When I first attended a monthly fireside at the Matises', the couple who opens their home to all kinds of homos, and family and friends of homos, I was a touch...tentative. I didn't exactly engage much. That's usually my M.O., being the very introverted person I am: I sit back and observe the surroundings at first. I take it in before engaging. I was the quiet new guy in the corner. I also felt a little like the fresh meat being dangled in front of the starving lions. I'm sure the Grahams would have protected me had they been there, but alas, they were not. (If that reference went past you, it's OK.)
Then, by the third month or so, I was feeling more comfortable at the gatherings, and it was just really nice to be around people who were totally comfortable with the whole idea of esperiencing homosexuality as a member of the church. I loved that people from many different perspectives and "journeys" could come together in a spirit of unity and acceptance and share an uplifting message and simple fellowship. It was nice to feel "normal" and totally at ease with it all, at least once a month.
By month five or six, the newness was wearing off, but the fun was in full gear. I no longer felt the need to feel "normal" once a month but was now enjoying the messages given and the fun of seeing people I basically only saw once a month. And to be quite frank, it was hecka fun to get a little flirting in here and there. I do enjoy a good flirt now and then, but I'm a bit of a tease, I guess, 'cause I rarely follow through at all. It's just fun sometimes. Testing body language. Verbal foreplay with no intent on following it up. It's fun. Call me dirty.
Sometime around month seven or eight, I realized the extent to which I was flirting and decided my behavior should probably match my intentions a little more closely. I began to curb the teasing and spent more time reconnecting with those people I see once a month, catching up, and maybe getting to know a couple of new people each time. Just enjoying the company.
Then month ten or twelve, I felt apathy. If I didn't love the Matises so much and enjoy the speakers, I might have started skipping here and there. The magic had worn off, I was feeling distant from mohodom, and I didn't know if it was necessary to be going at this point. I probably would have skipped in November if I hadn't been the one who made arrangements with the guest presenter, who I wanted to hear.
This month: I went probably only because I was curious about the speaker, and I wanted to see the Matises. ...OK, and I had nothing "better" to do. There was something noticeably different about this month, though: I wasn't interested in flirting with anyone. I wasn't interested in finding the cutest faces. I wasn't even interested only in catching up with my monthly contacts. I was more interested in talking with the guys who seemed to be standing around by themselves. So I talked to them. I'm glad I did. They were nice guys. I realized that my motivations and interactions felt more pure, more focused on others, more meaningful. Suffice it to say: it's nice to feel "real" again for now, to feel sober from self-gratifying interaction and shallow flirtation.
Don't get me wrong, I think there's a balance to be struck, and I've never really been a social slut, nor do I believe all interaction should be serious and laboriously meaningful. I didn't consider my visits with these guys who were standing alone to be charity cases at all. I just wanted to talk to them, and I enjoyed the conversations. I guess it's hard to describe, but I just felt more real, more like me, more down-to-earth than I have in that kind of setting in quite a while. By focusing on others, I felt more like myself. What kind of sense does that make?
And maybe it's also related to my recent efforts to decompartmentalize my somewhat fractured life. Just being me, as opposed to being the church me, the family me, the moho world me, the straight friends me...it adds a dimension of self-accountability and a desire to simply be genuine. I've also been thinking about my relationships with my good friends and what I really value about them and letting that motivate me to try to magnify, in myself, the traits I most value in people around me.
When I tried to leave by saying good-bye to a few people, I enjoyed our brief conversations, and 45 minutes later, I was heading out the door. Man, it seems impossible to get out of there before 10:30. But hey, I guess I like it that way.