“I want to see your store,” my dad’s girlfriend said. Except she’s from Cape Cod, so it came out, “I wanna see yah stowah.”
And I thought, you know, I could easily explain the Pride merchandise to her, and the T-shirts with cheeky gay slogans. Some of our other products, though — like, say, the industrial-strength nipple clamps — not so much.
My dad had decided to celebrate his 80th birthday in Galveston, so he and his girlfriend (Beth) and my brother’s family trekked down from Boston to commandeer a beach house for an extended weekend vacation. My dad had also been getting more and more curious as to what I was doing for a living, and since I’d been kind of squirrelly about where I’m working, he got Beth to team up with him and beat some answers out of me.
And lest it sound like I’m painting him in a negative light, I should also mention that my dad is perfectly content to have an openly gay kid and holds supportive, if mildly lackadaisical, views on LGBTQ+ rights. “I think Skylar wants to be a boy,” he once opined, referring to my niece’s non-binary best friend. “Eh. If she want’s to be a boy, her parents should just let her. Him. Her. Them? Skylar, that is.” (We’re working on pronouns.)
So I wasn’t worried about his acceptance, but I was concerned that he and Beth might not be ready for a real-time initiation into (quoth Ani DiFranco) leather bras and rubber shorts.
“I’ll be frank,” I told them over dinner a few days ago, right after Beth demanded a tour. “The shop carries a lot of fun, quirky clothing, but we also carry what some people might call… um, novelties. I don’t know how comfortable you’d be around those.”
“Listen,” Beth said. “I’ve been to Provincetown. I’ve seen novelties.”
I wasn’t sure how to respond to that, so I just nodded.
“And besides,” she continued. “You don’t have to be gay to appreciate P-Town. They have lovely beaches there.”
It was going to be a losing battle, so I finally agreed to let them come by the store, provided they call first to let me know they were on their way. I figured that would at least give me enough time to camouflage the more unambiguous sex toys. (“Oh, these? These are… mannequin arms. You know. For collectors.”)
The next day at work was slow, so I spent a lot of time hanging out on the porch in front of the building, idly smoking, enjoying the pleasant weather, and thinking about my plans for the upcoming Sabbat. A car drove past and honked at me, but I was like, “I’M NOT A DRUG DEALER,” and it kept going.
I was about to head back in and find a project with which to busy myself, when the car drove past again, this time honking twice. And at first I was like, “I’M NOT ROUGH TRADE, EITHER,” but then I saw the driver and passenger both waving enthusiastically at me, and I was like, “Welp, that sure is my dad and his girlfriend in a rental.”
“Hello!” My dad said, rolling down his window. “We’re here to see the store!”
“Clearly!” I said, smiling hard enough to crack teeth. I directed them to a parking space, and then I scampered inside for impromptu damage control.
It wasn’t going to be too bad, I thought, grabbing the TV remote and turning off the video slideshow of various adult entertainers demonstrating the practical applications of silicone. I mean, it was definitely an R-rated environment, but my dad and I binged Ozark together and survived the experience, so as long as they didn’t venture into the room that customers had taken to calling “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” everything would be fine.
And then I caught my reflection in the mirror and realized what I was wearing, at which point I re-evaluated every life decision I’d ever made.
So they walked in and stood in the doorway and kind of surveyed the scene. And Beth went, “Oh! It’s exactly like Provincetown in here.”
“Leather and gear,” my dad said, glancing askance at the wall of cock rings to his left. “Do you sell leather pants?”
“We do,” I said.
He was quiet for about a minute, while Beth rifled through a display of neon thongs and cooed about the color options. And then my dad morphed into a Boomer ad exec so quickly, that it wouldn’t have shocked me if a cigar had magically appeared in his mouth.
“You don’t have enough signage out front,” he said. “Do customers know you’re open? Are you getting walk-in traffic from the all the bars in this area? People spend more money when they’ve been drinking — make sure the bars know you’re here. And are you just selling leather pants, or are you marketing them? Because there’s a difference.”
I assured him that we were heavily invested in marketing, and that part of my job was coordinating promotional events with the bars. I also divulged that we were waiting on a permit from the City before we could install bigger signage but added that I’d already stuck a new plaque out front to draw in more business, which pleased him to no end.
I had dinner with them one more time the following evening, and all they could talk about was how much they liked the store, which was a really cool feeling. As my dad is quick to point out, I’m bad about compartmentalizing my life, which has always been one of my go-to defense mechanisms. Having people from my carefully-constructed Family compartment barge into my reinforced Professionally Gay compartment was honestly a little frightening. But having them poke around in the corners and be happy with how I turned out was just a reminder that I’m very lucky to be related to them.
So we were sitting around and eating pizza, and my dad was firing off questions about the apparel deal I’d just finagled with a noted graphic artist, but Beth had other things on her mind.
“Is there anything in your store that your father might like to wear?” she asked.
“Absolutely not,” I replied.
And then they went back to Boston, and Douglas and I went over to Tybalt’s house to participate in a fertility ritual and listen to a bunch of disco. Thus were all of my religious and familial obligations fulfilled.
How was your Beltane?