A little less freedom, please

We live in an age of unprecedented freedom of expression. Despite lingering pockets of prejudice and repression, the majority of us consider ourselves to be reasonably open-minded, and this has allowed tremendous latitude among those who previously felt the need to remain inconspicuous, lest society point the finger of judgment. In terms of sexuality and behavior, people are free to just be “out there” more than even before.

I’m beginning to suspect that this is not such a good thing.

Despite my well-documented liberal “live and let live” leanings, I’m finding my conservative hackles raised time and time again by the behavior of others. Now, no one should be forced to deny who they are, and I’m sure the ability to express themselves in any way they choose is tremendously healthy for them. But it’s really starting to piss me off.

Today’s Chicago Tribune has a feature story about gay senior citizens enjoying a newfound openness. I don’t know exactly where they found this openness, but I hope it gets lost again in a hurry.

Geriatric sex is one of the least appealing concepts imaginable. No one wants to contemplate the notion that it is even occurring, in spite of (or perhaps because of) the fact that nearly 75% of all commercial advertisements are for erectile dysfunction remedies. Remember when you first learned where babies come from, and right away you pictured your parents having sex? It’s not like you had a choice – your mind just went there. You winced, and your face twisted in revulsion. Ewwwwwww. And from that day forward, just the thought of anyone more than twenty years older than you “doing it” was enough to give you the atomic heebie-jeebies.

So that’s bad enough. Now imagine old people having gay sex. Excuse me while I go throw up.

A couple of months ago, I watched Bill Maher interviewing Gore Vidal. It was fascinating. But every time Maher steered the conversation toward Vidal’s personal views on sexuality, I had to struggle not to fast-forward the DVR. I have too much respect for Vidal to be forced into picturing him engaging in hot sweaty old man-on-old man sex.

To be honest, almost no one in real life looks even remotely appealing while engaged in the act. Not even your hot-looking friends. If you were to discreetly observe them having sex (and I strongly advise against this, for legal reasons), all you would see is two people piled on top of each other, struggling as if trying to push an invisible car out of a snowdrift (“Try rocking it!”).

This is why pornography exists. Good-looking people having watchable sex is a manufactured fantasy. Have you ever seen lesbians depicted in porn? Smoking hot. Then you watch the news and see B-roll footage of gay weddings, and you discover that real-life lesbians look like Truman Capote in a pant suit.

I have a pretty good idea what I look like having sex, and I try really, really hard not to think about it. (I suggest you do likewise.) So I certainly don’t want to be persuaded to acknowledge the sexuality of unappealing strangers. You say you’re in your sixties and are ready to be Out and Proud? Get your wrinkly fat ass back in the closet, please, even if you have to slide David Carradine out of the way first.

(Too soon?)

Also today, the Tribune featured coverage of the Tattoo and Body Art Expo at Navy Pier. Wonderful. If there’s anything left in my stomach after the last story, it’s coming up now for sure.

I was born on the cusp between the Boomers and Generation X, and I suspect I’m part of the final generation to be totally skeeved out over this. I find tattoos absolutely gross. Hey, it’s your body and you’re entitled to do whatever the hell you want with it. But you should at least have the courtesy to stay underground or move to some enclave in Wyoming so I don’t have to look at you.

Of course, it’s impossible to avoid. Tattooing and body modification are now officially a Cultural Trend. Members of the media jump over each other to cover it, and I can’t always change the channel fast enough.

Oooh. You…drew on yourself. Like a three-year-old kid with a Sharpie. Except you paid someone for it.

Actual quote, from an individual at the Expo, which summarizes the entire rationale for getting oneself inked: “I like dragons.”


force break

The sun has nearly faded on a warm, oppressively humid evening. As I gradually regain consciousness, I realize that I am gagged and bound with rope to a long wooden pole, being carried toward a raging bonfire by an angry mob of inked twenty-somethings and elderly homosexuals. A few feet from the fire the crowd stops, rotates me to a vertical position, and plants the base of my stake into a shallow hole in the ground. I can feel the heat of the flames against my back, and observe that it would take only a small push to dislodge me and send me falling backward to be burned alive. I strain against my ropes and try to cry out, but I am muffled by the rag in my mouth.

Now members of the mob take turns confronting me. They call me old and intolerant, bigoted, judgmental and unfeeling.

A seventy-year-old man with an ascot and a very stiff walk calls me a Republican. It’s like a knife through the heart. I begin to scream and struggle so violently that a young woman with a dozen or so facial piercings takes pity on me and removes my gag.

“This is your fault! You made me into this!” I shout.

The crowd is momentarily silenced.

“I’m not prejudiced! I’m not intolerant! I have an open mind!”

Some of the younger folks giggle sardonically.

“You have a right to live your lives as you wish,” I continue, “but you’ve got to understand, we are all part of a society. We respect each other’s rights. You have the right to express yourselves, and I have the right to ignore you.

“Some things should just be kept private and out of sight. I like to sit on the couch in my underwear and scratch my ass while watching TV. I don’t do it in public, because you all have a right to not see that!”

I’m not getting through to them, and my voice is becoming whiny and desperate. “All of us, we just need to…conform.

A young man wearing an unbuttoned denim vest approaches and stands face to face with me. His lip is curled in a disdainful sneer. He is daring me. On his chest and arms, I can see a variety of tattooed symbols: the yin-yang, a crucifix, barbed wire, flames, a fleur-de-lis, the Tasmanian Devil, and a series of Japanese Kanji characters. I have no idea what they spell, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t either.

I try to bite my tongue, but it’s like trying to hold back a tsunami. After several tense seconds, I can resist no more.

“You are a stylistic nightmare!” I shriek. “None of those symbols has any relation to the others! What did you do, hand the tattoo artist a pile of press-on patterns from a sewing magazine? If you’re going to draw all over yourself, can’t you at least put together a coherent theme?”

The young man reaches toward me with his right hand. I can see the word “LOVE” tattooed on his knuckles. He presses his index finger against my chest and pushes, lightly, but just enough.

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