Scott’s History, Part 2

24 Jan

Jill, Scott, and Kathy

When Scott entered Richfield High School in the late seventies, he became more popular and, just like at church, his lovely baritone was his calling card. He started auditioning for musicals and getting parts, his favorite being Fiddler on the Roof. He discovered that he had acting talent in addition to musical talent. His classmates’ recognition of his ability and his sense of humor helped to make him well-liked.

Pete remained his best friend, but he was starting to find that he often preferred the company of women. He says he had this reaction to women because they were more sympathetic and listened more. He also told me that gay men could be just as chauvinistic as heterosexual men, and that that was something about which there was a great deal of misunderstanding in the general public. Some of these women he was getting to know were in the musicals where he had won parts, but there were others as well who weren’t. When he was a senior, Scott dated a couple girls, but the friendships were mainly platonic. However, he had started what looked like the typical romantic life of someone who was heterosexual, and he was somewhat attracted to women, which made what was to happen later  confusing for him and for other people.

When it became time for him to apply to college in 1980, Scott’s first choice was Penn, one of the Ivy League schools, and he was accepted, which was very exciting for him. However, his father, who was a blue collar worker, said he could not afford to send Scott to college. His older brother had been the valedictorian of his high school and had received a full ride at the University of Minnesota through ROTC, so the parents hadn’t had to put out any money. Scott does defend his father on this point because his dad didn’t come into money until somewhat later, but it meant that Scott had to slog through college on his own dime, first going to Normandale Community College, and then transferring to the University of Minnesota. He graduated in six years, rather than four, because he worked full-time and his parents expressed no interest in going to his graduation. He wondered whether or not his father was actually proud of him.

I became part of Scott’s life in 1981 when I began working at Byerly’s grocery store in Edina as a night waitress. He was very friendly, unlike some of the others who had been there awhile, especially the women. When women are bitchy they can be just awful. One day I received a $5 tip from a couple and I heard a woman whisper: “Did. you see that? Kathy Mapes got a $5 tip?” Scott was funny, which the wait staff and the customers liked, but I was shy and it took me awhile to fit in. I was developing a strong friendship with him, so I had someone who was sympathetic with me at work.

Fortunately, his girlfriend, Jill was outgoing and interesting. Whenever she returned from nursing school, she would work at the restaurant and the three of us would do things together. We often played Trivial Pursuit way into the night at a nearby Perkins, something Scott and I did alone as well. Jill was very good-looking, a buxom blonde–he said he liked women with fuller figures and she definitely fit the bill. It never occurred to me that he was gay, when he was so obviously part of a heterosexual relationship.

Our friendship had its official start the day I turned around in the Eden Prairie movie theater at the close of the film, Partners (1982), and saw that Scott was ten rows back. In the movie Ryan O’Neal and John Hurt play gay police partners. Ryan O’Neal’s character is actually heterosexual so he had the opportunity to portray both sides of the street. The movie was groundbreaking for its time–gay couples were not depicted on the screen back then, nor was the gay community depicted, but it never occurred to me that Scott might be interested in the subject matter. Ryan O’Neal and John Hurt are good actors; it didn’t seem unusual to me to me that they were portraying characters of the kind not usually seen at the movies. However, Scott told me later that he had read a synopsis of the plot and had come out of curiosity about the gay characters. I assumed that he was like me–that he went to movies all the time, even attending the mediocre ones. From then onward, Scott and I often went to movies together and we always brought treats.

We started watching two or three movies each night after work at his apartment, always making sure that we watched one classic movie like Gaslight or Now, Voyager. I had grown up watching John Wayne and Henry Fonda in westerns on the Late Show on TV when I babysat. My brother Barth and I also saw Cary Grant and Rock Hudson and Doris Day in comedies with my parents at the drive-in. Scott now complemented those movies with Bette Davis in The Letter, Bette Davis in Now Voyager, Bette Davis in All about Eve, Hitchcock movies, and the great Hollywood musicals like Meet Me in St. Louis, Top Hat, and Singing in the Rain. We even had a favorite “bad” movie, Die, Die, My Darling (1965) with Tallulah Bankhead and Stefanie Powers. He never forgave me for making him watch Picnic on Hanging Rock with Nichole Kidman. I never questioned his love of Hollywood musicals or associated it with being gay. I didn’t even know about the stereotype at that point. What I did know was that I had met someone with similar tastes in movies and literature, and that he was fun.

Sometime in the early eighties I accompanied my girlfriend, Cindy, and her son, Nathan, to the Soo Line train yard. It just so happened that Scott’s father worked with her husband. His dad impressed me as an attractive and genial, but slightly overweight man. For fun, he gave us a ride around a small track in his engine. I liked him immediately, but was a little startled to hear him ask: “Are there many other guys working as waiters in your restaurant?” “Yes, there are several other guys,” I answered. He seemed almost worried, although not overly stressed when he asked the question. Of course, men have traditionally been preferred over women as waiters in fancy dining rooms, but we were serving comfort food at our somewhat casual restaurant, and there were quite a few more women who served as waiters than men. It is only now when I look back that Scott’s father’s question strikes me as pointed.

Of course, relationships are built mostly on discussions, trips, and outings that have nothing to do with sex, which is what makes it hard to relay exactly his point of view about his self-knowledge at the time. However, the hints were certainly there to pick up, and some of the experiences that he relayed to me at the time in talking about his parents and his friends and certain divisions that were occurring in his life are evidence of how misunderstandings about someone else’s sexual orientation evolve.

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