Homage to Bethelina

So here is how the message began: “Hey honey, it’s me, Beth. Okay, so I know that this is a message so I will make this short.” Beth–or Bethelina, as I have been calling her for the past twelve years or so, is one of those amazing people you meet once in a lifetime: a natural blonde. Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking–“But what about you? And your luscious blonde ringlets?!?!” and you would be right, I love you for thinking of me as a natural anything, but Bethelina is the real deal. And it goes without saying that I love her back, immensely, and if for no other reason then for always leaving me the best phone messages.

“So I just talked to my niece Allie, who is, like, in eight grade, and she was telling me about this boy” (Note: Bethelina is a romantic, so the last bit should be read as “boooooooooy”), “and she was telling me that she really likes him, so I was all ‘Are you gonna ask him out’ and she was all ‘Oh, I don’t know. He’s bi.”

Naturally, when I heard this I nearly choked on my lunch (crushed ice-cubes with a side of laxatives), put on my Blanche Devereaux wig, practiced my “Oh My” look in front the mirror just to make sure I still had it–which I totally do!–and pressed the “1” button to return a few seconds earlier.

“‘Oh, I don’t know. He’s bi.'” Oh yeah, in eight grade.

But the message continued. “So I asked her ‘So, do people, like, make fun of him?'” which was a very Bethelina question, truth be told. She is one of the original crusaders of mo’ rights, and has been known to throw down some kids back in her day for disrespecting any of the gays at school, most of whom, incidentally, she dated prior to their coming out. Girl has the kind of draw that most unicorns can only dream of. I’m just sayin’. Anyway, I could imagine Bethelina clinching her fists and calculating how many times she’d have to swing them to take down any of the potential tormentors.

“And then she just looked at me like I was crazy, and she was like ‘Why would anyone make fun of him?'”, at which point Beth–and mothers’ of said potential troublemakers–let out a long sigh of relief. Of course, Orbitz lost out on a client because my Bethelina always has a suitcase packed up and ready to go if tales of homophobia dare to crawl up her ears.

I, too, was relieved. I went back to my vanity and continued brushing my wig with my other hand. The message, let the record show, was not over. “Can you believe it, Shaboogie?” she said using her nickname for me. “In eight grade! In Jeffersonville, Indiana. Who knew? And you know what the best part is? Allie was all ‘And it’s not like he’s the only one. There are, like, five other boys who are out and no one cares.’ Isn’t that crazy?” Again, I pressed the “1” button to rewind by a few seconds.

“‘Five other boys who are out.'” Hot damn. Five boys who are out? In eight grade? I wonder how that worked. When I was thirteen I had pimples the size of light bulbs and a stunning set of metal bars inside my mouth that made it look like I was holding my words hostage behind my teeth. Oh, and my head was about four-fifths of my body weight. And oh yeah, I sounded like Mom on the phone. And it didn’t help that I would wear her sweaters–and it was the early nineties! Which means that they had shoulder pads and featured clowns with little yarn balls for eyes. Oh, and how I could forget, my most stunning feature of all–I had the world’s hairiest legs, but being as thin as they were, it looked like I had yanked the back legs off a moose and glued them on instead.

“Anyway, Shaboogie, I love you and I really want to hear your voice.” I pressed “1” twice to take me back to the beginning of the message, and listened to it continuously. It is moments like this that make me realize that we have come a long way from days where prepubescent awkward gays were mocked, pointed at, pushed around, ridiculed, bullied and belittled for their sexuality. Then again, maybe it was just for wearing their moms’ sweaters.

And the message wasn’t quite over yet. “So call me already, I know you’re just probably brushing your wigs, so put that stuff down already and call me. You know I have the suitcase ready.”

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