Ok. Let me try and explain a little bit about my life, right now.
I’ve just found out the 8 button is broken on my keyboard.
I’m in a transitional phase of my life, i think it’s fair to say. For the last three years, I’ve lived a vaguely crappy existence: in a demanding job where there’s a lot to do but it’s far too easy to waste time, I’ve spent afternoons mindlessly browsing the internet and evenings working late to catch up. I’m gay, and single. I’ve had short, abortive relationships, but nothing more. The sex in my life has been – well, not more than glorified foreplay, really. I’m intelligent, but my job can be brainless at times. Basically I’ve been living half a life.
So why are things changing? Well. I’ve been in my current job – working on a magazine – almost two years, and it’s time to move on. I think – I certainly hope – that after years of maneouvring I’m now in a position to get a real journalism job, on a real magazine about things that matter to people. But I haven’t the slightest idea how to get started on getting that next job, and I’m vaguely terrified to try.
I’ve spent much of the last three years paying off debts accrued while at University and soon after. Not my actual student loans, but additional bank debt – overdraft, credit card – built up mostly by wasting a ton of money on junk food. Oh yes, I’m a compulsive eater. After a lot of hard work I’ve nearly finished paying it off – my last loan payment is on Feb 1. After that I’ll have almost half again as much disposable income each month. This might not sound important, but it’s going to make a real difference to my life – it means I can go out, go to galleries, have dinner with friends, and live a full city life in a way that’s very hard on the cheap.
And, my mother has terminal cancer. If it seems that should come first on a list of salient facts, well, I guess it’s sufficiently new that I haven’t worked out where it fits into the larger scheme of my life yet. I don’t even know what that last sentence means.
We’ve known for two years she had cancer, but it was always under control. We found out over Christmas that it’s spread from her tongue to her chest, and is basically unstoppable. We’re hoping chemotherapy will slow it down. But the doctor says, given the aggressiveness of the cancer and the difficulties of treatment, her life expectancy is probably measurable in months, not years.
My father, who left when I was nine, died ten years ago. When mum goes, I’ll be parentless.
Did I mention I’m 28?
I do have two siblings, thank goodness: a wonderful if somewhat maddening older sister, and a supportive if often hard to relate to older brother. They have kids, wonderfully, and my sister’s baby boy in particular just melts my heart. He came along just a few days before we got the news about mum, so as you can imagine it was an odd little Christmas.
So where does mum being sick fit into the transition in my life? Basically, it’s a cliche but it’s spurred me on to fix the things in my life that aren’t as they should me. I badly need to start living life more fully. Above all, I need to find love. Not, I stress, to “complete me” or some such crap. I spent a long time telling myself it was OK to be single. And it is, morally speaking. But that doesn’t mean it makes you happy.
I think there are a few reasons I’ve never been in love:
- Men are shits. The worst thing about being a gay man is that you have to seek love from other men. And men are cold, destructive and dishonest – sometimes. Of course, women have to put up with this stuff too, but they have other women to help them get through it. I’ve always been the kind of gay man who has mostly straight male friends. Between that and the men I’ve dated, I’ve always been in the zone of emotional distance, or some such jargon.
- I’m terrified of anal sex. I’ve never done it, and to be frank, it looks painful and unpleasant. The one time I tried – with my best friend, would you believe, when I was 16 – it was painful and unpleasant. Deep down I realise that, with preparation and care, it must be nice. But now I’m scared of telling any boyfriend that I’ve never done it before (again, I’m 28). I’m sure some of my fizzled relationships fizzled because I wasn’t responding to signals to do it.
- I’m terrified of getting hurt. This, more than anything, is the realisation that I’ve had since we got the news about mum. I used to imagine being hurt, crying, feeling heartache and I just couldn’t bear the thought of it. Of course, I’ve been through it, with my father’s leaving and so on. But it had become a haunting memory. But since December, I’ve cried more than in the preceding ten years. And I’m not so afraid of it any more.
The other thing that’s changed is that I realise just how much I’m going to miss the love that mum represents in my life. I’ve always wanted, and recently, mercifully, got much love and support from friends and my brothers and sisters – when I asked for it, at least. But only mum has ever really known me well enough to see through it when I’ve been putting up barriers, to see I’m unhappy when even I haven’t realised. Since I began contemplating life without her, I’ve been seized for the first time since I was about fifteen by a strong desire to find a loving, mutually supportive boyfriend. And ultimately, to marry one and raise children together. I need that love – that total, unquestionable love – in my life. I have it, from mum, now, but that won’t be true for long. And for the first time I think the desire for it outweighs my terror of being rejected, being hurt, or being laughed at.