Body Health, celebrity, fashion, LGBTQ, pop culture

THINK TWINK: “welcome to the age of the twink”

T, the New York Times Style Magazine, published a piece yesterday called, “Welcome to the Age of the Twink.” Firstly, I love that title and it makes me think of a Jetson’s-era world of beautiful twinks in Lycra bodysuits and astronaut helmets, jetting around on those little space-cars. Oh! They could go to Hamburger Martian’s for drag queen bingo!

But after I got over thinking about that (a good twenty minutes) and after I realized that T is something I’ve not really gotten around to reading much of (it’s shocking!), I put Troye Sivan’s “Bloom” on repeat, took a hit of poppers and read the article. Just kidding, I didn’t read the article!

The thesis of the piece, the piecis if you will, is this: as women begin to dismantle the “legacy of toxic masculinity,” twinks represent a similar departure from the male shackles. “These twinks, after all, aren’t just enviably lean boys or the latest unrealistic gay fantasy, but a new answer to the problem of what makes a man.”

First, after bingeing several T articles, I’ve noticed that they’re (mercifully, because I can’t handle some long diatribe) short and typically include a final graph that pivots to make some larger, societal point. It’s a cute look, and one that I definitely am guilty of, but I wish that this piece was longer. Give me more, hon!

The piece introduces itself with a scene from Call Me By Your Name, where Oliver (Armie Hammer) steals Elio’s (Timothée Chalamet) drink and gives him a brief, tense massage. The author notes that Oliver’s body – broad, hairy and muscled – is in stark contrast to Elio’s – smooth, lithe. In the negative space, it draws comparison and highlights the youth of Elio as well as the older appeal of Oliver.

The author, Nick Haramis, touches upon the rising popularity of “twink” models in more mainstream culture: Ryan McGinley’s photo-series of slim, sloppily dressed Saint Laurent models; leading men Tye Sheridan (Ready Player One), Lucas Hedges (Lady Bird, Manchester by the Sea), Nick Robinson (Love, Simon); singer Troye Sivan and celebrity-child-savant Jaden Smith. As these men, and their bodies, are being pushed to the forefront of culture and propped up as sexual objects as desire, their twinkiness, and its entrenchments in effeteness and femininity, are similarly propelled.

However, It’s a little too close to Chris Pratt having to totally reinvent his entire body in order to get a leading role in a movie for me to safely see the rising prevalence of twinkish body types as anything more than a trend or the beginning of a movement.

I do agree that prioritizing body types other than the traditional “Leading Man” body – any of the Hollywood Chrises – is a step in the right direction, and the appreciation for androgynous, lithe and sometimes-feminine bodies in men is worthy of attention. But what that made me realize is that, for the most part, twinks still operate within a certain paradigm of toxic masculinity.

Twinks, at least the ones that came to mind when I read the piece as well as the ones who were mentioned in the article itself, are typically portrayed as white or white-passing. The cover photo of “Welcome to the Age of the Twink” includes men of color, but the overarching notion of “twink” is young, cis, white, attractive, slim.

There is the notion that twinks are, inherently, slim. There can be branches:  Haramis discusses “twunks” (he mentions Zac Efron; I counter with Tom Holland), Euro twinks (the BelAmi boys) and femme twinks (Adam Rippon). I would argue that otters – slim, hairy men – exist on the twink spectrum; and who among us has not fallen in love with a tattered-knee skater boy or a stoner, drawn gaunt by the love for their respective crafts?

So twinks can be slim, or muscular, or hairy, but they are never fat. They always adhere to the beauty standard that thinness is ideal. Through the promotion of twinks in mainstream culture, we are saying that we are widening the lens of attractiveness – but not that wide. We will dip outside of our ideals, but just slightly.

An essential part of twinks is the idea of prioritizing youth. I’m not saying there aren’t old twinks, looking at you Charlie Hides, but when you look at that through a critical lens, you realize: if twinks are young, then they are meant to idealize youthful, boyish figures. I wonder if their bodies are prized only because it is implied that they are temporary; no one stays young forever, so the twink body will eventually evolve into something else. You can be feminine, but only because eventually you will become something else.

The point of the piece, in my eyes, was acknowledging and celebrating that different types of bodies are being seen as viable, valuable and attractive. And I loved thinking about twinks and bodies and queerness for an hour, so I’m grateful for the piece. But I love it more for reminding me that we still have a long way to go in terms of body inclusivity. Ugh, I did the T thing of putting my thesis (my piecis!) at the very end!


Alternative titles include, but are not limited to, “Pretty N’ Twink,” “Twink Twice,” “Twinkin’ About You,” “Twinkpiece,” or “Twink or Swim.”
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Body Health, Humor, Rambles

THIGHS THE LIMIT

Because of the way my face is, I could easily play the cruel son of a British business magnate intent on shutting down a small, mom and pop establishment. And while it’s nice to have that as a back-up if this writing thing does not pan out (or if my plan to snag a rich husband backfires on me) it’s not a look that I seek out on a regular basis.

To counteract my inner scion, I try to dress how I feel: sloppy, a little nineties-inspired, and in love with my thighs.

Belying my skinny frame, I have the thighs that four years of constant running built. These are the thighs that propelled me up countless hills, the thighs that kept my body in forward motion even as crippling muscle cramps doubled me over, the thighs that brought me into the fastest mile I ever ran (and that promptly sealed my running peak in junior year). Even if I’ve had to work on other parts of my body, my legs have never disappointed me. They’ve, pardon the phrase, always held me up.

I have an on-and-off relationship with my body (we’re on speaking terms right now, but she’s tough). Regardless of our fraught relationship, we’ve always put our differences aside and come together for the sake of the thing we can both agree on: my thighs.

I’m moving to Los Angeles in a few weeks (quelle surprise!) and so I’ve been slowly formulating my LA style (as well as thinking of LA-centric puns). I’ve decided that my aim is going to be very skate-centric, despite the fact that my only experience skating was gingerly perching on a longboard going at glacial paces. I’m afraid of skateboarding, mostly because I’m so tall that falling is a two-hour event. I put on the latest Star Wars just to have something to watch while it happens.

Because I’ve got such long legs (brag) shorts can be tricky. If I’m not careful, I look like a flamingo, or one of those blow-up toys at used car lots advertising great deals. I try to break them up with tall socks, which fulfills two purposes: it stops the eye from creating one continuous line, and it makes me feel like the hot, alt boys I had crushes on in middle school. Two birds.

After a barrage of Instagram ads, I broke down and bought a pair of 7’’ Chubbies shorts. They are, no exaggeration, so fucking stretchy. By mentioning them (and praising them, to boot) I’ve basically sealed my fate and I will see a Chubbies ad every single day until I die. Hopefully they sponsor the funeral. But seriously, I adore them and wore them to work. They’re flirty. Like, they’re a brown chino color, but they’re not taking things so seriously.

Speaking of which, yesterday at work I spotted a boy wearing a pair of short, loose gym shorts, ratty Vans, calf socks and a striped t-shirt. As a gay guy, whenever there’s a pull towards someone, I have to wonder, “Do I like him or do I want to be him?” His face was alright (5.6/10) but I was so into his outfit that I stared at him, i.e. “be him.” I don’t wear glasses at work (TMI but I sweat and they slip) so me staring is the absolute most obvious thing. I kept maneuvering what I was working on so I could keep him in my (very blurry) eye-line until I had committed his outfit to memory.

I’m sure I’m not alone, but I’m so swayed towards a certain style when I see someone else pull it off. I bought a lilac t-shirt from Topman because the model was gorgeous. It looks amazing on me, but different-amazing. So this guy at work, who was built along the same lines as me, really hooked me to the style. It was like looking into a brunette mirror (but I’m a 7, so).

I’m nervous about moving, so I’ve kinda focused on some of the sillier aspects of it, like my new style. I’m sure that eventually, I’ll get bored and lax and start wearing socks with my Birkenstocks (I’ve done this, and I do not regret it), but so far it’s been fun to troll online shops and scour the internet for my new threads.

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Body Health, Humor

CAREFUL: HOT OBJECT

Over the last week, I’ve made the same (probably unfunny by this point, but if there’s one thing I admire about myself, it’s my ability to commit) joke. “I’m too hot not to go to that!” “It’s hard being the hottest person at work.” (It is, by the way). “I’m hot and funny.” (this was to a Hinge match who has since not messaged me back, so maybe not ideal).

This is a common caricature I cloak myself in, the overconfident and underwhelming deluded. I do it because I think it’s funny, but I also do it as a way of jumping the shark.

If I’m making a joke or having a laugh about being hot, then if you don’t think I’m hot – well, I already made fun of myself. And at the same time, it operates as a tacit desire for approval: if you didn’t think I was hot, then you would say something or make a face or vomit. It’s also socially unacceptable to actively believe and proclaim that you’re good-looking. You get painted as vain, self-centered or out of touch.

But something has been happening: for some reason, making the joke this past week, instead of betraying my lack of confidence or my paranoia, has actually, weirdly, made me feel hotter. It’s having the opposite effect it usually does. Usually, when I say something like that, it like twists inside me, making me feel slightly more insecure as I gauge the reaction on the other person’s face.

It has a lot to do with context.

In the past week, I’ve been thinking a lot about high school, and the person I was in high school. In high school, I was a skinny, gawky kid with bad skin and no eyebrows. I dressed like a Day-Glo clown hooker, and I thought I looked amazing.

I’ve got a five-year reunion coming up in a few weeks, and I really seesawed between wanting to go and wanting to skip it. But one of the primary motivators for me wanting to go is, simply, that I look way better now than I did then. My skin’s in a Good Place™ and I like what my hair’s been doing. I’ve been exercising in new and different ways, and I’ve finally managed to find a style that doesn’t make me look like Raggedy Andy’s loose cousin. I’ve been looking better, and suddenly calling myself “hot” doesn’t ring in my ears like a joke.

If vanity seems like a thin reason to see old high school classmates, then I’m really doing a bad job of explaining how good-looking I am now. It’s imperative I get myself to the people.

I’ve also found a good psychiatrist, and she’s forcing me to confront how my jokes are thin (thin, honey I’ll show you thin!) attempts at masking my own cracked insecurities. I’m also realizing how bad making those jokes about myself, like calling myself a Day-Glo clown hooker or Raggedy Andy in this post, could (and do) end up making me feel worse instead of better.

I’ve realized (something probably everyone else has realized) that me making jokes do nothing for protecting my vulnerabilities. And instead of jumping the shark, I’m flinging myself to the wolves.

Confidence is, honestly, the most attractive quality someone can have. Everyone I’ve been involved with has had this raw confident energy and that (mixed with the large inheritances) was a huge pull for me. My making these jokes might feel good in the short-term, but they seriously chip away at my confidence when I’m reinforcing to myself that I’m not good-looking.

I always make the joke that if I were confident, then I would be a true monster. But honey, this must be where the Wild Things are, because I wanna be a monster!

Of course, this post has sat on my dashboard for a week, so when I started this I felt amazing, and now I feel not-so-confident. But I’m gonna put it up anyway, despite the messiness of this writing and despite me feeling like I could crack a mirror.

I’m going to be better about accepting compliments, and making active attempts to dole out compliments of my own.

And let it be known, that one time a hot, drunk straight™ told me that it “wasn’t my looks that were keeping me single.” Hurtful, but maybe I’m too hot to care!

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Body Health, Essay, Mental Health

HANG LIKE CHICKEN

In my first-ever gym class of high school, we underwent a fitness diagnostic. Our gym teacher required the students to perform as many chin-ups as they could. If they were not able to do a chin-up, he offered, they could simply hang from the bars.

The oddness of those two choices – to either perform an act or engage in something that arguably proves nothing except the presence of fingers – was further underscored by the vast breadth of physical prowess. If you had hit puberty by then, you could do chin-ups. If you hadn’t, you hung like a limp flag or, more realistically, the trussed and plucked chicken hanging in a meat shop. Since I’m barely hitting puberty at 22, it’s an easy guess to figure out which camp I fell into.

That did not stop me from pathetically attempting a chin-up. I didn’t realize that it’s nearly impossible to do a chin-up from fully-extended arms, so I tucked my knees underneath me and tried to pull myself up from ramrod-straight arms. After several tense, physically agonizing moments, I let myself hang quietly before dropping back down to the floor.

And I remember, in the seconds that I hung from the bar, thinking how completely pointless this exercise was. Gym class proceeded much in the same way; after freshman year, I just opted to do homework with a clutter of the other unathletic boys while the fitter ones fucked around with dodgeball, or whatever. By senior year, I was skipping out of gym entirely – using my senior privilege and status a runner to avoid it. But, to be honest, having a gym class once every six days wasn’t doing me, or anyone, any favors.

So for most of my life, the chin-up, and any desire to do it, eluded me. When I started working out in college, I hopped in and out of the chin-up phase. Once I realized that clinging to the bars and literally leaping up into a chin-up position didn’t technically count, I swapped to the assisted pull-up machine and avoided it whenever I could.

The assisted pull-up machine requires you to put your knees on a pad and subtract weight from your total mass. So if you’re 160 pounds, and you subtracted fifty pounds, you were doing the chin-ups with a body weight of 110 pounds. I was subtracting so much weight that I was actually flinging myself upwards with every pull and reaching an exosphere orbit.

I would eye the people who could do a pull-up or chin-up unassisted with hot glowering envy. It seemed literally impossible, and then I saw people actually adding weights to their own self and doing repetitions with that. That was as unbelievable to me as those stories of mothers lifting up cars to save their loved ones – actually more unbelievable. I began to measure my prowess in terms of how many unassisted repetitions I could do – one was bad, two was better, three was ideal.

But as I worked out more, I began to reacquaint myself with the pull-up machine. As I lost weight and gained muscle, the notches of the weight began to shift lighter and lighter. Eventually, I was doing ten to twenty pounds of assistance, for a weight of roughly 185.

And then, a few weeks ago, I decided to leave the pad entirely. Straining, I pulled myself up – my elbows narrowing into neat acute angles – and down. When I completed sixteen chin-ups, four repetitions in four sets, I fell into a crouch and felt my heart pump blood headily into the aching muscles. But I kept doing it. every day, at the beginning of my workout, I did sixteen chin-ups – always in four sets of four – before moving onto the rest of my workout. I found that the less I focused on what I was about to do, the better I performed. If I hesitated, arms extended upward but feet still on the ground, I could barely get myself into the air.

I began to change it up – I added another set of pull-ups to the routine. Eventually, I switched to sixteen pull-ups (working the back muscles, shoulder muscles and the latissimus dorsi muscles). I tacked on a set of chin-ups, and on arms days, I would do sixteen of each.

I’ve noticed more muscle changes in the few weeks that I’ve started doing unassisted pull-ups. My shoulders are squarer, my collarbones swoop with the graceful lean of ship’s bows, and my biceps are bigger. In the shower, I catch glimpses of back muscles rippling in ways that they didn’t before. I’m obsessed with my shoulder blades, their hookedness like two eagle beaks.

Unfortunately, like a lot of people, I have a complex relationship with my body. And I’ve often leaned on the gym in unhealthy ways, eviscerating myself on days when I had to skip, or punishing myself for days that I didn’t push myself as far as I could’ve. In my most depressed, the gym becomes more of an outlet and a crutch. Before, when I looked my best, it’s often because I was feeling my worst. At a particular low point in college, mental health-wise, I would escape to the gym for hours every day, later pinching the fat on my hips as it melted away. I obsess over my body’s aesthetic, how this looks and how this lays.

I’ve always carried that anxiety when going to the gym; that I could backslide and become obsessive again. I still have lingering habits, a twinge of despair when I weigh myself, or a slight internal battle about how much cardio to do. I take my backslides softly, and slowly, and I’m trying to treat myself gently. It doesn’t always work, maybe not even half of the time, but I try.

Doing these pull-ups aren’t about how they will make my body look. It is a physical challenge, a test of my own strength – something that doesn’t come from aesthetics alone.

But this feels different for me.

When I’m doing pull-ups, I revel in the strength as I lift upwards. I imagine all of the scenarios where I can pull myself up. Action movie scenes, where the ground falls away beneath me and I have to swing myself up from the lip of a cliff. Deep dark holes that I’m trapped in. American Ninja Warrior monkey bars. I revel in getting stronger, and it feels wholly unconnected to aesthetics or attractiveness. In every muscle micro-tear, I steel myself with strength. I feel myself getting stronger, and I nourish it like a seedling. I picture myself as a warrior, each line of muscle meaning that I am more capable, more sturdy, more indomitable.

It isn’t about how I look – it’s about how I feel.

And damn, sis, I feel good.

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Body Health, Politics

SENATOR CORY BOOKER INTRODUCES FEDERAL BILL THAT WOULD LEGALIZE MARIJUANA

Header image source: Wikimedia Commons


Today, August 1, Senator Cory Booker from New Jersey introduced via Facebook Live the Marijuana Justice Act, which would remove “marijuana from the list of controlled substances, making it legal at the federal level,” according to the press release from Senator Booker’s website.

The bill attempts to reverse “decades of failed drug policy that has disproportionately impacted communities of color” by retroactively applying to those incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses. Booker is attempting to address, largely, the fact that black people are disproportionately arrested for marijuana use, getting arrested roughly four times more than white people despite the two groups using the same amount.

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Body Health, Mental Health, Politics

THE SENATE RELEASES THEIR HEALTHCARE BILL

Read my articles about the CBO analysis for the House bill here and the March AHCA bill here

In other news, before we get started—President Trump took to Twitter today to confirm that there were no tape-recordings of his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey; tapes he insinuated weeks ago he had.


Written when I was going to write about using self-tanner in preparation for New York Pride, and the realization that the healthy, sun-kissed glow I actually needed was for my soul—but more pressing matters have arisen.

This morning—Thursday June 22, 2017—the new healthcare plan was released after a cloud of mystery while it was being written in private by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a small group of colleagues. The bill’s mystery was protested by Democrats and Republicans alike, who feared that this bill would be introduced and forced into a hasty vote before anyone had a chance to read it. according to CNN, the bill will have a one-week-turnaround, meaning that McConnell hopes to get it voted on within a week.

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Body Health

“CAN YOU SPOT ME?”

I twist around on the bench, pulling the earbuds—playing Lana Del Rey’s “LOVE”—from my ears. “What?”

“Could you spot me?” he asks again. Grey t-shirt, short, brawny, dark wiry hair and bristly stubble.

I blank for a second, and then nod hastily. “Yeah, yeah!” I hop up and follow him to his own bench press. “I’m doing sets of four,” he tells me before he dips underneath the bar. I hover in the negative space between the prongs the bar rests on. His hands reach up, pinkies first, and find their places on the grooved metal.

He hulks the bar out of its resting position and does one rep. His face purples with the effort of raising the bar off his straining chest. On the second one, the bar stays static an inch above his chest. Panicking, I hook my hands underneath the bar and lift it up from his chest. “Let me struggle,” he tells me—an admonishment to my ears but probably nothing to him.

“Oh, okay,” I nervously laugh.

The idea of “spotting” entails a weirdly personal moment. As I spot this guy, my feet are squared below his shoulders, my groin hovering somewhere above and behind his forehead. Essentially, I’m the only one responsible for making sure the barbell doesn’t pin him to the bench. Without me, he would have 150 pounds on top of his chest, making ribs creak and internal organs bruise.

Once, I tried to bench press without a spotter. I made it through twelve reps of a first set, and on the first rep of the second set, my arms gave out and the bar jolted back onto me. Gravity, weight and my own weakness led to me being pinned like a bug under glass. Groaning, I slowly rolled the barbell down the length of my body, flattening my own ribs and vital organs, resting heavily against my legs until it was far enough down for me to sit up and lift it off me. With the memory of my own primal fear—fox in a bear-trap—in the back of my mind, I stood as his spotter.

But by being his spotter, I was engaging in the bizarre intimacy of the gym. With my headphones in, and eyes narrowly locked on my own reflection as I lift weights, the gym is an insular experience. But outside the Panasonic earbuds, everyone complies to the gym code. If you’re taking too long on a machine, someone will come up and ask to “work in” with you. And so you’ll take turns, watching over them as muscles pull and strain and sweat glosses reddening skin.

You might ask someone wordlessly—both of you speaking through various decibels of music—if they’re done working on a certain machine, or done using that weight you’ve been waiting for. They nod and smile, and you slip in and slide an antiseptic wipe across the imitation-leather to remove any residue they might’ve left behind.

When you pull off a mat and plop it down onto the floor, you’re often working it in—Tetris-style—amongst other mats, going horizontal and vertical across the gym floor. You set yourself down amidst a rippling mass of elbows and knees as other people hold minutes-long planks, bob up and down in a series of unending crunches. Everything is constantly encroaching onto each other’s space, bony extremities popping into each other’s bubbles, sweat flying off in a thousand directions.

And beyond all that, there’s the fact that you’re a group of strangers choosing to be in pain in front of each other. You would never willingly choose to embarrass yourself—over and over—in front of people, but you do for these people. They witness you fling weights to the ground and curl over yourself as the last set pulls all remaining energy from your body. They see you sweat like a maniac, darkening the joints of your t-shirt as you cycle endlessly to an episode of The Office.

Once you get past the initial embarrassment of being vulnerable in a public space, the gym becomes an incredibly therapeutic experience. Because everyone there—the muscle jocks jotting down their gains in small notepads, the people who brings laptops and set them up like projection screens on the ellipticals, or the people edging in for the first time—is focused on getting healthy. They’re focused on making themselves better.

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