Friday, May 07, 2010

"How to Be Fake" or maybe "How to Try to Be Fake" could be a name for either "Confessions of a Mask" by Yukio Mishima and "Stuck Rubber Baby" by Howard Cruse.

They are about men who are very attracted to men sexually, and who really don't want the hassle of being that, in the 1940's in Japan in the 1960's in the United States.

The main character of "Confessions of a Mask" is extremely aware quite young that men charge him up--he has a strong memory of guys in tight pants who cleaned up the neighborhood and how looking at them made him feel when he was really young.

And as he grows older, he keeps getting charged up by looking at men, thinking about. He also gets that this is not OK.

So he tries to carefully observe he friends who are boys and try to construct himself as normal by learning to act as if he feels like they feel.

It's work, because he keeps forgetting how they feel. Like that for the other boys, the very thought of a picture of a naked woman is really exciting.

The young boy constructing the mask doesn't feel that way at all. He simultaneouly gets exciting looking at pictures of naked men, works on constructing his fake identity as normal, and imagines that if he kisses a girl, he will really have the normal reaction and become normal in truth.

He's under a lot of pressure.

He's in Japan during World War II and keeps imagining that he will die. Die by being bombed, or die by getting old enough to be in combat and getting killed in combat.

When he's old enough he passes a physical that says he's fit to be called for service, but when he is actually called up, he flunks the physical, for being frail, having weak lungs.

The back and forth on the physical is somehow reminiscent of his struggle with his physical feelings--trying to fake that they are different, and hoping the kiss of a girl will make him be normal.

He kisses a girl whom he likes a lot, the sister of a school friend and nothing--her lips could've been slugs.

On two different occasions, he feels how much he likes her and how much he doesn't respond to her physically, and he is overwhelmed with grief.

When World War II is over, that day, he feels bad because he had been counting on death to get him out of his dilemma. The war is over, and he'll have to figure out how to be or look normal for years.

He almost gets engaged to the woman he likes and then doesn't. She gets married to someone else, and says she's happy. She and our hero keep seeing each other secretly which feels dangerous to her but not him. She doesn't say explicitly when she tells him it's dangerous, but I think she's afraid they'll get overwhelmed by their feelings and make love.

As she's telling him this in the dance hall they've gone to, he's getting overwhelmed by lust for some young gay guys he sees there.

She asks once, about him breaking off their near engagement, "Is it because you don't like me?" He doesn't say. In late forties Japan, they never have the conversation that the main character and the woman he likes do have in the sixties in the United States.

He tells her he's been dating her to prove to himself he isn't gay. She is furious and says so. She feels used and says.

He kind of shakes himself awake and goes, "Oh, yeah, I can see how you would feel that way." But he didn't get within a hundred miles of thinking of himself as using her when they were dating.

Like the Japanese sort of couple, this couple is in the midst of the kind of history that gets into history books--in this case, the civil rights movement in the South in the sixties. What's happening where they are going to college is hot--violence always close. Hot, and also interesting, and also doing a doing-a-good-thing opporunity.

The southern couple are both white. She is into the civil rights movment for reasons of justice. He gets into it and showing up for demonstrations because he wants to impress her. He probably wouldn't have thought of participating if he hadn't wanted to show off his worthiness for her (and he wanted her attention so she could be a prop to show himself and others he wasn't gay.

He's not a deep guy. A very believable college student.The Japanese guy feels grief at the combination of how much he likes the woman and how much they can never really connect physically. The American guy--it feels like at this point in his life, that kind of grief for that kind of reason is way beyond him.

The Japanes guy is, as a humna, mush more detailed and layered. And very aware of his details and layers. His tales of constructing the mask of being normal could be a guide to anyone invested in any fakeness important to them in how to try and how it doesn't work.

At the end of "Confessions of a Mask," our hero hasn't have sex with anyone else, but the war is over and those guys at the dancehall are looking really good.