Tuesday, January 08, 2008

What to do.

Over at Joe, he's made two recent posts that interest me greatly.

I'll cut to the chase. Here in Fort Lauderdale, I am no stranger to those venues providing the probabilities of good friction for the price of a beer or a "six month membership". I seem to have become a sort of sexual "common denominator" in a town replete with men of all ages, ethnicities and accents. Is he forty-five? Is he Jewish? Is he Spanish? Is he hairy? Is he smooth? Is he local? Is he married? All of these questions and more have been asked of me, and the guessed responses make me smile with the mystery of an explorer with a blurred passport. Two nights ago, at a well-attended and very well-designed sex club called "Slammers", someone finally got it right.

A young and shirtless man inserted himself into our feverish quintet and began to sample our various exposed parts. Because he was handsome and buff, we made room for him, wagon-training our backs to all other onlookers who hooked their chins over our shoulders as if to glimpse or sniff the stew in the making.

The new boy made the rounds of each of us, appreciating our components. When he came to me, he suddenly stopped his manipulations, and, looking into my eyes, he said with a startled voice, "You're sober!"

Without thinking, I returned his gaze and simply said, "Yes." The circle seemed to freeze as each man looked at me with the curiosity we reserve for Iranians, police officers, or Klingons. I had never realized just how obvious this frequent condition of mine really is. I could sense their sudden mistrust. There would be no retrieving the energy of this team which split quietly into other groupings as if the caller at a square dance had diplomatically smoothed over the moment of my unmasking.

This is, afterall, the unusual (and now unveiled) truth about me. I am often clear-headed among those who are not. Because of this, I have been able to find my way out of the jungle and back into your village where I stumble into the square asking you all for a drink of water with a promise to tell you what I have seen in those terrible dark places you dare not visit. I tell you of my voyages and while you sleep I am away by the light of the next full moon.

Sadly, I must report that, of late, some beautiful young men have offered themselves up to me, a total stranger to them. I look at these men incredulously, wanting to speak to them of the repulsion they create in me. Their asking me for unsafe sex is like handing me a gun or a knife and whispering a request for its brandishing. I want to tell them how that makes me feel. Like a daredevil in a circus act. Like a hoary and senior Wallenda, grown stupid with altitude and willing to shove my children onto a weak wire without a net. They want me to waste them and that is supremely unattractive. I want to tell them how their behavior makes them as cold to the touch and as colorless as a gravestone. When I walk away from one of them, I can hear him mumble his disappointment. Later, I watch him get what he wants from someone else. I catch his eye and he looks up at me vindictively as if to say "See what you could have had?"

I drive home knowing that we don't protect men by closing bath houses and patrolling the dark corners of bars. That's like stepping on the roach that runs across the floor. It accomplishes nothing. It's time for men like me to shoulder some responsibility for the young, stupid, drunk or drugged who are practically unreachable in daylight. I wonder how much of a difference could be made if, in the course of a night, as I thread my way through a crowd of beautiful young men, I were to single out just one of them as I passed by (Maybe the one with the nervous and insecure darting eyes. The shiny black fauxhawk. The third drink in his hand. A closet full of A&F) and lean in close enough to deliver a private message, "You're beautiful. Keep it safe. Don't lose it." Would he thank me? If he turned his back to me or looked away with annoyance would it matter? I'd have done the right thing, and if it happened often enough, and if it happened in those darker more sinister venues where the deadly decisions happen, would we not be able to avert some of the pitiful mistakes that young men make and then regret too late?

I really have no choice. It seems to be my calling. Look for me to become somewhat unpopular in some places as I perfect my approach of encouragement for good behavior and intolerance for the bad. This would certainly work better if we were all doing it, and so I am requesting that you try it as well, you who are fellow explorers. Don't let me be the sole "vox clamantis in deserto". You'll pay two dollars for a coat check or a buck for a security box for your wallet. Surely you and I can add this one inexpensive little responsibility to our nights out: to tell one young man that he is beautiful and that you want him to stay that way for many years to come.

25 comments:

Stash said...

We always want what we thought we once wanted, and on having it, find it isn't what we wanted to begin with.

Some things anyway.

tater said...

I agree, and I do. Any of us that have witnessed the death of loved ones, and the ravages HIV has waged on the body and soul of a friend, can't help but feel guilt by association for not speaking up. Personal responsibility is great, but so is a word of loving caution in an often unloving world. My respect for you has been elevated yet again. Where is Slammers by the way? It's been a few years since I made my last snowy migration to braindeadlia.

buff said...

Yea, you can't always get what you wanted.

Only safer sex, please, we're Hairy Muscle hunks.

Mega hairy muscle hugs of days and nights full of safer, erotic foreplay. WOOF

Anonymous said...

We share an affinity for the shadowy places. I have experienced them as a sober participant and also as one who imbibes (though my refreshments have always been alcoholic or herbal rather than pharmaceutical). While one or two stabilizing beverages can mitigate the initial coquettish blush of hesitation, I have come to realize that further self-medication during such activity is usually contraindicated. Not only does it cause one to make foolish decisions, it sometimes results in a decrease in perceived hotness. I, for one, cannot afford to go into the shadows with a baseline deficit, and therefore choose to remain cognitively intact. Funny... I find that sober playing helps me to make better decisions, and helps me to remember and relish the memory of those activities later. Keep enjoying your "houses of regrets" knowing that you're not the only one playing with a full (or almost-full) deck.

And speaking of loving words of caution... I had a nice man speak those words to me once. I smiled and went on my way, but the memory of those words stuck. Peer pressure works in the teenage population as well as it does with adults... and its power can be as effective for the overall good as it is for the encouragement of risk. Keep nudging, cajoling, and reminding. I will too, starting with myself.

Witness Street said...

Thank you very much for this post. Sometimes I think that youth and beauty are meant to be wasted, if one was to live, to really live, and to love, to give the counterfeit of love. Sometimes I think there is nothing cooler than promiscuity, and that there is nothing more un-cool than maintaining the opinion that it is highly objectionable. But my thoughts, I realize through this post, is a kind of perversion of our times. And as you say: the people who really matter shall find sobriety ultimately more attractive.

David said...

To give you an idea of my naivete, on the few occasions I've attended such establishments as you've described, it never occurred to me to have a drink and it never occurred to me that not being under the influence would be a turn-off.

I'm a bit surprised that sobriety was a deal-breaker. It makes me even less inclined to make a return visit.

Will said...

It's you who is the beautiful man.

Jake said...

I, too, am always the sober one, always the safe one.

Which is why I think my invitations to these parties have dried up.

Because I refuse to believe it's because I'm almost 40.

Mike Doherty said...

Sadly, with the advances of HIV meds comes the belief that "I can just take a pill."

Many of us seek out these dark encounters because we are lonely - but what are we willing to trade for a moment's comfort? The price is way too high . . .

Thank you for such a wonderful post.

Boomer said...

Tony -

You are the better and hotter man by far for your fine attitude on these matters. This is coming from someone who heeded this type of advice a little late...for me anyhow.

Also Jake...though I do not know you personally, I have seen you around Chicago and in your Chorus outings...rest assured that the lack of invitations has nothing to do with either turning 40 or any lack of hotness...WOOF!

chub4bears said...

ui have many 20-something friends who think being poz is 'no big deal', with the new combination drugs and all...i tell them of how our world was recently ravaged...but i do feel that education and informed decisions is the key...sex will always happen (thank heavens!!) and it is puritanicazl to deny men the pleasures which make us men...we should be able to express our sex need to our heart's content...but with the responsibility of informed adults

David in KC said...

At 40 I never thought I'd make a friend who was 25, but I did, and I've tried to convey this message at every available opportunity. All I can do is hope he's listening.

kusala ~ joe said...

This almost brought a tear to my eye, and you are really one amazing writer, sir.

"It's time for men like me to shoulder some responsibility for the young, stupid, drunk or drugged who are practically unreachable in daylight."

After finally getting to the point -- after too many years of no self-esteem and, sadly, after ending up poz -- where I accept a mature level of responsibility for myself, yes, I agree with you 100% that I need to consider shouldering some responsibility for them too. They break my heart, and sometimes I see myself in them; wanting something and not even knowing what that something is. And not knowing that they're beautiful, all of them. It's also possible that they're more than just "young, stupid, or drugged," though -- sometimes they're just naive, or not thinking clearly, or in a lot of pain.

Thank you for this.

And, on a aesthetic note, the phrase "Like a hoary and senior Wallenda, grown stupid with altitude" is one of the best I've ready anywhere lately.

Anonymous said...

a well-attended and very well-designed sex club called "Slammers"...

Hello? "Slammers"... Sounds pretty much like an advertisement to those who imbibe, cum one, cum all... (if you can).

Anonymous said...

Jake should adjust his medication, as he's clearly deluded into thinking that his almost-40 status has a negative impact on his hotness.

The only reasonable explanation for his lack of invitations to sex parties is mental illness on the part of the host.

Brian
Madison, WI

Anonymous said...

A little show of love and value is always of benefit. The words won't stick with all of them, but you might save someone's life. The more we value each other, the more value we have in our own eyes, and the less likely we are to throw it away. It's not about lecturing. It's about letting someone know they are valued.

king said...

An amazing piece of truth. I am saddened by the fact of the lost generation, the men that could have done that for me. What beautiful men they were that died, strong, creative, sly and liberated. They were the onces that I loved and they are the ones that I miss daily. So it is our turn now. Thanks for the reminder and the knoweldge that 'we' are here now.

Lexx said...

I got directed here by JMG and I'm glad I took the journey. Your post was incredible and should be recited nightly by all of us. Only our knowlede of what life was like in the past will help get everyone under 3o to reach 45 with any sort of hope of changing history's stumble into the future. Thank you for opening yourself to us all.

knucklecrack said...

Tony-
As Will said, it is YOU who is the beautiful man. Total agreement.

Fantastic post.

My health, esteem and passions are result of the older hands I held in coming out. It's so important for younger gay men to have an older and patient shoulder to lean or cry on.

In many cases, you're our only fathers.

NotSoYoung said...

Youth is wasted on the young. Great post!

Anonymous said...

any chance we can broaden the criteria to include average looking men or aren't they worth saving?

downtownla said...

wow - someone who thinks like I do. The temptation is great and i am not always strong - but it is on my mind everytime i look at a potential buddy at these places. More often than not i go home alone and untouched, because I have been extremely picky. and every time it saves my life.

as for the 40 suntings, take a look a guys your own age rather than lust after the 20 year olds - you might be surprised to find someone who you can truly be your mate

jmagi said...

I got this link from Joe and I'm so glad I did. This is truly beautiful.

As time goes on, I'm less inclined to think that young men (or any men) engage in unsafe sex because of low self esteem or the idea that they can just take a pill. I actually think that guys do it because they are looking for some kind of deeper connection, something spiritual, even if they don't consciously think of it that way.

Your proposal to offer a word of caution may actually fill that need for a deep connection, a show of caring beyond getting one's rocks off.

Thank you.

Big Ass Belle said...

They want me to waste them and that is supremely unattractive. . . . and tragic and heartbreaking. And it makes me wonder both why they want to be destroyed and why another would want to destroy them. It is a mystery of humanity and i simply cannot understand it.

But you, I can understand that. The beautiful, sweet friend I've never met finding his congregation, his flock. You have such a fine spirit. I love you for this. fantastic post . . .

OMO said...

Someone anonymously asked "any chance we can broaden the criteria to include average looking men or aren't they worth saving?"

The point is that all youth is beautiful, as is good health. In fact, all life is beautiful. The outwards appearance has very little, or nothing, to do with it, and I'm more than sure that this is what Father Tony meant. Really, it should have gone without saying.

Thank you Father for another lovely post. You never cease to inspire. I shall be following your good advice next time I find myself in such an establishment.