The Competitive Agenda

Since this is my first blog entry on this site, I’d like to start off with something that would grab your interest by the throat until you screamed for more. Or something like that. But that’s not my agenda; in this first paragraph at least. No, here, I get to say hi, with a little about myself, and give you a preview of the sorts of things I’ll be writing on.

Quick encapsulation of the stuff you’re not going to be able to derive – necessarily – from my writing: British, have lived in the US for 26 years, living with my b.f. Ben in Hollywood, six-foot-six, and, I have a serious health condition which I’d ordinarily save for a later reveal, except that it’s in my byline: I have bipolar disorder. Which means that living with bipolar disorder, and the way it interacts with another subject that’s frequently been closeted: homosexuality – will be one of my subjects. Otherwise, I intend to write a more personal blog than the average: you can call it “the gay condition”. And I’ll try to refrain from too many references to what goes on in what you might call the eccentric fringe of my mind.

One final introductory self-disclosure: I won’t be blogging about celebrities (except perhaps about why celebrity culture is a problem) or popular culture (because others know a lot more about it than I do.)

I intended to start this first entry with some Internet research on why spouses – gay or straight – are competitive. But Google insisted instead on only showing me links to a game show, “Gay, Straight or Taken.” What sparked my interest in this subject was thinking about my own experiences in romantic relationships, where I’ve frequently indulged in completely meaningless competition. Are other gay male partners this competitive; and does the double dose of testosterone in the latter make it more common there than in straight relationships?

Arm Wrestling

Lacking hard statistics, I will look at my own relationship with my eight-year-old partner Ben, (He’s not actually a toddler – I mean we’ve been together that long.) Since Ben is not here to serve his own defence, I’ll restrict matters (mostly) to my most popular topic: myself. The truth is that I was truly, madly, insanely competitive, in the first year of our relationship, to a point that’s frankly embarrassing. And I’m not going to refrain from embarrassing myself here. I’ve never been a particular friend of “product” – bathroom items such as skin toner, scrub, and cotton wool. My admittedly fading looks emerge from a face that hasn’t seen moisturizer in many years. I just can’t be bothered. Yet when I first moved in with Ben, I’d see him moisturize his torso lovingly every night, and, astonishingly, I’d feel envy. I had – at the time – too much acne to support additional moisture on my skin.

But I was disturbed that Ben’s Aveda could drive me crazy like this, so I consulted my therapist, who was then a gay man. (He’s still gay, but I’ve moved on.) To my relief, he told me that most gay couples are competitive. (I’m sure he was thinking inside “Yes, but Aveda!”) I was even more competitive, though, about clothing. If we went shopping together, Ben, being 5’10 with a good build, could find anything on the rack, whereas for me, with my 6’6 broad-shouldered frame, I’d often draw a complete blank. Clothes designers seem to think that if you’re 6’6, you also weigh about 300 lbs, and are correspondingly rotund.

But I discovered alteration! Before long, all of my shirts, sweaters and even tank-tops would go under the knife and resultingly fit me so flatteringly that even Ben became envious. (Now, seven years later, at the age of 47, I’m discovering the down-side: half of my wardrobe is now awaiting the mythical day when I’ll become as slim again as I was when I was a wee slip of a 40 year-old.)

For all those suffering from the irrational competitive drive to do all things better than your boyfriend, I’m here to say that things get better. You grow up, and, hopefully, the neuroses drop away. In my case, the process was helped by a life-threatening crisis we both went through that went a long way towards destroying interpersonal insecurities. May I recommend the same approach if you’re a sufferer?

Ben, on the other hand, is still hugely competitive. He will play neither chess nor Scrabble with me. The ignoble excuse against Scrabble is “Oh, English isn’t my first language.” That statement is not only an arrant falsehood (he grew up in Singapore where English if the first language), but also demonstrably irrelevant, as anybody who’s ever heard him speak in public could confirm. Not only that, but Ben obviously became envious that I had a serious mental-health diagnosis and he didn’t, so he invented one for himself, some sort of attention-deficit disorder. I think what he really has is just common or garden AMPS (Absent-Minded Professor Syndrome.) But, say I accept his diagnosis at face value: my bipolar disorder clearly trumps his ADD, so there!