I must have been eight-years-old when we went to a party and they announced the main event would be a dance performed by a very special ‘lady’. Somewhere between stuffing chop-suey in my mouth and trying to figure out which one of my siblings ate my slice of pineapple upside down cake, the lights were turned down low and the DJ cranked up the stereo. I saw the irony in Donna Summers’ “Last Dance” as the intro song years later.
Suddenly, she walked on stage and the crowd goes silent for a moment, riveted by the graceful moves, her finesse and her large calf muscles. Wait a minute! That girl has unnatural muscles all over her body and this strikes me as odd until ‘she’ turns around to reveal that its one of my best buddies’ dad in a wig and an extra (extra) large muumuu. I was shocked and scared (or scarred) at the same time.
I can imagine my thoughts at the time were, ‘Does his wife know about his double life? Does his family know about this? This is very disturbing but that guy can really shake it!’
I look over with my confused eight-year-old eyes and realize that my friend has buried his head in his arms and crawled under the banquet table completely embarrassed by his dads performance on stage. The crowd on the other hand, is going wild.
That scene has been repeated over and over and over again in countless settings and on numerous occasions. What is it with straight Polynesian men and dressing up in drag? I see it at weddings, graduations at concerts and all kinds of celebrations. I guarantee you that if there was a way to somehow celebrate the life of a person who has passed on in this fashion, there would be a group of guys dancing to a Katie Perry song at a Polynesian funeral near you. And if they pulled it off, I would literally die!
Why are we Polynesians so entertained by straight guys wearing leotards prancing around like women? Is there some part of our collective Polynesian culture that celebrated through the centuries by having all the manly men in a group put on grass skirts and faux coconut bikinis and prance around like virgins so that we could be emasculated and ridiculed in front of the entire village?
I’ll admit, I got a kick out of the first and maybe the second time I saw these types of performances in recent years mostly because I was glad it was them and not me but at some point you gotta ask yourself, is this really quality entertainment or are we that easily amused? Is anyone really going to walk away from a performance like that and say, “Man, I would pay $35 just to see that again!” Or “That guy gets better and better every time. I’ve never seen a guy that big in a mini skirt do the splits!”
It’s such an odd evolution within our culture. If you’re going to have a drag queen pageant than do it and do it well (coincidentally, the annual drag queen or fa’afafine pageant is a huge hit in Samoa). But when will we see this trend of straight guys dressing up and acting like women finally come to an end? I don’t see women coming out topless to do the fire dance, or maybe I’ve never been invited to those kinds of parties.
There are people who enjoy this type of frivolity and I extend my sincere apologies (and regrets). But I for one was SO over this fad after my friend hid himself under that banquet table when we were eight. It scared me then, it still scares me now.