Great hair, check. Muscled body, check. Pearly white teeth, check. And so on. They don’t have to have every quality on the list, just enough to be able to attract the attention of well, pretty much everyone in their path.
As a ‘non-pretty guy’ myself (and totally OK with it, don’t cry for me Argentina), I’ve never really had any interaction with pretty boys. Like fenced off pandas in a zoo, I’ve seen them and know of them, but I’ve never had anything to do with them directly. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just the law of the jungle.
Until last year. My partner and I went to our first ever Gay Ski Week in New Zealand. That’s where we met Michael (out of respect for his privacy, his name has been changed). Michael is a pretty boy. It was the opening night party, everyone was excited for the week of skiing and gay-ness that lay before us. And unusually for a gay party (at least in my experience anyway), people were actually talking to each other, and happily meeting new people as well!
It was in the sprit of this refreshing attitude-free zone, that my partner and I struck up a casual conversation with Michael. Turns out even though we were meeting across the pond, we were actually from the same city back home. His job was in an area I had a background and experience in (digital stuff) and he loved the same sort of deep house music my partner liked. It was nice to meet someone our own age, with who we shared a number of similar interests.
Funnily enough, the subject of his looks did come up. After a while of chatting, he turned and said, “Thanks for coming over to me and chatting”. As it turns out, the attitude-free zone I was experiencing, Michael wasn’t. While guys had been approaching him for most of the party, they were in most part, wanting something more from him than just a friendly chat. It seems that the down side of being pretty, is that a lot of people aren’t able to get past that. His chat with us was the first time Michael got to talk about other aspects of himself. A conversation not shaped by any ulterior motives.
I actually felt a little sorry for the guy. (Or maybe it was the tequila talking. After all, they were serving it from a tea pot. Yes, that’s right – tequila in a teapot. The kiwis have it sussed). I know it’s a totally first world and vacuous sounding thing to say, but I realised there is a down side to being good looking.
But being pretty is also a part of who Michael is. While he has elements of natural attractiveness, there are other elements that he actively pursues. He was open about sharing the cosmetic work he’s had done. And unless I missed the memo, I’m pretty sure the only way you get muscles is by pumping iron at the gym, which takes time, dedication and possibly the odd supplement or two. So, he’s not in any way, shape or form, a victim of his looks. He does in fact, play a big role in the way that people perceive him.
Which is what I discovered during the course of the week. Despite our great initial conversation on the opening night, Michael basically disappeared for the rest of the week. Sure, every time we passed by each other (Queenstown is very small, and most of the Aussie contingent were staying at the same hotel), we chit chatted, but that was about it. Michael was off doing pretty boy things. Like going to every single party every night of the week, making friends with other pretty boys, and of course, having the obligatory holiday fling with, you guessed it, another pretty boy.
This left me feeling a bit confused. When I ran into Michael in pretty boy mode, he was different than when I spoke to him one-on-one. There were two distinct sides to his personality. One was affected by his pretty, the other wasn’t. The politics of pretty was in play, and Michael was working the system. Is there something inherent within the gay scene that produces this kind of social pecking order, so much so, that we simply transplant it and take it with us when we travel to a new place?
It would be easy to dismiss him as an egomaniac needing a fix of adoration, or even as someone who is really insecure and using his looks as a way of overcompensating for having those feelings. In all honesty, I don’t know where the truth lies for him. Maybe he doesn’t either.
Having returned to Oz, our friendship with Michael has naturally dwindled. Occasionally, I’ll see him in the scene photos that you see around the place. He looks great, as always. Ever more buff, more smiley and more tanned. This is what he shows the world, and what he wants the world to see. It’s just a shame that he doesn’t realise that the guy beneath the buff and bronzed exterior – the smart, funny, observant, well-travelled, considerate and slightly shy guy I met at the opening night party – is also worth sharing with the world.