In the saga of gay dating, I hardly think it prudent to advertise oneself as “experienced.” Sad though it is, experience in the gay world is tinted with a note of whore-ishness. Not to be judgmental, just to be frank. Though I’m far better at being Jeff. Sometimes.
I often fall into that undesirable category of “inexperience” while holding onto the somewhat enviable attributed of “innocence.” What is innocence? It seems to me (and I really have no idea, even still) that innocence to a gay man is the lack of sexual adventures and relationship foibles. Number them above twenty, or so many an Excel spreadsheet wouldn’t know what to do with them, and you’ve attained a high status of gay wisdom. Somehow. It never ceases to amaze me that those who have been dating longer are the ones who lecture me on the nature of gay relationships. Forgive me for saying, but if you knew what you were talking about, you wouldn’t be dating me. You would be happily committed to a single person and relatively content with the way things had turned out. Instead, you’re “teaching” me about what it’s like to be jaded, broken, brittle, fragile, undone, and ultimately cynical about any relationship that has ever existed or ever will exist. You tell me, without much sugar-coating, that this is the way it’s going to happen for me also.
But what you don’t know in your sometimes-condescending banter, is that I don’t believe a damn word that you’re saying. In fact, I find it rather insulting that you feel the need to baby me. My humility and reservation when I meet you is not due to a lack of understanding, but rather do a firm belief that everyone has something worth saying. You grossly misinterpret this as naivete, setting out on a mission of “big brothering” me into a comfortable state of cynicism. Why wait to be hurt? Take up the mantle and march with the standard. Become what every gay man already is: jaded and emotionally wrecked.
You forget, however, that I’m Jeff. You also forget that your own experience is not everyone’s. Oh, I’ll admit that many have been duped, dumped, and deserted. There’s no question. But do you think it worth anyone’s time to pretend like relationships aren’t of any value to you? Or, even worse, that every one of them is bound to be the same, regardless of the person or the time or the circumstance? Carry on with what you do. If your mantra is now the jaded gay man, then do what you want with it. It’s a waste of my time, and I won’t spend much of my time with you. There are too many great people to talk to. I don’t need to waste my time with pessimistic rants and lessons on the inherent slutiness of gay men.
Sometimes, I get ragged on for guys I date. Why? They seem un-intellectual, or perhaps unable to talk with me on the same level. Perhaps they’re too cerebral and not emotionally balanced. Perhaps they’re young. But the truth is, I don’t seek out criteria like a checklist. What I look for is passion, even if inexplicable, and dreaming. I don’t care what age you are; if you possess an intense belief in something greater than yourself, you’re worth as much time as I can possibly give you. Why? Because there’s so much I can learn from you. I hope I can give you as much as you give me.
Yes, there are the long nights at the Cheesecake Factory (though it has been a while). There are wandering Friday mornings at 1am in Englewood, wondering where the lightrail goes and if it can get me home. “You went where?” I hear. “That’s all you did?” I’m asked. “For five hours?” Those are all details. But if you could listen to the conversations I have, you would know that it was all worth it. True, I didn’t end up in long relationship with all of them. But I definitely learned something—about myself, and about the world. A hundred perfect dates, fitted to a textbook, are worth nothing if I can’t come away feeling refreshed, clean, excited, and beaming with an enormous smile.
So keep your diatribes to yourself. I’m not interested. I don’t need a mentor. I don’t need a guide. I need someone I can share myself with and be bettered by. And then, share the gifts that I discover with them. I need someone who is interested in me because of me; I don’t need a protector.