Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Gay Men & Women’ Category

Finding a Yes

Movement.  Trajectory.  Progress.  Designators about physical changes in spatial relationships.  Perhaps a cultural idiom.  At times a cultural obsession.  Almost always about movement but seldom a discussion about actual place.  Or being.  Or stability.

Or balance.  Because without balance, movement and progress become a episodic.  Short-lived.  Indistinguishable.

This is not an essay about the past though it attempts to examine balance in the present.

Four weeks ago it was Wayne’s birthday.  He was thirty-five when I met him.  I was ten years younger.  We palled around occasionally though our styles were quite different, in part a construct of age and income.  Mostly though because of of his desire for conspicuous consumption – all of which he could afford.  The Lincoln Mark VII was always cleaned and shined, housed in a heated garage attached to a large house that was perfectly nestled into a shallow valley in the foothills of Salt Lake City.  A Calder mobile hung in the foyer.  An Eames chair his throne.

We kidded one another always.  Like brothers.  He, laughing at frugality.  I, jibing at superficiality.  Though content in a friendship that managed to work.  A few years later he purchased the condo that I was renting and became my landlord.   It didn’t destroy our friendship like some had suggested it would.

He moved.  I moved.  I visited him in Atlanta.  Again in Denver years later – both times in homes large enough to house more than one family.  Years passed.  Perhaps a decade or two.  He’s been with Clark for at least that long.  Clark has no financial resources other than Wayne.  He told me as such.

I wrote to Wayne to wish him a happy birthday.  He’s good at responding.  Not so good at initiating.  It was a friendly, warm exchange about our settings.  He’s now in Texas.

A few days later I see that he’s in Santa Fe for his wedding.  He and Clark tied the knot.  I wonder how this could have happened, though with decades between us his trajectory was unseen by me.  His progress, though, changed I imagined by his mother’s death, of which I knew.

I felt left behind.  Not because Wayne had accomplished so much but because he had the prize – the new cultural demarkation of ‘spouse’ – something that I would have never expected of Wayne’s selfishness.

The only acquaintance I have in this city that is my age, precisely, is Kevin.   I wanted to discuss things with him.  I invited him to join me for a drink that Sunday night.  Probably a mistake – because Kevin only accepts invitations but doesn’t offer them.  Still, he always says yes and I wanted to hear a yes.  Though on this Sunday night two weeks ago he declined, offering instead a meet up the next day, which he later rescheduled to Tuesday, then revoked due to a nephew who popped into town.

That same weekend Robert called to cancel our two-week in advanced planned dinner because he’d forgotten about a party he’d been invited to that he didn’t want to attend but felt obligated.  Regardless of the reason, I’d figured it would happen.  Robert is half dependable.

Jim and I met a bit over a year ago.  Not undependable, but his four-hour daily commute exhausted him and rightfully so.  Though when he started working from home this summer he became more social.  It was noticeable, his lack of stress.  And in addition to Jim offering invites, he always says ‘yes’ to invitations.  I like this.

The level of communication increased.  He telling me about movies he was watching.  Titles I would have never encountered on my own.  Topics so remote and so broad.  Then our discussions of them after I’d watched.  The tangent discussions a result.  Flourishing.  Dynamic.  Nothing off limits.

Patrick resurfaced about this time as well.  Three years prior he’d sent a random message to me on Scruff suggesting that if I were to meet him out for a drink that night it could possibly change my life forever.  A bold assertion between strangers.  It was winter.  It was cold.  It was late.  It was my first night in Chicago.  I wasn’t about to leave the house, and certainly not for a random remark from a complete stranger to meet at a place I didn’t know.

As I got to know Patrick, and well before I was aware of his work, I grew fond of our opening line to most every interaction – “What are you reading?”  And we’d exchange quips about this title or that.  As I learned more about his work, our inquiries made perfect sense.

His perfect body, his sense of style, and his literary mind a most brilliant combination.  It was a coupon I enjoyed redeeming every couple of weeks.  Subtle.  Measured.  Refined.

It was a perfect contrast to Jim.  Bold.  Unchartered.  Esoteric.  He vacations in Iceland. Buys his clothing from Sweden.  He grew up in the corner of New Jersey that abuts Pennsylvania.  In a county where my friend Thomas was a life-time politician.  Thomas knows Jim’s family.  What are the chances.  I used to fly to Allentown to visit Thomas.  He’d visit me in New York.  Our plans to hang out in London together never materialized.  Thomas has kept an apartment in London for years, an attempt to avoid the press.

Jim wants to spend time in North Korea.  I’d go for sure.  No one else I know is as curious about that place as am I.  Alaska for dinner?  He’d be up for that.   We were comparing ticket prices.  Looking for hotels.

Nothing is off limits with Jim and it soon became the logical choice, assuming that I needed to make one.  All things considered, it seemed like a trajectory had formed – one that was rooted as far back as having met Thomas in Philadelphia at a dance on one random night in the mid 1990’s.

The only person I know who can understand the sheer scale of this as well as the nuances of it all is Manny, the man I was dating in Chicago prior to moving here.  He’s now in New York, all but homeless, and with whom I visited in July.

At some point the New York Times will write a story about Manny.  Not because of his accomplishments, but because there will be one million readers who will know immediately of the seemingly crazy man who paces rapidly along 9th Avenue carrying a black nylon messenger bag bursting with newspaper clippings and manila folders filled with nothing in particular, held in place on his shoulder by a the strap that should be replaced but isn’t because a large safety pin is a lesser-cost option.

Still, Manny somehow manages to find himself in the presence of the ultrarich, those that are so wealthy that they evade the press entirely, save for Mrs. Stevenson, but that’s only because Mr. Stevenson’s mistress suing the estate for a condo that he never purchased for her that she felt he should have.

All this while not even demanding free admission to the museums of New York, because he doesn’t demand, he just enters and bypasses the entire system.  He did the same thing in Chicago.  Manny defines moxie and not in a flattering manner.   Surprisingly he’s quite sympathetic – something few will experience from him.

But back to Chicago and the more recent…

Vacation planning.  Escape the winter for a bit.  Somewhere warm.  Most likely not.  Cold places are cheaper in the winter.  Fewer tourists, except Salt Lake City because it’s ski season.  But I’d like to see Laney, my former chiropractor that has helped me overcome what I thought was clinical depression.  Amazing what 50mg of zinc and vitamin D can do.

Or Helsinki – my favorite place to relax.  Having to struggle to understand the language means not having to focus on the chatter.  Its a background sound like the din of traffic.  And because Timo lives there and I’d like to get to know Timo more.

Timo and I  became instant friends four years ago when we discovered, within minutes of meeting, that he knows my friends Greg from Ohio and Esra from Istanbul, both of whom had lived in Pohjamaa, the plains region of Finland where I once lived.  Each of us having lived there ten years apart, and somehow, all of us knowing one another now and at one point the three of us sitting down for dinner in Columbus just five years ago.  Together Greg, Esra, Timo, and myself piece together a commonality that is distant yet tangible, and while we always marvel when we see photos of one with another, we’ve never all been in the same place at the same time.

Or do I wait to see if I can work in California this winter – which requires some of the pieces  go another year without being connected?

When I decided to do something different and make Thanksgiving something that might resemble what others take for normal I decided that Jim would be my guest.  It represented movement and progress along a trajectory that felt right.

It was not without risk because three weeks prior I’d approached the subject of dating with Jim because, to even a casual observer, it would seem as if thats what we had been doing.  He said he never knew, but how could he mistake a kiss on the cheek every time he dropped me off at home?  He admits, however, to not being good with social clues.  While he didn’t come right out with an answer, he didn’t stop doing what he’d been doing for some time, and that was engaging.  I took this as a reasonable sign that while perhaps taken off guard, it wasn’t off the table.

“And we can go to a movie after dinner!” he exclaimed.   Progress.  Offered as an invite brought about through movement, not through space, but through being in one place for awhile – the while a time span of a little over a year.

I called Manny in New York because I wanted to hold hands with Jim in the movie theater the way that Manny had with me when we went the movies on Christmas Eve in Toledo a few years back.  It was unexpected and charming and odd as it seemed for two men in their 40’s to be doing, I absolutely loved it.  And I knew that Jim would feel precisely the same way.

Several hundred words later, it is noted that Jim is dependable.  Or otherwise implied without having to use the word itself.  He was excited to have a kettle large enough to boil potatoes.  Even more excited to have a meat thermometer that could be used to ensure a week could go by without another food born illness.  One has to take it as a good sign when a man buys into a plan because he can provide a meat thermometer to his host.

And he arrived on time.

Ecstatic over the chocolate I had flown in from Finland.  Salivating over the mashed potatoes.  Then on the floor after dinner because a horizontal surface is best for digestion prior to two hours in a movie theater.

Some of the initial story line was missed because I was trying to find a way to position my arm so that I could reach for his hand.  But I did.  And he turned his head away from the screen for just a moment, looked at me, then clasped my hand in his.

Movement.  Trajectory.  Progress.  Success.  Not without angst. Not without planning.  But success none the less.

Last night we went to King Spa.  It was the perfect invite.  Washing away the week is so wonderful.  An opportunity to face a something better.  Fresher.  Cleaner.

Jon Anderson was there!  He’d just flown in from Oslo.  We chatted for a bit while in the hottest of tubs – pleasantries and inquiries from a narrow history when we worked together.   He commented on my like for the cold tub, a nod to our discussion for favoring northern climates. I took a nap on mat in a room with heated floors after.

On the way home Jim and I talked.  It turns out he’s seeing someone, of recent, in Cedar Rapids.  Which explains why he was mum about a sudden 4-day weekend last week to a place he’d never consider going otherwise.

A couple hours later he sent a message saying that he’d forgotten to tell me about a Werner Herzog film that he’s sure I’ll enjoy.

I’d have been happier with a yes this weekend but a Werner Herzog film will have to do.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

It wasn’t their physical appearance that caught my eye, but rather the fact that they looked at one another while they were speaking. Sauntering down the street in no apparent hurry, side by side — they’ve known one another for some time. The narrow space between them filled with familiarity and trust.

A well-built man was leering at me in the shower at the gym. His unexpected proximity startled me. When I asked if he was looking for something he darted away quickly. While toweling off I introduced myself. He smiled from ear to ear. Because I think that is what he wanted. An opportunity to say something. An opportunity to be noticed himself. 

Out to dinner with a friend that I’ve long admired, we sat on the same side of the table so that we could share a computer screen. There were glances from around the room as people noticed and smiled, just slightly. I liked having him next to me. I suggest that we go to New York together. He won’t say yes. He won’t say no. 

His ruff and tumble photo is just a facade which does not accurately portray just how much of a pussy cat he really is. I know this because we speak on the street. It’s the man from Scruff who lives less than 600 feet away. I wonder if he’ll ever take me up on my offer to have dinner together.

The man who lives in the Loop who texts me about my weekend accomplishments, but never asks to be a part of them. But then, I’ve yet to extend the invitation. Until yesterday when I suggested that we meet for a coffee and a donut next weekend. 

The Wacker Drive executive who is so handsome that he makes my insides melt whenever we meet for a drink. He’s kind. Friendly. Charming. But he won’t initiate a conversation. He admitted once that he has no idea what he’s looking for. 

We’re all so close and yet we’re hiding. It’s done now in plain sight but it’s still hiding. “Don’t look. Don’t touch. But please notice me.” That’s the mantra. Except that it’s not working. We should be over this by now because we’re nearing our  fifties. We have the resources to accomplish almost anything and yet we keep ourselves from accomplishing this.

Read Full Post »

It’s been so long since I’ve considered being married that I’m nearly at a loss for how I might go about it.  I’m only sort-of seeing someone and outside of a little kiss here and there, there is nothing quite yet visionary about us.

There hasn’t been anything visionary in terms of couple-hood with me for nearly a decade so it’s unlikely that I’ll be rushing head first into marriage.  It’s currently not legal in Illinois but it may be soon.  Even when marriage becomes legal I’m not sure where I’ll begin because I’ve spent all of my life accepting the idea that it could never happen.

The first step would be to date someone but the older I become, the more difficult dating has become because there seems to be only two groups of forty-something men to choose from.  Those that are completely set in their ways as if they’ve been married for decades already (though just to themselves) and men who are still enamored with bar hopping, getting laid, and roller coasters.

I’m not saying that I need to find a doctor or lawyer – though the latter is quite prevalent in a city like Chicago, but it would be nice to have someone around the house who could install a new kitchen faucet or at the very least, help me get the down comforter into the duvet cover.  Every time I attempt to do this I end up inside the duvet cover myself and cursing like a sailor over the fact that I can’t get the corners into place properly.

At first I try folding the comforter in half, attempting to gently slide it into the duvet cover.  It never works.  Next I try standing on the bed so as to allow the weight of the comforter and gravity to get it in correctly.  This never works either.  Inevitably, I end up laying on the bed, inside of the duvet cover and pulling the comforter in after me.  This always works.

It would also be nice to have someone around to shave my back – something that my barber says I can have done in any number of places in the city.  I suppose I could go to a men’s grooming salon but that’s just not me.  My would-be-husband would do this for me just a few times a year, like before our vacation to Europe and before shirtless bicycling season begins.  He’d probably try to talk me out of it, saying something like “I think your back hair is sexy” and I’d refute his claim by pointing out the old Jewish men I see along the lakefront each summer who, even though they are with their wives, still do not have enough sense to clean themselves up a little before taking off their shirts.

And speaking of Europe, this would be our preferred vacation destination.  We’d get there in Business Class seats that we’d saved for with miles earned by trudging around for years in Coach Class.  Appreciating Business Class only comes from knowing what the alternative is like.  It’s the little things.

Things have changed, especially when it comes to dating.  Back when gay men were expected to be seen and not heard, if even that, dating meant having a steamy and seductive relationship with someone you’d pick up in a bar.  Even the bars were different back then, typically old buildings with bricked over windows that sat on the edge of town.  There was no signage and just a steel door off which opened onto the side street or alley.  I actually lost track of how many cities I visited that had gay bars named Back Street.

It’s not like these bars were inhabited by men destined to be husband material.  We were socially conditioned to believe that we would never be husbands to one another, so instead, we went to bars to catch a buzz and forget our loneliness.  After a few beers we’d end up on the dance floor and if we were lucky our mating rituals would pay off and we’d find someone with whom we could go home and stave off the loneliness a bit longer in hopes that it might lead to something more, like maybe a message on the answering machine later in the week.

We used to write our telephone numbers on matchbook covers and hope that the guy didn’t smoke so much that he’d go through an entire book of matches and discard the one we’d written on.  Or we’d write our number down on paper napkins, fold them in two, and place them in a guy’s pocket.

If this were to have happened during the seasonal transitions, I may not find that telephone number until next season when I’d pull out that jacket or sweater.  But more often than not I would find the remains of that phone number shredded across my black socks when I pulled them out of the washer or attached, in tiny pieces, to the lint trap of the dryer.

Back then we had only one phone number each and text messages weren’t something anyone would have ever imagined.  If our first impression was made on a dance floor, then our second impression was surely the message on our answering machines.  Knowing this, I would time the sound of my voice in foreground during the riff of a Madonna song in the background.  Over and over until it sounded just right.

If I’d met someone over the weekend I’d rush home after work each day hoping to see the blinking red light.  If there was a message from some newly met man, I’d hope he’d not forgotten to leave his number because there was no caller ID then either.  If there was no red blinking light, I’d often sit at home waiting for the actual call.  This behavior is the makings of neurosis.

Now I wait for the vibration of my phone in hope that it’s a text message. It’s the same concept but with a different delivery method, kind of like how the patch or gum has replaced cigarettes in the delivery of nicotine.  I suppose I could write my telephone number on a guy’s nicotine patch.

Anyway, if you were lucky a guy might call you and invite you over for dinner next Friday night.  When this happened to me I’d run right over to Weinstock’s during my lunch hour and pick out a new outfit, making sure that whatever I chose fit the demographic of the man who’d invited me.  That wasn’t easy then either because gay men of every ilk frequented the same places.  For all I knew, the man who invited me to dinner was serial killer – at which point whatever I would be wearing to dinner could just as easily end up on the front page of the next day’s newspaper.

A dinner date back then meant one thing for sure – having sex.  It was a good idea to bring a bottle of wine to dinner, if not for appearing to be the perfect guest, then at least to ensure that there’d be enough alcohol to wash away inhibitions as we sat on the sofa after dinner listening to Enya.  Madonna was fine for the bars and answering machines, but once invited into another’s home, it was important to display the depths of our cultural attainment.  It was also best to bring along a toothbrush because even the best host could forget a detail like this and waking to morning breath after a night of red wine, cock sucking, and analingius is never a good idea.  Intimacy has its limits on the first date and bad breath is one of them.

Throughout my twenties and even into my thirties I was pretty good at these sorts of things even though I had only simple stoneware and mismatched silverware.  I did however, always have a spare toothbrush on hand.  Actually, I still do, though it typically ends up in my shoe shine kit where it’s used to remove dirt from the crevasses on my wingtips.

Finding a husband was never on the docket because that vocabulary didn’t exist in the social lexicon.  Lover was the term used then and finding lovers was relatively easy comparatively speaking.  I didn’t have to expect much from a lover and I didn’t have to expect much of myself as one.  Finding a lover was a lot like finding a good mustard at the neighborhood grocery store.  Always surprised that it was there in the first place and devastated when they stopped stocking it, only to find another suitable brand when the current jar was empty.

Dating in my forties feels like an entirely different situation.  For one thing, I can’t stay out all night and expect to be useful in the morning.   For another thing, I’m not really keen on sitting in a noisy bar.  It’s much easier to sit at home with a bottle of wine and read on-line profiles of eligible men while listening to Philip Glass. At the end of the night though, both make me feel as if I’m suffering from vertigo.

Some on-line dating sites create matches by zip code or by calculating responses to questions and then determining potential likability.  The first pick of one of these sites gave myself and the other guy a very high percentage chance that we’d get along so I wrote a quick note and sent it through the site’s messaging service.  After a few emails we decided to meet.  So good was this site’s algorithms that it turned out he worked for the company that I had left eight years earlier and had dated the guy that had recently dumped me.  Boy, did we have a lot to talk about.

Thankfully he was not one of these guys who had pictures of himself with his teddy bears.  What is it about some gay men in their forties who think that their teddy bear collection or their Disney figurines in the curio cabinet make for a good background in photos?  Am I supposed to think that he’s just a kid at heart or, like I’m sure to conclude, that he’s stuck in some kind of childhood experience where imaginary friends take the place of actual adult conversation?

Then there are the guys who take pictures of themselves with their pick-up trucks. Even when I had one I never ventured to thrust my vehicular preference onto another man.  How much an axel can carry or how much torque a drive train can produce only speaks to how much a man is willing to go into debt for the sake of masculine imagery.  If you happen to live on a farm it’s one thing….

Now, if that pick-up truck happens to be parked in a deeded parking spot then I may be more likely to strike up a conversation.  Deeded parking spots represent stability and for men in their forties, stability means something.  None of the new condo buildings have deeded parking.

Sometimes I’m at a loss for what fills the gaps between the narcissists, bar-hoppers, teddy-bear collectors and the bro’s who love their Ford F-150’s.  Where are the normal guys?  Like the guys who buy their sheets at Sears, or the guys who use their old t-shirts for rags rather hiring a cleaning service.  And then I realize that we were never expected to be normal.  Because we had no place in mainstream society, we didn’t have to develop the standard social skills.

I mean, let’s face it, if we knew enough not to tell our neighbors that we gave blow jobs to bartenders during their fifteen minute breaks, then we sure as hell knew not to tell them about our collection of hand painted porcelain Gone with the Wind miniatures.   Since we knew that the nature of our true selves could never be shared with the public at large, what difference does it make if we dress up like construction workers and drive around in our trucks?

We learned to make-believe and we learned to live in a world where nothing mattered because we didn’t matter.  We became socially stunted in a fraternal state that didn’t really evolve into anything more than that.

Now that I’m in my late forties I’m beginning to understand how to relate to other gay men but it’s still not easy.  I recently went to dinner with a friend that I hadn’t seen all winter and when I asked him about his new boyfriend the only thing he had to say was, “He’s a top.  With bad teeth.”  While it’s somewhat comedic, it’s also kind of sad.  After all, this is a fifty-four year old man using a preferred sexual position to describe another man’s primary character trait.  Ironically, I knew exactly what he meant.

All of this wishy-washiness makes me want to be the guy who is honest, truthful, and forthcoming.  There’s that old saying that you have to be the kind of person that you want to attract and the one that says “we’re the change we’ve been waiting for.”

I’d been chatting with a guy on line who asked me about my fiction writing, though when I told him about the idea I was working on now, about what you’ve been reading about here, he ended the conversation.

When I talk about financial responsibilities with those who ask, they suddenly stop asking questions when I tell them about my retirement goals and how I’m achieving them.  Then they think I’m stand-offish when I say no to going out to expensive dinners and nights on the town that I simply cannot afford – and neither can they, which is why they have no savings.

I’ve noticed that when I tell a man that I like how I truly feel about him, he typically disappears.  So, if we can’t be honest about who we are and what we’re hoping to accomplish, how are we going to address lives that include something so strong and meaningful as marriage?  How do we affirm our beliefs in one another when we have not yet learned how to communicate our own positions in life?

I take a lot of crap for comparing myself to my straight friends, but it’s my straight friends who actually seem to give a crap, not only about themselves, but about me.  After a friend of mine had broken up with his girlfriend he’d told me that he had a date with a new girl not long after.  I asked him if he was looking for something long term or if he was just looking for regular sex.  He told me that he just liked having someone around to talk to at the end of the day.  I felt as if my question to him was representative of my own naiveté.

When I mentioned to this same friend that I had no plans for the upcoming weekend he suggested I get on line and find a date.  He sat down with me while we looked at the on-line dating site that I belong to and after a while he said, “this reminds me of looking at a yearbook.”

Here I am.  Thinking about something as bold as marriage and not even knowing where to find a steady boyfriend.  My straight friends that are my age have grown kids and have gone through all the same things that I’m going through now, but they did it twenty-some years ago.  Some of them may have gone through it once or twice, and some of them may be finding themselves single again.

The difference is that they’ve had social situations in place all of their lives that support and encourage meaningful relationships.  They’ve seen their ideals represented in advertisements for new cars, retirement planning, real-estate, and toothpaste.  They’ve been the best man at their friends’ weddings, and vacationed together with other couples – in separate beds even.

Within my grasp is now something that will have social meaning and something that can define not only myself, but those around me and at times it feels almost too large to comprehend.

I asked a friend of mine about these things.  Not really a friend, I guess, but a guy that I chat with on-line every now and then.  We typically have good conversations.  He’s fifty years old and as handsome as you could ever imagine.  Salt and pepper beard.  Well built.  Tasteful tattoos.  Articulate.  Well-read.  He looks like the kind of guy you’d see working on the docks at a shipyard.  I asked him about his take on dating.  He told me that he just broke things off with someone a couple of months ago.  I asked him if he’d be willing to tell me about it.

“I can’t talk about it,” he said. “I will just start sobbing uncontrollably.”

Dating is complicated.  Marriage, even more so.  And while I’m always saddened by the sight of a grown man crying, I’m glad my buddy told me this, even if it’s not the complete story.  I’d rather he shed tears over a break up than over the untimely death of Maria Callas.  What I want him to have, though, are tears of joy.

Not every man may want to marry but very soon it will be a choice for some who have never had the option.  This new option will, none the less, require us look at ourselves through a different set of lenses – possibly even bifocals, which is what I expect to be wearing after my next eye exam.

Read Full Post »

A friend and I were watching a movie with a wedding scene and one of the groomsmen, in an attempt at humor, made some unsavory remarks about both the bride and the groom – typical Hollywood pandering.  I said to my friend, “I’ll never let guests speak at my wedding.”  Shockingly, I had uttered the words “my wedding”, words that, together, left my vocabulary some thirty years ago.

 

Thirty years ago I had come to the conclusion that I was gay.  Thirty years ago I realized  any relationship and any home I’d eventually create would not include marriage.  I deleted thoughts of honeymoons, picket fences, anniversaries and every other cultural implication of marriage, including the word “husband”.

 

Thirty years ago the term used by gay men for a live-in partner was “lover”.  That word never sat well with me because of it’s clandestine characteristics but it was a word that would eventually define my romantic interests for the next three decades.  I didn’t realize that it was also defining me.

 

Finding a lover was a matter of being at the right place at the right time and interacting with the right person, or so it seemed.  It was the bar after bar, party after party, and eventually the coffee shops, where one was expected to appear coy while peering over the top of a book or a laptop computer.  I was constantly on the look-out for the one who would become my lover.

 

I wasn’t very adept at the activities required to find a lover.  I’ve never been fond of crowds.  I dislike small talk.  I’m perfectly happy sitting alone in a bar or a cafe, and I never really cared if anyone talked to me or not.   Regardless, this is the routine I had adopted.  An act, a series of motions that I was pretending to enjoy for the sake of finding a lover.

 

When I sensed a level of interest from another man, I’d readily board a plane to spend a weekend with him.  I’d drive across the state to see a man for an afternoon.  My long-distance phone bills were in the triple digits.  I thought I was doing everything right, but things just never seemed to work out.

 

Most of the time things didn’t work out because I was making unwise decisions.  I spent one summer dating a former East German soldier who was living in Frankfurt.  It wasn’t the most convenient place to have a lover, but it was exciting and romantic, especially when we’d stay in the lake-side dacha that was previously reserved only for the top communist party bosses or when we’d zip to Berlin to visit his friends.

 

There was the horse trainer from Provo.  Acres of land, a barn filled with horses, tight Wrangler’s and muddy boots.  He was a dark and mysterious lover, and rightfully so.  As it turned out, he had one of his own who already lived with him.

 

I shouldn’t omit the guy who owned a shop in East L.A. that sold First Communion dresses. I had a lot of fun jetting to and from the west coast and our passionate kisses in front of the airport were something that I looked forward to each week.

 

The German was the perfect lover because immigration laws meant that we’d never be together permanently.  The cowboy’s pre-existing lover meant that I got to have all the fun and wasn’t the one left cleaning the stalls.  And the language differences with the guy in East L.A. meant we never had to really share our thoughts – though I’d picked up enough Spanish to get around on my own.  Enough Spanish in fact to find yet another lover in Los Angeles when things fizzled out

 

We were all great lovers at the time.  Mysterious.  Passionate.  Elusive.  Jetting to and from.  Airports and hotels.  Never having to disclose a whole lot to one another and then always retreating to our own homes when our time together ended.  We had all the makings of lovers, including being disposable.

 

Now, for the first time in Illinois men can finally start talking about marrying the man that they live with and refer to that man as their husband.  I can’t help but admit that this new vocabulary is changing the way that I think of myself because husband is a vastly different construct than lover.

 

It is a state of being that I never expected – not of myself and not of any other gay man I’ve met.  It is a term that requires more than the physical act of love.  It is a role that asks us to love, honor, cherish, and respect, for better and for worse.  It requires us to care for and protect.

 

Being a husband requires commitment, like sticking around on Christmas Day, rather than doing what I had once done, which was to leave my lover home alone on our first Christmas together.  I did that once, choosing instead to drive to the other end of the state to be with a friend who didn’t bother to question my judgement.  The funny thing is I despised Christmas because someone had done that to me – a lover, the software guy from Little Rock.  The straight married man I had been seeing did the same thing a couple of years earlier.

 

This new vocabulary requires more of me.  I’m no longer afraid to talk about the man I’m seeing because for the first time I see this man as someone who could be my husband and not simply a mysterious lover who would remain absent from certain parts of my life.

 

I’m more comfortable saying that we’re planning a vacation rather than simply telling my coworkers or other acquaintances that I’m going on a trip.  This new vocabulary requires me to introduce the man I’m seeing as someone other than just a friend.  It requires me to care about his emotions and his well-being.  It requires me to treat him better than if I only expected him to be my lover.   Society is changing and it is redefining my expectations, mostly of myself.

 

I can’t help but wonder how my life would have been different if I had grown up with the idea that I could marry the man I love and that I could be his husband.  I’m not one to regret the past…it was a whole lot of fun, but with this new vocabulary, I have for the first time, a place to go that is beyond the illicit.  I have, for the first time, a legal vocabulary that is also a destination for how I want to live my life.

 

Read Full Post »

“When a man discovers his homosexuality, his education must begin all over again,” this according to Loren A. Olson, author of the newly released book “Finally Out.” While this story of coming out as a middle-aged man is uniquely his, the story is told not only from his perspective, but with doses of candid statements and scenarios that came from counseling many men in similar positions. Loren Olson is, among other things a psychiatrist.

He brings up the topic multiple times throughout the book, that being asked how he could not know that he was gay until he was forty years old, as well as being asked, “Wasn’t your marriage just a sham to protect yourself?” Throughout the chapters Olson attempts to answer that question and in doing so, highlights many important milestones in the life of gay men, middle-aged or otherwise.

I’d known that the book was in the works for some time as I’ve been a follower of Olson’s blog, MagneticFire.com. I also knew I’d read the book just as soon as I could get my hands on it. I didn’t know, however, just how important this book would be to helping me understand my world. Not only from where I came to how I got here, but to where I’m going myself, a now middle-aged gay man.

At about the time that I was coming out at age twenty in socially progressive Minneapolis, Olson was dealing with the same struggle, though he was twenty years older than myself and living in rural Iowa. While that is only a geographic distance of 245 miles, it is a cultural distance that is nearly immeasurable. Single and with the majority of my life ahead of me, I had the ability to explore and discover with little consequence. For Olson it meant discretion, secrecy and sometimes lies.

Through reading his story I discovered what a married man thinks as he discovers his homosexuality. I can never truly feel it myself, but I have been the emotional recipient on more than one occasion, of outbursts and frustration from men that I have dated that either were at the time or had been married previously.

“For those who have internalized the cultural constructs of masculinity (strong, heterosexual) and femininity (weak, sissy), life is complex and difficult. They experience a silent and secret sense of of difference from the masculine ideal. Shame and secrecy, lying, self-blame, and self-hatred inform their sexual activities with other men. They experience a sense of dissonance between who they know they are and who they think they should be, and the greater the difference, the greater the self-hatred.”

Regardless of age, location, economic condition and other social conditions this statement is probably true for more gay men than are willing to admit it.

It’s inevitable that the these two worlds of men of various backgrounds collide more often than one might consider. Traditionally gay men of all backgrounds used ‘the bars’ as a place to meet up and socialize. Regardless of age or family status, gay bars were and still are the one place where men who desire men can frequent without traditional boundaries.

This world, the world where men who desire men has moved to new locations thanks to technology. It has moved to virtual spaces around the globe and is connected by the Internet. Olson speaks to this new environment as well –

“He hungers for a connection with like-minded men and his only link is via the Internet, but those relationships are often with other emotionally starved men. Frequently these connections focus on sex to the exclusion of the emotional intimacy he craves.” This again, being a common challenge to men regardless of age, location and economic condition.

Throughout the book I was able to look back at my own experience and challenges, but in addition to looking back, Olson gives readers a chance to look forward. The United States is quickly approaching a time where the largest population of gay senior-citizens will be in need of unique social services that have yet to be defined or protected by law. Inheritance, Social Security, land laws and housing, just to name a few.

There is a lot of work that remains to be accomplished, but Olson’s book connects the dots logically for all men who are homosexual, but just as importantly, for their families – biological or otherwise.

Dr. Loren Olson and his husband, Doug Mortimer, live on a farm in Madison County Iowa where they raise Belted Galloway cattle. They are involved in sustainable agriculture and the production of grass-fed beef.

You can read more about Mr. Olson in an article from the Des Moines Register by clicking here.

Read Full Post »

Tell me, who wouldn’t like the chance to re-create a portion of their time in high-school? No matter how popular – or not, one might have been, it’s the most quirky time for kids. Fitting in to a new body, both physically and emotionally as well as trying to fit in socially – somewhere between childhood and adulthood. Face it, that’s not easy.

For gay kids it’s even more difficult. It was for me. Things weren’t as difficult for me as some of the stories we’ve heard in the news lately. High school was actually a bit easier than elementary and junior high school where the teasing was never-ending.

In high school I never felt in harms way and there was never any physical aggression towards me, but I was the kid in high school that was called “faggot” as well as the kid who had the word FAG carved into his locker. I tried to ignore it. Pretending that the problem didn’t exist only made the isolation greater.

Last night’s episode of Glee made me realize that my time in high school was more like Kurt Hummel’s than I had remembered. Kurt is the gay kid at the fictional McKinley High in Lima, Ohio. Like Kurt, my high school crush was a guy on the football team. We palled around often, skipping class and taking off on his motorcycle for an hour or two.

Also like Kurt, I aspired to the pop-musical group known at the South Singers. Unlike most high school musical groups in the Twin Cities, the South Singers wore polyester slacks and open collared shirts – and let’s face it, that was really something to aspire to in the early 1980’s. And while the South Singers never really made it (legal issues with the director) the Tigerettes, our dance line always went the state championships.

And like Kurt said in last night’s episode, “…but most of all, I’m not challenged in the least here,” I too was bored in school. Completely and utterly bored. Classes were easy (except for Algebra 2). Nothing in high school challenged me academically, so I took part-time class at the Vocational Institute, where I found I was kind of bored too – but at least it was away from school itself.

Our school’s population was diverse enough that I could hang out on the periphery of certain groups. For example, I had a couple friends who went to Soviet summer camp on the Baltic sea. And another friend who played violin and spent her summer on the Trans-Siberian railroad. And like Kurt, another friend was a kid in a wheel chair who played on the handicapped hockey team. We were all misfits to a certain degree.

But unlike Kurt, I didn’t have the resources that gay kids have today. And unlike Kurt, I wasn’t “out” – no one in high school was then. Granted, what’s available for gay kids today isn’t perfect, but it’s much more than what was available for kids in 1982.

So last night when I saw Kurt visit the fictional all-boys school in Westerville, Ohio and see for the first time that there is a different reality that can be lived, I was jolted back into my high school years wishing that that was me.

I wished that I could have found something completely and utterly astonishingly different at such an early age. That I could have had a “Blaine” to hold my hand and run with me through the school’s commons. There were no songs on the radio that related to my situation. To have had the most handsome boy at school sing a song to me would have made me the proudest boy in the school.

But there were no role models at that time. The only thing that kept me going was knowing deep down inside of myself, that I was okay just the way I was and that sooner or later I’d meet people like myself. I don’t know how I knew that because nothing around me reinforced that belief. But somehow I knew it.

It took years and years to discover these people and I can only wonder what life would have been like if it had happened earlier. I’m okay though with how things turned out.

Life does get better. And maybe I started feeling that way just a little bit back then, when I was riding around on the back of the motorcycle that belonged to the most handsome boy at my high school.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »