Dad’s stag turned out to be a modest affair. The attendance peaked at four persons, including me. His fiancé collected him from Mulligan’s pub at 23.30. The man I knew growing up has most certainly ceased to exist. His friends advised, “age changes people, Stephen” when I observed this.
Dad’s friends are nice guys. They – like Dad – grew up in the City Centre around Pearse Street and Bath Avenue. Between the three of them they could fill a book with the most entertaining stories from an Older Dublin. On this particular evening they talked about the old night clubs that were scattered around the City. They reminisced on the Lansdowne Tennis Club in its hay day. They also described the predecessor to Howl at the Moon. “That was an amazing club in its time,” said Dave.
The conversation continued after Dad’s departure. Dad’s friends discussed the various pubs around Dublin that were “unofficial gay bars”; certain pubs became affiliated with the gay community during the 60s, 70s and 80s. The unofficial gay bars frequently appeared and reappeared with the opening and closing of establishments. “Ah sure, your dad worked in a good few of them,” John said.
“Excuse me!” I almost spat out my cider. “Are you telling me Dad worked in gay bars as a waiter?”
“He did.” John took a mouthful of his beer.
My dad is a good looking man. He still is to this day. I can hazard a guess he found work easily in these places. He must have told me he worked in a gay bar when he was younger. He certainly did not admit to working in a number of them.
I thought for a second. “I recall him telling a story from when he waited tables in some pub in Dublin. Some auld fella grabbed his arse. Did that happen in a gay bar?”
Dad’s two friends burst into loud laughter, laughing long and hard. Tears filled John’s eyes.
“Jaysis,” said John. “Your Dad was always getting his arse grabbed by lads”.
I leaned back on my stool, letting the information settle. I examined them both. They seemed genuine.
The rest of the conversation is a hazy. I’d had a good few pints at that stage. I said how surprising I found it since he didn’t take my coming out very well. Dad is a tough both emotionally and physically. I figure he found my homosexuality to be an attack on his masculinity. I never would have guessed he had predisposition towards a gay scene (albeit “official” or not).
Dad did not accept my sexuality for many years. I came out at the age of seventeen to my parents long before any of my friends. Memories of that day still make me nauseous. When I delivered the news, it quickly became evident Dad assumed it was a phase. One night in the Hodson Bay Hotel, following our usual father-son trip to the gym, he asked me if I still thought I was gay. He admitted he thought he was once gay while in his teens “because he preferred the company of men over women”.
I remember pondering this comment. “Dad, you might have thought you were gay because you preferred the company of other men. This is natural during adolescence. The difference is I don’t just want to be in their company. I want to do a whole lot more than just be in their company.”
Naturally, he did not receive this well. I was harsh, inconsiderate and perhaps, a little crude. I had grown impatient. I wanted him to accept this as part of who I was. He clearly struggled.
This new information of him working in gay bars both angers and intrigues me. How did he work on the gay scene and not open his mind that he could have been a little easier on me? On the flip side, if he was being mauled at to the extent his friends describe, it is no wonder he does not have positive associations with the gay scene.
I always thought Dad was an interesting guy. Turns out he’s that and considerably more.