Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Some of my best friends are gay

Just when you thought the mother city couldn't get any queerer, along comes Pride; the annual series of gay and gay friendly events that celebrates and embraces the sexual diversity of our beautiful rainbow nation. Time to jump on a float and strut like a queen as we sashay the night away for the boys and girls pink, and who better to party with than the official friends of Dorothy. Cher, ABBA, Gaga-galore, feather boas and half naked hotties parading around in nothing but sequined cowboy hats! Sing it girl! "We're here, we're queer, get used to it!"

For the few ignoramuses who still think that a GBLT is just a bacon, lettuce and tomato sub with the added value of gherkins, please stop breeding immediately. The fight for gay, bi, lesbian and transgender equality has come a long way since 2001 with over eleven countries, including South Africa, showing their support for same-sex unions. While the battle for global tolerance is still far from over, it's appropriate to give props to those who paved the way to a more liberal, open minded society where the young could be restless and free to just be.

Despite such progressive innovation, there are still so many young men and women out there who prefer to live their lives in denial. Their freedom silenced by expectation and tradition, by religion and social norms, trapped behind the confines of white picket fences and the comforts of heterosexual marriage. Has our society really progressed that far or is there still some kind of shameful stigma around homosexuality that prevents the repressed from being honest to the people they love? It's much easier for today's youth to snap out the closet, but what about those tortured souls trapped inside a loveless, sexless marriage? What about the life and families they built along the way? Is it perhaps a little too late for them? Just how many women out there were secretly married to gay men? 

Kevin was the perfect gentleman; handsome, athletic, well-mannered, well-spoken, tentative, successful, supportive, and the best friend Shelby could have ever asked for. He was the master of entertainment and the kind of husband who'd make you chicken soup and pick up the kids when you were down. He was a great father, a loving husband, and the sole provider to Shelby and her two kids, and even though their sex life had dwindled over the past ten years, Kevin had made up for it in other amazing ways.

On the eve of Kevin's 44th birthday, Shelby received an ominous email from an anonymous source. The subject line read "Do you know this man?" followed by a family photograph that was taken about four Christmas's ago when they had been on vacation in Knysna. The email had a menacing presence about it which was further aggravated by the flickering "click here" blurb flashing furiously across the screen. A part of Shelby knew that what was coming would not be good. What's the worst that can happen to a suburban housewife? An affair? And for a brief moment she thought of hitting delete, but curiosity as it always does, got the better of her.

In an instant, Kevin's sexual and romantic history over the past God-knows-how-long had suddenly come to light. Graphic images of sexual encounters, romantic getaways and a collection of emails between Kevin and a 33 year old man named Trevor who Shelby had met once or twice at the gym. As if things couldn't get any worse, this sordid affair seemed to be more than just sex. It was a genuine love affair, an exchange of feelings between two men who were clearly very much in love with each other.

Shelby had been pinked at the age of 40 and would probably never trust another man again. The divorce was immediate and profitable for Shelby who won sole custody over the kids, the house, the cars and the animals along with all the jewellery she accumulated over the years which she sold for practically nothing at a garage sale along with most of Kevin's possessions. Kevin, at the risk of being himself, lost the perfect life for a less than perfect lifestyle. He was last seen sipping Mai Thai's with his lover and life partner Trevor, and I hear that their ten year anniversary is just around the corner. They couldn't be happier.

Some of my best friends are gay which is why I understand how easy it is to fall in love with them. Some are rugged and deliciously straight acting while others have so much flamboyancy that they could burst into flames. Some are butch enough to strip floors with their bare hands while others could easily win the next Miss World. Society has given gay people a pretty hard time so far and will continue doing so for a long time to come. Fear of the unknown, negative stereotypes perpetuated by people who don't know any better, fear of hurting those around you. Whatever the reason for staying in, lying to yourself will eventually do more harm to yourself than it will unto others.

When it comes to sexual orientation, I couldn't help but wonder, when are we ever really going to be free to be you and me?

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The New Guy

When you're newly single in the city, you rely heavily on friendships to provide the entertainment and social activities that a former relationship would have once provided. The transition back into single-dom can be an extremely painful experience, one that requires an unspecified amount of extreme neediness that only the truest of friends can completely tolerate and understand. Whether it's crying your heart out over bottles of bubbly or coming to terms with the fact that he never really loved you anyway, there's no tragedy too big that a true friend can't handle.

Capetownians have a general reputation of being extremely cliquey. We're known for hunting in packs and marking our territory with exclusive gatherings, private outings (to our precious wine farms of course) and heartfelt interventions. We're not ashamed of loving each other in the most unconditional and sometimes, unhealthy manner nor are we afraid to show it. Friendships are valued and should be cherished forever, so why is it that whenever a new romantic interest moves onto the scene, some of us are quite happy to go missing in action?

Let's be honest; we're all guilty of going AWOL the minute a new boy or girlfriend steps into the picture. It's human nature. The novelty and excitement of potential long-term happiness overshadows every aspect of our lives to the point of being selfish. Communication goes from being mutual to "me, me, me" and every conversation is constantly interrupted by the ping of some new and annoying warm and fuzzy text. At what point does it stop being cute and start becoming a nuisance? And what happens when plans are constantly being put on the back burn in order to accommodate the busy schedule of the newly found lovebirds? Are we perhaps being a tad unsupportive or do we have a right to be slightly concerned?

Whilst running a few errands downtown, I ran into an old acquaintance, Gaby. Gaby was an art director and mutual friend of a friend whom I had met through KK, an intern who'd just finished her sentence at the firm I work for. Although I had long passed the phase of being a pot-smoking hipster, I have fond memories of good times we had at their awesome apartment with their insanely artistic and rambunctious circle of friends. I was so shocked to hear that KK had moved out and had not seen Gaby in over a year.

"She met some random guy at the beginning of 2010; a real obnoxious douchebag who didn't really seem to get along with the rest of the crew. He seemed alright at first but then started getting all weird and possessive like. They spent so much time together with all of his friends that she completely forgot about the rest of us. We started seeing less and less of her until one day I confronted her about it which led into this like, massive fight and that was pretty much the last time I saw or spoke to her. I hear she's getting married. Good luck with that." 

Is it true? Do we neglect our friends the minute we get a whiff of personal happiness or is it just a phase we go through until the butterflies start settling down into some kind of steady relationship? Surely not all friendships are as fickle as Gaby and KK's? Are some friends just more tolerant and supportive to the idea of integration than others? Of course the dynamic of any group will change the moment someone new is introduced, especially if the partner in question is just as socially active as you. But what happens when you don't all get along? Do we verbalise the issue at the risk of losing our friendship completely or do we just ride it out and make the effort to get along?

Change is constant and inevitable and regrettably there is nothing you can do about it. If you're not willing to adapt to the circumstance then be prepared for a very lonely life ahead of you. The best way to describe a true friend is like owning a Wonderbra; permanent support that never lets you down no matter how heavy the load. Even if your new beau and his own friends are total tools, a true friend will suck it up, shut the hell up and show just how much she supports your decision to be with him, no matter what direction the relationship takes in the long run.

In the war between new relationships and long-term friendships, I couldn't help but wonder, why can't we all just get along? 

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Stupid Cupid

Of all the mythical winged creatures in the entire world, Cupid has got to be number one on everybody's "most wanted" hit list. Whether you're single, cruising, crushing or just happily involved, there's something about that cocky little bat-boy that has most of us seeing red. Perhaps it's the overdose of heart-shaped chocolates and long stemmed roses that gets our blood pressure rising or maybe it's the utterly nonsensical, mass- produced, commercialised drivel of a holiday that Cupid and his hateful minions represent?     

Regardless of one's relationship status, most of us would rather chew nails than take part in this silly tradition. Although the world is ridden by a handful of hopefuls that still value V-day with such great importance, I couldn't help but wonder why so many sensible people would still buy into the idea of Valentines Day? Is it because it cashes in on our psychological need to love and be loved by some significant other, a prince on a white horse that has yet to be struck by Cupid's arrow? And what about couples? Does shacking up with someone after countless failed relationship attempts (no thanks to cupid) make it mandatory to suddenly participate in something as trivial and meaningless as the new Rebecca Black single?

Having spent most of my adult life without a secret or steady Valentine, I empathise wholeheartedly with the single lady having to suffer through another year of Hallmark happiness and Cadbury dreams. As if spending this so-called international day of love alone wasn't bad enough, you are forced to face the countless displays of "Be Mine" teddy bears and "Forever Yours" inflatables, new couples and relationship wannabe's everywhere you go. It's absolute torture, and enough to leave you bitterly disillusioned or pathetically depressed. Thank God the Easter Bunny decided to cast a premature shadow over the insipid holiday that falls on February 14th.    

While some might say "be grateful that you have someone to share it with", being in a relationship on Valentines Day is a completely different ball game especially when you reach a certain milestone in that special union. You either don't care at all and suffer the consequences of being romantically-challenged or you go the whole nine yards exceeding all standards and expectations. That picnic on Lions Head or the weekend getaway you planned last year simply won't do again. Every year, the gesture needs to be bigger and better, and you have exactly one day to show your beloved just how much you care and appreciate them.  

The pressure of finding that special someone a Valentine's gift begins on the battlefields of shopping centres and street-corner florists, ending up with reservations for two at some lavish, over-priced and over-booked 5-star eatery. The whole ritual is farcical; from flowers and chocolates to dinners and gifts. Since when was love calculated in such material measures? Had the value and simplicity of "I Love You" and a home-cooked meal frittered away into insignificance? Do we really live in a world where appreciation and love for one another is defined by and limited to commercial occasions and Hallmark anniversaries?  

Dear Cupid and your mastermind entourage: We don't like you or Valentines Day. May I suggest taking a few notes from Arrow? An alcoholic epileptic has a better chance of hitting the bulls eye than you do so please throw down your weapons at once. Given your track record of dismal mismatches and ill-conceived material notions of love, perhaps it's time to hang up the toga and trade in your wings for something a little less flamboyant. You're certainly no angel, especially in the eyes of every single broken heart and hopeful out there, yearning and longing for someone, anyone, to just take a moment and say "I love you."

When it comes to Valentines Day, when will stupid cupid just fuck off and fly away?

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Man of Blue Steel

The Mother City is full of beautiful men especially around this time of year when season is at its peak and international ad agencies insist on migrating their local talent to our very welcoming shores. When it comes to the latest in sports, leisure and Jockey campaigns, only the buffest bods and pearliest whites will do. Thank Saatchi & Saatchi for the never ending catalogue of beefy men and delicious eye candy parading around our vibrant streets, making Cape Town one of the most sizzling and appealing summer destinations known for man!

We may not have known this at the time, but from a very young age most of us had already begun creating vision boards of the ideal man in the form of pin up posters and magazine cut-outs secured tightly to our bedroom walls and locker doors. Male models and black and white snapshots of Marky Mark in his CK knickers, big guns and pumped up chests with the slightest hint of androgyny; perfect hair and chiseled jawlines, Brad. It's no secret;  physical beauty has and always will be the epitome of every girls fantasy.

But what happens when the fantasy becomes a reality? What happens when you find yourself coming face to face with someone whose physical beauty is literally blinding? Do you fumble with insecurity and awkward shyness, or do you seize the moment for all its glory, jumping at the opportunity to conduct one of the life's greatest social date an international male model... 

As I glanced over towards the casting couch where nearly half a dozen male models had been pouting in self importance for the past hour and a half, I thought "why?" What was it about these creatures that made them so captivating? Was it their smouldering good looks and irresistible charm that got our hearts racing into a flutter; the financial freedom of not having to pay for anything apart from the occasional taxi trip or was it their uncanny ability to make you feel completely and utterly self-conscious? What made a super model so super?  

Nina, a fashion designer and serial model shagger from London, had always had the confidence of Gisele Bundchen. She'd always arrive at some trendy night club or fashion event with some hot young thing dangling at her side. Backstage, on set or hot off the runway. She always managed to score the latest and finest in male talent. One day, Nina introduced us to Zoolander, a 6 ft 2 Latino God whose presence was ridiculously, if not uncomfortably surreal. His flawless physique and natural good looks had the rest of us gawking and giggling like a gaggle of silly school girls. At approximately 10pm, Nina had shacked up with some one else, leaving Mr. Zoolander with a very drunk and insecure non-model me. Had my fantasy man finally come along?

Although there was nothing super about the sex, and the conversation was pretty much limited to how many outfits he tried on at a fitting, we dated for about three weeks. My self-esteem had automatically inflated to the size of a Goodyear blimp right to the point where even I found myself asking the question that was so blatantly written across everyone's faces "what the hell was someone who looked like that doing with someone like me?" I was no ugly Betty but I sure as hell wasn't a ten either.

I don't know what came as a bigger shock; the fact that I had landed and dumped one of the hottest guys on the planet or the fact that my fantasy man had failed all expectations. Somewhere along the line, I was blinded by his beauty completely forgetting about traits like intelligence and drive. Dating Zoolander was like dating any other narcissitic lemming. What kind of future could I possibly have with someone whose idea of fun was sipping mocha-chocca-frappacino's at Vida while working on his tan waiting around for his agent to call? I suddenly saw my life ten years from now raising two beautiful children on my own on while their unmotivated has-been father sits on his ass smoking weed all day and playing X-box, wondering when his next break will be. Not so hot right now, is it?

The truth is that pretty boys are designed to make us feel insecure about ourselves until the day we realize that looks aren't everything. Fantasy should remain fantasy because behind the Blue Steel and La Tigra facial expressions lies a boy just like any other, and just like boys, male models are definitely not super human. They fart, drink, play video games and party till the sun comes up. The only real difference is that they still look great in the aftermath.   

When it comes to dating Zoolander, just how different is it from dating someone who's not that really-really good looking?