Saturday, August 30, 2003

The Both of Me

Sometimes having two distinct, if interrelated, personalities can be difficult. Especially when both personalities clamor to shop but there's only one rather meagre income to distribute between them. Last week, the Robert side of me wanted desperately to look gayer, yet I managed to thwart his desire for those outgrageous tropical-print board shorts from Ralph Lauren and the Hugo Boss slides at Shoe Pavilion and the thirty or forty different hair and skin products seen advertised in flashy fashion magazines... but this was fairly easy to do, since the communal bank account was dead empty.

But this week, several things happened at once which set Miss Marlénè off on a tear: I bought and read the 740-page September issue of Vogue, and I got paid. I also started thinking about the title of Royal Crown Countess, and what one would wear to Investitures, and started feeling inadequate. And then my coworker JB suggested playing hookey (or taking a looooong lunch) on pay-day and perusing certain of the shops on Piedmont Avenue, where I bought a cream-colored crêpe de chine evening gown that just barely fits (and gives me a spectacular silhouette), a graphite satin skirt that also just barely fit, and a water-blue chiffon garden-party dress with red and green beaded flowers. Later that day I hit another shop and bought a whole lot of very long and chunky Chanel-esque pearl necklaces and a really capacious handbag in figured chinese silk with a snazzy silver clasp/handle. It was the most shopping I'd done in months, and it was heaven!

What really got me started, though, was the tiaras. Angelique told me that it was bad luck to buy your own tiara, so I told her I'd buy hers and she could buy mine. So I started hunting around on eBay for a tiara that fit her specifications. After a good deal of searching, I found one that I thought absolutely perfect... which was rendered even more perfect because the same vendor offered another tiara of the same style, only smaller. So I bought the big one for Angelique and the smaller one for myself (bad luck be damned), at sinfully low prices.

One success on eBay is never enough. I started hunting for beaded evening gowns and furs while I was at it. And while waiting for a page of evening gowns to load (damned lo-fi dialup), I visited some favorite jewelry vendors. Though I only bought one gown while I was fiddling around yesterday, I bookmarked a number of auctions that won't be ending for a day or two. If the prices stay low, I may just have to bid on them.

The question is, can I afford it? I'm not so sure. If I only make the minimum payment on Visa, as I decided to do before launching into this decadent shopathon, that frees up a good chunk of cash... but I think I may have already run through that. There is still my car-payment to make, and the cable and insurance payments that will hit next week. And with the holiday weekend, my online banking pages won't be fully updated until Tuesday.

The prudent side of me think I should just stop now... but the drag-queen side of me says "fuck that noise! Buy! Buy! BUY!"

Ah, the joys of multiple personalities.

In other news, I am spending my Labor Day Weekend laboring away, as usual. I have laundry on top of laundry, clothes that haven't seen the outside of the hamper in two or three months, clothes I probably don't even remember that I have. Plus I have a Ninth-Step letter to write, which should occupy a certain amount of my time and expend a certain amount of mental and physical energy (the list of my wrongdoings is going to be pretty epic, when I start sifting through an unhealthy thirteen-year relationship). That ought to keep me away from the shops... except for some of those auctions, which I really have to bid on (there's a red fox boa that I simply must have, and this blue cocktail dress that's absolutely to die... God help me).

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Can't You See I'm Working?

I have been having a most bizarrely productive couple of days here at the office. And now I've run out of things to do... more or less. I mean, there are things I can do, aside from reading the latest issue of Elle and writing in my blog, but I have accomplished every one of the numerous tasks that have graced my to-do lists, and I even thought up a few other things that should have been done a month ago but which everyone forgot about. And the last task actually required physical labor, schlepping heavy boxes around and distributing flyers and calendars to the mailboxes in the very hot mailroom (complete with very hot mailroom clerk) of our district's Berkeley campus. Most tiring.

I thought of doing some shopping on Shattuck while I was there, as I usually do, peek into Shoe Pavilion and Ross and Stop the Clock... but unfortunately the cupboard has run bare again. This business of living within my budget is much harder than I expected it would be. I'm beginning to think that I should restructure somewhere. Like pay less into my credit-card debt, or something. Poverty suxx. Especially when it's not real poverty but only comparative poverty... I can't spend as much as I'm used to spending, and I'm all of a tizz over it.

I finished playing Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets for X-Box the other day... and was very disappointed. I usually don't finish video games because the final "boss" is usually so damned hard that I get all frustrated and give up. But in this game the final boss was easier to defeat than the bosses of the Spell Challenges, easier even than many of the puzzle-rooms, some of which were absolutely diabolical... hell, the Whomping Willow at the very beginning of the game took five times as long to defeat. In the PC version of the game, the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets is a long and incredibly complicated trip through the plumbing and sewers of Hogwarts Castle (and I haven't gotten past a scene that requires one to run from a rolling boulder while casting the Diffindo spell on the spiderwebs blocking the hallway and leaping over huge gaps in the floor), but in this one you fall right from the sink in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom into the grand corridor to the Chamber itself.

Then, having defeated the Basilisk, that's that. You can still wander around the game if you want, which is architecturally amazing and beautifully rendered... but there are all these locked doors that make you wonder why they're there, and I still haven't found the missing textbook that completes the Lost-and-Found minigame... not to mention having never found any use whatever for some of the equipment, namely the non-exploding luminous balloons and the stink pellets. There are a number of Wizard Cards that I haven't found yet, either. Plus the fact that I never won a single game of Quidditch, so poor are my joystick skills (no comments, please). I think I'm going to have to restart the game and see if I can't do a better job of it.

I can't quite believe I just wrote two paragraphs about a video game. But I was happy just to have uninterrupted access to it... we are finally devoid of children in our house (though my nephew, whose X-Box it is, will be returning this weekend from spending the week in Laughlin NV with his girlfriend's family, he's seventeen and remarkably quiet so he doesn't count). I'm just so thrilled to finally be free of little girls.

I didn't like little girls when I was little myself, and they haven't grown on me since then... I'm still fairly sure they harbor cooties. And then there's the giggling, that just drives me mad. Not to mention the slavish devotion to, and wildly infuriating imitation of, that Disney Channel archfiend Lizzie McGuire. We won't even get started on their individual habits, like Ariel's tendency to pretend she knows how to do things like fry bacon ("I like it black" she insists) or bake cakes (which she then expects you to eat, even though she put too much milk in the mix and then tried to even it out with extra oil and eggs), or Jessie's numerous glasses of crushed ice with long-handled spoons littered around the house.

So we're slowly recovering from the invasion. Grandmother has spent the last couple of days just staying in bed and resting, and soon we will be working on getting the house put back together... for though we no longer have Bratz dolls and carelessly discarded shoes blocking every thoroughfare, the general air of devastation that children tend to leave behind them must be slowly and methodically expunged... which is made more difficult by the fact that we've never really recovered from the painters last month, because of the child-mess. But I'm having people over at the end of next month, so I have a personal stake in getting the place put back in order and made comfortable again.

So anyway, having used up the time remaining to me for today, I can now fold up my petals and go home. Thank God! I'm sure you thank Him, too, as I will now stop babbling like an idiot and give you your ragazzo di giorno. I know, he's all dressed and everything, but I can't imagine anything sexier than a satin suit... and I can imagine him taking it off. So put on your Imagination Hat, and enjoy!


Sunday, August 24, 2003

Smell Me, I'm Royal!

I wasn't going to start talking about this until after Investitures on the 7th, but other people started talking about it last night so I figure I might as well. It's my life, after all.

I first mentioned my re-entry into the world of the Drag Courts several months ago... since that time, I have appeared at yet more Royal Grand Ducal Council functions, reacquainting myself with old friends and meeting new ones. I have become known again in Court circles, and my presence is accepted. A couple of months after that first Winter Extravaganza show, the Royal Crown Countess of the time Christine SaDiva resigned her post under pressure from other parts of her life, and her place was taken by her protégé and my very good friend Angelique deVille. Since then, I've appeared in even more shows, and have become even more entrenched in the Royal Grand Ducal court.

Now, I must pause and explain a little... Angelique is one of those people who arouse my protective and maternal instincts. I'm never quite sure what qualities in a person activate this side of my personality, but once it's on I become quite devoted to the person's welfare. She's very young, very talented, and very thin... very much like me at that age. Of course, she's not a big ol' drunk, like I was, and she knows a great deal more about music and stagecraft than I did, but she nevertheless reminds me of myself... and that also puts me on my mettle, I wish to be to her the kind of drag-mother (or drag-auntie, more appropriately, since she already has a drag-mother) that I wish I'd had when I was young.

I should also explain that, over the years, the Royal Grand Ducal Council (indeed all the courts) have gotten somewhat smaller and incestuous... there aren't a lot of new people coming in, and most of the people in the Court have already served in every conceivable title to date. And so there have been shortages when filling the grand titles of each year. Therefore much newer and younger people are thrown to the top than ever were in my day.

Though Angelique is very young, and relatively new to the Courts, she is talented, enthusiastic, energetic, and generous with her time and efforts; most importantly she is dependable and trustworthy... and even more than that, she has a mind and memory peculiarly suited to remembering protocol and titles, including the names and often confusing numbers of each reign; and so it is only natural that she run for Royal Grand Duchess this year, alongside Royal Crown Count Frank Salerno for Grand Duke. She ran unopposed, but nevertheless went out campaigning in order to make her election meaningful.

I of course supported their run as best I could, though over the summer my own life was rather circumscribed by business and events. I was honored to appear in Angelique's Candidate Performance at the Ducal Ball in July, and we have been talking on the phone a great deal about clothes and songs and policy (because the Courts are still full of politics, though not so backbiting and vicious as I remember them in the past). I've gotten in the habit of buying dresses for her when I find something sweet in her size at a super price, and I often point out songs that I think will fit her style.

So anyway, once elected, the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess must assemble and appoint their own courtiers... and the first among these are the Crown Count and Countess, who operate very much like a Vice President or a First Runner Up, insofar as they appear at out-of-town shows if the Duke or Duchess are unable to attend, and attend Council meetings, and host the annual Winter Extravaganza show. It is a position of some responsibility, a title you have to work for... not as hard as the Grand Duke and Duchess themselves, but harder than, say, the Princesses and Marquises and Barons and what-have-you (the precedence of titles in this Court are terribly confused, God only knows who came up with them, but they bear very little relationship to the actual precedence of titles in the Peerage or the Almanack de Gotha). And as a responsible position, the Crown Count and Countess must have approval of the Council's Board of Directors.

Early on in the election, Angelique asked me if I would be willing to serve as her Royal Crown Countess, and I said no... I would happily accept a lesser title, and would continue to support her reign, but I didn't want to commit to any more responsibilities than I already have. But then, her other friends in the court (those few who aren't already former Grand Duchesses) were similarly leery of over-commitment, and so soon after being crowned at the Grand Ducal Ball, Angelique told me she was simply going to leave the post open.

I didn't think that was a good idea. Not that she couldn't operate quite well without a Royal Crown Countess, but simply because it didn't look right... to have a full complement of courtiers but no one in a responsible secondary position. And so my protective instinct won out over my survival instinct, and I decided to accept the title. I was assured that I wouldn't have to do anything other than what I was already doing, except to host the Winter Extravaganza (which I don't consider that big a deal) and attend whichever out-of-town shows I felt like attending or which were convenient for me.

Last night we all attended the Sacramento Grand Ducal Ball, the first official public appearance of the (as yet untitled) 12th Reign. Angelique and I had talked about Protocol (the titles and order and whatnot used when the visiting Courts are presented on stage during the course of the ball), and we had assumed that since I hadn't been invested with my title yet that I would be presented to Protocol as "Friend of the Court," a sort of catch-all title. However, when I stepped on the stage, I heard myself announced as "Royal Crown Countess Marlee...Marlain? Manners!" (I'll have to find some way of making everyone in the world understand how to pronounce my name... it's not that hard... "Marlénè"=Mar-LAY-neh. Doesn't anybody speak French anymore?)

To tell the truth, it was very exciting. I've always wanted to have a title of some sort, as I imagine most Anglophiles do. I also always wanted to have an excuse to use the formal curtsey that I taught myself when I was seven or eight years old (any idiot can bow, but curtseying takes a lot of practice), in expectation of someday meeting or becoming the Queen of England (because anything is possible in the mind of a child). And last night I got both.

The Sacramento Ducal Ball itself was kind of interesting. It was held in a most unexpected place, the Towe Auto Museum (the temptation to get into the Pierce Arrow limousine that went so well with my dress was almost unbearable); though the automobile showrooms were utterly amazing, the event area was badly lit and poorly ventilated, but it still managed to be fairly glamorous (especially the really quite nice stage backdrop, and the elegant topiary oregano plants on each table that turned out, much to my surprise, to be plastic... they even smelled like oregano, I didn't know they were fake until I touched one).

It was the first time I had ever really watched a Court Ball in progress. In the distant past, I was usually pretty well sloshed by the time I found my seat at the Imperial and Grand Ducal Balls that I'd attended, so had never paid very close attention to the formal rigmarole that goes on in between the Command and Candidate Performances, culminating in the Step-Down Performances of the outgoing monarchs and the Coronation of the incoming monarchs. More recently, at the Alameda County Ducal Ball, I was so busy with the preparations for Angelique's Candidate Performance (which was rescheduled twice, for reasons I didn't understand, and so was moved from the end of Act 1 to the beginning of Act 3, all of which time we were stuck in the dressing room cooling our heels) and my own Command Performance for Royal Grand Duke XI Bob Kleypas (which occurred approximately fifteen minutes later, it was one of the quickest changes I've ever effected in my life) that I didn't see any of the rest of the show.

At any rate, these Court Balls are very interesting, especially when it comes to the Protocol. First the Sacramento Grand Ducal Court, then the in-town and out-of-town dignitaries including the Sacramento Imperial Court, then the visiting Imperial Courts, then the visiting Grand Ducal Courts (apparently, at Imperial Balls, the visiting Grand Ducal Courts are presented before the visiting Imperial Courts). All of these courts had monarchs and past monarchs and retainers of various kinds, and they all had these long and rambling reign-names. It was a lot of fun to watch and to hear.

It's also terribly silly, but then I guess any sort of pomp and pageantry is silly when you get right down to it. I'm going to have to come up with a rambling silly style myself (and by "style" I don't mean my overall look and demeanor, but rather the claptrap added on to the front of my title); I had thought of Lady High-and-Mighty Know-it-All Boss of the World, but there's actually a formula I'm supposed to follow which will incorporate all sorts of specific adjectives that I have to come up with... something about colors, metals, gems, mythical beasts, ancient deities, and totem animals. And then there will have to be the official name of the XIIth Reign, which Frank and Angelique haven't decided on yet (though Frank has his style, the Stars and Stripes Duke, and Angelique has hers, the High-Flying Adored Duchess).

I may be in over my head, here.

Well, anyway... in other parts of yesterday, before I appeared at the Ducal Ball, I was already in the fine city of Sacramento enjoying the hospitality of my dear friend Troy at his lovely South-Sac home. Troy and I are "litter-mates," in that our sobriety-dates are a few days apart and we met at the Berkeley Gay and Lesbian Saturday Night AA Meeting when we were both newcomers. He used to live in Oakland, quite near the White Horse, and we saw each other reasonably often... but a few years ago his job transferred him to Sacramento, and the two-hour commute got to be a bit of a nag... and when he discovered that he could buy a fairly large house with all the suburban amenities for less than he was paying in rent in Oakland, it was a done deal. Though he had assumed that he would still get back to the Bay Area fairly frequently, once ensconced up North he pretty much disappeared. Now I only ever see him at the Fourth Step Retreat (which I told you about back in May).

But this year, Troy decided shortly after the end of the retreat that the best way to keep in touch with people was to offer them hospitality; so he held a reunion for all of us who stayed in Lincoln Lodge at the last Retreat. I wasn't able to make it to that party (which, incidentally, was the same day as Alameda County Ducal Ball... as my life gets more crowded, certain things overlap quite a bit), but as an event it was so successful that Troy repeated it to catch all the stragglers who couldn't make the first one, as well as anyone else who wanted to meet and greet.

So I arrived two hours late, spinning with road-rage, but bearing a fabulous vegetable medley I invented the night before (fresh mint and basil torn and tossed with sliced purple onion and minced garlic, then doused with champagne vinegar and olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and left to soak overnight; then next morning add a freshly steamed bundle of asparagus and a bag of sugar snap peas with a diced tomato and a sliced red bell pepper... so scrummy-ummy).

The pool was already littered with fellow-guests, most of whom I knew and some of whom I didn't. I automatically sized up the torsos on display, rating myself amongst them and discovering that I compared fairly well physique-wise to the majority of those present (I finally got myself under 200 lbs this weekend... 199.5, to be precise), which I know is ridiculously shallow of me, but as I have shared in this space before, I have serious body-image issues. I kept my tank-top on anyway because I simply don't feel comfortable walking around without a shirt. When it came time to swim, the idea of putting on another acre of sunscreen dismayed me, so I just swam with my shirt on (besides, though my torso is much more svelte, it looks kind of funny with a shaved chest and pits but a well-furred tummy). I took the shirt off after swimming, because you can't walk around in a wet shirt (and I think I left it at Troy's), but I still felt oddly uncomfortable.

Anyway, a good time was had by all, we laughed and splashed and ate huge amounts of pork ribs and chicken sausage, apple-poppyseed coleslaw and fruit salad and vegetable medley and yellow cake and walnut torte and whatnot, and generally enjoyed ourselves immensely. Troy then graciously allowed me to use his bathroom to shower and shave and get into drag for the evening... not to mention giving me invaluable directions to the Towe Auto Museum, which was quite nearby.

It's funny, I didn't really think about how long of a day I'd had, since I enjoyed both parts so much but both parts seemed like separate days. I'm feeling it now, I'm so physically exhausted that the very idea of moving, even enough to go get another cup of coffee, feels like a gargantuan effort.

And in such a state, all of this typing has really taken it out of me. I'm going back to bed now. Happy Sunday!

Friday, August 22, 2003


If that doesn't boost my web-traffic, nothing will! I noticed that when I posted a title that played on the name of the hit Bravo show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, I got 122 hits in one day (I usually get around 45 or 50), and so today, as I have absolutely nothing of any interest to talk about, I figured I'd just play with keywords and see what happens.

BEN AFFLECK NAKED! I'd like to see that, but only out of curiosity... he looks like he has a big one but doesn't really know how to use it. I'm curious to see what he has that made him remain famous despite the fact that he has appeared in some of the worst films in history (the idiotic Dogma and horrendous Gigli are bad enough, but did anybody see Bounce? It was aaaaaaawful).

Or how about if it were a case of BEN AFFLECK AND MATT DAMON FUCKING!!! That I'd like to see. One does get to see a fair amount of MATT DAMON NAKED in his films, such as School Ties (click here and here to see small animated gifs of MATT DAMON SHOWERING) and The Talented Mr Ripley (that lime-green bathing suit never fails to push my buttons), but I've never seen MATT DAMON FUCKING in his movies... I bet he's a total enthusiastic top who'd whoop and holler when he came.

I have seen BRAD PITT NAKED in his famous Playgirl invasion-of-privacy issue, and he's ever-so-pretty nude. I think he should show it off more. If I were JENNIFER ANISTON NAKED (perish the thought), I would convince my husband to give the world rather more views of BRAD PITT NAKED!!!! Of course, I would also insist that he shave daily and wear those hot fade-down sunglasses he wore to the Golden Globes last year. I would also quite literally fuck him to death. With a strap-on (because if I were JENNIFER ANISTON NUDE I wouldn't have a cock of my own, would I?)

And (as I seem to be free-associating now) how about those CHICKS WITH DICKS NAKED? I've never quite grasped the allure of that sort of thing... I suppose since most of the TRANNY PORN pictures I've seen picture a great deal of very bad drag, and because the NAKED SHEMALES worry me somewhat... I've always found BIG FAKE BREASTS kind of icky, even moreso than real NAKED BREASTS, and it always associates in my mind with GENDER REASSIGNMENT SURGERY, which has always amounted in my mind to GENITAL MUTILATION, and that makes me terribly uneasy. Not that I profess to disparage gender reassignment surgery, or transexuality or transgenderism either... these are things that are terribly special and personal, things I don't think you can really comprehend unless you're going through it, and I don't mean to make light of something so important to anybody... it's just the weird thing that my phallocentric and surgophobic mind associates (and I'm curious what search-phrases that'll attract).

So, who else does the Google-searching public wish to see NAKED? Who's popular with the pervs these days? How about HUGH JACKMAN NAKED? He's such a big yummy gorilla... and that name, it's so terribly suggestive! I would love to see that movie with him in Regency rake attire (which I have always found inexpressibly hot), but it unfortunately is not only a Romantic Comedy (a genre I hate), but it also has MEG RYAN (NAKED? I hope not) in it. It's just like that hateful little bitch to ruin a hot Hugh Jackman movie.

Personally, I would love to see ASHTON KUTCHER NAKED... I even like seeing him clothed, even when he's being a total asshole on that ludicrous MTV show of his, Punk'd. Such a pretty face that boy has! Maybe JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE NAKED would draw in the crowds, and after his Rolling Stone cover, he's on my short list of Very Hot Celebrities (though I loathe his music and abhor his fashion sense). Oh, great, now I'm thinking about ASHTON KUTCHER AND JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE FUCKING!!!

I must clear out my brain for a moment... how about BRITNEY SPEARS NAKED, that would also be a bit of a draw... although what's left of her to see? BRITNEY SPEARS' NIPPLES? BRITNEY SPEARS' BEAVER? BRITNEY SPEARS' ANUS? BRITNEY SPEARS' EARDRUM? There's really not much left that hasn't been on display at one time or another. She's awfully cute, though. I like Britney... out of all the Britney Clones she's definitely the most attractive and amusing.

Well, I've exhausted my imagination with this one. Quite possibly my most paltry attempt to date. And since I've lured some of you here under false pretenses, here's the closest thing to NUDE GAY BOYS that my domain server will allow me to publish:

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

My Clothes Are Too Big!

So much good news this week... like, all those 36-waist pants I bought before I started to the gym? I can't wear them anymore! Unless, of course, I want to wear them halfway down my hip with my underwear-brand showing (which I wouldn't mind, except that it's a little too-young a look for me, and today's underwear is Hanes, not a brand to inspire envy). Even the few 35s I bought are a bit big, the ones I'm wearing right now, I keep having to hike them up so I don't step on the hems. And not to put too fine a point on it, but my underwear is a bit loose, too.

On the unfortunate side (because everything has a down-side), the fat pants are the only ones that are clean. I really need to do some laundry. But in the meantime, I am going to enjoy hiking up my pants around my much-slimmer waist. Almost as much as I enjoy seeing my cheekbones when I look in the mirror (O! how I missed those cheekbones)!

I seem to have plateau-ed on my weight-loss (I'm stuck between 200 and 205), but the Pilates and other exercises are starting to tone things up a bit. I feel like I can wear horizontal stripes again, and close-fitting sweaters (so long as they're in dark colors), and strapless evening gowns.

And speaking of evening gowns, another good piece of news: on Sunday, my Boys were returned to me! The Boys are my first furs, the silver-tipped brown fox boa that I'm wearing in the photograph at the top of the Cast list (or, if I've changed it by the time you read this, the ones I'm wearing here) and which Antinöus is also wearing for his cast-list shot.

The last time I wore them was at the Galaxy Photo-shoot Party at Ivy & Nick's place; it was raining (or, rather, deluging) that night, and I had a lot of stuff to carry on the way back to the car... one of those things was a hanger carrying my foxes and my ostrich-trimmed cardigan wrapped in a plastic garbage bag. I was quite sure I'd brought it out of the house and put it in my car, but when I went to look for them, they weren't there. I called up Ivy, but she hadn't seen them at her house... so I had to assume that I had dropped the hanger while I was walking with my many bags, or laid the hanger down on the outside of the car while hoisting something into the back seat, and forgot about them.

I was terribly upset by this, as you can imagine... not only the loss of such fabulous accessories, but I had this terrible vision of those poor innocent foxes lying in a wet gutter, getting drenched and walked on and run over, their deaths wasted as their beautiful remains disintigrated in the elements, unloved and unappreciated.

However, this last Sunday at the AIDS Marathon Fundraiser held at Martuni's, Nick told me he had a surprise for me: when he and Ivy were digging around for a drag item of Ivy's, they found this weird garbage bag stuck under the bed... they opened it and there were the Boys and the sweater! So they brought them to the show, and during the intermission we went out and retrieved them from the car. I was so happy to see them again! So happy, in fact, that I decided to wear the furs for my performance, despite the fact that it is the middle of August (my performance, by the way, was "I Never Do Anything Twice" by Millicent Martin; I wore my good old standby black sequin dress, a simple but effective knee-length chemise with three-quarter sleeves and a square neckline, with plenty of jewels).

Of course, my week hasn't been an orgy of undiluted pleasure. Among all this fun and amusement, I am really feeling my Depression: the low feelings of sadness and/or lethargy, the sudden manic moments usually brought on by my heightened libido (in recent conversations I've discovered that other people also get really horny when they're depressed, which suggests an interesting field of study), the inability to get to sleep before 12:30, despite having got out of bed early in the morning (most recently at 5:45 yesterday morning, and all day long I felt like I'd been up for three days... and still didn't get to sleep until well after midnight). But this, too, shall pass... everything always does.

Well, my boss just came into the office, so I guess I'd better pretend to do some work. I've learned to set more realistic goals each morning in my log (today's goal: Survive), and I've just been given a pleasant project, writing thank-you notes to all the people who attended the leadership workshop we held yesterday (for which I had to get out of bed at 5:45 to be at the Berkeley Doubletree from 8 a.m to 6 p.m.)... nevertheless, when the boss is here, I like to give him the impression that I care about what he thinks, and to do that I shouldn't be sitting here writing about my own life.

And so, off I go, to write thank-you notes and survive.

Friday, August 15, 2003

Queer Guy in the Straight Eye

Despite what I have always believed about myself (that I am obviously, if not flamboyantly, trés gai), there are a lot of people wandering around this world who seem to think I'm straight. Not that they don't know which way I swing, not that they exist in denial about my sexuality — they're actually making assumptions about me and relating to me as if I were a straight man. And I find this very disturbing.

Now, I know that as I have aged and become ever more serene (or lazy, whichever... tomayto/tomahto), certain of my effeminate mannerisms have become somewhat muted. When I wave my hands in the air, they don't go as high and wide as they used to. I've noticed, when listening to my own voice on the answering machine here at work, that my Queen's English (and I don't mean Elizabeth II) accent is giving way to the more generic Professional Secretary accent. When I walk down the street, I don't appear to be stalking the runways of Paris, imaginarily swathed head to toe in the latest Valentino Couture, I'm just putting one foot in front of the other until I get where I'm going. My clothes and grooming habits (as I explained in a previous post) are becoming more and more ordinary with every passing year, as I've become increasingly fond of the Gap (good solid colors and easy-care fabrics, my faves!) and less interested in hair styling (I get my hair done at Supercuts, and the only Product I use anymore, aside from whatever shampoo is on sale when I run out, is Nioxin Bliss™ leave-in conditioner).

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Flaming-queen behavior is not only a lot of effort, but it also becomes less appropriate and dignified as one leaves youth and enters maturity. Besides, putting on behaviors that don't come naturally is an unpleasant practice, born of insecurity and resulting in ugly stereotypes.

Still, I display more than enough perfectly natural behaviors, I thought, to ensure my being correctly labeled by strangers and passersby as a Big Ol' Queen. My fingernails, for example: beautifully shaped, highly glossed, expensively maintained, and featuring no less (but often more) than a quarter of an inch of white moon at the end. But people aren't all making the correct assumption, that I am a drag queen and therefore gay... instead, they keep asking me if I play guitar (apparently, some guitarists grow out their nails to obviate the necessity of tiny and easily-lost picks).

Then there's my practice of wearing selections from my jewelry collection, a bracelet or a ring that I particularly enjoy looking at. These are not masculine jewels, either... no gold chunks, no eagles, no Byzantine links, no tablets of onyx with tiny diamonds in the corner, no knockoff Italian horn pendants reminiscent of swimming sperm... they are faceted, fabulous, and distinctly feminine pieces. I wear these to work, to the gym, to everywhere. And then there're my red sneakers. My frequent applications of cherry Chapstik. My tendency to purse my lips and bug my eyes when a hot piece of manflesh wanders by. The showtunes and Baroque arias blaring out of my car when I drive past. The way my hands dangle lifelessly from my wrists whenever I'm not gesturing foppishly with them.

Are people blind?

On Wednesday, when Caroline and I were done on the treadmills at the gym, she went up to the locker-room to potty and get her bag out of her locker; once there, she was accosted by a nearly-nude woman in the shower-room who began immediately grilling her about me. Afterward, Caroline reenacted the encounter for me, doing a full range of voices and catching more detail than she usually does.

At first the woman asked if I was someone famous, an actor or something (which I found quite flattering, of course); Caroline told her I was a drag queen and very good at it, but not famous yet. The woman then asked if I was single, if I had a girlfriend or boyfriend (Caroline reproduced this question with a certain amount of hopeful leaning towards a "no girlfriend, yet" answer... note that this question follows the information that I am a drag queen; one can suppose that a straight woman mightn't necessarily know that there's no such thing as a straight drag-queen, or indeed a straight anything with the word "queen" in the title, but it goes to show just how much delusion and hope can become interblended); Caroline told her I didn't have a boyfriend, and hadn't in quite some time (rubbing it in... this is her revenge for me always seeing her boyfriends' faults before she does).

The woman expressed her opinion that this was too bad, considering how attractive I am (her words, not mine), all the while patting baby powder on her "large and surprisingly perky breasts" (Caroline added this detail quite gratuitously, I thought). She also expressed surprise that I am gay, she'd thought I was "straight as an arrow" (again her exact words, with illustrative hand motions). They continued chatting for a little while as the woman got dressed, but she declined Caroline's offer to introduce her to me... and it is Caroline's considered opinion that if I had been straight she would have been slavering for an introduction.

Needless to say, this whole scenario gives me the creeps. This must be how straight guys feel when gay guys cruise them. But more than the idea of some woman yearning to press her large and surprisingly perky breasts against me (no offense to my mammaried friends, but eeeeeeeeeeew), what worries me is that this woman actually thought I could be straight.

Not to mention all the waiters and waitresses who always think that Caroline and I are a couple when we dine together — at California Pizza Kitchen earlier this week, the very pretty waiter (whose pristine and innocent face I was lewdly despoiling in my mind) came up to us while Caroline was giving me a Shiatsu hand massage to help the tension in my mousing hand, and he apologized for "breaking it up"; another waitress at that same eatery on another occasion, when Caroline asked her about the age and dating-status of the handsome and quite young waiter in a different section, wondered aloud if we were hunting dates for our daughter... which I thought so funny I laughed until I cried, as Caroline fumed with indignation that anyone would think she looked old enough to have a teenage daughter. I know I look old enough, and am almost used to the fact that I am old enough, in fact there's a seventeen-year-old boy living in my house who was born two months before I graduated high school (my nephew, you filthy-minded pervs); though I'd simply rather people didn't assume I would ever procreate. EVER. Ick.

I don't know, but all of these assumptions offend me on a certain level. I guess it's natural, when you see a man and a woman bickering and giggling over a table, to assume that they are a couple. But it seems to me that the whole point of being openly gay is to be identifiably gay, to wear the tribal mating coloration of the gay man proudly and with panache. And it seems to me that I can avoid unpleasant assumptions of this sort if I could just boost my visible and audible gayness a bit. I want to be able to walk down any street and have people of even the meanest intelligence say to themselves, "Ah, here we have a fine specimen of homo homosexualis... the male of the species, I believe. Note the distinctive markings and unusual call."

So I started thinking about what I can do to make myself look gayer. What are The Gays wearing these days? The Gap was pretty gay when I first started shopping there several years ago, but now I'm hearing that only straight boys (besides myself) wear Gap — and definitely only straight-boys wear the satiny high-sheen jersey basketball shorts I usually wear to the gym.

Is A&F still hot? Or is it just the catalogs we love? Not that I could ever bring myself to pay thirty dollars for a t-shirt that looks as if it had already been worn, and badly laundered. But really, I unfortunately haven't been paying much attention to what people are wearing lately, and have never really thought about trying to make myself look gay. Like I said, I thought the nails were enough.

Well, as I've recently learned, when I don't know something, I should ask for help. So I posted a bulletin to all of my Friendsters (a round dozen I have, now, still limited to people I know fairly well in the Real World), detailing "The Episode of the Woman at the Gym" and begging for advice on how to look gayer. So far I've gotten one response:

    From: Tom

    Date: August 14, 2003 10:38 PM

    Subject: Re: HELP! I need to look gayer!



    This is indeed alarming. We must see you more often in the Castro. Here are some emergency fixup tips to get you by until you can get to Rolo for proper de-programming.

    1) Wear copious amounts of hair creme. Try MOP.

    2) Show more box. Show more box. When you are finished, show box.

    3) Always be seen with either a Gold's Gym bag or a purse. Patent leather. Or both.
This is all very well and good, simple solutions and none of it could hurt, but I'm just not sure. I'm happy to try out new hair products (notice that it's not "hair cream," but creme... that's so gay), but I don't know what MOP will do to my hair. What if it makes it all fall out? Also, the more "box" you show (i.e., the further you push your genitals out from your groin), the more likely you are to bang it into things. And while it's quite pleasant to bang your box into some things, ideally another guy's box, I am more likely to bang it into doors, equipment railings, or small children. And I do have my drag standards to consider — Miss Marlénè wouldn't be caught dead with a patent leather purse, especially on the treadmill... and as I already belong to Gold's Gym, a Gold's Gym bag (which all look terribly cheap and cost anywhere from $35 to $50) used within the confines of Gold's Gym, will mark me as a patsy, not a pansy.

But still, it's sound advice... newer and hipper clothes culled from a gay-ghetto boutique instead of a suburban outlet mall, fancy-schmancy Product for my hair and skin, and (as inch-long laminated nails and Suzanne Somers trilliant CZ bracelets are obviously not enough) some rather more blatantly nelly accessories.

On the other hand, when I was discussing this situation after dinner with darling Jhames last night, he felt that I should go the other way... instead of turning myself into a circuit-queen (the finer points of which style are practically invisible to straights though loudly proclamatory to gays), I should focus more on my style-queen proclivities. Instead of gym-bags and A&F and Rolo, he suggested that I go to the other extreme, to better embrace elegance and poise... Coach manpurses and Ralph Lauren daywear and Prada shoes. A metrosexual wardrobe along with my usual feminine accoutrements should be enough of a warning flag to even the densest and most hopeful of single women at my gym.

While this is a much sounder approach, the fiscal mentality that balks at pre-distressed t-shirts for thirty dollars apiece absolutely boggles at the thought of Coach and Lauren and Prada prices. I mean, with my finances in their current state, the MOP products are a little out of my range, and Prada completely out of the question (even from an outlet mall).

So what's a girl to do? I think, to begin with, I really should simply take more care with my appearance. It's what they're always telling those nice hetero boys on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. A little more neatness, a little more daring with color, a little more attention to detail, a little more effort at maintenance would make a huge difference in my daily look without having to add to my already copious wardrobe. I think, too, that a nice hat would add that dash of Clifton Webb nellitude... in particular, a finely-made cream straw fedora with a mustard-and-burgundy grosgrain band that I saw once and have dreamed of since (but it cost $75, eeep, and I have a history of destroying or losing hats). This attention will make me feel better about myself, I'm sure, even if it doesn't ward off amorous females.

And really, why should I be so upset by amorous females in the first place? Like I always say about straight guys when gay guys lust after them, one should be flattered by the attention. I guess I'm just mad because I don't get that attention from the other gay guys. The only thing worse for an out gay man than being thought of as straight by straight people is to be thought unattractive by gays.

Well, I seem to have written at quite some length without actually getting anywhere. Except that I've managed to kill about six hours (I started writing this when I got to the office at 10, and was interrupted only slightly by work), and now it's time to go home and enjoy my weekend. First the gym, then home to start some laundry, and then to play Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on my nephew's X-Box, if I can get a turn.

Do you think Microsoft meant to be lewd when they named their game an X-Box?

And, of course, speaking of boxes...

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Scatterings of Smatterings

It occurred to me yesterday that I am depressed. I feel listless, passionless, uninterested and generally heavy of spirit, and it's not because I didn't get enough R&R on my vacation, it's because I'm halfway between a solstice and an equinox and that seems to be my pattern.

Right on schedule, too. Here it is August already, I had quite forgotten to expect my depression to come around. But then, looking at my archives for this time last year, though it's hard to tell through the blind of survey memes with which I filled my pages, it seemed my depression didn't really get a head on it until September. But according to pre-Mannersism evidence, the year before that it started in late July.

I'm thinking that there may be more circumstantial triggers than I orginally thought... this time last year, I'd just gotten back from Disneyland, and my mood continued pretty well jazzed for a couple of weeks until I started having tooth trouble; this time I've just gotten back from spending a weekend in Redding with relatives, and I feel like a moldy old damp mop. Coincidence? You be the judge.

I'm also utterly exhausted today. Yesterday I took my second Pilates class, and I overdid it a bit... in particular, I put more strain on my groin muscles than I should have, instead of focusing that strain on the abdominal muscles as I am supposed to. It's all an issue of tight hamstrings and having a huge head... when we were doing the exercise where I balance on my hips with my torso and my legs in the air and then have to roll back and forth like a ball, I had no trouble rolling backward but had a hell of a time rolling back forward. And while I didn't pull or otherwise damage anything in my groin, the whole area is very weak, hurts quite a bit, and at the same time has far too much blood running through it and thence into ancillary extremities nearby... that is, I've had a chubby ever since, quite pleasant but terribly distracting.

The instructor helped me with the positioning, instructing me which part of the exercise is important and which part can be fudged, and after class gave me some pointers on how to loosen my hamstrings (reach for my toes for one minute three times a day, and I should be able to touch the floor without bending my knees in the course of a month). And the exercises felt pretty good once I got to doing them right. I wish I could afford to engage her for private lessons, but that's just not in the budget right now... I'd have to give up manicures to afford that... and I'd rather have pretty nails than a tight tummy. Nobody sees my tummy, after all.

I also stayed up much too late last night; after my usual post-AA-meeting fellowship, I got to talking with a friend, and we found ourself immersed in really fascinating conversations where we both had a lot to say and a lot to hear and a lot to learn from each-other. While we talked, we simply stood there on the sidewalk, me leaning on the parking meter and him leaning on a tree, while the night got colder and the street got creepier. Eventually we had to break it up when the street-sweeper came bearing down on us and I had to move my car out of the way — it was after 1 a.m., and I had been so wrapped up in the conversation that I had no idea two hours had passed since we first started talking.

Of course, after so much mental stimulation, on top of muscular pain and blood-engorged extremities and so on, I didn't get to sleep until long after two a.m. And then I woke up immediately with a need to go to the bathroom (I don't know what I ate that started all that, but whatever it was it probably went in better than it came out), and slept fitfully afterward.

When my alarm went off at 7:15, I was in no condition to spring out of bed with a song on my lips. But I am trying to get back into the schedule habit, getting up at the same time every morning and getting to work at 10 a.m. or earlier, instead of waking when I'm done sleeping and wandering into the office sometime between eleven and tomorrow. So I got up in spite of what my body wanted to do. I only hope that as a result my body will go to sleep when it's supposed to tonight.

Another new habit I'm getting into here at work is to keep a log of my activities as I perform them. Every phone call that comes in, every fax I send, every document I type, every phone number I call, every little thing gets jotted down in a binder. I started this yesterday, and it was quite gratifying to see how many things I did that day. I filled three pages with little notes on discussions and tasks and whatnot, and though I didn't reach the goals I'd set in the morning, it was a lot of work. Today I've done very little, which is somewhat less gratifying, I've only filled one page and don't expect to do much more, and haven't even considered the goals I set this morning. But I do have notes of who called and what they called about, and I've already referred to yesterday's log several times to refresh my memory and clue myself in on the status of various projects. It makes me feel so grown-up and organized.

On a not entirely unrelated topic, I've been re-reading a book I enjoyed so much that I brought it to work with me many months ago... where it was immediately subsumed by the mess on my desk, and I just recently found it again and started leafing through it — Roger Rosenblatt's Rules for Aging: Resist normal impulses, live longer, attain perfection (Harcourt, 2000). Here is a sample of some of the rules, with explanatory text paraphrased (so as to not trample any well-meant plagiarism laws):

    1) It doesn't matter (win or lose, late or early, here or there, get or miss... it just doesn't matter).

    2) Nobody is thinking about you (in order to critique or condemn or plot against you... they're too busy thinking about themselves, just like you).

    3) Let bad enough alone (there is no situation so bad that you can't make worse by trying to exonerate yourself from it).

    4) Ignore your enemy or kill him (but if you kill him, you have to make sure you never get caught and he never knows you did it, or else he will have won).

    5) Boo yourself off the stage (before anybody else gets a chance to).

    6) Yes, you did (if you think you might have been wrong, then most likely you were).

    7) After the age of thirty, it's unseemly to blame your parents for your life (which the author immediately emends to age 25).
There are fifty-eight Rules altogether, each one applicable to everyone's life. So much wisdom in such a slim volume. Shiloh's mother sent that to me for Christmas a couple of years ago... and while I can't say that it changed my life, it certainly gave me a good perspective on how to handle my life.

Well, let's see, what else can I natter on about today? I can't really think of anything. I have about another hour of work to do here, then I'm going to the gym (only for cardio, though... we're going to try the elliptical machines today instead of the bicycles), and then dinner, then I'm going to try and burn a CD. I've never done that before... and maybe the process will be so time-consuming that I will be able at the same time to concentrate on writing my ninth-step letter to Kevin (I had a nightmare about him last week, and so obviously he's preying on my mind) while I wait.

Which reminds me, I have to call and confirm the dinner-date with the person for whose birthday gift I am learning how to burn a CD in the first place. One little task after another, does it never end?

Monday, August 11, 2003


I survived, more or less, my trip to the outer rim of reality, also known as Redding. I stayed pretty much on my diet (except for the sweet-potato casserole that almost proved my undoing), I didn't go completely nuts (I only had a couple of temper-tantrums on the highway), and nothing untoward happened (except for getting lost so many times that I now know the City of Redding like the back of my hand). I'm completely exhausted, though. The driving, the heat, the hotel bed, the constantly-on-the-go business, the people, the strain of shutting down whole portions of my mind for an entire weekend. It was draining.

It's funny, though... by shutting down portions of things that one might talk about, I also shut down my ability to experience and feel things. I felt very much like a spectator this weekend, even in my own conversations. By editing my outgoing messages, I was unable to process incoming messages, if you know what I mean. This sort of personality-editing is not fun, and I am beginning to think I shouldn't do it.

I mean, I have always thought of it as a sort of extension of my don't-ask-don't-tell arrangement with Grandmother... but somehow it's more trying when you're not-asking-and-not-telling with a much larger group of people. And, since they don't know where to stop asking questions, as Grandmother has been trained to do, I have to not tell things farther back in the storyline than I would with Grandmother — like, I didn't want to have to talk about playing a drag waitress in the Living Sober Musical, so I couldn't talk about my big singing debut, even though that would have made a great topic of conversation with my many singing cousins, one of whom was actually instrumental in encouraging me to take up singing in the first place. I could have lied about my role, I suppose (though I hate lying and am not good at doing it impromptu), or been very vague about it (at which I do excel), but it seemed better to simply not broach the subject at all.

Which of course begs the question of why I should try to edit myself in the first place. With Grandmother it's necessary for maintaining the status quo and allows us to continue to live together in a certain sort of harmony; our only other option is to not live together, and we need each other too much to really consider that option. It's an uneasy detente, but it works for us. With Grandmother's family, I would of course maintain a certain amount of that editing, because Grandmother is, in general, right there when I am interacting with them.

But it's more than that. It goes into the way I tend to edit myself when I'm around straight people... I can't bear to be treated like some exotic oddity, The Gay Friend that people trot out as a party favor or entertainment or proof of their open-mindedness. And while I know that there are straight people in the world who do like me, many who may or may not like me for who I am, individually, I spent too much of my youth being the token queen, the clown princess as it were, of a large group of straight people. I got sick of being My Gay Friend Robert, and so I tend to not give straights so much as a chance to do this to me any more.

Then of course there's the Christianity angle. Grandmother's relatives tend toward the more generous forms of Christianity, but are nevertheless staunch conservatives: they don't think one ought to burn homos at the stake, but they do believe that homosexuality is a sin and that homosexuals are doomed to go to Hell. And if there's one thing I cannot bear under any circumstances, it's to be pitied.

So as a result, only a fourth of the fabulousness that is Me was there this weekend. People think I'm wonderful, such a help to my Grandmother, what a nice boy... and I feel a bit of a sham. I am wonderful, I do help Grandmother a lot, and I'm very nice (though hardly a boy any longer); but I'm so much more. It seems a shame to not share all of my wonderful self with my family. But that's the way I've played the hand I was dealt. I might have done it differently, but I didn't.

And so now I'm home, and I'm so utterly worn out that I took the day off from work to recover. I got an estimate on the repairs for Miss Jane (three thousand dollars, one of which will have to come out of my own pocket), and then went to see The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (I really liked it, but I won't say it was a good movie... the whole thing went by too fast for me to judge its merits) with Caroline; afterward we went shopping in Bay Street, where I bought a pair of nine-dollar pants at Banana Republic and a pair of underwear and a tank top and a catalog at Abercrombie & Fitch (all I wanted was the catalog, but I didn't want to look like a total perv), and then had dinner at California Pizza Kitchen (I had the Thai Chicken Pizza and we were waited on by the cutest boy).

Tomorrow I go back to work. I got no rest at all on my vacation, I'll go back tireder than when I left, but back I go nonetheless. Gotta make them ducats to pay off Mister Visa Card. And the break in routine will, I hope, help me attack my various tasks with a fresher viewpoint. I doubt it, but one can go ahead and hope anyway.

Friday, August 8, 2003

Into the Breach

Well, my beloved darlings, in a couple of hours I will be leaving my urban utopia for three days. One of the Grandmother's multitudinous nieces has, on a total lark, thrown together a family reunion in order to celebrate the Grandmother's eighty-fifth birthday (which I may have neglected to mention was last Saturday).

The event, which is not centered and aimed at Grandmother and her milestone birthday, which would make her terrifyingly uncomfortable, is being called "Thanksgiving in August." The event, which will draw an attendance of anywhere from fifty to eighty adults (many of whom are spawning at such terrific speed that it doesn't pay to count the children), is being held in the delightful town of Redding, CA. The event, to which Grandmother has been looking forward all summer, and for which she has already bought new clothes, toiletries, and luggage, will test my skills to the utmost... how to interact with a truckload of kindhearted but no less Gothic Christians who chat about Being Washed in the Blood of the Lamb with all the casual sincerity that I discuss art and fashion; how to be in a room filled with small children without kicking out at them (though in my previous experience they have all been remarkably well-behaved children, there's something about children's voices that get on my last gay nerve after about an hour); how to not call undue attention to my rather obvious homosexuality, thereby eliciting well-meant but unwanted concern about my Immortal Soul and my serostatus, without actually going so far as to hide it (for example, yesterday I got my nails done as short as my manicurist could stand to make them); how to live through a whole day called "Thanksgiving in August" without going so far off my diet as to undo all the work I've done this summer (I am one pound over two hundred, and I want to keep going down, not start going back up); how to go about the business of living in a hot rural environment around a lot of people without going stark staring mad.

Oh, well... so far I've simply been practicing detachment about this event. When I was talking to Daddy the other day, he was trying to get information from me about how many people are going up in my car, what time we are leaving, and so on and so forth. I told him I had no idea, "I'm just going to do as I'm told and go when I'm told to go, wherever that might be." That makes it difficult to plan around, but it also makes none of it my fault. In my sick little mind, fault is a very important factor in my ability to get through these little things.

The whole thing is therefore Grandmother's fault, and it's easier to forgive her for bad planning than to forgive myself. So she told me that I am taking Daddy and Matthew (my nephew) in my car, and we're leaving at 10 am; Grandmother and my cousin Jessie are going with my Uncle, whose wife and sister are going together in his wife's car; my sister drove up in the middle of last night (assumedly) because she wanted to drive when it was cool out, and my cousin Jamie and her husband are coming up separately in different cars. I think we're all meeting for lunch somewhere halfway up, so even the speed at which I drive isn't going to be my choosing, I'll just follow my uncle the cop at whatever terrifying breakneck speed he adopts (Grandmother would never think to complain that he is driving fifteen mph over the speed limit... I bet she never even looks at his spedometer)

Sometimes I wish I didn't have so much family. They can be awfully wearing on a person. But then, if I was one of those dispossessed guys I always envy, the people who get to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with their friends or at the movies, I would envy people like me who have inescapable and overwhelming family obligations. It's the nature of man to envy that which is other than what he has.

Still, it will be nice to get away from the daily rounds, to breathe a different air and shake up my bland complacence. And a weekend in Redding will make me enjoy being back at work next week so much more.

In the meantime, I hope you have a super lovely weekend. Kisses!

Wednesday, August 6, 2003

Your Daddy Wears Capri Pants

Pardon the unaccustomed silence, kids, but I'm on vacation and enjoying a daily vegetative state for as long as I can before I am swept up in the unending errands of my life. I get to sleep in every morning, but as soon as I get up it's "would you go to the store...would you drive me to work... would you take me to the hairdresser/electronics store/amusement park/mental ward?" I have plenty of time in the evenings to write, too, but I prefer to vegetate then, too... especially with The Sims Unleashed, which is quite a lot of fun. One of the new features allows you to build and furnish houses without bothering with a family moving in first. It's quite liberating and fun.

So I go over to my Daddy's place in Concord on Monday, to take him and my nephew to Fry's so they can exchange the motherboard they bought but which was incorrectly packed and so had one kind of motherboard in the box for another kind of motherboard. And he comes out of his room wearing capri pants. Cement capri cargo pants, to be exact. I was baffled and bemused.

Who the hell gave him capri pants? (We won't pause to harp needlessly on the fact that "capri pants" as currently sold in retail stores, are not, in fact, capri pants... they're clam-diggers, capri-pants are supposed to be skin-tight). I know Daddy hasn't bought a garment for himself since the last time he went to a rock concert and got a t-shirt, which was sometime in the early seventies. He has always been dressed by the womenfolk in his life, or by Uncle Sam (either while in the Army or in the VA rehab). But I didn't find out which daft woman had bought Daddy capri pants... I knew the temptation to call up that woman and laugh at her would be far too tempting to resist, so it is safer to not know.

Which puts me in mind of the prolific chatter generated by Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. I've caught the show a few times and quite enjoyed it... though I'm not quite clear on what the "culture" maven is supposed to be doing there (one friend posits that they simply needed a fifth person, since the moniker "Fab Four" was already taken, and they couldn't think of anything else for him to do... well, at least he's pretty). But they're all very entertaining, I don't think they further stereotypes any more than anybody else does, and they all have such lovely complexions. I wish the fashion guy was a little less, I don't know, scarecrowish (he dresses the straight guys with such exquisite taste, but dresses himself with all the style and panache of a lemming-brained Catholic-school girl from Fort Lee), and I wish they weren't driving around in an SUV (God how I hate those things), but other than that it's a really interesting and informative, not to mention wildly entertaining, TV show.

Still, I was reading an article on that show from USA Today (supplied by my dear friend Will, who knows that I don't read newspapers or magazines, I just look at the pictures, and so often gives me articles he thinks I'll enjoy), and there was a lot of talk in it about the "gay taste gene" or some mythical extra chromosome that makes gay men so much better at colors and styles than straight men or even women.

That's just tommyrot. Gay men have better taste because we have more time to think about these things and aren't terrified to be thought of as sissies if we think about these things.

It's somewhat easier to get laid (though perhaps harder to find love) amongst ourselves, something that straight men have to devote a great deal of time and energy to achieving, and so we have more leisure time and mental space for shopping and chatting and thinking about which colors of paint will make the best illusion of depth when layered on our bedroom walls. We don't have to worry about being thought of as sissies, or practically women... we're already thought of as sissies, shoved to the outer edge of society, so why not do all the things our straight-boy counterparts aren't allowed to do?

I've also heard people talk about how gay men make such a big deal of being out and visible, which straights don't do... more poppycock. Your average American male is taught at a very early age to display his protective colorations; chief among these is the plumage of I'm-Not-Gay(-nor-am-I-in-any-way-to-be-confused-with-a-female). They therefore make conscious efforts to dress badly, to cook badly, and to know absolutely nothing of the domestic or grooming arts, because those are "gay" or "girly" things. Gay men, on the other hand, are already gay and even when they're "hiding" the fact, they have nothing to lose and therefore have nothing to fear from fashion or décor.

On top of this nurture, there is also nature... the nature of the male beast is to be competitive and surface-oriented. This is the other reason that gay men have "better" taste (actually, they simply have more developed taste) than straight men or even women. After high-school, women don't generally make fun of people who make a fashion faux-pas, nor do they actually expect others to wear the same designers and colors as themselves. Women dress for each-other, and they compete, but it's not the same rabid kill-or-be-killed/eat-or-be-eaten competition that men instinctively participate in.

You'll never hear a straight man, even a well-dressed and style-conscious straight man (that mythical creature only spotted in GQ magazine and the financial districts of large cities, where the clothes are part of the arsenal of success), murmur to his friend "What the hell does he think he's wearing? That lapel is so last year." He would simply chuckle to himself that the poor boob with last year's lapel isn't going to get the same promotions and advantages that he will get... because to voice that out loud would make him look gay or girly, thereby rendering him weak and unfunctional by tribal hunter-gatherer standards.

Similarly, you won't find a female actually ignoring or being rude to another person because their fashions are substandard, ill-chosen, or out-of-date. Women tend to be more nurturing than that, and though they can be terrible viragoes when the tribe is threatened (if someone's mode of dress marks him or her as an outsider or a predator), they are usually more forgiving about the little vagaries of individual people, and more often than not will wonder what internal woe or secret sorrow caused the fashion tragedy... and when the nurturing gene is particularly well-developed, she will offer her advice to others.

These are all vast generalizations, of course. But my system makes more sense than some idiotic "extra chromosome." And the generalization doesn't cover all the bases, either. For example, though I am fully aware of fashion, culture, and design, and largely aware of grooming and cuisine, I don't make much of an effort to display any of these things. For me, the competitive edge and the surface-orientation have given way to inertia as my life becomes ever more internal and cerebral. I have failed the competition and am now enjoying the view.

Most of my clothes come from the Gap, and they all go together without seeming to have been planned in any way; I prefer reading and watching television to going out and absorbing all the Culture-with-a-capital-C that is available to me as a citizen of a major metropolitan area; I read Architectural Digest and dream of color-matched and exquisitely balanced rooms but have other things to do with my time than clean and arrange my habitat (as Quentin Crisp so aptly pointed out, "domestic rituals are a waste of time... after four years the dirt never gets any worse"); while I like to be clean and as attractive as possible, I simply haven't got the wherewithal of a morning to deal with more than one or two forms of "product," most of which would be a waste of time and money because nobody much looks at me when I'm out and about anyway; and while fine dining is a great joy to me, fine cooking is simply too much work for too little pleasure... and since I no longer imbibe alcohol, the whole œnophilia thing is over my head.

But, like I said, I know about those things. They have yet to display or discuss something on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy that I didn't know about. Yes, some of the grooming and cooking tips have come as a surprise, and quite handy as well, but it's not all as foreign to me as the workings of the internal combustion engine or the inner machinations of football leagues are.

And then there are lots of gay men out there who know nothing about fashion, culture, design, grooming, and/or cuisine. They often do know about engines and football. Is it because they bought into the straight male paradigm at an early age? Or is it because they are even braver than the style queens and fashionistas of this our gay world, and march to the beat of their own drum? Some of each, probably, as well as three or four other things that I've never even thought of. The problem with systems like this is that they only apply to a large portion of a society, not to all of it. We're all different, one from the other, millions of separate collections of a myriad influences and priorities forced to interact with eachother.

Well, I seem to have blathered on at quite some length. The little girls (my eleven-year-old niece and ten-year-old cousin) are becoming impatient to get to Children's Fairyland, where I stupidly promised several days ago to take them, and Grandmother wants to use the phone, and I need to go to Home Depot sometime today and get another new showerhead (I swear, those things are practically disposable, I have to replace them once a year). So off I go to labor through my vacation. Hugs and kisses!