Clarification: In last week’s post, I made mention that the gym locker-room attendant (Gustavo), a.k.a. toalla man, was no fruitcake. Perhaps in a weak attempt at humor, I could have used a less disparaging term. Although fruitcake can refer to someone deranged or out of balance, it was meant to mean a homo(sexual) man.
No one called this out. I thought if it as I was sitting in the sauna the other day looking down at my flip flops (not the ones I tripped over two weeks ago). These are rubber and I use them in the public shower area. Or outside in the summer when it rains.
I bought these flip flops about 12 years ago when I lived in Mauritius, a small island in the Indian Ocean. They were a welcome purchase. They fit well, were functioned in sand, surf, on a boat, at home, and now the locker room. I didn’t think at the time that they had the gay, fruitcake-like colors woven into the borders. They were simply black with colorful accents. But as I looked down at them dripping sweat in the sauna, I suddenly realized that they could be mistaken for the gay flag colors and that wearing them may be a declaration that I myself am a fruitcake. I think they were missing a color or two but wasn’t sure. It was a weird feeling.
I’m about as far from being gay as a guy can get. Mind you, I’ve had and have gay friends — but so what. Who gives a hoot whether one is gay or not. It shouldn’t matter in business, in social settings, in politics, or war.
If one is gay and wants to join the military and defend our country, so what? Their sexual persuasion is about as relevant as their favorite color. If two people of the same sex want to marry each other, so what? What does it matter?
As long as we are within the boundaries of respecting one another’s rights and not doing harm, what does gayness matter about anything?
Back (way back) when I was in graduate school, after I finished an International Law course, the professor teaching that course called my apartment and left a voice mail. He said that never had he had a student who entered his course knowing so little (about the subject) and leaving his course having gained so much. He sounded truly sincere saying that I was one of his most memorable students. (In reality, I did what anyone could have done by investing lots of weekend time applying logic to case studies). I’m not patting myself on the back, simply recounting an event. Anyhow, as I was proud of receiving this compliment, I called someone close who was a lawyer and played the message for him. His only (serious) response was “he sounds gay.” I was dumbfounded. How could he have detected gayness from a sincere voice? I had never considered the professor or his voice message, which had no extrinsic motive, gay or not gay, so my lawyer friend’s fruit-oriented response was surprising and a tad disappointing.
I can’t mention the number of times I’ve been asked over the years whether I was gay or not. Been asked by male and female, by straight and gay. When I was about 30, I overheard a roommate and his girlfriend discussing the subject (they didn’t realize I was home). She was peppering him with questions about whether I was gay or straight. Perhaps she was more concerned about him than me. At least he defended me and said he didn’t think I was.
When I was single, a woman I was friendly with asked me if I was gay. As my eyes bore into hers, I asked her why she would ever think that. She said it was because I was neat. Because I kept myself, my clothes and my home clean and organized. This was before the definition of metrosexual existed. Regardless, I chalked her off my friendly list after that.
Then there was one flaming fellow I knew in my gym in San Francisco. After months on any gym floor, you get friendly with those who are there at the same time doing the same thing. One day he asked me if I was gay or straight. He said he normally prides himself on being an expert at detecting someone’s sexual preference but he had been observing me for months and could not tell. When I asked why, he said that I looked at everyone the same. Of course I told the fruitcake I was no fruitcake (not even a wholewheat cupcake). We still chatted on the gym floor and helped each other when one needed a spot, but he went from just flaming to a flaming goofball for asking that question.
What I don’t get is why ask anyone whether they are gay or not. Unless you are into the gossip scene, what the hell does it matter? In all my decades, I’ve never asked anyone whether they are gay. I could care less whether anyone I know or don’t know is gay or not, or how much fruit is in their cake.
There are two opposite ends of this spectrum. At one end are those who are completely heterosexual, who are repulsed by the notion of sexual affection with someone of their same sex (I fall in this camp). On the other end are those repulsed by the notion of sexual affection with the opposite sex. In between those extremes is a huge population with every imaginable combination of the those tendencies. Throw in transgender and it’s a (large) community now labeled LGBTQ. (As a side note, it’s interesting that men who are repulsed by the notion of fruitcake tendencies within their own gender are actually excited by those same tendencies in the female gender).
Perhaps one of my more surprising episodes was while living in Brazil. As it went on many weekends, I headed to the beach with a couple of female friends. Everyone wore skimpy bathing suits then, men included. While on the beach, I had to walk back and get something from the car so I wrapped a thin shaw around my waist for my own modesty and had a wide brimmed hat for sun protection. Did I look like a normal Brazilian guy? Probably not. And as I passed a group of guys, they started cat-calling at me, pointing to me and calling me fag (in portuguese). For a second, I pictured how they would cat-call with their teeth bashed in. But then I just quickly wrote them off as local juvenile idiots. (but I kept the shaw off after that).
It’s common in Middle East countries for men to kiss. In India, you routinely see men or boys holding hands. In many South American countries, girls hold hands all the time out of friendship. In these cases it’s cultural and has nothing to do with fruitcakeness.
Do I think it’s natural to be a fruitcake? No. But it’s not a requirement of nature to be rational. The one thing that does matter and should be natural is our ability to tolerate each other’s preferences, as long as those preferences, tendencies, or beliefs don’t infringe on or otherwise harm fellow humans. So why are we compelled to label those tendencies? Shouldn’t they be a non-issue?
One of the most impressive talks I’ve heard on the subject is by iO Tillet Wright. I’d highly recommend spending 15 minutes listening to her 50 shades of gay presentation.
Regarding fruitcake, the actual cake itself is not bad in small bites. We always seemed to have had one during the holidays growing up. Some are all fruit and little cake. Other cakes could use more fruit. But using the reference to describe one’s gay tendencies is like handing out an overripe papaya. It may not be all that appetizing.
I still like my rubber, color-on-black flip flops, even if they could be mistaken for displaying fruitiness. And not that it matters one bit, I may be slightly off the wall, but I swear I’m no fruitcake.