I love my Aunt Kate and I know she loves me but often times, we have trouble showing it. To a large extent, it’s a generational thing. She’s a part of the generation of women who rebelled against a sexist society by burning bras, protesting outside of the halls of government, and never allowing any man to get away with casually referring to her as sweetheart, babe, doll, dear, or any other term that would have served to diminish her. Because of the society she lived in, everything she did — from the clothes she wore to the jobs she took to the way she signed her name — had to be done in a way that rejected anything that would have allowed men to stereotype her. My aunt is part of a generation of feminists that were and are often referred to as being “strident.” But if Kate was strident, it was because she didn’t have much choice. Anything less than stridency would have been surrender.
As for me, I’m a part of the generation that can afford not to be strident. I’m a part of the generation that can be feminine because we want to and not because society is holding a gun to our head and demanding it. I’m a part of the generation that takes for granted the freedoms that my aunt fought and suffered for. While I tend to forget that my aunt grew up in a time when women had to fight, I think she sometimes doesn’t realize that just because I might spend a while getting my makeup just right, I’m doing that for me and not because it’s demanded of me by a patriarchal society. As a result, me and Kate argue way too much and often times, I forget to thank her for making the world a better place for me.
I’m happy to say, however, that Kate and I have found something that we totally agree on. We both love Tim Gunn, the former fashion school dean who is best known for playing the role of mentor on 8 seasons of Project Runway and counting. Apparently, Tim — yes, both me and Kate consider ourselves to be on a first name basis with Tim — was recently in Frisco, Texas on some sort of promotional tour. My aunt was among the countless women who came to see and hear him. Kate approached him afterward, told him how much she “respected” him, and she got a hug in return. She said it was one of the nicest hugs she’d ever received and that doesn’t surprise me at all. He’s Tim Gunn after all!
Why do we love Tim Gunn?
Tim Gunn knows fashion. This goes without saying. The thing that always impresses me about Tim on Project Runway is that he’s definitely a man of another generation yet he still respects the opinions and the fashions of my generation. He’s that rare older man who doesn’t expect or demand that a woman in her 20s either dress like 1) our grandmother or 2) like we’re posing for the cover of Lolita.
Tim Gunn is gay. Don’t doubt just how important this one little fact is. As a woman, you are constantly aware that every guy you meet is, somewhere in the back of his mind, deciding whether or not you are — to put it crudely — fuckable. Everything a guy says to you, you have to wonder: Is he telling me the truth or is he just trying to get in my pants? And if he isn’t trying to get into my pants — why not? Obviously, this can lead to a lot of confusion, stress, and hurt feelings. But Tim, bless him, is not only gay but openly and obviously so. We know he is only interested in looking at the clothes on our body as opposed to our body underneath our clothes. Tim’s a man that we can actually trust and how often do you actually meet one of those? At the same time, since Tim is a man, a woman doesn’t have to worry that he’s been busy hating her behind her back or that he’s been spreading lies and innuendo just because her ass looks better in skinny jeans than his does. In short, Tim Gunn is the ideal platonic male friend.
Tim Gunn has been celibate since breaking up with his boyfriend. They broke up 20 years ago. In interviews, Tim has explained that he’s remained celibate because he’s still in love with his former partner. Since I have tendency to go crazy if I’m celibate for 20 hours, it’s hard for me to imagine what 20 years of voluntary celibacy could possibly be like. That’s not a life I would really wish on anyone but it’s hard for me not to read that and go “awww…” at the fact that Tim would apparently choose to simply be celibate as opposed to just doing it with someone who he doesn’t love.
Tim Gunn could spend hours in a fabric store. How many men can you say that about?
Tim Gunn is always sophisticated but never a snob. One of my favorite parts of Project Runway is when the show finally leaves either NYC or L.A. and Tim visits the finalists in their own hometowns. For whatever reason, each season seems to feature quite a few designed who come from and live out in Deliverance country. It’s hard to describe the delight I get from seeing Tim, in his perfectly tailored suits and not a hair out-of-place, discussing fashion while surrounded by sagging pants, beer bellies, manboobs, and rampaging cellulite. In a world where belching has become an acceptable form of debate, there is something comforting in knowing that there’s at least one man out there who still makes the effort. What’s even more appealing is that, unlike me, Tim Gunn would never (at least not in public) use the phrase “deliverance country” when talking about the people he’s just met. There’s a lot of be said for a man who can be sophisticated without feeling the need to call attention to that fact.
Tim Gunn has one of the few hearts in reality television. One thing about most reality TV regulars: they’re very quick to let you know what they think of each season’s group of contestants. On Survivor, Jeff Probst always lets us know which tribe he considers to be the most pathetic. Julie Chen often struggles to remember just who exactly is living in the Big Brother house. Chris Harrison can’t wait for the Bachelor to screw up his engagement. Don’t even get me started on those two fascists that seem to be intent on giving everyone a heart attack on Biggest Loser. However, Tim Gunn is always seems to be sincere when he sends the latest cut designer up to the workroom to clean his or her space. With is warm hug and his apologetic tone, Tim has probably kept more than a few failed designers from committing suicide after having to listen to Heidi Klum tell them that “We’ve seen it before and, quite frankly, we’re bored…”
Tim Gunn speaks his mind. Tim may be nice but he speaks his mind. One of the best things about this current season of Project Runway has been watching Tim put judgmental, catty snobs like Gretchen and Ivy in their place. Who didn’t cheer when Tim said he couldn’t understand why the other designers were meekly allowing themselves to be “bullied” by Gretchen or when he showed up at the workroom and told Ivy to stop accusing Michael Costello of “cheating?” There are times when I wish I could have someone like Tim Gunn with me whenever I’m at work and I know I’m going to have to deal with the women who work in the office next to mine.
Tim Gunn is willing to call the Kardashians “vulgar.” Somebody had to say it.
Tim Gunn does the right thing. One of the reasons why my aunt said she “respected” Tim Gunn is because of a recent video Tim made in response to the recent suicides of several gay teenagers. In that video, Tim talks about how he tried to take his own life when he was 17 and still coming to terms with his sexuality. Here’s something else that me and Kate agree on — I respect Tim Gunn too. It takes courage to talk publicly about something that painful. While everyone always talks about how tragic suicide is, there’s still a stigma attached to actually admitting that you have ever been in that dark of a place. That Tim Gunn — who certainly didn’t have to — chose to open up that part of his life says a lot about who he is and why he’s earned the respect of both me and my aunt.
Tim Gunn gave me and my Aunt common ground. After me and my aunt had spent a little while talking about how much we both love Tim, we came to an agreement. From now on, whenever she’s tempted to admonish me or I’m tempted to get an attitude with her, we are simply going to ask ourselves, “What would Tim Gunn do?”