ADVICE from BENT's own Bear

Everybody knows what bears do in the woods—they sit around telling each other their life's stories and giving one another advice. What else would those big, hairy beasts do when they get together for their Teddy Bear Picnics?

Inspired by the wisdom of my fellow growlers, I'm here to give advice, when asked. So, if any of you have questions you'd like answered by someone who's been around the block a couple of times, please send them to Bear@bentvoices.org.

And in case you're worried that you might have to censor your thoughts, please remember that my walks around the block were often done while dressed in kinkwear and with a thought or two about who I might encounter along the way.

So let me know what's on your mind. If it's a Big Unanswered Question (or even a little one), let me have a crack at it. It is, after all, what bears do best.

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"Connecting Again"

Dear Max,

I have been looking for a website like yours for a very very long time. I was so thrilled to find BENT that I had to write to you. I hope you can help me

At the end of December 2002, I was in a gay chat room and met a guy that lived close by. After a week of chatting on line, he broke two of his rules. 1. Never meet a guy without a pic and 2. never spend the night, he did both!

Three day's later he suffered a c/6-c/7 incomplete fracture after a fall from bed (he was having sex with another man) and was in hospitals and rehabs for nine months. I stuck by him the entire time. We knew we were soulmates and he moved in with me when he was discharged.

I quit my job (police department with a great retirement and fantastic benefits) to take care of him full time, I have never regretted doing so. His recovery has been outstanding, upper body is anywhere from 85 to 95 % return. Lower body is much more lower but he has feeling all over and is able to get an erection.

His daily desire for intimacy and sex is almost 0%. The only time we do try anything is after I have not been able to take it anymore and he knows that I am on the edge. We have tried Viagra, sex therapist and just plain old talking over and over and over. He say's he is not connected anymore sexually and I believe him.

Keep in mind, I was married for twenty years and had very little of the gay life (nothing but sexual hook ups), while he had well over twenty years of gay relationships. I desire him and want him to be intimate and sexual every single day of my life. The frustration level is beyond comprehension.

As much as I want him to connect again with sex and intimacy, I have reached the point that maybe it will never happen and maybe I need to find someone for just a hook up now and then. I will always stay with him and give him the best as I always have, I just can't go on not being held and kissed and made love too.

I don't know how to deal with this anymore, when the very rare times we do have any type of intimacy and or sex, I am a different person the next day, happy and glowing like a freeking lark! Then a day or so later I realize that everything is going to fall back to the same old routine. There has to be an answer for us Max, I know he loves me and cares for me without any doubt whatsoever. HOW CAN HE CONNECT AGAIN ?

Joe

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Joe, you raise a lot of issues, and I fear that my answers may not be as easy to swallow as you might hope. The main difference between you and your partner seems to be that you came to your current relationship from very different backgrounds. That alone would set up conflicts that sooner or later would have to be played out. Your situation makes me think of what it might be like to watch one movie, maybe a more than slightly dated Frank Capra film, only to find the images morphing into the gay version of the same subject that Hollywood has yet to make.

Your personal film began with a twenty-year marriage, presumably to a woman. His revolved around having gay relationships for an equal span of time. The straight version of the film implies an exchange of vows that guaranteed a partner sensitive to your needs, a tidy cottage complete with picket fence, and smiling children. Add a song or two and your film would be no different from any number of movie musicals that reflected life as the studio imagined it. But that all changed for you with a new image on the screen, one of two men breaking through the celluloid fantasy and entering a world where they looked eternally fabulous, acquired endless wit, and walked off into the sunset in a Satyricon kind of world, complete with endless sex. Am I the least bit close to what the reality of your changed life actually was? Somehow I don't think so. But I'll bet that somewhere in the back of your mind you still believe that life is an MGM movie musical and that you deserve the perfect ending that guarantees you will leave the theatre humming.

I used the metaphor of two seemingly conflicting screenplays because I think you might have exchanged one potentially mind-numbing plot line for another that seems to offer far more titillation. But I wonder, have you exchanged one set of unrealistic expectations for another set that's equally mired in fantasy? Have you ever asked yourself if what you might expect from a relationship changes if the characters in that relationship are straight, bi, or gay? If the answer is "yes," then I will also ask what you envision those differences to be. If you have come up with something that resembles the absurdities I created in the paragraph above, then I think we need to talk. Even if what you envision is far more realistic, we still have to talk.

You set up an almost too-good-to-believe scenario in the beginning of your letter; finding a man who reached out to you, an accident that would have prevented most men from ever committing to each other, your leaving your job to care for him. True, the accident could not have been a good thing, but you stuck by his side, which is more than admirable. And you gave up a part of your life to make his better. The plot even has upper body movement and erections. What more could anybody want—except for sex? And not just sex now and then, but sex every single day of your lives. If my summary sounds cynical, it's because the second half of your letter seems to contradict so much of what you had said before the insertion of that tiny little fly into the ointment. And what you say next is what I think has more to do with unrealistic expectations than with actual feelings between the two of you.

"Keep in mind," you write, "I was married for twenty years and had very little of gay life (nothing but sexual hookups), while he had well over twenty years of gay relationships." You also write, in probably the most telling statement in your letter, "I desire him and want him to be intimate and sexual every single day of my life." I want to read between the lines and ask if you actually believe that a straight marriage or a long-term gay relationship will result in intimacy and sexuality every single day or your life? If that's true, you have been spending way too much time searching for the Wizard of Oz, with Dorothy in tow. And while the Wizard of the 21st Century might be the great Lord Viagra himself, not even a priapic pill is going to make your man click his balls together three times and produce instant intimacy.

To put it bluntly, I think you have sex and intimacy confused with love. You also say that you ". Just can't go on not being held and kissed and made love to," but you don't say much about love itself. The only time you two seem to attempt to have sex is when you can no longer endure your frustration and he appeases you by giving you what you want. This may leave you skipping down the Yellow Prick Road, at least for a while, but is that love?

Maybe getting it from someone who lacks the desire to give it could be called an act of selfless love. But how does that leave your partner, especially if he knows that you will fall back into depression if you don't get it the next day, too?

Love and "making love" are not the same. Cats can "make love," albeit with some neck biting, and only if the female is in heat. Dogs make love anytime, anyplace, and with no concern for pedigree, good looks, or manners. Birds do it. Bees do it. And as we all know, even Cole Porter did it, gaily, and got to write a song about doing it. None of that is real love. Love is listening to someone tell the same story for the twentieth time and smiling and laughing at the no-surprise ending, or standing in a grocery line and splitting the bill.

To claim any success as a gay couple you must take a very long, very serious look at both your needs and your partner's. He seems to have no sex drive. Maybe he assumes that a man in his situation cannot function, or he might genuinely have lost desire. He might not want to give you intimacy in bed if it cannot be the same kind he gave you before his accident. Perhaps with some counseling that can change. You seem to be all about sex and desire and, believe me, I empathize. But you might have to come to terms with the fact that while your partner cannot give you the physical connection you need, he can still give you love, not the sex-scene kind of love you find in almost any movie, but the kind of realistic love that Hollywood mostly ignores.

You might have to do exactly what you thought you might have to do: look elsewhere for the sexual gratification that you need. That is the reality that both of you need to discuss.

Joe, I know I am being harsh, but I don't have you in front of me to shake some sense into, let alone to give you a good hard slap and say, "Snap out of it," as Cher did to Nicholas Cage. But snap out of it you must. In the end of your letter you ask, in emphatic boldface and capitalized letters, "HOW CAN HE CONNECT AGAIN?" I am far more concerned with how you can connect again—to reality. He might have fallen out of bed with one man and into your waiting arms, but he fell out of that bed a changed man, physically and mentally. You were there to catch him, but did you really expect to catch a newly disabled man with mouth and butt hole ready for you whenever you got that seven-inch itch? Do you think that relationships, gay or straight, remain sexual even when men enter their fifties, sixties, and seventies? Do you think that anyone can have sex with the same partner every single day of their lives, or even every seven days, or seven weeks, without once yawning and performing on auto pilot? If you did, then you have, indeed, been chasing the all-too-elusive rainbow's end.

All movies end, and I think it's time to put your little opus to rest. Decide once and for all, Is it better to get a quickie in the last row of the theatre or to go home to someone who loves you, puts up with your snoring, and is there long after the audience has left and the critics have gone thumbs down or thumbs up? Do you really want to pump him with Viagra and equal amounts of guilt just so he can give you a sympathy fuck whenever you say you need it? Or do you want to get rid of some unrealistic expectations and give him enough room to breath and maybe come to you without the pre-set script and deadline for getting to the kind of happy ending you think is mandatory?

I'm no expert on what does or doesn't work on the screen. I love a good fantasy as much as the next guy , but as the lights come up I know that what I have been looking at was escapism. When I ride the subway home I am as shaken as anyone else about how the world of cinema can contrast so sharply with the world outside. But I also know that the world I'm traveling through is the real one, that I have little control over how it plays itself out, no matter how I tinker with the script when no one is looking.

If I were you, Joe (and to some extent all of us are you), I would start by throwing out those tapes of movie classics. Love never had anything to do with never saying you're sorry. Love was always what was right and what was real for those lucky enough to find it. You might have that love, but I believe you think it has to come with libido as well. It would be nice if it did, but if it's not part of the screenplay you were handed you will have to leave your expectations back in Oz and return to Kansas.

Now that I've shot you up with a hypodermic full of reality, go out and find those men who might give you the kind of gratification you seem to need. Give it to them real good, for me and the Gipper. Then go home to the man you've chosen and ask yourself if love is a squirt of semen or someone you ride into the sunset with. But keep the answer to yourself, Joe. I already know which one it is. Now I want you to learn it and know it too.

Max

© 2006 Max Verga

 

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MAX VERGA has been an activist ever since getting a call from a friend reporting that he'd been in a riot at the Stonewall Bar only hours before. His work is featured in "Queer Crips: Disabled Gay Men and Their Stories," edited by Bob Guter and John R. Killacky (Harrington Park Press, 2003). For more about Max, see his longer biography.

 

BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/March 2006