Becoming David

David This is Michelangelo’s most famous sculpture, the David. It’s important to us gay fellas because this piece, more than any other in the public’s consciousness, marks a return to the ideals of absolute beauty of Antiquity. David is an icon of the male form. He is what a man should look like. He is what the men in our culture strive to become.

We gay fellas know what a monumental task becoming David really is. Maybe because we’re vain, or maybe we figure the only way we can have a David of our own is if we look like one ourselves. From steroids to second careers at the gym and starvation, it’s clear that we will do whatever it takes to become David.

Straight men seem only slightly less enthralled with the cult of David because they believe (erroneously?) that women find them irresistible in their natural, flabby form. Less and less, however, is it considered feminine to be body-conscious. Even straight men are now shaving their bodies and vanquishing all forms of fat from the face of the earth.

Here’s the problem. David is not a man, he’s a BOY. Look carefully at him. True, David has the requisite near-zero-percent body fat, but he is also totally lacking in secondary gender characteristics. He has no body hair (even his pubic hair is quaffed and insubstantial). His genitals are small and underdeveloped. He has no beard or hint of facial hair. His shoulders and hips are oddly narrow, his chest almost sunken. Note the oversized hands and feet. His body looks not quite comfortable with its own limbs.

This is not an accident of the sculptor’s. Michelangelo was no chickenhawk; he knew how to do men in stone. There are countless depictions of brawny men in his repertoire of sculptures – big, broad-shouldered men with long scruffy beards and massive muscled torsos. David was meant to be seen as a boy barely postpubescent. Maybe he’s 13 or 14 years old, If that.

When one sees his face it’s shocking. He looks troubled, confused, even worried. He is, after all, just a boy who is either about to slay or has very recently slain a giant. He’s unaware of his body’s strength and the depth and fortitude of his spirit. This is his test, his rite of passage. A bar mitzvah of mythic proportions. In slaying the giant, David becomes a man, but he’s not quite there yet. It’s a timeless, compelling myth. But it’s a myth about a boy.

The only real and fully developed man in this story is offstage. Perhaps we should all be trying to look like Goliath.

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