Clash of the Titan…Life 180
Over the summer and through to about November of this past year, I spent some time with a gym partner that escalated into a full-blown flirt-fest. The intended flirtee was a 6’7”, twenty-something brown-skinned prince with a few hidden issues that soon surfaced to challenge my maturity and confidence. Before matters heated up and the character flaws were exposed, Big Youngin’ – yes, that’s the nickname I gave him the moment we met – would walk by me at the gym and he would nod, smile and do the “Wassup…” as we would pass each other. Soon, I realized that his greetings were more than just casual colored-men camaraderie. Finally, two weeks into the little lunch-time coincidental passes, I was alone in the sauna, stretching out a solid three-mile run, when through the door entered the mountainesque Big Youngin’. He sat across from me and remarked that he thought my tattoo was cool and asked if it hurt getting my nipple pierced. I smiled and said, “Like the dickens…” before promptly tightening my towel around my waist and bidding the big guy a good afternoon. Our midday gym encounters continued for the next few weeks before Big Youngin’ caught me exiting the gym and asked if I wanted to meet him for our noon-time workouts, since gym partnerships make working out easier. Of course, this necessitated my exchanging numbers with him and there began the real sexual tension. I agreed, dug through my wallet and gave him my business card before acting extremely rushed to return to the office. :::Quick break here to mention that although I’m extremely outgoing, I have a very hard time being aggressive in romantic pursuits::: I will more likely let an opportunity slip through my fingers, rather than risk rejection. The next morning, like clockwork, there was an e-mail from Big Youngin’ asking if we were meeting at the gym at noon. From that day forward, I had several e-mails from Big Youngin', before and after our workouts and before leaving for the day. It was several weeks before our conversations focused on the people we like to date and what we do on our weekends. I’m not 15 and am well aware that there was an interest on Big Youngin's part, but I didn’t want to volunteer information that hadn’t been asked of me. Close to a month after our e-mails began, I mentioned that I was going on a date with someone that I wasn’t too comfortable with. Big Youngin' replied by saying, “You really shouldn’t go out with her/him if you’re not comfortable.” Well, I took a moment to think about his response. I knew this was the AHA moment. This is when I would have to either be up-in-arms that he left the gender of my date in the air OR clearly mention whether I was seeing men or women. I went with the latter. I responded, “Yeah, I think I’m going to cancel with him.” For the next few days I felt slightly uncomfortable when we would meet at the gym and he was perceptive enough to catch on and speak on it first. “Look, I’m cool with you being gay if you’re alright with me being straight – but liking men. It’s something I struggle with.” From then on it was on. We flirted, made passes and teased. When the frenetic endorphins reached their peak we were faced with a conundrum of sorts – his religious beliefs made him pull back and say that he couldn’t move forward with consummating our little courtship. As an anti-rejection tactic I quickly retorted with a “Do you…I’ve been where you are and it’s a rough place. You seem cool, so no love lost.” He looked shocked. It was almost as though he expected me to convince him to get some of my stuff; uh, not in this lifetime. I shut down. I made an emotional about-face and treated him cooler than I would a casual acquaintance. His e-mails weren’t always responded to and our gym meetings became fewer and far between. Finally, he confronted me after work one night and said, “I’m really feeling you and want to be with you, but it conflicts with everything I believe in.” I said, “You’re a fraud. You pursued me and now you’re a coward who’s hiding behind his religion. You will have your gay encounters, but probably in the church restroom stalls. Like I said before, do you!” He became irate and said that maybe it was best that we didn’t hang anymore. I agreed and wished him luck, but not before mentioning, “Do yourself and those around you a favor. Don’t get caught out there destroying innocent lives with your conflicted ass.” He looked completely distraught, but I pivoted and proceeded down the subway steps. I hadn’t heard from Big Youngin’ since – that is, until today. He sent an e-mail that said, “Hey man. Thinking about you and hoping you’re okay. My last day at work is March 31 and I wanted to say that I still have your voice in my head. Can I call you sometime?” I took a moment to reread the e-mail several times before I hit the “reply” button. “Meet me at 6:30 in front of the Starbucks,” I wrote. So we talked for over an hour as we walked through the chilly midtown streets. We stopped for a cup of coffee, where he smiled wide and told me how he missed seeing me. “Yeah, I miss seein’ you too,” I cautiously responded. As I prepared to walk down those same subway steps, I turned to see Big Youngin’ standing there. He made his hand into the universal phone sign, placing it to his ear. I simply nodded no and smiled. I took off down the stairs and realized that the steps where the perfect metaphor for where we were in our acceptance of ourselves… on different platforms.
I’m single, and quite frankly what I’ve always loved most about being a gay man was that I didn’t feel I was held to the same negative connotations associated with casual sex that riddles straight folks. Why do I feel that allowing Big Youngin’ some of my goodies would only serve to demean me as a gay man?
Keep passin’ the open windows…