The New York Times, which recently tried to homo-fy two guys socializing by calling it a “man date,” continues on its vein of mild heterosexual panic with an article that frets that thanks to heterosexual men deciding it’d be okay not to be a slob every once in a while, and gay men occasionally not giving a crap if their stubble is exquisitely sculptured, it’s getting harder to tell the gays from the straights. The horror! The sheer, unadulterated, sexually-ambiguous horror! And if we can’t tell the gays from the straights, then the bisexuals are really up the creek, aren’t they? Simultaneously wearing a too-tight ribbed tank top and relaxed fit Wranglers won’t mean anything anymore.
These sort of articles make me want to smack the Times upside the head and yell at it to try its hand at actual news again, you know, for a refreshing change. I hear there’s a war on. Secondly: This is a bad thing? We live in an era in which an active quorum of religious bigots would quarantine gays into concentration camps if they could (“It’s just like Guantanamo — only fabulous!”), and the Times is snarkily concerned that we can’t simply visually identify the gay guys anymore? Hell. I’ll happily wear a leather armband if it’ll flummox a hateful Bible-wielder. And I’ll let a gay man borrow my Wal-Mart purchased t-shirt, just to really throw them off. He can’t be gay — that shirt is 40% polyester! Yes, the gay can blend. Just like polycotton.
You know, when I was younger, a lot of people, including members of my own family, vaguely suspected I was gay. Why? Well, all the cultural indicators were there. During high school, I had an overly-dramatic crush on a particular girl which kept me from dating other absolutely wonderful girls even when (on occasion) they were standing right in front of me, waving their hands about and saying “Hey, look over here.” Professing to have a long-standing crush on an unapproachable girl, is, of course, very teen gay. So is being verbally clever, slight of build, an active participant in singing and theater groups and enjoying Depeche Mode on a regular basis.
And I took dance. Modern and Jazz. Oh, yeah.
Add it all up and I was queer to the friggin’ core. The only thing that really pegged me as possibly being in the heterosexual camp was that I was a freakin’ slob and that in addition to enjoying Depeche Mode I was also a big fan of Journey. But as anyone can tell you, gay teens compensate for their queerness by doing things like, you know, picking a random corporate rock band to obsess over, hopefully one with a moderately cute lead singer. In my era it would be Journey. 10 years later: Creed (Today: Well, hell. All those new rock bands seem pretty sexually all over the map, don’t they? Have you gotten a gander at, say, Franz Ferdinand?).
So: On paper, as a teen, pretty darn gay. And yet, right through to the monogamous institution of marriage, heterosexual right down the line (it’s a short line, I’ll admit). Also, I’m not afraid to say it: As a general rule, I like me the women. In theory I accept the possibility that some guy out there could get me emotionally quivery and physically all winged-out, and I wouldn’t be all angsty about it if happened. But you know what? Hasn’t. Whereas women distract me all the damn time. I’m good with this; for one thing, simply as a practical matter, it’s caused me far fewer headaches than the alternative. I am appropriately thankful that I and my life partner have our relationship recognized by everyone as being a marriage, and that there are no exclusionary dickheads hiding their pissy fears behind a Bible and telling us we’re going to burn in eternal Hellfire for loving each other and defining ourselves, with our child, as a family. It’s one less thing for me to deal with personally. Would every couple were as fortunate as we.
(It doesn’t seem likely people would confuse me for being gay anymore, what with the wife and child and rural red-state lifestyle and the Wal-Mart clothes, but if they did, you know what I would think? Good. Here in the US, gay is the new British, which is to say that if people think you’re gay, they also think you are smarter, wittier, and more fun to be around than the average guy. Sure, you sodomize other men on occasion, but that’s your business, and we Americans always suspected British men had sodomy as a required subject at Eton. So it’s all the same, really. And in the meantime you always say the perfect thing at the perfect moment. You’re more entertaining than cable! And what could possibly be wrong with that? If people know you’re a straight guy, on the other hand, they automatically think you’re a beef-witted social dullard in a Linux shirt hoping to delude some poor woman into accepting a sperm packet or two. In a word: Eeeeeeew. I blame Queer Eye for the Straight Guy for propagating this “befuddled pathetic straight guy” meme, but since the New York Times tells us it’s getting harder to tell the queers and straights apart, at least it’s on its way way out.)
Point is: the gay/straight cultural checklist utterly failed to predict my overt and flagrant heterosexual proclivities. And I don’t doubt that even now, somewhere in my sleepy Midwestern burg, there’s a guy flying a NASCAR flag, wearing a John Deere cap and owning a pickup with a “W ’04” bumper sticker who is trying to decide if he should go see Mr. and Mrs. Smith yet again to enjoy his recommended daily allowance of Brad Pitt, or if he should just stick Troy into the DVD player, and catch Brad in his buff, half-naked, remote-control-pausable Achaean glory. In the real world the dividing line between gay and straight doesn’t exist anywhere but in the mind and in the bedroom. It’s vaguely appalling that the writers and editors of the New York Times don’t actually get this.
Actually, I’m sure they do. But they have newshole to fill. Well, like I said: Rumor is, there’s a war on.