The Search for Love in Manhattan A gay odyssey of neurosis
Sunday, February 29, 2004
This photo (courtesy of him) from the San Francisco gay marriages moves me more than I can put into words. E.S. and I aren't there yet, but I must confess that little fantasies are popping up in my head, and I'm not always as quick to squelch them as I might be.
Let's just hope our Stepford Government doesn't manage to ruin the whole thing before I can say "I do" to somebody.
I mean, I've said "I do" to any number of men in response to any number of questions, few if any of which are suitable for repetition in polite company, but you know what I mean.
When I was five, I went to summer camp at the Jewish Community Center. I have mentioned this experience tangentially before, in the third paragraph of this post, but never discussed it directly.
The kids at JCC summer camp were split up into groups of eight or ten. On the first day, each group had to come up with an animal name for itself. Most groups ended up choosing ineffably banal names like the Bears or the Lions. I, on the other hand, had been reading a terrific book about exotic animal species, and somehow through the force of my personality (which has never again been so powerful) I managed to convince the kids in my group that we should call ourselves the Golden Eagles.
That night, however, I finished the book and started another.
I went in the next day and insisted that we change our name from the Golden Eagles to the South American Giant Anacondas.
Evidently, the force of my personality had already begun to ebb. The other kids, morons to a one, thought the South American Giant Anacondas was not a good name for our group and decided to stick to the Golden Eagles.
I date my life as a societal outcast from that very day.
E.S. stayed over last night, as he didn't have to be at the hospital today until 1:30. However, as I have written only 2/3 of a show that has already started rehearsals and that opens in roughly a month, the instant I woke up (at the insane hour of 8:00) I leapt at the computer and started working.
E.S. lazed around in bed for a while as I paid no attention to him at all. Then he said, "okay, I'm gonna get going."
Convinced that he was leaving because he was upset I'd been ignoring him, I burst into tears.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"Akjkinejb sdkfjhm, fdohisd," I snuffled moronically.
"I'm worried that you're going to get sick of how much of a mess I am and not want to be with me anymore. Which of course is making me more of a mess."
He started laughing, which made me cry harder.
"Look, honey," he said. "You don't have to worry about me."
A few days ago, I was scheduled to meet with a collaborator of mine in the early afternoon. She called me in the late morning and said, "I'm observing the fact that I seem not to have moved, and I'm wondering what to do about it."
"Well," I said, "it seems to me that you have two options. First, you could operate from an understanding of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which states that the mere fact of observation changes the thing being observed. Or second, you could move."
When I type it now, it doesn't seem that funny, but I promise that in the moment it was, as they say, a laff riot.
Really, I'm telling this story as a way to introduce this link, but I can't for the life of me come up with a graceful segue.
Last night, E.S. and I went to the 50th birthday party of a friend of his, a delightful woman I'd met briefly the last time he and I were dating. Last night's event took place at a Russian restaurant in Brighton Beach, which, for those of you unfamiliar with the geography of New York City, is about as far out in Brooklyn as you can go without hitting the Atlantic Ocean; this means it takes forever to get to.
What I was dreading, however, was neither the travel time nor having to leave Manhattan, but the presence at the party of E.S.'s ex-boyfriend E.W., who lives across the hall from E.S. and with whom E.S. is still good friends.
E.W. hates my guts.
I'd actually spent some time in E.W.'s company the last time E.S. and I were dating, and he was fun, friendly, and charming. However, when the whole debacle surrounding my reconnection with E.S. took place, his volatile, possessive, jealous, over-protective side came out; apparently, he raged and stormed and was prevented from issuing a fatwa only by E.S.'s continued insistence that if he could get over it, E.W. could too.
This would be the first time since E.S. and I started dating again that I'd see E.W., and, as I say, I was dreading it.
In the event, however, I wasn't dreading it enough.
As unluck would have it, we ended up in the same subway car. After greeting me by the moniker Faust (rather than my real name), he spent the entire rest of the now-interminable subway ride neither speaking to me nor looking at me. Finally at one point he was talking about wanting to sit next to the birthday girl. He said, "If I have to supplant somebody, I will, though I've been specifically requested not to beat a specific person up."
I said, "Oh, well, if you've been specifically requested, that's almost an invitation."
E.S. said, "He's talking about you."
"Oh," I said miserably. "In that case."
We finally reached Brighton Beach, got off, and headed towards the restaurant. Just outside the door, E.W. turned to me and said, "Faustus [my real name this time], I'm certain you're aware that there are going to be several people here who wouldn't piss on you if you were on fire."
I wish I could say that I had a snappy comeback, but I was so horrified that all I could say was, "I'm sure there are."
Then he said [I'm quoting almost verbatim], "I don't know what you've told E.S. about your past behavior to him, which you detailed for whatever narcissistic reason on your blog, but if I ever find out that your future behavior to him bears any resemblance to your past behavior, the consequences will be dire."
Then he wished me luck.
Appalled, I thanked him.
Thus assaulted, I went inside to the party, where I was so mortifyingly underdressed I might as well have been wearing nothing but a thong made of Saran Wrap. Furthermore, E.S. and E.W. were the only people I knew at the party, aside from the hostess, who was busy having a blast on her birthday. E.W. immediately sat down at the table with all the fags, which meant that E.S. and I had to sit at the table with all the straight people, who talked about things like where they'd gotten the brooches they were wearing.
The food was dreadful—pickled things and gray meat in grayer sauce, which is terrific if you like that sort of thing, but I don't. Finally, they brought out a huge cake and sang happy birthday, but my hopes of being able to eat and run were dashed when they took the cake away and forced us to watch a dance show of young Russians in costumes that glowed under black lights; after a little of this, the black light dancers left stage and were replaced by two guys in sombreros dancing with canes. This went on and on.
Finally they brought the cake back; E.S. and I gobbled down what we could, and left.
The undergraduate musical theater department at NYU is producing a show of mine at the end of March. The show is about two-thirds finished, which isn't bad, given that they started vocal rehearsals last week. The thing is, the bookwriter-lyricist for the show and I have absolutely no idea if what we're writing will turn out how we want it to. We had the following conversation yesterday:
HER: "Do you think it's working?"
ME: "I'm not sure. I know it's good. I just don't know if it's . . ."
ME: "Exactly. But no matter what it will be good."
HER: "Yeah, but if it isn't transcendent, it's failure."
HER: "I'm not joking."
ME: "I know. Didn't you hear the hint of desperation in that laugh?"
Here is a poem written by my thesis advisor in college.
Two saw George go to school that day.
Two saw George as he went out to play
With his tiny friends in the schoolyard park.
But when he returned under cover of dark,
None saw George and the sinister grin
That slowly grew upon his face
As he interred his best friend Tim,
Whom he had done in with his saws
Beneath the schoolyard jungle gym.
Now why did George do it?
Well, just because.
I knew there was a reason I liked my thesis advisor.
I have spent the last three days thinking obsessively about various posts I made while I was dating E.S. the last time, about people I slept with in various settings and various ways but all connected by the thread of gross disrespect for him. My train of thought has run thusly:
I know E.S. said he read my blog. But he never mentioned such-and-such a post or asked about it, though he might be naturally curious about it, and he asked about other things I wrote about. What if he somehow missed this post? That means that, although he knows in a general sense what a cad I was, there's at least one specific sense in which he doesn't know. I have to tell him. If I don't tell him, our relationship is based on a lie. If I do tell him, what if it's the straw that breaks the camel's back and he breaks up with me, because he hadn't realized up to this point what a jerk I'd truly been? I have to talk to him I can't talk to him I have to talk to him I can't talk to him I--
You get the point. My rational mind realizes that this is all nonsense, that he almost certainly read whatever post I was obsessing about at the time, that even if he missed it somehow, he still knows I was a jerk and has forgiven me, that even if I told him about it and he got mad, he wouldn't break up with me, that it's just not that big a deal.
But try telling that to the norepinephrine flooding my locus ceruleus. And I've been so preoccupied thinking about this that I've become distracted and distant, which in turn is upsetting him, and if I finally work myself up to talking about it with him, I will have invested the issue with such a powerful emotional charge that it will have turned into more than a mountain when really it's less than a molehill.
At least there's a Law & Order marathon on TNT all day to distract me.
Yesterday evening, I realized all of a sudden that I needed to get E.S. a card for Valentine's Day. We'd already decided that we weren't going to make a big deal of the holiday, but for me to let it go by unremarked didn't seem like the right choice, either. At the same time, it would be perilously easy to take, according to the card I'd give, any number of emotional steps I feel completely unprepared to take.
Do you have any idea how fucking impossible it is to find a Valentine's Day card on which the word "love" is not printed anywhere?
Correction: do you have any idea how fucking impossible it is to find a Valentine's Day card on which the word "love" is not printed anywhere but that also doesn't have the words "to the best grandparents in the world" on the cover?
I was on the verge of going to the drugstore, buying red construction paper and rubber cement, cutting out a heart shape, and making my own valentine for E.S. The only thing that prevented me was the memory of the valentines I used to make in school, all of which were so lopsided and deformed that they clearly represented hearts in advanced stages of atherosclerosis. So I kept hunting and came up with this:
The artsily-torn pink paper with the embedded leaves indicates that someone has put some effort into making this card, even if that someone wasn't me. In point of fact, that someone is apparently named Ronin; he, she, or it lives in Wales and, if the information on the back of the card is to be believed, built the thing by hand using recycled materials. The red heart--far more symmetrical than anything I'd be able to manufacture--is a nod to tradition that allows the card to imply an appropriate degree of romantic feeling.
The difficulty of selecting the card was, however, nothing compared to coming up with what to write inside it.
Herewith, the lyric of the song I wrote for and performed at Worst. Sex. Ever. It's not the best thing I've ever done, but the audience did seem to enjoy it. Words in italics are spoken.
Home all alone.
Nothing worth watching on television,
So I log on,
Find someone hot,
Write him an e-mail with swift precision.
He says he can host,
I hop on the train,
Hoping he’s not a gnome—
Should have trusted my gut
And stayed at home.
I should have known.
What kind of freak
Chooses “Jim Jones” as his username? He
Opens the door,
Playing on high all the songs from Fame. He
Says, “Let’s sit and chat.”
Hey, I didn’t join
Men4talknow dot com.
Wish I’d taken the chance
And left for Guam,
‘Cause now he’s
Sawing, sawing, in and out,
With bad technique and no panache.
He doesn’t know what he’s about.
I realize that he doesn’t wash
Behind his ears.
He’s taking years—
Years I could be spending with Jane Austen,
Instead of being lost ‘n’
On a search for love.
He started to strip,
Showing his flab,
And his tattoo—oh, boy, it’s a bad one.
Then dirty talk.
Gee, this is fun.
He wanted my pussy—who knew I had one?
On the dresser, I
Saw displayed a Log
Cabin membership card.
I was shocked enough
To let down my guard,
So now he’s
Shoving, shoving, out and in,
He grunts, he groans, he’s on a roll.
A drop of sweat hangs from his chin.
I start to translate Billy Joel
Songs into French—
Ignore the stench—
“For The Longest Time” was just prophetic.
I feel so damn pathetic on this search for—
Venez, Virginie, n’hésitez pas.
Vous filles catholiques commencez trop tard.
Ah, mais enfin, cela dépendra du destin.
‘Quoi pas commencer avec moi?
My God, if only the good died young!
What am I doing wrong?
I just want to share a one-bedroom
(In the West Village,
‘Cause I’m retro,
And I think gays should live there)
With a Maltese or two
And a lover who has a real job.
He comes home and kisses me softly,
As I ruffle his hair—
No. That’s okay. Just . . . just put it back in.
And now he’s
Poking, poking, left and right.
God, why have you forsaken me?
That’s it: I won’t put up a fight.
I’ll just accept my misery.
I wasn’t meant
To be content.
Macho here can keep on sweat and straining;
I’ll lie back, uncomplaining
While my will to live is draining
But I won’t give up my search for—
I don’t give a flying fuck if you’re tired! You make me come or I’m gonna rip your fucking head off!
I was actually reluctant to post this simply because the French, while grammatically correct, is completely unidiomatic. But then I figured, you only live once unless you're John Travolta, and I'm not, so what the hell.
So my meeting with Hal Prince on Tuesday was among the most nerve-wracking experiences I've ever had, partially because, of the three of us writing the show, one of us (the bookwriter) knew him and had worked with him before, so of course it was the bookwriter whose wife's water broke fifteen minutes before the meeting, so he had to go back home to, you know, have a baby or something stupid like that (some people clearly need to get their priorities straight), and the lyricist and I, who didn't know Mr. Prince and had never worked with him before, had to have the meeting alone.
I won't describe the meeting in detail, mostly because I was in such a state of nervous terror the whole time that I can't really remember any details, but the upshot is that, though he doesn't want to work on this musical, he does want us to send him some more material in different styles to see if he might be interested in working on something else with us.
Of course, since this is the first show the lyricist and I have ever written, having met each other for the first time when we were paired on this project, we have virtually no other material, in this style or any other.
Tomorrow is my meeting with Hal Prince. It is also my two-year blogiversary.
Lately, I've been seriously considering giving up this enterprise. It's not that I figure there's no point in writing it now that I actually have a boyfriend--first of all, we are a long ways away from using the L-word; and second of all, it has become obvious to me and probably to most of you that I am on a search not for the love of somebody else but for self-love, which I am also a long ways away from, except of course in the most carnal sense. And that kind of self-love I am as intimately acquainted with as anybody.
No, it's more a combination of other things. Prosaically, now that I'm spending most of my free time with E.S., it's difficult to find the time I need to craft a post well. When I didn't have a boyfriend, I could just be amusing about the misery of being single; now that I have one, however, I find myself wondering how much of what I feel about him really belongs on this web site and how much should stay in my psyche. There's also the very real tension that I feel when life with him intersects with the blogiverse, given how we reconnected and how badly I hurt him last time. There's also of course the force of entropy working on me: there are actually a lot of things I'm considering giving up, and it's difficult to tell whether it's the mood disorders talking or common sense.
Perhaps it's this last uncertainty that's keeping me from stopping yet--the not knowing whether I really want to stop or whether this is just one more of the things I'm finding overwhelming for no good reason at the moment.
That, and the burning desire to turn this damn thing into a best-selling novel, which I can't do unless I actually finish it, rather than just stopping.
Oh my God oh my God oh my God on Tuesday I am meeting with Hal Prince about my show oh my God oh my God oh my God oh my God the producer of West Side Story and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Fiddler on the Roof and Cabaret and A Little Night Music and a gajillion other things and director of Candide and Sweeney Todd and Kiss of the Spider Woman and a gajillion other things and oh my God oh my God winner of 22 Tony Awards oh my God and what do you think I should wear?
E.S. taped American Idol for me tonight (since it overlapped with Angel) but I'm not going to get to see it until Friday.
How will I live without knowing if Scooter Girl is one of the final 32? Or the hateful Kira? (By the way--if you tell me in the comments, I'll hunt you down and rip your head off.)
I'd never seen the show in my life before this season, and already I'm reacting to missing it like a heroin addict who showed up five minutes after the methadone treatment center closed for the weekend.
N.B.: This week I will be guest blogging--though probably not every day--at Judgment Call, a delightful blog written by a delightful man.
The other night, E.S. asked me, "So, when are we going to have our first fight?"
"I thought we already did," I said.
"Last night, when we were talking about my mood disorders and I snapped at you and said, 'Don't psychoanalyze me,' and you snapped back, 'I'm not psychoanalyzing you, I'm just trying to figure out what the fuck is going on.'"
He pointed out that, objectively speaking, it wasn't much of a fight, especially as we were in bed and so tired that we fell asleep right after this exchange.
But the thing is this: I've gotten in exactly one fight in my entire life, a knock-down, drag-out affair with my next-door neighbor D.T. when we were both eleven years old. There was hair-pulling involved. I don't think E.S. was referring to hair-pulling. He was referring to the kind of argument that people who care about each other have when they get mad and raise their voices and stomp instead of tiptoing and generally rebalance the emotional equilibrium of their relationship.
In other words, something I have never, ever done and secretly believe I'm constitutionally incapable of doing.
I mean, I've raised my voice three times in my life, and two of those times I managed to attenuate what came out before I let it go anyway. One of the attenuated times was when I was five and my mother, three minutes after telling me to pick up my things in one room, asked me why my things were still lying around in another room. I yelled, "I'm not an octopus! I don't have eight arms!"
Except I didn't yell it. I was about to, but right when I opened my mouth I thought she'd get mad if I yelled. So I just sort of said it loudly and then burst into tears.
So, clearly, one snarky exchange is a step in the right direction.
Well, I won't actually be giving a reading. It's one thing for me to write pithy little blog posts about my escapades and misadventures, but 5-10 minutes (the suggested length of time each blogger's material should take) is a lot of pith.
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.