Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Horny Cool Kids: Gay Men from Naps to Ostracism

I woke up this morning in a rather angry mood, which is never a good way to start the day. So instead of going to work right away, I decided to vent here on my unread blog, knowing good and well that I can say what I want to say, lash out at the world, feel the anger drain out of me, and that no one cares. But isn't that really our greatest problem in the gay community--no one really cares about each other, about themselves, about anything? How can such an environment really be constituted as a community?

Unqualified overgeneralizations like that are generally not my style, but here I am boldly making them in speaking from my own experience. What I have lived vis-à-vis gay culture has not been particularly bad but also not all that great. Perhaps I've just fallen in with the wrong crowd, the cock-flashing, torso-tossing, amateur underwear model types, the kind of guy who spends hours each day for years chatting with men and cruising profiles hoping to win the lottery: that tonight will be the night they come upon the perfect guy. In doing so, they lose a lot of time that they could be using to enrich themselves. Frankly, I think purchasing lottery tickets is a better use of resources--at least it only takes a minute and the chances of winning are much higher: one in a million.

Although I hear that some sites are better than others, in general, I don't think the culture of any site or bar is vastly superior to another. The gay men that I've met are not just online--some are people whom I've worked with in volunteer groups and their acquaintances, as well as friends of friends. Men are men, gays are gays, and no site or bar or group catering to gays is immune to that fact.

Even those guys like myself who claim to be in love with love, such as Farid and others, don't impress me much. They tend to be picky, selective, and expel acquaintances, friends and potential lovers out of their life like they are undesirable weeds encroaching on their perfect flower. This when the perfect flower is often fraught with emotional baggage and relational/professional laxity. Stemming from this point, let's just say that I have not been inspired by the professional motivation and work ethic in the gay community, and this holds true for almost every gay man I know, young and old, including myself right at this moment.

I think the key to understanding this issue is held somewhere in an entry that I wrote in September 2010 entitled "Going Older." One of the readers of this blog rightly pointed out after reading it that being homosexual was classified as a psychological disorder in part because subjects were widely believed to have been stunted in their development somewhere in their youth, which explained why they were not able to behave and rationalize like mature adults. I would argue that, on the contrary, we are all capable of behaving like mature and caring adults, but why bother when we create an environment for ourselves in which we can get away with acting like horny, carefree teenagers?

And given that there are plenty of horny, carefree teenagers of quality, we're not talking about just any teenager. We're talking about the "cool kids" in school, the ones that think they're "all that." Captains of the football team and "it girls," they acquire and shed friends and lovers smoothly like it's nobody's business; they ignore those that they "can't be bothered with," and anyone who develops some level of caring and attachment along the way are "lame" and "dramatic."

By and large, gay men model their adult personalities after the "cool kids" in high school. This even 20 or 30 years after high school has ended, when even the cool kids that went to their school are no longer proud of their juvenile behaviour. My personal favourite anecdote was when Pietro (a character from previous entries) told me that he goes on vacation to hang out at different gay bars late at night to see "what's cool." The irony of a 60-year-old barber seeking coolness, let's just say, didn't escape me.

The only difference between the gay adult cool kid and the cool kid in high school is that the gay cool kid is truly "lame" for his age range and within the broader society. There is a good reason why he wasn't popular in high school. He tends to lack real creativity, imagination, intelligence and social grace. He is what he is--lame. But somewhere along the way other gays (probably to get into his pants) made him feel like he was interesting, attractive and worthwhile. He isn't, instead he's just lamer than ever.

I would like to offer two examples of such behaviour--taking naps and social ostracism, neither of which is "cool" behaviour in a truly adult setting.

First, naps. I must admit that I originally thought that the whole gay nap phenomenon was just something that I had the misfortune of coming across. At first I believed that it was only particular to the people I knew. However, at some point after meeting dozens of gays, it became statistically significant. Almost every gay person that I know seems to prioritize sleeping and taking naps and makes an event out of these activities, despite having often slept quite sufficiently the night before. I'm tired too, I also like to take naps, but I don't generally emote about them on a regular basis. Talking incessantly about naps and fatigue is, I'm sorry, lame. It has, however, provided a good running joke between my mom and I. When she calls me and asks what I've done today (and if taking a nap was part of the agenda), I will simply tell her "I decided to be gay today."

I could go on and on with stories about gay men and naps. Three seperate gay men who were at the time very fond of me canceled a scheduled meeting for, you guessed it, a nap. With one guy (Aurèle discussed in this blog in February 2010), it was to reschedule a date (I'm serious) for the next day so he could take a 7pm nap. For another, it was a social engagement for which I had bought pastries (I obviously ate them by myself), replaced by an 11 am nap. In both cases, they seem to have been just too tired from their busy day of doing simple chores and sitting at the computer. The third guy, discussed in this blog as Jean-Marc, canceled our one and only date because we were supposed to be meeting and he was still at home having just woken up: at 4:30 pm. A few times I've gone for a walk with a different friend, and he always talks quite vividly about how much he wants a nap toward the end of our walk. I explained to him that I found prioritizing naps over social engagements to be insulting, but he seems to have missed the cue and talks about naps anyway. He also once quite adeptly informed me in response to an e-mail that, having written me back, he was now inspired to take a nap.

I have another gay friend from a volunteer organization who came over once last fall to see my new apartment. We were having a discussion in my living room when, all of a sudden, he asked me to go to my bedroom so that he could take a nap on my recliner. Apparently, the easy chair was just so comfortable that all social etiquette went out the window so he could satisfy his whim at that moment--to fall asleep. The same friend has fallen asleep on the phone with me before. He also failed to meet me for dinner once (after we had arranged the get-together 3 hours previously) in which I was going to pay for his meal. I was left sitting in the restaurant for two hours waiting for him, fuming with anger. I heard nothing from him until two months later when he left a message on my answering machine, well after I had put the incident out of my mind, to apologize for not showing up and to explain to me that he had been taking a nap that evening. More recently, this friend came over and asked if he could take another nap in my recliner. It was 10pm, so I told him that he needed to go home and go to bed if he wanted to sleep. Geez! But that's not all--this same friend and I had made an appointment in advance to talk on the phone on a Tuesday evening to improve my French for a presentation I was giving that next Wednesday. On Tuesday I called and texted his blackberry at the scheduled time, an hour after he finished at work, but no response. Nothing. I had to beg the next day for a random colleague to help me improve my grammar at, literally, the last minute. I learned from an e-mail he sent after my presentation that, sorry, he had decided to take a nap at 8pm and just continued to sleep through the night, but he was available to help me now....

Farid, discussed extensively in my previous articles as my first love, also has quite a rich napping history with me. Almost every time I've gone over to his house to visit, it takes two rings for him to answer the door. I know what's going on--he's been taking a nap. It doesn't matter whether I come over at 11 am or 7pm, it's clear from the lines on his face, his yawns, and his stretches, that he's been napping. He will tell me that too--"oh, I was just taking a nap before you came" (whereas out of politeness I would never admit such a thing, even if it were true).

Farid's ex/roommate/daddy Pietro also once took a nap at 8pm one night that I was over at their house for dinner. 8pm! At least I was Farid's and not Pietro's guest, so he certainly had the right. However, as explained in my Jan. 2011 post "the Night of the Musical Candlelit Bath"--Farid himself took a very long 7:30 pm nap once when I had been invited to come as his guest. It was not his first nap that day, and he had slept plenty the night before and hadn't left the house. Furthermore, in doing so, Farid obliged Pietro to stay up with me when Pietro himself had been working all day and quite rightly deserved a nap. This was the last but not the first of the nap insults where Farid was concerned. Once I had invited Farid to go out to dinner with me (I was paying), but he canceled at the last minute because he was "too tired to leave the house" and wanted to "watch TV and take a nap." Apparently he'd rather work to fix his own dinner that night than haul his butt a couple of blocks down the street. This was despite the fact that he was unemployed and, borrowing from the Beatles, "hadn't done a bloody thing all day" (except perhaps lounge about his apartment and look for sex online, I didn't ask). When we went on vacation, Farid also told me once on a 2-hour bus ride together that he wanted us to "stop talking and look out the window" so he could take a nap. Furthermore, once we arrived at our destination, he made sure to have both a morning and an afternoon nap on most days during our vacation. I headed out so that I observed only one of these naptimes, but needless to say, I didn't actually take a nap.

There are other napping stories that I'm sure I'm forgetting--there have just been so many! Apparently when it comes to gay men, if you don't inspire sex, then you inspire naps. Makes sense, although when you think about it, most animals raised in a barn have better manners.

My philosophy: if you're going to cancel or cut short a social engagement with me, you'd better find a better excuse than "I'm tired, I need a nap." You need to be at least somewhat polite, like most people are, and say "I have a ton of things to do, I'm busy." If you don't have something going on, some better excuse, then make something up! White lies are the stuff on which good social relations are founded. However, the gay men that I've known have been so self-centered as to not even care enough to lie. They just tell the truth, with almost childlike precision, no matter where we are or what we're doing: "I want a nap."

I've actually gone so far as to warn certain people that I think discussing naps is lame (a general fact of polite society that is normally understood and doesn't need to be explained). I'm done listening to people talk about their sleeping habits. From this point forward, never again! I don't elaborate about my naps or sleeping patterns, and I will neither put up with other people talking about naps nor will I ever again sit aside and watch someone take a nap in front of me. If I want to get away from chatting with a gay man , however, I might just say: "why don't you take that nap that you were looking forward to, I'm going out for dinner!"

Speaking of escaping, that's my other big pet peeve in the gay world, and this one seems to extend beyond the culture of gay males. People in the LGBT community tend to enjoy getting rid of each other. They like to "turn the page," dumping old friends and acquaintances to move on to something new (even if that something new is nothing substantial at all). I am the type of guy who makes friends with people with an open heart and will keep them for life if they'll have me that long. Having lived across the globe, I have friends around the world that I keep in touch with on a regular basis. Outside of the gay world, this strategy has worked fairly well. People are mature enough to appreciate overtures toward them, to appreciate being cared about, in a world that can often be indifferent or hostile.

I treat my LGBT friends with the same caring and consideration that I treat my heterosexual friends; it is genuine and real. However, one thing that I've noticed is that such attention (even if it may be regarded as over-reciprocation at times) is resented chez les gays even though it is appreciated chez les straights. The same overtures just don't work. Furthermore, gays tend to be more open to an impolite form of social ostracism that I call "being jaked" (chucked), not to be confused with an equally common gay phenomenon: being jacked. Often being jacked precedes being jaked, although not in my particular case as a gay vestal virgin :D. Also disappointingly, being "jaked" seems to span the gender barrier in the LGBT community.

Jake is the name of an FTM transsexual that I started to count as a good friend a while back. He appears as the voice of wisdom in my post entitled "Going Older." He is very literate, and I felt like we really clicked when we got together once for a one-on-one conversation at a coffee house, after having known each other as friendly acquaintances for years. Following this meeting, our friendship really bourgeoned in the fall of 2009, and I thought we were getting along great. The last time I heard from him was when he wrote me to wish me a good winter vacation and to keep him updated on what I was doing. I sent a nice long report back on what I had seen in my travels (which he was prepping me for with films--we watched Harvey Milk together to get me excited about my annual trip to San Francisco that year). Then, nothing.

I called several times, left messages, I wrote several times. I also wrote and called leaving one particular message: "Jake, if you don't want to be in contact with me anymore, that's ok, but at least call or write me a brief e-mail to let me know that you are physically alright." No response. I then called the volunteer agency we both used to work for; they had no news and had lost track of Jake themselves (also not caring much about him, their most devoted and skilled volunteer and trainer in the past). Eventually, I got very worried, and in the cold of winter late February of last year I walked over to his apartment and knocked on the door. I had bought some of Jake's favourite croissants and brought them with me. His roommate was going up the stairs unloading groceries from a trunk, and I asked if Jake was home. He said he'd go in and check, and after about 10 minutes of something (while his boyfriend continued to bring in groceries), he came out to report that Jake was not in fact home. Yeah right, like it really would have taken 10 minutes to figure that out.

In any case, I knew he was alive. I ran into him several months later at one of my favourite restaurants. He tried to sneak past me in the crowded environment (while having to push into me to get past, funny!) I said "Hi Jake, how are you?" He said that he had been very busy with his new friend lately, a scary-looking unkempt man with long tangled white hair. I said that I had been busy too, having just come back from Provence the evening before. A couple of smiles and a very awkward exchange, and that was the end of that. You can try to ostracise people from your life, but no one ever truly disappears. Karma tends to be an unfriendly bitch that repeatedly reminds you of your less-than-noble behaviors.

I must admit that I was hurt the first time I was "jaked," but since then it has happened three other times, once with a literate, highly-educated bisexual woman, and two times with gay men (one being Farid in a recent exchange last week). Being jaked seems to follows a familiar pattern--first unreciprocated e-mails and phone calls, followed by me writing to ask if everything is ok, nothing, then me eventually writing to say "even if you don't have time to contact me anymore, please just let me know that you are physically ok, because I'm worried," still nothing. Most people from the real world would at the very least, even if they hate the person that they are hearing from, appreciate this level of concern for their well-being and respond with something like "yes, I'm sorry, I'm busy but ok and appreciate the thought." I will say that Farid didn't entirely jake me in the true "jakian" sense. He at least semi-politely (and in a bizarre manner) responded to me to end the relationship: "I am at peace, don't worry about me!"

The reason why the experience of being "jaked" seems so exotic to me is that I have never been "jaked" once in nearly 26 years of friendship history by a straight friend. Yes, I have straight friends that have lost contact, often having become busy with family and other obligations or having moved away, but it was more of an evolution than a separation. Never have I been so rudely, abruptly and intentionally cut off by a straight friend. Never. Being "jaked," I firmly believe, is a gay thing.

I think there must be something about the LGBT culture that engenders such disappointing self-centredness and a lack of good old-fashioned convivality and civility. I introduced my disagreement with this lifestyle in the first paragraph of my post: "Finding our Way: My Friend's Story," a quote by Sean Penn in the movie "Harvey Milk." Call me jaded. It's the attitude that no one stays with you through life, that everyone is disposable, and where one fount of friendships/lovers dries up, a new fount bubbles up elsewhere. Once someone is devoted to you, he/she is no longer interesting, as the grass is always greener on the other side. If life gets hard or someone says or does something that makes you feel slightly uncomfortable, no worries, there will always be another person, another friend, another "fan" waiting in the wings. Turn the page! Let go! Block him! Focus on something/someone new! Forget yesterday and everyone in it, tomorrow is a new day. Life's too short! It's all good! There are more clichés that I could continue with, but I think the point has been made.

All of these attitudes encourage relational laziness, because no one ever really matters, and there are 6-7 billion people in the world, someone somewhere will be better, you just have to focus on finding that person and forget everyone else. I'm sorry, but I don't prescribe to that "anyone is disposable" mentality and never will. It suggests a lack of patience to appreciate both love and friendship. I can't change others' behaviours, but I can take a personal stand. People in my life matter, no matter how I meet them and no matter where they live, and I proudly do not prefer taking naps over maintaining relationships.

So I have some simple advice for LGBTQetcs everywhere: stop moving on! Stop always turning the page! If there is someone with genuine feeling and intent toward you (friendship or otherwise), appreciate that and keep building on it! Keep an open heart and treasure what you have, because you will regret losing the opportunity later. Stop always "letting go" and instead finish what you've started. And also, stop trying to be cool--you're not cool and never will be (I'm not either, for the record). And for God's sake, stop taking naps! Now, with that said, I'm moving on :D

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