I wrote most of the essays specifically for this book although some of them have appeared elsewhere. All of them are from experiences I had during a period in my life from about 1987 through 1991, which began with what I thought of as my greatest loss in life and ended with what I now consider my greatest gain. In a way, this period was the darkest of my life. I think I was clinically depressed, although I never went to a psychologist to find out. Yet strangely enough, given my chronic depression, this was one of the very best times of my life, as well.
This period of years has a definite beginning. My lover of fourteen years came to me one night in January of 1987 and said that he wanted to break up, because he said he was heterosexual. Three months later, I ended up in Las Cruces, New Mexico living in a motel room, with a part-time job, without a car, and with the usual emotional baggage. An essay about that experience is not included, because I did not want to inflict on the reader the morose self-pity I engaged in and, at times, grimly enjoyed. But I do mention this breakup in several of the essays, since getting over it is, in a sense, a thread that ties all the essays in this collection together; the emotional fallout from it was partially responsible for the paths I took during that five-year period.
At the beginning of this period, I felt old (in the gay male queen's sense of being old) at thirty-eight. At the end of this period, I was forty-three and feeling as if life was just beginning, feeling young and stronger than ever. In the beginning, I was fat and weak with a terrible self-concept; by the end, I could get behind a shovel in my garden and chunk dirt for hours without tiring. It was certainly the first time in my adult life when I was proud of my body, when I felt wonderful in a T-shirt and cutoffs. Even as a teenager, I'd never felt so confident about my appearance. In short, it took five years for me to cast off the previous fourteen. The struggle with anger and hurt made this period difficult, but by the end of it, I looked ahead with relish.
In "Part One: Letters in Search of Love," the essays deal with my search for a new lover. In a clinical sense, I suppose the reason for this search has some fancy name; ordinary people, or country-western singers, however, would just say I was "on the rebound." It probably would have been a disaster had I "married" another man too soon, because I still did not know what my weaknesses or my strengths were. Although I did not find a lover through this exchange of letters, the process of the search was part of the healing necessary to bury my fourteen-year relationship. In all, I exchanged letters with at least two dozen men over a year-long period.
From those letters, I discovered that my pain was not unique. Nor my loneliness. I also discovered that gay men accommodate adversity and their sexuality in surprisingly different ways. Letters from prisoners sometimes amused me, sometimes scared the Hell out of me, and gave me a safe peak into prison life. Other men who wrote were even more self-pitying than I was, which had a wonderful curative effect on my own self-pity.
The most perplexing, maddening, and insulting letters came from a widower (age around seventy) whose wife of a thousand years had died and, now, he was answering ads from gay menat least I know that he answered my letter, which appeared in RFD. I say it was maddening because, in one of his letters, he sent a seven-page, single-spaced type-written document, stamped CONFIDENTIAL in which he laid down the law by which I would abide if I decided to become his plaything. There would be no discussion, no objections, and no input from me. He obviously hadn't bothered to read what I'd written in my letter for RFD or, like the plantation sla