Queer Guy in the Straight EyeDespite 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.
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...