Me and Mr. Jones: A Skeleton in My Clan’s Closet

1 02 Me and Mr. Jones: A Skeleton in My Clan’s Closet

I am surprised there were no poofs caught in the net of that Russian spy haul last week. The connection between espionage and the “friends of Dorothy” is well documented. Paging Guy Burgess, Anthony Blount and other tweedy inverts!

It all makes perfect sense: We gays have a much greater familiarity than the average breeder with the concept of secrecy, spending, as we are obliged to do, our early years wrapped in a feather boa of undisclosed thoughts and desires. With good reason, too. If I had told anyone at my Secondary Modern School that all I wanted to do was dance the frug with David Hemmings-remember him from Blow-Up?-they would have turned me into Piggy, as in Lord of the Flies.

While my mum and dad were white-knuckling it through Lloyd Bridges’ underwater adventures in Sea Hunt, I was focused on his other harpoon, if y’all know what I’m sayin’.

My gay secret life was at its naughtiest and most clandestine when watching TV. Though we Doonans might all have appeared to be staring at the same box, I was focused on very specific aspects of the program content, and getting all hot and bothered in the process. While my family was doggedly following Efrem Zimabalist Jr.’s sleuthing in 77 Sunset Strip, I was fantasizing about a kiss with Kookie, the slim-hipped parking lot attendant played by Edward Burns. While my mum and dad were white-knuckling it through Lloyd Bridges’ underwater adventures in Sea Hunt, I was focused on his other harpoon, if y’all know what I’m sayin’.

This is not to say that the straight Doonies did not have their own share of secrets. For example: When I was in my late 20s, I asked my parents for my original birth certificate. They had always been evasive on this issue, proffering a range of excuses, including “Your Aunt Phyllis’s seeing-eye dog ate it.” I finally put the squeeze on Betty Doonan because I needed it to process my green card.

When, reluctantly and with lowered lids, she handed over the document in question, I suspected it might contain a secret or two. I was correct. His name was Mr. Jones. Between anxious puffs on a Woodbine cigarette, Betty told me that this man was her first husband, a wanker, by all accounts, who had abandoned her for some Italian broad at the beginning of the war. My mum had kept it a secret for almost 30 years, hiding any documents that referred to her as “formerly Jones,” my birth certificate included.

People say that keeping secrets makes you a prisoner and releasing them sets you free. This was not the case for Betty. Her life was much better back when Mr. Jones was a shadowy memory, stuffed in a drawer. Once the cat was out of the bag, she had to deal with my relentless, stress-inducing inquisitions and reproaches. Why, when she knew how much I enjoyed a bit of sizzling scandal, had she withheld this succulent, Lana Turner-esque detail of her life?

But sometimes the discovery of a family secret can bring true happiness and genuine exaltation. Such was the case with my Jonny. When I met Jonathan Adler 15 years ago, he was  a workaday potter who thought he was just like everybody else. He had no idea how very, very, very special he was. Everything changed when, about a month after I met him, he found out that … hang on to your chromosomes, girls! … his grandparents were first cousins!!

Far from inducing feelings of discomfort or shame, this revelation increased my Jonny’s joyous self-esteem about tenfold. He rebranded and repackaged this potentially concerning tidbit as follows: “I’m not inbred. I’m purebred.”

Go, Jonny, go!

sdoonan@observer.com