I need to stop going to parties where people think Heineken is high-end beer. That’s how I met a 30-year-old ginger named Ron who’s confused about his sexuality. I know. I don’t have enough to deal with. Now, I have to contend with an ambiguous hetero who wants to know how often I clean my ass.
“Aw. You should be flattered,” my friend Chuck says. “He wants you to teach him. It’s like having an apprentice.”
“Really? And what does he get when he graduates. A career in anal?”
I know. I’m not supposed to talk about my ass in the column. But every time I try to change the topic, someone brings it back. It’s bad enough when it happens at the dinner table. But when I’m attending a social event? No. Just. No. There are rules to follow. Etiquette.
“Dude,” Ron says. For the second time this month he finds me at a kegger for college students. Apparently, we’re buds. “Remember me?” He glows with a grin, his red hair matching his freckles.
“I wish I didn’t.”
“I don’t want to bother you, but can I ask you a question?” He speaks before I reply. “Do you take it in the ass every night? That’s gotta hurt, right?” I gasp, choking down my beer. “Whoa man. My bad. Is that rude?”
“No. It’s normal for an opener. It goes hand-in-hand with ‘hello, my name is.'”
He eyes me with genuine naivety. “Sorry. I don’t mean to be a dick. I just don’t know what’s going on with me.” He offers to fill my cup. “See, I’m straight, right? But I’ve been hanging out with this gay dude.” He stalls, struggling to admit he’s been playing tongue hockey with the guy for the last month. It takes two more trips to the keg before the big reveal. “I want to take it to the next level, but I don’t know if I can do…” He points to his ass. “…you know…that.”
“Um. That’s not the only thing we do.”
“I know. You blow each other too but….”
I groan. “Really?”
His gay love interest arrives, and he becomes jittery. “Shit. He’s here.” We both turn to look, and the guy walks off in a huff. “He’s pissed because I told him I’m straight,” Ron explains. “He doesn’t believe me.”
“Because I had my hand on his dick when I said it.”
“Wow. Just wow.” I walk off, and he tries to explain himself.
“Look man. I like spending time with him. Seriously. I think about him when he’s not around. I want to lie in bed with him. Be next to him. It’s not about sex.” He laughs. “Ooh, that sounds gay.” He catches himself. “No offense.”
I stand on my tongue. “I really have to go.”
“No. Wait,” he says, his gay lover approaching. “Just chill. He’s coming. I don’t want this to be awkward.”
“Too late,” I say.
Ron makes introductions, trying to include me in the conversation while they begin to argue about who’s been avoiding who. It seems Ron hasn’t been replying to text messages. Hurt, his guy eyes me like I’m the reason. To calm him, I make it clear that I have a boyfriend. I bring it up, over and over. Boyfriend. Boyfriend. Boyfriend.
“Yeah,” Ron confirms. “And get this, they do more than bang each other in the ass.”
I turn white, and his lover flushes, excusing himself.
“I thought you didn’t want this to be awkward,” I say.
“What? I thought it would be a good icebreaker. So he and I could talk about, you know, our problem.”
“Not in the middle of a party.”
He smacks himself in the head. “Right. Damn. Stupid. I’m supposed to treat him like a girl.”
My chest burns. “No, you’re supposed to treat him with respect.” I mimic his behavior, smacking myself. “Oh. I forgot. You can’t like him. You’re straight.”
I dodge Ron for the rest of the night, stepping outside to get a closer look at the indie band playing in the shed. From time to time, I see him smoking and playing with a stray dog. I tell myself to be nice; he’s struggling with a feeling that contradicts the way he defines himself. It’s not easy. He’s no different from my other friends caught up with labels. I’m Gay. Queer. Two-Spirited. I’m LGBTQ-RSTUVWXYZ. Some people don’t understand that, in the end, there are more important things that describe our character than whom we love. For Ron, loving a man doesn’t fit in the right box, so he has to think outside of it, pondering how it shapes him as a man.
“Look. I’m sorry. Will you just listen?” he says, finding me as I leave. “I’m new to this.”
“To what?” I ask. “You’ve never been in love?”
“Yeah, but not with a dude.” He lingers, shaking his head. “I don’t know where to start.”
“It’s easy. You admit it.”