On One Hand

June 17, 2006


Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 10:27 pm

First I hung out with a guy who I met and liked last fall. Being as he was nineteen, he called me after I hadn’t spoken to him for months to ask me to buy him beer, and invited me to hang out with him. I brought some 40s to his place where we settled down to watch a movie. He started conversation by telling me that his collection of electronic gadgets and the condo his parents bought him shouldn’t indicate that was spoiled, though he admitted it seemed to be the case. He needed a second laptop computer, he explained, because his first laptop was actually too big to carry around.

After the early disclaimer, his preferred item of conversation was mathematics. “Math changes you,” the kid told me; “when you learn it, you see it everywhere and you never think the same again.” I found his thoughts intriguing, but as the hours passed, my friend’s genuine interest in numbers sounded more and more like an obsession. Every intellectual college freshman does it to a degree: you fall in love with your major for a while, and then it passes; when I was done with my first year in college I thought sociology had re-defined the whole of human civilization, religion, art and science for me as a vast and flimsy illusion constructed and agreed upon by an unwitting, oppressive wealthy class. A semester later, I dropped sociology as a major and haven’t thought about it much since.

But my friend’s obsession with math got only worse. His own thoughts, he claimed, were superior to thoughts from those who do not study math, because math is the only thing that is accurate one hundred percent of the time and because all processes in the universe are reducible to mathematics. He was angry at me when I suggested string theory was unproven, indeed not even tested; it is in fact a hypothesis, not a theory, and in his barely-concealed frustration and clenched teeth I saw that any possibility of chemistry between us was extinct. Our topic of conversation drifted to love, which he insisted does not exist, as love is not necessary when you fully understand math. But the fact that I claimed to have recently been in love intrigued him, and he asked me, repeatedly, if I was thinking about my ex. “How about now?” he asked, “are you thinking about him now?” I said, “I came here to forget about my ex.” He paused, then asked me again, “ok, but now are you thinking about him?”

Later in the night when I refused to give him a blow job he almost kicked me out of his apartment. I would have left voluntarily if I wasn’t too drunk to drive home. My experience was far better than that of a friend who spent a night with he same guy, who claimes to have been asked permission to pee in his ass. I’d be willing to hope for a strictly platonic friendship with this guy, but seeing that I haven’t seen or spoken to him since that night I doubt it will happen.

I met an attractive guy in the bars a few days later, who, like myself, was recovering from a painful breakup. I told my friends, who were deep into their own heterosexual conversation patterns, that it was nearly impossible to pick out the gay guys in a room full of colleged-aged adults but that somehow I needed to find someone right away. I went off on my own, feeling hopeless, and about forty-five seconds later I was talking to a guy who offered to follow us to the next bar. He was single, friendly and interesting, but I connected better with his straight roommate, who was with him, who told me he knew how to play guitar. The two lived in a run-down apartment near mine and generously housed a 30-year-old homeless women who slept in the hallway between their bedrooms. She had a pretty face if you could ignore the enormous, unmatching sweat clothes she always wore (knee-length red sweatshirt and baggy gray pants), and she spent most of her time sitting on the stairs asking random, borderline-inappropriate questions of whoever was in the apartment: “Congratulations on being gay, but would you ever try to sleep with a girl anyway?” When we went out to the bars as a group, she would gaze longingly at parking meters or ask strangers if they’d drive her to Vail if she paid for gas. When we insisted that one of the richest, most elite small towns in Colorado is not the ideal place for a wandering homeless woman, she answered “but Vail has such a romantic name.” She asked a group of strangers for a cigarette, and, when offered a flame to light it, explained, “I don’t want to smoke the cigarette now; I’m saving it for when I get stressed.”

After I let any romantic interest for the new guy slip into hope for a friendship instead, it turned out that the ex boyfriend he spoke of frequently was someone I also knew, and their desperate entanglement was continuing beyond the relationship’s end. The awkward connection shut down two potential interests at once and left me grateful that my own breakup was relatively clean and final by comparison.

At a party I re-connected with an old friend I occasionally hooked up with last August but hadn’t spoken to in a long time. My friend was now living with a girl and another gay guy who fawned on him incessantly and made his longing painfully obvious to everyone at the party. I felt for the roommate; I know what it’s like to want someone like that, and having the object of your unrequited attraction at such close quarters must be emotionally agonizing. Later in the night, too drunk to drive home, I snuck up into my friend’s room and nudged against him in his bed. A few minutes later his drunk roommate burst open the door without knocking. He staggered across the room and lay down beside us, or more specifically, beside me, patting my stomach as he chatted with the guy I was lying next to. I was too nervous to speak, I’m still not sure if the roommate knew I was there or if he thought the large lump of limbs under the sheets was actually just one person.

I hate the feeling of lying in bed with someone, being soft and affectionate, but meanwhile missing, desperately missing, an entirely different person. The heartache dominates your thoughts and, though the affection you are now sharing is genuine, you can’t tell which feelings in the clash are more present and which come only from an instinctual, secondary part of your consciousness. Is the new emotion failing to bury the other, or is it better to see it as a new identity that happens to carry some baggage? When I started dating Clay it was as true as it ever has been; I was longing for Matt and wracked with guilt that I was leading another person on while I waited for Matt to come back. I fell in love with Clay after a few weeks of doing that, and now I realize that the longing period a necessary part of getting over someone you can no longer love – it passes as you grow more accustomed to a new, more trustworthy person, and the presence of a new person is what helps you get through it. It’s like moving out of the house and getting a new one, waiting for it to start to feel like home. Going back to this time last year, I realize how far I’ve come: I don’t think about Matt now; I never thought that would be the case, but though I may cherish some memories, I don’t feel like I’ve suffered any loss. Soon the same will happen with Clay.



  1. Thank you.

    Comment by pickupthepeices — June 18, 2006 @ 7:03 am | Reply

  2. The phenomenology of String Theory is a problematic thing, but I must say, I really love the math learned as one works up to trying to solve those problems. On that note– Math as an elitist thing is an interesting issue. As it’s a big passion in my life now, I can understand the viewpoint, but I’d prefer to get excited about math than be cocky about it. There’s simply so much to learn. Even once I get to take all I want at the undergrad level, I feel as though I’ll know nothing. Then again though, the rigor and “difficulty” involved may give me an ego boost now and then… Probably all in all, that boy may just have been not the right guy for you. It’s interesting that he’s kinky, but I’ve noticed a similar thing with Ann Arbor fags– everyone always knows one another, and if you have the slightest attitude or put someone off, it’s quick to the street with knowledge of your more off-the-track interests.

    Comment by erichowens — June 18, 2006 @ 8:02 am | Reply

  3. I don’t have much to say, but I feel I should comment anyways, just to let you know I read it. Good thoughts there, great writing as always.

    Comment by forsberg21 — June 18, 2006 @ 8:18 am | Reply

  4. For what it’s worth, I know you’ll find what you’re looking for eventually. I love reading this, as always, your life is quite interesting and your writing eloquent.

    Comment by lancerboi — June 18, 2006 @ 5:22 pm | Reply

  5. Well done! Part 1

    learn this throughout life as a series of hard knocks. I credit my parents with providing for me and at the same time making me work for what I wanted. They bought me my first car (used), I had to pay insurance, gas, speeding tickets (numerous ones at that), and repairs. I was given independence but learned early on that it came with a price.

    I’m reminded of an article from The Onion – if I remember right the headline was something along the lines of “Physics Professor Determines Center of Universe is His Son.”

    If we could take a look at Al’s parents I think we’d see that one or both of them behave pretty similarly and have a similar belief in their own superiority. Sadly some people never grow out of this. Even when they fail it’s someone or something else’s fault.

    This coddling of our children is a mistake – and may be part of the reason we seem to be in a societal decline. What happens to people who never fail or never learn from failure? They eventually grow up into immature self-important adults. I posit that this insanity fosters a festering wound in society as a whole. When your child drives a brand new Mercedes to high school, is given a tutor that doesn’t really tutor but actually does the child’s assignments, has always won every game of chess you played because their Father threw the game, is told that he’s completely and utterly special and perfect, what has that child learned? I wouldn’t claim it’s more prevalent here (I live on the East Coast in Delaware), but I have encountered a disturbing number of these uber-brats from Pennsylvania and New Jersey (witness the Amy Grossberg and Brian Peterson homicide case that played out a few years back.) The implication to me is that the higher we build our castles and buffer our children from the world the further they will fall once cast out into the great unknown.

    I’m not one for epicaricacy (schadenfreude may be the more familiar term) on a regular basis, but I have to admit a small amount of satisfaction to meeting up with my peers who grew up this way to see them still living in that bubble, perhaps still living at home, perhaps addicted to something or other, perhaps stuck in the doldrums. Whereas those of us from more humble beginnings have in general thrived and prospered, they seem stuck in a rut that those with such a dim understanding of the world are condemned. You either learn that into every life rain will fall and carry an umbrella, or else you walk around soaked and miserable.

    This isn’t an screed against how the youth of today have it so easy and everything was better in the old days. Historically I think you’d find the same type of complacency and indulgence throughout history. The roaring 20s strike me as an example of where the parents spoiled their children to the point that when the bottom fell out and fortunes wiped out that many of those more sheltered likely ended up learning some extremely tough lessons as to what it really takes to live day in and day out.

    Comment by Anonymous — June 19, 2006 @ 6:28 am | Reply

    • Re: Well done! Part 2

      he belief in the superiority of his major is not an uncommon one, particularly during the first few years of college. I found that I and many of my age peers had a similar habit of bifurcation (using the term as it describes a logical fallacy) – the world could be cleanly cut into black and white, night and day, good and evil. We of course were good in our minds. We went on thinking this for some time, and while there are certainly does exist extremes on either position as I entered my mid-20s I became less certain that there were no gray areas in the middle. I’ve taken from that the realization that life is an intricate dance of many variables interacting on an extremely complex multi-dimensional scale.

      Now, maybe I’m biased a bit against the real tangible capability of higher education to teach survival (dare I say growth) skills. I dropped out of school after I watched feeling powerless as my grades drifted to dangerously low levels. I had just had an extremely bad breakup and sought temporary solace and respite in any number of self-destructive tendencies. I was lucky – I had an innate talent for the mechanical and digital, and found myself at the right time in history with the right skill set that’s allowed me to rocket into a rewarding career that I enjoy and excel at. I’m not discounting the inherent intellectual value of a college education but not having one just wasn’t the impediment to a happy, successful, and rewarding life that it was made out to be by high school counselor after counselor, at least to me.

      I don’t want to address the actual choice of Al’s calling – a math geek can be just as sane and socially useful as the next guy. You were right on in calling into question the infallibility and superiority of math over all other products created by human intelligence to describe the world around us. Infallibility is also a claim made by the Vatican, and we see where’s that led over the course of history.

      There’s value in math to describe and predict the world around us, for certain. However I am also completely certain that I would NOT want to live in a world where a few theorems and proofs that describe the orbital pertubations of a comet caused by the interplay of gravitational fields substitute for the experience of looking up at the sky and seeing the coma extend over a period of weeks or months into a brilliant tail that in earlier times would have caused mass hysteria. A world where those wonderful feelings of excitement and joy at reading an author’s delicious turn of phrase are reduced to a discussion of dopamine receptors and the stimulation of the brain’s front lobe caused by light reflecting on the retina sounds inhuman to me.

      If the universe is ever the kind of place where a discussion of the physiological effects of attraction take the place of actually feeling that soft flutter in your chest and the welling up of happiness and desire that you feel as you press your lips against another person’s – that moment in which if you’re lucky may just be the moment that you fleetingly taste what Zeus must have felt about Ganymede – well if that feeling never existed in the universe I don’t think I’d want to persevere for too long. I’d rather be the savage who at the end of Aldous Huxley’s classic novel goes to the wilderness and flogs himself just so he can feel something visceral rather than take that pill of Soma, which might be an apt literary shorthand or metaphorical euphemism for Al’s pedestal placement of math (and for that matter Al himself.) Sure the biological underpinnings of those emotional states are revealing and possess some fascination, but to me they’re not as revealing as going through the experience first hand, and without the experience itself what exactly would be the point of having a mathematical or scientific model to describe them in the first place? The world needs poets, authors, dreamers, and visionaries. It needs them just as much as it needs rocket scientists, actuaries, or quantum physicists.

      Comment by Anonymous — June 19, 2006 @ 6:29 am | Reply

      • Re: Well done! Part 3

        Now, let me see if I can bring this home to you by contrasting with Al.

        I’ve read your blog off an on for a few weeks since I’ve discovered it and was impressed with your writing. I have to admit being a little put off initially, as it seemed many entries were not just tinged with angst and self-fulfilling prophecies but actually seemed to drip profusely with both. Re-reading some of those in the context of this latest post though obligates me to retract that faulty assumption with an offer of apology.

        In this your latest post I sense a vulnerability that is honest and direct. I admire that you readily share your motivations and insecurity, it highlights your introspective nature and willingness to question yourself. That is refreshing and mature. Many men don’t develop their ability to open up about their vulnerabilities, maybe because it makes them feel week. I know firsthand how others may try to exploit that or mistake it for weakness. In my mind such an attitude is not only completely incorrect, you’ve proved that every day by your thoughts.

        Though you may already realize this, but it takes courage to post like you do on the subjects that you do. One day your peers and dating interests may catch up to you on an emotional maturity level. Whether you realize it or not that makes you a more confident, more intriguing, and more authentic person that Al or the roommate ever could hope to be. I’m just starting to learn that being like that puts some people in awe, and with good reason.

        While you may feel that having the feelings that you do are ones you really should not feel and thus make you think that instead of sharing those feelings you think theyshould be hidden away and repressed, I wonder whether you may underestimate what others who have gotten to know you think about your worth. You are worth it. You’re also more courageous than many people I know who consider themselves outgoing and fearless.

        Sooner or later your chronological age will catch up with your mental level, it does require a bit of patience. Know now however that many out there lack the courage to do what you do and share what you share. Yes, you can be courageous and experience those nervous feelings. It doesn’t change the fact that just by sharing them and taking responsibility for how you feel has demonstrated to all who might care to learn that you are more confident and indeed worthy of a supportive partner if that’s what you desire. Al may very well be plagued with a level of hubris uncommon among people who have to try to manipulate someone else in order to score alcohol, you on the other hand are blessed with what the Finish call Sisu, or guts if Wikipedia is correct on the meanings of the those terms.

        I for one and rooting for you – the hallmarks of success and self-actualization are certainly in your future, and it’s your openness that guarantees that.

        I don’t have a Livejournnal, but I do have a blog on another site. With your permission I’d like to link to your entry as it illustrates all the warning signs of a well adjusted and honorable man.

        -Rick R.

        Northern Delaware
        email: moc.liamtoh@ledylfegnuol (for anti-spam purposes this address was written backwards, reverse to email.)

        Comment by Anonymous — June 19, 2006 @ 6:31 am

    • Re: Well done! Part 1

      [edit – well that got all screwed up – who can write only 4300 characters??? Curse you Live journal, here’s the beginning]

      Your style is very erudite, you’re quite the raconteur – though it’s obvious to see how that is tempered by your introspective side. Let me start by saying thanks for sharing your thoughts with the world, I too have enjoyed the read on occasion.

      I submit that this delusional 19 year old watersports aficionado (to keep things simple, let’s call him “Al” – as in Algorithm) is probably more insecure and troubled than he appears. I’ll attempt to use this as a contrast and comparison to you, but let me work my way to that. Bear with me.

      Sadly Al’s attitude and delusions of grandieur aren’t uncommon among the more affluent population of any society, not to say that the rich have a monopoly on spoiled brats. Speaking without any type of analytical reference or supporting evidence, my hunch is that he was highly praised as a child. His parents or other responsible adults showered him with lavish gifts and catered to his every whim. Any mistake he made, anytime he failed, he was propped up and shielded from the consequences. However, he likely wasn’t loved. Parents can make this mistake in thinking that by insulating their children and making them the center of their universe they are preparing them for life on their own. By over providing material goods and isolating their children from the realities of life these types of parents think they’re demonstrating love. Unfortunately my experience has shown me that this isn’t the same as actually loving their children.

      It’s natural to want to protect your offspring. Progenitors that truly want their children to succeed eventually realize that you must allow them to fail. You can counsel, you cand give advice, but ultimately your children must learn from you that they are responsible for their choices in life. Not everyone is going to be Mommy and Daddy and think that you’re the center of the universe. The world can be a tough hard place sometimes and it’s best to learn this throughout life as a series of hard knocks. I credit my parents with providing for me and at the same time making me work for what I wanted. They bought me my first car (used), I had to pay insurance, gas, speeding tickets (numerous ones at that), and repairs. I was given independence but learned early on that it came with a price.

      I’m reminded of an article from The Onion – if I remember right the headline was something along the lines of “Physics Professor Determines Center of Universe is His Son.”

      Comment by Anonymous — June 19, 2006 @ 2:03 pm | Reply

  6. Mangled Comments

    Since LJ completely obliterated any coherent structure I was trying for with my three part comment, feel free to delete and substitute this entry which has a link to the 14,000 character essay I wrote after reading your lucid post.


    Comment by Anonymous — June 19, 2006 @ 2:15 pm | Reply

  7. Can I pee in your ass? 😉

    Comment by lackingquality — June 20, 2006 @ 8:51 am | Reply

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