Modern VictoriansBottom Highlights, Bill's Briefs Thursday, October 1st, 2015
Social Chaos: Bill's Briefs
A recent trip down memory lane in my hometown was definitely a double-edged sword. True, nostalgia and memories met me at every turn, but shock also when the turn didn’t reveal the expected. For example, my stately high school had morphed into a bizarre condominium. Worse was my childhood neighborhood of large Queen Anne style Victorian residences with turrets, widow’s walks, columns, etc. These fine examples of traditional New England were still there, but now sullied by the structural additions of several current owners. Of particular horror were the contemporary styled decks projecting onto once gracious lawns. Hot tubs, grills, umbrellas and deck chairs added to the ambience. The visual effect, when contrasted with the attached stately Victorians, was less than attractive. With a little adapting and blending, the owners could have accommodated their modern whims and still achieved a pleasing continuity with the original verandas, gardens and patios.
Twisting this topic into my column, I relate us aging seniors to the stately houses and their ill-considered improvements. There are those of us also rushing to gussy up with the latest trends and fashions without paying attention to the total effect. The result is the same; an unpleasing disconnect of many parts. Blending the old and new into an appealing physical and fashionable appearance is the goal. We are not Victorians, but you get the idea.
Excuse me, are you a he or a she?
In the woods and coastal areas of Down East, I couldn’t help being impressed by the large number of “rugged” individuals. I cannot confirm their gender or sexual preference; I am merely commenting on the impression given by their muscular fitness, T-shirts, boots and baseball caps. This called to mind the current suggestion that we ask people about their sexual/gender status and how they wished to be referred to. Having no idea, however, if these people were of the LGBT clan and thus unsure of their reaction, I demurred. Later, pondering the problem and the etiquette involved, I came up with, “Excuse me, Sir or Madam, as the case may be, may I enquire as to your preferred personal pronoun?” Polite and to the point. Who could object? Feel free to use it anytime.
A similar issue occurred at an uncomfortable lunch with my brother when he suddenly yelled across the restaurant, “Hey, Sweetie. Where’s my drink?” My heart practically stopped, but nothing happened. The wait-person brought his drink and received “Thanks. Let’s meet later, doll.” To my horror, she left giggling, “Oh, stop!” I then lectured him on vocabulary correctness and came to the edge of referring to him as cisgender and all that, but feared total destruction of our relationship. We stayed with safe banalities and family tensions.
This is an example of the work still to be done in many parts of the country. It is reassuring to know, however, active LGBT groups abound working hard to bring their cities into the 21st century. It starts with both sides communicating (better than my brother and I). We just might learn something from each other. What a novel idea!
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