Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sam and Dan

Two Sundays ago, I tuned into the season premiere of "The Amazing Race 15," arguably the best reality show on TV. If you don't believe me, consider that "The Amazing Race" recently won its seventh Emmy Award for Best Reality Series. That says something about the consistently high quality of this program.

Two of the contestants on the current season are Sam McMillen, 23, and Dan McMillen, 21, brothers from Liberty, Missouri. But, of course, there's a little more to their story than is immediately apparent: Sam and Dan are both gay. That's right--two gay brothers in the same family (that's not the first time I've heard of this; I've even heard about twin brothers being gay too). Apparently, they came out to each other a year or so ago, and they say that they were close before, but, after sharing this most personal aspect of themselves with each other, they are closer now than ever.

You know, of course, who I'm most interested in watching on "The Amazing Race" now, as they travel around the world, complete various tasks, and try to arrive first at the finish line. True, in the end, some of the other teams might perform better than Sam and Dan, and another team might well win the grand prize over them, but I feel to some degree that these two brothers represent all gay men. By putting themselves out there, they set an example of what gay men are like and help to engender a better understanding of gay people in general. As far as I'm concerned, any positive example, in whatever form it takes, is a good thing.

As I sat on the sofa watching the premiere episode of "The Amazing Race," I found myself riveted to the comings and goings of Sam and Dan. And then I was overcome by a shot of envy that made me feel very uncomfortable. Yes, as Wendy, one of my loyal readers, pointed out to me in the past, envy of other people is a great example of Satan at work, which came to mind when I felt it (I'm learning, Wendy). But, for a moment anyway, I was surprised by the intensity of the emotion, and I decided to work through it in my journal a day later, so I understood it better. Here's what I came up with.

I felt an intense sense of envy of Sam and Dan because:

1). They are both in their early twenties--less than half my own age. I never used to be envious of people younger than me, but, as I grow older, it seems that more and more people are increasingly younger than me, and, whether I ever could or not, I can't compete with them anymore, in terms of looks and opportunity and whatever else. The bottom line is today's youth has left me behind, and I'm struggling as fast as I can to keep up.

2). And, speaking of looks, Sam and Dan are both physically beautiful, at least in the way I appreciate male beauty. Their faces are handsome, their bodies are hunky, and they have natural, easy smiles. You can't help but keep your eyes on them, especially if you're a gay man, because, perhaps more than any of the men on the other teams (except for Canaan Smith), they are appealing and easy to look at. And, yeah, okay, I'm attracted to them too, especially Dan, the taller and the bigger of the two. He's just plain cute.

3). Along the line of physical appearance, Sam and Dan are both masculine looking, obviously able, even at their young ages, to grow full beards. Anyone who's kept up with my blog to this point knows I have a thing for physical masculinity as it relates to hairy forearms, sideburns, goatees, beards, and hairy chests. I once read somewhere that men are hairy and women are not. That's stuck in my mind, perhaps contributing to the feeling I have that physical masculinity is all about body hair, or perhaps confirming what I've always known to be true.

4). Because Sam and Dan are physically masculine looking, they're not obviously gay. (It also helps that they don't seem to be at all effeminate either, which may also be a function of the additional testosterone coursing through their bodies that manifested itself in their hairiness.) In fact, had I not been told they were gay, my gaydar may never have gone off. Again, this is a theme I've written about before--being gay but not looking or acting like it. Being gay is one thing I would have dearly liked to hide about myself through most of my life, and more power to the men who are fortunate enough to be able to do that.

5). Since Sam and Dan are both gay and brothers, they are able to understand and support each other in ways that a brother who is not gay couldn't. One of the biggest things I had to deal with as I was growing up was being alone and feeling intense loneliness. I was different, and, to some degree, I don't think those who loved me knew how to deal with that. And those who didn't love me picked up on it and rejected me through their teasing and ridiculing. How comforting it would be to have a gay brother, to be there for each other, and to be the closest of friends when there's no one else in your life.

6). Finally, Sam and Dan came of age being gay at a very different time than I did. In general, the world is far more accepting of gay men now. I know for a fact that a program like "The Amazing Race" would never have featured gay brothers as contestants twenty or even ten years ago. Some viewers would have been up in arms about the immorality of the contestants and the show for portraying them in a legitimate manner. As a result, CBS might have avoided including gay contestants to ensure ratings were not adversely affected. Fortunately, that's no longer the case.

I can't know what it's like to be 21 or 23 years old, physically attractive, masculine, and gay today, but, judging from Sam and Dan, and especially since they don't look gay, I suspect their experience has been far different from mine.

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