This is a companion piece to the article, "Oh, For My Bath!", which was published in the November 1997
Body Positive. In 1989, poet and writer Dennis Rhodes wrote a series of candid letters to New York psychotherapist Daniel Bloom. What follows is drawn from those letters.
I want to write you letters about so many things. In fact, I have several letters-to-be floating around in my mind, which makes me anxious, but that should come as no surprise to either of us.
Anyway, this isn't the letter I planned to write to you to today. Things keep popping up spontaneously. For example, there's been a gradual lessening of the iron grip on my life. I now have less of a need to be in control of events, objects, and the passing hours. I know now that no one's going to punish me for accomplishing a laundry list of tasks; I know now that no one's going to punish me for anything!
I've lost 31 pounds. Thirty-one pounds! That's a testament to my willpower and resolve to trim the fat from my body and my mind. Words like "lean," "minimal," and "spare" crop up often in my verbal and mental vocabularies now. I'm reminded of the statement by Willy Loman's wife [from the play "Death of a Salesman" written by Arthur Miller] that life is a constant series of "casting-offs." You've seen me cast off enough things to fill a steamer trunk!
But enough digression. Let me get to what I really wanted to tell you about...
This morning I was sitting on the exercycle at the YMCA, smoothly pedaling away with pretty good form for 30 minutes and sweating prodigiously. While doing so I watched two young fellows playing a spirited game of basketball. They looked Hispanic, in their twenties, a little dark, very handsome and finely muscled. I had the feeling of being an old man sitting on a park bench watching two beautiful children at play -- children blithely unaware of me because old people are usually invisible to the very young.
So the two young men didn't know I just enjoyed looking at them, simply savoring their beauty, as if they were works of art. Actually, from my spiritual and aesthetic standpoint, they were works of art.
As the sweat poured off me, I was struck by how we should keep a proper distance between ourselves and things of great beauty, like priceless paintings or sculptures in a museum, the ballet, the opera, or the top of the Chrysler Building at night. If I wanted to run my hands reverently over Michaelangelo's Pieta or David, I couldn't. It may be that Michaelangelo himself ran his hands over the boy (or boys) who posed for David.
Recently we started candidly discussing my sexuality. (My first impulse was to say "sexual behavior," but that term seems a little inadequate.) I have such a simple point of view when it comes to a man I find beautiful. In my mind, there's no reason why, if it's fine with him, I shouldn't touch him, be with him, and discover if there's beauty beneath the surface as well.
You seemed pleased to hear that I've always been matter-of-fact about my homosexuality. Thank God, that with all the things, real and imagined, I anguished about, "sexual orientation" wasn't one of them. When it comes to being gay, I was an early bloomer. Now, because I'm accepting many other things about myself, I feel at peace.
Boy Scouts are taught that if they ever get lost in the woods they should stand still in one place and let themselves be found, rather than panic and start scrambling around for a way out. That's what I'm doing. For once in my life I'm standing still. I'm not at all afraid or panicked. My loved ones are combing the woods for me, and as their searchlights play among the treetops and muffled voices draw nearer, I'm smiling because the harder they're looking for me, the more I'm finding myself.
Sex is helping. Having sex with a man, even when it isn't that good, draws me out of myself. What a tonic! The one critical thing I needed as a child and as an adolescent was to be pulled out of myself.
Being with a man who's sensitive, mature, and has some character is therapeutic. It helps validate me. The combination of eroticism and attention thrusts me into the present, removing me from the arm's-length, defensive posture from which I view and filter experience.
Sex for me is also a form of communication. Not a "Hi, how are ya" type of communication, but a sophisticated form of personality exchange and sharing that homosexuals have the luxury -- if they wish -- to elevate to an art form. I know that how I am in bed says a lot about me; I hope it says something good.
I didn't mean to ramble, but I've had a million distractions while writing this letter. All I wanted to tell you is that seeing those two attractive young men playing basketball this morning made me realize how natural and spontaneous my attraction is for handsome men. And rather than counting my sexual partners and feeling anxious about the number, I'm enjoying them on an individual basis -- safely, of course.
Back to the March 1998 Issue of Body Positive Magazine.