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October 15th, 2021

I’m Not High Maintenance, You’re High Maintenance…

I am almost tempted today to do a chart, something like that Good/Evil Lawful/Chaotic chart you see sometimes filled out with various characters from movies and comics. It’s regarding a cynical trope I’ve heard, probably we’ve all heard, a bazillion times about how beauty usually comes with high maintenance. So my chart would have the rows from Chill to High Maintenance, and the columns from Beautiful to Plain. It could be hours of cheap fun filling it out. But on reflection, cynics notwithstanding, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, and high maintenance is probably just a matter of mismatched expectations.

I know this about beauty because my ideal of male beauty isn’t that of most of my fellow American gay males, who get all hot and bothered over something I wouldn’t even notice. What gets my heart beating is usually disrespected as pretty, and along with that, stereotyped as weak and vain and probably conniving. But that stereotype I’m convinced, is as much about straight male homophobia as it is about gay male sour grapes.

I’ve witnessed all three of my major life crushes get old, and they’re all still beautiful in my opinion, but only one of them is someone I’d classify as high maintenance, and that in retrospect I think is a good example of that also being in the eye of the beholder.

A German chat BBS I tuned into once had a “You Know You’re German When” thread and one of the entries was “Spontaneity is at two weeks notice.” Tell me about it. It’s a German stereotype that they’re all about order and process and being on time but it’s really they’re terrified of chaos and I’m somewhere in the chaotic good section of those charts. So when I crushed massively on a German guy it was probably doomed from the start, even if we had been living in a better world. Expectations. Decades later we reconnected and almost right away, with all that life experience under my belt, I saw it was not going to be easy just managing a long distance friendship. He was probably never late for work a day in his life, and the invention of flextime was a godsend for me. His idea of a good vacation was a trip to a ski resort and mine is jump in the car and find some new roads to drive and see what’s there. Detailed plans quickly make me feel confined and suffocated, and they probably make him feel safe and secure. But I don’t think either one of us were high maintenance. Just tragically out of phase. Lawful Good does not match well with Chaotic Good, even though both are Good.

He called me “a piece of work” once, and a drama queen another time. Well I’ve met real drama queens, people who could summon a spectacle of Wagnerian scale with a mere raised eyebrow. You could hear the thunder in Valhalla whenever they walked into a room and frowned. I am not worthy. But I guess what he was trying to tell me with all that was I was stressing him out just being me, and never mind the elephant in the room with us. But I can’t not be me. I’ve seen what happens to people like this, creatives with, as David Gerrold once said, minds like a web browser with a thousand tabs opened all at once, who try to stifle themselves in exchange for acceptance. Often they end up dead. Best I can do is try to manage it, and not take it to heart when I start getting those blank stares. A little sympathy every now and then would be helpful. 

I am not beautiful…so I’ve been told…and not very chill either. Unless I’ve got a drink in my hands. But that’s okay. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and so as it turns out is chill. What matters I think, is how well matched you are. I’ve crossed paths with couples, gay and straight, both of whom were so high maintenance you’d think they’d be at each other’s throats all the time. But they were on the same page and in phase with each other and they got along. It was everyone else they drove nuts.

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