“Um, Yinka, you didn’t tell me you are now running a bed-and-breakfast in your house,” Biola called out as he made his way with affected genteelness to a sofa, into which he lowered himself before looking up.

“Don’t look at me,” I said, as I walked across the room from the inner part of the house to find a seat. I had my shoes in my hand and wanted to set about polishing them. “I only just spent the night here, because Yinka said he couldn’t come pick me up at my house this morning.”

There was some traffic in the small parlour as Adebola, Eddie and Ekene filed past Paschal – who’d opened the door – into the room. They were all well-dressed, and the collective bouquet of their perfumery circumfused and hung richly in the air, a steady reminder that we all had somewhere to be this morning.

“And Paschal,” Ekene said as he settled beside me, “for someone who outed his brother-in-law big time, you look well.” He was grinning to take the sting off his words.

“Yes o, that is true!” Adebola exclaimed. “Have I told you how much you fucked up?”

“You’ve mentioned it once or twice,” Paschal said dryly, as he went back to the corner of the parlour where he’d being doing some ironing. He dropped to a squat beside the corduroy pants placed on the spread-out laundry wrap, and hefted the iron over it.

“Leave him joor,” Eddie defended. “What he did is excusable. That Edith was being a witch, and even though I want to say that she didn’t deserve finding out about her husband in such an precipitous manner, you have to have it coming when you refuse to be understanding of another person’s situation, especially when this other person is family. Before we start going off on Paschal, let’s remember that this could have happened to any one of us.”

“Not to me, it wouldn’t,” Biola countered. “If any member of my family – or anyone at all, for that matter – should discover my homosexuality and decide to be a bitch about it, I’ll put them in their place without suffering the provocation of doing anything stupid.” His lips curved into a small smile as he added, “I can do bad all on my own, you know.”

Ekene chuckled as Paschal rolled his eyes. “Oh we know,” Ekene said with a laugh.

“What are you going to do now though?” Adebola said to Paschal. “I mean, you have burned your bridges with your sister. You definitely can’t go back to her house.”

“I have no intention of doing so,” he replied.

“You can’t stay with Yinka indefinitely,” Ekene interjected with a frown.

“And what are you, the caretaker to his house?” Paschal returned tersely.

“You can always come to my place,” Eddie soothed.

“Yes, I’m sure Mister and Missis Esang will eventually learn to accept that their son’s friend is no longer that occasional visitor, but an indefinite houseguest,” Biola said with light sarcasm.

Paschal instantly bristled and turned a stormy look to Biola. But before he could say anything, I cut in, “Guys, relax. Paschal has plans. He doesn’t intend to abuse Yinka’s hospitality.”

“Yea? You thinking of getting some of those moneyed queens you service all over Lagos to invest more than some pocket money on you?” Adebola said, smiling and wagging his brows suggestively.

“Well, God invented pillow talk for a reason,” Paschal said, a grin replacing the sour expression of a few moments ago.

The rest of us laughed at that, as Yinka walked into the parlour.

“For God’s sake, Paschal, hurry up, I have to iron my shirt,” he was saying. He was wearing just grey flannel slacks, which was unbuckled around his waist, and was holding out a deep-blue shirt which had small creases running all over the material.

“Er, Yinka, are you expecting a baby?” Biola said.

“Huh?” Incomprehension fleeted past Yinka’s face as he glanced at the other man. Biola’s gaze was on his bare torso. Then he let out a short laugh as understanding dawned, patting his slightly distended midriff as he said, “You no well, Biola. I simply gained a few pounds these past few days. No biggie.”

“No biggie? Seriously?” Biola’s tone was sardonic. “Why am I even surprised? It was bound to happen – you letting Declan and Ekene influence you into a bad personal hygiene.”

“Hey!” Ekene and I chorused with twin outrage.

“What? You three flock together the most, and you know what they say about birds of the same fat.”

“Feathers, Biola,” I snapped. “And quit being such a bitch.”

“Plus we’re not fat,” Ekene said in curt protest. “That’s such a hurtful thing to say.”

“Does that surprise you?” Yinka interjected with a chuckle, apparently unperturbed by Biola’s acerbity. “It’s Biola. He says the first nasty thing that pops into his head.”

“I wasn’t being nasty. I was saying it as it is. Gay men should learn not to stop taking care of their bodies.”

“Yes, because we wouldn’t want to stop looking like the perfectly-built, underwear-model types we watch on TV, right? That would be such an abomination,” I retorted.

“It would. We mustn’t all be muscled. But we certainly shouldn’t look like we’re dragging for prominence with Mr. Ibu.”

Adebola fought back a giggle.

“It’s just a little weight, Biola. Let it go,” Yinka said.

“Right. You’re of course letting it go already anyway.”

“You know, we can’t all be as super-skinny as you are, Biola,” Ekene fumed.

Biola was on the tallish side of average, slender and fit, a frame that projected sophistication every time, evident through his careful and purposefully elegant wardrobe choices. “Sure you can,” he shot back. “You simply cut down on the carbs, drink lots of water, forego dinner and replace breakfast with a run.”

“Oh poor you,” Ekene said, lifting a limp-wristed hand to his chest in a show of mock concern. “Is that how miserable your life’s being?”

There was an instant outburst of laughter in the room. Biola smiled at the sally as he graciously conceded the round to Ekene.

“But seriously though,” Eddie said as our mirth died down, “this standard of male beauty perpetuated by gay men the world over is ridiculous.”

“You would think so, wouldn’t you?” Biola fired, sweeping a glance over Eddie’s equally reedy figure. The difference between them was that Eddie’s thinness appeared to be genetic, while Biola worked hard at staying so. “You’re a freak of nature. You can chow all you want and still not gain an ounce of fat.”

“That may be so. But my opinion on this wouldn’t change if I were inclined to be overweight. I mean, it’s a competitive world out there. Being gay is hard enough, and on top of it, we have to work at maintaining this image projected by the media – or just gay people in general – that gay guys are supposed to be this lean, fit, underwear-model-looking type, with perfect skin and perfect hair. And so, because we pander to this image, if one doesn’t fit into that box of perfection, it’s ridiculously hard, if not almost impossible, to get a second glance from anyone.

“Now I’m all for being healthy and shii, but it seems as though if you don’t look like, you know, all abs, biceps, and square jaw, well, you aren’t worth people’s time. That’s what male beauty has become about these days.”

“As it well should be,” Biola said.

“No, it shouldn’t be,” Eddie countered. “Not everyone is into that definition of male beauty. There are people who are extremely into chubby guys – the chub chasers, and then there are twink chasers, and the bears and so on. Life is about variety and not a staple. Male beauty should be defined by what a person likes and the comfort one derives from being in their own skin.”

“You know, I was fat as fuck way back when,” Adebola intoned, instantly drawing the attention of the room to himself. He looked unconscionably handsome in his gray tweed blazer and darker charcoal slacks. The black vee-neck sweater contrasted with the white of his shirt, and Gucci-stenciled sunglasses were perched on his forehead. He continued, “I think I was seventeen or so. I found love in spite of my size then. But even then, it made me very insecure, so much so that when my boyfriend and I broke up, I blamed my weight and by extension, me, for the breakup. I started working out and dieting soon after that. But I’d always bear in mind that I was fat and someone still loved me, and it’s that memory that tempers my opinion on this issue. But” – he gave a sardonic chuckle – “I’m afraid I’ve become too shallow to extend that magnanimity toward anyone else. I’ve become sexy and I know it, and so I just can’t date or favour with my attention anyone who’s not fit like me.”

“Preach!” Biola hollered, raising his hand to exchange a high five with Adebola. “Now I’m reminded the reason why you and I are better friends,” he added.

“For the sake of argument,” Paschal said as he rose from his squat and gestured Yinka to take his place by the iron, “what are your specs in a guy, Biola?”

“Me? Well, first of all, forget about inner beauty. I’d never be attracted to a fat person, even if he’s a Mother Theresa incarnate. And my ideal male body – skinny.”

“Surprise,” Ekene muttered.

“Not bony o,” Biola continued, ignoring him. “The guy has to weigh around 60 – 65 kg, with a nice flat bum, and caramel skin, and a tall figure. Another body type of mine is muscular, not David McIntosh muscular, with nice calves, certainly not the yam type of an Akpan. Long torso, the torso to leg ratio should almost be equal. Just about as tall as me, not more than two inches taller. It doesn’t hurt to have nice cakes too with that body, and an oblong face always. I don’t like round-faced dudes. Nice facial bone structure, handsome, but not beautiful like a woman. Even if he’s not drop-dead gorgeous, as long as he has presentable facial looks and makes up for that with a good hygiene, we’re good. I also like long-fingered dudes and neatly arranged toe nails. Flat hard stomach. Fleshy thighs, not fatty, more like having thick flesh and muscle.”

“Are you telling us your specs or looking to employ Boris Kodjoe as your personal trainer?” I sallied.

The room was overtaken with uproarious laughter again.

“Me, I tend to focus on the aspects of a person I like and tune out the others,” Yinka said, as he spread his shirt out on the ground. He didn’t pick up the iron though, choosing instead to continue speaking. “I’ve thought some people cute, and others will look at me like I’m crazy. Muscles are nice and everything and may get everyone hot and bothered, but I’ve come to notice that in the bedroom, for me, the physicalness fades out, and sex becomes only as good as how responsive the other person is. So I don’t attach too much importance to physical appearances. I’ve been with a few very fit people, where the sex was the most unremarkable I’d ever had.

“But it’s okay to have taste. But making your taste the overall standard of beauty or attractiveness is just egotistical and wrong. I was surprised one time when someone told me he liked my relatively flat ass. That he doesn’t like big ass. An ex lover had me drooling over his lean arms, another his bubble butt, and a third his height. I don’t think I have a type.”

“How tragic,” Biola said loftily, drawing a chuckle from Adebola.

“And yet as it should be,” I cut in, as I glanced at the second shoe I’d just finished tending to spitshined perfection. “While you are busy waiting for the next impossibly gorgeous man you’ve just detailed for us, don’t forget that there are guys who aren’t fussy about appearances, both theirs and others.”

“Please, stop, Declan,” Adebola said with a wave of his hand. “With the exception of a few, gay men are generally into appearances. Theirs especially.”

“Well, I believe that there are gay men who are very concerned about their looks,” I conceded. “Expectedly, they work hard to appear a certain way, and such a person is more likely to get noticed. And they inadvertently help to create a stereotype – that the gay man is fussy about his appearance. And that isn’t necessarily true. That’s a false generalization. I simply believe that the gay man is on the average more concerned about his looks. Let me give an example. Randomly pick ten gay men and ten straight men. One out of the ten straight men would be concerned about his looks compared to three gay men out of that ten. That’s what I think. And we aren’t even considering the bisexual, who comes in and muddles everything.”

“How do you mean?” Adebola asked.

“The bisexual is the reason why it will forever be difficult to accurately type or classify gay men. Because there are possibly bisexual men who chose to explore more exclusively their gay sides, and those who’d chose the straight side. So in the example above, I count ten straight men and in that bracket, you have two bisexuals who perhaps don’t even know that they are bisexual – because they haven’t tested the waters – smuggling themselves in. Perhaps the ‘gay gene’ in them makes them dress flamboyantly. A gene they haven’t expressed. So they get counted as straight.”

Biola made a whizzing noise, and passed a hand over his head like a discus. “You’ve lost me.”

“Me too,” Adebola added, his brow creased.

“How do I put this?” I said. “If there were no bisexuals, we could easily say a gay man is blah-blah and a straight man is blah. But we can’t, because the bisexuals could very well be counted in either of the groups. They are that classification who are both gay and straight, and may exhibit any of the traits associated with any of the groups, and so they blur the line between the two groups. And so, you can’t say this is what it is about a gay guy, or this about a straight guy, because he may very well be bisexual.”

“Or metrosexual,” Ekene interjected, “for those who think being gay and being a sharp dresser are mutually exclusive.”

There was a smattering of chuckles.

“At the end of the day,” Eddie said, “it should be about finding moderation. Everyone deserves some loving. So if you’re okay with what body type you belong to, then fuck society’s beauty standards. Just do you. If you want to change it, make sure it’s all you, not what society demands.”

“Hallelujah!” Ekene shouted, waving his hand with exaggerated righteousness.

Just then, Yinka got to his feet, flapping the shirt whose creases he’d smoothened out. And he said, “I hate to interrupt all this scintillating discourse about the gaybourhood, but we do have somewhere to be – a friend to toast, as he begins the journey most of us here do not have the guts to undertake.”

His words caused a stir in the room, as we all began talking and moving about at once. Yinka was right. Jonathan was getting married today, and we’d all assembled here so we could set off at once to celebrate the start of his holy matrimony.

Written by Pink Panther