03 May 2009

The Complete And Total Idiot

I'm a slow learner in some ways. It takes me a while to realize some things at a macro level. Heaven knows it took long enough enough to realize completely who I was, admit that to myself, and then gather the courage to come out. I envy the courage of many of my brethren who were smarter and quicker than me in many ways. But I am where I am, and have a lot to be thankful for.

Veering off now toward total fluff for which that pedantic prelude will actually prove relevant, trust me. By the time this post is over I will have revealed myself as a complete and total idiot. Should be entertaining.

I've been accused laughingly but more than once of being a closet straight guy. With one exception (a person who knew me VERY well), every person I've come out to has been stunned. I don't match most of the stereotypes. I like and play rough sports. I don't mind beating myself and others up in the gym, on hikes, or with strenuous exercise that pushes to the limit. I know how cars work. I like kickboxing and Ultimate Fight Club. I know how to gut any fish I catch and the "ickiness" doesn't even register. I am a workaholic and love my very demanding profession. I am not obsessive about neatness and neither my office nor home is always picture perfect clean or organized. Typical straight guy stuff. The standard mass media stereotype of a gay guy is heavy on over-the-top gender-bending and exaggerated effeminacy. That is absolutely not me. Like I said, virtually everyone I've come out to has been floored, speechless. Once again, Alan cracks the preconceptions. I say good for that.

One particular example, the point of this post. The whole gay guys affinity for musical theater thing has always escaped me. I hear many friends wax eloquent about Wicked, I see them actually in the business, and I think Huh? I scratch my head and wonder what's the big deal. I mean, it's great that they love it, and the musicals I've seen have been enjoyable, but what's the big deal? It's theater, it's temporary. Maybe I've had my nose to the professional grindstone long enough that all that understanding has drained away.

But maybe not. And here's where I'm about to reveal myself as a complete and total idiot.

The kids' latest DVD obsession has been Hairspray. When I allow TV time, that is the show of choice right now. Soundtrack in the car too. Initially I thought Oh yeah, it's cute, it's fun, it's fluff. Fine. NBD.

But just this last week when I actually sat down to watch it with them, for some crazy reason I suddenly looked at it a different way. See, what little expressive talent I have is confined between my wrists and my fingertips. I can write okay and play a couple of instruments. But I couldn't dance the simplest step with any grace or coordination if my life depended on it. I watch people who can and I just ache to be able to do it, but I've tried and I know it's just not one of my gifts. It never has been. I see people expressing in movement what I can only express through music and words, and I feel so incomplete, even choked off sometimes. I know I should be grateful for what I can do, and I am. But I want to be able to do it all. I want to write like Twain and play piano like Hofmann and compose like Chopin and score tries like Gareth Edwards and speak like Cicero and dance like Kelly.

Imagine suddenly losing the power to speak. You are fully articulate, you have this infinity of thought and emotion and ideas inside you bursting for expression, but you are sealed off. It's locked up tight inside you. No possible way to let it out. Imagine the frustration. That's how I feel when I watch skilled dancers, and particularly those in Hairspray. Some of those numbers had such exuberance and technical skill that I was amazed. I was filled with admiration and envy. How I wish I could do that!

And here's where the light suddenly went on. Over the last 9 months since coming out I have been happier in many ways than ever before in my life. That long, exhausting internal battle is over. I'm finally just one person, content with how God made me, I'm no longer two confused, frightened, angst-ridden halves duking it out silently inside. The relief is still palpable. The delight still fresh. The amazement of discovering so many others like myself, for whom I've come to care so deeply, is still startling and wonderful. THAT is a reason to dance and sing and shout and throw fists in the air and cheer and celebrate. Like I've done in some of my runs on the beach.

So when I watched these production numbers in Hairspray and saw the amazing skill of these dancers doing all that stuff that I felt like doing, I suddenly thought "Aha! I GET it!" If life is made unnecessarily complex by homophobia and prejudice, it's logical that the desire to sing and celebrate and savor the happiness of life would be felt just as keenly to counterbalance. And perhaps in places and ways far removed from those harsh realities of life. Places like a theater. Duh. And beyond that, it's axiomatic that gay guys often have a heightened artistic sensitivity anyway. I probably should have started figuring all this out when I was 9 and begging for piano lessons and I rode my bike to the store to buy my first bottle of boy's cologne with some Christmas money because I really, really liked the way it smelled. See, I told you I'm a slow learner sometimes.

I'm resigned to the fact that I will never be able to do what those dancers do, at least not in this life. Maybe later! Heck, most people can't dance like that. But man, when I watch them, my heart is right there with every step. The exuberance, the celebration, the joie de vivre, the delight in the eyes, the smiles, the fists in the air, the whooping it up. I know much of life is serious and even tragic, and of course we deal when we have to, but why not spend as much of it as possible being as happy as we can, and celebrating so many gifts? Who wouldn't want to be able to dance like they do? Even the Bible talks about dancing as a way of praising God for His gifts. I get it! Thanks to something as fluffy and aerosol as Hairspray, this serious, nose-to-the-grindstone, workaholic, driven, didactic, over-scheduled, slightly OCD-ish professional now finds himself irresponsibly toe-tapping his way around the house and in the oddest public places even, like the grocery store, the post office, the kids' school, the gym. Literally toe-tapping and singing under his breath with the iPod plugged in. People must think I'm nuts. This is SO indecorous.

See, told you I would look like a total idiot by the end of this post. All dignified, authoritarian public credibility fractured beyond repair. I'm sure I'm going to get hoots and catcalls from friends and fellow bloggers. Know what? I don't care! At least I have the cojones to put this out there! I'd say that's pretty secure. Carpe diem!

And in case you're wondering, here's a clip of the total fluff finale that got me moving. It's not Bach or Mahler, and it's a little long, but it's huge fun and sometimes you just gotta go light (best part of the dancing is toward the end). If you have any artist in your heart, you will see what I mean and your own toes will start tapping too.


Abelard Enigma said...

My personal opinion is that more straight guys deep down like pretty and frilly things than will let on. Culturally we are conditioned to keep such perceived feminine qualities hidden; however, when a man accepts that he is gay then cultural barriers break down and he allows himself to more openly express himself.

Two of my OGT's (Obviously Gay Traits) are total lack of interest in sports and love of cooking; and, I've passed these traits onto my son's. While both are straight as an arrow - they are great cooks (better than my daughters) and have no interest in sports whatsoever. They are unashamed because they grew up in a home where those cultural norms were not taught.

kyle said...

'...irresponsibly toe-tapping his way around the house and in the oddest public places even, like the grocery store, the post office, the kids' school, the gym.'Welcome to the life of a dancer (whether 'talented' or not). My feet have rarely been still since I began moving 'em four years ago... and I wouldn't change it for anything!

Thanks for posting the song, too. It had been a while since I last saw it, and I love the energy it has. Before the movie came out I played keyboard in the band for a musical theatre singing/dancing group and we did that song. It was always a blast! I know our drummer broke his drumsticks on that one at least once while performing =)

AmbiguouS One said...

I wasn't afraid to take Ballroom during middle and high school - and it was consistently one of my favorite classes. Ironically, me and my dance partner in high school got along so well - I still talk to her sometimes, and she is definitely marriage material. But right now I have no interest... we'll see. People told us that we fought like a married couple, so I guess we are made for each other! ;)

That being said, Alan, you need to find some way to have fun with this. Make it grand! Make it fun! After all, it's been bottled up for decades!

Here's what I suggest: put on some Michael Jackson - yes, it is that simple! "Beat It," "Bad," "The Way You Make Me Feel," are awesome dance songs. Or you could just put on "Just Dance," by Lady GaGa! Haha!

Anonymous said...

i think yoga serves this purpose for me--i don't have the rhythm for dancing but can hold a balanced pose and enjoy the demonstration of strength.