Sunday, November 09, 2008

GAY 101...

Actually, I think I can safely say that I have progressed beyond "Gay 101," though whether that gets me to the 200 level, graduate study, or a doctorate in Queer Studies is a little less clear. In any case, life with the Goat is a constantly renewed "teaching moment," and I do continue my reading as well as living in the world. Not that the Big Woods is anywhere very near the "Real World," but at least it's definitely located outside my head...


The Goat is a big aficionado of gay fiction, which has led me to wade through three of Ethan Mordden's "Buddies" books at his recommendation, most recently Everybody Loves You, and I enjoyed them on one level--otherwise why in hell would I have gone on to read the second and third book?-- but find that they reinforce my convoluted feelings about what it means to be gay and what it means to accept a particular definition of "gay."

Mr. Mordden and I do not see eye-to-eye much (surprise, surprise) and everything he displays about the central truths of "Planet Stonewall" reminds me why I found Big City Gay Life so utterly repellent. The guy can write, and I've gotten very fond of the "buddies" who are so clearly not fictional characters, but EM himself I just can't warm up to, for a number of reasons.

One is the acid hatred of all things Not Gay: his parents, his brothers, any straight person silly enough to wander into the Sacred Grove of Fire Island, or whatever other enclave he feels he and his friends have claimed for themselves, etc, etc. Another is the whole concept that being gay means accepting and celebrating behavior which to my jaundiced eye seems to include all the very worst of both male and female behavior, all wrapped up in one neat, unappealing package.

Here are a few bits that may provide something to chew on:
Nowhere in this weekend was the difference between straight and gay as evident as in the parade of the costumes. Gays spend all of their lives in costume, from the disguises of childhood and the closet to the dress codes of the ghetto. One's costumes are, in effect, an objective correlative of the role or roles one chooses to play. To straights, clothes are at most an expedient, a convenience, perhaps a sensation: but always supplementary and occasional, varying with the personality rather than attempting to identify it. To straights, costumes are a treat. To gays, costumes are life.
OK, an epigram masquerading as something deeper. But then there's this:
"Look, I'm telling you," Dennis Savage is telling me, "Cosgrove has simply got to be farmed out. I am sorry, but someone's got to take him out of here. I can't have this... this apprentice sweetheart underfoot all the time."
Not to mention on the end of your cock, I thought; but I said nothing, for Dennis Savage's moment of weakness was to be our secret, his and mine. No one must know of his adultery--better, no one must know of adultery, no matter whose or why, tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Not even Carlo, who would forgive Hitler an act of sensual self-enhancement if his partner was hot enough. Not even Little Kiwi--especially not Little Kiwi--the victim of the adultery but also the person responsible for it, as the one who brought the young man known as Cosgrove into our circle...
"All right, but he's got to go. He has to... find someone to live with." He shrugged. "My nuclear family is big enough as it is." He was looking out the window, but his feelings swept the room, and for the tiniest moment something very crucial and abstract became almost intelligible; I couldn't grasp what the something was. It moved so quickly that you'd have missed it if you blinked...
"Why don't you give one of those Pines dating dinners?" Carlo asked. "We'll bring over all the eligible bachelors and set Cosgrove up."
"How are you going to explain that to Cosgrove?" I countered. "You might scare him into--"
"We don't tell Cosgrove," said Dennis Savage. "We just give the dinner... So who should give the dinner? Kern Loften? He loves making couples. Perhaps because he never--"
"Jesus, I thought you were joking."
He shook his head. He not only was serious, he looked serious. "Cosgrove has got to go..."

So the dinner was on, and Cosgrove had to go. As the days passed, Little Kiwi began to wane in his support of the project. Coming home from a literary lunch, I found him moping on the sidewalk in front of our building... "All set for the big dinner?" I asked him. He eyed me as Isaac should have eyed Abraham. "If Cosgrove knew, I don't think he'd be glad about this."
"You're the one who wanted to find him a home."
"I didn't know we were going to auction him off like a slave of olden times," he said, dragging after me into the lobby...

Dennis Savage shrugged.
"So who's on tap for the gala?" I asked. As he recited names and eligibility credentials, I thought back to similar dinners he and I and others have given over the years. And yes, sometimes they do take, not unlike a bitter medicine: because sometimes somebody gets the idea that this year it's Love or Die... "You're still determined not to tell Cosgrove?" I asked.
"I didn't tell you when I gave your setup dinner, did I?"
I was startled speechless.
"When was that?" I got out at length.
"The summer of 1977." He was smiling, enjoying my surprise. "You remember, don't you? ... It was at Lionel's house. When he was still in the Grove... The median income was one hundred thousand dollars," he said. "They were all witty, spry, and nice. A very contempo crowd." He was virtually reciting: he might have been saving this up for years.
"You did this for me?"...
"You got drunk," said Dennis Savage, "and started fights with everyone. Lionel was beside himself. You pushed Bill Swanson into a cake... Such fine men, too.."

Kern Loften threw the utmost in Pines glamour at our disposal for the Cosgrove husband-hunting dinner, and between him and Dennis Savage a carte des invites was assembled to rival the elite at Catherine the Great's coming-out ball... Cosgrove, as always, seemed to have no opinion. As long as he was among friends, he was happy. The natural condition of gay.

All friends... a friend, grade six, materialized. On a scale of one to ten, grade nine is "I always wanted him," grade seven is "I feel better when he's around," grade four is "Intolerable after an hour," and grade two is "May he be refused admission to a disco in Fort Lee, New Jersey, on grounds of looks, style, and happieness quotient." Grade six is "I don't particularly care, but he's too nice to snub," so Dennis Savage and I gave him refreshment and fielded his questions...
OK, it's not a smoking gun, and it certainly contains a clue to its "real life" counterpart in the "coming out party of Catherine the Great." But there is something there in the difference between family and "family" that sets my teeth on edge... Oh, well, I'm the enemy, ain't I?

Nothing offends one so much as other people's self-righteousness...

Hang in there, all.

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