Gay men and the eternal search for the next better thing
When it comes to picking a partner, are gay men too superficial or too picky? With Valentine’s Day around the corner, read on to find out.
I’m often reminded of that hot AF date I went on a several years back. The guy wined and dined me to an inch of my senses and, frankly, I was pretty on-spot too—witty, engaging, knowing just what to say and how to say it. At just the right point in the evening, he rubbed his leg up against mine, under the chair, leaned in, Clark Kent glasses framing a square-jawed face, and asked, brandy-smooth, “Can I interest you in going back to my place?”
I was in his bed before he knew what was in him.
That was one of those rare, rom-com movielike dates, where everything goes the way you’ve dreamed about, and where, like the movies, you know there will be a second, even more exciting second evening together.
I never saw that guy again.
He didn’t die, unfortunately, and when I finally confronted him, via text, about why he’d ignored earlier enquiries, he told me, point blank, that I wasn’t good enough for him. I didn’t make enough money, which he knew from my job description (curse us writers!), and my social connections were lacking. But, and he couldn’t emphasize this enough, the sex was fantastic! If I ever wanted to drop by just to…
Even when it comes to a hot-sex invite, I do have a little bit of pride.
Financial matters are important in relationships, and disparities can, indeed, cause problems—for the record, he was vague about his job and I hadn’t an inkling as to how much money he made—but there’s a tendency, especially as gay men get older, to put material matters over emotional needs. I know plenty of gay men who are constantly looking over their shoulder in hopes of finding the next better thing.
Sounds fine until you realize you’re not enjoying what’s offered in the moment.
I’ve lived in New York most of my adult life, and, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found artifice far more prevalent in gay circles than straight families. Odd, because one of the reasons I wanted to move here was that I believed it to be a city of infinite possibilities—it wasn’t so much the adage that “if you can make it here…” it was the idea that “anyone can make it here.” Your class didn’t mean anything compared to your classiness.
The writing community notwithstanding—the little I discovered of it early on consisted mostly of trust fund babies and Ivy League snobs, and those who flaunted both privileges like a moral high ground—most of the young people I met as an actor were on the same plane. Some came from money and some did not, but all were in it together. The gays I met at the gym were narcissistic and competitive, but if you dug a little deeper were generally insecure and needful of community. They cared about their bodies, their divas, and their lives, and the hierarchy surrounding them could be infiltrated with a heady smile or the flick of a John Blair card. It’s no surprise that Madonna made it big here in the 1980s because it was a playground of the un-privileged ambitious.
I always felt, back then, that those who climbed hard didn’t do it so much because they had nothing to lose; I thought they did it because they had everything to lose. Searching for similar souls was a way to establish networks. I also thought that the immaturity that came along with boasting about your big beach house or your club connections would fade with time and maturity. On the latter point I was, sadly, wrong, as bragging rights increase with age.
The possession of possessions is pretty much a universal need as people get older (to an extent, the same could be said of ethereal matters and to the extent to which they are anything but clever marketing), but, for gay men, it’s a borderline obsession.
We want the best bodies money can buy (same goes for faces), the most attractive boyfriends—or the best-connected—the biggest house, the most appropriate friends, and the most carefree-looking, beautiful-boy-filtered Instagram feed. I like a good thing too, I like it when people notice me, and I’m a sucker for a sexy face. I’m also acutely aware that artifice is fleeting, and that if I’m constantly looking beyond the horizon, I won’t enjoy what’s smackdab in front of me.
I also have to work to remain strictly in the present. The other day at the gym I saw a thirty-something guy with a perfect waistline, perfect hairline, and dazzling blue eyes. My first thought wasn’t, “I want him,” it was “I want to be him.” Without knowing a thing about gym buddy, without hearing him utter a single word, I felt a jealous kick in the gut, sure that he possessed things I needed to be a fulfilled gay man on Planet Earth. If ever the expression “Be careful what you wish for” needed to be self-actualized, it was then. (That moment also served as the foundation for writing this piece, because I know I’m not above human jealousy instincts.)
Gym buddy could have been a miserable, wretched human, he could have been 75,000 dollars in debt, he could have been on his way to a doctor’s appointment where he’d be diagnosed with terminal cancer, he could have been planning another insurrection, he could have been lonely. As for the latter, I think a lot of the gay men obsessed over the “right things” are a bit lost, looking for nutrition in a shop full of empty calories. If there’s one thing I’ve learned as I get older and have had a chance to meet more “fabulous” people, is that there is no evidence to support the notion that success equals or brings about contentment. If they are rich it brings about less stress in regards to paying the bills, but the rest is up to the individual.
Contentment comes from the inside, and it’s more often than not a learned trait. I’ve dismissed friends who create levels of friends based on status and who can get them what—those are business transactions, not companions. If you don’t know the difference, you’ll learn the hard way when those people realize they don’t need you anymore. If you’re not comfortable with yourself unless you’re standing next to someone who makes you look better, you’ve probably got a pretty low opinion of the only guy you’re guaranteed to sleep with every night.
Find your real friends and go after what you want, but check the gears to make sure you’re looking to be fulfilled, not packaged. As you age, you’re going to need all the legitimate support you can get. This ain’t a ride you want to take alone, and in the same way that you work for retirement, work for emotional satisfaction. Invest in your head the way you invest in your 401(k).
And if someone rejects you because you don’t make enough money, never forget that you’re invaluable.