Back in college, when I’d fallen HARD for a man that didn’t really want or love me, a beautiful male roommate of his seemed to be falling for me. And while I wasn’t particularly attracted to Charlie, he was fascinating and intelligent and talented. I spent eternal nights lounging on the floor of his room listening to him play the guitar. He often took me for long drives on the outskirts of town and we would talk and laugh and dream. So when he got really drunk one night and confessed to me that he was gay, I was surprised. It didn’t really change anything, for me. Not really. We still went on drives around the edges of town, still spent long nights together. The only thing that actually changed was the way I felt about Charlie. I grew to love him. He created a safe place for me to heal my broken heart.
My problem with my female friends at the time was not unique. And wholly MY problem. I was certain other women – almost all other women – were better than me. I just couldn’t shake that deep fear of confessing the truth of my wounds and insecurities, terrified that they would either be met with ridicule, or suggestions on how I might “fix” myself: lose weight or pretty myself up a bit. Or worse, they’d try to date the man who had just broken my heart. Not out of vindictiveness, (though I knew some women who would totally do that kind of thing), but because I was sure they were goddesses and that’s what he deserved. What he would want. Of course. Who among the heterosexual male species wouldn’t?
Charlie, on the other hand, believed I was beautiful and had no reservations about telling me so. He found me interesting and funny, and he loved to point it out when men were looking at me. Which, of course, I loved.
I could tell Charlie anything. Everything. I could emerge from my apartment building in pajamas and a baseball hat and he would kiss my cheek when I landed in his passenger seat. We could dish about men and the sometimes ridiculous dynamics of our shared social circles. We would hold me when I cried, work his fingers into my hair and cradle my head against his shoulder, and I could surrender to his support. His love. Without any concern that my vulnerability would be taken advantage of, or worse, held against me later. Or that I would trust this safe place for my heart only to have it ripped away by a man that didn’t or couldn’t love me the way I needed.
In the end, I was the one who broke Charlie’s heart. I met a man and got married while my best gay friend was in South America for a semester abroad. I still feel bad about that. I didn’t really understand or fully appreciate what Charlie and I had – what Charlie gave me – until decades later. Before my marriage ended, but long after he’d stopped speaking to me.
Twenty years later, as I work to heal myself, my heart, again – ironically in South America – I yearn for the kind of relationship I had with Charlie. Yes. I want to make out and have sex and fall in love with a straight man some day. But right now I just need to be touched. To be held. To cuddle on the couch and watch a movie. What I want is to have a deep emotional relationship with a person that I can hold in my arms and that wants to be held without concern for a broken heart. For either one of us.
Look, I know that gay men aren’t FOR me. Nor am I operating under the delusion that all gay men are like Charlie. But I don’t think it’s far out of the realm of possibility that there’s a gay man here in Bogota, Colombia that wants those same things. If I’m honest, I’d love to be that for someone. I’d love to be a safe place for another human. Safe, being the operative word.
I think for a long time we operated societally on the idea that men need women to exist, masculine energy requires the balance and containment of female energy and so on. True, without doubt. But I think its bigger than that. Deeper. I think we need ALL the variations. Masculine hetero-normative women, feminine hetero-normative men, gay women and men, non-hetero-normative humans with penises, non-hetero-normative humans with vaginas, humans with both organs that shift their identity contextually… whatever. I think we need to stop with the labels and focus on who we really are, what combination of ENERGIES make us who we are. Because the truth of what I really want and need is a person like Charlie.