“Conversations with S. Teri O’Type” – OUT NOW!
Hallo Chris! Thank you for joining me via the magic medium of pixels on a screen to discuss your new book Conversations with S. Teri O’Type, a gloriously funny comic satire. I’m going to see if you can clear up a few niggly questions for me.
Curt, the amusingly delusional hero of your tale, muses early on in your book on the problem of how and when to correct an erroneous assumption of straightness – what do you recommend? Are you in Teri, sorry, Oh! My Gayru’s ‘camp’?
Hi, Gill! Well, as Curt says, you can’t introduce yourself, “Hi, I’m Curt. I’m gay.” That would sound crazy or at least preoccupied. Sexual orientation shouldn’t be the first port of call in an introductory conversation. I think sexual orientation is fodder for a twelth or twentieth conversation. For someone like Curt, who’s made it into his forties without telling his friends, it can be awfully hard to just come out and say it. There’s fear of rejection involved.
Am I in OMG’s camp? Definitely not. Teri is camp on crack. He’s a wild exaggeration of the gay man, but he’s also the image of the gay man that many people –both gay and straight—insist on perpetuating. I don’t think Curt needs to become Teri for people to know he’s gay. I think people should mind their own business and let Curt be, well, Curt—rather than a caricature of his sexual orientation.
“camp on crack” – I like that! I’ve heard acquaintances discuss campness before, as opposed to sexuality, and often it’s that they have a problem with rather than homosexuality. Still their problem, though. I’ve known people at Uni let their t-shirts or the posters on their walls do the talking for them, not necessarily hung at eye level (ha!) but with enough skin on show to allow no room for doubt as to who they’re attracted to. The taut stomachs and toned arms were enough to leave me in urgent need of an ice-cream to cool down! Sometimes a whole tub…
It’s refreshing to read of a man’s struggle with his weight and quest for a man to share his life. ‘Homotrition’ indeed! Is this something you sympathise with yourself, or is it in here purely for comedic value?
I do sympathise with Curt. I’m a gay man in my forties, trying not to gain those 5 pounds. I have a person who shares my life, though. We’ve been together for 15 years, and we kid each other relentlessly about our softening middles. That said, I think there are a lot of pudgy gay men out there who are not so obsessed with their bellies—and good for them. Why should our bellies be any different from our heterosexual counterbellies?
Indeed – we eat the same foods, do we not? Although, granted, I tend to eat more of it than others might, especially Twixes. Anyway…
I have a thing for smells in writing, I’m somewhat notorious for it – I notice the smell of orange features several times in your book. Is that because it’s a gay smell (if there is such a thing) or is this something of personal significance to you?
I’m so glad you sniffed this out. I also have a thing for smells. I’m much more likely to set a scene with odour than I am with conventional description of the physical setting. I love the smell of citrus. It’s soothing. In the Conversations it’s also the scent associated with Cary Grant.
Teri’s gay dog is called Cary Grant. Is Cary a favourite actor of yours? Why him, rather than, say, Errol Flynn or Jimmy Stewart – or Ronald Reagan?
This will probably be disappointing—or maybe not?—but it’s simply the name that came to mind when I wrote “Cary Grant’s getting his nails done.” Teri said it, and I stuck with it. It was as if he had a name for his dog already before I wrote that line of dialogue. I’m sure I could pick Cary Grant, the actor, out of a line-up, but I can’t tell you one movie he was in.
It’s wonderful when books or characters seem to write themselves. Have you, or somebody you’ve known, licked a dog before?
Of course I’ve licked a dog before. My dog, Bodie, was the sweetest Cocker Spaniel on the planet. His full name was Colonel Maxwell Bodean III, and I licked him. Mainly on the top of the head (so this doesn’t sound so icky).
Er, I think I’ll let the readers make their own minds up about the ick factor here. But I will confess to kissing my pooch Sally on the nose many a time. Maybe it’s only icky if you leave a wet patch.
Okay, pucker or purse? And, in an ideal world, with who?
Teri is right about the difference between the pucker and the purse. It’s all about constriction. Definitely pucker. I don’t purse very often, and if I purse it’s probably an ironic purse. Oh, I love ideal worlds. With who? Besides my partner of course (on the off chance he’s actually reading this). Sean Connery? Call me Old School.
Okay, ‘Old School’. I get the Sean Connery attraction but I’ll add the caveat that I fancy him in Bond rather than Highlander – though the moustache in that deserved its own credit in the titles. Speaking of moustaches (meow!) which Golden Girl are you, and why?
A very difficult question. I enjoy watching The Golden Girls. Betty White’s character Rose is my favorite because I find her character has more depth and more edges than the others. I don’t, however, see myself in any of them. They are all caricatures. They’re scripted. I think this is Curt’s struggle: to break free from the script and the choreography.
You can’t go wrong with Betty White. Which one would you like to be?
If I have to choose to be one of the Golden Girls, I’d like to be Dorothy because I’m 100% sure Bea Arthur was taller than I am—and I’ve always wanted to be tall. A bit of trivia: When I lived in LA I went to a Golden Girls taping. It was fascinating to see them work. They were all so professional. They did every scene in one take.
I’m green with jealousy here! Which one would your partner say you are?
This is an easier question. My partner is not as sensitive to the effect of TV on our personalities as I am. He’d say I was Rose without skipping a beat. A ding-bat airhead. No common sense. Always telling stupid stories. And sweet.
I like your stories! But I don’t disagree with you being sweet. Being nice brings its own burdens, such as the agony of gift disparity! How and when have you experienced it? And what was your role in it – over- or under-giver? Was a pashmina involved?
I have a long history with gift disparity. Christmas is difficult. I’m the king of inappropriate gifts. It’s not uncommon for someone to lift his/her head out of the wrapping and say, “Are you trying to tell me something?” I try to buy good presents, but it gets harder and harder each year. The section about the Bible and the mesh underwear and socks comes directly from my life. I was, in that moment, Curt. I didn’t run out of the room like Curt does. My girlfriend and I were actually opening our presents with her parents, so her embarrassment was augmented by theirs. Faces just kept getting redder and redder. And then she gave me a Bible. I still have the Bible. I bet she doesn’t have that underwear.
Perhaps she uses it for straining pasta and peas? Now, that’s something I’d like to see. Or maybe not. Thanks for taking the time to discuss Curt, Teri, and dog-licking with me – very best of luck with your book!
Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O’Type (a Satire). His award-winning fiction and creative non-fiction have appeared in numerous journals and magazines both online and in print. In 2011, Allen was a finalist at Glimmer Train and also a Pushcart Prize nominee. He’s an editor, a teacher and an obsessive traveller. He blogs at www.imustbeoff.com.