Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Rather Odd Memory of My Parents' Friend

Aaron Race was the first gay person I knew about. I knew that he had left my church because of it, and I knew that certain people didn't like him because of it, and I knew that my parents were kind to him and always welcomed him into our home. I am so glad that my parents are the apex of love and tolerance in a religious culture that is often seen as cold and harsh.

But my first memory of Aaron Race was being taken to dinner at his house. I know that I was pretty young, but old enough to already have a few sisters. In my mind's eye, I can see the entryway to his little suburban house and I partially remember that the children had their own special table. Everything is covered in a vague haze, except one thing: Aaron Race made escargot for dinner.

I don't believe that we, the children, were made to eat it. I'm sure there were chicken nuggets or corn dogs or something acceptable to a little person's palette. But my disgust was visceral and permeates my memory of that dinner party. Snails! Cooked snails! How gross!

Aaron Race died this week, not of AIDS or HIV or any other "gay disease," but of a long-battled cancer. I have known many other gay, lesbian, and bisexual people since I met Aaron; not only have I known them, I have loved them and admired them for myriad reasons. I have known people of all orientations who have been awesome, awful, interesting, and tasteful.

But none of my experiences have ever been able to extract the gayness out of escargot for me. Cooked snails will always be linked to men loving men in my head. And I hope Aaron wouldn't mind.


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