Playing with balls

“You boys going to play golf?” We heard this question so many times that eventually I began to think that this was the de facto Charleston, South Carolina way to say hello. On par with “Say hi to your Mama n’ them!” It doesn’t really mean anything, but it’s nice.

Why else would seven men in their forties be together in public? Their wives weren’t with them, so they couldn’t have been duped into shopping or sightseeing. Which brings up the second most popular greeting, mostly uttered by concerned older ladies: “You boys leave your wives at home?” Paul would lean in towards me, slap me on the behind and whisper into my ear: “Oh, no, I brought my little wife with me.”

These people clearly needed to be reassured that their world order, the very foundation of their life was not being shaken. So my friend Rob devised an ingenious way to respond honestly without having to go into great detail. “Oh, I expect to hit some balls soon!” He would say. “Oh, that’s gooood!” The relieved older ladies in their visors would drawl and smile. “Hit ‘em hard boys!”

Now aside from being in my forties and flattered to be called a “boy”, I was mostly annoyed that the only thing men could possibly do together was play golf. I felt bad for all men, not just us gay ones. I suppose if they had known that we were gay, which would be obvious because we would be wearing our rainbow flag T-shirts or carrying our Judy Garland albums. The options would have expanded. They might have asked “Are you girls going to get facials?” But even with that question, we could have answered honestly “Oh, I hope to get a facial soon!

Our visit to Charleston has become an annual Columbus Day tradition. I say tradition, because we have gone once and plan on going again this year. That’s a tradition in my book.

Rob and Mark moved to Charleston from the Boston area over a year ago and built a beautiful home in a Disney like suburb. The closest that we came to playing golf was driving Rob and Mark’s golf cart through the neighborhood to the community pool and tennis courts. My husband Paul was alarmingly enamored of driving this cart. I saw my future with him in some gay retirement village version of “Del Boca Vista”. Complete with our Hawaiian shirts, knee high socks and shorts.

Later in the day we went to the beach and the weather was so warm and beautiful that most of us ended up in the water on a clear October day: something that would be unthinkable to do after August in the frigid New England waters.

“Now Mike, I want you to take a picture of those boys swimming in the ocean!” Sam overheard a lady incredulously say to her husband. I have to laugh when I think of her showing her friends and children this picture of gay men frolicking in the water. Just by looking at the photograph, there would be no indication that it was autumn, but I could hear her saying “These boys were in the water in October! They must have been hot from playing golf!” Her husband, probably a little more aware would say “Eunice, them boys were homa-sex-yuls, you dang fool!”

She would experience an epiphany as delightful as the warm water on a fall day was to us. What is on the surface is rarely a mirror of what lies beneath.

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