Is it time to get a Gaydar?
Wednesday 30 June 1999
I'm very confused, as my eye seems to have been permanently affected: now every other man I see strikes me as potentially batting for the other side. Not that little bleeping black plastic box the papers have been harping about, which anyone with any brain has already worked out will only result in plain clothes policemen and members of the British Movement bashing the hell out of each other on Clapham Common of an evening, but the real thing, finely tuned after a fortnight in the company of Stu and Nicky.
I'm enough of a fag hag at the best of times, but now I could swear that half the male population dances at the other end of the ballroom. Once you've spent two weeks having the most macho of pouting Greeks singled out as being nine-bob notes, you can never look at an Englishman the same way again.
No wonder Americans get so confused as they look up the Tube at all those pinstriped drainpipes, crossed neatly at the lower thigh, trouser knees carefully hitched up to avoid creasing, balancing brogue lined up at a prissy right-angle with the kick-board. Not for the English businessman the luxury of gangling across other people's space, knee stuck out like a coathanger; Rolex dangling proudly at the world: the most space invasion our home-grown testosterone gets up to in this overcrowded isle is the incorrigible elbow-and-broadsheet trick.
What have you done to me, boys? It's all very well pointing out that in any country apart from our own, the ancient signalling device of the gold-earring still holds true (which must have been jolly useful for George Michael when he was on holiday); that groups of men who hang around without drinks outside certain neighbourhood cafes pulling up their T-shirts and tweaking their nipples are probably rent boys; that abroad, a moustache is actually a sign of being a breeder, but where does that leave me now?
Let's face it: the whole of British masculine style in the Nineties seems to have been borrowed from the gay community, and every oik in the postroom sports a little gold sleeper or two. And in adland and the media, it's as though it's the straights that have gone underground.
Take Boris, my boss. The pictures of his two blonde, shaven-headed sons that proclaim his heterosexuality on his desk also show that he has already kitted them out with the statutory piercings at the age of, ooh, six and eight.
Boris himself has a persona that would have had my grandparents muttering into their brandy-and-sodas: suspiciously well-cut suits; strong wafts of CK One floating on the breeze; an identity bracelet; highlighted hair whose cut suggests Knightsbridge more than Something For the Weekend, Sir. He washes his hands after he's been to the loo: I can tell, as he uses Vaseline Intensive Care on them when he's back at his desk. And Boris calls people "sweetie" on the phone.
I mean, what am I supposed to think? Except that, now my own "gaydar's" working, I'm seeing those tell-tale signs everywhere. Perhaps there is, actually, a market for the bleepers after all, for how is any self-respecting gay man supposed to seek out potential mates in a world where every geezer wears well-ironed black roll-necks; shaves shapes into his chin; goes to the gym three times a week; is happy to share the details of his health problems in public? And how am I supposed to weed out my own potential mates from the ranks of media camp?
Of course, we've done this to ourselves. After so many years of us going on about them, many have finally caved in and become the sweetly-scented, sensitive, handy-in-the-kitchen creatures we demanded. And until I get my eye back in, I'm going to be trapped behind this desk, secretly searching for those lingering over-the-shoulder glances that are the only way of telling the real thing from the pretend version.
Anyway, can't sit here ranting all day. I have to go and get Boris his cappuccino.
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