The Search for Love in Manhattan A gay odyssey of neurosis
Friday, February 28, 2003
Oh, all right, all right. From the multitude of comments on yesterday's post urging me to give the Drip guy another chance, I can see that some people won't be satisfied until they get the whole story.
Which is that there's another guy I really like, who might actually like me.
I've refrained from mentioning him so far in these pages, because he first encountered me by reading my blog, and we all know what happened last time I tried that. He e-mailed me to ask me out after seeing the picture of me in a cucumber and mud mask. After an abortive first attempt to meet, we finally had dinner on Tuesday.
And he was charming, and handsome, and funny, and totally hot. And he wants to get together again.
Which is why I am less than totally enthusiastic about Mr. Drip. Nonetheless, I will take all the advice to heart.
I'm sure that, if I put in the least bit of effort, I can make a horrible mess of the whole situation.
It was a mildly extraordinary event. We hit it off: we laughed, we joked, we scorned people, we talked about opera and Miss Manners, we discovered that I knew his roommate, who had actually tried unsuccessfully to set us up at one point, we had a generally fabulous time.
And I wasn't attracted to him at all.
Not that he wasn't an attractive fellow; quite the contrary—handsome in a very manly, wholesome way. But there wasn't a single spark of physical chemistry between us.
I have no idea what to do. I can't very well e-mail him and say, hey, it was great to meet you, I'm not attracted to you, let's be friends but in a completely nonromantic way.
Of course, he hasn't e-mailed me either, so maybe he feels the same way.
The ski trip in the Poconos with the gay cheerleaders started out beautifully. There were six of us in attendance: me, L.O. (the captain), the gymnast, the bodybuilder, the pretty one, and the Jersey boy. (I'm not giving the last four initials, because it would just be too confusing, and also they aren't relevant to the story as individuals.) It rained on Saturday, which meant that we didn't have to ski; we were of course all thrilled and relieved, the obligation to ski having been the only downside to the trip.
So instead of skiing we went shopping at the outlet mall, where I bought things that I liked, needed, and couldn't afford even at outlet mall prices. Long live plastic.
After such a delightful afternoon, one might ask, what could possibly go wrong?
We went to a bar, that's what.
Even this started out promisingly, with my virgin karaoke performance ("I Don't Know How To Love Him" from Jesus Christ, Superstar) a smashing success. Then I went upstairs to the bar and smiled at the cute, shirtless bartender, who smiled back at me.
Then everything started to go to hell.
One of the other cheerleaders (the bodybuilder), on whom I had theretofore had a crush even though, as my friend D.R. says, he looks like a young Bob Hope, saw the cute, shirtless bartender smiling at me and said, "Oh, he does that to everybody."
My soul shriveled into a little ball of self-hatred and despair.
Then the young Bob Hope said, "Hang on a second," and walked away. He came back three minutes later and said, "He asked me to meet him after close."
Any normal person would of course have committed entirely justifiable homicide. However, since my soul was now, if you'll remember, a little ball of self-hatred and despair, I just said, "Oh," and went into the bathroom and tried not to cry.
Of course, it gets far worse. The gymnast, the bodybuilder (a.k.a. the young Bob Hope), the pretty one, and the Jersey boy all got roaring drunk (L.O. and I weren't drinking--I because I don't, he because he had to drive), and the gymnast and the bodybuilder started dancing shirtless in the gogo cage, clearly having more fun at that moment than all the fun I have had in my life put together. I watched them in agony for a while, torn between my desperate desire to join them and actually have one iota of fun and my mortal terror of joining them and making an utter and complete fool of myself. Eventually the former won out over the latter and I took my shirt off and got into the gogo cage with them.
Where there wasn't really enough room for three people.
And where I felt like a total idiot moron because I have about as much confidence in my ability to move gracefully and suggestively as I have in Ricky Martin's ability to enjoy cunnilingus.
So I gyrated half-heartedly for about two minutes, during which time I was so miserable I wanted to put my eyes out with a carving fork, and then I got out of the gogo cage.
Then the four roaring drunk cheerleaders started to get really annoying, as drunk people tend to do when you are not drinking. There was all this drama about who was taking whom home, and who was trying to avoid taking whom home, and in the end nobody took anybody home. After puttering around for a while I went up to the room I'd slept in the night before to find the drunk Jersey boy blowing the drunk gymnast. I figured this was my cue to find somewhere else to sleep, so I made up the air mattress downstairs. Then I puttered around for a while longer, helping L.O. clean and rolling my eyes with him at the drunken behavior of the other four. It was a shared moment with somebody I like and respect and for the first time since the fateful intervention of the bodybuilder (a.k.a. the young Bob Hope) I felt like maybe my life wasn't a cruel joke somebody had decided to play on me.
At some point in the middle of the night, the bear with whom the bodybuilder had been locking lips all night arrived, and the two of them had annoyingly noisy sex. I comforted myself, however, with the knowledge that L.O. and I had a special bond that was infinitely more meaningful than the shallow fun the drunk cheerleaders were having.
Then, when I woke up the next morning, I found out that L.O. had had sex with the drunk gymnast during the night.
I had forgotten how much it was possible to loathe oneself.
Once again, I've let too much of the day slip by and have neither the time nor the emotional energy to write about my disastrous ski trip. I would promise to do so tomorrow but I have too little faith in my ability to keep my word.
In the meantime, I seem to be going either deaf or insane, or perhaps both. Yesterday I was taking the crosstown bus to gymnastics class and the bus driver said, "Tenth Avenue next."
Except that wasn't what I heard. What I heard was "Goddamn eunuchs."
Though, this being Manhattan, maybe that's exactly what he said.
My dog and I have an advice column that we run from our blog, but nobody ever writes to us for advice. I take this in stride, but it upsets Goblin terribly. She feels inadequate and starts to put on weight, and I cannot pull her away from her soap operas. Sometimes we steal letters from Miss Manners and the late Ann Landers, and this cheers her up a little, and she will change her dress, comb her hair, and join us at the table for a civilized meal.
If you would like advice from a wise Boston terrier, you can write to us here.
Sorry about the commercial, but Faustus is coming home today, and I do not want to write something so interesting that it competes with his account of the gay cheerleaders' ski trip. I could easily do so. I could talk about the time I had to drag my ex-boyfriend across the border from Mexico in a shopping cart, or how my ex-roommate's Felix the Cat doll committed suicide, or the festive year I did not take any holiday decorations down.
But maybe I will save those for my own Upside-down Hippopotamus. Which you should all link to and read every day and tell all your friends about.
Faustus and I went to the gym together two mornings this past week. I would say that we worked out together, but we did not: I use the free weights, and he is afraid of the free weights. But we did end up across from each other on elliptical trainers, where we made eye contact a few times.
We have studiously avoided seeing each other naked in the locker room.
Last night, before he left on his ski trip, we went together to the Apple Store in SoHo. (Readers of my own blog know that I consider the Apple Store a shining mecca of truth, beauty, and sensibility, and god knows the world can use more of that.) We then went someplace called the Café Borgia II, where I paid almost ten dollars for a tea bag and a slice of dry apple pie, and Faustus had a hot lemonade, which he claims tasted worse than Thera-Flu, even after he dumped a ton of sugar into it. I informed him that refined sugar is a poison, but he pointed out that someplace called "Borgia" is an appropriate setting for being poisoned. The café was so ugly on the inside (its décor had probably not changed since it was established in 1975) that we spent part of the time discussing how Hildi would improve it.
Then I came home and watched "Battlestar Galactica."
Tonight I am leaving for the weekend to go on a ski trip with the gay cheerleading squad. I have not been skiing in over twenty years, and I was terrible at it even then. Apparently, though, everybody else on the squad is in more or less the same position, which makes me feel better.
Picture it: a bunch of fags screaming in terror as they stumble down the bunny slope.
In my absence, this man and his dog will be guest blogging for me.
I'll return Monday. I hope my limbs will be intact. I'm certain my dignity won't.
1. that I can now finally ask my office crush out on a date, and
2. that our relationship will perforce be short-lived, because soon I will starve to death.
Even dead of starvation, though, I will still be ahead of the game, because I will no longer have to spend hours a day transcribing tapes of interviews in which people say things like this:
"Yeah, as I told you, the problem is that, seriously, I mean, here, we are a very vanilla house. We don't do a lot of--the mandates we're working on are basically global government bonds and currency, so there's not much that we do in terms of structured credit and derivatives. Even, as I told you, futures are mainly used to hedge some positions or to implement continuing duration strategies, but not as an important distinction or asset class. So, to be frank, I don't really--I think you should probably talk--did you talk to my colleagues in New York on the derivatives side?"
How the hell did I do this job for a year and a half without LOSING MY FUCKING MIND?
Last night, for the first time in my life, I was stood up by a date.
Drip Café had set me up with the zany guy who responded to my profile; we were scheduled to meet there at 8:00. At 8:40, by which time he still hadn't arrived, the Drip people called him at home.
Where he was.
It's not clear to me whether he thought Drip was closed because of the blizzard, or just assumed I wouldn't get through the snow, or what. Writing "theatre" instead of "theater" is one thing; not calling to let anybody know he wasn't going to make it, however, is a far more serious offense. But the Drip woman on the phone with him told me several times that he felt really bad and that he said he would make it up to me. (She also told him, when I came up to the counter once they'd gotten him on the phone, that I was really cute, too, and he'd have to make it up to me big time. So I owe her one.)
Luckily, my friends B.N. and D.R. were already there, having come to Drip to spy surreptitiously on my date, so I just went over and sat down with them and vented and had an Oreo milkshake.
I'm willing to cut him a tiny bit of slack because of the blizzard. We've rescheduled for next week. But he damn well better bring chocolate and flowers.
After writing yesterday's post about my father, I realized I haven't mentioned him much in these pages. This morning I dug up a letter he sent me six or seven years ago around the time of Yom Kippur (the Jewish holy day on which we atone for our sins against God and against other people) that makes it clear why, despite his unfairness with the peanut butter, I hope someday to be half the man he is. (It's a long letter, but worth the time.)
I want to write to you about Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
Actually, the story begins a week earlier, when I was in the synagogue during Rosh Hashanah this year. On the first night I was going through the confession of sins in "Vidui" and "Al Chet." I was focusing on the two alphabetically adjacent sins of "neglect" and "oppression." They will come back into the story soon.
I also found myself thinking about the process of atoning for sins against other people (as opposed to sins against God), which is a 3-part process—repent, make it right, and seek forgiveness. In particular, I was thinking about how hard it is to make it right when the injury is deep and long-lasting—like the terrible wrong I did to you by trying to reject your homosexuality and trying to force you to reject it too.
I wandered out for a library break, and happened to pick up a book called The High Holy Days, where, in a paragraph about seeking forgiveness from the person one has wronged, I found this sentence: "If the injured party is dead, then confession must be made at the grave in front of ten witnesses."
Not to be too melodramatic, but I was suddenly struck with the realization that I did a terrible wrong not only to you, but also to Mom.
I often relive my behavior in those days, wondering how I could have behaved as I did, when, as I tell myself, I did not have the feelings of hostility that Mom did. At first I used to talk about Mom's and my behavior as "we," either "shielding" her from some of the blame, or sharing some of my own. Then last spring with [the therapist you and I saw together], when I acknowledged that she was the driving force, your reaction of "how could you" really rocked me. For, if my behavior was not a reflection of my feelings, that didn't make my conduct any more excusable, but less so, because I should have known better.
In those conversations you talked about the fact that Mom couldn't help herself because of the way her upbringing formed her personality. And that is where, in failing you, I failed her. Instead of passively following her lead and shrinking from arguing with her, I should have been struggling with her for your sake and for her sake, to help her do the right thing which I knew she could not do by herself.
These thoughts didn't come all at once. They started with the sentence I quoted above, but the next impetus was another book in the synagogue library—one that I picked up by accident.
I had looked at some books and picked one up to take home that first night of Rosh Hashanah. When I got home I saw the book I had was not the one I had picked out, but quite another one. It was by an author named Faye Kellerman, and was called Day of Atonement. It is a type of Jewish detective thriller, a genre like the Friday the Rabbi Slept Late books (Jewish pedagogy mixed in with the plot).
Anyway, at home I started reading it and couldn't put it down, and it started hitting home. Without going into the whole plot, one theme involves a young Jewish mother who abandons her baby son because of pressure from her parents, and the guilt she feels. I started crying and kept on crying, especially when I read about her "stern, unforgiving father and a passive, bewildered mother."
The book, and its title, started crystallizing some things for me. With a couple of gender switches, I saw myself in the mother who abandoned her son, and in her mother—the "passive, bewildered" mother who followed the lead of the stern father. At that point, the two sins of "neglect" and "oppression" came back to mind. My sin of "neglect" ("passivity") was compounded because I then joined in "oppressing" you, a teen-ager trying to stand up against a united front of two parents.
It's strange how the rabbis may actually have been pretty smart. The first book I mentioned, The High Holy Days, had a paragraph (after talking about how remorse is the key to atoning for sins against God):
For one type of sin no amount of remorse will help: the sin of one man against his fellow. In the case where damage has been inflicted, it must first be repaired. Even after making amends, God will not forgive until forgiveness has been obtained from the injured party.
I have never asked you for forgiveness, and I never could put my finger on why, except that I didn't feel ready yet or entitled to yet. I still don't feel entitled to yet, and I think it goes back to the rabbis' three steps, and while I have been racked with enough pain to feel that I have been working on step 1, I also know that what I did to you has not yet been undone, so my wrong has not been repaired.
And that brings it full circle. I have to help repair the injury I did to you, and the injury I did to Mom. And perhaps the way I make it right to Mom is to help do what she can no longer do, which is to make it right to you—which is what I didn't do before, when I could have prevented so much of your pain.
I don't know if this makes much sense. Next week is Mom's yahrzeit, so maybe I'll "talk" to her about it.
Once, when I was little, my father was going grocery shopping and asked my brother Y. and me what kind of peanut butter we wanted. My brother said he liked Jif best but also enjoyed Peter Pan. I hated Jif and loved Peter Pan, so I said as much and asked him to get Peter Pan.
Upon his return from the grocery store, my father said, "Faustus, since Y. was willing to be flexible and compromise and you weren't, I got Jif."
When I protested that this wasn't fair, he said what he always said whenever either one of us thought something wasn't fair:
"Well, it's like Jimmy Carter always used to say. Sometimes life just isn't fair."
Life has grown much fairer to Jimmy Carter than it was--what with the Nobel Peace Prize and all--and my father, perhaps in subconscious sympathy, has grown much fairer to me. But there's a small part of me that has never been able to let this go.
I have spent the entire day alternating between despair and shock.
Despair because the actor who was my houseguest for a week and whose mere physical presence rendered me almost incapable of spelling flew back to Los Angeles this morning, where he lives.
Shock because someone has actually responded to my Drip personal ad. (For the story behind the ad, click here; for the text of the ad itself, hieroglyphs and all, click here.) I had pretty much resigned myself to the idea that, for whatever reason, my attempts to write a witty, charming, and insouciant ad had produced a document that caused gay men to flee me as they might flee a pair of plaid golf pants or Anita Bryant. And yet someone had read my ad and found it intriguing enough to respond to.
So I went down to Drip and looked at his ad, which was totally charming and funny. His grammar was impeccable, as was his spelling (though he did write "theatre" instead of "theater," but I'm not prepared to write him off yet, since that is his only evident flaw, at least so far). The first word in his self-description section was "zany" and among his biggest turn-offs was "braying pretention." Plus he listed Marshmallow Peeps among his interests.
At the moment, however, Mr. Zany is an unknown quantity and the actor is thousands of miles away.
Thank God I have a dog or I would be so fucking lonely I would die.
I just sat down to write a long and funny post about how the first time I ever came out to anybody (at age fifteen) I was so nervous that I couldn't do it in English, so I did it in French instead, but as I was starting to craft the post, my houseguest, the actor I made out with the other day (and have actually been making out with daily since), returned, and since my huge crush on him has intensified tenfold since last night, when I tried to push things further and he said no, sex is something really important that ought to be shared between two people who have decided to share something really important, his return to my apartment has rendered me completely incapable of concentrating enough to construct a sentence (as this post makes clear), much less an amusing story.
And now I've given away the punchline of the coming-out-in-French story, so there's no point in saving it for later either.
Okay, he's sitting on my couch reading and now I can barely spell.
Not too long ago an oxygen tank exploded in the apartment building across the street from me, killing an old lady and starting a fire that gutted the fifth floor. It got me thinking about fire, which in turn led me to write the following lyric.
Sitting by the fire
That’s supposed to warm my chill,
I wonder if it ever
And I think,
Fire, burn me.
Turn my faults to ash.
Whatever I can’t smash.
Fire, burn me.
Char my sins to black,
‘Til I remember nothing,
And don’t ever bring me back.
Fire in the winter
Should keep the cold outside.
Whoever called it cheery
And I say,
Fire, sear me.
Burn my past away.
On this muddy clay.
Fire, sear me.
Crack me ‘til I break.
Oh, rob me of my memory
And never let me wake.
‘Cause I’m drowning in my flaws.
Test and try me.
Kill the person that I was,
He haunts me.
And I pray,
Fire, melt me.
Wash away my sins.
Where the flame begins.
Fire, melt me,
Pitiful and frail,
‘Til no one here remembers me
Who ever saw me fail.
Today is the one-year anniversary of the day I started this blog (with this post). My bloggiversary, as it were. (Bloggaversary? Blogiversary?)
In preparation for this momentous occasion, I registered my own domain name. I'd hoped to have the web site up and running in time to unveil it today, but, as we all know, the best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft a-gley.
Those of you who live in New York City should make every effort to attend the following show:
Reasons you should attend:
1. He is a brilliant songwriter.
2. The centerpiece of the show is a shriekingly funny mini-musical about the disintegration of my relationship with my ex-boyfriend, called Poodle Rescue.
3. I will be in attendance at every performance, so you'll get the chance to see me, even if you don't know it's me.
In other news, last night I made out with an extraordinarily cute movie and TV actor. He lives in Los Angeles, so there is no real soul-mate potential here. But this is the first time I've ever made out with a movie star, unless you count the time I had sex with the guy who appeared in his own documentary about Jesse Helms, which I don't.
And besides, the guy from last night is much cuter.
Tonight I have my first date with one of my Hurry Date matches. (The end result of the Hurry Date was fairly anticlimactic: out of perhaps ten or fifteen people I circled "Y" for, three also circled "Y" for me. These did not include, alas, the publicist for All My Children.
Surprisingly enough, they did include the guy to whom I made a confession of murder; I'm seeing him tonight. I suspected in the dim bar lighting that he might be a septuagenarian, but I wasn't sure so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. One of the two others responded to my post-match e-mail but not to any subsequent e-mails, and the other didn't even respond to my post-match e-mail, which was okay because I had absolutely no recollection of him anyway.
Not the most fruitful endeavor I've ever undertaken.
I was IMing a couple days ago with this man, whom I love madly though we've never met, when the subject of sperm donation came up, and I realized I'd never mentioned my time as a sperm donor in these pages. Rather than write a long entry about a series of events that happened years ago, I am going to post the lyrics to the (true) song I wrote about the experience. It's called "In The Lesbians' Bathroom." Lyrics are in italics; stage directions are in parentheses and not italicized.
So I'm here
In the lesbians' bathroom.
I've got my own plastic baggie
For making a kid
Right here in my hand.
(Looks at right hand. Sees baggie in right hand.)
I guess I need that hand.
(Shifts baggie to left hand.)
Right here in my hand.
So I'm here
In the lesbians' bathroom.
I brought the right reading material
For making a kid:
Good thing I thought ahead.
The lesbians don't subscribe to Honcho.
I had to get a sperm count
And a motility test.
(Those little guys can swim, lemme tell you!)
And sixty-seven percent of my sperm
Are not deformed.
(Apparently that number is high
Since they started throwing chemicals and shit in the water.)
The lesbians are waiting
With their turkey baster in hand
('Cause they're old fashioned).
So let's just see what Honcho magazine
Has got to say:
"He opened up his eyes and he gasped
At the low-hanging bag of love of the youthful Umberto."
What am I doing?
Me, a father?
Who am I kidding?
Why should I bother?
I can't even commit to a television program,
Much less a child,
Especially not since they moved Gilmore Girls opposite Buffy.
So I'm here
In the lesbians' bathroom.
My senses are numb with terror.
I'm making a kid!
What if he needs advice?
What if he wants to play ball?
What if he throws like a girl?
What if he dresses like a girl?
What if he's . . . kinda cool?
What if he needs a dad?
It might not be so bad.
Especially not with Umberto beside me.
(Breaks off in supreme frustration. Yells offstage.)
IT'LL TAKE ME AS LONG AS IT TAKES ME!
The upshot of the story, in case you're curious: we tried for two years and failed. Not a single doctor understood why. There are no little Fausti running around terrorizing their playmates. We didn't get to perform the mitzvah (Hebrew for both "good deed" and "commandment") of being fruitful and multiplying.
Recently the coach of the cheerleading squad sent us an e-mail listing squad members' positions (flyer, base, mid base flyer). I sent out a response to the squad asking if it wouldn't make more sense to list top, bottom, and versatile. (This was obviously a joke, since with one possible exception everybody on the squad is clearly a bottom.) I got a couple "Grrrrl, you are so funny!" e-mails from squad members. Then the coach sent me an e-mail saying, "LOL, but in all seriousness, team members are discouraged from sleeping with each other, because it can create some very messy situations."
I was like, oh, you spend half an hour at the tryouts talking about the importance of being on time to practice but you wait until NOW to tell us THIS?
I guess it makes sense, though.
Because why else did anybody go out for the squad? If he'd said at the tryouts that we weren't allowed to sleep with each other, we would all have gotten up and left then and there.
Today, after gymnastics class, I was on the crosstown bus and a lady with a cane got on. I got up to give her room to sit down, which she did, after which she thanked me for my kindness. Several times. Then she started talking about how she had found her calling and she was going to become an Orthodox nun. This was different from a Roman Catholic nun, she explained; the Catholic Church was not the true church, having been created by the Bishop of Rome in the 11th century as a means to seize power. She kept on Jesusing at me until my stop came.
And the flabbergasting thing is that I didn't mind at all.
Usually I can barely keep from flying into a rage at the sight of people merely reading the Bible on public transportation. But I kind of enjoyed listening to her.
"Thanks for letting me talk to you," she said as I got off. "And say a prayer for me, for my legs."
This afternoon I overheard the following conversation on the subway:
BLACK GUY (to WHITE GIRL dressed in faux Black Girl Outfit): "You know, because of the state of the country, the way things are and stuff, your parents owe my parents some shit. Like 40 acres and a mule. But you can make up for it by buying me a drink."
WHITE GIRL: "That doesn't make any sense. I'm a first-generation American. My parents are immigrants."
SECOND BLACK GUY (to WHITE GIRL): "Your parents immigrated from South Africa."
WHITE GIRL: "So? That's like saying all Germans are Nazis. That's hating."
FIRST BLACK GUY: "I should just walk around Wall Street giving people invoices. 'Here, I'm from the Corporation of the Freedmen's Bureau, and you owe me 40 acres and a mule.' I should go to NBC and give them an invoice. 'You owe me 40 acres and a mule, or equal value. I'll take a sitcom deal.' I'd sure as shit be funnier than David Alan Grier."
WHITE GIRL: "Yeah."
It's times like this that I wish I supported capital punishment.
N.B.: I posted twice yesterday. This is it for today.
What L. said to me after ten minutes of making out after watching Lara Croft: Tomb Raider tangled up with me on my couch:
"This is an awkward moment to say this, but less awkward now than in ten minutes. . . . I'm not really into this."
What I said:
"Well, drat. . . . You're right, it is an awkward moment, but I understand."
What I should have said:
"You're damn right it's an awkward moment, especially since you had the opportunity to say the same thing when you lay down on my bed ten minutes ago or when I asked you if you wanted to come into my bedroom fifteen minutes ago or when you put your arm around me on the couch two hours ago or in fact at any number of times before now, any of which would have spared me at least some of the utter humiliation I feel at this moment, plus when you showed up at my door I was appalled to see that what I'd thought (in the dim restaurant lighting) was blond highlighting was actually premature graying, and anyway I spent most of the movie thinking about how my office crush is so much more interesting and attractive than you are, so get out of my fucking apartment, you bastard."
I'd thought for one brief, shining moment that there might actually be somebody I didn't hate.
When I was six, I picketed my house, hoping to be allowed to eat breakfast before getting dressed rather than after.
I marched back and forth in front of our front door, carrying a sign that said "BREKFAST FIRST DRESSED LATER."
My parents, being civil rights workers, didn't cross picket lines, and that was the only way into or out of our house,
so they were trapped there until they acceded to my demand.