Yesterday I went clothes shopping with my office crush, who has a terrific sense of style. Afterwards we came back to my apartment to have fondue. I discovered to my horror that he had never seen Auntie Mame. I put this down to youth and inexperience on his part rather than an insurmountable character flaw (he is 22—though perhaps being 22 is an insurmountable character flaw in itself) and rushed out to rent it. To his credit, he fell in love with it immediately.
Now we just have to work on his falling in love with me.
This little drama in turn put me in mind of a former student of mine, who at age fifteen went around saying things like, “My last ex-boyfriend and I blah blah blah.” I was delighted that the world has changed so much as to allow adolescents to experience and own their sexuality so openly; I was dismayed, however, to learn that the trade-off for this, at least in his case, was that he had never heard of Dorothy Parker.
My theory is that, as gay people are coming out younger and are finding more societal acceptance, they don’t need to turn as much to older mentors for emotional support, which in the past has always also come with an introduction to the canon of gay culture and history. It is of course wonderful that kids today have an easier time being gay, but it’s sad that something is being lost as well.
On the eve of gay middle age (I turn 30 a week from today), I am in a mood to tilt at windmills. Therefore I have compiled a thoroughly subjective and not at all comprehensive list of required reading/viewing/listening for all gay men, in particular gay men 25 and under. When options are given, you get extra credit for exploring all choices.
I’ve left out anything that everybody today seems to be current with (Will & Grace, David Sedaris, etc.). The inclusion of a person or work on this list is not an indication that I approve—merely that I think he/she/it occupies an important place in our cultural history. The list entries are in no particular order.
SYLLABUS, GAY 101
the Lucia books of E.F. Benson (there are six but you can start with this one)
The Lord Won’t Mind by Gordon Merrick or Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
Tales of the City and all its sequels, by Armistead Maupin
any book by Mary Renault (though this one is particularly delectable)
the plays of Oscar Wilde (especially The Importance of Being Earnest and Lady Windermere’s Fan)
The Village People (“YMCA” or “In the Navy”)
Barbra Streisand (all movies and recordings) or Bette Midler (all movies and recordings)
Gloria Gaynor (“I Will Survive”) or The Weather Girls (“It’s Raining Men”)
The Pet Shop Boys or Erasure or The Smiths
I’m sure I’ve left off dozens of vital things that should have been included. Please forgive me. Because I thought the most important thing was to get the list out as soon as possible.
Before Alzheimer’s sets in.