As you may have gathered, I live in a large Eastern city, and I live in its Gay Village. But previous to this, I lived in a small city near the Rocky Mountains, and I’m writing to you from there now, visiting on vacation. My family picked me up at the airport early last week, and as we drove into the downtown core, I spotted a place that caused my soul to lurch with a wave of sentimentality. The place? The Holiday Inn Express Hotel.
We kept driving towards my family’s apartment building located on the fringes of downtown and we passed The Westin, The Coast Plaza Hotel and the Carleton Hotel. As we drove, I did my best to chat and play the role of “son”, but seeing those hotels recalled a part of me perhaps more authentic than that of “son”.
In each of those hotels, I recalled a hook-up.
And it wasn’t just hotels. I had lived in this backwater city for a decade, and had had hook-ups in homes and apartments dotted across town. On this trip, there would be no time or opportunity for men. I was here to see parents and friends, whom I hadn’t seen in almost two years. On the plane, I had already begun to slip into the roles that I would play – that of son and buddy. It wasn’t until I saw the Holiday Inn Express Hotel that I realized that the role I felt most authentic in was the one I played when naked with a man. I looked forward to talking with my family and friends, but I longed even more to be back in room #212 in the Holiday Inn Express, where words weren’t always necessary. Instead, I and another naked man with a matching need would communicate on a visceral level – with words, if necessary, but also with taste and touch.
We continued driving, and passed the apartment complex that I had lived in while residing here. I thought not of the parties with friends, or the meals I’d burnt in the kitchen, or the view from my 23rd floor window. Instead, I remembered the men I’d welcomed over – some of whom I’d connected with, some of whom I hadn’t really, but respected all the same. Respected them for skipping the niceties of normal society and baring their need to me. They would leave and I’d be left to wonder what their “real” lives were like, the life in which they had to put a mask on and return to being a son, a brother, a friend, a banker, a waiter, a doctor.
During a hook-up, I was so unmasked and authentic, that I could also be terribly vulnerable. I would sometimes say goodbye to a hook-up, leave his place, and feel that I’d left a part of my soul behind on his bedside table. There would be times when I wouldn’t really connect with someone I was hooking up with and feel dirty afterwards, as if I had raped myself somehow, my emotions shaken and stirred. But that feeling would subside, and I’d be online again, looking for the next hook-up.
Because often I would luck out and really dig the guy I was hooking up with. Yes, I realized that even during the hook-up, I was playing a role (that of sex buddy). But the role did away with worldly pretense and most of all, hypocrisy. Thus, the role felt authentic, at least to me, and the by-product of that was that I felt alive and realized.
Living here, I had felt so isolated as a gay man that I believe I hooked-up sometimes for the wrong reasons in order to just feel noticed. Now, living in a Gay Village, I am no longer isolated and therefore less inclined to hook-up out of desperation. I used to think that hook-ups were just about getting off. But if that were so, we could all just jerk off. No, we hook-up because we need to be seen. We need our authentic sexual needs acknowledged and accepted. Even if we like being single, and feel that we are not the marrying kind, we still need to be touched occasionally (touched gently if you wish, or slapped hard by a gorgeous dom Master).
The new trend for gays is to resist being ghettoized and to not live in a Gay Village. But here I am in my old town, and the world feels and looks so straight that I feel like a ghost walking through it. I feel a void here that cannot be filled by terrific parents and loving friends. I feel castrated and lonely, and I would sleep with just about anybody just to be recognized as a fellow gay traveller.
I’m ready to go home.