Last week I spent the day scouting locations for a photo shoot with this guy named Frank. Good guy, that Frank. We logged more than 400 clicks on the odometer of my pickup, searching for just the perfect broken-down gas station, motel or mechanic’s shop for him to shoot a portrait of me for his art project.
We ate small-town Chinese Canadian in a squishy booth and listened to classic rock on the radio. And we talked.
We talked for seven hours. No better place to really talk to someone than driving slow on a long country road in your truck with them. I hadn’t met Frank until I picked him and his camera gear up that afternoon, but by the time I dropped him off well after dark that night, we were like old friends.
I like hanging out with straight men sometimes. I really do. Once we get over ourselves and let down our man-guards a little, it usually becomes quickly apparent just how much we have in common.
Sometimes we both have to do a little damage control. He has to reassure me that he is not another one of those asshole straight guys he is worried I might assume he is, and I have to make amends for an old scar he still has to lick, left by a separatist lesbian who caught him in her feminist crosshairs in college 20 years ago.
But once that dance has been danced, we discover that we can like each other quite a bit.
When we strip all the labels off and peel back our assumptions, underneath it all we are pretty much just two dudes who like ladies. Two mostly good-hearted guys trying to do right by our girlfriends. Sure, he only has the one cock and I have seven or eight, but that is just an accident of birth.
And sure, we live in a society that affords him most of the power and wealth and punishes me for not conforming to the rules that state that he is a man and I am not, but that again, is an accident of birth.
Hammering each other over the head with our respective haves and have nots, in my experience, will not build any kind of real kinship or understanding between us.
Instead, I choose to focus on what makes us the same. Loving country roads and high-quality tools and good books and old guy’s stories and random coincidences and vintage motorcycles. Loving women.
Frank did not even raise an eyebrow when, five hours into our conversation, I told him my love for my girlfriend was pretty much as heterosexual as his was, and that since I didn’t believe in the two-gender system, the word homo (meaning the same) sexual lost most of its punch for me long ago.
I told him I would never be convinced that she and I were the same gender, and so the term same-sex couple was rendered irrelevant under my interpretation of the gender spectrum.
He agreed, but then asked me if I still didn’t possess secret knowledge of certain so-called female experiences that he would never be privy to, such as premenstrual weepiness and peri-menopause.
I said, absolutely, yes, I did. In fact, for at least one week out of every month I leak from the tear ducts almost constantly, especially since I hit 40, and see, isn’t that where it gets complicated? Or interesting, depending on how you want to see things.
We talked for quite a while, about libidos and female ejaculation (the first time it happened he thought he had done something wrong, not right) and how I sometimes wished my body made its own sperm, while at the same time being damn lucky that it didn’t, especially back in the ’90s.
When I got home, I lay in bed and let the fan breathe over my farmer tan and bare chest, and thought about it all. Everything I could teach Frank about women. Everything he could tell me about being a man.
I have never been one of those queers that wants to segregate myself, and live only in a big city in the gay ghetto and socialize solely with like-minded liberal homos with lifestyles that look similar to mine. I have always failed to see the potential for revolutionary social change in that.
I have also often found myself frustrated with so-called radical queers or perverts that somehow find it acceptable to demand that everyone else recognize and respect their sexuality and sexual choices, while at the same time assuming all straight people are narrow, and dismissing the desires of others by using condescending and disrespectful terms like “vanilla sex” to describe interactions that don’t live up to their standards of what’s kinky enough to warrant their approval.
I guess what I am basically getting at is I wish we could listen to each other more. I wish we could drop our guards and our swords and our guilt and our shame and talk to each other.
Wouldn’t it be a great thing for all women, and for feminism, if every butch in the world adopted his or her or hir very own straight man and taught him everything s/he knew about clitorises and cramps and g-spots?
And if in return that man had someone he could confide in when his masculinity or manhood kept him from being able to confess to his brothers? What do I know about women like her that he should know but would never dare to ask? Am I somehow more approachable because I look more like him than she does?
Wouldn’t helping men understand women (as much as I can ever really understand women) just a little bit better promote world peace, one happier heterosexual couple at a time?
These are the kinds of things I wonder about while I am trying to get to sleep on a hot summer night. Especially when I am premenstrual. Always makes me a little introspective, and emotional.