Monday, September 19, 2011

Caught Between the Rock and a Gay Place

NB: A stupidly long essay on life… ie I need an editor

I was looking at photos of a friend’s recent Euro-trip the other day – the type of overzealous photos taken from a train station when you’re 23 and backpacking through Europe and even though you’re covered in sweat, and you’ve worn the same outfit 3 days in a row, but you’re face is covered with the biggest shit-eating grin because you partied until 4 am and somehow made it to the Budapest train station to catch the early train to Vienna…

Back here in Canada a group of friends and I were chatting about said photo album over brunch. Soon we began to chat about our various Euro Trips; one of us recounted a tale of having sex in the bathroom of a hostel in Madrid (not my story) and another reminded us about the time someone had barfed on them at a hostel in Greece. As brunch ended, we realized, with some lament, that those days – the days of Europe being a haze of 32 person hostel rooms, cheap beer, and vodka shooters – had ended. Somehow, somewhere, silently we had aged out of the fun.

I think a lot about the difference between being 23 and being 27 (or 22 and 28) these days. Those five or six years of seem vast to me in terms of maturity but I can’t tell if it is haughty of me to think that it is those 5 years specifically which constitutes maturation or if it is 5 years in general.

When I tell my 23 year-old friends that 23 is worlds away from 28 most argue, “But we’re practically the same age.”

I wish it were true. I also wonder if 33 will feel totally different from 28 (if a 33 year old is reading this and laughing at me - heads up!); or rather, if, at 25 or 26, you somehow cross the Rubicon from being a sorta-kinda-adult into the murky middle of real adulthood which suddenly means mortgage payments, car payments and private school payments that spread before you like a never ending roadmap to Freedom 65.

I’ve only recently concluded that adulthood is measured by the monthly outflow of your checking account; the more monthly payments you have, the more of an adult you actually are. And if I’m being totally honest being a “real” adult with its litany of monthly payments sorta kinda sucks.

Similarly, a friend of mine was recently at a baby shower, listening to her female friends chat about Egyptian cotton thread counts, when she lost her $hit and literally screamed at the top of her lungs: “guys I don’t fucking care.” Ennui aside, she was in the minority.

To top the banality of it all, being a real adult features such familial injustices as the following: “If you can afford to a Power Ball ticket,” my mother told me the other day, “I don’t think your father and I should be subsidizing your High Holiday ticket at synagogue.” She wasn’t necessarily wrong, but did I really want to spend my hard-earned shekels on Beth Shalom?

But what is most noticeable about transitioning into real-adulthood, besides the aforementioned increase in monthly payments, is the fact that suddenly you don’t just have one best friend. Suddenly your best friend now has a girlfriend or a boyfriend. Even acquaintances start showing up to parties with someone. “Can I bring Phil?” “Do you mind if I bring this girl I’m seeing, its getting kind of serious.” And low and behold these other people aren’t just booty calls or interstitial things: “we’re just dating; its not serious so please don’t friend them on Facebook,” rather, what is happening now eventually winds up with a close-up shot of “the Rock” on Facebook. The Rock Shot and Rock Watch is a great past time for those with a couple of idle moments. And for the record I’m not judging that photo nor the desire to show off the diamond – all parties, from groom to bride to parents, have worked hard for “the Rock”.

Sometimes said photo is pre-dated by an email: “heads up, xyz and I got engaged last night, I’m telling you before we announce it on Facebook.”

My response to such an email is three-pronged:

Initial reaction:
1) Happiness or Anger (depending on my feelings toward the significant other, now fiancé)

Subsequently, I send this email (often before I even respond to my friend):
2) Hey Lucy (a personal shopper at Tiffany’s whom I met once two years ago and whose contact information I put in my phone even though I haven’t seen her since) - I have another wedding. My billing information should be on file.

Lastly, I respond to my friend:
3) OMG!! OMG!!! - I’m so happy for you guys! (I say that even if I’m not and just a differing about of exclamation marks)

After the most recent engagement of a friend I came home and watched that old Sex and the City episode (A Women's Right to Shoes) where Carrie registers for a pair of Manolo Blahniks because she’s fed up with having to spend hundreds of dollars on her friends’ baby showers, weddings, engagement parties and the like. I finally get it. Why is no one offering to buy me a KitchenAid stand mixer? [FYI – I’d like one in the Caviar colour.]

Even friends of mine who swore that they would never get married, tuck their tails between their legs and learn the most important words any bride must know: Monogramed Crane Thank You Cards.

When I was 24, for example, I worked with two lovely women in their early thirties. Neither was married, and neither had children.

“You’ll both wind up pregnant and married,” I told them about a month into our friendship.

“Never!” They argued. “We don’t want kids!” They were modern gals “We don’t need to get married.” Fast forward four years to our annual Christmas reunion lunch at Fresh on Bloor Street, wherein they whipped off their parka’s to highlight baby bumps… “We’re both pregnant!” They gleefully told me.

Babies, much like adulthood, seems to creep up on us, replacing debaucherous nights at the Pink Palace in Corfu, Greece, with conversations about car mileage and the hassle of having to buy two car seats for two separate cars.

What’s interesting of course is that for the gays, although perhaps this will change, what with the increasing acceptance of gay marriage and gay adoption, our semi-adulthood seems somewhat prolonged; at least compared to our straight friends who barrel past 28 and run headfirst into their thirties.

Of my gay friends who are in somewhat long-term relationships… not one is talking about marriage. Comparatively, I already have four straight weddings scheduled for 2012 (this is before the Holiday Engagement rush so I figure I could have 8 weddings for 2012). In fact most of my gay friends aren’t even in relationships. I was up at a friend’s cottage over the past weekend with 5 other single, professional gay dudes who were in various stages of looking for love. We spent the weekend oscillating between jokingly going on Grindr to check out the local talent and lamenting our recent run of bad dates. Sure enough the 6 of us found ourselves on the following Thursday drunkenly stumbling around Woody’s judging the weekly best chest contest. That’s what singledom allows I guess.

In some ways it seems as if we’re sort of caught between “the Rock” and a gay place.

Gay marriage and the fight for equality was in some ways meant to be a great equalizer. Gays can be just like the breeders. And yet… not to rely on stereotypes sometimes we aren’t. First of all there are biological differences between gay couples and straight ones that seem to preclude a rush to the alter. As Marissa Tomei infamously noted in My Cousin Vinny… there is such a thing as a biological clock for the gay man, which in Marissa’s case was “ticking like this”.

And perhaps more than biology gay men are free from the societal pressure that constrains a lot of my single female friends. As one boyfriend noted – and I’m paraphrasing - “Upper Middle Class Jewish Toronto forces this same goal: get married and have babies before you’re 30.” And in a way he was right. There is the unspoken “plan” that seems to take root. Suddenly you run into more and more people from elementary school pushing strollers and as you exchange pleasantries you wonder “how old were my parents on the first day of school?” And then there’s this total mind-fuck because you realize you’re about as old as your first memory of your parents. And if that doesn’t require a shot of vodka then I don’t know what does.

But ya see.. gay men just aren’t bound to the same “Plan” (get married and have babies before 30). First of all biology complicates our lives and any sort of foray into parenthood requires adoption and surrogacy which makes the entire thing a bit more complicated then stopping birth control. And of course society doesn’t expect us to follow the “Plan”; if we do, we do so much later on in life.

There’s a great blog I read called the Domestic Daddy. It’s about two Manhattanite men who have sired a child. The DD (who actually is a daddy in the gay sense of the word) writes about his life raising Julia and decorating their house in the Hamptons and loft in Chelsea. One of the blog posts started with: “Strolling through the girls section of the little J.Crew store in Southampton which we do often.” The Domestic Daddy had me at J. Crew. And in fact there is something resoundingly twee about the Domestic Daddy’s blog. It’s a rather adorable family blog about a parent taking time off from work to raise his child. The slant of course is that the parents are also gay men.

As per most things in life – I spent an afternoon Googling the Domestic Daddy on the internet and realized he was in his late forties. His partner, in his fifties. They were indeed Domestic Daddy’s… but they weren’t like my twenty-something friends who got married and had babies when they were 30. They had settled sure, but they had done so at a much later time in life.

And that’s the thing really… if 28 is somehow suddenly adulthood – and the seeming mass of your adult years stretches before you, tempered by marriage and the birth of children – gays are given the luxury of seemingly having a longer adolescence. The true question – is what do you put between that Rock and the gay place?


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