Friday, November 17, 2006

Flip Books

Certain things seem constant from generation to generation. When I was a kid I remember “flip books” – those little ones where by fanning the pages the cartoon would come to life and I have seen my own children with variants. Of course the concept is that looking at each page alone you see a static image. But fan those pages and, voila, a silent movie.

(I can hear people saying: this is a stretch even for Nate – where the hell are we going today?)

So we go back to last Saturday night, my closest friend, a friend of 38 years is over for dinner. His wife is away so it gives us some time to talk, talk quietly, and talk intensely. He has gone two months without a drink – a laudable feat after a twenty year run. He remains confused as to my circumstances: I have a strong will; I love my wife and family: why not step back from the precipice.

As we talk I realize that he has known me for 38 years but until one night this summer he did not have an inkling to my bi/gay side. From his perspective this is a newly discovered side of Nate, maybe there latently but invisible to all, even to me. So I rewind. I realize that much of what he has never seen has been written about in these pages. I realize that these scenes have come and gone in my consciousness over the ten months of this journal. So I rewind and I share with my friend.

The vignettes pour out. An eleven year old in a circle jerk and then in bed in a sixty-nine position: I know the game is to fake giving a blowjob in order to get one. I know if I wrap my lips I will be ridiculed. I am responsible even back then. I play the game, but I know what I really wanted.

I am in College and my roommate and I swap massages. It is the early seventies, the time of the West Coast “offense” if you would, and touchy feely does not warrant a notice. But every time I rub his lower back, I want to keep going, I want to roll him over. Who knows, maybe he was thinking it too, but I am responsible and I am afraid.

I am still in College – 1974, an apartment one block off Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village – ground zero for gays. I go to the supermarket one afternoon and find myself talking with an old guy – thirties – an Allen Ginsberg beard, a real hippie. I have a pony tail by then, but do not feel myself to be authentic like him. He invites me to visit him - gives me his address. On some level I realize the nature of his interest and I am good to go. But back at the apartment I mention it and my roommate is happy to assist, to warn me and save me: “the man is gay and wants to hit on you.” So I do not go: yet again “saved”.

College ends and I am in my apartment, in my mid twenties. I recently wrote of this afternoon: I may not have a guy, but I have a toy and so starts a lifetime of physical desire fulfilled.

It was those days that I discovered Buddy Booths: I remember that first time. I did not understand when a hand came through the gap – well maybe I did understand and spooked, I bolted. That night I fully understood and regretted, regretted an opportunity lost. It is strange how with all the pornography I have seen in my life I can still to this very day describe the movie: A view through a telescope and two naked men on a beach.

Carrie comes along and so do the toys – my partner in crime. Doesn’t every newlywed want to feel a strap-on in the honeymoon suite, be the bitch for one’s wife? The years of the Whispers, the trip to Washington and finally this past year: A dizzying experience.

I talk, a half hour, maybe an hour, time stands still. It all pours out with a quiet intensity. My friend is stunned but he also now understands. And finally, so do I. For the past year I have looked at each of those pages, each of those static images and thought about them. But every time, it is only one image, an aberration of a straight guy, okay a bi guy. But when you fan them all together, when you watch the movie in full speed, it is clear. I am gay.

In a week of change Carrie and I had already reached this conclusion: we had already started planning our new course, but seeing the movie... It is time for self acceptance, the hardest acceptance of all.


Anonymous said...

A truly thought provoking and honest post...

bear said...

wow, very revealing.
Friends: I am simultaneously saddened and relieved to reveal the same kind of truths to old friends. Sad because it feels that the whole time, I thought they knew me and I'd come to realize that they didn't because the thing I thought to reveal (about being gay) shifts everything instead of just filling in gaps. Plus, it's hard to find that quiet time anymore to share at this level as I grow older too.
Gay: the yearning was there for a long time I see...this has taken a slightly different perspective on your bi/gay-ness for me.

Paul said...

A saying in my business: One point in time a trend does not make.

So, definitions are still called for: gay? bi? straight? But, does it matter?

Is life just defined by what one does with what's between their legs?

Anonymous said...

I am with Paul on this one. i spent a lot of time beating myself up (no, make that I spenD a lot time) about labels. I realise that the label is meaningless. Gay/bi whatever. Not Entirely Straight.
But I know *exactly* where you are coming from. And as for self acceptance - what a toughie that one is. I am just struggling with self awareness in the hope that one day it might lead to acceptance. I am not counting on it.

Nate said...

If life was defined by what is between my legs, life would be simpler indeed. Life is defined by what is between my ears, and that volume is hard to control - needs more than the proverbial cold shower.

The labels, I know they are meaningless, I know that I am bi and gay. But I also know that at this moment continuing to write bi/gay is a shield to hide behind.

I suppose the feeling is that if I write gay enough, if I say gay enough, if I think gay enough, it will help at least a little in the self acceptance I am finally making progress in.

Bear - I am glad you read this post because reading your comments over the months, I am not surprised your perspective changed. Thinking and writing it even changed mine.

Jas - the self acceptance will come. All of us who live two steps forward and one step back move slowly and in this case, moving slowly is good. It not only allows us time to work through it but it allows our spouses that same time and they probably need the time even more than we do.

Thanks guys, really.

Scott said...

This was a really inspiring post, thank you.

I too am trying to understand who and what I am. Although I know that labels are helpful, I dont like them. My sexuality is fluid like the river in the sea, sometimes it rushes and sometimes it is calm.

Your inspiring! Thank you.

marsmsu said...

I hope this process gives you peace. It did for me.