I WAS SEVENTY YEARS OLD this week and I’m out of the closet at last.
A rum time to do it, I grant you, but I didn’t want folk thinking I was leading a double life so I emerged from the walnut wardrobe throwing away, as I did so, three white shirts and a grandad vest that ‘Er Outdoors has always insisted are are too small for me. Also that old fleece from my Journal byline picture with ‘Cotton Traders’ embroidered on the breast. . . oh yes, plus a pair of similarly-autographed Cotton Traders slip-ons.
Otherwise, dear reader, I feared I would never again be allowed into Kuala Lumpur. Confused? I was, too, so let me explain. . .
It was something I read in a newspaper: apparently, Malaysia’s Muslim majority are scared stiff of any chap who’s the teeniest bit ‘light in his loafers’ getting past airport immigration, so one of the country’s leading newspapers published a “How to Spot a Gay Person” checklist on Valentine’s Day, 24 hours after my birthday. I was horrified at what it said:
WEARING tight shirts “to show off their six packs” was top of the list; reader, I do not possess a single LOOSE shirt in my wardrobe! In my case, every button strains to contain not a six pack but a beer barrel of a belly.
OSTENTATIOUS displays of brand names emblazoned on expensive, fashionable clothing “are favoured by such men” they sneer; can I help it if Cotton Traders choose to put their monicker on the OUTSIDE of every garment they produce? I even worry about some of my old Marks and Spencer T-shirts with the dead giveaway and rather twee ‘St Michael’ brand on the label. What’s THAT all about?
FACIAL HAIR, “especially a fashionable stubble”, is also a highly visible sign of gayness, the list goes on; all of a lather, I was out of the closet and straight into the bathroom hunting out my Wilkinson Sword Quattro Titanium as soon as I read that one. I’m retired, for goodness sake, I’m allowed to wander around with four days’ growth in a tight vest and jogging pants, aren’t I?
Besides, when did you ever see an imam who wasn’t wearing a full set or even a wispy, Middle Eastern beard, for God’s sake? The checklist of “behaviours against the order of nature” didn’t end there, either.
FREQUENT visits to the gym “for purposes other than exercise” were an obvious indication of pick-up activity, hinted the checklist, darkly; not so! The only reason I’d be seen dead in Berwick’s gymnasium is because their coffee is cheaper on pensioner days. And as for “effeminate males” GOING WIDE-EYED “upon sighting a handsome man” I worry that my one remaining good eye sends out the wrong message when it swivels wildly to do the work of two.
The not-so-Shortlist of Shame doesn’t spare the memsahibs in the despised LGBTQ (Lithuanian, German Belgian, Trinidadian, Qatari?) group, either.
“Lesbians,” snarls the checklist, “tend to hug each other, hold hands and belittle men.”
Wow! That’s got Mrs Banks and our daughter, The Guardianista, bang to rights!
TALKING OF TURNING SEVENTY, some of my wonderful old readers who used to follow my columns in the Newcastle Journal sent me birthday greetings. Yes, Mrs S of Ponteland, it IS amazing that I’m still here, thank you! And I agree, John in Swarland, my continued existence IS a tribute to the NHS.
If only my nearest had the confidence of my dearest . . Mrs B’s card wished me THIRTY more happy years, Susan the Luddite predicted another TWENTY years of fun and finally my daughter: “Hope you have as much fun “in the next DECADE”.
Personally, I was hoping for a little longer than any of those!