I am not a fag hag yet. No woman in her twenties can be considered a “hag.” I prefer to be called a fruit fly. I’ve spent a lot of time being the one woman surrounded by hilarious gay men, and loving every minute of it.
The cluster of gay friends I acquired began with just one guy: Cody. We were friends in high school when he was still “straight.” During our freshman year of college, he began to change. Suddenly his hair was darker and more stylish and he picked his clothes out meticulously. Then one day I got a phone call.
“Anna, I’m having a crisis,” he said.
My heart dropped. “What happened?”
“I can’t decide which jacket to wear.”
I shook my head. Half pissed, half amused. “Okay, before I help you, we have to clarify what counts as a crisis,” I said. That’s when I knew for sure. And six months later, he had a boyfriend.
* * * * *
The following summer, I was living in a dark upper-level duplex with a wonderful back yard. It was fenced in and private, and had a fire pit, tiki torches, and a kiddie pool. It was the Taj Mohall of college living.
One hot Sunday I invited a few friends over to lie in our little pool and have a few drinks. I mixed myself a vodka cocktail and climbed into the pool. I immediately lazified. Cody was the first to arrive, carrying a case of Stella. “Throw that in the fridge and come on in,” I said.
“I didn’t bring a swim suit,” he said.
“Well then ditch your shorts and swim in your underwear.”
“My underwear,” he said. “My underwear? Do you want to see my underwear?” I nodded. He set down his beer, unzipped his pants and slightly lowered them to his thighs, bending so I had a side view. He was wearing a thong.
“Cody Lee! You are getting gayer and gayer.”
He pulled his pants back up and rezipped. “I know, and I love it,” he said with a smile.
* * * * *
As Cody became inter-tangled in Milwaukee’s gay scene, he also began bringing around more and more friends. Somehow they all seemed to be tiny and have wonderful taste in clothes; tiny clothes. I often rode around the city with Cody. Summertime drives always took longer because as soon as boys started jogging shirtless, Cody had more frequent reasons to slow down. After seeing him drool over lean dudes a thousand times, I realized that while I didn’t have a type when it came to men, Cody did.
I was in the beginning of a new relationship with Joe, and Cody was past the one-year mark with his boyfriend Mitchell. One day I was riding in the back seat of Cody’s car, and Mitchell was by his side. “Anna’s dating the CUTEST boy I’ve ever seen her with,” Cody told Mitchell.
“You only say that because you like little guys,” I said. Joe had a small frame.
“That’s true, I do like little guys,” Cody said. I could hear his grin.
“I’m not little,” Mitchell interjected.
“Oh, yes you are,” I said.
“Well, can we just say I’m petite?” He said.
I laughed. Petite had previously seemed like a feminine word to me. But for Mitchell, it was more fitting than little.
The next guy I dated was about double Joe’s size. “In the gay world, he would be called a bear,” Cody informed me.
“Then what’s Mitchell, a lamb?” my friend Sarah asked.
“No, Mitchell is a twink,” Cody said, very matter of fact.
“A twink? How many types are there in the gay world?” I asked.
“Oh you know, bears, twinks, leather daddies…” Sarah and I gave each other a look. There are really no surprises after a while.
* * * * *
Following my twink-to-bear relationships, I started dating a guy who was right between my previous boyfriend’s sizes. He was long and lean, and had been a growing friend for a few months. Then we started crossing the friendship line. One night we were hanging out at his house when he received a phone call.
He answered, and said gently, “Oh, hello sweetheart.” I looked up, eyes only. Must be his mom calling. “Yeah, I know I haven’t talked to you in awhile. We should make a date. Maybe go to the opera house,” he continued. I didn’t know of any grown men who made opera dates with their mothers. I sat very still, trying not to be jealous. There must be a logical explanation. If he was sleazy, would he really answer another woman’s call right in front of me? “Okay, sounds good. We’ll go to the tea-room first, and then see an opera. Alright. Talk to you soon. Bye.”
I waited an appropriate amount of time, and then asked, “So, who was that?” in my best casual-but-curious voice.
“Chad. My gay husband,” Kevin replied. I was instantly relieved. And later, amused. Somehow it was totally fine with me to have my new boyfriend making dates with a gay man who he called ‘sweetheart.’ Better to date a fellow fruit fly than a homophobe.
* * * * *
One of the best parts of being a fruit fly was partying with my gays. The south side of Milwaukee was all gay bars and Mexican restaurants, but every Thursday night, a local east side bar changed temporarily into a gay bar.
My friends went every week. They called it Sexy Thursday. Of course, I had to join them.
We went to Cody’s house to pre-drink before heading to the bar. “I’m wearing rainbow underwear in honor of Sexy Thursday,” I told the boys.
They gathered around me. Someone said, “Ooh, let’s see!” So I unzipped, exposing my rainbow. Never has four men gathered around a woman’s crotch been less sexy. They did nod in approval of my attire, though.
Cody changed to appropriate clothes for a gay night. As he buttoned up his shirt, everyone began inspecting the trim job he’d done on his chest. “It’s the two- thousands,” he said. “Man-scaping is a must.” The boys spent much longer oohing and ahhing over Cody’s chest than they had on me.
A key component to being a successful fruit fly is not letting lack of male attention make you jealous. My friends found Cody’s chest more fascinating than my vagina, so what? At the club, I was invisible at the bar and on the dance floor, so what? It still was a sweaty vodka night of fun, as most nights with my gays were.
After the bar closed, we went back to Cody’s for the completion of Sexy Thursdays: a naked after-bar.
In Milwaukee, where the bars close at 2:30 on the weekends, after bars are a common thing for people who have a few more hours of party left in them. Most after bars don’t involve nudity, but I have nothing but good things to say about the ones that do.
The funniest part, for me, was that Cody’s freak of a roommate was home when we came back. She was sitting with some friends in the living room, quietly watching a movie. We rolled in, and jeans started dropping like flies in an extermination tent. The girl and her friends tried to continue their relaxing Thursday night while the house transformed into a parade of naked gays.
Somehow, I’d wound up with random pictures on my cell phone of Mitchell in the nude. Months later, my brother looked through my phone pictures. Without saying a word, he suddenly handed my phone back. “Oh shit,” I said. “I kinda forgot to warn you that there are some naughty pictures of Cody’s boyfriend in there…”
“Yeah thanks for that, Anna,” he said.
I started laughing. Another key component of being a fruit fly is owning waterproof mascara.
* * * * *
One of my favorite gays was Alberto; a half-Cuban dance major with a blonde mohawk and about a thousand abs.
Alberto is the kind of guy who randomly plies at the beach. He also throws his head back when he laughs, turning a normal human action into something that usually looks like a graceful, but loud, dance move. At the drunken end of one night he tried to do a headstand in his kitchen sink. This is the kind of challenge that never occurs to non-dancers, no matter how boozed-up they are. He placed one hand on each edge of the sink, put his head on the middle sink divider, and under the drunken supervision of his roommate, straightened his legs. Of course, he fell in. The faucet shifted downward and stopped pouring water, and for a week his roommate had to do dishes in the bathtub.
Fearing the worst, an expensive replacement faucet, Alberto finally called his building manager. “Um, I was washing dishes, and the floor was really wet, and I slipped and fell in the sink. And now the faucet isn’t working,” he said. To me, this was the least plausible, most ridiculous excuse, and somehow it worked. The manager tampered with the faucet until it was mostly fixed. It wasn’t a perfect repair. There is still a slight downward angle that will forever be a reminder of Alberto’s headstand.
* * * * *
Jazz in the Park was my favorite part of summer in Milwaukee. Every Thursday from June through September there was a free jazz show downtown. Each week, I’d meet up with my brother, Brian, his wife Rachl and a various collection of friends. We’d have a picnic and drink whatever wine we brought while rocking out to free music and dancing as the sun set.
The Thursday before Brian’s 30th birthday, I showed up with my straight friends. These guys were bigger and hairier than my gay friends. They drank cans of beer and they usually had ripped up jeans with three inches of boxers showing at the waistline. The Thursday after Brian’s 30th birthday, my straight friends were at a Brewers game and couldn’t come to the park.
Luckily, Alberto had planned on going. He sent out a mass text to several friends. Jazz tonight? it said.
I was with my friend Angela when we got our texts. She had just gotten a new phone and didn’t have Albeto’s number saved. Sorry, who is this? She replied.
Ouch. Alberto Joshua Cambra. 23 ½, 5’8”. Likes reading, performance art, sun worship, and being skinny.
We laughed at the Alberto-ishness of his text. She had to work, but I, of course, was down. I met up with my gay friends, and together we walked to Jazz in the Park.
It was a sticky hot summer day, and sweat lined every crease on each of our bodies. Paul, a very petite man who worked for the MAC makeup company led our group. He opened his purse and pulled out a battery operated fan. “I hate this heat,” he complained.
“Oh I know. And it’s so uncomfortable inside these pants too,” said Alberto. “It’s like everything sticks together and my balls are all smushed up.”
My roommate Meagan and I were the only girls in the group. We had on tank tops and skirts for maximum air flow. “I love not having a penis,” I said to her.
“Ugh, I wish I didn’t have mine,” Paul said.
We finally made it to the park, sat on our blankets and opened a few bottles of wine. Brian and Rachl were already there with a few friends, enjoying the sun and drinking. Paul passed around a cucumber face spray for everyone to try and we began discussing exfoliation.
Rachl leaned into my ear and asked, “What exactly IS exfoliation?”
“I don’t know, something you do to your face I think,” I whispered back. “Maybe some sort of shower thing involving skin cells?” I felt very unfeminine. Not only could Paul walk better in high heels than I, but he also knew all about exfoliation and I didn’t.
Just as our sweat finally began to dry up on our foreheads, Brian opened up his leftover birthday cookie cake. He handed it to me to pass around.
I set it in the middle of the blanket where we all were sitting. Meagan dove in and ate one instantly. All the boys just stared at it, not taking a single chocolate-chip filled square of goodness.
“Help yourself,” Rachl suggested.
“Honey, do you know how expensive liposuction is?” Asked Chad.
“I’ll split one with someone,” David offered. Cody took the other half, and the rest of the cookies remained uneaten.
I handed the plate back to Rachl after a while. “Sorry, they’re not snacking crowd,” I said, gesturing to my wine-loving boys.
She looked at the plate full of cookies. Reluctantly, she started wrapping them back up with plastic wrap. “I hate leftovers. Especially when it’s sweets. I was hoping your other friends were coming… you know, the hungry hungry hippies?”
“Sorry. Didn’t know you’d have so much food. I guess this crowd is more like the not-so-hungry homos.”
* * * * *
I liked having a mix of friends. Often I tried to blend them together, though they seemed as different as could be. Surprisingly my lean, trendy gay friends fit right in while partying with my tie-dye wearing straight friends
Sam was a friend of the latter group. One time when Sam and Cody had hung out without me, I later told him how much I liked that he wasn’t a homophobe. He said, “Nah, Cody’s cool. Besides, look at how Cody looks. You think he’d ever even be interested in a scrubby guy like me?”
Sam’s house was always the party house. Cody, Alberto and I went there one Thursday afternoon to grill out before Jazz in the Park. We were ready to leave, and so we finished our beers. As Alberto lifted his can to his mouth, it tapped it against a tooth, and out came a bit of enamel. He held in a scream, tooth bit clenched between two fingers. We all walked out to the car.
Once we were away from the party, he let go. “Oh my god! My tooth just fell out of my head! What am I supposed to do?” We all laughed, unable do the compassionate thing and just be quiet. He flipped down the passenger side mirror and stretched out his cheek, trying to assess how damaged it was.
“Use my cell phone and look up what to do if your tooth breaks,” Cody said.
“AUGHHH! More just fell out!” He tried to calm himself and began searching the internet. “Oh no. Listen, ‘if you find a piece of a broken or chipped tooth after you have had damage to a tooth, bring the piece or pieces with you when you go to the dentist.’”
“So?” I asked.
“I just threw the pieces of my tooth out the window!”
* * * * *
Sadly, every era has its end. I couldn’t hang out with my gang of gays forever.
Cody had gone to London when he was just a few steps out of the closet. It had greatly accelerated his gayness, and he’d moved back to Milwaukee wearing trendier clothes than before and speaking awkward French. He constantly talked about wanting to move to a bigger city. And three years after London, Cody got his dream and moved to L.A.
It felt a bit like the glue of the gay crew had disappeared when Cody left. So we were sure to all hang out any time that he came back from his L.A. life to visit us Midwesterners.
Cody’s first visit home was for his brother’s wedding. Alberto was his date. They partied all weekend, making a fabulous scene. At one point, Alberto ran across the dance floor, dropped to his knees and slid. Later he ripped his shirt open, buttons flinging. The next day, he was surprised to see a shirt with thread hanging where buttons should have been, and to find two holes burned into the knees of his dress pants. I wasn’t surprised at all.
I spoke with Cody after the wedding. We were going to hang out after my work shift that Monday. “I have a doctor’s appointment today and then I’m free,” Cody said.
“What for?” I asked. “Just a general check up?”
“Noo…. I have this skin thing. I don’t know what it is, but it started on my hips and now it’s even on my hands. It’s kind of dry and itchy. I got tested in L.A, and I’m clean, so the doctor said it might be a dermatology thing.”
“Aw, well let me know what’s up. I’ll just call you when I’m done working.”
A few hours later Cody sent me a text. I’m scouring Alberto’s apartment. Apparently I have scabies.
Cody broke down the timeframe of when he could have gotten scabies. He figured that it had to have come from a hotel he stayed in on a Vegas trip. “So I guess not everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” he joked.
Unfortunately this meant Alberto spent the weekend sharing sleeping space on a pull out couch with exposed scabied-skin. And now his back was itchy. For him, having scabies was even more awful than losing parts of a tooth had been. “I CAN’T believe there are bugs under my skin!” He said.
* * * * *
The summer before had been Cody’s last full on Milwaukee summer. We all gathered as much as we could, grasping on to the end of our Cody- time. We went to multiple Jazz nights together and rode around boy-spotting from his car. He also visited me at the bar I worked at often.
One night, Cody came in with Bella. I hadn’t yet been around full-time Bella, I’d only known her when she was self-penis-hating part-time-Paul. She’d become gorgeously feminine. Instead of just wearing a handbag and fancy shoes, she now had longer, perfectly curled brown hair and a perfectly made up face. Her skin was glowing and her bright eyes were emphasized, and hormones had faded a five o’clock shadow into smooth skin.
She strutted in, with her long legs and gave me a quick hug. I was momentarily shocked at her transition. “Oh wow! So good to see you! What are you drinking?”
“Oh, um…” She pulled up a ladies night free-drink ticket. “It’s ladies night, right? I got this at the door.” We smiled at each other as I poured vodka. We were both happy she’d fooled the bouncer.
A month later was the Gay Pride weekend in Milwaukee. Unable to join my friends for the opening night parade, I met them for a quick drink before I had to work. I biked downtown and ran into Bar Louie as they were paying their bill.
“Aw, man. I really wanted a pre-work cocktail,” I said.
“Well, we were just about to have a drink at my house if you want to come over with us,” David offered, in his soft Spanish accent.
We went outside and I unlocked my bike. “You guys ever see my fly-ride before?” I asked. I stepped aside to show off my bike; a one-speed beach cruiser, painted in rainbow colors and covered with dots and swirls.
“Oh wow!” David stopped walking to admire it. “It’s been years since I rode a bike. Do you mind if I… you know..”
“Go ahead! Take it for a spin.”
David mounted my bike and began riding in front of us. “It’s a pride-bike,” Andy yelled out. We all laughed.
And so we began our walk. David was in the lead on a rainbow bike and Andy was skipping along at my side, chattering about New York. Bella was in the rear, wearing black heels, a black handbag and bra, and a skin tight yellow dress. She was on her cell phone figuring out the details for her work the following night. She had to do makeup for Aerosmith at Alpine Valley. No big deal for her.
In the middle of this colorful group was me, wearing jeans and a black shirt and feeling very plain, as usual. But as people turned to stare as we walked by, or said, a little too loudly, “look at that guy on the bike,” I had to smile.
We walked on- forward, not straight- and I thought to myself, I love my life.
(written primarily in 2009)