Wednesday, January 17, 2018

JUST ME

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It’s not like I crawled in a hole. (Think I did that earlier in the fall.) I just wanted to get readjusted to my reality before blabbing about it. Single again.

It’s fine.

I’m good with it.

It’s true that I’m the one who finally ended it but what does that matter? People always ask. As if it’s easier to be the “breaker” instead of the “breakee”. Sometimes I guess, particular if the “breakee” is blindsided and/or delusional. Not the case here. In reality, I’d say we worked in tandem over the final few months to chip away at what had initially shown so much promise. The fact that we’d each attribute the demise to different things only underscores how we’d drifted apart. Through a series of actions and inactions, the relationship imploded.

A year. More when you consider how deeply we’d communicated online during the prior year while having an occasional lunch or dinner as friends when our sensibilities told us a Vancouver-Portland romance was out of the question.
We risked a solid friendship in deciding to try for something even greater. I have no regrets about giving it a go. I did fall in love. Not everything comes with a happy ending.

In the days that followed, I struggled to adjust to the shock of The End. Did that just happen? What now? No panicked regrets,…I think it was the right thing to do, even if we could have gone on for months and years in a less than happy state. People do that all the time.

Reverting to Party of One, the practical side of me truly wanted to know what to do next. Would it be different? Could it? Or would I fall back on going through the motions of living.

It’s always unsettling to be alone again, especially after feeling so sure I’d found The One, a partner for life. Being alone is familiar territory. I’ve lived it. In fact, I’ve often craved more of it. But there’s a fine line between being alone and being lonely, and I need to consciously and consistently track which side I am on.

My favorite photo from my time in Stockholm, taken during
a solo morning jog just after a fresh dusting of snow.           
To be honest, at 53, there is also that nagging fear that being alone may be a fixed status. I don’t entertain any fancy notion that there are desirable single gay men in my area looking to date an old (or is it ancient in gay circles?) fellow with mental health problems. If you’ve read a post or two of mine from October, you know that I am dealing with depression again with some slightly different flavors added to the diagnosis. I’m Bipolar II, which means I am prone to milder states of mania (hypomania) along with episodes of crushing depression. I don’t know how to twist and contort all that into sounding like a good thing.

Still, it’s not all gloom and doom. Last month, I flew to Stockholm for a week. Just because. No one else’s whims or schedule to negotiate with. I have a strong urge to go back. On my own again.
For now, it’s the clear preference.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

LETTING OFF STEAM ABOUT THE GYM: MY TOP 10 PET PEEVES


I have no idea what this guy was doing last night at the 
gym. As I did ab crunches, he stayed like this for more than
five minutes. Sleeping? Had he passed out. I later worried,
but when I went back, he was gone. Power napping...
I always cringe through January. It’s because I’m so routine-oriented and all these well-intentioned people suddenly (over)populate the gym. Suddenly, my favorite machine for working my calf muscles—at least, I think that’s what it’s for—always has someone on it. The 52.5-pound dumbbells which no one but me EVER takes (Seriously, every other gym regular thinks, Who can’t move up in 5-pound increments? *Raises hand.*) It’s even a challenge to grab a mat to do a few ab crunches.

I try to prepare for the change. After all, I’ve been going to gyms regularly for almost thirty years. In this month especially, I avoid the peak time of 5-7 p.m. whenever possible. (Mornings are out. I’d just drop weights on myself or the pour sap beside me.) I have a good sense of the most popular weights and have my radar on for the first opening. SWOOP! Above all, I try to smile through frustration and be more flexible with what will constitute a full workout.

Two years ago, I wrote a January post to encourage new users to truly commit to the gym and to disregard all that looked intimidating and chaotic. But I do have some pet peeves that I thought I’d share this time around. You might relate. You might be the culprit and think you have a reasonable defense. You might just think I’m a cranky, old man.

TOP TEN PET PEEVES AT THE GYM:

10. Leaving a towel on a bench or seat after you are done with your workout. (At my gym, there is laundry service so towels are provided. This is great, but it also means some people don’t care where they leave them. Your mother would be ashamed! Practically speaking, the abandoned towel creates confusion to other gym users. “Is someone still working out here?” I’ve seen a piece of equipment unused for over half an hour because of towel abandonment issues. Same goes for leaving your weights by that bench. All this relates to the next peeve:

9. Not using a towel when you work out. I’ve belonged to other gyms where towels were not provided. I was one of the few who always brought one. It’s true, I sweat more than others—not like you’ll feel a squirt as you pass by—Eww!—but that big ol’ perspiration stain doesn’t take long to form and grow. There have been so many times when sweaty men don’t bother with a towel—even when they’re provided. I’m not sure what the thinking is. Hey, dude. I’m a man. I sweat. Deal. But when the towel-averse guy moves on from one bench to another apparatus, the wetness on the padding is his departing gift. And suddenly I’m thinking I don’t really need to do chest inclines today.

8. Guys who get powder stuff all over. It reminds of back when Ivan Lendl played tennis (I really am showing my age!) and he’d pull out sawdust from his pocket to help his grip on every serve. Lendl was playing for tens of thousands of dollars, swanky trophies and courtside chats with the Duke and Duchess of Kent at Wimbledon. Ostensibly, the powder helps with your grip too but I’m thinking, if it comes down to powder on your hands and everywhere else in a one-meter radius, just lower the weight. Your ego may suffer, but we’ll all feel a bit better about our gym. Thanks.

7. Guys who want everyone to know their regimen goes beyond the gym. You know the ones. They find a buddy and go on and on—loudly—about the two pounds of chicken they’ve had today along with three cans of tuna, the oatmeal and the avocado. Oh, wait! That’s not just today. That’s every day for the past month. Yeah, yeah,…we get it. You’re dedicated. And it’s true, you’re way more ripped than I am. (Truth: I’m not at all.) But the diet just sounds like a downer. Suffer in silence, will ya?

6. Fake users. We’ve all seen them. They’re often on the mats, stretching only their mouths. It’s always a convoluted anecdote about something someone’s sister’s best friend’s fourth cousin said and did at a party—or was it a funeral—last weekend. And there’s always the companion who keeps things going with the courteous “uh-huh”. (Stop that!) Or there’s the guy on the gym floor who knows himself well enough not to get too close to any particular machine or bench. He’s just putting in time. It doesn’t matter what the topic is. He can babble three sets worth on the football game this weekend, four to six sets about the tricks for changing a car’s oil (I really should listen…nah!) and finish up his gym experience with the dramatic saga of how his knees aren’t what they used to be. Who is he really kidding? Just go to the bar already!

5. Noise makers. Granted, the gym is not a library. But how is it that 95% of the members can inhale and exhale, lift and put down weights without, in the words of Madonna, causing a commotion? (I have a hunch these noise makers don’t look to Madonna to finish their sentences.) Do they really want to be compared to notorious tennis court grunters Maria Sharapova and Monica Seles? I recently tweeted about a guy who didn’t grunt while lifting; he actually growled. Made me laugh. Not a good thing when I’m lifting weights over my head, even if they’re only ten pounds. 

4. Weight misplacers. If it says 40 on the barbell or dumbbells, that’s where the 40-pound weights go. You chose to do something—I can’t imagine what—with the 110s. You carry them back to their well-marked spot. Thanks. It helps everyone have a more efficient workout. (Please don’t make me have to make my way through all the Hulks in the area with the heaviest weights just to grab the 40 dumbbells since that was the only open spot for the previous user.)

3. Locker room slobs. Admittedly, I’m not the tidiest person. But where I leave my socks at home is for only me to make sense of the spectacle. When I finished my workout at the gym last night, I went in and a dozen locker doors were wide open. (Everyone uses locks so it’s not done to let people know which lockers are vacant.) Towels were tossed about everywhere. Who raised you? Again I say, Your mother would be ashamed! I’ve smashed my head on an open locker more than once. I’ve seen cleaning staff walk in and look demoralized. These are the same people who have to mop up all the misfires at the urinal. Give them a break.

2. Machine savers. These people like to work more than one muscle at a time with more than one machine at a time. That’s typically what I do. A decade or so ago, circuit training was a fad and people jumped from station to station. The gym I went to had lights and bells signalling when it was time to stop resting and move to the next set at the next station. The fad faded quickly. Still, I think there is something to the notion that, if you’re working separate muscles concurrently, the rest time is reduced and you can be more efficient in completing a workout. I bounce about, but I do so knowing that a bench or a machine I was using may be taken by someone else while I went elsewhere to do a set of lat pulldowns. Fine. I can come back. No big deal. But there are others who are risk-averse and self-centered. They save the bench by leaving a towel, the weights and their water bottle there while they do pulldowns elsewhere. They have another towel and keys that they leave there. Thus, both places are taken by one person. How convenient! How clever! How rude. The gym is not theirs alone and all of us want to get in and get out ASAP. People like this should buy one of those complete workout contraptions for their basement—the kind you see a smooth-muscled guy use on 2 a.m. infomercials—and have at it.

1. Prolonged texters. I could write a separate post on this. Drives me crazy and it’s only getting worse. It’s completely normalized. There is this notion that the cell phone is an essential component of a workout. (I use mine on the exercise bike or when jogging outdoors, but I’m exercising while using the device.) As I look around during a quick rest at any place in the gym, there are guys sitting at machines and benches, texting away, watching videos, scrolling through social media and even taking selfies. They sit. And sit. And sit. Five minutes can pass. I am certain that quad muscle is well rested. In fact, it’s cold now. People do like their rest time and I am convinced that many lose track of how long they are actually looking at their phones between sets. Addiction, habit…I don’t know. When I first went to gyms, it was workout partners who would get lost in drawn-out conversations between sets. Then it was cell phone users, answering a call from their buddy or girlfriend about plans for later. As the cell phone has taken on more functions, it’s impacted gym time even more.

YES! How do I become a member?
Last night three of us—people who didn’t know one another—were waiting for the cables and a guy stood there texting away. I’ve seen him before. He gets noticed not for his biceps but for his prolonged texting. “How many more sets do you have?” I asked, which has become clear code for, There are people waiting. He had one more. And then he continued another three minutes of texting. What is that? Passive aggressiveness? A need to assert control after a bad day at work? He actually built a sense of community as the three of us who followed figured out how to quickly adjust the machine for smooth transitions in sharing the machine. As an aside, none of us had our phones anywhere in sight.



All right. I continue to believe we can be more thoughtful people even as we sweat it out. Good luck with your personal fitness goals this year. Don’t let the gym—and it sloppy grunters—intimidate you. But if you look up from your phone and see an older guy glaring, by all means, get out of the way!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

GILBERT O'SULLIVAN IS FOLLOWING ME!

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Most of you probably aren’t familiar with Gilbert O’Sullivan, but he has hounded me ever since December 1979 when I was a teen listening to a Casey Kasem countdown of the top songs of the ’70s. I hadn’t been aware of pop music during the first half of the decade, just a few albums and 45s—Elton John, The Carpenters, The Partridge Family, Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy”. When I finally started tuning in to my AM radio, the playlist featured Mary MacGregor being “Torn Between Two Lovers” and William Bell “Tryin’ to Love Two” while Donna Summer faked orgasms on “Love to Love You, Baby” and rodents shared their mating calls—or was it flatulence—in “Muskrat Love”. It was clear that, as John Paul Young sang, “Love Is in the Air”. What I learned from radio was that love was aplenty. So when I belatedly heard Mr. O’Sullivan’s 1972 #1 hit “Alone Again (Naturally)” it felt bubble-bursting. Indeed, it was the most depressing song I’d ever heard.

Oh, Andy! That hair!
Instantly, I identified with it. (I even liked that the “Naturally” came as a parenthetical!) Yes, this was more like it. This seemed like my past, my present, my future. (Apparently teen angst came early for me.) There would be no one wanting to be my everything. Nobody wanting to kiss me all over. (A relief, really.) And I would not have whatever those damn muskrats had. Instead, there was just a big-haired Irish guy acknowledging that this big-haired Canadian boy would feel aching loneliness again and again.

And so it should come as no surprise that, although a year ago, I was getting the sense I had found lasting love—indeed, at last!—it would wilt before year’s end.
I’ve put off this blog post for six weeks or so. I quietly changed my Twitter profile. It’s not that I see Twitter as a mechanism for dating; it just felt dishonest to continue to claim to be one of the #Taken. To be clear, I never used that hashtag. If I recall correctly, I simply said that I was scratching my head over how I stumbled and bumbled my way into a relationship.
The head scratching has stopped, much to the relief of those around me who, no doubt, fretted that I must have lice. That would be the more plausible explanation.

So, yes, Gilbert O’Sullivan has reappeared. It’s not like I’ve gone to the dollar store and purchased a “WELCOME BACK” banner to hang in my living room, but I haven’t chased him and his song away either. (Is it wrong that the song amuses me?) As the titular parenthetical indicates, this aloneness is natural for some of us. For ugly ducklings like me. (Oops. That’s Janis Ian in my head. Second most depressing song of the ‘70s.) I do play “Dancing Queen” and “Boogie Oogie Oogie” on repeat in the off-chance Mr. O’Sullivan is one of those who jumped on the Disco Sucks bandwagon at the end of the decade. Ah, it’s a probability, don’tcha think? Mr. Depressing would not want happy beats booming about in his midst. But maybe there is no antidote. Maybe this is my true destiny. Gil—I think I can call him that after all these years—and his “Alone Again” will likely get comfy hanging out once again, not with me but alongside me, two sad-sacks sharing the same airspace but nothing else.

(Naturally.)  

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

DO GAY MOVIES HAVE TO BE SO SLOW?


I’ll say it. I think it’s time we move beyond simply being amazed that a gay love story appears on film. And I think it’s time for critics to do the same.

Yesterday I went with a friend to see “Call Me by Your Name” and I was very uncomfortable as it played out. Not because of the gay subject matter—duh!—but because, twenty-five minutes in, my gay friend leaned toward me and said, “Is it just me or is this thing dragging? Is it truly awful?”

It wasn’t awful, at least in my opinion. But the joy of something lessens when the person you’re with doesn’t feel the same. It’s like when I go to a restaurant and the service isn’t great and that becomes the primary focus of your companion. Maybe I should wander into the kitchen to grab someone’s entrée. Anyone’s! And, yes, maybe I can find a projection room and skip ahead a half hour. It didn’t help that the man behind me had a coughing fit during the opening credits and never fully recovered. He unsuccessfully tried to contain his hacking and heaving for the whole movie. My friend left to use the restroom three times and I found myself cringing each time a new scene or development came on screen after the ninety-minute mark, knowing my friend had had enough and the fellow behind me might need a medical attendant.

Even though I liked the film—circumstances notwithstanding—it was slow. The movie clocks in at 132 minutes, but it did feel like three hours. Not much happened during the first half hour aside from characters drinking apricot juice. (If you’re mad that I just gave something away, reread the previous sentence to see what it actually is that I revealed. Like I said,…slow.) It is true that Armie Hammer is easy on the eyes and Timothée Chalamat’s hair is its own natural wonder. I had plenty of time to take in both. It is also true that the intention was to create a sense of unsatisfied longing, given that the movie is set in 1983 and there is a significant age difference (24 and 17), with actor Hammer looking closer to 30.

Here we are, forbidden love and sexual tension. Again. We’ve seen it in “Brokeback Mountain”, “Maurice” and “Moonlight”. All quite good (and coincidentally(?) with beautiful cinematography).  But these movies aren’t about the relationship. They’re about whether there will even be a relationship.
Will they...?
Will they...?
Will they?! 
I'll admit for the first time here that my mind wandered during parts of "Brokeback" and a different gay friend with whom I saw "Moonlight" fell asleep halfway through. (Perhaps I'm immersed in a social circle of people with ADHD.) These movies have lots of build-up, a connection (often fleeting) and The End. We don’t really see a portrayal of two men in love; instead, the conflict is internal and societal.

I’m ready to see something new in a big gay film, one without AIDS, one without an overwhelming sense of shame, one in which the men fall fast and then have to figure things out. A few years ago, there was a remarkable episode of the otherwise ordinary HBO series “Looking” in which Jonathan Groff’s character had a hookup with Raul and the two then spent the following day trying to catch up emotionally with the level they’d already attained sexually.

This is closer to what gay men experience now. I’m through being dazzled by the fact two men kiss on screen and simulate sex with tasteful lighting. I want to see an actual relationship and all its blips and bumps. I want to see characters navigate contemporary challenges or drift apart. We’re in an era when gay men can get married in a growing number of countries and yet Hollywood has yet to figure out how to create compelling stories that reflect this.

The Victorian view of gay coupling will continue to get its screen time just as there will always be another portrayal of Queen Victoria herself. It’s time, however, to update and diversify gay storylines.   

Saturday, November 18, 2017

THE ETERNAL HEAD SCRATCHER

There’s so much about the world we live in that I don’t get.
·      The Kardashians (At least my old version of Word underlines the word with a red squiggly line.)
·      Matt Lauer
·      Golf (Unless it includes little windmills.)
·      Tom Cruise (Not once. Not even when he danced around to a Seger song I sorta liked.)
·      The American president
·      Playoff beards (If you grow it, groom it.)
·      The Second Amendment (Right to bear arms? Really? Who talks like that? Isn’t that evidence enough that it doesn’t fit our times? If we keep the phrase, it should be jiggered to the “right to bare arms” because that is something I think is worthy of debate. I wore a tank to the gym last week and I’m pretty sure it was very, very wrong.)
·      Any incarnation of “Law and Order”
·      Treating travel like a selfie scavenger hunt (See Eiffel Tower. Get your selfie. Dash to the Champs-Élysées. Get your selfie. Repeat, post, repeat.)
·      All things Pokemon
·      The “Full House” revival (Yeah, I watched it way back when, but it’s no “Brady Bunch”.)
·      Britney (Sorry. She doesn’t sing!)
·      Auto-tune (See above.)
·      Zombies and shows with zombies (Makeup could be put to better use.)
·      New Year’s Eve (Getting drunk to watch a clock tick and mumble-sing the lyrics to a song less than 1% of the population knows? I’d campaign to make Groundhog Day a bigger deal.)
·      All these cooking shows where contestants compete (More clock watching and we never get to taste any of it.)
·      The endless making of superhero movies (I like my Ryan Reynolds out of costume.)
·      The urgency people feel in acquiring the latest iPhone (and why that “i” is lower case)
·      Dr. Who and why they keep changing the lead actor (Sorry.)
           
I could go on.

If I were living in an age of the guillotine, a mob of angry villagers would track me down, chant, “Off with his head!” and that would be that. (I am very grateful guillotines are a thing of the past. Let’s not make them retro, okay?) Of course, there’s still that pesky Second Amendment…

For the longest time, I didn’t get Twitter either. But a colleague of mine—rather, a retired colleague (albeit from Tech Services)—told me it was all the rage and I absolutely had to get on it. So I did. My Twitter page informs me that I’ve been tweeting since July 2009. Eight years of hooey. I’ve got time for it, I suppose. It’s not like I’m the American president.

I’m not as clueless about Twitter as I used to be. It served its purpose on lonely Saturday nights when I lived in a rural nowhere-land and someone would “Like” my tweet linking to an Olivia Newton-John song. (No auto-tuning.) I was glued to Twitter as news came out about the horrid happenings at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. And I’ve been heartened to see regular pics of seemingly happy gay couples of all ages, shapes and sizes.

Over the course of my Twitter existence, I’ve noticed changes in how gay men identify themselves. Early on, there were a lot of eggs and vague monikers like “PeoriaGayGuy” and “TheGayGardener”. Heck, that’s how I opened my account: “RuralGay”. I didn’t go with the conventional egg. (It made me look fat in the middle.) I don’t even remember, but I must have gone with a rural picture or some badly cropped headshot.

I haven’t seen an egg on Twitter in ages. A good thing.

For a while though, I was concerned that some of the younger tweeps seemed to reject gay. A lot of “bromos” opened accounts. Never really got it. I’m gay, but not like that? Through my old eyes, the term seemed to separate rather than unite. The bromo fad appears to have waned.

All this brings me to the latest thing I don’t get on Twitter. Rather than hiding behind an egg or adopting a new term, I’ve noticed a lot of Twitter bio blurbs where the men identify themselves as “gay AF”. In the ‘90s, that would be daring. Screw you, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, I’m a proud gay member of the Air Force.

Okay, even I knew that couldn’t be it. But I knew we’re in that sort of “screw you” world these days. (We have world leaders exchanging barbs about being “old” and “fat”, after all.) So this new trend is to self-identify as “gay as fuck”, aka gay AF.

Hmm. Suddenly Dana Carvey’s Church Lady is in my head: “Well, isn’t that special?!” It is great that these guys aren’t hiding in a closet or behind vague names and blurry pics. Kudos. How far we have come, indeed. I guess I just don’t know why we need to make the “AF” a thing. Be loud. Be proud! More than that, be involved. Be open to accepting the wide range of people for whom the rainbow flag flies.

But gay AF? I shrug at best. I don’t get it. Add it to my list.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

SWISH MANAGEMENT

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We’re our own worst enemies. That can be true when referring to ourselves or to the communities in which we belong.

Let’s set aside the self-hate and consider gay community’s enduring target within: the effeminate gay man. An October 2017 “Masculinity Survey” of 5,000 gay men by the British magazine, Attitude, revealed that 71% are turned off by effeminate mannerisms in other gay men. As well, 41% felt that effeminate gay men give the “community” a bad image or a bad reputation.

Sigh.

Longer sigh.

When does it end? I remember long, long ago—that is, before online dating and hooking up—when men who wanted to broaden their search beyond the bar scene took out personal ads in freebie news-ish publications. You could scan the page until you got to MEN SEEKING MEN. That’s when lonely hearts (or two-timers) stopped talking about pina coladas and getting caught in the rain and became more direct. “No femmes”. (These same great catches often said “No” to fats and Asians.) The defense was always, “Nothing personal.” (How is that not personal?!) “I’m just being honest.” God knows what other endearingly open comments might come out over dinner or that foreplay-inducing bottle of Bud.

We’ve evolved only slightly since then. Rather than being directly offensive, the single suitor (or two-timer/member of open relationship) states online that he’s a “masculine”, fit, white guy, seeking the same. It remains clear who should not apply for an amazing opportunity.

We spent decades in hiding, sticking to closets and darkened bars. In more public places, we walked alongside boyfriends with ample space between us, often saving our open hugs for the fun girl who was always happy (and available) to join us.

We spent the more recent decades demanding to be heard, first for advances in the fight over AIDS and then, when that fight miraculously ebbed, pushing for anti-discrimination legislation and marriage equality. The AIDS crisis weakened us while making us braver and bolder at the same time. Desperation, heightened each time another lover, friend or acquaintance died, made our closets seem silly. Silence and fears about being shamed, ostracized, fired and disowned gave way over time.

Oh, what progress we have made! So now that we’ve achieved such gains in public acceptance, 41% of us wish the more effeminate among us would toe the line. There are some behaviors that still need to be controlled, honed in…closeted. Your high-pitched voices and limp wrists are ruining our reputations! (And to think I posted three selfies of my abs after my gym workout today. Sure I got a lot of “Likes” but that hip swish of yours is killing me.) So bad for the reputation. And, to that 71% among us, such a turn off.

We pushed hard for acceptance. It came faster than many of us older gays (i.e., over 35) could have imagined. But apparently the acceptance is not for all of us, at least when we look within our community. It’s maddening but it’s not surprising. Many gays continue to struggle with low self-esteem, even self-hate. How fragile is acceptance? Are straight people only sounding evolved to be politically correct? What about all those red states? What about when I wander from the city? Self-hate and fear often manifest outwardly and, by golly, the femmes are just embarrassing. I’m not like them. Really, I swear.

Back in my ancient coming out days of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, I monitored my voice and mannerisms. There was that pesky pinky that liked to stick out as I gently sipped a lite beer. (More limes, please.) My wrists, if not limp, were as thin as the daintiest of women no matter how many sets of dumbbells I curled. My primary object was to “pass”. It’s ironic that so much of coming to terms with being gay was preoccupied with acting straight. Please, let us have made real progress since then. Please let us be who we are. We’ve extended our community from “gay and lesbian” to a growing alphabet of terms and identities. So why haven’t we grown in our understanding and acceptance of the “G” itself?

If anything, there should be greater respect and gratitude to the more effeminate among us. “Passing” was never an option for them. While the rest of us hid, they bore the brunt of slurs and hate crimes when prejudice went largely unchecked. They heard the snickers behind their backs and felt the shunning in their earliest years. How shameful that they might continue to be outcasts in our own community.

We have co-opted positive terms like gay and pride and we’ve flown rainbow flags to represent our diversity. Let us check our own prejudices and endeavor to truly welcome and accept all the colors and incarnations our flag is meant to represent.

Friday, November 3, 2017

HAS THE LINE MOVED?


Never thought Kevin Spacey coming out would have people talking. But, from what I’m seeing online, there is some division on sideline sentencing and whether there is any guilt at all.

I don’t think anyone can convince me that he didn’t cross the line in making the moves on a fourteen-year-old actor. Some people offer the vague defense that many minors go to bars and lie about their age. Not the case here. Spacey knew Anthony Rapp and he knew the guy was a boy. It wasn’t at a bar; it was at Spacey’s space. Could alcohol have played a role? Sure. I just don’t know how drunk you have to be to think it’s okay to come on to someone who is fourteen.

The bigger debate centers around those gay bars between men, not minors. One man says he was groped by Spacey at a bar and suffered Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome as a result. That’s where many seem to side with #TeamSpacey. Some say the other guy must have been homophobic to have such a strong, lingering reaction. Others say groping is a normal act in gay bars. There is no history of gays asserting power over gays, like the advantage men have had over women. Men can be cavemen and, without a woman in the mix, one can expect caveman actions. There’s never been a social check to tell gay men that groping is not okay in a gay environment like gay bars.

I was offended the first times I was groped. What just happened?! Often, the contact came on a crowded dance floor or as a friend and I circulated through the swarms of men packed into a West Hollywood club at midnight on a Saturday night. It was like that grade school “prank” where someone taps you on the shoulder, you turn around and no one claims responsibility. It would happen over and over as classmates laughed. Annoying until you figured out who did it. Then you laughed along with the group, relieved to finally be in on the joke.

In the crowded gay bar, anonymous groping happened. One friend or another would say, “I just got my ass grabbed.” Depending on the groper and or the gropee, the reaction was “Ewwww” or “Congratulations!”

I was always incensed. To be sure, I wanted to be noticed. I wanted a boyfriend and, in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, the gay bar seemed like the best option. (Seems sad when I type that.) An ex of mine in L.A. said I had a perpetual deer-in-the-headlights look to everything. And he meant everything, gay or otherwise. Like I was some country bumpkin when I was actually a nice, naïve Canadian boy who happened upon Los Angeles by way of Texas. (It stunned me that everything about that self-description was considered a turnoff to most guys I met.)

For the record, I never took my shirt off in a gay bar either.
Part shyness, part body image issue, part common sense.
As long as I didn’t share anything about myself, I remained grope-worthy, at least to a few. Some weren’t even all that drunk. I never suffered PTSD. Groping was part of the gay bar ambience, along with all that smoke that seeped into my clothes, skin and lungs. The fact I found groping offensive made me feel like a bad gay. If it was someone I wasn’t into which was almost always the case—friends said I was too picky (Uh,…thanks?)—the grope was too forward, too creepy. On the rare occasion, I thought the guy was hot, the act left me confused. Is that like a bad pickup line? What am I supposed to do now? Grope back? Why couldn’t he have just said hi?

“You just need to get laid,” a peripheral friend would say. But then he’d disappear for the rest of the night to,…you know.

To be sure, I wanted to be noticed. I wanted a boyfriend and, in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, the gay bar seemed like the best option. (Seems sad when I type it.)

“You can’t be so sensitive,” a closer friend said. “And don’t you think he’s kinda cute?”

Miss you, Mary.

The answer was usually “No” and occasionally “Not anymore.” And then ten or fifteen minutes later, I’d say goodbye to whoever was still present in my little group of barflies, walk back alone to my parking spot, closer to The Beverly Center than the bars, and drive home, wondering, What’s wrong with me? Is this what gay is all about? Wasn’t the theme from the “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” supposed to be my song? What if I don’t make it after all? (Maybe I should’ve been more literal with my inspiration and followed Mary Richards to Minneapolis.)

My indignation made me a fuddy-duddy. I was out but still an outsider. Frequently I’d ask, “Is this all there is?” although I learned to keep the question in my head after the fuddy-duddy label. (I gave it to myself. People would just hear me rant, put their drink down and say, “Yeah, I think I’m going to check out the scene at Micky’s.”)

Basically, the feedback I got—expressly or otherwise—was that groping was just part of the gay bar scene. It’s what gays do along with drinking too much, taking Ecstasy and staring at the crotches of go-go boys. Too much real conversation was overrated, a buzz killer.

I revisited L.A. a few months before I turned fifty (I’m still pretending that was just yesterday) and some of the same friends and I found ourselves back in the same West Hollywood Clubs. There was a déjà-vu as the peripheral friend dumped us within the first forty-five minutes, leaving with a muscled twenty-something as though nothing had changed. At Rage, we danced and I got groped by a sexy man two decades younger than me. Instead of outrage, I was flattered, a sad reaction to what I’d always shunned. I knew all too well that I’d reached pasture-grazing status in the gay world. I didn’t have a beach home in Huntington Beach or drive a Mercedes or have personal trainer sessions three times a week like my ageless, never-worked-a-day-in-his-life peripheral friend. This ass grab made me feel noticed and younger. The guy didn’t even flee the bar when I turned and he saw my face in the admittedly dim lighting. Later, my group drifted to Revolver and yet again I got groped by another attractive younger guy. Still no indignation. Still flattered. I was a hypocrite. I was that desperate to feel young again, to feel looked at—even with a leer—instead of being looked past.

Maybe it is time for a new etiquette in what few gay bars remain. Before my time, I’d heard about sex in dark corners and backrooms but, at least to my knowledge, those things were the lore of an earlier generation. And, thankfully, I never had to figure out the colored hanky codes. We’ve done away with smoking in clubs. Perhaps it’s time for kamikaze groping to be retired, too. Should be easy to do away with. Anyone who wants random contact can hookup online or at some outdoor site that’s widely talked about on other internet sites. Maybe the clubs can turn up the lights a notch and people can actually get to know one another through sustained conversation. If we go retro, let us “Vogue” without that extra hand movement. Can we stop the anonymous groping in bars or is this still the wishful thinking of a (hypocritical) old fogy?