Men and body issues: Lately, there's been an increase of buzz on this topic. I can totally relate: Some people count sheep to fall into slumber, but I count cosmetic surgery procedures that I would like to have. (Top of the list: lipo! As this is well beyond my finances, I'm considering a D.I.Y. attempt with lidocaine and a crazy straw.) Summertime is naturally when I am especially prone to these thoughts. Warm weather means showing skin, hitting the beaches, and submitting yet again to the body obsession that grips gay men everywhere. Not that gay men are alone in this by any means: Straight men are also under the pressure to "look good," and of course women have long been subject to eating disorders, diets, the critical eye of strangers and countless other forms of body fascism. Everyone has issues, but for gays the list is especially long: the "Adonis complex," the "Peter Pan syndrome," and sure, what the hell, the Andromeda strain. Homosensuals seem to be disproportionately affected by manorexia, boylemia and other serious body issues with overly cute nicknames.
Let me be upfront about my actual statistics ("stats" for you time-crunched sex-app types). I am 5-foot-11, and on a typical day I weigh roughly 155 pounds, unless I am in Los Angeles, in which case I weigh 672 pounds. Being in Hollywood is like weighing yourself on Jupiter. No matter what I see in the mirror, in my head I am the flabbiest gay man to ever exist. Also, my timing sucks: I was a rail-thin teenager when muscle boys were it, and now that "lean is queen," I have love handles that are totally unlovable. My body type is the very rare ecto-endomorph, aka "scrawny but fat" or "bony pig."
At one point I did what a lot of men do: I experimented with anabolic steroids. Oh, how I loved the ritual of "juicing day": deciding which ass cheek would be bruised for three days and laying out the vials and needles and alcohol wipes. I was convinced that it would be magic: Follow these steps and I would be transformed into a young and ripped sex machine. I did my 10-week cycle of 'roids, and I can't say I really noticed much difference. True, I did break out on my back, lose most of my hair and threaten to slap a woman on the subway who dared fling her ponytail into my personal space (extra testosterone leads to male-pattern boldness), but I didn't get the pumped, buff physique I'd been hoping for. Maybe because I didn't bother working out? Go figure! After that I tried human growth hormone, procured via my friend in Miami who was running a hot scam on Medicaid. (We'll save the details on that for later.) I opened the box and saw seven little vials, so I assumed that meant one for every day of the week. It wasn't until my fingers blew up into little sausages that I deigned to read the instructions; it was a seven-week supply, so I'd done almost two months' worth of HGH in one week! Yes, Virginia, I am as dumb as I look.
So why are so many of us, at one point or another, obsessed with how we look?
It's unavoidable, really: The most basic factor in sexual attraction (for men) is the visual element, what goodies you have on display to entice that trick/future husband/surprisingly lenient cop who pulls you over for doing 90 m.p.h. on the highway. Once you lure them in with your dazzling wit and skills as a gourmand, you can relax a little, but honey, first you gotta tempt them into your web. My own personal observation is that the basic equation for a gay man to attract another gay man is a muscular, manly body and a youthful boyish face. That is a hard balance to achieve! To paraphrase a famous quip from Catherine Deneuve, "At a certain age, you have to choose between your face and your ass."
I blame a lot of this on advertising. Open any gay magazine, go to almost any gay website, and all the ads feature the same image: impossibly lean (yet buff) male models, 18 to 22 years old, shirtless, hairless, and usually rocking that weird, arms-behind-the-head, "look at my abs and armpit!" pose. This sells everything from nightclubs to liquor to car insurance. I get it: It works; it gets eyeballs. But damn, flipping through one of those gay rags can really suck the wind out of your workouts. Why bother? (Side note: What is it with all the shirtless DJs?)
Not that it's all about jocks and twinks, of course. I've noticed that even in the "bear" scene, the focus seems to be on one type: the muscle bear (or as I call them, "wooly bullies"). There he is, with his large, furry pecs and somewhat dour expression, promoting the latest beer blast. What about the big, fat Marys rocking a triple chin and a Karl Lagerfeld hand fan? Are they not welcome at these fur-and-flab jamborees? Last year I got some negative blowback in regard to the music video for my fat-pride anthem "Who You Calling a Cow." Apparently I am not a suitable spokesperson for the plus-sized community, despite my years-long battle with body dysmorphia. Some commenters were offended that I featured a very heavyset man dancing in a humorous way. (Apparently it "lacked dignity.") Others were pissed off that I included the very buff porn star Christopher Daniels -- as if only fat guys can be into fat guys!
Can someone please explain to me the term "height-weight proportionate" ("HWP"), which always pops up in online personals and on hookup apps? Who's to say what's "proportionate"? It does pay to be cautious when meeting guys in cyberspace: I once met a dude who claimed he had a "swimmer's build," but it turned out that that swimmer was Shelley Winters in The Poseidon Adventure. Rimshot!
Look, I totally understand wanting to look good, for yourself and/or your partner(s). Working out can feel good and do wonders for your health. But I have to accept the realities. You know how you'll starve yourself all day, then Ambien-sleepwalk out the door at 3 a.m. to buy a dozen chocolate glazed donuts? That's one reality. Another is that I don't have a six-pack: I have a 40-oz. Personally, I like a big man with some meat on his bones, one who has the potential to roll over and suffocate me in my sleep. I give much more leeway to my partners than I give to myself. I've always had a love/hate relationship with my body: Basically, I love to hate it. So how is it that I've always somehow been able to have a steady supply of men in my life?
What can I say? I've always depended on the blindness of strangers.