November 1998

Wake up, Barbie. Ken is gay.

My friend, Quinn, and I were sitting in the lobby of one of the dormitories at school. We were chatting away about anything and everything since we hadn't seen one another all summer. We called out greetings to various people walking past us, some of whom stopped to chat. Quinn smiled and said a timid hello to a thin girl that I didn't know. I gave him a sideways look, because he was pulling his shy act. The girl came over to where we were sitting and started talking to Quinn. I looked her over for a moment, to try to get an initial reaction. The evaluation did not go well.

She was probably 5'11'', which gives her two inches on me. I hate when girls are even taller than I am. Worse yet, she had small feet and largish breasts. I despise this. Tall women with small feet and large breasts should give into gravity and topple onto their faces with only their D-cups to protect them. She was toothpick skinny. And I do mean skinny. These were the kind of wrists around which I could loop my thumb and pointer finger . . . three times. This was that genetic skinny that is obviously the result of perfect genes. You just knew that Hostess snack cakes made this girl thinner. Her blonde hair, of course it was blonde, was perfectly coifed, despite the fact that she'd done it eight hours before and had walked around in the windy quad where a light mist of rain was falling. I suddenly became hyper aware of the frizzies in my dark brown hair. I resisted the urge to ask her, ala Joey from Dawson's Creek, what Clairol number her hair was. Even her makeup and clothes looked like she'd had the entire Friends makeup crew and costume closet at her disposal. Maybe she was born with it, but the smart money was on Maybelline. Judging by her teeth, her father was an orthodontist and she gargled with bleach. I took at all in and within moments knew. . . I hated this girl.

To make matters worse, Quinn had this look on his face. An "I adore you and would gratefully walk over hot coals just to get a chance to touch one of your $200 a pair shoes." I hated her more.

"I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name," I interrupted, cheerfully. Quinn, shaken from his stupor, looked at me as though surprised that I still existed. The girl stopped and tossed her name out to me. To tell you the truth, I don't even remember it now. It was one of those perfect, perky names. I instantly knew that there had been three girls in her first grade class with the same name, but that she got to use the name, while the other three had to settle for shortened versions. It was also a safe bet that she used hearts to dot her "i's. For my purposes here, I'm going to use 'Jennifer.' As soon as her gloss-coated lips finished forming her name, she turned back to Quinn and lured him in once more with some vapid tale about her roommate.

I slouched in my chair, putting my feet up on a table and zoned out. Quinn was in Jennifer-land, so I went to La-la-land. Then I heard a key word. You know how, in a crowded room, you won't hear anyone's conversation but you immediately know if someone says your name? It's called selective perception. Your brain interprets all of these noises but doesn't really tell you about it, unless it's something important to you. I have several key words, ranging from my name to "George Clooney" to "baby." So, when Jen uttered a word that I'm sensitive to, I heard it immediately. Was it possible? Had the word "gay" been issued forth from her perfect vocal cords?

My head jerked up quickly enough that Quinn noticed it.

He laughed a little as I asked "What? Who?" Jennifer, perky Jennifer, didn't blink and continued, with "And I swear, if I even run into him one more time. . ." Now I was annoyed. Yeah, I interrupted her, but she could still have the decency to acknowledge my existence.

"Who is he?!?" I finally yelled, hoping I'd know who she was avoiding. Jennifer stopped with shock. Apparently, I broke a cardinal rule about using outside voices inside. With a withering gaze, she gave a name that sounded vaguely familiar.

Before she started in again, I turned to Quinn and asked, "Do I know him?"

Shrugging, Quinn said "Yeah, I think so. Wasn't he in your Human Anatomy last year?" Then I made the connection between the name and the face. He was in Human Anatomy with me last year, possible also Colonial History. He was an upperclassman, probably 21- or 22-years-old. Always very nicely dressed, he looked like an Abercrombie and Fitch ad. With a golden tan, brown hair with blonde tips, and a fairly good build, he almost had a surfer-boy look going. Not a bad thing, I assure you.

"Oh, yeah, I know him. What were you saying about him?" I asked the no-longer-smiling Jennifer.

"He's my ex-boyfriend and I swear he's gay," she said.

"No, he's not." I said, matter of factly. Jennifer's long lashes blinked twice, creating a small breeze.

"Excuse me? You didn't even remember who he was. How would you know?" she said, dropping the temperature in the room by a couple of degrees. I tried to think of a good way to explain gaydar, but Quinn was already answering her.

"Julie just knows. She can tell," he said, grinning. He was a disbeliever but I've proved myself many times over on this.

"Well, I don't care what you think," she said. "He's gay. After I dumped him, my friend and I made a list of the top ten things that prove it. There's a lot more than the ten though." For a moment, I felt a pang of sympathy. The poor girl could have done a top twenty list if she'd been fortunate enough to be wearing open-toed sandals. I quickly got over the sympathy.

"What kind of proof do you have for wrecking this guy's rep?" I inquired. (I don't mean to suggest that being gay is a bad thing. Rather that, having people spread a rumor about this when it's incorrect can be a problem. Especially if homophobia is rampant on your campus.)

Ignorant to my tone, she started naming things, while tallying them up with her fingers. "He dresses really well. He bleached his hair. He's really neat. I broke a date once and he didn't mind at all. He really likes hanging out with his friends who are all guys." It must have been fairly obvious from my face that I wasn't convinced, so Jennifer paused before adding the clincher.

"We dated for a week and a half and he didn't try to sleep with me." she said, in a tone that made it clear that she had stated her case. I couldn't help it, I started laughing. He was neat and liked to look good. He liked hanging out with his friends. He was a gentleman. Well, good God, he must be gay. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) I felt like I was watching one of the "is he or isn't he?" scenes in In & Out.

"He's not gay," I said once more. Quinn looked like he believed me, but Jen just shook her head. We sat in silence for about five seconds.

"Ohmigod," Jen began, excitedly. "I was shopping the other day. . ." I tuned her out once more. I sat, thinking sadly of a guy whose reputation was being ruined by his niceness. Then I thought of it in a different way. All of the characteristics that Jennifer assigned to homosexuality were, basically, good things. Maybe she had something right.


Julie is hopelessly heterosexual college sophomore from Illinois who has a nasty clean streak and a weakness for Kit Kats. She is a Scorpio who will FINALLY be turning 19 in November. Questions, Comments, Concerns? E-mails can go to MazzyMae@aol.com.

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