If you like gay sex (and I know you do), and if you like reading about gay sex (ditto), then you should love my recent op-ed in the Advocate.
Okay, so here’s how gay I am: before today, I had no idea who Jason Collins was. In fact, when I first saw his name on Facebook, I thought it was a typo for Joan Collins. (To be fair, it was in a post from one of my more glamorous friends, so the immediate image of Alexis Carrington Colby in my mind’s eye was not entirely unreasonable.)
Jason Collins—Stanford graduate, friend of Chelsea Clinton—was, before today, most famous for playing professional basketball. Now he’s even more famous for being the first American athlete in a “major” sport (figure skating, for obvious reasons, doesn’t count) to come out of the closet while still playing. In other words, he’s the most ballsy athlete in the world.
And a remarkably eloquent one, too. (But then again, he did go to Stanford.) His coming-out essay in Sports Illustrated is a must-read. In fact, Jason Collins made me rethink my knee-jerk assumption about the mental capacity of athletes.
But, not to worry: along comes Mike Wallace.
Something else I learned today: there’s another Mike Wallace. This isn’t the crotchety old white guy who used to corner corrupt businessmen and government officials every Sunday on 60 Minutes. No, this Mike Wallace is a wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins. And he’s not quite as articulate as either his namesake or Mr. Collins.
Granted, Twitter doesn’t allow enough characters for most people to be eloquent, but Mike tried his best. After Jason’s coming-out, here’s what he had to say:
“All these beautiful women in the world and guys wanna mess with other guys SMH…”
Another thing I learned today: apparently, “SMH” is tweetspeak for “shaking my head.” I wonder if Mike’s rattles when he does that.
The stupidity of this statement boggles my Ivy League brain. Essentially, Mike thinks that the sheer beauty of women—and the fact that, as an athlete, he could have any of them—should be enough to make Jason an avid heterosexual. Who wouldn’t want to sleep with all those beautiful girls?
I wonder if Mike would ask Angelina Jolie this question. Why on earth would Angelina want Brad Pitt when she could have Beyoncé?
And why would Jason want George Clooney when he could have all those Hooters waitresses?
But you can’t expect logic from homophobes. Rationalization, yes. Logic, no way.
For one thing, in the world of most macho homophobes, disgust with homosexuality is pretty one-sided—if the popularity of lesbian porn among straight men tells us anything.
What Mike Wallace truly exemplifies is a complete lack of empathy. I suppose he thinks Jason’s crazy for preferring basketball to football, too. The ability to imagine that there’s another world out there different from his own is apparently beyond him.
But before you start casting aspersions against somebody, it’s a good idea to see if your house is made of glass. I mean, come on, when your job title is “wide receiver,” should you really be making fun of someone else’s sex life?
The media these days is making a lot out of actor Jon Hamm’s junk. And, if the photos I’ve seen are to be trusted, there’s a lot to make out. Word is that on the upcoming season of Mad Men, the show’s dedication to period authenticity is causing a problem in the more politically correct landscape of 2013. Sixties-era pants leave little to the imagination, so Mr. Hamm has been asked to stop freeballing and put on some tighty whities to keep everything on the up and up.
I feel a little behind the times with this news. Though I’ve salivated over this particular slice of Hamm since Mad Men debuted, it was the overall package that attracted me, not his … well, specific package. But a recent episode of The New Normal opened my eyes when NeNe Leakes’s character told Ellen Barkin to google “Jon Hamm moose knuckle.” Go ahead, try it. But not at the office.
Hell, if you can believe it, I didn’t even know what a moose knuckle was until I did that search. But now I do. Now I do.
What I want to know is: what’s the effect of the show’s new underwear policy on Christina Hendricks? Is she being asked to strap in those hooters like Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry? Because that would take a lot of Ace bandages.
But that’s the thing. Despite Seth MacFarlane’s infamous “We Saw Your Boobs” number at the Oscars, nobody really makes much of a fuss about full-bustal nudity on screen (well, the big screen, anyway). But a penis is a different thing.
Well, of course it’s a different thing. This entire blog owes its existence to the fact that the penis is a different thing, so who am I to complain? But my point is that it’s being looked at from a different angle now. Oh wait, that’s not right, either. Okay, I’ll start again. … (Sorry, these photos are getting me a little flustered.)
The point—and even that’s loaded (oh god, there’s no end to this)—the point is that our culture has become a bit inured to boobs, but apparently not dicks. And frankly, this is a pretty interesting, potentially serious topic. If gender stereotypes bear out (and I know what a big if that is, really I do), the guys on the set of Mad Men have no problem with Christina’s tight sweaters: they might be a little distracted and have to whisper beneath their breath the adage that has always worked for me when arousal would be inconvenient: “Very old nuns and dead kittens, very old nuns and dead kittens.” But they wouldn’t for a minute consider asking her to cover up any more than she already does.
In Jon’s case, however, word is that it’s the women who are uncomfortable. Is it that penises are threatening while breasts are maternally comforting, or is it just that men are generally hornier? I’m sure some of the guys on set might be a bit intimidated by Jon’s package, but apparently they’re not the source of the complaints.
As for me, I’m looking forward to Jon’s next movie. With any luck, he’ll be listed in the next version of “We Saw Your Junk,” Kevin Gisi’s youtube parody of MacFarlane’s hit. Of course, we may have to see the movie in IMAX.
Downton Abbey has always been a show primarily about the evolution of culture—in particular, the way the twentieth century grabbed British society by the throat and dragged it into the modern world. But tonight’s episode seemed to jump forward a few decades. When even a character as tied to tradition as Lord Grantham acknowledges that sexual orientation is not a choice, you know you’re no longer in the 1920s, but somewhere much closer to our own era.
The most dramatic plot of tonight’s two-hour episode had gay valet Thomas at its center. Misled by the Machiavellian O’Brien (once his partner in crime), he makes an unwanted pass at the new, flirtatious footman, James, and all hell breaks loose.
While Carson, the conservative head of the downstairs staff, declares himself “revolted” by Thomas’s sexuality, before long, he is revealed to be alone in that judgment … and eventually, even Carson learns to feel compassion for the besieged Thomas.
It’s worth noting that the setting of Downton Abbey is closer to the time of Oscar Wilde—sentenced to hard labor for acts of “gross indecency”—than that of Harvey Milk. The way the other characters rally around Thomas and turn the tables on O’Brien and her vicious scheme is, of course, anachronistic. Surely there were such broad-minded, practical people in those days, both upstairs and down, but the preponderance of (almost) politically correct opinion among this crowd stretches credibility.
But Downton isn’t speaking to a 1920s audience. It’s speaking to us. And we have had enough tragic stories where gays and women are crushed by society. We don’t watch Downton Abbey for verisimilitude.
We watch it for Maggie Smith’s zingers.
So perhaps I can pardon myself for guffawing at an inopportune moment, when Carson first learns about what happened.
“The world can be a shocking place, Alfred,” says Carson to the footman who witnessed the incident, “but you are a man now, and you must learn to take it on the chin.”
I’m afraid that if Alfred learned to take it on the chin, Carson would have a much bigger problem on his hands.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, I discovered a fun blog called 21 Kisses—counting the days to the annual romantic event. Lots of great posts so far, with helpful advice on the ins and outs (so to speak) of the lingual art.
Needless to say, the blog got me thinking about my own history with lip-locking. I won’t bore you with all the various permutations, but a couple of them in particular come to mind.
Kissing, I discovered several years ago, can be fundamental not only to the beginning of an affair, but to its demise.
When I was new to San Francisco, I commenced an unfortunately long relationship with someone I shall hereafter refer to as Sashimi—i.e., cold fish. Suffice it to say, he was one of those people who look awfully good on paper, but really should be wrapped up in it as soon as possible.
Sex with Sashimi was as rote and vanilla as it gets. I could predict not only the timing (weekend mornings, never a spontaneous moment to mar the pattern), but the duration of each passionless step in the process.
(Okay, by now you’re asking yourself why the hell I stayed with him for a year and a half. In retrospect, I couldn’t agree more. If I could have explained it at the time, I wouldn’t have had to waste all that money on therapy.)
Needless to say, kissing Sashimi wasn’t much more exciting. Each time my face drew near in expectation, those puckered lips pressed forth. They reminded me of the Kissing Gouramis my brother had kept in his aquarium when we were kids—fleshy pink things that randomly pecked each other as they passed in the tank, no doubt to no purpose other than picking random bits of plankton off each other’s lips. In Sashimi’s case, the puckering was a clear effort to avoid tongue. Or life.
I’m a true believer in the pendulum theory of history, particularly when it comes to my own psychological development. Naturally, I followed Sashimi up with a man who was a bit too fond of kissing. No, let me be more precise: this one (let’s call him T-Bone, just to balance the surf metaphor with a morsel of turf) was a bit too fond of me.
I knew it was all over when T-Bone came in for a passionate kiss one day and I broke into a sudden laughing fit. There was such romantic openness in that look—eyes closed, mouth wide open—it struck me as shockingly out of place. He kissed me like I was ambrosia, like I was the first drink of water at a desert oasis. He kissed me like a soap opera heroine who’s just found the love of her weekend.
I couldn’t take it seriously. Before he really knew me, T-Bone had cast me into the role of Heathcliff to his desperate Cathy. Even then I knew that that kind of passion had to be earned.
I tried to control myself. I made sure to close my eyes at the first sign of an imminent kiss. But the anticipation only served to make matters worse. I couldn’t think of his lips without busting a gut. How on earth do you explain to your boyfriend that the depth of his passion is hilarious?
In retrospect, I think my inability to control the laughter was my heart’s way of telling me that he just wasn’t the one. Or that I just wasn’t ready for the one.
Cold fish are a challenge: the prize may not be worth getting, but they are a challenge. Steak, on the other hand—when it’s laid out for you on a china plate with a fine bottle of Cabernet as a chaser—is sometimes just too easy, and too filling.
Every time I sit down to write this blog, I wonder if I’m revealing too much. Even though the stories I tell here are all imbued with fictitious elements—if only name changes or streamlined plots—I worry that someone will make the wrong assumption. Or the right one. For a moment before I click “post”—or, more often, just after—I wonder whether it’s wise to air this dirty laundry, whether mine or someone else’s. I wonder what people will think. Will they assume that every story I tell actually happened to me? (For the record, they didn’t. But would there be any shame if they had?)
Like millions of people, I watched Jodie Foster at the Golden Globes last night with a sense of shock. Not because she came out. I’m still trying to figure out whether she came out, actually, since the words gay and lesbian were missing from her speech. I was shocked because, after all these years of being begged to tell her story, when the moment finally came she did it with a combination of defensiveness and rambling incoherence. As if it were indeed the spontaneous decision she claimed, as if it were completely unscripted. More important, as if she were being dragged kicking and screaming through every word.
Even in the midst of this attempt at openness, the word that resonated the most for me was privacy. Like a lot of celebrities followed by gay rumors, Foster emphasized the importance of privacy, the idea that her private life was simply nobody’s business. We don’t ask our dentists about their sexual orientations. Why should we ask our movie stars?
There are a lot of potential answers to that question, and I can’t say with confidence that there was ever anything wrong with Foster’s refusal to come out before last night. It really is nobody’s business.
What I find most interesting is the notion of privacy coming from an artist—someone whose work is all about self-expression.
A writer friend of mine was once horrified to be asked whether her novel was autobiographical. And even I was a bit disturbed when someone, discussing my first novel with me, referred to the narrator as “you,” as if there were no distinction to be made between this fictional character and the man who had created him.
As Foster noted, we live in a Honey Boo Boo world. But you don’t have to be a reality star to expose yourself. All artists expose themselves. It’s what we do. A writer can make up every detail of a book—the characters, the plot, the setting, everything—and not escape revealing something personal. There’s the rub: we dredge up our souls, consciously or not, and put them out there for the world to see.
So even if we don’t appear on the Today show and tell Matt Lauer and a few million of his closest friends every detail of our lives, we are still revealing ourselves.
Some of the plots I write came directly from my own life. Some of them didn’t. Some of the men I write about are people I slept with. Some of them aren’t. So when I worry that a reader will confuse my fiction for my reality, I need to remind myself of what’s really important. Is it so embarrassing to have people picture me in bed with someone? Is it a violation when people imagine what I have done with my body but somehow safer for them to know what I’ve done with my heart? I’m an artist: I use my heart and my soul the way an architect uses glass and steel—all there for everyone to see. I can’t complain when they see it.
It just isn’t fair. Thanks to the vicissitudes of corporate life (an unresolved labor dispute, or merely executive greed?), a whole generation of Baby Boomers is now in mourning for a gummy dessert most of them haven’t let past their capped teeth in years.
Maybe this is the Twinkie’s long-delayed execution. That scarily yellow cake has been on Death Row since Dan White accused it of killing Harvey Milk.
Of course, most of the people now known as Twinkies don’t remember Harvey Milk—or, for that matter, much of anything that happened before the advent of smartphones. Take Tristan, for example.
First of all, 20 years ago was anyone named Tristan? Until recently, the only Tristan I had ever heard of sang himself to death on stage next to Isolde. (Sorry, Twinks, you probably won’t get that reference. But there’s only so much I can do without calling up the ancient past—or, as you whippersnappers call it, B.C., Before Cellular.)
Tristan was the first sign that I had reached middle age. When you start getting chased by twinks, you know you’re officially old. In fact, Tristan was the first—and, I suppose, only—man I’ve ever slept with who was technically young enough to be my son. We met at a party, and I thought he’d just be a good friend. Until the next day, when he texted to tell me he’d dreamt about me. Texting quickly turned into sexting (oh, how the neologisms fly in the digital age). The interesting thing, of course, is that men of Tristan’s age communicate almost entirely through text, as if telephones were never intended for voice. Even email was apparently too old-fashioned for Tristan.
When you’re in bed with a man nearly 20 years younger, it’s hard not to think back to your own youth. Is this what I was like? I thought, as he arched his back and revealed ribs where, on my 40-something body, only a round belly was in view. Was that my energy level at his age?
When it was finally over, I lay back and tried to catch my breath.
“What’s this?” he said suddenly, the hint of a surprised chuckle in his voice.
I rolled over to see him gazing at the nightstand, the flickering blue numbers on my digital alarm clock. His eyes were riveted on the machine as if it had landed from Mars, as if he thought little green men were going to spill out of the speaker at any minute. He genuinely had no idea that such things had ever existed.
“Um, that’s a clock,” I said. I couldn’t have been more taken aback if we were still in the dining room and I’d found myself saying, “Those things placed around the table—they’re called chairs.” Or like Annie Sullivan at the end of The Miracle Worker: “W-a-t-e-r: it has a name!”
Okay, so I’ve had the clock since the 80s. It has a very 80s vibe, in fact, the sort of design that screams “futuristic,” as if the manufacturers assumed it was ahead of its time and would fit in better in the 21st century. Little did they know that the 21st century would give a whole new meaning to minimalism. Tristan probably used his cell phone as an alarm clock. If he wasn’t too busy texting on it.
So for him that oversized clunker on the nightstand marked me as old, its blue numbers counting out my age with every dropping minute. But at least it was still working. In 1980, planned obsolescence hadn’t yet become a principle of manufacturing. That clock radio has lasted me through at least 2 cell phones, 5 computers, 3 DVD players (and yes, gulp, a couple of those artifacts known as VCRs), and 3 iPods. And it probably cost me 10 bucks.
In contrast, Tristan has probably never owned any single item for more than a year. While Twinkies cakes have an infamously long shelf life, the gadgets of their eponymous humans do not. (I’m not sure I can say the same for that clock radio: after the apocalypse, it’ll probably be playing dance music for the cockroaches.)
Of course, in actuality, even the Twinkie—human or spongy—is susceptible to the ravages of time. The shelf-life story is apparently a myth. Someone on the news yesterday said that Twinkies actually can survive for only a month before starting to turn stale. For the human variety, I think it’s closer to a decade. When Tristan turns 30, the first telltale signs of gray will appear at his temples and he’ll probably start moving a chunk of his expendable income away from electronics and toward skin-care products. Even a Twinkie’s priorities change over time.
But in the business world, all is seldom lost, and where there’s money to be made, someone will step up to the plate. According to the pundits, the liquidation of Hostess will perforce include selling of its assets—the recipe for Twinkies chief among them. Soon, those luscious yellow cakes may start pouring out of another oven, and the mouths of America can start watering again.
Never fear, my friends: Twinkies always get picked up.
My friend Phil owns a hair salon in Minnesota.
I know what you’re thinking. And you’re right. When the Mormon mother in Angels in America, seeing Prior as a “stereotypical homosexual,” asks if he’s a hairdresser, his quick reply is, “Well, it’d be your lucky day if I was!”
That wasn’t the case for another woman at Phil’s salon recently. As you may know, Minnesota—one of the first states in the union to pass nondiscrimination legislation for gays—has a referendum on the ballot this year that would amend the state constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage.
So when someone walked into Phil’s salon the other day sporting a “Yes on 1” button, he threw her out.
This incident was simply the straw that broke Phil’s otherwise flexible back. He’s been debating the issue right and left for weeks now, and inviting those who disagree to unfriend him on Facebook.
But somehow the message doesn’t always get through. Some people tell him he’s overreacting. Apparently they don’t understand why he’s so emotional at the prospect of losing his civil rights. When he tells the homophobes to fuck off, he’s accused of destroying civil discourse. In the spirit of “getting along,” he’s being asked to respect the fact that other people have different opinions on the subject. The way, I suppose, we have different opinions on whether the tax rate for the rich should be 35% or 37%, or whether trash should be collected on Wednesday or Thursday.
As someone whose civil rights were dismantled 4 years ago by the respectable voters of California, I know where my friend is coming from. A few days after the 2008 election, when I was marching in the streets with my friend Patrick to protest Prop 8, a woman leaned her head out a car window and said, sympathy dripping like treacle from her voice, “Why be so angry about it?” Oddly enough, I think she might have been on our side, but even she didn’t get why we were so pissed. She thought our anger was hurting us, and that we should just get over it. Patrick told her to fuck off, and she drove calmly away, no doubt toward some more hospitable hole in the sand.
I wonder if that woman—or Phil’s would-be client—would have been marching in the streets if the voters had outlawed her right to abortion, or her right to marry a man of a different race, or her right to vote. A hundred years ago, women in this country had none of those rights. I wonder if she would have been furious. I wonder if she would have understood the value of anger. I wonder if she would have understood the limits of civil discourse.
While I disagree with conservatives on a lot of things, I’m willing to engage with them on economic issues, or defense, or climate change. In my mind, those issues are all complex; they’re not black and white. There is room for compromise, room for assessment of theories, room for unexpected variables. Those positions are not founded upon hatred. Greed, perhaps, but not hatred.
Civil rights are a different story. They’re not about a gamble on results. If you choose one economic policy over another, the value of your choice will be seen down the road: either the economy gets better, or it doesn’t. Civil rights aren’t about the future; they’re about now. The consequences of women’s suffrage, or same-sex marriage, or color-blind hiring are not the point. The point is respect for human beings. Not their opinions, but their humanity.
So I’m with Phil and the rest of those in Minnesota who are fighting the good fight. If you don’t respect his humanity, then you don’t respect mine. And, in this one area at least, you don’t deserve civil discourse. You don’t get civil discourse unless all the parties engaged have civil rights.
Or, as Tony Soprano said when his mother put out a hit on him, “She’s dead to me.”
So let that woman with the hate button on her lapel search the streets for a hairdresser. May her hair grow greasier and stringier by the day. And for her sake, let’s hope her drugstore has a big supply of Miss Clairol. She’s on her own now.
There’s just no pleasing some people.
The most anticipated new TV show of the season—and not just for the gay community—is the NBC sitcom The New Normal. Long before it first aired, the show was already getting a lot of press. But maybe anticipation was the problem. Maybe the show would have benefited more from the element of surprise. As soon as you condition people to look forward to something, their expectations go through the roof, and when reality (as it is wont to do) doesn’t quite match their imaginations, they get disappointed. Instead of noting that what they got is way better than what they had before, all they notice is that it falls short of their dreams.
The criticism of The New Normal seems to be coming as much from the gay community as the homophobes. The latter, of course, think a show about baby-raising homos is a sign of the apocalypse. What’s more disturbing is the fact that the show’s gay critics seem to playing right into the Bible-thumpers’ hands. The characters in The New Normal, they say, are too stereotypical: wealthy professionals who work out, appreciate the fine arts, and know a good wine when they taste it. Horrors! Who wouldn’t be offended?!
Maybe, in the minds of the politically correct, it would be better if the show instead focused on gay people who are just like stereotypical straight people (as some no doubt are, though few I’ve ever met; then again, I live in San Francisco, so what do I know about “real” gay people?). Maybe someone should make a show that does for gay people what The Cosby Show did for blacks: prove that they can be every bit as boring as white folks. In the few episodes of that megahit that I could stand to watch, I saw plots that had been recycled from Leave It to Beaver and I Love Lucy. So not only were the Huxtables boring, but they were also about 30 years behind the times. (And don’t get me started on those sweaters!)
In contrast, The New Normal has already taken on major issues, and done it courageously. In one episode, the boys are verbally bashed when they dare to kiss in public. In another, they come face to face with their own racism.
That episode seems to have anticipated the show’s critics. When the boys label the evil grandmother played by Ellen Barkin a racist, she throws it right back at them, accusing them of hypocrisy—talking the talk, but not walking the walk. They try to prove their P.C. cred by having a party to show off their black friends—only they have no black friends.
What I love about The New Normal is right there in the title: the show is not about gays assimilating into the mainstream; it’s about gays asserting their rights—to be married, to have children—while maintaining their own cultural identity. We don’t have to subscribe to the “norms” of society in order to live our lives; as with every social movement, we help those norms to evolve. For example, I appreciate the fact that the Andrew Rannells character is rather fey—just as I appreciated Sean Hayes’s promiscuous character on Will and Grace. This show is emphasizing that you don’t have to “act straight” (whatever that means) in order to be accorded respect.
The greatest irony for me is that many of the people I hear complaining about the show’s stereotypical depiction of gays are … well, let’s just say they’re not football players and beer-guzzling men in wifebeaters. For heaven’s sake, they’re obsessing over a sitcom. How much gayer can you get?
Besides, any TV show in which a 9-year-old girl does a Little Edie impression immediately steals my heart. It’s staunch, I tell you, S-T-A-U-N-C-H, staunch.
The legitimate theater may be horribly expensive these days, but street theater is free—and endlessly entertaining.
I was on a crowded subway car the other night, everyone pressed against one another but pretending they didn’t notice, when a loud voice gave the lie to the faux politeness.
“There’s a shortage of pussy in this town,” the voice cried—the source invisible behind dozens of people all focusing on their cell phones. As if wondering whether he had been heard, the man repeated himself—with a bit of clarification: “There’s a shortage of pussy in this town,” he said, laughing, “cuz all of these guys are suckin’ dick.”
Welcome to San Francisco, where the insane often have a point.
The man really got a kick out of his own cleverness. Enough to repeat it about 20 times between stations. And then, when the exposition was over, he moved on to variations on a theme: “If you want good pussy,” he said, “you go to Dallas, Texas. Wet hot pussy that will make your dick sing!”
In Dallas, I suspected, that remark would probably have gotten him clobbered by a Good Christian Bitch. But on a crowded San Francisco MUNI train, even the women were laughing. I caught one woman’s eye as she struggled to hold it in. And instantly, we both broke out in guffaws. My eyes were watering by the time I finally got off the train. Ironically, the crazy man got off with me—in the Castro, where the pussy shortage is particularly notable.
As we all headed in a mob for the escalator, I didn’t have the heart to tell him where his logic fell down: if all the men in town are sucking dick, there should be a surplus of pussy. Straight men in this town are golden.