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Feeling like you missed the party?

06/30/2010

Yeah, I do too now and then. It’s normal. Coming out late implies that part of your life was lived as a straight person, or at the very least not as a gay person. So, it stands to reason that opportunities were missed. Every once in a while, I get hit with this awareness for what seems like the millionth time. It can make me feel sad and like a dumbass. Sometimes for hours.

An example: A couple of weeks ago, I attended a cocktails-on-the-lawn event benefiting a local AIDS non-profit. Nice party, and as might be expected, the crowd was about 75% gay men. That afternoon, a Nashville drag queen who had been a fixture on the regional drag club circuit for 20 years or more, had died after a long illness. Her name, Miss Bianca Paige, The Pantomime Rage, drifted in and out of every conversation at the party. She had been a flamboyant performer with a razor-sharp wit and a voice that sounded like a bucket full of gravel. For many of the men at this party, including several I was chatting with, Bianca’s name brought back fond memories of their first forays into the gay clubs – young, out, and glad to be that way. There was a touch of nostalgia and sadness in the air.

Not the case for me though, which is what I replied when someone asked me if I remembered Miss Bianca. Another of the guys said, “While David was chasing babies around the house, we were at The Chute (a now-defunct Nashville gay bar) falling in love with Bianca.” It got a laugh. I laughed too, but I fell – pretty hard – into that  feeling of having missed something significant. It only lasted a few minutes, but there it was. Again.

As with most things in life, however, there’s also an upside.

I didn’t die of AIDS, for one thing. I came of age in the early 70s. Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Plenty of all three. I was chasing only girls back then. It was pretty easy. Opportunity was everywhere. There were opportunities with boys as well – in the years after Stonewall, kids were popping out all over the place, even at the University of Georgia – but I passed on the boys, and that may be one reason I’m still alive.

In the 1980s men my age, some of whom I had known in school, and a couple of whom I could easily have hooked up with, began dying of AIDS. I steered clear of this plague.

In the near-downtown Victorian neighborhood where I lived in the 80s, several men wasted away and eventually died of AIDS. Volunteers from the neighbor association organized to provide food and occasional respite for the people – partners, relatives, friends – who were looking after these men in their final months. It was a sad time, but I’m glad I could take part in the effort to help.

And I’m glad I didn’t die.

Of course there are many men who walked on the wild side back then who didn’t get AIDS and die. I might have been one of them. But the point is this: for whatever reasons, I’m me and I’m still here. And I embrace that. I have finally arrived as an out gay man. I have things to offer that I couldn’t have offered had my life taken a different track. There’s no sense in wondering what might have happened. Might have been tons of fun. Might have been really grim. Might have been some of both. Who knows?

On we go. The party is now. Life is good.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. 06/30/2010 2:36 PM

    and chasing babies is pretty okay, too. glad you’re here.

    • 06/30/2010 2:40 PM

      Glad you’re glad. And you’re right about chasing babies.

  2. nanci Reese permalink
    06/30/2010 6:29 PM

    Dear David,
    In church Sunday Keenan, our female minister, said “do not regret the past-but look forward.” Sounds like you are doing that.
    Hugs
    Nanci

  3. 06/30/2010 6:32 PM

    The only way to go.

  4. 07/02/2010 1:59 PM

    I’ve found myself doing this once in awhile. I can make myself feel momentarily miserable that I didn’t publish a novel as a young woman, for instance. Or that I’ve not had a huge publishing career for all the years of my adult life. But hey, I am who I am and that’s all I got! Your years of chasing babies give you your wonderful wit and viewpoint on life, and I’m glad that you are who you are!

    • 07/02/2010 3:10 PM

      I’m glad, too. And glad you’re glad. It’s good to be glad. And, it’s really the only way to be, since putting toothpaste back in the tube is not possible.

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