I have uttered the words ‘I love you’ to precisely three guys, not including male relatives, my dad, and assorted platonic neurotics I get drunk with. The first I have tortured enough on the public forum, so I will not rehash our affairs here. Suffice to say, I told him of my feelings first, and he did not reciprocate. It took long spells of crying and begging before he relented and apologised for hurting me, but by that time the words had lost their charm.
The second didn’t pan out much better. His questionable interest and shaky sexuality put a strain on the relationship from the get go. I felt like I was dating a spy the entire time we were together. I’d try to kiss him on the walk home and he’d say ‘someone could see us’ before bounding four steps ahead of me. When I tried to cuddle into him, it felt like I was spooning a disinterested rock. The night he finally said it back we had snuck off to a bedroom as the party started to wind down. As I was straddling him on a desk chair he blurted out ‘I love you’. I declined to answer him. Next day we lay in bed and ate too much. I cried, he pretended not to see it. I cried again, ostensibly because I missed him even though he was inches away and also because I know he didn’t mean those three slurred words the night before.
The third sort of operated on a different level. The story has everything: drama, drunkenness, jealousy, ended friendships and cat sitting. At first it felt like more of a long crush that made the days go quicker and fulfilled my need for a raging summer lust. Then Autumn crept in and I realised that I was way too attached. Unfortunately for me he also realised this and soon he was telling me he couldn’t cum from blow jobs, that he’d slept with other guys and once pretended his kitchen caught fire to get out of plans.
Now I am falling for someone new and I am fucking terrified. The thought of possibly reaching that stage again, and taking that total up to four, fills me with both glee and pant-shitting fear.
I somehow always ruin things. Then they somehow ruin things more by cutting contact. There’s this pathological need to sabotage any chance of happiness from a healthy relationship that gay men around my age have. I think I know why. When we were younger, growing up and going through puberty, we were never told as boys that it is okay to one day to say ‘I love you’ to a man. I had PDA from cis-couples thrown in my face and spent most my days watching hetero-relationships blossom. Every time I turned a corner in high school, and for years after that too, it was straight up breeder love. It was like watching a Meg Ryan and Hugh Grant romance movie on loop eternally. I’d sit completely alone in the park and watch the practice of normality unfold around me. I’d sigh as she’d text him, a stupid smile slapped across her beaming face; I’d yawn as he flirted with her and grunt as I had to listen to exaggerated laughter – girl, he wasn’t that funny. The whole scene unfolded with a tedious inevitability and I was left, bitter, sitting there like a loveless leper whilst they tongued each other furiously. I spent years watching straight couples explore their sexuality and the whole time I felt like a homeless man – avoidable, unseen and begging for change.
When you’re forced to conform to the ‘social norm’ like that your sense of pride in your sexuality shrinks. Mine did. So now, when a romance threatens to bloom, I somehow subconsciously, and often quite spectacularly, royally fuck it up. Because on some level I still don’t believe that I, as a gay man, deserve love or can have it. Now all these fresh feelings have marched into my life and I’m honest-to-blog terrified. After the guy left this morning it awoke this horrible feeling that I’d somehow ruined things. I told him ‘I like you’ yesterday, with my hand rested between his knees, and he said it back. We kissed, it was dizzying, and that was that. Yet here I am absolutely consumed with terror that he’s going to flee from me like a vampire from garlic.
I don’t think I’m very loveable. I’m sat here contemplating my fate. If this ends, will I be alone forever? Sure, he says he likes me now but what about a few months down the line when all my inherently bad traits and inherited mental illness turn up to the party and start walking about picking fights with people? I haul around this sort of self-pity that pollutes my ability to ever really just relax and be happy. It’s like, I’m just waiting for something shit to happen. I’m worried that if I let myself be happy then reality camouflaged as a bush will jump out at me and scream, ‘Made ya think!’ and then mischievously scamper off whilst I look on in revulsion, praying for the sexual equivalent of a lobotomy.
Extensive scientific research has proven that if you’re unattainable and removed from sleazy meat-market that is the single-gay dating experience, then suddenly everyone becomes interested in you – why? Because people always want what they can’t have. So many gay guys I know go after boys in relationships because of the reasons I mentioned earlier: They don’t feel it’s okay for them to be happy with a guy, so they chase after something that is perpetually doomed and finite. Life is long, and there are good guys out there, but I’m not foolish enough I think that there isn’t someone better than me. There’s someone hotter than me or more successful or, fuck knows, can breathe fire. I know I am probably overacting and being paranoid, but the seemingly irrefutable belief that nobody could ever really like or love me seems to keep cropping back up. It’s just a feeling, really. A sense that something with me isn’t right and that’s why guys lose interest. When I have feelings for someone I am the definition of inconsolable. I just don’t want to get hurt.
I have written so many sentences about wanting to find someone I can love and yet any time the possibly appears I’m so sure it’ll run away. This is all on me; these are my issues. My complex relationship with my body; my self-doubt. What if I am too damaged and another guy loses interest in me? I better start practising what a preach and it let it all go. Because this is meant to be the best part; getting to know someone who is worth the effort. I know the next few weeks are going to be lessons on opening up, letting go, being kind and being brave.
Falling for someone new is all very well, but you need to learn to love yourself.