Vancouver
3 min

The 30-year-old adolescent

Struggling to shed a pesky and unrelenting fear of men

Recently I was invited to be a judge at a queer comedy event. Although I was there to see the show, it quickly became difficult to concentrate. One of the performers caught my eye and I immediately went into paralytic shock.

A number of thoughts tumbled through my mind in a single nanosecond: Do I have a chance at a strapping buck such as him? Am I even his type? If he wanted to, he’d come up to me. He must have a boyfriend. I wonder what he’s like in bed? Someone that fine would never give me the time of day.

I entertained the possibility of shutting my brain off and simply approaching him. But my intention was soon eclipsed by the oppressive constraints of my own multi-coloured anxiety.

So the night went on and I did nothing to get what I wanted.

To quote the unflappable Rhoda Morgenstern: “I had a bad puberty. It lasted 17 years.”

It has been a long and winding road to manhood and I am so almost there. Shedding my hermit persona is undoubtedly proving to be my greatest challenge. I know I have to dissect my reclusive ways and find out what makes me tick.

If I could be so bold, I would like to state that many of us in the queer world seem to go through a second adolescence. We go through the same regimented torture of growing pains and juvenile melodrama as anyone else, but there is something we often miss in the process. I don’t think we can really “come of age” until we come out.

I came out at the tail end of my high school days. Funny how you don’t notice what little life you have actually been leading until you accept yourself and the world around you.

While many of my fellow classmates were busy exploring their changing bodies, experiencing first kisses and learning how to manoeuvre through various social dynamics, I was lying in wait.

It wasn’t until I came out at 17 that I was able to catch up… somewhat.

My 20s bore witness to a tumultuous and hormone-ravaged delayed adolescence. This was when the seeds of “hermitage” were planted. Stealing a page or two from adolescent clichés of popular culture, I became the brooding and closed-off arty type. Think of an uncool version of 90210’s Dylan McKay without a Brenda Walsh.

The 30s appear to be where it’s at. I have popped my last metaphorical pimple.

However, before I can safely leave the shackles of adult puberty behind, I have to get over a pesky and unrelenting fear of men. Even writing this now, I realize just how ludicrous that sounds. Men are to be enjoyed, not feared.

In the last year, as part of my resolve to be one with the queer community, I have embarked on a series of outings. From chatrooms to bathrooms, dance clubs to health clubs, I have slowly chipped away at my crusty hermit façade. However, there is one frontier that still needs to be conquered: the successful courtship of another man.

For all the things I have accomplished, I still have trouble asking a guy out. When faced with such a challenge, I feel like a spaz at a Grade 9 dance. The threat of having someone reject my affections leaves me on the sidelines.

I lack what others term “social skills.”

Yet, that might not be entirely true. I am becoming more self-possessed. I know I am an intelligent, funny, compassionate, ambitious and good-looking man. So why the hesitation?

All musings and conclusions lead back to the same dilemma: I am a socially stunted queer with one foot in my 30s and the other back in high school.

I never wrestled with the idea of asking the hottest guy in school to the dance. Not because I had no crushes; on the contrary, Tom McGillivary was the football quarterback and the object of my silent affection. But asking him to the junior prom might have resulted in a mild beating or two.

I also never learned about queer sexuality in the sex education class taught by the boys’ phys ed teacher. And I never experienced that “first love” or shared any physical intimacy with anyone.

I was only able to start partaking in those rites of passage after I came out. And when that became too daunting, I ran for the hills and never looked back.

Now I am happy to report that I am, once again, on the market. Bring on the quivering anxieties and frustrations of coupling!

I encountered that performer again a few days after the show and something overtook me. It was an unfamiliar sense of forwardness and confidence that had long been lost on me.

Dragging my high school alter ego into the locker room, taking his lunch money and beating him into submission, I resolved to get what I deserve.

Strange that the simple act of asking a guy out could seem like the hardest thing I ever had to do.

When I finally got the question out, he didn’t hesitate. He said yes!

Only one problem now. Where do I go from here?