Although I’d like to think of myself as an overachiever, the best that I can be, let’s face it: My gay sensibility needs work. Yes, I love soap operas, the Oscars, Lifetime, lists and rooms with a view (don’t we all?), but try as I might, I just can’t get into show tunes, Paris, Judy Garland or Liza with a Z.
I first realized that my gayness was somewhat lacking about a year and a half ago on the way out with a friend in Buenos Aires. He was griping about another friend and his alleged crimes against social and fashion etiquette. It was bad enough that our buddy was high-maintenance, but did he have to be so clueless, too? How dare he not know Chanel from Givenchy, or what Louboutins are?!
I nodded in agreement and held my tongue in shame. I didn’t want to admit it, I didn’t know how to admit it, but he wasn’t the only one. Sure I knew that “Louboutins” was the name of a failed Jennifer Lopez single, the song she was lip-syncing when she fell on her ass while performing at the American Music Awards in 2009, but truth be told, not only do I have no idea how to say it (Lou-boo-TAHS?), but I wouldn’t recognize a pair of them if they fell out of the sky and knocked me upside my head.
It’s not that I’m sartorially challenged. Au contraire, I clean up pretty well, and nothing warms my heart and my torso like a soft John Varvatos sweater-shirt. But any metrosexual male would say the same thing. Gay or straight, we all love good grooming (though, in another strike against my gayness, aside from Kiehl’s Facial Fuel, I couldn’t care less about products) and a great sale on the men’s floor at Sak’s Fifth Avenue.
It’s when I get to the women’s department that my attention starts to waver and wander. I wish I could be the perfect “GBFF” (gay best friend forever, a concept and term coined on a recent episode of Hot in Cleveland), the guy who accompanies my gal pals on shopping trips, giving them sound tips on what not to wear. But the truth is, when it comes to womenswear, I’m as clueless as I am uninterested. It’s probably why weddings bore me. Bridesmaid dresses may come in a variety of unfortunate colors, but to these eyes, bridal gowns all look the same.
While all my friends were tuning in to the recent royal wedding to see what everyone would wear, I couldn’t be bothered. As many photos as I’ve seen on the covers of magazines from Australia, the UK and the U.S., I couldn’t describe Kate Middleton’s wedding dress if my life depended on it.
It’s the same way on the red carpet. I cringe every time an Oscar nominee is asked what she’s wearing. I love Joan Rivers, but I don’t really care about her views on fashion — or anyone else’s for that matter. As much as I adore a good list (so gay — as are italics for emphasis!… and exclamation points), I have zero interest in best-and-worst-dressed ones. If I were to get any kicks out of E!’s Fashion Police (another series that I’ve yet to check out on the Kardashian network), it probably would be because of Rivers’ irreverence, the way she’ll cut anyone down to size, regardless of where they fall on the A-to-Z list (ah, yes, another list), which, I suppose, couldn’t be more gay of me.
When I think back on my childhood, and all the clues I dropped for my mom regarding my sexuality — my obsession with Miss Universe, Charlie’s Angels and Olivia Newton-John — I suppose I can see how my lack of interest in what they were wearing might have thrown her. I recall our weekly trips to Colonial Plaza Mall and Fashion Square Mall in Orlando, Florida, and being bored to tears as I watched her scour the racks at Jordan Marsh, Belk Lindsey and Burdines, looking for the perfect fit. Though I relished the time spent hanging out with mom, I could never wait for the browsing to end.
Too bad mom didn’t have my friend David along for the ride. A couple of weekends ago, he took me on a shopping excursion of his own through Platinum Mall in Bangkok and the various bazaars that surround it. He was looking for a long blonde wig with loose curls, and a few other items to play dress-up doll with one of his female friends. I tagged along gamely, but as great as the company was, I couldn’t fake interest in hair pieces and ultra-feminine frocks (which, as David explained, is the current Bangkok style).
As David searched, I summed up the common relationship between men, women and fashion in my head: Straight men want to get women out of their clothes; gay men want to dress them up. So, it seems, do the bulk of major fashion designers, gay and straight. I once met the shoe designer Steve Madden, who, as far as I know, is straight, and I asked him why he doesn’t make men’s shoes. “They’re so boring,” he said dismissively.
It’s a response that’s been echoed so often by gay male design students I’ve met over the years that when a friend who studies design in Melbourne recently told me that his dream was to create his own men’s line, he actually took me by surprise. His work suddenly became 100 times more interesting. I suggested he try out for Project Runway, another show that I’ve never watched. The only thing I actually know about it is that its host, Heidi Klum, is German, and she’s married to my doppelgänger Seal.
It’s not that I think dresses and shoes and handbags are dull (although I sort of do). It’s just that when I look at my female friends, or pretty much any woman, the last thing I usually notice is what they’re wearing. Yes, I’m as much a sucker for a pretty face as I was during my Olivia Newton-John phase, but the ability to dress yourself or look amazing when someone else does is low on my list of desired qualities. I admire women more when they’re brilliant and clever, great talkers (having nothing to say is as unappealing in women as in men), and even better listeners. It’s the ones who are fabulous — or, worse, trying too hard to be — who get on my nerves. It’s probably why I always secretly hated Carrie on Sex and the City. Miranda, smart and sensibly dressed, was more my speed.
My female friends would probably be surprised to hear me say this because to most of them, I’m the perfect Will, the next best thing to Rupert Everett in My Best Friend’s Wedding, offering sage advice on life, love and outfits.
But when it comes to the latter, chances are, I’m totally faking it.