I recently accused a dear friend of being deeply narcissistic. And she is, with her constant need for validation, ruthless drive to satisfy her needs and control her space. But as they say, ‘it takes one to know one.’ With that said, I give you the ultimate narcissistic interview — an interview with myself, by myself, about myself. Why, you ask? Because frankly, I have a lot of free time, so why not? Besides, no one has ever asked to interview me about myself and isn’t that what a flaming narcissist desires most? If you’re a person who can sit patiently at a bus stop and listen with courteous attention to a homeless person going on and on about himself, then you’ll probably enjoy this. If you want to throttle them for the unfiltered, boundaryless blather, then you may want to just look at the pictures and get back to Instagram.
DG: So, David, what’s it like being you?
DG: Starting out big, are we? Well, I have a good life, you know. At least it looks good on paper. I am no one’s fool and I have a lot of freedom. I travel a lot and have lots of fun little adventures.
DG: Then why are you cranky so much of the time?
DG: Because I am a restless idealist. No sooner do I arrive in an exotic locale then I’m finding fault with it. It’s a family gene thing. I come from a long line of malcontents.
DG: Speaking of exotic locales, why are you living in Malaysia of all places?
DG: Good question. Though I have had it up to here (my hand is 6″ above my head) with Asia, I like Asians. And Malaysia being an Asian country is chock full of guess what? Yes, Asians.
DG: But why Malaysia of all Asian countries? If it weren’t for the disappearance of Malaysia Air flight 370, hardly anyone in the West would have even heard of Malaysia.
DG: True. I chose Malaysia because Malaysians speak English and though I would love to be able to just gab away in Thai or Bahasa Melayu, I’m a goof with foreign language. Call me weird but I’m one of those people who likes to actually have a conversation face to face and that requires a pesky common language.
DG: OK, that explains Malaysia, but what’s the deal with Asians? You are what they call a ‘rice queen’ aren’t you?
DG: Yep, I guess I am indeed a rice queen. But why am I attracted to Asians? Because they’re so dern cute.
DG: Isn’t that a bit shallow and objectifying?
DG: If you say so, but didn’t you pick your partner because he or she was attractive to you? Or did you go for the disgusting slob who charmed you off your feet? Why is it objectifying only if it’s with Asians? Don’t people fetishize blonds with abandon?
If I had a multi-ethnic lineup of guys that I thought were adorable, I’d have them arrange themselves from shortest to tallest. Then I’d first go for the little ones which tends to be Asians. Secondly, I’d go for the dark skinned, black hair and brown eyed ones…which also tends to be Asians but not just. Caterpillar eyebrows and unibrows get extra points. I personally don’t get the attraction to blonds. But OK, to each his own. A big, hulking, blond dude with hairy chest is so far off my radar that I might actually not even see him. There would be some sort of white blurry blob. My vision would come back into focus on the smooth little guys at the dark end of the spectrum.
DG: Alright. But what’s so cute about little dark guys?
DG: Little is the key and Asians cornered the market on little. Well, not all Asians are little — the “subcontinental Asians” aren’t so small but the Chinese and Malays here are…or at least they start out small and then they eat a little too much onde onde and disappear off my radar. But the Thai, Laotian, Cambodian, and Burmese are all pretty tiny. But it’s the Malaysians who tend to have the best English skills. And the Chinese-Malaysians are the least religiously encumbered.
DG: Why is small so important to you?
DG: Gosh, that’s such a personal question, but I’m so glad you asked. It comes from a childhood complex about being the skinniest person in school who kids liked to pick on for being skinny. I was called ‘Twiggy,’ ‘Beanpole,’ and ‘The Nose Knows’ (I guess I was a bit of a know-it-all with a big schnoz). As a result, I developed some compassion for those smaller than me, but moreover, I swore that no one would ever kick sand in my face again and so I choose people smaller than me to be with…not that I kick sand in my sweet boyfriend’s face. We don’t have any sand in a high rise condo and even if we did…
DG: Got it. So you’re running around choosing people based on a childhood wound?
DG: Yeah, go ahead and put a negative spin on it. But yes. I am grossed out by partners who are bigger than me. And being grossed out is no way to start a relationship.
DG: But this “fetish” if I may…
DG: No, you may not.
DG: OK, I’ll rephrase that…this preference you have for little guys — is that enough of a basis for a relationship?
DG: Jesus, Mary, and Mohammed…do you think the only criterion I have for a man is someone small? No, I don’t go out the hotel door with a yard stick and the first person I find who’s small is my partner. Of course I want common interests and actually a long list of what I desire in a partner. Like, for example: being a lover of classical music, being earnest, honest, health conscious, elegant, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. Wait a minute.
DG: That is quite a list. Sounds like you were a Boy Scout.
DG: Yeah, I made it to 2nd Class — a fitting designation for a gay boy in the late 70s. Anyway, I did find that list in my Chinese boyfriend. (He was a Scout, too.)
DG: But you complain about the Chinese all the time, don’t you?
DG: Yeah, but I complain about the MAINLAND Chinese, not the Malaysian-Chinese. Big difference. The difference isn’t quite night and day, they do have some of the industrial instincts of mainlanders, but Malaysian-Chinese are much softer and quieter. And they don’t wear clashing colors and patterns like mainlanders do. Malaysia is still a developing nation, and as such the people as a whole haven’t yet lost their humility but they’re working on it.
DG: You’re kind of an opinionated guy, aren’t you?
DG: Gee, thanks for noticing! Yes. I would say I’m also a curious person. But I want to say a little something more about my attractions to Asians before we leave this topic. I could have found other places with diminutive people but I came to Asia because of what Re-evalutation Co-Counseling calls a ‘frozen need.’ You see, when I was a teenager I was terribly in love with a Samoan boy.
DG: You mean like this?
DG: No, more like this:
I still get weak in the knees when I see this look. The Samoan boy in my high school wouldn’t have anything to do with me. I was hiding in the closet, fantasizing about him and unknowingly packing away my future frozen needs into a time capsule to be opened in Asia 30 years later.
DG: OK, so we have established a type.
DG: Yeah, I think we all have our types. Some of us are more secretive about it and some less so. Maybe you like guys with big beards, or albinos, or you like a woman with long legs or brunettes with green eyes. Some of us act on it and some don’t. Look, my ex Sebastian was about as far from that Samoan look as anyone could be, right? He was white as a milk bottle. But he was also little and that made up for my blind spot for whiteness. He was also incredibly smart, charming, and talented. And it all added up to a package that I fell in love with.
DG: So small trumps brown?
DG: Erm. Well, I don’t know if I could answer that. I think this conversation is getting too looksist anyway, so let’s move on.
DG: Right. Let’s talk about the age thing, then.
DG: I knew that was coming. Yeah, so you want to know why my boyfriends have all been younger than me, don’t you?
DG: Well, they don’t have to be. Young people cheer me up. They take more risks, they tend to be more adventurous and open minded. So we have more in common. And they tend to smile more and honestly, most people my age don’t smile much. Life kinda wears most people down and they become incredibly dull and set in their ways. But I don’t rule out older people for friends or lovers. In fact, I find myself often attracted to old black men.
DG: Don’t you “what?!” me — old black men are perfectly worthy of one’s attractions. When I was growing up in rural Southwest Florida, black people were clearly off limits to me as a white person. They rode different buses and lived in a segregated part of town. But if every time you hear a train whistle and someone covers your eyes, the one day they aren’t there to cover your eyes, aren’t you gonna look and see what’s making that noise? So black men at any age are attractive in my eyes.
DG: Wait, we’re getting far off the Silk Road here, now you’re telling me that the entire continent of Africa is not safe from you. Why didn’t you just stay in America, move to Philly or something and find an old black boyfriend?
DG: Well, aren’t you objectifying! The reason is because I’m a restless person and I wanted to get out of the US for other reasons like guns and greed, for example. And I have had a number of black boyfriends over the years and for whatever reason they didn’t work out. But let’s move on, OK? There are more interesting topics to cover than my romantic attractions.
DG: OK, well tell me about your current boyfriend. What do you like about him?
DG: Let me tell you about our Sunday. We slept in and then made French toast and banana shakes together. He played some Bach on the piano. Then we went to the park and had a little picnic. We came home and he went grocery shopping while I napped. I woke up and he was making me a grass-fed beef stew and a chocolate cake from scratch. He left all this behind (and a pineapple) to comfort me while he had dinner with his mother because he knows I don’t like being alone on Sunday night. What’s not to love about THAT?
DG: Sounds wonderful but it sounds kind of like he’s your houseboy.
DG: I’m gonna hit you. He doesn’t get paid and he doesn’t clean. He’s actually quite messy. I clean the house, do his laundry, and I shop and cook for HIM most of the time. The fact that he likes to play classical music and work on his baking skills are certainly appealing. But more importantly, he has a golden and tender heart and he cares for me like I’m family. He fits all my criteria of adorable AND he’s gentle, loving, earnest, and kind. And all the Boy Scouts superlatives.
DG: Got it. So, when are you getting married?
DG: That’s a weekly topic of discussion around the house, actually. We can’t get married in Malaysia. It is a Muslim country. Here our love is flat out illegal. We could only marry in a morally depraved country like America and he needs to see the country first and then decide for himself if it’s a place he can live. I don’t want him to come on a fiancé visa as it will be too much pressure. He will come and visit and see and then we’ll talk about making it more permanent after he has had a chance to digest his experience of the US, and more importantly, Tucson.
DG: What do you predict will happen?
DG: Gosh. I give it a remote chance of working out. It’s not easy to leave your home country, even when it’s a hot mess like Malaysia. His mother is here and we all know how Chinese boys are expected to dote on their mothers ’til their dying day. I suspect he will not like the Arizona desert — I think he’ll find it too dry and too extreme with all the biting plants, reptilian creatures, and harsh overhead lighting. He recently asked me, “Hubby is Tucson a fashion town?” My heart sank to tell him that dressing up in Tucson is a clean t-shirt. He won’t like the gun-toting nutbags and white trash of America. Asia may be annoying but at least you don’t get your head shot off in school. And Malaysians don’t make false promises and professions of love like Americans do routinely.
I think he will enjoy the cultural benefits and the economic possibilities for his life there. So it will be a mixed experience. Tucson isn’t magical — it’s a good solid place but not one most people dream about moving to. He’d rather we lived in New York. I also want to take him to Europe (he’s never been to the West at all) to see how he likes that, because honestly, I would rather live in Europe myself than in America. Until the guns and healthcare messes are sorted, which is probably going to be never, I’d rather live outside the US. I’m just not feeling the love for Asia now.
DG: A year and a half ago you were so excited about moving to Malaysia. Maybe you’re just not happy anywhere.
DG: Well, considering that there’s not much more in Kuala Lumpur than shopping malls and it’s always miserably hot and humid, and now we can’t even breath the air because of the smog. So I’d say yes, I have gone sour on Southeast Asia. I’d feel that way about Paris if I lived there. Remember, I’m a restless person. Three months anywhere is enough!
DG: What about somewhere else in Asia?
DG: We will be in Bali in a couple weeks…who knows?
DG: Now, your boyfriend is 23 years younger than you…
DG: Back to the age thing, huh? Yes, he is. After Sebastian (who was 21 years my junior) I swore I would find someone my own age and now I am with someone even younger than Sebby. Oh well! Westerners are pretty obsessed with the age issue. It’s really a non-issue in Asia. Conversely, maturity is considered a plus here. In America, at age 51, I’m completely and utterly invisible in the gay community. Here, well, let’s just say it’s different. But when I first arrived in KL, I started dating someone who was only 4 years younger. I was excited about the possibility of pleasing all you ageists back home, but he wasn’t so much fun and not very adventurous. I noticed I didn’t laugh much with him.
Chuan, on the other hand, bounces in the door and jumps around like a kid with boundless enthusiasm for even the smallest things: “Hubby let’s go to the movies tonight and sit in the beanbag chairs!” And we did. It is probably the greatest benefit of being around young people — they tend to be more open minded and playful. We laugh a lot together.
DG: But your lives don’t quite line up do they? You’re going to ‘time out’ a little sooner than your boyfriend will, right?
DG: Hah! That’s the prevailing assumption, but at age 51, I am more likely to be staying up ’til 2 am and climbing the 25 flights of stairs to the apartment than my 28 year old boyfriend. Here’s the deal: that oh-so-American proscription of age-divergent relationships only makes a shred of sense when it comes to child rearing and since we have no plans to ruin our lives with children, our relationship is really only about love and support. And adventure. And fun. Yes, fun. That’s where the term ‘gay’ came from. Remember, gay used to mean happy before it was applied to a sexuality? The name implied that we were carefree because we had double incomes and no mouths to feed or diapers to change. How things have changed.
But anyway, I fully intend to be traveling the world and goofing off with my younger Chinese boyfriend/husband ’til I’m 85. I recently heard the term for these age divergent East/West relationships: ‘Walking stick and chopstick.’
DG: So you think it’s a long shot for you with your Malaysian-Chinese boyfriend settling in America.
DG: The word ‘settling’ shouldn’t ever be used in any description of my life, but he’s such an extraordinary young man that how could I NOT give it an honest try. And even if it doesn’t work out long-term, we will have some great adventures along the way (we already have). And isn’t that what this gift of life is all about?
DG: For you, clearly, life is about adventure and play. What about hard work and making a difference and changing the world?
DG: Geez, how soon you forget. My life is full of play now but it hasn’t always been. I used to teach in 2 different schools in San Francisco, ran my own design firm, started a gay advocacy non-profit and took it about as far as it could go into non-profitdom. We did win the Edward R. Murrow award, after all. And I volunteer teaching English to Burmese refugees for the UN. But as far as corporate life, well someone else has to make the widgets, not me. And as far as making a difference…everything one does, every interaction we have with others makes a difference. I’ve given up the ideal that I’m going to profoundly influence the direction of humanity. Thank god!
DG: So how do you manage to pull off this lifestyle of traveling and playing all the time on a shoestring?
DG: There are a few things that I have done that have allowed me to live freely: one is with a little help from my parents, I bought 3 cheap houses successively in Arizona, fixed them up, sold them, or rented them out. I learned how to do the fixing myself and then I built a house from scratch and rented it out. In addition I have a career as a computer graphic artist, web designer, filmmaker, and narrator — stuff that I can do from wherever I am perched as long as I have the Internet. It just means that sometimes I have to stay up till 2 am or get up at 5 am to meet my clients on line in their time zones. (Nothing that a little afternoon nap can’t remedy.) And I have generous friends who have helped out with some fun bitty bits along the way.
But one other very important thing — and this is a hard one for many Americans — is that I’ve not gotten caught in the trap of material acquisitions. I actually have more stuff than I would like, but I don’t own a car and I don’t have a fetish for shopping. When I do feel like shopping, I go to the thrift store so that the damages are minimal. But when I was younger I got caught in the consumer debt trap that binds so many Americans. When I finally untangled myself from it, I swore I’d never be in that mess again. I spend my money on experiences that will bring me joy and memories for a lifetime rather than on material items that give me a momentary rush of pleasure.
DG: Well, aren’t you just so perfect! You’re free and easy and happy.
DG: Hardly. The reality of my life is that I was born melancholy. I came out of my mother’s womb and sighed when they spanked me. My first words were “Oh, how poignant.” Being restless has actually saved my life. I could easily stay at home and be miserable and drink too much, listen to sad music, and watch sad movies…which is sort of my natural inclination. And so I force myself to get out and run, run, run. If I’m at home alone for long periods, I tend to watch sinking ship videos ad nauseum. I’m fascinated with the demise of people’s dreams and ideals — zeppelins and ocean liners and mansions that offered extreme luxury to the privileged few…until something went really wrong.
DG: Kind of sounds like your book.
DG: Yes, in fact, my book Homosteading at the Nineteenth Parallel is all about that…my fantasy of a tropical island dream house gone wrong. Read it. It’s always fun to watch someone else’s dream go down the drain. And it will only cost you a few dollars instead of your whole life’s savings doing it yourself.
DG: So what are your pet peeves?
DG: Gawd. How long do we have?
DG: Never mind. Let’s skip that one. Who are your heroes?
DG: Hmmm. Right off the top of my head, Elizabeth Sparks in Tucson. Yeah, Liz. She’s an extraordinarily powerful person who co-manages the Tucson Village Farm. What I really like about her is that she has the ability to be really light and hilariously funny in the face of challenging circumstance. And yet she can kick your ass from here to eternity if she needs to. But she mostly insists instead on you being the best you possibly can — she sees to it that you only show up in a great light. I’ve seen her in the unenviable position of schmoozing Monsanto executives while running an organic farm. I wouldn’t trade lives with her, but being around her is an inspiring ride of engagement with all people.
I would also say Mark Allison from Pai, Thailand. He’s a wonderfully wise and yet easy-going guy with a big heart. He is remarkably grounded in any situation. He co-manages the restaurant in Thailand and his own counseling and massage practices. He is sort of the de-facto mayor of Pai as everyone knows him and loves him.
And finally I would say Chuan is my hero — I know it’s trite to name your partner. But hey, that’s the mark of a good relationship, isn’t it? What is heroic about Chuan is the way he cares for people like his aging grandparents and his mother. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to actually be Chuan, as he thinks with his heart, not his head. The world seems to want to always shut down those with open hearts but it doesn’t happen to him. He needs almost no propping up, just a little hug now and then. His seemingly endless supply of love and generosity doesn’t work against him because he’s not doing things for others in order to get something back. He genuinely cares for people and I’m honored to be one of the ones he cares for.
DG: So maybe I should ask what’s next for you?
DG: Getting out of Asia alive and well and with my boyfriend in tow. A year and a half ago my goal was to get out of America. Then I was escaping alone on an adventure to find a companion. Now I’m going back and hopefully not alone. Seems like I did get what I came here for.
You know, it’s not easy being an idealist with endless free time and some budget to play with but no clear direction. I can hear your groans of false pity just reading that! I suffered for years in corporate cubicles doing crap work that I hated and was stuck with a very unloving boyfriend in San Francisco. I worked my ass off doing this and that here and there and then running a starving non profit. For a brief period I had the creative team I wanted. But that ended in 2004. After that I built a house and wrote a book. Fell in love and then grieved its loss. And then I lost my direction. I had one thing left to achieve in life: lasting true love.
For me now having found that, I don’t really know what’s next. It’s the dilemma of self-styled people who choose to swim upstream — or choose a different path than the masses. What was it that Billy Joel’s sang, “All your choices make you change your mind.”
I long to have a creative project to sink my teeth into. I fantasize about opening a cabaret. Or a food truck. Or to have an art gallery of my own photography. Or all of the above in one place. But the reality of finessing these things takes so much money and energy and introduces so much risk to my carefree lifestyle that I’m unlikely to pursue these daydreams. If manifesting something big like that again is for the grand payoff of the final product, then count me out. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in this long and fascinating journey of life, it’s that the joy of life comes from the daily doing, not being hellbent on achieving something that will make me believe in myself. That’s simply not going to happen. It’s the creative camaraderie that I thrive on, that gets me out of bed. Being part of an imaginative team and having a place where you go to work on transformative projects — now that’s the good stuff. And that is clearly something missing from my life since the demise of Outright Radio.
But until I figure it out or make peace with not having it, then I guess it’s just an endless indulgence in hedonistic pleasures and little moments of joy in exotic places with my boyfriend. Ho hum. Things could definitely be worse.
I do want to write another book. I want to sing more with the Tucson Symphony and I want to play my clarinet in a band. But right now I want to eat some of the beef stew Chuan made for me. And he just called and is coming by to give me a hug.
So that’s what’s next: beef stew and a hug.
DG: Sounds good to me.