I am honoured to have a guest post by author David Pratt
In my last blog post (http://ontopdownunderbookreviews.com/guest-blogger-david-pratt-writing-romance-and-the-romance-of-writing/ ), I said that the fact that I write fiction makes me a romantic. Anyone who writes, paints, composes, etc. is a romantic. This time, though, it is urgent that I address plain ol’ sexual romance, because a story is circulating that young gay do not believe in love anymore. Even with DOMA crumbling and state after state issuing marriage licenses. When I came out in 1981 we were years away from same-sex marriage, and we lived in (actually near the end of, though we didn’t know it) the most sexually debauched era in American history. Yet our assumed goal was always to find husbands, even as we could not imagine ever using that word literally.
So why, now, with rainbows everywhere and gay characters on TV and marriage licenses being issued in South freakin’ Carolina and lumberjacks exchanging rings in Idaho, do young people not believe in love?
Possibly because none of us believes in true anything anymore.
Possibly because we are overcome by images and choices.
In 1981, I didn’t know any better than to believe that I would find a husband. I was not drowning in a sea of disappointing facts, figures, lists, stories and videos. I was not overwhelmed by wave upon wave of too-beautiful guys and images of too-beautiful guys and Buzzfeed lists of too-beautiful guys. Guys drinking champagne. With movie stars. Gay porn meets privilege porn. A recent Buzzfeed list says that the existence of certain pairs of twin male models is proof that God exists.
So if you’re a little short or soft or a little bald or skinny, what do you prove? That the devil exists? Even in the 80s, it took me a while to figure out that the fetishizing of hard bodies was just that—fetishizing—and not a demand that I myself should be like that—or give up. A hard body with a big dick is entertainment. Take a look; get on with your life. Work out if you like. But be clear about why. And remember, to get a spouse, you only have to impress one person. “Impress” is not even the word. You just have to click with one person. You can be a little short or soft or a little bald or skinny or a lot of all those things and still click. Still impress. Still be essential to that person. I remember the first gay couple I saw interact: two young guys with whom I worked NYC’s Gay Switchboard in 1982. They were plain. Homely. And in love. In the way they touched and spoke and signaled to one another, you say they were in it for the long haul.
I say pictures of well-hung hunks are entertainment. But they are tricky, even dangerous entertainment. The danger is suggested by the use of the word “porn” now to describe any image meant to trigger desire: “food porn,” “real estate porn”—images that, if assumed to set a standard, set it impossibly high. You can want, but you can’t have. So learn to take what you want and leave the rest. Twelve-steppers say that about their substance-abuse programs, and you can apply it to the substances themselves. Want the hunk’s haircut? You can have it. Want to be the hunk? Not happening. Oh, but you say you don’t want to be the hunk! Are you sure? Doesn’t some magical-thinking part of you kinda wanna possess his essence? So save him—to your hard drive—and in moments of distress he will save you. Right? Don’t hold your breath. The best you can do is find your own soft, short, bald, skinny way to embody what he represents to you. Which is possible. In your own soft, short, bald, skinny way, you might end up doing better.
And one last thing before I move on: a word about penises. Mostly they are little nubs of flesh that grow to a about five-and-a-half inches and dispense 10-15 ml of semen to a distance of seven to ten inches. Anything more is—you got it—entertainment.
So what are the predictors of relationship success? What should we be looking at through the clutter? By an absolutely remarkable coincidence, this question allows me to discuss my new novel, Looking After Joey (Wilde City Press)!
Looking After Joey is about the hunk. That one you downloaded, whose essence you want. Calvin, the hero of the book, wants Joey’s essence. Fortyish, single and mildly depressed, he craves it night after night. Oh, did I mention that Joey is a porn character? Calvin accesses Joey’s essence by hitting the “play” button. Until the day Joey, responding to Calvin’s desire, steps through the TV screen into Calvin’s life.
Keep in mind, Joey is not a porn actor. He is a character from a porn video. All he knows is sex, beer and pizza, and for various reasons (like because I, the author, say so) he gets stuck here. So he must be looked after, in a world far scarier than the sun-drenched paradise whence he came. He must be taught. That might be the first condition—actually two conditions—of relationship success: you must be willing to teach, and you must be willing to learn. Both take patience, and both take humility. It ain’t all gonna be fun, like English class. Some of it’s gonna be algebra. But ultimately, teaching and learning are sexy. Far sexier than longing.
Calvin becomes more dad than boyfriend to Joey. For a boyfriend, Joey finds Doug. So who is Doug? Another hung hunk in a tank top with a great set of…? Nope. Doug works for a small nonprofit, attends church, and has a slight spare tire, unruly hair and a penchant for plaid. And yet—his reaction when Joey tells him where he came from? “That’s cool. Hey, I know a place that has awesome burgers. Let’s go.” Unconditional acceptance. Condition number three. Not that there aren’t conflicts. Not that Doug doesn’t doubt Joey and himself and even storm out at one point. How does all that get resolved? Well, I can’t tell you everything. You have to find out some things for yourself. I will just say that I think you will close the book at the end believing in love.
And don’t worry. I have also made sure that you close the book believing in entertainment, too!
Thank you all for reading!
David Pratt is the author of the Lambda Award-winning novel Bob the Book (Chelsea Station Editions) and a new novel, Looking After Joey, from Wilde City Press. His short stories have been collected in My Movie, also from Chelsea Station. He has published in several periodicals and anthologies. He has presented work for the theater in New York at HERE, Dixon Place, the Cornelia Street Cafe, the Flea Theater and the NY International Fringe Festival.