Metro Source says their obscure gay publication is a "glossy lifestyle and entertainment magazine geared towards the modern metropolitan gay community." Which apparently means pushing overpriced designer shit to insecure boy toys with more money than sense, and reinforcing the
idea that gays have carloads of disposable income to heterosexual bigots. For page after page they blather on about the newest trends, whether it's a new wi-fi Blu-ray John Varvatos bathmat or the Gucci Cadillac that comes with a monogrammed Shih Tzu carrying case.
Their "Health" section, naturally, is a euphemism for plastic surgery and electrolysis. One column warns that you need to prepare in advance for your Instagram photos. "The good news is: You don’t need major surgery to look good," though you will need professional help. Um, that's good news? I was hoping I could just dim the lights, or apply the Daguerrotype filter. On another page they insist you'll cry tears of joy after your beard transplant.
The "Gourmet lifestyle" column recommends Paiche, a neo-tapas restaurant where one Yelp user "had lunch for $80 ... and still felt hungry," and another called the prices "elitist and absurd." Metro Source says "there’s no limit to where [the chef] may take his food next," though at $20 for an appetizer I'm pretty sure it'll be driving in a Gucci Cadillac.
When I spotted the survey, then, I leapt at the chance.
I wanted to tell them that they're the most irritating magazine in existence, and I read Conde Nast Traveler. I wanted to tell them that their focus on luxury and materialism was disgusting, and that I was much more interested in social reform, income inequality and LGBT issues.
I answered question after question until it dawned on me: They didn't want to know what I thought. They wanted to know how rich and dumb I was so they could sell more advertising. My first tip-off was the list of ways in which they thought they might influenced me. Had I eaten at a restaurant they recommended? Had I stayed at a hotel they loved? Had I bought a car after reading their publication? I wanted to say, "Uh, girlfriend, your infotorials are so sketchy I wouldn't buy lemon Skittles if you praised them." Their list included everything short of "Do you masturbate to our publication?" which again isn't very likely unless one is aroused by $27 guacamole.
I checked "None of the above."
Next came another long list asking what I buy, and how much do I spend. I can read between the lines. I know what they really want to ask. Would I consider spending $3,000 on sandals? What if they were made from baby quail, and had the word PRADA on them? Would they make me feel better than everybody else?
We're one-quarter of the way through the survey when we hit this question: "What is the total amount spent on watches in the last 12 months?" Now, I don't know about you, but I'm thinking that the main issues involving the gay community don't involve whether you're strapping Timex or Tag Hauer to your wrist. That's when I decided to fight back against LGBT commodification. That's when my new persona popped in my head.
I was no longer RomanHans. Suddenly I was Billy Bob Budlacky, an 18-year-old gay man in Butcher Holler, Kentucky. Billy Bob is out and proud, but he hasn't had much schoolin'. The last thing he bought was some Elmer's glue to patch his overalls. He shares a small shack with six of his cousins and he makes $1,400 a year whittling hog calls.
Billy Bob has something to say.
What does Billy Bob drink? The choices lean toward upscale alcoholism but he writes in "Cousin Zeke's corn squeezin's." He's definitely not going to spend "$1,000 or more" for a watch. In fact, he wants to write in, "When I need to tell the time, I draw the numbers one through twelve on my wrist, and then I hold a toothpick in the middle and stand in the sun." This time, though, there isn't an "Other (Please enter)" field. He goes with "I haven't bought a watch."
How many trips has he made in the last year? Well, he nearly went to visit his Uncle Cooter a couple of weeks ago, but he just lives on the other side of the tracks. Are they talking about getting on one of them silver sky birds? He's still waiting til they get all the bugs ironed out.
Spend any nights in a hotel or motel? They break it up into business and personal columns, but whittling hog calls doesn't exactly call for a trip to Vienna.
What types of doctor has he visited? Billy Bob is shocked at all the options. Along with Plastic Surgeon there's three varieties of Nut Doctors. He doesn't need any of them. There's a reason the Butcher Holler General Store has a whole shelf of Colonel Beauregard's Mustard Seed Poultice.
"Do you personally have, or have you had, any of the following ailments in the last 12 months?" The list runs around like Uncle Floyd after drinking bad moonshine, with "Hair Loss" and "Wrinkles" tossed in there with "Cancer." There's no entry for "Yodeler's Throat" so Billy Bob checks none of the above.
The next question is about cigarettes, both regular and electronic. That's a great marketing opportunity -- selling cancer to young gay men. That'll get them perusing those doctor ads! Billy Bob wonders if they make electronic chewing tobacky but just checks "None of the Above."
"Do you rent, own, or live rent-free?" Billy Bob never thought that last one was an option, but he's got one big eyebrow. He definitely doesn't belong to a country club, own a weekend home, or have boat owners' insurance. If his canoe sinks, it sinks. Does Billy Bob own a smartphone, an e-reader, a 4K Ultra HDTV, or a VOIP subscription? Billy Bob doesn't subscribe to VOIP, but he's pretty sure he's hidden a copy of Playgirl in it while killing time at the General Store.
I finish the survey with my fingers crossed. I don't hold out a lot of hope. I know there won't be ads for Gulden's mustard in the next issue, but maybe they'll have second thoughts about $329 letters that let you spell your name on your living room wall or "bespoke chairs" named after dudes like Paul Newman and Clint Eastwood who'd tell them to fuck off.