Butcher, Baker and Candlestick Maker Deny They Are Gay
Steve Adams, the butcher, was photographed with Adam Stevens, the baker, and with Richard Liss, the candlestick maker, in the bathtub last Saturday evening. Although this is not the first time the trio has been seen together in the soapy basin – reports of their bathtub meetings go back at least a hundred fifty years – only recently has there been such public discussion of their sexual orientation.
“It’s basically a sign of the times,” says May Koaver, a lecturer on gender issues at the University of Pennsylvania, and author of Unconventional Families: Old Mother Hubbard and Her Dog. “Twenty years ago, it was a taboo issue, along with scuttlebutt about the cat and the fiddle and the dish and spoon – but now that the stigma of non-“standard” couples and families has lessened, people are willing to discuss the issue without all that baggage.”
Koaver is inclined to believe the trio’s denials, since nursery rhyme characters tend to be relatively open about their sexual predilections and characteristics. The man from St. Ives, for example, was not married to any of the seven wives – it was in France, after all – and expressed no shame whatsoever, even though the rhyme developed in an era not known for its tolerance of deviant public behavior.
Another example is Wee Willie Winky, who proudly adopted as his name the very characteristic that would send stereotypical males underground. And Jack Sprat, famously, adhered to the very eating habits so often associated with gay men, attempting to maintain his slim figure while not objecting to his wife’s slovenly appearance, since he was not attracted to women anyway.
Not all literary scholars are so convinced. “There’s still plenty at stake in today’s world when a character comes out of the bookshelf,” noted Ben Dover, Professor of English Literature at Bob Jones University, and author of Mary’s Lamb and Other Risky Liaisons. “Jack B. Nimble was driven to extremely risky behavior, overcompensating for his perceived lack of masculinity,” Dover wrote in an e-mail. “Who do you think made that candlestick – and what else but a potent phallic symbol could it be, a representation of a ‘flaming’ homosexual? It can’t be coincidence that Candlestick Park is in San Francisco.”
At press time, no comment was available from the Three Men in a Tub, who had invited Jack and Jill over for consultations on unexpected complications surrounding encounters with water.
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