Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Straight Guys, Gay Sex

I recently met a 30-something guy, Ed, who is engaged to be married.  He really loves his girlfriend and wants the relationship to work but he's having some second thoughts.  "Am I man enough for her?  Can I give her what she needs?"

His questions were surprising, especially for a straight guy.

It turns out that Ed's doubts, at least in part, began when his fiance' told him she didn't feel desired enough.  To prove her point she later went and had a sexual fling with another guy and justified it by saying she was hungry for affection.

It doesn't sound like Ed and his fiance' are much of a match, does it? 

Well, on a more positive note, Ed says the couple shares every private thought and has no secrets.  "We're very emotionally connected."

Ed believes his struggle with expressing love began as a young boy, when his father died unexpectedly.  He says he loved his father so much, and the pain of losing him was so great, that ever since he's kept his feelings tightly controlled.  He therefore understands why his fiance' gets frustrated with him.

When I heard this story I tried not to project my own feelings and experiences into it.  That was difficult. 

You see, long before Gabbie got involved with Charlie, she periodically complained to me that I didn't pay enough attention to her.  I never knew how to respond.  I totally loved her - what more did she want?  Eventually I decided the problem was hers and not mine; she was needy and perpetually unsatisfied, not only with me, but with several other aspects of life.  The best way for me to cope was to be patient and to accept her as she was.

I was so confident in my love for Gabbie that it took several years for me to see Charlie as a serious threat.  In the early days, I actually relished the competition with him.  He was such an obvious loser, I KNEW I'd prevail, and once I did, Gabbie would no longer complain about me.  At one point I even said to myself, "Bring it on Charlie...there's no way you can win!"

Famous last words...

Getting back to Ed, he said he sometimes questions whether he might be a little bisexual.  He's never been with a guy, and never sees it happening, but he does fantasize about them.  Specifically, he wants to be pursued by a man and penetrated like a woman.  This appeals to Ed because he's faced so much rejection from women that he imagines being pretty and sexy enough to attract a man.  Stockings, women's lingerie and anal toys have all become a part of Ed's fantasy play, both alone and with his fiance'.

My fantasies have never gone in that direction so I can't particularly relate to Ed, but I see the logic of his thoughts.  If you're an unattractive man and you're not desired, why not pretend to be a pretty girl so you'll be wanted?  And getting penetrated is proof that you're desired, so that makes sense too.

My friend Hayden heard Ed's story at the same time I did, yet his take was very different from mine.  His opinion: "Ed is obviously gay.  He's just so repressed that he finds creative ways to rationalize his thoughts."

Hmm.  Could be, I suppose.  I never tried to hide my sexuality from myself so maybe I don't recognize deep denial when I hear it.

What intrigues me about Ed's fantasies is that the men in them are completely anonymous.  He has no personal or emotional interest in them.  His focus is entirely on being desired and getting penetrated.  He doesn't imagine any talking or any kind of masculine bonding.  And the last thing he wants to do is something intimate, like kiss.

Really, he sounds like a great many "straight" guys on Craigslist who are looking for gay sex.

I've never understood that phenomenon.  I see actual behavior and frequent fantasies as indicative of sexual orientation, not intimacy.  Intimacy is entirely optional, regardless of whether you're straight, bi or gay.  I therefore find "straight" guys who post Craigslist man-4-man ads to be very puzzling.  I don't understand how a man can genuinely believe he's straight when he has sex more often with men than women.  I don't get it.  And universally, neither do straight wives.  Over and over their husbands explain how completely meaningless their hook-ups with men are, but their wives never believe them.  "Straight men don't like dick, EVER!"

Ed's description of his fantasies with men reminded me that I've had somewhat similar fantasies about women.  These fantasies are uncommon but they do happen, and just as in Ed's fantasies, my focus is very limited.  I never envision a face, or even much of a body.   My objective is simple: to hammer an anonymous vagina, with absolutely no concern for the woman involved.  Intimacy has no place in this fantasy.  Names, conversation, kissing, looking into the woman's eyes...I can't imagine any of those things.  If I do, they kill the whole idea.

Fantasies are one thing but real-life encounters are totally different.  Ed says he can't imagine ever being with a man.  And while I have been with a woman, I can't imagine ever pursuing one again.  However...if there was a place on the Internet where I could find local women who offered free, no talking, anonymous, NSA sex, I might be tempted to indulge.  If I did, would that make me in denial of being straight?  Or is just having a vaginal sex fantasy enough to earn me that label?

I'm sure opinions on the subject vary, but I'd bet that a lot of people (like Hayden), who would be quick to label Ed as "gay, in denial and very repressed" would not be a rush to label me as "heterosexual, in denial and repressed."  Why is that?

Another thing...

It's common for people to associate shame with being in denial.  Certainly they can be related, but are they always?

Hayden thinks Ed is so deeply ashamed of his attraction to men that he uses every excuse he can to maintain the belief that he's straight.  Well, what if my disembodied, misogynistic vagina fantasy causes me deep shame?  Does that mean I'm in denial about being straight?  

As you can see, Ed's story has pulled me in multiple directions, some of which are contradictory.  Maybe his fiance' is right to question his ability to desire her.  Maybe he is gay, but in deep denial about it.  Or, maybe he's just an imperfect straight guy, scarred by a history of endless rejection and emotional abandonment.

Whatever the answer, this is Ed's mess to figure out. 

At first I wanted to tell him how my wife dumped me because I didn't pay enough attention to her, but the more I listened to his story, the more confused I became.  Ultimately I decided not to share my bad experience.  He isn't particularly attractive...he is being totally honest with his fiance'...what good would it do to confirm his fears?  I actually hope he does get married and he and his fiance' live happily ever after.  More power to them, right?

With all this said, I'm still wondering what the deal is with all those straight guys looking for gay sex on Craigslist.  Are they all in-denial, closeted homos?  Or, are most of them authentically straight, just somewhat fucked up the way Ed is? If you can enlighten me, I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Love, Dating and the Importance of Visible Abs

I first came out (to myself) when I was 13.

Making the admission was a two-part deal: I would fully accept my sexuality and stop beating myself up about it, but not tell anyone.  No one needed to know.  At 13 I had no desire to commit the rest of my life to anything, especially something that could give me "the gay cancer."

That said, if I hadn't met Gabbie at 20, I'm pretty sure I would have started to come out at 22.  I say this because my best friend from college came out to me that year.  With his support, I would've had the courage to follow in his footsteps.

I sometimes wonder how different things would have been if I had come out in my 20s.  I certainly would have lived a very different life.

When I met Gabbie, I had no romantic or sexual interest in her; she aggressively pursued me.  We went from friends to dating when she drunkenly decided to lay down in the street and refused to get up until I told her that I liked her.  The whole situation was silly and impossible to take seriously.  At least I thought so.  But Gabbie was determined, and step-by-step, she guided our relationship toward something significant.  I let it happen, partly because I never imagined we'd have a long-term future together, but also because Gabbie's strong interest in me was very flattering.  No one had ever paid that much attention to me.  She made me feel very wanted.

Eventually the guilt of hiding the truth took its toll on me.  At 26, after two and a half years of marriage, I came out to her and she promptly moved to a new place, more than twenty miles away.

"Free at last!" I was once again on the cusp of leading a gay life. I even had an awesome boyfriend.  But, it turned out, Gabbie wasn't done with me. Although we were separated, she called me every day, and as hard as I tried to politely break our connection, she just wouldn't cooperate.

After spending two months apart, what finally convinced me to give our marriage a second chance was that Gabbie STILL wanted to be with me, even after I fucked up her life.  To be so fiercely loved by her was an amazing feeling.  She loved me with all her heart, how could I not love her too?

Fourteen years after reuniting we were still going strong.  So strong, in fact, that I'd stopped pursuing men.  I'd tried every kind of down-low, part-time relationship possible but never felt fulfilled for more than a few months, no matter how much I liked the guy.  Hook-ups, friends with benefits and closed-loop relationships...none of those really worked for me.  If I was going to be with a guy, I wanted an uncompromised, full-time partnership.  If I couldn't have that, I was very satisfied with Gabbie and our kids.  Sure, my sex life wasn't ideal, but I'd always kept my sexuality in the background anyway.  And for as much as being gay was a core part of my identity, it was also just one part of a complete me.

When Gabbie first told me about meeting Charlie I could tell she was attracted to him.  Even so, I wasn't worried she'd cheat.  I was even more certain she'd stay loyal after I met him - the guy was obviously a low-life piece-of-shit.  I KNEW it wouldn't take long for her to get sick of him.  She was a billion times smarter than him.  He could barely write his own name!

I was so confident that Charlie was no threat that I didn't care much when she started hanging out with him every weekend.  I figured that the better she got to know him, the sooner she'd be done with him.

WRONG!

To this day (although I try not to think about it), I don't know what happened to Gabbie's relentless, fierce, all-consuming love for me.  How did that loser Charlie steal her away???  For twenty years, all I knew was Gabbie's fierceness.  Never anything different.  She was unwavering - until she wasn't.

Honestly, I don't think I'll ever be fully healed from our break-up.  It's been more than four years and I still fight feeling hurt when I see her.  But I know I can't continue on this way.  I need to forget the past and focus on the future.

When we split up four years ago, I was 44. Twenty years of desk jobs and no exercise had made me a little pudgy and definitely out of shape.  My first priority was to get healthy so I could date.
November 2014

Much to my surprise, I found working out to be easier than expected.  I took to it pretty quickly and the extra pounds vanished in a few weeks.  To avoid going back to my old habits, I kept working out and in a few month's time, I began to wonder if I could drop enough fat that my abs would show.  I know it's very cliche' but I find six-pack abs to be a big turn-on so OF COURSE I wanted to have them.

I've never been happy with what I've achieved, but as of November 2014,
here's what I could show :

Not bad for 48 but certainly not great.
May 2013

As you might know, the trick to having visible abs is to drop your body fat below 8%.  I have no idea what mine was, probably 10-11%.  Close enough that giving up was not an option.  I had to try even harder to make it.

Little did I realize what I was doing to myself.  Here's how my face looked in May of 2013:
And here's what it looked like last November, 18 months later.  This was taken at the same time as the torso picture above:
November 2014


Do you notice anything?

In an all-out effort to lower my body fat, I drained a huge amount of volume from my face.  Look at the canals and sagging skin. Yuck. 

Sure, I obtained a slight indication of visible abs, but my face was so gaunt who the hell would want to talk to me?  It was this picture that made me realize I'd gone too far.

May 2015

I immediately made some changes and spent some money to try to rehabilitate my face.  I'm never going to fully recover because aging is pushing against me, but here's where I am today:



So...what's my point in all this?

I have a few conclusions, actually:

1.  Gabbie's rejection of me was so unexpected, so debilitating and so beyond my control that my way of healing from it was to focus on one thing I could control: obtaining defined abs.  In time, my progress toward that goal became my primary measure of self-worth, much in the same way that Gabbie's ferocious love had been that measure for my adult life.

2.  Because I had some experience dating men when I was younger, my concept of what would make me attractive was stuck in the past.  Specifically, I thought a thin, 20ish body would draw the attention of plenty of men over 40.  This is true, however, I've since learned that guys who like twinks want the whole package.  No matter how "twinkish" a 45yo guy is (including many Asians), other age-appropriate guys who like that look will not 'settle' for a guy in his forties.  They'll only chase guys in their twenties.  

It turns out that what most single gay men over 40 find attractive are "bears" and muscle daddies.  Thin, middle-aged twinks are near the bottom of the list.  

Too bad for me that I poured so much of my self-worth into something so utterly undesirable.

3.  Even if was 6' and 180 pounds, having visible abs at 48 wouldn't count for much.  They'd count for a little in traditional dating and somewhat more on hook-up apps, but overall, obtaining them is largely wasted effort.  Face pics are universally demanded for a reason - they're what REALLY matter.

The good news is that my self-confidence has been smashed to nothing and I have no where to go but up.  I recently read that confidence comes when you become comfortable with what you lack:
The big charade with confidence is that it has nothing to do with the comfort of what we achieve and everything to do with the comfort of what we don’t achieve.

People who are confident in business are confident because they’re comfortable with failure.

People who are confident in their social lives are confident because they’re comfortable with rejection.

People who are confident in their relationships are confident because they’re comfortable with getting hurt.

The truth is that the route to the positive runs through the negative. Those among us who are the most comfortable with negative experiences are those who reap the most benefits.

It’s counterintuitive, but it’s also true. Often we worry that if we become comfortable in our failures — that if we accept failure as an inevitable part of living — that we will become failures. But it doesn’t work that way. Comfort in our failures allows us to act without fear, to engage without judgment, to love without conditions. 
                                                          - Mark Manson, "The Confidence Conundrum"
It's a daily and sometimes hourly struggle, but I'm doing my best to embrace failure.  After taking a two year break from trying to date, I'm back at it, determined to find success through endless rejection.

I have a long way to go, but I am optimistic that one day I'll either be partnered OR I won't give a fuck that I'll be single forever.  It's a weird goal to have but I can already tell the journey will be more worthwhile than endless crunches, planks and side planks.