Tonight I am going to a gay club with a boy from work and his man. Anyone who knows me even remotely well knows that going out – particularly to a club, and particularly to a gay club – is not really my thing. The crowds! The noise! The tacky fags twerking to Riri trying to get fucked in the bathroom! Bitch please. I am an old man in a (semi) young body; a misanthrope who would rather not participate in…well…anything.
Wanna know a secret? Ok. Come closer. No, stupid. I said come closer! You ready? The whole misanthrope thing? Totally a cover. A facade. A suit of armor to keep the haters, real and imagined, at bay. A character that I have adapted as my real personality. Some days it’s hard to tell where the real Jonathon starts and the fake one, the “interesting” one, ends. Some days The Character completely usurps the boy who still loves putting together puzzles with his grandmother; the man who actually feels compelled to give a helping hand to a person in need instead of staring from the side with some stank ass roll of the eye. Perhaps (oh, Hell, there is no perhaps. I am too self aware for perhaps, gurl) this is why I adore being alone with Julian. He is the only person with whom I feel I can be a total disaster and will still think I am nifty. I have a while to go to be completely free of the need to put on The Character with him – which is mostly displayed through sarcasm and talking a mile a minute in order to blockade any potential criticism – but out of everyone in my orbit, he comes the closest to getting me to total freedom. We actually hear each other. Probably because we are actually listening.
Various elements of The Character (disgruntled facial expressions, sinking into either hip as if just breathing is an inconvenience, an expansive litany of expletives) morph in and out of focus depending on who I am around. If it is my boss and I like them (which thankfully I do), I am usually closer to Jonathon than The Character; I am eager to pitch in and make it happen for the team (albeit with a groan and a bitch if passersby are inclined to enjoy this type of commiseration…). If I am around straight male friends (which I actually do have a few), I don’t necessarily “butch it up,” but let’s just say I probably won’t be talking about Bette Midler (although there was that one chef who looooooved her…to which of course I responded with a stoic “Yeah, she’s pretty awesome” instead of an arms flailing rendition of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”) If I am around gay male friends/hags/other forms of the feminine persuasion, I take The Character to sometimes epic proportions of stereotype, adopting the black girl swag that all white gay boys learn at the meetings. But there is one group that The Character is without fail in full on Nazi regalia, goose-stepping for attention.
Gay. Straight. Bi. Slightly Comatose. If you are gorgeous, it doesn’t matter. You have paid your admission. You will get the performance of your life.
It may seem counter-productive to play such a douchey part to try and woo the flies to your web, but honey is for pussies. If we learned nothing from the playground, the best way to let someone know you like them is to be an asshole.
This is also indicative to the male persona. Men are taught that to be a “real man” is to be like Hemingway: stoic, narcissistic, and brutish; able to kill dinner with your bare hands and punch out a lion. Ask any rapper. Braggadacio is inherent to the male experience. Which means cutting down others.
Now, take it one step further and cross-breed that with the Gay Male Persona; one constantly trying to balance society’s perception of weakness by overcompensating for the The Velvet Rage with material and aesthetic riches. Now imagine two gay men constantly going toe to toe for masculine dominance. Now add sexual tension. Gurl, there will either be a boxing match or an orgy.
There is a boy (and I say boy because he is 21 and somewhere along the way that became young…..Lord) at work – let’s call him…Dan… – who is stunning. Ridiculously beautiful. If Shakespeare were alive, he would have pages of sonnets. If I were inclined to cheat, he would almost be worth it. He’s also really goofy and seems to be unaware of the power he holds in his…um…hands. So naturally, The Character is always in full tilt boogie around him. It really doesn’t help that he pushes back when I flirt or decide to throw ‘tude. Either he is completely oblivious and is just learning his version of The Character from a seasoned pro or he is well aware that I want his balls and might actually want mine too. (Which as anyone in a long term relationship will tell you is almost too much to imagine or resist) Anyway you slice it, being around him is…hard. (My apologies for the very obvious joke).
So of course hanging out with him tonight without Julian is a great idea. I have no doubt in my mind that nothing will happen (Marge didn’t raise no fool, y’all) despite the presence of alcohol, the menagerie of eager flesh, and the boom boom pow of that incessant bass line that is practically a demand to grind on anything you can. Which makes me wonder why I am going in the first place. To a gay bar at that. Whose historical purpose in Jonathon’s world has always been to get some D. I can get drunk and listen to remixes of “Where Have You Been?” on my couch for half the price and a quarter of the effort.
Which brings me to the real problem with this whole situation. The biggest reason I don’t go out to gay places in the first place.
The need to look amazing.
It is incredibly well known that we are a vain people. Of course, the reasons for this obsession are well documented and common sense when actually analyzed for two seconds, but it doesn’t make them any less real. Nor any easier to overcome. Especially when you know for a fact you will be in the presence of a boy like Dan.
I know I shouldn’t care. I have a man. Christ, we have a house; neither one of us is going anywhere. But to show up among the others looking anything less than fierce would be breaking one of the only social contracts we have.
I almost backed out of going tonight because – are you ready for this? – I felt I didn’t have anything to wear. This from a man who spends 90% of his life in pajamas, old t-shirts, and even while rocking his work clothes, still finds a way to look unkempt and somewhat slovenly. Couple this with the fact that (hopefully) Dan has told his friends that I am attractive (dare he think I am actually hot?!), I am almost paralyzed with the fear to disappoint. Again. Why the hell do I care AT ALL!? Julian thinks I am beautiful. I think I am attractive. Why do I care if Dan, his friends, and a bevy of strangers (none of whom I even have the slightest chance of sleeping with) think I am fuckable? I start wondering if I have time to get chest implants, a butt lift, and whiten my teeth. This is somewhat hyberbolic, but underneath it all, very real fears.
I will also be the oldest one in the group tonight. By almost ten years. How do I play it? Do I act young? Or have I reached the point where that seems incredibly pathetic? Do I rock the cut offs and the wife beater trying to be the crunk twink, the one who gets up on the go-go box and runs his fingers through his hair like Britney at her peak? Do I sit on the sidelines, legs crossed, and glare at the foolishness? Or stand in the corner, drink in hand, desperately trying to emanate this Top energy, and eye-fuck the 19 year old goth boy who is dropping it like it’s hot?
Or maybe, just maybe, I could actually, you know, be myself.
As I approach 30 and “traditional” paths of employment are hopefully on the very near horizon; as my very steady relationship grows stronger with each passing “That’s awesome” and hanging plant; as my values clarify and the conviction to uphold them becomes organic; as the desire to cut through the bullshit and just live becomes the rule and not the exception, so too shall the need for validation from all corners of the triangle.