Michael McWey

Dear Christine,

Incredibly, incredibly sorry to hear of the untimely passing of your beloved mother. What a b-l-o-w it must have been. I KNOW EXACTLY what you are going through. A same-sex parent is a much harder loss than, say, a different-sex parent (or, at least, that’s what the two closet lesbians in my office tell me). I’ve been transferred to New Accounts! Do you remember Sondra and Tammy from New Accounts? It’s supposed to be some deep dark secret, but between you and me—they’re gay! When they “came out” to me one lunch hour and made me promise not to breathe a word, I thought, What with the haircuts and corduroys and sensible shoes (every day is Dress-Down-Friday with those two!), I don’t know why it never occurred to me before! So listen, if you run into anyone from the company, mum’s the word—or if it happens to slip out accidentally, don’t say I was the one who told you. They’d kill me. They would.

What I first noticed about Sondra and Tammy was that they never mentioned any “boyfriends” or ever being on a “date.” So, firmly in the middle of a romantic dry spell myself, I (naturally) thought we were all in the same boat. Come to find out—we’re not even on the same ocean!

Piece of advice: If a closet lesbian ever decides to “come out” to you, run for the hills! First it’s all supposed to be so hush-hush—and then after they tell you, my God, that’s ALL THEY WANT TO TALK ABOUT. You say, “Nice day,” and they’ll say, “Maybe for you heteros. I, personally, am having a very bad day.” And it’s silly for them to hide their sexual orientation, if you ask me. Say they get drunk some night and suddenly decide to get married? (Oh, and can those two put it away! I went out for a “drink” with them once after work and didn’t get home until two-thirty in the morning. Good thing it was a Friday because I could not get out of bed for two whole days!) I can see their wedding picture popping up in the paper some Sunday and everybody in the company wondering, What in the world are those two same-sex heterosexuals doing getting married? Then Sondra and Tammy would have some serious Ricky Ricardo ’splaining to do.

Speaking of the Sunday wedding pages, are you as addicted to them as I am? Sometimes I find myself just staring into the faces of these just-married-a-minute-ago men for some kind of sign—you know what I mean? Christine, these are men who WANT to get married, so doesn’t it follow that there must be a certain LOOK I have not picked up on? Just think how much heartache and wasted emotional life could be completely avoided if only we could spot that SUNDAY NEWSPAPER LOOK and act on it. Gay couples are sprinkled all over those pages nowadays, so don’t be surprised if you open the paper some Sunday morning and Sondra and Tammy are staring out at you with big bleary just-married hangover eyes.

Call me spacy, but I guess I have no gaydar. I think that’s because I have so much on my mind, not to mention all the prejudices, narrow beliefs, and false assumptions my mother put there before I was even old enough to think on my own. Hey, there is only so much user-friendly space in a person’s brain at one time. On the other hand, why would I want to be “aware” of their sexual orientation? I’m not lesbo! So anyway... I’m home on my couch later that night (after they “came out” to me) eating a bowl of Cheerios and watching a two-hour E True Hollywood Story about the Hilton Sisters (oh, how I loathe those two!), when from my mouth I suddenly emitted the most blood-curdling scream you ever heard! I HAVE BEEN GOING TO LUNCH WITH TWO LESBIANS FOR THE PAST MONTH AND A HALF NO WONDER NO ELIGIBLE MALE EMPLOYEE HAS EVEN LOOKED MY WAY!!! Talk about hammering the last nail into the coffin of my romantic life!

Now I think Tammy and Sondra are trying to “recruit” me in some kind of strange Moonie way. They tell me it’s so much easier to get a date when you’re swinging in the other direction. If I felt like it, if I was in the mood, they say, I could always “experimentally” date another woman (even though I’m not into that at all—zero, zip, nada, zippo). Women, Tammy says, are not as choosy as men.

OK. Thank you very much—you know what I mean?

But ten minutes later, I am steaming in front of my computer, thinking: Maybe I can get a date from people who are “not so choosy”? What kind of an insinuation is that? And they claim to be same-sex friends? I’m telling you, some people—you know what I mean, Christine? Some people.

I’ve come to three decisions. No more lunches with those two if I can help it. Two, stop trying to figure them out, when God knows I’m having enough trouble trying to figure out the non-same-sex species. And, three, now that I know this office is crawling with lesbians I need to transfer to another department. I will never meet a hetero male with that SUNDAY NEWSPAPER LOOK in these surroundings. In a hetero work environment, hetero same-sex co-workers know all kinds of non-same-sex people (brothers, friends, nephews, uncles, friends of friends, friends of brothers, and cousins—the possibilities go on and on). By the way, are you still with your boyfriend whose picture you used to keep on your desk? If you are no longer with him, and are not quite sure to whom I refer, he was the one with the blue eyes, cropped hair, and weirdly out-of-fashion sideburns. Do you remember the day I casually asked about his “available” male friends and you became extremely vague, like you’d suffered a mild concussion? Finally you said he didn’t have any available male friends and I thought, Only cloistered monks have no available friends, and if you can believe the news reports about religious people these days, even cloistered monks are having quite a swinging time in a deviant sort of way behind cloistered monk doors. But, as I say, I’ve practically forgotten that brush-off, and if Sideburns still exists, I know he has lots of available male friends, OK? I am simply not interested at the moment. At the moment I am only interested in offering heartfelt condolences. Period.

Christine, a mother’s passing is difficult enough. Unfortunately, just because they have left the physical plane does not mean you are not going to hear that nagging, unreasonable, fault-finding, never-measuring-up, guilt-inducing voice, day and night, for the rest of your life, OK? Take it from someone who KNOWS. (Sometimes I think it is a worse hell than when they were alive. At least then you could hang up the phone, you know what I mean?)

But all that aside, I hope she didn’t suffer, Christine, I really do.

Of course, it’s not the worst thing in the world if they suffer just a little bit. I’m not talking agony, like what Jesus of Nazareth had to endure in that Mel Gibson movie. (That was totally inhumane, in my opinion.) I’m just saying a pinch of suffering. Enough so they pay a little bit for all the psychic damage they did to YOU. My God, when I think of it, if it weren’t for my so-called same-sex parent I’d have been happily married five times over by now! But that is, as they say in France, all in the past...

I am not the type to blame my mother for everything, and I don’t want you to, either. Sometimes I think I was merely born at the wrong time. If I were out on the prairie, say, back in the nineteenth century in my little black velour dress? Those cowboys would be trampling all over each other just to get near me. I know they would. But in modern times with women just throwing themselves at men in bars and health clubs, hopping into bed at the drop of a hat, why would men want to buy the cow? They wouldn’t! And I don’t blame them!

Christine, I know we haven’t seen each other in quite some time, but I still wish you had let me know. I would have gone to the wake and funeral and, of course, the after-funeral get-together where various friends, cousins, nephews, and uncles congregate. And not just because so many of these men might be “unattached.” No. I’m interested in people. People, period. And more than that, I would have liked to have been there for you.

So please, the next time someone close “passes on,” don’t hesitate to let me know (I’m attaching my e-mail and phone numbers). And accept my Heartfelt Sympathy, Christine, for all you are going through during this most difficult period, because my God, in the society we live in today, where would we be without it? Sympathy, if you ask me, is what makes the world go round and round...

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