The Thin White Peasant

That’s something I’ve thought of myself, when people have compared my appearance to that of David Bowie.

Over the past few days there’s been an absolutely huge amount of conversation about Mr. Bowie. I won’t engage in some sort of revisionist history saying that I was his biggest fan. I grew up with his hits playing on the radio, but didn’t really appreciate his deeper catalog until I was in my twenties. Even then, I wasn’t much more than a casual fan of his music. I was, however, a fan of the man himself.

People have been sharing his music and talking about what he meant to them. About how much his music meant, his incredible sense of style, and how much he changed the industries he touched. I’m going to say something a lot of people probably won’t appreciate. Unless you knew him personally, David Bowie had a greater effect on my life than he did yours.

Put down the pitchforks, torches, and rotten fruit. Please. I know people whose music was inspired by his. That’s amazing. I know people who identify as various flavors of queer who have said Bowie’s lack of concern for public opinion gave them the courage to come out of the closet. That’s touching and wonderful. I know people who can tell me there’s an album or song that gave them hope in a dark time, or that they associate with happy moments. That’s remarkable.

What could he have done to possibly compare to any of those things?

David Bowie got me laid.

I was a weird, skinny, androgynous, geeky blonde kid with bad teeth (who grew up to be a weird, skinny, androgynous, geeky blonde man with bad teeth). The Thin White Duke wasn’t just accepted for his talent like a lot of other artists. He was not Lyle Lovett who caught Julia Roberts for a minute or Billy Joel getting Christie Brinkley with poetry. Nor was he simply an object of desire for those who idolized fame. This man was a Sex God. A man who could, and by all reports pretty much did, fuck anyone he wanted to. He was an object of desire to men, women, and everything in between.

He married Iman, for God’s sake. Iman!

In a world where Brad Pitt was considered the sexiest man alive and the weird girls were fantasizing about Johnny Depp, Bowie was a shining star to a scrawny dork like me. Every time someone told me I looked like Bowie, and I suppose there’s a resemblance, I was shocked. Here was a sex symbol that looked like me. That absolutely blew me away.

And thanks to growing up in a time when an awful lot of the girls my age listed the Goblin King among their first crushes I had a real shot with them!

Thank you, David, for making a slight frame and prominent cheekbones traits that could actually be sexy. And thank you for your incredible variation in styles over the years. I put on eyeliner before the emo kids inspired the term guyliner, and I certainly wasn’t going for a Robert Smith look. Tight shirts and combat boots or a suit with brogues or something that went more than a bit further to the effeminate than the androgynous, any of them were fair game because you got there first.

Thank you for showing me that I could be a weirdo and be wanted. That I could check out that guy’s ass without being a twinky queen. I could ask that girl to dance. I could ask that guy to dance. I could ask both of them to dance and it didn’t matter if they were black, white, Asian, or other. I could tell people what I thought — challenge their ideas — without being combative about it. I could laugh at myself. I could simultaneously be the guy that banged Slash’s mom and starred in a beloved children’s movie. I could try new things and didn’t have to define myself by what I did yesterday. I could be someone new tomorrow. I didn’t have to define myself at all! And I could challenge anyone who tried.  You were David Jones, Tom Jones, David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke, the Man Who Fell to Earth, the glam rocker, the goblin king… You were all of those people, but not any single one of them. Someone who made a lot of mistakes who did some good things and some bad — a human being.

Thank you. You proved to me that a lanky blonde weirdo could have sex with Iman. You were a goddamned hero.  If not for that alone, then for influencing my wife’s tastes enough to give me a shot with her.

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