Father Tony

Where To Find Sex And Love

Filed By Father Tony | July 16, 2009 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: gay ghetto


Hey there,

I'm a teacher is Madison Wisconsin who is ready for a change. I've been vacationing for many years in Fort Lauderdale ever since my partner died. I think that is where I want to be and I have an opportunity to do this. I am hesitating because I think I know only what an outsider knows about the city and this move could be a big mistake. Is it true the men are interested only in sex, booze and drugs and can't handle relationships? Would I be moving into a city of burn-outs? I'm OK with being single but love would be nice. I can be alone here in Wisconsin, so I don't need to move to Florida for that. Got any advice for me?

Wisconsinner

Dear Wisconsinner,

Before you plant that For Sale sign in your front yard, you ought to think this through a bit more carefully.

When I was a child, my father would sometimes come home from work and tell me that we would be going fishing on Saturday on a lake described by one of his coworkers as "full of the biggest trout you've ever seen". As we drove out to that lake, he'd assure me that almost nobody knew about this fisherman's paradise. In our rowboat, we would follow his secret directions to a secluded bend of the lake where we would eagerly cast our lines. At the end of the day, we'd drive home with nothing. Dad would blame the clouds, the temperature, our bait. Before long, he would come home excited with some fresh news about yet another secret fishing hole and he would again begin the countdown to Saturday.

I was always glad that our family was safely distanced from the California Gold Rush by more than a century or Dad surely would have abandoned us, with Mom needing to take in laundry and me without piano lessons.

I grew up, and developed friendships with men who would call me on Thursday, babbling about some new bar which, it was reported, contained huge numbers of beautiful men never seen anywhere else. We'd go there on Friday night and find ourselves sipping drinks with all the men we saw every week, and with whom we would now collectively watch the door for the arrival of at least one fresh face.

"We're going to New York!" someone would proclaim. "If you can't get laid in New York, you need help." We're going to Boston! That's where they're hiding them, our husbands. We've taken a house in Ptown. It's crawling with the most gorgeous selection of gorgeous gorgeousness! It's only five hours to Montreal where there's all of Canada waiting to party with you! Have you heard about Atlanta? Miami! That's where you'll find the rich ones!

Please. I don't think there's a city in America short of Dayton, Ohio that hasn't been touted as the best place to go for your heart's desire. If you are coming to Fort Lauderdale to find happiness, you'd better first examine your expectations and then examine your personal baggage.

All cities contain the full spectrum of gay men and women: the ingénue, the predator, the talent, the jade, the liar, the ambitious, the rich, the poor, the kept, the addict, the brilliant, the beautiful, the fading and the writer. You'll take your place among them. You'll earn a label that may be revised over the years. You'll find out whether you are immune to wisdom or susceptible to it. Whether or not you come to love or hate being gay in a city will not impact your choice to remain or flee. The reaction varies.

Your chances of finding love in Fort Lauderdale will probably be no greater or smaller than your chances in Madison. They will depend on what you are made of in either place.

A gay man must learn to build himself from the inside out. He must become his own city; a self-sufficient entity, or regenerative ecosystem, if you will, that can transplant itself anywhere and produce its own happiness even in a wasteland. Are you creative and resourceful and loving and enthusiastic, or are you just a sponge? Gay ghettoes are full of sponges who, having soaked up all the men in their own backyards, seek the higher concentrations to be found in cities. There's no smile on a sponge, and they mostly end up dirty and ragged and crusty and trashed.

The gay man or woman who is self-contained and self-possessed can live anywhere and should base the decision on the qualities particular to the geography or culture of a place. I am in Florida for the ocean. I am in New York City for the arts. I can't imagine sacrificing either and I think both extremes of place contain an equal number of beautiful and eligible men and women.

I sometimes think there is a natural geographical progression in the lifespan of the American Gay. He begins in the suburbs or on a farm longing for wings. He tries himself out in a small city. He blossoms in a big city. After some years, he begins to dream of escape and solitude and quiet. At any point in this continuum, he may or may not have found love. If I knew the secret to finding love in the woods of North Dakota or on Manhattan's 9th Avenue between 30th and 50th Streets, I'd be a multimillionaire.

If it's warm climate, beach and sex you are seeking, come to Fort Lauderdale where we probably have more of it available than in your town, but if it's happiness you want, Dorothy, there's no place like home, and you can be home anywhere.


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Larry Ohio | July 16, 2009 11:48 AM

"I don't think there's a city in America short of Dayton, Ohio that hasn't been touted as the best place to go for your heart's desire."

Tony, you have no idea how utterly true that is. I can't wait to get the hell out of Dayton.

Dear Larry,
I was bracing myself for the opposite reaction: a storm of Dayton supporters defending their city!

Larry Ohio | July 16, 2009 11:50 AM

"I don't think there's a city in America short of Dayton, Ohio that hasn't been touted as the best place to go for your heart's desire."

Tony, you have no idea how utterly true that is. I can't wait to get the hell out of Dayton.

Father Tony,

You forgot to mention F.L. also has affordable real estate and plenty of bright smiles. I've yet to visit it.

Very wise advice. Having lived in both Madison, WI and Ft. Lauderdale, FL, I can report that sex is much more available in F.L. In terms of creativity, intelligence, and the Arts, Madison wins hands down. South Florida is wonderful in its own peculiar way. It is beautiful, warm, and vapid. Perfect for forgetting your troubles for a time, and excellent for the pursuit of hedonistic thrills. I loved my time in South Florida. I may wind up there as my life winds down, in a monastic home of fellow queers.

Father T is right, in that it all starts from within. A solid foundation will permit you to be a hermit crab, taking your little home with you wherever you may wish to go. As a member of a certain twelve step program, I have learned over the years that we always take our problems with us too. Geographic changes do not often equal quality of life changes on an emotional level. If you are interested in warmth and sunshine, go for it. Otherwise, go in on a cheap condo with a few friends, and go down and escape when necessary, but do not uproot the rest of your life.

Great advice as usual, Father Tony.

I suspect that having to work so hard to defend our right to live as queers in this country, we often don't have time or energy to learn how to live well as people. The advice you give is applicable to all, and only more so to gay men because we are relatively new to the luxury of the pursuit of happiness, as opposed to mere survival.

Sometimes I suspect that alcohol, drugs, unsafe sex, and the various problems that plague our community are a product of the void left when survival began to take far less effort, thanks to our increasing acceptance in society. Suddenly we are faced with a frightening existential question: what is our purpose? It's an anxiety-producing question when it does not have a ready answer, and a variety of indulgences can blur the fear of facing it.

Stable, healthy people who love themselves and feel a valid purpose in life are not as likely to indulge in destructive habits. Perhaps the best form of activism in this new age is not hammering in prohibitions, but nurturing the development of ourselves and the younger generations as complete, happy beings.

Donn Murray | July 16, 2009 1:09 PM

This is sound advice. I moved from Northern California to Palm Springs thinking all my problems would be solved. Being a man of a certain age, it's not that easy. I found I was drinking way too much, the local older men's club was about flaunting wealth and status. Most men were looking for a nurse or a purse. I found contentment within and have never been happier. Still single, but I realize that there are worst things. Older and wiser.

Nice response, Father Tony.

Loved your comments:

"He must become his own city; a self-sufficient entity, or regenerative ecosystem, if you will, that can transplant itself anywhere and produce its own happiness even in a wasteland."

"You'll take your place among them. You'll earn a label that may be revised over the years. You'll find out whether you are immune to wisdom or susceptible to it. Whether or not you come to love or hate being gay in a city will not impact your choice to remain or flee. The reaction varies."

Thanks

Just do it!!!!!!!!!!!!! Fearlessly Live!!!!!!
The guy should move to Florida and give himself three years. If he does not like it then he can return or go to another place of interest. Problem solved.

As I type this response, dear Father Tony, I am sitting in a white lab coat in my office, postponing my run on the trail surrounding Lake Monona in lovely Madison, Wisconsin. I couldn't help but be taken in by your advice, which was insightful as always.

When I moved here from Minneapolis 7 years ago, I was truly hesitant to leave a large-ish city (by midwestern standards) for a bucolic town full of aging hippies, dominated by state government and the state university. I pined for the very gay life that I had created for myself in the Twin Cities, and considered the smaller community of Madison to be somehow lesser because of the size of its population (once a size queen, always a size queen I guess). I put my shoulder into my work, and resigned my partner and myself to a quieter (and less gay-centric) life.

In doing so, I neglected to realize the fact that my affinity for Minneapolis was the natural result of becoming involved with various organizations in the city, and that my dissatisfaction with Madison was the sole byproduct of my self-created cloistered existence. It's something I'm just now starting to remedy. I feel relieved and foolish at the same time.

The moral of the story appears to be that love, friendship, purpose, and a sense of belonging are constructs that we create for ourselves regardless of where we live. If we open ourselves to that idea, then it doesn't really matter what our address is.

Gotta run. It's a beautiful day and the lake is calling. Perhaps I'll again run by the UW crew team as they finish their bespandexed shirtless workout. That always serves to inspire an appreciation for this little place.

While it may be true that happiness comes from within and you can be happy wherever you are, be it Madison or Fort Lauderdale, it is also true you may never be able to learn this truth until you have tried both. Far from discouraging a move, I would say, Go! Go! Go!

I left Texas for San Francisco, and I might have ended my days believing, "if only I had moved to San Francisco, I could have been happy." Now I know I can be unhappy anywhere. What an ironic lesson that is also a blessing in disguise that has allowed me to work on myself ... finally.

Go! Go! Go!

I am reading a book "the boyfriend within" and agree with the other comments. I believe I can live anywhere (I live in a very gay Columbus OH) and be either happy or unhappy. I am sensible, experienced, mature, financially stable and got my shit together. I am fit, athletic, mid 40s and ready to prove that guys from Ohio take a back seat to nobody. seanmagic1964@yahoo.com

Sean, whoa! With a comment like that , I am sure everyone wishes you had enclosed a photo! And an address!

I am reading a book "the boyfriend within" and agree with the other comments. I believe I can live anywhere (I live in a very gay Columbus OH) and be either happy or unhappy. I am sensible, experienced, mature, financially stable and got my shit together. I am fit, athletic, mid 40s and ready to prove that guys from Ohio take a back seat to nobody. seanmagic1964@yahoo.com

Erich Riesenberg | July 17, 2009 9:05 AM

Amen to that. It is surprising how many gay men grow up confused. It does help to have goals and a plan. Good luck. :-)

John Shields John Shields | July 17, 2009 1:01 AM

Excellent advice Tony. A former boyfriend of mine, and now still a close friend, has a saying: "Become the person you want to attract."

His remains great insight, and as usual, great advice from you.

Asheville, NC. That's all I have to say.

Fr Tony One special resource I have found in Fort Lauderdale is an extraordinary gay spiritual communiy at Sunshine Cathedral, an MCC church. To have the support of an extraordinary loving community of over 1000 people has been a delight.