I need to talk about P again. We’re in Manchester for a few days, on a mini new year break. We’ll be out on the gay scene tomorrow to see in 2016 because there’s nothing else he wants to do on New Year’s Eve, and at the moment he’s sending me links on Facebook to what he thinks will be good bars to visit. There isn’t a part of me that wants to visit any of these bars tomorrow. I’m not even sure why I’m here. It serves me right for appearing enthusiastic about it when we were booking the trip months ago. I led P to believe I could still enjoy New Year’s Eve in a gay club; I led myself to believe it. I’m so annoyed with myself!
P has to stop sending me suggestions for bars. I’m not interested in any of them. I’m telling him that I will go out and make an effort to have fun for his sake but my heart isn’t really in it, and I don’t want to do this again next year. He’s taking it OK, I think. I’m doing what I should have done ages ago, admitting that New Year’s Eve is just another day to me and I have no interest in spending time in gay bars and clubs. I’m trying to explain why I wasn’t clear about this before, that I didn’t know I felt this strongly about it. I hope P really understands and isn’t just saying that he does. He says “OK but didn’t you enjoy our trip last New Year? What about the Tango Club in Paris? You love that place.” Maybe he doesn’t actually get it. Maybe I will have to keep saying this to him over and over again until he stops bringing up previous occasions when I seemed to enjoy gay bars and New Year’s Eve parties.
Last night we went to the theatre to see a new gay themed musical. It was…well, fabulous! I had a lot of fun. I’ve always liked gay plays (and films, and books.) I like stories that this part of me can identify with. I just don’t like gay bars. In gay plays (and films and books) when they’re done well, there is a message about acceptance and tolerance that we can all appreciate and take home with us. There is no message in gay bars and clubs. Maybe there was fifty years ago, but it’s all just so commercialised and sexualised now, the experience is beyond meaningless. I wish P could see this but he still wants to believe that there is some kind of community on the scene.
At least I’ve been able to be honest with him about it and get it out there. He’ll have to accept my feelings eventually. Places like Tango Club, I don’t like them because they are gay bars; I don’t even like them because they are bars. There is more to them than that, much more. Tango Club starts every Saturday night with gay ballroom dancing, which is always wonderful to watch; that event for me captures the essence of “community”. It’s not sexualised or commercial at all, it’s simply good old fashioned dancing to beautiful music. I’ve never known anywhere else in the world like it. It’s safe, and friendly, and important.
P likes these places too but just being a gay bar is enough for him. He enjoys the ballroom dancing no more than the campy disco dancing that comes later on. In P’s opinion there is something unique about a gay bar in itself – every gay bar in the world is intrinsically good just because it’s for gay people. P feels safe in all gay bars, part of a community. I personally haven’t witnessed community in any gay bar (apart from Tango) in many years. I get it from AA now, I guess.
All of which begs the question that I started with: why the hell am I here? It’s sad to try and come up with answers. Perhaps I thought I could recapture something of my youth, of a time when I had convinced myself I enjoyed gay new year parties. But it turns out I can’t recapture anything! Next year, I have to say to P: no more. Unless it’s Tango I can’t do any more bars and I can’t do another new year trip. The anticipation of what’s to come tomorrow night is nerve racking. That knowledge that in twenty-four hours I’ll be walking down streets full of kids who’ve followed society and used the new year as an excuse to go wild, it’s giving my experience here an edge and I don’t like it. I remember that edge from my drinking days. I think I was always nervous about going out, I just used alcohol to dull it. This isn’t me any more. It’s not an authentic place to be.
I’m still not sure how to continue this friendship with P, if I’m honest. It’s starting to feel like a divorce again. It’s tough because he has undeniably been my most loyal friend over the years, and there are so many benefits to the friendship, as I mentioned the other day. They’re just not the benefits I want all the time.
Maybe by keeping hold of this friendship I’m meant to be learning something? Patience, honesty: I certainly need those virtues when dealing with P sometimes. And all the things that really annoy about P are things that I do myself, if we’re being really honest. When I accuse him in my head of being ignorant, immature, impatient, excessive with social media, I might as well accuse myself of the same things.
Yesterday I forgot to wish him a happy birthday on his facebook wall, and he sent me a message in the evening asking me to do it. At first I couldn’t believe he was being serious. But he was. He ended his message with lots of smileys to try and show he was being humorous, but I knew he wouldn’t let up until I had posted a public message wishing him a happy birthday. I felt a little bit ill as I had to do it, but I got through it.
I can be disgusted at him for such an obvious show of desperation, but the problem is that if no one had posted messages on my facebook wall on my birthday, I’d have been pretty sad. Isn’t that just the world we live in now? I’ve tried for years now to detach myself from facebook and all social media, but it’s impossible. When 99% of everyone I know uses it and at least 50% of interaction that I have with friends is through it, I can barely do without it.