When I went to take my “final drag,” or the last cigarette of my day, last Saturday, I was greeted by my usually nutty neighbor and her friend cackling drunkenly on the stairs near our communal back yard area.
“Hey, come smoke with us!” she insisted.
I was ready for bed, so I politely passed.
I thought about the crazy things my neighbor had said and done in the past, as I often do when I see her.
I helped her into her apartment one day when I found her sitting in our parking deck (presumably drunk), unable to stand up with a boot on an injured foot. I don’t know how she got down there, but I’m sure the giant bottle of wine she asked me to carry didn’t help.
She knocked on my door last Thanksgiving Day to (presumably drunkenly) ask for a cigarette. I obliged, but told her to wait outside. I had company and I was not about to let her loose on the family-est day my house ever sees.
I closed the door and ran across the room for a cigarette for her. I didn’t get to my pack before I heard the door open and close. She was in my house, and when she saw the “family” liquor stash she asked if she could have some.
She apologized several months later for it, but that’s just one time in the list of strange things that came to my mind as I stomped out my cigarette before bed.
“Hey, come talk to us!” she again insisted as I walked back to my door.
“I’m about to go to bed, y’all. Sorry!”
I was proud of myself for standing up for my mood. I’m usually fairly delightful (have you seen my videos!?), but I couldn’t hack it after some pretty depressing Netflix documentaries and an over-the-counter sleep aid… God, my Saturday nights have seen better times!
As I shut my door, I swear I heard my neighbor’s friend say, “Gay neighbor!” in like a trying-to-be-funny kind of way.
Follow me here: Think of the the guys from the “In Living Color” sketch “Men on Film.” The way they say “Hated it!” is the way she said “Gay neighbor!” Catch my drift here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZHwxIL9oYo.
I closed my door and totally listened to their voices echo, half expecting to hear something more about myself come out of their drunken mouths.
My nutty neighbor knows I’m gay. It’s hard not to know that (again, have you seen my videos?) I’d never seen her friend before, but I suspected my neighbor had “spoofed my T” when I decided against smoking with them.
What she said was absolutely true. I am a gay neighbor.
But the immediate adrenaline rush I got when I heard her made me think about saying something.
I thought something like, “Excuse me, what was that?” would suffice. It would bust her without calling out how disgusting it sounded to come from someone who didn’t know me like that.
But I thought twice. What if I misheard her? What if she says she was just kidding? How would I respond to that? What if my neighbor joined in? What if they were both too drunk to get why I might have been offended?
Some of my conundrum, I’m sure, is a product of being a member of a social minority. Even after gay people come out and/or find community, we’re still shackled by years of messages from our families and the media about how we’re different and how it’s OK for people outside our community to point that out, even if it’s in a harmless way.
Should I have said something? When do you know to say something? I think a polite, “oh, no you didn’t,” is an effective way to fight homophobia, one person at the time, but how do you know when to do it and when you might be overreacting?