Queer Eye for the Kanab Guy

*Remember when Queer Eye for the Straight Guy was Bravo’s big hit?  This was the first piece I ever published, and it was almost complete when it got accepted.  I’m usually not a cable TV watcher, but in the winter of 2003, I was living at my friend Sabrina’s in Kanab, Utah, and one weekend while she was on a long trip, there was a “Queer Eye” marathon on.  Because trends like metrosexuals hit Utah the way hurricanes hit West Virginia (last if ever), I was able to get this placed in Salt Lake Magazine’s issue on metrosexuals (the Salt Lake NPR station didn’t even know what “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” was).  I think the editing they did with the final version makes the piece a little more biting.  I tend to pull my punches when it comes to writing.*

As a woman about to re-enter the dating scene, I’d be thrilled to have Bravo’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy make over a bachelor in my town.  While Kanab, Utah is a far cry from Manhattan, its men have fallen into the same ruts of sloppy behavior that derail romance anywhere.  If the men I meet think both belts and suspenders are necessary, that making nacho sauce with canned olives and Velveeta qualifies as cooking, or if they’re proud of their living room collection of collapsible nylon camp chairs, then I’d rather stay at home with a good book.

By the age of 30, men have learned that women in general respond positively when they clean up their act, so Mr. Kanab won’t mind getting Queer Eye’s assistance.  He’ll stand aside cringing as the Fab Five unleash their blistering sarcasm to assess the collateral damage of heterosexual bachelorhood.  Fashion consultant Carson will move to the bedroom closet, tossing out the collection of cotton butt-up shirts in an assortment of stripes.  (“Garth Brooks called,” he might yell.  “He wants his shirts back.”)  Stylist Kyan will commandeer the bathroom, checking the four empty shaving cream cans rusting on the toothpaste-encrusted shelf.  (“These do not qualify as antiques,” he might snap.)  Ted the food expert will open kitchen cupboards to reveal a six-month supply of tuna, pork and beans, and canned soup, (“Mmm good,” he might quip with a sneer.  “Cream of Mushroom.  Is this real shiitake?”), and Thom might whimper as he considers the post-apocalyptic decorating style.  (“I don’t understand,” he might confess.  “Did you have to burn the furniture for heat?”)

Kanab’s the largest town in Kane County, so unlike the surrounding communities, we have two grocery stores instead of none.  But this comparative wealth probably won’t lighten the despair of the Fab Five as they consider their shopping options, since with a population of 3,500, one stoplight, and a median income of $17,000, there aren’t a lot of stores to choose from.  Still, as modern-day apostles for the power of products to revolutionize one’s life, they’ll shake off their gloom and rise to the challenge.

Kyan can being by taking Mr. Kanab for his haircut.  Accompanied by music with a driving beat, the camera will track them pulling up to a house and rushing through a door off the garage.  Inside they’ll find the kind of salon we frequent in Kanab, built by the salon owner’s husband in his spare time so she can make some extra money.  These salons aren’t listed in the phone book, so to make an appointment he might want to call me to get some names and numbers.  For hair and skin care products, the two can shoot over to Kanab Drugs, where the owner/pharmacist is a gruffer version of Mr. Gower from It’s a Wonderful Life.  Or they can visit Zion Drugs, where the long line of elderly folks waiting for the prescriptions can provide an attentive audience.

For clothes, Carson can choose either Duke’s, a locally owned store that doubles as the J.C. Penney catalog center, or the Hospital Auxiliary thrift store.  The downside of Duke’s is that the teenagers shop there, so Mr. Kanab might end up looking like he belongs in 12th grade.  Considering the Fab Fives’ styles, however, they may not see this as much of a drawback.  And whether or not Carson can talk Mr. Kanab into undersized, sleeveless t-shirts with glittery decals, Duke’s also carries Wranglers and Levi’s.  The thrift store is a little less dependable in a pinch, but since many of the designer labels Carson picks out have that retro look to them, he could skip some steps and find real retro there.  My sister found a “Schoolhouse Rock” t-shirt that anyone would kill for.

Jai’s job is to get the straight guy hip to “culture,” a gray area that encompasses music, dance moves, and social etiquette.  Since there’s no place to dance in Kanab and nowhere to buy CDs, he could take Mr. Kanab to the State Liquor Store, where he can teach him how to choose red wine from the 25 they always carry  (“Not the Kangaroo wine,” he might caution.)  Or the two could cruise by the video store and Jai could show him which videos work best for a romantic evening.  When Mr. Kanab automatically reaches for a Clint Eastwood or Bruce Willis flick, Jai can gently steer him toward Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn films.  (“Think about how you want her to behave when the movie is over,” he’ll explain.  “Men think explosions, but women want romance.”)

Ted will have his work cut out for him shopping at our two grocery stores.  I must say with emphasis that unless it’s potatoes, broccoli or bananas, fresh produce should be left out of the menu planning.  The ginger root I bought a week ago stopped being ginger three weeks ago.  Ted’s best bet would be to plan a menu based on frozen and canned foods or any dish that depends more on heavy cheese sauces than fresh herbs.

When they bring Mr. Kanab back to the house, he’ll be bowled over by the stylish and comfortable space Thom has created from shopping at Kanab Furniture.  Overstuffed and matching couches and chairs and a variety of recliners are their specialty, but they also have matching coffee and end tables, lamps, and silk ficus plants.  I personally can’t afford new furniture, but I’ve heard they have reasonable installment plans.  As for paint, hardware, towels, and sheets, Thom can find everything at Ace Hardware or the popular new Family Dollar store on the east side of town.

People in Kanab are willing to forgo the crowded excitement of city living for quiet streets and a great view of the stars.  A single woman doesn’t expect much more than a nice dinner and movie with a presentable, attentive man in comfortable surroundings.  As the Fab Five reconvene, they’ll sip their cocktails and watch Mr. Kanab move through his date with renewed confidence and style.  Although the task seemed impossible at first, they’ve created yet another metrosexual, as capable of tending to his consumer needs as the men of Manhattan, albeit on a smaller scale.  As they close with their usual toast, Carson might muse, “It’s odd to think that anyone could choose John Deere over Dior.  But I think they really might be happy.”

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