Straight men chat
And that can lead to us seeing you, in my friends’ bluntest terms, as boring, flat, circumscribed, one-dimensional.
(And even as I write this, I know, gratefully, that this gulf between us is breaking down, as you have your privilege flung back in your face by an ever more diversely vocal society, as you shed some of your traditionally male trappings, and as gay men increasingly adopt some of the structures — marriage, child-raising, community stature — that have long mapped your lives out for But I also think that my friends and I have to start daring to give up our defensive, contemptuous posture toward you and realize that it’s increasingly likely that you’ll judge us as just another guy, not a sexuality, sooner than we’ll do the same for you. had to say: “Since this is anonymous, I’ll tell you something weird,” he wrote me.
But when they have those towels wrapped around them and they’re talking to each other about their bad knee, or the 20 pounds they’re trying to lose, or their boss who just changed departments, or politics, or some guy who’s faster on the basketball court than they are, or how they don’t like drinking as much as they used to — whatever the subject — they sound kind of vulnerable to me, a little worn-out, a little defeated, not reallyposturing.” So just in case you thought that quiet gay-looking guy in the steam room was checking you out — not to say you did, or that you’d even care if he were — know that maybe he was sitting there trying to work through a wariness and bafflement many of us have dealt with our whole lives.
Trying to know what makes you like us, to hear that you, like us, have at times felt weak, afraid, undesirable, or less than manly in the way so many of our fathers or grandfathers told us we So bear with us as we go on seeming a little superior and standoffish, and know that we are just trying to navigate this new cultural moment when we are finally supposed to be your peers, not your prey, and everyone is supposed to stop “performing” gender or sexuality and start getting honest. And meanwhile, even though we know that looking askance at your normcore clothes is a shallow reflection of our defensiveness, please stop wearing square-toe shoes and, this summer, shorts that fall to the knee.
(He didn’t like it; we were both more partial to jazz and the Blake Babies in Ever since, I’ve not painted straight men with one brush; this is New York City, after all, and in my 25 years here I’ve met, and sometimes befriended, some of the smartest, most gifted, funniest, sweetest, and most thoughtful straight men on the planet. These are still the gut reactions we have when we hear the monolithic “straight men.” And that means that both straight men and gay men have a long way togo.
Often, I feel more myself with them — or at least some seldom-accessed part of myself I can’t quite name — than I do with gay male or femalefriends. Of course, as gay men, we can find ourselves in a sort of gender-politics netherworld.
David had a deep, raspy voice and a strong jaw, and composed acerbic, Elvis Costello–like love songs to idealized women on his guitar, and when we would jam out for a room of impressed peers to “Don’t Go Back to Rockville” — him on guitar, me on piano — I felt a kind of joyous male bonding that I’d observed but stood apart from amid years of suffering through hockey, baseball, and soccer teams. Privileged.” B., 40: “Khaki pants.” D., 28: “Cargo shorts. I need to put up a defense before seeing who they really are. Rejection I experienced by my father.” J., 36: “Republicans, goofy, cluelessly trying to present and protect their masculinity.” Some of the responses were witheringly fashion-oriented.My brother is super nice and sweet, but he’s never had to define himself in society over something as radical as sexuality. They can choose to delay it, but unless they reject it outright and are then queer in their own way, they’ll always remain a littleaware of our straight counterparts. what came to mind when I said “straight men,” he answered, “A group of guys talking, me watching them. I love parsing your elevator or lunchtime conversations, listening for those cryptic notes of vulnerability, anxiety, or empathy as you discuss last night’s game or workplace politics, pricking up my ears to see if you ever, in your straight-male way, “mirror and affirm” one another’s comments the way, at least according to some sociologists, women talk among themselves.I think I’ve always kind of watched them to try to decode them — first so I could figure out how to be one of them, and then, after I realized I couldn’t, to try to understand what they’relike.” I’m with M. I note the extent to which a certain gentle uptalk — whose increase among women has been, um, widely noted?When the summer ended, I wrote something appropriately snarky and bombastic in David’s yearbook. He broke down a wall in me and let me see that there were smart, artistic straight men in the world who would love me for the effeminate, pretentious little sass mouth that I was, and who might be far braver than I, in fact, in showing their hand emotionally. The need to assert their ‘straightness’ over anything.” W., 50, who’s black, said specifically of straight black men: “Homophobic. Being loud and unaware and taking up personal space in public.” J., 44: “Some guy in your office who works in or wears button-downs with the bottom hanging out.” W., 58: “Assholes. As A., 33, put it: “Fitted hat, hoodie, sportswear, basketball shorts, sweatpants, or suit, rocker with long hair all black clothes and tatts, bald-headed guy with handlebar moustache, clean-cut metrosexual who’s a little too primped and probably shaves all his pubes off, cheesy suburb type with bad And on and on it went.Only later, upon arriving home, I read his inscription to me: “I tease you because I see so much of myself in you. Probably because of David I was able to make similar straight male friends in college, many of whom, to varying extents, are my friends to this day, including J., who now lives in Park Slope with the wife I introduced him to and their two kids, and who only last week went to the opera with a buddy from his all-male book club. Never mind that we all live in New York and mostly work in creative or altruistic fields and know plenty of straight men who don’t at all fit these slovenly, smug stereotypes; that many of us have fathers, brothers, nephews, or friends who disprove these images; that we all see gender norms breaking down a little bit more every day.