What is it about love that changes us so much? What is it about love that makes us new? I have seen intelligent people turned stupid, serious people turned goofy, misanthropic people turned gregarious all in the name of love. I realize, of course, that love is the driving force of our society. I realize that living creatures are designed to couple--in the animal kingdom there are species that are designed to couple, repeatedly and often, with many partners, while others are stricly monogamous (for a complete list, see the movie LOVE AFFAIR in which Katharine Hepburn uses the unforgettable phrase "...fuck a duck..."). I guess the point is that living creatures are not meant to be alone. Animals, though, approach their partnerships with each other in a way that does involve a certain amount of logic, of tradition within their species (this much is apparent to anyone who studies animals or who even watches the programs about them on The Discovery Channel). The logic, the habit, the routine of behaviour that the animal kingdom follows must give them a great deal of ease and comfort that we humans are not afforded.
Instead, we were given the ability to think and feel. Yay for us. So we have the luxury of lovely things like unrequitted love, flat out rejection, fear and loneliness, desire, hatred and all the other pockets of human relations that leave us sitting in the dark watching Goldie Hawn movies from the sixties and eating whole boxes of Peanut Butter Oreos with half, no, whole gallons of milk until we fall asleep out of the sheer desperation of escaping the bloat of our bellies. We spend our lives looking for someone who will love us.
It begins when we are children. We don't even know what love is at that point (do we? I don't remember the first few years of my life--do children have the presence of mind to know what love is and what it is to pursue it?). We require some attention from the grown ups--even if that attention is merely being fed or being changed. Think about it, though; that is our first exposure to love. We are a child and someone who loves us (presumably) feed us. How many women (how many men, for that matter?) become quivering masses, warm and runny with emotion, just because the person they are involved with cooked them a nice dinner and served it at a table that has a bouquet of dying flowers and candles dripping wax on their nicest linen tablecloth? This is one of the ways in which we say I love you, isn't it? We have a date...we cook the date a meal. We have a date...we take the date to an expensive restaurant. We have a date...we take the date on a picnic. This behaviour starts as a child. We learn to love in the manner in which we are taught to love.
As we grow into our formative years, the first word we learn is NO! It's true. The first word we learn should be love but we are pushed to learn Mama, DaDa and NO! We are told what not to do, what is not acceptable. We are taught a tone of voice that shows us that there is something called disapproval, even if we cannot say the word we can certainly peg the emotion. And if there is disapproval, then there must also be approval. Don't we spend the rest of our lives chasing approval? Haven't I spent my life chasing the approval of others because it was so difficult to get at home? Didn't I break down in tears during LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE when the father put his hand on his son's shoulder and told him that, no matter what happens, I'm proud of you; because I never got that moment with my own father? Aren't we ALL terrified of being judged, of not being approved, of being disliked, of not being loved, of being rejected?
If we are lucky, we make it into our teenage angst years, aware that we are (soon!) going to have to begin dating, coupling, learning to socialize in ways that are confusing and scary. Uh Oh. Those happenings bring to us new exposures to the pain of love. What is it about love that makes us so needy? What is it about love that makes us so stupid? We behave in erratic and irrational ways; and I guess that is ok when we are in our teens because we have barely learned social skills, let alone social skills for the romantically socialized. But once we are out of our teens and grown ups, shouldn't we be able to adopt a little rationalization and not become Alex Forrest if a love affair doesn't work? Why DO we become obsessive, stalking people and boiling their bunnies? We don't HAVE to be alone, you know. There are other people out there who are interesting and smart and funny and some of them might actually like us back. I realize that there are those of us who are such social misfits that we probably won't find someone and we will have to spend the rest of our lives alone. I'll tell you, straight out, that I have known social misfits who have found someone. They coupled and lived happily ever after, two social misfits living in bliss, til death do them part. There is, there can be, someone for everyone. I also know, though, people who have spent their entire lives alone. Oh, maybe they have dated, certainly they have engaged in sexual congress, but they have spent their entire life single. I don't know the answer to their particular circumstance (some of them I know well enough to know that the reason that they are single is because they are too high maintenance for any one person to say "I want to spend the rest of my life with you"; others I know are simply too picky and set themselves up for disappointment). It's a personal thing, you know; and each of their personalities sets the bar for their situation.
My belief, though, is that they cannot find love and companionship because they cannot offer it to anyone--beginning with themselves.
I don't know why we cannot love ourselves. I cannot speak for the masses. I can speak for myself, complicated though it may be. I have spent much of my life not loving myself. That isn't to say that I have spent my ENTIRE life not loving myself. Somewhere, I must have loved myself--even on the days when I hated myself. Oh, I hated myself, too. Haven't you? I don't want any medals for survival or self awareness--I'm just a guy. I'm no different than anyone else on this planet and I have had it no worse than anyone else--in fact, I think I have had it easier. And it all made me who I am, today, so why bemoan it? It is all just a matter of fact, now. I have hated myself because I was taught to. I was told by school mates that I was not worthy of love and respect because I was not caucasion (you cannot know how much bigotry there was in the school system of the Cleveland suburbs of the 70s); later I was tormented for being a sissy (especially nice in the seriously underpopulated society of private schools in Portugal and Switzerland). There was the matter of society itself, always preaching that homosexuality was wrong. There was the question of a mean spirited Aunt who hurled insults at me, as a spectator at the zoo hurls peanuts at a monkey. There was the matter of a father who ignored me and didn't hide his disappointment in me. None of these are complaints. They are simple facts of matter that illustrate how I came to hate myself. I also, though, loved myself. I had a mother and grandmother who showered me with affection and attention and who taught me to be an artist and an intellectual. I have found myself fascinating, complicated, all my life. I wore the badge with pride and waved the banner, high. I did live with the duality of self-loathing and overwhelming conceit.
As an adult gay male of the 1980's I dealt, more, with the public point of view that (as a gay male) I was a second class citizen (hell, we are still dealing with that, thank you very much, Mr President). And then there was the regrettable rejection that is showered on almost all of us when we enter the world of dating. Self loathing was my occupation. So what. Over the last two decades I was able to add rejection in my profession, more rejection based on race and new rejections based on physical appearance.
This is, none of it, any more rejection or self loathing than is heaped on the rest of the individuals of the world (except for Matthew McConaghey who must have--I am convinced--experienced, at some point of his life, SOME form of rejection, unfathomable as it must seem). I'm actually grateful for it because it made me who I am and gave me the strength and the journey to become a survivor and to learn, finally(!) to love myself. I didn't do it alone. I had OB1 on my side (God) and I had Pat. When someone loves you like that, it's kind of hard to not begin to love yourself, too. Oh. And I had Tom. I still have them all. OB1, Pat and Tom. My three guys.
I realize, as a gay man, how lucky I am. How's that for a change? No complaint about the traumas of being a homosexual. An accolade for the chore of being gay. Gasp. Not because it has given me permission to be fabulous or because it gives me the chance to be artistic. There are a lot of great things about being a homo; I love it--unlike when I was younger and it was my crucifix. I understand gay pride. I understand it and I champion it: I wear it on my (invisible) sleeves and I show it off by holding Pat's hand whenever we are in public. What is it, you ask, that makes me say I am lucky? It's because we, as gay men, get to play by different rules. There is all this talk about equal rights. I don't really like the phrase equal rights. I like HUMAN RIGHTS. You see, equal means the same. We are not the same. We are all different. There should be human rights for women, for blacks, for latins, for asians, for people of varying spiritual backgrounds, political views, sexual proclivities. We should be allowed to live and be respected; but we are not equal. We are NOT the same. I don't want to be equal to Ward and June. I don't want the picket fence and 2.5 children. I am very happy in my deviant lifestyle.
You see, within the gay community, there is a permission slip we have been given (or perhaps written ourselves) called non-monogamy. Some of us just use that slip to have sex with as many people we like. That's all well and good and isn't it fun; but there are those of us who have taken it a step farther and formed new types of relationships. We have friends who are in committed three-man relationships (Pat and I call this a 'throuple', others call it a trinity or triad--we like our word, it's more fun). We know two couples, to be exact, who began dating a third person and, now, they are a family. We know another couple who sees other men--as a couple, never apart. We, as gay men, have been allowed to make our own rules, to set our own precedences. I think it's wonderful, indeed, quite groovy. I admire and respect our friends who have been able to make these multiple partner relationships work. We have dated as a couple but been unsuccesful at creating a throuple. There have been recent articles in magazines (no doubt inspired by the HBO Morman/polygamy show BIG LOVE) about gay multiple partner relationships. These are families that have had to make it up as they go along and their decisions have caused wonder, awe and a lot of judgement. I know what that's like. We, at 2A, have inspired wonder, awe and a lot of judgement. Friends have turned game nights into the Oprah Show, asking questions about how we handle it when a third (or even third and fourth) person becomes involved, questions about jealousy and safe sex and etiquette and protocal... There have been questions about the difference between Pat and I dating a man or Pat OR I dating a man. Friends have applauded us for our lack of jealousy and our sense of adventure. Friends have openly criticized our practices, judging and deriding us. Everyone has a reaction. I let them. They are welcome to their thoughts, their opinions, their reaction. It belongs to them, not to me.
What belongs to me is a world without jealousy, a world of trust, a world of experience and adventure. If it were not for our decision to live this way, I would not have known the sense of pride I have felt when Pat has bagged some truly hot guy that I couldn't get (it has happened often--good for him!) If it were not for our decision to live this way, I would never have met Tom. That's Tom in the photo above, with Pat. Aren't they gorgeous? I talk about Tom often in my writing and in the 'get to know your friends' surveys I do on MySpace. I don't explain Tom because people who know me already know about Tom and our history. People who don't know and are confused usually just ask -- or they do their own math. Tom is Tom and that is all there is to it. Just as Pat is Pat. I am not as simple as that. Ste is not just Ste. I believe Pat refers to me as Hurricane Mosher. You know me. Gotta stand out.
For the sake of clarity in this story, I should state that Tom and I were involved for a few months but it ended (romantically) when he met the love of his life (nope--it wasn't me, much to my disappointment) and I sent him off to be with that man. We could not, though, have a life without each other; so we are still a great couple---just a different kind of couple, now. And he and Pat are a different kind of couple. And in our own way, we are a throuple. Not the throuple I thought we would be, but a throuple, nonetheless. To tell the details of my relationship with Tom would ruin the book I am writing (called, aptly enough, THE STORY OF TOM) but what I will say here is this: Pat was there the night I met Tom and saw that something was happening and facilitated it. In fact, when I didn't have anything to write on, Pat went and got a pen and paper from the bar and wrote down my info to give to Tom. Pat was there to support me and to listen to my incessant pissing and moaning when things weren't going well. He helped me to have an adventure, an affair, that showed me that I was worth being loved, that he wasn't the only man out there who thought to offer me some esteem. He helped me to find the lesson that I was to be taught because the universe brough Tom and I together. Together and apart, Pat and Tom changed my life. And there was a fair amount of time, during the journey, that I was acting stupid--because of love.
I feel badly for the people out there who don't get the adventure of experiencing love. Some of them are the victims of circumstance; but some of them are the victims of their own bad behaviour,their own selfishness, their own rigidity. I wish that they could have the adventures, the experience. the lesson. I'm so grateful I had mine--which is ongoing, by the way. The adventure never stops--not with Pat. Together we make every day an adventure. Yay.
I'm 42 years old. I've loved, really and truly loved, two men in my life. They were complete opposites and brought absolutely different things to our relationship(s), to my life and to my personal growth. I acted stupidly, at times, with each of them but, happily, I could be smart when it was important. Being always honest with Pat has been smart. Telling Tom to go to Robert and actually letting go, immediately and with joy for his future happiness, was smart. In the end, I handled all of it with a sense of logic, which is a good thing because it has kept us close, kept us a family. I realize, as a gay man, how lucky I am. This kind of relationship, these kinds of happenings, probably don't happen every day in the heterosexual world. I got this great adventure and Pat and Tom and I got a family that may not be the same as all the other families (and, indeed, it may not be the family I wanted--I won't lie; if Tom called tomorrow and said he wanted to come back and be with us, I know that Pat and I would say "will you be home for dinner?") but it is a family that works.
Yesterday, Tom came over and was hanging out and he and Pat were lying in each others' arms on the sofa and I realized what one of my great joys of the experience has been: it has been sharing them with each other. I am overwhelmed by happiness when I see how they love each other. He comes over and hangs out. We don't need to talk. We just go about our day, being in one room together or being in different rooms, but still together. I have watched them help each other with grooming, I have seen them make out on the dance floor, I have seen them laugh over silly stupid cartoons that I don't get the humour of. Pat and I have slept in a bed with Tom between us--together, scratching his hair (his favourite thing). Because of the love each of us feels for each other, because of the love we feel for each other as a unit, because of the love we feel for each different couple that we are, we have been changed. We have been stupid, we have been smart, we have been strong and weak.
We have been, and are today, lucky. I have to admit though; I feel... I think... I believe....
I have been the luckiest.