Monday, January 28, 2008

Bloom Where You're Planted

Wow, what a weekend I had.

I gave myself a mini-vacation for a couple days. I needed a change of environment. I just needed to breathe different air for a while. So, I set myself on an adventure. Here's what happened.
As I've mentioned here before, I live in a cultural wasteland, a void of social activity. The only two pass-times in this area are shooting defenseless woodland creatures and alcoholism. Neither of which is of great interest to me, so I have to look other places for entertainment. There are almost no gay people in my area. The torch weilding villagers have chased them all away. Of course, I love my straight friends. I'm not one to think that the only people who I can relate to have to be gay. But, we all have a need for community and mutual understanding. So, I went on a quest to find it.

I went to visit the "big-city" gays. Oh, my gosh! I've never experienced anything like that before. I stayed with a friend who has a beautiful home in the city. We'll call him "Bobby". For the remainder of this post, the names have been changed to protect the innocent (however, Bobby would be the first to admit that he's not that innocent). The first thing we did was head to a very comfortable piano bar where Bobby's cadre of comrades gather. He got on his cellphone and put out an all-call. Apparently, the "big-city gays" consider the cellphone to be an indispensible tool much like Batman feels about his utility belt. Yet, I digress. Bobby found where everyone was and hauled me over there. I had given him permission to expose me to modern gay culture. I was in for a treat.

I was a little frightened at first but settled in shortly. I admit that I froze momentarily at the bar. I've been out to my friends and family for a while now, yet I was overcome by the knowledge that just by walking in that door with another gay man they all "knew" I was gay. Then it dawned on me that it didn't matter that I was gay because they were all gay too. It was the first time in my life that I've been surrounded by a group of openly all-gay people. Suddenly I didn't have to hide who I was because there was no reason to hide it. There was no one there to hide it from.

Bobby got us a couple glasses of wine and told me where to sit with his friends. I noticed all around me that as acquaintances came in they stopped for a hug and usually a peck on the cheek (I didn't get one, no one knew me....damn!). I wish the torch-wielding villagers had to watch that. It wasn't sexual, it wasn't gross or perverse. It was honest friendship and affection. It was a much more honest show of feeling than the straight guys that barrel into a room screaming, "You ugly son-of-a-bitch, how the hell are ya?" Followed by the obligatory forced laughter and sqeezing each others hands so hard it pisses-off their friend.

Then my interview started. Who was I? Where from? What do I do? How did I know Bobby? Then the biggies, "Boyfriend?", "Seeing anyone?" I have to admit. I loved being the center of attention for a few minutes. Apparently all of us gays love the spotlight. But, things settled down shortly and people broke off into their separate conversations of gossip and such. I shared my sob story about my ex and received the appropriate amount of consolation and encouragement.

The piano playing began, then the singer (show tunes of course. How cliche.). The piano was out of tune, but the pianist was adequate. The singer was worse out of tune than piano. Bobby could have done better on the piano and I could have done better on the vocals. Yet, I digress again. After each number the conversations would stop long enough for brief applause. This was a gay establishment so courtesy to the performer was a given. However, one fella leaned over to me and whispered, "We just ignore him."

I was then on my second glass of wine. I stood up to take the glass from Bobby. When I did, I was surprised by a very personal greeting on my backside to which I am most unfamiliar. Apparently, Barry the Bear sitting next to me had found my posterior to be a curious novelty that he felt welcome to touch. I looked over my shoulder and gave an appropriately disapproving quip. If anything, it encouraged him. He certainly wasn't my type but he was friendly and had a nice smile. He continued for the rest of the evening flattering and charming me. I eventually settled into the ritual of the thing and saw it as the silly bit of innocent fun that it was supposed to be. We talked and laughed and had a good time flirting. AND THAT WAS ALL!

The major fascination of the evening for me was the small assortment of straight or ambiguously straight/bi, or otherwise inclined men that populated the environment. There were two there that were supposedly bartenders. However, I don't think they served much other purpose than eye-candy. The most beautiful of the two was an Iranian immigrant. Young, muscular, gorgeous and a hellacious flirt. At first I thought he was gay but the guys told me no. I watched as he went to the older gents, gave them big bear hugs, and kissed them right on the smacker. I must admit to being a little envious of the geriatrics. Why them and not me? I've got a much greater shelf-life than those old codgers. But, it has occurred to me since then that those guys were regulars and he was working for future tips. He should have realized that I had a pocket full of tipping cash, and I was better looking too. Oh well, his loss. I'll be back.

The next day Bobby and I had lunch together and went shopping. We used the time to get catch up with one another. He talked with me about my level of outness. He was actually very good at the psycho/homobabble. He helped me see a few things from a perspective I hadn't considered before, including my ex-relationship and my paranoia of being outed at work. He tried to get me past my crazy notions that there is a conspiracy to out me to the world. I talked about how I feel so isolated and alone where I live. Then he said the words that I'm sure I was meant to hear that weekend, "You can bloom where you're planted." What an epiphany I had in that moment. Everything I had experienced that weekend crystalized. I had been feeling sorry for myself at not living in a more gay-friendly place. I was envious of these men for having such robust and affectionate friendships with other gay people. I had been telling myself that one day I might move to that place or meet those people. One day, some time, maybe.... I have to stop thinking that. I can bloom where I'm planted. As a gardener I can tell you that the little seeds don't care if they fall into the most fertile part of the flower bed or if they fall between the cracks of the paving stones. They can all manage to take root into the soil, be nourished by the sun and rain, and in their time bloom beautifully.

Yes, it was quite an adventure. Compared to the "big city gays" I'm not even a member of the same species. I'm not a flashy dresser, I didn't inherit the gay decorating gene, and I can only think of one word for the color beige. Beige. Yet, I've been introduced to the community. They helped me recalibrate my gaydar and taught me that I can, "bloom where I'm planted." Thanks for the new pearls of wisdom on my necklace of life experience.

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