Monthly Archives: August 2012

Why I Like People Who Hate Me For Liking To Write About Hating My Gay Body

Dear Diary,

Last week I wrote a blog post entitled Why The Gays Hate Their Bodies. Some people loved it, many people hated it, and what I learned was that everyone else is as sensitive about their bodies as I am. My reasoning for posting was threefold. I wanted to expose the conflicted feelings I have about my own body so that other people struggling with the same issues would feel less alone in their worries. I wanted to point out that there are specific factors to being a gay man that lead to us having a heightened self-consciousness about our bodies. And finally I wanted to poke fun at how stupid this whole thing is by satirizing it. Clearly, I have genuine issues with my own body and my own hatred of it. But I also have issues with my issues, realizing how lame it is to spend time thinking about something so superficial.

There were plenty of responses to my post, most of them biting and witty. The award for best title goes to:

Terrible Gay Man Figured Out That Terrible Gay Men Make Gay Men Feel Terrible

The post itself is deliciously biting at times but mostly a lazily written series of quotations out of context followed by a rallying cry for hating me. Which was productive in that the “me” he was railing against stood for body-conscious gays who judge other people based on their bodies. That’s not really me, but I can imagine how the author came to that conclusion. I don’t resent the article and I appreciate its sentiment. But I do think it could have been more fleshed out because the writer is clearly a clever and analytical person.

The Gawker article written by Louis Peitzman was more thoughtfully written and much more nuanced. Peitzman felt I was contributing to gay body panic, which is probably true considering I was talking about my own gay body panic. He also wrote that I told gay men to hate their bodies. This is completely up to interpretation, and I can see how someone would think that. Sometimes, when we talk about things we hate in ourselves, it makes those around us worry about that very same thing. Sometimes the opposite happens and they realize they are not alone in their worry. This is why the responses to my post were so polarized. Some people felt validated and comforted that I shared their body worries, some people felt that as I was judging myself, I was also judging them. Both are valid feelings that are more about the reader than my original text.

Over at Huffington Post, Derek Hartley wrote the type of post I’d expect a friend (or someone who loyally reads my blog) to have. Basically he understood that it was satire, that I am not a gay body hegemon, and that I was writing to satirize a flaw that I see within myself and my community. After reading articles and comments from so many people who read my  post out of context, it was nice to read something by someone who knew my “voice” enough to know I was on his side. I do not want people to feel badly about their bodies. I want the opposite.

By far, the most thoughtful conversations came from the comments field. To be sure, there are a lot of internet trolls out there who got some sweet satisfaction calling me vapid, fat, and ugly, but there were also a lot of people who contributed great things to the conversation about body image. If you haven’t sifted through the comments field, I’d take a browse because there is a lot of helpful insight amongst the angry two-dimensional responses.

Now, I’d like to clear a few things up. A lot of people were wondering if I the post was meant to be serious of if it was a joke. I can see why this was confusing because it was both. Yes, I’m serious about hating my body, and yes I’m smart enough to know what a stupid waste of time that is. When things bother me, I tend to joke about them. It’s always been the way I deal with stuff. I’m self-deprecating about my looks, about how co-dependent I am, and about how sometimes I think about superficial stuff. My hope was that the image of Ursula the Sea Witch and my sarcastic tone would clue people in to the fact that the article was meant as a satire. Of myself. Instead of feeling in on the joke, many continued to satirize me, which was probably the most productive thing that could have happened, proving my point even more that while gay body image is a relevant topic of discussion, it’s also kind of a stupid one.

Another issue most responses (especially the Gawker response) brought to light was that of privilege. My joke about gay men all being wealthy was mainly one making fun of that perception. I think generalizations are inherently funny. It’s like generalizing that all white people love corn dogs. It’s not true but saying it is so ridiculous that it makes me laugh (Sidenote: all white people do love corn dogs. And apple picking. And rural county fairs). The real issue of privilege here comes in all of our privilege to even worry about something like body image. If I had been raised in an area where there was a scarcity of food and I had to worry about where my next meal was coming from, would I have been anorexic in high school? Probably not. The fact that we are even having this conversation is an act of privilege. Which doesn’t mean body image issues are not a worthy conversation. We (most of us reading this) live within our own context as people residing in the first world, and our “problems” exist fully within the context of our [relatively privileged in the scheme of the world] context.

Ultimately, what everyone wants to hear is that we should all just love our bodies. Which is the truth and something we all know. However, if it were really that easy we’d all love our bodies, love ourselves, and be perfectly happy all the time. The fact is that we don’t always love our bodies. We don’t always love ourselves. And unless we talk about why, we’ll never get past all the stupid hang-ups that impede our happiness.

So until we are advanced enough to stop critiquing our bodies and hating them, I will continue to make fun of how much I loath mine. Don’t take it personally.

Love,
Orlando

More Links:

Chris Ryan

Out Magazine

Playing With Politics

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Duck, duck….no duck

By Contributing Food Editor Jared Levan

Dear Californians,

As I’m sure many of you aware, you recently lost the right to purchase foie gras (since, approximately July 1st). While the ban was targeted specifically at the sale of the delicious end product that is foie gras, it was apparently so “broadly” written that it may also carry over to all skin, feather and other by-products that come from duck raised for foie gras production.

So what’s the big deal? Well the reason that animal rights activists are so against the sale of foie gras is, not surprisingly, focused on the methods used to produce it. Before you can sell foie gras, you’ve got to first fatten up a duck or goose to the point where the animals liver has fattened and become engorged from such a gluttonous diet. The problem is, this typically means that ducks are force-fed copious amounts of feed to “speed up” the process and ensure the desired end product.


(Foie Gras Terrine)

Regardless of the controversy, restaurants, chefs and consumers across California are still finding ways to get their foie gras and eat it too…so did this ban really accomplish anything at all? What makes this cause more prominent than many other animal-rights encouraged actions and why did this particular cause get it’s own ban?


(Duck Confit)

If consumers across the nation…save the world, will continue to find ways of buying and consuming foie gras and other by-products of the fattening process, than that means culinary professionals will still need to be trained in how to cook with and serve said offering. That being said, how will folks be trained if it’s illegal for the schools in which they learn are not permitted to provide it’s students with the correct supplies?


(Foie Gras Mousse)

My point, summarized below, is:

1. Schools can’t properly teach technique with merely “theoretical” knowledge of any food so the ban severely hurts the culinary community.

2. While I don’t/won’t miss trans fats, or +16 oz. sodas, these bans on food focus more on stopping people from being stupid, when the real issue is education. Instead of banning large drinks, offer more inexpensive alternatives, offer more incentives, or just educate them (and I don’t mean with those ads that look like a cup brimming with fat).

3. Let people make their own choices. If you don’t support inhumane treatment of animals, then only eat foie gras from humanely raised producers…no one is forcing you to eat it.

4. People are always going to find a way around the law–whether it’s blocking the sale of alcohol or animal products. Rather than making it illegal to buy/sell, which will promote unlawful conduct, regulate it’s production standards to appease those who so staunchly despise it.

5. I’m glad I live in New York where I can still buy duck fat–it’s a staple in my kitchen, one I’m not willing to give up anytime soon.

Love,
Jared

Jared Levan

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Why The Gays Hate Their Bodies

Dear Straight People,

Every morning when I wake up, this is what I think I look like:

Meanwhile, laying right next to me is my boyfriend. He looks like this:

I know what you’re thinking. I’m lucky, right? I know.

Not only does my model boyfriend look like a model, my friends look like this:

I never sought out to have friends with such perfect bodies. Quite the contrary actually. As an FFK (Former Fat Kid) I’ve always identified as a fat person. But for some reason when I grew up all my friends became hot skinny people. This could be for many reasons. Maybe it’s because I am a terrible, superficial person. Maybe it’s because I live in a city and people who live in cities get skinny from running all over the place and going on trendy diets. Perhaps it’s because of my educational background at Ivy League schools, where everyone was obsessive compulsive about everything, from their grades to their caloric intake. I have no idea why everyone around me is so skinny. Sometimes I resent it because I tend to be the chunkiest person around and I’m not even fat. Sometimes I appreciate it because it inspires me to keep in shape and think of kale as an acceptable meal replacement. All of this will lead to me living a longer, healthier life, aside from the mental anguish that comes with not having perfect abs.

For full disclosure, this is approximately what my body looks like right now:

I’m not showing you this because I want you to tell me how gross/amazing I look (please don’t). I’m showing you this because intellectually I know I actually have a pretty normal body. Put me in an airport in Iowa and I’m pretty much the skinniest person there. But I am fat by West Hollywood standards. Gays in major cities live in a warped bubble where we are freaks if we don’t somehow magically look like underwear models.

I, like many Gays, have a terrible relationship with my body. You know why? Because I’m a Gay. Why do Gays hate their bodies? Allow me to explain in list form.

Why The Gays Hate Their Bodies

By Orlando Dumond Soria

1. Because we are surrounded by images of perfect bodies.

Because men are inherently superficial and inferior to women, we rely on visual cues for arousal. Marketers know this and they use hunky pictures of gay men to get us to do stuff. Like go to clubs, buy underwear, and drink more alcohol. This teaches us that we are only having fun if we look like models. Which is probably true.

2. Because we compare ourselves with our partners.

Same sex couples compare themselves with one another. It’s a one-to-one comparison. Comparing a boyfriend’s body with his girlfriend’s body is like comparing apples and oranges. Comparing a boyfriend’s body with a boyfriend’s body is like comparing apples and apples. And nobody wants to be the apple that’s a weird ugly shape and lacks the ability to get a proper tan.

3. Because if you’re a gay guy with a boyfriend, this is what he sees every day in the locker room:

I’m not kidding. You should see my gym’s locker room. Everyone is a model. Straight girls: imagine if your boyfriend went into a room full of hot, naked girls every day after he worked out. Would that not, like totally freak you out? Gay guys are pretty good at not ogling each other in the locker room (this conditioning comes from trying not to look gay in high school locker rooms). However, there are naked dudes all over the locker room. Naked dudes with perfect bodies. Trust me, your gay boyfriend has taken a peek at those perfect bodies and he’s comparing you to them. Which is terrifying because they’re perfect. I’m getting scared just thinking about it.

4. Because these are our most cherished community leaders:

(He’s a bartender).

5. Because gay people are more successful than other people, which makes them more competitive, with each other, which makes them more competitive about what their bodies look like.

Let’s face it, Gay people are better at life than straight people. They eat better, wear better clothes, and go on more glamourous vacations. I don’t really know why, it’s just a fact of life. But with this great privilege comes a great burden. Not only do we have to make tons of money to pay for all these stupid clothes and vacations, we also have to work out for hours on only 80 calories a day to prevent ourselves from being socially ostracized.

6. Because we are always running around with our shirts off.

I have no idea when it happened, but at some point shirts stopped being an option at Gay parties. When so much of socializing is done sans shirt, it heightens the pressure to be totally skinny.

Sidenote: I saw this image about six years ago and I have never been the same since. It speaks to me on so many levels. Oh, that I were that towel, being waved in the wind by those caramel hunks. Dreamz.

7. Because of fear.

Brian Moylan over at Gawker cites fear as the number one reason gay men have such hot bodies. Fear of being alone. Fear of being rejected. Etcetera. While I agree with this wholeheartedly, I think fear can be used as an explanation for pretty much every single thing in the whole world. The only reason I do anything at all is fear. Fear of being homeless. Fear of being a failure. Fear of alienating everyone in my life by going too far with my love of 80s fashion. If I wasn’t completely petrified of everything, I’d never get out of bed in the morning.

8. Because all our friends look like Ken Dolls.

There was a New York Times article a few years ago about how people with skinny friends tend to be skinny. This article affected my former roommate so tremendously that she watched me intently every time I ate something, fearful that I might eat too much and get fat, therefore causing her to gain weight. I believe there is truth to this theory. If you’re constantly surrounded by people who workout and eat lightly, you’re going to end up just as skinny as they are. It’s like a positive version of peer pressure where everyone ends up looking like Malibu Ken.

9. Because our most cherished teachers look like this:

(He’s a personal trainer).

10. Because we have nothing better to do.

Because of all their money, intelligence, and free time, Gays love hobbies. Being manic about our bodies is just another activity to add to our list of Gay Cruises, hipster-indie concerts, and gallery openings.

That concludes my list of reasons Gays hate their bodies. I hope my overwhelmingly bitter and insecure tone didn’t make me seem bitter and insecure. I’m actually not that annoyed that I hate my body (the hatred keeps me energetic and vibrant). However, I do think we need to take all of this body mania with a grain of salt. I appreciate that Gays are so body-oriented because it forces us all to be really physically fit, which leads to a happier life with more wardrobe options. Ultimately our body dysmorphia is a good thing which will force our community and outlive our straight peers and take over the world.

Love,
Orlando

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Ode to Life, Julia Child (1912-2004)

By Contributing Food Editor Jared Levan

Dear Julia Child,

With this week marking what would have been your 100th birthday, I felt obliged to commemorate your life and your accomplishments.

Before you were Julia Child, you were Julia McWilliams of Pasadena, California. It’s hard to believe, but you weren’t always passionate about food and cooking.

You met your husband, Paul Child, and fell in love. You and Paul moved to Paris–unbeknownst to you, this relocation would change your life forever.

While there, you fell in love again (this time with food). The passion and curiosity that blossomed led you to train at Le Cordon Bleu and work with some of the finest chefs.

Food made you smile.

Your fondness for the art of French cooking was so strong, that you wanted to share it with the world outside of Paris. And while it was a long and labored process, you managed to write one of the most iconic cookbooks of all time, paving the way for home cooks, mostly women at the time, to embrace cooking with many of the techniques and flavors you’d found so moving across the Atlantic.

That book–Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

With the book, came fame. So much so that you had your own television show…which eventually became about eight more.

And at least one movie. Meryl Streep played you and it was magnificent.

Sometimes, you cooked with swords.

Sometimes, a mallet. You had a tool for everything.

The world fell in love with your food…your beef bourguignon most of all.

Food introduced you to some of your greatest friends (here, with Jacques Pepin).

Paul remained by your side through this journey of food and fame.

You grew old together.

And quite a journey it was. Your story goes down in history as one of the most inspiring examples of living your dreams through food. You will always be remembered. We love you, and we miss you.

Rest in Peace, Julia.

Love,
Jared

Jared Levan

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Shopping With Emily

 

Curious what Emily and I are shopping for? Check out my post on stylebyemilyhenderson.com.

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21 Shelves I Want In My Life Right Now

Dear My Non-Existent Shelves,

Each day I when wake up, dewy-eyed and ready to start the day, the first thing I think to myself is, “Gee, I wish I had some shelves to put all these stacks of books in.” Sure, stacks of books make a home look inviting and lived-in, but shelving is glamour on a whole new level.

These shelves look like something I would make if I had the skills. Rectangular and crazy looking (like my face). AND they double as stairs. (Double win).

These shelves are pretty minimal and would be boring if it weren’t for all the wonderful books crammed into them.

This is what happens in real life when a client wants shelving: They’re all “I want shelving to make my space look more inviting and lived-in, like an old library.” And then I’m all “Well you better have a TON of books and knickknacks, because we’re going to need a lot to fill those shelves.” And then they’re like “Oh I have plenty of books.” Then they hand me six books and cat figurine and tell me to get started on the shelves. Then I’m all “That’s not enough, we need like 30,000 times this much stuff to fill these shelves!” And then they punch me in the face and I leave and tell them to style their own shelves. Usually the shelves end up looking like this because everyone loves coral:

There should always be shelves under the stairs. It should be against the law NOT to have shelving under the stairs. Another thing that should be against the law: those disgusting chairs.

Library + huge windows = dream come true.

Library + no windows = room where insider deals are made and secrets are kept.

This fireplace/shelving combination makes me slightly worried that all those books would go up in flames, but it’s worth it because this looks so beautiful. Also, maybe they’re really bad books and they deserve to burn. Just kidding. Don’t burn books, it’s bad.

Look at this pleasant little sun room. Can’t you just imagine sitting in that chair, staring at all the books you never plan to read?

This shelving provides a clever room divider. You know what else is a room divider? Abortion. Never bring it up at a dinner party.

I love how chic and minimal these are.

How far would you go to have this office? That circular shelf on the ceiling is to die for.

Glamourous and bright with a million books. That’s how I want my whole life to be.

Another example of a stairs/shelves combo. This works every time. I’m going to write my senator about getting that shelves under stairs law passed.

The height of this shelf reminds me of that scene in ‘Beauty and the Beast’ where Beast takes Belle to see the library and it’s totally crazy and enormous and out of control and she gets, like, really excited. Sidenote: one time I took a guy on a date to see ‘Beauty and the Beast’ at a movie theatre. Word from the wise: don’t ever take a man on a date to see ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ Instead of making you look attractive and intelligent (which you are) it will reveal to your guy that you are, in fact, a seven-year old girl (which you are).

Whitewashed wood, modular seating, clever sconces. Me-OW.

I love this giant sofa for your one million friends to sit on whilst they read the one million books in the shelving above their heads.

I’m pretty sure this is just stacked Ikea Expedit shelves, but it looks GOOD.

I love diagonal shelves, although I learned the hard way (by making one myself) that they are totally impractical and hard to use (it’s hard to get the books out because of the weight). But hey, most pretty things are impractical so it would be worth it to see all these fun diagonal lines. I think….

This is the shelf I designed. It was impossible to use. But I loved it.

I’ve never met a person who didn’t want a secret room hiding behind a shelf-door. It is the most exciting thing one could have in a home. Think of all the fun you could have in your secret room, playing with your gold pieces and looking through your treasure chest.

Can you imagine if this were your shelf and someone was like “Can I see that book up there at the top?” And then you’d have to go out and buy a huge ladder, drive it home, and lug it up the stairs just to let them see your copy of ‘Reba: My Story’ by Reba McEntire.

I’m going to spend the rest of the day thinking about shelving whilst cursing the piles of books all over my apartment. And so can you!

Love,
Orlando

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Gore Vidal: 1925 – 2012

Dear Gore Vidal,

Few writers have touched my life the way you did. Your stories have enriched my life, haunted my memories, and were the lens through which I viewed my twenties. In 2003, my sister gave me a copy of your novel, The City and the Pillar, which is not only one of the very first novels to openly discuss complex gay characters, but is also the most heartwrenching work of fiction I have ever read. Equally captivating are your memoirs, Palimpsest and Point to Point Navigation. Through sharing your fascinating life story, you also shared your humanity. Your work is a reminder to be thoughtful about life, to appreciate the riches that lie within the people around us, and to find pleasure in our complicated relationships.

Below are some images of you throughout your life. From your writing career to your time in Hollywood to your political aspirations, you lived a fascinating life. Luckily, in addition to your incredible body of work you left behind a beautiful collection of photographs for us to remember you by. Enjoy.

Thank you for your work. It has truly changed my life.

Love,
Orlando

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What To Do With All These Ugly Things

What have I been shopping for? Check out my post on Emily’s blog.

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