In preparation for my attendance at the University of Kentucky and eventual move to Lexington, I secured myself a job bussing tables at The Mansion restaurant at the Marriott resort hotel in the summer of 1988. At the tender age of 18, I already considered myself an open minded person despite having grown-up in the more conservative milieu of rural Kentucky. Working at the Mansion was my first exposure to openly homosexual people. Back home there had been gay men, but they were heavily closeted in the community. There was one lesbian couple, too, but it was usually talked about in hushed tones or with malicious sniggering. There's a keen difference between an ideological construct and actual experience, and I'll take the latter over the former any day of the week. Sharing the coed dressing room on the third floor of The Mansion with the diverse staff, as innocuous and trifling as it may have seemed at the time, proved to be valuable life experience in hindsight. Of course, seeing my female co-workers in a bra was just bonus.
A handful of you knew me then, but for most of you, can you imagine the even more testosterone-fueled me of 18? It boggles the mind. Every afternoon, after donning my ersatz tuxedo in the dressing room and making sure my serving credenzas were prepared, I would take my meal break in the employee cafeteria. The cafeteria was in the main hotel, which provided a nice stroll along the recreational areas of the property. While returning from my meal, I was walking beside the tennis courts just as a young woman was serving. She was outfitted in complete tennis regalia, right down to the skimpy white skirt. Her back was to me, as she lifted the ball into the air, extending her form onto the tips of her toes in one fluid motion. She swung, arching her body forward and the loud plucking sound of the ball striking the strings of her racket filled the court. This was all occurring to the left of me as I walked along the sidewalk. As I turned my head back to facing forward, the next sound to fill the court was the loud CLANG of my forehead meeting a lamp post. It cost me a night of work with a trip to the emergency room and 6 stitches.