Early this morning, I went to a plumbing supplies store. This store caters to contractors who do plumbing for a living. I needed to buy a particular type and brand of toilet. Since I do a lot of home renovations, I have an account at this store and am considered eligible for contractor pricing, which allows me to buy plumbing fixtures and supplies at about 30% less than the big box orange or blue retailers charge for the same items.
There I am, in worn denim jeans, Chippewa logger boots, and a dull green parka. Topped off with a ballcap with “Wesco” printed on the front.
When I arrived, there were five other contractors at the parts counter, jocularly speaking with one another and the counter staff. Apparently they all know each other, which doesn’t surprise me.
A couple of the guys listened to me place my order, which was stated manly enough, and in the proper “contractor-speak.” That is, it was clear when I said, “one G-V toilet, complete, ADA compliant, enhanced enlongated rim, 12″ rough opening, a wax ring, and a 1/2-inch nominal compression valve” that I knew what I was talking about.
But I must have tripped the gaydar of these guys. While the counter clerk went to the back to get my order, they asked me,
…”did you see Oklahoma and Alabama last night?” … then looked right at me for an answer.
I said, “no, who won?”
That was the first mistake. Apparently these teams played night before last. I was caught. If I were a guy in their club, I would have known. Ooops.
The other guy smiled and said, “no, he was probably watching the Florida State and Ohio State game.”
Honestly, I don’t care about college football and didn’t have a clue who was playing whom, but by the look on these guys’ faces, it became obvious to me that they were playing me for a fool. (I later learned that these two teams played different teams on different nights.)
Instead of saying something stupid, I just reached over and rubbed my wedding ring, turning it gently around my finger, and said, “look, my spouse has been very sick. I’ve been really busy outside of my work day providing care. I don’t have time to watch TV.”
I thought that would change their tune and they would lay off. And what I said was true, but a bit too carefully worded. (My “spouse” — not my “wife.” “Providing care” period — not “caring for her.”)
Unfortunately, my careful but truthful dodge didn’t work. These two guys turned to each other and the big one said, “oh, he’s one of those fags that married another one.”
I felt myself get hot and turn red. Both of these guys turned toward me, the rest of the people in the room fell silent and watched us closely. These guys were probably expecting me to do one of two things — charge them to try to punch them out, or burst into tears.
I did neither. I took a deep breath, and turned to them and said, “yep, you figured it out. And this married gay man is buying a toilet and installing it for an 80-year-old man who told me, ‘my son is a plumber, but he won’t install a toilet for me’.”
These guys just stood there. Another guy in the back of the room giggled. They were probably pondering a come-back, but fortunately, the salesman rolled out a cart with my order loaded on it, offered to put the items on my account, and said, “can I help you load your truck?”
I said, “thanks. Yep, let’s load it up.”
We loaded my truck, I thanked him, and then I drove off.
I have no words. I remained honest, and held my tongue. I didn’t attack, as I am not a fighter. But I don’t lie, either. Okay, so I was called a “fag.” Big deal. I’ve been called worse by lowlier low-life than these fools. But I stood my ground and publicly acknowledged in one of the most hyper-macho places that indeed, I am a married GAY man. So what?
Life is short: fools suffer well in their own right. Stand firm and hold your head high.