A friend of mine thinks lesbian sex involves the exchanging of blood. Speaking as the daughter of a lesbian and an L-Word fan, I tried to provide expert testimony to the contrary over pepperoni pizza. Then she goes, “Uh-uh, that’s not how” and continued to extrapolate on a homoerotic hemoglobin theory that would have been hilarious if she hadn’t been totally serious.
It was like a slasher movie on skin flick steroids. “Anything but the lesbian vampires!” the red-lipped blonde would scream, right before being surrounded by a coven of Amazons with bloodlust in their eyes. After wiping the tears from mine, I realized that for all my homo-friendlier-than-thou proselytizing I was hardly above indulging in stereotypical scenarios. The only reason we were even on the subject was because I’d had two “suspect” encounters in as many days and was seeking confirmation from her that a deep V-neck Ed-Hardy-inspired T-shirt on a man was indeed a sign of gayness.
Let’s unpack the word “suspect” as it is applied to the down-low boogey man of which so many single ladies in D.C. (Atlanta, Los Angeles, et. al) are so afraid. Calling a potential partner “suspect” is like saying he stole something—possibly a woman’s dignity— when he decided to pass on her batted eyelashes. I ended up dating a man, who I’d initially dismissed as gay, only after he ignored me for an hour and then dismissed me with the greatest “get lost” line of our time: “I’m working on my personal relationship with Jesus Christ right now.” Jerk, I thought. Actually, make that gay jerk.
When he struck out with Jesus and I was done fabricating his sexual preference to pad my batting average, we got to third base.
Later, I explained my original misdiagnosis to my girls, by way of cultural misdirection.
“He’s just … Eurocentric. In France, he’d be totally normal, masculine even. Über masculine! Those pants aren’t even that bad. He’s got some way sexier.”
“Sexy or suspect, dude?” asked my best friend, who once openly questioned a man’s sexuality because he had on Nike Cortez sneakers. “But it’s whatever, ‘cause I’m überly familiar with your protocol. Überly.”
“I hate you.”
Every flip-flop, flip of the wrist, over-washed jean, over-sized belt buckle, and canvas tote is cause for alarm among a group of women who know all too well how frustrating it is to be summed up by a single part. But we continue to sync our universal gaydars because getting caught out there with a guy who’s just not that into girls is not just a failure in judgment—it’s a failure at life. Admitting my own shortcomings (namely egocentricity) was out of the question. Blaming it on the downpour of down-low hysteria is much easier.
Lesbian vampires? In a post-apocalyptic world populated by Twilight fanatics that could actually happen. But the guy at the dog park who seemed sweet and intelligent (with very trendy tan loafers) was probably just that: nice and sweet.
He was pet-sitting for a “friend,” which I mentally put in quotes because we were in DuPont Circle (the Greenwich Village of Washington, D.C.) and one never knows. We talked about hypoallergenic puppies for 15 minutes, and I was sad when he left. He was nice, cute and talkative but not in the annoying “you’re babbling is interrupting me trying to watch my dog hump” sort of way. Funny thing is I am almost positive my pug, Miles, is gay and not in the “Oh, every dog is into sniffing butts” sort of way. My mother calls Miles “the milk man” (let that marinate). I thought I had my pet pegged until this weekend at the dog park when Miles fell so hard for a German shepherd/lab named Nora that he got into a fight with a dog three times his size.
Sizing up someone else’s sexuality clearly isn’t my strong suit. When dog park guy came back 30 minutes later (he forgot the tennis balls), I was glad to have someone cool to talk to about something other than neutering. But when he suggested we get coffee, I balked, suggested we do a group thing sometime in the distance future for fear of the unknown. I asked my friend, who’d tagged along, if she thought he was gay. She said something like “could be, could be not.”
Was I ignoring the obvious or turning more screws into my spinsterhood? Or was it that I was looking for an excuse? A sheet of paper I could give Frances, my mother, that read, “Listen, it’s not her fault you don’t have grandkids, blame it on the gays, signed Dr. What’s-His-Guts.” If dude was gay, well then obviously it wasn’t going to work out.
The very next day I employed similar subterfuge at my regular Sunday watering hole. The chef who lets kisses on the cheek flow like unlimited mimosas asked me out on a date. Perfectly nice guy, but he’d been in my gay file for months, and I can’t for the life of me remember how he got there. Was it something he said? That chunky, black turtleneck he slips into after his shift is done? I asked one of the waitresses what she thought—“Not at all! But I wouldn’t be surprised if he was.” Nobody wants to commit these days.
Thing is I wouldn’t be attracted to him anyway. Not enough meat on his bones. Plus, I go to this place every Sunday and don’t want it to be weird (read: get cut off from unlimited mimosas) if and when things fall apart. Even so, the real snag in this plot is that I have no proof that any of these guys are, in fact, gay. Gay-ish? Maybe. But ready for a ride on the party bus down to Tangy Town—not so much.
Maybe my real job as Inspector Gayness is to beat them to the punch before I get outed as an asshole. Or perhaps it’s too late for that.
Helena Andrews is a regular contributor to The Root. Her book, Bitch Is The New Black, will be released this summer. Follow her on Twitter.