A few months back, I read an article titled “Why Being Gay Is Gay.” Being “gay” is described as “weird and hard.” While I’m not an expert on the subject of being homosexual, using the “weird and hard” definition of gay had me thinking: Being straight is pretty gay, too.
Heterosexuality was one thing in 2005, when skinny jeans weren’t a “thing” and “Gaga” was little more than trite syllables from the mouths of babies.
But now heterosexuality is little more than dotted lines dividing two the sides of completely unclearly, a possible first-down with every measurement requiring the officials to pull out the yardage markers. Only 3 years ago when I moved to New York, a trip to the Levi’s store required understanding that 501s were “original fit,” 511’s were a bit skinny, and 510’s were for Williamsburg [insert your trendiest neighborhood here]. Now there’s an “ex-girlfriend jean” and it looks like a few pairs of pants I already own. And a few pairs of pants I saw on execs in my office today.
If defining who you were as a heterosexual was as basic as figuring out your jean type at a mainstream retailer, that’d be easy.
You turn on the T.V. and receive a much more complicated view on what being “straight” is: once, I could look to Ted Danson’s bartending on Cheers as a symbol of straight masculinity (imbibingly awesome) or even something like The Wonder Years as a how-to on things like being stuffed in lockers and getting boners over the girl next door. Now, we’ve got How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men: Two shows containing characters and their counterparts that repeatedly toe the line between the extremes of what we’re taught to do as responsible men and being utter ogres toward the opposite sex. I swear, if I hear one more girl tell me that they like Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) the best because he’d be a hilarious and hot date but that they know Marshall (Jason Segel) is who they’d like to settle down with, I’ll just give in to multiple personality disorder and make everyone happy (if for only half the time).
Don’t even get me started on Charlie Sheen and how his seemingly bulletproof image would have even the Dalai Llama questioning what he might be able to get away with.
And that’s the real issue here, isn’t it? There’s an expectation for men of the millennial generation to be two things: powerful and confident, committed to gene-preservation through mass spreading of seed while also effusively dedicated to monogamy and gentleness. Big babies, if you will.
Let’s have a look at heterosexuality in an otherwise-confusing time such as the ‘80s. The rock stars looked like rock stars and they strangely also looked like nerd-idols. Tell me Bon Jovi riding a motorcycle with a guitar on his back is any different an image than a typical Dungeons & Dragons illustration and I’ll call you a liar. Images of hetero masculinity in mainstream culture had some common threads. Drag The Replacements into the mix. Yeah, they were fine with the same jean jackets as Bon Jovi, too. There were distinct common threads. Maybe those threads aren’t as simple as apparel and single-track transport, but that’s for people with Ph.D.’s in Sociology to discuss (something tells me it has a lot to do with motorcycles, hair, and jean jackets, though).
I don’t want to be a Charlie Sheen. I also don’t want to be an Al Borland (and you can bet I don’t want to be Tim Taylor; I’ll settle for Han Solo, but that’s a whole other article). Maybe I want to be Kanye in about 5 more years when he finally realizes that money, fame, and talent need not necessitate grandiose media ploys and naked women in music videos that will never air. But until then, he’s on the outs, too.
Being straight is “gay.” It’s really “gay.” From role models to clothing selection, it’s all one ambiguous mish-mash of “what extreme do you want to market yourself as?” When you head in to work, are you the guy who rocks khakis and tucks in his shirt? Or do you take the “stylish straight male” role and make a nice pair of jeans and fitted dress shirt your go-to? Do you admit that you know the words to Lady Gaga songs or shake your head when the girl on the other side of your cubicle is playing them loud enough in her headphones for you to hear? Hell, do you commence light flirting straight-away to endorse an open workplace or do you keep your mouth shut so as to not rock any boats. Either way, they’re all gonna wonder about you.
Because they know as well as you do: Being straight is “gay.”*
*And if you didn’t pick up on it, I mean being straight is confusing.