Monday, 7 July 2014

Covering Up

I have just written a column against Toronto's G*y Pr*de Week; it will not win me any friends. Well, no. Actually, it may win me friends about people who think of themselves as gay but think Toronto's G*y Pr*de Week is hopelessly vulgar and commercial and that the presence of so many politicians lowers the tone. Were I a gay man, I would be tempted to pinch a few political male bottoms just to hear the forced laughter: "Ha, ha, ha. Naughty, naughty."

Me as G*y Man [the following Saturday]: Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I went to the Pr*de Parade and pinched the bottom of the Minister for Transportation.

Priest: Yes...

Me as G*y Man: And I drank too much and took some crystal meth and squabbled with my mother and listened to a few stories I shouldn't have listened to and told a dirty joke and had sexual thoughts about my neighbour and for these and all the sins of my past life which I have forgotten I am truly sorry.

Priest: What was that about the crystal meth?

Me: It was only once.

Being old-fashioned and even increasingly older (every year!), I don't enjoy over displays of sexuality in the public street by anyone except very young Orthodox Jewish newlyweds walking hand-in-hand up Toronto's Bathurst street. They look heartbreaking sweet: proud, happy, bashful. They certainly aren't drawing attention to themselves, and I notice them only because it is so rare to see an Orthodox Jewish couple hand-in-hand, even on Bathurst Street. And I have never seen my Catholic parents hand-in-hand, although my brother says he did once, when they were walking in a university campus. AWWWW.

The AWWW is because my parents were in their sixties and still love each other after forty years of marriage and five children and scrimping and saving and getting the piano tuned, etc. etc. I do not bequeath the AWWWW on all cute 50+ male-female couples; B.A. and I once came across fifty-somethings making out like teenagers in Edinburgh Waverley's station, and our first thought was that they were having an affair. Married people don't make out in public in Edinburgh. We are shy.

While trying to figure out how to squeeze maximum opinion into 800 words, I thought about how childish it is to try to shock and hurt people, or get their attention, by acting out sexually before them. I remember a very confused young chap who both identified as gay and was in love with my friend Mary. I think I was 16 and Mary was 15. I remember we were all on a train, and Mary and I were in our school uniforms and that I knew the guy was gay, which made him the first gay guy I ever met, and he suddenly and very nastily asked me if I had ever seen the shaft of a man's penis.

The word was still taboo in public in Toronto of the mid-1980s, so I couldn't have been more shocked and hurt if he had slapped me, and Mary murmured shocked words of reproof. For the life of me I could not think of what I had said or done to earn such a insult, and it is only now by writing it out that I come to the conclusion that it really had nothing to do with me at all. He was clearly a mess, poor guy, but it has taken me a long time to forgive him.

Then, in 1990, Orientation Week at University of Toronto began against a backdrop of tree featuring grainy photocopies of photos of men-and-men and women-and-women making out, something I had never seen before and also found very shocking. All the Orientation Kits at U of T had condoms in them, only at the Catholic college volunteers had carefully taken them out, and it is a good thing they did, for had I had been handed a condom by my Catholic College on top of seeing those photos on the trees across the street, I would have dropped out. My ideas about sexuality were very tender, involving privacy, tenderness, fidelity and, if possible, having babies. They did not (and do not) include performing tonsil-hockey with my beloved to freak out the squares.

We cover up what we're ashamed of, yes, but we also cover up or shield those things we hold precious....

Well, I am all written out on that for the time being.

My parents, B.A. and I all had a good time at the cottage. B.A., Aged P and I all climbed East Lomond, and B.A. and I attempted to roll down it. This was very amusing but made my head spin.


Gregaria said...

Thank you so much for this post. I try to be accepting and charitable and all that, but public displays of sexuality I find borderline abusive. Is there such a thing as public sexual abuse, or grand scale sexual abuse? Because in an office setting, that display would warrant a call to HR, but at a GP Parade, it's considered a healthy form of self-expression.

Belfry Bat said...

There used to be laws (or there still are, but de-fanged) about public decency, preserving the peace, etc. Places like Auntie's native Toronto, however, have fallen under the grip of incomprehensible "community standard" legal doctrines: if you can convince yourself that your typical neighbor won't be offended by another's particular behaviour, then (apparently) no offense can be taken. Or, to put it another way: my Grandpa used to say "you can protect people from everything but their own stupidity", but today we have laws actively protecting stupidity itself. Never mind the epistemic nightmare, but the very idea that "decency" should be defined by fashions... but such is our time!

But let us not be gloomy; rather, be striking examples of goodness!

~~Your Ally

Seraphic said...

What really kills me is that some people bring their children to watch. I'll never forget walking past a "leather fair" and a Lesbian comic\actress hesitating before beginning the show. She warned some parents that her act wasn't suitable for children, and they said, "Don't worry; they won't understand." So the stream of filth began and I fled. But it moves me so much that the comic tried, for a moment, to protect those children.

Truthfinder said...

It seems that there's an overall loss of shame (and by this, I mean the 'good' kind). But I guess since shame is in part due to a collective sense of what it publicly permissible, it follows that we are in a continually worsening shameless society. I just scratch my head and wonder "why?"

Seraphic said...

I think it has something to do with Antonio Gramsci. Just as the 1960s could not have happened without the counter-cultural figures who were born shortly before or during WW2, the appalling mess we find ourselves in now could not have happened without the cultural blueprints laid down almost one hundred years ago. The Bloomsbury Group seem to have set the tone for modern morals.

Sheila said...

I think public affection is adorable. Couples holding hands, leaning heads on shoulders, hugging. I think public *foreplay* is nasty. And that's what a lot of it is! People can't seem to tell the difference between behavior that's emotionally affectionate and behavior that's sexual, and that's a line that's so important to draw.

I also am on the side of not smooching one's spouse very much in front of one's kids. I keep hearing "oh but the kids love to see that we're still in love!" Nah, the kids can see *that* by your kind words and consideration to one another, and those they can imitate. But excessive displays of affection in front of your kids is inappropriate and it shuts them out. Hug and snuggle, yes. Makeout sessions in the living room, no. Call me a prude, but that's how I feel about it!

Lena said...

Yep, somethings and activities are precious.