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by Homer Marrs

This article shared 1443 times since Wed Apr 27, 2011
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I'd flown in to New Orleans for my friend Holly's birthday party. It was my first visit to the Big Easy in 12 years (first time "post-K," as they say), and I fell in love with the place all over again. The architecture, the food, the sounds everywhere you go like you're at a Squirrel Nut Zippers concert … New Orleans is one of the last unique American cities. It's damn lovely.

"Lovely." That's what I said on the phone when I was walking through Jackson Square in the French Quarter, describing my vacation to my cousin Sean. Sean is a manly kind of guy; he would never say "lovely." But he wouldn't criticize my saying it, either, at least not 'til after the fact. After our call ended, I had this vision of him turning to his wife and saying, "Homer said New Orleans was 'lovely.'"

Then he would snicker and she'd say, "There's nothing wrong with 'lovely.'"

It might've all just been in my head, but it got me thinking: "lovely" is a word a guy just can't say without sounding effeminate. To quote Seinfeld, "Not that there's anything wrong with that." But it's true. No matter how many muscles he has on his body or tools he has on his belt, that lone British adjective will take a guy from Mr. Clean to Mr. Queen in two syllables flat.

Back to Jackson Square. I'm giggling over my little observation, and I walk into a knickknack shop to buy my friend a birthday present. I peruse the curios, decide on one, and take it up to the counter, where a bright little gift book is on display in a stack: Real Men Don't Say Splendid: A Lexicon of Unmanliness.

"How funny," I think, because only minutes before I was pondering the same premise. I picked up the book and promptly found "lovely" smack dab in the middle. The coincidence was eerie, so I took a Zen moment to focus on my third-eye chakra and thank the goddess for my psychic gift before purchasing the book and my friend's present, and walking out of the shop with a nice little story.

Real Men Don't Say Splendid is a joke book based on the idea that there are words "real" men just can't say. Aside from the titular adjective and my aforementioned example, the book warns that "bye-bye," "charming," "doily" and "hunky-dory" are verboten for guys who want to be counted among the lumberjacks.

First, I thought this was funny, then I was offended, then I felt oddly liberated. Here's why.

Of course it's funny that there are plenty of words in our language with a certain ring to them that evoke light, silly sounds that might betray a firm, tough approach to the world. In that sense, sure, tough guys can't say them.

Then I was a little offended because, of course, half of the words in the book were ones I used regularly, and I consider myself a real man. I have a pulse, a penis and a Y chromosome. As far as I'm concerned, anyone who measures my masculinity on my word choice is a bona fide ... diction head.

Finally—and this was the kicker—I felt liberated. I realized that as a gay man, I can say or do things straight men could never do without being judged for them. I can say all the off-limits words and no one will dismiss me, 'cause I'm gay so it's considered part of my territory. However, a straight man might, depending on his insecurities, fear odd looks if he refers to a party as "marvelous" instead of "really fun."

Gay men have a language license that straight men do not. There are no words we can't say, no words that will provoke the response, "Oh wow, boyfriend is kidding himself with this whole gay thing." Not even "Sports Center."

With all the rights we have to fight for, it's little privileges like this that we must savor when we can. They help us enjoy more who we are.


Homer can be reached at .

This article shared 1443 times since Wed Apr 27, 2011
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