Geoff Kaufman was the man I thought I wanted to be.
Tall, model good looks and a self-assured swagger that commanded the attention of all whose eyes fell upon him, he represented everything that I could not see in myself. I was the Rhoda to his Mary. The Jennifer Jason Leigh to his Bridget Fonda.
If you were to go to a club on a Saturday night, you would have seen the both of us. He would be the one fending off a number of male suitors, while I was busy drinking Sambuca at the shooter bar with Georgette, a French drag queen with delusions of Divine.
Rarely was Geoff without a man on his arm. Rarely was I able to scare up so much as a coffee date. Best friends in university, Geoffrey and I became a study in opposites.
I have come to the realization that if I’m ever going to feel like I’m part of the gay community, I have to be secure with who I am. This is easy to put down in words, but more of a task to put into action.
Geoff once said to me, while I was pouting about my lack of a love life and indulging in my own patented form of self-recrimination, “You so have reason to have attitude.”
It wasn’t about being the most popular guy in a club or pretending to be something other than myself. Nor was it about acting like an arrogant bitch who gave a cold shoulder to perceived lesser mortals. It was about confidence.
What is confidence exactly? Where does it come from? How can I get it?
Since I put Geoff on a kind of pedestal—striving to emulate his charm, sophistication and good fortune with the menfolk—I looked to my pal for answers.
With careful consideration given to his physical appearance, I deduced that confidence (that alien concept implying one’s sense of self-worth) was more about creating a perception than truly possessing it. Impeccably dressed, coiffed and smelling of some expensive cologne, I took this to be the face of self-assurance.
Taking a cue from my friend, I set about transforming my own wardrobe and replacing my designer imposture knock-offs for some bona fide Alfred Sung. I invested a great deal of time and energy into my physical appearance in the hopes of obtaining a muscular reward. Venturing out into the night, I was sure I could match Geoff’s appeal, if not surpass it. Watch out boys ‘cuz you don’t even know what’s coming!
Sadly, the night would play out the way most of our nights did.
The Geoffs of the world walk into the bar/nightclub/restaurant/public restroom and catch the eyes of prospective suitors. Those such as myself, for I have to believe I am not the only spaz in the Lower Mainland, work on a more subtle level.
I would stand there trying on different facial expressions to engage the manfolk that surrounded me. I had perfected the forlorn look. This involved pouting my lips and looking around, wide-eyed and innocent. When that did not work, I put on the cool and detached look. This consisted of me, puffing on a cigarette and regarding everyone with a look of disdain.
I liken my search for a community to attending a party—the kind I just stumbled upon, no invitation required.
I enter and I am unsure about where to put my coat. I toss it aside in a corner and hope like hell no one steals it. I pass a few people deep in conversation and am suddenly thrown into a swarm of partygoers. The night is in full swing, drinks have been drunk, the buffet has been ravaged and everybody in this tight space is mingling and laughing. I navigate my way around, poised and resilient but never quite sure if I belong.
Yet, after a few months out of seclusion, I have come to the realization that nothing is everything. This is my new motto.
It does not matter what the hell anyone thinks of you. Once you tell yourself this, it becomes easier to be amongst the human race. So I have to approach my social experiment from a different angle. Ironically, to feel like part of the group, I am going to need to focus more on myself.