Brian McNaught: Gay Guesthouses and Cruises Create Unrealistic Expectations
There was a time when I would watch a movie and be so taken by the beauty of the setting that I would want to visit it with Ray. Today, I'm suspicious that almost every perfect setting I see in a movie is digitalized. A computer program has created a make-believe world which can never be physically visited.
The same is true with the gardens in movies. The flowers they show in full bloom all around a house are generally fake. Perennial summer plants can’t all bloom at the same time. The perfect gardens shown in movies are make-believe flowers in a make-believe world. Knowing that has made me a gardener with more realistic expectations, and greater appreciation for what blooms for me, and when.
Gay guesthouses create unrealistic expectations, as do gay cruises. Their ads or promotional brochures never show older, slightly overweight, pale white men lounging around the pool, which is often the reality. Instead, we are led to believe that if we stay or travel with them, we’ll be in the company of smiling, young, muscled, handsome guys who can’t wait for us to arrive.
And it’s not just movie directors and gay male merchandisers who create fantasy worlds. The recruiting brochures of private schools show students of mixed races fraternizing happily, something that recent news stories tell us isn’t quite true. Minority students are often shocked and disappointed to find out how isolated they are. The same is true for corporate ads that highlight the diversity of their workforce. Prospective employees need to remember that while gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people work at the company without blatant discrimination, the picture they’re getting of daily life is airbrushed.
On a couple of occasions, Ray and I have been asked if the home in which we’re living might be photographed for a magazine. We’ve said, “No,” because we know that if we say, “Yes,” our furniture and art will be removed or rearranged to create a romantic image of our lives that isn’t true. Roses will be set on the dining room table for the shoot, giving the impression we always have roses on the table. (They are, however, always in the kitchen.)
In our home are paintings that create false impressions. One of them is an oil painting of a little boy, holding a small horn, who is standing next to a large dog. It’s an early American or Scottish piece, but beyond the face of the boy, everything has been made up by the person commissioned to do the painting. The parents wanted to give the impression of nobility and wealth. On another wall is a painting of a parrot, a dog, and a squirrel, all together in a study. One might look at the painting and long for the days when such a life existed. It didn’t. It’s a beautiful painting, like the one of the boy with the horn, but it’s not a representation of reality.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with romanticizing, but knowing the truth enables us to find greater happiness in life, and equips us to deal with reality. There are fewer disappointments when we know what to expect. If we romanticize, we need to be clear with ourselves and others when we’re doing it.
I like life as it is. My world is beautiful enough each day that I don’t need or want the scenery to be digitalized. The flowers I have planted bloom just as I hope they will. One Japanese Lantern Hibiscus flower, or one lilac cluster, is enough to make me glad I’m alive to see it and smell it that day.
When I go to a gay guesthouse or on a gay cruise, I don’t want the people around me to be young, buffed, and handsome. I’d be so distracted, I’d never get a book read, and I doubt I’d make conversation with anyone who might become a lifelong friend.
I’m suspicious of people who project an image. This includes religious leaders, politicians, movie stars, and individuals you meet at a dinner party. No one is as pious, patriotic, talented, or special as they purport to be. I think that’s why so many people like reading about scandals, especially when the person brought down is someone who pretended to be someone or something they weren’t.
Reality is beautiful. It doesn’t need to be photoshopped. That doesn’t mean you don’t keep things clean, watered, and functioning. But you don’t need to pretend something is what it isn’t.
People are beautiful too. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t strive to become their best. It just means they don’t have to pretend to be something they’re not.
No one is truly fooled by the fake mountain, garden, or guesthouse brochures. Nor are we fooled by others, or by ourselves, when pretense blocks reality. So why not relax, and see the world and ourselves as it is and we are?