Day 14: Meeting Joel Derfner, blogger extraordinaire and author of “Swish”, is BTS

Despite evidence to the contrary, I’ve always thought of myself as chaste and virginal. Sure, I had allowed morally depraved, horny men to have their way with me in the past but this was only because I thought that rebuffing them would mean denying help to the needy, and Mother Teresa had never refused to attend to the blind and crippled, no? This enlightened take on things, however, seemed to have gone above the heads of my friends and Manhunt subscribers. So now you know why I’m doing this blog: To reclaim my true virginal nature and prove, once and for all, that one can be disarmingly innocent AND hot at the same time. If I were Eve, these 100 days would start as she and Adam are being banished from the Garden of Eden and rewind, in slow motion, back to that exact moment when the apple is placed strategically before her lips, the serpent cajoling her to take a bite, as she opens her mouth and…FREEZE! Voila, Paradise Regained.

Anyhow, as most screenplays go, such rehabilitative experiences are supposed to traverse an emotional arc where the protagonist starts out being an ugly, loathsome, shallow or ignorant brute and transforms into – after dramatic scenes of soul-searching – a wise, empowered, charming and fully-realized beauty. I already have the ‘beauty’ part nailed down but, knowing that I would eventually become a “wise, empowered, charming and fully-realized beauty” after 100 days, wouldn’t it just be fun and exciting to art-direct my own character makeover? So I asked myself: who should I fashion my transformation after? The usual suspect would be Eliza Doolittle of Shaw’s “Pygmalion” but that wouldn’t work as, medical researchers would be quick to point out, I’m more likely to develop a speech impediment after 100 days without sex, not to mention arthritis. And then an epiphany came over me, as I figured out the one character who could possibly be the role model for my “After” self: Joel Derfner.

Although I first met Joel at the launch of his second book, “Swish: My Quest To Become The Gayest Person Ever” last month, I had started reading his blog, “The Search for Love in Manhattan” four years ago and have been a fan since. It’s an uproariously funny, witty and insightful chronicle of his experiences living in Manhattan and covers pretty much everything that a gay man should know, from Egyptian hieroglyphs, knitting, cheerleading and — the pièce de résistance – orgy etiquette. The idea for his new book “Swish”– his first was “Gay Haiku” — came at summer day camp when Joel was six and he tried to sign up for needlepoint and flower arranging, but the camp counselors wouldn’t let him because, they said, those activities were for girls only. That very day, he decided to embark on a solemn and sacred quest: to become the gayest person ever. What ensue are delightful forays into musical theater, step aerobics and go-go dancing, among other things.

Even though he’d be the first to disagree, I say that meeting Joel Derfner over a light meal is BTS. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that “Better Than Sex” was inspired by “The Search for Love in Manhattan”. And Joel, who’s happily engaged, proves that – with humor, balls of acrylic yarn and an impeccable command of the English language – the search for love in Manhattan can be one that ends beautifully. 

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