A story about a guy who grows and learns to see his life and socialization differently.
|It was Monday morning and I was reviewing the notes one of the architects had given me regarding the lobby artwork I had rendered. Patty pulled up a chair and sat beside me. She spoke in a stern whisper. “So, what exactly happened with you and Bill?”
I started at the surprise interruption. “What? Nothing. Why?”
“He said you were warm and cold all evening.”
I rolled my chair back a bit and turned to face her. “He did? I didn’t mean to.”
“He said he put his arm around you and tried to show physical interest all through the date and you didn’t really respond. He said you didn’t pull away either, just didn’t respond at all. He wasn’t sure what to make of it.”
“Yeah, I guess that’s pretty accurate.”
Patty rolled her eyes. “Curt, he really liked you! Was into you and everything. Said that you were wound a bit too tight and needed to learn to relax, but cute.”
“He really thought that?”
“Yeah, he did. Except now he thinks you’re not interested or too too afraid to show that you are. Either way, he’s decided it’s not worth the aggravation at this point.”
I pouted. “Damn.”
“So, why didn’t you respond to his advances?”
“I wasn’t sure they were advances!”
“Curt! When another guy puts his arm around yu and keeps caressing your shoulder, that’s an advance!”
“Okay! I get it! I guess I was just nervous.” I was starting to feel defensive. “I mean, it’s been a while, you know?”
Patty put her hand on top of mine. “Oh, honey. We’ve all been there. But the best thing to do is to just grit your teeth and go through with it.”
I thought it was easy for her to say that, considering she’s been happily married for thirty years now. I turned my neck and stared at my screen before replying. "I just don't know if I can."
"Curt, honey, have you ever even been with a guy before?"
I blushed. "Yes. I'm not a virgin by any stretch of the imagination."
"Well, one. Two, if you count the classmate I fooled around with back in ninth grade." I was never sure if Jerry counted or not. After all, we had only jacked each other off. He had asked me to blow him once, but I freaked out. I was never sure if others counted that one or not.
"Okay. And when was the other one."
"When I was twenty. Shortly after I came out." I winced at the memories this conversation was stirring up for me.
"A college boyfriend?"
"Yeah, we met each other in Bible study. I'm not sure if anyone else realized we were even gay, let alone a couple."
"How long did it last?"
"About two months. I thought we were the perfect couple and was hoping we were well on our way to marriage. Well, at least civil unions."
"So what happened."
"He felt differently." I smiled ruefully. "He decided that the president of the gay student union was more to his liking." I snorted. "Then the secretary. Then half the membership."
Patty stifled a chuckle. "Ah, so he decided to sew his wild oats like so many young men do in college. That makes sense to me. Why didn't you follow suit?"
I clenched my jaw. Patty knew how I felt about being so promiscuity. "That's just not my style. I was really hoping to save myself for the man I'd spend the rest of my life for. I still want that."
Patty shook her head slightly. "Oh yes. I keep forgetting that you're trying to start the gay wing of the purity movement." She held up a hand, apparently anticipating the protest rising in my throat. "Curt, you know I support you in whatever way you choose to live your life. I just personally think you'd be doing yourself a favor if you considered that there's a middle ground between waiting for 'the one' and hopping into bed with every guy you meet."
I relaxed. "Well, how about you? How many men did you sleep with before you met and married your husband?"
Patty laughed at that. "You expect a woman of my years to remember that? Oh dear. Well, I know it was more than ten. I'm pretty sure it was less than one hundred. Beyond that?" She shrugged.
If furrowed my brow. "And you don't feel that's caused any problems in your marriage to Mr. Haskins?"
She patted my hand again smiling. "Yes, some of my past relationships did contribute to some obstacles that I had to overcome with Harold. But that's true of the relationships I had with guys that didn't lead to sex." She paused as if to let that sink in before she continued. "That's the thing. We're all affected by our past and we carry it with us into the present and even the future. If we're not careful, those things can affect both the present and the future. But the bigger problems consist of past hurts we won't let go of. Or bad behavior patterns or unhelpful notions we've developed because of our past experiences. And event those things can be overcome if two people are willing to work at it."
"But the sex?" I prodded.
"The sex itself was never a problem. In fact, Harold's probably glad that my first boyfriend taught me how to give a good blowjob without scraping his penis with my teeth."
I grimaced. "T! M! I!" Patty burst out laughing. Another coworker cleared her throat and the two of us managed to lower our volume again.
Patty looked directly into my eyes. "Look, Curt. I know you come from a Pentecostal background and you've been taught to believe that giving yourself away to multiple people somehow lessens you. I've just found it to be untrue, personally. I've had plenty of love to give now matter how many people I gave it to. Even sexual love. To be honest, I've always found that belief of yours a little weird. It seems to me that it only makes sense if you assume that you only ever have a limited supply of love. Personally, I'm convinced that love is endless. No matter how much you give away, there's more available." She paused for a moment before adding, "Assuming you allow yourself to be recharged by receiving love back, I suppose."
I nodded, considering her words. Had I been assuming -- or at least acting like I was -- that love and intimacy are limited resources that could be forever depleted?