Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Queer Eye for a Rite of Passage

I saw Queer Eye for the Straight Guy for the first time last night, through the magic of Netflix. About half way through the episode I sat up straighter; "oh my God, it's a rite of passage!"

The clueless straight guy gets the treatment because of his girlfriend. She calls in the Fab Five because she is turning 30 and as she says, "he keeps telling me he wants me to be his girlfriend forever, and I am not going to be his girlfriend forever." She has a lot of sass and her eyes are saying 'wife' or 'ex-girlfriend,' you decide.  The poor young man just doesn't know how to talk like a man -- he doesn't have the vocabulary. 'Girlfriend forever,' indeed!

At almost every turn someone is talking about how inappropriate straight guy's hair, his hygiene, his music and his decor are. The man/boy just hasn't grown up, and yet he is good looking, intelligent, sweet tempered and has a great job. He doesn't resist the gay men, he is absolutely delighted to follow their instructions. He needs to learn how to dress, how to decorate his apartment, how to cook for and entertain his honey. Finally they leave him alone, (with a camera?) and he looks a little panicked about having to perform on his own.

I guess you could call it an intervention, but I call it a 'rite of passage'. We may need more of them in our long lived technological society where adolescence can go on forever. How many stages are there?  I count three adolescence stages: 1) the pre-teen stage where one is awkwardly leaving childhood, 2) the high school stage that so many of us hated 3) the college stage that can last quite a while with apprenticeships, grad school and the various ways of living the young, single life. Then next stage is adulthood and the fast-food dinners and filthy bathrooms are starting to look a little sad.

Straight clueless man-child needed a whole minivan full of gay men to show him how to grow up.  It's rather sweet, and makes some odd sense to call on gay men. In that last transition into manhood, the boy/man needs to integrate feminine virtues. A young man spends all this time, being messy and not knowing how to nurture himself. During adolescence, it can be a point of strange pride to take poor care of oneself. Young men want to be all yang, and don't even know that they need to incorporate in some yin to be a whole person; an adult. What if you just don't know how; who is going to teach you; who, can you honorably learn from? Probably not a woman, that would be too much like listening to mom. Well, gay men are famous for integrating the feminine into their lives and in a stylish way!

I don't know how else it can be done. In our movies, traditionally meeting the girl has been civilizing. But lately meeting the girl in movies has been a stubborn jokey time of resisting mightily the call to grow up. Maybe we need a new set of rituals for moving into manhood.

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