Wednesday, April 18, 2018

OFFLINE


Seems I’m constantly asking, Does this site work? Not with regards to its effectiveness in finding the man of my dreams and eventually posting a wedding announcement in The New York Times. (Yes, I see that another happy couple met on Ok Cupid.) That kind of success is all too far-reaching. I’m questioning the actual functionality of these dating sites. As in, How come every single time I log in there are no new messages? None. Zero. Must be a virus. My passwords are infested with online crickets.

There’s always that tried and true test: power off, power on, log out, log in. No difference. I even tried an electrical outlet in another room. No messages.

And so I’m rueing the good ol’ days of online dating which, to be clear, weren’t so good at all. But there were messages. Guys that struggled to type an entire line or even real words.

Sup?

U R kwute.

Instantly deletable but, in that nanosecond between realizing I had a message and actually seeing the message, there was hope. Sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G, love, marriage and all that. It’s been ingrained in me since grade one.

This time around, I don’t even get those presumably dubious messages from boys in Brazil or the Philippines. Scams of some sort. I never repled but technically they counted as messages in my inbox.

It’s nada now. No deliveries. I may have to take up knitting. Please don’t let it come to that. I’m afraid of needles, even the knitting kind. God knows what kind of injuries I’d incur. Solitaire is safer but I tired of that during my recent hospital stay. When I buy a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle that’s a red-hued Rothko or one big gray-blue swath of the Pacific Ocean, things will officially be bleak.

I’ve messaged a couple of guys on each dating site. OkCupid tries to temper my expectations immediately after I press the send button. “If it’s meant to be, you’ll hear from him.” No response. It’s not even meant to be a rejection after coffee. (Egad. Do I actually miss that?!)

Perhaps I should click on the FAQs page or contact a site administrator.

Dear Sir,

I wanted to alert you to a glitch with your dating site. I am not getting any messages. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

I heard laughter even as I typed that. (You’re welcome, Site Manager. I’m guessing most days are rather boring. Forgotten passwords, complaints about pop-up ads and all that.)

Guess I’ll have to keep powering on and off, logging in and out. I’ll try to catch myself when I hum “Someday My Prince Will Come” and make it stop. And this Sunday I may give the Vows section of The New York Times a pass. Happy for you, all the same, Blake and Stanley with your degrees from Harvard and your lovely wedding on Martha’s Vineyard. I just have to focus on my computer conundrum.
It’s not me. It’s my computer.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

CASTING A CRITICAL EYE ON "QUEER EYE"


New "Queer Eye" cast. Left to right: Bobby Berk,
Karamo Brown, Antoni Porowski, Jonathan         
Van Ness, Tan France                                            
Well, that went fast.

I tuned in for the first episode of “Queer Eye” 2.0 about six weeks ago and worked through the season without an urge to binge. I figured I’d be watching the show into late Spring and was surprised when the show stopped being a viewing option on my Netflix account. Eight episodes, call it a season.


Original series cast, L to R: Jai Rodriguez,
Ted Allen, Carson Kressley, Kyan              
Douglas, Thom Filicia                                
I remember the hype when the original “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” aired in 2003 with five gay guys guiding straight men into a transformation regarding their lifestyle. Ted Allen mentored in the kitchen, Kyan Douglas gave grooming tips, Thom Filicia guided a home decorating overhaul, Carson Kressley advised on a fashion makeover and Jai Rodriguez had the nebulous role of being “Culture Vulture”, offering tips on relationships and being a swell guy at social functions. The show ran for five seasons and one hundred episodes. Carson Kressley and Ted Allen continue to be in the public eye, riding whatever cable waves they can find.

More than ten years after the original show ended, QE2 (also how I refer to Her Majesty) waded in again with a new cast, checking to see if some campier than average gay men can still endear themselves to seemingly polar opposite straight men (and one closeted gay man) while also delivering an After that is radically different from Before.

Did it work? Are there still straight guys whose worlds are sheltered from gay exposure? Does the premise still pique an audience’s interest? Is there enough in a makeover to give five guys enough to do?

Well, I’d say Will & Grace 2.0 (okay, so it also needs a nickname…WAG2) is fresher than QE2. But then WAG2 has legendary director James Burrows, amazing writers and a stellar acting team. It was reborn with a silver cocktail strainer for Karen Walker’s butler.

Unfair to compare reboots. Perhaps it’s better to consider how it stacks up against the original and whether it’s still relevant. As with the original, QE2 struggles with having substantial roles for each of the five pairs of queer eyes. Jai Rodriguez had a weightless role in the original but Karamo Brown as culture expert steals every scene. Jai was 24 when the QE1 started and he came off as too green. At 37, Karamo has more life’s experience and a genuine interest in getting to know what the setbacks have been for each makeover man. He quickly develops a rapport on each episode. (As well, his casual attire is impeccable and, well, he’s easy on the eyes.)

The hair and makeup guy—handsome Kyan in the original; see-me, hear-me, love-me Jonathan Van Ness in QE2—is a thankless role in both series. There’s a bit of talk about eye cream, lots of talk about moisturizing and then Jonathan primarily cheerleads as a barber does most of the haircutting. Moreover, a couple of the featured men don’t require much of a hair transformation but just the kind of cleanup any decent barber or stylist would provide. The wow factor in the haircut and/or beard trim is present more in the first half of the season than the latter half. That leaves Jonathan reverting to dipping his head in front of the camera and Vogue-ing with his hands a lot.

While energetic Jonathan doesn’t have much to do, it’s even more of a slog for producers to figure out what QE2’s food and wine expert Antoni Porowski should do. In the original series, Ted would show how to make a single meal which seemed like a limited part of a makeover. How many times is the guy going to “impress” people with the same damn meal? Pan-seared salmon? Again?! It’s much worse for the very nice (he’s Canadian) Antoni who freely acknowledges he has no training as a chef; instead, he has an interest in food. Ah, yes. Another “foodie”. I suspect Antoni got the part because of his good looks.  The concoctions he coaches the weekly makeover guy through are laughably simple. Guacamole. Avocado-grapefruit salad. Hmm, what else can I do with avocado? Macaroni (from a recipe he lifts off the guy’s mom!). Chili. Hot dogs. (Yes, hot dogs. But with fancy condiments, which reminds me of a line in Canadian group Barenaked Ladies’ “If I Had $1,000,000”: “Buy really expensive ketchups with it, That’s right, all the fanciest Dijon ketchups.”) So we’ve got a guy who can eat guacamole at home when he loves a certain Mexican restaurant. I don’t see it happening. Same with everything poor Antoni dishes out.

There is no one with the sassy wit of Carson Kressley. The QE2 team tries, especially in the opening montage where they are all in one SUV driving to each episode’s particular Georgia location, but I think the producers need to let go of any thought of a Carson reincarnation. It’s the same as when “American Idol” lost Simon Cowell. The zingers are gone; you move on.

Still, in addition to Karamo, Tan France and Bobby Berk work well in their roles as fashion expert and home design expert, respectively. Tan’s clothing advice is thoughtful and there is genuine interaction between him and the makeover guy. Tan wants to know if the guy is comfortable in each suggested look and adjusts based on the feedback. It seems there is a greater likelihood that the new wardrobe and ways of wearing clothes will be adhered to due to the conversation.

Bobby is much like Thom in the original, forgoing the limelight (which Jonathan seems to crave) and working with contractors and a design team behind the scenes to turn neglected bachelor pads into fresh, livable spaces. The reveal is always polished but with special touches involving family photos or a quilt made of a deceased father’s clothes that had overtaken closet space. Any tear shedding from the made over man or the viewer at home is likely to come from the work of Bobby or Karamo.

Just yesterday, Netflix announced that there will be a second season of QE2. Going forward, the show could be tweaked. During the eight-episode season, they cut the end segment, a useless half-minute tip such as how to walk with confidence. (That particular tip made me feel they needed J. Alexander from “America’s Next Top Model” as a special guest to show his runway walk.) The show would be tighter if they went from a quintet to a quartet. Get rid of some of the filler in each episode; deepen the transformation. I’ll let the producers decide who gets cut,…maybe, ahem, as they eat fancy hot dogs and realize they’re still just hot dogs.

Really, they could cut the cast to three. Okay, if producers are seeking advice, I’d say keep Tan (fashion), Bobby (home design) and Karamo (culture and grooming). If the makeover guy is in a nacho rut, so be it. Let him apply to be on whatever happens to be Bobby Flay’s newest show.

Is “Queer Eye” still needed? Not really. Gay men are out in the open more than ever and, yes, they’ve left their enclaves in the Castro, West Hollywood and Boystown. There may be an uptick in hate crimes and a White House that doesn’t want transgendered people in the military, but in the world of reality TV, “Queer Eye” is tame. We don’t need it any more than we need junior chefs making food the viewer can’t taste or some catty housewives from, I don’t know,…Iowa City.

That said, “Queer Eye” is easy viewing. I watched each episode on nights when I knew I’d fall asleep if I cracked open a book. I found myself wishing they’d include a buyer’s guide in the credits or online to indicate where to buy Tan’s white polo with red and blue trim and a zipper instead of buttons—he wore it and distracted me in two episodes—or where to get any of Karamo’s clothes. Perhaps I should be embarrassed to admit it, but I found myself wishing the QE crew would come help me. For the past three years, I’ve used moving boxes for a coffee table and a basic wooden stool is my only chair. Almost all my clothes are solids and my feet only know what it feels like to be immersed in Converse. (Thirty pairs, mind you!) Yes, this gay guy could use a Queer Eye with better vision. For now I’ll just have to learn from the TV and congratulate myself for my new habit of buying flowers for myself each week. (It’s an easier decision than a table. Cheaper, too!)

Bring on the second season!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

AN “ADVOCATE” ISSUE


There was a time when I had a subscription to The Advocate, a publication that I considered to be the gay version of Time magazine. I wanted to know about what Barney Frank was up to on Capitol Hill, kept up with Larry Kramer’s provocative antics and I read about bigger theatrical productions (think Tony Kushner) and lesser ones while also getting the scoop on mediocre-but-hey-it’s-gay movies like “Jeffrey”.

I am dating myself.

As many print magazines have folded, others have reduced their publication schedule. Alas, for example, GQ is now seasonal instead of monthly, but I liked it better when pretty male models graced the cover instead of celebrities. Again, dating myself. The Advocate, in turn, has gone from bi-weekly to bi-monthly. As with so many once-prospering publications, The Advocate has tried to remain au courant with extra online content.

I check in with www.advocate.com about once a week. Sadly, I have a clear sense of which posts are the lesser read pieces—the ones I happen to click to get some LGBT news and commentary. I am increasingly annoyed by other posts, the ones that no doubt get more traffic and drive up advertising revenue. I roll my eyes and remind myself content is pragmatically chosen. So much of the magazine business has to do with advertising dollars, even more so now that physical subscriptions have sharply declined. News about atrocities in Chechnya gets space on the website because thousands of site visitors clicked on shirtless photos of “Bears in Boston”. So real news coexists with lighter fare. So light it gets that lite spelling, as when we refer to cottage cheese. I continue to live in The World of Wishful Thinking where a national publication on LGBT news, opinion and entertainment can be just that, where readers are drawn to the reporting, the challenging perspectives and the writing. Many would say that was never The Advocate, but its 1990s version was far closer to that aspiration than the current incarnation. I mourn a little every time I visit the site.

One day last week—okay, full confession, it was Friday and, yes, I had nothing to do—I did some headline sorting on the website: articles I’d click, articles that make me lose faith, and harmless articles that might appeal to both news geeks and those seeking to be titillated. (Note that I copied the headlines as they appeared on the site, inhaling and exhaling slowly so as not to react to glaring inconsistencies in The Advocate’s standards regarding capitalization rules in titles. Writing geek that I am, I had to say that! Yes, Toni Braxton, now I can “Breathe Again”.)   



For folks like me (who refer to themselves as “folks”):







For the oglers and bored office workers (with very private cubicle spaces):

Getting Slutty in Seattle in 100 PhotosIt’s an easy drive from Vancouver, but this is not inspiring a visit.

26 Things Gay Sex Workers Want You to Know Wasn’t that a cover story for a supermarket tabloid?

101 Photos of Leathermen on a SoCal Rampage Ooh! The drama! Do the editors know the definition of rampage? Not clicking…

Terry Miller in Next to Nothing for Tom of Finland Store (Photos) Who is Terry Miller? Apparently an artist, but a quick Google search identifies him first as “Dan Savage’s husband”. Nice butt but whatever…

Fortunately, there’s some middle ground…posts that may interest a mix of Advocate browsers:

Here’s What Allies Can Learn From ‘Love, Simon’” Yes, this movie has to be for non-gays. Am I the only one who concluded that, from the trailers, it looks like it would have been interesting thirty years ago?

Janeane Garofalo Is Still the Voice of My Generation Yes, she is from my generation...one week older than I am. I've loved her ever since "Reality Bites". Anyone else think she’d be perfectly cast as Ellen Page’s mother or aunt?

Yep, I’m HIV-Positive and Happy Sounds like something for “People” or “O” magazine, the kind of article to read in a reception area.

This Discontinued Gay Ken Doll Will Haunt Mattel ForeverFirst there was Chucky, then the Bride of Chucky and now…Gay Ken. Screams and gasps! Mwah, mwah, mwah!



So which, if any, posts did you click? Which ones did you at least think of clicking? What looked boring? What generated your own case of the cringes?

Friday, March 9, 2018

LABEL QUEEN


I can’t keep up with today’s labels.



I’ll admit it. I used to be a label queen. Started during high school with Calvin Klein jeans and preppy IZOD alligator shirts in every imaginable pastel hue. A few Ralph Lauren Polo shirts too with that little guy riding a horse near my left nipple. They cost more, which normally draws me in (Sucker!), but they also suggested a person was too preppy. In all my adolescent confusion, I still knew I didn’t want to be called Biff behind my back. As the ‘80s came, I sought out Paul Smith, Marithé + François Girbaud, Guess and WilliWear to enhance my wardrobe along with a colourful collection of Swatch watches and boat shoes under the Zodiac brand. I couldn’t bear to walk through Target and quickly retreated if I happened to find myself in the Haggar or Dockers section of a department store. Some labels good, some labels—or the lack of all labels—bad.



Fashion evolves and I aged out of some brands. (Take a Guess...) I welcomed Hugo Boss, Claiborne, Ted Baker and, most recently, Eton to my closet. One of the big differences between then and now is I don’t have any real sense of whether a brand like Eton is truly fashionable. I like what I like and I’m still gullible enough to think a pricey tag means something. As tempting as it may be to go all Minnie Pearl and leave a price tag dangling on a did-I-just-a-drop-car-payment-on-that-shirt acquisition, I let my clothing choices present themselves. No alligators or mini Hilfiger logos anymore. No red carpet commentary as if someone wants to know. I no longer need to lead with the label.



To some extent, that goes with my sexual identity, too. I identify as gay and I assume people can ask (they never do) or figure it out (easy peasy, I’m betting). But I’m getting the sense that my chosen label has faded and, along with my age, made me passé. When I was coming out—and, ooh, doesn’t that clause make me sound even more passé— Lesbian (L) and Gay (G) were the options—one for girls, one for boys,…enough to muck up all that sugar and spice and snips and snails. Some advocated for the inclusion of Bisexual (B) while others derisively considered the big B as for semi-closet cases, persons in transition. (We’ve let that go, haven’t we?) And then came another group in transition, those identifying as Transgender (T). Add to that some slang, often slurs taken back and embraced by the LGBT “community”. Fags and faggots. Queers. Dykes. More recent slang, which I’ve blogged about being completely unnecessary: gay AF or gay as fuck and bromos. Just typing the last two gets me riled up again. For a young person to scream that he’s gay AF may feel like a proud or even challenging stance, but I find it insulting to the generations that did all the earlier work. I’d say the people at Stonewall and those who pushed for non-discrimination and AIDS progress in the ’80s would be more deserving of the “gay AF” title if the expression itself weren’t so silly. Gay is gay. Let’s step away from our mirrors and stop asking who is the gayest of them all.



But, more seriously, somewhere along the line, non-heterosexual people felt boxed in by a string of letters, even as it grew to LGBTQI. (Maybe the problem was that the alphabet cluster didn’t form a catchy acronym. Hey, Pat Sajak, I’d like to buy another vowel.) Gender and sexual identity have become more fluid and, yes, more complicated. Last night I went attended the first in a series of workshops for men about body image. The invite stated the following:



This group is open to self-identified men (trans men, cis men,

and other men), non-binary and gender-queer folks who also

identify as two-spirit, asexual, gay, bi, queer, and/or

as guys who are into guys.

It’s a different world. More to learn and more landmines, not just for people who see themselves as straight or heterosexual, but for folks like me who only had a small cluster of letters to choose from. None of the above terms are new to me, but I still have to do a quick Google on a few to figure out how each is distinct. And when I look at the invitation, I (timidly) wonder why intersex and pansexual didn’t make the cut. I know I’ve seen other terms as well, often in the comment sections online when one “gay” person is putting down another “gay” person. A label can be something one embraces to feel better about who he/she/they is/are but it can also be used as bait. Misuse it and they/he/she will pounce all over you.

For me, I’m sticking with gay. Not that I'm knocking any other term in any way. I’ve always liked the fact homosexuals stole a word meaning “happy” even if it’s often hard to align the term and the feeling. (And when we sing “Deck the Halls” and get to the line, “Don we now our gay apparel,” I find amusement in thinking of all the brands in my closet. Works every time—even if it shouldn’t—to make me smile. Voilà, instant gay!)

I spent years struggling with my identity, at first barely whispering the G-word. It’s taken decades for it to come out of my mouth in a casual manner when I’m with a group of strangers. “Gay” is what I've grown into. It's what makes me comfortable. It is the label that works for me.

Along with Hugo Boss.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

CLASSICALLY CLUELESS


For someone who prides himself on punctuality, I’ve always been late to the party. Fundamental problem is that I don’t even recognize the fact that there is a party.



I came out at 21. Sort of. When you come out and don’t actually do anything about it, it’s sort of like that tree falling in the forest that no one sees or hears. It happened—or did it?—so what? Back then I had no gaydar and I continued to spend my time fixated on pretty straight boys. (Yes, there is such a thing.)


I would imagine that my cluelessness remains unmatched to this day. When Tim, a waiter at a Fort Worth restaurant where I worked, invited me into his apartment after a group of us had gone for drinks, I did not see the point. I was too polite. We’d just had a drink. He should save his booze. Besides, I was too practical. Why would I want my bladder awakening me in the middle of the night? Seriously, it only dawned on me a few years later that he may have been interested. Yes, years. (To be fair that’s when I ran into one of the waitresses and she told me, to my complete surprise, that he was gay. “How could you not have known?” she said incredulously. Way back then you couldn’t buy gaydar on eBay. There wasn’t even “Will & Grace” to help me out.)



After my stint as a waiter, I supplemented my meager private school teaching income by working part-time in the men’s department of a department store in Dallas. On occasion, the guys would get together after the Friday night shift. I was happy to tag along, but I was confused whenever we wound up at a gay bar. I figured it was just that the music was better. After all, that’s what we all said. (In my defense, it was Texas. In the ’80s. Okay, there was Steven Carrington on TV’s “Dynasty” but any insight about being gay was diluted by the fact the character was played by two different actors. Confusing!) I think I felt so alone and vilified for being—gasp—a homosexual that I assumed I was the only one in the Lone Star State.




So flash forward three decades and I still find myself bewildered from time to time. I have an old version of gaydar (Version 2.0 instead of 5.0) but no Grindr enhancement. It’s a work phone. No way I’m downloading that thing. I am even more technologically unaware and I assume the IT guys will get pinged if I have such content. Hence, I remain a naïve, moderately clueless gay man. This helps explain why I only realized yesterday that a guy at the gym may have been hitting on me six weeks ago.



On a Friday night in January, I arrived at the gym uncharacteristically late. Don’t recall why. Perhaps I was just trying to avoid the crowds from everyone resolving to lose weight, gain muscle and don an epic six-pack. (Such is the delusional thinking that comes when the sugar coma of December’s cookie season is finally broken. What-do-you-mean-there’s-no-more-chocolate-dipped-shortbread?!) To my delight, there was a smattering of people, but I could almost hear an echo as the odd clod dropped his barbells to the mat. (Novice!)



I was taking a short rest on a quad machine—not peeking at a YouTube cat vid on my iPhone—when a guy hiding under a bulky hooded sweatshirt and shorts over a pair of Lululemon leggings asked me to spot him on the hamstring leg curl machine. No doubt, I frowned and looked around. Isn’t there anyone else? Here’s where I missed the crowd. But I was perplexed, too. In all my years going to gyms, I’ve seen spotters on bench press and occasionally on bicep curls but never on any of the leg machines.



Let me say that I hate spotting. I suddenly transform into that cartoon image of a ninety-eight pound weakling. It’s never a guy needing an assist with thirty pounds of anything. It’s always a weight I wouldn’t dream of trying for fear of ripping a limb right out of its socket. And then there’s the part where I don’t really know when to help and how much to help. My personal feeling is: DUDE, WHY CAN’T YOU JUST PICK A WEIGHT YOU CAN HANDLE ON YOUR OWN?! (There. It felt good to get that out. Let me take ten deep breaths before getting back to this.)



Having never seen someone spot a person on leg curls, I asked what he wanted me to do. Oh, my. He gave me a five-step instruction, with lots of qualifiers. I responded with a look of Huh? and he repeated his vision. No clearer, but I consoled myself in the fact I must have shed a dozen calories in nervous sweat. I will fail him. Why didn’t I get here at primetime? Crowds aren’t so bad.



During the set, he called for a spot with me having to push his feet so they hit his butt. Weird. But done. I went back to my quad spot and he proceeded to watch and correct my form, saying he was a personal trainer. It should come as no surprise that I hate unsolicited technique advice perhaps even more than spotting. But he kept on talking. I shrugged and tried to be as dismissive as possible so he’d leave me alone. “Leg work is just filler between chest or arms work,” I said. “I don’t expect results.” (Truth: I’m resigned to chicken legs unless there’s a magic pill that buffs up, well, everything. A little drooling as a side effect wouldn’t be so bad.)



The guy hit me up for another spot and this time he grunted loudly during the set. More nervous sweating from me. More post-spotting conferencing about how I could do it better. I made a beeline to the far end of the gym. Why bother finishing quads anyway? Chicken legs, no magic pill, blah, blah, blah.



Later he approached me again, but this time showing off his barrel chest. No shirt in sight. To be clear, in the two and a half years I’ve gone to this gym NO ONE has walked around without a shirt. He was chatty and said, “Look at us here on a Friday night. I really need to get laid.” Eww. An overshare from the underdressed. I dodged and again readjusted my workout. A good excuse to try something new.



Hadn’t seen the guy again until last night. There he was, a new haircut and a beaming smile, looking right at me. I quickly stared at my shoelaces and he moved on. A couple of minutes later, he passed by again, same grin. And then,…slowly…slowly…wait…for…it:



Light bulb.



Had he been coming on to me? Was he actually gay?



No matter. Same reaction. Eww.



God only knows if there have been other gay men I’ve brushed off, guys I might have found interesting. Maybe I ignored them, simply from failing to connect the bright pink dots. I’m not sure if that serves as any real consolation when I consider my miserable track record with gay men. All this time I’ve been certain I’ve been consciously overlooked. Maybe the overlooking was all partly mine.




Thursday, March 1, 2018

BROWN BAGGING IT

When I picked it up, it was amongst shelves and shelves of plain brown paper bags, the top folded over. Looked like Mother Hubbard’s lunch pantry instead of a specially controlled pharmacy at a hospital. I wanted to joke with the pharmacist—“Gee, thanks for the lunch. I hope it’s PBJ.”—but, with her horn-rimmed glasses, stern face and monotone voice, I worried she’d withdraw the prescription. You strike me as overmedicated as it is.
So no lunch chat. Just an amusement in my mind to make light of an embarrassing situation. You see, I don’t like going to pharmacists. They know too much. That foot fungus from last summer. The pesky hemorrhoids. But worst of all, the ever-changing cocktail of mood stabilizers and antidepressants my psychiatrist is convinced might eventually make a difference in my quality of life.
This was, however, a different pharmacist and the issue involved a different circumstance regarding a better life. During my physical last month, I’d asked my family doctor if I could go on PrEP, otherwise known as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or Truvada. We’d talked about the drug on a couple of other occasions, but it was not a drug covered by our generally strong Canadian healthcare system. The result was that it would cost close to a thousand dollars a month if I wanted to go on it, a silly expenditure for a man who isn’t sexually active.
But, as of January 1st, the provincial government began covering the entire cost of the medication for persons deemed at higher risk. (I contend it should be available to anyone. By the government’s logic, someone with who is considered as having only a moderate risk of becoming HIV+ gets no PrEP and then, if the risk becomes a reality, he remains a further cost to the system while also suffering emotional strain. I don’t see people storming pharmacists for—Woo-hoo!—free PrEP like it’s the world’s tastiest candy.)
Anyway, my doctor went through a series of questions with me. The system’s questions. I needed a certain number of points but I scored zero. We went through them again and made the black and white a whole lot grayer to get me past the threshold.
What got my doctor on board was how I’d introduced my thoughts on sex in general. I came out in the mid- to late-’80s (same as him) when, at least as far as I saw things, sex meant a significantly higher possibility of death before thirty. I’ve carried a high level of inhibition with me ever since. “I never went through a period where sex was fun,” I admitted. “I’ve always been too scared.”
In truth, I don’t know that I will ever overcome my early fears. (Doesn’t help that I grew up in a repressed, conservative family and that my first attempts to step out of the closet were in the Bible Belt.) I’ve listened to other gay men and all their stories, all their men. I’ve read many a novel and memoir where the gay sexploits might as well be science fiction.
If I could let go of decades of fear, I can imagine some pleasure, maybe even surface-level validation. He waited almost five minutes before asking for the lights to be turned off! And hey, kudos, things went past five minutes! I just need to eliminate whatever roadblocks I have to achieving sexual intimacy, whether with a guy whose name immediately escapes me or with a man who could become a longish-term boyfriend. (Husband? Life partner? I’m not so bold to let my mind go there these days.)
I’m well aware there are still STDs out there. Apparently, they’re on the rise among gay men now that fewer are using condoms due to PrEP. An STD would come with embarrassment and yet another piece of too-personal information for the pharmacist. But we’ve come so far from the peak of the AIDS crisis. Sex might come to be a healthy part of living, something I might even enjoy. Along with my own PBJ lunches.


Saturday, February 10, 2018

ARE YOU A SAMANTHA OR A CARRIE?

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Okay, so Kim Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker aren’t as chummy as Samantha and Carrie. (Here's the link to an article on the subject, in case you've had better things to do.) I can see Jack McFarland flipping out on “Will & Grace” but the rest of us should take a long, slow sip from Karen Walker’s martini glass and get over it.

I loved “Sex and the City”. Like many gays, I inserted myself into the show, engaging in frequent banter on whether I was Carrie or Miranda or Samantha or Charlotte. Maybe I have a conflict of interest here as I always went back and forth from Miranda to Charlotte. No one would ever take me for Samantha and Carrie always seemed to be overshadowed by each of them. Who wants to identify with that?!

The entertainment business works hard to create a make-believe world, not only regarding the storylines of characters on TV shows but also as to the happenings on set. Doesn’t every actor say, “I know it’s going to sound cliché, but we really are like a family”? We’re supposed to believe that on these sets and locations, strong, warm bonds form all the time.

I’m glad social media wasn’t around way back when I connected with “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and grew to love the characters and, in turn, the actors. I want to forever believe that that group hug at the end of the series represented pure love between characters and among the cast (even if Rhoda/Valerie and Phyllis/Cloris had already left the nest). Same with “The Bob Newhart Show”. Bob and Emily forever, along with Howard, Jerry and Carol popping up for regular smiles and yuk-yuks.

Let “Friends” always be friends. May “The Golden Girls” always commune and console over cheesecake. And I can go on imagining that those “Designing Women” of seasons one and two continue to enjoy their southern charm while tuning out any of the on-set drama involving Delta Burke. Again, we mercifully only got reports of that through weekly tabloids.

On Twitter, I’m seeing #TeamKim and #TeamSJP emerge. Mostly, it seems people are looking for excuses to tweet the latest sassy GIFs.

I didn’t read of any tensions between Cattrall and Parker until the fall of 2017 when Kim Cattrall’s disinterest in a third “Sex and the City” movie put the kibosh on it going forward. Whatever the reason, I was glad. I saw the first and found it entirely disappointing. Couldn’t stomach the second, which might further tarnish the shine of such an outstanding series. The only unfortunate part of reading that there wouldn’t be another movie was the public muck that came out.

It’s with that in such recent memory that this newest uproar arises. Kim’s brother was missing and she’d taken to social media, desperate to find him. That got attention. When it turned out he’d died, the sad news got even more internet and new media attention. Celebrities are now scrutinized for their responses or their “failure” to respond. Given what public spat in the fall, what was Sarah Jessica Parker to do? The norm now is to tweet love and condolences, often with generic wording. Enough to make a public acknowledgment. It’s the same as the sympathy cards that get passed around in our own lunchrooms. The standard sentiment is a “Thinking of you” and a signature. For celebs, silence—or perceived silence, even if condolences are sent privately—would be new fuel because, even in this #MeToo era, everyone loves a good cat fight. Let women be empowered but let the sideshows continue to satisfy the gawkers.

I’m not on either team. (Perhaps stirring up wounds from childhood when I was last to be picked, let me be #TeamNoTeam.) But why would a TV environment be any more collegial and more familial than any other workplace? The reason “The Office” was such a success is that it was relatable. A work setting brings together people who are, well, not so relatable to one another. People get on each other’s nerves. There are falling-outs. Some quit but don’t we all know of people who stick with a job because of the pay or out of fear of what else is/isn’t out there? Don’t we know people who can ruin a Friday night happy hour with an unrelenting diatribe on all their co-workers? Whether Sarah Jessica should have tweeted and whether Kim should have responded, can we just move on?

In my mind, Carrie and Samantha will always be friends. And if all that was just good acting, then so be it.