I came out when I was sixteen-years-old. I wasn’t shunned any more than I already had been (even in a Magnet school, there is still hatred and prejudice and just as much pre-conceived judgment as anywhere else) and there were no more bullies ready to make my life any more difficult than they already were. It was a personal choice, the right time, and I was ready to stop living the lie of denying my sexuality to everyone around me–and to myself, even though I’d spent the better portion of my adolescence praying to God every night that He change me…that He make me just like everyone else. I’d begged that He make me straight, and I bargained that he make me paralyzed, smite me with Cancer, do anything necessary, if only I could be something other than that one thing I saw as a fate worse than anything I could imagine.
At that time—the mid-nineties before Ellen came out or Will & Grace came on— to be gay meant pain, loneliness, misery, and death. Ironically, it was only through deep prayer and a ton of self-education on the Bible (the one book that so many people around me used to condemn dudes like me to hell) that I came to terms with who I was. Using a series of really simplified syllogisms, I made a sort of striking realization that led me down the yellow brick road to being an out (though not yet proud) gay man.
I knew that, above and beyond everything else spouted and touted and screamed from the pages of the great tome of the tenets of Christianity that God is love. And if God is God then God can’t be wrong. And if God is love then love can’t be wrong. And if I can actually love another man, then that can’t be wrong.
My love was love and if love is right then I’m not wrong.
I told my mother. My mother told everybody, wearing the badge of having a gay son like some kind of honor.
I was lucky. My family accepted the fact and all the people most important to me in my life did the same (probably because they’d known for a long time and had come to terms with my homosexuality a long time before I did).
Out and (mostly) safe from persecution, I was ready to begin my first forays into the world of gay dating, so I did what any other gay teenager did back then: I ran to the video store and began renting every available gay-oriented flick on the shelves. I enlisted the services of my closest female friends to help me figure things out, and I looked to them and their own sordid relationships as guides for this weird land that I was journeying through. I had but one goal: find the perfect guy, fall in love, bring him home for holidays, and eventually go off to the same college to share a dorm room or an apartment and take things from there… possibly ending up in a gay Mecca like New York City or San Francisco.
That was nineteen years ago.
I’m now 35, single, and I still don’t know the first thing about being in a relationship. Of course, I haven’t always been alone, I just have never made it beyond the two or three month mark, even though I’ve met countless guys who embodied everything that I ever thought I wanted in a potential mate: perfect brain, perfect body, sexual compatibility, and similar life plans; however, these romances always seem to fizzle out before they ever really get to the point of true commitment, and I recently realized that the only thing that any of these dudes have in common with one another is me. A sobering thought and more than a little terrifying.
To make matters worse, an article penned by a New Yorker and published on gay.net really cemented my fears of an inevitable gay spinsterhood and showed me that I’m not the only one who wonders about whether or not this isn’t just the way things are going to be. “The Incredible Undatable Gay: On Spinsterhood” was written by a guy named Les Fabian Brathwaite and could have very well been jotted down in my own journal. What’s more, it really has me thinking (to quote Jack Nicholson)… “what if this is as good as it gets?”
What if I end up as that sad old gay bachelor, the spinster uncle, who lives in that well-manicured single bedroom apartment in Anderson Island with his dog and a close relationship with his mother and an endless parade of female friends who come by to eat quiche and watch The Leftovers and go home to their own lives and husbands and families while I’m left there to prepare for an evening run through Coates Bluff and spend the night falling asleep with a book and an otherwise empty bed? And, if so, is that really such a bad thing?
I’ve been through the Shreveport dating scene, and it makes me very sad. I feel like most of the guys worth their salt are already betrothed and happy and living the life in their own mutually exclusive and picture-perfect Facebook relationship. I go to bars with my close friends and I promise that I’m only going with the intent of having a good time, but there’s always that thought in the back of my brain (right behind the part that really wants to go home and make out with the hottest guy I see… gay or not, I’m still a guy and sexually promiscuous in the more primitive portions of my noggin) that thinks that this night is going to be the night when I meet Him: the one, the guy who is gonna want to spend Sundays on the couch reading the paper and binge watching Penny Dreadful or Orange is the New Black. The guy who will want to have weekend breakfasts at George’s Grill before spending an afternoon at The Thrifty Peanut and drinking coffee at Rhino. The guy I can introduce to my family. The guy all my friends will love. The mythical top who is politically correct Boston in the parlor and salaciously delicious Southern Decadence in the bedroom. The guy who likes to argue and challenges me to think and encourages my dreams and pushes me to be a better man and changes the dynamics of absolutely everything.
Unfortunately, I end the night feeling more than a little bummed, sometimes even depressed, because the bars are filled with cliques of outwardly beautiful people who either have no substance outside of surface-oriented bar talk or stick with their own kind: perfectly coiffed, expensively dressed dudes with shiny, shiny faces who roll their eyes in my direction, rather than deign to strike up a conversation with the obviously single guy who just might have something interesting to offer.
At the advice of others, I’ve done one hundred other things in an effort to meet other single dudes. I’ve tried every imaginable internet dating option. I’ve joined gay-oriented organizations. I’ve gone to big, gay parties and birthday celebrations. I’ve been as friendly and as outgoing as possible and I’ve tried to make myself available. I joined Grindr for Christ’s sakes!
Where is my Jonathan Groff? Where is my Matt Bomer? Do those dudes even really exist outside of HBO?
Friends tell me to stop looking in bars and online and at the gay-oriented events that the city has to offer, but let’s be realistic. This is Shreveport. I can’t exactly walk up to the good looking and interesting guys that I see in coffee shops or the library or Barnes & Noble to strike up a conversation without running the risk of offending sensibilities and a possible beat-down.
I’m left to accept the very real likelihood that it just may never happen…And another rather unpleasant possibility: maybe I’m just undateable.
I lead a very full life. I have a job that has kind of turned into a career, and I love what I do. I have Henry Harbor, and here I’m afforded the opportunity to realize my dream of writing and seeing my work published and read and followed by actual fans of what I create. I have a host of friends and family, people who love and respect me and want nothing more for me than to see me happy and fulfilled. My life is a far-cry from the frightened, tortured adolescent who thought that the worst possible thing imaginable was to be gay. I’m comfortable with who I am and how I live my life, and I still believe that there’s always hope that the man of my dreams is out there.
Yet here I am. Still gay. Still single.
And still resigning myself to accepting that maybe it’s not such a bad thing.
If dating is just as hard for a writer like Brathwaite in a city like New York, then how can I hold out for meeting the perfect mate in a place like Shreveport? It’s not that I don’t believe in romance or love at first sight or any of those fairy tale, twentieth century notions that I grew up hoping to one day have become realities for myself. It’s just that I’ve developed a sort of true love agnosticism.