[oasis] [columns]

Paul Pellerito

January 1997


Happy New Year. Well, it's January, so that means there's only six months until summer break, and six months until my 18th birthday. Scary, huh?

I hope all of you had a good December and enjoyed the whole holiday bit. I'm writing this before Christmas, so you'll have to email me to find out how it went. Thanks to everyone who has emailed me these past few months, it's really great knowing what all you guys think. I also realize that some of you are too shy to write me, or think I'd be too busy to email you back. Well, I'd like to let you know that I'm just an ordinary high school student like most of you, and I've got plenty of time to answer emails now that the holiday rush is out of the way.

Now, what am I really going to talk about this month? Well, my inspiration for this month's column came from XY magazine. Just to make this clear from the start, I'm not out to bash XY or anything like that, I just have a few problems with what's inside.

It's not just XY that's ticked me off lately, but pretty much the whole media in general. I've never been very pleased with what's presented on TV, in magazines, or in any other type of visual advertising.

Why is it that every add we see uses slim white people? Anyone who reads Oasis should know that not everyone is white, heterosexual, and in perfect shape. Advertising really creates its own little world of perfection which exists to sell you something.

It's quite obvious that sex sells, and it appears to be more obvious to advertisers that perfect hair, perfect complexions, perfect nails and all the "right" clothes seem to sell even better.

Perhaps now I should explain my beef with XY. All it shows are these beautiful airbrushed photos of models that get paid $20 an hour to look beautiful. This in my mind is not even close to the picture of the real gay world, indeed of the real world. No one in reality looks that way, but when you pay the six bucks for the magazine, you're agreeing with the editors that yes, Mr. Right will have rock-hard pecks and great hair.

Quite frankly, I can't afford the gym fees, and I'm not willing to pay them. It seems to me that what they gay community is telling us kids is that in order to be accepted you have to look a certain way, wear certain clothes, and be seen with certain people.

What could be more wrong? I don't know one person, gay or straight, that looks anything close to the images on the glossy pages of XY, and if they did I'm sure Calvin Kline would want to talk to them. So what's my point?

No one can ever look this way. Pictures on TV, in magazines and on billboards are made to look a certain way, to sell you the product. The gay community, unfortunately, has seemed to buy into the idea that if you don't wear Calvin Kline, Abercrombe, have perfect looks and all the right friends, no one will love you.

I'd like to say that this isn't true, but unfortunately it seems like everyone has bought this idea, so everyone is looking for the perfection when in fact that's hard (if not impossible) to find. Maybe what the media wants us to believe is true, because they've told us over and over again.

This is just wrong. Don't you think people should be liked or disliked because of who they are, not what they look like? Everyone seems to say this but not everyone follows it. Great bodies work for Hollywood, but not in the real world.

People love me, and I certainly don't belong in XY or a CK-One ad. I have plenty of friends that like me for the person I am, and I don't own anything from Structure. Some of my friends who buy into the advertised perfection ideal think I should go out and get all this great stuff from Abercrombe, Structure and the like. What's the point? Why pay 100 dollars in clothes that I probably wont wear in a few years anyway, when I could spend 50 on a lot more that I like, not on what everyone else is wearing.

Some people think I don't have any sense of style, but I do. I dress to suit my tastes, not the "cool" people at school. I look how I want to, not what Calvin Kline wants me too look like. I find it's a little less expensive that way, and I only look as good as I feel I do anyway. I'm not out to impress anyone by wearing the most expensive t-shirts. (30 bucks for a shirt with just that damn Nike thing on it? What a rip-off!)

So what does all this really have to do with being a gay youth? Well, take a look at the media. Again, they're telling you who to be in order to be loved, popular or successful. It seems to me that kids are being pressured to look this way, act this way, think this way, by everyone. Why? It seems like society is laying down some pretty heavy expectations on us.

First was the big let down about being gay. Still a major no-no. (I checked, gay is okay, but straight is better.) Then there's the whole smart thing. I guess it's okay to be smart, as long as you don't flaunt is by getting A's. (I checked on that one too, it seems getting A's in high school lets you have a better career further down the road.) And now, it seems that I've fallen even farther behind. I don't own a pair of Nikes. No Calvin Kline, Abercrombe, Tommy Jeans, Structure, anything like that. I guess that means that no one will ever like me. (I had to check this one out. None of my friends care what I wear, except one who said I'd look bad in crushed velvet.) I guess that makes me unacceptable by society's standards. Oh darn. And I thought it was just that gay thing getting me into hell.

Does this seem silly to you?

It does to me. So, what can you do? Well, I suggest that you buy what you like, which may very well be all those trendy brand names I mentioned above. That's fine, it's your thing. But, what we really need to do is look at every ad that has a perfect guy or girl in it and wonder what he or she looks like in real life, with all the makeup and airbrushing removed. What's under all that?

Some time ago someone told me that it's what lies inside that counts, not what's on the surface. Perhaps under all those expensive clothes and perfect bodies the models Steve Underhill of XY likes to photograph have there are some really great people.

Yep. There's more. I just wanted to cover a few things.

Someone asked me (in a really compelling note) if I believed that people have souls. Well, to give a bare-bones explanation and not really answer the question, I'll offer this:

With every person you meet, you leave an impression, indeed a part of yourself, that whether it be good or bad will shape that person's image of who you are for as long as they know you. If anyone on this earth has a soul, that would be it.

Secondly, I'd like all of you to know that I'm seventeen years old and a junior in high school. Some of the issues may say that I'm seventeen and a sophomore. I was a freshman when I was 15, a sophomore at 16 and a junior at 17. Since I was born during the summer solstice I'm always one age throughout the school year.

Anyway, I think that just about wraps it up this month. I'd like you all to know that there is one simple easy thing you can do to make yourself look one hundred times better, impress hundreds of people, and draw attention at almost any time of the day. Yes, the answer is cheesy, but it's simple: Smile.

Oh, and don't forget. The future lies in our hands. See you next month.


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