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Queer beer January 28, 2010

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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A friend rang and suggested a surreptitious and spontaneous late queer beer. The Russian was already in bed and it felt spectacularly naughty to dress for booze and braving the walk through the heavenly Berlin winter when a peek round the bedroom door revealed a sweet little head peering out from under the duvet and some gentle early snoring.

“Darling, I’m meeting N_ for a surreptitious and spontaneous late queer beer,” I explained, thinking it would mean I was officially an alcoholic or having an affair with a 19-year-old if I went out without saying anything. Not that he would necessarily have noticed if he’d got up for a midnight snack and found the flat empty but for his own good self. I once walked around the world and only on streets with an x in their name and all he said when I got back, bearded, suntanned and riddled with disease and bullet-holes, was, “Porridge cold.”

I arrived at the appointed venue a tad before N_. Ordered myself an indecently large beer and chose a perch in a corner affording a good view and got down to some serious people-watching. Wondered if people might think I was a rent-boy. Or rent-man. I tried to look slovenly and wanton. Not that I really fancied having sex for money. And there was no way of knowing what time N_ might arrive. It’d be embarrassing if he arrived at any point in the proceedings, to be honest. And he might worry that the innocent suggestion of a surreptitious and spontaneous late queer beer had careered morally downhill with such speed.

A familiar face appeared at a satisfactorily distant part of the bar. I felt reassured that there was a suitable gaggle of encumbering drinkers between me and him for us to be troubled by starting conversation. And then the familiar face belongs to someone I’ve probably seen 117 times on and off over the last however many years and not on a single one of those occasions has conversation flourished beyond the preliminary unless circumstances have, to our mutual horror, obliged us to be so geographically close that to peremptorily truncate our words after how are you would seem wilfully uncivilised. Our eyes met and we contorted them to signify hellos, making sure, even though we were both alone, that the hello didn’t look so inviting as to imply him making his way through the throng of poofs between him and me to make me look less like a prostitute.

That social duty exacted, I surveyed the more perfect strangers. And, darlings, do you know, there was not a proper, old-style cissy amongst them! Indeed, if I hadn’t known I was in an establishment frequented by the fairer orientation, I might have been quite scared of many of the younger men. (I was anyway, but only really of the conversation I might have to have with them if the occasion had arisen, which, of course, it didn’t, rather than of violence.) A good many had decided that hair was an unnecessary and unduly prissy adornment. Many more had spent time changing the shape of their bodies with either sport or beer. Almost all of them brayed. Some smoked with an inelegance that would have shocked Karen Matthews.

Some of the older poofs suited my stereotyping mood better but still not a good old John Inman or Larry Grayson for love nor money. There’d been plenty of those when I first started going to gay bars in London in the late 80s. Men who would twirl their hands above their heads as they popped to the loo. Men with admirably ridiculous hair-cuts. Men who wore pink and whose linked cuffs flowed generously from beneath their sleeves. Men who, if you were lucky, drank spirits and cried by evening’s end as they told you of loves lived and lost.

N_ arrived wearing an I ♥ Barbara t-shirt and we set about wondering what the world had come to when you couldn’t find a single cissy in a gay bar on a wintry Monday night when you’d snuck out for a surreptitious and spontaneous late queer beer.