Saturday, June 17, 2006

"Memphis Blues Again"

Over the last few months I have spent a great deal of time revisiting a Dylan line in my head:
"Your debutante just knows what you need

But I know what you want."

Needs versus wants. This just builds on my last post on the bi - gay divide and my underlying feeling of selfishness. When the line first started bouncing around my head, the lyric felt backwards, but as I have thought more it is coming into better focus. I consider my gay side to be a want, not a need. Therefore if my wife is satisfying my needs – emotionally, sexually, as a best friend – surely that should be enough.

“Wants” – sort of sounds like a kid in the toy store – “Mommy I want this, I want that.” And all of us parents know that (as the Stones said) “you can’t always get what you want.” [Of course if one finishes the quote we have “but if you try sometime you just might find that you get what you need.” Mick and the boys do seem to contradict Dylan there.]

Selfish then remains the watch word. At what price am I willing to satisfy a want? I look back at my own life and realize there is an aspect of making up for a lost childhood. My parents as a matter of culture and money (who knows in what proportions) were not great satisfiers of wants. We did not have a surfeit of toys growing up. Hanukah was not the eight nights of pseudo-Christmas that it has become: it was one night to receive winter pajamas and in a good year new slippers.

As an adult I have become quite adept at acquisition of toys – satisfying of wants. While there is still a restraint that my childhood imbued, I still need a 60 gig video iPod? (I have adjusted to many children trumping the BMW – Honda makes quite a nice car.) Is my narcissism such that I have become devoted to satisfying wants without a care for the price; for the emotional price of this particular want is at best exorbitant.

Of course the answer as I write this becomes intellectually clear. One’s nature – who we are – is a basic. And acknowledging our nature is acknowledging a need. The inability to truly acknowledge it (a place I am coming to know well) is what tricks us into seeing a want.

Yes I am bi and as such can receive satisfaction from women or men. But within this definition I give precedence to the straight side which may well be appropriate based on marriage, children, family – in short a life. Yet there is no denying that in the dead of night alone with my thoughts, my fantasies almost exclusively center on men. To just deny the gay side a seat at the table seems disingenuous.

I generally work in the suburbs but spend some time in the City. The other day I came home from the City quite tired and KA realized this was the tired of depression – not of sleep deprivation. She was right. As we lay in bed that night, she made a comment that stopped me. “It would have been okay if you came home at 9 o’clock.” We did not discuss the comment because the underlying meaning was strangely clear: a depressed Nate was no bargain. And as I have read more books, blogs, and on-line group chatter, it is striking the psychological toll of repression: what appears to be a disproportionate amount of substance abuse and related issues.

Yet knowing all of this, being able to form semi-cohesive thoughts on the topic, I still feel that I am dealing with a want – a whim as I wrote yesterday – and I still feel selfish.

An' here I sit so patiently
Waiting to find out what price
You have to pay to get out of
Going through all these things twice.
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,

To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again.

Yes Brad – there is no City that is safe:)


J.K.B. said...

Repressing, holding back, denial. It all takes a toll and presents itself in different fashions. I get anxiety when I begin contemplating my feelings. Feels like my heart's literally going to explode. Not fun stuff.

Paul said...


These last few posts really strike at the center of the issue. Wants vs. needs. I guess for the fortunate, they can be the same. But for me, there will always be a gap. I want to live in the city, have a weekend house at the beach, travel the globe regularly, eat out every night, and have lots of guy friends. I have none of these. Reality forces me to budget .... to allocate my resources on needs first, and then if there's anything left over, to satisfy wants.

Unfortunately, identifying your sexuality as a need -- rather than a want -- is probably easier for a single guy than a married guy with all the entrapments of a family. And if you're truly bi -- and can go either direction -- this is a different decision than that for a gay man stuck in a hetersexual marriage.

So, for all of us reading these blogs, I guess we must first determine where we are, individually, on the str8-bi-gay continuum. But I find great confort in the empathy and perspective of everyone's comments. I'll keep reading and listening.

Nate, I also wan to comment, "You've got a great, understanding wife."

A Troll At Sea said...


Here is today's opinion, and the way things have been going around here, tomorrow's will be completely different.

I have finally reached the point where I see that the most loving thing I can do for my wife is to untether her from my agonized bouncing back and forth. Gay/bi/straight? Who the hell cares? It has taken me MONTHS to get here, and I would have said I knew from the beginning that my life is not about ME.

So now it's time for straight talk about being gay enough to leave. And boy, does it hurt. Mostly it hurts knowing how it will hurt the people I love most.

But the status quo wasn't one anyone could live with in the long term. Not that I was the one who saw it first...

Tune in tomorrow and see if I'm still singing the same song... but the ship has sailed.


Nate said...

I go back and forth on the needs / wants and the bi/gay spectrum issues.

However I think that on sexuality as a need versus a want, I have to go to Jeff's comment. It may be a technical want as Paul says, especially for us married guys, but the toll of repression is such that it really is a need. We may choose to ignore the need and yes I feel selfish, but I don't want to test the limits of my heart either. Life is too short not to at least attempt the balancing act.

Brad said...

If one were stuck in Mobile, AL, one would more than likely have holes in the knees of their pants.

This would be from praying to God to get you the hell out of there!

Drew said...

I go back and forth all the time on my needs, my wants, and the difference between the two.

Thanks for your post, Nate.

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