Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Citizens of 4F

subbtitle: Straight Eye for the Gay Guy.

Thomas and William get on the northbound 7:12 am 4F bus about five blocks apart. They are aging gay men in their mid 60s, of modest means. They clearly know one another, though I don't take them to be close friends. It is perhaps simply that they are acquainted from years of riding the same bus, or perhaps they have mutual friends in the neighborhood. They converse with smiles, but without the closeness of good friends.

I judge them to be gay mostly because I perceive in them a kind of superficial precision of appearance and style that I associate with gay men, a precision that I, like many men, secretly admire. There is perhaps just a bit of the effeminate in their speech and hand gestures, but it is a subtle thing. They are not politically, stidently gay.

Thomas has the appearance of a modern monk. The color pallet of his clothing is always in browns and cream colors. He has a carefully clipped gray beard, and a circle of brown-gray hair floating around a bald spot on the center of his head. He always wears a calm smile that never seems to vary, no matter what the circumstances. No matter how hideously slushy the spring morning, Thomas is always—always—immaculately neat. I have no idea how he accomplishes this.

William has something tenderly comical about his appearance. His badly worn shoes are always polished to a sparkling gleam. Oddly, he wears an expensive knit cap pulled down so low that it hides his ears, but the edges of the cap are very carefully folded twice, in opposite directions. It is a clear fashion decision, one that might have worked just a bit better on a younger man. William wears an earring in one ear, highly unusual in a 65-year-old man who is not Harrison Ford. William's trousers always have a carefully pressed crease down the front.

They are both gentle men. Gay gentlemen have it a little easier in the modern world of modern women, for it's my observation that when a gay man leaps to his feet to offer his bus seat to a women, it is rarely interpreted for anything but polite etiquette. Young professional women, in particular, sometimes resent the inference that they are weaker; but this resentment seems to be quickly set aside if the man offering the seat appears gay.

Mostly what I admire about gay men is their fluency with personal style. William and Thomas are men of extremely modest means, yet they find quiet elegance and satisfaction in the simple acts of good grooming and maintaining their clothing. There is nothing trendy about their wardrobes, yet they somehow look far more stylish than I'll ever manage.

Some time back, I realized during an important board of directors meeting that I had dressed that morning with a sweat sock stuck to the inside of my sweater vest.

On my very best days, I wouldn't even be allowed in the land of metrosexuals.

It's why I generally prefer the wilderness.


Shimmerrings said...

Whooo hooo hooo... that is hilarious, about the sock!

August said...

The stuck sock is very funny. It's a kind of careless nicety lacking in metrosexuals. Very endearing.

I really enjoy the Citizens of 4F series. Buses are somehow more people-friendly than trains.


Glamourpuss said...

I'm a huge fan of bus travel myself - especially in cities. But why most straight men are so style illiterate, I'll never know.