Domesticating the Straight Man
Since the dawn of civilization, humans have struggled to make sense of the world around us and the other people we interact with. We search for answers in a seemingly endless pool of questions, but with every truth found, more quandaries are created. Did we create time? How did humanity come to be? And what the hell is going on with straight men? These are some of the questions that have plagued me over the years. Many of these questions may never find their answers, but as humans, we simply cannot accept that.
For a short period of time, I thought myself to be one of these strange creatures we refer to as “Straight Men”. However, it did not take long for me to realize that I had a touch of the gay in me. Ever since the moment I recognized my sexuality, I have felt myself slowly, but surely, slipping away from the pressures and rigid social demands that are expected from the Straight Male. Now, I know what you’re thinking, how can the patriarchy feel pressured in a society completely of its own invention? If they’re in charge, why not simply change the system? It is a valid point. I have enjoyed the pleasure of working with these strange and unexplainable creatures in their natural habitats. I dwelled with the apes and learned their ways, their smelly chauvinistic ways. You would be surprised how much we can learn from each other.
When I was fourteen, I came out as a homosexual. At that time I was living in one of the Straight Male’s favorite habitats, the Midwest. As I’m sure you can imagine, I was not overly vocal about my sexuality. Some people at my school knew that I was gay, but I concealed it from most. It was better to simply blend in as much as possible. I camouflaged myself, granting me an amazing vantage point to study these most elusive and confusing species of humans. I was terrified that people’s opinions of me would change if I revealed who I really was inside. They would think of me as less than or damaged. I had visions of big dumb jocks ridiculing me in the halls. Making a hell out of what are supposed to be some of the best years of your life. Of course, these fears were irrational, and anybody worth having a friendship with would accept me for the person I was, but I still felt incredibly alone. I was the only “gay” at my school (that I knew of). Basically, my high school held a social code strikingly similar to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Jump cut to a year and a half later. After my prolonged study of the Straight Man, I felt myself taking on their behavior more naturally. I was losing myself in my research, as many scientists are guilty of doing. I donned a snapback and found myself truly enjoying bro tanks. I began to use their mating calls, words like “Swag” and “Steez”. I had put up walls around who I really was for the sake of fitting in. I turned into some weird, asexual, repressed version of myself. This tale is not uncommon.
It was the summer between sophomore and junior, and I had fully transformed from curious observer to fully fledged pack member. I was invited to a houseparty. A new privilege to me. I had never been welcomed to one of these bizarre rituals, and a few months prior to this, I’m sure I would not have gone, but I had sold my soul to the Bro Devil and I was blinded. I opened the door to see endless rows of shoes in the entryway. Following the noise, I made my way to the basement door. Down the carpeted stairs, I encounter a crowd of people who look familiar, but intimidating. As fast as humanly possible, I find a bottle of vodka. Looser and more social, I make my way through the fauna. Basic bitches mingling with soccer jocks, druggies banded close together in dark shadows (for warmth, I can only assume), and drunk dudes who were a bit more touchy than normal. Through the wildlife I see my buddy, I’ll refer to him as Patient X, he made his way across the jungle to me. He reeked of whisky and cigarettes. My kind of musk. Patient X informs me he needed my help in the bathroom. In my lizard brain, I truly thought he needed my assistance with some sort of problem. You can imagine my shock when upon arrival to the bathroom, and Patient X grabs me in an embrace and locks his lips with mine.
Let me tell you something about Patient X, he was cool. A cool kid, or C.K. as we used to say. My pal, Patient X, played sports and had hot girlfriends. X had a natural charm, and on top of it all, he was a senior. The two of us had sparked a mild friendship during a drama class, and after my “Bro-if-a-cation” we started hanging out together in the pack. We were close acquaintances, but we would become much closer throughout the next school year.
After our first encounter, we cautiously continued meeting up. Patient X had told me that he often had feelings that really made him uncomfortable. A perfect candidate for domestication. He was finding himself attracted to men, mainly physically, he assured me. X had no one he could share these feelings with, and therefore felt a toxicity building up inside him. Patient X was struggling with how to express these feelings. People have a lot of trouble seeing sexuailty as a spectrum. We have been taught from a very young age that everybody is different and unique. So why is it so hard to grasp this idea in a sexual context? Perhaps, if Patient X had been presented with this idea he would not have been forced into a mold created by social pressures, and this tale would be a whole lot different.
I felt bad for him. Naturally, him and I became inseparable. We went to dinner together, alone. We would sneak out at night and meet at his house. Then, he would drive me to school in the morning. It was getting real. X and I were essentially dating. But no one could know about that side of our relationship. People just thought we were good buddies. Can you imagine what would happen to the delicate ecosystem that was my high school if this news was out? Drama nerds beating up jocks, mathletes viciously gossiping about cheerleaders, gays eating cool guys for breakfast.
My best friend at school’s name was Laura, and we told each other everything. Laura could tell I was concealing something and began questioning my whereabouts. I lied to her. I told her that I was simply too busy these days to hang out with her. Rightfully, she did not understand and we began to drift apart throughout our junior year. I was slowly selling integral pieces of myself to keep up an illusion. Patient X was all I needed. However, were we really even dating if nobody knew about it? The toxicity Patent X was forced to deal with was contagious, and I had caught a bad case. This behavior continued for months. People at school began to treat me like I wasn’t a weirdo, because he liked me. I felt accepted. People I had never seen before knew me and would say hey to me in the halls. That feeling is intoxicating, and my little gay ass started falling for this guy, but you can’t build a house without some nails.
Prom, 2014: Do people like prom? I had never been to a school dance before, but by the end of Junior year I was feeling good and I wanted to do a victory lap. I had risen up through the social rankings, I fooled them! With help from Patient X, I was able to convince my peers that I wasn’t that weird gay kid they all thought I was.
My suit was probably the best looking of the night. It perfectly combined the masculinity I had been enforcing upon myself, with the natural style I am privledged to as a gay man. I looked great and I had a boyfriend for prom. What could stop?
For reasons I’m still questioning, my school held prom that year at an air and space Museum outside of town. The dance floor was an old airline hangar, and all sorts of aerial vessels stood like statues towering over the dancing teenagers. All walks of life moved as one giant dancing unit. Truly a jungle thriving with diversity. Patient X and I couldn’t go together, of course. However, we had made plans to meet up and hang out throughout the function. I arrived with my date, a close friend from choir, but Patient X is nowhere to be seen.
Hours had passed and I couldn’t find him. The royalty was crowned, and he was still at large. I decided to explore the shadows created by the gigantic planes and spaceships. Concealed by a dark shadow cast by an obnoxious red spaceship, I found Patient X wrapped up with a girl. She was one of my new friends. He and I locked eyes. He continued making out with her.
Mortified, I left with a lump in my throat and tried my hardest to hold back the tears until I returned to the safety of my Volkwagen. I was in too deep, I realized. When I began to change into this bro version of myself, I could have never imagined this is where it would take me. I didn’t even really know who I was anymore. Was I really this fratty repressed guy? Was I domesticating straight men, or were they domesticating me?
After that, I would continue hooking up and hanging out with Patient X for several months. My only explanation for that is I was young, dumb, and really had developed feelings for this bro . The day after my eighteenth birthday, we had one final meetup. It was raining and X and I were sitting on top of his Jeep. I told him this had to stop, but he insisted we still see each other. I knew I had to completely cut him off. It was the only way I could fully get out of the cycle of lying and concealment, and maybe rediscover who I really was. We shared one last kiss, our lips wet with rain. I felt his hand move across my body. “It’s a trap”, I thought to myself. Begrudgingly, I pulled away, and my first ever romantic relationship was over.
My senior year, I didn’t hang out with many people from my high school. Those relationships felt stagnant. There was a huge part of me that those friends didn’t even know existed. It is incredibly hard to ask myself which traits were real and which were created by my inability to express myself. I still feel myself cleaning up the damage from this period of my life today.
Recently, I began speaking to a guy I found on Grindr. His profile read “Bi-dL”, and I, a Gemini who can’t help but be curious, had to inquire. One night, he painted a vivid fantasy of us tip-toeing around and hiding from his roommates, because they didn't know he had a sexual interest that diverges from the norm. I won’t lie, old habits die hard. Despite the temptation, I turned him down. I don’t need to pretend to be something simply to garner attention from men who check all the traditional masculine boxes.
Minorities are banding together, and attempting to make huge changes within our culture. Obviously, as a person who respects human life, I am in support of these efforts. The issue for many minorities is the marginalization they feel from “The Patriarchy.” It’s very true that straight men are awarded many privileges over other groups. On the other hand, straight men are being told that the way our society has taught them to behave is incredibly detrimental to the furtherment of our culture. Society tells men to be emotionally dead breadwinners, but in a world where equality is being fought for and mental/emotional health is valued, the male identity is in question. Could the current rise in mass gun violence, primarily committed by young men, be correlated to this identity crisis? It is becoming increasingly important to listen to each other and to try and value what might be under the surface. We’re all living in the same jungle, best to just take it all in and do our best to learn from what we see.
Was Patient X truly domesticated? As far as I know, he still dates women exclusively, but he does slide into my snapchat from time to time, so it’s up for debate. We can learn a lot from each other. In the case of Patient X and I, I learned how to love myself and live an unapologetic life. I like to think X learned something too.