Friday, August 01, 2003

Straight Eye for the Queer Guy

As everyone knows by now, Bravo TV (a cable subsidiary of NBC) has this hit new series, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, in which five homosexual men perform a world-class makeover on some poor schlub of a straight guy. Of course, by program's end the straight guy looks sleek and stylish, just like one of the Gays.

Some activists have complained that the show merely reinforces negative stereotypes -- then again, what doesn't, hon? Besides, Straight people have borrowed fashion and design tips from Gay men since the dawn of time. I don't use that "dawn of time" stuff lightly, either. I'm sure rich Cro-Magnon women got specialized cave-mud treatments from some enterprising young Neanderthal named Steev, while his cavemate Broos raved over the latest faux animal skins from Prah Dah.

But I digress. This post isn't about Gay people spiffing up Straight people. It's about two Straight people who did an impromptu makeover on me. Yes, gentle reader, Mom and Dad came to stay with me a few weeks ago, and try as I might I haven't been the same since.

CLOTHES: Mom and Dad arrive with a suitcase full of navy khakis and knit shirts. Most of them were bought on sale at a Dillard's department store in Little Rock, Arkansas. I know this because I recognize the pink sale tags, which haven't changed since I was a sullen teenager. Some of the shirts are Ralph Lauren (good call, Mom!), and some of them are brand names I've never heard of. The long pants and the new jeans come from JC Penney, I think, but it's hard to tell because they don't have tags to identify their retail origins. For me, this is an embarrassment of riches. My parents have been gone for three weeks, and I haven't had to do laundry yet.

CLOTHING TIP: No pastels for me. Ever. They may look good, but Dad thinks they're kind of faggy.

GROOMING: Although Dad says I'm too fat, he does compliment me on my hair. Straight people everywhere love my hair. I don't. A few years back, I had my hair styled and matted at a local salon; it had layers and texture, by God! Within a week after I started getting my hair professionally styled, I'd received two sexual propositions (one accepted, one declined) and a minor promotion. Add to this that for the first time in my life I felt personally attractive, which I think is why we submit to the humiliation of beauty salons in the first place. But for my parents, none of this could change the fact that I had paid thirty bucks for a friggin' haircut! So a year ago, when I decided to change careers, I tightened my belt, sliced expenses, and got a standard-issue haircut at the barbershop. Ten bucks and twenty minutes later, my head looked slightly fuzzy, like the top of a blown-out dandelion. It has been that way, more or less, ever since. Fortunately, my Gay friends keep diplomatic silence over my tacky little coiff. They know it can be -- and has been -- much, much worse.

GROOMING TIP: After a week with my folks, I've bitten my nails to the quick and beyond. Ouch!

CULTURE: "You have way too many books," Mom tells me. She reads Jan Karon novels, John Grisham thrillers and Christian romances, which she devours one after another. Right now she's reading a novel about a family of Mennonites. Or is it Huguenots this week? Well, regardless of what she's reading, every five to ten pages she'll give us an update on the action. This said, Mom the culture expert is absolutely right: I have way too many books. They're piled up on the furniture, on the floor, all over the place; my bedroom looks like an explosion in a publishing house. I also have two shoe trays full of books in my front hall; the metal racks sag to the floor with the accumulated weight of years and remaindered hardcovers. Lucky for me there are many, many books I've already read and don't care to keep, so I get rid of three large boxes' worth of books. At the local used bookstores they fetch about $150 -- a minor windfall in these lean times, and pretty doggoned good for a mere four hours' work.

CULTURE TIP: Christian romance novels are really, really boring. So are Jan Karon and John Grisham.

DECOR: Umm, did I mention I got rid of all those books? Well, there's more. The best thing my parents can say about a place -- any place -- is that "it's clean." My apartment is certainly not clean. I like to say I'm a "visual" person, which means that if I had my way I would just scatter everything on the floor and leave it there forever. This explains the way my apartment looks when they arrive. Little "pathways" of exposed floor allow me to straddle the papers and books, but that's about as clean as anything gets. Over four days, my parents and I conduct a military-style campaign, battling dustbunnies and holding the general mess at bay. This is a major job for three people, and I'm grateful for it.

DECOR TIP: Mom says, "Use a squeegee on your shower/tub to get rid of excess water on the ceramic tile. That way you won't have all that mold in your bathroom." Eww, Mo-ommm!

COOKING: We eat at IHOP. Mom likes the salads there. At home, I show Dad how to cook a baked potato in the microwave without punching big fork holes in the skin. We also eat a lot of rotisserie chicken from Sam's Club, which is about ten miles away from my apartment. Mom and Dad say that if they had a Sam's Club so close to their home, they'd eat rotisserie chicken every day. They like that rotisserie chicken.

COOKING TIP: Sam's Club sells rotisserie ribs, too, but they're not as good as the chicken.

After my "Straight Eye for the Queer Guy" makeover, my apartment is immaculate. The parents have demonstrated their superior "life competency" skills once again; my apartment even looks bigger now that they've gone. But it doesn't look like my place anymore -- it feels "heterized," somehow. (If "heterized" isn't a word, it should be.) The same thing seems to have happened to my wardrobe, too; everything fabulous has been sucked right out the front door.

Frankly, with my new frumpy-hausfrau mojo, I can't get laid to save my life. Even my boyfriend won't have sex with me -- though to be fair, he's so devoutly religious that sex was always a long shot at best. Now that my parents have remade my life, I'm practically an "ex-Gay," which I'm sure will delight them to no end. It'll take at least two Edmund White novels and a month and a half of The Advocate before I start to feel respectably Queer again.


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