24 July 2010

Locker Room Talk

This morning I did a short ride down to Battery Park and along the greenway that skirts the Hudson on the West Side of Manhattan.  I just wanted to get in a few miles before the heat came--which it did, like a blast from an old furnace. 

En route, I stopped at Bicycle Habitat because I wanted them to check a wheel I want to ride tomorrow when I go to the Delaware Water Gap.   Hal wasn't in, so Raul, who actually worked with me briefly when we were both at Open Road Bicycles in Brooklyn, did the work. 

He and I don't go as far back as I do with Hal, but I'd guess that our paths have crossed for close to twenty-five years.  And he's been respectful yet still friendly about my changes.  He doesn't have a story about a gay family member or some such thing, but he understands that my expereince is not a tragedy or a sin, for he has experience with the former and has his own ideas, shall we say, about what constitutes the latter.

Plus, he--like Sheldon and Hal--have respect for me from the rides that we did together.  When I was in shape, I could keep up with just about anybody, or so it seemed. It was one of the few areas in  my life in which I had any real confidence.

Anyway, when we talk, we fall into a kind of banter that male friends and friendly acquaintances sometimes engage in with me.  It consists of more than a bit of locker room talk, and sometimes contains the kinds of sexual references you might admit.

I mentioned someone we knew back in the day--an old employer of Raul's, as a matter of fact.  That got us to reminiscing about some of the man's quirks and foibles.  Finally, Raul blurted out, "He should have been a girl!"

I squinted.

"He's not a man," Raul explained.  "He has no balls."

Realizing what he said, he turned red.  "I'm sorry.  I didn't mean that.  I feel stupid."

I started to giggle.  He looked even more embarrased.

"I didn't mean to upset you."  My giggle turned into a laugh.

I mean, how else could I have responded?  Not so long ago, I'd laugh when he or someone made such an assessment because I'd probably agree with it.   As a matter of fact, I probably would have said something like it myself.

"I'm really sorry."

"For what?"

I almost told him:  "You're a guy.  You say stuff like that."  But, instead, I said something about having heard it all before.

What's really funny, though, is that if what Raul said were true, I would have been envying his old boss.  What Raul said today reminded me of an encounter I had with the editor of a newspaper I wrote for.  He was like one of those city editors from '40's noir movies:  foulmouthed, cynical, chauvinistic almost to the point of misogyny.  And he smoked and drank way too much.  Had things just been slightly different, he might have been one of the cops or perps we were writing about.

One day, he thought I could have been "tougher" in my questioning of a precinct commander.  "When you're trying to get to the bottom of the matter, you've gotta go after 'em," he yelled.  "Otherwise--I don't mean to offend you--otherwise, people'll think you don't have any balls!"

"If only..." I sighed to myself.