You’re beautiful as you feel

8 02 2009
Photo by Steve Granitz/

Photo by Steve Granitz/

I’d watch Gabriel Byrne floss his teeth. I might even pay.

No, I’m not a dental fetish. But, oh, I do like Gabriel Byrne.

He’s not conventionally attractive, i.e., he’s not pretty. And his body, ehhh, tall and thin, and I doubt there’s a six pack beneath that open-necked shirt. But mention his name to women who are attracted to men (and even some who aren’t), and we’ll swoon. Ohhh, we’ll say, we do like Gabriel Byrne.

What is it about him? The dark eyes? The Irish accent? The smile that only seems to accent the sadness in those dark eyes? Do we confuse him with the characters he plays, soulful rogues, doomed both by and in spite of their intelligence?

Or is it something about the mash-up of physical oddity and charm which makes him beautiful? Something which hints at a deeper beauty than mere surface prettiness would allow?

I generally don’t like pretty men. I was never much for Tom Cruise (even before), and while I wouldn’t kick Brad Pitt out of bed, he’s never done much for me. And I fixated on Harrison Ford’s chin scar as something which set him apart, and a crooked smile on anyone always works on me.

No, I like guys whose surfaces are not quite right. I watched The Thomas Crown Affair last week (before I unplugged my t.v. set again), and found Dennis Leary much more appealing than Pierce Brosnan (although Brosnan, as he ages, is getting interesting). And then I thought of Steve McQueen—incredibly attractive, but handsome? I guess, but it’s really his eyes and intensity which draw.

Or voice. Alan Rickman was the only person worth watching in a Robin Hood remake a decade or so ago, and god, what perfect casting for Snape in the Harry Potter movies. We’re meant to be repulsed, but. . . it’s Alan Rickman! Or Yaphet Kotto, and his baritone gravel. I’d pay to listen to him read Bush’s speeches.

Okay, so there’s George Clooney, and it’s not just his crooked smile. Gimme a break: it’s Clooney. (And Clive Owen, but gimme a break: it’s Clive Owen.)

Now, women, I don’t really have any sense ahead of time of who I find attractive. Sure, Angelina Jolie, but ecccchhht, enough of Angelina. (Nothing against her—just, Enough.) Perhaps I am too newly attracted to women to have developed that sense. Maybe I’m just less fascinated with my kind, that the consideration of the qualities of men is predicated on the fact that they’re. . . men, i.e., not like me.

Not that any of this matters: adoration from afar. But, oh, what I wouldn’t give to meet Gabriel Byrne up close.

Johnny, are you queer?

13 11 2008

I used to be straight; now, not so much.

It’s an odd thing, in the midst of one’s life, to shift from one position to another, from one side to the middle.

Is that what bisexuality is? The middle? I guess, if sexuality is to be stretched across a linear spectrum (‘On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you measure. . .’).

I don’t know that sexuality is to be stretched across the linear spectrum.

Despite having once written a (very bad) conference paper on the biology of sexuality, I claim no expertise on the origins or development of sexuality. Yeah, evolutionarily speaking, het sex makes sense, but so what: while we are also evolutionary creatures, we are not only evolutionary creatures. Besides, what about the urge to reproduce requires orgasms?

Where was I? Oh, yeah. So I’m bi, but I don’t know that I’m bi in the same way someone else is bi. (Then again, when I was straight, I don’t know that I was straight in the same way others were straight.) It’s not that I suddenly want to sleep with every woman or have threesomes or feel the need to alternate man-woman-man-woman in my affections.

Nope, it’s much simpler than that. Although I do have all kinds of attractions to all kinds of people, in almost all of these instances, the attraction isn’t sexual. (This is good, as it would be awkward if I wanted to sleep with my friends. Some people could manage that; I couldn’t.) But, sometimes, I am intensely attracted to someone, and want to get to know him (and now, her) in a variety of unbiblical ways.

And that’s it. Before, if I happened to find myself physically attracted to someone, that person was a guy. I didn’t question this. Then, about a year and a-half ago, I was jolted by the recognition that, hm, I could be physically attracted to a woman.

Whoa! Jolted is the right term: Where the hell did this come from?

I have long had friends who are lesbians, have joked about who I’d jump the fence for, said that while I wasn’t turned off by the thought of sleeping with a woman, I wasn’t particularly turned on by it, either. Yeah, I said, I could sleep with a woman and probably enjoy it, but I don’t think she’d get much out of it.

Have I been in denial all this time? Nah. I think that before I wasn’t attracted to both women and men, and now I am.

Why the switch? I came to this realization around the time I finished my first novel, when I was still a bit dazed at the fact that I had written a novel. So, at one point, when talking about both the novel and this bi-recognition to M.P, I mentioned my bewilderment. Maybe these things are connected, she said. Maybe in opening yourself to the writing, in letting yourself be creative, you let out other parts of yourself. M. is much more willing to call upon spiritual notions than I am, but what she said made a kind of sense to me. I have no other explanation.

As a practical matter, however, little has changed. I was alone then and I’m alone now. Being bi, I tell people, just gives me twice as many ways to screw things up.

Beyond such bitter-tinged glibness, however, there is something real. On a political level, I’m no longer just a gay-positive straight chick, acting on principle and on behalf of friends. In fact, a big part of the reason I’m blogging about this now is in response to Prop 8. I don’t live in California and I have no desire to marry anyone, but that my fellow citizens could take away a constitutionally-recognized right to marry doesn’t just offend my principles, it slices at the possibilities of my own life. Denouncing Prop 8 without coming clean—coming out—feels like lying. Liberation can’t be built on lies.

But this is not mainly a political issue for me, largely because I’ve always supported the ‘gay agenda’. No, this is deeply personal, and deeply disruptive of my sense of self. As mentioned in previous posts, it’s not as if I previously had a strong sense of who I am, but I’ve been able in many ways to treat this as a philosophical puzzle. Having my sexuality thrown into question—thrown open—forces me out of my abstractions and into the actual world. Before, I could think idly about what a possible future relationship looked like, how we’d deal with each other, etc., and continue in this nice, smooth, speculative groove. I was operating in default mode, unquestioned and unreal.

No more. I’ve been tossed out of myself, and now have to decide whether to crawl back into that (appropriately adjusted and resealed) groove, or take this chance to find something new.

Take a chance, I know, take the chance! But I’m so used to crawling. . . .