Hide and Seek: The Closeted Lebanese Lover

Once my French affair went as belly-up as a sunbathing croissant, I moonwalked back into Beirut’s dating scene like a love-seeking ninja, armed with a Costco-sized portion of optimism and a dash of jitters. Since touchdown in this urban jungle, I’d been multitasking like a caffeinated octopus: nesting in my swanky new pad, plunging headfirst into the exhilarating gig of setting up a franchise for our San Francisco-based tech firm and getting cozy with my oh-so-exotic surroundings. But let’s get real – with a shiny new city, a life reboot, and an international snug in my pocket, I was more than ready to dive into the deep end of the fun pool!

Sin City, Beirut Edition: My Bachelorette Pad
Oh honey, let me spill the tea on my fabulously gay Beirutian bachelorette pad, where the only closet is for my designer clothes. I’m talking about a swanky abode in Mar Mikhail, arguably the most happening neighborhood in town.

Nestled on the sixth floor of a modern chic building, my love shack is a true gaycation destination. I mean, I can practically see the sea of Grindr guys waving at me from the nearby bars and clubs, just begging for a chance to sashay their way into my heart… and my apartment.

Step inside, and you’ll see the fabulousness doesn’t stop at the door. Oh no, we’re talking floor-to-ceiling windows that let the light in like a young Cher singing “Believe.” The living area is an Instagram-worthy paradise, with a velvet sofa that has cuddled more cute butts than a Kardashian pool party. And the sound system? It’s got enough bass to shake the glitter off the local’s drag queen’s eyelashes (I love Diva Beirut!)

My kitchen is a true culinary wonderland, perfect for shaking up a mean margarita or serving some snacks to the dates. And did I mention the bedroom? It’s a boudoir fit for a gay prince, with a massive bed that will be seeing more gymnastics than the Olympics. And the en-suite bathroom? It’s got a bathtub so big, Noah could’ve filled it with two of every animal – and still had room for a rubber ducky.

Grindr Grief: When the App Gods Don’t Deliver
Unfortunately, my first few days with Grindr in Lebanon were as fruitful as searching for Wi-Fi in the Sahara, or getting fast-speed internet in Beirut. Tops who weren’t escorts seemed as rare as unicorns, most of them had blank profiles, and the majority were closeted, always hesitant about sharing a picture. I’d never go on a blind online date – been there, done that, and it was as scary as an Alfred Hitchcock horror and an epic facepalm.

Blackout Bliss: When Passion Ignites in the Shadows
Beirut was a city of contrasts – wild nights, strong-willed people, and a vibe that never died despite its difficulties. But those power outages, ugh! They were my Achilles heel. Climbing up six flights of stairs in the dark was about to take a surprising twist when I bumped into my tall, handsome neighbor in his twenties. I usually have a thing for older men, but exceptions are always allowed in. We made eye contact, but I figured he was just curious about the new guy on the block. And then it dawned on me, maybe it wasn’t just the electricity that was out! But we, gay boys, are rumored to be the ones who think that everyone around them is gay. How true is that?

Straight Guy Surprises: When Curiosity Kills the Closet
But my gaydar wasn’t going off, so I had no intention of striking up a conversation with my eye candy neighbor. But lo and behold, he caught me off guard by sparking a convo, introducing himself and his girlfriend. Oh yeah, straight as a flagpole. He kindly offered his phone number, and I took it as a sign of good old Lebanese hospitality.

To Text or Not to Text: The Neighborly Dilemma
With his number now in my possession, I played mental ping-pong over whether to text him or keep mum. Eventually, I decided to send a simple “hello” so he’d have my number too – just being good neighbors, you know. Before I could say “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” a reply buzzed in, and to my astonishment, he invited himself over with food and wine. A sexy guy bearing food and alcohol? How could I refuse?

Food, Wine, and Unspoken Desires: When the Lines Blur
His bod was the stuff dreams are made of: skyscraper stature, sculpted sinews, and a sleek silhouette. Yet, in spite of the vino river flowing in our veins, neither of us mustered the courage to take the plunge, leaving me to presume he was as straight as a yardstick. A quick heads-up: I’m not the trailblazing type when it comes to making the first move, so if fate ever lands you on a rendezvous with yours truly, bear that tidbit in mind!

Streaming, Snuggling, and Suggestive Surprises: An Unanticipated Offer
As the night unfurled, we cozied up, swapping yarns and guzzling copious amounts of wine. When I confessed my membership to the gay club, his lips curled into a cryptic grin. Just a grin? Color me intrigued. He then unleashed a torrent of probing questions about gay life. There I was, delivering a crash course on the ABCs of Top, Versatile, Bottom, Versatile Top, and Versatile Bottom lingo. With each inquisition, he’d name-drop his gal pal, as if wielding her as a protective amulet against his skyrocketing gay-world curiosity. Lounging on the couch, I proposed Netflix to stem the tide of his questions that were kind of turning me on, but he surprised me with a counteroffer of a hug. A hug? Did I hear that right? Anyways, how could I say no? We hugged, and I could feel his biceps. I always had a thing for big arms. His heart was beating fast. What’s going on?

From Wine to Whispers: A Steamy Escapade
Our Netflix-and-thrill rendezvous, sparked by his infamous hug, shifted gear to a passionate kiss and the shedding of our clothes. His washboard abs were impossible to miss, each muscle in his body standing out powerfully. Two men, entwined in heated desire, explored each other’s bodies, igniting a fire that could not be denied. We did not have intercourse, but everything else was on the menu. Then, like a phantom in the night, he slipped into his clothes and quickly vanished.

The Morning After: Cold Shoulder and Closeted Regrets
After our encounter, my neighbor’s swift, silent exit left me questioning my performance. But I thought the time we had together was amazing! The following day, he didn’t even toss me a casual “hey.” Was it possible that my bedroom acrobatics were subpar, despite my 5-star Yelp-worthy history?

Apologies, Confessions, and Divine Dilemmas
Soon, a text arrived with a simple apology and a request to talk. What could it be? An STD? It can’t be. I am always safe, very safe. Did I mention that I am a hypochondriac, too? When we met an hour after, he told me that he wasn’t gay and that our encounter was his first time, and last. The weight of his revelation was only intensified by his next statement: “Jesus would punish me for what we did, but I want to spend time with you.” Alright, not an STD. Phew. But….

Divine Shenanigans: The Almighty Crashes our Party
You know you’re strapping in for a wild rollercoaster when the Big Guy Upstairs and His Son RSVP to your shindig. But hey, I respect his beliefs. A swig of gin basil? As fellow businessmen, we hit it off, chatting about markets. Capitalism takes center stage, and God slips into the background, leaving us two, the sinners, alone. The electric charge between us returns, and I can feel his heartbeat quickening. Oh yeah, we were back in the game.

Battle Royale: The Church vs. My Gay Desires
I found a way to bring Jesus into our relationship, reminding my beau that the Son of God was all about that unconditional love. I told him this as we curled up after our steamy time. He bought it, hook, line, and sinker. Then the church debacle unraveled a few days later. As an agnostic, I had no problem attending mass with him. After all, two gay men in church pews are like surprise guests at a potluck – we bring our own fabulous flavor! Post this tedious sermon, he vanished. Turns out, he’d gone for confession and spilled the beans about our affair. He emerged, sweaty and terrified, in a bad mood. Turning him on with some dirty talk in the car, I was pulling him back to my side. Then it was on: the Padre vs. My Gay Desires. I issued an ultimatum: Jesus (ambassador of love, forgiveness, and peace) and me, or the priest. He chose me, and Jesus, of course. Score one for Team Gay (and God’s son, too)!

A Secret Affair: Between Heaven and Hell
Our relationship continued in secret, each rendezvous steamier than the one before. He broke up with his girlfriend. My incognito Romeo grappled with the guilt of defying his faith and his irresistible magnetism toward me. We tiptoed on a tightrope, but our fervent chemistry and hot sex were downright spellbinding.

Lebanon’s Sweet Victory: France, Eat Your Heart Out
For the next couple of months, we were practically inseparable. Our intimacy was unparalleled, making the French look like an amateur. Lebanon triumphed over France, 1-0. He even popped the question for me to top him – a jaw-dropping request for this gold-medal bottom. Usually, I’d bid adieu to a guy who wasn’t 100% top. But for this Lebanese stud? No sweat! Hold my glass of gin basil– am I head over heels for him? Kind-hearted, handsome, sharp-witted, self-sufficient, and generous – plus, he brought me a pillow with my face on it. How sweet is that?

Nosy Nellies: When Everyone Gets Suspicious
Our closeness got people talking, and I knew I had to win over his family and friends next. With raised eyebrows, many people asked if we were a couple. We denied it, insisting we were just close friends. This stressed him out. I, being a senseless Westerner, didn’t give a damn. The questions persisted. I didn’t care, even got him once to have sex in his parents’ house, with them in the next room. He had to cover my mouth to keep us from being caught. Hot!

Bar Brawl Bonanza: An Alcohol-Induced Tangle of Fists and FeelingsSince I was out and proud, my friends were in the loop about our relationship. He, on the other hand, played it close to the vest, only confiding in a handful of foreigners he bravely came out to. Yet, he engaged in antics that would pique anyone’s curiosity. Allow me to regale you with a tale that illustrates this perfectly. It was a typical night out at the bar, enjoying each other’s company and sipping our drinks. Little did we know that a spilled glass of gin basil would set off a chain reaction of fists. As my drink spilled by accident onto the grumpy man next to us, he unleashed a torrent of insults that pierced the air like a serrated blade. My Lebanese boyfriend, in a valiant display of machismo, leaped into action, fists flying like a whirlwind. In mere moments, the disgruntled bar patron was sprawled on the floor, defeated and humiliated.

As my Lebanese man dusted off his hands, it dawned on him that this (sexy) act of heroism might raise suspicions about our relationship. In a bizarre, hilarious twist of fate, the barroom brawl had inadvertently outed us as a couple. With adrenaline still pumping and an audience of wide-eyed onlookers, he panicked. We immediately left.

Operation Decoy: A Love Story Takes a Wild Turn
A few months into our hush-hush romance, he casually pitched an idea. “What if I hire a girl to be my pretend girlfriend?” he inquired, as casually as if he were proposing more garlic in our hummus. A sham girlfriend? Preposterous! I could already imagine the blunders, mix-ups, and, alright, perhaps a smidgen of jealousy stirring within me. Guilty as charged. But beneath the surface, I couldn’t help but muse: Could our relationship survive such a ploy?

Mission Fake Girlfriend: Auditioning for the Role of a Lifetime
I caved in, and together we embarked on the hunt for eligible pretenders within our social circle. Given the economic downturn, who wouldn’t leap at the opportunity to masquerade as a fake girlfriend? Good pay, while keeping her full-time job ($1,500.00 per month), gifts, soirees, swanky dinners – all part of the tantalizing package. A mutual friend of ours gleefully seized the role, ready to bask in the limelight of this fabricated love story.

The Social Media Charade: When Reality Bites
And so the farce began. Instagram stories, tweets, posts – all about their “relationship.”In real life, they spent much time together too, as she had to meet his friends and family in order to maintain the illusion.

We even found ourselves penning dialogues for them to deliver when in the company of his folks, like actors in a peculiar, never-ending soap opera. I endeavored to maintain my composure, continually reminding myself, “It’s all a sham.” However, as the weeks rolled on and their cyber love saga grew more persuasive, the relentless onslaught of their pixelated passion, coupled with their tangible encounters, began to gnaw at me.

Observing them share tender instants, albeit counterfeit, brewed a mélange of sentiments — yes, jealousy included — within me that I could no longer brush aside. In the end, leading a double life takes its toll on all parties, and the burden of our duplicity began to bear down on my soul. It was affecting my mental health, and I felt like I was losing myself in the process.

The Reality Show Reject: When Friends Say Enough is EnoughLiving a lie wasn’t for me, so I was ready to call it quits. Cue the reality TV show judging panel, my friends Danielle, Melanie, Roy, and Ronald. In a rare unanimous decision, they all agreed it was time for me to live my own, authentic life. Our alcohol-fueled venting sessions were legendary, and during one such gathering, each friend offered sage advice.

Danielle, ever the wise one, mused, “You deserve to be with someone who embraces you and your love openly, not in the shadows.”

Melanie, the fashionable intellectual, quipped, “Darling, even Dior would say that hiding in the closet is passé; it’s time to strut your stuff on the relationship runway!”

Roy, my naughty friend, cheekily suggested, “You know, he’s not even that hot! There are plenty more attractive fish in the sea, and it’s high time you went fishing.”

And finally, Ronald, the king of jokes, chimed in, “Come on, your love life shouldn’t be more scripted than a sitcom!”

Encouraged by their wisdom, humor, and unwavering support, I knew that it was time to turn the page on this chapter of my life.

Heartache and Stalker Shenanigans: When Love Turns Sour
We broke up after months of dating, both of us heartbroken. In a desperate bid to remain tethered to my life, he turned to stalking me when I tried to sever all ties. It was a bizarre mix of heartache and hilarity as if our relationship had morphed into a dark romantic comedy. He probably misses the gay action. I reckon he’s too petrified to set out in pursuit of a new beau. It’s evident that a fierce battle of self-discovery rages within him, tearing him to shreds like a melodramatic telenovela destined to conclude with a grand finale where he weds a woman, raises a family, and lives out a fabricated existence, deluding himself into blissful oblivion.

Love, Lies, and Life Lessons: A Comedic Conclusion
And so, the moral of this wild ride: Life is too short to live a lie. Between divine intervention, closeted confessions, and fake girlfriends, our love story unfolded like a comedic sitcom. But in the end, authenticity prevailed. And although our relationship didn’t last, it taught me the importance of staying true to yourself. It also brought to mind all the members of the LGBTQIA+ community who are forced to conceal their true selves due to the pressure from their families, culture, religion, and other societal factors. These lessons will stay with me as I journey through life with a positive attitude and a steadfast commitment to being authentic while hoping for a change for our community members.

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