Been There, Shouldn't Have Done That #1
How do I manage my and others' excess gay emotions and a pandemic?!
Hi homos <3 (and any wayward heteros, I’m glad you’re here!),
Welcome to the first edition of Been There, Shouldn’t Have Done That, a queer-centred sex, love, dating and general gay situations advice column. I’m so excited to answer my first question which covers the extremely contemporary question of Covid-19 plus the eternal queer dilemma of what the fuck to do about ~excessive~ emotion. As promised in the introduction to this column, I have drawn on my own meticulously documented gay-ass life in order to answer this question. At the risk of sounding like a YouTuber, please do #likeandsubscribe (i.e. tell your friends to subscribe via this link and/or send me a question here). I found this extremely meditative to write and I hope that the advice contained within is helpful, and if it isn’t, then I at least hope that you enjoyed the small insight into my heart.
Dear Been There,
It’s my life goal to perfect the 24 and 72 hour romance. My nonmonog style is to be in love as much as possible to reflect my anxious attachment and my sense of adventure, excitement, and freedom-which means I like to fall in long love and short love. However, I sometimes think I’m catching real feelings in my romantic weekends or they do or maybe I don’t yet know how to make my whirlwind intentions clear. This and not to mention covid being a huge downer on getting swept up with a stranger for a hot/romantic weekend. How can I set myself up for success on the weekend whirlwind and any ideas on how to mitigate risk (although obvi not completely) with respect to covid and it’s unfortunate longevity?
Your letter was the first thing I read this morning when I opened my eyes, and I was still in that sleepy half-dream state and I wondered if I had just sent this question to myself, because oh boy do I see myself in it. I am also a person who likes to fall in long love and short love, and I don’t spend a lot of time agonising over whether I love someone or not. If the impulse to think it is present, then I tend to accept it as fact. This however, doesn’t mean that I always say it, or convey it to the person in question, because despite our best efforts to be easy breezy short love enthusiasts, it’s hard to hit the right note when expressing this to our lovers.
For example, once upon a time I wrote an extremely long letter to an ex-lover in which I told them that sometimes I do things for my lovers that society would see as declarations of being ‘in love’ but that I do these things just because they feel good, they affirm my sense of being alive and I take pleasure in letting others know that they’ve affected my life in some way. In the letter I wrote:
“I am just very intense in my emotions in general, in the way I express them, but not as intense as I seem? I mean, so many people have told me in the past that they interpret my words and actions as having more gravity than I intended. Or rather, I believe in the depth of emotion as being separate from what people generally think such emotion should be linked to, i.e. monogamy, deep romantic love, obligation. I get very utopian and I think ‘But I get to decide what these things mean for me’, forgetting that society already did a lot of work to imbue words and actions with meaning and I cannot rewrite them alone”.
The actions in question were that I had written them a poem (which was partly about fisting #romance) and sent them a series of postcards with increasingly gay sentiments written on the back in which I thought about a future in which we would both be present. I never believed we would see that future, Libra. I knew that whatever was happening between us had a ticking clock at the heart of it. My fantasies of the future were not intended as a proclamation of intent, but rather as a symbol of the strength of my desire for them and as a way of signalling that they had a place in my heart and my mind when they were not directly in front of me. And whilst I was clear with them that I wasn’t looking to put a ring on their finger or to take up a large portion of their life, I’m not sure if they believed me. In fact I know that they didn’t, because when we broke up, they told me I was needy and intense and that I wanted too much from them (ouch ouch ouch). Sometimes our (flagrantly gay) actions drown out our words. All of this to say that I would be extremely careful with your whirlwind 24/72 hour romances to act in a way that acknowledges the fleeting nature of your encounters. Don’t get swept up in the impulse to say things mid-fuck that you don’t mean. Focus on the time capsule element of your encounter as a positive rather than a negative. That is, you can make reference to how nice it is to have one perfect weekend with someone that can never be ruined down the line by many years of arguing about whether your children should be adopted, from donated sperm or ...from the cat shelter. Before you even meet up you should make it clear on your Tinder/Hinge/Lex profile that you’re not seeking a long term thing, so that the other person can come into the situation with their eyes wide open. Or if you meet someone out in the wild then when you ask them out on a date you can formulate it something like this (feel free to adjust depending on how much of a direct person you are!) “I think you’re really hot and I want to spend a weekend fucking you and staying up all night. I’m not in a place where I want anything more than that, but if you’re down then I’m down”. There is no shame in being direct.
On the flipside, when it comes to the question of whether you’re catching real feelings or not. Well, I think it's inevitable that some of the feelings you will feel during these encounters are ‘real’. That is, when you suddenly spend an intimate amount of time with someone, you begin to feel a slight merge between your life as it’s been up to then, and the possibilities that their life, now suddenly smushed up against yours, has to offer. I think that this rush of possibility is what those ‘real feelings’ are. And whilst they are certainly real, in that they exist, they are not meaningful in terms of what will happen in your life going forward. The fantasy of the other and of losing yourself in them is intoxicating and amazing, especially to us anxiously attached babes who live in permanent hope of finding a connection with someone else that will soothe us and take away our problems. No one can be that person, Libra, only you can be that person for yourself. If you find yourself thinking ‘Oh my god, I’m FEELING something for this person’, I would invite you to just appreciate it for what it is, a rush of emotion, which does not have to be translated into anything beyond the experience of the feeling. Enjoy the ride and then put it to bed when they close the door behind them. Think about the next person who will roll through your life and give you similar feelings of glee.
Now on to the Covid part of your dilemma. The thing I hate most about this FUCKING pandemic is the realisation that I have to trust other people with my life, health and safety. This feels terrifying and vulnerable. Whilst I am personally taking a bunch of measures to mitigate the spread of the virus to myself and others (and I could do more), there are very few people around me who are exercising the same level of caution and I can already feel that it puts a rift between us. In an ideal world I would have bonds with people in which I felt able to say ‘please don’t do a, b and c if you want to hang out with me’. But the reality is that if I put those boundaries up, they would continue to do a, b and c and I would be left with absolutely no one to hang out with or have sex with and I just...can’t do that because I am already lonely in a way that sometimes feels so devastating I can’t quite put it into words. I’ve never ever wanted to be monogamous but Corona times have certainly shown me the appeal. The fantasy of being able to sequester myself away with my girlfriend, to get all my needs met in one person (!!!), to feel like I have the right to ask her to consider my health and my body when she chooses what to do with hers. This is a dream that is not accessible to me at the moment, and it really hurts. So how to navigate this with temporary partners? Well, I wish I had a good answer for you. I’m currently sleeping with three people, none of whom I’ve tried to control when it comes to the choices that they make. But what I have done is been extremely clear that if they have symptoms we cannot see each other, and that there also needs to be a period of a few symptom free days before we can meet again. A couple of weeks ago, one of my hook ups told me they were feeling sick whilst we were lying in bed together. I freaked out and I left. I was clear that I would come back tomorrow and drop groceries through the window or anything else that they needed, but that I had to go. I felt like a terrible heartless bitch. But I also felt upset, because I knew that they’d been feeling off without telling me the whole truth. So it’s a dangerous game, but I won’t tell you to just sit inside and bake bread instead, because I know it’s no replacement for actual physical connection with another person. One useful harm reduction principle is to begin your dates outside and suitably distanced from each other, and to only take it inside/close to each other if you feel like you and this person are about to really make each other feel good. And not just ‘hmm I guess this sex is pleasant’ good, but ‘I really truly want to do this with every fibre in my body’ good. If not, then wave them goodbye and feel blessed that you avoided one potential infection moment.