4 min

Comfort first, sex later

How we live our relationships

Robin Perry had his hands all over me when he told me he was getting married.

As our friends Terry and Scott tied their lovely knots in a West End church in August, their first (not mine, not the “tying knots” part), I regard how we live our relationships on the Drive and beyond.

What has become of the gay “tribe” and the “extended family”?

In what Zygmunt Bauman — a postmodern philosopher — calls a virtual world of “liquid love,” we are now more like profiles in Facebook, switching on and off, the semi-detached couples, no other glue to bind us than curdling protein shots.


Gay men actually have role models and principles, more than we tend to admit; variety and tolerance still give us muscle. There are gay men that walk in single file line at gyms and bathhouses throwing odd side-glances — have you noticed the kind? Itchy and Scratchy.

In September, I saw skinhead boyfriends openly giving head to strangers in intriguing sexual karaoke at the Calgary Eagle, no kissing strangers though. I had stumbled in from the desolate downtown to eat a huge quesadilla prepared by Master Barry one of the lovely owners — it’s a long story, don’t ask.

Later that same evening a gigantic leather Scottish carpenter told me all about his bisexual philosophy and how gay men are full of sexual demands like women; he was all for sex, but the intimacy is too taxing on him.

We have “rules.” It’s sort of cute and creepy at the same time but rules are better than nothing at all, don’t you think?

Back in Vancouver, one summer evening with a gentle chill in the air in our backyard, a dyke friend and I walked down memory lane to remember the late Tom she had married to get her papers to stay in Canada.

Tom was one half of a sweet couple of rabid queer socialists with whom I had a short lived three-way. They showed me that gay men love each other differently from the standard folk.

Robin pushes on my back hard (can my lower back take this?).

There is an insouciant mélange of hitched gay couples on the Drive. Gay men actually show role models that we must validate. Even those not living in a formalized couple have a “relationship” — no man is an island — but… do you see gay men imposing on each other as mistresses?

On the Drive, I see men together for many years, happy, sad, or going through mid-life crisis cursed by aging beauty, or the butt-ugly getting a new lease on sex as daddies and other sought-after pervs — more often than not they are roughly from the same generation. Although it is different for each couple, I sense some common wisdom.

(Robin is now laying it on thick, oil or whatever it is, I hope my clothes won’t stain after, how do you explain that later?)

A gentleman in his 60s who has been with his lover for 30 years says, “We keep busy, together and separately”; they don’t expect to meet all of each other’s needs, jealousy and sex stopped worrying them long ago.

Heteros still seem to feed on dramas and jealousy and mistresses. We manage the tubs quick-release, the fuckbuddies with other committed men, the evening constitutional in the park, the visits of a neighbour whose wife goes away with the kids to their in-laws monthly, the lesbian friends on the rebound — I mean, we work it hard!

What to outsiders looks like narcissistic addiction to sleaze and a predatory drive looks to me like carpe diem, applying compassion to companionship, and accepting the kindness of strangers (He presses on. Yes. I feel it. It’s hard as a rock!)

On the Drive, men kill execution-style at the corner of 2nd and Commercial, threaten to blow my face off at Broadway and Commercial bus stop ’cause I frown upon a “spic” racist remark (ah! cocky Italian dude, little he suspects of the murky cravings of my heart), or rap their angst-ridden CD words outside the fabulous Café Carthage restaurant, the cute lead from the Main Offender band selling us their CD while semi-detached girlfriend taps an incongruent high-heel and tosses a blondissima hair plume, looking away — poor thing — likely soothsaying her Courtney Love future.

The Drive straight men still come as conventional family guys, youngish metrosexual upstarts (strollers and babies included), geeky finding-myself artistic types and pedantic macho wannabes.

Hetero men or queers with real edgy proclivities and arrangements still hue the Drive palette of a dull greater part. And speaking of dull and quirky rules and diversity: I choose my civic leaders the way I choose any man’s company, the rest is all negotiable.

The three do-dos vying for prime minister hardly cut it: Stéphane is buttplugged, Jack has performance anxiety (still would do him for love of country) and Stephen ain’t Catholic enough for me. No scandalous meth teenage boyfriend stowed away somewhere? Too repressed, dangerous.

Politics without sexual desire — they call it “charisma”, right? — is boring.

(Aghh! Robin’s motions make me so heady; I should give myself into it and allow the pain, cross the threshold and feel… but I can’t turn off the processing in my head).

I asked the same man hitched for 30 years what was the one important thing for him in his everyday life in their relationship, he said, “he makes me laugh”. And I cried at the hard simplicity of it all.

He said that his lover is not all doom and gloom even when things are not going well, health is changing for them, and debts abound.

Robin tells me he is done. Done! A fleeting skin memory of what seemed so important in the heat of the moment.

I gladly pay his fee; at my age an appointment with a registered professional massage therapist surely beats many other options. My lower back feels rejuvenated.

The rule is comfort first, sex later.