Physical Affection

Back in the old days of my undergraduate career, as some of you know, I was an active brother in Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed, dry, service fraternity, without a house (we drew in a pretty interesting crowd). It provided what was probably my, and many others’, first real sense of belonging. I was told, and shown, regularly, “We like you, we don’t care if you’re gay.” Partially this was through, affectionate, but decidedly unromantic touch.

My active status in APhiO didn’t even last for a full semester after I initiated, but I still count some of the people I met through it as very dear friends. And I often miss that contact, the touch that doesn’t demand or request, that isn’t sexual, the touch that simply offers affection. It’s a need that I’ve tried to fill through my love/sex life, but it’s not the same. It’s unfortunately rare in my life.

Need for Affirmation

I just got back from San Francisco. I had a great time with some friends out there.

During the trip, I was hanging out with a friend of mine at his place. We were gossipping about what a friend said about a friend, and I brought up a concept bandied about among the local set of friends. This group calls it the matrix (I’ve heard other terms for the same thing from different social circles. I’ve heard it called “the web of shame”, “the snowflake” , and even “the organic molecule”.)

Basically, it’s a way of showing who has slept with whom, blah, blah, blah. On the merest mention of it, my friend, whom I admire greatly, made a noise of disgust. I asked him why, and he said something to the effect of “I’m sure [redacted] is a great guy, but the way some people use this sort of thing to feel better about themselves…” and I can’t remember anything else he said, because that spun my brain off along a totally different avenue.

It’s something I have done, generally decreasingly over the last few years, but it dominated my social interaction with at least three people in the bay area, and influenced several others. It wasn’t about an insatiable sex drive (mine’s actually pretty tame). It’s not about social status, I will talk about it with my friends, but I tell them everything, especially the embarrassing stuff.

I suppose it could be Mark’s boredom theory, but making an ass out myself isn’t terribly entertaining. Especially when it generates all this conflict: I blew a night of sleep, later I all but ran back to the place I was staying where I sat on the floor with my back against the door, in the dark, wracking my brain to figure out what I was doing wrong, where I screwed up, why I am losing a game I care about, a game I’ve been working at and care about, something so many people seem to have working with no such internal conflict.

I feel like most of my life is really pulling together. I’m into my classes. I like my work (not love, but that’s more than I could have said a year ago.) I think public policy is a direction that’ll work for me. I’m healthy. I have great friends. I have a boyfriend, or at least a decent approximation of such, and he’s a great guy, intelligent, attractive, athletic, sweet, and patient. And yet, I’m not really happy. Am I chasing unicorns?

When I was asked by this cute little film student what I needed for a happy life, my answer came with no hesitation. All I needed then, and all I need now is “purpose”. I need something to do. Something with meaning. Something that matters.