My partner and I associate primarily with heterosexual couples. We reside in the Caribbean, where the gay community is small and underground. Since my partner and I prefer to live out of the closet, gay people who would rather be secretive give us a wide berth. Also, at this point in our lives, when it comes to lasting friendships, we place a greater importance on things more crucial than shared sexual minority status.
Observing human behavior and drawing insight from it is crucial to my profession, but it is also something I do anyway, just because people intrigue and delight me. What I know so far about heterosexuals is this:
Heterosexual men find the female form irresistible. All that soft skin, those beautiful contours designed just for caressing, the way she smells and tastes, and, oh, the treasure of treasures of seeing her come alive with passion and hungrily pursue it to its climax. You desire women so entirely that you can appreciate how even a woman can find another woman irresistible.
A heterosexual woman's desire for her dream man is so all-encompassing that she cannot understand how another woman could ever satisfy that desire in her. You would do almost anything for him. Don't deny it, ladies. We've heard the sappy Toni Braxton love songs about not breathing again. The beautiful physicality of male love turns you on so much that some of you even like watching two men get it on.
If you are straight and reading this, I would like you to focus on the immutable, undeniable reality of your sexual orientation. It is all you have ever known yourself to be, feel, crave and envision. You cannot pinpoint the exact moment when this happened, yet you know that your sexual attraction is more than an intellectual idea or belief. It is an actual, physical truth that you cannot doubt or deny.
Think upon this and you'll know exactly what a homosexual feels regarding his or her sexual orientation.
While you may not understand the coordinates steering our ship (just as many gay people cannot understand yours), you can certainly identify with the unassailable wind blowing the sails.
Now, there are those of you who say, "C'mon! Don't even bother trying to make comparisons between us! It is impossible for two people of the same gender to have the same kind of connection a man has for a woman!" And guess what? You are 100-percent right! And we aren't trying to, either, because what you feel is an impossibility for us.
Heterosexuals are governed by the impulse to reproduce (not to be confused with the completely separate inclination to nurture [parent] that we all are capable of feeling, gay and straight alike). The reproductive impulse I am talking about is an indiscriminate, hormonal/psychological imperative.
A straight man feels this urge for every single woman who is the epitome of fertility and health and possesses his preferred physical features and demeanor. It does not matter if he is already married or even suitable, or if she is. Just as long as she pulls every one of his pre-programmed triggers, he will declare, like Romeo upon first seeing Juliet, "Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night." Bear in mind that just a moment earlier, Romeo felt the same about fair Rosaline.
As for heterosexual women, you can sniff out a man of good genetic stock by instinct. Studies show when a woman is ovulating, her olfactory senses heighten. In a blind test, women given the sweaty T-shirts of men to sniff were more aroused by the scent of men with better genes. Male health, prowess and beauty matters more than you ladies like to admit, but men are slowly catching on to the fact that you often make your sexual selection within mere minutes.
The difference between heterosexuals and homosexuals is essentially this: If a woman who is dressed to emphasize her child-bearing hips, full breasts and lips and is ovulating and sporting unwashed hair walked into your average sports bar, a primal stir in the air would cause most, if not all, the men (whether they realize it or not) to begin to "peacock display" (sit up, puff up, eye up) and go into sexual competition. But if the same vixen walked into a gay bar...
While we do notice and can appreciate the aesthetics of physical genetic perfection in the opposite sex, it does not evoke the powerful, primal biological response in us that it does in you.
But enough about our differences! Here is something homosexuals and heterosexuals have in common: the ability to love deep down, at the soul level.
Before people start to get hung up on the word "soul" and any religious implications, let me clarify that when I speak of "soul," I am only speaking of the conscious part of your psyche that can operate on a level where it matters not who is more physically endowed, financially powerful or socially influential. It is the level where the peasant girl can be the equal or even superior of a king.
It also matters not who is the "penetrator" and who is the "receiver." This part of you has no biological or socially constructed gender awareness. It is the unfettered, individual essence of your being that nobody can actually possess or dominate, unless you give up your power completely, which you should never do, by the way. What you should do is try to love their soul as your own.
This will demand continuous self-mastery of you.
Those of us who bravely (though some would say stupidly) attempt this can tell you that your ego will be put through the ringer. You will be made to fully understand the meaning of "forgive 70 times 7," all the while checking yourself to maintain your balance and ensure that you are acting out of true strength and not co-dependent weakness.
Sexual needs will change; there might not be the same physical beauty and prowess you or your partner once had; you may or may not share much domestic life under the same roof; your individual or collective money and status might change, but if you are brave enough, you can graduate to an unconditional spiritual devotion to the other. The one who is more advanced patiently helps their partner arrive at a more enlightened place. Then the roles switch and switch again. You become each other's gurus, healers and champions. The more you do this, the clearer it becomes that you can birth something wonderful together.
I am talking about a whole other level of co-creation, one far more important to our human community than reproduction at this point.
Your friendship and your lovemaking becomes the safe place, the healing space, the classroom, the therapist's couch, the fertile ground that helps each of you blossom forth with purpose, achieving your fullest individual potential. You begin to have a surplus of fruits from your refreshed spirit to share with your immediate and global community and the freedom to do it, either with your partner or with their blessing.
I do not know if my parents ever had this. They divorced bitterly after five unhappy years of marriage. This was followed by disastrous or unhappy remarriages on both sides. At first, within my circle of friends and cousins, only two of us came from divorced homes, and we felt like such outsiders. I idolized my peers with the sort of "Cosby family" I saw on television. But by the time we were off to university, nearly all the "Cosbys" were divorced as well.
As we got older (especially after a few glasses of wine or a toke), my peers got more candid about what really went on at home. For many of our parents, it seemed that once the reproductive draw waned and the distracting occupation of co-parenting and nest-egg incubating ended, they discovered that they were essentially strangers, unable to deal with the soul challenges presented by the other. In fact, the entire time they were together, it was debatable whether they even saw each other's true soul. It was as if they awoke from a daze and realized, "What the hell? Who is this person? I don't even think I like them that much at all!"
Suddenly the world was just full of cheating, disappointed, unhappy, once-bitten-twice-shy and embattled heterosexuals. All the songs on the radio, from the calypsos about good-for-nothing men who cannot take their own medicine when it is their turn to get tabanca (Trini for "heartbroken because your lover is cheating on you") to U.S. Top 40 hits like "My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)" by En Vogue (yes, I am dating myself), confirmed it.
Everywhere we turned, men and women were fighting and mistrustful of each other. "Horning" (the Caribbean term for cheating -- for example: "He horning his wife with the secretary," or, "She real horn her husband behind his back"), "Deputy Essential" (Trini slang for "mistress") and outside children were standard operating procedure not just in the ghetto with the baby mamas but in the "Christian suburbanite" (cheers, Thom Yorke) community I grew up in. I would find out through my current partner that it was even in the colonial, old-money, white families beneath their perfect veneers. They were more practiced in keeping their "indiscretions" more hush-hush, and their women stuck it out to the bitter -- and I mean bitter enough to poison several generations after them -- end.
By my early 20s I truly believed that Pride & Prejudice was a cruel joke written to get poor straight girls' hopes up. After all that buildup, all they had to look forward to was temporary mating lust cooling off to mind-numbing domestic routine maintained only by the fear of divorce and the burden of parenting.
Boy was I full of sh*t!
When you are young, you often mistake being jaded for being right. In my mid-20s I would befriend a fellow copywriter called Sue and find out just how wrong I was.
Today, approaching 30 years of marriage and a soon-to-be-empty nest, Sue and her husband, a bank manager, have retained their individuality, their fire and their fun. It goes much deeper than the fact that they obviously enjoy each other's company, and trust me, there are no better people to party with. Nothing brings a tear of joy to my eyes like the picture of Sue's husband Stewart in her négligée and shower cap, parading around the street covered in chocolate, with a chamber pot of yellow soda and a nut-studded candy bar crushed up in it. Trinis and those familiar with J'ouvert will know what I am talking about. But beyond the groovy fun, yes, even after the age of 50, theirs is a true co-partnership where at any given time, the one who is most capable takes the helm, and the other checks his or her ego.
Have you ever walked into a home and the energy is just positive and you instantly exhale all tension and just feel good in your own skin? Well, that's what it's like chez Sue. She and her husband are simply a joy and inspiration in how they handle both the best of times and the worst of times.
As my big "Four-O" rapidly approaches, I know more people are trying to make their relationships truly creative spaces, while others stay single because they refuse to settle for less than the real thing, because, "Ain't nothing like the real thing, baby," and I am encouraged and inspired by both.
My dear soul-sister Sue recently told me that my commitment to my partner matters to her, that it inspires her, and that her family are rooting for ours. It was exactly what I needed to hear during a taxing period of work demands that required my partner and me to dig deep, yet again, into our soul investments, only to be pleasantly surprised, yet again. I make it sound a lot prettier, but there were some "ugly-face crying" moments involved.
I write this in celebration of all the groovy, enlightened, "soul-full" heterosexuals out there who have found the real thing against all odds and can actually let go and "ugly-face cry" in front of their partner -- yeah, snot and all. I write this for those who are still jaded and those who are still hopeful. I write this in celebration of Sue and her husband.