Last week I received an invitation to the annual Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus holiday concert. This year’s title/theme is “Under the mistletoe: a holiday romance.” As much of an institution as TCGMC certainly is for Minneapolis, for me, their programs have always been far too campy and saccharine.
It’s a personal preference thing, and there are plenty in the community who enjoy what they do. But it’s also emblematic of my feelings about the gay community here in the Twin Cities, and in the Midwest in general.
What struck me about the photo above is that I’ve long perceived (but couldn’t put my finger on for a while) that many gay men seem stuck in a state of prolonged teenage boyhood.
This makes sense from a psychological standpoint. The teenage years for many gay men were lost to the closet, and many spend the rest of their lives trying to get that back, or to somehow relive those years.
But it does mean that the silly, flirty, happy-go-lucky attitudes of many gay men, of gay culture, and groups like gay men’s choruses grate on my increasingly Scottish-like nerves, like fingernails on a chalkboard.
(Brief aside on that last bit: Over the past few weeks I’ve caught myself, as Clara Oswald might say of the Twelfth Doctor, “going Scottish.” It’s not quite cantankerous or curmudgeonly, but it is a whole lot of not censoring myself quite as often as usual.)
Because rather than spend my adult life trying to get those teenage years back, my response to that loss was to go in the opposite direction and distance myself entirely from that mode.
Some of it may be that as a child I couldn’t stand childlike or childish things. I couldn’t wait to be an adult. The world seemed such a grim and serious place, and I couldn’t understand how other people couldn’t see that.
Maybe that’s why I stopped smiling around age seven or eight.
Maybe depression was manifesting itself that early.
… regardless, I’ve never been a very playful or flirty guy. Even my sillier moments are colored by a serious approach. I’m not without humor, but there’s always a darker edge to what I do.
On Monday I discussed some of this with my therapist, and one of the things to come out of that session was the fact that I was also conditioned growing up to be suspicious of any fun pursuit or worldly pleasurable—even though, according to the Bible, “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.”
In short, anything enjoyable might be one of several things. It might be:
- demonic temptation from Satan;
- something good that will distract us from taking pleasure in Jesus;
- a test from God to see whether we’re willing to forgo momentary pleasure for the sake of the Jesus.
Because the evangelical Christianity I grew up in taught us to set our minds “on things that are above, not on things that are on earth,” warning us not to “love the world or the things in the world.”
If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
In short, nothing really mattered unless it was going to count in heaven. My mom would often say something to this effect if she thought we were making too big a deal about something that wasn’t spiritual enough.
(I feel the need here to point out that my mom really is a warm and friendly person. She’s also deeply inculcated with fundamentalist Christianity.)
The consequence of this is that at age 32, I still mistrust anything good that comes along, or feel the compulsion to find the negative in it. It’s a coping mechanism to guard against hurt and disappointment that came with being cut off from the ability to truly enjoy anything, and to guard against the disappointment that I inevitably expect is just around the corner.
This is no way to live, of course. I’m constantly aware of how relatively little time I actually have on this little planet and how stupid it is to not be taking advantage of every moment to celebrate being alive and experiencing everything possible.
There are, frankly, a lot of things that I’m just not interested in or into.
Like silly, gay flirtiness. Hookup culture. Most of the things gay men around here talk about.
Not into it.
Not into camp. Not into queer. Not into theatrics. Not into fetish. Not into Peter Pan antics.
Honestly, it’s too tiring, and I don’t have enough energy these days to handle any of it, what with the barely sleeping and forgetting to eat because my head feels as if it’s been sellotaped to the back of a speeding bus being driven by a terrified monkey.
Hopefully life will slow down once I’m done with grad school.
A friend asked a few days ago what I am into given that I seem to know so specifically what I’m not into. “Curiosity,” was the eventual reply, “Intellectual, emotional, social. A Douglas Adams-esque knack of being able to laugh at all of it while still taking it somewhat seriously…
“A sturdy sense of self that comes from not giving fucks about what anyone else thinks, rather than from getting that from the surrounding culture. Kindness. Rationality. A sense of self-directed purpose. Someone who doesn’t need me but still wants me there…
“Is that specific enough?”
Of course, that’s what I would’ve said with a few days to ponder and then respond, which always seems to be the case.
And I don’t know if anyone like that even exists.
… not real hopeful on that point.