[There was a video here]

Last night, E! aired a highly entertaining 90-minute special chronicling the lead-up to and wedding of former NSYNC member Lance Bass to artist Michael Turchin. I was riveted by Lance Loves Michael: The Lance Bass Wedding. These guys are such characters, with idiosyncrasies perfect for reality TV. I also got the sense that they really love each other, and if they don’t, they’re great actors. Either way, it makes for good television.

Throughout the show, there was a lot of musing about being gay, coming out, what it all means, what it could have meant for NSYNC, etc. All that talk is the kind of thing latent homophobes complain about (“Stop shoving it in my face—is being gay the only thing that defines you?”) but which I thought was pretty cool. This was a dive into one public gay man’s psyche that was uncommonly deep for the junky-TV-on-E! medium.

Over the course of all this explanation, though, it emerged that Lance Bass has a frankly bizarre conception of what’s masculine. Let’s just deal with pure facts. Here are some things that Lance Bass deemed “masculine” (for more context, watch the highlight reel above):

This giant room.

This little top hat for his dog to wear in his wedding.

This candelabra.

The relic of masculinity directly above was introduced hilariously. In an interview, Bass explained, “We’re two dudes picking out a registry! We’re not gay enough for this. At all.” Then the scene cut to Bass, Turchin, and Lisa Vanderpump shopping in Williams-Sonoma. Bass sees the antler candelabra and explains, “See, this is very us...”

Oh, so it turns out that you are gay enough for this. Totally.

This sort of thing is not uncommon. I hear gay guys all the time talking about how masculine they are, effectively setting themselves up for failure. The fact of the matter is that it’s not especially masculine to be preoccupied with masculinity because a key part of masculinity is not being particularly preoccupied with anything. Masculinity just is. By virtue of the fact that you are a man who lives with another man, you are ensconced in masculinity. (“Ensconced” is masc word choice, right?) You don’t have to prove anything. At some point, probably something that reads as very gay will probably come out of your mouth (or scalp—like a wave of bleached blonde hair), and that’s OK. We’re all complex people with lots of layers, and a lot of us have traits that would be considered both masculine and feminine. Self-acceptance is a process.

I get it, though. Growing up gay can be traumatizing. You have to make it right in your head when you feel like the world is telling you that it’s wrong. A common but ultimately shitty way to do that is to differentiate yourself in your head from the other gays, which is what Lance Bass did when he came out in 2006:

I want people to take away from this that being gay is a norm. That the stereotypes are out the window … I’ve met so many people like me that it’s really encouraged me. I call them the SAGs — the straight-acting gays. We’re just normal, typical guys. I love to watch football and drink beer.

OK, buddy. You do that in your wee top hat.

Bass’s fixation on masculinity reminded me of the way children fixate on gender roles after they’ve been embedded in their brains. It was idiosyncratic enough to make him extremely watchable (it’s amazing how engaging a person’s lack of self-awareness can be). I think he’s still on his journey of self-acceptance (in the video above, he talks about how uncomfortable kissing Turchin in front of his family made him), and I think his husband who seems to have more ease with his gayness will probably provide a lot of help on Bass’s way.

Their wedding ceremony looked lovely, and even if it smacked of self-importance, it’s hard to argue with Bass’s assessment of why putting something like this on TV was good for the world:

[There was a video here]

I’m glad that the world gets to see a wedding like this because as a little kid from Mississippi, if I would have seen a gay wedding on TV, one I would have been like, oh wait there’s nothing wrong with me? Oh, I don’t have to pray to God every night to change me back to straight the next day? We’re just so honored to be part of something so visible.