Schaefer likes regular guys. He likes them so much, in fact, that it dawned on him to start a group just for them. So in 1996 he named it and he built it, not entirely sure that anyone would come. He put an ad in a local paper. He rented out a room at the Noe Valley Ministry. And then, sure as drag queens on a Tuesday night at the Stud, they came! Regular dudes from the city and the suburbs, all hoping they weren't the only regular ones in the Bay Area. They couldn't be, could they?
Schaefer, his mind wandering from the baseball game before him, tells me what his dream regular guy would look like. This regular guy would be, first and foremost, big. By "big," Schaefer means to say that this pillar of masculinity would be both tall and built, but not built in the muscle-queen kind of way, because that is constructed builtness -- and that is, according to Schaefer, akin to constructed masculinity. What Schaefer wants is natural, God-given mass, the kind that gets produced with some regularity on farms in Nebraska. Schaefer wants big arms, big shoulders, big hands (with big, veiny fingers), big thighs, a big neck, and big feet. And on all of these things, he wants lots of hair.
When this ideal regular guy came upon a game of baseball or football, he would know exactly what to say and do. He would know the lingo. If the ball was thrown toward him, he would wait for it knowingly, and he would not run away like a little girl. He would, in that way those regular guys are blessed (cursed?), catch the ball with jockish, perfunctory ease. He would play with the ball for a moment, and then he would throw it back, high into the air, and it would land pretty much where it was supposed to. This is called "throwing the ball like a man," as opposed to "throwing the ball like a fag." "Not that there's anything wrong with that," Schaefer jokes.
Schaefer can joke about that, you know, because he's a fag, too. And still, in this city that is not short on fags, Schaefer -- 45 and counting -- is having problems finding one who would like to settle down with him and raise some regular kids. This could have something to do with the fact that, in his own words, Schaefer is not a beautiful man. He is a short, pudgy man with an oddly shaped head. Geometrically speaking, Schaefer's head is an oval. While most human heads are squares or rectangles, Schaefer's is wider at the cheeks than it is at both the crown and the jaw. It is also unusually long, with most of the surface space concentrated between the eyes and the chin. On top of it all is a tightly trimmed crew cut.
On this night, Schaefer wears tight jeans, an orange T-shirt, and a black and orange Giants jacket. He doesn't talk much, except to make light of his dating woes and to confess that he prefers going to Oakland Athletics' games, because their roster is packed with lots of big, beefy guys with goatees.
Mostly, though, Schaefer sits quietly in his seat. He has been shy for as long as he can remember. Back in grade school, Schaefer was a nerd who hung out with other nerds in a social group on the very low end of the adolescent pecking order. This trend continued in high school and even into college at Fordham, but things changed for the better when Schaefer worked up the nerve to walk into the campus radio station his junior year. His radio gig got him talking, which brought him out of his shell, which allowed his long-dormant sense of humor to make an appearance.
Schaefer likes to be funny. He also likes to say things that he knows might get him in a whole heap of trouble. Like the time he said this, referring to what he calls gay culture's "masculinity paradox": "It's funny, because gay culture likes to ridicule guys who are into traditionally 'masculine' things, but at the same time, masculine guys are everyone's jerk-off fantasy. It's like we have a whole gay culture that says, 'Nudge-nudge, wink-wink, we all know we really want to have sex with masculine guys, but we have to ridicule them, too, because, everyone knows they can't dress, and those are the guys who beat us up and made fun of us in high school.' But you know what? In the 22 years I've been reading personal ads, I've never once read one that says, 'GWM seeks bitchy queen for LTR.'"
On a warm, breezy, blue-sky day in late May, 30 Regular Guys -- all clad in shorts and T-shirts -- are warming up for a game of softball on the grassy portion of the Kezar Triangle.
As they take batting practice and shag fly balls, it quickly becomes clear that few of these men -- most are in their 20s, 30s, and 40s -- were members of their high school's jock elite. In fact, when Chris Sorensen, the group's director of sports activities (and master barbecuer), asks the men how many played baseball in high school, not a single hand goes up.
Later, while tending to the barbecue during a Regular Guys' picnic, Sorensen explains the kinds of athletes you'll find in this group for self-identified masculine gay men: "A lot of them were picked on in high school, and now that they are older and successful and go to the gym to get all buff, they think they're athletes. But if you throw them a real fastball, they pee themselves. So, we play softball. It's less scary."