The Parade Passed By

Broadway Showtunes Queen til the end.

And the end—an end—feels near.

A hundred thousand people (or more) are over in the Castro celebrating something the vast majority of them had no hand in. In a very local sense, I suppose the word for this is “entitled”: a wish, a hope and out of the blue falls same-sex marriage and they celebrate. Now, not that I’ve contributed much to the cause of same-sex marriage, but I’ve always had a profound respect for the institution. I suppose this is the contrapositive of the argument that marriage is a sacred institution whose boundaries are rigid, whose boundaries would snap rather than bend and those who believe that’s always for the worse.

So I respect the fact of it. The fact that my parents have been together for very close to 47 years. I don’t know if they’ve been completely happy overall. I suspect they would tell you quite earnestly that they are, that they have been. That overall, it was the right thing to stay together rather than seek greener pastures. This is one topic I don’t think I could ever broach with my parents adult to adult; I don’t know if that’s because of who I am, who they are, or if that’s just a preserved attribute of my family’s history.

On the flip side, I tend to agree with a friend of mine who put it, “In my book, you don’t get points just for staying together.” Meaning that if two people are miserable together, after trying everything, or after not caring enough to try anything, just dissolve the union, at least in a civil sense: and do it civilly, as adults, ok?

Life is complicated, which makes life difficult, especially for the emotionally-retarded. You can spot the emotionally-retarded quite easily: they’re the ones who sit back and expect things. They’re the ones who ignore consequences. They’re the ones who surrendered to their ids a long, long time ago. Much as I hate Freud, his framework is helpful here: the only way to give complete power to the id is to murder the super-ego and keep the ego distracted. Distract it with neediness, distract it by depending on an external view for its own robustness (which is to say, it lacks robustness entirely). Notches on a bedpost, avoidance of commitment—and I’m not talking about marriage or relationship here, I’m taking about fear of choice and fear of results of a choice, fear of missing out on something the capricious id would have liked, fear of the obsessive id driving a truck through the ego’s home when it doesn’t get what it wants.

In general, well, just Fear. Fear is a consumer. Fear conflates. Fear chooses all of it, which is to say it makes no choice at all.

The emotionally retarded are afraid, as are we all. The difference is just that they expect their fears to be allayed without having to lift a finger. How? By avoidance again. Avoidance of conflict, avoidance of the hard metal of reality, avoidance of the Outside (and you know I don’t mean out of doors). By the alchemical short-sightedness that feeds the id that spins the artifice of no-dissent, no-challenge. Monoclonal individualism as a social construct.

The sequacious lot huddle together to protect themselves from interlopers who vary from the larger lot, because that’s the only way to maintain the prevention of maturation: there’s no such thing as a mature id. So they pile paralogism on top of paralogism, keeping the whole mess intact with spit and barbed-wire, bound up in a thick, glaucous layer of self-imposed ignorance.

Is it time yet or time past where I should put up a circle of orange traffic cones warning people that I am opinionated and that these are my opinions? Strongly so, but not out of order or out of turn. Opinions do not come easily to me. Where possible, they are backed by fact, simple or—where that same sequacious lot dare not venture for fear of exposure to strange elements—subtle fact. Where not, they are formed by personality spinning out a reticulum of relationships between and among fact. Defensible, always defensible, except where they cannot be, and then it comes down to disagreement, difference of opinion. Set up a situation like that and see who runs away or attempts to preempt and there you’ll find the emotionally retarded.

Am I one of that lot? Well, challenge me and see if I stay around for the argument, and not argument in the sense of raised voices and emotional outbursts, but rather argument as presentation of fact and informed opinion. Argument, whose function is nothing more and nothing less than to change the nature of truth.

This population are some of the people who’ve been handed marriage. For real. Loathe as I would ever be to discriminate or deny two consenting, chronologically-adult people from entering into a marriage, I do allow myself opinion. In case you hadn’t noticed.

What will change in the short-term? Relationships will go to Marriages and the State is both empowered and required to recognize such Unions. Perhaps for a little while some might look to all the examples of marriage they have before them, good ones and bad ones, successful ones and those which divorce, and perhaps believe it means something more than what they had before.

But none of the people I’ve described are likely to change. There will be no evidence of a relationship cum marriage, there will be no example to others of what a marriage looks like, because it won’t look like anything new: couples entering bars and their body language never gives it away that they’re together as they close in on whatever their respective ids want. Off, off they go without regard for anyone but themselves. Collectively—and I’ve watched this happen—the open door policy breathes out contagion to this world in the form of expecting less. Those who are single by fiat must be let into the relationship and become subject to its rules, must expect that the only valid fantasy allowed is the one that the married person permits to happen, which is usually the fantasy that his id plays out, paving over the id and ego of the single person whose super-ego was ignored. Dragged into the relationship for frictional scenario(s) and just as unceremoniously ejaculated out of it.

Am I not allowed an exegesis on this happy day of the advent of state-recognized same-sex marriages?

In the longer term—for those who contemplate or simply recognize that there is such a thing as “longer term”—marriage is marriage is marriage, and while same-sex couples will bring something positive to the marriage table, it won’t be anytime soon. Not soon enough for those of us achingly ready for all those longer term, more mature things like deep commitment without fear, being exemplary to others, at least to some extent and being able to depend truly on the spouse sticking around to fight for the relationship instead of running out to burn off all that “icky” negativity elsewhere and with someone else. I happen to think that’s a shitty way to expend energy when it could be better spent maintaining or enriching a marriage.

It’s all about showing up. Simply showing up. My friend, a doctor, told me that once: set aside all the majesty, mystery, vauntedness of a job/relationship/person and it all comes down to the same thing. Showing up.

It’s been a long time since that kind of dependability, comfort, trust, expectation have been there in my life. And going back to where those things weren’t there to catch me when I was falling as I truly expected them to be, I don’t think revising history by slapping a capital M on any of those relationships would have changed anything even one mote.

Marriage is ours now, at least until November. I wonder how many of those celebrating its arrival today will see it through November, working to earn it, to appreciate it, to keep the nay-sayers and the closed-minded voters at bay.

If you appreciate someone, you fight to keep him close to you. You let him know it every day in deed and not just in word. You carve out a private space, a somewhere-only-we-know and you let no one else even know such a private intimacy exists. When he needs you, you’re there. When you need him, he should be there and if he’s not? Well, learn. Learn and act. When you have conflict, you stick around to resolve it, knowing that it might be difficult, knowing it might have consequences, but in the end trusting that the other will still love and respect you when the conflict recedes. Think I’m rigid or provincial? Stick around and convince me of it. Feel threatened by such words? Challenge it. At least acknowledge that there is a world of people who don’t feel and believe and agree with every little thing you do. If that’s unsettling to you to the point of seeking safe ground, well, you know how I’ll interpret that. Run away? Stay away.

A private and precious intimacy, that’s the kind of marriage I’d want. And I’ve learned not to settle for anything less. Better to be alone and know you’re about to make a hard landing than to settle for being with someone you know won’t bother catching you, that someone who’s wearing a scarlet M and a matching ring.

So congratulations all, whether you understand it or not.

Blogging Advice: Keep A Private Journal

The regular Writing Life for me began on a flight from San Francisco to Pittsburgh (with connection to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton). It was a non-event at the time: a thought, a jot, a shot at recording nothing more than a moment. But many things can come out of a moment, even a moment which is deemed so just because it was intentionally noted and tagged soon enough after the fact.

It was near Christmas, just two or three days before, in 1993.

Before year’s end I will be marking the fifteenth anniversary of that bit of notation, and don’t you see? It’s the what-follows that promotes a moment into an event, an event into a milestone (and, I suppose, if your work typecasts you out of illimitability, the milestone becomes the millstone around your neck and you end up with a bad back).

I was in flight, as I said, and of course Allen was beside me. It was a 757. Good Lord God of Biscuits! you may be asking yourself, how on GoB’s green earth did you remember that? Easy: Allen’s legs. Long, rangy man that he was, getting into an airline seat was more an act of folding than sitting. Allen, clever, eidetic, encyclopedic man that he was, kept a catalog of airlines and their fleets (by model) in his head, because legs can only do so much folding and so only certain models (like a 757) on a specific airline (because some airlines pack an extra row or two into coach) would make a cross-country flight bearable.

He always had the aisle seat, which put me not so much in the middle seat as, of course, in the seat beside Allen. You wouldn’t think that 6’4” and 5’6” would be such a fine fit, physically, but his shoulder, bony as it was, was a perfect spot to rest my head. Perhaps that’s why the inaugural bit of writing was so terse (yes, I can do terse). Comfort called, the casual intimacies of two people fitting together, nothing more. His left arm around me, his hand on my left shoulder as we walked through the Castro. Pride! Always his left, because he smoked and because he was a righty.

I’m not going to tell you what I wrote. Not that it wasn’t important: on the contrary, it stands sentry as the bookend for the beginning. And that’s quite a lot of responsibility, especially for a handful of words aimed nowhere, which means they went everywhere. Why won’t I tell you?

There are some things one can never know about others. Simple as that. Not that I’m gratuitously withholding, but rather that pull-quotes don’t travel well between public and private realms. Profound privacy goes to maudlin proclamation. That “somewhere only we know” turns tourist trap.

Keeping a blog has its merits, but it’s no panacea. Nothing is.

And in the twisty-turny perverse reversal of sex and intimacy and the private and the public among gay men in relationships so open that only a deeded property or paper contract may provide evidence of union, or relationships so porous that men have convinced themselves they own the cake and can gorge themselves on it, too, old identities are dissolved in the bile and new labels gerrymander the world into self-involved hamlets, each with the same casual disregard for coexistence with differing worldviews.

But there are things which the world will never know in ways that you do, no matter how many soapboxes, pulpits, captive audiences or kind, lent ears. Tender, gentle things often die in the gusts of the breath which speaks them.

Cast caution—and all the small and so very precious things that make you who you are—to the wind and that oily smudge on the pavement will be all that’s left of you.

Intimacy can be an act of solitude and I have seen intimacy being bled from the world in dribbles, and all those too-open books are slapdash with ink spelling out vulgar aphoristic claptrap and proclaiming themselves bibles.

And look! Look what happens when bibles force themselves upon the greater humanity.