ID: Let’s talk about the other big costumed temptation from your past: Wonder Woman. We’ve saved her in part because I think we’ve casually mentioned her a lot in the past, and if I’d had to put money on it, when we started, my money would have been on her being your ‘the one’- though I still think I might be right about that.
But I’m less interested in how you met, since I’m sure it was punching people over some kind of fashion-related crime- possibly your own. But how did you two kids get together?
B: I know you’re going to criticize, because there’s a pattern, here, similar to the pattern of journalists I’ve dated. But I “work” nights; and consequently, I don’t get out much. So a great deal of my socializing happens at fund-raisers and things.
I think it was a cancer benefit- breast and prostate. She was hosting, and mingling with people. Some jerk goes off about AIDS funding for Africa. And at first she let it slide; it was a fund-raiser, not a debate. But the guy, he either had too much champagne or a too big a mouth, because he kept it up, and when nobody punched him he got more belligerent and loud about it. And even then, I think maybe Diana would have just nicely escorted him out, but she saw a look in my eye- cause I really wanted to deck the prick- and I think she got protective of me.
ID: I imagine AIDS funding is a touchy subject for you.
B: If you consider there to be an actual fight against AIDS, the front-line is unquestionably in Africa. If we don’t stop it there, continued globalization will ensure that it doesn’t stay Africa’s problem. To use an easier to understand metaphor, Africa are our neighbors, but if the flood waters overtake their land then ours will be flooded, too; so it makes sense to help them with the sandbags- even in purely selfish terms it makes sense.
But I think in a lot of ways AIDS, like lung cancer, is a disease we blame people for. We look at them and say, you know, “You made a lousy life decision so you deserve to be there.” Which I think is complete and utter horse crap. I absolutely agree that people shouldn’t smoke, have unprotected sex or share needles; you’ll get no argument out of me that those are problems, and invite consequences. But, and maybe it’s just the religion my mother taught me bubbling up, but, “You made your choice now die in the gutter,” doesn’t seem at all like a reasonable response.
But moral outrage is beside the point, because who hasn’t had unprotected sex? Maybe in the context of a monogamous relationship, even a marriage, but who goes an entire life without doing that at least once? You?
ID: God no. I’m pretty sure I started having unsafe sex. In a monogamous relationship, like you said, but even that first time I think I went bareback.
B: Don’t get me wrong, I completely advocate for safety- everyone should be aware of the danger and risk when they have sex- particularly because even condoms aren’t a completely safe alternative. But this finger-waggling, it’s the blind hypocrisy of abstinence-only sex ed applied to an entire culture- a whole continent, after the fact.
But there are still parts of Africa where “No,” doesn’t mean “No” in the same sense that it does, here- I mean, a woman’s right to say “No” doesn’t carry the same weight.
ID: Then maybe we should just give AIDS funding for women.
B: I suppose that’s an argument. But this isn’t a problem we should be trying to treat, it’s one we should be trying to annihilate. Because giving a woman expensive drugs to stay alive is a losing battle. Even trying to eliminate rape- something we’ve failed to do even over here- is a pipe dream- and I swear to God I will punch you in the throat if you turn that into a laying pipe dream joke.
ID: Wouldn’t dream of it.
B: Many women in Africa get AIDS from their husbands who’ve slept around, and I would be shocked if the same doesn’t happen to men, too. What we need to do is to tackle a culture that doesn’t treat AIDS with the proper gravity. There are still parts of the continent where AIDS misinformation is rampant. Getting people to understand that they’re taking their lives into their own hands, that’s how you win this fight. By educating people, and then giving them the tools, like condoms, to protect themselves.
ID: So is it not okay to question AIDS funding in Africa?
B: No, that’s not what I’m saying. It’s important- imperative- that we question our government and keep them accountable. But my problem with that particular guy was the way he argued his point- not to mention the venue, which was completely unrelated. To my mind, AIDS funding is justifiable because it is trying to fight the disease before it can get to us. I think if we don’t spend this money today, we’ll end up spending exponentially more to fight it once it reaches our shores.
ID: Okay, we’ve been completely derailed on that one. Um, you and Diana were at a fund raiser.
B: She’d finally had enough with this guy, so she confronted him. She tried logic, reason, compassion. She ran through all the reasons why he was ignorant, and by the end not even subtly racist, I mean shouting epithets. Diana’s usually a pretty peaceful person, but I think since she entered into the fight on what she presumed was my behalf, she took the things he said more personally than she normally would have. I could see where things were headed when she balled her fists, and I intervened.
“You’ll punch right through his head,” I told her, “and ruin a very pretty dress.” She laughed, and that defused the situation. And I turned around and told the man he needed to leave.
He wanted me to make him. By that point I’d calmed down, so I just applied a simple arm hold- a painful one- and escorted him to the door. When I got back everybody applauded. It turned out to be one of the most successful fund raisers we’ve ever had. Nothing makes rich white people feel guiltier than hearing one of their own articulate the case against compassion. Were I a more cynical man I’d hire men to come to charity events to be jerks just to juice the contributions.
ID: I’ve been known to be an exceptionally belligerent jackass.
B: Sorry, we’re not hiring.
ID: Okay, but it seems like… I see A, I see C, but I don’t see B or how we got from A to C.
B: Diana was a little colder the rest of the night. She very rarely loses her cool, and when she does, I think… it worries her. An angry Amazon can do a lot of damage, and she’s supposed to be an ambassador of peace- I believe that’s a part of her official title.
It was sweet of her to defend my honor, I guess, but I think it made her ask herself why. And she was social, and fun and funny, and did a great job entertaining the rest of the night, but I recognized that she was more thoughtful than usual.
I let it lie. I didn’t know what was going on, but when Diana wants to talk, she does. And she did, after everyone had left. Eventually. She spent a lot of time looking off, at the city lights- this must have been in New York, because that’s the skyline I remember. But when she spoke she asked me if I really liked the dress.
I told her I didn’t know if it was the dress, but she looked stunning tonight. It was amazing that guy had been able to pick his jaw off the floor long enough to argue with her. And we’ve… we flirted before. I guess I never really thought about it, but I’m more dashing, debonair, at these kinds of events, than when I’m wearing the pointy ears. So we spent a lot more of our time bantering at functions. But I think that was the first time I’d ever seen her self-conscious, in an awkward way.
Diana is one of the most self-aware people I know, but I think she really wanted me to like the dress. I think she liked defending me. And liked that I could handle that. Some men can’t; and Diana is a strong woman, stronger than just about anybody. If you can’t handle the idea that a woman could toss you into the sun, then she just isn’t for you.
But she liked the intimacy of it. She knew my secrets, and not that many people did. She knew how fragile I was, but I didn’t balk at the idea of her knowing that. I think for her it was that right combination of vulnerability and strength.
She was intrigued, and for the first time I think she started to think about me in that way.
ID: That way? What are you, six?
B: I don’t mean sexually. Women think of me sexually often. Men, too. You, just now- it’s a human reflex. Like if I told you not to picture your grandmother naked.
ID: Ah! Damn you!
B: See. But I mean romantically. She started to wonder if we were romantically compatible.
ID: And what about you?
B: I was already there; I always had been. The first few minutes you spend with Diana, all you think about is her, how completely goddamn lovely she is. I challenge any man to spend five minutes with her and not think of her that way. But after that, it’s strange, but she’s such a stunning person, that you start to want to be with her, not just sexually, but completely. She’s not just beautiful, but brilliant, compassionate. I know Clark gets the messianic treatment a lot, but if Jesus were a woman you couldn’t take yours eyes off- but also capable and willing to punch an intergalactic genocidal maniac in the eyes to save lives- you’d be approaching Diana.
ID: So to take this that extra blasphemous step, you worship her?
B: Close, I suppose. Admire. Adore. Love, beyond a capacity I ever thought possible.
ID: And all this after the break-up.
B: I don’t know if we were every actually together, honestly, to call us broken up. We wanted to be. Danced around the issue. And we certainly saw each other for a while. But there was always a distance.
I remember more than one cancelled date, where I had to leave to deal with a costumed psychopath and she came with me in costume. I remember specifically this one night the Joker was doing cabaret in front of an audience, and it was a Speed kind of thing, where they had dynamite attached to their seats and if they stopped laughing they would blow up. I jumped down behind him onstage, and the audience started clapping. Then Diana lands right in front of him, and he actually pissed himself. I think he was just taking the joke that far, but he did, he pissed himself, and it was a long piss, too, twenty seconds easy. It had started to pool at his feet and flow downstage by the time he stopped.
And the look on her face was priceless, because she was trying to still stay scary, but she was also disgusted, and a little bemused. And she said, “I’m not carrying him out.” He turned back and looked at me, wiggled his eyebrows, and from the look I assumed he was going to chase her around soaking in piss, and I almost lost it, almost burst into laughter right there at the thought of the Joker chasing Wonder Woman around in his pissed-in drawers- but I knew that would not make her happy so I chucked a batarang at his head and conked him out.
ID: Sounds like a pretty weird date.
B: It was actually a pretty good one. We managed to salvage the evening by swinging by this little cheesecake shop that’s open late and going home to watch a movie. It was nice because… with Diana I didn’t have to be two people. Bruce and Batman were the same guy, and Diana was the same woman in the outfit or out it, and it gave the night a continuity I’m not used to.
I don’t think most people get to be loved, completely. We all have little parts of ourselves, our work selves, for instance, that are segmented off from the people we care about. But with Diana I was all of those men, and she loved all of them.
Which seems strange, now that I say it out loud, because Diana is the same. The Diana who is ambassador, who is a heroine, who I spoon-fed cheesecake to, they’re all the exact, same woman. Which isn’t to say that she’s not a complicated and multifaceted woman- only that all of her facets are always exposed- and if you turn that into a joke about her costume I’ll throw my coffee at your crotch-
ID: That’s an idle threat: you’re coffee’s cold.
B: It’s still wet, and could stain. But she’s… like a diamond that’s been cut in such a way that you can see every inch of it, its imperfections and flaws but also all the myriad things that make it beautiful.
ID: Okay. You’re still completely in love with her, and I’m still saying she should have been your number one, were you not a cheating bastard. But why did it end?
B: Like I was saying: I don’t think it ever began. I think we still care about each other, deeply. But that night I told you about was indicative of our time together. Duty called, incessantly, constantly. I was either having to jet off to Singapore to make sure a business deal didn’t fall through, or she was off to Washington to make sure a diplomatic flap didn’t flare into violence.
And that’s before you introduce the nutjobs in costume and the megalomaniacal world-destroyers. So one of those nights, where we were trying to have a date, I got a call, Clayface was doing some damage in the diamond district. And we were trying to wrap the night up- she had an early meeting at the embassy or she would have come with- when she got a call of a problem in New York.
I was about halfway into my costume when I got a call. Nightwing and Robin had taken care of Clayface. I called Diana, to see if she wanted some help with her New York problem, but she answered from the entrance to the cave. Apparently one of the Flashes had run through New York and taken care of it for her.
But standing in the cave, half in a suit and half in a batsuit, I think the message was clear. I could see it in her eyes, and when I looked down at myself, I knew it, too. I asked her what kind of a life that was. If we would ever be able to settle down. Have kids. Have a life to ourselves. And I think I would have kept asking questions like that, but she put her finger to my lips, kissed my cheek, and said, “I love you.” And I said, “Me, too.” And that was it.
I think in a better world, we’d have stayed together. A world with fewer madmen, fewer monsters. But for us, duty was a higher call. I have a bit more free time these days. But in part because of that, Diana has less.
And I’m not at my physical peak anymore. I get tired more easily. I certainly couldn’t go round after round with her like I used to. Sparring, I meant- so you can take remove that grin.
ID: I can’t, actually. The entendre was too fun. But do you think that matters? That you aren’t at your peak anymore? To her?
B: She was always physically my better. And I know I’ve aged. And she hasn’t. I think if there is such a person that could overlook that gap, it would be her. Maybe I’m just a self-conscious old man.
ID: But can’t she retire? I mean, at least her ambassadorship, let the Amazons send somebody else out to put out the political fires.
B: Not while there’s still good she can do. No matter who they sent, they wouldn’t be her. There’d be a learning curve, there’d be mistakes. And there’d be the fact that whoever it was, it wasn’t Diana. You can’t fill those shoes; there would always be a shadow over whoever replaced her, because of the mythic reputation she’s forged.
And I can’t fault her for that, without being a hypocrite- which I’d gladly do to have her. And perversely, her willingness to set what we had aside only makes me love her more. She’s selfless.
To an extent- somewhat selfish, somewhat empathic- I hope it’s something she can get over. Because she deserves to be happy. Even if it’s not with me. Even if it happens years after I’m dead. You can’t fix everything wrong with the world, and you can’t save it alone. And if you try to go it alone, eventually, you will fail. Because everyone, even Diana, needs people. And I don’t necessarily mean romantically, but there’ll come a time when she’ll people to keep her strong. And I hope by then she has them.
ID: So… is the reason you’re gay Diana? You can’t have the woman you want, so you’re barking up another tree?
B: I’ve never thought of it in those terms. Could be a factor. But does it matter? It’s who I am, today.
ID: But what if she flew through that window right now and said she’d found a way to transfer her powers to someone else, and she’s going to retire and be with you? What would you do?
B: I don’t know. But I do know that’s not going to happen- certainly not right now. Because right now, it’s a world without a Superman, with a greener Batman than it’s had in years. Right now, people need Wonder Woman more than they ever have before- and as much as it pains me to say, even more than me. And there is absolutely no chance Diana would let them down.