Not Your Snails, Not Your Oysters

It was a stressy Sunday at Ye Olde Montrose Forge, primarily due to various plastered patrons throwing and/or crashing into things. (Me: “Why is everyone here drunk?” Also Me: “Because you work in a bar, idiot.”) However, one particular incident involving a couple of customers – let’s call them Carlisle (to protect his anonymity) and Spartacus (because I can’t remember his real name) — has stuck in my craw, and I want to talk about it, because it highlights how easily male privilege can be abused, even in an all-male scenario.

Carlisle comes into the store to say hi. We’re amicably chatting away at the front counter, when Spartacus enters and inserts himself into the conversation – and by “inserts,” I mean he literally positions himself between us. We keep talking, and a few minutes later, Spartacus reaches over and starts stroking Carlisle’s beard. Carlisle jerks back and politely but firmly asks him not to do that. Spartacus asks what the problem is, and Carlisle replies that he prefers not to be touched by people he doesn’t know. Spartacus glares at him and asks if he’s racist.

Now that is some Ed Sheeran-level entitlement right there: “I’m a NICE GUY, and if you don’t want me invading your personal space, there is something wrong with YOU.”  But Carlisle holds his ground and reiterates that he just doesn’t like it when people he doesn’t know try to touch him. Spartacus sputters and huffs for a bit, then pretends to see someone he knows by the main bar and sweeps out of the store in a rustle of taffeta.

Thing is, Spartacus knows he crosses boundaries, and he has traps in place designed to shame people into allowing him to continue the behavior. That is emphatically not okay – in fact, that is borderline predatory. This was not the first time I’ve seen Spartacus get grabby with a relative stranger, although it was the first time I’ve seen him get shut down, which is empowering. But it’s also disheartening, in that I see so many gay men (myself included at times) accept unwanted advances, because “Hey, we’re all guys here”; because it’s easier to grit our teeth and wait for the situation to pass instead of standing up for ourselves and risk a confrontation with someone who is going to make the whole thing our fault anyway. I mean, did you see what we were wearing? We were totally asking for it.

This is also emphatically not okay.

Long story short, my people: Don’t fucking touch without permission, and don’t feel guilty about not letting yourself be touched without permission. We may be mired in patriarchal rape culture, but we have no business taking advantage of it, or pretend it doesn’t exist.

Same Old Saturday Night

Went to see a movie show,
Found myself an empty row,
Thought the show was just alright,
Same old Saturday night.

Then I made the usual stop,
Coffee at the coffee shop,
Friendly face nowhere in sight,
Same old Saturday night.

At the end of my freshman year at Texas A&M, I spent some quality time with a guy named Mitch. We met at an affectedly avant-garde coffeehouse where both of us sometimes picked up shifts, and where, when the planets aligned just so, he would grab a mic and croon his favorite Sinatra song to much acclaim. I’ve never been quite sure if we dated or not. I mean, I was very infatuated with him, and he was admittedly attracted to me, but he had recently gone through a breakup and wasn’t over his ex. Plus, there was an age difference with which neither one of us was comfortable, and I was busy flunking out and gearing up to move to Houston, which put the kibosh on any chance of an actual relationship.

Off-kilter attempts at romance aside, he was also my first sober acquaintance. I don’t remember how it came up, but he once mentioned that he realized he had a drinking problem when every story he told began with, “So this one time, I was really drunk…” While this revelation did not immediately force me to review my personal imbibing issues, it did stay tucked in the depths of my pickled brain, bubbling to the surface whenever my own anecdotes started leading with the same disclaimer. I’m sure I drank heavily in front of him at some point or another, but he never called me out on it, and I’ve always been grateful that he set an example of recovery for me, something I could go back and reference when it was time to sober up myself.

I really thought – the papers I bought,
Would help me forget you for a while,
Believe me honey – the funnies weren’t funny,
They didn’t even make me smile.

Mitch and I communicated a few times after I left College Station but quickly fell out of touch, and while I occasionally found myself wondering what he was up to, I could never find any contact information for him. He was one of the first people I looked for when Facebook became a thing, but whatever he was doing, it was decidedly offline.

Over the past few days, I’ve seen a number of social media posts about a website called “True People Search.” Everyone seemed alarmed about the accuracy of the information it contained, which tripped a trigger and made me suddenly think of Mitch. Feeling encouraged, I hopped onto the website, typed in his full name and finally tracked him down.

He died in a car accident 17 years ago, a couple of months after I graduated. According to his obituary, he left behind a domestic partner of three years (a fairly progressive thing to include back then), so hopefully he was happy. I told a friend of mine about this, who immediately asked if he’d been drinking, thereby causing the accident. It’s a valid question. I don’t know the answer. But I knew him as a sober individual, and since the intimate details of his death are not available, that is the way I will remember him.

I’m trying not to feel guilty about not finding him sooner, especially since the resources to do so simply didn’t exist at the time. And I’m trying not to put undue energy into wishing that I could have introduced him to grown-up, sober me, or maybe even seen if there were any sparks left over from liaisons two decades old. Regardless, I will use the sparks I do have to light a candle for him, and I will thank him for being a good influence when I didn’t yet know who I was.

I really think he would’ve liked who I turned out to be.

How I wish you’d lift the phone,
Fun is fun – but not alone,
‘Til you let me hold you tight,
Same old Saturday night.

In which Trothwy fucks the dirt again

The used key is always bright

We’re hard on the heels of May Day.  That glorious sabbat where witches all skip out into nature and — not to put too fine a point on it — show Nature they’d like a heaping helping of fertility, please.

Best. Holiday. Ever.

It’s also the holiday with it’s very own (rainbow-colored) elephant in the room.  “Great!  I’m gay.  I have a same-sex love and working partner, and I’m working magic in a traditional (read heterosexually-slanted) fertility cult.  Now what?”

Of course there’s a way to work the May Day rite with your same-sex partner.    (But you probably already knew that.)  And lots of ways to do so and show Nature you’d like not only a great love life this year, but also lots of fertility on the farms so there’s plenty of good food to eat.  And we’re going to talk about one way below.  So if you’re too young…

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