Before I left France I said that soon enough there’d be another thing to worry about, and I was right. I’ve been losing sleep over the job hunt this week, even though prior to this week I seemed to have it all under control and was sure it would turn out OK. I’m nowhere close to running out of finances; I’ve barely begun the job search and have experienced no rejections so far; but I’m worrying about it nonetheless because all of a sudden it’s a big thing looming on the horizon and I don’t know what’s going to happen. Well, I knew months ago that it would eventually start to loom so I can hardly be surprised. As ever, I just want to know what’s going to happen. If I could skip to six months in the future, when I’m hopefully in a new job and relatively settled, that would be great.
I enjoyed broken, light sleep all week and woke on Thursday feeling a bit wretched after a particularly bad night. I had a really bad day; I wasn’t happy at all. When I was younger I used to have days like it all the time, whether I was sleeping badly or not: the kind of day where I can’t cheer up no matter what I do. It’s probably safe to call it depression. Fortunately I rarely have these days now, where the mood lasts all day and I don’t want to see anyone. On Thursday I had plans – I didn’t cancel them, in spite of a real desire to, because somewhere in me I know I can’t cancel things any more just because of how I’m feeling. It was the monthly gay book club in town, a night I usually look forward to.
This month the author of the book we’d read would be appearing at the gathering, so we’d get to ask him lots of questions and find out about his writing process. Since I’m trying to write a serious novel myself at the moment I could have asked the most questions, but on the night I hardly asked any. There are other members of the group who are much better at speaking up and commanding attention than I am, but even so, when there were gaps and opportunities to say something I couldn’t speak. The book we’d read was set in 1950’s England – I could have asked the writer about his research methods, how he managed to conjure up a past time period so well. Given that my own book is set in London in the 80’s, and the writer is someone who lived here in the 80’s, I could have gathered so much knowledge from him on the subject. A few times he seemed to notice that I was being quiet and kindly asked me what I thought; I offered little other than superficial praise for his writing style and characterisation.
I didn’t go home empty handed – others in the group managed to ask some of the questions I wanted to ask, and I left with a good deal of knowledge about what you have to do to create a convincing picture of the world as it was in the past. So it wasn’t a wasted trip. After the writer had gone a few of us stayed in the book shop cafe for a bit longer, enjoying coffee and listening to Christmas music that was being performed live downstairs in the book shop by a band as part of a special Christmas event. With the writer gone I began to feel a bit less edgy and was able to enjoy the company of friends for ten minutes. Then P wanted to go to McDonalds for dinner, because it was cheap and convenient, and I joined him. Having given myself a break from McDonalds since leaving France, I was no longer so sick of it and I really enjoyed my Big Mac that night.
I didn’t wake in such a terrible mood yesterday, but the clouds were still undeniably there. Unemployment isn’t the only thing I’m worried about, that’s just the most salient thing at the moment. There are other more deep rooted issues, e.g sex and relationships, that never seem to go. With so much time on my hands at the moment of course I have much more space to think about them.
So that’s been getting me down as well this week. The book we read for this month’s book club, the one set in the 50’s, was about a gay boy who struggles for years and then finds the man of his dreams at the end. That man is the classic romantic hero archetype: handsome, strong, caring, funny, keen on hugs and kissing and not just sex. I already decided a year ago that that type of person will never exist in my life and I haven’t changed my mind about it; but this week again I found myself thinking wouldn’t it be nice if they did? Even just for a day?
We already know that P is still hopeful, searching for his ideal guy on Grindr, and whenever I see him on it I can’t help noticing the type of people he’s chatting to. There are two types of Grindr profile, it seems to me: one that has no picture and no information, and one that has a picture of someone’s beard and lots of information about what sexual activities the owner is into. When did gay men become so addicted to terms such as “chemsex” and “no fems” and “accom”? How did we turn into robots? I know many gay men don’t use Grindr, and we certainly aren’t all the kind of people who introduce ourselves by announcing our dick size. But outside of friendship and other areas of normal every day life, when it comes to hooking up, we seem to specialise in emotionless, mechanical encounters.
It’s like we’ve put a ring fence around this one area of life, and we have to leave our personalities at the door when we go into the bedroom or the sauna cubicle or nightclub toilet. Honestly, how does anyone go away with their humanity intact after they’ve spent two hours talking to someone about dick size on Grindr then five minutes having sex with that person?
It’s my birthday this weekend (I’ll be 33 – don’t tell anyone) and last night to celebrate P and I went to see a few big 80’s acts performing in town. It was a great night. We watched artists that had once been pop giants perform their biggest hits as well as covers of some other artists’ big hits. Though I was too young to know most of the songs when they first came out, through listening to the radio for years and years growing up I’ve come to know and love them, and I knew pretty much all the words. I danced and sang and clapped and almost forgot for a couple of hours what I’d been worrying about all day.
At the end I saw all the couples – these things are always full of happy couples – and just knew that they didn’t get together on an app talking about sexual positions. They met in pubs and restaurants, offices and libraries, and they probably got talking about music or art or their favourite football team, TV show.
I may be romanticising the lives of “normal” straight couples, and being unnecessarily harsh on gay men. But I’ve been around for a few years now – I came out nearly fifteen years ago – in that time whenever I have faced dating and sex with other gay men I have constantly felt that I am not getting something right. The other man has always seemed more experienced and knowledgable about terminology, positions, what’s “cool” to do in bed and what isn’t. I’ve always been asked what I like doing in bed, whether I’m a top or a bottom, whether I prefer to be active or passive. These are key personality traits on the gay dating game – I’ve never dated anyone that didn’t want to know at some point. All of my experience has shown me that I don’t quite cut it when it comes to sex unless I can mould myself into a certain role.
I didn’t mean to go on about this so much today; none of it is stuff that I haven’t mulled over a thousand times before. I already knew that this was how I felt about gay sex and relationships. I’ve had time to think about it this week and because I was in a mood anyway, my negative mind gravitated towards the subject.
For the past couple of days I’ve been unable to do any writing because I can’t seem to concentrate on it. The question of whether I’m really any good naturally came up after Thursday’s book club, where I got to meet a real life published writer who has achieved things I can only dream of.
All in all it hasn’t been a great week.