Sunday, June 20, 2010

Conversations

Before last weekend, I had only spoken out loud about being gay to one or two fellow bloggers over the phone. During those calls, I was in my apartment with my roommates (also Mormons), so I never really felt free to talk. I had to hide, use code words and beat around the bush while trying to make a point. Because of the paper thin walls, I haven’t felt like I could be myself even over the phone.

Meeting GMB in person was a refreshing respite from the closed off walls of my life as we talked about everything imaginable. In the time he was here, we had enjoyably long chats just about everywhere. Sure, gay and MoHo themed subjects dominated the conversation, but we were able to move beyond those. We are both academics at heart and were able to weave theory and past experience into our conversations with ease.

Over the weekend we had ample time to chat. Essentially, though we did have a lot of fun, the conversations were what I was most looking forward to. I truly believe each person’s life is lived as a series of conversations. I think I got less sleep last weekend then I have in a long while due to conversations. Because of the combination of activities in the city, subway rides and long talks into the evening, I think I averaged going to bed at four AM each night (or morning!?!).

Four particular conversations stand out in my memory, each happening at a different location.

After the Broadway show, we went back to my work to get his things and then head to my apartment. In the corner office, where we went to see the view of New York at night below us, we both crashed on the plush chairs and ended up talking. We talked about the play and shared our reviews, but really that first night was more of a get-to-know-you.

Amazingly, the first time I ever said “I’m gay” out loud happened while I was at my work – in the CEO’s office. (I sure hope that the office wasn’t bugged at all!) It was so foreign to hear my own voice saying that phrase I had known to be true for so long yet never uttered in my life. It made me pause, contemplating the magnitude of it. I learned so much that evening, both about him and about myself. Heading home on the subway late at night was a little tedious and took longer than normal, but we got in and chatted even more before heading to bed.

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The next day, after sleeping in and cooking breakfast (strawberries and cream stuffed French toast with a chocolate drizzle – quite the threesome of flavors), we headed across Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or the Met. Central Park was gorgeous on a bright summer day teeming with people from all walks of life doing their thing – dancing, skating, sailing, playing, reading, sleeping, busking, you name it.

The Met was equally as glorious, with fantastic exhibits and things to see. We browsed around everything from modern art to Greek sculpture as well as seeing an intriguing and well-curated American women’s fashion installation and a huge Picasso exhibit. The extended conversation here had a running theme of how regionality influences art and literature, including examining the changes of personality and relative existence on creativity. (I warned you we are both academics at heart – we both discussed papers we would eventually like to write given the time and proper access to resources and research. Crazy, I know.)

While we were discussing a stunning freestanding Mayan stela, the topic of regionality led to a side conversation on how I thought that when I come out to my parents they might think that living in New York actually made me gay, or at least contributed to it. This is a fascinating subject that I am working on another dedicated post discussing the differences between the east and west coast when it comes to open-mindedness, the church and coming out. So stay tuned for that one.


We had tasty dinner at the museum (I love museum food. I was raised on it.) and worked our way through more exhibits, discovering an exciting find every now and then that held special significance to either of us. The Met is so big it is possible to find treasures unknown inside and never be able to find the same spot again. We were trying to fit in as much as possible before we were politely ushered out of the museum around closing time, just missing the closing of the gift shop.

From there, we walked and roamed around the city, stopping by the Apple store for the first time for both of us, Columbus Circle and Times Square. (One odd side note, there seemed to be an odd number of people speaking Portuguese walking around that night. We both noticed.) After gazing at the lights and commercial appeal of the crossroads of the world, we ended up at the best cheesecake place in the city, Junior’s.


We selected our cheesecake from the plethora of flavors they offered and sat in the corner of their outdoor seating area, enjoying the perfectly mild night temperature. We both agreed that we are people watchers and enjoyed being in a place where we could just sit, eat, talk and watch those around us. The cheesecake was quite delicious and we ended up in an involved discussion about the MoHo experience, with the MoHosphere as a focal point.

We talked about the types of MoHos that exist in the community as well as the phases of voices that cycle through. One aspect of our conversation that I found extremely intriguing was the perceived roles within the MoHo community and what responsibilities we assume in the collective group. Each of us has a different voice with stories to tell and that richness adds to the fabric of the growing conversation.

Building on his interest in intertextuality, we thought it would be an interesting project to document and map the evolving MoHosphere to see the cycles, effects and relationships this online community has enabled and created. I don’t know when we would have the time to embark on such a challenging project, but it was captivating to think about, especially the MoHo Map. (Personally, I think that building unity is a good thing and that a map would aid us all, new voices and old, knowing that we are not alone in our pursuits.)

Breaking from the conversation, we both realized that it was well past two AM and the restaurant had long since closed. We had been so involved talking at the little patio table for several hours, just the two of us, that the time just flew by. I guess the Chinese proverb “a single conversation across the table with a wise person is worth a month’s study of books” is true, for I learned so much and enjoyed the freedom of it all. Amazingly enough, for the first time I didn’t really care what other people might have thought of us being there so long, talking, laughing and enjoying ourselves. I was just so happy being able to talk unreservedly that I didn’t care what the world thought.

- - -

The last day he was in New York, we made the journey down to SoHo, a neighborhood known for its fashionable stores and vibrant culture. I have never been one for fashion so the experience was new for me, specifically learning what clothes can express about a person (especially socks, apparently). I think as I build up more confidence in myself and my body that I will be able to enjoy clothes more and create a style for myself other than the conservative business wear I have become so accustomed to.

Talking along the way from store to store, from SoHo to Union Square and from fashion outlets to souvenir stands, I was entranced by the sheer idea of being comfortable. Having been guarded for so long, it is an enticing prospect learning to be comfortable with myself. Talking with someone who has apparently found that comfort was refreshing and confidence-building. The entire weekend, I so enjoyed our conversations.

- - -

Looking back hardly a week after, I am amazed at how fast the time has gone by, yet the conversations remain with me. Of all the things that happened this past weekend, I think the most significant development was vocalizing my thoughts and feelings through dialogue and honest, open conversations. I am not quite sure how to explain it, but sharing and interacting with another person in the flesh brought about a sense of comfort and concreteness. It is liberating to be accepted and understood, and having that validation face to face brings a calm reassurance that a gay closeted Mormon can only imagine.

Yes, GMB and I saw and did some amazing things this past weekend. (My next and last post in this series will document perhaps one of the most spectacular events New York City has to offer.) But my favorite part of the weekend were the conversations.

6 comments:

  1. Yea! I'm so glad you two were able to have some good talks. Just having someone with whom you can talk to openly can be a wonderful thing.

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  2. Sounds like you had an amazing time!

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  3. Having those times when you don't have to be guarded is certainly pleasant. Last summer three of us gay bloggers met for a Red Sox game. None of us are out or sexually active (as far as I know), and in a crowd situation we weren't going to talk about sexual matters. But it was comfortable at least that we didn't have to fake an interest in women. And we genuinely enjoyed each other's company. Over the winter, I joined one of them for dinner and a movie, and again it was really comfortable. And a bit later the other blogger from the ball game brought a guy from the West Coast to stay here for a couple of days, and we got together with yet another gay blogger for dinner one evening.

    These get togethers in a relaxed, non-sexualized atmosphere are affirming and encouraging.

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  4. I like that you had fun! It is amazing to be around people that share commonalities with you. I love it when I can just hang out with my friends (both straight and gay) that accept and love me for who I am :) Go you!

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  5. I agree with naturgestz. Sometimes we need to go out together with fellow gays / mohos. It's really nice to be ourselves without pretending.

    You two seemed had fun. Good luck!

    Joned

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