Monday, February 25, 2008

Straight Talk

One of my (straight male) friends had been courting a girl for the last couple of weeks. I did my best to help him out; I gave him advice "from a girl's perspective," told him what to text her, and how soon he should wait before asking her to get coffee. This past weekend, she told him that she didn't like him after all, even though they had spent the previous week going on dates and making out and stuff. I feel bad for him because he really liked this girl, but we've all been there.

He often tells me that life would be easier if he were gay. I always laugh when he says that, thinking about how easier my childhood would have been if I were like all the other kids and went for breasts instead of dick. What I always end up saying to him, however, is something really gay, like "Yeah, it's pretty fabulous."

Thing is, it's not fabulous. I think there's a misconception out there that courtship is easier for gays than for straights. But I would argue the opposite: if you are gay (especially if you're gay in a place teeming with queers like downtown New York), it is almost impossible to find a lasting mate. One-night stands aren't too difficult to come by, but when you get right down to it, anyone with fifty bucks and a desire to cruise up Sixth Avenue at three in the morning can get lucky.

The thing about heterosexual love is that guys and girls don't really get each other. "Men are from Mars, women are from Venus" aside, boys and girls operate differently. They communicate in different ways, look at the same situation from varying perspectives, and often have incongruous values or life goals. The girl who's crushing on the guy reads his Facebook messages like a zoologist observes an animal. "What can he mean?" she thinks. "Why did he say that? Why is he so difficult to read?" I've heard girls ask these questions more times than I can count. So when a boy and a girl actually fall in love and stay together, well, it's a wonderful thing. That two totally different sorts of people can find common ground aside from the inborn drive for sex is mystifying and magnificent.

But for gays, it's the opposite. Gays don't ask as many questions. The reason is that we all operate in pretty much the same way. Sure, there are different kinds of gays: Splash kids, hipsters, straight-boy-wannabes, dancers. But in the end, our genes and our brains are pretty similar, and when it comes to reading each other, we all know what to expect. Therein lies the problem. We all try to read each others' moves. If a cute guy hits on me in a bar, I'd like to think I know what's he's thinking, and then I assume I know that he expects me to react in a certain way. It becomes a mutual guessing game, kind of like that movie WarGames, in which the Pentagon's supercomputer comes up with different scenarios for nuclear war with the Soviets. At the end, the computer learns that it always ends in a stalemate. That's what happens too often during gay courtship; the two potential lovers spend so much times reading each other and thinking of ways to outsmart each other that they don't actually spend too much time being with each other. Because love should end in a stalemate; nobody should "win," and nobody should trick the other into "losing." And the only way to ensure that happens is by forgoing the mind games and just hanging out; true love lies in the exploration of someone different, where instead of trying to figure him out, you accept him and love him for his quirks and flaws.

This is my problem. I am a neurotic mess who spends all his time trying to read other people. A gay guy I know from class writes on my wall, and even if he clearly means it platonically, I immediately think of all the different reasons for him to contact me. Does he like me? Is he trying to see if I like him? What if I wait a couple days so that I seem busy, that way he won't be able to determine how I feel and he'll have to reveal his hand first? Meanwhile, he just wanted to know the damn homework assignment due tomorrow, and maybe he wanted to get together to study. Of course that would just send me over the edge and I'd probably have a heart attack right then and there.

What I'm trying to say is that life would be easier if there were no such thing as love, if we all just existed as friends and didn't have to worry about hormones and emotions getting in the way. Maybe I'm just venting because I'm still so frustratingly single, but I'll be damned if I let my guard down, even for a second.

-Josh

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