Mary Beth and the Gay Teddy Bear

My only sibling is Mary Beth Colpitts, two years younger than I am. Because we were Air Force brats, we were quite close when growing up, moving from place to place, having to make new friends every couple of years. And when I say moving, I mean moving: I went to kindergarten in the Mojave desert in California at Edwards Air Force Base, first and second grade in St. Louis, third and fourth in Omaha, fifth in Jasper, Indiana, six, seventh, and part of eighth in Japan, last part of eighth and first three years of high school in Nashville, and senior year in Yorktown, Virginia. Then, when I joined the Navy to see the world, Mary Beth and I saw little of each other, except for one year of college where we overlapped at the University of Maryland.

If I wanted something from my father, I’d have to plan my campaign very carefully. It would have to be logical, tuned to Dad’s own predilections, and presented with dash and brio—akin to filing a brief in a complicated trial. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t. But Robert Whaley, Air Force Colonel, Dallas Prosecutor Extraordinaire, was putty in the hands of Mary Beth Whaley when she switched into “Daddy’s Little Girl” mode. It was truly frightening to watch this intelligent man succumb time and again to her predictable routine. When Mary Beth wanted something, she’d flash her brightest smile at him, and scamper around behind where he was sitting, grab his jowls and pull them up, while happily telling him to “Smile, Daddy!” (see photo). Then, having warmed him up, she’d walk out of the room with his wallet. I was both disgusted and envious.

As adults Mary Beth and I saw little of each of other. She married Richard Colpitts, a lawyer and now federal judge, and they lived for many years in the panhandle of Florida, far from me in the Midwest. But then they moved first to New Orleans (see “The Sayings of Robert Whaley,” May 13, 2010), and now Las Vegas, and since I sometimes visit those cities (particularly Vegas), Beth (as I call her—she calls me simply “D”) and I have become closer. As mentioned in a prior post (“Goodbye to St. Paddy’s Day,” March 2, 2010), she became interested in genealogy and traced the Whaley family back through the Civil War to Nathaniel Whaley, born in Maryland in 1760, and we had fun talking about family history.

Here’s where things get strange. When Jerry, my partner of twelve years (see “Recidivist: A Criminal Who Does It Again,” September 10, 2010), and I broke up in 1997, he set off across the country, his car packed with his things, unsure of where he would end up. That turned out to be Las Vegas (which he and I had often visited in our years together). He had met Mary Beth and Rich once before (see the post first mentioned above), and, on a whim, when Beth and Rich moved to town, called the Colpitts up and invited them to his Xmas party. They came, and—here’s the strange part—my sister (never known as a liberal) and my very gay ex-partner have become good friends! If you put that in a novel, no one would believe it.

Now, whenever I get to Vegas (most recently last month, when I took my nephew Aaron there as a way of celebrating his 21st birthday), Beth and I get together, frequently at her house, and Jerry (and assorted gay friends of his, including members of his Vegas gay family) is always one of the guests. The first time this happened was 2005. Rich was out of town, but Mary Beth invited me for supper, and also Jerry and his gay roommate (not partner) Rick. She prepared a terrific meal, and much alcohol was consumed. Beth was quite curious about how gays really exist in this world, and since none of the three of us are shy quiet people, she got an earful. At one point she asked if we hadn’t all three been to bed with women, and we said yes. I gave her my bowling analogy (see “Marijuana and Me,” July 11, 2010), which made her laugh, and when she asked Jerry about that, he replied, “I think I like bowling better.”

Beth also showed us her teddy bear collection, and it was something to see. She has an overwhelming number of teddy bears (my guess is 70, but I’ll probably get an email from her after she reads this telling me the number is no more than, say, 34). Since her birthday was coming up shortly thereafter, I decided to get her a gay teddy bear, and I did. As the above photo demonstrates, it was a gay teddy bear with an attitude. She was delighted, and showed it to all her friends.

As Jerry, Rick, and I were leaving her house that night, all in a great mood from the drinks and good company, I hugged her on her front stoop and thanked her for a wonderful evening. She hugged me back—brother and sister reunited at last. Then she turned to Jerry and threw her arms around him, saying happily, “I love you, Jerry Bunge!” “Wait a minute!” I protested loudly. “I’M THE BROTHER!” She laughed. “Oh, I love you too!” she said, only slightly embarrassed. Last month as we left the exact same scene was re-enacted, but this time she did it deliberately just to rattle my cage.

When I sent her the gay teddy bear in 2005, I told her I wanted a picture of her and Jerry with the bear. Let’s close this post with that. Beth and Jerry are both wearing beads, because the photo was taken at the Colpitts' annual Mardi Gras party.


Related Posts:
“Dog Meat,” December 27, 2009
“Recidivist: A Criminal Who Does It Again,” September 10, 2010
“The Day Jerry Left,” October 30, 2010
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013


  1. I think your sister and Jerry look enough alike to both be family.

  2. I think it's time for you to give your sister a nice vintage Steiff bear.......... I can help.

  3. Took me time to read all the comments, but I really love the article. It proved to be very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also engaged! I’m sure you had joy writing this article.teddy bears


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