Category Archives: Friendship – Amitié

Of love and men.

« I believe in love » is a sentence we hear a lot but I never really understood.

I can understand the belief in religion because somehow it weirdly seems more tangible to believe in something that does not exist. I have never seen spirits or God so I’ve never believed in them but I have seen love, it’s everywhere so what’s the point in saying that you “believe” in it. It’s like saying you believe in the sun or the trees.

That’s how I thought about it, until recently.

My grandfather died about a month ago. He was 83, had two terminal cancers and although he did not suffer physically, his physical decadence was an everyday psychological torture and humiliation for him.

When he died, I did not cry. Neither did my grandmother who smiled at me when I arrived at the hospital and where scores of family members were crying. She smiled at me and it made me feel so much better because we both rationalise death as liberation for the dead. Finally! He was free from the pain, the torments.

So I did not cry after losing the most important man of my life. Well I did cry but not because of his death. I spoke at the funerals and still did not cry. When I went home, I turned on Tumblr where I saw a gif of Looking where Kevin tells Patrick that “he’s fucking in love” with him. And only then did I cry. Between the tears, I went on Youtube to find just that moment and cried. Downloaded it, watched it, again and again and “cried, cried, cried over the love” of them.

This moment was an epiphany, the likes of the one who triggered my realising I was gay. It all started when I began questionnig men and our status in the society, the social and behavioural expectations put on us. My first question when I was about 12 was “Why is it that two girls who hold hands are just “friends” whereas two boys are “gay”?”

I questioned the many differences between the emotional strings men and women attached to their peers and realised one day, after years of observations, that I was a different kind of man, one that wanted to hold hands with another one, one that wanted to be as close to a man as I was to my (girl) best-friends, one that rejected the ideal of a man the boys were trying to emulate. I was a man that was going to tick the box “gay” for the rest of my life and I was okay with it because my family always knew and accepted it because “there is nothing to accept nor reject” as they say.

That crying over a couple of second scene of Looking made me realise something about me. I don’t cry at death, I don’t cry at pain, I don’t cry at anger because I rationalise them, I understand them, they are no stranger to me, I am ready from them.

I do cry at love gestures, grand or small. I noticed that the videos that always make me cry are the surprise proposals, the surprise homecomings, the genuine wedding speeches.The genuine, the true, the passionate, the explosive, the romantic love gestures. The love songs are throwing me over the edge: You look so fine by Garbage, To have not to hold by Madonna, Halo by Beyoncé, Between two Lungs by Florence and the Machine…

Crying is my way of shielding myself against and within love because I don’t know anything about it. It’s a stranger to me. I don’t think I have ever genuinely fell in love because I did not believe in it, I did not trust it. I know now how extremely unhappy this lack of belief in love can make someone.

This is now where my life is going to change again. This is where I am going to accept myself, not a gay man but as a man who has feelings he needs to believe in to be happy.

It really all started during yet another sleepless, anxiety-filled night where I, as I always do during such nights, got up and decided to write. I have been doing that since I was 11 or 12, not to be published, not to be read but to occupy and soothe my anxieties with creativity.

And on that night, about six months ago, I made the decision to create a gay couple who are living the romantic love. Not the sweet kind but the hard kind, the one that consumes you, the ones changes you forever, the one who runs you over again and again. That one nor words neither actions can really soothe and satisfy.

And after reading yet another article about the clichés of love, I decided that they would be cliché. They would be the clichéest couple that ever there was because I am sick and tired with the Westworld-wide cynism about love and everything attached to it. Everything is cliché today. Proposals needs to be creative, honeymoons need to be adventurous. No more of a knee down and Paris. “How common!”

When have we become so cynical about love?

Cynism is fine and I enjoy it and practice it greatly when it’s funny, when it’s all tainted delicately with irony with a blunt of touch of sarcasm but the one surrounding love is just spiteful, blasé and negative. It teaches us that maturity goes with the moment when you stop believing the fairytales-like love and be more realistic. In a nutshell: it doesn’t exist.

I am a very stubborn and self-determined person who is hardly influenced by anything from the outside unless it is well put, well thought through and well argumented. Except for love. I have been ready to believe all the worst I could hear and see about love. I have been putting it down, crushing it at the first occasion, finding all reasons and excuses to dismiss it, ridicule it, be angry at it and ignore it.

It became clear that I was my worst nightmare: a man who was a product of our society where men are said to be solely driven by economic fulfilment. Ask a woman about the most important day in her life, she will tell you either her wedding or the birth of her children. Ask a man older than 40, he will tell you about his promotion or finally buying his dream car (only money-related dreams are allowed in maturity). I am product of a society where men must be rational, economic animals whereas women are their emotional, foolish love-driven sidekicks.

My mother likes to think I hate her married lover because I am jealous. No, I hate him because he’s nothing but the stereotype the society is still pushing younger men to emulate: a successful banker at the Rothschild’s Bank with a company car, a wife and two kids to show off at business dinners. A man who is overworking in order to climb the professional ladder and who loves by interest, which is what I used to believe about all men. As far as I was concerned, men were incapable of love, were some kind of love-disabled species who yet understood it was a necessity for their survival to fake it.

When I asked my mother why he was not divorcing his wife instead of cheating with countless women (he seems to have settled with my mother for the past few years), she said because he can’t. The fact is that his love life is nothing but an instrument to maintain his social status: he says “I love you” to his wife, he has sex with his wife, he stays married to her making her believe he is the same man she married decades ago because his social and economic status depend on it. He was taught that some boxes need to be ticked to succeed and impress his peers so he ticks them without believing in them: wife, kids, career and car.

I long thought that when women are driven by love, men are driven by their honour, how respectable they are in our society. When my cousin told me he had his heart broken, my first thought, that I kept for myself, was “You liar! Just give up with that ridiculous excuse! Your heart is not broken, just your honour because she dumped you. That’s why you say you want to get back with her. Not because you love her but because you want to save your honour by being the one who did the dumping.”

And how many men are talking like this? How many men are doing this? “

How many of those men are shown to be the norm?” is the real question.

I tried and typed the word “husband” on Google a couple of month ago to find it was mainly attached to “cheating”. The tabloids are filled with stories of famous men cheating and allegedly cheating because that’s what powerful men do and people are ready to believe all these stories without a doubt. In France, we have totally interiorised the idea that a power comes with a set of mistresses. And I have interiorised that, as far as men were concerned, love is irrelevant.

Between 20 and 25, I took great pleasure sleeping with straight married men with kids because it comforted me in this idea. I went as extreme as asking them to tell me about their wedding day in details as I was kneeling between their legs. They seem to take pleasure in it too: the sin was too great. Was it some kind of death to them? Killing the man they pretended to be as liberation, even just for a couple of minutes?

Personally, I never thought it would have destroyed me so much. I have never trusted a man to love so I have never bothered trying to date, to see anyone because I knew I would be hurt and left betrayed and alone at the end. I rather spent 12 years, observing, listening, studying the people around me to find out more. I needed to rationalise it. Love was nothing but a psychological study I was conducting.

This is when it became apparent that is not just society but also my parents who marked me. An immature father who has never grown up and was only tender to my mother when he felt she was pulling away from him and he was about to lose the comfort of  the married life and her money offered.  But also a mother who, after knowing him for 25 years and marrying him twice has been left blasée and unable to believe in forever. She now has a very dry view of relationship, very blunt.

She accepts love and is very in touch with her feelings but when my brother was dating his girlfriend and was talking about children and long-time life in some foreign country, she replied “Well, that’s if you’re still together”. She was not being mean or anything, it just came out the way she believes it and she doesn’t believe in love anymore. She believe in passion, she believes in feelings but she doesn’t believe that two persons can love forever.

She is not the only one: how many time do we hear “mismatch” or “I gave them two weeks” or “It’s not going to last” when two people start dating?

What is wrong with people?
Why are we all believing in lies, deceit, irrelevance when it comes to relationships?
Why can’t we believe in love?

And I understood. I understand what it is now to believe in love. It is to believe that it exists. I believe in its power that can be stronger than anything. I know…”how cliché!”…Well, yes! So?

Everywhere, from our most cherished members of family to the national press and the wider society love is taking a beating by people who have stopped believing in it and whose disappointment needs to be expressed by forcing their open cynism us.

I, for once, am absolutely fed up and tired with it. I felt I was becoming a psychopath when it came to men: I was physically attracted to what I despised and feared the most. My pulsions turned aggressive as well as sexual and in fear of anything bad happening, I kept away from them. At 30, I found out that I wasted the last 10 years of my life trying to prove myself that I did not need a man.

Today, I don’t want to listen to all that crap about how love is nothing but a social invention serving social peace and prudish religion purpses.

I want more! I want hope and something to look forward to. I want to believe. To believe in love. To believe in men. To believe in their genuine ability to love like my brother is loving my sister-in-law. Like more and more men of my age and younger are loving. I want to believe in these men. The ones who, like me, are looking at their aloof fathers and men such as my mother’s lover as a kind of man that should be left in the past.

Call me childish, naïve, stupid, blind, look down on me, ridicule me as much as you want but I want to believe because one day, another man is going to open his heart and tell me he loves me and this time, I want to be ready to believe him, unlike the last time when I could hear nothing but a lie.

So today, I believe in love.

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I didn’t know I was looking for love until I found you.

Have you ever asked yourself, after a few years with a person, friend or lover, “Why the hell am I friends with them? Why the hell am I even in a relationship with them? We have nothing in common and I can’t stand them!” ?

It always seems to suddenly pop in our heads that we are not made to be together, in love or friendship, even after many unsuspecting years.

Why do some people stay in our lives when others are coming and going? Why do we seem to commit to eternity to some people and let others go adrift? Why do people cheat when others manage to stay faithful to one person? What is in us that makes us want to be with someone, crave for them, need them, desire them even after 20 years on common life, even after the “honey moon phase” is long gone? Why do we, here, thread bounds that seem to just disappear with time when, there, others are like stainless steel?

I got to think about it a lot as I was preparing something to say at my best-friend’s wedding and I can still picture the flashing, fading views of London from the window of speeding buses and the Overground, with Kate Bush in my ears, as hints were crippling in my head.

The people who come and go in our lives (friends, lovers, spouses…) are people we meet because we need something. The sole purpose of these people for us is to provide us with something missing. We go to them looking for something, we expect something. Sometimes the need is such that we don’t see anything else, we love them unconditionally or we make ourselves believe that these feelings are true love, because they are saving us from something, providing us with something we think only them at this moment can. It then can take years maybe decades but once this need is fulfilled, we suddenly wonder why these people are still here.

A woman can genuinely love a man because she knows he will be the best father for the children she has always wanted, he has the qualities and situation for this. That’s what all animals do, we search for the best partner for the future of our offspring, the problem is that the society wants “romantic love” to be a prerequisite to the whole affair…

Anyway! Then she can realise after 20 years, after the children are grown up and gone, when her life can be about herself again, she realises that she never really liked him as a person. At first, she put up with his flaws, his unbearable sexism and his golf, mocking her for ageing as his beer-belly grew slowly and downwardly between his lower shirt and trousers. All because the need was still here and blinded her. It’s cruel use of a man as a “sperm bank and babysitter” but that’s the way we still often do.

It can be the same for the husband who wants to have a wife, to conform to society’s view of him as a the provider for a family, to have children, to be proud of them, to play with them, to pay for them and pretend he resented it, to teach them, to have his name carried on. All just to wake up one morning after the kids are not here to buffer between them, and to realise that his wife has not let him touch her for years and she never really liked sex with him to begin with, that she “has changed”: she doesn’t cook, clean anymore…in one word, she doesn’t pretend like she used to. He wakes up next to a woman who he used as a “baby-factory and babysitter” and who’s now a stranger to him.

It’s anecdotal with it comes to friendship, it’s terribly destructive when it comes to love relationships. In France, there’s a staggering rate of divorce within people in their 50s. I am also baffled by the amount of couples breaking up under the strain because they can’t manage to have kids: is it really the main reason why you got together? What about love? Did you ever love each other or was breeding the sole, unconscious purpose of each other?

(One can argue that it is, we are animals, but I will address that later.)

On the other hand, the people who do stay in our lives are the people of whom we have no expectations to begin with, whom we create a need around. They are not in our lives because we need something, they are in our lives because they are them, their individuality has become our need. In love, these couples will be the ones to last forever, not because the partners feel like they have to conform to society but because they actually, genuinely love each other and want to be together.

However, it shows better with friendship where romantic love and need for breeding (really?) is not blurring the lines.

Let’s take Alice, my aforementioned best-friend. At uni, I did something unusual for France which was to go to a university far away from where I live and where I knew no one but one friend from high-school. My only friend was in Psychology when I was in History with very different timetables and little time to no time to meet.

Thus, I had the need to meet people – the horror! Being alone is one thing, being lonely is another. Especially since I made a mistake with my train connections the first morning and missed the first lecture. I thought uni was like high-school at first and freaked out. So I went to some people who, themselves, missed the first lecture and we bounded on that: our missed, difficult train connections, we all came from very far and had up to 5 hours of transport everyday, we knew nobody and all needed some people to be with so we don’t drown in 40,000-student strong university.

From these friends, with time, I met others then others and one day, after eight months, I met her, Alice. It just happened! I was talking to someone else about Russian, of which I was relearning the alphabet, and she joined in because she learnt it for years. I spotted her before and was attracted to her aura but I was not looking for anything, I was not looking to meet someone her to be my friend of ten years. I was happy with the friends I had but then, because she was more attuned to me, because I was attracted to her in a way – even if it’s nothing carnal – I unconsciously did everything to make her stay in my life. After a few weeks, I realised I was spending less and less time with the first friends and was looking for her when alone. I can’t describe the good feeling I had when with her although I can describe exactly what the first friends were providing me: the feeling of confidence walking in the corridors with three other people and not alone

Then sentences, remarks (“For me, being gay is a disability”), attitudes, deeds that I really did not like from these erstwhile friends in certain situations surfaced suddenly when these situations repeated themselves and Alice’s reaction was what I was expecting from someone I would call “friend” and I know that losing her would feel like losing a sister.

I have the same story for Caroline, a girl I met at uni again, during my French Masters and we found ourselves being roommates in England. I thought she was naïve and a bit simplistic in her thinking at first and she thought I was a frightening, rough and raw pompous pain in the arse who would be a nightmare to live with. We are now also best-friends.

“I didn’t know I was looking for love until I found you”. It took me years to understand what it meant.

It means that, in friendship and love, the people we meet when you have a need to satisfy (fear, loneliness, sex, rescue, children, conformity to some rules…) will fade away once that need has been addressed. There was an expectation; you gave them a mission to provide you with something that was missing, to make you feel like you are full, accomplished, acceptable, good again.

Once it’s done, if they failed, you will either look for another disposal person who might fulfill this need. If they succeed, you will mostly (not always, things can change), you will mostly let them go to make room for the others: those who are the need themselves, those who bring something more, those who can make you a better, fuller person. The people you “accept for who they are, not what they can do for you”, the ones “can’t get enough of”.