Confessions from a writer who lives to satisfy himself not impress others
I have a confession to make. I am not a good homosexual.
Oh sure, I am attracted to men and all that, but what I mean is that I fail fail dismally to live up to the much-touted “gay lifestyle” of the early adopting, style-setting, pop culture-aware, out-on-the-town entertainment consumer that many gay advocates and commercial marketers describe as the prototype for urban gays.
Please don’t misunderstand. I think many of those characterizations and more are accurate. I know a lot of gay people, especially gay men, who qualify for just that description. I would go further. I think those activities are almost a full-time endeavor for some gays. Nor, unlike people on the neo-Puritan, anti-capitalist left, do I disapprove of people who live that way. I cheerfully acknowledge that those activities have many pleasures not to be scorned and a considerable number of virtues that deserve greater recognition.
And it is clearly good for gay progress that this pop culture-alert, high consumption urban gay lifestyle has been identified and acknowledged. It gets the attention of business people. And business people who realize that gays are an influential segment of their market are less likely to be hostile and discriminatory than almost any other sector of society. It is just that I personally don’t happen to live that way. And I thought it was about time that I confessed this to get it off my conscience and before someone else accused me of not living up to the gay standard.
How don’t I live the gay lifestyle? Let me count the ways.
I live in an unstylishly undecorated apartment with a few CDs and a few more books. I mostly wear unstylish T-shirts, Levis, and boots or tennis shoes. I seldom eat at restaurants. I make my own coffee (eat your heart out, Starbucks!). I rarely go to plays and have not gone to a movie in years. I go to concerts only when they are playing something I really want to hear and don’t already own on CD. I don’t have a Blackberry, Bluetooth, cellphone, VCR, DVD, iPod or other electronic gadgets. There is a television somewhere in the apartment but the last time I watched was months ago. I don’t remember what it was. Maybe the election returns. I do have a radio but I keep the remote handy to block ads and the beg-a-thons on noncommercial stations.
I don’t have a favorite brand of vodka, rum, gin or imported beer. I used to drink some brand of beer, whatever the bar had, but I finally switched to non-alcoholic beer because I came to dislike the feeling of being even a little bit high. I wouldn’t bother drinking even that, except I figure if you go to bars you are obligated to buy something to pay for the ambience and socializing opportunities they offer.
I don’t consume the products of popular culture or current celebrities, don’t know much about them, and care even less. I express it that way because, of course, it is impossible to completely avoid popular culture. I hear pop music when I go to bars, I see clips from television or films at video bars, and newspaper coverage of celebrities is increasingly obtrusive. But mostly it all seems to wash through the mind without leaving a memory trace.
I wouldn’t risk making this confession except that I cannot help but suspect there may be a few other people in the gay community who also fail to participate in the approved lifestyle to one degree or another, if not to my extreme.
I am certainly not urging people to follow my example. It is important for people to develop their own lifestyles. But to those who may live similarly, I wanted to reach out a fraternal hand and assure them that they are not alone.
I hope this does not make me sound too out-of-it and boring, although I suspect it does to some people. I socialize at bars, although admittedly less than I used to. I read newspapers and magazines. I try to keep up on news, the arts and science as best I can. I read books about things I’m interested in as well as things that look like they might be interesting. I participate in a couple of discussion listservs. I get a lot of e-mail and try to answer ones that need answering. I’ve been known to write a letter to a newspaper once in a while.
But for all of us, it is a matter of following our interests and discovering over time what kinds of things we find it most satisfying to have and to do. And it important to keep in mind the distinction between things we do to impress other people and things that most satisfy ourselves except, of course, for the people who see no difference.
Paul Varnell is a columnist for the Chicago Free Press. Many of his previous columns are posted at the Independent Gay Forum (www.indegayforum.org).
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 16, 2006.