.)

I met him at a bar near town (we were coming from opposite directions – though he had originally offered to pick me up, which would have made sense – he has to pass my house to get to town.) I got there early; ordered a glass of wine and sat with my laptop, finishing a few items of work. He arrived. We kibitzed with the locals, and then, before I knew it, he had paid the bill (already I’m feeling uncomfortable!) and we were out the door.

The early part of the evening had a familiar ‘businessy meet and greet’ feeling to it. Obviously he knows the restaurant and its owners well, telling me the stories of the place, the handmade chandelier, etc. He went out of his way to introduce me around, show me the different spaces available for events both inside and out; it is well located for group lunches/dinners. (It should be said that this is one of two ‘nicer’ restaurants in town … the other, owned by the company that this guy works for. He kept telling me that I shouldn’t mention to the boss that he brought me here.) Huh?? My ‘oddness’ meter went zing.

And then, the evening took an almost imperceptible turn. Champagne. He orders a bottle of wine and goes on about how wonderful it is (Sicilian). It was one of those “you never look at a menu, things just arrive, all meals are shared tasters” kind of events. (Though at one point, he did actually have occasion to make some choices, and he did so without asking me what I wanted.)

At some point in the conversation (looking back I’m not entirely sure how he worked it in), he casually mentioned: "Lots of people thought I was gay when I first moved here. You know, single guy, living alone…”

My brain reacted as if as if a needle had been screeched off an old record: “What?!?!? You’re NOT?!?” Are you in total denial or am I blind?!? (Thank heavens that the girl can hold her alcohol and her tongue well enough to remain classy and composed while my brain had this blazing conversation with itself.)

He kept jumping up and running back to the kitchen. A mountain of vegetable and shrimp tempura to start. Smoked salmon and some sort of creamy salad-y side dish with that. Delicious mushroom ravioli in a to-die-for truffle sauce. Bottle of wine finished.

He’s off to the kitchen again. (What?! He’s not gay?!?! Then, is this ... a DATE???) I took another look. He *did* have a dressier outfit on than the ‘end of workday’ might have dictated: jeans paired with an open-collar pale blue button down shirt, red sweater vest, navy-blue gold buttoned blazer, and coordinating ‘navy/red/yellow ascotty’ scarf at his neck. Quirky thick-rimmed funky glasses. Wearing an ACSCOT; are you kidding me? He’s either gay or a 70 year old British man. I squint at him across the table.

Now arrives an apple tart baked in the shape of a heart. (A heart? What is this, prom night?!?) A fresh fruit extravaganza over a homemade rum icecream, all flowing out of a waffle cone sort of thing. A glass of Muscat dessert wine. The chef comes over. I gush, appropriately. We are offered some sort of a digestive made from berries? flowers? *(I don’t know, my dictionary doesn’t have a translation for ‘guiggiolo’.)

At some point, I can’t tell if he’s drunk, sleepy, or I’m just not interesting, but he gets that sort of glazed-over look behind his hip streetster glasses. For my part, I am famously, blissfully, basically un-affected by the alcohol we have consumed, though it could be that he filled his glass twice as frequently as mine? (Gotta love that high tolerance, it serves me well in situations such as this.) We have GOT to get out of here. And of course, he has already paid the bill; won’t hear a word of my offering to split it.

I try, desperately, a businesslike closer. The chef gives me his card and we depart. As he walks me to my car … “Gosh, this really was such a great recommendation; you’re right, it would be an excellent place to bring groups. Thanks very much for introducing me to it.” The short, double-kiss on the cheek that is a European standard, the mention that I need to swing by next week to do some business anyhow, so I’ll probably see him then, and … whew. I’m in the car. I wait for him to leave the parking lot first, then drive, following him … sloooooooooooooooooooooooowly … the 10 or so minutes back up the hill towards home. I peel off at my house, waving goodbye.

On the way home, I have called Fratello Guido, because someone has to share my moment of teenagerlike head-spinning: “he’s NOT gay!!!! Can you believe it?!?! OMG. Does that mean this was a date?!?! And what do I do with THAT?” (FG, for his part, is bemused by it all, probably thinking it’s about damn time that I went on a date.)

Let a few things be said here:

1) He actually, taken out of the daily-grind of his work environment, was a bit easier to be around than I had remembered and conversation throughout the evening was not as painfully stilted as I had feared it would be. I had a whole list of conversation starters prepared that I, mercifully, did not have to dig too far into. He's not fundamentally unattractive. However, despite all that, he is still not (my) dating material. My brain is already worrying now about the locals that we ran into at the bar – small town, easy to start rumors, and that’s the LAST thing I want. The chef made at least one "be careful with this one" joke, arrrghhhhh!!!

2) It’s entirely possible that the shock of his apparent-not-gayness created an overreaction on my part and that it WAS just a business dinner. Really. A long string of unrequited loves in junior high and high schools reminds me that ‘just because he’s straight doesn’t necessarily mean he’s interested in you’. That principle is interesting in the reverse, too. I’m occasionally asked by nosy nellies about a (relatively closeted) friend… “do you think he’s gay?” Since it’s not my story to tell either way, my answer is always the enigmatic yet honest… “Well, he’s never hit on me, which doesn’t really confirm one way or the other, now, does it?”

Sigh. How odd.

In other news: Simon (my new-old car for those of you just joining us), after three plus weeks, had a new radiator installed yesterday, which means that on that tedious post-dinner-drive up the hill, I am finally not sitting in the teeth-chattering cold with a blanket on my lap. One mechanical problem solved.

Now it’s apparently my Gaydar that needs a recalibration. Damn: if it’s not one thing, it’s another.


Anonymous Laurie said...

I have noticed that my gay-dar does not work in Italy at all....me, who grew up in San Francisco! All bets are off here!

3:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, I'll bite...who is he? I kniow you don't want to post names on the blog, yet I need to know a bit more...hmmmmm. The ascot and the heart shape are questionable (prom like is an understatement). I will consider it a date for you (weather is was of not). It's Christmas, so we count it baby.


5:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My preference is for "fruit fly" as opposed to "fag hag." I think it has a nicer ring to it.

As for the "are they 'together'" rumors, as I recall you have at least some experience in fashioning denials...

Merry Christmas.

Daisy Boy

7:33 PM  

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