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My alma mater… and Friendly’s

April 22, 2008

I spent the weekend up in Fishkill, N.Y., and while he was at work Saturday I drove up to my nearby alma mater, Vassar College, to meet up with some of my friends who haven’t quite graduated yet. I also surprised an old camper of mine from a French immersion camp, who is now looking at schools. I hooked her up with my friends, netting her a place to stay and a nice nudge towards the right college choice.

Being at Vassar is like being in a magical bubble where homophobia is suspended. When he came up after work, everyone was super friendly, and indeed when I mentioned him earlier people were thrilled to hear that we were still together, since he and I met only a month before I graduated. Most people had met him at least once before, and they all remembered him, while the people who hadn’t instantly loved him, because he’s just charming like that.

I hadn’t forgotten how things are there, but it was still wonderful to be back. On the Vassar campus, there’s no looking over our shoulders, no wondering if a slight was perceived or intended, and no need to worry about how we’ll be treated. I’m sure there are homophobes there, but I never had to deal with what few there were, because by and large it’s the kind of environment where they’re the ones who have to be closeted, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love it.

We went home exhausted that evening, after a meal of decent Chinese food. Gluttons that we are, we stopped at Friendly’s in Fishkill to grab some takeout dessert. While we waited an unreasonably long time for his mocha-something sundae at the enclosed  exterior carryout area (my milkshake came out right away), I noticed a kid staring at us from inside the restaurant, through the window where we placed our order.

I’m terrible at guessing ages, but I’d say he was about 7, right at that age where you know it’s impolite to stare, but you do anyway. He was transfixed, like we had glowing red eyes or really neat Pokemon shirts, or whatever kids like nowadays – awesome PSPs, maybe. I made a point not to do anything particularly startling or traumatic, like initiate a hardcore make-out session, in the hopes that instead of scarring the kid for life, we could show him that hey, gay people can be normal too.

I guess I’ll never know whether that lesson sunk in or not, since he was distracted by something inside, probably the arrival of ice cream. I wonder if, in the future, maybe in a decade, I’ll run into some young whippersnapper who’ll say, “Dude, you’re the gay guy from Friendly’s!” or something to that effect.

I wouldn’t mind. Because that would be really funny.

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