In what was perhaps the best pick-up line I’ve heard in the past six months (coincidentally, the only pick-up line I’ve heard in the past six months), a man at a bar, after regaling me with stories of his tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, noticed I’d caught something in my eye and asked if I’d like him to help me remove it.
“I have something in my eye?” I blink twice to get it out, whatever it is.
“It’s right here,” he says and puts his hand on my cheek and his lips to my ear. “My bed.”
The rehearsed wit makes him my favorite man in the world, and who would deny a soldier so kind as to offer clearing my vision?
He’s straight, I learn, but “experimental,” which is a more current expression of what aging millennials grew up hearing from gays in denial: “bi-curious.”
A week later I’m on a flight from New York to Boston, accidentally eavesdropping on a conversation between two college-aged women in the row over.
I am not so far removed from their age — I’m in my late 20s —but their conversation is a foreign language. Women’s studies majors, both with minors in gender studies, they’re using terms such as “agender” and “panromantic” and “graysexual.” These words pepper a conversation laced with musings on what it means to “hook up” in 2015, and how marvelously a recent feature in New York magazine illustrated the college hook-up culture.
Their conversation intrigues me at first, then makes me feel old and more uninformed than usual, then reminds me of my bedroom-eyed soldier and other men whose curiosities I’ve satisfied over the years.
After reading the article in question and plundering the internet, I convinced myself that I’ve been a cynical asshole since I lost my virginity. I readily admit that until I overheard the women on that plane, I never really bought into “bi.” My own experience, after all, told me that “bi” was just a soft opening, a smoother, easier way to come out as gay, nothing more. No one could legitimately be sexually attracted to both cisgenders. My relatively apathetic philosophy aligned with the grossly over-reaching, hypocritically judgmental, disgusting “bi now, gay later” bullshit, never mind that I figured “bi-curious” was an outright cop-out.
I don’t have the space here to publish a glossary of new words defining ancient sexual truths: that humans’ sex lives are indeed more complex than a multiple-choice question. It’s a terrifying experience reading about these “new” ideas, as the more you’ll learn, the more you’ll recognize yourself as the old grumps who long ago starved us of even being a G or L or B or T, let alone a demi-female attracted to those identifying female-binary.
And it’s been a liberating experience for me. Because yes, dammit, with this upgraded lexicon I realize that my love life isn’t a bipartisan election. I am not automatically sexually aroused by the same people for whom I have romantic feelings. I’ve often wondered why I sometimes experience romantic interest in women, while simultaneously experiencing zero sexual interest. Turns out I’m possibly a gay panromantic. And that’s just the start of it.
I’m still wrapping my head around this, and I’m writing now with an embarrassingly novice understanding of parts of me that have gone unrecognized since I came out. “Gay” has always been more than enough; sexuality has been happily two-dimensional.
A few days ago, as I lay with my bedroom-eyed solder, I asked him what he felt about all of this. He was repulsed. He called it “politically-correct liberal bullshit” and said that, while he may be innocent on many fronts, he knows all he needs to know about sexuality. “But,” he said, “to each their own.”
Aren’t those words what our community has been hearing for years? Isn’t that what it boils down to for conservative politicians who simply “tolerate” equal marriage because it’s increasingly irrelevant to the masses but remains alluring to the far right? Isn’t that what I was after when I doubted bisexuality?
I saw my reflection in his disgusting response. I saw a crudely articulated version of what I felt myself for some members of the GLBT community. I saw my estranged father, who still can’t accept that his son is gay.
For the first time, as I lay in bed with a bi-curious experimental straight man, I felt that I was, ironically, one of the most close-minded people in the world.
Here’s to fixing that.
Reference: “Sex on Campus,” New York magazine, Oct. 19.