Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Greatest. Roommate. Ever.



Every gay man has a “coming out” story. A narrative of how and when he knew he was gay. I have the opposite story. I know for a fact that I am straight and I know how I know. I have my college roommate to thank for this. My roommate in college came out of the closet in the middle of my sophomore year. I didn’t need to, since straight people don’t have that ordeal to go through, but but his experience sure changed my preconceptions and perceptions.

I met my roommate because when he and his current roommate wanted to live off-campus and needed a third person to split the rent. That was me. The two of us didn’t know each other, but we shared the two-bedroom townhouse for an entire summer while the other roommate was back home working a summer job. I drew the lucky straw and had a room to myself. When school started in the fall, the other two guys would go shopping together at Ansley Mall Krogers, which was the closest grocery store to our apartment. I would kid them about what a cute couple they made since many of the other patrons were gay.

In the middle of the year, something about my roommate changed. My other roommate and I were noticing some rather anvil sized clues, but couldn’t quite put the pieces together. He broke up with his girlfriend of two years. He would often stay out all night on weekends. He bought “It’s Raining Men” as an extended dance mix single. I read in the paper that his favorite bar won the Southeast Gay Softball Tournament. We couldn’t quite figure out what was causing all this new behavior. Remember, this was the mid-1980’s and not many people had their gaydar as finely tuned as today.

He finally sat down one evening and explained that he had come out of the closet. As part of that process, he was admitting that he was gay to people he thought ought to know, including, of course, his ex-girlfriend, me, and our other roommate who he had a crush on. The other roommate decided he was moving back in the dorms to become more active in campus life. My roommate needed to know if I wanted to keep the apartment when the lease was up. After some soul-searching, I decided that we got along together too well for me to go looking for someone new to live with.

Over the next couple of years, I picked up a lot of gay culture. My roommate would tell me all about his weekends. He’d explain things I didn’t understand in the gay nightlife magazines he’d bring home. A “Labor Day Parade” is very different event at a gay bar than at a union rally. He would point out people on campus he knew from the bars but wouldn’t talk to him at school. He wouldn’t bring tricks home, but I met a lot of his platonic friends. We would all occasionally go out to eat or drink together in the evenings before he hit the bars. He lived his life and I lived mine.

The key was we were still roommates struggling through college and still friends. I would help him with his homework. We would fight over stupid things. We would have long philosophical discussions over religion and philosophy. I was very active in the campus Catholic group and he attended an Episcopal gay/lesbian ministry. We’d make late night runs to Krispy Kreme on Ponce De Leon together. Since we are both redheads, we would frequently get mistaken for brothers.

Over the next year we had a revolving door of third roommates, straight, gay, and undecided. Each was a trip and story unto themselves. When he graduated, we refigured the rent so we would each have a room to ourselves. When my fiancée and I started planning our wedding, I asked him to be my best man. He threw me a very traditional bachelor party at the world famous Cheetah III. As the only straight guy in the group, I tipped the dancers while the rest of the party just sat back trying to figure out what the big deal was.

After I go married, the lease on our apartment was up and we were both searching for new apartments. We ended up renting places next door to each other. He had a washer and dryer and gave us a key to his place. For the next year, it was like a sitcom where the wacky neighbors are always barging in.

After I graduated and moved to Florida, I would look him up whenever I was in Atlanta. One visit when we came through town, there was no answer at the last phone number I had for him. We went by his townhouse and no one was home. That was about ten years ago. I don’t know where he is now, but I still remember what great times we had in college.

I lived with a gay man for three years and have now been married for nearly twenty. As a member of the school band and drama group, my son meets people that learn and accept their sexual orientation much earlier than when I was his age. I have raised my son to be tolerant and accepting of all people. I only hope that his roommate in college is as great a friend as mine was.

24 comments:

mg said...

That was a really nice post, Yj.

Far too few men are secure enough about their manhood that they don't suffer from some sort of homophobia and lash out at others.

Thanks for sharing that story, I hope your friend is well and happy~ wherever he is :)

mg

kontan said...

enjoyed this post! so many guys would have run from that situation and retold it as their close brush with homosexuality. I

kontan said...

oops...somehow that posted...I wasn't done.

I like your version better. Shows a lot of character.

TBG said...

I have a straight friend who, as he drove to his freshman year in college, actually said a prayer something to the effect of: "give me any kind of roommate--black, white, rich, poor, preppie, hippie, conservative, liberal--I just don't think I can get along with someone who is gay."

Well... not only was his roommate gay, but he turned out to be (and is still) one of his best friends.

I told my sister about this one day and she said, "He probably doesn't realize it, but God answered his prayer."

Claude said...

I've had many gay friends and/or co-workers, although not since I moved down here. At least, nobody who isn't closeted. Since I grew up and worked in New York, it's kind of a curious situation for me. But I get the feeling that this isn't nearly as tolerant a town.

That's not to say, however, that I haven't had a couple of interesting evenings at Port in a Storm...

2fs said...

Thanks for posting that.

Mooselet said...

Very sweet. Kontan is so right - too many men, like your first roommate, would've fled back to campus and kegs. You stayed and learned that people are much more than who they sleep (or not sleep) with. It's a lesson too many people haven't figured out.

Lab Cat said...

Very nice story. Thanks for sharing.

yellojkt said...

Claude,
I tried to go to Port In A Storm when 98Rock had a live event there. Not the type of place I can ever talk my wife into. She has already cut me off from Indigo Girls concerts.

Plain Jane said...

I wish more people had such an open mind and taught the same to their children.

Wickwire said...

Yep good reading here Yellowjkt. Makes me want to watch the movie of your life. You're a good man.

trusty getto said...

Excellent post, YJ. Sweet story :)

Marc said...

AH SPAM COMMENTS gotta love 'em.

Good post. Tolerance is definately something that this country needs more of.

Courtney said...

You're a lucky man, yellojkt. Although, I can't tell who's who--you really could be brothers.

Adouble said...

I'm probably missing the point here, but there were Krispy Kremes in the 80's? I thought they were a mid-90s thing. I love me some Krispy Kremes, and I'm sad I couldn't have been eating them earlier.

Impetua said...

You're a good man, Charlie Yellojkt. I couldn't tell who was who in your photos either. Which just further illustrates the whole "gay people and straight people are all just people" thing, if in a super obvious and corny way. With actual illustrations. :)

You were lucky to have him and boy was he lucky to have you too. I don't recall really losing any friends when I came out (at age 22) but I remember how much I relied on mine when my family had a hard time with it -- especially my mother. For a while I was estranged from both my parents and it was a terrible, lonely, sad time for me. (Don't even get me started on how my Dad and his religious nut wife reacted when we told them we were going to have a baby, years later...) You maybe don't realize how important you were to him during that time of his life. I think he probably does, and somewhere he tells his friends about his totally cool (if somewhat geeky, from the photos) straight college roommate who was supportive and nice.

You rock!

And Adouble --KK's have been around FOREVER. Have you not looked at the whole "History of Krispy Kreme" theme of their shops, all the old photos and suchlike? But it was only in certain parts of the country. They only made it out here to Oregon and Washington in the last five or ten years.

I too am quite fond of them and am fortunate to have a shop just far enough away to make it inconvenient, but not impossible, to get them. :)

yellojkt said...

For the record, I'm the one in the graduation dress with the dorky tinted glasses.

Krispy Kreme was a very Southern thing for a long time. The late night "Hot Donuts Now" sign was like a homing beacon to all late night college students in the area.

Pixel said...

Great post, Yello. I feel like the tide is finally changing wrt tolerance and acceptance, but then I visit my hometown in the Pittsburgh area and I'm not so sure.

J.Po said...

a great and touching story, yj...though I'm sure that Pat Robertson will now smite you by association.

Anonymous said...

Hey that was cool, I know I am living with my roommate who happen to be gay and still living together for 3 year now and plan on sign up again for other year on apt. I learn a lot from him. We have differnt way of doing it. But we are more than a roommate we grew close as bond we become more as brother. We share our life and idea we help each other. We go out on a date I bring my grilfriend and he bring his boyfriend. My dad and mom love him too. It cool to have a gay roommate it teach me to learn a lot from him and what he going through I alway there to support him, he there to support me. Thank for your story it rock.

deaf1971 said...

Hey that was cool, I know I am living with my roommate who happen to be gay and still living together for 3 year now and plan on sign up again for other year on apt. I learn a lot from him. We have differnt way of doing it. But we are more than a roommate we grew close as bond we become more as brother. We share our life and idea we help each other. We go out on a date I bring my grilfriend and he bring his boyfriend. My dad and mom love him too. It cool to have a gay roommate it teach me to learn a lot from him and what he going through I alway there to support him, he there to support me. Thank for your story it rock.

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