Jan 20, 2012 0 Share

Love Yourself First: Part I

Heart-shaped artwork of author's face three times.
Artwork by John Scott Holman

A pitiful drag queen was butchering “Cabaret” across the bar—her voice was about as smooth as her upper lip. Pulsating lights burned into my retinas. A sweaty crowd of gyrating men pressed uncomfortably close to me. Hey, who the hell just grabbed my crotch? I thought. Using some powerful form of Jedi mind trickery, my date for the evening managed to talk me into dressing up. I was wearing no less than three Italian designers, but stubbornly refused to remove my thrift store stocking cap. Sweaty and panic stricken, I frantically searched for an exit. My senses were frying like strips of bacon and a meltdown was imminent. Gay bars are NOT autism friendly.

Follow your heart—what a crappy piece of advice! I followed my heart and ended up on the dance floor surrounded by leather clad strangers rhythmically humping each other’s legs to the music of Lady Gaga like a pack of terriers in heat. Love can make you do crazy things. The storybooks forget to mention that love is only a feeling ... and it’s not always the right feeling.

I never believed in romance. I came to the conclusion that love—that warm, electric rush that excites the senses and baffles the mind—was not something I was capable of feeling. After finally receiving a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, I thought I had found an explanation for my troubling emotional deficit. A few months later I found myself both terrified and overjoyed to discover that I can experience romantic feelings … but I like dudes.

Since this long overdue realization, I seem to be falling in and out of love on a biweekly basis. I’ve finally hit puberty … at 25 years old! Talk about an emotional rollercoaster! Relationships had always been cold and logical. Sex was just a means to an end—I was only meeting a basic biological need. Now everything honest and pure and frighteningly fragile within me is being exposed on a daily basis. I’ve never felt so vulnerable, so human. I’ve never been so damned lost! 

If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that love makes you stupid! Cold rationality may be empty, but love is downright dangerous. Love conquers all … ability to think clearly. My autistic mind struggles to analyze and systematically understand the difference between infatuation, lust, and love. I can’t make sense of it. My ever-reliable logic has finally betrayed me. 

To make matters worse, gay culture is confusing as hell! I must now learn to understand and properly respond to a whole new set of social rules. Gay men tend to be about as subtle as, well, autistic men. While I find unambiguous language refreshing, I’m nevertheless perplexed, having spent years learning the art of restraint:

Random Guy: Hey, you’re hot. Wanna have sex?

Me: Um … I’m Scotty. It’s … nice to meet you?

Random Guy: Yeah, we can skip all that.

Me: Really? Wait, what?! Who says? 

Random Guy: You a top or a bottom?

Me: I’m not interested in politics.

Random Guy: You got a condom?

Me: Huh? Can’t we go get ice cream or something?!

Of course, not all gay men are so brutally frank. Some are very sweet and respectful—those are the ones to watch out for! Gay, straight, or indecisive, men are NOT like women. They like sex. They like food. They may like to watch “E: True Hollywood Story,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to talk about their feelings. If you meet a nice gay guy at the bar who wants to take things slow, sign both of you up for a cooking class, and discuss dreams of adopting Nicaraguan orphans, BE VERY CAREFUL! Sure, you may have found “the one.” Anything is possible. He may truly yearn for the pitter patter of little Nicaraguan feet, but he will probably rip your heart out, casually fry it up while watching “The Food Network,” and hand feed it to those hungry orphans before he actually considers signing adoption papers.     

Fresh out of the closet and I’m already a cynic. Well, I’m a fast learner.  As jaded as I may seem, I’m still a hopeless romantic. People are funny—until you can learn to truly love yourself, you will always want what you can’t have and don’t need. Pride and insecurity will drive you to the ends of the earth looking for love, when all along it is right in front of your face.

So how did I end up broken-hearted in Versace on the crowded dance floor of gay bar learning one of life’s hardest lessons? Well, it all started with a gorgeous Russian guy who said that I was different. Yeah, like I didn’t already know that …

To Be Continued…