EXCERPT FROM : A SUMMER OF GUILTLESS SEX
“I made something for you,” I said as I brought down the soft, black fleece hoodie I
customized with gold embroidered theatrical masks on the back. I held it in front of
him, opening it up. “It has a large sleeve on the inside for a script,” I explained.
His face ran the gamut of emotions from surprise to speechless. He examined it
inside out and then slipped it on. “Holy Fuck! I don’t know what to say.” His voice
bubbled as he suddenly grabbed me for a hug. “This has got to be the most awesome
thing ever!” He felt the material, zipped and unzipped it, and then hugged me again.
This time around, it was one of those bear hugs that knock the breath out of you.
When he let me go, I pulled the bottom open to show him an additional feature.
“Your name is also embroidered down here, in case someone thinks it’s too cool and
wants to steal it.”
His laugh was spontaneous, but he sounded next to tears. “I don’t know how to
thank you,” he said.
It was strange to see his face twist in that way with emotions that I couldn’t imagine.
His usually strong, smooth chin was dotted like a strawberry with quivering nerves.
“You already did,” I said firmly. “Your little speech last time brought me back from
the wilderness. It brought me back home.”
His eyes did a one-eighty across the crowded contents of the room. “You’ve really
been going at it?”
“Every night after work, and a little bit while I’m having coffee for breakfast.”
We drank another bottle of wine as I showed him more of my handiwork. A simple
wedding gown in shimmering silk with sleek, clean lines, a formal shirt tailored with a
comfortable collar, a ballet costume for the character of Peter Pan which had been one
of my sketches from years ago. It was the most elaborate of all the pieces.
“They’re all so beautiful,” he said, going through the old pieces I’d stored in the
closet. “I mean, seriously beautiful. Like these dresses and coats. I know it’ll sound
weird, but it’s a shame that only women can wear clothes like these. It makes me
I found that to be not only an amusing statement, but revelatory of his personality. It
appeared we shared another commonality.
I sat down at my desk and pushed the stool out from the sewing machine so he
could join me. “You realize that you touched on one of the strictures of conventional
fashion that I believe really doesn’t apply? The idea that there should be men’s fashion
and women’s fashion and never the twain shall meet?”
“What do you mean?”
On my computer screen, I pulled up a drawing of what was supposed to be typical
ancient Greece. I pointed to the men and women basically wearing the same thing. “In
ancient cultures, at the beginning of civilization, we all wore dresses. They were called
tunics. Your college buddies will call them togas. There was nothing feminine about a
man wearing one or vice versa for women.” Next, I pulled up a drawing of ancient
Japanese dress. “All cultures were pretty much the same. The Japanese traditional
dress was called a kimono for both male and female. Other societies across the globe
pretty much reflected this style of dress. Only the warrior class wore what we would
eventually call pants, because it made it easier for them to ride horses. Over time,
because most males were warriors and wore pants, they became designated as maleonly
apparel. But before war… good God, men had some beautiful gowns and dresses
His eyes studied the screen. “Wow, I love those kimonos. I wouldn’t mind having
one of those myself.”
“There’s absolutely no reason that fashion shouldn’t be interchangeable between
the sexes. Soldiers now have very specific uniforms. We should all be able to wear
what we want without particular gender assignments. It’s the same issue with makeup.”
I pulled up some archival pictures of statues and paintings from ancient Egypt.
“Twelve thousand years ago, Egyptian men used cosmetics; eyeliner and other things
to enhance their look. It was very popular.” I clicked until I found portraits from the
reign of Elizabeth I with men clearly and proudly wearing makeup. “It was considered
a part of masculine tradition and aristocracy to wear makeup. The fashion of dainty
silk outfits and wigs, face pastes and paints only began to change after the Napoleonic
Wars when the generals and soldiers became iconic heroes to emulate; people who
looked and dressed more roughly. The reason it’s regaining popularity, with spray on
tans and such, is because we’ve became a more instinctively visual global community
due to the proliferation of cameras and selfies. Even men realize they need a little
color after a night of drinking or too many hours in the office.”
His face was close to mine as he studied the computer screen. I could observe his
near-perfect skin up close, and he didn’t look like anyone who would ever need makeup
to enhance his looks, but being a man of the theater, he’d have many experiences
with the use of cosmetics. He was fascinated.
“So it’s not a feminine thing at all?” His eyes turned to mine for confirmation.
“Our perception of what’s masculine and feminine has always been fluid through
the ages. It changes when we alter who it is we admire… like when men began trying
to look like their rugged soldier heroes in the Napoleonic War. You’ll see it change
with the Olympics and movies and media manipulation, but I believe as we eventually
become a more liberal and accepting society, there will be less genderfication in
fashion. There will be dresses for both men and women; we’ll use more and more
makeup. The idea that there’s simply one ideal standard for men and a different one
for women cannot sustain itself in a society of strong personalities.”
He took another large sip of wine and looked back at the gowns in the closet. “That
would actually be neat.”
“That’s the actor in you speaking, because acting is a form of cosmetic. Putting on
another face.” I pulled up pictures of famous male ballerinos. “Our perception of what
is supposed to be masculine is gradually being redefined by theater as well. The idea
that all men must be large, muscular brutes who grunt and intimidate with their
virility is being tested by fine arts like ballet. An increasing number of people,
especially men, are finding they prefer to have the lean lines and aesthetics of a
dancer. You find more actors studying ballet because of the expressive gestures and
body language of the dancer that, at one time, were considered to be feminine. What
this is saying is that we’re learning that there is very little delineation between genders
in our own heads. We all have a bit of both inside us. Strong women are just as
appealing as an expressive man.”
“Hell, yeah,” he agreed. “I thought Ripley was hot in the Alien movie because she
was one tough chick.”
I laughed, because I remembered thinking that and I was a gay male. “Exactly. And
I prefer the beauty of a ballet dancer to that of something like… say Arnold
Schwarzenegger.” I pointed back to the screen at a male dancer in his tights and
elaborate costume. “I can imagine myself kissing this man so much easier and
enjoying a night with him than say… any guy in the UFC. But that’s only my
preference, because the artistry of a dancer evokes a certain sensitive fantasy in me.” I
shrugged. “But there is beauty in every type: the nerd, the geek, the athlete, the guy
with the ‘dad’ body. Masculinity is becoming less defined by stereotypes for all of us,
and I think that’s not only going to affect our fashion, but it’s also going to change
how we perceive who and what types we’re attracted to.”
“Do you think someone’s intelligence can make them attractive?” he asked.
I could see the wine had stained his full lips as dark as a Merlot lipstick. “Of course,
He turned to face me straight on. His eyes traveled from my eyes to my mouth.
“Because you’ve given me a raging hard-on and I’d really like to have sex with you