The Twilight of the Redhead

Published: September 17, 2011

First, in the interest of full disclosure, I should reveal that I used to be, in my distant youth, kinda hot. If you liked them tall, blond, and pumped with steroids, I was your man. And I loved showing off the goods. I adored a clingy tank top and any dance floor where I could strip it off.

Thumbnail image for Torso.jpgI’ve even written about the trauma of my drug addiction and the part that my body image played. So consider the source of this rant. Anyway, my biceps have withered and I’ve grown resentful, so allow me the tirade of an aging gay man.

Since when did shirtless pics of gay men become standard for Facebook and other mainstream social media? And we’re not talking the frolicking-at-the-beach photos. It’s the iPhone-in-the-bathroom-mirror picture (nice towel rack, stud, but what were you thinking with that wall paper? Are you at your Mom’s?). It’s the slightly blurry, soft core web cam photo, with the unmade bed calling seductively just over your shoulder. It’s the close-up pic of your ripped stomach, with the friends that once populated the photo cropped out, reduced to an errant finger around your waistline or the remnant of an arm on your shoulder.

Because God knows, it’s not the friends you keep, it’s the abs you maintain.

Images like these were ideal for my forays onto web sites, but when they creep into our general media and onto my Facebook newsfeeds with such regularity, it’s disconcerting. Can’t I at least see your face, the tilt of your head, the humility in your eyes or the humor of your smile? The interests you speak of in your written profile — the movies and the volunteer work and your sense of the romantic — are crushed, simply wiped away, by caving in to our culture’s fetish for what lies between your neck and your waistline.

I’ve had friend requests from people I literally couldn’t identify, because all of their pics were shirtless and headless. They don’t get accepted, and neither do those who have a very long list of friends who, like them, are adverse to anything that conceals the pecs and traps and clavicles. Even when they show their faces, the expressions — dull and secondary — seem designed not to distract from the muscles in the foreground.

It gets comical, like the guys who sulk in their profile updates because they can’t seem to snag a man of quality, all the while sporting a profile pic wearing nothing but briefs, in a sassy pic shot from down below, from the perspective of the bedroom carpeting. Really? You’re not attracting hedge fund managers or spiritually evolved advocates for the poor with that pose? And yet you’re displaying the very best you have to offer a guy. Perplexing.

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