Tuesday, June 14, 2011

But what about gay French women?

At Gawker, Brian Moylan takes on Simon Doonan's new book, one with a title that sounds, in retrospect, inevitable: Gay Men Don't Get Fat, a take on Mireille Giuliano's tome on French Women. Moylan's claim is that we wouldn't all be so rah-rah about gay male svelteness if we knew where it came from. Where it comes from, Moylan explains, is that gay men not only fear remaining single forever if they're not perfectly-built, but need to stay looking good even once coupled off, because,

There are countless committed gay couples out there who like to either play on the side or invite guest stars into their beds. And you're not going to get any A-list guest stars if you're giving D-list torso with a four-star gut. Yes, gay men go to the gym to stay competitive, but since the man-eating marathon doesn't end after marriage, they just keep on competing and competing until death do they part.
Why Moylan claims to be "let[ing Gawker readers] in on a little secret" here is beyond me, given that, if differing norms about monogamy in (some parts of) the gay male community weren't already known, there's "monogamish" Dan Savage out there, making sure that no one's left in the dark on this one.

But what's more to the point is, why, exactly, is Moylan contrasting gay men with French women? He ends his post, "For me, well, I'd much rather be French." But, to remind: the book was about French women. It's not expected that French men will stay slim forever, although they look awfully thin to me. And French women, for better and for worse, are expected to remain hott well into their 80s if not beyond. Slim, hair done, makeup done but not too done, 10,000 euros worth of skin creams piled on one after the next where maybe the result's not visible to the naked eye, but It Is Important To Care About Your Skin. (For an American example of the "French" approach, see here. For my previous tirade on the subject, here.)

Whether the stunning elderly of Passy are in fact leading lives as passionate as (or more passionate than!) the monogamish middle-aged of Chelsea is something I don't know and don't intend to research. What I do know is, the (kind-of) upside to the French insistence that older women be hott is that older women continue to be looked upon as hott. Think of Prudie's remark, one that many an American woman has made, this in response to a letter-writer who doesn't love cat-calls:
When I walk down the street with my lovely teenage daughter, men passing in trucks will honk their horns and make appreciative kissing sounds at her. They apparently think the prune standing next to her is deaf as well as old. Yet, their catcalls spark a vestigial memory in me—a couple of decades ago I used to hear vocal judgments from men. At the time it was annoying. Yet given their absence, I have to admit it wasn't all bad.
Come to Paris, Prudie, and you too can be called a salope for not responding to young men's advances.

Anyway. My point is that the same tradeoff that sexiness into old age demands of gay men, in cliché at least, is demanded of French women, again, at least in cliché.

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