Ode to cis het boys
This one goes out to the all-girls school gang
I’m going to see Northman with the lads this evening. I see Matt’s bare knees first, then I see Felix in a dark green fleece, standing around on the piazza downstairs below the huge Wood Green Vue multiplex, a building whose architecture is ambitious and sad in a very 2000s way. Matt’s eating a yoghurt and Felix has a packet of double-chocolate digestives. The sun’s low in the sky and bright.
If these two Americans have been to see a movie here since they’ve got to London it was probably at a boujie spot like Picturehouse. They don’t know the movies at the big chains take about half an hour to start. It’s good: the adverts are actually the one of the best parts of the cinema trip with friends because I can take the piss as loudly as I want, and it’s vital I’m funny because Matt and Felix are newer friends of mine. I don’t say anything good but I receive a couple of friendly laughs. The ‘turn-your-phone-off’ short comes on where John Boyega tells us, like a boomer, that we’re so bad at paying attention these days. Various people walk around a set with their eyes on their devices, but he’s saying if they switch off they’ll be able to just enjoy a movie. It’s a really counterproductive ad since the vibe of it feels so much like an advert for a phone network.
When the trailers come on I snicker dismissively at the cool dude stylish horror films with the weird imagery which are coming out soon that Felix points out are very typical offerings from those studios but which I will certainly be watching. When Felix makes a joke his eyebrows are motionless in a way that makes everything he says seem like a flirtation.
If straightness were an ethnicity I do think that would make up a large percentage of my ancestry.com results. Other than the small fact I also date gay people, I’m basically straight since I’m mostly crushing on, having sex with and loving men*. I have a gay “vibe” and that’s why the majority of my friends are gay (*I do hear rumours sometimes that the orientation I am is referred to as bisexual or pansexual. Frankly I prefer to let the elemental forces of lesbian and straight fight a hellish war inside of me).
When lights go down, the dialogue is pretty hard to hear and I turn to Felix a few times so I can ask for clarifications on plot points, but also because I’m thriving in the interaction. I have the thought that Felix could touch my leg with his leg or vice versa and that reminds me that I’m really quite horny. This has happened before when I have hung out with straight boys and recently it’s been taking me by surprise. Although I remind myself we’ve just come out of a two-year physical intimacy famine, my sporadic and straightforward thirst for men reminds me of being a teenager and I struggle to reason with the possibility that this is pretty typical for me.
Hanging out with cis het boys is thrilling. It makes me feel alive. Is it because I find them sexy? Yes. But I’m still working out what it is that my lust for the straight dude is founded on. Novelty is surely part of it. My life has mostly been light on cis het boys after spending adolescence at a girls’ school. Since my uni years I’ve enjoyed the luxury of selecting the people I want in my life and hanging out with them with intention. I hang out with people who care deeply about the state of the world in a beautiful and liberating way. I hang out with artists. I hang out with gays. I go to the club where I give evils to any person either dancing too annoyingly OR larger than me in stature and not dancing. This has meant I don’t engage with a lot of men, but doesn’t stop me from loving and being delighted by them.
I don’t talk loads most of the time when I meet with people. Rather than forcing myself to change my natural pace in conversations I’ve been practising displacing awkwardness as something inherently part of me. I hope that if I show that I do not care about awkwardness, this will allow other people to chill out and realise they do not care either. Awkwardness is a superstition, like ghosts, because if you don’t believe in it then it’s not real. But at Nando’s after the movie I start to get awkward. It’s around the time I pick up my saucy quarter chicken with my hands and the other two are still attempting it with cutlery. Matt, who, incidentally, might be one of the hottest people I have ever seen, has a jester’s personality and smoothes out most social gatherings with ease. But for a time the two of them talk with me in a laboured fashion (What other movies have you watched) and I recall chats with other straight boy friends that go down exactly like this.
When I talk with people, I’m not really a big picture type. I tend to zero in with a question about something extremely stupid and specific. I need to respond to others and essentially deflect the attention back away from myself. I get deathly bored by general questions (apart from when I’m talking to an Uber driver). If I’m hanging out with someone (boys) who don’t really chat to ‘get to know’ people then we’re pretty much damned to go in circles on movies, video games and superficial banter, which is sparkling at the best of times and depressing at the worst.
After escaping Nando’s, at the bus stop, when Matt and Felix say something about football, they’re American and I think it’s charming rather than annoying. Boys are so great and different, I laugh to myself. But they’re not that much of a novelty, really. I’m not short of the company of blokes when I come to think of it. My friend Anlin is an electronic music listening, internet-radio-loving bloke. My friend Alice is a film industry daddy and also a bloke. My friend Kay is into craft beer and alternative bands from Seattle who only sell their music on cassette tape. I could name other gays and theys I love who are blokes. Their company gives me great pleasure and I never get enough. And still I choose to engage in halting and unnatural conversations hanging out with cis boys. I ask myself the question: “Am I a straight-man-fetishizer?”
Surely it goes deeper. Well, a lot of the things I like might be considered bro-y. When I successfully engage in bro chat I affirm to myself that my interests are cool in some way. I also like to accumulate pointless general knowledge, which sometimes makes me think I can relate to bros. My literal bro was quite key to shaping my personality as he was a big source of cultural references when I was a child. I felt pretty proud knowing about stuff a lot of other kids didn’t and I often sought his approval. (Could this mean I fancy my brother? I am not ready for this Freudian psychoanalysis and I’m certain that the world doesn’t need it from me either).
If we’re looking at it from a gender point of view, hanging with the lads makes me feel basically more masc at the same time as it makes me notice the ways I’m feminine. I love putting on a show of boyhood and thinking I’m desired for it.
I know that heterosexuality isn’t the be all and end all, even though I do find it fun, so whilst I date cis men I’m also on the quest for the lesbian of my dreams, my enby wifey or my transmasc boyfriend. The gay I lock down will have the passenger seat throne in my Toyota and pick the tunes, they might be from the ends, they’ll have a similar middling to poor stamina level to me - so that we can hit the gym together, they’re patient and confident, are a good cook, and physical touch will be high up on their love languages. I’m compiling these characteristics to aid my search for the one in my gay partnered future. I am more methodical about dating queers: I don’t know if it’s cause or correlation that when I am around them I don’t have that blind curtain of lust that I get when I’m horny for straight dudes. I’m trying to build myself a gay syntax because I think I’m fluent enough in heterosexual at this point in my life and, not to generalise too much, but queers are factually better in bed.
Anyways, I’m not sure if it’s during the scene in the movie where Alexander Skarsgard has a naked swordfight with his uncle inside the mouth of an active volcano when I start getting reflective about gender. Muscles rippling, and emotional psyche wholly unexamined, I’ve watched two hours of him pillaging and fighting and having moonlit sex with Anya Taylor Joy.
I am a lad. Lads love viking shit. I love lads. It’s a flow-chart with three sexy entities. When Skarsgard decapitates his nemesis with a final swing of his sword, I’m screaming and hissing with delight. Afterwards, Matt says the movie leaves something to be desired. I don’t know what he’s talking about.