I have to confess straight away that I’m finding this hard to write. Because even though I’ve always thought my masculinity quite robust, and have a great support network around me, somewhere – deep down in the chasmic place that evidently shows like Queer Eye are able to reach – there’s a voice: Boys don’t cry. We’re all, men and women, hemmed in by norms and rules that we cobble together from those imposed on us in a desire to fit in. Perhaps, then, what I find so profoundly moving about the Queer Eye formula is in its granting a little wiggle room amidst the layers of constraint. And if that gets me, I can understand how important it must be for a man like Tom; his episode seems the most perfect encapsulation of whatever it is that opens the waterworks behind my eyes.
Our first shot of Dallas, Georgia, features a skunk carrying something dead in its mouth across a backroad. Tom’s in a Tex Mex restaurant ordering a Jumbo Redneck Margarita – as if the waitress has to ask; after all, he’s just a dumb old country boy from Kentucky. A creature of habit. Smoke a cigarette. Watch the television through the open door onto his porch – his favourite thing to do. Tom’s lonely. He sees his third ex-wife Abby every now and then; they’re still friends. He says he’s unlucky in love because he’s butt-ugly. His cap is pulled down, covering his face. The eyes behind his rectangular glasses are baby blue, his cheeks dry and flushed beetroot red from lupus.