Los Angeles, California
April 22, 2012
Folklore Type: Joke, Phrase
Informant Bio: James Santelli is my boyfriend. He is a twenty year old Broadcast Journalism major with a minor in Sports Media at the University of Southern California. He is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; he has lived there his whole life and is very proud of it. James is the youngest of three siblings.
Context: Last Spring of 2011 a friend tried to convince a group of James, our friends, and me that the wife of a jazz musician always wearing a blue dress to a concert is a thing. James’ response was it’s not a thing, not like same-side queers. Everyone just looked at him and said huh. James then found out that no one but him knew what on Earth same-side queers was, and tried to explain it to us. I asked him to try to explain it again.
J: Same-side queers is when you have a booth or table like with booth seating, and you’re eating. And there are more than two people overall at a table and you have two people sitting on the same side of a table and there are no people at the other one. This will occur if there’s only two people sitting at the table, or if there are more and one person gets up to go to the bathroom or something. And you are left in the situation where both people are sitting on the same side of the booth with no symmetry to it. And they are thus same-side queers.
A: And when did’jou learn of this terminology?
J: It was either late middle school or early in high school ‘cause our high school cafeteria had all these booth seatings um like throughout the whole cafeteria. (Alex holds up pinky finger implying James’ school was fancy) So… yes fancy indeed, but usually people would not purposely sit same-side queers together. But if there were three people and one would go to the bathroom they would be left as same-side queers, and labeled as such.
A: Why is it not same-side queers with three people sitting next to each other in a booth?
J: Well it could be, but the booths usually only sat like two people in each like little long chair.
J: So there wasn’t really the space to sit three people on one side, (sweeps hand as if gesturing to other side) zero to another. There was really only room for two.
A: Oh, ok. I understand. All right so, uh who’d you learn it from?
J: I don’t know exactly. It was, it had to have been like some guy or group of guys in probably late middle school, just learning of this fact that sitting two on the same side would be considered same-side queers.
(Portion of interview cut out and placed into Informant’s Analysis)
A: So when would you like say this? Just whenever you see it or (gestures downward while spinning hand in circles)?
J: It would usually be when you had three people or four people, and one or two people would get up to go to the bathroom from the same side.
A: Yeah, I mean just like now? Like when would you; like same situation?
J: Nowadays it would be just yeah when I see it day to day in Parkside or in a restaurant or something, but the most fun part and I can give you this anecdote is when you have four total people. And you have two on each side, and let’s say one person on the inside had to get up to go to the bathroom. So the person on the outside would have to get up as well, but for that little period of time (both laughing) you’d still be labeled same-side queers because there’d be two on one side and not on the other. And then in some instances one of the people on the opposite side would get up so that they would not be labeled same-side queers because they would technically not be sitting two to a side until the other person got back.
A: D’, do people plan this out?
J: It’s just a thing you react to. (Alex laughs) You know the person on the other end is getting up to go to the bathroom so if you’re on the outside of the other side, you don’t wanna be same-side queers, so you gotta get up for a second til the other person whose getting up to allow the other person out gets back in. (Alex stares a little) This is a thing that happens! (Alex laughs)
A: How is this experience important to you, and/or how has (laughs) it affected your life? Why do you do it? (Both laughing)
J: It’s, it’s somewhat humorous, if you look past the possible framing of it as homo-phobic. (Laughing) Just that there is this very idea of, you know, two people sitting on the same side and none on the other as being humorous in some way. But it kinda gives meaning to this thing that we all kind of notice in our day to day lives like even if you’ve never heard of same-side queers you’ve seen people sitting on the same side of something with nobody on the other side, and probably’ve been made uncomfortable by it. No matter if its two guys or a guy and a girl or whatever (slight laughing). You just think canchu sit opposite sides? Even if you’re on a date it’s kinda, kinda weird and off-putting. And for some reason we have a name for it and other people don’t know about it. (Laughter from Alex).
Analysis: On the one hand yes, the joke is somewhat humorous, but on the other it is an unsuspecting reinforcement of societal norms. The joke is learned and told mostly during the awkward teenage years of later middle school to high school. Boys are uncomfortable with their changing bodies and identity at this time. James specifically mentioned how two people sitting on the same side of a table alone makes others uncomfortable because it is unconventional. Sitting same-side queers is considered what is different than what is considered the societal norm which would make a person doing such a thing odd or even an outcast. A teenage boy struggling to figure out where he fits in most likely will not be trying to break the societal mold. By noticing same-side queers one is singling out those people as queer, or strange. (I also find the idea same-side queers interesting because that is how people sit on couches and talk, usually with a coffee table in front of them)
Los Angeles, California
University of Southern California
ANTH 333m Spring 2012