When my boyfriend and I finally escaped the city and moved to a quiet town nestled high in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York, there were whispers in the neighborhood about a gay couple moving into the area.
Not homophobic whispers. Excited whispers! The locals were thrilled two gay men were shacking up in the most run-down property on the block: a large two-story house built in 1850, with a beautiful wrap-around porch and gorgeous sculpted wood trim... all in dire need of repair. Our neighbors had no doubt a pair of gay males would, by instinct, *snap!* turn the property into a camera-ready showcase of architecture and decor, worthy of magazine covers and Bravo TV remodeling shows.
But there was something about Jim and I these town folk never suspected: we're gay slobs.
Gay slobs, also known as "Globs," are a rare breed, but they're out there (if you can find them under all the piles).
We've lived in the house four years now and it's still a total wreck. Worse, even. Our cellar door is one of Jim's discarded paintings held down by an old piece of taxidermy (that's missing an eye). The beer cans that friends had been tossing all year into the mass of rotting pumpkins growing out of the car engine that was left in the yard by previous tenants (and was too heavy to move) had recently been disappearing. At first we thought they were secretly being being collected by our newly slob-phobic neighbors, but later realized the muskrats that live under our porch were stealing them to make a dam next to where the broken drainpipe has formed a natural pond in the back yard. They make great building material, mixed with the styrofoam pellets floating around from the bean bag chair we tried to use as a float that exploded and we never cleaned up. Every time Jim asks me to re-staple the plastic kiddie swimming pool attached to our living room window (in lieu of glass, it kind of works because the bottom is clear), I just burp "Y-e-s, d-e-a-r."
We're one dried cat carcass away from a cameo on Hoarders.
The counterpoint arguing all gay men aren't smart, fashion-savvy, immaculate, and charming has been discussed already, peaking during the backlash against the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy phenomenon of the 00's. But the debate as to whether newly-assimilated gays in popular culture are bland and tasteless compared to the gays of the past, who were somehow made more stylish and interesting by oppression, never included the category of gay slobs, who are generally outcasts of all sides.
It's a mistake to assume all gay people are aligned on politics, aesthetics, or hygiene. The world is complicated, and fast food drive-thru windows are really convenient. Rich celebrities who come out via correct press releases, and gay artisans who brand and market cooking, decor or design with an eye towards upward professionalism are inspiring. But there's also value in gay role models speaking in honest, un-savvy terms out the human condition. Even soiled, hopeless, disorganized terms. Where's the gay Holden Caulfield?
I love this quote from Truman Capote in writer Laura Deutsch's article for Psychology Today, where she recollects interviewing the author for Mademoiselle as a young girl in 1968:
"Capote gives us a turn around his living room. On the table below the portrait is a banana peel, delicately carved from ivory. 'People think I'm slob when they see that, but it's art!'"
Eek! A gay man left garbage laying around his home! Horrors! Oh, don't worry, it's just expensive art. Andy Warhol turned that mindset into an empire. You would think John Waters a slob, but reportedly he's just an obsessive collector. Waters' solo exhibition at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in 2004 included a walkable re-creation of his library and living room, revealing endless organized stacks (were the dust bunnies censored out?). But Capote, Warhol and Waters aren't slobs, they just wrote, painted pictures and made movies about them. Edith Beale, from the Maysles brothers' documentary Grey Gardens, is the anointed queen and patron saint of gay slobs everywhere.
Meanwhile, the coterie of older "antique queens" that make up our circle of gay friends up here live in the nearby town of Hudson, and are far more adept at keeping up appearances than us; they are crafty with gourmet food, consummate hosts, wear hats strategically dipped below one eye and scarves of apricot.
One of them was visibly horrified the first time he came to our house for dinner and saw foot-high grass, decaying woodwork, and swiss cheese-like screen doors. We relaxed in our living room on a futon pulled off its frame and thrown on the floor (so comfortable!), conversing over pinot noir served in Burger King theme cups (that didn't match). There was a stain on the futon I was too embarrassed to explain, the first excuse that popped into my head when he asked was, "Our cat had kittens."
We don't have a cat. Although later in the evening we all heard the flutter of little feet walking around the second floor. "Oh, is that your cat?" He asked.
"Yes." I lied, smiling (squirrels sometimes get into the second floor through holes in the plaster).
At one point he wanted to heat up the kobe beef with champagne gruyere cheese truffles he'd brought as a house-warming gift, in our oven. But after we pre-heated it -- turning it on for the first time ever -- a really bad odor filled the house. We turned it off and didn't look inside, out of fear (another squirrel?). That grossed him out, so when he decided to stick it in the fridge he almost lost it when the screwdriver we use to pry open the broken refrigerator door had grape juice residue on the handle, which got carpet hair all over his hands. We handed him the only towel we have in the kitchen, the one used to plug up the leaking coffee maker. At least it was damp.
There's a working toilet in our living room left from when a bathroom was installed on the first floor and the walls later removed. We just left it there out in the open, using it alternately as a garbage disposal, a toilet, or conversation piece ... a kind of homage to Marcel Duchamp. Our perturbed guest sat on it while we drank and watched a DVD of Auntie Mame (at least something about the evening remained gay). When we jokingly asked him what he thought of our house, he just looked at us, reached behind him, and flushed. See? Conversation piece!
"Mark and Jim are pigs." He later told a friend.
"Ohh... is that like 'bears'?" His friend asked.
Weeks later, they all laughed as we opened a copy of Simon Doonan's Gay Men Don't Get Fat one of them gave us as a "gag gift." Well, at least Jim and I laughed. We've always joked that a more apt title would have been No Pussy Tastes As Good As Being Gay Feels.
I can often be spotted around town in a lint-covered knit cap, broken eyeglasses, stretched sweats and neon green Crocs (one of which is missing its strap). My dyed gray is constantly needing a touch-up, I can never trim my beard symmetrically, and my bathing habits could be described as "frugal." You know those joke websites with candid pictures of people at WalMart, making fun of how trashy they look? Jim and I dream of ending up on one of those sites, to add some gay visibility.
Are Jim and I are traditional? Compared to what? Our relationship as gay slobs works, it's lasted. We've safely gotten past that stage where you enter a long-term gay relationship and feel like you're cheating on every potential trick in the city. Though we can still piss each other off and go downright shouty-crackers sometimes. Screaming at someone is a good way to burn calories when you're married and and have "let yourself go."
But some of our gay friends continually feel the need to comment on our slob-ness, or say "Your gay card is going to be revoked!" Some say we need an intervention, or should audition for reality TV. Others have learned to accept us.
Do you know someone who might be a closeted gay slob? Open your arms to them, as they stumble over the piles of debris in their closet, with a popsicle wrapper stuck to their arm. Jim and I are proud gay slobs. There are no curtains on our windows (unless you count the one with the swimming pool stapled to it).
After we'd been going out one year, on my birthday, Jim (who owned an erotic bakery at the time) surprised me with an offensive homemade cake. The top was covered in icing made to look like poop, barf and diarrhea, with plastic flies attached (you can see a photo here). It was garnished with real toilet paper, and in big red letters spelled "Happy Birthday Lover." The fact that he did something that hysterically crass without prompting from me, and presented it with a proud smile knowing I'd love it, which I did, made me realize we'd be together a long time. But are we faking all this to make some sort of statement?
Gay slobs aren't hipsters, there's a difference. Hipsters are pretentious, their clutter is planned and passively-aggressively displayed. Slob clutter of any sexual orientation is innate and instinctual. Gay slobs are born that way.
Our neighbors had excitedly hoped for gays to improve the quality of the surrounding property, and now they're probably bitterly praying for a tornado to finish the job. They're not homophobic, just disillusioned. Behind us is a house where two college-age brothers live, and they're pretty trashy too, so maybe our influence is spreading. They shoot squirrels from their front porch and ride ATVs in the woods behind our house without their shirts. We're always ogling them and laughing about it, running out there to help them, tripping over our kimonos.
So, come on over! Toss beer cans in our car engine lawn ornament for the muskrats to use, or take a dump in the toilet in our living room. I make a kick-ass squirrel pie, and Jim's a crazy banjo player. Life is good. Tonight after dinner we're going retire to our lopsided porch, sit on stacks of old magazines, sip wine in Burger King cups and make each other laugh again about our plan to hang a giant rainbow flag proudly in the front yard. We can just imagine the local chapter of GLAAD coming by and asking us to take it down. Please.
I'm sure years from now people will continue to drive by our home and say, "Ugh, look at that gorgeous house gone to waste." I'll bet they'll never guess it's a committed gay couple's fairy tale ending.