Sunday 21 July 2019

March of the flame dames

Debra Messing plays the archetypal Flame Dame opposite Eric McCormack in the hit television sitcom Will and Grace
Debra Messing plays the archetypal Flame Dame opposite Eric McCormack in the hit television sitcom Will and Grace

Siobhan Cronin

Every girl needs a gay male best friend, according to a new book that's sweeping America. Sioghan Cronin, who has two, wholeheartedly agrees

If a movie has a gay guy in it, I have to see it. I have all of Armistead Maupin's books. If it's revealed that a celebrity is gay, I find that my esteem for him rises. My best friend is gay. If I had the money, I'd be a drag queen for Hallowe'en every year

Recognise yourself? If not, then you're probably not One of Us!

The description above comes from a blog on the web from a self-confessed female fan of gay men.

Apparently there are now so many of us gals with gay best friends that it's become what sociologists like to call 'a phenomenon'. And now America is raving about a new book which examines it.

Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys (subtitled 'True tales of love, lust and friendship between straight women and gay men') is the appropriately mouthy title for a book of short essays about those of us who love the company of the more, er, 'dramatic' man. After all, a gay man will never tell you the details of his latest romantic disaster in four sentences when four hours will do.

The authors, Melissa de la Cruz and Tom Dolby, themselves a perfect example of the type, have assembled an array of well known writers to tell their fag-hag tales.

They have possibly spotted a gap in the market for us Sex And The City-starved followers of gay culture, left with just the remnants of Will & Grace repeats on Paramount and a sad replacement in Ugly Betty for our gay fixes of witticism and flamboyancy.

And let's drop the fag-hag tag while we are at it -- images of Miss Piggy sidling up to the long-suffering Kermit spring to mind far faster than our stylish '80s icon Madonna and her dishy gay sidekick Rupert Everett.

I much prefer the slightly less derogatory terms like 'fruitfly', 'flame dame' or 'fairy godmother'.

De la Cruz and Dolby have undertaken to try and discover why so many women like gay men. Personally, I feel twice as blessed as most -- two of my very closest confidantes are 'Friends of Dorothy' as they like to be called -- and strangely enough, The Wizard of Oz is one of my favourite films.

In typical 'fruitfly' fashion, I found my gay best friend through a misdirected love interest -- our eyes met across a crowded ceili in Nemo Rangers clubhouse when we were in our early teens.

But while I was lost in his dark brown irises, little did I know that he was wondering just what shade of Rimmel I was wearing on my sky blues.

A few weeks into our virgin courtship, when he no doubt began to sense a stirring in my loins, he put an abrupt end to my notions of Prince Charming with his 'not in the vagina business' type revelation.Partly devastated, partly curious, I eventually found far more useful common currency in our mutual love of Maupin's Tales of the City series, our Grace Jones obsession and our similarly zany sense of humour.

Four years later, we were flat-sharing in Dublin, with 3am beans-on-toast feasts, swapping our hard-luck love stories about the night's outings in either the Pink Elephant (me), Hooray Henry's (him) or Shaft (our dual adventures).

And more than 20 years later, though many miles apart, I know his advice on clothes, hair, and music is just a text away.

He is my keyboard to cry on when I feel compelled to email him about my erratic love life, and vice versa for him, especially the vice bit.

Two years after we met, I managed to find myself another 'sensitive' soul. Having eyed up a blond arty David Sylvian lookalike every Saturday afternoon outside the GPO, I finally plucked up the courage to ask the wonderful vision to accompany me to my Debs.

But on that fateful night in 1986, as I edged closer to him on the balcony of the local rowing club, the poor, frightened boy, dodged my lunges, and my gravity-defying 5" tall sugar-and-water bouffant, and blurted out the now-too-familiar words: "But ... I'm GAY".

Our hero now lives happily with an artist in a trendy part of London and I have never since missed the tell-tale signs of slip-on shoes, manicured nails and lipgloss again.

I may have found heartbreak with both men, but I also found genuine, wonderful, intelligent friends. So it was no surprise that when I moved to Dublin, I once more found myself attracted to the familiarity of the fairer male sex.

Will, my thirty- something, long-time companion, is constantly surrounded by a plethora of beautiful women, and not as often as he would like, an equally generous supply of beautiful men.

He introduced me to a side of Dublin that was exciting, creative and deliciously daring at times. I became a regular at Sunday bingo in The George, and even found myself at more than a few Gay Pride festivals -- addicted to the warmth and joie de vivre of the participants. Our increasingly colourful nights out saw us dubbed Will & DisGrace by our friends, and yet he would drop everything and run to console me within minutes of my latest break-up over a three-hour coffee in some classy museum or gallery café and dust me down, sending me back into the 'straight' world a little less bruised.

Of course, being a VBF of a gay man can have its downsides, too. It suddenly dawned on me, that the reason for my elongated single status may be linked to the fact I was spending all my nights off in gay pubs and clubs, and the only interest I was generating was from serious-looking women in Superman t-shirts.

Almost a year later of attempting to drag my sorry ass off the 'scene', I bumped into another gay buddy in The George, who was bitching about the lack of good-looking men in the vicinity, with a stunning Penelope Cruz lookalike by his side. Myself and Penelope launched into a little bitching session of our own, saying at least our gay friends were swimming in a pond with like-minded fish, while wewere like fish out of water.

That night, we made a pact to break out of our own closets, and go forth into the big, bad world of homosexuals. When it came to spending Sundays playing bingo, the number was well and truly up. Myself and Penelope are firm friends now, but we still wouldn't be without the odd Thursday night in the Old Lady of Georges Street.

But what attracts girls like us to gay men? At school, I always found myself fascinated by the arty, creative types because I craved a slice of their ability to stand out from the crowd.

And who wouldn't love the attention of an attractive, super-clever successful man whose advice on the best heels for your Little Black Dress is as incisive as his insight into whether Greens are good for Fianna Fail or not?

They can thrill you with their astute analysis on everything from the latest handbag design, to the destruction of the planet, and yet sometimes infuriate you with their lack of focus. When I rang a gay journalist friend for his thoughts on this article, he began an in-depth monologue on the joys of straight women, only to interrupt it all with: "Sorry sweetie, I will have to ring you back, my blender has just gone on the BLINK!"

The most fun I ever had at a party was attending Will's 30th birthday party in a castle rented for the occasion in Kilkenny a few years ago. The theme -- Roaring 20s -- ensured a myriad feather boas competing with ra-ra dresses and head bands. We filled a Victorian bath of ice with bottles of champagne and danced till dawn.

"I'm not likely to be getting married, darling, so let's make this one hell of a wedding for one," he said the week before.

And when he asked me to make the Best Woman's speech, I was teary-eyed and terrified, but ultimately incredibly honoured.

My life has been enriched by these exquisite, extravagant and drama-addicted smart men. Fag hags, fruitflies and flame dames of the world unite!

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