Sigh, I had an uncomfortable email exchange with someone who did not take my gentle “RSVP, no” for an answer to an invitation to a holiday party he is organizing.
The invitation read…
You and yours are invited to join us for our annual holiday party.
Wednesday, December 9, 7:30pm until ?
Location: [hoity-toity] Country Club
Dress is fun festive formal! What fun!
Great food and fine wine. No gifts, please.
Hmmmm… weekday evening? Dress is “fun festive formal?” What’s that about?
I decided rather quickly that this was not an event that I would choose to attend, mostly because it was on a weekday evening. I turn into a pumpkin very early, and with rising at 0400 each day, evening events aren’t my thing.
But the note about the dress being “fun festive formal” also threw me. What’s that?
I actually googled it, and found various answers describing formal attire, but what makes it “festive” or “fun” (according to the style writers) is that “guys can wear colorful bow ties, brightly colored cummerbund, and even a colorful tux jacket (not black, but think red) and fancy dress shoes you can buy for that event! Now, that’s fun!” (exclamation by a writer of a silly style blog.)
Just reading those descriptions of “festive fun attire” sent chills up my spine. Bleccchhh!
As I do with the vast majority of kind invitations to events like this, I sent a gentle RSVP saying that I appreciated the invitation, but I would not attend.
Usually, my RSVP “no” answers are replied with a gracious message saying something like, “sorry we won’t see you. Have a great holiday!” … but in this case, the reply read,
Hey, I really thought this party would be just what you’d love… fun people, great wine, and a chance to dress up holiday style! You and your husband would love it! Please change your mind and join us!”
Well, this guy really doesn’t know me. It is unfair of me to respond with a “let me tell you who I really am…” type of reply, though I admit, I thought about it.
Instead, I gently replied with, “sorry, but I don’t go out to events during the work week. I have to be in for work bright and shiny at oh-dark-30 the next morning, and it just won’t work.”
Most people would take that as a final “no,” but this friend wouldn’t let it go. He replied,
“come on, I know gay guys love to dress up in colorful attire, and this gives you a chance to do that in a mixed crowd!”
I have to say, that reply made me flush with anger at a stereotype. What’s this about “gay guys love to dress up in colorful attire? Mixed crowd?” Not all gay men enjoy that.
Before replying again, I sat down with my spouse and twin brother who is visiting and discussed it. Various options were suggested.
Spouse: “just don’t reply. Let it go.”
Brother: “dress in your finest black leather pants, dress leather shirt, leather tie, leather blazer, motorcycle boots, and drop by on your Harley, but only for a minute. Give your host a bottle of wine then say that you can’t stay because you have to get down to the DC Eagle for their party which will be more fun.”
Wow… what deviancy does my brother think of? Honestly, I never would have thought of that. Both my spouse and I laughed, but then recomposed ourselves.
Spouse again suggested that I just drop it and perhaps consider “defriending” (from social media) the guy who invited me to the party.
My spouse often suggests “defriending” as an option because he doesn’t see any reason for me to remain connected with people who hold social stereotypes. I, on the other hand, believe that retaining those connections so that over time these social media “friends” can see a bigger picture of the life I lead, which goes against the grain of gay stereotypes. I’m just a regular masculine guy who loves and is married to a masculine man. I am much more comfortable in boots, jeans, leather, and my Harley than any frilly-froo-froo dress-up clothes.
In summary, I followed the spouse’s suggestion and did not reply. Yet. If my acquaintance-friend sends me another message asking me to reconsider my decision not to attend his party, I will reply with a firm “no, I already said that I won’t come, have a good time” message and drop it.
Life is short: not all gay guys fulfill gay stereotypes.