Please Contribute!

---> Do you have a similar story to share? Make me feel less self-indulgent and less alone. Please email me:

Friday, July 29, 2011

Staten Island Rules

How I manage to get such great guest bloggers - I dont' know.

Here's another one from J.L. Mecum:

I used to regularly volunteer at the Manhattan LBGT Center a few years ago. I was working an emotionally exhausting job and was looking for a queer community outlet that didn’t involved getting shitfaced and having drinks spilled on me while I waited for the bathroom at Cubbyhole, crushed up against the jukebox awkwardly. Serving pizza and manning the popcorn machine while a fabu drag queen called bingo seemed like a good change of pace. I became friendly with the volunteer coordinator at The Center (probably because I was always available on short notice) and he began asking me to help with other events.

When June rolled around, I agreed to help The Center hand out information (and apply temporary tattoos to sexy revelers!) at the various borough Pride celebrations. I mean, when else was I going to go to Queens? (Hint: um, NEVER. BK. All. Day.) I even agreed to help with Staten Island Pride, mostly because I had a friend who had been living there for years and hadn’t convinced me to actually make the trek out to his ‘hood. Thinking I’d kill two birds and all that, I made a plan for my buddy Paul to meet me at the Pride site so we could go to his favorite restaurant-slash-dive bar on the island post-Pride. I was excited.

June in New York City = hot as balls. The gymnasium hosting Staten Island Pride predictably was air-conditioning free, so there I was, in my Birks, cargo shorts, and Center t-shirt with sleeves sheared right off. Completing my Dyke in the Summer uniform was the comfy sports bra underneath it all. Gimme a break, okay? It was Staten Island in 2008. I was…younger than I am now. Go easy.

Paul came to meet me. The first thing I said was, “dude, it’s 90 effing degrees. Long sleeves and jeans? You crazy.” He just shook his head (I’ve never seen him in shorts…) and led the way to Book By Its Cover Restaurant and Bar*.

BBIC was a divey dive, with a parrot painted on the side of the building to rival Jimmy Buffet’s trailer. In what I can only assume was a flimsy attempt at “classin’ up the joint,” a hand-lettered sign was posted on the door: NO SHIRT NO SHOES NO SERVICE. NO BASEBALL HATS. MEN MUST HAVE SLEEVES. I chuckled as I glanced through the window and saw an overweight middle-aged man with his sleeveless Champion-brand sweatshirt shooting pool with his also-sleeveless tween son.

The petite bottle-blonde hostess stopped us in our tracks. “You can’t come in here like that,” she said. Like what? Brunette? Sweaty? LIKE WHAT? Paul asked her. She stared at me, then at Paul, then back at me. “You have to have sleeves. You can’t come in here like that.” Now, Paul’s a very traditional guy. He started to step up for me, his friend who happens to be, very much in his mind, a lady, and I don’t think he fully understood what was going on. I knew. I knew from the moment she laid eyes on me: MUST HAVE SLEEVES.

You could almost see the wheels turning in Paul’s head. He looked at the riffraff at the bar. “Those women are wearing tank tops,” he countered. The hostess glanced over at the deflated barflies, “Yes, those women are wearing tank tops. But your friend has to have sleeves.” I told her that the only other shirt I had was a ribbed tank top. Even after speaking to her in my decidedly unmanly voice, the hostess did not change her position. During the course of this awkward encounter, she never used a male pronoun. I fully believe that she felt she just needed to stand by her original judgment and not back down, though by this time she was clearly questioning her appraisal. I have to say that this is a poor life choice and I sincerely hope it
bites her in the ass someday.

Finally, exasperated, she decided, “It’s fine, it’s fine,” and seated us. I am not exaggerating when I say that not one other soul was having a sit-down meal in that establishment. She handed me my menu without making eye contact. In fact, the hostess never looked me directly in the eye again. Paul was livid. He couldn’t understand how anyone could mistake me for a man. I couldn’t understand why, if I was indeed a man, I would be singled out over other bar patrons. It felt very much like “we don’t want your kind here, whatever it is.” Which is lame and so un-New York is makes me sad.

The food was unimpressive and the mood was a sour. The conversation finally started flowing until I had to ask Paul, “Um, uh, where is the bathroom? Should I just use the men’s room?” Without hesitation, he replied, “The men’s room here doesn’t have a seat on the toilet. Don’t use the men’s room here.” I glanced around and made sure no one saw me steal away to the bathroom. But wait, what? I had to make sure no one saw me HEAD INTO THE BATHROOM? This was just ridiculous. No one should ever be made to feel ashamed of getting up to use the bathroom in a restaurant. I was angry at the hostess for her cursory judgment; I was angry at myself for allowing her to affect me; but mostly I was angry at the hostess’s clearly sheltered idea of stereotyping: if I was fitting into any mould, I was ripped from the pages of How to Spot a Lesbian 101. Psssh, get some culture, Improperly-Prejudiced-Hostess-with-Dumb-Hair-Nobody-Likes-You.

I haven’t been back to Staten Island since. I wonder if that make me better or worse than that hostess.
*the establishment's name has been changed to a more fitting moniker.

No comments:

Post a Comment