Dickotomy by Nick Byrne
A certain dichotomy is developing over these past couple of weekends as I find myself in the midst of Fire Island rush hour on the Long Island Rail Road. Just this past weekend, for example, I left mid day Friday to head to Nassau County to visit my parents. In doing so I caught the extent of seer-sucking, aviator wearing homosexuals heading east towards Sayville. The gay man’s life has always seemed a bit fanciful to me, unobtainable even, something out of a movie that I was never able to achieve – which has always led me to feel a slight disconnect from the community. Somehow they have the time to work a job that allots them the freedom, luxury and finances for a Fire Island share; but also have the time to maintain a glamorous social life and participate in a gym routine that results in a perfectly sculpted body. I on the other hand can barely allocate funds that allot me the freedom to ride the MTA Subway system on a weekly basis, and despite rigorous efforts, still have the physique of a prepubescent girl.
Now that I’m getting a little bit older, in my mid 20s, I see more and more guys my age seemingly nonchalantly involved in this lifestyle. It was one thing to spectate as a 21-year-old and watch men in their 30s and 40s jet off into fantasy land, but now I watch people who aren’t that much older than myself, if not my age, do it on a whim and I can’t help but to question what it is that I’m doing wrong with my life. As I sit in a corner by myself wearing black skinny jeans, a dirty t-shirt, blue hair and a puss on my face, I can’t help but to feel completely juxtaposed next to the carefree gaggle of gays. Of course, the grass is always greener and I am judging from a completely superficial point of view, but as I schlep my way to go see my ailing father, these men seem to be so casually and superciliously venturing out to Fire Island without a second thought.
A realm of drugs, drinking, body bragging, drag queens, beaches, Kylie Minogue music, anonymous sex and now through the misguided use of PrEP – bareback sex, while I’m sitting and trying to communicate with my father, through his moans and inadequate utterances, as to whether or not he wants me to feed him another piece of steak. Of course I’m generalizing here, I’m sure some people just go out to Fire Island for the day, drink with friends, innocently sun bathe and leave, but when I sit and observe on the train ride, I can’t help but to suffer from the most extreme, exaggerated and dramatic case of FoMO (Fear of Missing Out) and convince myself that EVERYONE is out there for a 3-day, reckless, sex safari.
It’s not even a case of FoMO so much, for I had my fun on Fire Island starting at the age of 19. I never had a share there for a week, but I made do as a personable and quick-witted twink. I’m more envious of their state of mind, not the activities that they are or aren’t participating in. It would make no difference if as I exited the train at my parent’s stop, they continued to go onto Splish Splash for the weekend. It’s not Fire Island that’s making me jealous; it’s their time, their resources and their ebullient disposition, not necessarily their destination. It’s the fact that as I sit in a train car full of other homosexuals, I sit in a state of complete dissociation. They could honestly be going out to Fire Island to raise money for HIV/AIDS, or to fight for equal pay for women in the work place, or to read to the blind and I would still be just as resentful – it’s their frame of mind that I miss and need so desperately.
Sure it might all be a façade, and we all have a struggle, but for that immediate moment of sitting on the same train, headed in the same direction, but for two totally completely different and contrasting reasons, I have trouble rationalizing anything other than my life sucks and their lives must be fabulous. Because in all fairness they might have two sick parents, or no parents at all, but after that 45 minute train ride, when I get off at Merrick and they continue on to Suffolk County, I can’t help but to hurt as I watch the train continue on from the platform until it disappears into the distance.
I’m also envious that a lot of them are probably from California or the Midwest, and their families and family troubles are hundreds, if not thousands of miles away. I’m envious that they can lose themselves, start anew and create a different identity than the one they had growing up. I’m envious of their persona, their aloofness, their freedom and their ability to take their families in smaller doses due to distance. I’ve always been thankful and appreciative to have grown up so close to the city that I live in, to have my parent’s security and support so close by and the stability that came along with that. However, now that their lives are unstable and they need to rely on me, the selfish, inconsiderate part of me sometimes wishes I lived further away. Just sometimes I think it would be nice to not have to deal with what’s going on in my family on such a direct and constant basis. I often wonder, would I have more of a positive disposition on life if I was further away from everything… or would it worsen it?
On my way back to the city Sunday evening, in my typical emotionally drained and anhedonic manner, I usually come across a similar crowd. The once vibrant species now seems subdued, but not exhausted, just relaxed and peaceful. As their sunburns pulsate, some occupy an entire row of seats with their false sense of tired entitlement, sleeping horizontally with sunglasses on or straw-fedoras covering their faces. I usually try to find the most desolate cart, one far from the Fire Island crowd, one with the sad, dull commuters just like myself. The idea of existing in such a small confinement, physically so close with a group that I can no longer relate to, for the second time in 2 days, can become overwhelming.
Even when I was 19, 20 or 21, before I had a sick dad to visit, before when I was just as carefree and gregarious as they are, I still never fully felt accepted. My envy really probably has less to do with my dad, or even Fire Island, and more to do with my disconnect from the gay community in general. I think it’s easier for me to pinpoint and label it in these specific incidents through generalizations, assumptions and contrasting priorities and morals, because now the division has become that much more extreme. Because even before my dad’s diagnosis, I always felt like a bit of an outsider. I’ve always struggled with creating genuine connections or friendships. I’ve always felt like it was difficult to maintain a gay-friendship for more than a year, constantly finding myself surrounded by new faces that weren’t there a year or two ago – fair-weathered to say the least.
It’s their petulance that I’m so envious of. It’s the fact that I’ve never felt fully connected in a community that I should feel connected in. It’s the fact that this weary connection is now overemphasized due to the fact that I’m dealing with my dad’s diagnosis on such a personal and incessant level. I’m angry that this aspect of my life has made me feel like even more of an alien. It’s envy that I can’t equally revel within a community that thrives upon a “campy” atmosphere. It’s envy of their ability to not let their personal struggles affect their ability to live life, while my personal struggle finds a way to cripple me and my frame of mind. It’s envy that I can’t relate to a community that celebrates life and freedom and it’s that dichotomy that is created as they flaunt it in front of my face on the train, right up until my premature departure from the liminal space we once shared.
I often wonder if other homosexuals feel the same way as me. Despite my dad’s illness, even if everything was “normal” in my life, i would still feel detached from the community, just not to this caliber. I wonder if they truly like each other, and each other’s company. I wonder if within the groups of 15 of them, if everyone really does all get along, or do they all feel just as ostracized as I do? Perhaps their aloofness and heedless mentality is all a front, a coping mechanism. Maybe they all were 25 once too, isolated and desperate for an identity to cling to. Maybe I’m not so alone in being alone. Maybe I’m not the only one in a melancholy mood on that train, maybe everyone else is just better at faking it than I am… maybe the dichotomy isn’t as bad as I think it is.