Sunday, May 25, 2008

The great divide

For those of you that don't know, I like Matthew Rettenmund's blog quite a lot. I have referenced his blog on several occasions on these very pages. He is, first and foremost in my mind, the author of the indispensible (if now hopelessly outdated) Encyclopedia Madonnica. I always enjoyed leafing through that book and have half a mind to go find it and pull it out to read before going to bed tonight. But anyway, he has also written a couple of fiction novels including Boy Culture, which was made into a feature film last year and serves as the the namesake of his blog. I have nearly added him to the blog roll several times, but there's one trouble. A quick perusal of his blog reveals post after post of men in various stages of undress, some to the point of being NSFW. And I don't want any of my mammoth readership (all 7 of you!) to be inadvertently fired from their job by going to his blog from work!

So what keeps me going back to the blog as I'm not interested in that kind of eye candy? For starters, he is a great writer whose blog is full of pop culture witticisms frequently concerning Madonna and Debbie Harry, which I can't resist. But it's not all pop culture and half naked guys over there. He has a lot of very insightful posts about important issues. And one of them came up the other day.

I saw this post a couple days ago in my Google Reader and starred it as I was reading on the fly and wanted to make sure that I came back to it and gave it a proper read. I finally got around to reading it today, and it affected me much more than I thought it would. The post concerns an editorial done by author Paul Monette for Playboy magazine back in 1993. For an editorial written nearly 15 years ago, it reads a lot like something that could have been written last week. Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing. Click on the picture on Matt's blog post and read away.

Most of that article focuses on the rampant homophobia that was so pervasive in the 90s and, in many ways, is still present today. Although it is no longer okay to make "fag" jokes, it still happens. People who wouldn't be caught dead telling a racist joke have no problem telling a joke that denigrates gays. It is my prediction that when we look back on this time 50 years from now, we will be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves for using the Bible to deny people basic human rights, for not looking past our differences long enough to realize that we all carry the common denominator of being human, whether we be gay or straight or somewhere on that continuum in between.

But what got me the most were the last couple paragraphs of the article. In those final paragraphs, I believe there are words of wisdom that all men could benefit from hearing. Here they are for those of you that didn't do your homework and click on the article (and for those of you that want to read them again - they're amazing.)

We all have closets to come out of. Gay isn't the enemy of straight. Heterosexual men have told me for years that, since college, they have no male friends to talk with. The emotional isolation caused by fear of intimacy is indifferent to sexual orientation. We're not boys anymore, trapped in the insecurities of the schoolyard. Our common enemy is ignorance, a sex-phobic bitterness and name-calling purveyed by those that are jealous of the joy of others because they have none of their own.

...As gay and straight men, we can help one another over the great divide. We make terrific friends, we queers, perhaps because we have traveled so far to reach the free country of the heart. All men deserve to live there.

Reading those words is a bit painful, in the way that seeing yourself in something can be shocking and uncomfortable. There was a time in my life when those words were my life. And in many ways, they still are. I'm sure many men can identify with them. Men are not conditioned to be honest with each other and in many ways, most of us are not ready for the kind of emotional intimacy and honesty that Monette is advocating here.

But I think there is a lesson there for all of us men, gay and straight. I am lucky in my life that I have several male friends, gay and straight and in between, that I can talk to. I know my limits with most all of them. I have no idea if they'll be in my life forever or for a few more minutes. But even if they aren't around in 50 years or 50 seconds, they're in my life right now and I'm going to enjoy them for the time that they are in my life. There was a time in my life that I really felt like the odd man out - not really able to talk the sports talk and having odd interests like Madonna and pop music and other such stuff. But with the people I have in my life right now, it feels like I just got home, as HRH Madge herself said. You all know who you are and I will not embarrass anyone by calling anyone out.

I think that the bottom line is that men have to help each other. And, like so many other things, we're not programmed for that. Hell, we don't even like asking each other for help, so how can we ever accept it? That's up to each and every guy out there. Including me. I don't know - these kinds of things fascinate me, because relationships are as fascinating as they are ephemeral.

And with that, I'm off to curl up in bed with my Encyclopedia Madonnica. I am still sick and have two more evening shifts to get through.

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