Buttercup - Column for 8/3

Sexual Discretion

Here in northern California homosexuals are part of the everyday landscape, holding hands in the park, kissing on the street corner, whispering and giggling on the bus. But I am occasionally appalled at what the average homosexual considers acceptable public displays of affection or declarations of sexuality. Any attempt to curb the outrageous behavior by snubbing them is seen as homophobia, as if heterosexual displays are never censured for indelicacy and poor taste. Homosexuals out of the closet often seem taken with the sort of sexual hedonism that characterized the Summer of Love, unable to talk about sexuality without a physical demonstration.

I am reminded of this every time I see a dear friend of mine in San Francisco. We call him over-achiever-boy and I think he'd make a great comic book action hero; Ivy League honors graduate, editor of a school paper, AIDS activist, prestigious med school graduate with honors and an all around nice guy. He also has dreadful taste in men. If they weren't gay I'd say they were exactly the sort of lewd old men who should be kept away from little girls' schoolyards.

In truth, they are perfectly nice fellows, really, if, um, a bit domineering. But I've never been in a conversation with these fellows that didn't include a salacious comment, or five, in every paragraph. And while I can see that my handsome friend might inspire their remarks and that making my friend blush is quite charming, I'm less charmed when I'm blushing at the same time. A vacation in Fiji sounds delightful, but I don't require graphic hints about how the nights won't be spent sleeping. And whenever they are within five feet of each other they are touching, hands, hips, lips, like lovers that have been separated for days instead of a couple minutes.

In my family, a wink and a smile was all that was required to get me and a partner our own room for family holidays. But it was granted with the unspoken caveat that all public behavior must be circumspect and no loud noises or banging headboards. If you sleep in separate rooms you can get away with necking in the corner of the living room, but if you share sleeping quarters you can just about manage holding hands. I always assumed these rules were basically universal, that adults really don't want to know what their children are up to (And for that matter, how would you feel about your parents with their hands all over each other in public?) and you can do what you like so long as you don't shove their noses in it. But homosexuals don't seem to feel accepted unless they are being publicly ignored for explicitly sexual behavior.

One of my dormmates in college, a graduate student, was a very butch lesbian. Unlike the sexuality exploring undergrads, she was a woman in her late forties with the lesbian uniform of salt-and-pepper butch haircut and I-have-no-breasts androgynous clothing. We spoke from time to time, but I remember one breakfast very vividly. It was a weekend breakfast, the late brunch, and I was midway through eating when she waved and came to sit at my table. Trailing behind her was a more petite version of herself with the same salt-and-pepper hair and a slightly uncertain what-am-I-doing-here air about her. It didn't take a genius to draw a diagram between the two women and guess why the second was here for breakfast. My dormmate reached the table and put down her tray, smiled, and said, "Good morning, Buttercup. I'd like you to meet my lover, Katie."

I nearly choked on my cereal. I believe I managed to only blink before I returned the greeting but I know I was momentarily paralyzed all the way to my feet and I wouldn't have been surprised if I'd dropped my jaw and my spoon at the same time. For the rest of breakfast I couldn't get the phrase out of my mind; it was so intimate, so personal, so vivid. I tried to imaging introducing my boyfriend to my family as "my lover" and saw myself looking for a motel room to sleep in. I considered using the phrase the next time I made an introduction to friends just for the shock value. It isn't like anyone wouldn't know we were lovers if I didn't say it. Did my dormmate think I couldn't figure out the relationship if she'd said "girlfriend" instead? Or is a girlfriend too feminine? Maybe she thought I'd make a pass at Katie if I wasn't clearly informed in advance.

Homosexuals rail about how they want to be treated like "normal" people and allowed their sexual expression. Unfortunately, few of them seem to realized that "normal" is not synonymous with sexual explicitness and overt PDAs. The true sign of sexual parity will be when the homosexuals' salacious jokes are subtle, the bedroom assignments are discreet, and they accept that people will always shake their heads at you when they catch you necking in the moonlight.

Columns by Buttercup