You may contact me, Bradhealey@rocketmail.com.
The day I first met her, I recall the feeling of elation realizing that I had surely found a logical, most sensible life-match. I mentally went down my checklist of necessary and desirable qualities and concluded silently to myself that she was a person I could spend my life with. I was graduating college and had a job on the outside waiting for me. Even though looking back I can see that all the signs were there, as bold as the headlines on the Daily News, I was gay. But still, my unquestioned ambition was to get married. And so I did.
Is this a reasonable and understandable happening, or does it fall into the same oxymoronic category as Jews for Jesus, Young Republicans or other seemingly nonsensical groups? If you have ever wondered, read on.
I've always prided myself believing I had unblemished integrity. Yet I grew up at least intuitively suspecting I was gay, yet proceeded to get married by the tender age of 24, never letting on to another soul, lest of all my future wife, of my conflict and doubt.
It happened very easily actually, for me and I have learned, for many other men as well, progressing one step at a time, not unlike the way one learns to ride a bicycle, to learn long division, to play the piano, to plant a garden, to hit a baseball. The process moved along with trying and failing, with perseverance in effort, learning from one's mistakes and trying again. It is enabled by banishing doubt that the task is impossible; that success is just ahead if only one tries a little harder. After all, one only needs to look at how many other men can ride a bicycle, play the piano or grow a garden. Why should getting married be any different? Truly, I am not alone; there are hundreds of thousands of us, maybe millions of us in the world.
It also happens so easily and often because the ingrained goal for so many of us boys is "fitting in"; being normal and married and a husband and a father; this is so deeply seeded from early childhood that thoughts of a major life-failure is not even granted a glimmer of possibility. It is further enabled by a youngster's complete lack of perspective. While some teenagers are born-rebels and are pleased with not fitting in, most of us see ourselves as responsible adults-in-training with no idea if our sexual leanings and deep unexplained yearnings for companionship with other boys are only a passing fad. Quite probably he concludes these feelings are something that every other boy experiences and simply chooses not to discuss.
It happens to one as determined as I, one who must do everything perfectly; to not screw up or disappoint himself (or especially others) It happens when the owner of the feelings has no perspective of how deep those feelings run or any concept of how long they will persist. Surely these longings are a passing rite of adolescence that will fade to be replaced by the normal feelings that surely accompany maturity and manhood!
I had my first crush on a girl when I was in the sixth grade*. It was a feeling for a girl that I never had before, and I reasoned that I must be in love. I still recall that ebullient euphoria like it was yesterday. Her name was Grace, and she was a girl that most other boys would have passed up without a glance. Ruddy-skinned, loud and self assured, with a large overbite and an even larger nose, she was a beefy, well-muscled girl. Her loud laugh and pushy insistence belied her name, but I found her oddly attractive.
Our "relationship" began when I passed her a note to her in math class to ask her if maybe she liked me. Her scribbled response that, maybe she did, made my 12-year old heart leap for joy. The note passing continued day after day for at least three weeks and I saved them all in my sock drawer as a treasure trove of blatant proof that I was indeed turning out normal after all. Our entire relationship consisted of notes written on torn scraps from spiral notebooks, passed in the halls like we were CIA operatives, and glances across classrooms. It all ended without a kiss, without a date, without even a meaningful conversation. But I was happy.. and even probably more than that, was incredibly relieved that it had all happened.
*By comparison, I had my first crush on another boy when I was five, and had a dozen more before my first girl-crush seven years later. As wonderful as they all felt, I knew even at five that something was wrong, and that I shouldn't share my feelings with anyone else, shameful secrets from the very start.
Through my middle school years and into high school I had various little crushes on girls. Looking back, all were girls who had distinct traits of boyishness in their makeup. I liked girls who wore no makeup and saw no need to apologize for it. I liked field hockey players and girls with hair cut short, freckles dusted across button noses and flat chests, these were all OK with me. The allure of a tight sweater stretched tightly over a buxom young lady's torso was lost on me. In fact, I didn't even notice these specimens when they walked by, all my buddies transfixed, agog and nudging each other in the ribs all the while.
But I never felt the same butterflies in the stomach excitement when near any girl -- no matter how much "my type" she might be as I did when I was seated thigh to thigh in the backseat of the car with my friends Ryan or Jake--boys I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, boys who were all-masculine, and were also unfortunately boys who wanted to spend their whole lives with the girls with the big breasts in the tight sweaters.
By the time I was seventeen I had graduated to having a very public steady girlfriend, a pretty little waif named Tracy with freckles and a pageboy haircut that from a distance might have caused her to be mistaken for a fourteen year old boy. We walked in the halls holding hands, sat together at lunch, and went to the movies on Saturday nights. Afterwards we would park in my car or return home to her family's basement rec-room or to mine, and fumbling together we learned how to neck and kiss and she even eventually let me touch her tiny breasts, finally allowing me to reach under her shirt and unclasp her bra, a garment that was nearly as useless and unnecessary on her as it would have been on me. I thrilled at the first touch of her softness, at her quickened breath, her closed eyes and the new, more impassioned way she suddenly wanted to kiss me.
But emotionally for me it was all merely interesting the same way a high school chemistry experiment was... the first time I saw the vinegar react with the baking soda, boiling and frothing, spilling all over the table it was wide eyed, awe inspiring, fascinating stuff. But after the first time it became old hat; boring and completely predictable. And what was the end result anyway? A big mess to clean up. With Tracy , I began to loathe the way she looked at me after we kissed and petted this way; Christ, like she loved me or something. My loins ached for release after these activities (after all, I was 17. Far less than this was required to get me going at that age) but when I urged her hands towards my lap she pulled away as though burned with the sharp rebuke of "no!".
I vividly recall lying wrapped together in an embrace with Tracy in my rec room on the floor by the old black and white console TV, kissing her deeply, tongues lashed together, her breathing hard and running her fingers through my hair, her eyes tightly shut. In contrast, my left eye was pinched open, and as I propped us up on my elbow I watched the World Series on TV directly over her shoulder. The Pirates were playing the Orioles that year, and if I am not mistaken John Candelaria was pitching. From that information one can probably pinpoint the exact date I am speaking of. Soon thereafter my science experiments with Tracy ended. I completely lost interest in the predictable and one-sided chemical reaction, and especially lost interest in cleaning up afterward.
Then I met Darla, or more appropriately I should say Darla met me. Darla was a short buxom girl with teased-up bleached-blonde hair and great experience in the overuse of eyeliner, perfume, a curling iron and everything else that was sold in the aisle of the drugstore with all the mirrors and long glass counters that I carefully avoided on my way to the magazine racks.
I found it a very strange coincidence how Darla kept running into me... how she was seated behind me in one class and in front of me in another. She magically appeared to sit next to me on the bus for marching band trips. She knew what day was my birthday, and surprised me with fresh-baked cookies and a gift. It took me a while, but I soon realized that Darla was itching to try with me the more advanced chemistry experiments that Tracy shunned.
I eventually realized she had the hots for me in a big way, yet because of my orientation I was truly clueless up till then. Now, so many years later, this to me is truly funny. If she had been another boy I would have realized intuitively and from the first moment what was going on. Clearly my brain was blissfully cross-wired, my instincts short circuited. In juxtaposition, I have sometimes wondered if the straight boys I gravitated to throughout school ever had a clue of what I was up to with them as I attempted to seduce them. I suspect that most never had a clue, and the first time many realized my motives, they had already been had... literally.
Defensively, to keep needed distance between Darla and me I treated her like one of the guys, which I (satisfyingly) learned only a day later at each such occurrence had left her crying in the girls' room. While I became generally aware of her motives I still had no specific, concrete idea what she wanted from me, and once I finally figured it out I was completely terrified. I wanted to continue the chemistry lessons at my own pace and with a lab partner of my selection, but Darla had other ideas. She was ready for thermonuclear stuff, she had chosen me as her victim, and she wanted to get busy now. I avoided her for as long as I could, but finally I asked her on a date to go bowling. At the last moment in a terrified panic I asked my best friend Mario to go along with us, and while she feigned delighted amusement at the time I learned that she spent the next three days crying in the bathroom about it.
Darla would hint that she knew "just how" to please a boy. She carried a six-inch ruler in her purse that she suggested she used on dates to see if the boy met her "minimum requirements". One day I joked that with her huge breasts she ought to skip wearing a bra to school the next day. Unbelievably she did, and when I truly didn't even notice she spent the next two days crying. Let's face it. I was not looking at breasts. I was far too busy looking at the trousers of every slim boy I passed in the halls to see how developed he might be, and kept a careful eye on all the boys who sat in my many classes as they privately nudged themselves into stiffness through their trousers with boredom.
Things with Darla finally "came to a head" so to speak when she and I were alone in my basement making out, in the exact same place and position that I had been with Tracy just a few months before. She passionately kissed me and simply unable to cope with the pressure-packed ridiculousness of the situation, I laughed.... Guffawed... right into her hungry, licking, red, wet mouth.
She was furious, and for her this was the last straw. She ordered me to take her home, right now. And I couldn't believe my luck; that the solution to this whole problem had been that easy. I gladly got the car keys and complied, jingling them on the way to the car then driving in silence all the way to her house and leaving her in the driveway. After this she finally got the idea and ceased her lusty overtures and coolly left me alone.
But I guess I didn't really get the idea myself.
I figured that she just wasn't my type and that someday I'd meet someone who was. In the meantime, I wasn't grown up just yet, I figured, and there was still plenty of time to experiment with members of both sexes.
So I did, with boys leading girls three to one.
It is so hard for me to write about each step in my learning-to-be-straight metamorphosis that followed, because even now, thirty years later, I still feel like I am writing proudly and perversely about my own dishonesty and trickery. But at the time it really didn't feel that way at all. I prided myself then and now on my sincerity and honesty, and I firmly believed that I just needed to keep trying harder and I'd get there, to the finish line, learning to like girls, married and content, all this foolish kid-stuff messing around with other boys left behind me in my past.
I know now that when I went off to college I really expertly began leading a true double life--straight and sexless on campus during the fall, winter and spring, and closeted-and secretly gay each summer with a variety of younger buddies back at home. In retrospect, I now know most guys do it completely the opposite way, staying closeted and hidden to friends and family from the old town, while using college as the big chance to spread the wings. But I consciously didn't want to go there... I had cognitively decided that I WOULD be straight, and if the way I got there was to ease into it, nine months working at being straight and then gay and on vacation for the summer... well that way might work for me. Hell, it was an improvement to being "that way" all year round!
It didn't work out evenly at all, as the entire time I spent at college I did not have one relationship with a girl, none. I kept extra busy to compensate... two jobs, taking on extra credit projects, writing for the newspaper, leading the University Pep Band for the basketball games. I kept myself so well occupied there was obviously no time for a girl in my life... or a guy either for that matter. So, at the age and stage that most guys are finding out who they really are, I doubled my efforts to become who I thought I needed to be.
My final two years in college I worked part time and summers at IBM, which felt like I had been drafted into the Marines, as IBM in the 1980s dictated one's dress, grooming and nearly everything else about one's manner. IBM was loaded with handsome guys in their 20s. I only much later learned that more than a few of them were gay like me. IBM was a haven for driven, good looking, well dressed young men with something to prove. I knew I had a lot to prove.
At IBM I became friends with Paul, a handsome fellow exactly my age who went to the same college as me but whom I never had met on campus before. Paul wore expensive suits and nice ties, and had wavy black hair that he slicked over but that often came unglued and fell over his eye. Paul took a definite liking to me, and with a few of the girls along we'd go out after work sometimes for drinks. He'd laugh and tell stories about his girlfriend, someone I had never met. He spoke easily of her, telling tales of times with her at the beach or on a date. Together with other friends from college and IBM, Paul would rent a summer house at the seashore and go there after work, considered a long drive for a local boy like me. Paul was so cosmopolitan and suave; I wanted to be more like him.
How pleased I was when Paul invited me to join him at the shore house one weekend. I packed a bag (just toothbrush, shorts and a t-shirt, really) and he picked me up at my apartment. I noticed that his car was a mess inside, and that surprised me. "My car is a pigpen" he apologized. "I just dump my stuff in here and I forget to take it out." In the back seat I saw one of his expensive Brooks Brothers suits wadded in a ball, and three or more Italian silk ties, together costing more than my entire wardrobe did. I reasoned that Paul had different priorities than me, and perhaps this explained why I seldom saw him wear the same tie more than twice--they obviously ended up trashed and un-wearable in quick fashion.
Arriving at the shore house, a fellow I vaguely recognized from school named Zach was sitting on the porch with his feet up on the railing and a green bottle of beer in his hand, and I soon saw two other guys from college, Tim and Randy walking back together from the beach. They were all so handsome, tanned and beautiful, I thought. They waved when they saw me. "Brad! I knew Paul would finally get you here!" said Tim. I was confused... had Paul really wanted me to come all along? And why?
"Where is your girlfriend? Will she be here?" I asked Paul as we unloaded the car.
"Not coming," he answered flatly, avoiding my gaze as he carried a cooler filled with food to the house.
It was a great time, and I felt both happy and a bit disoriented at the same time with my suddenly new surroundings. There were no girls there, and Saturday the guys all sat on the beach in a line low folding beach chairs, and the air was filled with playful banter. I noticed Tim lying really close, shoulders to feet with another handsome fellow I didn't know, two other guys touched hands briefly but frequently as they laughed and talked together and it all started to come together for me. These guys might all be gay... and they had invited me here because they thought I was too! I was shocked... not just surprised, honestly shocked and even a little afraid at the thought.
From that moment forward I became hyper-observant to what I saw and heard. The guys had been teasing Paul the whole day about someone named Todd, implying that Paul was too bossed-around by Todd. I suddenly vaguely suspected what today I would have today understood in an instant... that Todd was indeed Paul's "girlfriend" and that every one of those funny, easygoing stories he told in mixed company about their times together were actually stories about him and another GUY. This realization hit me like a cinderblock tossed to the temple. The ramifications of this weekend's potential significance whirled in my head.
You might imagine that it was a great relief for me, to realize that these peers of mine had reached out to me and had taken a chance on asking me to join their private party. But for me then, it was not that way at all. Instead, I oscillated quickly between brief periods of relief--that perhaps I had found other guys like me to relate to, and that simply meant TALK to... I was not into doing anything more with my college peers. Remember, I was on a lifelong mission towards normalcy and was not going to be that easily derailed, and anguish that I had unwittingly betrayed myself. How on earth did they know?
Paul and I sat alone together on the sofa the next afternoon and talked. At opposite ends we faced each other and I chose my words very carefully as they didn't flow easily. "Paul, is Todd your.... Well... girlfriend that you always talk about?"
"Yes" answered Paul kindly, his knees pulled up to his chest, a curly lock falling over his eye. The Pet Shop Boys played on the stereo in the next room, one of that summer's hottest acts.
"Does that mean you are gay?" I asked dumbly and dry mouthed after a long pause.
"Yes, I am." Paul replied. "I am glad you know. I wanted you to know."
My heart added a beat or two as I sucked in my breath. A long pause later, head pounding, like a detached body I heard these words come out of my mouth from miles away. "I think I might be too, but probably less than half-way" I quickly added.
"That's OK" said Paul, clearly far more aware of my sexuality than I was.
"Did you think that about me, Paul?" I asked, dreading the answer.
"I thought, maybe." He said. "But it doesn't matter, Brad,." he said softly
"It matters to me." I said, and I suddenly felt my eyes filling up as I wanted to cry... Thank you for telling me about you Paul. I think I am might be 49% gay... wait, maybe 40%...", I blurted. I was horrified that I had even dared offer a number to quantify my gayness.
"Whatever, Brad" said Paul gently.
He was so kind to me. He had sensed my inner conflict and had brought me to a safe place to let it resolve itself if I was ready. I wasn't sure I was ready.
"The other guys?..." I asked.
"Uhh huhh... them too."
In the same moment I was euphoric and terrified. I both wanted to stay and never leave, to hold Paul and thank him, but also I wanted to get in the car and drive as fast as I could back to the city. "You won't tell them what I told you"?, I asked, my voice trembling, my arms hugging a sofa cushion on my lap in self protection.
"No, not if you don't want. But here it doesn't matter."
How could he say that? Of course it mattered. Once someone else knew a secret it wasn't a secret anymore. I had been a Jew successfully hiding out the entire war in Nazi Germany, and here for no rational reason I had blabbed. It was only a matter of time before someone gossiped or another person figured my secret out for themselves. I really had no concept that all the guys at the house already knew what Paul knew; what I didn't know about myself. I thought I could stuff the genie back into the bottle if I could catch him dozing for even an instant.
That night there was a party at the house and many interesting people came, people I didn't know and many who were really interesting to meet. Not everyone there was gay, and yet the straight guests seemed oblivious to the shamefulness of it all. I met a tall fellow my age or maybe a little younger from another school who took a great interest in me, and I enjoyed talking to him much of the night. I felt something wonderfully electric when we stood near each other and brushed together. I wanted to know him better, but I couldn't allow myself to go there. I am now sure he was gay, but then I had all my armor bolted on and wasn't about to take it off to someone I had just met, no matter how appealing he was.
That night after the guests left we crashed wherever it was convenient. I slept in a big bed between Randy and Tim. Neither one of them made a move on me at all. This was the first time I had ever slept in a bed with another guy who would surely have fooled around with me... and yet didn't do a thing about it. Confusing, satisfying, frustrating, odd....
Paul and I talked about the "topic" all the way back to the city the next afternoon. I had so much to think about but all of a sudden, I wasn't sure I wanted to.
And, so I didn't. The door was cracked open, and once back in my safe world I immediately slammed it shut again.
I met my future wife-to-be just a few months later.
I must be clear about an important fact: In my life so far I had never, ever had a boyfriend. I had never been in a mutual caring and honest relationship with another guy, not even a secret one. In fact, I never let myself get even close. With hindsight I realize that this is a highly significant fact that I must mention, and one that doubtlessly helped guide my path to action, leading to my getting engaged and then quickly married. I strongly believe if I had been in even one caring relationship with another male the picture might have come together very differently for me, because if nothing else, I am a very logical person and having had a mutual relationship with another boy I would have been quite likely unable to ever again ignore that key piece that didn't fit like it was supposed to. I think I would have realized that the rest of the puzzle would need to wait till that critical issue was properly addressed, like so many of my gay friends today had done in their lives. But my lack of perspective and experience to relationships caused me to overlook this critical facet. I truly believe it is difficult to "miss" something one never had in the first place.
So, then what were my adolescent relationships with other guys like, you might wonder? Well, to begin, there were lots of them, far too many for a rational person to ignore in retrospect. In my other writings published in other forums I have detailed the specifics of many, many of these boyhood trysts, picking them apart one at a time and explaining all their nuances. Summarizing all of them though, one thing in common was shared. They all involved exciting physical contact, and some even involved romantic emotional attachment on the part of one of the parties (either me or him). But none of them had both--physical satisfaction and mutual emotional involvement.
Recalling clear examples, I am brought back most easily to my four year adolescent relationship with my neighbor, Jimmy (back in Chapter 3) who while very handsome was hopelessly gay and acted more like a girl than most girls I knew. The physical nature of our relationship was quite exciting and adventurous, but I will never forget the day Jimmy tried to kiss me on the lips, and the violent and frightened reaction I had. We were only 14, and this shocking action crossed the line so clearly to me that I reacted with horror and rage towards him. Jimmy was simply exploring and expanding our relationship in the same natural, innocent, and affectionate way a boy would pursue a girl... but to me he had violated a firm yet unspoken taboo, a boundary I knew I'd never cross.
Likewise, I reflect on my many crushes on straight boys I befriended, many of whom I seduced throughout my high school years. I was definitely more precocious at that age than most, I have since learned from talking with other gay men. I probably devoted more mental energy to getting these straight, masculine boys to be sexual with me than I did to any item of schoolwork. And while my quests were often successful and my lust temporarily quenched, there was never any threat of emotional relationship developing because these boys just weren't wired this way, and sadly I knew it. And perversely, I was pleased because none of them would allow me to become attached to them and therefore I'd never have to deal with making a choice.
It was as if, from the very start, my life had been laid out before me like 10,000 pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle, and from the very beginning, even before I had first set a first tiny foot in kindergarten, all of the pieces had been falling into place quickly and with ease. Everything in my life seemed to be following a master plan, because every tile I laid into the matrix snapped into place with fit and precision on its first try. But suddenly with this relationship stuff, it clearly felt like I had come to a point where I had picked up the best piece: one that matched in color and shape and held to the light looked like it would fit perfectly. And indeed, laid into place, it fit perfectly on three sides.... And yet it stubbornly refused to fit on the fourth. Setting this obviously defective puzzle piece aside, I still found myself continually coming back to it again and again, trying the same piece in the same hole, until I fully convinced myself with mute disbelief that the puzzle maker must have made a mistake in manufacturing, because there was no way I had done anything improperly. And so, I simply turned my attention to another area of the puzzle, and banishing nagging doubt I resolved to come back to that zone again later, sure that with more pressure the part would eventually and finally fit, even if it had to be forced.
I need to pause briefly here to offer perspective. In the years that have passed since I have come to terms with my sexual orientation and have shared my story with others, men and women both gay and straight, I most frequently have encountered these reactions
1) From some gay men, total disbelief. Some say that they were never able to get beyond kissing a girl without being completely positive that they could never follow this path. "I knew there was no way..." is the most common phrase used. These men also often insist that I am in denial and that it is only a matter of time before I come around to the fact that I need to be with a man. As one fellow put it at a party, none too delicately and certainly after some liquid lubrication "when are you going to ditch the bitch, and make the switch?"
2) From many women, straight or gay, a much higher level of acceptance. They seemingly understand and appreciate the importance of friendship, shared values and the other aspects that make a relationship work, things that go beyond simple physical attraction.
3) For the many gay men who are married like me, or have been married before (you might be surprised perhaps how many there are, and how meeting just one gets you an introduction to another... and then another) there was much tacit understanding and acceptance in this group of kindred spirits.
I believe that strong lifelong relationships are built on a foundation of many piers, and that in many marriages, hardship and strife to expose incompatibilities that may have existed from the beginning but were masked beneath strong sexual attraction that was the overriding power of the union. But long after sexual attraction fades from the foreground, stronger and longer lasting traits reveal themselves that can cause relationships to thrive... or fail. For example, there's the intuitive way money is handled, strength and priority of work ethic, sharing a value system, having similar views on having and raising children and teaching discipline. There's the willingness to forgive, the strength of conviction of standing up for what one believes is right and perhaps most importantly having compatible senses of humor. It helps if all of these are compatible between partners.
Likewise, there are some things that are often best found at opposites that help ensure a good long term relationship. Someone has to be willing to back off first in an argument. It's better if one partner is more compassionate and less emotional. If one person is too trusting, it helps if the other is just a little cynical and suspicious of people's motives. These opposite traits help bring balance to a relationship. In good relationships people certainly disagree, but in the end they nearly always manage to compromise a peace that lasts.
I found all of these compatibilities in her. I loved her competitive nature, how she'd love to engage in softball or bowling or a pickup game of basketball and was more interested in winning the match than what happened to her fingernails. She was feisty and principled, but was always willing to see the other side of an argument and compromise on a solution. She needed to feel wanted and made me feel special. All of these things contributed to our relationship growing stronger as time went by. I enjoyed spending time with her and looked forward to our hours together. It wasn't long before I began to ask myself if this was a person I could spend my whole life with and raise a family together. My answer leaned ever more strongly towards "yes".
On top of all this almost as an added bonus, she was physically attractive to me, as much as any woman ever has been. She was athletic and beautiful of features in a very natural way that didn't require makeup or fussing to achieve. She's not tall or lithe or fitting any standard of fashion magazine chic. But she carries herself with grace and confidence, and I quickly grew to love her. Love comes in many shapes and flavors. I love my mother and my father. I love my sons. I love my job. I love myself for who I am. I love my dog. I love my dear friends. I love baseball and my brother and my sister. Perhaps I do not, and will never understand how any other straight man loves his wife. I have come to the conclusion that I can never explain to anyone else exactly how I love mine. I just know that I love her, and that has to be enough.
So, as tastefully as I can, let me simply touch on the aspect that most will silently wonder about because it is too rude to ask, that of how a gay man can be sexually compatible with a straight woman. From the very start, I wondered this myself. I can't speak for all men, but my sex drive at twenty-two was rather strong... it frankly didn't take me much to get going. I was able to use this to my advantage. Secondly, the brain is without a doubt the body's most potent sex organ. My brain could conjure up any variation to a scenario that would improve the actual circumstances of that moment to make it more exciting. And so I used my imagination that way. And I don't suppose this is terribly different from the way many straight men behave, if I may be brutally frank.
And yet, I always knew, deep in my non-waking mind that all was not well. Even in my blind ambition to be straight and normal my subconscious knew that something was dreadfully wrong. There were the dreams... always starring other males. And almost always in these dreams I was 16 or even younger, back before I began to hate my gay half, back when I thought it was still alright to have these feelings believing they were a normal part of growing up and not the symptoms of a loathsome terminal disease. Further, I recall sometimes loathing the anticipation of impending physical intimacy even then. I had to be really ready to put my brain in its proper place to be able to enjoy my circumstances, and sometimes it just didn't want to go there. At those times I admit that I endured the interludes that followed, consoling myself that they'd soon be over.
And after I proposed to her and she gladly accepted, not coincidentally I fell into a deep state of serious and untreated depression that lasted several months. I could barely rouse myself from bed to go to work that winter. I convinced myself that I was burnt out in my job and that the long dark winter months were aiding my dark mood, but with twenty plus years of hindsight I now believe that my depression came from contemplating the implicit finality of my impending marriage. But at that time I truly didn't have the perspective to guess at what was really wrong with me.
Some gay men get to this very point and then find they can't go through with it and break the engagement off. Others engage in spectacularly bad behavior (often with other women) that causes their fiancÚ to break the engagement, absolving the man of the need to make the call. One single gay man I know told me how he awoke suddenly and unexpectedly one night in tears, fresh from a vivid dream. In real life he was engaged to be married but his brain signaled to him in a moment of tortured unconsciousness that he couldn't go through with it. You might say that his sleeping mind knew his reality better than his waking one.
I did everything I could to reason with my subconscious mind and worked mightily to repress my doubts. Eventually my depression passed, spring and summer passed too and were married on schedule in autumn. After all, I never missed dates, I never broke promises, and the commitment to get married was going to be no different. Once I had made the pledge there was no going back; that thought was inconceivable.
And so as a newlywed I threw all my energy at all these other parts of the puzzle. I immersed myself into my career, and I had no shortage of hobbies. When I recite the list of a half dozen complicated hobbies I am dedicated to it still surprises even me, as any one of the things I like to do would be enough for most people to fill their whole life. I almost didn't notice that renegade puzzle piece any more, still displaced and sitting up in the corner margin that maddeningly still didn't fit.
Getting married is one thing, staying married for the long-haul is quite another. This is true regardless of one's orientation; as statistics say that close to half of all American marriages ends in divorce. I promised when I started this story that I would explain how a gay man could come to be married--and I have explained it as honestly and directly as I could. However, few marriages of any ilk survive the revelations that I bestowed on her, rather unwittingly, when my tightly woven world began to unexpectedly unravel with great speed one fine day some fifteen years ago.
And that story will come in the next chapter.