Article Title:Two Dorothies at Sea: Bare-arsed cheeks
Category:True Stories
Author or Credit:Steve Attwood
Published on:24th October 2011 - 12:20 pm
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Story ID:10963
Text:An occasional blog detailing the experiences of a “straight” cruise by couple of gay Kiwi boys aboard a cruise liner as it circumnavigates Australia, Indonesia and New Zealand – 15 October to 15 November 2011. Part two: Deep conversations and budgie smugglers. Wayne-o As we sail around the tip of Australia and through Torres Strait toward Darwin, the tropical heat means the Radiance of the Seas' outdoor pool becomes a popular focus. But it brings out the best and the worst of us. The best is the poolside conversations; these fueled by an endless supply of Victoria Bitter (they had to bring it on board especially) pina coladas, Long Island teas and Malibu sunsets delivered by the ever-obliging and terminally cute flock of drinks waiters, almost all of whom are men, and of every nationality, race and hue. (More on these cute boys in a future blog... promise!) It’s surprisingly easy to be gay here!  Indeed, the only prejudice I have had to deal with has been my own. I have come to realise that I had a built-in assumption that the largely well-into-retirement passenger complement would be uncomfortable with openly gay men in their midst. I am delighted to be proved wrong. Most of the men I have talked to are Aussies in their senior years. Almost to a man they are white, with a robust air about them that belies their age. They are big-bellied, leather-skinned, sun-freckled, ruddy faced and snowy haired; they have enormous meaty hands that crush you when they shake hands – which they do often; they smile a lot, and have a naughty sense of humour; they appreciate honesty, hard work and mateship. And while their conversations are frequently laced with a none-too-subtle strain of racism, I have yet to hear, or experience, homophobia. I remember shopping for a car in Christchurch about ten years ago. At each sale yard I explained that my partner would need to see the car too, and asked if I could I take it home because HE worked nights and would not be up until evening. Each time the salesmen (they were all men) were either visibly uncomfortable or refused to acknowledge the honorific and continued to talk to me about how much my wife would like the car. (HE does NOT like being referred to as ‘the wife’!) Not so aboard the Radiance of the Seas. The blokes I have talked to have quickly picked up on the fact that I’m here with my man; they ask about us both, are interested in the replies, and ply me with probing, quite direct, questions without embarrassment. (“So you take it up the arse then mate? No skin off my nose, can I get ya a beer?”) And I get the stories. Such stories! Everyone has a gay mate, son, daughter, uncle, aunt, Mum or Dad...  an old army buddy. Stories that are funny, sad, poignant and full of love. What I like most is that, unlike Kiwis, these guys touch you! A ready handshake, a touch on the shoulder, an arm draped around your neck to engage you in deep conversation, a slap on the back as you part. (“Here’s the two Steve’s I told you about darl. You boys havin’ a good time?”) Did I say it was easy to be gay here? Perhaps it’s more accurate to say it’s easy to be me here, to be us! Jonno (Cue poolside cabana music, odours of coconut oil and gin and the clinking of ice.) I said the pool also brings out the worst in the passengers too. As the heat has stripped us down I have found myself longing for Trinny and Suzanna to put in an appearance and whirlwind through the crowd with one of their high-speed how-to-dress-for-your-body-type shows. (Quelle horror!) The budgie smuggler might be a national icon but it’s an icon on tanned, trimmed, muscled Aussie surf life guards... it falls into fashion cringe status when worn by men with bellies so big the dewlap falls down in front of where the penis should be, and the arse-cloth disappears into cracks that rival the grand canyon! The national obesity crisis in countries like Australia, USA and New Zealand is arrayed in all its spreading coconut-oiled  splendour on far too many deck chairs! Dave and Bill If they all jumped overboard at once there’d be another oil spill crisis! Don’t get me wrong. HE and me are both in the bear-belly (yes that’s a pun!) club. Neither of us would grace a pair of Aussie speedos, but that’s what capacious surfie shorts are for!  They hide a multitude of sins and, with a fiercely sucked in belly while parading the poolside promenade, one can almost give an illusion that the gym-toned days are not too far behind one. (Of course, you have to make a mad dash for the pool now and then so you can let the belly go slack out of sight under water! Sucked in bellies and breathing are not compatible activities!) Of course, the Aussies don’t give a fuck. You might not admire the body, but you have to admire the attitude; the bare-arsed cheek of it all. (Note: The author’s views are based on his own genuine experience. He booked and paid for his cruise privately. He has received no incentive or gratuities, financial or otherwise, from the cruise company or any travel or tourism agencies.)     Steve Attwood - 24th October 2011
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