Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.
Virginia Woolf’s seminal novel Mrs. Dalloway is about Clarissa Dalloway, a fictional upper crust English woman living in 1920s London. It is a snapshot of a day in her life as she prepares to host a party one evening. A respected and influential figure in London’s social scene, she is the embodiment of every gay man’s fantasy life: the fancy lady of the manor who lunches with her minions. As the story progresses, we discover that Mrs. Dalloway is an unhappy woman who struggles to balance her inner turmoil and an external world of glittering surfaces. With fine fashion and high-society soirees, she fastidiously keeps up appearances and builds herself a lofty facade. Her walls of choice? Endless small talk and seemingly inconsequential activities which she uses to keep her private life—her soul—tucked neatly away. The party she throws is successful, of course, and underscores her reputation as a fabulous hostess. But at what cost?
Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself, while I decided to sell myself as a spectacle once more.
Virginia Woolf’s heroine is tan Emily Post-like figure with poshness oozing out of her pores – something I aspire to, but with my infamous antics, a social standing I will never achieve. Let me recap some of the things I have done during a lovely Sunday brunch recently, to celebrate a Cebuana fag hag’s recent engagement.
In no particular order: I openly flirted with a straight Israeli man whose smile could make your brip’s garter curl. I cupped two pairs of boobs. I led a debate on what circumference of an areola to makes it attractive. I shared the tragic tale of how one fuck buddy \ shot a jolt of his semen straight into my left eye. I taught the ladies the virtues of the enema, a bottom’s best friend. I managed to convince an Aussie balikbayan to show us his nipples (and seafood platter chest tattoo along with it). I forced a butch lesbian to share what she likes about tits. (I still don’t know why this was so difficult. It’s not like I asked her to demonstrate how to motorboat. Lesbians.) I recommended over-the-counter erection pills to our male guests. (Robust is available at all Mercury Drugstores nationwide.) I engaged in a dance off with a girl, succeeded by a twerk session against her German boyfriend’s legs (which was accomplished even if he was in crutches). I managed to shock the hostess’s mom when I began a sharing session for what’s on people’s Fucket Lists. (Top on my list is a ginger. What’s on yours, Tita?) You know, typical activities fit for the Lord’s day.
One guest was shocked to discover that I wasn’t even drunk. No, with several glasses of spiked fruit punch, a couple shots of Absinthe, and ingesting champagne jello shots like they were Aling Pacing’s homemade biko, I was buzzed at best. But even without the aid of alcohol, many have witnessed how I can go from Chatty Cathy to Loudmouth Linda to Iris the ISIS terrorist, out to torment partygoers into voting me Best in Show in 10 minutes flat. I must become a spectacle.
My Cebuana friend’s invitation was not for an all-day Sunday sexfest; it was to celebrate her engagement to an outstanding young Israeli businessman. While her luncheon was not pegged as a Downton Abbey-esque affair (she was serving alcohol by the gallon), neither she nor her fiancé expected me to delight (or distress, depending on who you ask) their guests into submission that I, Victor John Platon, am the Greatest Guest Alive.
Mrs. Dalloway needed to prove her merit as a great hostess; I needed to prove my title as Master of Ceremonies. Mrs. Dalloway liked to keep her composure, I revelled in keeping the spirits flowing and making spirits bright.
It has been this way for as long as I can remember. For the purposes of making this essay more Pulitzer-worthy, I researched on why a majority of gay men like to be the centre of attention. I googled “gay men” and “centre of attention” only to be directed to a pornsite where a hunky blonde was the centre of a 10-man bukkake. (Note to self: clear your cookies.) But in all honesty, I don’t need self-help psychobabble to understand my hunger for “acclaim.”
I knew I was gay since I was seven. Through Roderick Paulate movies and the people around me, I was led to believe that my limp wrist and penchant for Lisa Frank Trapper Keepers somehow made me inadequate, that I had a defect. While my parents never adhered to this belief system, I had to make sure that I overcompensated for my homosexuality by becoming the best in everything that I do. In primary school, I was a straight-A student. As a bonus, I got to go onstage every Recognition Day, under the spotlight, and lap up the applause of my schoolmates. Basking in the glow of that spotlight became my primary motivation in getting excellent marks.
So here we are. I am a thirtysomething gay man who lives for the applause because applause equates to affirmation, right? Right?!?
When I turned 30, however, I became conflicted by my obsession with the spotlight. I realized two things: 1) My schtick is getting old and 2) I am getting too old for this whole spotlight schtick. My crowd-pleasing act has become, for me, a tired routine: Flash the gay card, toss in some off-color jokes, sprinkle a bit of the brash and vulgar, gyrate against guys to test their comfort zones (well, gyrating on guys is its own reward anyway), stir the pot and let simmer. And for a moment of acclaim, I pay the price with bruised knees (after sliding down dance floors at birthday parties), ripped barong tagalogs (for giving free lap dances to groomsmen) and waking up with glitter on my balls (literally, for something I cannot recall, but I bet it was fun).
Five years after my momentary breakthrough, I still find myself treating every social interaction like an End-of-Days party. I still feed the beast. Because the reality is I still enjoy the spotlight. I do still like being the centre of attention. Is that such a bad thing?
Like Mrs. Dalloway, I continue to struggle balancing my internal life with my external need for affirmation. I stopped overcompensating for my homosexuality a long time ago, so what am I compensating for now? Why do I need strangers to attest that it’s not a party if a gay isn’t calling the social shots? How long will I have to parade my tight tush in electric pink shorts and be the Tickle-Me-Homo that spits out bawdy jokes? At what point will people stop being entertained by my antics and start thinking that it’s just sad? And why have I led you to reading this monologue in an SJP Sex and the City voice?
My dear friend whose engagement lunch I hijacked ignited sent feedback to me and my friends. “OMG! Vic was an absolute riot yesterday! I don’t understand where he gets his energy! I am willing to pay gold bars for him to host my wedding afterparty!” I smiled at her high praise. But after I put my phone down, I rubbed some Bengay on my knees and let out a deep sigh.
© 2016 Victor John Platon
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