Posts Tagged comfort zone
We were finally able to come to an agreement, and I went back to packing a bag. Needless to say, I still wasn’t thrilled with the idea of the weekend ahead of me, but my nerves were slightly calmed after my chat with CK.
I made the voyage into the city to head to CK’s apartment. The plan was to head to XL that night. I’m not quite sure why, but none of CK’s friends were joining us that night. We had plans to hang with some of them the following day/night, but we were on our own for XL. I would have preferred to have more familiar faces around me in such an unfamiliar place, but that wouldn’t be the case. I got dressed with a little help from CK, but of course this turned into a bit of a heated discussion. Our nerves were very exposed, and he was encouraging me to expand my wardrobe comfort zone further than I was ready to. I wanted to fit in, but I still wanted to stay true to myself. I didn’t want to dress like everyone else there, however, I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t stand out.
As we walked there, I was very quiet. CK and I were holding hands as we walked the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, but all I could think about was how I could make myself feel comfortable in this foreign land. As we approached the entrance, there were gay men in every direction. I felt reasonably comfortable with my wardrobe choice and laughed to myself a little at some of the ridiculous outfits. I know this is going to come off as if I saw myself as better than them, but quite the opposite. I give them a lot of credit for feeling so comfortable in their own skin that they dress the way they do, but I could never pull it off. I would feel too uncomfortable and self-conscious, and then I’m absolutely no fun to be around. That was one of my main worries going into this weekend — I would feel uncomfortable, clam up, and I would be no fun to be with.
The cross-dressing boy checked our IDs, and we made our way inside to pay the cover charge. CK had some kind of VIP card and encouraged me to sign up for one with one of the boys holding iPads for just that thing. We paid, and I was a little shocked how expensive the cover was just to get in. Obviously, it was cheaper for CK since he was a member, but overall I was a little taken aback. I wasn’t aware of any talent performing that would justify the rate being so high.
As we made our way inside, I needed a drink bad! There were men in every direction, half without shirts on already. This wasn’t my kind of place. I liked the run-down pubs where the bartenders knew my name and they played good music. This, on the other hand, was a scene. We made our way to the bar and ordered drinks from a shirtless bartender who made me feel I needed to go to the gym immediately. I downed my first drink pretty quickly. The only way I would survive this would be with some help from some special spirits.
We made our way down to the dance-floor and started dancing and grinding with each other in front of the fog machine. I’m not sure why we didn’t relocate. At one point, I couldn’t breath, let alone see CK in front of me, and his back was pressed against my chest. Directly in front of me was a feast for the eyes. There were go-go boys dancing on the stage wearing very skimpy briefs. Some of the guys had the most gorgeous bodies with cute smiles, and it was hard to divert my attention at times. I even received a text from my old roommate asking me if I wanted to go out. I responded telling him where I was, and he jokingly responded reprimanding me for not inviting him. That’s when I responded with a picture message, to which he said, “Okay. Never mind. I’m good.”
I wasn’t the only one on his phone throughout the evening. CK was on his phone a lot when we were together, so this was nothing out of the ordinary, however, I wasn’t aware of the plans he was making over text. Minutes before he walked through the door, CK informed me the guy from his old building he used to hook up with would be joining us. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy. I can be very reasonable, but the idea of hanging out with one of CK’s old hookups didn’t thrill me. It also didn’t exactly seem on the up-and-up since he waited until he was walking through the front door to tell me he was joining us.
When he arrived, CK gave him, who we’ll call Old News, a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. He was thrilled to see him. I swallowed my pride and extended a hand to shake his. From then on, and for quite some time, CK and Old News were deep in conversation. I felt like a third wheel in my own relationship.
We began to make our way to the bar to get another round. CK and Old News walked ahead of me, and as I climbed the stairs, a guy extended his arm out to shove me out of his way as he passed me. It was so obvious my mind flashed back to my days on the basketball court in junior high. He wasn’t being subtle at all. He was also messing with the wrong guy at the wrong time. I wasn’t about to let this little sh*t get away with it. I was already on edge on so many levels. I gave him a solid shove back in the opposite direction, so much that he stumbled down a stair. When his glance came back up to meet mine, I looked at him in a way of saying, “Go ahead. Bring it! What you got?” Me being 6′ 2″ and him being about 5′ 7″, he immediately turned and walked the other way.
When I got to the bar, of course CK and Old News were ordering and didn’t quite notice I was lagging behind. I understand the need to catch up, but I felt I had no part in the conversation. After I was handed my drink, I felt so outside the conversation, I simply walked away and stood at the railing overlooking the dance-floor. It took CK quite some time to even notice I’d stepped away.
From then on, Old News was attached to us. When we went to the bathroom, he came. When we danced, the circle was opened up to him. I didn’t think we would ignore him for the rest of the night, but I felt like he always made sure to put himself between myself and CK. I was shocked and happy to say, I was actually having a great time with CK before he arrived. We were dancing shirtless and taking pictures in front of the fog machine and on stage. I finally felt comfortable in this new setting. I was no longer concerned with anyone else’s eyes on me. My only slight concern was CK’s eyes on anyone else. My whole mood went to sh*t the minute this intruder arrived. I wasn’t just dealing with being at the club anymore — I was having fun, but now I was back to being miserable again. I tried to be cordial with him, but I was not happy with his presence. He and CK hooked up at one point, and while CK assured me they were just friends, I was never quite sure Old News fully got that memo. I could tell he still had feelings for CK. He was very flirtatious, and took every opportunity to exclude me when possible.
In the middle of the night, a crazy drag queen named Ebonee Excell came out and performed. It was a welcome distraction. When the go-go boys came back out on stage, I recognized one of them from the Meet Me at the Ice Cream Truck music video.
Finally, our night was coming to an end. We were ready to head home. CK was hungry for sex, so we said our goodbyes to Old News and made our way back to CK’s bed. Old News may have garnered CK’s attention throughout the night, but in the end, I got to go home with him. He was my man! But, neither of us were quite expecting what was to come next…
It had arrived. Although this would be my third year “participating,” I was legitimately scared. I wasn’t sure why it was so scary, but honestly, I was petrified for so many reasons.
My first interaction with Pride Weekend was a mistake. I was making my way to Governor’s Island for a polo match with my family when we found ourselves “stuck” in the parade route. The following year was the first year I was out when the weekend came around. It wasn’t pleasant as I witnessed my relationship crumble before my eyes like an out-of-body experience. I missed the parade that year, but I got a sampling of the other aspects of the festivities.
My fear was grounded mainly in the unknown. While I am a gay man, I do not participate in the typical gay culture. I’ve never been a big fan of gay clubs and what goes on there. I come from a background of a traditional relationship. In the gay world, that is like finding a diamond in the rough. The clubs seem to be the antithesis of this. They are a hot-bed of drugs, promiscuity and raunchy behavior. I know all gay men who go to bars don’t fit into this stereotype, but this stereotype is founded in truth. While I’ve been to a handful of gay clubs, and my comfort level was rising, I still had no idea what to expect. Never before had I been to a circuit party. I was venturing into the abyss, and this caused me incredible anxiety.
While I have learned to let go of the men in my past, I still carry the scars of my relationship with them. They’ve all hurt or used me in some way, shape or form. My biggest fear in life is being alone, and this fear is fed by thoughts of cheating, which is birthed from my baggage. The idea of CK with another man broke my heart. I had clear definitions of cheating, but there were worse things floating through my imagination — Like cheating in a form I feel is unfaithful, but the offender does not.
My relationship with CK was building a great foundation, however, the cement was still wet. We were only dating two months and ten days — Very young for any relationship. In the first month, I had strong suspicions I wasn’t the only man entering his bed. Things didn’t always line up and some of the clear indications were there, however, our relationship was still just forming. I knew there would be a transition period. While he told me he was only interested in me, and I was the only man entering his bed, I was aware how we met. I was also aware of his intentions before we even met through his first major slip-up on Grindr. I couldn’t expect monogamy from the first night — That wasn’t realistic.
While I was fairly understanding and looked the other way early on, I was not going to tolerate infidelity as our relationship progressed and strengthened. For starters, my heart wouldn’t be able to handle the pain, and lastly, it wasn’t safe for my health. I needed to trust him to be faithful. Outside the heartbreak, frankly, we were having unprotected sex. We’d been tested, but there are no guarantees. I trusted him with my life, literally, and if he was sleeping with other men, he was treating my life carelessly.
I sincerely had a feeling his intentions had evolved, but I couldn’t be sure how he would react when faced with temptation. I hoped I was the only man for him. As a result, I was petrified for the life of our relationship. I’d watched my relationship with N publicly combust the previous year, and I didn’t want a repeat.
I’m sure many of you reading think I am overreacting. It’s just a party… It’s just a parade… It’s just a weekend… Well, not to me. To me, it was a litmus test for the strength of my love for CK. I didn’t want that love to be tested, and I didn’t want to have to make a decision that could end my relationship with CK. He was my Superman. He was my world. If I lost him, my world would come crumbling down.
We had plans to go to a huge party at XL Friday night, Matinée circuit party Saturday, and the parade Sunday afternoon. I was venturing into this unknown abyss with faith and hope I could persevere. The thought of CK dropping X and losing control of his inhibitions with some other guy caused me great pain and panic attacks. The idea of another man’s hand groping his package caused me panic attacks. Picturing him dancing shirtless against another shirtless man caused me panic attacks. Every time these scenarios and many others entered my brain, my heart rate would increase drastically, I would start to sweat, and I would get light-headed.
All this added up to me being petrified and frustrated. When I asked CK what clothes I should pack to bring to his apartment for the weekend, and I didn’t get any cooperation or help. It all became overwhelming. To begin with, this wasn’t something I was looking forward to, and his lack of cooperation made me lose my sh*t. “Okay Babe. I’ll talk to you in the morning. Have fun tonight!” I said on the verge of tears as I hung up the phone on him.
I think that was the wake-up call CK needed. I don’t think he fully understood how much anxiety this all created for me. I voiced my frustrations for weeks leading up to Pride Weekend. I told him I was going out of my comfort zone, but I was willing to do it as long as I got some hand-holding. I needed help to get over this. It was just another fun weekend for him, but it was a big deal to me.
After a few minutes, he called me back. We discussed things a little more rationally, and CK’s tone changed. He finally realized I was struggling and tossed out the life-preserver. Now that I knew I had him in my corner, I was a little more relaxed, however, I still wasn’t completely comfortable. It was going to be a long, stressful and exhausting weekend both physically and emotionally. I bit down then and there, and braced for impact as I packed my bag and walked out the door.