I think it’s safe to say that career criminals view the world differently from law-abiding citizens. They’ll excuse – and even advocate – the behavior that lands them in places like the Manhattan Detention Center. But a take on inmate machismo I learned during my incarceration really struck me as odd. Allow me to share.
Somewhere around midway through the marathon 20 hour intake process, a group of us reprobates were sent from intake up to medical, where we’re weighed, pee and blood-tested, and have our blood pressure taken. In fact, a few guys didn’t want to submit to the blood test until they discovered that refusal carried incarceration in ISO, which means you never leave your cell and can’t use the phone.
While awaiting my turn to see a doctor of Caribbean descent whose accent was so strong I had difficulty understanding his questions, one inmate observed out loud that he used to think that all men who crossed their legs while sitting were gay. But in fact, he knows a few guys who do just that (though not tightly), who aren’t. To this declaration, another of my compadres disagreed. By him, any guy who crosses his legs in any manner while sitting sucks cock. Case closed. At this revelation, I a) shook my head to myself…and b) made sure to never cross my legs in the slam. And there were several times while reading in our unit’s open area, when I began to do just that and then caught myself before being labeled homosexual.
From observing my fellow inmates, I judged that this one individual’s opinion was more or less shared by all. After hearing what I felt was a totally absurd statement, I indeed discovered that virtually nobody in my 46 man unit ever sat cross-legged! On only one brief occasion did I see an inmate sit that way. And that was a Chinese detainee who put his right ankle on his left knee (something I also allowed myself to do).
I can’t imagine where all this came from. Maybe, in the opinion of criminals, if a man can sit cross-legged comfortably, he must have a small package and therefore wants to fondle or put his mouth on a big one. Just as I didn’t feel it was my place to inquire as to the other inmates’ charges, I found it equally inappropriate to question each and every inmate’s opinion on the hetero versus homosexuality of men who cross their legs while sitting. Call me crazy.
And here’s an odd finale to this preposterous post: While my cousin and her husband visited me at the Tombs, the husband crossed his legs. And it wasn’t ten seconds before a CO walked up to admonish him “No crossing your legs!” Why a visitor is not allowed to sit in that manner I cannot tell you. But I’m quite sure my cousin-in-law isn’t gay – if that means anything. The only observation I can make herein is that jail is fucking weird. And so are the people who end up there.