Thursday, July 16, 2009

Winning and Losing

Recently I have been e-mailing with a new friend Tammy, a very pretty lesbian in her early thirties. She lives with a woman but the excitement has long faded and there is a world of women out there, one in particular who makes her heart pound and juices flow. She is not ready to walk away from what she has – the comfort, friendship and emotional bond, but she is also not ready to resign herself to a life of, to use a term, quiet desperation.

As I listen to her story I try to think of words of wisdom and I go back in time – December 1981. A client has a holiday party that was ahead of its time – a warehouse space, top shelf all the way, a harbinger of the excesses that the current decade perfected. What made the night special was the opportunity to be with Karen, a cute little legal secretary I was infatuated with. At this point in my very straight life I had a girlfriend I semi-lived with – Stephanie and I were the proverbial square peg in the round hill, only in our twenties and already playing out the string.

The party had raffles – everyone got a ticket as they walked in the door. My partner, older and supportive of my intentions, joined me as we sought out Karen and as we sat down for dinner we spread the three tickets – ours and hers – in front of Karen, a peace offering of sorts. Eventually they get to the drawings and my partners number comes up – lunch in a famous New York restaurant. Well a McDonald’s gift certificate is always useful. A few other winners and then Karen’s number: a swatch watch, or the equivalent of the day. A few other winners and then we hear my number: two tickets to 42nd Street, orchestra seats, a Saturday night. Primo tickets to the Broadway show of the season.

The evening ends and back home to Steph. Now I should have been quite talkative – a raffle, three tickets, three winners, and one of the best prizes to moi! I don’t say a word. I think she is my girlfriend; we tend to spend our Saturday nights together. And I think I did win these with Karen and to be honest what a great opportunity to extend a new friendship – hell maybe even get into her pants. A balancing act: the existing, albeit not particularly healthy relationship or throwing it all away for the dream. I still remember the back and forth and the way I came to decide. It was clear that the relationship at home had gotten off track and I decided that I would blow the roof off and maybe, just maybe, things would end up back on course. Or possibly we would be blown so far off the tracks that we could no longer ignore the pathology. Either possibility seemed better than where we were, bordering on the quiet desperation. Karen it was.

The beginning of the end of the Stephanie era: it would take another year or so, a long playing swan song but eventually the end came and I suspect we were both much better for it, even if I did not know it at the time. Karen – a wonderful night at the theatre, a friendship which years later I single handedly destroyed: a story for another day.

It all comes to my mind as I think about Tammy and particularly as I think about my relationship with Phil. The last group of posts written for a person who does not read my blog, a pretty silly way of communicating. It is time to talk more openly, to risk putting things back on the tracks or maybe blow them up. Phil and I talk, more than once, no revelations, no magic bullets, but we talk. And an interesting thing happens: we get along better, the sex is wonderful, and there is a sense of optimism.

Sometimes in order to win you have to be willing to lose.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Personal pride

Everyone loves fireworks and this year the “tweenage” children decide they want the full show – Macy’s fireworks over the Hudson River, one of those things you do with a million of your closest friends. I can’t blame them and actually look forward to the adventure. We park the car in suburbia – this is a train night, stupid I’m not. Before leaving the car I prepare – pull my drivers license and credit card, train tickets and cash: no need to carry everything I own.

My key chain seems to always have more on it than one would think necessary so car and house key are on one ring and all sorts of things are on the other. I remove a key from the everything ring and start to slide it on with the car and house key – the “real’ ring. The kids notice – there is not much they do not – and ask what That key is?

Now they have heard Phil’s name over the years, usually by accident, always fleeting, almost with shame, a mirror of my own insecurities. However a theme has emerged over the last few months, one sponsored by Carrie, welcomed by me, and tolerated by Phil: it is time for Phil to meet the family. Not in a Meet The In-Laws formal weekend visit: a more unstructured whenever the paths cross moment.

“What is the key for?” they ask again in unison. I answer simply: We will be in the vicinity of Phil’s apartment and in case we need a place to go – whatever the reason – it is good to have the key. “What if Phil is there?” I answer “Phil is not there.” “How do you know?” “Because I know where he is. And if he is there, you will meet him”

We did not need the key – I never expected we would – but what a liberating moment: his name spoken, not whispered, his existence and my key acknowledged. They may not have met tangibly last night, but in some sense I feel a bridge was crossed, more by me than by them. I suspect they had crossed that bridge a while ago – stupid they’re not.

Somehow it all seems to tie in: “Pride” is important, a group believing in itself, but I suppose that pride as reflected in our day to day lives is much more important for without that there never could have been “Pride”. And when one can banish shame, if only for a moment, there is a vacuum that pride will eventually fill.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Pride – Part 3: Why

Why as in “why am I writing this, what is my point.” The evening festivities are no surprise – a quick bite to eat in the Village, parade vestiges all around, up to Chelsea for a drink in Rawhide, a bar worthy of its name and then way uptown to the Townhouse, as upscale as it sounds. Some drinks surrounded by our community and home to bed though not to sleep.

It all does make sense to me, a full day, time for me, time for us. But I do realize, having written this over a few days and having re-read it a number of times that it does not really make sense: I have described a situation of inherent imbalance as if it was as stable as Manhattan’s bedrock base. There is a part of me that can explain why it all works: I have my children and get to spend time with them while Phil is occupied with Stan. I am not ready to jump all in and say let’s play house together. Makes sense…

Yet we are playing house, together most weeknights and the ones where we are not we know where the other is, what the other is doing. We talk every day; we are best friends and lovers. So the question is do I have the best of all worlds or am I just willing to ignore the downsides? And whose downsides are they? While I do not agree with Phil’s management of the situation – his children or Stan, that seemingly endless ability to compartmentalize, is it really my concern?

There are two answers here. Clearly on one level it is not my concern so long as it has no direct impact upon me. But I fear the other answer is that it is my concern. The fact that Word tells me I am approaching fifteen hundred words on the “Pride” posts, the fact that I felt the need to circumnavigate my boyfriend, fearing an uncomfortable moment, these are tangible events, measurable and real. I suppose that is the nature of relationships, the baggage becomes shared.

It is all comfortable for now and I am a patient man. Things will not change today or tomorrow but life like water does find its own level. The excitement of this journey and the Blog which tracks it, has been that unlike a novel, no one, least of all me, knows the ending, probably because short of death there is no ending, just the ride with its pleasures and its pains.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Pride – Part 2: Hitting the Streets

Sunday arrives and after a weekend with my kids I head south to New York City. The parade covers miles but I head down to the Village, where forty years ago at the Stonewall one might say the parade began and is now where it ends. The streets are crowded and as a middle aged white male I blend into the background and watch the show. Parades, even “my” parade, don’t do much for me so after a few minutes I head down to the Dugout, a bear bar, to get a beer. It is packed, the type of environment where Phil is instantly best friends with the person pressed next to him but where I quietly sip my drink. After a while I head out to the street, some people hanging around, and most importantly air to breathe.

As I am standing there a fellow starts to talk with me – a few years older and one who has been there for the past forty years. Mark brings a different perspective, we are both wandering alone, so we decide to wander together, and wander we do for the next three hours. There is talking and a certain element of sexuality. We talk of life, relationships and hooking up. At some point I check my cell phone and there is a missed call from Phil. It seems that Stan and his friend have wandered off and Phil is available. We arrange to meet – me, my new friend Mark and of course Phil; we pick a spot but with the parade, closed streets, crowd control, this is more an odyssey than a stroll.

We arrive and it is strangely uncomfortable – Phil and Mark are not cut out for each other and Phil decides to head back to the Dugout where his friends have gone while Mark and I wander the other direction, potentially back to the apartment…. As we wander Mark’s desires cool with the air and the moment, if there was one, is gone. Mark thinks his old boyfriend may be at the Dugout and wants to walk back there. Now it is getting interesting – the Dugout is where Phil went to reconnect with Stan and his friend. It is not a big place – running into them is almost assured. I call Phil – he knows the dilemma quite well – and he tells me to do what I like, not exactly a ringing endorsement for running into them. I am happy to skip it all but Mark is hell bent on going and at that point we were still wandering together.

We approach the bar and I immediately spot Phil and the crew – standing on the street talking among themselves. And I realize that I am not ready for this, I cannot go and make believe that I have not seen Phil in weeks or months. Presumably Stan has a good idea that I am still in the picture but while I may write like a drama queen, I try not to live like one. Circumnavigating them is not difficult and Mark and I check out the scene. Now Mark is nice but three hours was just fine so I excuse myself to head into the bar for a beer before hitting the streets again. As I approach, there is Phil and Stan, presumably saying good bye, arms wrapped around each other, a very private moment in a very public place.

Now this is no surprise – they spend a night or so together each week, close friends for upwards of seven years. I quickly slide into the bar and over a Bud light consider it. Of course they were saying good bye and after downing my beer, out comes the cell. Phil, on his own now, is not far away – we speak for a moment and five minutes later it is time for the evening festivities to begin…

Friday, July 03, 2009

Pride - Part 1: Setting the Stage

I am not sure if this is a diary entry more than a blog post, but not having a little book with a clasp this seems to be the only repository for my thoughts, even when it is more for me than for you. Last weekend was “Pride” – an event which, like some artists, has been reduced to a word. I am not inherently big on Pride or similar events: I am not a parade goer, not one for public displays with strangers. It sort of reminds me of the two vegans in my office – one high on the pecking order and the other working the mailroom. The mailroom fellow thinks of the two of them as kindred spirits and the other fellow thinks they are incredibly different unrelated people who happen to share one thing. But yet again I digress.

Last year I went to Pride with Phil and Stan – a party high above the fray at one of their acquaintances and then wandering the streets and a beer at the Dugout. Now that we are in the era of Phil having bifurcated his life, I assumed that Pride would be a Stan day and the thought of wandering myself was not sending me.

A few days before that weekend I am at a cocktail party – a networking event for us white collar types and in spite of my gayness (or maybe becasue of it) I find myself chatting up a cute tall blond maybe twenty years my junior. I confess, there is still a bi next to the gay and while I am not hitting on her, the company is nice. As we talk some more a few comments – references to Chelsea and the Pines – so being me I point out that I have been to those places. In an instant high fives and my new lesbian friend confesses she thought I was gay but was confused by the talk of my children. Tammy and I are friends. She does not so much ask if I am going to Pride as assume I am. And at that moment I realized that I needed to go – it is the life I have chosen, or maybe the life that chose me.

That night Phil tells me that Stan has a friend coming up for the weekend so I think, great, Phil is no longer tethered. It turns out I was half right: Phil would be around that evening but for the day it was a threesome again, just I was not one of the three. At first there was some disappointment, but then I realized this was a good thing: so much of my gay life has been not only with Phil, but through Phil; his friends have become mine, but of course they are still his. A day on my own would be a healthy enough event, maybe a dose of some reality for better or worse.