There was a time when my ex-wife suggested there might be something wrong with me and that I should see a psychotherapist.
Boy, was that the pot calling the kettle black.
I mean, yeah, in the end, there was something wrong with me — her! She had often questioned my sexual orientation throughout the course of the marriage, and I always claimed to be straight. After all, we had two children together, and they were definitely ours. However, things aren’t always as they seem. (And just because someone is married and has two children doesn’t mean one is not gay.)
In my first session with the therapist, the only memorable but wrong advice she gave me was this: “There are only about 20 people in the world who can be your soulmate.”
“WHAT?!” I thought. “I’m on a hunt for 1 of 20 people among more than five billion?”
This idea has tormented me for years. Are there really only 20?
If you have one, do you feel as if your current spouse/partner is your soulmate?
A couple of sessions later, she asked if I felt I was gay, and I said no. This is not how or where I am going to come out.
At my ex-wife’s wish, we were divorced within two years of that first appointment with the therapist.
It didn’t have anything to do with my being gay (supposedly). I came out about four months after the divorce. She had an affair.
Most gay guys I know came out in their 20s. The average age of coming out has fallen drastically over the years. Had I come out earlier, it probably would have been at about the same time. I was 40 when I did, but I felt (and acted) like I was 20 again for maybe a year.
In Chicago, the Pride Parade is always on the last Sunday of June, with about a million spectators from all walks of life. My first parade was in 1998, but I wasn’t quite out yet. I went with an adoring girlfriend from whom I tried to shield my interest in the go-go boys that went floating by. However, within three weeks, I had come out on a one-on-one basis with many friends. Those were tough conversations to have, but most of them lamented, “it’s about time you came out, bitch! We knew it all along!” I’ll save the familial response for another time because that was a different experience altogether.
That was a fun and liberating time. Mayor Richard J. Daley had recently proclaimed Halsted Street as the “first gay street in America,” erecting dildo-like sculptures with bands of the gay rainbow surrounding them on every block for six blocks. It was Boystown, and it was our town. Nerves and electricity flowed through my body every evening that summer when I would walk on Halsted St. I was home.
At the same time, as my kids began to go through puberty, I was going through one of my own. It wasn’t all fun and games, and my ex-wife scorned me for hanging out on Halsted. She argued that parents from the kids’ school would see me there, and word would get around, making the kid’s lives even harder post-divorce.
First of all, she wasn’t in a position to tell me what I could and couldn’t do. Secondly, if parents from the school were cruising Halsted, I would be awfully suspicious!
It was an indulgent time, and I have my guilts about the amount of time I spent on my metamorphosis and not with the kids. Once my ex-wife learned that I was gay, she filed a motion with the court for supervised visitations. That put a damper on being with the kids if the time had to be spent with her as well.
By not embracing my true self until I was 40, I escaped the school bullying I might have had to suffer through and the AIDS crisis. The latter absolutely terrified me.
Given my promiscuity, there’s a good chance I would have contracted the virus and perhaps be a statistic today. None of us were very vigilant — drugs had come on to the market that made existing with the disease less obtrusive and elongating lives. Instead, I wrote down the names and phone numbers for every “trick” I’d been with so that if I contracted something, I might know from who. But I said “fuck it” to that after about the first 30 or so liaisons.
The gales of November were strong as I strolled to Navy Pier in Chicago with one of my twenty-something boyfriends. Maybe apropos, as we made our way to see a vast portion of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. To think this is only part of it was baffling. The hall was eerily quiet, save for the sniffles for which boxes of tissue were thoughtfully placed throughout.
The AIDS pandemic has now claimed the lives of more than 700,000 people in the U.S. alone.
After dumping my twenty-something boyfriends (I already had two kids), I decided it was time to grow up and find someone at least within ten years of my own age. One evening when hosting an event for work, I had a visceral reaction to a guy whose eyes I laid on. I had to have him. Like a stealthy cat, I waited for the best moment to make my move.
Figuring he’d have to take a piss at some point, I didn’t lose sight of him. Then, I saw him begin to stroll to the restroom. I followed well behind him. It was a one-stall restroom, so you had to wait your turn outside.
As he was making his exit, I pushed him back in, thrust him against the door, and began making out. He didn’t push me away.
We had a good eight-years together. It was often tumultuous, laced with too many drugs and too much alcohol. I did a lot of things I regret. By 2003, requiring intervention, I went into an IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program), primarily to treat my cocaine addiction. In the end, they all treat you the same and throw you in AA. I was also diagnosed as bipolar at this time and began the years and years it takes to find the right cocktail that works for you.
Still, I thought he was my soulmate.
By 2010 the Internet had become rife with possibilities. There were still no mobile gay hookup sites — prospecting for a trick was from your desktop or laptop. For those more relationship-oriented, there was match.com. So I decided to try it. I had many dates, but few went anywhere until I met Mark. After our first date, I told him I would call him, but I never did. For some reason, he stored my phone number in his phone, and he called me back about five months later.
“Hello Art, this is Mark.”
“Mark?”, I thought to myself. Who’s Mark?
“Remember we had a date at Sidetrack a few months ago?”
Silence. “What was your name again?”
By this time, as he claims, he was very embarrassed and was about to hang up until I said:
“Oh, Mark! Hey, how’s it going?”
As a good bullshitter, the call continued, and we made plans for a second date.
He was a bit shocked when he saw me. I had just decided to shave my head. As we grew to know each other more intimately, I learned that he liked my hair long and didn’t like manscaping.
On our third date, I asked him what his sign was.
“Scorpio,” he said.
“Oh, I am too!” (Two Scorpios are supposed to be very sensuous.) “What date were you born?” He answered with the same as mine.
With much anticipation, I asked what year he was born.
Same year. Turns out he was just 6 hours older than me!
I always thought the novelty of that would keep us together forever. But one day in 2018, he announced, without discussion, that we were breaking up. The last year had been somewhat dicey, but I thought there would at least be a conversation. As I look back, it was another great eight-year run, but I thought we were soulmates. This was anything but soulmate behavior.
Since the kids were grown and had moved on, and feeling there was nothing left for me in Chicago, I did what any sane person would do in the situation. I packed the car and moved to Albuquerque.
It’s been two and one-half years now, and the clock is ticking—no sign of a soulmate. Dates have been scarce, and it’s not all about Covid-19. A lot of guys I talk to claim they are already with their soulmates. Many of them end up getting divorced, though. Maybe I should wait it out!
If soulmates exist, I don’t think one of my 18 remaining live in Albuquerque. I think they live in places like Brazil, Spain, or France. Honestly, I no longer believe in them. I know I’m far from the only person who has ever had to settle for someone, and I’m afraid that I might be one of those. Maybe a soulmate can grow on you through time.
I’ll let you know how it goes.