Ever wonder what happened to someone you used to know, even an acquaintance? Lately, I've been wondering what happened to Barry.
Dale introduced me to Barry over two decades ago. For those of you who don't know, I met Dale through a personal ad he placed in a local newspaper. Neither of us was the other's man of his dreams, but we became great friends. I'm not sure how Dale knew Barry, but, when Dale and I were walking on the Stanley Park seawall, we'd often encounter Barry out for a stroll, usually by himself. If I remember correctly, Barry was interested in Dale.
But Dale couldn't have been less interested in Barry. I recall Dale seeing Barry approach us on the seawall and muttering unflattering descriptions of him that only I could hear, giving me the unmistakable impression Barry was not his favorite person. Still, we stopped to talk with him, as was the civil thing to do, with Dale, in his usual way, insulting Barry with offhand comments that could be taken as either funny or cruel. Dale's cruelty seemed to escape Barry; maybe he chose to ignore it.
I have to admit, Barry wasn't my type either. Lanky and unfashionably dressed, at best, he could be described as plain or average and, at worst, unattractive. His short dark hair was greasy and thinning, his teeth were discolored and crooked, and, in his late twenties or early thirties, he still had adolescent acne. Barry was a talking and walking gay stereotype: he lisped, everything he said sounded like he was shocked, and he minced.
In truth, Barry scared the hell out of me. I saw parts of me in him, and that turned me off. At the time, I remember thinking, if that's what gay looks like to the world, then please don't let me be gay. I believe Dale felt the same, although we never discussed it (this was before I'd figured out how much self-loathing is a part of most gay men). I accepted Dale's distaste for Barry and never questioned, or called him on, it. But why else would he have felt such animosity toward someone so harmless?
It's a myth that every gay man is as pretty as Brad Pitt. Sure, the gay media is filled with images of perfect gay men, their hair neatly styled, their complexions clear and natural, their bodies tanned and buff, their attire the latest from fashion runways. And, admittedly, many gay men are beautiful, making the most of what they have. But a good many aren't. In fact, I'd say the majority of gay men are plain and average, not unlike Barry, prompting me to ask the question, whatever happens to them?
Take Dale, for example, who, as I look back on it twenty years later, was no physical specimen himself. Meticulous in his personal hygiene and grooming, as well as playing up his good points and playing down his bad, Dale was an average looking gay man. Simple as that. Yet, he stood in judgment of Barry, in effect, making him no better than those who weren't gay and stood in judgment of Barry as well. If Barry couldn't count on the support of his gay brothers, who could he count on?
Am I suggesting that Dale should have given Barry more of a chance, certainly as a friend and maybe even as a partner? Perhaps. If Dale had something other than his fear of seeing himself in Barry to justify his dislike of him--for example, the sure knowledge they were not the least compatible--then fair enough. But, looking back on it, I don't know how Dale could have known he and Barry weren't suited for each other when he scarcely spoke to the guy, let alone got to know him better.
You know, I've learned one thing since Chris and I have been together, and it's this: We think we know who's right for us. But, really, we have no clue. As I've written before, Chris was not my physical idea. And, frankly, when it came to being attracted to someone, I, not unlike most gay men, placed the utmost importance on attractiveness, not character. I'm so grateful I didn't hold out for my physical ideal, because I would have missed out on the best nineteen years of my life.
Right now, there are thousands of gay men just like Barry--single, lonely, and looking for their princes. They're the ones who, if we haven't yet gotten over our own homophobia, we stare at in disbelief--either with pity or loathing. Countless gay men hang on to the hope they'll find the perfect partners, those who meet the vision of who they think they should be with, those who compensate for their shortcomings, and those who give them the love they don't have for themselves.
As I think about Barry all these years later, I hope he found someone far better than Dale. I hope he's sitting in front of a warm fireplace right now, wrapped in the arms of the man of his fondest dreams. I hope some handsome, muscular dude looked beyond his physical being and saw all the spirit and character he could ever ask for. In other words, I hope Barry is madly in love, and madly loved back, and I hope he's deliriously happy. He, and every single gay man like him, deserves it.