I remember my first encounter with a gay person. I was seven years old, and I was wearing a white blouse with puffy sleeves and plastic cherry red heart buttons down the front tucked into a red skirt with white tights and patent leather Mary Janes. I had picked out the outfit myself and was very pleased. It was Thanksgiving at my rich Aunt Susan’s house. She’s the type of woman who has Thanksgiving catered. Our mashed potatoes lacked the essential lumps of my mother’s homemade ones. At some point during my stay at the kids’ table, some very brown gravy found its way onto my very white shirt, and between the non-lumpy taters and the new stain, all hell kind of broke loose for me.
I remember crying in the bathroom as a rotating wheel of my aunt’s snobby, smelly, brooch-wearing friends peeked in at me and my frantic mother who was simultaneously trying to calm me down and rid my bright white of the brownish gray blob on my lapel.
Then, as if from a dream, there appeared in the doorway a handsome man with hair like a prince and shoes as shiny as mine.
“May I?” he asked.
My mother turned to me, and I nodded, transfixed with the man’s soft brown eyes. He dabbed the stain with his club soda then spoke to another man behind him.
“Brian,” he said. “Please could you grab my bag?”
“I’m Mark,” he told me. “And I love your outfit.”
When Brian returned, Mark procured a tiny tube, which, like a magic potion, immediately returned my shirt and me to our former glories.
I spent the rest of the evening with Mark and Brian. They made space for me in between them at the grown-up table for dessert. They sat with me on the couch in the non-football room, and asked me questions about myself. Mark told me he was a hair stylist and Brian was a doctor. He told me, between the two of them, they were prepared for any type of emergency.