274. draconian

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https://twitter.com/noahmichelson/status/813177921875677184


black_forest_gateauA few months ago, I experienced something that hadn’t happened in a while.

Now, I’m not reticent about my sexuality.

True, I don’t talk about it non-stop, and (contrary to how much I write about the subject) it isn’t the sole thing that defines me. But if asked or if I am in company where gender and sexuality are discussed, I am not shy about opening up about my experiences.

So it takes me aback when I have to come out to someone.

This episode happened following a gathering of friends in November as we were discussing a post-Thanksgiving get-together at my house. One of our newer attendees asked whether the decor would be Thanksgiving-themed.

“Decorating really isn’t my thing,” I said, and then joked, “I tend towards more of a sparse Scandinavian style, myself.”

She gave a look of mock surprise. “What kind of gay man are you?” she exclaimed. She was mostly joking (I think), but there was a hint of true incredulity in her tone.

I got this a lot in the first few years after coming out. Women would assume that I wanted to check out hot guys with them and provide brilliant, witty insights on the male psyche in between shopping breaks or redecorating their living room.

Sorry, heterosexuals. Your token queer I am not.

However, the episode got me contemplating the assumptions people might make about me as a gay man (specifically, what I’m interested in and who I have sex with), the various tropes and trappings of gay culture, and whether or not it was helpful to continue identifying that way.


Since the end of this past semester, I haven’t had much to occupy/distract my mind, so I’ve been mulling over what it means to be demisexual.

The common usage is to treat it as an adjective: you might only fuck people you have a close emotional bond with, but you’re still gay.

“You’re still one of us,” seems to be the subtext.

However, the fact that I experience sexual attraction but rarely, and then only with men with whom there is a strong emotional connection, indicates that I seem to fall more on the asexual spectrum rather than the homosexual.

It’s not that I’m seeking a label to define myself by, or a tribe to identify with, but rather to better understand myself (short-term goal) and hopefully develop strategies for managing friendships and finding a partner (long-term goal).

The challenge of dating is summed up in an article by Emma Lord:

… while you can generally tell on a first date whether or not you’d want to be friends with someone, it’s nearly impossible for a demisexual person to decide whether or not [they’d] be sexually attracted to [you] without the element of friendship and trust already in place… And you can’t exactly explain your feelings to someone you just met, particularly in an age when not engaging in romantic or affectionate activity on dates is considered a rejection.


While I have expressed frustration with the hypersexuality of large parts of the gay community, I am still cognizant of the history and significance that underlies its various communities and institutions.

Pride parades, for example, emerged shortly after the Stonewall Riots in 1969, and was a radical and political act of defiance in an age when being out was illegal. Although derided by many now as commercial and mainstream, they encouraged unity and solidarity in the face of oppression and later as friends and lovers were dying during the AIDS epidemic.

Gay clubs, too, served as safe spaces for self-expression, identity building, and community networking. Same for institutions such as white parties, drag shows, and leather bars.

Writers and activists encouraged LGBT people to reject the heteronormativity they had been raised with, to throw off the shackles of “traditional” models of sexuality and relationships, and express their liberation via total sexual freedom.

Kiyoshi Kuromiya wrote in the Philadelphia Free Press in 1970,

“Homosexuals have burst their chains and abandoned their closets… We come to challenge the incredible hypocrisy of your sexual monogamy, your oppressive sexual role-playing, your nuclear family, your Protestant ethic, apple pie and Mother.”

So, I get that all that silently informs, shapes, modern gay life.

Yet it doesn’t feel like my history, my institutions, ones that feel true to who I am.

Thus, when someone assumes I am mad for decorating, dress shopping, strapping on a leather harness, or running upstairs for a quick romp in the sheets, it feels like a denigration of my needs, values, and identity.

That the only way to be is to be a gay clone.


There’s another variable at play, however.

Yesterday, I learned that a friend of mine is randomly connected to Seth. (Yes, that Seth, of the 2011 birthday.) I noticed my friend had commented on a post of Seth’s, and asked how they knew each other. Turns out they’re in a gayming group.

My friend wrote: “There’s an inkling at the back of my head that I should be wary of him, though.”

Even though it’s been nearly six years, the shockwave of that night still ripples, supernova-like, through my life today.

Seeing that name again, catching a glimpse of his thumbnail profile picture, brought a sea of unwanted emotions and memories back.

That incident, and a handful of others (where I’ve experienced attraction, decided to open myself to the possibility, and been rejected), left me distrustful of my taste in men and ability to make healthy romantic decisions for myself.

I seem only to find myself attracted to impossible guys, or to guys who will end up using me for sex or to stroke their fragile male egos until they got what they came for.


I don’t know if other guys, the George Michaels etc, are simply satisfied with surface-level intimacy, if that’s all they want, or if they simply experience it in different ways.

Can any of us know?

Am I this way because of genes… Seth… my parents?

Who knows.

It is what it is.

269. titivate

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shadowTime for a monthly check-in, which is about all I can manage right now between school, work, and attempting to manage my ever-growing stress level.

All that to say, this might be a little scattered.

It’s Halloween and my social media feeds have been filled with photos of people’s costumes—or, in the case of many of my gay friends, technically just enough clothing to constitute a costume.

Halloween and its importance to gay men is one of many things that perplex this young-ish curmudgeon’s heart. I understand the historical underpinnings of the holiday and the appeal, but as someone who doesn’t even wear shorts in the summer, is currently wearing three layers, and finds unfocused sexual energy uncomfortable, it’s a weird festival.

Here’s what comes up when one Googles “halloween gay.”

gayhalloweensearch

A Pride.com article calls Halloween “every LGBT person’s fave holiday,” opining that “Gay people just love Halloween now, don’t we?”.

Search the hashtag #gayhalloween on Twitter or Instagram and decide whether or not to temporarily enable SafeSearch.

Samantha Allen at The Daily Dot wrote a great piece on how Halloween became the gay Christmas which is highly recommended. Basically, like Pride, it was a post-Stonewall response to living in a highly repressive time in the States for LGBTQ people. Allen writes:

On October 31, the curse of being queer in a straight world is temporarily lifted. All bets are called off, along with all the shame and fear we have been made to feel. For 364 days every year, many of us try to blend in but, on Halloween, we can proudly stick out…

It’s still the only night when acting gay is not only OK—it’s downright de rigeur.

So… I get that. I understand that for many LGBTQ people, reappropriating “queer” for themselves was empowering and liberating. However, for myself, I find conflating “queer” and “homosexual” problematic.

In my day-to-day life, I don’t try to blend in. I don’t play a role 364 days a year. I’m not effeminate, flamboyant, or gender atypical. To paraphrase David S. Pumpkins slightly, I’m “[my] own thing.”

I’m one bushy moustache, woodworking shop, and XL polo shirt removed from being Ron Swanson… if Ron were a liberal Democrat, vegetarian, and weighed 150 pounds, that is.

And frankly, twenty-eight years of my life was spent pretending to be someone else and I’d rather work at getting comfortable in this skin, doing any exploring of gender or sexuality on paper and in writing.


My therapist has observed on several occasions how much of my identity is based around being an outsider, an outlier, an “other.” It makes sense that this would be unconsciously incorporated into my identity as a out gay male, although it’s cultural institutions like Halloween and Pride that make it difficult for me to identify as a gay male. I don’t really fit in with the hypersexual boy culture that seems characteristic of many of my peers.

I’m more comfortable with the descriptor “homoromantic demisexual androphile” because at least that tells you something about my orientation(s). Physical attraction really only occurs when I deeply connect with someone. I’m a male who is sexually and romantically interested in other males with whom a strong emotional bond is shared. So it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that hookup apps like Grindr or Scruff are conspicuously missing from my phone.

In fact, two weeks ago on October 18 marked the one-year mark of the last time I actually had sex. I simply haven’t been attracted to any guys who would be attracted to me.

It’s all very confounding.

There is so much pressure in the gay community to hookup with anyone who is available, to be slutty, to radically eschew heteronormativity. That doesn’t leave much room for people like me who are primarily emotionally rather than sexually oriented.


I’ve known for a while that there are a number of well-defined psychological personas within me. These are at least four aspects of my personality that emerged and solidified over the years in response to different perceived threats or challenges.

There’s the tall, dark, quasi-menacing father/protector figure who becomes furious when I make mistakes or fail to achieve to his expectations.

There’s a morally ambiguous figure who is highly driven and a little bit sociopathic who pushes me to be ruthless with myself and others.

There’s an emotional hurricane figure who is an embodiment of my more animal instincts, who gets upset easily and easily flies into panic and/or rage.

There’s also the hurt, confused, and wounded child.

All four of these constructs interact with each other in different ways and would rise to the top of my consciousness to take control depending on what the situation called for. In this way, by separating and compartmentalizing these different aspects of myself, I could take control and protect myself.

Trouble is, after nearly 30 years of this I’m essentially walled into a mental fortress with four potentially volatile people.


While thinking through some of my motivations for wanting a boyfriend/partner, it finally occurred to me last week that the thing I really desire most is a sense of warmth that has historically been lacking from my most intimate relationships. Growing up, I don’t recall ever feeling that way about my home life or my parents. Mostly, home was associated with anxiety, fear, and suspicion.

So there are the usual things I’d want from a relationship: a sense of belonging, home, acceptance, and yes, a primary sexual partner.

But it was this desire for sense of warmth that expressed itself recently which took me by surprise, because I realized that so much of my life has indeed felt chilled, as if I’ve spent most of it wandering alone on a windswept moor or something similarly Brontë-esque. For once it would be nice to find someone with whom to share a hearth.

However, in observing interactions and pairings, it appears to be so easy for everyone else. And frankly, one doesn’t find a relationship at my age and station in life.

266. vilipend

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Viennese Grand Piano, built by Anton Martin Thym (1815), couurtesy the National Music Museum, University of South Dakota, http://goo.gl/87SCjNStory time.

My sophomore year in college, the choir went on one of its many tours around the Midwest, including Vermillion, South Dakota, which (among other things) is home to the National Music Museum at the University of South Dakota.

No, that’s not true. The National Music Museum and the University of South Dakota are really the only things Vermillion has going for it, and I say that as one who spent a good chunk of his childhood in a small, Central Plains town that was also home to an institution of higher learning.

Sorry, people of Vermillion.

Anyway, at one point during the tour of the various collections we entered the keyboard room, and this is where our story begins.


First, some background.

As some readers may know, I play the piano. At one point I could’ve been called a pianist. I started lessons at age eight, and by age eleven was studying pretty seriously.

Like, hours of practice a day seriously.

Now, I just play the piano.

Unlike most kids who take piano lessons, I decided to specialize in what’s known as period (or historically informed) performance. I read books on 16th and 17th century keyboard and embellishment technique, checked out journals from the library, studied recordings to absorb stylistic mannerisms, mastered skills like finger pedaling and use of ornaments like mordants, appoggiaturas, and doppelt-cadences.

For birthdays, I asked for recordings of pieces by Mozart, Bach, Purcell, Tallis, Josquin, and Monteverdi.

(I did discover 20th century music around age sixteen, but that’s another story.)

Basically, if it was written before 1800, I wasn’t interested.

One of the instruments I always wanted to play was one with a Janissary pedal, a reference to Turkish military bands that Europeans went mad for in the mid 18th century. This is referenced in the film version of Amadeus when Katherina Cavalieri tells Salieri her hairdresser says that “everything this year is going to be Turkish!”

My hairdresser said everything this year's going to be Turkish.

These bands featured lots of percussion–including bells and drums. Piano builders catered to this craze with a pedal that activated a drum, bells, cymbal, and/or triangle built directly into the piano itself.

One of the pieces written for this device is the third movement of Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 11, better known as the Rondo alla Turca.

Fast-forward to 2003 during my sophomore year, on a tour of the National Music Museum. As we entered the keyboard room, our tour guide began to talk about some of the pianos featured there… including the one in the picture at the top of the page.

Which happens to include a Janissary pedal.

The tour guide played a few of the pianos to demonstrate the differences in sound quality and timbre between them. Then she got to our piano. Now, I’d only ever heard a recording of the Janissary pedal on the radio, but never in person.

So when our tour guide played through that movement of the Mozart rondo, when she got to the A major section and activated the pedal, I inadvertently let out a sound that was a combination of a shriek of elation and squeak of surprise. It wasn’t an effeminate sound, per se. It was too feral and wild for that. But it did catch everyone off guard. Every head in the room whipped around and I must’ve turned numerous shades of red.

I’ve often reflected on this moment, especially in the years since coming out. Much is made of the differences in mannerism and expression between gay and heterosexual men. One moment when I became acutely aware of such differences was when listening to an episode of This American Life when I was almost fourteen years old titled Sissies. In one segment, an excerpt from an advice book for young men written in 1942 was read aloud:

Here’s a list of gestures commonly associated with women and another list commonly associated with men… Feminine gesture: hand on hip. Masculine gesture: hands folded over chest or clasped in back… Feminine gesture: looking at people from the corner of eyes. Masculine gesture: direct look; entire head turned toward person… How do you laugh? Are your laughs pitched high like a woman’s? Lower the pitch. Develop a masculine laugh… Roar. Bellow. Do anything but giggle.

This was one of those landmark moments when I realized that to be effeminate (i.e., faggot) was something negative and shameful. It was when I began to scrutinize my own behavior, looking at myself how I imagined the world might be seeing me.


To this day, there is little about gay culture and lifestyle today that I identify with–and by “culture” and “lifestyle,” I mean perceived culture and lifestyle as defined and reinforced through shows like Will & GraceModern FamilyGlee, and in places like gayborhoods and gay urban meccas like Los Angeles and New York City where trends develop and are exported from. Things like speech and vocal patterns, clothing, mannerisms, preferences, and the like become community tokens of belonging, powerful totems of identity in a world that is often unkind to those who do not conform to heteronormative values.

But I’ve realized that for me, this goes much deeper. It’s not that I wasn’t socialized as a gay man.

It’s that I wasn’t really socialized, period.

That moment wasn’t an expression of my “queer” self. It was the unfiltered delight of someone who never learned what is a socially appropriate expression of delight.

Homeschooled until my junior year in high school, I grew up in an insular world within an insular world. In those years when most people learn what’s cool/uncool, how to read social signals and express yourself in acceptable ways, I was learning what it meant to be an outsider in a world dominated by Satan. While other kids were running to get to class before the bell, I was doing my own thing.

Sure, I missed out on the various traumas of middle and junior high school. I also missed out on the growth opportunities that time affords.

 

264. mesmerism

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old-mesmerismI promised you more details about my sex life in the last post, and here it is, in two parts.


Part I

Like many gay men, I hate my body. It’s not that I’m overweight or even ugly. On the contrary, I’m still relatively slim for my age and level of physical activity (if you call pacing exercise), and objectively speaking my visage is not unpleasing. Yet still I’m not sure if I meet the standard of what other gay men are going to find attractive and desirable.

This is a game I can’t figure out the rules to.

This issue with being uncomfortable with my body goes back to early childhood. As a boy, I didn’t like going around without a shirt—I didn’t want anyone looking at me, thinking I was skinny, pale, or funny-looking.

There was also a degree of cognitive dissonance because I was aware that other boys—other men—thought nothing of displaying their bodies.

So what was wrong with me that I was so inward-looking?

I recently finished watching the Netflix series Stranger Things. One of the things I came away with was reflecting on the friendship between the four main boys. As a homeschooler, I had no such close friendships at that age. The only other contact I had with boys my age was at church, and that was limited—maybe once or twice a week.

Aside from my father, who I had a pretty distant relationship with, my journey through puberty and adolescence was a lonely one. There was no one else to normalize the changes my body went through, from hair appearing on my face, legs, and chest, to my voice deepening, to the hurricane of male teenage hormones and emotions.

Although I read and studied about these changes, I resented my body for dragging me into this new and confusing experience, especially given the conservative Christian community this took place in. The gist of the advice I received was basically: “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.” For me, the only gay in the village (even though I didn’t know it), this was even more lonely once I figured out why I wasn’t interested in girls like the other guys were.

So I’m envious of guys who can go around shirtless or wearing just hot pants, seemingly without a care. They don’t seem to worry about what other people think, and I can’t help wondering how my life might’ve been different had I had close male friends growing up who could’ve helped me acclimate and integrate fully into my adult male body.

(To be absolutely clear, this isn’t gender dysphoria. It’s more that I feel like an outsider, a pariah, or out-of-phase within my own body.)

As it is, I can’t wear shorts without feeling anxious.

Even short-sleeve shirts are a challenge.


Part II

As I’ve written about in several other posts, sex is something of a psychological minefield for me these days. Again, I’m definitely not asexual.

Rather, to quote U2, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”

In addition to Stranger Things, I’ve also been watching season 2 of Showtime’s series Penny Dreadful, and just got to the episode where a character is tormented by visions of her dead children clawing their way out of their graves, beckoning her to join them in death.

Curiously, this scene actually helped clarify what has been happening to me mentally in past sexual encounters for me over the past few years.

In the years following my breakup with my first boyfriend, I transformed myself into a bona fide slut. At one point I was using three different hookup apps to find guys around me to have sex with. In the back of my mind though, I was hoping that at least one of them might turn out to be boyfriend material.

If you kiss enough frogs.

Following the catastrophe with Seth, I literally tried to fuck him out of my system, and over the course of just a few months had actually grown tired of sex. Bouncing from one guy to the next was not only exhausting and degrading: it was depressing.

Once I’d called it quits with Jay, my last boyfriend, nearly nearly three-and-a-half years ago, dating became an exercise in futility. With a trail of failed relationships, the chances of anyone deciding a gay thirtysomething was worth it seemed remote when there were more cute, fun, flirty guys around.

Either during or following my last couple of sexual encounters, the ghosts of all the past guys who I was attracted to and who rejected me came crawling up out of the recesses of my subconscious to remind me of how undesirable I am, how unattractive I am compared to other guys, how once sex happens the guy bails, how much of a fucked up fixer-upper project I am, and how no one has the time or patience for that bullshit.

Remember that cute blonde, Chris, how you went out a couple times before you let him fuck you, and afterwards he couldn’t wait to get rid of you?

It’s not as if I haven’t had enough sex—some of it good, even fun. As I get older and know myself better, sex is just one dimension for me of knowing someone.

Unfortunately, as a demisexual, there needs to be a solid emotional foundation of trust first before adding any kind of sexual element.

Yet all gay guys these days seem to want to do is jump straight to having sex, because for most of them it’s just a fun romp. And me being the one who is different, I don’t know how to negotiate when I know someone well enough to trust that they aren’t just going to bail on me once they get what they want from me sexually.

Ironically, I’m actually as celibate now as I was prior to coming out.


So those are the gritty details of my sex life.

You are welcome.

263.blandishment

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Ich fühle luft von anderem planeten.
Mir blassen durch das dunkel die gesichter
Die freundlich eben noch sich zu mir drehten.

I feel the air of another planet.
The friendly faces that were turned toward me
but lately, now are fading into darkness.

Stefan George, Entrückung [Transport] (trans. by Carl Engel)

SONY DSC

There are good days when things seem to be going okay. My spirits are relatively high, I feel optimistic and hopeful about the future, I halfway like myself and other people.

Then there are days, like today, when it’s an achievement just to get out of bed, go downstairs, or leave the house, to not be entirely ruled by the nightmares of my anxiety.

It’s compounded by the further anxiety of knowing that this is all in my head, that people aren’t really thinking that, as well as knowing that I’m literally wasting the remaining years of my life by fearing all of these mental phantasms.

From the video below:

We should use the thought of death not to make us despair of life but to shake us into more committedly pursuing the life we know we need to lead. We will act when the fear of death is finally allowed to trump the fear of failure or humiliation, compromise or shame.


A few weeks ago, about a week after the attack I wrote about in the last post, I had a meltdown during a gathering of friends.

There were four of us altogether, and we’d been playing games that evening. Things were actually going well. I wasn’t feeling anxious, defensive, or threatened. Then we moved outside to the hot tub, which is when things got… well, frisky.

Here I’ll mention that all four of us are gay men: two are a couple, one a “pup” (for those unfamiliar with kink culture, go here to learn what a “pup” is), and then me, a bristling combination of Bernard Black and Malcolm Tucker.

It was mostly groping, giggling, and making out to begin with amongst the three of them, but sex was clearly on the agenda. And I was feeling very uneasy with the situation, and increasingly morose—and here is where it all goes a bit wibbly-wobbly.

As I wrote about not too long ago, sex is an emotional minefield for me these days, a reality made more uncomfortable because I do still have a sex drive. I miss it, but this whole gay, casual sex culture is, frankly, incredibly unhealthy for me.

Because: I have had plenty of casual sex, and it ultimately left me feeling more lonely and disconnected.

So I was feeling left out, not because I was being ignored (if I’d been into it they would’ve included me), but because I’m in something of a sexual exile.

Et l’arc-en-ciel est exilé
Puisqu’on exile qui l’irise
Mais un drapeau s’est envolé
Prendre ta place au vent de bise.

And now the rainbow is in exile,
as one who changes his colors must be;
but a flag flew away
to take its place in the north wind.

Guillaume Apollinaire, “La grâce exilée”


I don’t entirely remember what I said after getting out of the water… something about how I’m broken, how I’m going to die alone, and how everyone (gay guys, that is) just seem to want sex and nothing else, and it’s all bullshit.

This is because my emotional brain is wired to work a lot faster than my rational brain can keep up with it, the prize for having grown up in an environment where being hyper aware meant survival. In a matter of seconds, my thought process went something like this:

Me: Why can’t I just be in the moment and enjoy sex like these guy? Why do I have to take things so seriously?
Greek chorus of my mind: Because you’re fucked up and broken by your past.
Me: All gay men are like this, aren’t they?
Greek chorus: Yes. Except you. Remember? You’re broken. You’re not normal.
Me: Oh my god, it’s not them, it’s me. I’m the aberration. That means there’s no one right for me out there, is there? No one who will get my crazy.
Greek chorus: If the past is an indicator of the future, no, you’re never going to find a boyfriend.
Me: I’m going to die alone!!
Greek chorus: Yup. You’ll never have sex again.

That’s the concise version. It was very Eyes Wide Shut in my head, a collaboration between Woody Allen and Stanley Kubrick.

After things had calmed down, I realized that this wasn’t about sex necessarily. It was about my fear of never finding a home.

That’s what is behind the surging resentment I feel when seeing gay couples, whether in pictures, video, etc. Because I’m terrified that I’m never going to have that for myself.

A sense of home, something I’ve never felt once in my life.

As I’ve written about, my home life growing up felt like anything but home: safe, secure, welcoming. My mother could be unpredictable and volatile at times, and my father was distant and unresponsive. We talked unconditional love, yet our value and worth was based on how well we conformed to the teachings of our fundamentalist Christian faith.

Then, for most of my adult life I lived and worked amongst evangelical Christians, terrified they’d find out I was gay and shun me.

Add to this the reality that, at 33, I’m woefully unskilled in the art of flirting or responding to flirting due to having had to repress all of that for most of my adult life.

Basically, I’m a gay, male Liz Lemon.

With all of that going on, being in a hot tub with three flirty, sexed-up gay guys sent me over the edge.

I’d like to know what it’s like to be loved and accepted by a guy (here I’ll clarify: single and within my seemingly quantum field of eligibles) who doesn’t run screaming at the sight of my craziness.

Blërg.

260. overslaugh

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enhanced-buzz-29982-1409148846-23Two days ago, this past Saturday, marked the two-year anniversary of the last time I went on an actual, non-hookup date with a guy.

Or, as it’s known on my Google calendar: “Last Fuckable Day” (à la the Amy Schumer short from last year). Because June 25, 2014 felt like the universe telling me that I am undateable.

“Why would you observe such a date?” you might ask. “I mean, what the actual hell is wrong with you?”

Well, for one thing, it’s so that I can answer myself when asking: “So how long has it been since I went on a date?”

For another, I’m an archivist at heart so preserving history is something of my hobby and expertise. At first I wasn’t 100% sure of the timeline, but thanks to stalkerish Google location history I was able to narrow down the date we first met. Weather Underground confirmed when our second date was because there was a thunderstorm that evening, and there are also SMS messages from that date saved in my email.

I don’t remember exactly when Matt the bisexual guy and I started messaging on OkCupid. It was about a week or so before we met, and we seemed to have a good connection so we decided to set a date to actually meet in person, at the Seward Pizza Lucé in Minneapolis on June 11th, 2014. It was particularly rainy that week, and I recall driving through a storm and it being particularly nerve wracking getting over there because the wipers on my car had stopped working and were frozen at about a 45 degree angle on my windshield.

The date itself went well. I don’t remember many details from the conversation, other than that he had moved to Minneapolis from New York to work on his PhD, and that he had most recently been dating a guy for several years who’d broken up with him a few months prior.

Big red flag, I know.

We ended up going for a walk across the Lake Street-Marshall Bridge after dinner, and had a really good time discussing wildlife and ecosystems (that was part of his field of study), and more about our backgrounds. It had been a little over a year since I’d broken up with Jay, my last boyfriend, who apparently met his current partner about three months after we split up. He certainly wasted no time, eh.

The evening came to an end with another torrential downpour that began just as we got back to his car. We kissed briefly as we said goodbye, and after over a year of being single I was starting to feel cautiously hopeful. We seemed to have good chemistry, and he was a really nice and intelligent guy.

The next day we decided to meet again, this time at his place that following Saturday on June 14, 2014.

Yes, I know. I know. Terrible decisions. Hindsight and all that.

It was another rainy evening, and though I was white knuckling it the whole way there as I drove through the storm, I managed to arrive safely.

I remember us talking for a long time that evening. We talked about music, about science, about his copy of Richard Dawkins’ The Ancestor’s Tale on his bookshelf. Eventually, we started making out and… well, you can imagine the rest if you like. We actually didn’t have sex until the next morning, but the whole evening felt good. Hopeful. Cautiously hopeful.

As I left that morning, I got a random text from Jay saying that he’d passed me with his boyfriend on the way to pick up his boyfriend’s kids from somewhere. (Jay had talked about kids on more than one occasion, which had been one of many sources of tension between us, because I was not crazy about the idea of parenting. And, of course, with the guy after me he got exactly what he wanted.) I don’t remember what was said, but I recall writing back something about leaving “my boyfriend’s” place, not wanting to seem pathetic and single after over a year. He wrote back something about being happy for me, and that was it.

Haven’t heard from him since.

Matt and I exchanged a few more texts that day, but after that, I didn’t hear from him again for a while, which I didn’t take as a good sign. I didn’t want to seem desperate or clingy though, and waited until Thursday to try him again.

He didn’t respond until Wednesday.

Turns out he’d been avoiding having a conversation with me. A few days after we slept together he’d been contacted by his ex again, and he confessed that he was still in love with the guy but was feeling conflicted because he’d actually liked me.

But he was going to pursue getting back together with his ex.

And that was that. I didn’t hear from him again either. No idea if they got back together.

That triggered the beginning of a major depressive episode that lasted over six months. I felt utterly defeated by being turned down by yet another guy I’d been interested in. This had happened so many times before, but I’d gotten my hopes up only to see them dashed again, and it was hard to ignore signals the universe seemed to be proverbially sending me—that no guy who I was interested in was ever going to be interested in me.

It happened with Chris. With Seth. With Matt. With several others whose names and faces I can’t recall anymore, “unremembered lads that not again will turn to me at midnight with a cry” (Edna St. Vincent Millay).

Of course I’m writing this with the recent image of Miss Havisham in mind, knowing that I need to resist allowing regret and heartbreak to poison me.

My therapist asked me last week to envision what it might feel like to actually be loved and accepted by a partner, without fear or reservation.

I can’t even fathom what that would look like.