I’m quite an easy target when it comes to my lack of knowledge concerning gay history. I’ve really had to work hard to fill in the gaps in my knowledge. To be more specific, I’m especially lacking in the Bette Davis era of gay pop culture icons. (If you didn’t already know, the title of this post is from What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? starring Bette Davis)
Early on in Jeff and I’s relationship we were at our friends’ apartment enjoying a game night. It was a fun game night, really. We each were given a picture of a gay celebrity or icon to place on our forehead. Then we were to walk around the room and give each other clues as to whom was taped to each other’s forehead. It wasn’t long until I was the only one in the room still wearing his iconic crown of shame.
“She’s a brunette.”
“She played Rachel’s mom on ‘Friends.'”
“She starred in ‘That Girl.'”
“She’s on those St. Jude’s commercials.”
And it continued…
Finally, after much prodding they just “came out” and told me. Clearly expecting the light bulb to final light up, they exclaim, “It’s Marlo Thomas!!!!” I have no clue who Marlo Thomas is. And, I can only vaguely remember the pretty brunette that played Rachel’s mom. I say, “Seriously. I don’t know who Marlo Thomas is.” The next sound heard in the room was that of about 6 chins hitting the floor, followed by silence and disbelief. I think that Jeff was over in the corner crying with embarrassment.
Clearly, something was wrong with me. And, that’s when it happened. The first time, anyway. My gay card was taken away. To a room full of gay men and my straight friends Shahla and Rich, who both have “gay cards” in their own way, it was like finding a gold mine. Several years later they still joke about it.
Several weeks following the horrifying event, Jeff and I went back over for dinner. Immediately after we finished dinner, our friends Kirk and Jaime held a gay intervention for me. They made me sit and look at a stack full of pictures of gay icons. Actually, it was another game. Name the icon. And, I guessed about 75% of them correctly. Not surprisingly, I had trouble with the older ones. Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Charles Pierce, etc. etc. The important thing is that, technically speaking, I passed. So, I received my card back. For the time being, anyway.
Honestly, I never knew what I was missing. Growing up in rural Iowa and then going to Bible college–I just wasn’t really ever exposed to these fabulous people. And, what’s worse is that I didn’t know anything about Harvey Milk or the Stonewall Riots. Fortunately, I have educated myself on these and other important moments/people in gay history. But, up until about ten years ago I had a gay IQ of about 2.
I knew 2 things in high school:
1) Guys gave me a funny feeling in my stomach.
2) I loved the Pleasantville High School Drill Team.
Those heavenly girls on the drill team squad rocked my world with their flashy sequined outfits and glitter-filled make-up. Of course, in 1988, boys weren’t allowed to be part of such squads. So, I sat on the sidelines in a bedazzled trance. I may not have had all the greats to look up to and imitate as a child. But, at least I had my drill team girls to give me the inspiration that was needed to create world-class flag and pom routines in the basement and front yard of my childhood home. And, if that didn’t earn me my “gay card,” then no amount of Bette Davis one-liners ever will!
Almost immediately after this post went up, I received an interesting comment that can be read below. Evidently, you can’t just say you have a gay card. You need to pay the “Fairy Gay Mother” a hefty price and she’ll be happy to send you one. Fun website. Not so fun prices. Clearly it is expensive to be gay.