Put Some Gay In Your Day, Dallas!

Obvious Effects

“May I suggest, if you’re dressing to please Stephen, not that one. He doesn’t like such obvious effects.” When this insult is delivered in the dressing room scene in The Women, Norma Shearer as Mary punches the word “obvious” by raising an eyebrow and looking down the form of Joan Crawford as Crystal, leaving no doubt of her meaning. Crystal’s lack of subtlety was an egregious assault to Mary’s sensibilities, almost on par with the infidelity with Mary’s husband.

I love so many words for so many reasons, but “obvious” is one that I practically hate. It’s not just a Southern thing—Mary is a New York society woman, after all—but to be obvious in anything is usually bad form, bad strategy and, worst of all, bad taste.

Of course (or should I say obviously), the sting of that word was associated with being obviously gay, which I was in spades. Not that it was a choice, mind you. Being obviously gay is no more a choice than being plain old gay involves a personal decision. Being covertly gay might have its advantages, but being obviously gay can become what Billy Porter has described as a “superpower.”

Even so, the world of subtlety, where nuance and insinuation live, is a stimulating place. Being clever, being indirect, even being witty to make one’s point is a valued commodity. In that other world, where obviousness reigns supreme, folks seem to be armed with a sledgehammer when saying what they have to say. The only question that remains with them is whether or not they intended to say what they said so, well, obviously.

So many, in fact too many, of the issues of today, are stuck being played out in the world of obviousness. The legal battle over the abortion pill mifepristone, for example, is clearly not about public safety or the FDA approval process. If these more high-minded concerns were truly the basis for this litigation, they would have been raised years ago. One need not be a scientist or even a lawyer to figure out that this action is designed to reduce women’s access to medical abortion. Nothing new here, just the latest play out of the same old playbook.  

Donald Trump, the former president of these United States, sued Michael Cohen this week for $500,000,000 for a list of grievances too numerous to catalog. This suit is the obvious next step for Trump to try to hush up his former hush money-paying attorney.  The only surprise here is Trump waited until he became Defendant Donald to do it.

Cohen is an interesting case, an admitted perjurer who displays himself as being remorseful while grinding his axe at the same time. I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could kick a lemon pie. (That’s from The Women, too, for those counting.) Besides, Cohen gives off a bit of a disheveled vibe, making him something less than the slick lawyer that a Hollywood casting agent would put in his part. Perhaps the saddest thing about Cohen is there can be no redemption for him. Whatever he does, his obituary will include Trump’s name in the first sentence.

I have never before had occasion to mention Tennessee in this column except in connection to whiskey and Mr. Williams. But that was before the state legislature voted on whether or not to expel three of its members, two black men and a white woman, ostensibly for disrupting a session that appeared to have already been disrupted by protesters in the gallery.

It hit my radar after the first man was expelled, and I presumed all three would get the axe. But when there were insufficient votes to expel the white woman, I thought, “Oh, for pity’s sake. This might come down to race.” And so it did, when the second man was removed from office.  

Fast forward a week, and Justin Jones and Justin Pearson are back in their seats, having been appointed to fill the interim vacancy that their expulsion created pending a special election for their seats. Clearly, this was an obvious abuse of power by Republicans in the Tennessee House of Representatives that ultimately proved ineffective and costly. (Presumably, Tennessee taxpayers will have to pay for two unnecessary special elections.) Let’s hope those folks learned that committing a political lynching three days before Easter is particularly bad timing.

All this dealing with the obvious is tedious, but a double entendre, that risqué mixture of nuance and insinuation, came just in time. At lunch with a friend in a Mexican restaurant, I ordered queso. The waiter asked, “Large or small?”

“Oh, large,” I replied.

“That’s right. We don’t go to Subway for the six-inch.”   

Delicious and subtle. That is so much more to my liking.