As a pedestrian observer of communes and safe spaces, it has always bewildered me that navigating between these bodies of supposed refuge plays out like a very ugly, albeit colorful game of Minesweeper. Just as much as I am advocated to play into the liberation of body, mind, and soul, I am constantly reminded by the hoops that I am made to leap into for the sake of gaining any leverage within these communities or indeed, covens.
My existence has, in my opinion, best described as paradoxical when I look upon it in retrospect. I do not fit within common convention in its deeply ingrained molds of moderation and popular acceptance. Yet, neither do I feel comfortable enough or indeed, welcomed, to step into these safe spaces. Scrolling through social media only reinforces that credence when I’m flitting between a subconscious but perceptible craving for affirmation and validation through creative expression and individuality, where even ‘being yourself’ comes with its own chaotically regulated terms.
I have often been reminded of where it is that I stand, rather lonely, a wallflower of sorts, in these social settings that boast of an all-encroaching, accepting, space inhabited by the ‘liberated and avant-garde’. I have no massive social media following to speak of. I don’t have a fifteen-step beauty routine to brag about. My choice in sartorial armor is best described as ‘Conservative’, deeply steeped in my admiration for camp power-dressing ala Joan Collins and a post-Windsor Diana. And I am, for a lack of a better word, ‘gay fat’.
Not obese, but nowhere close to the ‘creative ideal’ of being lithe, slender, and whether if those who are were willing to accept the truth in it, ‘conventionally attractive’, despite their unconventionality. After all, it is their faces that continue to play high into the forefront of what the media terms as young and liberally inclined through the arts. Not the bland, beige, and indeed, unassuming ones.
Never has a day gone by when I wonder if there is any room left for cautious moderation set to the backdrop of occasional spiels of deviancy when I am engaged with these covens. And this is not to mention the tacit, but well established and etched eschewing of sobriety within these ‘safe spaces’. When in Rome, as the adage goes: but the irony is present and overbearing. Never have I felt more ostracized for enjoying water with a lemon wedge in place of a vodka tonic, or cheesecake in lieu of MDMA, or hits of Ketamine lined with Fenty Beauty highlighters and Marlboro Reds ashed late into dusk.
And it isn’t for a lack of trying, either. Money spent on frivolous amounts of makeup, assimilating into the habit of imbibing on liquor, despite my abhorrence for the gut-wrenching experience of being completely fucked to the winds. I had given myself a stint at masquerading as another Western-educated, Eurocentric nouveau-beatnik spawn of third culture ambitions, for the sake of paying a toll charge to be part of the card-carrying queer brigade in these inclusive ‘safe spaces’. It was mentally taxing, to say the least. I didn’t have the high cheekbones or the lithe waistline to carry it with.
In which case, I continue to struggle to ask if I belong in this frenzied new flurry of wild and exceedingly beautiful bodies as some sort of post-millennial Sloane Ranger. I still play to the medley of appeasement in my search for true emancipation to no avail. Is there still a place for me to sit at the table when all I want is to walk in heels and carry a handbag with me to AEON? Do I deserve to be wanted, to feel desired, in my insistence on prudence and tempered vices? Or will I be relegated once more, by both the desirable and the undesirables, as yet another outlier who isn’t all here or all there?