Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Gay Life Exposed

Yes, I am possibly the gayest person alive. But for me, being gay is something of a hobby. I enjoy it, but I like to think I can’t make a full time occupation out of it. Then again, it’s a little bit like being a die-hard Yankees fan. It doesn’t matter what career you may pursue, everyone assumes that most of your waking thoughts are about baseball. I wish there was a way to leave the unfinished puzzle of my gay life on a game table in the living room and run some errands unrelated and unfettered by the lack of resolution. After all, it will still be there when I get back. But as gay people, we are vertically integrated by not just our love of sex with men but also a desire to arrange flowers, listen to Judy Garland or declare someone too fat for that outfit. As much as you may want to quit, hide or sideline it, gay can pour from your pores like the smell of gin from a notorious alcoholic.

Apparently, for some people, gay isn’t just a hobby, it’s a way of life. And for them we have the Gay Life Expo. These kinds of expos are like speed dating between gay consumers and mainstream corporations. In each case, they are hoping to find perfection. But just like most speed dating rounds, what actually stands in front of you can often be very disappointing. For the gays: disappointment in the quality and diversity of the companies that bothered to show up. For the companies: wonder as to the location of these high end consumers demographers have been promising them for years. And if you ever want to dispel the myth of gays as fashion forward, articulate trendsetters, this is the weekend adventure for you! Other myths, such as gays being indiscriminant whoring drunks and lesbians being aggressively cheap and demanding of free items, remain woefully intact.

I wanted to go because I think it’s important for our company to crack into the NYC gay market in a substantial way. And a trade show seven weeks before Christmas is as good a place as any to plant the holiday gift seed. It was also a chance to spend some time hanging out with co-workers that I like (Jeremy Hovies, Keith Price) without the embarrassment of needing to be nice to the ones I don’t like, which I will have to do soon enough at the annual holiday party.

I had a short segment on the stage that I originally thought was just an opportunity to wave to the crowd and throw some free t-shirts to the lesbians. But when I was at the office thirty minutes before the show printing out the information, I noticed that I would instead be an emcee and be introducing some of the performers. This was not good news. Emceeing at a pride event is hard enough, but at least the crowd is drunk and excited. Performing at a trade show is like trying to sell real estate to death row inmates. The chairs are usually filled with people too lazy to walk the length of a convention center without needing to rest an hour for every ten booths they passed. I tried to encourage them to enter to win the free radio we were giving away, not more than ten feet from the closest chair but most of them preferred to stay in their seats and stare dead-eyed ahead. I don’t need a TV show now. I already know what it feels like when people watch you on TV, from the perspective of the television set itself.

The lowest form of degradation came at the end of my set when Scott Nevins launched into his “game show” with the OutQ personalities playing along with “real people” from the audience. Scott, with his Groucho brows and pancake make-up projecting like Ethel Merman to the third balcony, took to the stage like a rat diving into a sewer. For the purposes of the game and a chance at some playful nastiness in my direction, he paired me with a genetic male cross of Ab Fab’s Edina Monsoon and Jodie Foster in Nell. He was wearing X-Ray goggles from the back of a 1970s comic book and a puffy white jacket with the entire NYC subway map printed on it, his native language that of Leeloo from The Fifth Element. It seemed from his insistent waving of a gay bar rag in my face that he was in the current issue of HX Magazine, photographed for Halloween in what I can only assume is his normal attire, and captioned as “Bee Bitch.” So the other hosts had actual contestants and I was paired with a lump of mashed potatoes. As I should have learned from the Faggot Feud with Richie Rich in 2004, never walk on a stage where someone else is controlling the mike. Point taken.

After the event, I decamped with the folks at HERE TV for dinner. Cutie pie Chris was there again, although in retrospect, I realize he was the only actual HERE person at the restaurant. At the Expo, I saw Josh, but he opted to head home after the long weekend and crash. Earlier from the stage, I saw Peter Stickles walking around, but he left before I was unshackled from the umpteenth just-so Judy impression emanating from little Scotty Nevins. I hope Peter didn’t see me, but as a performer, I am certain he would have sympathized with my plight. Lady in a cage!

So it was Chris for dinner and my friend Terry from Los Angeles. The other two were flirty Jimmy with sad eyes and a boyfriend in the steam room (unrelated) and adorable newcomer Jonathan, who was too young to appreciate my dusty early 80s references. Hey, did you know that Vic Morrow was named Rotary Club Man of the Year?

What? Too soon?

We went to Ariba Ariba, which in the absence of real Mexican food, will do in a pinch. Jonathan and I bonded over our mutual hatred of the sexy yet slow homos who were occupying our future table. Besides, we were in a hurry. I noticed in the midst of the football game playing on the TV over the bar that the Amazing Race was starting that night and I was fairly certain it wasn’t in the DVR at home. There were 3:34 minutes left in the third quarter which I gay-estimated was about an hour left in the game. With an hour of 60 Minutes sandwiched in between, I knew I had to leave as soon as the game ended to be home in time to not miss the start of the show.

It turns out Jonathan is as plugged in to politics as I am, and he is in the midst of reading The Nine, which I have been dying to pick up. I am such a Supreme Court junkie, I would call in sick to work just to watch a televised confirmation hearing. Then again, I would call in sick to eat a container of ice cream, so the threshold there is pretty low. And I was enjoying all of our banter until I looked up and noticed the football players touching each other inappropriately and CBS announcing the Play of the Day. In my head I heard the stopwatch ticking and Leslie Stahl, with her whipped cotton candy hair and dulcet tones, laying out her segment about famine in Africa, Lindsay Lohan or both, and I knew it was time to go.

As I raced home through the wooded splendor of the Saw Mill Parkway, the concrete monoliths of Manhattan in the rearview mirror, I took stock in the level of gay in my own gay life. Years ago, I left the ghetto behind. I loved my time in West Hollywood, but a body can only take so much abuse, and really that kind of stress testing is for the young. My existence now is suburban, surrounded on all sides by the known markers of heterosexual existence: soccer moms and RVs. And in the middle of it all, my little Cape Cod house, with the bay window and stocked bar in the basement. It’s as gay as a picnic basket, even without the bags of flower bulbs waiting on the window seat to be planted, carefully arranged by blooming season and chosen to resist the voracious dietary habits of the deer that cruise my yard like it’s The Ramble. In looking over the goods presented at the Gay Life Expo, I don’t think my life, as defined by their terms, is gay. Yes, I am fussy about my few precious elegant things, but I think that is borne more out of a desire for strict traditionalism and less about homosexuality. I’m old-fashioned, and I don’t mind it, as the song says. But given how unlike the rest of my family that is, I suppose I can lock that final piece in my gay life puzzle and consider it solved.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Enjoying the recent blogs Derek. Nice seeing another side of you from the show.