I sometimes joke with my wife that I'm gay. I like to think of myself as a 6'3" blond-210-pound-hunk-of-a-venture-capitalist-done-good. But there's something about the bright-colored floral shirts and tight designer jeans I favor (the ones with the obnoxious white plastic label proclaiming "Paul Gaultier, Paris " on the right cheek) that makes people wonder. That along with my willingness to emote freely and my spending the GDP of a 3rd world nation on my haircut.
I'm also not afraid to discuss that frustration all men experience when they just have absolutely no idea what is going on in their wife's head. Wouldn't it be a lot easier if I were gay? I rode a scooter with a bright orange man-bag flapping on the handle bars way before either were acceptable male accessories. Heck, my Wesleyan roommate was David Kohan, creator and executive producer of Will & Grace!
Humpday takes my joking with my wife one step further. Ben (Mark Duplass) and Andrew (Joshua Leonard) are college bad boys grown-up, kind of. Andrew has taken the road less travelled while Ben is happily married to Anna (Alycia Delmore). The guys fall back into heterosexual competition that ultimately results in a dare to make a porn film in which they have sex. It's "beyond gay." It's what they describe as an art project. Except they forgot to tell Ben's wife, or admit to themselves, what's really going on. In the process we are treated to some great laughs and a realistic view of straight men's apprehensions about gayness. Of course the whole thing is, you guessed it, written and directed by a woman (Lynn Shelton).
I actually grew up on a pseudo-commune in Western Massachusetts surrounded by gay men and lesbian women. Mom would have been secretly proud, I am pretty sure, if I had turned out gay. My best friends in both college and business school came out to me before anyone else.
But I am hopelessly and intractably straight. There's something about my wife--her opposite approach to daily problems, the way she cares for the kids, the curves of her body, her smile--that I find utterly irresistible. Even going on six years of marriage I can't get enough of her. As much as I like playing the other side of the street for shock value I crave my wife's female parts and find it hard to understand men of a different persuasion. Not that I judge. I just flat out don't get it. But that doesn't stop me from thinking about the gay/straight divide.
What Humpday does so well is point out, through great humor, how straight men still have so much trouble really accepting gayness. We have this double standard where lesbians are some great turn on while as guys we would rather hack some Middle-Eastern bad guy's head off, much rather in fact, than even think about having sex with another man.
The book I have been working on recently is a case in point of the Humpday phenomenon and its hidden consequences. For a year now a team of us has been putting together an anthology of essays about manhood. On our first pass we realized that we had collected stories about a bunch of boring, middle-class, white dudes like us. So we set out to scour the earth to find rich and poor, famous and everyman, urban and rural, white, black, brown and pink. Through a lot of hard work we got a wildly diverse group of men who collectively illuminated the central prism of manhood in ways we never could have predicted.
But there was one group whose voice eluded us. It wasn't the Indian immigrant or the Sing Sing inmate we had the most trouble tracking down. It was gay men. And not for lack of trying. We pursued gay writers aggressively. But they fizzled out one after another. It turns out acknowledging you are gay is one thing but actually writing a first person essay about what it means to be a gay man is something much more difficult. A high profile married couple with twins wrote a great essay but backed out because they felt too vulnerable. The original victim who tipped off the Boston Globe about the priest sexual abuse scandal just didn't feel comfortable going public.
In the end we did find two compelling gay stories to include, one a dad and the other an Asian gay playwright looking for love in NYC. But our experience shows that gay stigma and prejudice are still alive and well. My only hope is that enough guys like me see Humpday and take it seriously, while laughing their asses off, to make a real difference.
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