At book club last night, we talked about Assisted Loving: Double Dating with My Dad, or something like that, a memoir by Bob Morris, who is a writer for the New York Times (a newspaper out of New York City).
A few of us knew right away at the beginning of the book that Bob was gay, but some of the other readers did not.
Why was this?
Because some of us have either dated gay men or had crushes on them or both, hence, our gaydar has become highly refined. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, etc.
And some of us had married our high-school boyfriends, so never had reason to be amazed years or weeks later that our boyfriend/crush was gay. Gaydar not such a factor in those cases. It must be developed and who needs gaydar if she is already involved?
In the defense of all women who have dated gay men and not known they were gay - if a guy is trying to pass, he can do it.* Or maybe he doesn't even know. But if you have dated a guy (as a college student or as an adult) for more than a few months and he hasn't tried to get into your pants, that is your first big clue.
Straight men want it with the women they date. They want it with their friends, even, because in most cases, a single, straight guy is not going to waste time being "just friends" with a woman unless he thinks that someday, they will be more than friends.
You don't believe me?
Ask your brother, your boyfriend, your husband how many good women friends they had - as in, spent a lot of time with - as single men where they did not have an ulterior motive.
That's not to say that men and women can't be friends, but unattached men have a keen sense of the ROI for sex/time.
My gaydar had been developed by
1. Learning that my short-term high school boyfriend who kissed me only once and told me I tasted like macaroni had come out, but only after he had become a pilot in the air force and gotten married (and divorced). So like I was supposed to figure it out when I was 16 and he was either unaware or fighting it tooth and nail? I barely knew what gay was. This was in the late '70s when high school students were not plugged in like they are now.
2. Having several very out gay friends in the Peace Corps. Nothing like talking to men about men. It's fun. You learn good stuff.
3. Having a major crush on Liam, my good friend from work who had a "girlfriend" so he would fit into the world of corporate finance. He came out to me, then to his parents (who were mean to him about it, I am sad to say), and then got a new job where he asked in the interview about how gay-friendly the company was because he didn't want to work any more in an environment where he could not be himself.
OK. Back to the gaydar incident. My friend Liz and I went to a returned Peace Corps volunteer party in Miami. Those parties were something else. People there really cared about who was on the RPCV board and who had power and what Good We Can Do In The Community.
In the RPCV group my friends Megan and Leigh and I started in Springfield, I was elected president because I made the mistake of going to the bathroom right before the nominations and voting. We didn't care about The Community; we started the group as a way to meet men and to have parties.
There was that one woman who insisted we Do Something for The Community. I had finally learned the management skill of bouncing back, which is when you say, "Fab idea, Melissa! Why don't you be in charge of that?"
Much to my (not) surprise, Melissa never did a thing. Indeed, four months later she called me to say that she was pregnant and couldn't be involved, tempting me to ask why she couldn't use her brain and her uterus at the same time, but I resisted.
Liz and I were at this party, talking to a cute, interesting guy, Tim, by the pool. Liz, who is pretty and athletic and trim and smart and interesting and fun, was not dating anyone, which just seemed inexplicable to me because I would have dated her if I were a guy. But we both worked really long hours and it's not like the guys we worked with were worth pursuing or if they were, they were gay. [See: Liam]
When were we supposed to meet men otherwise?
We left the party and started to deconstruct it in the car.
"Tim is cute!" she said. "He's fun!"
She said she would like to go out with him.
"But Liz!" I exclaimed. "He's gay!"
Her head jerked back. "What do you mean?" she asked.
"He's gay! You couldn't tell?"
"No. What makes you think he's gay?"
"Because when we were talking about what countries we wanted to visit, after he told us his top three, he turned to you and asked what you thought. Then he listened."
"When is the last time a straight man asked you what you thought about anything? Besides your dad, I mean?"
She thought about it. "That doesn't mean he's gay," she insisted.
"It's a good clue. And then there was this: remember when we were talking about Al Gore?"
"He said that he wanted Gore to spank him."
Game. Set. Match.
* See "gay American" former governor McGreevey of New Jersey. His wife looked stunned at the announcement and why shouldn't she have? They have a daughter together! Maybe she was in on it all along, but McGreevey had a lot of motivation to keep things on the down low. BTW, McGreevey, most people probably didn't care that you are gay, but they did care that you hired your foreign lover for a high security level job with New Jersey taxpayer money.