Archive for September, 2008

And Then There’s Us.

So often I’ve written about the places I’ve lived and the people I’ve known.  As often as I look back on the good and the bad, I also to look forward to the new places and the new people, comparing and contrasting but often feeling, regardless of location, as if I’m on the outside looking in.

I’ve learned to do better and have become more involved.  Speaking my mind, making valid points and sharing them with the people like you.  I’ve learned to understand how mass media and specifically commercial media, have come to control so much of what we do and how we think.

I’ve also learned how to side-step that trap.  I grow a garden so that I can enjoy fresh produce.  I shop at thrift stores not only save money, but to help stem the flow of imported goods.  I’ve curtailed my driving to help reduce the nation’s dependancy on oil and turned to more actively supporting public transit.  The library now takes the place of bookstores and video rentals.

Throughout this year I’ve found myself, more often than not, in like company.  I’ve run across more people like me because I’ve been willing to talk about what is important to me and have found others willing to engage in the conversation.  There are times, however, that I feel as if I remain on the outside.

During a conversation I had with a friend this week, I discovered something that I’d failed to recognize earlier – I’m in a targeted market group.   Despite realizing what has taken place with the general public, I’ve completely lost track of the fact that my life, and the lives of my peers are subject to preconceived notions that are often controlled by the media.

As a gay man I’m constantly bombarded by images of how others think I should be living my life.  The images are subtle but perhaps even more powerful because for decades, the gay population was left out of the conversation.  Now we’re apart of it, far more accepted, and told that we should be loud and proud.  But perhaps we should ask who is asking this of us?

I’ve never been on a cruise ship and that includes the gay cruises that are popular with people that I know. I’ve always wanted to take an Alaskan cruise but I don’t necessarily want to go with an entirely gay group of passengers.  When I visit San Francisco, I may take a stroll through the Castro, but there are other things to see there.  The visits to England’s south-cost town of Brighton were never about the gay scene, but to spend time with friends at their homes.

Toronto’s Church Street is a fun place to spend an afternoon people watching, but its not the sole destination of my visits.  When its discovered that I traveled there on Greyhound, well, you can imagine the looks offered by my gay friends.  We’re supposed to fly places.  There’s an awkward look on the faces of friends, after being asked what I’ve done while away, when it doesn’t include a tale of some great gay urban adventure.

During my Columbus “stay-cation” I ventured to one of the city’s popular gay happy hour locations.  My work schedule doesn’t typically make it possible, so I thought it might be nice to mingle somewhere different.  Culturally speaking, I’m supposed to mingle at various gay hot spots.  While I was able to catch up with one or two acquaintances, I found myself surrounded by people talking about their possessions.  Hug, kiss and hear about someone’s wealthy boyfriend who has the 3200 square foot condo, the apartment in New York, and the BMW, all without spilling a drop of the popular new cocktail.  I couldn’t wait to catch the bus home.

I don’t wear the right clothes, drive the right car or stay at the right resorts.  I don’t make my travel plans around IML in Chicago or with the “bear” groups throughout the mid-west.  I’ve never been to Providence or Fire Island or Key West, though I was once an invited guest of Little Rock’s PFLAG Christmas party.

My residence is not at all like Will Truman’s and my dinnerware is twenty-four years old.    The coffee cups don’t match and up until they simply fell apart, the rugs in my kitchen were made from rags that my grandmother wove together by hand.  None of my bathroom towels match.  I found my coffee table in the alley and the Adirondack chairs on the front porch are plastic.

Most of my gay friends think I’m odd and maladjusted.  I’m used to that because I grew up with the concept of not fitting in.  But now that I fit in with more of the people who share common values, I find it frustrating that I don’t find the same shared values within the gay community.  Perhaps it is out there, somewhere, but it is not the picture that the media portrays and it may be that the gay media has simply bought into the idea that as long as we’re consuming, we’re valuable.


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