Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Thirty-seven

Day 137 - Authenticity
I met two people today who turned out to be total opposites.
I met “Nathan” in the morning; he is a handsome man in his 40’s, in decent shape, personable and engaging, and in a long term relationship.  He is easy to talk to, and willing to share information about himself without shame or pretense.  He mentioned to me, in the context of our conversation, that his partner and he were living separate lives, but still shared meals, household duties, travel, and other domestic activities.  They just didn’t share a bedroom anymore.
In the evening, I met “Rob” at a party.  He was a relatively handsome man in his 40’s (I think).  He clearly didn’t take very good care of himself.  He appeared shy, and although he had a quick and pleasant smile, conversation seemed difficult for him.  He seemed uneasy the whole time, and I felt as if I were some kind of archeologist or anthropologist trying to figure out his story with only fragments of information that had to be carefully uncovered and extracted.  
I had assumed the man who accompanied Rob was his partner; when I asked, they both laughed, and explained only that Rob was the other man’s client.  No further elucidation was offered as to why they came together or the humor in my mistake.  
The other man seemed bored throughout the evening, making no obvious attempt at engaging with anyone in the room; he apparently sent out a distress signal after about an hour (in the form of a text message) to a friend to come rescue him from the soirée.  
Rob barely said three words except in response to questions; it was shortly before I left that I discovered that he was married to a woman.  (OK, so now I understand why they laughed when I asked if they were a couple.)
I do not believe Rob is straight - he was pinging my gaydar all evening.  There he was, in a room full of gay men, accompanied by a gay man... and I am reminded of myself twenty years ago, trying desperately to appear straight.  Trying to BE straight.  In retrospect, it made perfect sense that he would be uncomfortable and shy in this environment - people might be making assumptions about him that might be true but which seemed to make him squirm.  He stayed quiet and motionless, as if to blend into the furniture and go unnoticed.
I later thought about the contrast between Nathan and Rob.  I thought about my own assumptions, and tried to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.  I replayed their respective behavior in my head and realized that as Nathan genuinely presented his reality, he was fun and easy to talk to.  The conversation was enjoyable, and there were no apparent agendas.  The power of authenticity made an enormous difference in the experiences.
It was an interesting lesson to watch, and I'm grateful to have had such an experience to reinforce in me the value of authenticity.

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