Straight Books for Queer Guys

Tips only a metrosexual needs for the good life

“Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” the book that is, looks like a men’s magazine, complete with the ubiquitous top-five list for absolutely everything fabulous. Written in handsome fonts in masculine colors and punctuated with “Hip Tips,” and “Straight Guy FAQs,” the Fab 5 promise to help straight men meet women by garnishing their lifestyle with manicures and perfect leather jackets.

But underneath the hetero-camouflage, there are clues that this metrosexuality-for-dummies guide may also be for young urban gay men who lack gay stars in a celebrity-soaked world. For example, when the Grooming Guru, Kyan Douglas, introduces the reader to pomade with “if your hair finish is too matte, it adds shape, texture as well as shine,” to whom do we suppose he is speaking?

Anther clue that this book may be read by more gay than straight men is the sometimes fierce and usually hilarious portrayal of straight men as cognizant apes, aware that they are helpless when it comes to dressing and grooming themselves, cooking, decorating, or even watching movies. The introduction reads, “Right now, in cities and towns across this great land, there are men eating pork-‘n’-beans out of a can, grooming like Neanderthals, and dressing themselves in the darkness of utter couture-ignorance.”

There are five chapters; each narrated by a gay expert, beginning with Ted Allen, the food and wine connoisseur. Allen offers an excellent basic cooking course, covering fruit and vegetables, culinary tools, the world of wine, and some promising and practical recipes including salad with goat cheese croutons, mushroom risotto, pan-seared scallops in brown butter sauce, twice-baked potatoes with cheddar and caramelized onions, and gooey chocolate-coffee brownie cake.

In case of romantic dinner danger, Allen also offers a survival guide. If you don’t order for your date and avoid veal, you’re likely to survive. “Dead baby anything is not the best program for a love connection,” Allen advises.

Hunky Kyan Douglas offers a basic philosophical argument for better grooming urging straight guys to be hygienic. There’s an obvious grooming checklist for the medicine cabinet, tips on styling hair, and an explication of hair products. Hairspray, he says, is a no-no unless “you’re working some advanced gel-wax-spray combination system” or “you have to take a picture and need to hold a look.”

So as not to be too gay, the battery powered nose hair trimmer gets a full-page layout which screams “Dude, it’s power tools for your nostrils!” Beyond that, there’s a daily skin regimen and a detailed and a very Zen approach to shaving. According to Douglas, “shaving is a ritual, one that is all about being a man.”

Design doctor, Thom Felicia, gives useful decorating tips for the design-challenged without regard to sexuality. He likes dimmers, natural fiber rugs, and candles. His “Paint-On Architecture” is a great and affordable idea.

Felicia talks design and do-it-yourself in an understandable and intelligent conversation. To get started, Felicia suggests picking five favorite things from around the house and five favorite articles of clothing.

“Use these objects to help you begin to cultivate your sense of style and interests and the clothing as a springboard to help determine your color palette,” he writes.

Kressley, the Fashion Savant, is the most hilarious of the Fab 5 and it’s not just because he is the most flamboyant. He has a quick wit and a caustic humor on the show and it comes through in his style chapter. He is not afraid to wear outrageous clothes, but the fashion road map laid out in the book is more of a trip to the office than down a runway or even to an edgy party. Still, Kressley offers good advice when he says, “Your wardrobe should be composed of things that flatter you, things that tell the world something fascinating about your personality, and things that won’t embarrass either of us in the morning.”

Kressley also sees the world as a series of lists of five: classics items every man should own, shoes, places not to wear denim and five places where blazers do go. Beyond the lists, he tells us shirts are the new ties, accessories improve your life, it’s a very denim world and that guys “commonly mistake ‘Black Tie Optional’ for ‘Come All Ye Jackasses.’”

Jai Rodriguez sometimes struggles on air to make his culture contribution effective, but in print, he offers great advice for living.

“My job is to get you looking and thinking in new directions, which will make you more interesting and, therefore more desirable,” he writes. That said, there are pages on shaking hands, public speaking, hand writing notes, working a cocktail party, etiquette, reading and learning, looking for love, and keeping it.

These guys capture a limited slice of queer life, making it pretty and palatable to straight America. But all the stereotypes aside, the book is about making life a little better; the Fab 5 call it “tszuj.” It means “taking something and tweaking it, fluffing it, nudging or finessing it to be a little more fabulous and fun.”

Whether adding a perfect suit in your wardrobe, a garnish to your cocktail, or a classic novel to your collection, it’s good advice for everyone. With that in mind, I bet they could do what Martha Stewart did, or even better. They could star in one of those over-the-top-wedding reality shows. It could be called “The Fab 5 Throw an Act of Civil Disobedience.”

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