Friday May 11, 2012

PITTSFIELD

There's a lot of hoo-hah over North Carolina residents voting to define marriage as a union between people of the opposite sex, effectively saying that gay marriage is not allowed.

I disagree with that, but I also believe that the voters of North Carolina have the right to make their own laws. My suspicion is that at least two of my gay friends won't be traveling to North Carolina for their vacation, as they did a few years ago. Nice place to visit, but they wouldn't be able to live there.

Growing up in Adams (Yes! That's right! Another of my hometown parables!), there weren't a lot of gay people. I suspect that had there been a gay-pride march, we would have had maybe eight participants. They all led pretty low-key lives, although the community, at least those who cared, knew who they were. Once, a bunch of local kids beat one of them up, reinforcing my early impression that "gay equals bad." That was not cool to me, even then, by the way.

Looking back, it was, as dumb as this sounds, a statement by these pinheads that they were straight and that "homos" were somehow bad for the community. I know. It makes no sense now, and it didn't make much sense then, even.

This was a corresponding assumption to my first impression that "black equals unknown equals probably bad," which I managed to dispel as I got older.

Anyway, I wish the people in North Carolina who think "gay equals bad" had hung around with me in college.


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It would have made for a crowded apartment on 83 Gainsborough St., but we always had visitors. We'd have found space for them.

Often, after classes at Northeastern were over, some of us would retire to the local watering hole, still there, called The Punter's Pub.

Sometimes, it would be a bunch of us. Sometimes one or two. Sometimes I went, sometimes I didn't go. OK, I probably went every time. Sue me.

One of my classmates was Lynnie (or maybe Linnie, I don't really know). Lynnie was gay and had a girlfriend, whose name I don't recall. Sometimes, when Lynnie came to the bar, her girlfriend would show up. That was fine.

I remember one afternoon, Lynnie and the girlfriend were there, and there was a little tension in the air. Nothing happened, but Lynnie and the GF didn't speak. Being a news guy and an incurable gossip, I needed to know what was going on. I asked Beth from Braintree, another classmate, what the story was. This was a few days later. Beth and Lynnie were good friends.

Apparently, Lynnie and the GF weren't getting along these days, for some unspecified reason. In fact, said Beth, they hadn't had sex in weeks.

That was kind of astonishing to me. My essential assumption was that gay people had sex all the time. You know, like in those explicit magazines my roommates used to buy. The concept that gay people had it just as tough as I did with relationships was a new one.

But of course I thought about it. And came to the rather pedestrian understanding that regardless of sexual orientation, people seemed to struggle with relationships. There really wasn't a heck of a lot of demarcation, here. We were all just schlepping through life.

It was more of a "live and learn" moment than the skies opening up with this glorious revelation. But then, most of life is a series of "live and learn" moments. That's how most of us roll.

Derek Gentile is a Berkshire Eagle reporter.