Sunday, March 29, 2009

Email from a gay guy who moved to London

At the start of March, I received the following email from a guy who'd emailed me about other issues in the past:

Dear GB,

Sorry to bother you again, maybe you do not remember me. Anyway, I wonder whether you can give me some advice.

I am a Chinese gay male. I consider myself a nice bloke, fit, healthy, well educated and not bad looking. Actually ppl always say "why are you single?" However, I am always single.

One main reason is, I am not out, I struggle quite a bit to accept my sexuality. Now I prefer do not talk my personal life in my working colleagues.

Furthermore, I am very shy, I do not like pubs, clubs etc. if I have to go, I normally sit in the corner, try to escape when someone come to talk to me.

Do not get me wrong, I am quite chat box with friends. But I just can not face many strangers. I just do not feel comfortable.

Before I move to London, I always tell myself, I am kinda isolated, just because I live in a small town. Everything will be changed once I moved.

Now I am in London two months, I have not met anyone yet, no matter for drink, dinner, sex or friend meet. Actually the main reason I take current jobs, is because London. But if things continue like this, I do not think there will be much difference.

As a gay veteran, maybe you can give me some suggestion where I can meet like minded friends, join some groups? I do not dream to find a bf or something, a regular fuck buddy must be enough at current stage, LOL.

Anyway, thanks a lot. Take care

I sent him an immediate reply, warning him that I probably wouldn't get round to posting his email with my response for a while. In the reply, I suggested that one way of making friends with other gay guys would be by joining OUTeverywhere. I also told him that a previous 'Dear GB' post titled How does a closeted 25 year old gay virgin build a social life might be relevant to him. With a couple of days I'd received his response:

Hi GB,

Thanks a lot for getting back to me :-).

Actually I decide to take a job in London and stay in the UK, mostly because my sexuality. I do not want to end up alone all my life. I am not saying China or other British cities do not have gay life, I just think staying in London might help someone like me.

I read your post about the Indian guy, haha, he is much better than me to some extent. At least he can manage when someone checking him out in the gym shower. When same thing happen to me, I only stare at the floor and escape ASAP, LOL.

I do know outeverywhere, used to be a member, and even brave enough to upload my face pic, which is a very big step for me! However I was kinda disappointed later. If I may say, guys there gave me impression, they might not be attractive enough to pull. Thus they claim looking for friendship. If they got the chance for sex, they will be much more terrible than gaydar boys. However, I did meet some nice friends from this site, unfortunately, we lost contact as most of them also left the site.

I know I have to meet ppl, make friends, be confident about my sexuality, to live my life. If I can not do this in London, I do not know where I can :-).

Take care

Indeed, from the last couple of sentences it sounds as though this guy knows exactly what he's got to do. So I'm not sure how much that I can add. I think his problem is not so much that he can't find a boyfriend or fuck buddy, it's more that he's not comfortable being gay. Before you can expect anyone else to love you need to love yourself!

Making friends with guys who're also gay and then hanging out with them should help his confidence. In spite of his amusing comments about the guys on OUTeverywhere, he should re-join just to make friends, to help him with his confidence issues. He admits that he made friends there before so there's no reason why he can't do so again, even if none of his original friends are there.

Beyond that, an excellent source of information on gay events is Time Out, London's weekly listings magazine. The gay section of the magazine (rather than the web site) always contains details of lots of events for gay people. Although a lot of the events relate to bars and clubs, there are also details about e.g. groups of gay guys who're all keen on particular sports such as swimming, or squash etc.

One current idea which might also help build confidence at the moment is to go and see a few films at the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, which runs until 8th April. Apart from watching the films, there'll be a lot of other gay guys at these events, and seeing lots of other gay men who're happy and confident should provide some support.

However the best confidence booster would be to have a good experience coming out to a close friend or co-worker. As he implies, London is indeed a great place to be gay, so if he's got any friends here then it's quite likely that they'll have some sensible ideas about gay people. I often tell people that in a coming out situation, what I call the confidence mirror is important. If one can portray being gay as 100% natural, which of course it is for a gay guy, then people find it hard not to accept the situation.

I'm sure his decision to move to work in London was a good one. Now he just needs to follow up, make some gay friends, and start being himself :-).

Do any other readers have any thoughts on this guy's situation?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Left or right?

I've just been out to a decent restaurant with my friend T, and we're wandering the streets together on our way home when we start chatting:

"What do you think about piercings?" asks T.

"What kind of piercings?" I reply, "There are earrings, nipple piercings, prince alberts ... ??"

"Urrgh no," shudders T, "nothing like that! I'm just thinking about getting a little stud in one of my ears :-)."

"Really? Well, I've never really fancied one myself, but I think that they can look quite good :-)."

"I'm still thinking about it," says T, "If I get stud, then even if I take it out I know that my sisters will still notice the little hole when I go home, so I'm not sure!"

"You shouldn't worry about your sisters," I reply, "You've got your own life to lead. The interesting question is, which ear will you get the stud put in?"

"Not sure, which do you think looks better?"

"Right hand side, definitely," I reply mischievously, "it'll look much better on the right :-)."

"Why are you so sure, what's the difference?"

I decide to come clean and admit what I know.

"Well, the right side is the gay side, isn't it?"

"Oh no! Really?" asks T, "In that case I'll definitely have to have it in the left!"

"Or is it the left side that's the gay side?"

"You're not trustworthy are you GB!" laughs T, "I can see that I'm going to have to do my own research on this."

Although I wish that T wasn't so closeted, I know that there's no point arguing about it with him. Everyone has to come out at their own pace.

A few days later, I decide to do some research, to check that my memory about the right ear being the gay side is correct. But I'm in for a shock. According to what I can find on the Internet, I'm showing my age! For example, a year ago Yahoo answers had the following:
Question: Which ear piercing means your gay? The right side or the left?

Best answer: Are you 10 years old? Being attracted to the same sex is gay. An ear piercing doesn't specify your sexuality. Get which ever ear you want pierced, and grow up.
Similarly, the relevent wikipedia article on the subject says
In various Western cultures, piercing the left vs. the right ear alone has sometimes been popularly perceived to be associated with a particular sexual orientation. In the late 60's it was said that "left is 'right' and right is 'wrong'"; the left ear being safe for piercing by straight men and a pierced right ear meaning one was gay. However, due to the lack of uniformity, such generalizations are essentially meaningless.
Although I still wonder. I only know a tiny number of guys with ear piercings, but that includes two straight guys who both have it on the left hand side. Is that an accident? I'm sure that if I was going to have a single ear pierced and I was straight, then even if I was told that the rule didn't apply any more I'd still have the piercing on the left hand side anyway! The key question is, what proportion of straight guys with just one ear pierced have the piercing on the left side and what proportion have the piercing on the right? If the overwhelming majority of them still have it on the left hand side just to be safe, then I'd argue that the rule still applies :-).

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Email from a guy with a boyfriend and a 'personal trainer'

Just over three weeks ago, the following email landed in my inbox:

Dear GB,

It's curious how the things I need have a way of finding me without my looking. As in: when a friend recently forwarded me your blog.

My story is one of complete destabilization in a very short period. Late last October I was at the top of my game at work (I work in media), living comfortably (but not passionately) with my longtime partner C and our greyhound, and ready to lose a little weight. I went to my gym and asked for a personal trainer.

The desk assistant suggested I work with B, and our first meeting was very positive. We knew we could work together, had a quick rapport, and it didn't hurt that I found him very handsome. But this was business - I was there to shape up and no more, so gave it little thought.

Five minutes into our first session he asked "So, do you have kids or a wife?" "No, sadly no kids," I said. "But I do have a partner." "Oh, so we're family," he shot back, "that's cool."

This began two or three weeks of serious flirting on his part. Of course, I flirted back, thinking in part 'Well, I guess this is what you do with a gay personal trainer,' but also enjoying the heat of it all. A safe heat, I thought. One Thursday he said "Hey, you seem like you're fun. We should hang out sometime." "You're right," I said, "I am fun. Let's do it." He gave me his number. I was surprised, but gave him my number in return, honestly thinking nothing would come of it.

What came Friday was a text. And a call. We agreed to meet next weekend to visit a friend's art opening. Lots of time in the car there and back, we talked. Mostly him, telling me nearly anything about his life. "You hungry?" he asked as we neared home. Dinner, a walk to his car, and a handshake ended the night.

Fast forward two more weeks and we're seriously dating. Kissing deep when and where we can, he talks freely of "...when you meet my brother..." or " of these days I'm going to kidnap you." It's hot and it's fast and it's passion, and it's all potential.

It's also a problem, for me and my partner C. Over 15 years C and I have knit our lives together in every manner...except one. "Bed death" a friend calls it. The physical desire we shared seems gone. And while it's more, B and I are now sharing the one thing I don't have anywhere else. I wonder if B is one of those things that I need that have just found me. I feel vital, and I feel guilty.

After the second date I broke down at the dinner table, confessing what was happening and my total confusion about it all. C smiled. "Any day you're not happy is a wasted day," he said as I sniffled. "You're the best boyfriend in the world." I laughed. Then: "you've got a voice inside you, and you've got to listen to it." It was not what I was expecting, but I took it as license to continue.

December brings more heated talk of sex between B and I, but often one or the other is away. His texts (I've saved the best ones) still make me dizzy.

During this time, my advocates at work are replaced with adversaries, and I rapidly go from being lead go-to guy to being largely put in a corner. This deflation of worth is only amplified by my partner and I having to handle a greyhound in fast decline. My pain at work is nothing compared to her growing discomfort, and eventually we realize, five days before Christmas, that we have to put her to sleep. (I'm told I write movingly about it at my private blog.)

Her end comes at what feels like the ending of a career and, maybe, even a partnership - but also soon on with a first night at B's. The first night of passion is followed the next night (New Year's Eve) by celebrating with his parents at their house - and another night together. Which is followed by a day and night at his brother's place watching movies, drinking beer...and another night of combustible sex. Friday morning he rolls over and says, "So, what's it like to be kidnapped?"

To be clear: it's not just the sex. Really. I've had sex with a few others while with C, and always for me it only means something if I have an emotional bond with my sex partner. Anonymous sex just ain't my bag. And B isn't anonymous; I know more about him in two months (it seems) than many of my friends for years. In this time, we are the definition of intense.

While it seems in early January that we're off to the races (I continue to see him, even now, as my trainer), as the month closes it's clear something is wrong. The night of Feb 2nd we talk on the phone.

"I don't want this to be a break-up call," B says. My brain freezes. The only thing I can hear now is BREAKUP. The conversation goes poorly, and we don't know where to end. He begs me to remain in some contact with him. "Even if it's just to train, I'll take any crumbs." Crumbs? You're the one breaking up with me - and breaking my heart in the process. I confess through tears that I love him; a four-letter word for B that I know will probably panic him. I say it anyway. I've meant to for a while.

The next day I call in sick, shattered. My role at work is shriveling; my beloved greyhound is dead. My understanding partner is much less so, angry with me and uncertain of what we will become. And now this sudden passion, this man my heart loves, is leaving. Believe it or not, I go to the gym at 3pm anyway for our session.

We ask how each other are. "OK," he says, "I didn't sleep too well. Probably deserve it." That's all we say on the matter. Later I text - we need some face time, I'm not sure what has happened. He agrees. "was good 2 c u" he texts. I cry again.

Over dinner a few days later we decide we didn't mean to break up, but that he needs time and space to work through lingering issues and hurts from one or two previous relationships. Ten years my junior (I'm 44) he says he doesn't know what love is, thinks he's done wrong by one of his formers, and needs to know that the next time he falls in love it will be forever. He asks me to be patient, knowing that it may take months for him to come back - if he comes back at all.

The past month has seen continued declining fortunes at work and continued uncertainty with my longtime partner - although with tensions considerably reduced. Interaction with B is limited near exclusively to the gym: we say we'll get together for a beer but don't.

I don't know which is worse: the fear that a primary life friendship with my partner C is just that, a friendship and not a romance, or hoping against fear that B and I may actually have a future despite signs that suggest otherwise. I do know that living with both unknowns is the most vulnerable, unsettled feeling I've ever experienced.

So this is why I needed to find your blog. I've known I'm not the only one with struggles like these, but never really got it until I spent time with your writing...and that of your readers. I don't feel any better, less lonely, or any different frankly. I do see, however, that I'm not so unique.

I'd ask your advice, but... Well, but nothing. I'll ask: do you have any thoughts for me?

After my first reading of this reader's exceptionally well written email I felt overwhelmed. Just like the poor guy himself, no doubt, because he's suddenly got so many difficult issues in his life. So I sent him an immediate reply, telling him that since it would be a few weeks until I'd be able to post his email, I thought he should get a counselor so that he could start work on everything immediately. Within a day I got his reply:

I'm a step ahead of you. Already have a counselor, a good one. And you're right, his services right now are essential. The other day, in fact, I was discussing with him having to stop, so I could save up cash for an expected move-out. "I can't let you do that," he said. "It would be unethical for me to let you go." So at least I've got that.

Thanks for providing the platform you do, and for your words of counsel. It's clear you're a good man, and I think your blog provides an important voice out there.

It strikes me that this reader has hit a classic mid-life crisis. There's nothing to be ashamed of there, it happens to lots of guys when the natural path from school to college to job and boyfriend peters out, and with potentially more than half one's life left the next step is unclear. Indeed, long time readers here will know that it happened to me too, in connection with ex-boyfriend S.

One puzzling thing here is the originally blasé attitude of C, his boyfriend of 15 years. I can't help wondering whether C is unhappy with their relationship, and might already be prepared to see it end, especially if he doesn't need to take the blame for it ending. Indeed, perhaps he's so relaxed about the situation because he has another lover? If nothing else, C's reaction proves that their current relationship has to change. Even if C doesn't mind having an open relationship with the reader, the possibility of a split after 15 years should have provoked a much stronger reaction. To put it another way, a relationship which can be dissolved so easily isn't much of a relationship anyway!

It's possible that work has turned slightly sour for the reader because of the problems in his personal life, which might be causing him to under-perform somehow. In many jobs, one's only as good as the last project that one worked on, so if a project is badly received by one's colleagues it can it can easily put one out of favour. Of course, work can have a detrimental effect on one's personal life too, but one's boyfriend, friends and family have to be more important than one's work, so my recommendation would be to come to some kind of resolution of those issues first before worrying about work. Indeed, the confidence which the reader should gain if he is able to resolve the issues in his personal life could well help him get back on top of his work again.

The "bed death" phrase is a good one and it's an unsatisfactory situation. If that happens to a couple of guys in a relationship, if their relationship is healthy they should eventually realise that they need to discuss it, and either try and re-invigorate their sex life, open up their relationship, or separate. So without that interaction between the reader and his boyfriend C, I reckon that something like the reader's current crisis was always going to happen eventually. In that sense, there's nothing special about the 'personal trainer' B, he just happens to be the guy that's triggered what would always have happened anyway.

I find it hard to tell from the reader's description of the break-up what B's intentions really were, but it doesn't sound like their relationship is going anywhere. From the reader's description of the current situation between him and B, I reckon that it'll be hard to re-ignite their combustible passion. Even so the reader has much to thank B for, because he's been the catalyst for the reader to realise that there are unspoken issues in his relationship with his boyfriend C that need to be resolved one way or the other. On top of that, B's also proved to the reader that he's still a very marketable commodity, should he need to find another boyfriend at some point.

So I reckon that the fundamental issue that needs focus is the reader's relationship with C. There are issues there that need to be resolved, one way or the other. Indeed, the resolution of the issues in his existing relationship should naturally point the way in terms of resolving all the other issues. And regarding B, it could well be that he won't be very important going forward.

Do any other readers have any thoughts in this situation?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A post about an encounter

A few weeks ago, I was surprised and honoured when fellow blogger Jonny X emailed me to ask my permission to use my style for writing a post about an encounter that he'd had with another guy. He posted it a couple of weeks ago, and in case anyone's interested, it's called An Encounter In Volume :-).

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Male buttocks

"How come all these guys have such perfect bottoms?" asks T, looking at the statue of another naked man.

I've come away to Paris again, but this time with my friend T who I first met online in London in late January. Although I'd only visited Paris a few weeks earlier, I wanted to go away for a nice weekend with T, and since I enjoy Paris so much it seemed like the ideal destination. T had visited Paris once before but he'd never been to the Louvre, so we decide to spend Saturday afternoon there taking in as much as we could. And having seen the compulsory painting, we find ourselves wandering through the collection of ancient Greek and Roman statues.

"Well," I reply, "I think the guys that they made naked statues of were either fit soldiers or accomplished athletes, in which case they're all bound to be well formed :-)."

Although T is gay, he's quite closeted in terms of his sexuality, so when he gets his camera out and takes a picture of the statue's arse I'm quite surprised.

"That's quite a gay thing to do you know," I laugh, "photographing the arse of the sculpture of a naked man!"

"I suppose so, but no one's really watching!" replies T, casually.

I can't help thinking that being in the city of another country, where no one knows him except me, must really be helping him to escape the straight-acting life that he lives in London. We wander through a few more rooms, taking a few more photographs of marble arses, when I feel compelled to share an important observation with him.

"You know," I say casually, "your buttocks are at least as good as the buttocks on all these old statues!"

"No I don't think so :-(," responds T, looking me in the eye very briefly, for some reason clearly afraid to accept the compliment.

"OK I'll prove it to you, I'll take a photo of your arse later and show you!"

"Oh no you won't!" laughs T, and he looks round slightly nervously in case anyone heard what I said.

Later that day, having had a delicious supper in one of the very best Parisian restaurants, we're back in our hotel room getting ready for bed. Just for my convenience, I'd booked exactly the same hotel room that I stayed in with W, which is also a room where I'd stayed with ex-boyfriend S too on a previous occasion. I'm ready first, so having taken all my clothes off I jump into bed and turn on the TV. But unbeknown to T, I've got my little camera with me :-).

"Just give me a minute or two," says T, turning away from me as he unbuttons his shirt.

A few minutes later the perfect moment presents itself. T has just slipped off his undershorts, and with his face hidden by the wardrobe door, I've got the perfect view of the back of his naked body from head to heel. Quickly I take a photo, but the flash gives me away!

"What was that??" asks T, emerging from the wardrobe.

"Well," I reply giggling almost uncontrollably, "I've taken a photo, just to compare your buttocks with the buttocks of all those statues that we saw earlier!"

"You can't do that," laughs T, rushing over to the bed without any clothes on and grabbing my camera.

I don't offer any resistance, and T quickly looks through all the photos on my camera.

"Ahh, what's this? Another one!" he says, but I interrupt him.

"No don't delete that," I say still laughing, "look closely, that's not you, that's one of those statues!"

"Oh, yes!"

"SEE," I say triumphantly, "deep down you realise it, you DO have great buttocks don't you!"

"But you can't just take photos of me when I'm naked," replies T, without conceding the point.

"OK! I can see I'll have to be more careful next time, so you don't realise ..."

"Unless you promise not to take any more photos of me like that," says T with a serious look on his face, "I'll never be naked in front of you again!"

I can't possibly deprive myself of the lovely sight of a gorgeous guy like T in the nude, so I have to give in.

"I promise," I reply reluctantly, "but admit it, you do have a great arse!"

Instead of answering me, he simply smiles and gets up from the bed to finish hanging his clothes up in the wardrobe. A few minutes later he climbs into bed and moves over to the centre and starts cuddling me.

"Well ... maybe :-), but then, so do you GB!!"

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Email from a distressed catholic schoolboy

About three weeks ago, a reader sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

I'm an openly gay teen in the states; first and foremost, I want to give you props for having such an interesting, provocative yet classy blog. I think if more heterosexuals read blogs such as this one, maybe the gay community wouldn't have such a negative reputation (maybe) =T


I'm 18, in my fourth year attending an all male catholic high school, and honestly cannot complain: those who do know of my orientation are extremely supportive, even my parents have come to accept it in as little as a year. I've had many successful relationships, along with a few unsuccessful ones (a closeted 30-something year old that turned out to have a wife and two children ... I promise I was not aware). Throughout the good and the bad, my best friend has been there for me. In our second year of high school (during a sauced up night) I came out to him, knowing he was gay -- he stabbed me in the back and outed me to my circle of friends. After a few months of loathing each other and setting each other up for humiliation, we came to the conclusion that things would be much easier if we combined forces ... so we've been best friends for the past two years.

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING has ever happened between us. There is entirely too much ego built up between the two of us, added to the fact that I get a sense we're both too afraid to do anything about it. What I'm getting at is, I've developed a classic crush on my best friend! We joke about what would happen if we actually had sex, etc. yet recently he's been making up any excuse to talk about our non-existent relationship -- including a few provocative text messages.

What do I do? How do I handle this?! Help! loll
-distressed catholic schoolboy

This is quite an unusual situation for many reasons, but one thing in particular stands out to me. When a young gay guy gets a crush on one of his male friends, the friend is usually straight. So any gay student who gets a crush on a gay friend is very lucky, because in that situation there's a chance that the feelings might be reciprocated. Even so, there's still a big concern that the other guy will reject an attempt to change the friendship into a boyfriend-ship, especially in the situation described by the reader where the friend betrayed trust on a previous occasion.

However, I still think the mature thing to do in this kind of situation is to find a way to discuss one's feelings with the other guy. I reckon there are three situations to think about. The easy one is the happy ending where the feelings are reciprocated to some extent, so that the two guys do manage to become boyfriends :-). Indeed, it's possible that the other guy is also keen on that idea, and that his recent behaviour is just a clumsy attempt to move things in that direction.

The second possibility is that the other guy doesn't want to become the boyfriend of the guy with the crush, but none the less, when told about the guy's love for him handles the situation in a sensitive way. This outcome wouldn't be too bad. The provocative txt msgs and talk about the non-existent relationship would stop, because the guy would realise that this behaviour was hurtful. The revelation might temporarily limit their friendship, but mature guys should be able to deal with these situations, and eventually I'm sure that their friendship could resume in some form.

The last possibility is that the other guy doesn't want to become the boyfriend of the guy with the crush, but doesn't handle the situation in a sensitive way :-(. However some good things would also come out of this scenario. Such behaviour should be a quick cure for the attraction, because it would be unnecessarily spiteful, but the good thing is that the reader would be able to move on. Beyond that, although the friendship might be ruined, it's really not worth having the friendship of a guy that behaves insensitively in that situation. Furthermore, if the guy were to try and ridicule the guy who loved him to their wider of circle of friends, that would reflect very badly on the guy himself. The guy whose affections were spurned would very much appear as the victim of a genuinely nasty person!

So overall, I reckon that the reader somehow needs to find a way to talk to his friend about the way he feels. The alternative, where he just lets his feelings fester, is likely to prove quite unhealthy in the long run.

By chance, the day after I received this email I was meeting fellow bloggers LWW and HBH. Over dinner, I discussed this reader's situation with them, and they both volunteered to write responses. LWW's reply was as follows:

Hmmm. I'm not sure I buy the distressed 18 year old Catholic schoolboy with a crush angle. Given the widely publicised problem of sexual conduct of priests with children, I would guess that the reader's openness would be a significant problem for the school. The thirty-something affair also lends an air of a gay Mills and Boon story.

Whatever the reader's true situation, this much may be helpful to any young person. Your actions have consequences. Most romantic trysts when we are young do not last. They can be enormous fun and a vital part of your voyage of discovery but be prepared that your infatuation may not be returned in full measure. If you decide to pursue your friend if may be wonderful or it may be a disappointment. If you decide not to pursue him you'll always wonder how it might have been. Each decision path will contain some element of suffering or loss and some might just contain love or even ecstasy.

I hope you don't take this as a very pessimistic message for it is the times of love and passion that make life sweet and worthwhile. We all have our have ups and downs so don't let the good times pass you by. Be prepared for the passing of the good times and show your past lovers the respect and care you would wish for even when they appear heartless. Enjoy the journey and have confidence that you'll make the right decision and be brave enough to learn from each encounter, no matter how it turns out.

Good luck! LWW

HBH's reply was as follows:

Dear distressed Catholic schoolboy,

I find it interesting that at 18 you have already gone through 'many successful' and a 'few unsuccessful' relationships. Eighteen is not an enormously long time to have lived so I suspect maybe what you describe as relationship could possibly be encounters?

Anyway, from what you describe about your present crisis you definitely need to present a situation where it is easiest for you both to talk about your feelings for each other.

My suggestion is to invite him out for a drink one evening (I hope good Catholic boys do indulge sometimes). You must ensure you are sobered up enough to be in control of what you ask him and where the evening could lead. Hopefully a little Dutch courage will get it out and you can have the answers you seek about his feelings.

I think the biggest challenge for you is to work up the courage to ask the question during drinks. After a few drinks you both should be at ease. Being prepared to accept that the situation can go either way is the best way to approach this. From my experience of having a crush on a boy I used to live with, I regret not having the courage to ask the question. A few situations presented themselves and I seriously lacked the courage.

Finally, I must say, if I were a film producer I’d consider this scenario having all the trappings for a good gay Catholic film.

Good luck! HBH

Do any other readers have any further thoughts about this sort of situation?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Difficult conversations

I think everyone would agree that clear and honest communication is very important in long term relationships. However, most people find certain subjects are very difficult to discuss. Anything that significantly changes the dynamic of the relationship would certainly come into that category, and an obvious example of that would be if a guy in a monogamous gay relationship wants to change the rules to make the relationship more open.

One reader of this blog recently left a comment wondering how to start such conversations. He jokingly suggested that in such a situation, a guy might say to his boyfriend "By the way, seeing as we don't screw each other any more, what would you say to us screwing other people"! But as the reader implied, there must be better ways of approaching the subject.

Given that this subject has arisen here recently, perhaps it's no co-incidence that I've also received an email about precisely this topic. The email was as follows:

Dear GB,

I'm in my early thirties and have been with the same man for almost ten years. He's slightly younger than me. When we first met, we learned all about each other - what we were in to, what we liked etc, and we learned all about each other's dirty little secrets.

It was very clear that I was entering in to a monogamous relationship. I said that I'd be up for things like threesomes - he said absolutely no. I enjoyed going out on the scene - that wasn't allowed any more (not prohibited - just not something he ever wanted to do). We ended up having to spend a few months apart early on in the relationship and I said that if he needed to get his rocks off I wouldn't mind, provided he still loved me and wanted to be together - he said definitely no, and said he thought that was my way of saying I wanted to sleep around. So parameters were set very early on - and these have been followed ever since.

We're happy now. I think we're very happy really. I have everything I every wanted on the home front. He is great in every single way - but there's one thing that has been playing on my mind for years - that I have no idea how to approach - sex.

We hardly ever have sex any more. Once a month maybe. Even in the old days when it was regular, I'd always have to be the bottom (which I didn't mind at first, but never got the chance to change as I was, and still am, 'too big'). Now it doesn't happen at all. We just go to bed and sleep. I have to resort to sorting myself out when I can... We never discuss it either... It never comes up. I get the feeling that he thinks this just happens with old couples and that it's part and parcel of married life.

I'm a bit surprised as he used to have a crazy sex drive - and I wonder if this has really dried up. Most of me thinks it has, but part of me wishes he was getting it somehow somewhere else (which would make me feel less guilty for wanting what I want, and ideally change the dynamic slightly).

I've toyed around with the idea of playing around with other people - without him. I used to travel a lot so could have done it regularly - but he still checks my emails sometimes (big trust/insecurity issues) and nearly caught me out once or twice. I also think that I'm too old now for the dishonesty of doing this. I'd rather not lie and dream of some hypothetical lifestyle we could live.

Another big issue I have is that another product of this insecurity issue is that we are totally non-scene. He hates it. We don't have any gay friends at all. All our friends are straight. It kind of feels like I'm back in the closet and I hate it. I want to go out to places like Fire. I want a circle of gay friends (even ones I don't sleep with - which I don't think he thinks is possible).

I guess I really wish we could have some kind of open relationship - like I know some other old couples seem to do. I just don't think he would ever go for it - and I could never bring it up because he'd freak out and accuse me of all sorts.

I also wonder about the logistics of it. It's not that I want to go around screwing other people without him - I want to do stuff with other people with him (from time to time you understand, not daily/weekly!). It'd be awesome and would satisfy my needs... But moving from where we are now to that seems impossible.

So I suppose I have two questions about the same thing... How on earth do I bring this up, express myself and move things on? I keep waiting and waiting, getting older and older. I only get desperate like this and lose sleep over it once every couple of months when I begin to question what we have. 99% of what we are and what we have is perfect - but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe that 1% is actually a lot bigger of an issue than I think.

I do love him and know he loves me. I want to spend the rest of my life with him. I just feel that the roles we've assumed need to change. We need more honesty. I need to stop being made to feel like I'm the only one who could screw things up - like I'm the only one who has sexual urges and desires beyond what we have. I just don't want to get much older and regret things.

Apologies for the mind-dump. I hope you can make some sense of it all. Any advice welcome - before I explode and potentially risk losing a person I care too much about.

Thanks as always.

Thinking about this email, it seems almost impossible to me that the reader's boyfriend could have gone from having a "crazy sex drive" when he was a bit younger to no sex drive these days. Sex is a natural human need. Although one's sex drive decreases with age, these guys are still under 35 so if they're healthy they should still be having lots of sex!

The working assumption for this reader should be that his boyfriend still needs sex and may even be getting some from elsewhere. If that is the case, a big problem for the reader is going to be getting his boyfriend to be open about his desires, because given his original views the boyfriend won't want to lose face. If the reader wants to keep his man, he somehow needs to move their relationship on, but avoiding any desire to win the old argument and prove that his boyfriend's original ideas don't work any more.

Probably even harder than having a difficult conversation is getting a difficult conversation started. To have the desired effect, and also keep the long-term relationship alive, I think it's important to try and move the thinking forward together, as a couple. So it's a problem that the guy who wants to have the difficult conversation has already done a lot of thinking about the issue, because he needs to help his boyfriend catch up somehow. For this purpose, I reckon that it's best for the guy to first introduce the subject to his boyfriend somehow, and talk around the subject but without actually relating things to their own relationship. Relating it to their own relationship would be the next step, perhaps a few days later. Even at that point, it's probably then best to suggest a future discussion, to give the boyfriend time to prepare himself. Springing a difficult conversation on a guy with no notice is likely to mean that it won't go well.

As an example, suppose Adam and Steve have been boyfriends for ten years, and that Adam would like to have a more open relationship. Suppose they've just finished watching an old episode of "Sex and the City":
"Do you think many women in real life are as promiscuous are the girls in that series?" asks Adam casually.

"Probably not!" replies Steve, not really paying attention.

"But think about it," continues Adam, "even gay guys, how many get as much sex as the women in that series?"

"I dunno," replies Steve, getting a bit concerned about where the conversation might be heading, "I haven't really thought about it!"

"Well, neither have I really. Although sex is a basic need for all of us. I certainly wish I got half as much as those women!"
No need to go any further at that point. Another approach might even be:
"Hey Steve," shouts Adam from in front of his computer, "do you ever read blogs?"

"Not often, why?"

"Well you really should read a bit of this one! It's written by a gay banker and he's got some quite interesting ideas, I'll send you some links to a few of his postings."
In that situation, if he wants to be direct Adam might even consider sending Steve a link to this posting!

Having woken up the subject in quite a harmless way, the next step would be to start relating it to their own situation. So imagine that to avoid a long conversation on the subject, for which his boyfriend would be unprepared, Adam decides to time it so that initially they'll only be able to talk for a few minutes. They're driving to meet some friends in their car, and they're just a few minutes from their destination when Adam starts to talk.
"I've been thinking a bit more about how much sex those women in Sex and the City seem to have compared to me!" starts Adam, speaking very calmly, "Do you ever think about that kind of thing?"

"How do you mean?" asks Steve, immediately worried by the topic.

"Well we're both still quite young, and if we're normal, we should still have quite reasonable sex drives. I think I'm pretty normal. Aren't you?"

Steve doesn't immediately reply. Even though he's driving, Adam looks at Steve briefly and shrugs his shoulders to indicate that this subject isn't really a big deal.

"I don't know," continues Adam, "we are boyfriends after all, shouldn't we be able to talk about these things?"

"I guess," concedes Steve after a brief pause.

"Well anyway," replies Adam, still speaking calmly, "We can't talk much about it now because we're almost there, but if we don't get a chance before, let's try and talk about this next weekend. I'd like to anyway!"
Although this approach puts a tension into the relationship which will last until they do actually talk about things, I can't help thinking that the tension is necessary. If a couple has got used to avoiding this kind of subject, the guy that wants to talk about this needs to force the other guy to think about it seriously, and this approach will do just that. Indeed, guys in healthy relationships are able to discuss these kinds of issues.

Throughout this process, it's important to try and anticipate all the possible responses of the other guy, and even his responses to one's responses to his initial responses etc! The more both guys have thought about things, the easier the process is likely to be. The sample dialog illustrates another important point, namely that since the two guys are in a long term relationship, there's no immediate rush to sort things out. The goal should be to try and make progress together, rather than for one partner to have all the ideas and forge ahead leaving the other guy behind.

My suggestion for the next stage of the dialog would be to find a way to assert that because everyone needs sex, if they're not having it together they must be finding it elsewhere or doing a lot of wanking! Indeed, if they're both wanking a lot in private, even that is something that boyfriends in long term relationships should be able to discuss with each other. There are many ways the conversation could lead on from there, however if a couple reach this stage then the dialogue will have to continue until some kind of understanding has been reached.

A guy called Rob from Sydney left a very useful comment on this subject recently, where he said "I found being fully honest in a sensitive way (i.e. not being angry and abusive) was the best approach. The reality is that it made my thinking clearer and also helped my partner." Indeed, that sounds like excellent advice to me :-).

Do any other readers have any other thoughts on this subject?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

An unexpected txt msg

During 2008, on one occasion I chatted to ex-boyfriend R online, and then a few months later we exchanged a few txt msgs. He let me down badly at the end of 2007, and on neither occasion when we were in touch did he come close to apologising for his behaviour. On the contrary, he seemed to be after an apology from me!

Then, out of the blue, yesterday afternoon I receive a txt msg from him as follows:

Sorry to learn you have split from you boyfriend :)..hope you're not too sad x

So I send him a simple reply:

Thanks for your thoughts.

The curious thing is that ex-boyfriend R knows none of my friends, and I've never met any of his friends either. So there's absolutely no way that he could know what's been going on in my life. Unless ... unless I've got a new reader?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Une liaison dangereuse

Side view of Notre DameFor the whole week following the MSN conversation with W, I was looking forward to our rendezvous in Paris enormously. I'd only been back to Paris once since my long weekend there with ex-boyfriend S two years ago, so a visit was long overdue. W warned me that he might have to cancel the trip at short notice because of work commitments, but with everything looking good with two days to go, I confirm our hotel booking and the reservation that I'd made for dinner at a smart restaurant on Saturday night.

When at last my train pulls out of the new Eurostar terminal at St Pancras on Saturday morning I'm feeling very happy, so I send W a quick txt msg:

Bonjour W! My train left on time, and I'll let you know if we run into any delays. A bientot :-), GB xxx

A couple of hours later, just under an hour before I'm due to arrive, I get his reply:

Just got to the Gare du Nord – send me sms when you get here – I am now drinking coffee in the bar on the second floor.

The train is slightly delayed but not massively so, so about an hour later I send him another txt msg:

I should be arriving within the next 5 minutes or so, let me come and find you on the second floor. GB xxx

but his reply makes it even easier for me

Ah, am in the relay bookstore right next to the eurostar arriving lanes

I spot the Relay bookstore as I'm walking towards the platform exit so I turn towards it as soon as I'm past the barrier, and almost immediately a guy comes up to me looking slightly unsure of himself.

"Are you GB?" he asks.

"Yes :-)! You must be W :-))," I reply with a huge smile on my face, "Really good to meet you! Wow, I can't believe that we're really doing this!!"

Looking at him in the flesh for the first time, he's a reasonably attractive guy who's slightly shorter than me and very casually dressed. From the way he looks, I get the impression that he's quite a kind and gentle guy.

"Did you have a good journey?" he asks me, smiling slightly now.

"Yes, it was OK!" I reply, "I guess the delay wasn't too bad! Shall we go and get a taxi?"

The taxi queue is quite short so before too long we're getting into a taxi together. I use my best French to tell the driver where to go.

"Wow, you speak French well!" says W.

"Not really," I confess, "I'm not too bad at simple things like that, but I couldn't hold a real conversation or do a business meeting in French."

While we chat and start to get to know each other, I try to read his body language and assess what will happen later when it comes to bedtime. I'm still keen on my plan to cuddle up to him, but now that he's seen me in person, will he want to put up a barricade down the middle of the bed? Hopefully not, because it would be nice if we're able to get to know each other a bit better :-). Some of his conversation is a bit business-like, however overall he seems very relaxed about the situation, which makes me feel relaxed about everything too.

We arrive at the hotel slightly before their official check-in time, but none the less the room is ready for us so we head up to drop off our bags.

"Actually, this is the same room that I stayed in the last time I came to Paris, which was with ex-boyfriend S," I tell him once we're inside, "I hope you don't mind!"

"But don't you mind? I mean, memories of him? I'm sure they'd have another room!"

"No it's fine, actually I requested this room purely for convenience reasons! This is the best room that's close enough to the lobby to be able to connect to their wifi network, because there's a blog posting that I want to do tomorrow!"

We'd tentatively planned to go and see the exhibition of Yves Saint Laurent's art that was due to be auctioned by Christies the following week, however I also want to go shopping. When we check with the hotel staff though, they tell us that unlike London the major department stores still stay closed on Sundays, so we agree to go shopping immediately and try for the exhibition tomorrow.

"Let's go and get a taxi up to Boulevard Haussmann then," I say, "Printemps is always a good place to start!"

"Just so you know," says W, "anytime you want to walk anywhere, I'll be fine with it. It's nice to see cities on foot sometimes :-)."

"It'll be about a 45 minute walk from here," I reply, "is that OK?"

"Sure, if you know the way?"

I do indeed know the way, and several hours later we arrive back at the hotel feeling quite exhausted. I'd managed to buy a shirt and some nice new Prada shoes, but we'd walked all the way! After Printemps, we'd taken a scenic route back to the hotel via Concorde, then through the Louvre and finishing off with a walk along the Seine.

"Paris is a beautiful city :-)," says W, "but I could really do with some rest. What time do we have to be at the restaurant?"

"Not for a couple of hours," I reply, "so there's plenty of time for a nap :-)".

While I'm checking my new shirt and shoes, W turns on the TV and takes his shoes off so that he can lie on the bed. Soon I join him on the bed, and just for fun, I move over to lie next to him so that our bodies are touching.

"Hmmm, that's cute :-)," says W, without objecting or making any attempt to move away from me.

Once the news program that's on the TV is finished, W turns over to face away from me for a quick nap. Feeling a bit tired too I decide to do the same, and since I'm lying next to him I put my arm round him for a cuddle. Again he doesn't object, so we both lie there dozing together for maybe an hour, before I check the time and realise that we need to get up.

We decide to walk to the restaurant, taking a slightly long way round so that we can stroll across both the Île de la Cité and the Île Saint-Louis. We have a great leisurely meal together, marred only by the fact that the Sommelier talks me into having a 1993 Clos de Vougeot when I'd asked for the 1996, but when we taste the 1993 it seems to be past it's best :-(.

"Do you believe in Conspiracy theories," asks W as we walk back to the hotel.

"No, not really," I reply, "do you?"

"Well, I guess I do a bit."

"But they're often mentally corrosive!" I argue. "If one believes that other people are covertly controlling things, it can make you feel 'How come I'm not more important?', or 'How come I'm not the guy making the decisions?'. Actually there's a South Park episode that neatly sums up my views on this subject :-)."

"You should always base your opinion on the facts," counters W, "I'll give you a web site that's got a lot of convincing evidence on it, then we can have a real debate about it all!"

On the way back to the hotel, we stop off in a gay bar, but after all the travelling and walking we're both feeling quite tired so we decide to hit the sack.

Back in our hotel room, W uses the bathroom first. When it's my turn, I don't take very long, and when I come back into the bedroom I find W lying bare-chested in bed watching TV. I start wondering whether he's wearing any undershorts, or whether he's decided to sleep nude like me. He doesn't take any notice of me while I'm taking off my clothes, but I hesitate to strip off completely because I need to walk in between the bed and the TV on the way to my side of the bed, and walking across the room naked seems unnecessarily exhibitionist. So I decide I leave my undershorts on to walk across the room, but I slip them off at the last minute before just getting into bed :-). Once in bed, I move across to the centre to lie next to him, just like I did earlier.

"What are you watching?" I ask.

"Oh nothing really, I was only watching it while you were getting ready for bed, let's turn it off!"

He turns off the light too, and in the darkness he turns away from me just like he did when he was having a nap earlier, however he manages to maintain a bit of contact with me. I turn towards him, and put my hand round his chest to hold him, and I feel him nestle into my cuddle. We lie there for a while, just enjoying the warm intimacy of the situation, but soon I can't resist feeling his body a bit more. As I'd expected he is wearing his undershorts, and even though I don't put my hand under the fabric I can still tell that he's a man, albeit a tired one. It somehow feels inappropriate to pursue further activities, and in any case I'm feeling tired too, so eventually we both fall asleep.

Throughout the night, there's a lot of body contact between us. Some people find it hard to sleep in such situations, but in fact I much prefer sleeping with another guy and waking up with him :-).

I'm feeling quite awake by the time there's daylight coming round the sides of the curtains, however W still seems to be dozing. Deciding that I hadn't finished exploring his body, I put my arm round him again, and a little later when I feel down to his undershorts there's almost something poking out the front! Slowly I start playing with him, and at first he seems a bit reluctant. However a little later I manage to get his undershorts off, and taking things slowly, eventually things reach their natural conclusion :-). Afterwards we doze a bit more, but soon it feels like time to get up.

"Do you want to have a shower first?" I ask him.

"Um, err, yeah sure :-)," he replies sleepily.

A little later when he comes out of the bathroom, he looks noticeably more relaxed than he did the previous night, and I can't help thinking that it's probably a consequence of the recent activities :-).

With a blog posting to do, W's ready before me, but before too long we're heading out to have breakfast together.

After breakfast, we walk over to the Grand Palais where the Yves Saint Laurent art exhibition is being held. Starting at the front of the queue, we walk for ages attempting to reach the back of the queue, and without doubt neither of us has ever seen a queue so long.

"I'm sure it's a great exhibition," says W, "but we're going to have to wait hours to see it once we've found the back of the queue!"

"Yeah, there are plenty of other things we could do."

We get half-way up the Champs-Élysées before deciding to head back to the Musée de l'Orangerie. With eight big water lily murals by Monet, the Musée de l'Orangerie is one of my favourite Parisian museums.

Emerging from the museum, we take the metro back to within walking distance of the hotel, and find a small café for a late lunchtime snack. And after a leisurely stroll around a few of the neighbouring streets, it's soon time to go back to the hotel to pick up our bags and head off to catch our trains.

"It's been really good meeting you GB :-)," says W in the taxi on the way to the station.

"Yes, likewise :-)," I reply, "we must do this again sometime! Perhaps Amsterdam or Prague next time?"

"Or how about New York?"

Even though he's still in the back of the taxi, he's slightly uncomfortable when I kiss him goodbye. But as he walks off towards the entrance to the station, leaving me in the taxi to go on to my train station, he turns round to wave goodbye to me. He smiles back at me when I smile at him and blow him another couple of kisses.

I think he's got a few personal issues to resolve, because he didn't seem very comfortable with his sexuality, however underneath all that I could tell that he's a good guy. Hopefully the time that he spent with me did him some good. If we're able to meet up again sometime, I’m sure that we'll enjoy ourselves :-).

Monday, March 02, 2009

An article about gay life in the banking world

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a freelance journalist called Kaite who was writing an article for Lesbilicious about gay life in the banking world . She wanted to interview some gay bankers, so I put her in touch with one of the organiser's of the London interbank drinks event for gay professionals who work in banking. The finished article can now be found here:
Same sex in the City - gay life in the financial sector.
If anyone has any comments, Kaite would be very interested to hear them.