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Why I Don't Date: Tues. 9/8pm on Bravo

2003-08-06 - 8:03 a.m.

So last night I watched the second gripping installment of the fabulous new reality TV show, "Why I Don't Date." If you haven't seen this, you absolutely should. I haven't felt this good about myself since I helped that old lady carry her groceries after a therapy session (nothing like having a shrink's office in a mini-mall). Sure, I can understand being reluctant to watch because it's designed to appeal to a narrow spectrum of the population, but rest assured, there's something for everyone. Straight people can finally view a reality TV show with enough distance to enjoy it identification-free, gay men can finally experience the harrowing drama of seeing themselves portrayed at their shallowest, and lesbians--well, lesbians can just relax with a big bowl of popcorn and laugh their asses off, provided they have someone there to perform the Heimlich manuever if needed.

Oh, by the way, "Why I Don't Date" is listed in your TV Guide as "Boy Meets Boy."

Yeah . . .

So "Boy Meets Boy" already had points against before it even premiered. I had read a preview--sorry, "article"--on, the internet shill for NBC and therefore Bravo, as well. More on that later. Anyway, there was a fun little quote from one of the gentlemen involved, I believe the leading man: "This isn't going to be a bunch of nelly queens fighting over a handbag."

Aw, that's so sweet. On behalf of all gay men who have ever been stereotyped by straight friends, straight relatives, straight coworkers, and straight bullies, I just want to say you can shove that so far up you ass that it knocks out your teeth. Nothing like a little internalized, "I'm gay, but not like THEM, you can discriminate against THEM as much as you want" homophobia to remind me, that's right, "Why I Don't Date!"

Anyway, the personal may indeed be political, but moving on. A few weeks later came the reports after the show had been completed but before it had aired. Turns out our COMPLETELY MASCULINE leading man, James, was not terribly pleased by the outcome. Could it be that he had wound up choosing one of the infamous straight men that producers had ever so sneakily planted amongst the NOT NELLY gay men? Well, considering that it was the straight boys he was so pissed about, I'm guessing yes, and don't think I wasn't sneering with TYPICALLY NELLY derision when I read that fun fact. This was fantastic marketing strategy on Bravo/NBC's part, because . . . I'm gonna let THE TOTALLY STRAIGHT ACTING James hang himself on this one. When asked if people should still watch the show, James said, "Sure, if you want to see me get my heart broken!"

James, darling, why else do you think we watch reality television? For the winners? Oh, and I wouldn't have had such a dramatic reaction, if I were you. People might think you were gay or something.

Now, all of this made me want to watch Boy Meets Boy IN THEORY. However, I was not about to make an effort to catch it. Fortunately, though, I happened to be at home last week flipping through channels when I found out that Boy Meets Boy would be premiering that night. So I decided to make myself a witness to this moment in the history of that most humorous of oxymorons, mainstream gay culture.

Sadly, it was neither surprisingly revelatory nor the complete fiasco I was hoping for. It was, in fact, just another subpar reality show, something that made me miss the carnival of human foibles that was Joe Millionaire (we miss you, Melissa M, come back to us!). James seemed very sweet, and was certainly very handsome, and DID NOT ACT TOO GAY. He was also about as interesting as toast. No jam. His suitors--WHO WERE NOT EFFEMINATE IN ANY WAY--were pretty much the same, which is good, because it is a universal law of gay dating that Thou Shalt Date a Boy So Like Thyself That Thou Can Swap Clothes with Him, Creating Who-Owned-What Issues When He and Thee Eventually Split Up. Again, I need to point out that THESE BOYS ACT STRAIGHT. Actually, that's not quite true. One of the guys was trying to act gay and was not getting it right. Honey, hugging a guy when you're gay doesn't involve wincing until AFTER you fucked him. Get it right!

As I had expected, before the end of the night James had already chosen to keep one of the cutest of the STRAIGHT ACTING guys in the bunch even though said cute guy was seeing someone. Now, I'm all for polyamory, but James wasn't, and that's what we call sacrificing your ideals for ass play. I'm slutty, but I never do that. Well, I rarely do that. The great thing about being slutty is that you don't have a lot of ideals to sacrifice.

Worst of all, the one and only guy on this show that I thought was interesting was kicked off in the first round. He had served in the military ON A SUBMARINE! A SUBMARINE!!! Okay, I am a total pacifist and spoke out against the war at every opportunity, but SUBMARINES are one of those things that imparts a degree of coolness to those who come in contact with them. It's that childhood fantasy come to life thing. He would clearly have been on my A-List as soon as he said that. Of course, James kicked him off in favor of Dan, the aforementioned slutty blond. It's just like straight men, isn't it, ladies?

I'm kidding, straight boys. Okay, I'm kidding for some of you.

The second episode was even better, or even worse, depending on your thinking. Suitor Dan continued to play A THOROUGHLY MASCULINE Sara to Suitor Franklin's NOT FEMININE AT ALL Zora, and James continued to move Dan forward despite repeatedly expressing his disgust over Dan's sluttish ways, which really aren't slutty at all, but James thinks they are so it exposes his hypocrisy. Of course, this all worked well, considering the fact that James kept Dan over a straight guy.

Next episode should be the most deliciously evil of all: Andra, James co-dependent best girlfriend (because EVERY gay man, even those like James who COULD BE MISTAKEN FOR A STRAIGHT GUY, have a best girlfriend with whom they form a relationship mirroring a heterosexual one because both are too emotionally crippled to have functional relationships, just like Will and Grace, ISN'T THAT RIGHT???) gets to do the eliminating next round. Which is funny, because many of the people who have been the most in touch with Andra are, wait for it . . . the straight boys.

Okay, so why am I talking about all this? Well, "Why I Don't Date" might be the first time I've ever been exposed to a reality TV show the way that straight people have. As I have mentioned, I was a big fan of Joe Millionaire. I loved the catty, vicious battles between the women and their vain attempts to get Evan to respond with something more than vague lust and monosyllables. I loved Allyson's icy hauteur and Mojo's ridiculous fashion sense and Melissa M's infamous malapropisms. I still say, "I'm mercenary like that" whenever someone says I did something nice. Sure, I got mad at the show plenty of times, particularly in it's reduction of Sara and Zora to wicked, smoking whore and blushing, virtuous fairy tale princess. But I could always say, "All the women I know and love aren't like that." I could even educate my little stepsister when she watched the show with me, talking to her about the ways in which society tends to cast women in certain roles. So I could escape a lot of my guilt concerning Joe Millionaire and just enjoy.

Not so with this one. "Why I Don't Date" gets right under my skin, so far in fact that I'm not sure if I'll be able to enjoy the other reality shows in the same way anymore, and for that the Devil (who possesses me on occassion) has cooked up a very special corner of hell for those involved with this project. First of all, this show claims to be about debunking stereotypes, particularly if you go by James' WE ARE NOT, REPEAT NOT NELLY QUEENS nonsense. Well, what about the stereotype of the codependent gay boy and straight girl pairing, on that Andra and James snuggle into without a moment's hesitation? What about the stereotype that all gay men are interested in is looks, one definitely supported by James constantly reconsidering his opinion of the oh-so-cute Dan, not to mention his worship of Franklin (who I so hope is going to be the straight man James finally winds up with)? What about the fact that the only African American in the show was eliminated first round (which was, I'll admit, for a reason that I didn't consider completely unreasonable, in that he was newly out), perpetuating the stereotype that gay men are almost always white?

Then of course, there's the stereotype that these boys have no problem living up to: the stereotype of the very attractive, very successful gay man who wants to make sure everyone knows that he's NOT A NELLY QUEEN. These guys have done wonders for that stereotype, and yes, I am bitter.

Second is this whole "Who's straight and who's gay?" nonsense, as though the possibility of the contestants ditching the object of their affection for one another isn't enough of a twist. On the one hand, it's meant to question the validity of gaydar. The people who came up with this seem to think that gaydar is always on, like we can sense gay men down the hall in our sleep or something. If a guy has explicitly said he wants to date me (as someone would on one of these reality shows) and is hanging out in a predominantly gay environment such as a gay bar (or this show) I'm going to let the gaydar get a rest and assume he's gay. Also, it's supposed to give straight men a taste of life in the closet. Well, then tell them that not only will they break James' poor widdle heart at the end, but they'll be fired from their job and never be allowed to marry. Then they'll know how it feels.

All of this, of course, might still let me watch reality dating shows. However, the thing that has really got to me is that it's finally sunk in what this stuff is all about: love as a competitive sport. James is held up as a lofty ideal: handsome, built, successful, smart, and, lest we forget, MASCULINE. All these guys see him as a prize far more than a human. The same thing was true of Joe Millionaire, of course, with the prize being all the more explicit. But when I watch this show, I think about how many guys I know that want nothing less than the cutest, most successful, straigtest seeming guy they can find, and the culture of jealousy that these guys create. There are a lot of them in the gay community, as much as there are in the straight world, I'm sure. It sucks to be reminded of that. And that, of course, is why this show is called, "Why I Don't Date."

The good news? Well, this show got me watching Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, the show that both precedes and follows "Why I Don't Date." The guys on that show are divas, one of them's Hispanic like me, none of them bore me with dating stories, and I could definitely imagine myself getting shitfaced with them and having the time of my life. Granted, I think the show belongs on TLC rather than Bravo, which needs to remember that it was called "The Film and Arts Network" before it was "The Gay (Man) Channel." However, Queer Eye--which I love for using the word Queer, even though some guys don't--provides the viewer with a nice spectrum of guys, from the FLAMING and FABULOUS Fashion Gay to the deep voiced (and sexy as all hell) Food Gay. The fact that they're goal is to reach out to straight men also makes the show more about tolerance than one in which straight men are closeted. These boys redefine Fairy Godmother, adding a twist of bitchiness and a lot of heart. It reminds me why I enjoy being gay in the first place.

So next time you have a free Tuesday, skip "Why I Don't Date," but give "Why I Love Being a Flaming Homo" a try. And also, if any of the Fab 5 OR Submarine Jason from the other show are reading this, drop me a line, honeys!

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The End - 2005-02-11
Let's Go on With the Show - 2005-01-30
The Curse, and This Bee's a Keeper - 2005-02-01
Sisters Lolita and Matronic Explain It All for You - 2005-01-31
Cowboys and Medievalists - 2005-01-30

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