A sure sign you are considered a Cotswold local is when you become the recipient of the index finger wave. This greeting, exchanged amongst neighbors giving way to one and other on the narrow country lanes, consists of a quick flick of an index finger whilst both hands remain otherwise attached to the steering wheel. It may or may not be accompanied by a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nod or ascent of the eyebrows.
Friday night on our way to the cinema we crossed paths with M. the barman, with whom we are on firm index finger waving terms. To our surprise M. stopped the car, got out, and walked over to have a chat. He couldn’t pass up the gleeful opportunity to remind husband that the previous evening in the wine bar he had made the following announcement to no one in particular and at considerable volume:
“I am very gay, my penis is very large, and I am very good at lovemaking.”
What is remarkable about this statement is that I didn’t even notice it. I too was in the wine bar Thursday night, by husband’s side for the entire evening. My lapse cannot be accounted for by my own drunkenness, enforcing as I have a two (ok, three that night) glass maximum following my recent health scare. It’s just that ludicrous remarks like these are such an old staple of husband’s banter repertoire that they don’t even register with me anymore. They, like much husband says, are filtered away by the hyper efficient mechanism my brain has engineered after nearly eight years of marriage. Apparently, however, such remarks do register with other people who are less accustomed to his verbal quirks.
Husband’s “gayness” has long made me the envy of my women friends. It amounts to a bit of sartorial flair, an eye for interior design, and a willingness, nay enthusiasm, for seeing “girlie” movies at the theater. Mention Richard Curtis or Merchant Ivory and husband will not only be first one in line but also the first one to cry. In retrospect, husband’s outburst may have been in the context of discussing his latest man crush on a chap named “Boot” (I swear) who had been in the wine bar earlier on. Mrs. R., with whom we were discussing the concept of the heterosexual man crush, also recognized the syndrome in her ex-husband.
Whatever prompted the proclamation, it is hardly the kind of thing I would expect out of the mouth of a man stricken by self-consciousness around his beloved toffy friends who frequent the wine bar like it was another room in their house. This is, after all, a man who has threatened to divorce me if I mention he is from Liverpool, land of track suits and petty crime. He can technically claim to be from the neighboring and more genteel Lancashire, having been born in a hospital in Ormskirk, and he has taken great care to cultivate his wine bar reputation as a Lancashire lad. I have long enjoyed chiding him for this fib, urging him to be true to where he’s from and who he is. I suppose I should be pleased; it seems he’s finally taken my advice.