Dateland: On Bea Arthur and Men in Underpants


Confession: lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at men in their underpants.

It all began when I was searching for news on Bea Arthur. Although she died several years ago, she’s still making headlines today. Granted, most of these headlines are written by fanboys debating whether she will best be remembered as Vera Charles, the drunken sidekick in Mame, or as Maude. And there are entire websites dedicated to the vagaries of her relationship with The Golden Girls costar Betty White.

The mere thought of Bea Arthur just sent me on a Google spree. I will get back to men in underpants soon, but first I need to share a few delectable Bea tidbits that I just unearthed:

  • After reading a comment in TV Guide from a disgruntled Iowa housewife who said that Bea’s character wasn’t as interesting as the other women on The Golden Girls, Bea called the woman and said, “This is Bea Arthur, and I want to talk to you about what you said in TV Guide.” The housewife was horrified. She said she was misquoted. “I didn’t mean it. Is it really you? I love the show. I take it back.” And Bea responded, “That’s what I thought. Okay, that’s better.”
  • Bea and her Mame co-star Angela Lansbury were spotted attending the movie The Opposite of Sex together. Two gay men sat behind them and reported: “They were laughing at the dirtiest stuff in that movie. We were like, ‘Who drove? How many cocktails did they have on the way over?’”
  • Singer Rufus Wainwright once summoned the nerve to approach Bea. He said, “I’m sure you hear this all the time, but I was going through a rough patch and The Golden Girls brought me so much entertainment and comfort. It really helped me get through the bad spell. You’re so wonderful. You made me feel like you’re my grandmother.” To which she responded, “I’m not your fucking grandmother.” Then she belched and walked off.

God, I love her!

But, now, back to men in underpants. My appetite for all-things-Bea led me to a message board powered by the most deliciously catty gay men. It is a treasure trove of baseless rumor and innuendo on long-dead divas forgotten by everyone but gentlemen of a certain age and me.

I am a gay man in every critical sense, with the small exception that I don’t like to sleep with men. I have nothing specific against penises. I consider them to be like entertaining, foreign chaps with fiery temperaments that are perfectly amusing until they try to shove their opinions down your throat.

So, I’m confused by the fact that lately I find myself turning my attention to discussion areas that focus on men in their underpants, which, along with gossip about dead movie stars, is a particular focus of the message board. The strangest thing is that I don’t find the images titillating at all. In fact, I’m usually focused on what’s happening in the background of the image, rather than the main show in the foreground.

Just this morning, I spent an hour reading comments dissecting a recent selfie by Justin Bieber. In this picture, the singer is wearing briefs and grabbing his crotch in what appears to be a messy hotel suite. I was really disturbed by the fact that he would take a selfie with a pile of dirty towels on his floor.

I’m struggling to wrap this column up in a neat bow that puts this nonsense in some bigger context. So I’m going to skip that. Maybe it’s just fine to obsess about Bea Arthur and men in underpants and not worry about how that fits in the broad scope of human existence.

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