I am walking across the street (legally, mind you) in my neighborhood when I hear it:
I stop in my tracks and look around. Not because I think it’s directed at me, but because f**got is a word that gets people’s attention, especially when it’s screamed in public. It’s the nature of the word. It’s climbed the echelon of tasteless utterings rather rapidly, to the point that it’s on the level of the dreaded c-word or n-word.
Turns out it is directed at me. Guess I dressed really well this day.
I figure this out when the person who said it lobbies the derogatory term at me a second time, ostensibly for no reason at all other than I strike him as somebody who may be a homosexual male. This while I stand in the street, trying to discern who is spewing hate out their uneducated mouth.
The culprit is old enough to be a man, which is crazy, because no grown man with any amount of intellect would scream “f**got” at some random stranger who is crossing the street when he has the walk sign. But here we are. Maybe he’s high and/or drunk, trying to deal with his own homosexual tendencies by loudly persecuting people he sees who set off his gay-dar. Maybe he’s just a simpleton, a Westboro Baptist Church member or, come to think of it, both. They go together like peanut butter and jelly.
The rage wells up, as I’m sure you understand it would. I don’t like being called a “f**got,” and it has nothing to do with being perceived as gay or not. Who does?
“F**k that guy,” I think to myself as I shamefully begin thinking derogatory names I could shout back at him. But I get a hold of myself. What good would that do? None, really. What good could come of this situation? Again, none.
Unless I start cracking up, laughing like being called a f**got is the funniest thing that has happened to me yet that day or even in the month of May. Like there is nothing in the world more hilarious than some knuckle-dragger yelling a homosexual slur at you from distance, especially when he doesn’t know you from Adam.
See, I’ve found in my not inconsiderable experience of being insulted that the best way to deal with it (unless the insulter is armed) is to start laughing maniacally at them, like their insulting you is hilarious to you in some way they’ll never be able to understand.
So I laugh. Hard. Then I continue my walk across the street, sauntering with more confidence and panache than I generally would. I walk up the steps to my train stop, and the laughter continues. It grows more genuine as I stroll. It’s darkly humorous to me that people in this day and age still use that word, and that they truly have an attitude consistent with using that slur and feeling self-righteous about it.
These people deserve only to be shrugged off, to not be taken seriously. If you ignore them, they’ll eventually go away altogether. They’re not worth the intellectual energy of anything other than dismissive chuckles. When I was in Harlem early last New Year’s Day and a crazy black man called me a “white motherf**ker” for no discernible reason other than that I was visiting his neighborhood, I reacted the same way. (Thankfully another black dude came by and started giving this dude guff, otherwise it may have turned into a fight, which I was not prepared for on account of my celebratory drunkenness.)
I don’t (by conscious choice) live in the Bible Belt, so I don’t often hear “f**got” in my day-to-day proceedings.
So when I heard it for a second time in a 12-hour period, I was distraught and saddened by the state of humanity in 2014.
And I had also had enough.
The second occurrence came at a bar in Williamsburg, where I had met my roommate to watch a playoff hockey game. The Pittsburgh Penguins are, for better or worse, my favorite pro sports team, and they were playing the New York Rangers in a best of seven series. Since roommate and I don’t have the shekels to shell out for cable, we had to go to bars to watch the Pens play.
If you don’t follow NHL hockey, you may not know that Sidney Crosby is a 26-year-old center for the Penguins, and arguably the best hockey player in action at present. He’s also one of the best of all time, probably, and very heterosexual. (At least this is what I hear from his Pittsburgh-based groupies who have tested his sexual waters.)
At a break in the action, the camera showed Crosby arguing with a referee about something. I heard a Rangers fan sitting at the bar say “Crosby is such a f**got.”
I wanted to confront him, but roommate said it wasn’t a good idea and talked me down. I’d like to think that Rangers fans also take exception to folks dropping the f-bomb about someone they’ve never met in their lives, but one can never know for sure what a bunch of rabid hockey fans will do to a person who calls out one of their own.
So I did nothing. Which made me feel like a complete asshole. I tried to drink my disgruntlement away, but as I got progressively more buzzed, I continued to stew harder on this person’s homophobic gall. I was less than satisfied to allow his blatant bigotry to go without comment or rebuttal.
I decided I would say something to him before I left the bar. I just wasn’t sure what.
Again, if you don’t follow hockey, you’re probably unfamiliar with the phrase “Because it’s The Cup.” This stands for the Stanley Cup, the NHL’s championship trophy. The league uses it as a tagline to hype playoff competitions, and to encourage the borderline insanity of certain fans who take the sport way too seriously. If you were wearing face paint or doing some other nonsensical thing while you watched your favorite team, you could say “Because it’s the cup,” and it was like your get-out-of-jail-free card. Kind of like the catchphrase “YOLO.”
When the Pens had the game surely in hand, roommate and I decided to call it a night. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to gloat among these Ranger fans. It was just that we had booze back at our apartment that was bought on the cheap.
After I signed the slip to close my tab out, I walked up behind the guy who had called Crosby a f**got. I reached down and pinched his blubbery ass, hard, like I would have if I were giving a serious Purple Nurple.
Just before I did this, I leaned in close to his ear, so that in the millisecond after I executed my strong pinch (typist’s hands) I was able to whisper “Because it’s The Cup” in his ear.
He whirled around and expelled an emphatic “What the f**k?”
“Oh, you’re not gay?” I said with mock surprise. “My bad.”
Then I chuckled to myself like I was listening to George Carlin tell a funny joke in my head, and I walked out of the bar.