On the George Washington Bridge Project: Remembrance of Gay Things Past

08Dec08

In which The Gay Recluse remembers art class.

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Yesterday we read about Alton Dulaney, who won the gift-wrapping championship of the world in a wrap-off at Rockefeller Center. Watching Alton’s performance, we couldn’t help but regret all the hours we spent growing up watching football and hockey and baseball on teevee, when we could have been watching wrap-offs (assuming they showed that sort of thing, which they obv didn’t)! Except that would have been way too gay for a closet-case like us, right!? But fine, like so much in our life, let’s just file in the better-late-than-never folder.

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What’s depressing interesting is how many people — mostly men, but not always! — seem to assume that because sports like football, baseball, basketball and hockey (hereafter the “Big 4,” and let’s leave aside women’s professional leagues for purposes of our observations here) are dominated by men, and because 100 percent of current participants at a professional level in the Big 4 are not openly gay, that to watch these men somehow transmits to the viewer an inviolable shield of straightness, i.e., watching “the game” on Sunday afternoon is never considered gay, whereas watching a gift-wrapping competition maybe probably most definitely is! But why?

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It seems to us — and we’ve probably spent more time watching sports than even being gay — that short of having a cock in your mouth, for men, watching professional sports on teevee (or really anywhere) — especially the Big 4 — is pretty much the gayest, most homoerotic thing you can do! After all, what exactly do you think is going on while you’re sitting around for hours and hours and hours ogling and drooling over a bunch of young, athletic guys with hot, firm asses, bulging shoulders/arms, and — especially in baseball, thanks to the cups they wear — enormous-looking cocks? Plus all the steroids they take make a good percentage of them look like Tom of Finland! Srsly, you might as well be cruising the internet.

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Or perhaps you’re fascinated by the announcers, those big macho daddies sitting around exchanging nothing but the most vapid cliches but so in love with each other it doesn’t even matter?  Oh, so you played sports in high school and that’s why you need to spend ten hours every weekend watching it? Umm, yeah ok, whatever.

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It’s not even an argument, but a conclusion: watching football (or baseball, etc.) is definitely gay. Which is not a bad thing! We just want people to start admitting it, i.e., so that “gay” won’t so often be associated with “stupid” as it will be with something closer to “homoerotic,” which is an impulse that everyone should acknowledge, whether you’re totally gay like us or not. We envisions conversations around the country going something like this (and ladies, we’re counting on you to instigate!):

Wife/GF: “You’re watching the game again? That’s so gay!”

Husband/BF: “I know, but I can’t resist because these guys are so smokin’ hawt! Get me a beer, would you?” [Farts]

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Ha ha, ok, we’ll stop this stupidity now. The truth is, to see gift-wrap champion Alton Dulaney — who was the only male contestant among what appeared to be nine or ten other ladies — reminded us of when we were like ten years old and loved to spend an inordinate amount of time gift-wrapping our family’s presents and adorning them with stark, angular ribbons — or perhaps a single loop — for reasons that were not really ever explored beyond attributing the behavior to any number of other similarly obsessive ones (e.g., reading bird books, making thousands of paper snowflakes, our pencil collection, etc). And how one summer around the same age we signed up for art class and were the only boy out of about 20, because somehow without noticing, we had reached the age where the idea of art was “gay,” and so most boys didn’t do it. The same thing happened to us in seventh grade when art became an elective, and we were the only boy in the class. But in a way it was easier for us, because we played travel hockey and were already on the junior varsity high school team — the only seventh grader! — and we watched a lot of sports on teevee, so how could we be gay?

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It’s pretty safe to say that growing up like this almost destroyed us, because underneath our easy athleticism and somewhat inexplicable — and to some, exasperating — interest in art and music, we were filled with an implacable loneliness that came from the certainty — although we couldn’t acknowledge this — that we were completely alone in the world. It was quite painful to realize that our older siblings would never really understand us, and the day this occurred — although again, we didn’t understand what was happening — we spent hours staring out the window in tears, but with no idea of exactly why we were crying beyond a vague sense of disappointment over something quite trivial. We hated crying, of course, because that was gay, too.

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This is also why — more than anything — we used to hate it when people assumed things about us. There was a period of time — like most of our twenties, by which we mean some of our thirties, too — when we pretty much tried to throw our life away, just to prove them wrong. But we weren’t really even capable of embracing that role, which also felt like a cliche. This sort of explains how we graduated from Cornell and watered plants and then NYU Law School before becoming a record-store clerk. Basically we wanted to replicate the unresolved, ambiguous conflict of our youth. Had we been straight, there’s not much doubt we would have been trapped forever, doomed!

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All of which brings us to the bridge, which on this cold December afternoon beckons with the certainty of taking us to places we’d rather not go.

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3 Responses to “On the George Washington Bridge Project: Remembrance of Gay Things Past”

  1. 1 c.

    In your horizontal (first) image, you give Washington Heights an air of Paris, seen from 2/3 up on La Grande Roue (the Ferris wheel which spins, at times, in the Tuileries). Maybe it’s the sky; maybe the creamy, angular building-tops, against the Eiffel-like latticework of the bridge. Where else, but at TGR?

    Thanks for the gift-wrap story. Wrapping gifts was one of my favorite things, too, and I did it with an aplomb I afforded all my early aesthetic pursuits – an aplomb seemingly innate to certain gay childhoods, like yours. [I reached my wrapping zenith in 1982, with my “Sixties Christmas”: neon-fuchsia wrap dotted with multi-sized, silver-foil spots; transparent plastic ribbon; and old, carefully-glued, hand-applied, over-the-counter medications, like purple Contac cold capsules: Barbarella meets Valley of the Dolls.]

    Growing up gay: the grass sometimes seems greener, but your story illustrates that there’s little that’s simple about forming an alternate sexuality in a culture that clings, in its mind at least, to sexual homogeneity.

    Unlike you, I experienced neither the confusion nor the promise of potential closet-hood. I was dismal at competitive sports (though not an unphysical person), and possessed of a stereotypical, non-traditional masculinity that betrayed me from the third grade-on. The world knew I was gay long before I did. So, I pursued my pastimes of building model houses, decorating, setting the table, and watching classic movies with both a helplessness and a vengeance, in a vacuum, a stranger to the males in my family, and a convenient, “comforting element” to my mother. I learned to hate sports and eschew physicality. I came to view people “like” you, with their “easy athleticism” and masculinity-shielding sports-play with animosity and envy.

    These days, stories like yours provide balance. Your isolation, tears, and wrong turns are more powerful commonalities than any seeming differences. What I didn’t recognize in the past, and you teach, is that 1) being able to trade on “traditional masculinity” (i.e., straight behavior) is not a ticket out of sexual-oppression hell, and 2) the forced, psychotic splitting-off in our culture of “acceptable” male interests from “unacceptable” is treacherous for more people than we know.

    Fortunately, you, your tales, and your forthcoming tome endured. I wish we could have shared your pencil and my “tropical tiki” collections. I wonder if we would have spoken in high school.

    We certainly share a perspective on sports. Watching football for hours vs. a cock-in-the-mouth seems like continual foreplay vs. logical conclusion, no? Of course it’s gay! Sport-themed gay porn offers lots of examples of one following the other. Yes, certain sports may mean to dilute this intuitive connection, via violence or annihilation: men in shorts “professionally” pummeling each other; men knocking out teeth or breaking bones over “scoring a point.” Maybe for the mainstream, this provides sufficient distance from notions of two men snuggling by the fireplace, but in gay porn, the guys soon enough get down to business on the boxing-ring floor. It’s got a nice, “who-are-we-kidding?” authenticity.

    To say that men kissing is “gay,” but that men wrestling, piling on top of each other, or playing with bats, balls, or sticks isn’t, is goofy. Men, straight and gay (and a lot of straight women) thirst for heroic, male archetypes in peak physical form. (Who made Stallone and Schwarzenegger superstars? Gays?) Homoerotic urges and preoccupations underlie all maleness – a remarkably transparent fact of modern day sports. Question is, why is this such a big, fucking deal? If straight men enjoy sleeping with women, why doesn’t that speak for itself? Why pretend that male sexual energy is invisible to other, “normal” men? That’s so gay.

    • Thanks for sharing, C — I think your story provides an illumininating counterpoint to mine, though both — or so I like to think! — serve the common interest of breaking down the horrible stereotypes that plague so much of our culture.

  2. I love that you love the George Washington Bridge. You really understand its beauty, its strength. I have such a love affair with it too, it’s my most favorite architectural structure in the world. Beyond the skyscrapers, beyond Zadid, beyond the Eiffel Tower, even the pyramids, Aztecian or Egyptian. There’s something so poetic about that bridge…

    Thanks for the pics, they’re stunning.


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