Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dance Me to the End of Love

As I'm writing this entry, I am waiting for a call from a gal pal of mine to go dancing. While I don't really know how to dance (and am not necessarily good at it when I make the attempt), it was me who extended the initial invitation to go out this weekend. Since that fateful night where I was offered oral sex by Pietro (see the previous post "The Night of the Musical Candlelit Bath"), I have been missing having real fun with friends who treat me and respect me as such. One thing that came to mind: a carefree night of swing dancing with my best (female) friend in high school. That was a beautiful memory forever lost to time: that friend has now sadly passed away. But inspired by that loving innocence, I asked a female friend of mine to go out with me dancing tonight. Just for fun, to have a girl who would dance, physically, with me.

My experience dancing in the gay community, if it really could be considered experience, started with Farid (see my article: "First Time in a Gay Bar", July 2010). Farid was a very close friend whom I fell in love with, as discussed in the last two articles of this blog. I went with Farid to the Stud, his favourite weekend hangout, one time as his invited companion. When he went out to the dance floor, I naturally assumed that he would need someone to dance with. I was sadly mistaken: apparently dancing with people was a tradition lost to us somewhere back in the 19th century. Farid had talked to me about dancing with guys at the Stud before. But that right was not reserved to friends like me, even as his invite for the evening. Oh well, it's not my scene. Whatever floats his boat.

Sometime over the summer and autumn of 2010, a year after my friendship with Farid had begun, I found myself in love with the guy. It wasn't my intention, as I've discussed in previous posts. I'm only human. We went on vacation together in May and went to the Stud together in June. By August I recognized that my feelings were indeed dedicated to Farid, to such an extent that I was no longer homosexual but rather 'Faridsexual.' The thought of no other man could please me, the thought of him pleased me a bit too much, and I was often unenthusiastic about dating anyone new for that reason. I jumpstarted my "online dating" life as a distraction, and despite being more popular than ever (with 80 messages a day for a while), I didn't really go on any dates. I prioritized Farid. By October of last year, I was head over heels mad for him, and I knew I wanted him to be my guy, my husband, my whatever. I wanted to love Farid openly and physically, hoping to help realize for him that dream he expressed to me in the previous article "Finding Our Way: My Friend's Story." I even started practicing what I knew I would have to master, sexually-speaking, to be a good mate for him. In order to relate best to him, I knew I had to compromise, accept him for who he is, and play at his level.

The same gal pal (Lily) that I am going dancing with this evening has been very encouraging toward me developing a relationship with Farid. She recognized that I was in love with him before even I did, and even after I saw it in myself, I wouldn't admit it to her. So she would always ask me about him. Apparently people are more intuitive about these things than I am. Finally, I caved and told her all about how I felt.

The Kiss

Through the late summer and fall, Farid went through one of the most difficult and depressing periods of his life. He couldn't find a job, had lost confidence in himself to find work, and isolated himself (except to have anonymous sex--he used it to get off and make himself feel better). I was there for him during this period, visited him regularly, and wrote him every day just to keep him company so that he knew someone was thinking about him. He read my e-mails religiously, even if I didn't have much of interest to say (although he wouldn't check his e-mail with the same frequency that I wrote them).

I wanted to make the big move with him--to kiss him on the lips. I was going to confess my strong feelings for him in person, with two letters written to him (one to give him if he accepts me and one if he rejects me). However, no man as 'instinctual' and 'visceral' as Farid would find that very romantic or sexy, and any such confession was doomed to fail. Polling a large number of people on the topic revealed that such confessions fail 100% of the time anyway, regardless of the people involved. I needed to find a way to show him physically how I felt. So I abandoned the letters and the confessional speech and opted for a "spontaneous" kiss.

My friend Lily invited me back to her house, taped gauze to her mouth, and coached me as I practiced kissing her. Farid and I tend to kiss very tenderly on the cheeks twice when we part (bisous), so close to the lips that the fact that I hadn't accidentally lost my kiss virginity to him was a minor miracle. So my best strategy: a bisous malfunction, a kiss on one cheek and then 'slip' and go in for the gold! What an amazing experience that would be, I thought--my first kiss, with a man I feel so passionate about.

While I was ferociously lunging at Lily's gauzed lips, she pointed out that I was being a bit too forceful and strained. I just needed to lighten up, relax, let it happen. Then, if he pulled back, just end it there (without any apologies or looking down--a 'have no shame' approach). But if he remains close, it would be possible to go in for another kiss, and another, and another. Then, charmingly, she performed oral sex on her dildo to give me some pointers there. Her homework for me--go home and practice kissing my pillow for the big day. It was certainly an evening to remember!

I didn't succeed to kiss Farid that next day when I came over for dinner. He only kissed me once on the cheek and then turned his head and went in for a hug instead of a second kiss. It was sweet, but I was already nervous and flabberghasted by the change in routine, to such an extent that I didn't even really return the hug with any enthusiasm. But everything was still good between us.

This was mid-October 2010. A week or two after the failed kiss, Farid got a call from a company seeking his expertise, and they wanted him to come in for an interview. I just happened to randomly intersect him on the street when he was coming back from his meeting, and he seized me and kissed me happily on the cheeks to greet me this time (a rarity for a greeting between us). As it turned out, the outlook was really promising for him getting the job. Indeed, a couple of days later, he got an offer and e-mailed me with the good news--he was starting work on Monday. Even my mom was shrieking with delight that night when I told her the good news on the phone, and she didn't even like the guy (because Farid had refused to meet her when she was visiting Montréal and happened to be across the street from us once). I was, needless to say, overjoyed and proud of my friend.

I called him and set up a time for us to meet for dinner that weekend, to celebrate his last moments of freedom, and I let him choose the restaurant and the time. So on Halloween, I cleared my schedule (which only involved accompanying Lily and her daughter for trick-or-treating with several other people) and met Farid at the restaurant. He tried to position himself closer to the cash register, but I didn't let him get near it-- it's a party, dinner's on me!

We had a great conversation, as usual, and at the end of the evening I gave him five of my favourite type of baklava, one for each day of the work week. Then I walked him to his place to keep him company. Outside of his apartment building, he said that he would write me an e-mail the next evening to tell me how his first day at work went.

Then, we went to kiss each other on the cheek, and something weird happened. Our heads were crossing each other head-on instead of sliding past each other. I froze, we approached again with our heads all crossed up, I froze again, then he pushed my head to the side and we gave each other kisses on the cheek as usual. I sometimes wonder if Farid had wanted to kiss me on the lips--this was the beginning of a new era for him, he felt reenergized, and there I was with him to celebrate his coup. Lily thinks so, and I know he felt quite tenderly for me in that moment, but I'm more inclined to conclude that the head mixup was just an accident.

The Dance

In any case, Farid didn't write his e-mail. I didn't necessarily expect him to, as I knew he would be exhausted after his first day of work. I just kept writing the daily e-mails as I usually did, although no response. I was dying with anticipation to see how he liked it. I thought about calling (and should have), but I wanted to be respectful and not interrupt his now only 4 hours of free time in the evening (he is, generally speaking, a man who exhausts easily). If he didn't have time with me, that was fine. Things have to change between us to adapt to his new reality. But that didn't mean I didn't squirm any less, or that I didn't think of him any less.

So, drastic action was needed. Why not intersect him when I knew he wouldn't be busy adjusting to his new reality--why not go back down to the Stud? We had a reasonably good time the first time we went last June, and while his promised other invitations to go out dancing never came, I figured it was high time I make a special appearance. Furthermore, just in the last week his good friend that he always chatted with at the Stud moved away quite suddenly, so I knew he wasn't going to have his usual company there.

Not only that, but I should go a little wild, express myself a little. Farid is a visceral guy who likes people who act and react and feel over rationalizing an analyzing. I, on the other hand, have already proved myself to better at the latter than the former. One example, Farid told me how much he enjoyed it when one of his beautiful (now ex) boyfriends was dancing with him at the Stud and took his shirt off. Why not try to dance with him, then let off a little steam and take my shirt off? Not necessarily "for him" like his ex, but casually in his presence?

I literally HATE taking my shirt off in public and rarely do it, even at the beach. Even though I'm in shape and reasonably well-proportioned (although not particularly muscular), when I was an adolescent I used to be embarrassed by my abundant hair and pimples on my chest and back. That mentality of keeping my shirt on at all costs remained to some extent with me, even though the rationale faded. The pimples are long gone, and there's more hair than ever on my chest, which these days I have more manly pride in than embarassement. Still, taking my shirt of in public, particularly in a hypersexualized environment, is a big deal to me. With a thorough rationalizing, I figured I would be ok taking my shirt off in a place like the Stud. It's kind of a 'bear' hangout, and the guys there tend to be chubbier (although not often that muscular) and think that facial and body hair is really attractive (as does Farid).

The other factor was age: considering the average age of the clientele at the Stud seems to be somewhere around 45-50, I figured coming in as a 25 year old and taking my shirt off would not be a strongly unappreciated gesture, even if I'm not hugely muscular. I would likely be the youngest person in the bar, and my youth is apparent in the form of my body. And considering the gay subculture does worship at the altar of youth, I could work that to my benefit. The first time we went to the Stud, when we left together, he was behind me leading me out with his hands on my thighs. I figured that he wasn't embarassed to be seen leaving with me. To the contrary, he made a production out of it, as if to show off the prize he was taking home. So, I already knew that, in the environment of his peers (many regulars of the bar that he knows and has probably had sex with), he wasn't embarassed and perhaps even proud to be seen with me. That is a huge relief to know, going into such an environment, where everyone is so intent of standing around trying to out-cool each other (even though they are all several decades too old for that kind of behaviour).

The other factor, of course, was to consider whether Farid would be hunting for prey that night. He had told me a while back that he only meets guys online for sex and no longer picks them up in bars. He just goes there to dance, and he dances alone and talks to his one friend who is now gone. But I figured I should keep an eye on him before approaching him, to make sure that I am not inserting and interrupting in such a hunt, lest he had something in mind. I understand how ridiculous this must sound (and what a dick he must sound like), but Farid is very keen on his privacy and is very stubborn in his plan of action. If he's going to do something, it's best just to shut up and not to get in his way.

So, given all of the above, I figured that approaching him to dance a bit and taking my shirt off all sounded like reasonable plans of action, other than of course conversing with him at some point about how his job is going. I also strategized that, to surprise him, I should pinch his butt (which is how he always joking about as the way people greet each other in that bar) and startle him, as a prank like my jeans prank (again, for more on that, see the article "First Time in a Gay Bar").

So that weekend would be the weekend when I descended the ladder from my cloud of adult high-minded manners, intellectualizing, and civility, and get my hands dirty in the visceral world that Farid knows and loves: the Stud, where people dance the night away, stare each other down, watch each other piss, watch porn, and touch each other inappropriately. In other words, I figured I could have the opportunity to court Farid in the place and the way he would like to be courted, treat him in the way he would like to be treated.

I'd go the extra mile for him (literally), just to catch up and learn about his week, and try to let loose and have a little fun in the process. Most of all, I just wanted to dance with him, like I know he's done with other guys in the past (why not dance with friends, it's fun!) and like I want to do with Lily tonight as I write this post. Dancing is only really truly fun, in my opinion, when you do it with someone. Not all alone, like Farid is most of the time.

I wanted to surprise him and didn't know what night he'd be there, so I went down there Friday night, made a couple of revolutions of the dark, dingy dive wrapped up in my thick winter coat, scanned the room, and headed promptly back out into the night. Mission not accomplished. I knew he'd more likely be there on Saturday anyway, as that's the only day that's not a week-night. I assumed he'd probably be too exhausted to go out on Friday his first week of work. But I wanted to cover my bases in case he was feeling energetic.

Saturday night was the more likely option, and I found myself thinking about it and squirming all day before that fateful night, my second visit to the Stud. I tried to play all of the possible scenarios in my head, consulting others on what they thought of such an environment. Everyone around me seemed to be encouraging. Even the concierge of my apartment buiding mysterious said to me, "have fun tonight, really, get out there and enjoy yourself." She had no way of knowing that I was going out, so I saw it as a sign. The stars were aligned, tonight was my night! Things were going to happen, my life would change forever.

Lily, being more in-touch with the more 'physical' and 'visceral' aspect of the romantic pursuit, thought my strategy was awesome (couldn't believe that I was going to go dancing crazy and half naked) and could help Farid see me differently. She only had one bit of additional advice: try to kiss him on the lips in the club! I told her that I was pretty sure what I was doing was enough as it was, and I shouldn't go overboard, but we would see. Another friend of hers and mine was encourging as well: "your friend will be really happy to see you and know that you thought enough of him to search him out in his favourite bar." The problem with all of this great advice, and it was great advice, was that it was from women--rational, logical, emotionally coherent women who could understand my viewpoint. There's a reason why there are no women in the Stud. That is one ugly bunch of people.

So tonight was the night, I had to make my impression. I had had a lot of soda to drink that day, and I always feel a little bit chubbier after drinking a lot. However, my body looks good in my eyes when I wake up dehydrated in the morning. If I was going to take my shirt off, I wanted to look my best, so I was going to try to dehydrate myself. I had an hour and a half to do so, so I got in a scalding-hot tub of water and suffered there, sweating, until I couldn't take the heat anymore. Then I lay out on a towel to sweat until I stopped sweating. Then I'd plunge back into the hot bath to start sweating again. I repeated this cycle several times, then showered off at the end. I didn't feel I looked as good as in the morning, but it would have to do. One thing was for sure--I had sweated a lot, and I had arrived at being very dehydrated and somewhat tired.

So off into the night I went. Tonight is the night! The mystery, the excitement, the adrenaline, the possibility! What's the worse that could happen? Considering I wasn't going too too overboard, with kisses and inappropriate touching, I figured that any rejection I could possibly receive would be mild and leave the friendship intact. That was the downside. The upside, the hoped-for goal, was a reciprocation of my gestures, and my life changed for the better--with my beloved at my side. Only a madness would make the overly tame, sedate, and reserved me consider any of the course of actions I've discussed above.

I entered the dingy, dark, crowded bar, as on Friday night, and made several revolutions around the interior, exploring its various cubbyholes (but not daring to go to the second floor) without seeing Farid. I was a bit disappointed: after all that buildup and anticipation, I'll have to wait until next weekend. Then, as I was heading out, I caught sight of him on the dance floor, wearing a simple white t-shirt and jeans. At first, it was almost an instinct--in a room full of men I could "feel" him in my presence. I recognized an outline of his body--his head, his well-proportioned chest, his shortness. I approached from behind, and saw him (from behind) well enough to confirm--it was him, it was my best friend, my guy. The whole room faded. Ishah! Wow! In that moment, he was the most beautiful man, not only in the room, but in the world to me. His beauty was flawless and infallable. He was amazing. I had to press on--he was worth it.

So I abandoned my coat at the coak check and headed back to where I was standing before on the edge of the dance floor. He wasn't there anymore, however. Where could he have possibly gone? I had to be careful at that point not to be sighted by him, as it would ruin the surprise. Then I spotted him, directly opposite of where I was, leaning on the side wall and watching the dance floor between us. He didn't look like he was having fun. I moved over to his side of the dance floor and wedged myself next to some guys, probably about three bodies from where he was standing, waiting for the appropriate moment to perform phase 1 of my operation: the surprise butt pinch, which would be easiest to carry out once he was back on the dance floor so I could get behind him.

There I waited and waited. The good news was that he was just waving and saying a simple unenthusiastic 'hi' at people he knew passing by, and he definitely didn't seem to be on the prowl that night for anything special. But Farid also wasn't going back on the dance floor. I tried to play it cool, but at some point he started staring in my direction and then, yes, directly at me. I had to abandon Operation Butt Pinch--he'd seen me, was staring at me and trying to read me. He clearly recognized me somehow but couldn't identify me with certainty in the dark. So I just approached him, and a surprised smile spread across his face. "What are you doing here?" he asked me, "did you come down here all by yourself?"

I was laughing and told him that I was there to see him and ask him how his first week on the job was. He said it was great, he was learning alot. I don't know what I expected to hear, but he seemed to have relatively little to say about it, all things considered. He told me about his difficulties finding a place and time to pray in his workplace, about the fact that he was going to have to miss another interview, a little about his new coworkers. It was difficult to keep up the conversation, as he would drift off and lose his concentration as he watched the people around us. I asked him if I could get him a drink, and he said no, he wasn't thirsty. I was tired and dehydrated myself, so I just tried to fill the gaps in the conversation by watching people and laughing (rather fakely and half-heartedly) at some of the odd interactions that were unfolding before us, trying to make conversation from it. He wasn't the gentle, caring protector he had been with me the first time we went to the Stud in June--he wasn't touching me all over my arms or my shoulders like before. So far, not what I was expecting, based on previous experience, and not going as planned. But the night was young.

Then he went out on the dance floor, and for the first time, I followed suit and danced on the dance floor right next to him. The first time I went to the Stud, as described in the previous post "First Time in a Gay Bar!," I had danced but not actually gone out on the defined dancing space itself. This time I was out on the floor itself, with him, dancing in whatever way I could think of. It was a crowded night, and there was hardly any room to dance, period. I tried to keep my mom's advice from long ago in mind, "it's all in the shoulders."

However, as the previous time, he refused to orient himself toward me--I found him ignoring me completely and then eventually found myself squeezed directly behind him. The dance floor at the Stud is fairly small anyway, surrounded by posts, and I was further wedged between him and a post with no room to move. After about 5 or 10 minutes out on the dance floor, Farid bailed. I followed suit. Too crowded for him, he said. It had been too crowded for my tastes from the start, but perhaps that was a good thing--I didn't have to be as good or try as hard.

So we stood on the side and talked a little, him moving his body at certain points in the music and not at other points. I said something about feeling hot, and I was sweating heavily in my sweater. I couldn't figure out what was making him tick, as none of the music was really my style (and with very ugly English lyrics that Farid couldn't understand), and I was having a hard time motivating myself to move to it at all.

Then eventually, he went back on the dance floor. There was more room this time, this was my chance! I went out to the dance floor with him, we were there for a few minutes. Again, he just absolutely refused to orient himself toward me. I surveyed the room--there were plenty of other guys with their shirts off, and most of them were much less impressive than I was. So hey, why not, just do it! At least you won't be the most atrocious-looking shirtless guy in the room. I'm not among a bunch of hypermuscular maniacs, just average guys like me, but older. I'm in good company, so go for it! I first maneuvered my arms out of their sleeves, and I stayed like that for what seemed like ages (it must have been only a second or two, however). Then I whipped off the shirt and started dancing again.

I'm sure part of it was my imagination and fear in that moment, but suddenly the mood changed. It had been crowded enough around me earlier that guys behind and to the side were knocking into me. All of a sudden, it was like the dance floor around me started to vacate. I suddenly had way too much room to dance. I looked at Farid and smiled. He noticed that I had taken my shirt off, and scanned over very briefly and apathetically, only the slightest smile, and lowered his head to ignore me. While I kept dancing, I felt like a million eyes were staring at me at that moment, judging me. The dance floor was surrounded by a ring of men looking toward the dancers, many probably looking at me. I'm very good at shutting out the world around me, and I dared not look back. But I could feel it, it was so powerful; it was awful! Farid continued doing his thing, ignoring me completely, for another couple of minutes, and I stayed to his side. But the fact that the floor around me was evacuating, no one was bumping into me any longer, it was all just too creepy. And there was absolutely no interest on Farid's part to dance with me.

So I made a moved to position myself behind Farid, next to one of the posts on the edge of the dance floor, to be less obvious. I was trying to think of anything to develop an interest. Was it too late for the playful butt pinch? At that moment of my repositioning, Farid turned around and bolted without saying a word. I had to charge after him, in my shirtless state (no time to react to put a shirt on), as he protruded through the crowd of onlookers. Most of them were staring at us, and particularly me. I grabbed Farid's shoulder and said, "Farid." He retorted quickly, pressing forward and hardly looking back, "I have to go to the bathroom." I continued, "I'm too hot, I think I'm going to go home now." He nodded, again without stopping to look back, almost all-too vigorously and affirmatively. We reached at that point the entry way into the well-lit pool room on the way to the bathroom and the vestiary. At that moment, I didn't know how to think or feel--only vulnerable (without my shirt on), unwanted. Generally, I felt like a freak. I threw on my sweater, as all the guys at the entrance to the pool room turned toward me to look at me with their typical ferocious, unfriendly stares (as described in "First Time in a Gay Bar").

In the better lit, less crowded space, and with my sweater finally back on, I got Farid to stop for me outside of the toilet. I told him that it was nice to come down to see him considering he hadn't had the chance to e-mail me. He promised he would e-mail in the future. Then we wished each other goodbye. He gave me the typical tender, very close-to-the-lips bisous. He at least wasn't entirely averse to being seen with me, I guessed, but certainly almost a 180 degree turnaround since my treatment like his young prince the time I came to the bar with him. I plastered a huge smile on my face and said goodbye, retrieved my coat, and then walked by again and looked into the bathroom (door wide open) to see him standing there waiting for the stall to become available. In that moment I thought: how cute, he's too embarassed to use the urinals, like me. He had a particularly sad, tortured expression on his face as he looked out at me, cowering from the protection of a bathroom that I could have easily entered. He was obviously going to stay a while longer. I waved slightly, probably also with an equally sad expression on my face, and finished throwing on my sexy Parisian winter coat.

The Aftermath

It was my turn to bolt--straight out of the bar into the nearby McDonalds. There, I took care of my most immediate problem--my dehydration--with a large Sprite, downing the entire thing in probably 30 seconds. I ate the ice on the way home, despite the fact that it was a particularly cold autumn night well below 0 C, and I was chilled from my sweaty pullover. As I was walking home, so many things were pulsing through my mind. Maybe it wasn't as bad as I thought it was. Maybe there was no reason to see it as a rejection. Having a bad night in a gay bar is probably something of a rite of passage. But there was no way to see anything that happened that night in a positive light either.

The shock of my friend's poor treatment was even greater than what I imagined. My friend Farid did not want me. Not only did he not want me, which was hard enough as it was, but he also didn't want to be seen with me. He seemed even embarrassed and also implicitly wanted me to leave, as soon as possible. His behaviour demonstrated nothing but profound apathy for me (shirt on and esp. with shirt off). And for what? So that he could be all alone and dance all alone in that room full of hairy arses?

After all of my investment, my friendship, my attention, my time, my love, that's what I get in return? As far as I was concerned, it was tantamout to a betrayal. It was the ugliest thing a friend could ever do to me and the worst way he could ever treat me (at least that's what I thought, until the Night of the Musical Candlelit bath three months later). This betrayal was on top of the fact that I was already highly sensitive from mourning the death of the friend I mentioned at the beginning of this e-mail (she had died in the previous week), the one I had had so much fun dancing with. She danced with me, she held my hand. But she was gone.

I couldn't go home. I just sat in a residential part of the Village on a staircase leading up to an apartment building, not thinking, not feeling, just empty. I was there for so long, Farid probably even passed me there on the bus on his way home. Then I found myself just standing in the middle of Parc Lafontaine for nearly an hour, at 2 a.m. on a cold wintery morning, walking back and forth. Every bone in my body was shaking to try to keep me warm, but I was unable to make myself go home.

Finally, I did end up going home, a shivering heap. I hardly slept. The next day, I was still in shock. It was the first day in what was to become a very long period of terrible sadness. All of this was coming at bad time--when my Seasonal Affective difficulties (winter blues) were beginning to rear their ugly head. It was going to be a bad winter, I could tell that already.

My psyche had been fundamentally altered, but I wanted to put on a façade so that Farid wouldn't know that I was hurt by that night at the Stud. I told everyone that my sadness was solely due to my friend's death. I continued writing Farid daily e-mails for three more days before stopping altogether (it's not like he bothered to respond anyway). I also dropped off some baklava with his roommate Pietro for them to share after going on my weekly Sunday baklava run. Then I went promptly to the Basilique Notre-Dame to light a candle for my friend who had passed way. Now that was a real friend.

When I came home, I needed to show to myself and the world that something had changed in me. I grabbed at my rasor and shaved every last follicle of my beard down to the naked skin. I loved my beard, and most certainly it was something that Farid found attractive in me considering his tastes. But I didn't care about being attractive to him any longer. I wanted to see myself again and separate myself from his world and the world of the Stud, a place I have vowed never to return to. I needed to see my face and feel young again. The beard makes me look about 10 years older than I am--and it was my choice to seem older to reflect my mentality. But in reaction to what I had just experienced, I needed to enjoy my youth and be treated like a young man again. I needed to be appreciated. That was my way of surviving one of the most depressing and vulnerable periods in my life.

So I end this post preparing myself to leave to go dancing with a real friend. Everyone deserves someone to dance with.

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