Have you ever noticed how Germans like to wear dark-colored dress socks with sandals or tennis shoes, even while wearing shorts?
It does bring up a very interesting fashion dilemma, though: if you're wearing white pants and dark-colored shoes, what color socks should you choose? White tube socks look dorky, but dark socks look funny too. Got any advice? --Confused Sock Boy
On your behalf I called snooty, bankrupt Barneys on Seventh Avenue in great big New York City, where a sales representative promptly put me on hold. After about, oh, ten minutes, I put New York on hold and called Barneys in Seattle. The Seattle sales rep didn't want me to use his name, for fear of angering his manager--who hadn't authorized him to speak to the press about socks--so we'll just call him Ishmael.
Tube socks look dorky, but dark socks look funny? "Well," said Ishmael, "get some white socks that aren't tube socks. I mean, hello? If you're wearing shorts, dark socks on bare legs look terrible. With white pants you should wear white or light-colored socks with a subtle yet distinctive pattern."
As for Germans and their bad habit of wearing sandals and dark socks--since they gave up stomping around in jackboots, those Aryan rat bastards haven't figured out what to do with their feet. And hey, just as a side note: Russia, keep the Trojan gold! Twenty million dead? You earned it!
Back to Barneys. If a customer walked in wearing shorts and dark socks, would Ishmael say something? Ask him to leave? "If they asked, I would tactfully say, 'Maybe something in a lighter color might be more appropriate.' If they don't ask, I'll cringe a little bit, but I won't say anything. I certainly wouldn't ask them to leave."
Does Barneys in Podunk ol' Seattle strive for New York-style rudeness? "In our store most people think they're treated pretty nicely. Some people come in with their guard up, expecting to be treated badly if they're not dressed just so. We try to curb that feeling by treating everyone equally."
I'm a woman who goes to gothic/industrial clubs. Although I'm not a true goth, I like the music, dressing up, and the atmosphere. Usually, I go out, talk to no one, and no one talks to me. A year or so ago, I thought it would've been nice to have a pretty goth boy for a boyfriend, but now I don't care one way or the other.
My question: Is this normal? When people who know I go clubbing ask me if I had a good time, I say yes. But I dread them asking, because I wonder if the situation is pathetic. You make the call. --T
PS: In general, I'm kind of a solitary person.
I like to go out to eat dinner all by myself and read (right now I'm reading Rat Bohemia by Sarah Schulman--s'wonderful). But generally when we see someone eating alone, even if that person looks very content with his or her book, we think, "Gee, what a loser. He has no friends--he has to eat dinner all alone." I used to worry about it, but I don't anymore. I enjoy my solitude--fuck what other people think.
I'd like to challenge you to rethink your response to "Looking for Answers," which I felt missed a few profoundly important points. [LFA was an adult gay man who suspected an uncle had molested him when he was four years old and was troubled by the thought that this incident might have "made him gay."] I am a therapist, not a "recovered memory" type, by the way, but one who has worked with many survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The writer's main problem, as I read it, was that his memories, while somewhat vague and possibly distorted, were "very disturbing," and that the elusive truth of what happened is somehow preventing him from getting on with his life. Later he describes what I would consider a normal curiosity about whether this suspected abuse caused him to be gay.
Your identification of his problem as internalized homophobia, self-hatred, and self-doubt, and your questioning of why the writer "suddenly" feels compelled to blame his uncle, sounds uncomfortably like blaming. Your feedback that his "entire life does not hinge" on whether or not his uncle molested him is condescending and misses the essential point--that he is trying to open up and explore a truth about his life.
You are right that therapy is needed, but please don't trivialize the work ahead of this guy by suggesting that the central problem is one of self-hatred. The work is about finding some understanding of what happened with his uncle, grieving it, and integrating it lovingly into the fabric of his life--which may or may not lead to letting go of it. And, yes, hopefully he'll be able to forgive his uncle someday. --Concerned Therapist
Thanks for writing, and here's your letter in case LFA would like a second opinion. But I have to disagree with you on two profoundly important points. First, there is nothing "trivial" about wrestling with the particularly destructive brand of self-hatred gay people are force-fed in our sex-phobic, homo-hating culture. Second, by suggesting LFA look to his internalized homophobia, I was not "trivializing" the abuse he may or may not have suffered at his uncle's hands. Rather, I was suggesting that his internalized homophobia was shaping his feelings about the event, specifically in regard to his wondering if the abuse "made him gay."
Study after study has demonstrated that a history of sexual abuse--let alone one instance of sexual abuse--has nothing whatsoever to do with determining an individual's sexual orientation. That abuse determines sexual orientation was a big lie told and retold by the religious right (one of many) before they came up with their new, improved lie: "homosexuality is a choice."
You see, before Pat Robertson determined queers were simply willful, difficult children, the religious right, with the loving collaboration of quack head shrinkers, explained homosexuality like this: people are seduced or molested into the homosexual lifestyle by predatory homosexuals, who were themselves molested into it at one time; and once molested, new homosexuals go out at night to prey on other innocents, bringing them over to the dark side, yadda, yadda, yadda--making homosexuality sound like, well, vampirism, if anything. "I vant to suck your dick! I vant to do your hair! I vant to buy light colored socks with a subtle yet distinctive pattern!" Spooky, isn't it?
LFA's wondering whether he might have "wound up" straight had his uncle refrained from molesting him at age four is not, as you put it, "a normal curiosity," but rather a self-hating, self-destructive, homophobic regurgitation of the above big retro lie. That is LFA's problem. He may need to get to the bottom of what happened with his uncle to find peace, but a complete peace will only come if LFA also manages to come to grips with his internalized homophobia.
Send questions to Savage Love, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.