The big reveal
Until recently I thought of myself as damaged goods. I’m 54, been out of the closet since I was 17 and yet have only enjoyed sex about as many times as the number of fingers on my hand.
This is the secret that spawned my alias, the pseudonym of a mostly well adjusted, extremely fit and healthy HIV-positive gay man who can’t get laid - or maybe just loves to complain about it. I decided to write anonymously because at the age of 54 my sexual and romantic life were crippled, emotionally, erectile-y and more.
I think about sex all the time, look at porn sites three, four, five times a day. I’ve substituted phone sex for real sex and I masturbate the most when I’m in a relationship. Throughout my life my relationships have been mostly sexless and not surprisingly short-lived, even while I remain friends with many of these men today.
When it's time for Mr. Johnson to play well with others, to put up or shut up, to put out or get out, I lose interest, can’t get hard and just want to snuggle. I used to think I was a misfit because the five times I’ve hired hookers (if I made better money that number would be higher) I got off only once.
I’d written under a pseudonym before. It was a health and wellness column. I worked for a market research firm with clients that might not like what I wrote. I chose the name Tom Collins, as a salute to writers on the Collins side of my family as well a pun about the health benefits of a good cocktail.
But anonymity was not required when it came to writing about sex. T.C. Pomeroy was born of shame.
While my great uncle, C.P. (Charles Pomeroy) Ives, an editorial page writer for the Baltimore Sun, was the inspiration for my name, the genesis of my sexual neuroses has more to do with growing up in the 1960s than with my family tree, though I can see some shame-based roots were planted when I was young.
My parents slept in twin beds as long as I remember and my mother, who was always gracious and accepting of my sexuality. got angrier than I’d ever seen her upon discovering my hidden stash of porn. “I don’t care what you do, just don’t bring pornography into this house. It’s disgusting.” But thirty-five years later the statute of limitations on how my adolescence fucked me up has long run out.
To Be Young, Stupid & Scared
My coming out was mostly easy but two challenges stood out. Both I now see are related like twins, two sides of the same coin, the same queer three-dollar bill. Overcoming my inherited fear and self-hate was hard but letting older men fuck me because I was lonely and too scared to meet people my own age hurt even more.
I realized I was gay in the 6th grade and soon amassed a collection of fitness magazines, then porn. I’ve written about my coming out here under my own name, and despite the support of my family and friends my fright was crippling. Always garrulous, and when nervous, talkative to the point of annoyance, I was timid and shy around gay men, especially if someone was attractive. And if someone was attracted to me I was too meek to let them know the feeling wasn’t mutual.
The first time I had sex I was 17. His name was Joop. He was handsome, a Dutch guy I met at a gay (decades before the inclusive "LGBT") youth group in Manhattan. But as gentle as he was, I couldn’t relax and as he fucked me I couldn’t wait for it to end. That was a pattern that lasted for years. The summer ended without my making friends from the youth group, whether due to fear or the distance of living in the suburbs I’m not sure.
When home from college on weekends or holidays I would go to the city or The Brook in Westport, Connecticut - but to this day have always hated bars. I’d stand in a corner, trying not to hate the music, drinking too fast, too much, feeling anxious and shitty, wondering why everyone else was having fun, wondering why I couldn’t relax even after three or four drinks, wondering why no one would ever talk to me.
So instead I went to places with older men who always struck up conversations, made me feel less shy, made me think that I was making friends. It was years before I realized that I could ask someone to stop or do something else, thinking that soon I would learn to like it, only to discover the next day that when I’d call my new pal the the number they had given me was fake.
Adolescent Middle Age?
Yet in writing down my secrets I’ve learned things about what makes me tick, things that I’d like to try, things that I would have learned years ago were it not for my adolescent isolation, never coached or counseled by more adventurous peers on what to do, how to ask, when to say no.
I learned that I can’t get a hard-on if we’re not making out. I learned that getting fucked can be fun. And I’ve learned that I’m more of a make out, make waffles kind of guy who may or may not want to have sex when we wake up with maple syrup on our lips.
Awkwardness is Part of The Game
Most of all I’ve learned that the sexual laboratory called Matt Levine is open to experiment, play, have fun with and not take it too seriously. As my friend and confidant Will likes to remind me “Sex is like a Bell Curve.” Sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s horrible and most of the time it’s just okay.
I dislike bars and hookup apps even more so my lab partners have been few and far between. But if the next time my clothes come off and I feel like I’m that clumsy fat kid in right field praying that the ball never comes my way I’ll know that awkwardness is part of the game.
Whether the next at bat is for sex or love I’m ready to swing. There are too many variables to tell whether or how I’ll perform, whether my body or my heart is up for the game. But I’m ready to play and win or lose, stained sheets or not, it’s time to learn some more.