I’m a golfer in the closet. There I said it. Believe me, I wanted to come out earlier, but it’s not as easy as you think, especially when you live in a Paris full of tyrants who’ve forced me, until now, to live this double life. In my world, people have more respect for you if you DJ on the weekends or carry canvas tote bags, or live on the right bank of Paris in a two-digit arrondissement. (Most of which I follow religiously btw.)
And if you do wear golf shirts, well you’re only allowed to wear them ironically, the same way we wear hunting vests or North Pole parkas or 50’s bowling shirts. Can you imagine what these urbanites, raised in the Mitterrand era, would say if I told them I loved golf?
“John’s conservative!” they’d cackle. “He’s older than he admits,” they’d suspect. “He probably pays the ISF wealth tax.”
It didn’t used to be this way, I’m told. My dad played golf with his friends and even with the people he worked with. It used to be you had to learn golf if you wanted to fit in. Deals were made on golf courses, friendships were formed. Hell, a man who didn’t golf was suspicious. Now it’s the opposite. People find it peculiar if you golf. They give you those “ah bon?” replies, usually followed by the typical condescending “You never told me your were a… golfer” smile.
You never asked, asshole.
Sure, I’ve considered taking up the quintessential trendy hobbies like skateboarding or Manga or cycling on those bikes with no breaks to fit in, but the more I hold back, the more powerful the urge to golf becomes.
I read golf club brochures as if they were porn. With texts like, “the eighth hole at Burning Tree is a dramatic par five, where one must flirt with a savage gully on the left side then fire your second shot across the edge of the lake to a narrow target with bunkers beyond” how could you resist? I have fetish videos on my shelf like Secrets to improving your short game or Ben Hogan’s: Five fundamentals. And more and more it seems, our family vacations somehow have a golf element to them now. “Honey, I promise you, Arizona is full of culture.”
There even have been times during the week, where I’ll leave the house in the morning, drop the kids off at school like all the other bon peres de famille, then sneak away and play for the day, making sure I’m back by 18:00 like some cheating husband, who quickly showers before kissing his wife. The problem is my fellow golfers don’t really accept me either. It’s not that they find me too young per se, just too young to be golfing during the week.
When you’re a golfer in the closet, it’s easy to spot others. I’ll catch a guy practicing his swing in the open space or notice another emptying out his scorecard on to a table, like an old condom we shouldn’t see.
“Do you play?” I ask him softly, making sure nobody can hear.
“Play what”? He’ll look up nervously, usually red-faced and surprised.
“You know what I’m talking about.” I’ll wink.
I’ve also noticed another species, the non-golfers in the placard. The guys who can’t admit to their boss they hate golf. Guys from Areva or Total, out there on the course, acting as if they love it when it’s obvious they don’t. They look sad and miserable, and I hate them for not appreciating their freedom.
Deep down I wonder if my love of golf is rooted in wanting somehow to be like those I often golf with. Stable and salaried, living “real” lives, not weird infantile ones. These men have responsibilities, boards to answer to, and surely don’t spend their afternoons “en terrace” wondering if a camp about fat kids could make for a funny screenplay.
Perhaps this obsession with golf is some sort of pre-retirement fear I have, a way to create a hobby, which I’ll count on later in my years to keep me in shape and protect me from Alzheimer’s. And considering my generation probably won’t have a retirement anyway, a good golf game might be just as important as paying social security taxes. Also, I’m trying to get my wife involved, just so there are no more secrets between us. Once she gets into it, I’m hoping we can look for other couples that share our same desires, kind of like seasoned swingers.
My idol isn’t Tiger Woods but Ian Stewart of the Rolling Stones. Yes, those Rolling Stones. Stewart, you might not know by name because he was never part of the big five. He played piano in the background, and because he was older and less into drugs, he’d organize many of the Stones tours, which ironically happened to be near great golf courses. That way, while Keith and Mick and Charlie were all hung-over, Ian could sneak in a round by the time everyone woke up. Stewart, I think, was the first golfer in the closet. Now there are many. Justin Timberlake, the guys from Cassius, even APC’s Jean Touitou, the godfather of French hipsterism, is a golfer. Touitou enjoys it so much he told me he wants to start a line of golf apparel – without the irony.
Eventually, times will change, and like gay marriage, it’ll be OK to golf and be open about it. And maybe one day when I stroll down the Canal St. Martin in the 10th with my clubs, I won’t feel the eyes of judgment on me. Nor will I feel just as ridiculous when I walk into the Fontainebleau golf club with my five-day beard and APC shirt on.
Until that day, though. I’m forced to meet three other men near the Bois du Boulogne during the week very en cachette– three men I don’t know, all of whom are married and who’ve promised to be discreet. Because the milieu where I come from, saying you love golf is not something you say out loud.