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    (some dizzy whore, 1804)

    Dear gay-friendly straight people,

    You know, we love you lots. If you’ve never been told to your face that you’re a menace to society and that your relationship with your partner should be illegal, you may not know just how much better it is to be considered witty and adorable. I don’t think anyone’s obliged to like gays, understand, but I appreciate it when people do.

    Just, could you show your acceptance without the ooze? A lot of you already do, and if you’re one of them, you don’t really need to read this. “But maybe I’m oozing and don’t know it, and it’d be nice to find out how I can tell,” you say? Okay, here’s the basic idea: When you meet a gay person, do you (1) ask the sensible, ordinary, non-intrusive questions that you would to a new acquaintance of any kind (“Are you married? Oh, anyone special then? Really? How long have you been together? Kids? Pets?”)? Then you’re not oozing. Alternatively, do you (2) start immediately in with the sort of catty joshing that makes it clear that it’s okay for your new friend to let go and be as queeny as he does or doesn’t care to? That kind of mateyness can be taken too far–we aren’t all into serious down-in-it ribaldry with strangers–but it isn’t ooze.

    You ooze if you’re the kind who can’t decide between (1) and (2), so they get smushed together into an unbearable…(3) you wink and mug and smirk and keep making saucy talk that pointedly hovers around gay themes without actually addressing them, so that your interlocutor feels at once baited into and warned away from revealing that he’s gay so the conversation can then move on to something–anything–more interesting. Like this:

    Straight guy: “So, Sean, have you seen [glaring significantly across table] Far from Heaven?

    Sean: “Uh, yeah, sure.”

    SG: “I’d be interested to hear what you thought.”

    S: “Thought? I thought it turned out really well. Genre exercises like that, there’s always a temptation to look down on the originals you’re aping, and I thought everyone did a good job of avoiding that.”

    SG: “What about [glaring more significantly] Dennis Quaid’s character?”

    S: “I don’t know. I wasn’t around in the 50s. It seemed realistic, given that the whole thing was purposefully stylized to begin with.”

    SG: “I mean more his [glaring very significantly] circumstances.”

    S: “I thought the house and office were pretty stylin’.”

    SG: “Of course! [laughs exaggeratedly] Oh, that’s great! But by ‘circumstances,’ I was more talking about…well, he had choices to make, didn’t he?”

    See? Ooze. I’ve never actually snapped and replied, “ALL RIGHT, already. I’m a Madonna fan. My favorite movie is Auntie Mame. I serve Fortnum & Mason tea to my most intimate friends in Wedgwood cups. No, shocking though it may seem, I’ve never owned a copy of Judy at Carnegie Hall. Are we DONE now?” Felt like it, though.

    At this point, there are good-hearted people who will point out that a lot of gays are touchy. Some are completely open, some are completely closeted, and some don’t like to bring up the phenomenon of homosexuality itself but do socialize with their partners as a couple. Hell, you may not even know whether the person you’re talking to is actually gay. It’s easy to sympathize with the desire to indicate your comfort with open and honest homosexuals while giving yourself an escape hatch if, for whatever reason, it turns out not to be needed.

    There’s no faster way to cast doubt on your own posture of easy-going goodwill, though, than to intimate that you’re especially eager to know whether you’re in the company of a homo because we’re freakishly interesting. Even if that is the case, I’d advise sticking to (1) above, which keeps a decent cover on it and lets people decide how much they care to tell you about themselves. If that means you have to wait until your third encounter to find out whether a new acquaintance has memorized the dialogue from What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, too bad. Life is full of trade-offs, and you managed to live this long without knowing.

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