Doing laps in the LA Fishbowl

Who’s Your Pappy Now?

Patron Saint of Pappies

There’s a certain type of gay man for whom my friend Mark has coined the perfect name: the Pappy. You’ve all run into them, gay men of a certain age who are a little too rigid in their fastidious ways, often manifested in dress and movement but mostly in their firm adherence to the Way Things are Done. Mincing, non-mincing, they can be young but they always feel old. Pappies are found everywhere, with large enclaves in Palm Springs (the Boca Raton of older gay men) and certain sections of Fire Island. They’re frequently seen in argyle sweater vests.
Non-Pappy
Strong Pappy Potential
 On a flight to NY I sat one seat away from such a character. He was Classic Pappy, the lean varietal, due in no small part, I’m guessing, from his strict morning exercise regimen. Pressed jeans, navy sweater with the shirt collar out. Precise short haircut, Caesar-inspired, designer wire frame glasses. Skin stretched tight across a face nurtured no doubt by his twice-daily moisturizing regimen, mouth trending downward due to years of perpetual dissatisfaction. I’m thinking finance, or perhaps some kind of design sector. Secretly, or not so secretly, Republican.
He was in seat C of my row, across the aisle from his Pappy partner. They were one of the first ones to board. I swung my bag up into the compartment above and smiled in front of him. His mouth pinched tight and he audibly sighed. Moved his legs a fraction to the right and stared into the aisle as I clambered over him. How could he be so put out when we were just boarding? Did he think that he would have the row to himself? Have I ruined his Netjets fantasy?
The plane was full, and had, in our section, a large concentration of Asian passengers, foreign-born, including a couple with two kids who must have gotten their tickets at the last minute because they were all in middle seats scattered throughout the plane. Pappy was not liking any of it. He was not a happy Pappy. The woman had put her conical straw hat in the bin above, and after she sat in the row in front of us he leapt up to retrieve his earphones, tossing her hat (yes, tossing) in the seat between us to get to his bag. He pushed the hat back into the bin and rearranged the items. “Is that yours?” he asked the woman, who nodded. “Well, I tried to put it above my bag to keep it safe,” he said, then added in a cold sing-song voice, “Can’t guarantee anything…” He both condescends and demands gratitude.
How hateful could this man be? I crinkled my brow at him, but that was lost on Pappy because another Asian woman arrived to sit in between us. She’s clutching a large and kinda dirty cylindrical-shaped stuffed animal with a Hello Kitty logo on it. I’m assuming she’s brought it on to sleep against or on. As she’s getting to her seat, Pappy partner gleefully points out the stuffed animal to Pappy One and silently sniggers. I shoot him a glare, which has amped up from crinkled brow to active disgust. The man settles back into his seat, hopefully chastened. Pappy stuffs iPod buds into his ear and jabs at his screen. We’re off.
I spend most of the flight exquisitely attuned to Pappy’s every move, a sleeping Asian woman between us, poised to take offense and possibly action, should the situation warrant. I imagine what I would say to him, how I, Protector of the Common Folk and basic human decency, would chasten, even shame, old Pappy, by simply pointing out his rude behavior and lack of civility. Pappy is a restless flyer, his every move jerky and abrupt. I take note of his drinking, how much (two) and what (scotch). I pull at my upper lip, seething at this man’s smug, self-satisfied air, how he laughs at “The Office” on the plane’s video screen because he’s just like Dwight Shrute…
And then it hits me. How much time have I spent obsessing about this man? It’s been almost the entire plane ride. My jaw has been clenched for close to three hours, mouth pinched like Rick Santorum talking about gay marriage, ready to take umbrage because this man had not, in my opinion, done things the Way Things are Done. Dear God! I settled back into my seat and took a few deep breaths. Judgey McJudgey needs to chill out, I thought. Righteous indignation is a heavy carry-on that should have been stowed at takeoff, but I had insisted on holding it the entire flight, and it had transformed me, like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, into a Pod Pappy.
Who’s the Judgmental one now?
I’ve really got to watch out for this side of me. There’s an inner Pappy that lurks inside, and I don’t want it taking over. Let’s face it: I’d look like shit in argyle. 
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May 31st, 2011 - Still Life Las Vegas

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3 responses to “Who’s Your Pappy Now?”

  1. tokyobound says:

    This was deliciously rich introspection. Much appreciated. Thought provoking.

  2. HA, HA. I had to make an emergency trip to Long Island this weekend and made the sojourn out to Fire Island with my cousin to escape our clan and to the waiting arms of my Pappy buddies who are rich in hugs and understanding of my every woe. So Pappy on. But let's agree I don't always have to wear lipstick if I don't want to.

  3. Genevieve says:

    Good for you. So important for us to recognize in ourselves, the behaviors we condemn. I'm dying everyday here. I hope….

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