On Not Being a “Guy”

What brought it a head was a briefcase.

It was an overpriced canvas briefcase from one of those upscale companies that advertise in The New Yorker. It looked attractive enough: tan with leather trim. And it was labeled as part of a category called “Guy Stuff.”

I didn’t understand it but I bought the damn thing anyway, but nothing I need to carry fit into it properly. In other words, I had just flushed $164.00. Somehow I ignored the “guy stuff” categorization even though I found it as offensive as most of the copy in a J. Peterman catalog. I still do.

What is Guy about a canvas bag? Could Vuitton make a macho briefcase? Does Guy Stuff suggest pockets where you can conceal a weapon, copy of Soldier of Fortune, and a box of scumbags?

It took me awhile to recognize a truth of my life: I am not a Guy. I have never been a Guy. With God’s help I will never be a Guy.

Male, yes. Man, yes. Guy…nope.

Guy to me suggests nasty Garrison Keillor jokes aimed at exposing. The Book of Guys. Right. But Keillor writes almost loving and gentle deconstruction. I’m not loving it. Guy to me suggests a bunch of young men on a streetcorner singing doo-wop. That never worked for me. It suggests a man back from a sexual conquest telling all his buddies about it with a ha-ha leer, even exaggerating the truth (as hard as that might be to believe). It suggests how men can’t imagine calling a breast a breast: it has to be some vulgarism like tit, hooter, headlight, knob, rack, or God knows what else.

Guy to me suggests the singer Tom Jones, who has always made me want to throw up.

A few years ago I read the poet Mark Doty’s autobiography, Firebird, his memoir of growing up gay in the Deep South fifty+ years ago. Except for the fact that I’m straight (ask my ex-wife and her lawyer), everything in Doty’s experience of childhood lined up with mine. He was a drama queen, so was I (shit, so am I). He was hypersensitive, so was I. He had a disdainful and distant family. He was bullied and artistic (the two are related). God yes to all of it.

Only one chromosomal difference separated me from him.

And I thought “Oh my God, I’m a fag who likes women.” And I felt rather good about it. I felt good about having a hard time dealing with so-called male intimate conversation, mainly because I didn’t give a shit and still don’t. I felt good about not being able to get myself into a round of crass humor directed at women. I adore women and find them infinitely more interesting as people than any man I’ve ever met.

I used to be passionate about baseball, not so much anymore. I used to love watching basketball but haven’t in ages.

“Guy” suggests a different level. I’ve seen it, lived around it, tried to be it, and maybe this is really sour grapes…or maybe not, because the effort to be One Of The Guys put more strain on me than it was worth.

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