’Twas midnight on a Saturday in Greenwich Village. Walking through the NYC crowd, I had just hit Bleecker Street. A horn honked the distinctive tune of “Y.M.C.A.” I knew it could belong to only one person —my wife Lyn’s gay cousin Maxwell.
“Need a ride, sailor?” he teased as he pulled over to the curb. I laughed and jumped into his car.
“Glad you happened by, Max. Lyn’s out of town for the weekend. I’m bored,” I confessed. “And you’re anything but boring.”
“Bored? I’m headed to a party,” he said. “Come along?”
“In this tacky old rag?” I asked, referring to the silk pink shirt I was wearing. Yup, Me. Drenched in pink. I felt thoroughly emasculated as I looked over at Max.
Attired in a plaid shirt and torn bluejeans, the stubble-faced, six-foot-five Max looked the epitome of macho. Like a lumberjack — even somewhat menacing.
As for my pink shirt, I love pink. I informed Max that the person who had given me the shirt was my rich, crotchety Aunt Lizzy, only 12 years my senior.
“Why pink? Max asked.
“Search me. She hates pink.”
“So do I,” Max said.
I didn’t want to tell him, but she also hates gays. When Lizzy heard that we had a gay guy in my family, she hit the ceiling.
“Shame, shame, shame Aunt Lizzy! What’s wrong with the world lies not in the way people make love in it,” I had argued.
Lizzy had responded by blurting out three words: “homosexuality is perverted.”
“So is heterosexuality if done properly,” I chimed in. And that shut her up.
Max stopped for gas. While he was filling the tank, I snitched a brownie out of a big basket on the front seat. Actually I made a piggy of myself. I soon realized that I had devoured three or four brownies.
When Max re-entered the car, I told him he should never leave me alone with a plate of brownies.
Smirking, Max encouraged me to eat a couple more.“They’re Kilimanjaro Brownies. You’ll be as high as Mount Kilimanjaro in minutes.”
“Oh good lord. Don’t tell Lyn. I never get high,” I whined.
“Ha! I saw you so high one night that you French-kissed a St. Bernard,” Max joked.
“Once I did that. Once!”
Max said that the partiers would love my flaming pink shirt. “Oh, wait a minute. I think I may have a little accessory for you,” he said.
He reached in the back seat and pulled a hat out of a box. “Here, wear this hat. See? Pink. It matches your shirt. You’ll be the belle of the ball.” I put the hat on, what the hell.
Max mentioned that the party would be “mixed.”
“You mean half gay and half straight?”
“Heavens no. Half gay men and half lesbians.”
“Well, that should definitely end my boredom. Congrats, Max. You’ve rescued Eskew. But don’t think this’ll become a habit. I’ll do this gay shindig thing just this once.”
I did it. However, it turned out that I was in for quite a shock.
I suddenly felt — well, wonderful. The brownies had made me feel like I was just so damn good-looking. I desperately wanted the world to see me. As we entered the foyer of the house party, I looked down into the beautiful sunken living room, loaded with partiers.
Suddenly I fervidly flamed into the room by twirling in circles a few times with my hands flying loosely over my shoulders. There we stood, a giant lumberjack and some short, insane sissy in a pink shirt that the lumberjack was barely tolerating.
The music stopped. A hush erupted over the room and everyone was looking at us. I hate the sounds of silence. Out of nowhere, I blurted out: “Hi, I’m Steve. And this is my bodyguard Barbara.”
The slightly soused crowd broke into gales of laugher and applauded.
Many people congratulated me for a grand entrance. I don’t know where that “my bodyguard Barbara” line came from, but the impromptu alliteration seemed to have worked wonders.
Now came the shock.
Over in a corner sat homophobic Aunt Lizzy, half pie-eyed, holding hands with a lovely woman half her age.
It took awhile for me to lower my eyebrows. I numbly waved at Lizzy. She glared at me, then glowered at me. I know she hated my pink shirt and regretted gifting me with it. But I think it was the matching hat that really threw her for a loop. I inferred her stabbing stare as a warning — stay away.
Got it, I thought. Stay away — from hypocrites. Done.
After the hilarious party, I did tell Max that he was never again to allow me to eat brownies.
“Okay, once! Maybe one more time.”
— Steve Eskew
Retired businessman Steve Eskew received master’s degrees in dramatic arts and communication studies from the University of Nebraska at Omaha after he turned 50. After one of his professors asked him to write a theater column, he began a career as a journalist at The Daily Nonpareil in Council Bluffs, Iowa. This led to hundreds of publications in a number of newspapers.