Saturday, November 12, 2005

So Are You Gay?

"So, you didn't tell me you were gay?"

I looked at Ivan* in surprise.

I was at the gym, on my way to my locker, having just emerged from the sauna. Ivan was at the locker besides mine. I had known him (not too well) for sometime, having seen him around the club where we played badminton.

Now, when the guy charged me for being gay (never happened before), all it took was a second before a reflexive, instinctive, and forceful "NO!"

"Oh, sorry." He looked relieved. And a bit sheepish. "I was gonna change later then, after you left."

I shook my head. "What the hell - I mean why - why would you even ... THINK ... that I might be gay?"

"Towel." He replied.

In a flash it became clear to me. You see, I have two white towels for the gym that I rotate. This weekend they were both in the washing machine, so I grabbed the largest towel I could find in the cupboard. It was a made in Bangladesh towel, mostly blue. Like many desi towels, however, it had designs on it. My towel depicted a dinner table. Sweets. Dates. Mangoes. Lichus. All traditional fruits of Bangladesh.


"Word of advice," Ivan grinned. "Never wear a non-white towel at the gym."

"It's BLUE!" I protested.

Mark shook his head. "Colorful. But I should have not worried. South Asian guys are never gay."

Things were much simpler when I was a kid in the Middle East. Blue lunch boxes were for guys, pink for girls. That was it. Nothing else was demarcated so strictly as masculine or feminine.

I was taught in an English medium school by the British. 'Gay' used to mean happiness. First week I was in Canada, I went to Paramount Wonderland. It's a roller coaster theme park in Toronto, kind of like Six Flags, but only better. The day we went, they had a banner at the park entrance stating Gay Day in Wonderland. And I thought wow, they want everyone to be happy. And no, we didn't know about the day from beforehand - we went as the tickets were half-priced (true desi-ness).

The sight of guys holding hands inside didn't unnerve me that much. After all, common in the Middle East. It was only when I saw two grown men kissing did my Canadian cousins let me on in the meaning of the word 'gay' in North America.

It used to be the colour pink. Now it's all colours of the rainbow, as a comedian commented the other day. What's more, people here seem to find out new signs of gayness every day.

  • Don't wear your wrist watch on the right hand. Half of Bengali 'uncles' must be gay then.
  • Don't wear colourful shirts.
  • Don't carry your cell phone in your right chest pocket.
  • Talking in a high pitched voice. Ok scratch that, that's definitely gay.
  • If you carry a bag with a sash wear it on your left, not on the right.
  • Don't tie your cardigan at the waist. Wrap it around your neck. You may strangle yourself, but atleast hey - the guy down the street will not mistake you for being gay.

I don't understand how a guy can look at Angelina Jolie or Sushmita Sen and tell me it does nothing for them. But what I don't understand even more is how using a certain coloured towel proves that fact (as long as it's non-pink). Jocks should just grow up.

On another note, I saw the movies Zathura (4/5 - really good fun, had low expectations, thought it would be a kid's movie, but very pleasantly surprised), Legend of Zorro (2.5/5 - had read bad reviews, so had low expectations, but suitably entertaining for the most), and the Indian movies Chocolate (4/5 - excellent, given that it's a rip off), No Entry (5/5 - funniest movie I have seen in quite a while - a laugh riot) and Aashique Banaya Aapne (2/5 - low expectations, cheesy moments, but suitable for renting).

* Not his real name.



Rumana said...

I totally can relate to what you mean. When I first arrived in Toronto I didn't quite exactly grasp the complete meaning of the word "queer". It was only after making a phone call to my campus newspaper editor regarding a halloween article that enlightened me into the deeper side of the word "queer" ha ha ha ha ha
Sometimes when I spend time with my mom grocery shopping or enjoy an evening walk and unconsciously link my arm to hers, she says "Careful...people might think we're lesbians" (she has a sense of humour I'm still trying to understand, it's a whole different world altogether). This wasn't what she said when we used to live in Middle East!!!!

Society is so paranoid emphasizing the difference between pink and blue, that we forget we're only human beings and this is a free world. Just because a man likes the color pink or has some sort of a fruit design embroidered on a towel, doesn't mean we ban them under the title "gay" and get all worked up about it.
Blood flows in the same direction in all of us irrespective of the definitions we put each other under!!

Shabina said...

"Don't wear your wrist watch on the right hand" - oops. But I maintain it's because I'm a lefty.

Oh, and I don't like the color pink very much...and I LOVE rainbows. Dog pound.

mezba said...

I guess most of the list applies to only guys. I also learned another one from a sales clerk once, guys don't wear V-neck sweaters anymore.

Rumana - there was one other word too - 'fag'. My British teachers used to smoke it. Here it means something else, but that we knew even in the Middle East.

Raj said...

//Don't carry your cell phone in your right chest pocket.

Do people do that? If they do, they're not gay, they're abnormal.

Anisa said...

i think anything can be misconstrued as gay these days...

and i love pink too!

goBgoB said...

what is it about straight guys being mistaken for being gay in saunas. Maybe "do not go to the sauna" should be added to your list ;)

vipez said...

lol this is funny ...

the uncles and watch is very true for dhaka !

where in middle east u grew up in ?

i live in toronto too , grew up in the middle the moment living in dhaka....

U Got a Great Blog !!

mezba said...

Raj, Anisa, Ipshi, Vipez - welcome!

Ipshi - lol - a whole post can be created on sauna people - from the Perspirator to the Exercisor to the I-look-dead-but-not-really-er. Some time in the future iA.

Vipez - you got some unique artwork on your site! I like your photographs on your other blog too.

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mezba said...

welcome to my blog.

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