Any time a politician gets past his or her 20s without getting married, the rumors about him or her being gay start to bubble up. That's certainly true of Cory Booker, and has been for some time; I happen to know a friend of a relative who knows a guy who swears he had a serious relationship with Booker. The most common response from the politician is to laugh at the rumors to show how secure he is, but make sure everyone knows that he is, in fact, straight. Which was why it was somewhat refreshing to see Booker say this in a profile in yesterday's Washington Post: "And people who think I'm gay, some part of me thinks it's wonderful. Because I want to challenge people on their homophobia. I love seeing on Twitter when someone says I'm gay, and I say, 'So what does it matter if I am? So be it. I hope you are not voting for me because you are making the presumption that I'm straight.' "
But the really interesting thing was how Booker's opponent reacted. That opponent is a testosterone-fueled, pulsating slab of man-meat named Steve Lonegan, whose chances of winning the election pretty much depend on Booker strangling and eating a puppy on camera between now and election day. When an interviewer read Booker's comments to Lonegan (here at about the five-minute mark), Lonegan said, "I didn't see that, Steve. It's kind of weird, as a guy I personally like being a guy." Not that you asked, but he's going to tell you anyway.
You'll note that Lonegan's reaction to questions about someone else's sexuality is to quickly insist that he is totally, absolutely, completely not gay. But Lonegan wasn't done: "I don't know if you saw the story last year [here's what he's talking about], they've been out for quite a bit, about how [Booker] likes to go out at three o'clock in the morning for a manicure and a pedicure." He elaborated: "I don't like going out in the middle of the night or any time of the day for a manicure and a pedicure. It was described as his 'peculiar fetish' was how it was described. I have a more peculiar fetish: I like a good scotch and a cigar. That's my fetish. But we'll just compare the two." He-man alert! Try to contain yourself, ladies.
I guess for certain kinds of men, particularly from an older generation (Lonegan is 57), even a mention of homosexuality requires a vigorous assertion of one's own heterosexuality, lest anyone start looking at you funny simply because a cloud of uncomfortable questions is now floating about the room. For younger, more cosmopolitan people it might be the desperate mention of totems of manliness (scotch and cigars), with its whiff of panic, that generates a derisive smirk. But let's be honest: those aren't Steve Lonegan's voters.
And for you young-uns who didn't get the reference in this post's headline, here it is: