Why Be Nor­mal?

Hello Mr. Magazine - - CHALLENGE TRADITION - Text by Michael Bouldin photo by Far­bud Akhtarry

Your dic­tio­nary will of­fer you up any num­ber of def­i­ni­tions of that lit­tle word “nor­mal.” Syn­onyms in­clude “aver­age,” “com­mon,” “pro­saic,” and my per­sonal fa­vorite, “ev­ery­day.” It’s one of those pesti­len­tial lit­tle words handed down to us from the days of the Cae­sars, as were “se­duc­tion” and “ex­cess,” though with con­sid­er­ably less en­ter­tain­ment value, gray rather than scar­let.

I hope you’ll for­give me if I find none of the re­lated con­cepts at­trac­tive. Not any­more at least, hav­ing thank­fully grown past the age of ter­ror that was ado­les­cence. Nor­mal is that North Star you set your course by when your goal is fit­ting in, not stand­ing out. Of course, there is an abun­dance of ham­mers di­rected at ev­ery nail that does just that, ham­mers on a mis­sion: to build a house that the nails may or may not want to serve to build. I am one of those nails. When I first sat down to write a piece for the in­au­gu­ral is­sue of this mag­a­zine, truth­fully, I was a bit per­plexed. I’m 42, and too pretty to be pro­found. My boyfriend says, per­haps in jest, per­haps not, that my main pur­pose in life is dec­o­ra­tive; rather in­tem­per­ate of a for­mer go-go boy, one would think.

But ob­vi­ously, I can write. Rather well, I think. And of course I’m gay (I mean, who wouldn’t be?), even if I don’t quite fit the mind­set and aes­thetic that, for bet­ter or worse, have come to de­fine what the world at large and we our­selves think of as “gay.” Mus­cles and tight clothes? Ab­so­lutely, even if the for­mer are in a post-hol­i­day state of dis­re­pair. Part­nered, in that comme il faut, longue durée way that seems ex­pected in the age of gay mar­riage? Why, yes, of course. And like ev­ery­one else, or so it seems some­times, I make my home in one of our global gay mec­cas, in my case, the great and shin­ing City of New York, its liq­uid nights filled with end­less prom­ise, glit­ter­ing un­der a neon sky.

But I’m still one of those nails de­fy­ing the ham­mer, which is why I’m writ­ing here now, and not even what I’d orig­i­nally planned. No, what I’d like to do is en­cour­age the young men read­ing this to be one of those ob­sti­nate nails, too. You’ll prob­a­bly have an eas­ier time of it than I did.

You see, here’s the thing: I’m a New Yorker, with all that im­plies in terms of self-re­gard, a mainly black wardrobe, and a taste for ex­otic food and cock­tails de­liv­ered to my doorstep at un­godly hours of the day or night. Not even just a gay one, one who thinks “jaded, bor­der­ing on deca­dent” is a goal and mis­sion state­ment, as the cliché has it. I am HIV-pos­i­tive, just as an aside, but that seems in­suf­fi­cient in it­self to carry a mag­a­zine piece, and of as much con­ver­sa­tional heft these days as my speak­ing French or hav­ing read War and Peace at 14. My lushly cin­e­matic sex life is not for these pages, ei­ther; feel free to rent the movie, though.

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