I have a friend, Paul, who works in the A&R department of a music label. I have known him for years. At one point when I first knew him we used to flirt with each other but nothing came of that. We did however become good friends. Due to the fact that we both travel a lot in our work we don’t see each other that often but whenever we do, we pick up from where we left off as if no time has happened in between. Thus, we are close platonic friends and I am always happy when we catch up with each other.
A few months ago we met up while we were both traveling in Europe. We went out for some drinks and had a good time, but it was clear there was something on his mind. I asked him what was wrong and he said “Nothing” in a way that suggested he needed a few more drinks before he could open up. So I plied him with a few more drinks and then asked again…
“Well, I think I might be gay, or at least bisexual.” He said, keeping his voice unnecessarily low against the loud background hum of the club we were in.
“Oh really?” I said, trying not to sound surprised. I was a bit surprised though. I hadn’t really suspected it. Paul was frequently single, but when he was in a relationship it had always been with women as far as I knew. I prodded for more details and they came slowly and shyly. Had he ever slept with a man? No. But he had lost sexual interest in women and was thinking a lot about men, physically and emotionally. “Well are there any men here that you fancy?” I asked. He said no, but that there were some whom he did fancy and that he could imagine being with them. He also said that he’d always found pictures of other men’s cocks sexy but had never admitted it, even to himself. We then got side tracked into a conversation comparing our tastes in male genitalia which seemed amusingly surreal at the time.
“But if you do meet a guy that you really fancy and he feels the same way about you, would you sleep with him?” I asked, “I mean would you really want to? Sex between two men is different to sex between a man and a woman.” I said, stupidly stating the bloody obvious.
The problem was he was shy and nervous. His shyness was the main reason he hadn’t had many girlfriends in the past and why he always needed a few drinks before he seemed relaxed. The nervousness was the same as many people feel before they come out and start living life according to their true sexuality. What would his friends think? (I guess he felt safer with me knowing that I am bisexual and a bit of a fag-hag anyway). What would his family say? Would people treat him differently or even with hostility? And in addition to that there was the fact that he had never actually slept with a man and so if and when that actually happened it would be like losing his virginity all over again.
Anyway, he seemed relieved to get all that off his chest and eventually we drank up and went our separate ways.
We met again a few weeks later. When he was tipsy enough to talk he said that he still felt the same way but nothing more had happened. He then told me that there was a gay club he would like to go to with a view to “meeting” somebody, but that he was too shy to go there on his own. I could have said “Don’t be such a wuss!” In fact I probably did; but I also agreed to accompany him to this club a few days later.
We arrived just after 8pm. It was a gay men’s club which meant there wasn’t much for me except eye candy. I was the only woman there in fact. Still, nobody made me feel uncomfortable and all the bar staff were very friendly. I got to know the bar staff quite well because Paul was incredibly shy and nervous and needed a lot of dutch courage just be halfway relaxed. For the first hour or so we both sat there chain smoking and knocking back Gin and Tonics at an unhealthy rate. A few people came over to be friendly, but Paul was still too nervous to respond in a very warm way. I asked him if he had spotted anyone who he might fancy. He glanced around and said “Not really.” As for me I had already spotted several people who I wished were wired differently. There were some really hot guys there! Anyway I decided to make small talk until Paul relaxed more. “We can leave any time you want.” I said, “You don’t have to do this if you are not ready.”
“No” He said, visibly stealing himself. “I do want this. Let’s stay a while longer.”
By 10pm Paul was a little more relaxed and I noticed him staring at somebody at the bar. I guessed that Paul would be too shy and nervous to go up to the guy and ask him to join us so I took it upon myself to act as matchmaker. It worked. After a hesitant and shaky start Paul and George seemed to be getting on quite well and I was feeling increasingly like a gooseberry. After a while George suggested we all go on somewhere else. I made some excuses and finally George and my friend left together. As Paul was leaving he glanced back at me with a strange expression. I didn’t know whether it was excitement or terror. I stayed a few minutes longer to finish my drink and then went home.
I could hardly sleep at all that night. My mind was crowded with “What if” questions. What if nothing more had happened and Paul had just gone home alone? Would that be bad? What if I had accidentally rushed Paul into something he wasn’t ready for or didn’t really want at all? Maybe he wasn’t gay or even bisexual. Maybe he was just shy and sexually frustrated and his mind had been playing tricks on him? What if his night just ended in embarrassment and humiliation? What if he got into a situation he couldn’t handle? What if he had sex with George and hated it? What if the whole situation just fucked up his mind and his whole sexual identity? Why had I ever agreed to go with him to that club?
I spent most of the next day getting frustrated waiting for the phone to ring or wondering if I should phone him. The “What if” questions kept circling round in my mind. He finally phoned at about 3pm and invited me for coffee. He sounded fine on the phone but didn’t give much away. I was relieved but curious and took a taxi to the cafe we had agreed to meet in.
When I arrived Paul was smiling; in fact he was looking very pleased with himself. I didn’t hold back with my barrage of questions but his smile told me everything I needed to know. In short, things had gone very well.
I saw Paul again last week (several months having passed by since our last meeting). I met him and George and, yes, they are still together. We laughed about the first time the three of us were together and and quickly got chatting as if George had always been one of the gang. Paul and George seem comfortable and good together. Paul has changed a bit though. He seems much less shy and much more confident. To use an old phrase, he has blossomed. He has grown in to himself and seems much more comfortable in his own skin. He hasn’t had any problems with his friends but his family is a bit more problematic. His Mum seems to accept that he is in a happy relationship and gets on well with George, but there seem to be some issues with his father and his sister. He is sad about that but remarkably relaxed about it, believing that it will all work out in time. I hope he is right.
I started musing to myself about how stupid it is that still in the twenty-first century people are still so hung up about different types of sexuality. Romantic and sexual relationships can be complicated at the best of times without other peoples fears, phobias and plain bigotry making things even more complicated and potentially sad. I hope a time will come when people’s sexual identities and preferences are simply not an issue.
On a less philosophical but more personal level it didn’t escape my attention that with his new found confidence, Paul had grown more sexy than I ever remembered.
Ahh well… (Sigh)