My mom made me gay. Okay, of course that’s not true. She made me gay-er. I most certainly would have been less dramatic, not such a hopeless romantic, more masculine and all sorts of cool things if it hadn’t been for her. I don’t think I would have been straight, I have just never been attracted to women. I’m one of those gay guys on the scale of sexuality that’s one hundred percent gay. I like men probably more than women like men and I might be under emphasizing that point. It’s just that my mom inadvertently did all these things that most other gay men would have considered her to be the ultimate fag hag. But for me it was just annoying. My mom didn’t do this intentionally, she was just being herself, but I was definitely raised by a gay man trapped in a straight woman’s body.
Let me explain this in more detail. You see when other kids watched The Wizard of Oz on TV it was because they wanted to. They wanted to see all the special effects, the scary flying monkeys (they gave me anxiety) and the wicked witch meeting her demise at the end, slowly and painfully melting (also gave me anxiety). But no, I was forced to watch it because Judy Garland stared in it and listening to her sing Somewhere Over the Rainbow was ritualized like some Catholic tradition. Wizard of Oz was just one of many Judy Garland films I would have to watch as a youngster. If Meet Me in St. Louis was on anywhere within the 67 channels that cable offered at the time, we were watching it. And like most families when I was a kid there was only one large main television in the house. The rest were smaller and didn’t have cable. When VCR’s came about it was sheer torture. That meant my mom could watch every Judy Garland, Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelley, Audrey Hepburn, Betty Davis, Joan Crawford, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn film ever made. Holy shit I forgot Spencer Tracey, Angela Lansbury and Jane Wyman. I know there’s more. I don’t remember who played The Thin Man or that other guy that pretended to be Chinese and solved murder mysteries.
It’s no wonder that when I’m sad and talking about it to my partner Eric that I run to the sofa, cross my legs and throw my head back while gracefully holding the back of hand to my forehead. Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit but I think my masculinity factor would have edged up a couple of notches. I always would put “straight acting” on my online profiles when I was single but I could probably pull it off if I watched Dark Victory or Stolen Life five less times. It’s like Betty Davis and Joan Crawford were my baby sitters and I knew nothing else. My dad was never around so who was there to emulate?
You’re probably wondering what I would have watched if I had control of the TV set. That would be very easy to answer. Anything with Robert Conrad. You see since I was a very young person anytime I saw Robert Conrad on the screen I would practically be paralyzed. I was infatuated with him and I had no idea why. I loved watching him on Wild Wild West and even now I look at his pic and he’s dreamy. And forget about those Duracell commercials where he dared you to “go ahead, knock it off.” So yeah, anything with him in it or any other hyper-masculine male I would have been happy to watch. But no, I was stuck with musicals and extremely dramatic leading ladies in crisis. I think what ever masculinity I do have must be from watching Doris Day in Calamity Jane.
In retrospect there were some films I enjoyed, and again at the time, I had no idea why. For example, all the rough looking Latino men in West Side Story really kept me focused. I could watch that with no problem and my mom was so proud she had my attention. I’m sure she thought she was getting through to me somehow and I would soon be asking her to watch Miracle In The Rain for a sixteenth time. Alas that wouldn’t be the case and I would just feel hopeless trapped when anything without color would come on the screen. Oh my God, please tell me we don’t have to watch I remember Mama again!
Now I’m an adult and while I look back at my childhood as some type of conversion camp I find myself becoming interested in what I once hated. I’m starting to listen to show tunes on satellite radio and they’re actually kind of cool. And I have a Cole Porter song on my iPhone… wait maybe there’s two. I really enjoy having a glass of wine, programming my smart bulbs to a dim orange glow while listening to music from the 1930’s and 40’s. My partner Eric likes that too, however he watched Meet Me In Saint Louis with his grandmother all the time so we might be actually holding some sort of support meeting and aren’t even aware of it. So maybe my mom did have taste after all. I just wasn’t ready for it. She wanted Casa Blanca, I wanted Star Wars because I had a crush on the ultimate bad boy, Darth Vader.
This weekend I’ll probably visit my mom at her little town home that she loves. She’s almost 80, smaller now and on oxygen 24/7. She still loves to watch all the oldies and thanks to me, she can ask Alexa to play any song from any musical she’s ever watched. She can even lay down in her bed if she’s tired and watch Tammy and The Bachelor on her iPad. I would be kidding myself if I didn’t acknowledge that one day I’ll miss all those times I heard “but you are Blanche! You are!” coming from the television while eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich made with love. I’ll miss seeing her excitement because PBS was playing “That’s Entertainment” installments all weekend long. And without a doubt someday I’ll be streaming Wizard of Oz on NetFlix, just because it reminds me of her.