By Zeus, are you ready for the golden boy - Ganymede Redux?

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Indy Lifestyle Online
ASK yourselves: are you really ready for the return of Ganymede? For those a trifle light in the Greek scholarship, allow me; Ganymede was the androgynous cutie Zeus fell head over thunderbolt for, and kidnapped - emphasis on the kid - to be his... "cup-bearer". (Which is one way of putting it.) Beautiful as opposed to butch, willowy as opposed to muscle- bound, and with not much to say for himself - Ovid reports that Ganymede's lips moved when other people were reading - Ganymede was the first of the Twinkies, bless him.

In gaudy paintings and purple-ish poems he would flash his libido-confusing wares throughout the Renaissance and later provide a touch-me-up template for English drama - all those "Master Betty's" dressing as dainty girls and vice-versa, - coming into his own (and coming out) in Edward II.

On and on he went, a secret cult and open cultural emblem, his tale - half myth, half rent-boy sob story - updated and retold in Thomas Mann's Death in Venice as both a reckless romance and cautionary fable. Here Ganymede is retitled Tadzio and is transformed into a honey of a honey blond with a tight sailor suit and revolving head. The boy can't help it; his vacant, doe-eyed availability gets gay guys hot and gets straight guys hot and extremely bothered.

Here our Ant and Dec combined makes one unprepared heterosexual expire from longing. Zeus was a God without guilt but times had turned Judaic- Christian, even as the object of desire flirtatiously endured. Right into the Sixties in fact, though now relegated from Mount Olympus and high literature to queer port: pouting, passive femme to some hairy, nominally heterosexual truck driver's less than articulated lust.

Then - pouf! - the golden boy disappeared from the margins. Alright: not really. he found himself, after centuries, out of fashion.

Except - who would have imagined? - Ganymede has staged a comeback. The itchy rash of gangly cum graceful boy bands should have been a tip- off from the zeitgeist sensitive; likewise the halfway house and mixed message that was and is Marky Mark (cutest little baby face stuck on the body of a bullock) - but who could have predicted the male Lolita would pop up en masse and everywhere? Cruise any dance floor for suddenly skinny torsos; check the fawns winning this year's Mr Gay UK heats; ponder the popularity of G.A.Y's Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nursery romps - is this disco or battery farming? - and consider the overthrow of abundantly hung port superstud Jeff Stryker for the crypto-pubescent Johan and all those other mitteleuropa mail-order starlets who bring new meaning to the phrase "The Czech is in the post".

So, why? And why now? It's written on the body (in this case, in crayon). Trace the Nineties linear descent - or ascent - from pumped-up to buff to lissom. As gay men gain further ground, they are occupying less space. This could be called confidence: a retreat which is actually an advance. In appearance Ganymede Redux is fresh and (apparently) unformed by experience, no matter his age, which might be as advanced as 35 or more. (Ganymede's home gives good lighting.) We are, after all, discussing we who pioneered "middle youth". What we're not discussing is fossilised stereotype. Fresh and unformed makes an askew sense in a period determined to believe that Aids is over and an equal age of consent within sight. A new beginning - 16 - and the millennium - 2000 - conceivably merits a blank look. Besides, the old games no longer amuse. A fruit with a flat top and a six-pack stomach just doesn't bug rugby players the way he used to - hell, he probably is a rugby player - while a boundary- blurring lovely can still get even the dullest chap sweaty in ways that will leave him sleepless.

Funny peculiar: Ganymede promising latitude, if not liberation. The Boy Done Good. For Nancies. He might, however, mean something vastly different for Normals, who are quietly - one could even say covertly - being invited to role model their increasing redundant selves on that darling petal Leonardo DeCaprio. De-fanged, de-clawed, ripe and rosy-cheeked - both sets - Leonardo is the busy girl's familiar and pet. Of course he's idol worshipped. What else is he good for? In a future that can no longer guarantee the alpha-male gainful employment and sees yesteryear's juvenile leads increasingly fetching up in jail, boys had better stick to the Slim-Fast diet and make the most of being an accessory after some very stark facts. A thing of beauty may not be a boy forever, but, by Zeus, he had better bloody try.