Chelsea is an adjective

--and a derogation. Yes, it's nice to know I'm no longer the only homo in Chelsea (as it so seemed to me when I first moved here fifteen years ago), but can't we attract at least some people who look like they might read a book once in a while or be able to discuss a social issue other than brunch, spotting or clubs? Guy Trebay writes about New York fashion as expressed during the recent extended heat wave, and he ends up in Chelsea:

"Society," Thomas Carlyle observed in the 19th century, "which the more I think of it astonishes me the more, is founded on cloth." Manhattan society, which the more one thinks of it astonishes one the more, is increasingly founded on no cloth at all. And few neighborhoods illustrate that better than Chelsea, where some people are so heavily armored in muscle that clothes can sometimes seem beside the point.

"There is definitely the gay ghetto stereotype of the muscle queen in Chelsea, but that stereotype is being broken," said Jesus Echezuria, a salesman at a popular Chelsea men's wear shop called Nasty Pig. Mr. Echezuria was referring to a group of men whose calendars are often marked in steroid cycles and for whom "liposculpting" and "abdominal etching" are by no means alien terms. If, however, the stereotype of Chelsea as a magnet for such men is dated, you couldn't tell it from the volume of cartoon action figures strutting the streets on a torrid Saturday night.

Conformity and uniformity is stupid and oppressive regardless of the form it takes. Sometimes I think I see hope for the neighborhood in what appears to be the growing visibility of non-whites, women, young kids and even straights, of all ages, but I'm not sure it's anything more than wishful thinking, so I still worry about the sea of dumb muscle. Help, we're drowning here!

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Published on August 6, 2002 2:51 PM.

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