I couldn't help it. After passing by the Fifth Avenue store at Christmas and seeing bouncers at the door, I had to wonder just what went on in this store. So last week I took a little looksie. The bouncers had the day off so in I went. What struck me first were the mannequins posing right in the foyer. Against a ten foot tall poster of a hot shirtless guy was a living hot shirtless guy. He leaned against the poster with his chin in the air and his hands behind his back, his jeans were tight and packed. He had blond tossed hair, waxed chest, and a singular air of hauteur, not a smile, not a leer. To his left, without a spotlight of her own, was a woman like Scary Spice. She preened for him, she gave him sideways glances, she worked her legs and tits, she was performing for him. But in the bath of the single spotlight, Jason stood firm, gazing out into the crowd, looking only at the men, including me, who entered. Medea, with all her witching, could not sway Jason from his pedestal. Sensing the privilege of communing with a Greek hero I cast my gaze at this Jason and he briefly raised his eyes to me with no show of thought or recognition beyond it. He was as remote to me as Scary Spice Medea. At first I turned away from him, glancing only cursorily at his body, but then I stopped myself. I would look again. Before I opened the side doors to what sounded like a gay club, I paused and turned myself fully forward to the mannequin and ogled him from head to toe. Selfishly my eyes drank in his hair, chiseled pecs, lantern jaw, and green eyes. As he reached around to strike another pose I saw his pits were waxed as well and I felt a tinge of the ridiculous. He glanced at me again and then immediately a third time. Clearly he wasn't used to being evaluated like that. Though my crotch stirred a bit I didn't change my facial expressions. I didn't fawn, didn't comment, just assessed. For in my mind was a thought. Moving through the door I was me with the pulsing dance music I had heard before and as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I felt like I had died and gone to gay heaven. Around me was an environment of every Tarzan fantasy in a gay boy's dreams. Throughout the store are painted panels of half naked boys swinging on vines, friezes of naked boys lounging by swimming holes looking so much like a Thomas Eakins painting interpreted by Cezanne. Wall to ceiling photographs by the renown photographer and ephebophile, Bruce Weber. His boys in coy, come-hither poses glanced out at the shoppers from behind rugged trees or ham sized biceps, daring them to buy a bit of the forbidden fruit which confronted them at every turn. The music was loud, too loud for conversation but nobody wanted to converse. Around me were women. Lots of women from young girls to the flirty thirties, all were having loads of fun gawking at the pictures and flirting with the salesbois who were all nearly as beautiful as Jason of the Foyer. A&F it seems, is not an EOE employer. The dance music was always the same, the pumping beat of sex and what was that I smelled in the air? It was a light, almost citrus scent with a refreshing mossy undertone. It was sweet but also sexy. It reminded me of... could it be?.... Andron perfume, the perfume with, yes, male pheromones in it. Here and there, amongst the shoppers were straight boys pulled in by their girlfriends, looking sheepish and uncomfortable. That's just the first floor. In the center of the store is a staircase of wood and wrought iron, it is open to three floors and, at its apex is a recessed coffer, an oriel painted with yet more half-naked bois playing with each other in various ways, hands where they might be in thoughtless play, but would also be in preludes to petting and sex itself. The true gay shoppers were far and few between and this surprised me. Here and there were fashion plate bois who put my gaydar over in red. As good as they looked, they couldn't compete with the Weberporn strewn around the store. They looked like wannabes, self-conscious and distracted. I wouldn't want to shop here if I was younger no matter how good I looked. It's too intimidating. Instead I walked with more confidence than I usually do, standing very straight, with what I imagined was a wry smile, enjoying a milieu which I could appreciate without fear or intimidation. Unlike the straights, I could openly enjoy the photographs, the mannequins, the tight-shirted and bubble assed salesbois, the murals. Unlike the wannabes, I had no desire to be a cute boi who needed fashion to assure me, I could appreciate the beauty without wanting to share in it. My lusts are reserved for a different sort of man. I was immune. An insider on the inside looking out. The thought which had preoccupied me, which I had been grasping to elucidate in the foyer, was now fully upon me. A&F is the gay world the straight world would like to imagine. It's a fantasy of straight fantasies, promising something forbidden, something erotic, just behind the next corner, but never fully revealed. It's a place of longing, of unimaginable male beauty in the Greek sense, flirting with the customers, promising they too can enjoy the gay world without having to be gay, that all these women can vicariously enjoy what the discarded Medea cannot. They buy these clothes, can dress their boyfriend like an A&F model, make him look gay, but can fuck them as well. It's a letter to the world, a calling card, an advertisement. A&F is a straight idealization of a gay fantasy. In these walls, on these walls, in the aisles, even on the ceiling, bois forever at risqué play in a world without intolerance. There are no 10 foot tall posters of wasting diseases, no models made-up to appear as half-dead victims of bashings, no lonely old fags who have lost all their friends, no bears, no geeks, no chubs, no leathermen. Just bois; young Apollos unblemished by life, untrampled by the straight drags who pour through the doors and leave, parcels in hand, status bags in tote, satisfied that so long as gay is young, firm, sanitary, and unattainable, then it's OK by them.