Okay, I confess. When it comes to pop culture, I’m lost. I mean it. Lost. It’s gay-man-watching-the-Super-Bowl lost. For the life of me, I simply do not understand why Cher, Madonna, and Barbra Streisand are such icons of gay culture. And if that weren’t bad enough, I’ve never seen Rent or the stage version of The Laramie Project or Angels in America.
To make matters worse, I have never listened to a CD by Queen, and the only rock concerts I’ve ever attended were performances of The Beach Boys and a long-forgotten boyband group called New Kids on the Block. And that was before I even figured out that I was gay. I did it for my sister. Really. I did.
I’m not giving up my Homosexuals of America card quite yet. But yes, there’s more. A couple of years ago, Curtis and I drove to Davenport, Iowa to visit John, his high school best friend. It was there that I encountered something that I will not soon forget. It was a horror that still sends chills down my spine today. We were in his living room, and John put a DVD into his player. It was a collection of ABBA videos.
During the next two hours, I saw two grown men turn into prepubescent girls. They bounced around on the couch with sheer teenybopper jubilation at their favorite songs. And when “Dancing Queen” came on the screen, well, I don’t want to talk about it. All I could do to avoid the horrors unfolding before my eyes was to pull out my hearing aid and go to sleep on the sleeper sofa.
Okay. Now that I’ve horrified every urban Queen in the area at my sheer ignorance, I have to move on. I won’t mention the fact that I’ve never been to New York City or Chicago. Nor will I mention the fact that the only part of San Francisco I’ve seen is the inside of the airport.
I’m just a hard-of-hearing, boring, kind of chubby, sit-on-my-ass kind of guy whose most significant urban experience was living in Antioch for a few years in my early twenties. Sure, I’ve been to Atlanta a few times since then. But I don’t think I’ve ever gotten anywhere without stopping and asking for directions at a convenience store from a clerk for whom English was clearly their second language.
So what can I do? The more I immerse myself into pop culture in a vain attempt to remedy my vast ignorance, the less it makes sense to me. I know I’m supposed to be able to enjoy techno music and quote lines from Rent or Cats at length. Alas, it just wasn’t to be.
But hey, at least I saw Torch Song Trilogy at a Clarksville movie theatre when it was in release back in 1988. Yes, you read right. The classic Harvey Fierstein movie adaptation of his play was on the big screen right here in Clarksville. I was 17 at the time, and I was employee of the local multiplex. I was awestruck at the story, and puzzled by Fierstein’s famous gravely voice. It was one of the first positive examples of gay life that I had ever seen.
So what good am I then? Here I am, a fag without a clue. I have no fashion sense (Just ask Curtis; he’ll tell you), and my decorating sense leaves quite a bit to be desired. I could whine about the fact that pop culture is as foreign to me as Cambodian culture, but I guess I’ll just have to deal with it.
As ignorant as I might be, I’m willing to admit it. I’m inadequate, and I know it. Maybe that’s the challenge that’s so appealing; to explore strange gay worlds. As much as I really want to understand my partner’s obsession with ABBA, I know that I never will. Just as I realize that our fundamentalist neighbors will never understand why we’re not fawning over the opposite sex. Nor will they ever understand why we’re not jumping at their calls to enter their “ex-gay” ministries.
But all is not lost in this world of different cultures and languages. We have reached a time where gay culture and straight culture are intertwined to the point where it’s hard to recognize gay men because of those darn metrosexuals. There’s a solution to my ignorance thanks to Logo, the new all-gay cable TV network. I’ve even watched an Erasure concert. I can now watch all of those old movies and finally get into gay culture.
Just whatever you do, don’t make me watch ABBA videos.