Our first attempt to find the dance club our son was enjoying was a washout. We didn’t find the club, but we did see my first drag show, experienced our first time with bisexual (pansexual? ambisexual?) non-specific sex bathrooms, and enjoyed a stressful massage.
Two observations about language here: (Uh-oh, a tangent!)
There were no baths or even showers in the “bathrooms.” They were what our British cousins bluntly and accurately call “toilets.” And urinals. But toilets will suffice.
Second, “Gender” has always troubled me when it refers to sex. We are so afraid of calling a spade a pointed shovel that we can’t even use the word “sex” when referring to whether one is male or female (Yet our president-elect can say by what he can grab women with immunity.) I’d prefer womb-challenged or testicle bereft, but with so many surgeries available for so many reasons, I am surprised we can still say female, which comes with a “male” in it. (I’ll wait while you make your filthy remarks. How many levels can you attain?)
All ready? Maybe we should use ‘hes” and “shes;” we gave up elegance when we decided that mankind was a sexist (genderist?) term. (Remember the “personholes” in the streets of Rhode Island?)
Never mind, I just realized that “she” has a “he” in it.
Agan, my train of thought has been derailed.
Wait! Train…derailed…Tracks! We were looking for Tracks. (And may I ADD that I think Moosetracks ice cream is amazing?)
So, to recap: when we learned that one of our underaged teenagers was hanging at a DC club on Friday nights through the wee hours of Saturday, his mum and I decided that responsible parents would check out what kind of a place it is, so we went to a transvestite bar because A) I am perpetually lost (direction, not soul) and B) because his mum had to…um …powder her nose….like a racehorse. So we had a few drinks, hit a unisex loo or two, watched some skinny guys dance naked (well, they did have their socks on) and enjoyed a neck/shoulder massage from a lovely young man…who was also naked….except for his socks. All for the sake of being responsible parents.
Let’s just take a moment to digest that.
We got better directions and decided to try again. Now, this was the early 90s and we were not in the habit of getting directions via GPS or even Mapquest. These were primitive days when maps were paper, folded in exactly the perfect pattern to make grown men weep in trying to reproduce it. Now the AAA had Triptiks, amazing little flip books with turn-by-turn directions, but, after all, our son was routinely going to the place on Friday nights, so this should not require a pith helmet and safari guide. The place was 6-7 miles from our house. What idiot could not find it?
It took some doing, but after getting directions from our other teenager (I began to suspect that Chad’s directions might have been intentionally off the mark) we made our way there. As a guide and fun-loving addition, we invited a friend—a military mortician–to come along to spice up the evening.
Well, guess who turned out to have a little problem with homosexuality? Clare and I had not given any thought to the issue; as aging hippies, like Marines, once in never out. Semper high!
Where was I? (Maybe the short-term memory thing is making more sense?)
Yup, Don was a little homophobic. (Which is like saying a corpse is not the life of the party.) So, why would a homophobic military mortician opt to join us in our quest for the bay we believed to be gay-oriented and our son declared straight as a bee-line?
He likes beer.
Bars have beer.
We found Tracks–another warehouse a short distance–maybe within sight of–Ziegfeld’s. We entered, showed ID, and paid the cover charge. The house was hopping. (Another beer allusion, perhaps? I would have gone with the “joint was jumping,” but I already made one marijuana allusion and who knows whether I will need to update my security clearance?)
When we entered, I could feel Don’s relief at the banner that congratulated the newlyweds. He would be able to swill brew without worrying about keeping his masculine virtue intact.
(When you’re talking ‘rhoids instead of hymen, it kicks the stakes up a notch. Feel the burn, baby.)
We ordered drinks and were debating whether to dance when we noticed a preponderance of men on the dance floor, (Okay, most of them looked and dressed like Freddie Mercury) and they appeared to be having a great time.
No big deal; no proof of anything. Men outnumber women in any number of straight bars. Dancing together is less common, particularly in some of the more rustic bars out west Virginia way, (unless there is banjo music) but, anyway….
The loudspeaker interrupted the music to direct our attention to the doors opening across the dance floor, and it invited us to welcome the happy couple: Darlene and Helen.
I could sense Don’s ‘rhoids clenching. He was as still and erect…that is standing at attention….in a military way. (This is hard. See? Once you start down this path….)
He was tense.
When the applause died down Don got a couple more beers. He wasn’t sharing. Clare took my hand and pulled me onto the dance floor like a cartoon character: now you’re standing here; now you’re somewhere else and there’s nothing left but a feet disappearing off the edge of the frame, with a few lines indicating a rapid exit.
When I caught a look at Don, he was still standing at attention but his eyes had turned into white stationary radar dishes. The only thing moving was his arm, as it mechanically raised to pour beer down his throat.
After a couple of dances, Clare asked Don if he’d like to cut a rug with her. He shook his head rapidly enough that I wasn’t sure whether it was two or three times. It was like a dog shaking off water. In the cartoons it would have made a wacky rattling noise.
But the shaking didn’t last long. Don and I sipped our beers and talked…well, I did most of the talking. Except for the regular motion of his arm as he moved his beer from his side to his mouth, Don was as close to catatonic as I have seen in a club…or museum..or doctor’s office or home for the terminally bewildered. Let us say that he adopted behaviors traditionally modeled by his clients.
Well, I never have seen anyone as motionless as he, even as a young man pressed into him from behind in an effort to squeeze past him. Mirabili dictu, the man levitated! Nothing else moved. He simply seemed to rise into the air, straight up and straight down, arms at his side. Now only his eyes moved, and those bad boys were pinging as if they were in a pinball machine. I might have laughed if I were not so enthralled with the bizarre manifestation of the only case of true homophobia I have seen. Don did not so much manifest animosity toward gays, as fear…terror might be closer to it. And apparently that was limited to the terror that they might engage him.
Even Clare, who rarely allowed my quirks to pass without comment only stared, snarky comments tugging at the corners of her slightly smirking lips.
When he regained some color, Don leaned slightly toward me: “Come to the men’s room with me.”
“Come with me to the men’s room.”
“You must be the easiest convert ever!”
“What? Don’t be stupid. I’ve gotta take a leak and I want you to watch my back.” (I think he meant it literally.)
And so it was that I found myself in the men’s room at a gay club protecting a military mortician from sneak attack by sex-starved gay men. It was not my place to mention that he was about a (generously) three in a club full of 8-10s and no one had seemed to so much as glance in his (or my) direction.
But, one thing remained clear: This was not a straight group, and although there was in fact a volleyball court, other questions remained.
We needed to talk with Chad.
The next morning, we were having coffee when Chad joined us, so it must have been closer to noon. We bantered for a while and when he sat next to me, I mentioned that his mother and I had been to Tracks the previous night. I was feeling confused because I knew that his every waking moment seemed to be concentrated on finding girls who find him attractive, which wasn’t hard because in addition to being unusually handsome and charming (Okay, I am a little prejudiced but still….) he is extraordinarily persuasive.
I remember a rare disagreement his mother and I had when she wanted me to buy condoms for him. I was not happy. I was jealous of how easy it was for him to find willing partners….No, that’s not what I meant to say: Not only was I opposed on religious and moral grounds (and maybe a little jealous) but also, I said, buying him condoms was a not-very-subtle message that we condoned–encouraged even–his sexual activity.
But this was the early 90s and AIDS loomed large and scary, His mother asked whether I would rather see him dead or dying.
I went to the drug store.
Chad was baffled at my sudden encouragement of activity of which he knew I disapproved, with that distant of someone denied the same. And that was when I was worried about girls, never mind Haitians. (You have to be a certain age.) But he didn’t hesitate to to take the condoms, with a snarky query about whether I would get him for more the next day.
But now we sat around the table and told him that we had been to Tracks and has no doubt that it was a gay crowd. If nothing else, they were having too much fun to be straight.
He stared at me. Apparently mum was off the hook on this one. His eyes did that thing where they go back and forth from one eye to the other, searching for which showed stupidity and which showed madness.
Never one to heed a warning… or take a hint, I plodded on. “I am comfortable that you know your mother and I love you no matter what,” His face gave away nothing; although he managed to look at me as if I were completely out of my mind, “and if there is anything you want to talk about, we are here and always ready to listen.”
“You’re nuts,” he said. “You’re crazy!” In case we missed his drift the first time. As he rose from the tale he continued” “Tracks isn’t a gay bar and I am not gay.” (Tacitly understood; Not that there’s anything wrong with that…except that it was an era when that seemed to be a death sentence.)
“Well, if you go there again, just notice who else is there and think about it.”
“And so what if it is…and it isn’t. I’m not gay so it doesn’t matter about the others.”
He left the table shaking his head, looking back once or twice just to have a couple more opportunities to give me “the look” teenagers are so good at giving their parents.
The next week, we repeated the pattern. Chad went to Tracks Friday night, and we returned Saturday night to verify our initial findings (minus Don, who remained traumatized at the thought of the men drooling over him…although they had successfully managed to feign indifference to him all evening.)
Chad reported that he and his pals had met quite a few girls the previous night; we found that that was not a likely scenario when we were there.
Clare didn’t seem to care as much about who was around us as that we were going dancing, which was not high on my list of things to do.
So, after another uncomfortable Sunday morning discussion that left Chad annoyed with us (especially me), while our older boy seemed to find the situation tremendously amusing, I decided to take it to the people.
I had one senior class with quite a few of Chad’s pals in it, so at the beginning of class the next day, I asked whether anyone knew of a club called Tracks.
Peas and carrots, lots of nods.
What kind of place is it?
“It’s a lot of fun,” volunteered his handsome and popular friend from South America. “Some nights it’s gay, Thursdays and Saturdays, I think. The other nights it’s straight…and there’s a volleyball court…it’s a great place to meet girls.”
And so it was that we learned that everything is not always what it seems to be. Chad manifested his continuing contempt with the odd haughty glance from time to time.
And Clare pouted because I wouldn’t be taking her dancing any more.