Personal Sexual History IV: Falling in Love Again. And Again.
Last (I think) of the series. Some of the pics are very NSFW (and none of them are really relevant to the story, but I didn't want you to get too bored). Sorry about that.
Periods of personal upheaval create fertile ground for emotional entanglement. This is why, for example, adolescents fall in love so often, so deeply, and with such painful results. Coming out later in life (anytime after, say, twenty) is a lot like adolescence. I remember having this exact same conversation with the therapist I saw when I was coming out. When I said that it was a lot like going through adolescence again, she said, "Except that you didn't really go through it the first time." I must have looked terrified when she said that because she quickly followed up with, "But it's a lot easier at thirty-five than at sixteen."
Not so much.
This is a period that isn't a lot of fun to write about because I look back at it now, and I don't think, "Oh, I was so charmingly naive." I think more, "Oh, I was really stupid." At least when I see other people go through the same thing (My friend George, for example, is just recently divorced and falls in love with every cute young guy he meets when he's traveling abroad. And he travels abroad a lot.), I try to be sympathetic. But I also gently try to let them know that their feelings are likely to change a good deal over time. That sounds a lot better than "you're being stupid."
In any case, while the courtship and marriage of my ex had been (with the exception of the really painful ending, which was truly awful and left me with a permanent distrust of the legal profession) an emotionally placid affair, when I started getting emotionally entangled with men, I understood for the first time all the fuss about love.
I fell in love with a man for the first time before I had actually met that man in person. Not long after the ex and I decided that we were headed for a split, I started chatting with a guy in California. Casual chats became less casual and then became phone calls which became long phone calls which became long phone calls with phone sex. Which, by the way, he was really good at. We had a lot in common: he was currently separated and beginning the divorce process, and he had a son still in school. He was about ten years older than me, and he had a much better career at that time (I was still a stay-at-home dad then) than I did, but we could talk about anything, and we understood each other. And we were both very vulnerable.
The whole thing was simultaneously real and unreal. I certainly meant everything I said to him, and when I told him, for the first time, that I loved him (over the phone, you understand), it was a very powerful moment. Fortunately, he was very happy to hear it, and he said it back.
He wasn't however, completely honest with me. He said he was separated, but he was, in fact, still living with his wife, who had no idea that he liked dick. When I first fell for him, I hadn't had any dick (at least not since I was 21 or so), but he'd already been in love with a guy and had had his heart broken.
But I only found out about all that later. I had moved into my own apartment around the beginning of April, and a few weeks later, he was coming to the area for a conference of some sort, so we made plans to get together. Between the time I started talking to him and the time we got together, I'd had sex with one guy, which made me somewhat less nervous. I knew that I liked it even more in practice than I did in theory. I remember the night he arrived in town pretty clearly. His hotel was way over in Northern Virginia, and I'd given him detailed directions. He called a couple of times on his way over, and I was more and more excited to see him. When he finally knocked on the door, I opened it, grabbed him, pulled him inside and started kissing him. I'd been sucking on an Altoid, and it wound up in his mouth.
Most of the rest of that evening is a blur. I know we wound up in bed pretty quickly, and I know that he was a great kisser, and I know that I fucked him, but I was much too emotionally overwhelmed to chronicle the sexual details. I think it really is true that sex is better with someone when you're in love with him, but I don't think that's true forever. It adds another layer of intensity, but it's an intensity that fades with time.
In any case, I remember spending a lot of time kissing him and exploring his body. And I remember that the next morning, the bed smelled of him, and I liked it.
I found out later that the weekend had been somewhat emotionally uncomfortable for him. I believe that he loved me at the time, but given that he was my first male love interest, my attachment was clearly stronger than his. At some point towards the end of our visit, I got a bit mopey because he was going to go back home soon. He got annoyed with me for hoping that we could have a lasting relationship. "Did you really think I was going to drop my life and move out here? I have a kid in high school." And I was forced to admit that I'd hoped that he would move to be with me when his son graduated, which was only a few months away. I had an amor vincit omni attitude that I have to laugh at from the distance of a few years. Maybe love conquers all when you're twenty-two and have no attachments, but if you're thirty-five (or, in his case, forty-five), you generally have a life that you can't up and leave, no matter how great the other guy is. Anyway, he was the first guy I ever fucked and the first guy who ever fucked me. (His cock was long, but it wasn't very thick. That was a good thing since the only thing he used for lube was his own precum.) Sometimes I think he'd be amused now to know how small a club of guys he's a member of. We had a mostly terrific time while we were together. We spent a lot of time horizontal and a lot of time talking, and it wasn't easy for either of us to say goodbye.
We continued to talk most every day on the phone for a while after he went back to California, but then he fell in love with a twenty-five year old bartender and waited a month or so to tell me about it. I'd since had sex with a couple of other guys, but I was still very much in love with him, and when he finally told me, I was devastated (I have chosen the word "devastation" carefully. Sure, I recovered, but at the time, it seemed like the emotional equivalent of the Great Flood.) for weeks. I had never understood heartbreak until then. I remember about a week after he'd told me, I went to a movie (Notting Hill, I think, not that I'm anxious to admit that), and when I came out, I realized that it was the first two hours that I hadn't spent moping about the so-called break up. I am still grateful to Julia Roberts.
Anyway, time passed, and I mostly got over it. We kept in touch occasionally. I'd call him about once a month, and he was always glad to talk to me. He'd never call me though: he said that he felt too guilty to initiate a call. About a year later, he was back in town, and I drove over to his hotel room. We talked for a while, and then I fucked him again, and it was awesome. He really was a terrific kisser. Afterwards, I told him, "I think I'll always love you, but I'm way past the point where it can make me crazy." And then I never called him again. I suppose on some level I always will love him, even though I probably think about him no more than twice a year now. It wasn't good for my self-respect to try to maintain a friendship when I was the only one trying, though.
The next time I fell for a guy, I had the sense not to tell him that I loved him right away, so when it fell apart after less than a month, it wasn't quite as awful. I've probably written at least a little bit about Allen, if only because he was the noisiest fuck I've ever had. It was a few months after David (aka Mr. Heartbreak) had fallen for his bartender. I also met Allen online, but at least he lived in Maryland. We chatted a couple of times and then we agreed to meet for an afternoon date. It lasted about eighteen hours.
We met at a bookstore in Bethesda, and then we walked around town. He was a graphic designer, and he showed me things he liked in the pricey home furnishings stores. I am not a visually oriented person, and I've always been attracted to men who are. Then we went to see a movie. One thing I do remember with some fondness about my early queer days is my long since gone sexual timidity. All in all, it's much better to be sexually bold, but there's a great deal of pleasure to be had when you're not sure of yourself and you're waiting to make your first move. It was a big deal when I held Allen's hand in the movie. And then it was a big deal when he rubbed his thigh against mine. And then it was a big deal when I squeezed his thigh. And then it was a really big deal when we left the movie and I had to drive to an ATM and we made out in the bank parking lot. We stopped when we came up for air and saw a ten-year-old girl ogling us from her car.
We stared at each other over dinner, and then we went back to my place and sat on the couch and chatted for the time it took me to work up to my next move. But once I put my arm around his neck, it was clear where we were headed, though it was so much fun that we took our time getting there. Allen was a small, half-Vietnamese guy, so it was always easy to pull him on top of me to make out with him. Later, we'd sometimes fall asleep in that position, but on the first date, we were too busy making out and feeling each other up. Still, I probably kissed him for a half hour before I even got his shirt off. And it took another half hour to get him to the bed. And another two hours to work his nipples, eat his ass, and fuck him. He screamed through all of those activities, at various volumes, and he screamed again when -- after I'd cum -- I took his very cute, very small, uncut cock in my mouth and worked my tongue between his head and foreskin for about twenty seconds until he shot his equally cute load.
Then we fell asleep together. The next morning, I fucked him again and made him breakfast. Then he went home for a while, but we got together again in the afternoon. He was trying to sell his apartment and was having an open house. We'd sit on the couch and make out between visits from prospective buyers. From the beginning, Allen was ambivalent. He seemed very into me, but he was also very cautious. My guess (and it doesn't really matter whether I'm right about this) is that he's a guy who's not very comfortable with guys who treat him too kindly. He told me, for example, that he'd never had breakfast in bed, so one weekend when he was over, I made him breakfast in bed. He told me that he'd never been on a picnic (How is that possible? He was thirty-two.), so I packed a picnic and took him down to a state park on the Chesapeake Bay. It was either before or after the main season, so it was pretty deserted there, and we made out on the beach. Then we took a hike and made out in the woods. He seemed to appreciate both of those gestures, but they also seemed to alienate him from me.
I suspect, though, that we were just too different to get along. I was a fairly butch guy with kids, and he was a cute young thing who wore three-quarter length pants and flip flops. I met him for lunch one weekday, and he said something about people at work maybe knowing he was gay, and I said, "Oh, Allen. Everybody who meets you knows you're gay." He didn't seem to appreciate that, but I liked him the way he was, and I liked that we were different. I liked the fact that he was feminine in a sweet way. The sex was always awesome, but I don't think he could, for example, see me hanging out with his friends.
Whatever. We'd been going out for a few weeks, seeing each other a lot, when he canceled a date and then told me, over the phone, that he wanted to see other people as well as me. When I said, "Okay," he said, "I was sure you wouldn't agree to that." I told him that was a pretty cowardly way to break up with someone, and he said, "I'm not a brave person." I never saw him again.
The next time I told a guy that I loved him, I didn't really mean it. He said the same thing back to me, and he didn't really mean it, either. He lived in Pennsylvania (75 miles away), so it was difficult to see him other than on weekends. Plus, he was a dick. One weekend before I was due in court for an important custody hearing, he canceled our plans so that he could go to San Francisco and meet a twenty-four year old student he'd been chatting with online. He said, "I got through my divorce without any help; you can, too." Amazingly, he didn't see any reason why this behavior should mean that he and I should no longer be an item. I told him to go away, and he was annoyed.
He wasn't that good in the sack, either. When we started seeing each other, he was a top. Midway through our dating time, he was a versatile top, and by the time I'd ended it, he was just versatile, but in none of those positions was he a good kisser. The best part about sex with him was that he'd had a vasectomy when he was married, and as a result, he had more precum than anyone I've ever known. I could get the front of his jeans totally soaked just from making out and foreplay. Still, he was a dick. I don't remember his name.
When that pseudo-relationship ended, it wasn't painful at all because I'd been the one to end it and because he'd been a dick. At that point, I thought I was beyond being crazy over a guy, but I was mistaken.
I was on gay.com one night when a young'un (he said he was twenty-six, though it later turned out he was thirty-two) started chatting me up. He was very confrontational, saying something like, "If you're such a nice guy, what are you doing on gay.com?" We started chatting, and it was another one of those situations where you can talk to a guy for hours and hours without ever running out of things to say. He was from South Carolina, though, so I didn't think anything of it until he told me that he was in the Coast Guard and that he'd likely be stationed in DC after he finished his MBA in one more semester. Hmmmmm.
And then we started talking on the phone. Every night. For hours. He was fun, sympathetic, and wickedly intelligent, if in a somewhat unconventional way. We were starting to get serious without ever having met each other. This, by the way, is never a good idea. Even if it turns out well, it's not a good idea to date outside your own area code. I knew enough from my experience with David not to take it too far, but after a month or so, he made plans to come up to Maryland to spend the weekend. He had some other friends in the area, and he was going to stay with them on some nights and me on others. Emile may have been the most beautiful man I ever met. He was half-Japanese and half-Irish, and he spent a lot of time in the gym. He had the body of a model (including the fact that he shaved off most of his body hair), and he was extraordinarily cute. All of which was kind of wasted on me. I recognized just how pretty he was (only after we met, though; because he was active duty, he wouldn't send me a picture), but pretty isn't what makes my motor run. I was very excited by his character and his energy and his intelligence, though, and by the time we met, I was halfway to being in love with him. He was attracted by the fact that I was a father, which is not something one finds all that often in a single gay man of thirty-two.
He was also, alas, on the rebound from a relationship that, apparently, terminated when he and his boyfriend were getting ready to move to a new condominium. Emile moved, and his boyfriend moved somewhere else, kind of without telling Emile in advance. Oops.
Emile and I had tremendous intellectual rapport, but when we went to bed, it just didn't work. I tried, and he tried, but, well, it just didn't work. We made out for a while, and that seemed fine. I worked his nipples for a while, and that seemed fine. I got my fingers inside his ass, and he pushed me out (he told me later it was because my fingers almost made him cum right away, but I didn't know that then). I told him I wanted to fuck him, and he said okay, but again, he started to shake and moan as soon as I got inside him, and then he told me to stop (for the same reason, though, again, I didn't know that). And then he just sort of shut down, sexually. I tried to make out with him some more, but he withdrew.
At that point, I just figured it was a bad first try, and that we could try again after a decent night's sleep. But then I woke up around 4 am, and the bed was empty. The apartment was empty, too. There was a long note from Emile explaining that he had to leave and the he couldn't be my boyfriend.
After that, things got kind of messy. We'd already made plans for him to come to dinner on another night and meet two friends of mine who were a couple. (I'd done that because he'd told me that when he and his boyfriend had broken up, it was as if no one had ever known they'd been a couple, even though they'd lived together for two years. Of course, he later told me that during the two years they'd lived together, he'd never told his boyfriend that he loved him, so, in retrospect, I can see that he had some issues.) So he came over, and we had dinner (I was so distraught that I completely overcooked the pork, leading me to form one of my most important aphorisms: "No man is worth overcooked meat."), and we played cards, and we had a really terrific time. And then when my friends were gone, we talked for a long time, with me trying to persuade him that he'd made his decision too quickly. It didn't work. After he went back to South Carolina, though, he seemed to be having a change of heart. He said that he wanted to remain friends and to see what might happen when he came to DC. But then he stopped returning my calls, and I'm afraid I may have become one of those guys who leaves six messages on someone's voicemail in a single evening because the other guy said he was going to call and didn't. Yeah, I was pretty far gone. Finally, he told me not to call him again, so I didn't. And, you know, when it was finally over, I was sad, but I was also kind of relieved. It seemed to mark the end of my second adolescence, and after that, I was a lot more able to interact with guys without letting my emotions make me do stupid things. It felt good to get back to being an adult again.
I think the whole period was something that couldn't be avoided. I remember talking with David about the experience in general terms, and he said it had been the same for him. "It's like your brain is sitting on a shelf, and it can see what you're doing, and it knows what you're doing is wrong and not helpful, but it's powerless to stop you from making the wrong moves."
Anyway, that was pretty much it for falling in love until b&c came along. And his and my love is a much more mature phenomenon. Some people might say that it's also more distant, but I think that's a necessary function of maturity. It's not so much that I set out to get into a relationship that was less intense. It's more that I became my own complete person so that I no longer needed someone else to make me whole. It's two complete people co-existing in an emotionally attached way rather than two incomplete people combining to form one unit.
I think they're two fundamentally different models for love, though it can be argued that there's a continuum and every relationship falls somewhere along that continuum. I also think it's an open question which alternative is better. It's likely that what's better differs by individual. It's also likely that what you end up with is somewhat a function of random chance. If you're an incomplete person (let's call you a free radical) and you run into another free radical, then you end up with one type. If you're happy as your own man, and you hook up with another guy who's the same way, you end up with the other type. (Since people are more or less dependent at different times of their lives, it's largely a matter of when you meet the guy you fall in love with.) If one of you is dependent and the other isn't, then you end up with a world of trouble. I think it's also clear that which kind of person you are and which type of relationship you end up has profound implications for your sexual behavior. My emotional independence is certainly a big factor in why I so easily have sex with a lot of different guys without suffering much hurt in the process.
But, of course, none of these theories is testable, and I'm just making it up as I go along. Which isn't to say that I don't believe it. I do. Anyway, for me, it's pretty clear that I never again want to be so emotionally dependent on a guy that I feel like I might not survive if we were no longer together. Because, really, nothing lasts forever, and unless b&c and I perish together in a plane crash (increasingly unlikely, given the cost of airfare and the weakness of the dollar), one of us is bound to be alone again, sooner or later.