Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Pottery Barn Revelations

Last night my friend Dave and I were shopping for a small chest to put in my living room. The table John and I have in that spot right now is a little too leggy. Actually it would be fine, but all of our other furniture is leggy, and well, there are just four too many legs.

We were to meet up at Pottery Barn after we couldn't find what I needed at Cost-plus World Market. Dave got there first and went on in. Dave and I like to play pretend games when we are shopping. One day when we were looking for Easter things at another design store here in town, people kept asking us what we were going to do with the pieces of moss we were carrying around. After the third person asked us, Dave started telling people we were "designers" and that we were making arrangements out of them. That would have been fine except that by the time we left, people were asking for our number to help them redo their houses. Dave turned to me and said, "he's the real professional" (I'm not). Fortunately I did have some of my boss's cards, so we didn't get in too much trouble.

Anyway, when I saw Dave in Pottery Barn I made a big deal and acted like I hadn't seen him in years.

"David? Dave Gulley? It's me, Troy. I haven't seen you in ages. How have you been?" David is always quick to play along, so he acted like he didn't recognize me at first. Then a flash of recognition crossed his face.

"Troy! Oh my goodness. I've been great." Then without skipping a beat, he said, "I'm so glad we ran into each other. I have something to tell you." Long pause. "I'm in an ex-gay ministry. And I'm very happy. Can't you tell?" he said gesturing with his hand to a sort of tired half-smile and a constipated look on his face. Dave knows I was in an ex-gay ministry for a long time.

"Good for you! It really shows. You hardly seem gay at all. I see you're admiring those lovely "bird on a branch" synthetic florals."

"Yes, I won't be able to sleep until I own them."

Honestly, we really only play up gay stereotypes when we are shopping. In terms of self-entertainment, it is low hanging fruit. It is just too easy--two men in Pottery Barn? Seriously. (In case you are curious, Pottery Barn didn't have what I needed.)

In general I try to be sensitive about not promoting stereotypes about gay folks. John could not care less about shopping. His brothers and father (all not gay) are more into clothes than he is. John would rather be in his wood working shop in the basement.

Is "gaying it up" on occasion bad? I know the arguments that sitcoms like Will and Grace are gay versions of the old minstrel shows. But there often is something empowering about gay comedy. I am happy that I do not have to hide a significant part of who I am anymore. And for me, sometimes not faking it actually means putting things over the top as a reminder to myself of how afraid I was all those years to enjoy being who I am, liking what I like, and doing what I am interested in and good at doing. I can respect not only the less traditionally "gay" parts, but all of me. I can actually recognize myself in holistic terms.

I used to be annoyed by Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, mainly because I bristled at the implication that all gay people are cultural aesthetes. Believe me; they aren't. But as I continued watching the show I realized that the gift that "out" gay people bring to our contemporary culture is not how to dress, shop, decorate or eat. The real gift we offer is that we can help people gain the courage to discover and proudly be the best of who they are. We know what it is like to hide or to get stuck in one way of viewing ourselves. We understand that some cultural constraints and assumptions produce negative effects rather than life-giving ones. And we know how valuable it is to have help figuring out the difference between the two.

Is it just gay people that have that figured out? Of course not. In the last century a lot of people in our society have--women, people of color, and thankfully reflective and self-secure heterosexual men--and maybe some gay people who decide they are happier living as heterosexuals have as well. Who am I to say otherwise? The point is, life is slowly getting better for all of us, and we all have a role to play in helping make it better for others.


Post a Comment

<< Home