Earlier this week I acquired the story of a 70 year old man who has been happily partnered with a younger fellow for thirteen years but whose eyes well up with tears as he describes an earlier lover who was stolen from him by a friend he trusted.
I drove away from the home of that storyteller with mixed reaction and a bushel of questions.
While I listened to his story, I began to ask myself if it is really possible for someone to "steal" a lover. If that lover had not been, on some level, available, how could he have been stolen?
There is also the business of victimhood. Do some guys set themselves up as victims from square one? Do they pick partners who will inevitably leave them?
Here is the abbreviated story. You decide.
David was 45 years old and a successful real estate developer and manager when he met Diego a handsome 21 year old still removing the slivers of his breakage through the closet door. David gives Diego a job, a house and a life. Diego professes to have problems sleeping in the same bed with a man, so David gives him his own bed in his own bedroom.
One night David finds Diego getting dressed to "go out". Diego says he wants to dance and says David should come with him. While they are at a local gay disco, Diego uncharacteristically consumes alcohol. David is perplexed by the whole evening.
While Diego is getting crazy on the dance floor, David is alone at the bar. A friend of his approaches and begins a conversation. David says that he is worried about Diego. The friend offers to help David assess Diego as a lover. The friend proceeds to contact Diego in the days that followed that night, and a month later, Diego moves in with the friend. David attempts to contact Diego, but the friend says "We don't want you in our life." There was more to the story, but I'll end it here because I think you've got the essence of it.
OK. Here's my problem with what I am sure will be your immediate reaction. You're going to say "How stupid can David be? What a doormat! What a masochist. What a fool." But the fact is that I have heard a zillion versions of this story over the years and I have come to the conclusion that there must be something about human nature that might be learned by this story.
David is not an idiot. He is a compassionate, generous and successful businessman and community leader. He is trusting and nurturing and he probably assumes that his love objects will reciprocate naturally.
As I was driving home from our visit, I kept wondering if there is satisfaction to be had when the love you give does not equal the love you get.
Shouldn't the giving of love, in all its blinding nobility, be it own reward?
This thought was followed by a more ominous realization. I wanted to tell David that he had been a fool, but I'd have said that to a man who met a second much younger Latin lover, and one who treats him well. That fact rather obliterates my unspoken assertion. For all I know, this new lover is an opportunist, but despite his motives, he is making David very happy.
Isn't all love an unspoken negotiation?
There is merit in following your own standards, in loving freely and with no caution, in allowing yourself to be hurt tremendously, isn't there?
As I said, I have heard many different iterations of this same story. I come to the conclusion that the men who tell this story, the "Davids" of the world, are not stupid. They are simply in thrall to what their hearts desire.
And the "Diegos" of this world? They never seem to tell their story. No one ever knows what becomes of them.
What are we to make of the fact that the queer community is full of this kind of story?