All Asian kids are smart. All blondes are dumb. These are stereotypes. We all know they aren’t true. Not every Asian teen is in the Math Club or AP Physics. Not every blond is ditzy. Obviously. But still, the stereotypes exist and the jokes are told. And people laugh. I would like to use this platform to publicly acknowledge that I too have been a victim of cruel stereotypes.
Gay men are all neat, stylish and experts in things like interior design and fashion. This is a vicious and damaging stereotype that exists in the world. For years I have done a terrible job of trying to hide the fact that I am not neat. I am not stylish. I have no idea what throw pillow would match my couch. How was I supposed to know that you don’t wear a brown belt with black shoes? I must have been absent at Gay Orientation the day they covered those topics. I was probably at the gay bar for Happy Hour for a different kind of Gay Orientation!
Now I don’t want to paint this disgusting, horrible picture of me in your head. When I say messy/not neat I refer to clutter more than filth. My apartment is by no means a dump; but it is also nowhere near spotless. There are no piles of dishes in the sink, no weeks old Chinese food containers in the fridge. I have never once seen a cockroach in the apartment I have lived in for the past five years. My friend Jessica comes over once or twice a week and she has never once told me the toilet was too dirty for her to use (my definition of what constitutes a messy apartment is obviously very low!).
BUT there is clutter. Throughout the apartment. Books piled up that I will never get around to reading. Old magazines on the coffee table. Unopened mail on the kitchen table. CLEAN clothes on the side of my bed that I don’t sleep on, and yes an unmade bed.
Case in point, I had friends over for a game night on Saturday. More than one person texted me Saturday morning to “gently” make sure I was cleaning and scrubbing the apartment before they arrived. A GIF of Cinderella was also sent to me. I did have to ask one friend what cleaning products I should purchase. He didn’t find that question reassuring. Yes, the apartment was spotless when the party began. Yes, Sunday morning it was once again a disaster. So I had to clean it. Again! Seriously?!?!? Cleaning is exhausting.
There are a tiny amount of people who do consider me neat and put together. I value their opinions tremendously and question their judgment at the same time. One morning at an offsite workshop one of my coworkers (straight older married male) asked me if I had hand sanitizer. This question stumped me like no other, I repeated “what?” prob a few times. No one has ever asked me that question. EVER. I asked him, “Do I look like someone that carries travel hand sanitizer?” And he replied straight-faced, “Yeah you are always so neat and well dressed and put together.” Another teacher with us and who knew me better said to her “What are you on crack or just blind?!” In the retellings of this story, many friends to this day believe I fabricated the entire story because they cannot envision anyone giving me that compliment! #alltrue #purelme
Even one or two family members would describe me as neat! I invited 3 of my cousins to brunch at my apartment one Saturday afternoon. Twin sisters Kimberly and Lily, and Nicole were set to arrive at noon. Nicole misjudged travel time and arrived somewhat early. This being Saturday morning, I am pretty sure the apartment was in less than immaculate condition. I also had barely been awake an hour when the doorbell rang. Nicole and I caught up over snacks and mimosas while waiting for the twins to arrive, who by this time texted they were running a few (30-45) minutes late. Even though they were late, they showed up with all the ingredients needed for a Bloody Mary bar! (Wow! Is this what adults bring when invited places? Well done!) Sometime during our brunch, Nicole pulls the twins aside to gently ask them, “Did you guys know Robert was a slob?” “Um yeah, we’ve known that for years!” they both assured her. Even as we were group texting this week when I told them about this article Nicole said, “but you are always so neatly dressed and put together!” Bless her heart, at least I fooled her! Kimberly and Lily not so much. One out of three ain’t too shabby. #thirtythreepercent
Finally, this rumor of my non-cleanliness lifestyle even spills over to group trips or rented beach houses. For some odd reason, and maybe I am completely imagining it, but it seems like I am always the last one picked when it comes to choosing roommates! There have to be logical explanations for me maybe being chosen last, like — after years of teaching, I tend to be an early riser some mornings. But I also like to read late into the night, or go out to the bars late at night! (Its either one or the other though, if I am rising early, there was no way I was up late into the night!)
I also have pretty lame and generic tastes in music. On multiple occasions I have been told, “whenever I hear ‘Torn’ or ‘Unwritten’ I immediately think of you!” I love hearing that! Those are definitely the reasons! Not the fact that past roommates have shown me the closet and the dresser repeatedly, as if I have never seen them before, going so far as to give me step by step demonstrations on how to use them. It can’t be the fact that one roommate was astounded as to how the contents of my luggage seemingly exploded all over our room when we had literally just arrived five minutes earlier. No not those. Definitely the early rising and Natalie Imbruglia.
I am (kind of) a Gay slob. I admit this. And acknowledging your problem is the first step. I know I am not alone. I know there are more of us gays our there! This is 2020 and you don’t have to be afraid anymore. We can join together and share our experiences and provide much-needed support. I will volunteer to host the first meeting at my place. At least I know I won’t have to clean the apartment! That “Tidying Up” chick on Netflix is definitely not invited.