From “Giovanni’s Room” by James Baldwin

29 04 2012

‘ “TELL me,” I said at last, “is there really no other way for you but this? To kneel down forever before an army of boys for just five dirty minutes in the dark?”

“You think,” said Jacques, “that my life is shameful because my encounters are. And they are. But you should ask yourself why they are.”

“Why are they– shameful?” I asked him.

“Because there is no affection in them, and no joy. It’s like putting an electric plug in a dead socket. Touch, but no contact. All touch, but no contact and no light.”

I asked him: “Why?”

“That you must ask yourself,” he told me, “and perhaps one day, this morning will not be ashes in your mouth.”

I looked over at Giovanni, who now had one arm around the ruined-looking girl, who could have once been very beautiful but never would be now.

Jacques followed my look. “He is very fond of you,” he said, “already. But this doesn’t make you happy or proud, as it should. It makes you frightened and ashamed. Why?”

“I don’t understand him,” I said at last. “I don’t know what his friendship means; I don’t know what he means by friendship.”

Jacques laughed. “You don’t know what he means by friendship but you have the feeling it may not be safe. You are afraid it may change you. What kind of friendship have you had?”

I said nothing.

“Love him,” said Jacques, with sudden vehemence, “love him and let him love you. Do you think anything else under heaven really matters? And how long, at the best, can it last? since you are both men and still have everywhere to go? Only five minutes, I assure you, only five minutes, and most of that, hélas! –in the dark.” ‘



26 12 2011

Dear Tintin,

I think I might actually be in love with you. I know it’s wrong, you being computer-animated and all, but I just can’t help myself. In my defense, the animation in your world is pretty realistic. Except for the noses, but those were mostly weird on the supporting characters. In fact you look even more ridiculously charming and handsome next to all the other funny-looking folks, like Captain Haddock with his bulbous nose and cartoonishly chubby body.

I have to thank Steven Spielberg for introducing me to you in person, because I have to admit, when I saw you drawn on paper I didn’t think of Hergé’s button-eyed little dude with the baby-like tuft of yellow hair as attractive. In fact when I first saw the trailer for your movie I scoffed, because I thought, “Tintin can’t be that realistic!” What I must have really subconsciously been thinking was “Tintin can’t be hot!” Because real talk, you are hot. I’ll confess, I spent most of the movie staring at you. I don’t know what it is. You just have such a boyish charm. I love the flush to your skin, like a white boy who’s outside having adventures a bit too often. I love your little gash of a mouth and its crooked smile. I love your suave mystery-solving trenchcoat. I love your gingery-blond hair, and I even love your signature tuft. Out here in the non-animated world, I have a thing for guys with fauxhawks. True story.

(c) 2011 Paramount Pictures

I think, though, this crush goes way beyond looks. You travel the world having adventures and fearlessly chasing mysteries like a badass. I’m not sure whether I want to be you or date you. The fact that you’re so young and innocent-looking only makes your antics more adorable. When your eyebrows furrow together and your piercing blue eyes narrow because you’re thinking about a clue, I almost swoon. And damn, you can throw a punch.

Besides, I have a thing for French-speaking guys. (Not French, because I know that you’re Belgian!) See, I get you. When you and Haddock were escaping from the ship, the friend I was sitting next to griped, “Why didn’t he grab the machine gun?!?” I knew why – because you’re just a revolver kind of guy. Now don’t get me wrong, I definitely dug your English accent, but rest assured that I’m used to following your adventures in your native tongue. I know that his name is Milou, not Snowy. I think “Rackham le Rouge” sounds more epic than “Red Rackham”. And I get why Dupont & Dupond is funnier than Thompson & Thomson. (In fact I get it more than most, since as a native English speaker who was torturously introduced to French spelling, I have a special soft spot for humor about dumb silent letters.)

Tintin, let’s keep it real here: if you existed I might even have a chance with you, because it’s very possible you’re gay. Why are there never any girlfriend subplots in any of your comic strips? Not even any sexualized girls – no femme fatales, no cute love interests, no nothing? In your adventures there’s no time for girls, and even though I spent most of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” wishing for Marion and Indy to realize they’re meant for each other, I totally respect that.

So the point is: I could be that girl. Well, boy. I could be a totally awesome sidekick/buttbuddy. Together we could forge a new hegemonic standard for the romance dynamic of an adventure-solving group of main characters.

I want to be clear, this is not lust, this is a crush. Activities I want to do with you include cuddling, solving mysteries, hugging, co-authoring newspaper articles, going on walks, flying kites, and maybe hitting up the shooting range so you could teach me some of your crack shooting skillz. Kissing is near the top of a fairly long list, but I won’t even mention anything more sexual until I get a glimpse of you shirtless. Not that I’m pulling for that, or anything. I could follow you through ten more cinematic adventures clad in your usual polo/sweater vest (no offense, but further proof that you’re gay), and my crush on you would stay strong.

I know you’re not real, but I’ll keep you alive in my heart. If you’re ever in my neighborhood, look me up – I wrote for a newspaper once; I could be useful on your adventures! Until then, stay awesome.

And if you’re sleeping with Captain Haddock, don’t tell me. Yeauch. May as well just break my heart into a million pieces like the wreck of the Unicorn.


An Admirer

(c) 2011 Paramount Pictures

The Tale of Bookworm Ben

13 12 2011

Blasts from the past are everywhere when you’re home. They can hit you without warning. They’re dangerous.

The other night I went to the library to pick up all the Sammy Keyes books written since I was in middle school. It’s a mystery series clearly oriented towards teen girls, and let me tell you, there’s nothing more awkward than having to repeat 3 times to the librarian, “Yes, it’s called… Sammy Keyes and the… Cold Hard Cash. Uh, no. No, it’s not on the shelf. Yes, I looked.” It was 8:30 at night and slinking around the library with an armful of books labeled “for ages 11-15” under my arm, I felt sort of naughty, like I was out past my bedtime. But nerdy-naughty, like I was up reading underneath the covers. Nerdy-naughty was a specialty of mine once upon a time.

It’s incredible how fast a place can take you back. My first thought was, man, this library has changed since I was a kid. But then the layout of the place began to flood back to me, the layout of the shelves that I knew like the back of my hand, in terms of where all my favorite authors used to be located – Coville on the third or fourth shelf back, Vande Velde in the middle near where the Dewey decimals started, Wynne-Jones controversially under W right nearby, Anthony forty feet away in the creepy, towering avenues of the adult fiction section. And I realized that the library hadn’t changed – had.

I am now nineteen, and I tower over the shelves of the YA section, making it conspicuous for me to peruse them without the librarian at her desk regarding me with what I still feel to be a judgmental gaze. In third grade the message I was sure she was beaming at me was “Another fantasy book? Shouldn’t you be adding some variety to your summer reading list? Shouldn’t you be reading something more appropriate?” Now the message is more like “What are you doing in the young adult fantasy section? Are you some kind of creepy child predator? Shouldn’t you be reading something more appropriate?” I didn’t care then and I don’t care now, and nineteen-year-old me carried an armful of books with brightly-covered colors past her desk just as shamefully as nine-year-old me.

See what I mean? Going to the library makes me revert. It makes me think back – way back to the days of elementary school where my life was a string of pastel rooms filled with books and boring adult obligations where I could get away with reading in the corner. I felt a sort of sadness, a guiltiness, like I was hanging out with a group of friends I had sort of ditched, and seeing where they had all ended up. And wondering what I would be like if I was still part of their group. In this case, those friends were books.

What did make me stop going to the library? I’m still a nerd, but something snapped – one day in high school I woke up and I wanted adventure, I wanted friends and partying and love and everything there is to have, and faster than you can say “puberty” my real friends replaced my paper-and-ink ones.

What changed? Well, for one thing, I turned out to be gay.

It’s weird and it’s a connection I’d never made before, but now that I think of it, that was a catalyst for a lot of my changes. Because yeah, I was bookish, I was quiet, I was bad at sports, but for some reason my self-esteem could handle all of it; I never felt a need to be more than I was. I would have been perfectly happy to thus live out my days, becoming a novelist and marrying some cute outdoorsy girl and living in a cabin in Boulder Creek with a lot of books and a dog and a well-used library card, dreaming the day away. But somehow this one final difference between me and all the other guys was the last straw. Somewhere during the struggle between me and my masculinity, a spark was kindled. A spark of competitiveness and determination like I’d never felt before.

Determination to go to parties even though I was shy. Determination to learn a new sport even though I was chubby. Determination to get out of this town, no matter what. Being gay gave me an ax to grind.

What would my life be like if I were straight? In the past I’ve usually answered that question in my mind with “perfect” and then grumblingly shoved it off. But now, for the first time, I’m exploring the options. I wouldn’t be friends with people as cool as the ones I’m friends with, that’s for sure. I’d probably be in Crown playing Skyrim all day. I wouldn’t be brave. I wouldn’t be adventurous. I wouldn’t have so outlandish a life plan. The list goes on. I’d be content with it, but… I wouldn’t be this version of me.

For the first time in my life, I am thankful for being gay.

That’s right, I’ll say it again because it feels good. I AM THANKFUL FOR BEING GAY. I’m GLAD I am. Thank you, Fate! Thank you, God! Thanks for making my life go on this direction!

I see it like this: there’s this life into which I was born where we’re raised to spend our days toiling uphill towards a good university and a gleaming white wedding and all this stuff. And then one day I was suddenly teleported onto some godforsaken vista point far away surrounded by mist and rain, able to look over a world of chasms and mountains and see that gleaming white hilltop in the distance, utterly unreachable. I was not normal, and I was cast out. And it sucked. I figuratively curled up in the dirt and cried for a few hours because I’ll never make it to that white hilltop. But there are trails here, and paths through virgin forests, and ancient stairs leading down through the mist to cities I’ve never dreamed of, and you know what? I’m going to have a look around.

The world of the outsiders is a lot bigger than the world of the insiders, and if I hadn’t been forcibly cast out, I would never have known. I would just have marched like a zombie to the simple little wedding and family that I was raised to want.

Once upon a time, I zoned out at school so I could read books about the Amazon. Next quarter, I’m taking time off from school so I can go live in the Amazon. So you see? A prophecy is fulfilled. It’s not that the new me has ditched libraries. I’ve just discovered that nerdy-naughty isn’t the only type of naughty.

Thoughts too scrambled for a title

8 03 2010

I love Facebook stalking. I often make fun of myself for it, bringing it up in conversations with a nonchalance that I know is humorously bizarre, but I think the way I really do use Facebook isn’t creepy. It’s not really stalking, because I don’t want to use the information in any way – it’s people-watching. It’s a dreamy, thoughtful pastime, rooted in my imagination. I look through a person’s pictures and imagine what their daily adventures are like; I read their wall posts and hazard guesses at what the inside jokes mean, or what the half-made plans will be like when they’re realized. To the curious user the Internet is the perfect tool for living vicariously, and Facebook is its ultimate resource. Browsing Facebook, I can live vicariously in the half-imagined life of a stranger.

Sometimes I think I fall in love with ideas and not people. Just today I was stalking (no, stop putting a negative connotation on that word!) the pictures of a guy whose acquaintance I made at a college fair. We planned to talk more, exchange writing; I doubt it’s going to happen. In fact, I doubt our friendship will go anywhere. But I’m so glad I friended him, because now, perusing his Facebook, I have a window into a whole other world, a world over which I can enviously fawn. He goes to private school in San Francisco, and is interested in cycling and writing. How particular his world must be! The photo album he just posted is full of snapshots, each one a window: his girlfriend, a pretty blond girl, posing with a flower in her hair. A view of him and her on horseback. The top of a bluff covered in pickleweed, overlooking the pastel turn-of-the-century rows of the city. In a MySpace picture, he kisses her cheek. A group of friends make homemade pizza. He lies shirtless next to her on a dazzlingly backlit beach. A shot of him on a bike ride, wearing those douchey wraparound sunglasses and actually looking good in them. Sure, it helps that he’s handsome and athletic and wants to become a doctor, but that’s just a triviality, a plain central fact around which the whole extravagant fantasy is built. Although he’s sexy, I’m not infatuated with him; I’m infatuated with the idea of being him. How wonderful it must be, I think dreamily, to be straight, and good-looking, and a senior, and have money and live in San Francisco and be in love.

I don’t think I’ve ever really been in love with another person. For a while I thought I was, but now I’m not so sure. I was obsessed with a certain guy throughout my junior year, yes. But as much as I was obsessed with him, I was really obsessed with the idea of being him. I was obsessed with the idea of being as manly as him. Last year, whenever that thought ran through my head, I would usually deride myself for thinking it. I thought that saying I was obsessed specifically with this or that was just an excuse; a way to ignore the ugly truth that I really was in love with a guy whom I could never have. But now I’m not so sure. What exactly is love? I was obsessed with him, yes, and I’m not suggesting that that obsession was platonic. It was a crush, of course it was a crush – but a crush of a particular kind. I never really wanted to hold him or touch him. In my deepest fantasies we were not a couple; we were not united as one. So was it really love?

I was in love with the idea of him, at least. I’ve felt love for an idea. And of course I’ve felt lust; I’m a teenage guy, for God’s sake. The two have flitted around each other, sometimes flirting, sometimes attaching themselves to the same object at different moments. But I don’t think I’ve ever really felt them as one. I’ve longed for the chaste parts of love, and I’ve lusted for the unchaste ones, but the two feelings have never been perfectly combined. If they had, I somehow think I’d know. And when they do, that will be love.

I’ve had two crushes on girls, and I think I might be feeling the beginning of a third. But I know perfectly well that I’m not in love with her; I’m in love with the idea of being in love with her. I suppose I’m in love with the idea of being straight. That’s no surprise; my main struggle throughout puberty has been, and continues to be, trying to shake off any desire I have not to be gay. Well, even if it doesn’t light that special fire down below, what I’m feeling has to be love. Why else would I stare at pictures of her, thinking about how beautiful she is? Why else would I smile involuntarily when I think of what she would say in any situation? Sometimes when I look at the pictures, I can even imagine what it would be like to think she’s sexy. She’s totally clothed, but I can’t help noticing how full her breasts are; how they hang down just so. How her red lips are pursed in such a perfect shape. My stomach goes all hot and turns over, yet somehow it doesn’t tug on the nerves in that lower part of my body, as I know it would if I were looking at an attractive man. It’s like the cord has been cut; the connection just won’t go through. I suppose, again, I’m feeling only half of real love. And without the other half it’s nothing. But then, I’ve never felt the two halves together for a man either. So what tells me that I’m gay, and not straight, is that the two halves of love (so to speak) have come infinitely closer together in my heart for one guy than they have for one girl. This must be why people can be bisexual even when they’ll eventually settle one way or the other: until longing and lust are perfectly united, the deal’s not sealed; you’re not yet in love. So sure, I still could be straight, but somehow it doesn’t feel right to think so.

I used to totally forbid myself from dwelling on my faint heterosexual feelings, because I was sure it was just wishful thinking. As I got more comfortable with being gay, I realized that it was okay to be bicurious, and as long as I kept myself from wanting to be straight, there was nothing wrong with wondering if I might be. But I still feel a twinge of guilt thinking or talking about the girls I like. Even the whole above paragraph makes me feel queasy and off-kilter, like I’m lying to myself, even though I know that to the best of my knowledge that’s really how I feel. Why? Because I know, deep down, that I still relish the idea that I might be straight. I dote and dwell on those feelings far more than on my stronger feelings toward guys. The latter I revile and repress, in order to enable friendships to exist without complications. So what’s a guy to do? Will this vicious cycle of halfway sexual repression ever prove stable, or do I have to distance myself from other guys and become a typical, queeny gay man in order to ever feel real love?

What haunts me is the thought that maybe something I’m doing is keeping me from feeling real love – specifically, my balancing act of masculinity and homosexuality. Being exclusively friends with girls is a formula used by others. That’s how a lot of gay men define their identities, and those who do are able to find happy, fulfilled lives. I feel some pride in the fact that I don’t want to settle for that proven formula, and determination to make my own formula work. With my formula, hopefully, I can be comfortable in authentic, platonic relationships with guys and also in real romantic relationships.

Yes, I sexually repress myself on purpose. It’s barbaric and awful and unhealthy – but I really do have friendships for which it’s worth it. It’s worth it for the feeling of having buddies who’ve got my back; it’s worth it for the self-esteem of knowing I can fit in with other guys; and it’s worth it for the feeling of being totally equal to a friend, not feeling different from him or desiring him in any way. This is the goal: zero awkwardness or sexual tension with my male friends; zero self-hate or repression with other gay guys. But my deepest fear is that no matter how I try, it simply won’t work. I’m terrified that I’m handicapping myself – that if I ever want the two halves of love to meet, I’ll have to flat-out stop fitting in with other guys. I’m terrified that some great law of the universe really does state that I can’t be comfortable with my masculinity and also truly love a man. Nat King Cole once said, “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” The obvious choice I’d have to make, if I were ever forced to make a choice, is to be able to love. But I don’t know how I’d survive with only girls for friends and fashion for conversation. Every teenage guy needs to be able to roll with his crew and feel like a badass once in a while. Without fulfilling that simple masculine vanity, I don’t think I could have enough self-esteem to love myself, and if I don’t love myself I’ll never be able to love another. So I really do need to balance both, or in the end I’ll be left with nothing.

When I came out of the closet two years ago, I wrote that I intended to be something more than a typical homosexual, even if I didn’t yet know what that was. Today I still don’t know what that is. But I’m realizing that if I ever want to develop into a well-rounded adult, I’m going to have to find out – and it’s going to be more difficult than I ever imagined.

This all came out a bit more emo than I thought it would; I’ve had sort of an off weekend, but believe it or not I’m actually not depressed right now. If anything, I’m simply pensive. My life is good. These are nothing but questions that simmer pleasantly below the surface. Just food for thought.

The singularity is near

19 01 2010


It’s lonely being single.

And it’s funny, because I’ve never really needed to say that before. Although I was very aware of my sexuality, I never really wanted a relationship until recently, just because the inconveniences outweighed the benefits. Being gay involves a delicate minefield of platonic relationships with buddies contrasting with potentially romantic relationships with other men. Figuring out how you, personally, negotiate the balance between the two can take a while. So for a long time my struggles with homosexuality have involved masculinity and identity, but rarely have I faced head-on the very real problem of being alone all my life.

I am going to be 18 years old in two months, and I have never been on a date. I have never asked anyone on a date, or been asked on a date. I’ve never kissed anyone. I’ve never slow-danced; not once. To be honest, I’ve never been in close proximity with another gay man whom I find attractive, let alone one who might be attracted to me. Those magical forces that pull dewy-eyed preteens together – those that simply make two people searingly aware that they are in the same room – have never touched me. I’m almost eighteen, and even that simple force of attraction, that simple joy of discovering what sexual tension is, is unknown to me.

Case in point: Pascal (see #4 in the preceding post) is not gay. Apparently, according to our one mutual friend, he is one of those guys that seems gay, but actually hooks up with a procession of beautiful women. Nice extra detail, that. Now I get to picture my former potential love interest eating the face of some slutty prom queen.

I didn’t think I would take it this hard, but this feeling is different than any I’ve felt before. When before I was in love with a straight guy (not that I’m in love with Pascal by any means) it was different, just because the circumstances made it easy to mute my feelings. I felt like I had a duty to be a bigger person and not objectify him. It wasn’t an issue of love, it was about learning how not to love, just because it was so obvious that I could never have him. It was about learning how to deal with being a guy attracted to guys; learning how to tell myself “no” and just shut out my sexuality when need be. But with Pascal, it wasn’t about me, my masculinity or my relationship with other guys – it really was about love. Well, not love – that’s a big word, and I’ve already thrown it around far too much in an essay about casual attraction and experimentation. But it was about attraction. I really thought I had found the other side of the balance – a dynamic with another male that felt completely different than friendship or even admiration; something fragile and smoldering and maybe even mutual. But obviously it was just in my imagination.

I guess I’ll have to come to terms with the fact that I can’t just meet someone somewhere and feel something click and start a relationship, like normal people do. How do gay people find partners? I guess they go to places like gay bars, where they know everyone is interested. But I hate the idea that I’ll have to do that. Other people have the whole world to meet potential lovers: they bump into them on the street, sit together on a bus, stand in line next to them at Disneyland, get introduced to them at parties, and they just meet and fall in love. Compared to such a vast stage, where romance grows from spontaneity, how can I be content with going off to a little bar knowing perfectly well that I am there for the express purpose of finding a love interest and I have almost no chance of succeeding anywhere else? I feel like one of those pandas that have to breed in captivity. There can be no subtle process of mutual attraction, suspense and courtship; when you call up the only other lady panda at the zoo, it’s pretty clear what your intentions are. And that makes it awkward.

The panda metaphor kind of applies to my school also. Another way for gay people to get partners is just hook up with the only other gay person around. But because of that in-captivity feeling, I can’t stand the idea of getting together with any of the gay guys at my school. Maybe some of them would be eligible under other circumstances. But that eligibility would be ruined by the omnipresent knowledge that I only picked him because there was no one else available.

Being gay is posing more problems to being a romantic than I ever could have imagined. I want to have a real love story; I want to learn about those mystical forces of attraction naturally and spontaneously, when it’s time, like it happens to every teenager. I don’t want to just go out systematically looking for a boyfriend and find one, mission accomplished. But it sometimes seems like it’s either that, or be alone indefinitely. And with the end of high school drawing near, me never having kissed anyone, and even the latest bloomers among my friends quickly becoming more worldly than me… I honestly don’t know which is the lesser of two evils.


29 08 2009

I’ve come to a sort of epiphany about homophobes. For those who don’t know, a “homophobe” is (in a literal sense) someone who is afraid of homosexuals. In the gay rights movement, the word is used to describe anyone prejudiced, bigoted, anti-gay or just plain uncomfortable about same-sex couples. But for the first time, I’m starting to think that the word is over-used. This isn’t the first time that I’ve felt the gay rights movement goes to excess (pulling down Yes on 8 signs, for example, or being sticklers about the thoughtless but harmless phrase “that’s so gay”). But in the wake of the argument over Prop 8 (the California amendment banning gay marriage), it really strikes me that not everyone arguing the other side was a homophobe. In fact, it would be a slur to assume so. I’ve become fascinated, then, with defining what a homophobe really is. I think the word has certainly grown beyond its original meaning of someone who is afraid of gays, and far be it from me to invent a new vocabulary for the various types of anti-gay people it now describes. But in an effort to avoid heaping all anti-gay people unfairly together, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two types of homophobes. Also, I’ve realized that I can stand someone who’s one type and not the other as long as his sentiments are in moderation. I’ll call the two types (rather pompously, I know) de facto homophobes and de jure homophobes. Let me explain what each one is.

1. De jure homophobes are people who are comfortable having everyday interactions with gay people, but for whatever reason (religious, moral, etc.), they have made a conscious choice to vote against gay rights legislation. It’s rare, but it happens. I’ve met a few of these, people who voted yes on Prop 8 but had the maturity to argue with me about it, and to still be my friend once we agreed to disagree. I respect the hell out of these people and I love, love arguing with them (although of course some of their arguments drive me insane).

2. De facto homophobes are more accurately described under the term “homophobe” – people who are just instinctively uneasy with the idea of homosexuality and gay relationships. They’re probably neutral on gay marriage; morally, they don’t care, and they won’t actively campaign against it. But if gays are near them, they may insult them or just plain avoid them; they probably feel more manly than gays, and are just plain grossed out by even the faintest thought of being gay themselves. Now, this may sound like typical homophobia, but it can be mild and insidious as well. It’s a weird example, but I would classify my best friend as a de facto homophobe. He’s a fanatic Democrat and campaigned tirelessly for No on 8. But although he makes a conscious choice to be pro-gay, in some way I think real homosexual activity makes him queasy. It’s an awkward situation. He gets defensive if people accuse him of being homophobic, and even if he is, I can’t blame him for how he feels. To the contrary, I am in awe of what he does every day: he consciously fights his instinctive disgust, because he knows that he owes it to me and to an entire oppressed social class. I could never express to him how much gratitude I have for that. But the fact remains: he is a homophobe. When a friend makes totally joking gay advances on him, he flips out; when he watches “Watchmen” he can’t stand to look at a naked Dr. Manhattan for more than a few seconds lest it undermine his masculinity. So, we have another form of harmless homophobia. Or is it?

I think that in their pure form, both of these two categories are fairly harmless. Which one is more hurtful? I’d have to say de facto; disgust is insulting and emotionally charged, while it’s easy to turn the other cheek to cold logic. But which one is more ultimately harmful to gays? Probably de jure, since they each have one vote against gay rights which will actually affect change.

However, ultimately, I think the only really bad homophobes are people who fall into both categories. Someone who’s queasy about gays, like my friend, is harmless; but someone who is so freaked out by gays that they take an active de jure stance against them is going to cause problems. These are the types of people who perpetrate hate crimes. Similarly, someone who is so morally opposed to homosexuality that they can’t bring themselves to interact with homosexuals is much more deserving of the term “bigot” then someone who has enough moderation to respect the other side.

I suppose I wrote this note mostly for pro-gay people. The moral is, keep everything in moderation, or else discussions can never take place. I’m proud of the ways in which I interact with borderline homophobes, because in doing so I reduce stereotypes and help foster the values of agreeing to disagree. I may be a homosexual, but I’m a writer first, and to me, freedom of speech – even to the freedom to tell me why I shouldn’t be allowed to marry – is a sacred American right that I’m proud to uphold. So, you militant gay activists: don’t hammer borderline homophobes into the ground without getting to know them. Talk to them, and if you think that they fit into one of the harmless categories above, cut them some slack. Because if we have the gall to judge others as bigots, how can we in clean conscience ask others not to judge us as faggots?

Some happy pessimism

31 07 2009

Hanging out with a handful of happy couples (which I always seem to do) can be somewhat taxing for an eternally single fellow like me. Usually I don’t mind, but oftentimes I feel a little down when I get caught in that horrible third-wheel moment. At least once, I’ve waited outside in the cold for my best friend to give me a ride while he bid an emotional farewell to his girlfriend inside. I’ve been, quite literally, on the outside looking in, watching through the window while they share a tender kiss goodnight. And sometimes I play the part of the good friend, finding ways to disappear when it seems they’re having a moment. This isn’t just in the case of the couple mentioned above, but also with another couple in my immediate group of friends. They’re my friends; I want them to be happy. I want them to make the most of their time together before college separates them. But it can get tiresome to play the part of everyone else’s Cupid.

Point is, last night I was the witness of a debacle which reminded me that love really is as much of a curse as it is a blessing. This may seem a bit selfish, because I should – and do – feel sorry for my friends when they get the wrong end of romance. But being reminded that romance can make people unhappy is a small comfort for me. Long story short, one of the two couples mentioned above broke up, and what was supposed to be a fun backyard bonfire turned into a tense fireside vigil as we sat and waited, wondering, while they talked for almost four hours in the front yard. We couldn’t hear what they were saying, but occasional sounds of violent sobbing drifted over the fence to inform us that things were not going well. I had absolutely no idea that such a break-up was coming (though I am famously obtuse about those things, so it may be my fault). Now even I am a little burned by the fireworks. I know that my relationship with both of the two who broke up – and certainly the dynamics in what was formerly my group of friends – will never be the same.

I’m writing this because it was sort of a wake-up call for me, a reminder that I need to get over myself and not be jealous of everyone I know who has a significant other. In other words, love isn’t a panacea that solves all problems. For a while it makes you king of the world and crowns you with roses, and then in a few short moments it makes you pay dearly for every day you were happy. Love is like a gentle kitten who, just as everyone is leaning over to adore it in its owner’s arms, leaps up hissing to slash its admirers’ faces and then falls back into an innocent sleep as if nothing happened. I had been drawing closer and closer, like a moth, to its alluring light, and then it exploded in a shower of fire and the spell was broken. I watched Love leave a swath of carnage in its wake, and I remembered all at once why it’s better to keep at a distance.

So, basically, I was reminded last night that it’s really not a terrible thing to be without love. I’ve enjoyed spending time this summer with both halves of the couple that broke up. Though their relationship is over, I’ll never have to break up with either of them. I can still be their friend, and do so forever if I choose. Ultimately, I may be left out in the cold sometimes during a moment of passion, but I’ll stick with my friends through many romantic capers – without having to worry about fidelity, or the seriousness of our relationship, or any of the other complications of romance. I was reminded last night that my situation isn’t that bad after all. Despite everything love can give, the simplicity of friendship really is the greatest bliss.