“What’s on your mind?” asked Professor John Gaddis as he leaned back, put his hands behind his head and blew away my carefully cultivated and clearly unconvincing air of insouciance.
On my mind was a metaphysical question about my purpose in life. I get these bouts of metaphysics from time to time.
“Metaphysician, heal thyself!” quipped the prof. No, not really, he was much more helpful (if marginally less witty.) But lately they come not in single file but in battalions, questions such as:
Why do we say “as right as rain?”
Why should rain be noted for its accuracy more than any other type of weather?
What is to be done now that my favorite YDN columnist has quit?
Is Chad Callaghan pretty?
The answer to the third question is obvious, of course: ask the Roosevelt Institution to lobby for some form of Urban Regeneration Program. But the last…
(I hesitate to turn Scene into the sort of achingly self-referential journal beloved of academics in which nothing makes sense unless you’ve been reading for the past 27 years, but still.)
It all began two weeks ago with Chad Callaghan’s article, provocatively entitled “The Plight of the Pretty-Boys.”
What bothers me is that I was sure I was going to respond with a fulminating, foam-flecked, bow-tie revolving screed of wrath bitterly inveighing against … well, something. But upon rereading the article I found that I couldn’t possibly do this, for the simple reason that I didn’t understand it. I resolutely hung on, clinging to threads of comprehension like Linus Van Pelt to his blanket, until I hit the phrase “gay manwomb of Queen Competition,” at which point my mind threw down its pen and headed for the exit.
There are many reasons why I’m not totally at home at Yale (not American enough, not committed enough, can’t use the phrase “got diversity?” without laughing) and my best guess is that I’m just not gay enough to get it.
It’s not like I’m an Alpha male — in fact, if I were grading from my own policy sheet, I’d probably give myself Beta-minus for both style and content. And according to another of those brain-wiring tests, my mind turned out to be a balance of male and female; this explains a lot, not least the insistent sense of inadequacy I feel whenever I enter a hardware store.
My neural synapses flickered and buzzed like mosquitoes. (Not gay enough, not gay enough!) I hadn’t been this confused since reading French feminist theology.
Then, by the inscrutable workings of providence, I bumped into Chad, whom I don’t really know, twice in the same morning. First he was lifting very large weights in the gym, and then he was buying iced coffee in Booktrader’s. Ever since, my mind has been stuck revolving round the same question like a demented hamster on a wheel, namely:
“Is Chad Callaghan pretty?”
(A parenthetical bitch: If you’re lucky enough to be pretty, don’t irritate the rest of us by complaining. If you think it’s a problem, do something: go play rugby, for instance, which might make you buff but is very unlikely to leave you pretty. But otherwise stop complaining. You know you’d hate it if you looked normal).
And then, through my mental fog, came my mother’s voice like the beam of a lighthouse — which, frankly, scared the bejesus out of me.
“Too pretty,” she would say of some unfortunate actor or (occasionally) soccer player, shaking her head knowingly. My mom likes men not to be pretty, if possible. She would have said good things about Heathcliff. But what kind of universe was it where my mother’s disembodied voice agreed with the cri-de-coeur of a gay American actor?
I decided this was a question for Professor Gaddis.
I swiftly decided that this was not, in fact, a question for Professor Gaddis. At least not if I wanted to continue TF-ing for him.
So it might just have to stay with the imponderables. We have Chad’s word that he’s hirsute (YDN Sept 9), and, unless you’re an Afghan hound, hairy does not often mean pretty. He’s quite a big guy, but then so was Muhammed Ali, who described himself as pretty, and who’s going to argue with Ali?
Fortunately, it’s not really an issue in the long run. When Chad gets to London, I guarantee that women will throw themselves at him. And shortly afterwards, when the women have realized their mistake, so will men; and the cries of “coming, pretty or not!” will echo across the rooftops of my capital city.
Nick Baldock wants to walk Chad Callaghan.