Learning to Walk

Learning to Walk

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Photo by Verne Ho on Unsplash

I have been told that I am visually, and stereotypically gay.  I don’t know exactly what that means, but I take it without an angry or even aggravated reaction.

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When I was quite a bit younger, I accepted that I was unconsciously flamboyant, which I confess, I didn’t like, being a teen student in a judgmental arena.

Sometimes, I would discreetly follow guys in the high school hallways in Maplewood, New Jersey, watching and mimicking the way a young man is “supposed” to walk.  Over the years, I developed more than one gait, so don’t ask me what my natural step is.  I no longer remember.

I have a variation of strides when walking barefoot versus in dress shoes, flip-flops or sneakers.  The change occurs automatically.  And though I don’t wear them anymore, I know I moved differently when I wore cowboy boots. I had adopted a pronounced swagger after seeing men I found to be hot walk the streets of West Village, back when I was in my early 20s. I’d call it a “strut,” alternating my weight from one hip to the other.  I guess I thought it was sexy, parading in my tight, ass hugging, 29-inch waist Calvin Klein jeans and pointy toed lizard-skin boots.

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Primarily being published as a writer of gay nonfiction sometimes keeps me from having more than a single piece picked up by certain publishers.  Excepting the reviewed quality of follow-up submissions, they’ll release a single story on a gay subject, but if it’s not a magazine or blog specific to a gay audience, they’ll reject work that doesn’t fit the definition of said periodical.  I get it. I may not like it, but I genuinely understand.

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Recently, I’ve witnessed a change in the weather, when it comes to my appearing a certain way. Meaning I think I was seen as a man who apparently was affected.  This shift has nothing to do with sexual preferences.  And it may have little to do with strangers jumping to personality conclusions, accurate or off.  As I passed the age of 50, I’ve found that I’m sometimes seen as being intimidating to certain passersby and others who had previously not met me.  I shouldn’t, but I love it.  Purely grading the physical, something has evolved in my expression.  I don’t recognize it when I look in the mirror, but aging has also birthed a stone-cold look on my face.  Maybe the skin fell, or I’ve gained weight, or my jowls are now pronounced.  Whatever the accusation, I now have what I term as “Resting Butch Face.”

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Getting on an escalator from an Eastside subway station to the street above, two young men I would estimate to be in their late 20s stepped on before me, blocking my ability to pass them.  Chatting, they didn’t hear me politely ask to get by the two.  So, I put my hand on the arm of one of the men and said, “Excuse me.”  The guy moved to the right and then said to my back as I went by, “You don’t have to touch me.’”

I’m presuming my brown eyes turned jet black. I swung around and faced them. Not expecting it, my stopping on the moving staircase had visibly shaken both guys.  I responded, “I said ‘excuse me’ twice before I had to touch you in order to get your fucking attention.”

I only know about my eyes dilating because of a past boyfriend named Stephen who told me that my eyes become black spheres when I’m furious.

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I no longer attract the attention I had taken for granted as a young man.  In a society that often worships youth, I find this to be an inevitable transition.  Adding to that, I also believe that my Resting Butch Face makes it off-putting for someone to approach me when I’m out at a gay joint.  For a person as gregarious as I can occasionally be, some may find it ironic that I am timid to talk to others I don’t know.  I have an unreasonable fear of being rejected. Liquor helps.

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There are more than a few young men who prefer the company of older gentlemen.  It’s not that I’m solely interested in younger, available men, but honestly, I have found that handsome, single guys my age are almost always pursuing the younger set.  That seems to be true for men that are straight or gay.

I don’t deny that making an effort to stay in shape is important to me.  I feel I have to defend that position, particularly to my women friends.  I have worked out religiously for more than 40 years.  Someone doesn’t need to be a muscle god with a six-pack for me to want to be with them, but I appreciate it when a man takes care of himself.  Just as I prefer to date someone who reads books, loves music, and is intelligent.  I hear how typical these excuses sound. Most single men my age have given up fighting the aging process.  That’s understandable, and I find it oddly admirable.  Getting older is difficult enough without letting vanity rule.

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The year I turned 36, I had a relationship with someone younger than myself.  Not that I consider 36 to be old anymore. But it was the first time I had a sustained relationship with someone who wasn’t near my age.

I seem to have some connection to the number 11.  Now, try to follow my math.  I hope I can write it succinctly.

1. I met Tom when I was 36. He was 11 years younger than I.  We met in December, right around Christmas.  He lived 5 1/2 blocks to the south of me.  He was blond and by my taste, beautiful.  His birthday was April 1st.  We stayed together for about a year.

2. Eleven years after meeting Tom, almost to the day, in December and around Christmas time, I met Billy. Eleven years younger than Tom, so 22 years younger than I. He lived 5 1/2 blocks to the north of me. He was blond and by my taste, beautiful.  And his birthday was also April 1st.  We stayed together for about a year.

When I flagged the multiple coincidences between my time with Tom and Billy, or as others have warned, “seen the signs,” I should have run, since the relationship with Tom had ended in complicated disaster.  Coincidence or not, you know what they say about repeating the same actions.

I don’t believe I had Resting Butch Face at the time I was with either man.  And I am presuming that once I smile or communicate in a friendly way with someone, that hard, initial impression evaporates.

No one who has known me for many years sees the Resting Butch Face and doesn’t seem to know what I’m talking about.  But it has given me an air of confidence I invisibly carry like a shield when entering a room of strangers.  Or in the rare situation, when I face-off in some confrontation.  Whatever scared little boy still lives inside of me, now he feels protected by a brave expression that time has engraved on my face.  Even though it’s not obvious to me.

About the Author

Andrew Sarewitz

Andrew has published more than 60 short stories as well as having penned scripts for various media. Mr. Sarewitz is a recipient of the 2021 City Artists Corp Grant for Writing. His play, Alias Madame Andrèe (based on the life of WWII resistance fighter, Nancy Wake, the “White Mouse”) garnered First Prize from Stage to Screen New Playwrights in San Jose, CA; produced with a multicultural cast and crew. Member: Dramatists Guild of America.

Read more work by Andrew Sarewitz.