“Are you Albert?” A stranger asked me that question as we rode up a lift during Gay Ski Week.
Except that his pronunciation of “Albert” put the emphasis on the last syllable and dropped the “t” at the end. So it came out more like “Al-BARE.”
I always try to make our foreign visitors feel welcome and wanted to do the same with this fellow from, I guessed, Argentina. His “Al-BARE” was obviously a Spanish pronunciation of “Albert.” As for the identity of this “Albert” for whom he mistook me, I hadn’t a clue.
Keeping with my welcoming heart, and always on the lookout to impress people with the multilinguality I perceive in myself, answered him in Spanish. “No, mi llama Glenn.”
“Hi, Glenn,” he replied. “I was wondering if you’re Al-BARE?” He remained in English, which was perfect with no trace of accent, with the exception of his Spanish pronunciation of “Albert.”
His insistence on speaking English annoyed me slightly because it reminded me that whenever I’m in a Spanish-speaking country, they always seem to prefer that we converse in English. In fact, they pretend not to understand my Spanish. I’ve concluded that people in Spanish-speaking countries don’t actually speak Spanish.
In any event, I reasoned, I always have to speak English in their Spanish-speaking countries so they should have to speak Spanish in my English-speaking one.
But I digress. I answered in the language he seemed to prefer, and very directly this time. “No. I’m Glenn, not Albert.”
“No, no, no, no-no-no.” He was chuckling and shaking his head. “I’m asking if you’re a bear.”
I looked at him puzzled. “A bear?”
He glanced at the sky. “Never mind.”
The encounter perplexed and mildly irritated me. But mindful of the recent incidents of people recently being thrown off lifts for nothing more than commenting on snow depths up to a person’s privates, I decided not to inquire further. We rode the rest of the way in silence.
I later described the odd encounter to a friend. The friend informed me of something that my sophisticated and hip readers — both of them — might already know. In gay vernacular, a “bear” is a gay man who is big and hairy. And maybe other things too, but that’s all I know about it.
The incident got me thinking. My would-be gay lover from the lift had ultimately concluded, correctly, that I’m mostly ignorant about the ways of gays. But he didn’t seem offended by my ignorance. He didn’t demand that I learn such ways, or practice such ways, or that he be offered a “safe space” where he would not encounter ignorant people like me. He just chuckled, shrugged his shoulder and went on his way looking for Albert.
A lot has happened in society, gay-wise. A generation ago, a gay act was a crime. Now we have gay marriage. I don’t oppose that. (But I do think that gays and the rest of us would have been better off if it had come about through a democratic process, as seemed inevitable until a Supreme Court swing vote decided that he personally wanted to get credit for it rather than letting the people he serves get credit for it.)
The changes have been sudden, at least from where I sit, but mostly smooth. It says a lot about the goodness of the American people. In a country that is one of the most religious on Earth, we have an amazing live-and-let-live attitude toward others who are of different religions, different skin colors and different sexual persuasions.
I love America, and I’m proud to have gay countrymen and women who love her as dearly as I do. And I’m grateful that they seem not to begrudge the past.
Back to Gay Ski Week. I have no objection to it. But in view of the progress in gay acceptance, isn’t it a bit quaint? Isn’t it a bit like, say, Scottish Ski Week? Isn’t Aspen engaging in sanctimonious moral preening for a cause that was won years ago? It looks like establishmentarian brand-name edginess, which is to say it’s not actually edgy at all.
In other words, it’s so Aspen.
(Published Feb. 19, 2016 in the Glenwood Post-Independent at http://www.postindependent.com/opinion/20709148-113/aspen-beat-column-no-im-not-albert)