Part 2: Michelangelo was gay!
Around this time, say, 1972, butch, simpatico spinster aunts and “funny” unmarried uncles were wont to issue the following, well-meant pep talk:
“Don’t worry, dear. You know, Michelangelo was gay!”
Michelangelo. Gay. Michelangelo was gay.
What could this possibly mean? Why were they telling us this? Was it one of those too-clever adult jokes? A precursor to another one of those “talks”?
We waited for the next dusty maiden-aunt kiss, the next funny-uncle pinch, and sure enough: The lowered voice, the conspiratorial wink. Michelangelo was gay.
Perplexity. Paranoia, even. We mulled it over, and we mulled, and we re-mulled, and we mulled yet again.
Michelangelo. Gay. It was opaque, like a door opening onto another door. Mull, mull. Was it a meme? A Zen koan? Was this a coded set of instructions, our top secret dossier?
Our — assignment?
The code was cracked, the penny dropped.
Michelangelo… ! Gay… ! Of course! How could we not have seen this!
The air that morning — how well I remember it! — was filled with the thwacking sound of moist palms hitting foreheads, and once we’d all clucked our tongues at each other, rolling our eyes as if to say, “Isn’t that just like silly old we?”; after the final reverberations of our silvery, self-deprecating laughter and our abashed chuckles had faded, we knew what was expected of us and we did not flinch.
That was the day we rolled up our sleeves, preparatory to becoming, one and all — yes! — Michelangelos, titans of Western art!
Talk about destiny! No eyelash that moment but that was touched by a single, crystalline tear.
This was not going to be easy — no mere stroll in the Giardino Bardini for us! — but in our hearts we knew that soon, perhaps in only a few, short, soul-destroying decades, we would stand proudly beside you — or possibly in a separate-but-despite-what-you-might-think-more-or-less-equal-ish part of the building, so no one would get upset that we were in the same room as them, but still — !
With the god-given artistic flair of gay men, and the rustic, overly-equipped tool belts of our lesbian sisters, we would, take damn well what it may, claim our rightful place in the queue at Sobeys with the rest of you.
And so began the fight for equality. Ish.
We admit, the stress got us down at times. We chafed, oh yes. We had our moments of envy.
How lucky you heterosexuals were to have no pressure greater than to be accountants, used-car salesmen, Pittman shorthand secretaries, nuclear physicists!
No goal weighing on you heavier than cleaning lady, teacher, nurse or captain of industry!
We began to detest the responsibility we had shouldered; on our darkest days we feared the struggle had substituted for the victory. Such bitter arguments with the Pope, those unending negotiations with the Medici! The backbreaking work on the Sistine Chapel, the mountain of invoices for Carrara marble — hell, the non-union lavoratori — !
The sheer frustration might have crippled less enterprising, less determined minorities, but — little Michelangelos to the person, triumph we did. Ish.
Flow! Flow, crystalline tears!
And all those museums around the world, not to mention the airport gift shops and eBay stores, filled fit to bust with our iconic masterworks and the tawdry knock-offs thereof, well —I hate to brag, but I think that speaks for itself.
As does the miniature “Statue of David” on my bedside table. You know, the lamp-ashtray combo, with the built-in alarm clock.