Archive for September 2010
It’s not often I admit I’m wrong, so hear me out.
You see, I’m an impulsive sort of guy; I always have been, so when a friend sent me a link to a video for a new campaign aimed at gay teenagers called, “It Gets Better”, it stirred something up in me, and I jumped head first into forming an opinion.
American author, Dan Savage and Terry, his partner of 16 years, speak about their difficult, religiously influenced childhoods, leaving behind their traumatic school years, before meeting each other and settling down into happy, gay, wedded bliss. The message being that if you’re growing up gay and facing the daily ignorance, abuse, and sometimes even violence — it does get better.
A fantastic sentiment — and I mean that sincerely — but part of me couldn’t help feeling like it was all a bit too saccharine for my tastes. I mean, are these two really representative of the wider gay community? And are they telling the truth? Does it ever really get better, or does the focus just shift?
For me, the homophobia subsided at school by the time I was 14 or 15 — I developed a smart mouth and I had a fiery temper, so I soon put my detractors in their place. But it’s actually been since I left school and entered the gay scene that I’ve encountered the most hostility.
You see, we call ourselves the gay ‘community’ — but I think we forget what that word truly means. We actively practice segregation — the dykes don’t talk to the gays, the muscle boys don’t talk to the chickens, the bears all stick together and the skins all go to Compton’s.
Most of us frantically pump iron at the gym in a bid to be accepted by a community that doesn’t even register you if you’re under 70kg and not popping out of an Abercrombie and Fitch t-shirt.
Yep, we’re all about making people feel like they don’t belong.
And why? Maybe we get a kick out of it. After so long feeling different, it’s nice to feel like we’re part of something, and fun to turn our noses up at the people who don’t fit in. And all the while hoping nobody notices that once upon a time, we too were the outsider.
Of course, there’s a difference between not being hot enough and getting the shit kicked out of you. But what’s worse? Being shunned by the idiot kids at school, or by the very community who should be welcoming you, arms open? And all because you simply don’t fit the bill.
If, like Dan and Terry, you manage to avoid all this and find the man of your dreams at a relatively young age, then you’re lucky. But does this rosy picture of a happily married gay couple, complete with adopted son, give kids something to aspire to, or is it setting them up for disappointment when they get out there and find it’s all about instant gratification, transient friendships, fast sex and very little commitment?
You may (possibly rightly) call me bitter, and given my recent experiences, who could blame me? But the truth is, I know (and admire) plenty of happily married gay couples.
My friends Noel and Steve have been in a loving, monogamous relationship for fifteen years and have an adopted son and daughter. My other pals Uwe and Quentin just celebrated eighteen years, and I’m very excited to be going in February to the wedding of Rob and Jamie, who are finally tying the knot after fourteen years together.
But the reality is that most of us are destined to still be on our own well into our 30s, 40s and even 50s and beyond. So do we tell our gay teenagers the cold, hard truth — or should we give them something positive to strive for?
The cynic who couldn’t identify with Dan and Terry’s cuddly, present-day lives was erring on the side of the former.
That was, until yesterday, when I read the story of Seth Walsh, the thirteen year old boy who died on life-support this week, nine days after hanging himself.
The reason? He was being bullied at school for being gay.
As I reflected on my initial reaction of ‘these men do not represent my community’, I realised that what every kid needs is a role model, whether it’s Spider-man, a parent, or the granddad who fought in two wars. Gay teens need something to hold onto during those awful years when others are discovering they’re different as quickly as they themselves are.
If dreaming of getting married and settling down with a white picket fence is what’s going to save the lives of kids like Seth Walsh, then who the fuck am I to pass judgement on a video that may or may not give them unrealistic expectations?
What would I have done if I’d had the chance to speak with Seth before he tried to take his own life? Would I have told him about the liars and the cheats? Would I have told him about the rampant body fascism that dictates we should spend half our waking lives in the gym to feel accepted? Would I have warned him about the dangers of men who just want to get laid and don’t care about passing on HIV?
Of course I wouldn’t. I’d have put my arm around his shoulder and simply said:
“It gets better.”
So rest in peace, buddy. There’s no hatred in heaven. I’m just sorry you didn’t get to see a better life.
“What’s wrong?” asked my colleague Claudia, as we exited Prêt a Manger and crossed the road back to the office. I’d suddenly stopped talking, which always unnerves people.
“Nothing,” I replied, “There’s just a really hot guy sitting on the wall and he just totally eyed me up!”
And it was true; he was sitting on the wall on the corner of Lambs Conduit Street in Holborn, talking on the phone when he clocked me.
He jerked his head in an upwards ‘hello’ nod and smiled.
So what did I do?
Well naturally, I looked at the floor and carried on past him.
“He’s really hot!” said Claudia, chasing after me, “why don’t you talk to him?”
“Nooo! Anyway he’s on the phone. I’d be standing there like a muppet.”
She looked back, “Well he’s not now, so go talk to him.”
I looked back too, and sure enough, there he was, looking back, phoneless and still smiling.
“Nooo! I can’t!” I cried, “I’m too nervous!” and I scurried inside our building.
“I can’t believe you didn’t go and talk to him,” said an exasperated Claudia as we got in the lift, “he was obviously interested; he was really smiling at you. And he was gorgeous!”
Fuck it, I thought. You only live once.
“You know what? I’m going to go and talk to him.” I said with a grin. So I caught the lift back down and ran outside.
He was gone.
Despite his inability to ready my clear-as-mud signals, this guy had the right idea. He acknowledged that he’d seen me. His smile wasn’t a drunken or drug-fucked leer. It was a ‘hey, I’m friendly, come talk to me’ kind of smile. It was me that screwed things up and made him think I wasn’t interested.
Why is it that so many guys (me included) look away when you eye them up? Is it embarrassment? Lack of confidence? Lack of Dutch courage? Is it just a case of ‘look, mate, you’re lovely, I’m just not in the mood — I’m late for work/tired/drunk/hungover/had a bad day’?
Who reading this, has ever had the following internal dialogue?
Hmm, he’s looking at me, but I only caught a glimpse of him, so I’m not sure whether I fancy him or not, but if I look and he’s looking back and we make eye contact, he might think I fancy him, in which case I’ll have to look away quickly and I won’t have caught a proper glance at him, which means I’ll have to look again to see if he’s fit or not. But what if I look again and he’s looking and he’s not fit? Then he’s going to think I’m interested! Best I just look at the floor…
…Oh, but what if he’s hot? What if….
And so it goes on.
Seriously, guys. What logic are we using that tells us the best way to let a guy know we’re interested is to look away when he makes eye contact and spend the rest of the night studiously ignoring him?
And who in God’s name made us believe that a scowl is far sexier than a smile? Is it supposed to be enigmatic? Do we think it makes us look moody and sexy? Newsflash: it doesn’t. It just makes you look like a miserable cow.
The only way is to bite the bullet and take a look. At least you won’t have to resort to tracking him down on Manhunt/Gaydar/Facebook three months later to let him know you thought he was hot.
Which brings me nicely to the heady world of online dating.
I recently joined Manhunt, and I’m sorry to say, I’m bored already. Yes, it’s sex at your fingertips (and I’ve made full use of it), but apart from the constant stream of monosyllabic messages saying ‘hi’ or ‘hey’, I’m shocked at the amount of people — really fit guys from my gym or the scene who I’ve previously considered out of my league — who have sent me messages saying “I’ve always thought you were hot.”
Then why haven’t you LOOKED AT or SPOKEN to me before now?!
Why is it that as soon as people get behind the safety of a computer screen, their confidence skyrockets? Why, in the offline world, do guys never have the bollocks to show interest unless they’ve got a belly full of beer or Ecstasy?
And if we apply Manhunt/Gaydar etiquette to the ‘real’ world — who on earth walks up to someone in a bar, flops their dick out onto the bar stool and says ‘hi’?
Don’t get me wrong, I know there are guys out there who can make you feel like a deer in the headlights with their incessant, rabid staring. These über-confident, oversexed guys need to be dealt with equally as confidently.
I had it in the gym the other day while getting changed — this guy was making no secret of the fact that he was checking me out while I towelled off.
I turned to face him, stark-bollock naked (luckily the shower had been warm) and said in a very loud voice “Had a good look, have you?”
Bingo. Instant power shift. Suffice to say he went rather red and went back to getting changed himself — rather quickly, I may add.
It seems we, as gay men are either at one end of the scale or the other. At one end there’s the no-shame, ultra-confident (or desperate) starers, while at the other, there’s the rest of us, who have absolutely no idea how to deal with — or show — attention.
How many missed opportunities go by every week, every day, because people don’t know how what to do when someone flicks an appreciative glance their way?
How many happy relationships have never even begun because both parties opted for ‘bored and disinterested’, when inside they were aching to say hello?
Try it next time you’re out. If you catch a guy looking at you, look back. And for God’s sake — crack a smile. You never know — he could be the man you end up marrying.
Oh, and if by way of fate, this post falls under the nose of sitting-on-the-wall-in-Holborn guy — I’m sorry. I’d love to have a drink sometime…
It’s been a while since I’ve paid attention to this blog, but I’ve been dealing with a few issues of the ‘personal’ variety, and to be honest, it’s been like holding the nozzle of a Dyson to whatever gland I have that allows me to do anything creative.
Forgive me again, therefore, that I’m not heralding my return with some barnstormingly funny or hard-hitting ‘comeback’ post. Nope, instead, I’ve opted for something that can only be described as…well…self indulgent.
You see, it’s these damn civil partnerships.
Up until 2005, I never really thought about marriage, but with the advent of same-sex unions, suddenly everyone wanted in on the act, and all of a sudden, I seemed to be living in marriage-ville, with a new one happening every week.
I now have a plethora of friends with cute double-barrelled surnames, because neither of them wanted to be the ‘woman’ and take the other’s surname.
Last month, yet another schoolfriend got married, the month before that, two. My best mate from school is a divorcee and my other friend is on her second marriage. I’ve got no less than three civil partnerships coming up in the next six months, and I’ll admit it — I’m getting jealous of all these cute, loved up couples, with their dinner parties and Saturday mornings at Sainsbury’s. I’m kind of wanting in on the action. I reckon I’ve paid my dues to the single world for long enough.
I’m the guy people always look at and say “I can’t believe you haven’t got a boyfriend”, but here I am, thirty-one and single, and facing an ever decreasing pool of available men. But I’m fucked if I’m going to lower my standards and settle just because I don’t want to end up on my own.
I’m considered attractive, I’ve got a good job, a nice place, a great set of teeth and a talent for mimicry that always goes down well at parties.
However, my talent for picking absolutely the wrong man still astounds me. Out of the three long-term relationships I’ve had, the first beat me solidly for two years and left me bankrupt, the second knocked me up with HIV (he was sleeping around and forgot to tell me) and the third was a control freak who made playing mind-games look like an art form.
My latest spectacular misjudgment was an affair with a married man that I chose to end three months ago.
Since then, I’ve been careening from one encounter to the next like a pinball in an arcade game. Some of them have been fun, others plain disastrous — all of them ultimately empty. It must be the same for heroin addicts — methadone is no substitute for the real deal.
And yes, despite the fact that The Married Man was never really mine, it was the real deal for me.
So this is the reason why, at the moment, I’m probably not going to meet the love of my life. I have wounds that need a considerable amount of licking before I’m ready to date again.
Dating’s a funny old game anyway. Nobody at my age is without some sort of baggage. We’re all of us ‘damaged goods’ in some way or another, we’re all scared of being hurt. And the thing is, I’m not sure whether I can be bothered with the whole rigmarole. I’ve been on my own for five years now (affairs with married men notwithstanding) and I’ve kind of gotten used to it.
I can do what I like, when I like, and with whomever I choose. And having been this way for so long, I know I’d find it hard to have to consider someone else’s feelings and needs on an almost constant basis.
Does there come a point where you’ve just become too hardened by disappointment and heartbreak, too self-sufficient, and let’s face it, too damn selfish to be able to function in a relationship? Would the shock of having to share my life and bed once more be a bit too much to take?
So perhaps the question isn’t really about whether or not I’m on the shelf. Perhaps I should be asking myself a different question:
Have I put myself there?