When I lived in France, we used to play a little game called “Gay, or Just French?”
The majority of you probably have no idea why someone would need to play this. After all, in Minnesota (and pretty much anywhere else in the US of A, save for areas of the East Coast & LA), the day-to-day wardrobe for men generally consists of drabby jeans or sweatpants, a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, and if it’s cold out, some team-branded ski cap of sorts. If a man is spotted wearing fitted dark jeans, dress shoes & a blazer, he’s automatically thought to be one of the following:
- Going on a date (wearing the outfit his girlfriend both picked out for him and forced him to wear to match her equally flashy outfit)
- Gay (self-explanatory)
- Attending some sort of party/wedding/funeral/birthday/graduation (whereby, once again, his girlfriend both picked out and forced him to wear her outfit choice)
Unfortunate and pigeon-holed as this assumption is, it is rooted quite deeply in the truth. Now, I fully applaud the gentlemen out there who defy this stereotype on a daily basis. You are all Gods in my eyes. So, if you could just take a moment and untuck that button-up and just slowly lift it up and expose that little V….just kidding, just kidding. (Mom…don’t worry, I’ve never seen a man’s abs/chest/V unless he’s been swimming at the beach…I, um…promise…).
Now given this truth, imagine my surprise upon my arrival in the land of romance to find that everyone around me was GAY!!!! OH MY GOD WILL I EVER MAKEOUT WITH SOMEONE IN THE NEXT FIVE MONTHS????
That was my initial
thought fear. Then, a revelation dropped from the sky. Or rather, brushed me in its embrace. I’m referring, you see, to the time when I stood on a jam-packed metro next to a couple fornicating and slowly (and I hope, accidentally) caressing my shoulder. “Aha! So there ARE straight men here!” said I, picturing the exact details of how I would be swept off my feet and dancing in the moonlight every night for the next 150 days.
(Insert “wrong” buzzer noise here)
Enter the game that would become a daily occurrence in the lives of myself and all other straight foreign exchange students for the next five months. Gay, or just French?
French men, I learned quite quickly, are unapologetically in touch with their masculinity and feel no need to convince the world that they are straight. They willingly accept metrosexual fashions, and as such, can be found wearing any and all of the below at any given time. However, the frequency of these appearances makes this game almost impossible to win. It’s like that SNL “It’s Pat” skit where nobody could figure out if “Pat” was a man or a woman. Ahh, the dilemmas of life.
- Murses – These babies would NEVER be found on a straight man this side of the pond. Oh no. For you see, the term “murse” is derived from the word combination of “purse” and “man.” But, alas, the European male rocks this satchel – be it in leather, canvas or patent – and somehow manages to exude heterosexuality. Though, I will admit it took me quite some time to accept the appearance of this bag as “normal.” So…is he gay? Or just French?
- Scarves – Now by scarves, I’m not referring to the ones every gender uses when it’s cold as shit outside to keep their appendages from falling off. I’m referring to scarves used solely for the purpose of style. As in, “oh, it’s summer…let me throw on my scarf even though I’m going to sweat profusely…I MUST add a certain je ne sais quoi to my ensemble!” Women around the world are beyond guilty for performing this act. But men? Well, that’s pretty much concentrated in Europe. Which again begs the question…gay or just French?
- Boots over pants – Though I have noticed this trend slowly moving into Amuurrrica, it tends to stick to either hipsters or gay men. (Speaking of which – wanna hear a joke? Why did the hipster burn his tongue? Because he drank his coffee before it was cool! Bahahaha. God, I’m funny.) The French male, on the other hand, has embraced the allure of the boot. I didn’t have to think too hard on the “normalcy” of this one – it is, after all, quite sexy in my opinion. Especially when the wearer has a jawline that could cut steel. Rawr. But, sexy or not, it’s still a perfect fit for the game. Gay, or just French?
- Deep V-necks – How many straight men have you ever in your entire existence seen wearing a deep v-neck tee? I’m gonna go ahead and bet that number is a big fat zero. Why? Well, let’s just say that we’ve all been indoctrinated to believe that the sole reason for a deep v is to show off a little boobage. Am I right? Or am I right? C’mon ladies – you know if you’re going out on the town and looking for a hunk-a-hunk-a-burnin-love, you’re ten times more likely to drop the cut of your shirt/dress/button-up low enough to make a few heads turn. But, I’m telling you – I saw more men sporting this look than I can even count. And I’m still not fully on board (you’ll understand after watching this hilarious SNL digital short with Ben Stiller). Which brings me back to our little game. Gay, or just French?
5. Jewelry – Here, you see men everywhere wearing wedding rings, watches, the occasional chain necklace or hemp anklet. But the one thing these all have in common is their minimalistic appearance. Jewelry has never been a big man’s man thing. In fact, one might venture so far as to say that women basically have a monopoly on the jewelry industry. Diamonds are, after all, every girl’s best friend (never mind that my diamonds are cubic zurconia and came straight from Target). But the French didn’t get that memo. Nope. It flew right past them. Didn’t even register on their radar. French men wear more jewelry than I’ve even seen on some women. Once again…gay or just French?
I wrestled with this dilemma on the street, in class, at the market, in the mall, on the tram/metro/train, in museums…and the list goes on and on. But perhaps the most frustrating was experiencing this dilemma in bars, where the dim lighting and far-too-many-beers made the confusion enormously greater than it already was.
As I’m sure you can imagine, my inner conversation went a little something like this:
“Do I wink? Stare? Creepily inch myself towards him until I ‘happen’ to brush up against his bod? Buy him a…oh…wait a sec…is he gay? Or just French? Dammit. I can’t tell…fuck it…I’ll just drink another beer.”
And that my friends, is just the way the cookie crumbles. Ambiguity is the new black. Sigh.
- What images spring to mind when you hear the country France? (eslschoolforenglish.wordpress.com)
- Tying One On In Paris (1000thingstosaybeforeidie.com)
- Why Men Enjoy Italian Scarves As Much As Women Do (dangerouslee.biz)
- Gucci Boho Boy: Love It or Hate It? (fabsugar.com)
- How To Know If Someone Is Gay (mademan.com)