Gays have a lot of hurdles to clear, some of which are planted in place by our Disunited Theocracy; others by A-gays; historically entrenched, ridiculous stereotypes; and Oprah.
Okay, maybe not Oprah.
Still, so many gays aspire to be “rich and ripped,” “beautiful and successful,” “popular and revered”–with a house in the Hamptons, a cottage in the Keys, and a second home in downtown San Francisco.
Adopting two dogs.
And wearing lots of cashmere for good measure.
Why gay men find themselves gravitating to these ideal types–as if they have something to prove–is anyone’s guess. And there’re probably about as many explanations as probable sources–being socially ostracized, having to remain closeted for one reason or another, being excessively fearful of abandonment, being a late bloomer, on and on ad nauseum.
So many of these factors make gay men more highly susceptible to experiences that eventually define stereotypes, which later confine gay men to a rigid, laughably ridiculous set of behavioral criteria. And while we’re all capable of free will, sometimes it’s easier to go with the crowd.
Buy the expensive things.
Wear the latest fashions.
Embrace a bit of body dysmorphic disorder.
Hell, I’ve tried all of the above, and did actually learn some things: (1) Credit card debt sucks, and makes you resent all of the pretty things surrounding you that contributed to it; (2) Even a Michael Kors $250 hoodie can give you man boobs in the most unflattering ways possible; and (3) Food tastes much better than bile.
But figuring out who you are, and how you’re going to deal with life’s ambiguity, requires a lot of self-reflection, tough love, and emotional restructuration. Most of the time, such introspection is triggered by unpacking heavy emotional baggage, which is rarely fun, and often requires a lot of chocolate.
Coming out, and all of the internal dialogue in the process, strengthened my resolve to deal with toxic situations; after all, reconciling a mentally- and physically- abusive relationship with yourself is one sure-fired way to realize how best to cope with all of life’s stressors and characters. Most people don’t ever have such deep, messy, and intense conversations with themselves. Because those are scary. But what’s even scarier is feeling like a fish out of water and not having the slightest clue how to deal with such overwhelming emotions.
Thankfully, I beached myself a while back and have plenty of tools in my kit–from flailing about and baking in the sun–to patch up bizarre or challenging situations.
All of which have come in handy as I’ve found myself becoming a stay-at-home gay–a StAHG. (Ba da bah! Yes, I’m lame.)
No one could’ve ever convinced me that I’d one day take on the role of homemaker.
Especially not the woman I met while contemplating the potential financial boon of donating plasma as an undergraduate, who turned to me with her wide, meth-rotted grin and said, “I do this fer a livin’!” (Bless her heart. And mouth.)
I always assumed I’d be employed, even if at a job I loathed.
But as y’all know, I’d played all my cards at my last job, and didn’t have the energy to reshuffle the deck in the hopes of a better hand. And was incredibly fortunate to have Andy agree, and support my decision.
Still, I felt like a big loser–a feeling most freshly unemployed folks experience. And after I waded through all sorts of emotional cesspools, I began to make peace with myself, and realize that as loser-like as I felt, I also felt sort of proud to have acknowledged that something was severely wrong–that I was severely unhappy–and to have done something about it.
But even with that knowledge informing my next steps, and Andy being nothing but supportive, I still felt pressure to right myself immediately–perform some Matrix-esque move mid-fall to swing into another saddle.
Delving into the proverbial why can be dark and ugly. Because all sorts of unseemly, latent ideas or perspectives can be brought into sharp relief.
Like when I acknowledged that I’d long thought stay-at-home spouses were lucky because they didn’t have any real obligations–no set hours to bank, no project deadlines to make. They could just wake up late, lounge around, and throw something together for dinner. And if there were kids, then they had an even easier go of it. Because those poopy, drooly blobs of joy can be blamed for anything–late dinner, stained or frumpy clothes, unconditioned hair.
So imagine my surprise when I found myself pressed for time after running errands, making meals, scheduling appointments, cleaning house, managing finances, and conditioning my hair after waking up at 6:00 AM! And double shockaroo when I threw searching for apartments and handling cross-country move logistics into the mix; conditioning my hair just didn’t make the cut.
Worse still, I didn’t even have a poopy, drooly, furry, three-legged and wheeled blob to foist off some of the responsibility for not accomplishing everything I wanted!
How did I–an educated gay man–fall into this role?!
And that’s when I realized I was being a ridiculous, whining wretch.
So, as I deservedly cringed at each word of my horrid question, I began to unpack the three most problematic components of my complaint:
Educated. Like a lot of folks, I’ve come to expect a college education and MA to do the heavy-lifting, to beat all of those potential jobs out of the bushes. But these days, in this economy, that’s just not the case. For baby-boomers and millennials alike, times are tough. And I need to really acknowledge that, and not give up after not hearing back from jobs I applied for. Even those awesome jobs I was certain I’d snag. I’ve sung my millennial blues. Time to put my nose to the pulverizing stone and work it.
Gay. With as much bullshit as LGBT’s face, I figured I’d somehow receive some payout from the universe in the form of excessively disposable income, an even tan, and muscled calves. But being gay, or going through a lot of self-discovery, doesn’t translate to a handout or a break from reality. It just means you probably have the life-experience to deal with plenty of foolishness that’s thrown your way, and hopefully excessive empathy to share with others who don’t.
Man. It’s no newsflash: our androcentric, heteronormative society rewards straight white men; they are the golden children. Everyone else has to step it up to even receive a fraction of the entitlements they enjoy. So, just because I’m a white man doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t expect plenty of setbacks, unfairness, and hard times ahead–that I should never think I deserve anything more than anyone else. It’s time to grow up and grow a(nother) pair.
So after I chastised myself and quietly apologized to all of my friends who work intensely hard as stay-at-homes, I began to admit to myself that I shouldn’t be ashamed of being a homomaker (last one, I promise).
That everyone has their own problems, their own demons to wrestle. Yes, including the A-gays who don’t see themselves as good enough, even as they watch their housekeeper (for the Keys) brush their newly coiffed Jack Russells, Mad and Onna.
That we all have growing to do, and joys to love–whether the human, furry, or imaginary variety.
That as my D-gay self tries hard not to become a sad cliche, I can still be proud and work hard toward a more fulfilling, professional future.
That, regardless of how long it takes for any of us to realize our potential, we’ll all have to take our respective leaps of faith to new, exciting adventures.
To do our best to land with both feet on solid ground.
To be grateful for those who act as our rocks.
To act as rocks ourselves.
Even a foul-mouthed, excessively cracked one like me.