I lived alone
So I took him home
He doesn't love me
But he keeps me company
You know those criticisms of gay male culture that chide gay men to see the big picture, think about their greater happiness, and settle down with an appropriate life-partner to experience the joys of quieting down and familying up? Surprisingly, I haven't been thinking about those lately. (No, this post isn't a three-decades-too-late response to Larry Kramer's Faggots.)
What I have been trying to do is find meaning in this mess, what it's all about, what it isn't about. I figure, in all my analytic glory, that if I figure out the meaning of life right now, then everything else is just strategy.
But I do wonder how much my posing the question has to do with my perception of time granted to me as a child of Western Civilization, if somehow the fact that I see time as linear, as something that progresses and builds, as something that has a terminus (Armageddon, nuclear winter, the sun going supernova, take your pick), that I even think that I can begin to think backwards. How in the world can I look to the end for meaning in the now if there is no end?
So I'm writing this on vacation, one of the many that the French public school system ensures so that children don't have to suffer through going to school for anything more than six weeks together. I just came up to Paris this morning to hang out with a guy I just met this weekend. We aren't going to ever get married and settle down, but, hey, it's been a lot of fun already (the fact that I'm finishing this post notwithstanding).
On the other hand, there's my brother's desire to marry. He's a couple years older than I, straight, and with a stable job for the past several years (he's such an adult compared to me). The last time I visited him I think I heard him mention that he wanted to get married half a dozen times a day. He's a family man, definitely, and he doesn't like living alone. And there isn't anything wrong with that.
But there is definitely a goal in his mind, a goal for his personal relationships that sounds like he believes that everything will be just that much easier once he gets there. He keeps on trying to meet that special woman, trying to find someone with whom he can relate and build a life. I have to wonder if such a goal devalues what happens in the present, since it seems to value the assumed eventual happiness of permanent couplehood over the pleasure of personal interactions in the now.
I once heard this sentence in someone's wedding vows: "Through you, I marry the world." What an interesting idea, to think that the present, contextual circumstances of a relationship are less important than what it can do for someone's relationship with the universe. And by tearing down some of those artificial boundaries raised by context, what an interesting way to attempt to make the relationship timeless!
I think that my brother and I stand in contrast as many in the gay community do over the possibility available in queer relationships. Should we adopt for ourselves a more traditional model of courtship, marriage, children, then death, or can we develop something that works better. (And I'm completely aware that the question doesn't matter insofar as it'll change people's behavior; they're going to keep on doing what they think works for them.)
And all this is going through my mind as I think about the resurgence of barebacking in the US as HIV infection rates continue to grow. Speaking of the larger goals people attach themselves to in relation to time, what are the larger goals behind taking a risk for the sake of pleasure that have a chance to reduce the amount of time one lives?
I think that often the way we think about such risk-taking as a direct result of one's lack self-esteem speaks more to the anxiety many Westerners (yes, I'm totally included here) have with regards to death. What if realizing simply living isn't of the same value as something else isn't a lack of self-worth? What if someone simply has a different way of expressing their self-worth? What if they've decided that trying to add as many years as possible to their lives isn't as important as the pleasure of barebacking? What if a good life could be measured in something other than the raw number of years she lives?
I'm not advocating that people stop using condoms, but I'm trying to sort out the existential crisis such activity presents. There are definitely times when our culture valorizes those who don't seek to live as long as they possibly can (soldiers, martyrs, heroes who risk their lives), and no one questions their self-esteem in not doing so. Is it that one can only stop obsessing over the number of years one lives if she is concerned with a larger abstract goal, like Joan of Arc, Jesus, or Dr. Martin Luther King?
I'm thinking that the answer lies somewhere in beginning to queer the nature of time, to stop seeing it as a strict progression to an inevitable end, and to start to think of the ways in which events at one point in time can become "timeless" by our understanding them as such. I haven't thought much about the ways that challenging Western Civilization's epistemology regarding time can open up possibility, but I'm thinking that the queers are already part of the way there by way of our inherently challenging the value of a typical post-Industrial goal of a Norman Rockwell-esque family and life-style. By at least making such goals fuzzier in terms of their universality, we've opened up the doors to deeper criticisms of the social constructs that uphold them.
Either way, I plan on enjoying my week in Paris, my week away from France's own Rust Belt.