Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Surely Doris Day Knew

               Rock Hudson died the day I turned 15.  Seeing as how I really didn’t know who he was, it didn’t make that much of an impression at first.  What I came to find out, via the Enquirer at the 7-11 next door to the motel my mother managed, was that he was an old movie star and he had died of AIDS.    This being a time before we bought our first VCR out of the trunk of some guy’s car at the Paris, Texas Wal-Mart, I was not familiar with his movies that I would later come to love, like ‘Pillow Talk’ or ‘That Touch of Mink’.  As far as I was concerned, he was simply that old looking dude who kissed Linda Evans in the barn on Dynasty and she had FREAKED OUT when he died.  And not just because of the hay he left in her coiffure.

                Living just to the left of the buckle of the Bible Belt, I didn’t have much information about AIDS other than it was bad, it had killed him and he got it because he was gay.  Thanks to the Reagan White House and the rest of the country’s seemingly mutual agreement to not educate people about this disease, I thought you could get AIDS just by being gay; like black people and Sickle Cell Anemia.  What did I know, I was newly 15 and encased in a family so far inside our Southern Baptist bubble that to this day, my parents have never actually had “that talk” with me.

                So I suffered in silence terrified that I would get AIDS and die based solely on the fact that I knew I was gay, but in title only.  I hadn’t kissed or even held hands with anyone at that point.  My family is Southern Baptist, but much more "19 Kids and Counting" than "Preacher's Daughters".  The most daring thing I did in 1985 was watch 14 of the 17 hours of LiveAid, including both of Phil Collins’ performances.  Remember, he sang in London and then flew across the Atlantic and sang in Philadelphia?  On the same day?  Partying like a rock star, receding hairline and all, y’all.  Kanye wishes he had that much swagger.

                Quite honestly I never knew, and could not find, much information about AIDS until I did a research paper in my Senior Honors English class in 1988.  I asked my teacher to “assign” me homosexuality for my topic so I could find out something about it, me; whatever, I didn’t care.  In an era before the internet, our only research options were in the local library.  And can you guess how many books there were on homosexuality in the Tyler-Vegas High School Library?  Exactly zero, unless you count Encyclopedia Brittanica.  I was forced, do you hear me, forced to do this “stupid paper, on this crazy topic by that darn Miss Boyd; what’s her problem” and finally realized that I really wasn’t the only oddball in the world; just the only oddball in Mississippi.  And God bless her way-ahead-of-the-curve thinking, she gave me a 96 instead of 100 because “you spent a lot of time focusing on equating homosexuality with AIDS and that’s not accurate”.  I will forever be thankful for Nola Faye Boyd, God rest her beautiful soul.  I wonder if she knew she was the first person I came out to, unofficially or not. 

                And the reason this is even on my mind was an article in Vanity Fair magazine about the remake of Larry Kramer's “The Normal Heart”.  The author asked why this piece?  Why now?  And as a member of the Board of Directors of Academy of Friends and living about 26 feet from San Francisco, I can tell you the average person simply doesn’t think the AIDS is a real threat anymore; that drugs and treatments have essentially the problem of HIV and AIDS.  And that’s not accurate.

                My organization raises money to award grants to groups who provide services or education for those living with HIV/AIDS in the Bay Area and this year’s beneficiaries are doing wonderful work:  PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support), Project Open Hand (meals for the critically ill), Shanti (HIV/AIDS support and counseling), LGBTQ Connection (Napa Valley Youth Program), Maitri (residential end of life care) and Clinica Esperanza (HIV/AIDS services for the Latino Community).  And I’m glad I can do my part to support a community that I’ve never really embraced.   Outside of the way I dress, I’ve never been very good at being gay and never been that interested or supportive of gays in general.

                I’ve been reading Philip Yancey’s book “What’s So Amazing About Grace” and I’ve realized that I haven’t offered much grace to my fellow LGBTQers and I am not proud of that.  At various points in my life, I was, for all practical purposes, a homophobic homosexual.  I was taught to hate gays and since I was gay, I was taught to hate myself; at home, at church, at school, at work.  And as someone who tried to do everything to the best of my ability I was hating on an Olympic level, y’all.

                “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is a phrase that’s been used a lot by some self-professed Christians professing to “not hate ANYbody”.  And I believe that’s true.  The opposite of love isn’t hate; it is indifference.  And it has felt to me that the Church has been, at best, indifferent toward the LGBTQ community.   I’d like to believe they have love for all, but I wonder if some say the beginning of that phrase solely to allow them to say the ending.  Why can’t we just say “Love the sinner” and then actually do it; we’re all sinners.  And as a Christian I try to do that and many of my friends and family do, too.  Not all Christians are like Fred Phelps or Pat Robertson.

                Let’s just all agree to try to love each other in this broken world, okay?  I’ll be the first one to try.  But could you people get to dressing a bit cuter, for pity’s sakes?  Especially the gays; y’all have no excuse.  If y'all just got that together we could love, love, love each other in color-coordinated happiness.  Jesus would want it that way, right?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Uncle Dusty's Guide to Fashion (for dudes, 'cause they need help, y'all)

                Yesterday, I slept late (7:00 a.m., because apparently we have cattle to feed) and The Dad had already checked the mail and placed it, as per usual, on the dishwasher.  I walked over to see what was there and picked up a magazine.  The Dad looked at me and said, “Is that a gay magazine?” 

                My first thought was, what is he talking about?  I don’t have gay magazines in my house; I am far too uptight for that mess.  When I asked the magazine he was referencing, he pointed to the Nordstrom catalog.

                I said, “Well, admittedly Nordy's is fussier than JC Penney, but I don’t think I’d call them ‘gay’.”  When I asked why he questioned it, he said it was because the models were “dressed gay”.  What he meant was they were wearing a suit and not in the context of a court appearance.  And while I don’t agree with his assessment I understand his viewpoint.  Most men don’t put much thought into their wardrobes.  The only difference between my father’s outfits while sleeping and during the day is that he takes his hat and shoes off when in bed.  Seriously, he sleeps fully clothed as if he is practicing becoming homeless.  Which, truth be told, if he doesn’t stop being so messy and loud, it might be sooner rather than later.

                But this got me to thinking about men and their clothes and I realized that I have given the world Uncle Dusty’s Guide to Fashion, but not specifically for men.  As I am including dressing for success in the management training program of my trainee James (‘sup, dude!), I thought I’d share some thoughts with you.

  1. What you wear shows how you feel about yourself and the world around you.  It doesn’t matter if you want this to be true; it simply is.  Ratty t-shirts and dirty jeans connote either someone who doesn’t care or someone who is trying very hard to convince you they don’t care.  In my experience it’s usually the latter.
  2. Don’t be afraid of color.  Not everyone wants to, or has the energy to, be me when it comes to fashion.  However, if you decide to embrace color (and you should), remember less is more.  If you wear a brightly colored shirt, wear more muted pants, like khaki or navy.  Even I don’t wear colored pants and shirts.  I always pair things like apricot pants with a navy gingham shirt or a blue oxford button-down.  If I wear a purple sweater, it’s with navy chinos.  One wants to look like a party, not a parade.
  3. I wear colored socks and they are ubiquitous these days.  However, a good rule of thumb is to match your socks to your pants; never to your shoes.  If you’re bold, match them to your shirt or tie.  If you don’t match them to anything, people will talk about you.  And by people, I mean me.
  4. Pay attention to you when choosing colors. 

  1. If your cheeks are ruddy (red), do not wear shirts in that spectrum (red, pink, orange).  Your face will glow and not in a good way.
  2. If you are overweight, avoid yellow.  Every time you stop walking, small children will try to board you.  Also avoid yellow if you are pale; you will look jaundiced.
  3. If you have blue eyes, you’ll look great in blues, greens and purples.  Redheads look great in those colors too.
  4. If you are olive-complexioned or darker, congratulations, you are able to wear most every color in the rainbow and will look amazing in bright colors like red, aqua blue or pink.  Literally, thank the Lord for His gift to you.  Those of us that are more in the lunch meat-complexioned category are jealous, even when we say we aren’t.
   5.    The color wheel can be your friend (Google it). 

  1. Colors that are immediately adjacent to your color are complementary.   
  2. Color that are directly opposite on the wheel are contrasting.
  3. This knowledge will help you better coordinate your choices.
   6.   When in doubt ask your girlfriend; odds are she’s better at fashion than you (apologies to Neal Eckrich and Quinton Walker, but they’re alone in this category).
   7.  If you don’t have a girlfriend, then visit your local clothier’s tie department.  Look at the patterned and paisley ties.  These color combos work very well. 
   8.  Most tie designers try to help you decide the color suit you should wear with a particular tie, by using that color on the back of the tie, in the diamond shape at the bottom.
   9.  If you don’t have a lot of confidence in your fashion skills or you’re short on cash, basics are the way to go.  Khakis go with everything.  Blue or white button-downs and primary colored polos are an easy, inexpensive way to look appropriate for most occasions.  Navy suits are popular but a charcoal suit is more versatile.
   10.  Brown shoes, brown belt.  Black shoes, black belt.  This is not difficult.  You can buy your belt at the same store as your shoes.  The salespeople will be more than happy to help.
   11.  Don’t buy a red dress shirt.  Ever.  Seriously, put it down. 
   12.  Ditto for black dress shirts.  Unless you are in the mob.  Then I like your look; please don’t kill me.
   13.  Every time you buy a shirt and tie already paired in a box, a fashion designer dies.  Stop the madness!
   14.  If you’re going on a date, even if it’s someone with whom you have a relationship, you should not be wearing jeans and a t-shirt.  At the very least wear a button-down or a polo with your jeans.  Snarky tees are only appropriate when hauling furniture, mowing the yard or trying to “chill” in someone’s basement.  Experiment with wearing a sport coat on a date and see how the dynamic changes.
   15.  ZZ Top said it best, “every girl’s crazy ‘bout a sharp-dressed man.” Air guitar solo is allowed, because I did it too.

You’re welcome.