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When Did I Become the Type of Guy I Hate?

“Sorry seems to be the hardest word,” the great Elton John once sang. What a touching sentiment — and song. I recently saw the video on Radio Capital TV in Rome, and John’s 1976 No. 6 hit sounds just as lovely today as it did when I was 7 years old and could feel every word he sang even if I didn’t completely understand what he was singing about.

Now that I do, though. I have to say I can’t quite relate, which might surprise a certain good friend of mine. Several years ago, when she was visiting me in Buenos Aires from L.A., she asked me a strange, fascinating question: “When was the last time you cried?” She insisted that she couldn’t imagine me ever crying over anything. Later, she added apologizing, too — not because she thought someone with my unimpeachable character would never need to, but because, as I later found out, she thought she had one coming from me.

Had I known I’d done anything to offend her (and agreed that I had indeed been offensive), she wouldn’t have had to ask. In her assessment of me, she was right on the first count: My tears don’t fall freely or regularly. I have a recurring dream in which I receive devastating news and struggle to cry just a little bit, as if my life depends on it. But on the other count, she was dead wrong: “I’m sorry” comes incredibly easy for me.

That’s a good thing because lately I’ve had to say it a lot, mostly because I have a considerably harder time saying, “No.” My former therapist might blame my people-pleasing tendencies, which at the time, he concluded, was damaging some of my relationships. I may have shed some of my people-pleasing ways in the ensuing nine years (along with a few of those relationships), but “No” still seems to be the hardest word,” especially when an unwanted suitor should be on the receiving end of it.

In the past, I’ve been labeled everything from a tease to a “nigger” when I wasn’t upfront with guys I didn’t want from the start. That character flaw may have reached a critical point during my most recent stint in Rome, as the guys there brought out the worst in me. Previously, I wouldn’t have expected it from Italy, considering that it’s the site of two of my most fondly remembered romances of my late 20s and early 30s — the ones I had with Massimiliano and with Paolo.

Thanks to them, for years, Italian men enjoyed a position of high estimation in my mind, despite all of the horror stories I heard to the contrary, the ones about how they’re after only one thing, and how they’d say practically anything to get it. That’s really not much different from most of the guys I met in Buenos Aires, and for years, I’d been unwilling to chalk up the worst of their romantic shortcomings to the Italian heritage that so many of them share, because, well, in my mind, Italian men were just so incredibly charming and sexy.

Then I returned to Rome for the third time, which, as far as the guys there went, was so not the charm. When Paul, a UK expat who is a university professor in Rome, dismissed them as unbelievably shallow on my first night in the capital, I didn’t want to believe he might be right. I still wouldn’t dream of filing them all under that particular heading, but after experiencing them firsthand on their turf for the first time in nine years, I see he had a point.

It only took me all of 24 hours to get it. I’m still not completely sure if it was because I’ve changed or because the men there have, but everything seemed so different between us. It could be that I’m just scarred for life from love’s battlefield, but by the time I left, I regarded every guy I met as the enemy, and I’d more or less lost my will to fight.

Perhaps the shift had something to do with the past month having been the first time I’d experienced Italy’s gay culture in the age of Grindr. With the introduction of online hook-up tools like Grindr and PlanetRomeo into Roman gay life, guys no longer have to talk to you when they single you out in a crowd because they’ll probably find you later online. And when they do, they now can jump right over language barriers and land in the middle of a king-size water bed with their pants hanging down below their knees.

“Sex?” is not something most guys would have said upon meeting someone in a club in Rome, or in Milan, or pretty much in any place that didn’t have dark rooms, in 2004. But on Grindr and on PlanetRomeo, it’s perfectly acceptable — at least in Rome, which was the first place I’d ever been routinely approached online in such a crass, brutal, blunt and monosyllabic manner. (The guys outside of Rome had a bit more finesse when offering their opening lines, but their restraint never lasted long.)

After several weeks of openings like “MI SCOPI OGGI POMERIGGIO” (or “FUCK ME THIS AFTERNOON”) and “ciao ti va di fare una bella scopata?” (or “hello you want to do a good fuck?”) and being asked out by Romans (the ones with better opening lines than “Sex?” or “Looking for?” or “Hung?”) and then ultimately being blown off by them after agreeing to meet them, I lost my appetite. In the end, with the exception of a few hours on my first Sunday evening in Rome, I spent my entire five weeks in Italy pretty much celibate, hoping for but not expecting just one guy to restore my faith — and interest — in Italian men.

I encountered a few decent ones online and off, but perhaps scarred by all the “Sex?” talk (not to mention, years of bullshitters in Buenos Aires and Bangkok), I declined without with actually declining. I found myself intentionally leading them on, giving the impression that I might be interested when I knew I wasn’t, because it was a lot easier than just saying, “No.” Eventually, after I played noncommittal long enough, they’d catch my drift, and disappear before I ever had to be the bad guy, though in a way, that’s exactly who I was being.

Sergio got farther than most. He’d spotted me at Coming Out, a bar across from the Colosseo, on my first night in Rome and contacted me on PlanetRomeo the next day (so typical of the new Rome-antic gay guy). I told him when I agreed to meet up with him that I wasn’t interested in anything physical and spent our entire dinner date trying to think of ways to end it early.

Eventually, though, he reeled me in with decent conversation and the unexpected revelation that we’d actually met several years ago at Glam in Buenos Aires. I probably shouldn’t have sent him mixed signals by inviting him up to my place afterwards, but the people pleaser in me knew that he would have been disappointed had I just called it a night after we split the bill, and I couldn’t have that on my conscious.

We’d spent the previous 90 minutes or so communicating on a purely platonic level, and I’d actually started to warm up to him. I wasn’t sure if I was attracted to him, but I was pretty certain that he wouldn’t give me time to figure it out or settle for mere friendship. I was relieved when, after we’d spent a half hour watching videos on Radio Capital TV, with him suggestively trying to decrease the space between us on the two-person sofa while I awkwardly attempted to widen it, he announced he should go home because he had to work at 5am. But instead of leaving, he started putting his hands all over me. One for the road? I cringed on the inside as the 190-meter-tall octopus pawed me, while on the outside, I just sat there like a lifeless blow-up doll.

Eventually, Sergio got the message without my having to say a word (like “No”), because I hadn’t said a word. “Well, at least I know it’s you and not me,” he announced, pressing his body up against the supposed evidence. Then he quietly left. I felt a mix of emotions: first relief, then guilt, then relief again because at least he only lived a few blocks away and hadn’t traveled far for nothing. When I closed the door on Sergio, in my head, I was closing it on the prospect of making any kind of meaningful romantic connection in Rome. Even if I met a guy I liked, would he give it more than one date to develop?

Then two and half weeks later, I met Gianluca. When our eyes locked at Circolo degli Artisti the Friday night before last, and he came over and introduced himself, I thought he might have potential. By the time he bought me a beer and ignored his friends to struggle speaking in English with me, I was certain he did. He moved pretty quickly, as apparently, is customary in Italy. Within moments of getting my number (and calling me while I was still standing there), he added me on Facebook.

The next morning, when I woke up and saw several messages from Gianluca along with his Facebook friend request, I felt a twinge of foreboding as I accepted. I knew where this story was headed, and it would probably have as much to do with my actions as his. Neither one of us disappointed.

During our several conversations on Whatsapp, he kept bringing up the things he wanted to do with me (Sample: “And I want stay whit you and want you inside of me sex”), asking if I wanted the same thing. How was I supposed to tell him no? Instead I took the coward’s/tease’s way out, not saying, “Yes,” but definitely not saying, “No,” either. (When he asked, “You want sex whit me and aleep tigheter?”, I replied, “I’d like to meet up.”)

No offense to Gianluca. He’s a sweet, good-looking guy and, at age 39, refreshingly age appropriate. But I think a confluence of factors ruined any chance we might have had getting more than halfway to first base. Had we both spoken the same language, our conversations might not have been so one-note and one-track. Had my impression of Italian guys not been so poisoned by the ones I’d been coming across, I might not have been so wary and weary. Had I just told him “No” when he asked if I wanted what he wanted, I wouldn’t have had to keep promising to let him know when I was free. Had I not turned into the type of guy I hate, I wouldn’t have kept failing to be true to my word.

Last Friday afternoon, a day and a half after I arrived back in Rome from Tuscany (naturally, neglecting to contact Gianluca as promised), he gave me one final chance.

Gianluca: “I want you when you free?”
Me: “Hey, are you going to Circolo later?” [I thought it would be the perfect way to meet him in a crowd and, hopefully, avoid all the premature pillow talk.]
Gianluca: “I don’t kniw, but I think no
Eanna meet me at 18:30 near my home?
Or after dinner, I want you”
Me: “Where do you live? Not at 18.30 but maybe later…. I will message you later.”
Gianluca: “Ok sexy don’t forget me ok? I want you this night”

I didn’t forget him, but I didn’t write either. The discomforting thing is that I didn’t feel guiltier than I did. They (Italian men) had driven me to it.

On Saturday morning, he sent me two final messages:

“:-(
No serios man. Delete my contant. Bye”

Then he deleted me from Facebook.

I was relieved, and in one brief remorseful moment, I considered writing him to explain why I’d been such a jerk. In the end, though, I merely offered the one word that comes so easily to me.

“Sorry.”

At least I never had to tell him “No.”

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Is This the Smiling Face of Passive Homophobia?

“To each his own. I’m not with it. I have relatives that are gay. I’m not biased towards them. I still treat them the same. I love them. But, again, I’m not with that. That’s not something I believe in. But to each his own.”

So said Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson during a May 23 Sirius XM NFL Radio interview, making what must be some of the most contradictory, muddled comments I’ve seen on the subject on gay marriage.

First of all, I think he meant to say he’s not biased against gay people (though he clearly is — more on that in a second), but I’m not here to correct Peterson’s grammar. I’ve got bigger fish to fry.

I don’t want to take a giant leap and say that to be anti-gay marriage is to be homophobic, too, though I do suspect there is a strong correlation. Homophobia, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals.” To seek to deny marital rights based on sexuality is the epitome of discriminatory, in this case, against homosexuals. Draw your own conclusions.

It’s not Peterson’s lack of support for gay marriage but the way in which he expressed it that troubles me most. He’s not biased against gay people (in his intended words), yet he clearly has issues with them. It wasn’t enough for him to say he’s “not with it [gay marriage].” He had to reiterate, “I’m not with that,” adding, for extra discriminatory emphasis, “it’s not something I believe in.”

So why don’t you tell us how you really feel, Peterson? Except he left out one important piece of information: Why is he against gay marriage? The implication is that he just is. It is what it is, right? Gay marriage is just wrong. No explanation necessary. Unspoken like a true homophobe.

Not only is what Peterson did say incredibly biased, but it was pretty dismissive, too. He couldn’t be bothered to present a compelling argument. He’s just not with that. If he was trying to make himself seem like less of a jerk by not saying too much on the subject, he failed. I’d still give him an A for asinine.

As for his kicker, “to each his own” is a cliche whose very non-committal ambiguity makes such a crystal-clear statement (while underscoring a dismissive attitude). He wants us to think he’s a swell, accepting guy, but “to each his own” reeks of disapproval. It’s tantamount to saying, “I don’t get it, but I’m willing to tolerate it.” I’m so tired of straight people who treat homosexuality as something to be tolerated. That indirectly implies that it’s bad, since you generally “tolerate” something that’s negative, an annoyance.

I don’t want anyone’s tolerance. There’s nothing wrong with me, so I don’t need to be tolerated. I do demand acceptance, though. Either you accept me, or you’re against me. And you’re against me if you feel the need to qualify your acceptance: I love you, but I don’t truly respect your relationships. Well, no thank you.

When I was younger, I remember hearing certain white people taking the same approach to mixed-race marriage. “I don’t believe in interracial marriage,” they’d announce, before trying to protect themselves from accusations of bigotry by insisting, “Some of my best friends are black.” It sounded as racist to me as the whites of the ’50s must have sounded when they rallied against desegregation while, as Peterson did, declaring their love for the very thing they were trying to keep separate.

It might be shocking to some to find out that being against interracial couplings was at one point a perfectly acceptable point of view where I come from (and for all I know, might still be). I wonder if Peterson, who once compared the NFL to slavery, sees the irony here or the parallels between the antiquated black and white point of view that I grew up hearing and his own ideas about gays and gay marriage.

Of course, he doesn’t. He’s just not with that. Clearly his thoughts don’t go that deep.

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Why “Nashville” and “Smash” Have Me Wondering About My Psychic Powers

Two recent episodes of two of the major-network TV shows that I watch religiously (the just-renewed Nashville and the just-canceled Smash) got me thinking: Either television has become way too predictable in its old age, or in mine, I spend so much time watching it (usually on my laptop) that it no longer has the capacity to catch me off guard.

(Regarding Smash‘s cancellation and Nashville‘s renewal, both of which were announced on May 10, is there only room in prime-time for one musical featuring original songs and dueling divas, one sugar and spice, dark-haired, and in love with a recovering something, the other troubled and bitchy, blonde, and constantly at odds with an overbearing mother? Make that two. It just dawned on me that I almost could be writing about Rachel and Quinn on Glee, too, if the high school musical had fewer covers, and we included Rachel portrayer Lea Michele’s real-life relationship with rehabbing Cory Monteith.)

I generally know what’s coming up on my beloved daytime soap operas because I never let a weekend go by without scouring the various soap websites in search of spoilers for the coming week’s episodes. With prime-time TV, however, I’m generally spoiler free. When the “unexpected” happens, I should be just as surprised as the characters. Unfortunately for the part of me who likes to be shocked by an unforeseen turn of fictional events, they’ve been rare lately, with two recent sequences in particular making me wonder if my psychic/predictive properties are really all in my head.

One of them involved two hot guys on a couch on the May 1 episode of Nashville. For me, it wasn’t wishful thinking, bad acting or amateurish writing that screamed where the scene was headed. Well, maybe it was a little of the former, but both Sam Palladio (as Gunnar) and Chris Carmack (as Will) played the beats expertly, and the writing on Nashville is as high caliber as its original music. Speaking from personal experience, I can say the build up to the attempted kiss, in both the acting and the writing, perfectly captured the awkwardness of the pre-plunge sofa moment, even when the two couch potatoes/players involved are out and proud. That it felt so familiar may have been part of the reason why I was so certain what would happen next. (If you haven’t seen it, or want to see it again, click here.)

But I went into the scene with my suspicions already in place because of what had begun to transpire in the previous episode. From the moment Gunnar and Will took that joyride across the railroad tracks, rocking the dynamic of their bromance, I knew it wasn’t going to end well. It’s not that I would immediately expect a reckless driver/daredevil to be a closet case. It’s just that it became clear that Will wasn’t what he seemed to be. The last time that happened with a TV Will (young Mr. Horton, on Days of Our Lives), he lost his girl and eventually ended up with a guy. There was no place for Gunnar and Will’s increasingly intimate friendship to go but under the bus.

Which, for all we know, may have been what did in Kyle at the end of the April 27 episode of Smash — a bus. That episode, incidentally, was the first of the entire series, which will air for the final time on May 26, to feature an original song I actually wanted to hear twice: “Don’t Let Me Know,” performed by Katharine McPhee and Jeremy Jordan.

More likely, it was a car that sped into Kyle since anyone who’s ridden a New York City bus knows they rarely move fast enough to do that kind of damage. From the minute poor Kyle started singing Jeff Buckley’s “The Last Goodbye,” I knew the song would be his. Even if the camera hadn’t kept panning to his feet signaling something momentous to come, I would have made the death connection because Andy Mientus’s first big Smash number happened to be a song by a singer-songwriter who died tragically and too young.

It’s too bad Mientus had to go just as his character was being given a personality beyond being Jimmy’s keeper. In the previous episode, he’d suddenly morphed from saint into sinner, and in his post-mortem episode, he ironically got more screen time than he had during his entire time on the show, doling out words of wisdom like the stereotypical wise gay BFF. Who knew he and Julia (Debra Messing) had become such close confidantes off-screen?

The writers didn’t have to go out of their way to make Kyle sympathetic again after the brief character assassination that found him cheating with Tom. I, for one, still liked him, and found him to be a far more engaging character than the insufferable Jimmy, which is no offense to Jeremy Jordan, who is a fine actor and singer, though not wholly convincing as a tortured straight twentysomething male.

Unfortunately, to make us — and every character on the show — feel sorry for Jimmy and crowd into his corner, they had to give him something truly worth pounding his fists over while railing at the unjustness of it all. Exit Kyle.

I prefer the way Nashville handled the fallout from its own gayish plot twist to the Saint Kyle flashbacks on Smash. I like that Gunnar, though clearly spooked by Will’s amorous advances, hasn’t been a homophobic asshole about it. Though some of his actions lately have put the ass in front of hole, he’s generally a pretty decent guy. As for Will, his morning-after behavior — a mix of shame and denial — felt completely real. He did exactly what I probably would have done if I had found myself walking in his cowboy boots. (When in doubt or just plain ol’ embarrassed, blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-a-alcohol!)

Now here’s a bit of definite wishful thinking: I’d love for Nashville to pursue a Gunnar/Scarlett/Will triangle, with Gunnar, not Scarlett, as the grand prize. I’d buy Will as bisexual, and Gunnar and Scarlett could certainly use more interesting relationship drama than the his career vs. her career stuff that broke up her and Avery. What if Gunnar’s response was so ambiguous, never quite crossing over into full-on jerk mode, partly because he’s a decent guy and partly because he’s not so sure how he feels about Will?

It would be daring, it would be sexy, and it would convince me that I do indeed have the power to predict the future on TV.

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No, My Feelings About Iranians Aren’t Based on Anything I Saw in “Argo”!

“Do you like people from Iran?”

Before going out last night, if I had bothered to compile a list of the Top 5 things I least expected to be asked, that might have been near the top of it, especially considering that the person who wanted to know, a handsome tourist from Tehran, was by far the best-looking guy in the bar.

“Have you seen Shohreh Aghdashloo [an Iranian-American Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee for The House of Sand and Fog], or Nadia Bjorlin [the half-Persian actress who plays Chloe on Days of Our Lives]?” Of course, I like people from Iran!

Then it dawned on me. He probably gets the opposite a lot, especially in a gay world where so many guys think it’s perfectly acceptable to put “No Asians” in their Grindr profiles!

Some things in life defy categorization. Unfortunately, people aren’t one of them. I’ve spent most of my life being categorized by people based on my gender or the color of my skin or my sexuality or my nationality. I know I shouldn’t take it personally when people assume certain things about be because I’m a man (so I’m sloppy and sports loving)/black (so I’ve got to be listening to hip hop on my iPod)/gay (so, on second thought, I’m probably listening to Madonna, I hate sports, and I’m ridiculously neat)/American (so I must be up with God and guns). And I shouldn’t let it bother me when they completely disregard me out of hand because I’m any/all of the above. Though some of their assumptions are accurate (sports and sloppiness — yuck!), they’re just lazy thinkers. That’s their problem, not mine.

Lest you think I’m too sensitive about stereotypes and labels, I wasn’t particularly offended by the semi-controversial scene last week on The Young and the Restless in which Victor and Nikki were “married” by a God-fearing judge (portrayed by The Talk‘s Sheryl Underwood) with her honor’s cousin, a tambourine-playing, “Amazing Grace”-humming, “When the Saints Go Marching In”-singing nurse, in attendance. (Since when are those wedding songs?) Yes, it’s kind of tiresome how blacks on TV are so often presented as being church obsessed, and no, we don’t all suddenly break into gospel songs in everyday life the way the Glee kids break into pop songs, but the scene was all good fun.

I pick my battles, and I’m ready to fight one every time someone says something like “I’m not into [insert racial/ethnic demographic here]” followed by “I’m not racist” because taking the entire populace of a continent (say, Asia, which, incidentally, includes Iran and the rest of the Middle East, India and most of Turkey, as well as the countries we generally think of when we think of “Asian”), assigning them generic physical characteristics, and putting them in a box labeled “Do not have sex with,” “Do not date,” “Do not marry” is just about preference.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, “preference” is “a greater liking for one alternative over another or others.” That does not imply a complete dismissal of either alternative. To say, “I prefer white wine to red wine” (which I do) is not the same as saying, “I do not like red wine.” So by extension, to say, “I’m attracted to this over that,” is not the same as saying “I’m not attracted to this at all.” One is a statement of preference, the other is an outright dismissal, which, in reference to human beings, is at the root of discrimination, which is at the core of racism.

Ken Jorgensen (Richard Egan) probably recognized the distinction when he firmly rebuked his wife Helen (Constance Ford) for her casual bigotry in the 1959 film A Summer Place. I’d hate to hear what she thought of Iranians! Sadly, 54 years of globalization has done too little to broaden too few too-narrow minds.

 

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And They Call It Making Love? (Warning: “Girls” Spoilers Ahead!)

A few years ago, a friend emailed me a link to a video of two men having sex. It wasn’t porn, but rather, a bit of, er, performance art meant to highlight the difference between making love and fucking. In the montage of clips, a gay male couple alternated between kissing tenderly and passionately and fucking furiously.

In the kissing sequences, the focus of each guy was clearly on his partner, with an overall emphasis on the symbiotic relationship between giving and receiving erotic pleasure. In the intercourse sequences, it was all me, me, me. If each guy hadn’t been attached to the other by the genitals, I might have thought each one was completely alone. It was almost like masturbation for two.

For me, the montage was a dead-accurate representation of the two sides of sex: making love and fucking. It’s the merger of the two — the emotional depth of making love and the physical sensation of fucking — that leads to the most mind- (and body-) blowing sex. But that’s so rare. Having watched very little gay porn in my lifetime, I’m no expert, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen two gay porn characters fucking and kissing at the same time, which is perhaps the one dead-accurate reflection of reality there.

Although the theme of the installation was stating the obvious — making love is about emotions, fucking is all actions — the way it depicted both acts, side by side, brought to mind so many of my own hang-ups about sex, how the anticipation and the aftermath (foreplay and afterglow) are often preferable to what comes between them. Just think about the phrase “fucking like rabbits.” How unappealing. Who wants to do anything like rabbits? In the bedroom, I’ll take emotions over actions any day or night.

I kept thinking about those two guys screwing in that video last night while I was watching the latest episode of Girls, first while Marnie and Charlie were getting it on at the office party. I don’t find scenes of people having sex on office tables particularly erotic, but it’s not like I haven’t been seeing them for years on daytime TV dramas like The Young and the Restless. It’s not the way I’d prefer to have sex with an ex, but I know, it happens.

I can say with fair certainty, however, that I’ve never seen a sex scene begin with a man asking a woman to get down on all fours. The sex between Adam and Hannah may have been all kinds of degrading (for Hannah), but we were usually spared most of the grimier visual details. This sequence, featuring Adam and his new girlfriend Natalia, spared us nothing, taking us on the entire journey, from her crawling doggystyle (at his request — no, demand) to the bedroom to Adam’s semen splattered across Natalia’s naked chest.

(Hannah’s scenes with the Q-tip were hard to watch, too, but mostly because I’ve been suffering from a painful ear infection for nearly a week. How can such a small body part cause such a great big pain in the… ear? P.S. The actress who plays Hannah’s mom is BRILLIANT.)

Looking at Adam vs. Natalia (it was definitely more “vs.” than “and”) play out with my jaw hanging on my lap, I almost felt like I was watching a rape scene. There was a hint of the potential for violence, mostly due to Adam’s stern tone and brusque bedside manner. Though the woman wasn’t putting up a fight, she was struggling on the inside. Clearly, Natalia was torn between her affection for Adam and her disgust over the way he was treating her. I’d never been particularly impressed by Shiri Appleby as an actress, but I think she played these scenes perfectly.

The stark contrast to Shoshanna’s description of her comparatively chaste closet tryst with the doorman in the previous episode — “I held the doorman’s hand,” she confessed to Ray — was an interesting touch (how clever to arrange the sequences one after the other), as were the parallels and differences between Adam and Natalia’s second time and their first time, earlier in the episode, when Natalia mechanically instigated it. There was nothing sexy about her instructions, but at least when they kissed it was kind of hot, and they seemed to be genuinely into each other.

Sex is so complicated, and with so many sexual styles/hang-ups, it’s a wonder that any two people ever come together and enjoy each other’s sexual company. That’s where emotions and feelings come in and change everything. They lift sex to a higher level, where techniques and styles and hang-ups matter less. On the ground floor, where the bed is, I still prefer Natalia’s approach, unsexy as it may have been. It was laced with insecurity, but I’d rather go to bed with that than all of Adam’s hostility.

By the time Adam was hovering over Natalia, his deed done, I thought that maybe I’d blinked and was now watching gay porn. In a sense, he was only doing what she said she wanted him to do before their first time — being clear with her, coming outside of her, just in case — but he did it with a complete lack of tenderness and affection.

Something about the entire exchange felt so familiar — the way Adam relieved himself on her bare breasts, in particular — though I’d never seen a straight man do anything like that on TV. It was something you’d expect to see in boy-on-boy videos with titles like Thrill Ride — which I don’t regularly watch. Even raging sex-addict Brandon (Michael Fassbender) in Shame — the 2011 film whose title can refer to the disgrace one feels just after ejaculation, or how we’re supposed to feel about anonymous sex — didn’t do it with so little regard for whom he was doing.

It all seemed so familiar, too familiar, because Adam has sex the way gay men talk about it on Grindr, when it’s all about the act, not the feeling, when they’re not afraid to make it clear that you’re just a body, not a person, even before they actually meet you. The way some guys approach casual, anonymous sex on Grindr or anywhere on the Internet (and, by extension, in real life these days), it almost seems like a dare — think Rihanna turning the tables in “Rude Boy” — with a hint of anger and danger. That kind of casual sex isn’t about fun, a word that, ironically, recently has become a new gay euphemism for no-strings sex. It’s all about technique, size and getting off as expediently as possible. It has nothing to do with human connection. Though Adam referred to Natalia as his girlfriend earlier in the episode, he was treating her like a one-night stand he’d never have to see again, a few notches up from a whore. That’s no “fun.”

Girls has tried to shock me many times in the six months since I watched if for the first time. Last night was the first time it actually succeeded. It took one of my favorite characters (one who represents the id of gay men every bit as much as Samantha Jones did on Sex and the City) and in the space of a few minutes, turned him into the show’s primary emotional villain. I’m not sure if I’ll even be able to look at him next week. Which is how I imagine Natalia will feel in the morning.

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Are We Stupid in Love for Patiently Waiting on Delayed Devotion?

Today I’ve got rejection on my mind. Not so much outright rejection as romantic indifference from a person who is just not that into you. Or vice-versa: harboring romantic indifference for someone who doesn’t quite make your heart go bang.

I have friends who have been on both sides of this equation. I’ve been on both sides of this equation. When I’m on the wrong side (and I disagree with the school of philosophical thought that claims the only thing worse than not having what you want is having what you don’t want — it’s always much worse to be the one who’s not really wanted), I never stay there for long.

My mother says I give up on people too easily, and she’s right. In some cases, maybe it’s pride, or maybe it’s impatience, or maybe it’s just my human nature. I’ve never been much of an unrequited love kind of guy. Part of what makes me fall for someone is the fact that they’ve fallen for me. Flattery will get you everywhere but only for so long. The way to my heart is to show me love.

I prefer my love stories to begin with two-way fireworks — the loud boom of lust or love or a crazy combination of the two — or I might fall asleep in the middle of the first chapter. I’ll never be the guy who’s able to stretch out and wait while someone decides if he wants me, too — even someone who’s perfectly good to me while declaring his lack for feelings for me. But then I’m the guy who spends Valentine’s Day dateless, drinking white wine and being hit on by married closeted men. My way is not necessarily the smart way.

Old habits, especially ones that have pretty much defined your approach to dating, are so hard to break, though. The moment I notice you wavering, I’m out the door, or you are. It’s protected me for most of my life from prolonged heartbreak, but sometimes I wonder what I’m missing out on. “What about your pride?” I ask myself while watching someone wait for someone else to show some emotion, fall for them the way they’ve already fallen. But is having a surplus of pride pretty much a guarantee that you’ll end up alone?

I know a man who recently won the woman of his dreams after spending years waiting patiently for her to fall for him. He may have taken her no for an answer, but he didn’t take it for her final answer. He stuck around, as a friend without benefits, until he eventually turned into something more.

His patience was a virtue that led him all the way to the altar. If he were a woman or a gay guy, his girlfriends and gay friends probably would have said, “He’s just not that into you. Dump him.” As a straight guy, though, he probably didn’t have to worry about a Greek chorus hissing its disapproval. In fact, he probably scored points with innocent bystanders: “Oh, how romantic!” they must have gushed. He certainly did with me, which would not have been the case if he had been a woman, or gay.

Everybody loves a straight man who is patient enough to wait, but a woman is considered weak and stupid if she sits around waiting for a guy to put a ring on it. (A gay guy would likely be told there are plenty of other sexy fish in the sea — or on Grindr.) I applaud Duffy every time I listen to her tell a previously indecisive lover who finally comes around where to put his ring in “Delayed Devotion.” A guy who is patient in love, however, is hailed as the ultimate romantic. Who doesn’t cheer on Bruno Mars when he pines for a girl who doesn’t even deserve him in “Grenade”?

The woman who’s strong enough to leave gets to take her pride and high self-esteem to bed. The guy who sticks around just might get the girl — and another No. 1 hit in the process.

“Delayed Devotion” Duffy

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“How Do I Tell My Wife of 33 Years and Our Kids That I’m Gay?”

Last night I had another Blanche Devereaux moment — which, once again, was unexpected because of all The Golden Girls girls, I’m a lot more Dorothy Zbornak and Sophia Petrillo. Don’t worry. It didn’t involve peaches and cream or sex toys. Remember the Valentine’s Day episode when Blanche unknowingly counseled a gay man on how to propose to his boyfriend? Well, last night I had the same experience in reverse.

It began when I went to Pinocchio, the Italian restaurant down the road from my apartment in South Yarra, to celebrate the end of V Day with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and the man who loves me better than anyone else: me. Before long, I had company. I found myself deep in conversation with a somewhat inebriated man who appeared to be well into his 60s, though he was claiming only 50.

He’d just arrived in town on business from Perth, where he’s been living for the past 16 years. That was how long it had been since he was last in Melbourne. He marveled at how much everything has changed. Not so much in the two and a half years since I first came here, but I took his word for it.

He wanted to know about the nightlife. Would he, as a 50-year-old guy, be too old to hang out at any of the bars or clubs in town? (He prefaced this particular question by saying, “I’m sure you, being such a young guy, wouldn’t have any reason to even think about this,” which immediately won me over to his side.) And where would he go anyway?

Not being much of an expert on Melbourne nightlife, I tried to assist him as best as I could. I told him that I’m not much younger than him (going along with the 50 ruse), and I’d never felt out of place anywhere in Melbourne, even in bars and clubs packed with early twentysomethings. I started tossing off the names of some of the hot spots I know, throwing in a few gay bars for effect — and to test my gaydar. I was getting a vibe. He perked up at the mention of them. Apparently, he was talking to just the guy he was looking for on this lonely (for him) Valentine’s Day.

He went on to reveal (totally off the record) that he’s been married for 33 years to a wonderful woman, and they have four great kids, between the ages of 22 and 32. He loves his wife and his children, too, but there’s one big problem: He’s gay. He said he’s known for years, although he’d never acted on his sexual impulses, and he’s ready to come out of the closet.

But how?

It all felt very Christopher Plummer in Beginners — only without a little naked gold man (Oscar!) at stake (though there’s no doubt somewhere in Melbourne where he could have found one!). I wasn’t sure how to answer him. Everyone has to come out in his or her own way, but when there’s a wife and kids involved, it complicates matters in a way with which I have had no experience. From what I’ve seen on the Fran Drescher sitcom Happily Divorced — not to mention the episode of The Golden Girls in which Blanche’s recently divorced brother Clayton came out of the closet — the best way to do it might be to just blurt it out.

He said he didn’t want to diminish his devotion or even his attraction to his wife, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to continue living his old life while ignoring his rising desire, the burning yearning to be with a man. After buying me another drink, he asked if I would be interested in putting out the flame.

I politely declined. Like Blanche Devereaux (but alas, unlike Dorothy Zbornak), I’d never knowingly hook up with a married man. Rather than passing judgment, though, I told him that he owed it to his wife to tell her the truth — and before he even considers finding someone to douse that flame. The life he’d save would be more than just his own.

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