Here I am, halfway through Movember and just contemplating my Mo efforts in the mirror when a voice from the hall enquires if I’m thinking of starting a Village People tribute band. Briefly I’m puzzled, but she explains that with the ‘tache, white tee shirt, jeans and Caterpillar boots I am maybe dressed for an audition.
It raises a laugh and I ask if she’s concerned that I am about to come out of the closet after 60 years, however she says no, she is very sure of which side of that street I walk, but this conversation rings a bell in the back of my mind and I’m taken back to more innocent times (well fairly so) in the school playground of the 1960s where “Mo” had an entirely different meaning.
In those days “Mo” was short for homosexual, certainly in the male sense, although I’m pretty sure none of us knew too much about what that meant; I certainly didn’t. I didn’t know the basic facts of life at the time I am talking about and I would have been 12 or 13 around then. When one of my schoolmates suggested that babies came around because a chap put his whatsit into a lady’s thingummy and, well, stuff happened I talked him out of it on the basis of “Can you imagine your Mum and Dad doing that?” He couldn’t and I’ve felt a sense of responsibility since I later learned that he was right in case I had damaged his chances of ever enjoying the pleasure.
No, we knew nothing really of matters sexual, although we knew some of the words and our mothers warned us about accepting lifts from strangers regardless of whether we were boy or girl. Somehow the connection was never made with camp behaviour on the TV, but homosexual activity was still outside of the law then; that would not change for another two or three years.
A lot of playground humour went over the heads of a lot of us, regardless of topic or subject, but you laughed anyway and, if it was really obscure, then you asked a close mate later when you were out of other’s earshot and maybe tried to work it out. Some of the best moments for us though were when you had something that the adults couldn’t grasp and the specific memory that flashed back into my mind this morning in our Village People moment was of singing “One man went to mow, went to mow a meadow” in class and our poor teacher being completely baffled by the fact that the male portion of her class were collapsing in mirth at this simple country song.
Perhaps I should form that tribute band and we could have One Man on our playlist; great for audience participation and no-one would pick up on the innuendo these days. Isn’t it strange how our use of language changes, for in the days that Mo was raising a titter amongst my pals they would just have taken it that I was cheerful if I’d have said I was gay.
Certainly I am cheerful as I dash off these few lines for the blog, but I wouldn’t tell anyone I was gay today, for they would get entirely the wrong impression. That said, perhaps I ought to go and change before I go out…