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Life, Love & Gay Inhibitions In The Noughties

I suppose I’m an old romantic at heart. Even though I should know better, I still adhere to the old school notion of ‘true love’. I tried deeply to dismiss it – telling myself it was all too complicated and that I couldn’t possibly put my body through the angst of uncertainty that comes with it. It didn’t work.

Delving into these ideas at such a young age was very important to me. I needed to explore what love meant, it became an obsession for me. When I was a child I was often asked by teachers what I wanted to be when I grew up. Other children would excitedly say that they wanted to be firemen, princesses or police officers. I’d say that I wanted to be loved. I wanted the kind of love that my parents shared. The old fashioned kind. The kind that doesn’t exist much anymore. The kind that the fast-paced ever-changing society that we live in today has deemed unnecessary.

A day out at the cinema watching ‘Moulin Rouge’ when I was about ten years old cemented the timely nostalgia I so desired but hadn’t yet realised. My best friend and I sneaked into the delectable movie screening after paying for a ticket to see ‘Shrek’ and boy were we in for a surprise. The historic grandeur of the costumes and the modern, over the top iteration of campy music was enough to have this little gay boy jumping for joy.

I felt like I was being included in a mainstream love story for the first time. Even if it was juxtaposed by the fact that the protagonist was pursuing a fantastically eroticised form of love with a French prostitute. It made it all the more entertaining.

From early on, I always knew that I’d been dealt a harsher hand at life. (My Mum confirmed this when I came out to her and she wept. Not because I was gay, but because she knew I’d have a much harder time with it). I might have had a whole lot to do with it myself, but it’s something that I came to grips with pretty quickly.

Spurred on by the elusive nature of my sexuality I began to look for my tribe. I was seeking acceptance and the most important thing in the world to me at the time was the freedom to be myself. I aspired to the mid-nineties girl power aesthetic and the female independence movement that followed. I thought I’d fit in pretty well and did so for some time.

I guess it would be fair to say that I was part of the generation of young city-dwelling gays that aspired to the promiscuity of urban darkness. But deep down I think it’s fair to say that we all wanted to be part of the fab four Sex and the City girls.

Navigating our ways through the complexities of modern love in the big city. I fangirled out, dancing to the boogie of the salsa flavoured theme tune well into young adulthood.

Beyond this, it got me thinking. Why were Carrie and the girls afforded happy endings amid the third wave feminist movement that prided itself in leaving men to hang out to dry? Not that I felt sorry for the plight of the average straight man I didn’t, but it spoke of cinematic cliches that were all the more harmful than good.

For a time, I set myself up believing the problematic notion that I’d never been truly happy because society didn’t accept me. It was the mid-2000s and I was deeply confused and dissatisfied with the status quo that was blankly staring me in the face. I was only sixteen, but I had a big fat grudge on my shoulders that I somehow needed to curb.

Alas, I had a plan. A concrete plan that couldn’t go wrong – something only my own stupidity could have conjured up. I decided to be straight. Of course, I knew that deep down that I was a gay man, a proud one even. But the constructs of society were too much to challenge at a time when I felt like my ego was conquered.

I wanted to fool the world into thinking that I was a straight man, get married, have two children and a semi with a white picket fence and a mortgage. But with one difference. I wanted to have seedy affairs with handsome men on weekends to curb my desires. It all sounded so right at the time, like a profound idea that nobody had thought of. However, as many times I gestated the idea in my head and it seemed workable, I always knew I couldn’t go through with it.

I didn’t want to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders and come across as bitter but I wanted to be afforded the same rights of passage that everyone else had. I grew up in a generation of nineties kids that were sold the idea of love through Disney’s sexist and often problematic narrative arcs.

Out of date and full of cliches, we never failed to see the aspirational beauty in such a well-told and well-marketed idea. The very same idea that followed us from childhood into adulthood and negated any other idea of what love could be other than its own. A dangerous ploy to say the least.

I was extremely confused and hadn’t even begun to experience love yet, but was scared shitless nonetheless. It led me down a rabbit hole that I wish I could have protected myself from. I got into a string of bad relationships. One after the other and each worse than the last. It was like I was addicted to the low self-esteem I garnered from a life of bad decisions. I was intentionally letting myself be held back by the dangerous insecurities that I’d learned from childhood. Thanks, Disney.

Something had to change and then it clicked. Why didn’t I think about this before? I mean it’s pretty simple, right? Love yourself. To love others, you first need to love yourself. So that was my message for a little while. I’d go on a self-proclaimed journey of discovery and learn how to fall in love with myself.

I kept thinking “What would Carrie Bradshaw do?”. And then it was suddenly clear. The quintessential new yorker would shun men altogether, slap on a pair of Manolo Blahnik’s and meet up with her illustrious girls for a night of naughty cosmopolitans at one of the most exclusive spots in town.

Putting these fantastic tropes aside, I quickly realised that I was doing it again. I was projecting a Hollywood fantasy onto myself and feeling every bit accountable when it didn’t go my way. My life was playing out like a Shakespearean tragedy and not even one of the good ones.

For the first time, I realised that not everything in my life would play out like a storybook. I learned that life was full of rough edges that couldn’t be edited out in the studios of Los Angeles. The foggy lens of reality suddenly became crystal clear. There would be no more sugar-coated reality or fake facades for me. It’s a moment that I think we all go through in one way or another. It was an eye-opener, to say the least.

With my newfound knowledge, I moved full throttle into the next phase of my life. I put my grudges behind me and unlearned most of my bad habits and focused on myself. I achieved a lifelong ambition of mine and joined the Civil Service. I was working towards a career in estates management and I was having the time of my life.

From the get-go, I acquired a real close-knit group of friends. We supported each other in a very real way. We spent eight hours a day together, five days per week so it was inevitable that we’d get close. We gossiped over everything from first time Tinder dates to the size of the girl’s boyfriends manhoods. Did I finally have my dream team? I think I did.

I was in a calm space mentally, had a good job and a goal that I was working towards. I had wonderful friends and a supportive family, I was finally on the up. No more was I bogged down by the fantasies I tried so hard to live up to as a kid. I had my imperfect life and it was perfect. At no point was I looking for a man to come in and sweep me off my feet like prince charming, but that’s exactly what happened.

I guess you could say that we met through a group of mutual friends. You see, I had this group of destructive friends in my youth. The type of people that get you into trouble and bail out at the last minute. It was all fair enough but in passing that’s how I met my partner for the last six years. We had seen one another throughout the years but never really acknowledged each other. We may have been in competition vying for the girl’s attention at one point but we soon found a sense of solidarity – each of us filling a gap we never knew needed to be filled.

Love means something totally different in modern times. It’s no longer about the roles we were given to fulfil in the 50s. It’s no longer about the American dream of three kids and a semi. It’s no longer about making it work for the kids or worrying about what your friends will think. It’s about being happy and that’s going to be different for everyone.

I can’t say it enough but we owe ourselves the fundamental human right of happiness wherever we find it. If you love your garden and it brings you happiness, who’s to say that isn’t as legitimate as a relationship. Our relationship with the world is what matters and whatever happens in-between is a bonus.

I can truly say that I am the happiest I have ever been. Not because I’ve found a life partner and we now share a sense of solidarity, trust, faith and camaraderie; it’s because we love the world that we live in individually and come together as a united unit as an expression of that love.

You see, I might have found the secret here. We will never fall out of love because we were never in love in the first place. Controversial I know but hear me out for a second. People fall in love with the idea of love but we have chosen to love the world first. At our core, we share an admiration for the beauty of the natural world which brings us closer every day. 

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in LGBTQ+, Non-Fiction, True Story

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