For some reason a lot of straight men won’t sit together. I first noticed it in my teens and my friends and I would go to the movies (yes, I did have friends that other people could see) and I’d see men who were obviously friends talking and laughing before the movie started. But they kept an empty seat between them. My brothers went to the movies together and kept the gay seat between them which is ironic since my oldest brother is gay. My brother Ryan called it The Gay Seat. It sounded just like that too. Capital T, G, S. God forbid two men who are friends sit right next to each other in a movie theater. And of course when one of them wanted to talk to the other one during the movie they’d have to whisper yell because hey, the gay seat was separating them from normal whispering.
I was driving to work the other day and saw two older men who were probably out for an early morning stroll. They looked like the kind who had wives who shoved them out the door to exercise yelling “I’m not going to be a widow at 70!” There was plenty of room for both of them on the sidewalk to walk side by side but one of them was almost walking in the street. That must have been the gay sidewalk.
My brother Ryan isn’t a homophobe. He’s a dude’s dude, very All American I’m-going-to-bench press-490 pounds. He and my mom and my oldest brother (the All American Gay) went bar hopping 20 years ago. I was 19 so I couldn’t hop along with them. I had to wait up half the night for one of them to call and yell drunkenly into the phone “COME PICK US UP!!!!!!!” I was glad to be the designated driver but I fucking hate talking to drunk people when I’m sober. The three of them were pretty loaded. They piled into the car. My brother Ryan had just gotten out of the Navy and hadn’t been home very long. He sat behind me and yelled into my ear
“I went to a gay bar!”
“I have to pee!”
“I want McDonald’s!”
“I have to pee!”
Yeah, real proud of you for expanding your horizons and going into a gay bar and realizing that just because you step over the threshold of a gay bar doesn’t mean you’re going to get surprise butt sex.
Now I REALLY notice the gay seat thing when two men are out in public. The world has changed for the good in some places. I like seeing same sex couples walking down the street hand in hand. I like seeing two people no matter what their sex is enjoying one another’s company. But straight men are straight men. I saw a couple middle aged men sitting at one of those rickety tables outside of Starbucks. The table seated 4 but one of them had pulled out a seat in-between them as a reminder. One was trying to show the other something on his cell phone. Girls, we’ll sit so closely to one another that there’s side boob brush action. One guy thrust the cell phone out in front of him while the other guy squinted. Cell phone guy finally gave up and launched the phone across the table like it was a missile. Another day I watched two men in their 20s ordering at a fast food counter. They were both looking up at the menu, their heads cocked to the sides like twins but there was a good 6 feet of space between them because everybody knows that if they stand together and get a double cheese burger one of them might stick a hand down the other one’s pants.
The library I work at also has a coffee shop. A group of old men who look like the last of their group to survive WWII come in and sit and have coffee and talk for a couple hours. They sit and drink their coffee, tell stories (I like to eavesdrop) and laugh. There is no gay seat. They sit with their elbows knocking together, a gnarled hand reaching out to squeeze a friend’s shoulder or a pretend punch to the stomach. I guess maybe when you’ve been in a war together, nodded in and out of terrified sleep convinced that you are going to be shot or blown up you absolutely have to hand your trust over to another man to keep yourself alive and vice versa, well, keeping a gay seat so nobody thinks you’re into Greco Roman wrestling with baby oil is the last thing on your mind.