Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Woman's Touch

I have often wondered why gays come across as so different than everyone else. There are a lot of stereotypes about gay men; for example, that they have high-pitched feminine voices, have limp wrists, or walk with their butt cheeks rubbing each other. Sorry, but none of these stereotypes are true. The vast majority of gay men I’ve ever met, and I’ve come across a lot during my volunteer work, online dating, and at community events, are just normal-acting, normal-looking, completely masculine guys, of all races, cultures, religions and personalities. And yet, there’s always something “off” about them. In the last several weeks, I have been invited over for “dinner at my flat” (lol, yeah, right), prompted to have a “tug” on webcam, and told by a guy that I must look adorable while sleeping (when I said I didn’t know, he said he’d come and tell me). Hmmm, something’s definitely off!

Then you start to look at the gay men who add you on facebook. I can always tell a gay these days, and not from their physical features or personality traits (which are as varied as the rainbow). A gay man will often have a lot, if not mostly, men as friends. A lot of these men will be shirtless in their primary profile photo. In addition, a gay man’s profile photos will probably contain a close-up of his facial features or bust, with a slightly seductive glance and smile toward the camera. You can just see it in their eyes—their facebook profile is meant to attract and seduce. It doesn’t matter if he’s feminine or butch, they use the same formula—close up of bust or chest/face, seductive (sometimes looks menacing, sometimes smirking) or pensive gaze looking slightly up toward the camera, and often sparse in clothing if the chest is visible. This seems to be the case whether the guy has a well-proportioned body or is completely fat and flabby, nothing stops these men from showing it off! Sometimes also lying in their bed, draped in sheets, looking over at us as if we are a bed companion. And many of their friends will look the same, with the facial close-ups and torsos or chests on display. All I have to say is, thank the dear Lord facebook didn’t exist 70 years ago!

Another thing you will notice about a gay man’s facebook profile is that many of his other clearly gay friends have very similar facial features. You instantly spot the similarities which define his type, and these guys often look remarkably similar to him. Bearded, hairy guys will often go for bearded, hairy guys, skinny hairless guys for skinny hairless guys. This is something you’ll also notice if you see a gay couple walking down the street—they look like brothers, until you see them holding hands! Like seems to attract like in the gay community. Unless it’s just for rockin’ the casbah, in which case you can go all out for something really exotic and then toss him in the conquest bin when you’re done.

There’s something else interesting about gays that their straight counterparts won’t express openly—their rawly physical, sexual motivations. It doesn’t matter if they’re sweet-looking feminine sweethearts or a burly motorcycle bears, they’re all in it for the sex. Sex here, sex there. Sex everywhere. Just men going at it, like hounds shagging each other while they’re waiting for the girls to go into heat. That has never been me. Nor does that describe the mentality of my heterosexual friends, male or female (they tend not to model their lives after dogs). Do I just attract a better-calibre friend in the straight world, or is there perhaps something else going on?

Finding Peace in the Heterosexual World, but Why?

While I feel disrespected and unappreciated in the gay community for my romantic mindset, I do not feel that way in the broader world as a gay man. In certain cultures, I would be severely prejudiced for being openly gay, but by and large that is not the case in Canada and many other Western countries with progressive attitudes. My heterosexual friends and family, male and female, were overwhelmingly supportive toward me in the coming out process. Furthermore, they have listened to my stories from gay life with interest and have provided strong encouragement for my romantic pursuits. This, when the heterosexual reality of our modern times is not always easy as well—it’s also a place where hook-ups and commitment-phobia reign.

But fortunately, women also control half of the sexual equation in the heterosexual world. Many (modern) women tend also to be accepting toward gays, making great friends and society a better more-tolerant place for us, let’s give them credit! They also have strongly-ingrained romantic and affective needs in their heterosexual relationships that trump sexual ones. Furthermore, the fact that women require that their straight mates to cater to and respond to these needs also tends to make heterosexual men more romantically-oriented. I think it’s the woman’s touch that makes heterosexual lifestyle a relative romantic oasis compared to gay male culture.

That is probably why I am the way that I am. I grew up around women, make friends most easily with women, and was acculturated into a heterosexual society that taught me that I needed to respond to women’s emotional needs in order to find a wife. As a heterosexually-cultivated young man, my purely sexual side (what I could have become if I was only exposed to masculine attitudes and practices) was tempered by feminine values. As it turns out, this attitude and these values are something that I have in common with my straight male friends as well. They (also around my age) tend to see sex only within the context of a relationship and can often only count one or two sexual partners (and maximum only a handful) within their 10-15 years of sexual maturity.

This is in strong contrast to Farid and many others like him. Farid counted hundreds, if not close to 1000, sexual partners in the last 9 years, and showed me his list. In any case, many of the urban gay men that I’ve met my age or younger online have at least have dozens if not hundreds of partners already in their short lifetimes. What a huge contrast to straights!

Romantic Conditioning by Women

That’s not to say that straight guys are any more noble than gays in their initial intentions. I think, at least instinctually, their motivations are similar. Most heterosexual men are also probably first and foremost attracted to a woman’s physical appearance above everything else. A woman, while she will find certain men inherently more attractive than others, often has different objectives in mind. She’s more likely to be interested in how a man will treat her in the long term and satisfy her emotional and affective needs. So she will converse with him, testing him on these more long-term-oriented concerns over compatibility, and he must learn to respond to these adequately if he is ever going to realize his sexuality. Eventually, heterosexual men, I argue, become conditioned by their female counterparts toward these more emotional goals. This helps explain why heterosexuals guys tend to have much fewer sexual partners in their lifetime and also tend to view the world of relationships through a more romantic lens. They were adapted and conditioned that way by women, and with time and practice that became a fundamental part of their own orientation. That’s not to say that there aren’t boat-loads of players out there, but players are only successful because they can play on womens’ emotions. For this reason, the straight world is filled with ghastly-ugly players who score because they know how to listen and respond appropriately to a woman’s feelings.

However, men who are attracted to men don’t have the same physical-emotional barrier to surpass. A man has, instinctually, mostly his physical and sexual interests in mind when he sees another man that he is attracted to. If that other guy also finds him attractive, then that’s the end of that. The initial objective of their mutual interest is to satisfy their physical desires and needs. There is no emotional testing and no further barrier to overcome. They just go hop on each other like dogs, no conversation required in many cases (except to determine what roles each side prefers to play and level of protection). So far, this scenario sounds natural from a purely animalistic perspective. However, there is a very serious problem. The two men have now had sex and shared the most intimate part of their bodies (and I would argue, their souls), revealing all, without even really knowing each other. Who know’s what kind of person you went home with last night or invited over after an exchange on Priape, he might be completely crazy, on drugs, or even violent! The two men haven’t spent enough time together to know if they are compatible on a long-term basis. There was no emotional exchange or conditioning, only a physical one.

With time, a gay man moves further and further into this world of fast-acting chemistry and cheap-and-easy sex with other men and away from his heterosexual conditioning in sexual pursuits (encouraged by women or heterosexual norms during his childhood or adolescence). Although he may still believe in love, his traditional and romantic sides wane. Thus, unless he can overcome the gay standard through careful reasoning with himself, sex becomes the way a gay man understands how to build relationships (or just get off, depending on the person).

The Pursuit of a Challenge

Problem #2 with the man-on-man formula: another long-ingrained male instinct is the need to hunt and pursue. If both sides have sex right away (like in the male-male case presented above), they’ve already seen everything of each other. There’s nothing left to discover, nothing left to look forward to, nothing left to pursue, no reason to try to get to know the other guy better. You’ve already HAD him. Why bother learning the names of his brothers and listening to him complain about how his mother treated him as a child?

However, unlike gay men, women tend to hold off on sexual activity until an emotional attachment has been formed (or is in the works). Holding off on sex for a little while gives the man something to look forward to and a reason to get to know her better. Then, when she gives him what he wants, he’s crazy for her and wants to make love to her body in every way humanely possible! He’s already formed an attachment to her and has thus added motivation to continue pursuing the relationship, and during this process of sexual discovery, the woman’s bonding instincts and emotional encouragement ensure that the attachment gets deeper and deeper.

Again, I’m not going to generalize and say that this is always the case. I’d go so far as to say that the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, by making sex readily available to all and establishing serial monogamy as the norm, actually benefited the physically-minded male side of the heterosexual relationship equation more than the female-oriented goals of emotional attachment and relational stability. However, even today, statistically speaking, strong emotional-sexual attachments seem more common in heterosexual compared to homosexual relationships.

Because women are more romantically-inclined (and instinctually looking for quality father-material), few heterosexual men can be the purely sexual beasts that their homosexual counterparts are. Even women who fall into bed easily at least require a conversation to get to know their partner better before agreeing to have sex. They don’t spread their legs after one flirty passing glance.

As I mentioned in my “First Time in a Gay Bar” article (July 2010), many men who meet in such places don’t even have a real conversation before heading off together to have sex. They just stare at each other in a certain way, maybe dance/rub a bit, and then ask “your place or mine?” It’s incredible! Another thing, according to Farid, is that these purely sexual unions tend to have very little emotion or tenderness to them. It’s just a physical manoeuvre based on a sexual need and some level of chemistry and lust. Farid also swears (and we must cede to his vast experience in this area, him having had almost 1000 sexual partners) that men that have lived most of their lives in relationships with women are the best lovers, because their sex (regardless of whether it is rough and wild or slow and careful) has a level of tenderness and compassionate expression not available from gay-for-life men. Women condition heterosexual men to have compassion and tenderness toward their sexual partners, period, even if they do decide to go at it like hounds.

Overall, I’d say that sex for sex’s sake is a harder sell in the mainstream heterosexual world, and as such heterosexual men are often more adapted to respond to the emotional desires of their partners. Even those heterosexual “players” that do score one woman after another have to at least fake emotional or affective interest in the women that they have sex with. Similarly, I have been conditioned by strong-headed, ethical heterosexual women to be like a good heterosexual man responsive to womens’ needs for most of my current life. And until I was about 18-19 years old (7 years ago), I also believed that I could probably live a heterosexual lifestyle (once I figured things out) and conditioned myself in that regard. Therefore, I fit well in the world where sexual relationships are strongly tied to romantic/affective partnerships.

So when I talk about my traditional romantic mindset, heterosexual men and women tend to relate to and appreciate my perspective. They understand where I’m coming from and that what I want is a respectable goal. I feel less judged and more supported being a gay man in a world of heterosexuals than I do as a gay man in a world of gays. Strange, but true. You would think I would find comfort in the gay world, a community of my peers, but instead I only feel more judged and less respected. Gay men, spoiled by their instinctual physicality and sexual encounter after sexual encounter, see my worldview as naïve and old-fashioned. It’s not—I see them for what they are, I see myself for what I am, and I have no intention of adapting to their standard.

Overall, I would say that gays are much more critical and even “homophobic” toward me than any heterosexual has ever been in our modern world. This is a world where even heterosexual men (two I’m thinking of in particular, one Italian-Canadian and one Australian) have no qualms about talking about how handsome or sexy other men are, while remaining entirely and confidently 100% heterosexual. These straight men understand my gay reality and motivations and respect it, as well as my romantic, traditional, relationship-driven, and moral nature. It’s amazing. I want one!

Conclusion: I'm Done with the Gay Mentality and the People Who Propagate It

Being treated with such disrespect and lack of appreciation from gays has, with time, led me to conclude that I will simply not acknowledge being “gay” anymore or invest in new relationships with others identifying so strongly to that mindset. I would rather be “homosexual” in an environment of heterosexual guys and gals that respect me than gay in a world of other gays who judge me so harshly. I can only have loyalty and pride in a people who accept me for who I am. I am not a horse, I do not need to be broken into the world of sex. I have no need to prominently display a photo of myself half-naked, sprawling in my bed, or lying about in my underwear, or working out at a gym, on a facebook profile or anywhere else. On a more philosophical level, there is no further reason to count myself as part of the gay community—the rainbow flag and parades mean very little to me anymore. I don’t have pride or conviction for what they stand for, but I do believe strongly in my values and my heterosexual conditioning. And as such, I can have pride in myself.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Preacher’s Penis: Tops, Bottoms, and Cock Sizes

First of all, let me introduce this entry by stressing that it has absolutely nothing to do with child abuse and paedophilia scandals in the Catholic Church or anywhere else. Everything discussed here is very adult, very legal, very public, and very Protestant. This is an article about penises, and one penis in particular. It is the penis, on top of all the others, that broke the camel’s back!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m fairly used to penises popping up to talk to me these days. I remember when I was just coming out and exploring the gay community online, it used to be a little exciting to accidentally see a photo of someone sporting a penis. This was mostly due to my lack of prior exposure to the adult beast. I’ve actually, even to this day, not seen one (other than my own) in person since childhood. The last one I can remember was a brief flashing glance as a nude man ran by me toward the water on the Red Sand Beach in Maui, 10 years ago. Before that, the last exposure I would have had would have been in the locker room after swimming classes when I was very young. These days, when I see someone whipping one out in public, I tend to look away out of respect rather than gaping at it. In the last couple of years, however, I have become so used to penises popping up to chat with me on gay social networking sites that it hardly phases me anymore. In fact, these days it just grosses me out. While I try to maintain my oath of humanity to everyone, even the cock-flashers, nothing turns me off more than seeing someone’s penis at the first hello. It doesn’t just turn me off, it also makes me angry.

Now, the important question that should stem from this last paragraph: why was I online trying to meet guys again? Well, after months of mourning the loss of my first love, Farid, by February 2011 I felt well enough to test the waters a little and give others a chance. I had a new online profile and found myself popular with a different wave of people. One of these, as it turns out, was a well-educated guy only 10 years older than me. He was an Israeli who had done his PhD at Oxford, and at some point during his education he also became a trained preacher for a popular Protestant sect in which gays are accepted and preachers are allowed to have gay relationships. Intriguing! Since moving here from Oxford, he has also maintained a congregation in Montréal. For his day job, as it turned out, he worked for the same institution as me. Furthermore, in his profile he mentioned that he was an academic conversant on a variety of subjects, and an intellectually-stimulating conversation was what he was really looking for (aren’t we all :D), and that those who weren’t able to engage him intellectually should not expect to meet him. A little presumptuous, but good to hear that he, unlike most others, actually held himself to some standards.

He introduced himself to me, not the other way around, and I must admit that I was not an easy catch (as usual). I would disappear for a week at a time and then pop back up to respond to his message (and all the others I received), just do disappear again for several days. I clearly had other priorities. Once he suggested that we meet in downtown for a coffee during the work week, and I felt like he hadn’t communicated with me enough online yet to warrant a meeting. So I told him no, we needed to wait for a weekend. I think he had had a date in mind on other occasions as well; he’d ask me what I was doing over the weekend, and I said that I was heading out to study Italian, then disappeared again. I must admit, coming out of the situation with Farid, I was slier and cheekier than I am normally.

The Best Date Ever

Finally, we agreed to meet on a Saturday. I could see how my former optimism toward these kinds of dates (and indeed, being gay generally) had evaporated. Normally, I take dates reasonably seriously, as the opportunity to meet someone in person does not come around that often for me (and usually only after a significant online exchange). I always wear my contact lenses, brush my teeth, put on lip balm to moisturize my lips (just in case), wear my most flattering shirt and pant, and eat/drink conservatively throughout the day.

This time I did virtually none of the above—I wore my glasses, threw on the type of outfit I’d wear any old weekend, did not even think to moisturize my lips. I also drank a lot of water and diet coke throughout the day, which makes me seem less thin than I am normally. Even worse, a little over an hour before my date I was eating at Amir (a Lebanese restaurant) consuming gobs and gobs of garlic sauce. I did, however, make an attempt at brushing my teeth before heading downtown to meet him. You could tell that my expectations were not exactly high.

Actually, the coffee-date itself went surprisingly well, perhaps the best I’ve ever had. That surprised me greatly considering my rather ‘used-and-jaded’ attitude going in. He was very punctual (despite the fact that we had not communicated for days), had an adorable British accent, was very considerate with his words, and extremely polite. Not to mention that he was the perfect gentleman: he paid for my drink and offered to purchase me a cake, which I politely declined due to the fact that I had just eaten. We had a very nice discussion on the renaissances of ages past as well as religion (something that was clearly of distinct interest for him, and it was something we both had in common). I knew that this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. I had learned from Farid that his way of inspiring me spiritually was probably what made me fall in love with him, and that’s the part of being with Farid that I enjoyed most—the philosopher. The preacher clearly had a fascinating metaphysical and philosophical side that would be fun discovering and exploring. But unlike Farid, my preacher had one of those wacky academic lives that I could relate to, having a diverse background, having lived all over the world and crossing it several times a year.

The date seemed promising, and we bid each other farewell on a positive note. In sum, I would say that the date with my priest was probably the most civilized rendez-vous I’d ever had, this when most of my dates have been guys who have had at least a masters degree and often a PhD. I’m not sure if he was attracted to me or not, but the smile and optimism when we bid each other goodbye on the metro was uplifting. He had invited me to join him for dinner somewhere, but I told him (in all honesty) that I was still not hungry, having just eaten, so we parted after leaving the coffee house.

For the first time in the history of my dating life, I heard from the guy the day after. He sent me an e-mail to say that he enjoyed meeting me and, perhaps most flattering from a preacher, he said, “you are a good man.” I wrote back thanking him for the compliment and saying something generic. We exchanged a couple of brief e-mails and both agreed that it would be fun to meet for a walk again sometime soon. Again, I started feeling that mix of anticipation and fear: something could really happen this time! This could be both interesting and exciting!

However, he was not going to be available in the near future because he was going to spend the weekend at a friend’s country “chalet.” The very use of the term “chalet” seems dubious for an anglo such as him, which made me wonder from where exactly he knew this friend (most English-speakers and the people in his normal social circles would call such a place a “country home” or a “cottage,” not a “chalet”). I have also had invitations to go to guys’ country chalets (and have never gone); nothing saintly or priestly ever seems to go on at such places.

But all and all, sounds like a great experience, CT! Why is this article about penises then? Well, later that week I took a look at my preacher’s profile again. I had never really paid that much attention to it, having only looked at it only very briefly when he first introduced himself to me and never again during our correspondences after that. I had, over the course of those messages, learned that he was an academic and a preacher, which I must admit both attracted me to him and mesmerised me to some extent. However, something early on must have unsettled me about him beyond his arrogance with regard to his alma mater. It was something that made me treat him with cheeky disinterest and try to push him onto Farid, and I had frankly forgotten why I would do that to such a quality individual (other than the fact that the guy would be a good spiritual and ethnic match for Farid). So I went back to the profile.

His profile was normal enough. He had a charming picture of him in a bowler hat standing on a lawn, probably at Oxford, fully clothed, with a wide North American-style smile. No photos of his penis, thank goodness!

But then I noticed—he indicated on the stats at the top of his profile that he had a 7 inch uncircumcised penis! A preacher, putting his penis size on a public profile, a profile that could be viewed by both people who are members of the site and those who aren’t! I could not believe it! Not only that, I was downright outraged. Even Farid, although making hints to his general penis size at one point, has always had enough class not to reveal such information publically. How could an Oxford-educated, intelligent, diverse and charming man such as this preacher stoop to such levels? Even worse, how could a priest with a sense of moral obligation, someone who sees himself as one of God’s representatives on earth, proffer his penis dimensions on a public site! Learning the details of his cock dimensions was as much of a turnoff as if I had seen his genitals in a photo. Nothing was left to the imagination now, all interest immediately evaporated and was replaced by frustration and disappointment. If our spiritual leaders are to the point of sharing their penis size, then we surely have no hope!

Real-World Reality Check! Sharing Your Penis Size is NOT Normal!

While as an academic and a preacher existing in the real world, the fact that he was sharing his penis size with anyone and everyone he came across would seem abhorrent. It’s the equivalent of him saying, “Hi, nice to meet you! I have a seven-inch, uncircumcised penis.” Behaving like that in real life, I could imagine, would be enough to disperse his congregation through moral outrage. However, as a gay man trying to fit into gay culture, it’s not that unusual. I would go so far as to say that it is something of the norm. It’s not like he was the first profile I came across where the man I met had shared his penis size. Most of the time I had either not paid attention or forgotten, but I did go on one date (Damien) knowing his penis size beforehand (although fortunately, like in the case of my preacher, not having ever seen a photo).

Even Farid, who has been somewhat over-immersed in gay dynamics, was astounded that I didn’t think sharing and asking about penis size was normal. Being of the Arab, non-individualistic, fatalistic, adapt-to-your-surrounding-gay-norm-at-all-cost mentality, he asked me back in August, “why not?” And I said, “because it’s crazy, deviant, disgusting and it’s not what decent, respectable people do!” Not, in any case, in the real world. I couldn’t believe I had to say that to him—I thought such conventions were understood.

Farid claimed that, while penis size wasn’t an important concern for him in choosing a partner, it is for a lot of guys. Gay men generally want larger penises, although sometimes they need smaller penises if they can’t “take” a larger one comfortably. It was apparently a very big deal, and Farid had no qualms either about asking others for their penis sizes or sharing his own. He implied at one point that he had even sent photos of his penis. I had seen photos of him in his underwear (by accident, and they weren’t anything to write home about), but I had fortunately never come across a photo of his penis and never inquired about nor tried to judge his penis dimensions or circumcision status. My belief that sharing penis size was something only crazies did was confirmed in my mind when, a week after having that conversation with Farid, I walked by a homeless, unkempt, psychotic-looking man on Sherbrooke Street who was asking everyone who passed by, “how long is your dick?” Crazy indeed.

Gays seem to have, however, created a subculture counter to the respectability and civility engendered in heterosexual norms. Can you imagine a woman being charmed by learning upfront the dimensions of her date’s penis? She would run immediately the opposite direction and never look back! It’s because her priorities are often not so much physical as they are emotional and affective. If a man comments immediately on his penis size, she will know that her date has only the physical side of the relationship in mind and would not provide the kind of deeper emotional support that she needs. When I told my mom and a few of my male heterosexual friends that it was normal in the gay community to share penis size, they were shocked an appalled. “Why would anyone do that?” one male friend from Chicago said. “I don’t know,” I said, “they seem to care about one thing and one thing only. It’s pointless trying to understand it.”

My attitude is that of a woman’s, plus some. While I’m prone to running around my home (alone with the curtains closed) in my underwear like most single men, I’m certainly not a nudist. I think that human beings have been wearing clothes for thousands of years for a reason. It was not so that we could then write to people about the dimensions of our genitals, thus negating the purpose of attire. Clothes were invented to keep us warm and also for modesty and civility when temperatures rise above 23 C. I believe that such modesty and civility goes out the window when you start advertising your penis size, thus erasing all respectability and leaving absolutely nothing to the imagination. My preacher not only gave his penis size but also claimed upfront that he was “muscular” (haha, he wasn't) with a 44 inch waist, and he also gave dimensions for his chest, which I couldn’t find a context for unless I was looking to buy him tailored clothes! Clearly he knows how to wear them, he just hasn’t yet discovered the meaning behind their utility.

It’s amazing how reality checks from our heterosexual friends can help put our gay lives back into context, and not just through their horror at the fact that gay men freely and willingly display their penises or provide their genital dimensions upfront for everyone to know. Another thing I’ve found that shocks and appals my heterosexual counterparts is the “top or bottom” phenomenon. I’m so used to hearing people describe themselves as tops or bottoms that it seems almost like second nature at this point. I’ve been asked many a time myself, “Are you a top or a bottom,” and I’ve always just replied, “I’m CT!” Or, if I’m feeling a bit cheekier, I’ll even say, “I’m a virgin! LOL.” Fair enough.

But still, the terminology “top” and “bottom” has become so ingrained at this point that it seems like a natural way to communicate or identify oneself. It’s not, it’s as crazy, uncivilized, and dehumanizing as sharing your penis size.

I realized this when I was talking to my heterosexual Australian friend (of over 15 years now) about one guy I had met online named Giuseppe. I’ve never really written anything about Giuseppe in this blog, as he is generally an uninspiring individual all-around. In one of our chat conversations (having never met me personally), he asked me what I liked sexually and concluded that message by saying he was a bottom. My eyebrows now raised, that was one of the times that I said I was a virgin. In any case, I recounted the exchange to my friend from Down Under, who comes from a culture that is rather sexually-liberated and where there are few qualms about discussing sexual issues. My friend asked me, “what’s a bottom?” I said, “well, he was basically saying that he likes to receive.” And to that, he replied, “okaaaaaaay, whacko! :S” I was shocked by his response, having been already rather accustomed to hearing people refer to themselves as tops or bottoms. But with time and reflection, I couldn’t agree more with my friend’s assessment. Let me qualify and explain.

First, I would suspect that any successful sex life dedicated to a monogamous relationship requires versatility and diversity. Otherwise, if you’re doing the same thing every day with the same person, the same moves day in and day out, both parties are likely to get bored and the sexual relationship is going to fall apart. Most of us should at least have a few things that we like to do, instead of engaging in only one role to get off. Variety is the spice of life. Identifying quite explicitly to a single role demonstrates little creativity, limits the scope of future sexual interactions, and vastly constricts the pool of potential partners. Can you imagine the reaction of a woman on a serious first date if her (male) companion turned to her to say, “you know, I can only get off when a woman rides me on top.” She would likely get up immediately and storm off without another word! We as gays should be no more permissive than our heterosexual counterparts: oversharing, over-defining, and over-constricting our sexual roles from the very beginning should equally turn us off.

Second, it’s ok to have a preferred role. I think it’s perfectly fine and great to enjoy receiving more than giving, or vice versa. But it should be stated as such, “I very much enjoy receiving during anal sex.” It should not be used as a way of identifying yourself: “I am a top” or “I am a bottom.” Using the verb “to be” in such a declaration identifies you as a sexual object, not a person. Receiving anally or giving anally is no longer just something you do or enjoy, it’s what you are. That’s downright dehumanizing. Most of us, I’d like to think, have a personality and an identity we would like others to appreciate beyond what we do with our anuses. As such, I think (like my friend) that wearing our anal sex preferences on a banner across our chests, “top” and “bottom,” is just crazy. What we like to do in our rectums, I’d argue, is a personal detail that only those with whom we already have a close physical and emotional relationship have any business knowing. It has nothing to do with our personality or who we are as contributing members of society.

Gays who are used to freely giving their penis size and identifying as a top or bottom will only tell you, like Farid, that they are simply sharing such information to ensure that they are sexually compatible for the partner that they are looking for. It sounds like an important consideration, right? A top needs a bottom, and some bottoms need larger penises, some need smaller ones. It makes sense, from a purely sexual perspective.

But such attention to physicality is neither romantic nor civilized. It’s not even human, it’s animal. Sharing this information bases priorities on the physical aspect of any future relationship, and doing so will ensure that relationships remain primarily physical and, consequently, not lead to anything that is very substantial or long-term. Concerns about sexual compatibility and needs should be, I would argue, subordinate to emotional and social compatibility. Figure out if you like the guy first, then worry about how you’re going to have sex. You might be surprised by all the weird things you could enjoy with a man you truly love.

My attitudes are, once again, primarily heterosexual. I think, if you’re in it for the long term, eventually you’re going to see how long his penis is and what roles he likes to play. Why not enjoy the adventure, the process of discovery, like most of our heterosexual counterparts?

The Fallout with the Preacher

So what happened with the preacher after I learned his penis size? As it turns out, absolutely nothing! He didn’t respond to my last friendly e-mail (from before seeing the penis announcement), and I have not had a subsequent message since. He is, last time I checked, visiting his profile on a daily basis. I’m sure there are other guys he’s interested in, and perhaps I was officially wiped out of his mind by whatever transpired at his “friend’s country chalet."

I was actually a little disappointed that we lost touch, as I was looking forward to confronting him head-on about his penis dimensions. I’m not the kind of person who sits back idly and accepts such behaviour, especially from a potential romantic interest. I also expect spiritual leaders to live by a higher standard. I’m no saint, and yet I manage to behave according to the basic tenets of respectability and civility. Clearly I lost a lot of respect for him in looking at his profile again. Considering how nice he did seem as a person, I could still see myself enjoying being his friend. But I couldn’t take him seriously again, either romantically or sexually. It’s thus probably best that he fell off the radar. And I am happily, like last February, falling off the radar as well. I deleted all online profiles and am never going back; I am SO done!

I’ve talked to others about the preacher’s penis. All heterosexuals, men and women, have been grossed out. Gay men are more likely to sympathise with him and tell me “preachers are human too.” Like I said before, civility is human, displaying your penis (either explicitly or implicitly) is really more base and animal in nature than a part of our distinctly human qualities. And there’s a reason why heterosexuals don’t do it by and large, so let’s go back to the basics and learn from their example. Perhaps when we stop seeing each other in terms of penis sizes, tops, and bottoms, and start seeing the humanity of each person, then there can be some hope for the gay subculture.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Miracle Pastry Boy

No anecdote from my gay life could prove that comedy is tragedy more than my encounter with the guy I will forever remember as “my Miracle Pastry Boy.” Understanding how Juan became my miracle pastry boy will definitely require some explanation.

Last August through October, during the period in which I was madly in love with Farid, I had an online profile. While I was hoping to perhaps find someone with whom I was more compatible than Farid, a good part of me thinks that I set up the account only to prove to Farid that other guys were interested in me in order to raise the stakes a little. My heart was clearly already spoken-for, even though I knew that my obsession with the depressed, unmotivated, unemployed, overnapped, oversexed 45-year-old Arab living in pseudo-coupledom with his ex could only lead to folly.

As such, I was pretty blithe with the guys I met at that time. I remained stand-offish and engaged them in long-winded conversations that were clearly never going anywhere. Even so, I’d often charm them with my sincerity and the depth of thought and self-revelation that went into my responses. And I did reply to everyone.

However, I would only check the website infrequently (being rather popular with, at times, 80 messages a day, and many of them long), and I wouldn’t commit to any particular person and withheld my e-mail to most of them. My “oath of humanity” in large part intact, I hoped to bore most of the new guys who were foaming at the mouth into losing their interest. Finally, it got so bad that I just refused to look at the website for over a month, putting off my responses to the 80 new messages that I had left to address. I promised responses, but I didn’t promise a timeline. With relief, all of the new messages I had received were flushed away because my profile had been inactive for too long.

Sadly shunned and ignored by me for over month, few of those dozens of men contacted me again, and I didn’t try to seek them out to explain what happened. The Miracle Pastry Boy, Juan, was one of the new people who approached me after I had reactivated my profile again in mid-September. I started back with my old games, putting my new contacts to the test by seeing how long they could continue the exchange online without getting bored and moving on to the next hot thing on the market. Juan managed to hold out through September and then into October. With time and lots of exchanges, I started to take Juan more seriously.

As it turned out, Juan and I had something very important in common, especially for a French-cultured person such as myself. He worked at my favourite boulangerie, a place that I had been going to on a frequent basis already for nearly a year, which was coincidentally recommended to me by another Frenchman. I would sometimes go on very long walks from downtown just for their croissants. I had always been very attracted to one guy who worked at that boulangerie, but when I described the guy I was thinking of to Juan, he said that it sounded like his boss. Too bad, but oh well.

At the same time, Juan was an uneducated immigrant who was back in school with aspirations to become a masseur. It was really hard for me to wrap my head around that or how I could, in the long run, relate to a part-time cook, part-time massage therapist with his hands all over other guys (and knowing gays, probably inappropriate places too). It was clear, as with other men from my past, that he was not an intellectual firestorm. I tackled the whole issue of intelligence in a previous article from November 2009: “What’s Smarts Got to Do with It?” My conclusion of that article was a lowering of my intellectual standards for the world of romance, although in the case presented for that particular article, nothing happened. Jean-Marc was the one of the offensive nappers who slept through his first date with me (see “Horny Cool Kids”), and I was hardly devastated that things didn’t work out.

So what about Juan? Well, we had more than an hour conversation on the phone once in mid-October, which involved me intellectualizing on my travels in Spain (where he had himself just been). He had absolutely nothing to say except that the places we both went are beautiful. It was a good conversation, but he didn’t call back (probably expecting me to call, and while I wrote him a message, I didn’t ever call him). He did phone me once when my best friend from high school had died, just as I was deleting my online profile in early November, to wish me his condolences. I made it abundantly clear that I was too emotionally stressed to put up with the sexual bluntness and lack of sincerity from the website and was closing my account. He responded by telling me that I have “beautiful values,” and he admired me for them.



His call of concern for me was a sweet gesture, but at that time I was hardly in a state to appreciate it. Things had finally come to a head with Farid (see articles from January 2011). The events that played out in “Dance Me to the End of Love” that spelled the end of my friendship with Farid and the devastating grief I felt in losing him, were in full motion. Farid being my best friend at the time and my first love, I was completely ravaged by his disinterest in me when I went to surprise him at his favourite Saturday hangout—the Stud.

On the weekend after my second (and last) visit to the Stud, I was still in shock from the blow of that disappointing experience. As discussed in “Dance Me to the End of Love,” I tried to maintain a sense of stability and normalcy, and part of that included going to all the places that I enjoyed on the weekend to fill my time. One such place, always a Sunday tradition for me, was the boulangerie where Juan works. When I entered, I saw the cute guy that I had always noticed and lusted over in the past. He approached the counter to place a quiche there, less than a meter away from me. Almost instinctually but still with uncertainty, I said "Salut!" and he said "CT!" with great enthusiasm and a gorgeous smile. "Mon dieu!", I thought, "It's him! Juan is the guy I've been attracted to all this time, not his boss!"

He seemed very pleased to see me, which at that time stood in massive contrast to Farid’s behaviour the week before at the bar. He asked me how I was doing. I said "I'm fine, just here for my usual croissant", and he said "not the specialty that I make?" So I smiled and said, “oh, ok, one of those too.” He then went to check on something and came back with another quiche. He asked me if I was staying to eat, and I said no (the small place was jam-packed as usual). So he went back, looked in the oven again, then came over to talk to me for a little while. In that brief conversation, I told him that I had noticed him in the past long before we met online but had never made the connection, and he smiled.

I was very direct, more so than usual. At the end of our conversation, he apologized for not responding to my recent facebook message. I said that I understood, knowing that he had to juggle work, school, and keeping in touch with family/friends. And still wide-eyed and sweating just a little, I said "but if you do find some free time, I'd like to see you again. I'm working in the neighbourhood right now." He kind-of smiled and nodded, and I wished him a good continuation with his work. When I got home, I also wrote him a little note saying that it had been very nice to finally meet him in person.

I was then determined to convince everyone that my brief, friendly, almost flirty encounter with Juan at his workplace was a miracle. It was my fantasy come reality. I saw someone in the real world, he intrigued me. But normally I just always assume that the men that cross me from my real-world environment are heterosexual and thus off limits. So, unlike ever before in my life, that same person that I was attracted to from my everyday real-world environment (and not just from a website or a bar) was attracted to me. He was so happy to see me, even proud to have me at his workplace, and he didn’t seem to want me to leave! There was just something about him, his gestures and orientation toward me, that made me feel like he liked me physically for who I am.

I must admit that I couldn’t help but compare and contrast to Farid, who was always telling me that I need to wear jeans and tight clothes, always giving me pointers on how to improve my physical appearances (even though I always thought he looked perfect), and who was apparently embarrassed to hang out with me in his favourite bar. I had sent him e-mails frequently (when he was at his lowest point and needed to know others were thinking about him), yet he was rarely motivated to read them, except once a week as a kind of chore. And enter Juan, not my best friend, but rather a complete stranger. He was interested in my well-being and had been remarkably patient with me given my blitheness and arrogant intellectual flexing in the past. And Juan’s smile and charm came exactly when I needed it—when I was feeling more depressed than ever thanks to Farid’s implicit rejection.

Given the timing and my sadness over Farid, my encounter with Juan could only be God-sent. The miracle: someone did notice me (a guy who I found attractive as well), and I felt comfortable with him. He wasn’t giving me those cold, ferocious stares that men from the Stud give each other as some kind of ugly form of seduction. Unlike every other gay man I’ve met, I didn’t feel like he was judging me critically (looking for what’s wrong), just appreciating what’s right, even though I was hardly at my most well-groomed that morning either. It’s a miracle! I couldn’t stop smiling all day.

The Take-Home Message: It’s Not Really a Miracle!

Every miracle has its limits. I called my mom that evening and told her the good news. With almost giddy enthusiasm: “I met Juan by accident today, and he is attracted to me; it’s a miracle!” followed a statement with equally bizarre directness: “I’m going to court him!” Flabbergasted, my mom tried to reason with me, and eventually she found the right way to sell the argument: “if I met a part-time pastry chef, aspiring massage therapist, 10 years older than me and told you that he was a miracle and I’m going to court him, you’d have me committed!” It was just what I needed to hear, because it was most certainly true. It was not a miracle that Juan was attracted to me. In retrospect, almost all of the guys I’ve gone out with, even Farid for a time, found me attractive.

That was the conclusion I reached that night with my mom, but my thoughts on the matter matured with time. My physical appearances are indeed not the problem—it’s who I am as a person that is not always easy to relate to, the slow-going, loyal-to-the-core, always-reading and rationalizing intellectual who crosses the world several times a year. Even more difficult for many of these men to conceive, the fact that I am a complete virgin to sexual and romantic contact of any kind, including kissing! Indeed, while I’m a relatively simple person all things considered, my individuality, diversity, confidence, adaptability, self-control, and exoticness is really quite pronounced, and indeed difficult to find a context for. I am an individual in the purest sense--there is absolutely no category in which I soundly fit.

Even more so, I’d go so far as to say that my friendly, innocent smile and asexual demeanour, which also forms a strong part of my personality, does not adequately demonstrate my physical interest in my dates. I want to keep things light-hearted and carefree when I meet people or go on dates, out of a certain respect for them and their independence. I’m always friendly but relatively stoic and never too forward. But the very fact that I am not giving the “big eye” and batting those lashes in the right way does seem to be turning people away. At the same time, I think I inspire good feelings for the most part. None of my former dates and gay friends particularly dislike me. But, despite being attractive enough, my behaviours and personality just don’t inspire sex! And that makes me romantically irrelevant in the gay world.

Plus, my enthusiasm in my written correspondences makes many guys think that I’m too easy of a target and not enough of a challenge. I'm always showing my appreciation in an e-mail, and that's a huge turn-off for some unknown reason. Furthermore, I’ve frequently politely stepped aside when my date moves on to another interest and leaves me in the dust. A prominent example: I always just left when Farid told me he was going to go have sex with one of his f-buddies now. He would watch me almost expecting some kind of reaction, as if testing me. However, nothing he ever said destroyed my stoic facade. I always just smiled, gave two kisses on the cheek, and bid him farewell. Love is a battlefield, and my lack of willingness to be exceptionally aggressive or outwardly express my inner passion, except through “boring” acts of generosity, does also seem to be a problem.

My conclusion is that guys want to do all the pursuing themselves, and if you do too much pursuing of them (esp. via e-mail), the challenge will be gone and they will lose interest. But at the same time they require you to be aggressive in the struggle to keep their interest—you have to display jealousy and anger and passion. But both sides are men, both sides thus need to do the pursuing but not feel too pursued from the other side. How is that even really possible? There’s really no way to win, no matter what personality you have. It all depends on perfect timing of key interactions, the perfect balancing of each other’s need to pursue, the perfect mix of mysterious stoicism with physically-expressive passion, the perfect content and temporal spacing of written and oral communications.

After years of trying to find some way of conforming to this “perfect formula,” my attitudes have shifted dramatically. I’d rather continue to be alone rather than make a half-hearted attempt at being conventional in this regard. I will always have a certain convivial, asexual, caring, and professional comportment in my interactions with people (gay or straight), and I will never be giving anyone the big eye on a first, second, or even fifth date. My own personality and needs deserve to be respected, even if they are not always easy to understand in a romantic context and even if they do not inspire sex. I will never be conventionally sexual, period.

The Fallout with Juan

Everything between Juan and I seemed to be going well immediately after our “miracle” encounter. He even said that, when he got time off for vacation soon, he’d like to invite me to his apartment and cook me dinner. I was starting to dream about potentially kissing him, keeping an open mind and an open heart, and seeing where it could go. I thought: “wow, he seems like a nice guy, and something could really happen this time!” Juan could sweep me off my feet and be the guy who could save me from my misery over losing all friendly reciprocation from Farid.

Nothing in life is ever that easy. Within a couple of weeks, Juan’s messages became more generic and colder, in contrast to my newfound enthusiasm for him. When I would try (on very rare occasions) to chat with him on instant messenger, he always just told me that he was heading off to bed. I had played my cards and shown my interest. Apparently, after two months of playing hard-to-get and keeping him on his toes, I had become too easy. By mid-November, I knew nothing was going to happen, and I was forced to confront all of the grief and pain over Farid head-on without any daydreams or distractions. Nothing and no one was going to save me from that—I had to work through it myself. Deep down inside, I knew that was the best way to overcome the heartbreak, and in late November and December it was worse than ever.

As for Juan and I, we casually kept in touch through brief messages on facebook into December. Having felt slighted and losing all interest myself, I encouraged Juan to get in contact with Farid. Farid and I had talked about Juan, and Farid seemed to think that having a masseur boyfriend would be his ideal, because he would always feel great physically. I knew Juan would be Farid’s type (physically), and so once Farid started his profile in December and had rejected me, I thought, why not put them together? I encouraged Juan to say hi to Farid through chat. Juan responded with a somewhat annoyed note that he was now on vacation and struggling to catch up with all of his long-term friends and didn’t have time to make any new friends in his life. Then why, I wonder, was he one of few paying subscribers on the gay chat website I joined? Clearly he took the experience seriously, more than most of us.

I’m guessing both friendships and relationships aren’t really what he was looking for. In any case, I felt like his message was directed as much at getting to know me better as it was at getting to know Farid. So I suggested in my next note that Farid could be more than a friend to Juan, thus demonstrating to him unequivocally that I had absolutely no interest left and wanted him to move on to someone else.

Then, as New Years day 2011 came, I wished him a very happy new year, and he responded with his usual (now, as I understand it, fake) sincerity. I waited a few days until it was absolutely clear he had no intention of meeting me at the end of his vacation time. Then, in early January, I effectuated a gay pogrom on facebook, something I have to do from time to time so that they don’t take over my list of friends. Deleting friends so assertively is in conflict with my small-town values; however, at the same time, most of my relatively few contacts on facebook are people I have a real history with and include colleagues from work to whom I’ve not come out of the closet. Needless to say, Juan and others that I had no real desire to be in contact with, with their long lists of hundreds of clearly gay friends, needed to go.

I still do see Juan from time to time at my favourite boulangerie, and he retains his former friendliness, all smiles and waves. For him, I’ve once again become a distant challenge. For me, he’s become my “Miracle Pastry Boy,” a nickname intended to poke fun at my brief post-Farid moment of insane delight in him more than anything else.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Key to Finding Real Love: Dump the City Slicker

I think I've finally stumbled upon one of the more interesting and worthwhile epiphanies that this blog has afforded--the best source of love in the gay community. Even as a scientist, this is perhaps the most interesting and important observation I’ve made about life, and it relates both to making friends and finding partners. Success in human relationships has nothing to do with beauty or good grammar. It's something quite simple and beautiful. The best friend or lover is a small town boy or girl!

Why would I say such a thing, especially when gay culture has become highly concentrated in the cities and is, to say the least, very urbano-centric? Furthermore, why pursue small town boys when they are often looked down upon as backward and uncultured? I think I prove the latter generalization incorrect, as I am a proud small town boy myself and am neither. I am very well-travelled and highly educated in many disciplines, suave in good manners and style, but I'm still a small town boy.



I'm not trying to paint an idyllic picture of small town living. It's often boring, and the same people are in front of you every day. People get older but, other than that, change comes very slowly. You can go away for years and come back to the same conversations as if no time has gone by. There often isn't much to do, and when there is something happening, it's generally rather "quaint" when compared to similar activities in the cities. Also, small town living often means lower wages and comes with its own financial demands, especially considering that you need a car to get around and will at some point have to invest in a house.

Furthermore, as a gay person, there aren't too many options living in a small town--even today a lot of young LGBT persons flee to the cities to stake their independence and immerse themselves in an environment of their peers. The gay drain means that those remaining in small towns are lonelier than ever and have few if any romantic opportunities. I've talked about how hard it is to be gay in a small town in "Those Little Town Blues," a post from August 2009. I've lived it, and it's not easy. It means we too look to the cities for hope and to satisfy our basic needs.

However, while small towns provide virtually no romantic opportunities, I've come to the conclusion that the small-town environment instils an honourable set of values and ethics, regardless of the culture, which make rural-minded guys and gals more viable long-term romantic partners. Let me explain.

In small towns, we have all been raised to treat each other with a certain level of respect and conviviality. We have to be civil with each other, young with old, rich with poor, educated with uneducated, because we are all in the same boat, so to speak. The same people are always with you day in and day out, and that may very well remain the case for the rest of their and your lives. Even if you don't know someone personally, it's likely they are friends with one of your friends or family members, so you can't be abrasive with them and expect that there will be no ramifications.

Because people are so connected to each other in a village, the social circles are few and constantly-intersecting. You have to play polite and remain an upstanding individual, and your good reputation must be maintained, or else you'll never survive. In addition, because we are all very closely related, there is often a more concerted and personal effort to support those in need. In that respect, the small town environment also fosters a strong sense of civic mindedness. People come to each others' aid in times of need (for example, shoveling the driveway for older people), give their free time to help out a friend who's business is struggling, and buy gifts for their friends when they go on vacation or to say thank you for a kind deed. At the very least, even on bad days, we greet each other with a smile. In sum, there is often a sincerity and a genuineness in interactions with those around you when you live in a small town. No one is disposable: for better or for worse, neighbours are neighbours, and we are all in it together. It’s best if we share the fruits that we grow in our garden or yard, to make those around us happier, and us happier in the long run.

In my last article "Horny Cool Kids," I ranted in frustration against the seemingly gay attitude that everyone is disposable. The "get over it and move on!" mentality with respect to human relationships, whether that be friends or lovers. I've always been fundamentally against this mindset: I will never look at those who've entered my lives as disposable. But then I realized, the fact that many gays tend to behave this way may have relatively little to do with their sexual orientation. It’s probably more related to the urbanized nature of gay culture. The very fact that gays are concentrated in the cities makes the LGBT community put emphasis on impersonal, superficial relationships over personal, committed, and permanent ones.

Furthermore, my personal objection to the “move on, try someone new” mentality is a reflection of my small town attitude with respect to human relationships. When someone shows a distinct interest in you in a small town, it means something deeper than it does in the city. It means a shared history and (because there are a limited number of people anyway in a small town) an almost permanent connection with that person unless they move away. The smallest personal gesture beyond the call of duty can initiate a lifelong friendship.

But in cities, the environment is rather different. At any given moment, there are a million people surrounding you. If one set of contacts drops off, a new one always seems to be waiting in the wings, and one person going out of their way for you hardly stands out or merits significant investment. Furthermore, because social networks are more abundant and less interconnected, you can be unpleasant to someone you encounter without worrying about it having any real consequences on how most others from your daily life treat you.

In general, as a city-dweller, life changes quickly and friends flux in and out on a regular basis. As a consequence, you may make friends, sometimes good ones, but rarely permanent ones. You use them to satisfy your own social needs now, but as times change and you change, it's hardly a big deal if you drop them for a new, seemingly more congruent set that comes along later. The same is true for lovers: you find lovers, sometimes good lovers, but rarely a permanent partner. There's no reason to take one particular person seriously and commit to him/her and him/her alone when a wealth of opportunity abounds around you. All of this "opportunity" makes you picker and less willing to compromise, because a better option seems available if you wipe the slate clean and start over with someone more “compatible.” In a small town, however, you tend to be very grateful for what you have and try to find ways to work around that.

The sad thing about the urban mentality is that new relationships are often rather superficial and impersonal , which means that a city resident often forms an armour around his heart that can become difficult if not impossible to pierce. That’s not to say that a city slicker doesn’t have a heart, but real romance is lacking, and many have lived their entire lives without experiencing genuine love, the kind which I idealize in this blog. The conviviality, sincerity, and care (and meaningful actions that reflect this caring) can sometimes be altogether foreign concepts in an impersonal environment such as a city. So foreign that a city dweller doesn't even know how to react when confronted with small-town good-heartedness and charm.

I've recently reflected on my experience living here in Montréal for nearly five years and all the friends that I've made (as well as the dates that I've had). I've made several friends in my environment and lost many of them too. I've probably chatted with dozens if not hundreds of people online in the gay community who have been instantly charmed by my small-town good manners and "humanness," as they often call it. No matter where I meet people, I always treat them like I was raised to interact with them--always responding, always convivial, always with respect, always acting toward them like they are (or could be) a permanent part of my life experience. People will say "hi" to me, and I say hi back. I make the effort to have a real conversation, I always respond, and for many living in the city, the genuineness and lack of superficiality that I proffer is refreshing. For such people, meeting me is an exotic experience in and of itself.

Because it is often so exotic in an urban area, small-town friendliness is frequently mistaken for something that it's not. A small town boy will be nice and helpful to those around him, but people from the city are quite unacquainted with meeting someone with such a facade. So, city slickers often think that it means the small town boy is very interested (romantically or sexually) or might even be in love and try to use that fact to their advantage. It doesn't, it's just how he was raised to treat people--like the people in his environment are a permanent part of his life.

Just because the small town guy is genuine with the people around him (despite the fact he's not instantly in love with them), the fact of the matter is, a small town guy with an open heart is more likely to have genuine intent, a sense of commitment, and lack superficiality in his relationships. For example, in my personal case, I've approached my new environment here in Montréal as a treasure trove. I've met many people who I've felt very fondly toward. I’ve felt strongly attached to these friends and even loved some. It's because, when I intersect them, I see them in the small-town mindset as a now permanent part of my life. They show an interest in me, we click. Then I start contacting them more; I integrate them immediately into my routine and my life; I care for them; I give them gifts; I volunteer to help out when times are tough, and as the years pass I continue to maintain contact.

However, a city dweller understands such overtures differently. For them, showing an interest in the people around them means very little; it's just what they've grown up doing, connecting with new people constantly. As such, city slickers demonstrate a concerted (but ephemeral) interest in someone when that person is with them here and now. The small town boy internalizes this interest as a permanent social connection, but the city slicker has little permanent attachment, investment, or commitment in his or her perception of the relationship.

With time, I've often wondered why my attempts at genuine friendship and romance have failed in Montréal, despite the abundant attempts and even more prodigious opportunities. With careful reflection, one thing was in common to all of the friendships and relationships that had either failed or were not adequately reciprocated: the object of my affection was someone who has grown up in or lived most of his/her life in an urban environment. Furthermore, looking back on my successful friendships that are still reciprocated and have withstood the test of time reveals another stunning feature: regardless of culture (whether they be German, Australian, Korean, or American), my successful friendships have all been with people who have grown up and/or mostly lived in a rural environment. Even among those friends (such as from college) who were only in my life physically for a few months, the ones that have stuck with me to this day (six years or more later) were from a small-town background. When you make an impression on them, and make a genuine effort, small town people are unlikely to forget you.

Upon concluding that my only consistent friends were those who grew up in rural areas, I polled almost everyone that I know. As it turns out, the small-town friend phenomenon is not just true for me but for virtually everyone else as well. Just one example, my mother has lived in both small towns and cities during her lifetime, and yet she never made a single permanent friend while living in cities. All of the friends who have stuck with her and that she has made as a mature adult were people who had grown up and mostly lived in small town environments. Pietro’s (from previous entries) only true friend is an ex of his who, not surprisingly, lives in on a farm and comes into the city to visit him. The same with my mom’s best friend—she lives in an urban area of 11 million people, yet despite all of this opportunity, her only friend is my mom (a small-town girl). And there are many other examples of city folk whose best or only permanent friends are primarily from or live in small towns.

Then, going beyond friendship, I started looking at the successful, long-term gay relationships that I am familiar with, the ones that last well more than 10 years. As it turns out, in each of these relationship (there are 8 I have in mind), either one or both of the partners are from small towns. While it’s not impossible for two city people to make a relationship work, I think the chances are probably much better when one member of the partnership provides an environment of permanent appreciation that are more characteristic of small town culture, values, and upbringing.

As for those friends and acquaintances of mine who have grown up in cities and played the gay game, every last one of them is alone. Farid is alone. Pietro is alone. I could list many other names but won’t bother. None of them has succeeded, but part of that is their own fault. They often only truly reciprocate for their friendships that they’ve had since childhood or young adulthood, and everyone else is relegated with a more superficial reciprocation. The very fact that they’ve lived in a city seems to be responsible—they’ve spent their entire lives constructing a massive citadel around their hearts, so that when a genuine opportunity comes along, they don’t even see it through the wall.

I used to think that my poor luck in making permanent friends in the city was due to a fatal attraction to extroverts. Extroverts tend to surrounding themselves with lots of people (often without investing very heavily in one particular friendship), whereas introverts make fewer friendships and value more highly those that are with them. That may be in part true, but in trying to befriend both introverts and extroverts from the city, I notice that both types behave very similarly. When someone is physically with them in the here and now, that person is important to them. When I am with Farid (an urban introvert) or with other female friends (often urban extroverts) of mine, their reaction to me is very much the same. I feel like I'm the centre of their world when I am with them, and they quickly become the centre of mine. But as soon as my physical presence disappears, so too does the good will, the caring contact, the thoughts about me, and the sincerity. They may remain a priority in my mind, but for them I'm just an option or an afterthought. Not what I would consider a real friend.

That’s not to say that city dwellers don’t have real friends, but their serious relationships tend to be strongly concentrated to social networks that have been established since their youth, usually family members and friends retained since childhood or young adulthood. Other people moving in on that territory are often welcome visitors but expected to leave at the appropriate moment and close the door behind them.

Furthermore, city folk tend to think that the small town person’s genuine caring in the city environment is naïve, juvenile and unwarranted. I’ve personally been told several times by different city slickers that I need to stop being nice. However, being nice is not naïve, it’s just reflective of a different social outlook. In a small town, having an open, trusting heart and treating those around you with conviviality, manners, and genuine intent often works very well in your favour. Being pleasant is necessary for survival, and failing to do so in even one instance can lead to rapid social ostracism and failure.

For example, had Farid taken a musical candlelit bath while having me over as a guest, but living in the small town where I mostly grew up, it wouldn’t take a week before most people in town would have had a laugh at his expense. Some might have even stopped using him for the service that he offers. Thus, the rural environment ensures that people maintain a certain level of civility with those around them and not be too offensive, or risk being ridiculed or not taken seriously in their social environment.

The take home message: small town people, I’d say, are the backbone of social relationships. Main Street, not Wall Street, holds society together and keeps it afloat. Without our small town friends and lovers, we’d be living a sad and sorrowful existence, in a world where our only friends prefer to take musical candlelit baths and naps in our presence rather than spend time talking to us.

What about me? Am I still really that small-town in mentality? I have mentioned that I have lived in a city for nearly five years. My mom says that my attitudes and even my facial expressions have changed in that time. Nothing all that traumatic has happened to me here, but apparently I’ve developed a distrusting uni-brow expression on my face that I use with strangers (rather than my previously pleasant smile). Otherwise, I like to think that I’ve still retained my small town friendliness and civility, but sometimes I’m not so sure. I’ve talked in this blog about deleting people from MSN and facebook without a care for the repercussions or what those social contacts meant to me or could have meant to me had I stayed in touch. That’s exactly the “move on to something new” city attitude that I know will lead to loneliness and an unsatisfied life. As far as living within the gay community, it’s interesting that the only guys who have remained in contact with me throughout and following my online social networking experience have lived most of their lives in a small town and are (or were) in very long-term, loving relationships.

And then there is one guy that I met online, we’ll call him Luc. He lives in a small town in central Québec, and many months later we are still in touch. I started making the small town realization that is the focus of this blog article through talking to him. Unlike almost everyone else, he genuinely appreciates it when I get in contact with him, each and every time. That makes such a huge contrast to the way I felt with Farid (even as just his friend) or others city folk I’ve met, whose interest eventually wanes to coldness. Luc seemed almost at once so real, genuine, and caring, like an old friend I knew from my past. And then I realized—he, from rural Gaspésie and still living in a small town, is my past. He gets it, he knows how to care in the way I care and how to reciprocate in the way I reciprocate. He doesn’t blow off my gestures toward him or lose interest with time. Instead he accepts and appreciates every one of my friendly gestures. Best of all, he does not take me for granted. As time drains away, he’s still there, and so am I. He is like me, or like I should continue to be. He is the stuff that a real friend or a real lover is made of.

It makes logical, almost scientific, sense as well. Through most of human evolution, we have traditionally lived in tiny, socially-contained tribes and foraging groups. Within these small groups, our ancestors obtaining strong, sustained, and lifelong social support. Now, a world of 7 billion people demands that we group together in large cities to concentrate resources, but the result is hardly satisfactory when we naturally evolved in much smaller elements. The resulting disharmony reflects a deeper social ill—it’s a vexation of many who come before us. For example, they were expressed so beautifully in the visual arts by the Die Brüke group in early 19th Century Dresden, whose works bemoan the loss of our ability to nourish our most basic social needs and identity in an urbanized society.

In conclusion, if you’re a gay city slicker and want to find someone to love, someone who will take you seriously and will be more likely to stay with you, look for a guy raised in a small town maintaining his small town values. Most of the time, that means a guy from a rural area or an isolated town of less than 50,000 people (although everything is relative, as a town of 10000-20000 often seems impersonal to people from villages of a few hundred). In any case, he is more likely to take you seriously, keep in touch frequently, make sincere gestures, and not find you disposable. When you meet him, though, you have to change and abandon your jaded city ways to some extent. You should treat him with respect and treasure him always. He will be more likely than most others you encounter to return the favour and be the best friend or partner you've ever had. But, you have to be willing to deconstruct the city walls and be permanently genuine, romantic, and caring with him. Otherwise, you are just being selfish and letting him down.

My advice for small town boys out there is different: continue to treat city dwellers with the same politeness and genuineness as you would people from back home, as it's part of your charm and why people like you. Remember, you are the backbone on which healthy social relations are built. Just don't invest too much effort or hope in permanent relationships with city folk, because at the end of the day their priorities are elsewhere and their armour is probably too difficult to pierce. They are unlikely to be able to reciprocate/commit at the same level as you or keep the same interest and openness in the long run. It’s not their fault, they just never learned how to do it. Many lifelong city dwellers have never developed a sense of long-term patience and commitment in their relationships. With new people always fluxing around them, they never had to. As such, don’t invest too much hope in city friendships and relationships. They are fun people to know, but it’s best to keep them as generic friends and only truly open your heart to other rural guys who understand their social environment the way you do. While city slickers abound in the world, it is still a rare city guy who is willing to love you enough to permanently deconstruct his self-centred city attitude and lifestyle just for you.

Grasshoppers (small town guys and gals) and locusts (their city counterparts) are technically the same species, but vastly different animals. A grasshopper in a field of locusts may become a locust if not careful. My advice to the grasshoppers out there—never let yourself become a locust. Stay a grasshopper and find another one to keep you company—they are simply more charming creatures. If you really must, go to the locust field, pluck out the one that most appeals to your personality, and bring him back to the rural setting to make him a grasshopper :)