At the age of eighteen, I had the wise idea that what I ought to do was major in theater in college. By the time I reached twenty-three, I’d “studied” the “craft”, I’d earned my degree, and, more to the point, I’d realized the entire process had been but an impressive exercise in wasting my parents’ money.
It wasn’t all for nothing, though. For if I hadn’t studied theater, I wouldn’t have spent 2002 auditioning for the lowest of low-budget theater productions, and if I hadn’t spent 2002 auditioning for the lowest of low-budget theater productions, I wouldn’t have met Matthew. Matthew was one of those guys who’s worth it for story alone.
Matthew and I met at an audition for a spoken-word version of the musical Hair. We’d literally bumped into each other while rehearsing a spoken-word version of “Aquarius,” the required audition piece. We’d both been using our hands emphatically, a spoken-word performance crutch I’d picked up watching the professional poets on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, when ours collided in an inadvertent high five. We both yelped in pain.
“Well,” said Matthew, “I guess that’s what we get for doing spoken word.”
After the audition, Matt and I went to the nearest pharmacy to get ice packs for our wrists, and he asked me on a date. “I’ve got tickets to see Cabaret this week,” he said, “and John Stamos is in it. Tha Full House guy, you know? He’s supposed to be pretty good.”
“John Stamos?” I asked. “In person?”
John Stamos is, in my opinion, the most flawless man who has ever lived. My allegiance began in 1986, and the opportunity to see him in person was the best thing to ever happen to me. It was the best thing to ever happen to me until the night my date with Matthew rolled around, and after the show JOHN STAMOS SIGNED MY PLAYBILL AND OUR FOREARMS RUBBED TOGETHER!
What happened in response was this, and please – please – pardon the grossness of this next bit, but it’s relevant to story: I got… I got… diarrhea in response. I’m sorry, but I did. Not immediately, but basically what happened was that the excitement of the moment overwhelmed me. Stamos contact occurred, I screamed, pranced absurdly around, knocked something out of whack internally, and then was hit with that unmistakable gastrointestinal message that says, “Hey lady! I’m the one in charge!”
So I told Matt I needed a ladies’ room, and since the theater was already locked up, we went to a nearby T.G.I. Friday’s.
I spent a half-hour stuck in the bathroom. Awkward as it was when I finally emerged, Matthew was the perfect gentleman. “You poor thing,” he’d said. “Let’s get you a ginger ale,” and then flagged down a waitress to order said ginger ale for me and, for himself, an apple-tini. We settled into a banquette, and he turned back toward me. “So,” he said conspiratorially, “How insanely hot is John Stamos?”
I both understand and appreciate that straight men can be musical theater actors, that they can get tickets to go see Cabaret, that they can enjoy the occasional apple-tini. I both understand and appreciate that, in a shtick of sensitivity and uber-hipness, they can refer to John Stamos as “hot.” It’s just that, well, all of these qualities combined, they snowball into one big neon sign that screams, “I AM GAY AND REPRESSING IT, LADY! C’MON, THOUGH! BE MY BEARD!”
Now, for me personally, homosexuality in a boyfriend isn’t a deal breaker. Neither is it my preferred mode of operation, but my point is I can swing it if I have to, most especially because I like having sex in the dark. Brokeback Mountain suggested to Middle Americans everywhere that gay men who have sex with women do so from behind. But (pun intended!) speaking from personal experience with Matthew the Musical Theater Actor, I can say that the more consistent thread is pitch-black bedrooms. Every time we had sex (which, from the get-go, averaged in at less than once every two weeks… and we’d just met… and we were both twenty-two) we did so in Matt’s windowless box of a bedroom, shielded from light and the unfortunate reality that neither one of us was screwing Stamos.
We made it last for six months, before finally reaching that point of no return. It happens in all doomed relationships, and, in our case, came in the form of a movie called Trick.
Trick is a Tori Spelling I’ve-matured-as-an-actress vehicle from the early ‘00s about two gay men trying to find a place to have sex. Oh! And about how Tori Spelling has matured as an actress. Anyway, toward the beginning of the film there’s this highly erotic dude/dude massage scene, over the course of which my boyfriend Matthew sprouted an erection. He sprouted it, and I saw it, and there was no denying it. And I knew – I knew – that the erection inspiration wasn’t me or Tori Spelling, but rather the rubbing of masculine hands on shaved chests and oddly muscled derrieres. And Matthew knew I knew, which meant we’d reached that aforementioned point of no return: There could be no more denial.
So we both feigned headaches, exchanged a bone-dry peck on the lips, and called it a night. We never spoke again after that. This was a bizarre and dramatic choice on both our parts considering we’d been dating for months. I suppose it was just our way of dealing with how traumatic we’d both thought our final night to be. It was also a shame: Matt was always so nice, and never in my life before or since have I met someone so tender when confronted with another person’s diarrhea. I’ll always remember him fondly for that. And I’ll always hold out hope to one day see him strolling arm in arm with some bossy bottom of a gent, flushed with a post-coital glow I could never have provided.
Sara Barron is the author of People Are Unappealing and the forthcoming Eating While Peeing: and other adventures.