A man who came to me for help with his sex life complained that even Viagra didn't help. He was in his mid-40s, an executive at an ad agency, divorced with two sons. He told me that women were "always available" but that his recent affairs were catastrophic. He had been unable to get an erection.
One slender long-legged beauty gave him a few chances and then walked out in disgust. Another had suggested, "Let's just be friends. It isn't worth trying so hard."
He told me about his wife: "A good person, but she has no discipline. She's sloppy, very overweight. I kept after her to lose weight and she tried once or twice. She is a good mother and we had great sex, right to the end. That I can say! She still loves me."
He had been divorced for six years, dating often. The only good sex he'd had since his divorce was with a woman he had met on the train. "It was great, but she was as big as my wife." After a while, she realized that he didn't want to be seen with her and accused him of being embarrassed about her. He had denied this to her but admitted it to me.
He hadn't planned to talk about her or his wife, only about his lack of response to the "dazzling" women he really wanted, women who he felt would have been a public credit to him.
While he was talking, I thought he was the kind of man who makes superficiality look deep. He asked me, "Can you see anything significant going on?" He meant the question cynically and in no other way.
I told him what I could see. "Overweight women turn you on."
"How do you know that?" He acted falsely accused.
I told him, "Call it an educated guess."
I could be as arch as he was. I guessed that clever answers were the only ones he could respect. He didn't dispute my conclusion. In fact, he told me that he had spent years feeling sexually aroused by fantasies of an aunt, who was also very overweight.
Coming out for this man would amount to accepting that he was turned on by women who didn't look like those in the ads that he was promoting. Viagra wouldn't help. It would only make him more aroused and maybe a better performer with the women who already turned him on.
I would like to say that he came out, maybe went back to his wife who loved him and had great sex with her ever after. Sexual tastes are as hard to budge as buildings. As AA reminds us, we need the ability to know what we can change and what we can't and "the wisdom to know the difference."
But he refused to come out, made some derisive comments about me and left. I picture him still chasing the horizon and feeling alienated and alone while a wealth of opportunity for happiness -- sexual and otherwise -- lies outstretched before him, beckoning like a cool ocean.
A psychologist might think of this man as somewhat warped psychologically. Many would diagnose him suffering from low self-esteem, as if more confidence would have liberated him to choose a woman more attractive by the usual social standard.
As another example, where there are big age differences between lovers, professionals often feel called on to explain this deviation from the norm in psychological terms. The much younger man is looking for a mother, and so forth. Of course, most people do this too. People do this even in the gay world. When Dustin Lance Black, 39, started dating Olympic diver Tom Daley, 19, even many gay people -- long ostracized for their attractions to the same gender -- felt free to deride Black as a cradle robber instead of celebrating the love that the men found.
If you are doing the conservative thing -- choosing a socially "acceptable" partner who doesn't satisfy your desires, you are limiting your life severely. You have chosen the wrong door. The door to conventionality is always wide open, but for those not turned on by who is inside with them, it is a door to hell.
Choose the right door for you and don't explain yourself. There is no need to.
If you are weighing coming out in any form, it is important to remember that the experts and society itself often change their minds about what is healthy. What was sick in one generation may become a healthy lifestyle in another. Even if you're still around when society comes to its senses, you will have deep regrets about having lost so many years of living as you wanted to. It is never too late for you. Coming out may roil the waters, but you will start to feel healthier at once.
If your tastes aren't harming you or anyone else, your coming out is a form of voting for your own legitimacy. If you don't, you can spend your life feeling excluded, not just by people you know, but by life itself. You will feel like a stranger on earth, abandoned and worse yet, as deserving the isolation that you experience. You have been sending this picture of yourself to yourself.
Use your best imagination to satisfy your desires and to lead a fulfilling life. No one will live it for you.