Meet Me at the Gay Denny’s Part 3
14 years ago, after a trip to a haunted house and hay ride, I came out to my closest friends in a Denny’s because I was in my first relationship and wanted to share that part of my life with them. We were sitting at the Denny’s in Selma, I squeezed my (at the time) boyfriend’s hand under the table and said, “ Hey everyone. Jake and I are together.” I lifted our hands up and the first thing somebody said was “JAKE’S GAY?!”
Not the reaction I was expecting, but it could have been worse.
Jake lived in Fresno, I lived in Hanford, and neither of us felt safe telling our parents. So, whenever we had a chance to be together, we went to Denny’s A LOT since it was open 24 hours. We went so often we became friends with one of our servers, Mary (she eventually became a manager). We also became friends with the head manager, Marilyn. I think they both knew how nervous I was (maybe Jake, too), and they’d let us sit in the section that was closed off whenever we wanted.
It was at this Denny’s, in those sometimes closed off sections, that I got to practice being Queer in public—I practiced looking at him intently and giggling, practiced rubbing my foot against his leg, even practiced holding his hand when I was feeling especially brave. That Denny’s became the first place I felt safe to be Queer in public.
Even after Jake and I went our own ways, I still used Denny’s to hang out with my gay friends after drinking at Legends, or to sometimes meet guys from Grindr (I know, I know, a Denny’s pitstop isn’t the norm for a hookup, but as a baby gay, if we could meet at Denny’s first, it made me feel a little bit more at ease about the whole thing.) I even met somebody at a Denny’s who I ended up being in a relationship with for 8 years.
If Queer time really is a circle, then it’s told by the analog clock above the cash register in every single Denny’s.