"You can do whatever you want," Daniel mumbles, only barely turning his head away from the computer screen to participate in what he fears is about to turn into yet another quarrel - the umpteenth. "But don't expect me to come along."
"Well, isn't that just typical of your whole attitude," Ariel snaps at his partner petulantly, using the feminine Hebrew pronoun to address him. "If we were all like you, we'd all still be deep in the closet, not parading through city centers with the courts on our side."
Daniel deliberates on whether to answer this accusation with a counter-attack. But he is in a corner at this moment. Which is right where Ariel wants him, after all. Since he knows perfectly well that Daniel hates it when addressed in the feminine. So much so, in fact, that Daniel announced that the next time Ariel talked to him as though he were a girl, it would be the last opportunity he got.
Both men are aware, however, of Daniel's tendency to make empty threats. Being basically a pushover, that is. A nice guy who spends a heftier portion of his salary on his shrink than he does on antiques, precisely for the purpose of building up a backbone.
Therapy has been only partially successful. On the one hand, it has enabled him to admit to being, and live openly as, a homosexual. More importantly - from his own perspective - it has taught him not to cave in to every demand made of him, both at home and at work, without considering the cost and benefit to himself.
On the other hand, it hasn't made a dent in his misery.
This means that while he is now capable, occasionally, of taking a stand - and even, maybe, of sticking to it - his guts get tied in knots when challenged, coaxed or contradicted.
"Confrontation," he likes to say, "is not my thing... but I'm working on it."
When the issue of this year's gay pride parade in Jerusalem arose, Daniel knew he was going to have his "working on it" cut out for him where confrontation with Ariel was concerned. Not that his lover's ardent activism on behalf of gay rights has ever bothered him. On the contrary, the problem, from the get-go, has been Ariel's refusal to accept that Daniel's "lifestyle" is driven by the leanings of his personal libido, not by some public, political agenda.
"Privacy is merely a bogus euphemism for repression," Ariel said, during the first of many arguments on the subject. "And you are the queen bee of quiet queerdom."
It was during this exchange that Daniel protested being referred to with a female pronoun.
"If being a gay man is a legitimate choice," he retorted, "why emulate a woman?"
"That form of rebuttal," Ariel hissed in return, "is simply a Socratic trick you're playing on yourself to justify hiding out in the mainstream."
"If the mainstream is so abhorrent," Daniel said, his anxiety-level and blood pressure rising, "why are you so determined to become a part of it?"
"Whatever are you going on about?" asked Ariel, crinkling his nose and furrowing his plucked brow. "It is you - not I - who longs to blend into the societal throng."
"Oh really?" Daniel responded, his hands shaking along with his innards. "Excuse my having to point this out to you, but it is you who is begging to be accepted by the very people you call 'primitive' and 'closed-minded.' It is you who wants to conform to a crowd by marching, en masse, through the streets."
"Oh yeah?" Ariel said, raising his voice. "Well, for your information, if it weren't for people like me marching en masse through the streets, people like you would still be living a lie - appeasing their parents by getting married and gracing the Friday-night dinner table with a couple of kids, and continuing to cruise the bars on the sly."
"If you're fighting for the right to cruise the bars openly," Daniel growled, "why do you spend so much energy promoting marriage and children?"
"I'm fighting for the right to do both," Ariel yelled. "We should be able to cruise bars and/or get married and/or have children. Just like everybody else."
"Ahh, just like everybody else," Daniel said dramatically, raising his index finger victoriously, yet feeling like a loser. "I rest my case."
Punctuating his partner's remarks by doing an about-face pirouette, Ariel stormed into the bathroom and turned on the Jacuzzi.
THAT WAS last week. Since then, things between the sparring partners have cooled off, yet bubbled under the surface simultaneously.
Ariel has been cordial and courteous, Daniel conciliatory. Until this morning, when Ariel indicated in so many words that it was not enough for Daniel to provide tacit support by helping him edit fliers to be distributed by the Open House during the parade; he wanted Daniel to hold his hand, literally and figuratively, by marching alongside him.
Daniel initially is torn by his desire to do what is requested of him and his need to be loyal to his own leanings, which in this case couldn't be farther from those of Ariel. He tries to convey this gently, so as to avoid a new round in the proverbial ring. When that doesn't work, he attempts evasion by sitting down at the computer. There is nothing quite as good as cyberspace for engaging in escapism, after all.
But Ariel - who considers status-quo arrangements to be inherently bad - is in no mood to "agree to disagree" with Daniel. Certainly not when it comes to matters of faith.
"You're being a sissy," Ariel taunts, emphasizing the feminine pronoun again - to show that he is doing it on - and with - purpose.
Daniel takes several breaths to fend off hyperventilation. Then he stands up and pushes aside his chair.
"And you, my friend, are a religious fanatic," he says, walking away with a sense of internal pride he can't wait to share with his therapist. "In my bed, I need a person with pluralistic values."