Getting Back in the Saddle

In response to Saturday’s Moment of Zen post about the pharmacy guy, VRCooper said, “Girl…We have to send you back to gay school.” I know it was mostly a joke, but I never went to “gay school.” Growing up in rural Alabama in a religious family, I never knew any gay people or anything about gay people until I went away to college and began reading gay books and researching what it meant to be gay on the internet. 

Most gay people I know have gay friends. I never had a gay friend (notwithstanding a few short-term boyfriends) with whom I could hang out, go to bars, watch a movie, or go to gay events. I had one gay friend and confidant, who lived about a thousand miles away. We met through my blog and became good friends. We texted each other all the time. I am so much better at texting than being on the phone. Then, my friend died in a car wreck, and I’ve never had another close gay friend. I am a painfully shy person. I’ve always hated talking on the phone because I’ve hated how my phone voice sounds. You can ask Susan. We also became friends through my blog, and it took her forever to convince me to talk to her on the phone. Now, we talk on the phone at least once a day. She’s my closest friend and confidant. I don’t talk nearly as much to my best friend who lives in Texas.

I’ve never made friends easily. I’ve made female friends more easily than male friends, but they are still few and far between. I have a hard time talking to people I don’t know. So, when VRCooper suggested, “Strike up a conversation,” it’s quite a difficult thing for me to do. I feel awkward. The truth is, I need constant encouragement to give me a little courage to be my charming self, and I am a charming and good-hearted person. My friend who passed away was always encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone. VRCooper also said my “tone in writing reeks of defeat.” I know it does because I have zero self-confidence when it comes to men. Once I get to know someone or become comfortable around them, I can talk their ear off, but I am not one to initiate a conversation.  When the other person is a man, it is even more challenging getting comfortable with them.

Even when I do make friends, I tend to have a hard time opening up. There are certain things about my personal life I have a difficult time discussing. I had an easier time with my friend who passed away because he was gay. There were things I could talk to him about that my conservative, sheltered upbringing doesn’t allow me to talk about to just anyone comfortably. There was something exceptional about that friendship which is why I was so devastated when he died. It took me a long time to try to be social again. I finally decided that is what my friend would have wanted me to do. I had to try to get back in the saddle which is an apt analogy. I fell off a horse when I was a kid and got kicked in the head. Every time I’ve gotten on a horse since, I find it impossible to get comfortable and enjoy it. However, if I ever had the chance to ride a horse again, I’d hop back in that saddle and try to enjoy it.

Also, I have often found like with any group of people, gay people have their clicks. Before the pandemic, I went to as many gay events in Burlington as I could. Sometimes I had one of my female friends go with me; sometimes, I went by myself. Whether it was First Friday (monthly drag shows and dances) or Burly Bears (the only gathering for gay men in Vermont), I tried to fit in. I tried to make conversation but found it extremely hard. Occasionally, someone would come over to talk to me, and I’d chat and have a good time, but inevitably they went back to their friends. Again, I was left standing there alone with my drink. Soon, gay events will start up again in Burlington, and I will try again. I have also tried to meet local people online for friendship, but no one ever seems to want anything more than sex. It seems impossible to find someone willing to have just dinner or even just meet for drinks.

I know I sound incredibly pathetic, and I know I’m complaining. I just needed to voice my frustrations. But I also want to say I’m trying to do better; I’m trying to be bolder. But it’s not easy. I’ve spent my whole life hiding behind my shyness, and I know it’s time I got over it and be more confident. What better time to do that than during pride month? It’s a time when we celebrate ourselves and boldly proclaim who we are. That’s why I went to the pharmacy on Friday hoping to see the cute pharmacy tech (CPT). I wore my pride polo shirt. It’s subtle, but hard to miss. It was obvious people noticed it. Unlike in the South, where I would have gotten ugly looks and rude behavior, everywhere I went that day, and everyone I saw including the tech at Verizon, the cashier at PetSmart, and yes, the CPT and others at the pharmacy, they all seemed nicer and friendlier. 

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

3 responses to “Getting Back in the Saddle

  • Steve

    I’m glad you shared your experience and frustration in feeling so limited and hesitant in your ability to initiate conversations with other guys. I get it. As much of an extrovert as I am, I’m often much more hesitant in approaching others, especially if they’re cute.
    I’m sorry you received such a harsh response from other gays. I hope my suggestions were received as encouragement. Gay guys can be the most supportive and most cliquish. I think your idea of wearing the shirt is brilliant! It’s an identifier! I have a rainbow PRIDE bracelet I’ve started wearing to the gym while swimming and in the steam room or sauna. At least there can be something visible other than my naked body when I’m hoping to strike up a conversation with a handsome guy.
    I’m rooting for you and the pharmacy tech! I really hope he’s gay! Perhaps instead of having to say something, you could give him something. A card with a note expressing appreciation and a gift card to a coffee /bar place with an invitation to join you for a beverage. Just leave it for him! I’d go with you, even if I wasn’t gay!

    Your friend,
    Steve in TX

  • britt69isme

    Big hugs! I’m in the same boat.

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