Well which is it then? Is style, fashion, appearance, charm a frivolous self-absorbed trivial subject that people shouldn’t waste time on? Or is it fun, amusing, playful, campy, witty, and simply decently considerate of the people who have to look at us and live with us. Beats me. I don’t seem to have a coherent view on the subject. First I read this article which wonders among other things if too much concern with such things gets in the way of having a hungry mind.

Perhaps it doesn’t help either that the young are constantly presented with celebrity rather than excellence as their role model, with people who are rich and famous because they are cool, sexy or charming and who are not particularly gifted or talented, certainly not intellectually.

Then I read this one about ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’ which after all of two and a half shows is already my favorite thing on tv. Well, style, fashion, appearance, and charm are what it’s all about. The whole premise is based on the notion that straight guys’ aesthetic cluelessness is not cute but either pathetic or Definitely Disgusting. I have a delightful time shrieking with laughter at the Five’s acidly disdainful comments on the poor shlubby guys’ clothes, furniture, housekeeping habits, kitchens, bathrooms, food, dishes, wall decorations, hair, skin, shoes, color sense, nails, tans, belts, bedspreads; and the cheerful dispatch with which they throw all the clothes on the floor, furniture out the door, food into the bin. Then when it’s over I look around at my…clothes, furniture, housekeeping habits, etc etc etc. I’m a good deal of a straight guy myself, if truth be told. I think I have some aesthetic sense, but I’m also not very dedicated about keeping things tidy, and I’m not a primper. The Five would have plenty of acid things to say about my clothes and nails and hair, I expect. So what am I laughing at?

Especially since I in fact do tend to think (and yes I know how Puritanical, judgmental, snobbish etc it sounds) it’s a stupid waste of time and attention to worry too much about one’s appearance. Even though I also realise how natural, understandable and in some ways useful or necessary it is. We all know about the endless studies that show how important appearance is, that show people think we are not only prettier if we’re prettier, but also cleverer, kinder, more competent, and better musicians. But I go on thinking it’s a waste of time anyway, because I’m a snobbish Puritan. But then I laugh like a drain at Queer Eye.

I’ve decided it’s the reversal. It’s amusing to see men being teased and mocked into paying as much attention to their appearance as women do. And that’s another reason I don’t agree with the New Republic article that Queer Eye is just the safe, tame version of gayness: I think it’s pretty earth-shaking to see straight men letting themselves be handled, mauled, flirted with and giggled over, and then happily set about baking marinated striped bass in their pretty kitchens. Now if five lesbians could start to teach straight women to be less girly, things could get interesting.

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