The Appeal of Younger Men

young chickAt the age of 33 I’ve only ever had one real boyfriend. By ‘real boyfriend’ I mean a guy who I dated and everyone in my life knew that I was dating him. All of my close friends and my parents met him in person. Not only did everyone know that he existed, and that he was a man, but we discussed him on a regular basis. I told others about places we went together, things we did, fun we had, the way he made me feel, and other such relationship type things. This was a very thrilling time of my life.

To some people reading this, such details may sound silly to be thrilled about since they seem so ordinary and perhaps downright inconsequential or insignificant. I assure you this openness and honesty about my boyfriend was quite significant for me. It made me feel more a part of the human race and, I daresay, an active participant in this dance of life we are all engaged in.

I’ve been meaning to write about this boyfriend, our relationship, and what lessons he helped me learn for quite some time now. But every time I sat down to write about him my words felt like they were deflated and like the post’s message was not taking on a large enough scope. Like there was more to be said than to just ramble on about he and I and our breakup. Over this past weekend the bigger message here presented itself to me. But first I must tell you about Thomas…

My first real boyfriend’s name was Thomas. From the first second I saw him, there was a spark. God, was he cute! And he seemed so kind and so sincere. That first meeting was brief, but on our second meeting we sat and talked for a very long time about horror movies. I found him physically attractive and he loved horror films! Deadly combination. I was smitten.

One important detail about Thomas, and perhaps the single largest contributing factor to our relationship’s downfall, was his age. At the time I was 31 years old and he was 22. In our case, the 9-year difference was one of the things that attracted him to me, and me to him, but it ended up being an overall negative.

Without going into too much boring detail, Thomas and I were a wrong mix right from the start. I am a communicator, a giver, and a person who desires to talk out problems. In my experience with him, Thomas was a taker who avoided serious conversation at all costs. We were always on a different page and never understood what the other was trying to say.

We dated for literally two months and one week. About two of those weeks were easy and really fun. The rest were a gradual downfall into continuously feeling like crap. We argued constantly, actually had very little in common, and the death kiss – I seemed more interested in Thomas than he did in me. When we would go out, he ignored me and seemed to be constantly trying to hit on other men. Guys would comment about this to me at bars. Thomas was constantly trying to talk me into having threesomes, which now I realize was an indication of his selfishness and his lack of genuine interest in me. Who knows why he even wanted to be together?

threesome

Thomas was very self motivated. All of his decisions and motivations were based on what benefited and satisfied him. Writing about him now makes me feel like an idiot for dating him in the first place, but at the beginning all I knew was that I felt an intense chemical attraction to him and that he made me feel alive. I had no way of knowing how toxic and unsatisfying our time together would be. After it was over, Thomas personally told me that he had cheated on me twice in the short amount of time we were dating.

Thomas was an awful boyfriend, but he was my first. This dating thing was new to me. It still is. Since our relationship ended I’ve internally reprimanded myself a great deal for having dated someone so young. Why would I have done something so obviously stupid?

Jump ahead with me to just this past weekend. I decided to rejoin the world of the living and head to a gay bar in the big city on Friday night. I ended up having a spectacular time. I’m so glad that I went out. I ran into a lot of old friends. It was really nice.

young manThroughout the course of the night I came across a 21-year-old gentleman named Calvin. He was young in all the traditional and enviable ways. His skin was flawless and wrinkle free, his hair was thick, healthy and styled in the coolest modern hair style, he was wearing such a hot and fashionable outfit, he was currently in school, and came across as so innocent.

He smiled so much that it made me happy just to be around him. He made me smile in return. We spent a lot of time talking and he is extremely excited about life. He’s excited about his school, excited about the possibilities ahead of him in his journey, and he talks about love like it’s a concept he just discovered yesterday. He is not yet jaded. Still optimistic and still hopeful.

He seemed interested in me from the start. He was so attentive, so touchy feely and flirty. He kept his eyes on me wherever I would move. Being around this and his attitude invigorated me. In fact, he had such an affect on me that I’m writing about him today and still smiling when I think of him.

Lately I’ve been feeling so blah and devoid of hope in my own life that being around Calvin held a harsh mirror up to me. Through him I saw an old reflection of Adam at the age of 21. He made me miss my old self. He made me miss my old excitement and optimism. He made me miss being young. Realistically, I believe that is how Thomas also made me feel at first.

old man reflectionStill, Calvin did another thing for me; he helped me realize something about myself. In the past two years I was most attracted to and enlivened by Calvin and Thomas, two men in their early twenties. As I drove home on Saturday morning with Calvin’s sparkling eyes still fresh in my memory, I realized why I was so attracted to these young two men.

I never got to date these young men when I was their age. I never got to date when I was a teenager. I never got to talk on the phone for hours with my teenage boyfriend. I never got to pass notes with him in class, or hold hands with him at homecoming, or take walks with him on warm summer nights. I never got to visit my boyfriend in his college dorm room, or study with him at a table in our college library, or feel his reassuring touch beside me in a dark movie theater. I never got to do any of these things, and to be honest, I feel so damn sorry for myself that it is hard not to tear up when I really think about it. I was attracted to Calvin, and initially to Thomas, because they were what I wanted back then and was without.

I was in Calvin’s presence for 6 hours on a Friday night and during that small amount of time I got to travel back in time to something I had been cheated out of. In the interest of full disclosure, we spent a pretty large amount of time making out on a friend’s couch in an apartment with lava lamps in every room and heavy-metal band posters on every wall. It could not have felt more like college if I had planned it, and it was wonderful.

In all honesty, I don’t think I will ever see Calvin again. This meeting had the feel of a one-time thing. It doesn’t need another instance in order to teach its lesson. He will probably never know what an impact our short time together had on me. I held his face, looked into his eyes, felt his lips on mine, and was completely present with someone for the first time in a long time.

For my future, I’m not completely sure what this will all mean in relation to my moving forward and to my accepting that some things were absent from my youth because I was a closeted gay man until I was almost 30 years old. The hard truth is that I can’t go back to being 17 again, and I will never be 21 and in college again, but I did just turn 33 and some would say that is still pretty young. I still have some youthful experiences ahead of me.

But it’s not really the youth that truly matters, is it? Maybe it’s just the innocence and authenticity that really attracted me to these two young men. Something tells me if I look hard enough there is still some of that to be found in this world, even in a man in his 30’s. I just need to hold on to the positive traits I once had in my youth and mix them well with the lessons of my older age. And maybe there is a man out there whose love will make me feel like a teenager again, while also making me feel like an adult in all the right ways. A perfect combination.

It could happen.

water

This is a picture from a truly amazing film about teenage love titled ‘Boys’ – released in 2014. Click on this image to go to its IMDB Page.

 

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Versions of Adam

overlapping faces

Drawing by artist Angie H. Iver

I’ve been thinking about different versions of myself lately.

Our lives and memories are made up of so many moments, so many images of ourselves that stand out, so many versions of who we have been.

I’ve been thinking about a version of Adam pictured in a polaroid hanging on a wall in my parents’ basement. In it, Adam is four years old and he’s wearing a light blue hospital hat and mask. His parents brought them home from the hospital along with his new baby brother. Most of his face is covered but you can tell he is smiling. His large smile shows even behind the mask. He looks happy, safe and loved.

I’ve been thinking about a version of Adam right after his third round of chemo. In this time period it was a Monday and he had made plans to meet some college friends for dinner that Wednesday. It was to be a much needed escape from his cancer reality. But he found out that Monday morning that the reason his tailbone had been hurting so much was that he had developed some odd viral cyst back there. In a completely healthy 21-year-old the virus would have been easily warded off with no symptoms. But his white blood cell count was too low and the unlucky combination caused havoc. He was in pain. He didn’t know if his cancer was gone yet. And he had to cancel the Wednesday plans with his friends because he wasn’t healthy enough to be around germ-covered people. In this version of Adam in my memory he just finished slamming a kitchen utensil off the kitchen counter, nicking it in his rage, and was now laying in a sideways ball on the floor crying because his tailbone hurt too much to sit on the floor. He feels defeated and absolutely terrified.

I’ve been thinking about a version of Adam from yesterday. He is in the middle of a lunch rush at a busy family diner where he waiters. He has just walked into the dishwashing room to sort out several dirty dishes, spoons and cups before heading out to take his sixth table’s order. He is tired, his knees hurt, he feels frustrated and wants to go home. He can’t escape this hatred towards himself for leading his life in this direction. For making decisions that placed him here in this moment, when so many other moments could have been better. He feels like he failed. Like he is failing. He has to go back out there and see what the annoying lady in the red shirt and her awful husband want for lunch. And then he has to serve it to them, put up with their attitudes, and mix them milkshakes at the end for desert just so they can leave him a shitty $3.00 tip and he can feel like a failure. This version of Adam is sad.

many faces

Artwork by Felipe Fox

There is a version of Adam on his first day of college. The sun is shining on his face on this perfect day. He is so awake. So excited. So hopeful. So ready to meet new people. To make new friends.

There is a version of Adam in his boxers in the dorm room of his first boy hookup in college. He’s smiling. He just finished kissing the boy who has adorable brown hair and killer blue eyes. He is nervous and excited. His stomach has butterflies in it.

There is a version of Adam laughing so hard with friends in college that he has tears running down his face.

There is a version of Adam who feels so exhausted during a CrossFit workout, but proud of himself just for being there. For pushing himself.

There is a version of Adam at a 19-year-old fraternity brother’s funeral staring into the casket thinking how unfair this is, and how alive his friend’s body still looks, and that the funeral home styled his friend’s hair completely wrong.

There is a version of Adam playing Monopoly with a childhood friend.

And another version of Adam swinging so high on a playground swing that his stomach is flipping.

There is a version of Adam stepping off of a plane in London, England.

And another version of Adam holding his new puppy for the first time.

Then there is this version of Adam right now. At this very second typing this post with tears in his eyes.

I don’t know who this version of Adam is yet.

In some ways, I understand every version of Adam I listed, except this last one.

I’m not sure what to do with him next…

What version of Adam do I want to be tomorrow when I wake up?

mirror and faces

The 10 Worst Things About Being Gay and Trying to Date in a Small Town

Deserted Small Town

  1. Lack of Variety: The gay population is so small that I see the same guys over and over every time I go out. I am just as bored with continuously seeing them as they are with continuously seeing me.
  2. We have one gay bar: The slogan for my local gay bar feels less like “You want to go where everybody knows your name” and more like “You are stuck going where everybody already knows your personal business”.
  3. No Culture: There are hardly any cultural or artistic events anywhere near me (unless if I want to drive over an hour away). This is frustrating to me because art and the like interest me and it would be thrilling to meet a man who is drawn to similar occurrences. I long to stumble across a handsome boyfriend while at a museum, concert, outside festival, or social club.
  4. Gay-ville. Population of 1: In my every day, normal functioning I feel like a black sheep. The small sampling of people around me is predominately heterosexual. As a result, I end up feeling like I am the only gay person who exists for miles.
  5. The Constantly Visible Ex: Around here, after a breakup, if you still choose to go out on the town to the local gay ‘spot’, you get to see your ex-boyfriend over and over and over. As an added bonus, eventually you will get to see him with his new boyfriend. Ugh.
  6. These Straight People are Crowding Me: As I mentioned, most of the public places I would take any date to in this small town are filled with heterosexuals. Gay men, and thus physical affection between two men, are still foreign and make most of these people uncomfortable. This makes any attempt to be flirty and affectionate in public extremely difficult and awkward.
  7. No Gay Box Office: None of the local movie theaters host any gay themed films. Of course most gay films are independently made and have no major film production company as their distributer. These limited releases are usually restricted to large cities. So, the gayest film I can hope to see is the occasional shirtless Mark Wahlberg or Channing Tatum epic.gay social apps
  8. Gay App Hell: Any attempt to use gay, cellphone apps to meet local men to date in a small town are almost completely pointless and torturous. Most of the small town guys are closeted and thus their profile photos are headless body shots and their descriptions are blank or only seeking NSA (No Strings Attached) fun. And humorously the closeted men are one of the better finds. The even more frustrating ones seem to be the bi-curious and experimenting (which means they have a girlfriend they aren’t telling you about and they just want to get off), the married guy only looking for a friend with benefits (FWB), and the 90-year-old man who simply asks you, “Want a BJ?”. Around here, most of the single, desirable, younger, gay men with fantastic jobs have moved to a bigger city in search of a more fulfilling day and night life. To make it more frustrating every time you sign on you are confronted with the same dead-end profiles day after day after day. (It case it is not blazingly obvious yet, repetition is one of the killers in small town life.)
  9. Boring Men Everywhere: I don’t fancy myself a wannabe resident of my small town until the day I die. One day I hope for more interesting surroundings. There is literally nothing to do here that interests me. So, if I finally met a local gay man, and he is happy living in this boring area and aspires to nothing more exciting than this place, then why in the hell would I want to date him in the first place? Even if I find a local man that I really like, I don’t want my relationship with him to trap me here.
  10. That Old Familiar Feeling: To be completely fair, there are many wonderful and positive factors to living in a small town. I speak from my own experience and, personally, I grew up feeling trapped in this small town. Now as an adult, I have temporarily moved back here while I get on my feet financially. And even though so much time has passed, the not so positive affect this place has on me unfortunately has not changed very much. I know they say it is the person, not the place, that is the problem. But isn’t it possible that, sometimes, the place is at least a little bit of the problem? Is this place too small for me to comfortably breathe in?Feeling Trapped

What Does it Mean to be a Man?

Man SignAs a gay man, sometimes I feel unsure of, and insecure about, my place in this world. A fact I have discussed many times within the pages of this blog. In so many ways I am still finding my footing in this life. I am still figuring out where I fit. Where I best belong. Who I want to be. What kind of man I am. What does it mean to be a man in the first place?

Though I am getting better at it, I am still in the habit of spending too much time comparing myself to other men. In the past, the differences I have seen between them and myself have led me to question my masculine identity. I never recognized John Wayne’s ever present calm in myself, and I never saw Marlon Brando’s handsome and stern composure reflected back at me in the mirror. Are such discrepancies reasons to feel shame?

In today’s post I am turning my search inward to explore my struggle with a seemingly simple question, “What does it mean to be a man?”

50's sitcom fatherDoes a man’s demeanor make him a man?

As a child, I suppose I began to create an image of a man from the steadfast and know-it-all fathers, cowboys, detectives and superheroes I saw on TV. These men were always calm, strong, and confident right down to their physical stance. But they were also caring and affectionate towards their wives, children and mothers.  They were compassionate, but not soft. When they smiled, or laughed, it was for good reason.

Men were pillars. They held the rest of us up with their broad chest pushed out and their fists clenched. They were always prepared for a fight if necessary. If these men had any personal doubts they handled them internally and the worry was hardly ever shown on their face. Perhaps most importantly, they seemed to feel no fear. Almost nothing rattled them. Stress was not a word in their vocabulary.

Having never felt much like a calm pillar of strength or a confident presence devoid of worry, I always seemed to miss these marks. My history of anxiety and fear related to my imperfect past and my uncertain future rattle me on a regular basis. Stress is a part of my daily reality and I frequently appear to be coming unglued. As a result, I’ve never found my demeanor to be one which other men should envy.

Rich Froning AthleticismDoes a man’s athleticism or his competitiveness make him a man?

Is it just me, or are the handsome, confident, well-built men always good at sports? As a child, I was always running away from situations that placed me in athletic environments. I never relieved stress by shooting hoops, or by calling up the guys to play touch football out back. I never felt comfortable in these environments, and worse yet they filled me with fear of looking stupid or inadequate. Sports and me always felt wrong. My mother’s compassion and hugs were always more inviting to me then a basketball coach screaming at me for not dribbling well or not scoring enough points at practice.

I never understood other boys’ competitive natures when it came to sports. Why did they always feel that they had sometime to prove? Where did their obsession with declaring themself the strongest boy come from? I never felt the need to push myself to earn these silly status points.

Though sports never interested me, my avoidance of them always seemed to leave a feeling of inadequacy within me. I barely know how to throw a football and others judge me for it. People, even my close friends, find my lack of sports trivia knowledge hilarious. They tease me about this ignorance and at times I can hear in their voices that they find lack of sports knowledge as tiresome as it is odd. It makes me less of someone they can relate to. Less of a regular guy. Does not knowing how to pronounce the Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback’s last name really make me less of a man?

Man and His FriendsDo a man’s masculine friends help establish him as a man?

I pledged to a fraternity in college. Talk about being surrounded by men and huge levels of testosterone. Most of my fraternity brothers were water polo players, swimmers, lacrosse players or simply huge lovers of weight lifting. I was intimidated by pretty much every one of them upon our first meeting. Eventually, I felt cooler being friends with so many “guys’ guys”. I felt manlier by association.

Even though I started coming out to friends long after college had ended, I was literally terrified to tell my fraternity brothers that I was gay. I felt that admitting I was gay, and therefore engaged in anal sex with another man, would by this very definition force them to view me as less masculine. I feared that they would suddenly feel uncomfortable around me and be fearful that I would always be checking them out and waiting to flirt with them. I was convinced that their rejection would crush me.

Turns out I did not give my fraternity brothers enough credit. Most of them were so unaffected by my being gay that the conversation about it was borderline boring. If their reaction was at all emotional it was because they were being congratulatory and supportive. Since they are my manly, masculine friends, even now that they know I am gay, does that make me more of a man?

Superman Saving Lois LaneDoes a man’s love for a woman make him a man?

Male superheroes like Superman are some of the cornerstone ideals of enviable masculine power. It doesn’t get much more manly than Superman. And look at the things that make him a man: his body, his voice, his saving women from burning buildings, and his girlfriend Lois Lane.

All our super masculine male role models have them; their beautiful leading ladies. James Bond had all his Bond girls. Clark Gable had that amazing kiss with Vivien Leigh. Indiana Jones got every woman he every saved with his leather whip. Even Rocky’s victory meant more when he also rescued the cripplingly shy Adrian with his love.

We all love the image of a handsome man saving a beautiful woman, his chiseled jaw smiling down at her as he leads her to safety. But there is more to the equation than just that. These women are all perfect matches for their men. They are the perfect feminine counterparts to the men’s enviable masculinity. Any man who is worth his salt has a woman to rescue. These women’s love makes the man more of a man, right?

James Dean the ManSo what kind of a man am I?

Well, Gentle Reader, my face frequently registers a look of worry across it, I’m more awkward than athletic, and I have no interest in rescuing a woman from any burning building. In fact, since I am gay, many of my most eccentric fantasies have a sexy, masculine man rescuing me. Despite these things, I assure you I am a man.

For better or worse, the concept of ‘what it means to be a man’ is a constantly evolving phenomenon in our society. Professional athletes are now gay, comic books are beginning to include physically strong, LGBT characters, and television fathers are starting to kiss other men goodnight at the end of their difficult work days. Nowadays, one man’s love, plus another man’s love, can equal a masculine man in the same way that a man’s love, plus a woman’s love, always has.

In the world of film, Sean Connery displayed a very different James Bond than Daniel Craig, just as Christopher Reeve fulfilled a different image of Superman than Henry Cavill. In our modern adaptations, both James Bond and Superman do not instantly appear to know all the answers for solving the problems they are presented with. Sometimes their foreheads even wrinkle with worry and their faces frown from uncertainty. Imperfection in a man is becoming as admirable as perfection once was.

I suppose that if vulnerability and mistakes can be a reality for even our strongest of heroes and male role models, than I can begin to accept myself for my personal and modern day version of “Adam masculinity”. Perhaps I can take all of my above listed questions and become my own, valid answer for each. Perhaps I can simply be the kind of man I am, and one day that will be enough for me.

5 Reasons Why Horror Movies are Some of My Favorite Things

friday night frights by patrick ballesteros

Artwork done by artist Patrick Ballesteros

I fell in love with horror movies when I was just a kid. I remember the draw of the ‘horror section’ in my local video rental store. Even when I was too young for my parents to allow me to browse the horror films I remember always being fascinated by the pictures that covered the VHS display boxes. I would skirt quickly back and forth by the horror section so that I could get glimpses of the terrifying drawings on their rectangular covers.

Even at that young age horror films excited me. There was something forbidden within and I could not wait to be allowed to rent them. But delving even deeper into my psyche, there has always been a sexuality to horror films that further delighted me. This sexuality comes across even in the preliminary stage of simply observing the pictures off the front and back of a horror film’s VHS case. These pictures stimulated my mind with the possible stories that lay just beyond my reach. I know that VHS tapes are a thing of the past, but I truly feel that our culture is worse off due to their absence and, for that matter, the disappearance of video rental stores in general.

When I reached my teenage years my friends and I used to take turns getting our parents to drive us to the video store so that we could continue to rent and consume the entire horror section which we had become obsessed with. We used to run around the store choosing from classic and new horror monsters in an attempt to terrify each other later that evening. It felt like we were choosing an adventure for ourselves that night instead of only watching actors undertake their own ghastly adventures against demons and killers. A night in my parents’ basement with popcorn, pizza, candy, friends and two promising horror films was the formula for total teenage happiness and bliss.

I love horror movies. They have helped make me the man I am today.

vhs videos2In honor of October, my favorite month, and my upcoming favorite holiday, Halloween, let us explore five reasons why horror movies are some of my favorite things and still one of my favorite means of passing time.

  1. The Fanboy Connections: Horror movies are conversation starters. “Do you like horror movies?” is one of the first questions I ask when I am on a date or when I am meeting a person for the first time. If horror movies are a common interest, then you have an instant friend and a now endless array of topics to discuss. The horror genre is full of fanboys, and for that matter fangirls. Any film genre that inspires its’ fans to dress up like their favorite monsters, create their own fan fiction, and cover their rooms with gruesome film posters and toys is a genre I want to be a part of. The camaraderie amongst lovers of gore is unparalleled. I’m a proud horror movie fanboy.
  2. The Thrill of Being Scared: Studies have been done in an attempt to explain why some human beings’ twisted minds enjoy being scared by a horror film. We seek out thrills as an escape from our mundane and boring daily lives. Horror films, like roller coasters, present us with exciting, extreme situations which could be dangerous and therefore cause our hearts to race and our foreheads to bead with sweat. But while they expose us to dangerous situations they are controlled and ultimately completely safe. The killer isn’t actually in the room with you. This flirting with danger has always appealed to me.

    amityville horror 2005 remake ryan reynolds shirtless axe beard

    Ryan Reynolds in the 2005 The Amityville Horror Remake

  3. The Shirtless Men: Horror movies are full of sex, nudity and eroticism. They are many young boys’, and young girls’, first forays into soft-core porn. As a young man, who later turned out to be gay, I was always drawn to images of the beautiful male body. Horror films have many beautiful images of shirtless hunks to choose from. These films became some of my first visual studies of other men’s physiques and how they acted in sexual situations. I learned a lot about sex from the horror genre and a lot about muscles.
  4. The Lessons: Critics of the horror genre like to dismiss horror films as trashy pieces saturated with unnecessary and endless amounts of gore, poor plots and violence for no reason. Granted, as in any genre, there are the occasional bad seeds with horrid plots and useless characters. But I have always said that any truly good and worthwhile horror movie has an important message: a lesson. The capable characters in a well-constructed horror film must observe the signs, follow the clues, react intelligently and they will learn the lesson and survive. Horror films can teach us a lot about the world and the murky depths of the human soul. I’ve certainly learned a lot from them about navigating this treacherous thing called life.
  5. The Monsters: Who doesn’t love a good monster? I, as much as anyone else, love them for their ability to scare me and to make me jerk upright in my seat. But I also love monsters for their unique ability to intrigue me and to elicit sympathy from me. Many horror monsters are tragic figures, victims of unfair circumstances or wrongs done to them by others or by nature. My favorite monsters make me feel something extra, on top of my fear. Glimpsing the humanity behind the mask can be a pretty amazing and worthwhile experience. In the end, many horror villains are more relatable then most people would care to admit. Besides, we all have a little monster inside of us, buried way down deep in the dark…childs play chucky

After You Say, “I’m Gay”: Dealing with Others’ Reactions

????????????????????????????????????????For gay men and women, coming out can be a liberating and validating experience. One that can cause much welcomed relief after years of hiding their true self behind a heterosexual façade. Of course the actual act of telling someone you are gay, even if that someone is very open-minded, progressive and supportive, can be riddled with stress and apprehension. Saying the words, “I am gay” can be the frightening first hurdle in a race that we all eventually hope to win.

While we all come from different backgrounds and living situations, thus making each individual’s coming out uniquely hard or easy in its own ways, the general hope is that ultimately coming out offers increased happiness in our lives. In a recent interview with BuzzFeed Brews openly gay actor Ian McKellen spoke of coming out as saying, “…I’ve never met a gay person who came out and who regretted it.” Coming out is about self-acceptance. And self-love can be a beautiful thing.

But in our coming out process, we can only be responsible for the things that we say and the things that we do. After we are out to someone, in a sense, we place the ball in his or her court. At this point, we have no control over how they will react to the personal truth we just shared. For me, learning how to react to what others chose to do with “the ball” I had handed them became the next hurdle in my coming out process.

Let’s explore reactions and resulting quotes that stand out the most for me on my coming out journey. These were what people said and did after I said, “I am gay.”

One of my straight female friends:

“Well Duh. Okay. So are we gonna watch the movie now?”

A straight male friend of mine from the gym:

“Ummm…congratulations? I’m not sure what to say. I don’t care. Just don’t touch my dick when we are doing pull-ups” (and he smiled)

One of my childhood male straight friends:

“Wait… so all those times we talked about hot girls… did you not think they were hot? You sure you aren’t bi?”

My best male friend from college:

I was very nervous to finally admit it to him and I guess I looked very serious beforehand. I told him that I had something to tell him and it took me over a minute to just say it.

He looked relieved. He took a deep breath and exclaimed,

“I thought something was really wrong. Like you were gonna tell me your cancer was back or something. Dude, who cares if you’re gay.”

My Mother:

Her face became cautious and guarded instantly. The news turned out to be hard for her. After I told her, every word out of her mouth was serious. She looked like I had just punched her in her gut. She voiced,

“Adam, I don’t even know any gay people. I know nothing about this. I’m not sure what to say exactly, and when I’m not sure what to say about something then I usually say nothing.”

She went to bed that night without giving me a hug and while avoiding me with her eyes. She barely spoke to me for the next 7 days. If we rode in a car together she stared straight ahead and hardly spoke. I kept thinking that she was mad at me, because that was how she was coming across. Today, she respectfully talks about me being gay and frequently asks me questions. While she is still learning, she constantly expresses that she wants me to be happy.

My Father:

I told my parents separately. With my dad, right after I said the words, “I’m gay.” I started to cry. (It was an emotional day for me.)

His immediate response was to stand up and hug me. After that he said,

“You’re my son and I love you. None of this other stuff matters. We will figure this out. Now…can I ask you a few questions?”

After this first conversation, my father has collectively asked far less questions about me being gay than my mother has. His reaction was love first, silence later. Nowadays he seems to avoid talking about me being gay. I think it makes him uncomfortable, but he is as loving and caring towards me as he always was.

One additional question he asked me on that day does stand out though. He asked,

“As your father, did I do something, or not do something, that caused you to be gay? Do you think I did something wrong?”

Since we are discussing other people’s quotes related to my being gay, I wanted to also share two quotes my parents reiterate to me every so often. I want to preface these by saying how much I truly love my parents. They are wonderful, loving people. While they are getting better at learning about me being gay, they will still say things they do not realize are hurtful. I share these two quotes merely to highlight that sometimes even the people who love us, say things that hurt us due to their ignorance and lack of knowledge about what is appropriate and what is inappropriate. Proof that this is all a journey, until it is a destination.

One of my mother’s favorite things to say to me is,

“I just keep hoping that one day you will walk through the front door and say, ‘Mom, I’ve met the perfect woman. I’m so happy and we are going to get married.’ I just think you haven’t met the right girl yet.”

The topic comes up every so often about how my dad will handle conversations with our conservative extended family members who still do not know that I am gay. He likes to explain,

“It’s no one’s business. I don’t feel the need to just go around and tell people. If they find out and say anything to me I will just tell them, ‘Look, yes Adam is gay. It’s not something that I’m proud of or that I would chose for him, but what are you gonna do? It’s his life and I love him.’”

Bottom line, Gentle Reader: take everyone else’s words with a grain of salt. After all, people’s comments say more about themselves than they do about you being gay. Focus on the words coming out of your own mouth. Since, in the end, those are the only ones you have any control over.

Cautious Connecting

online-romanceOne of my true passions in life is connecting with people. It’s been something that has filled me with excitement and intrigue since as far back as I can remember. People are fascinating. Everyone has their own story, their own successes, tragedies, obstacles and loves. How can people not fascinate you? When I revived my blog this past January the connections I began to make, through my readers and other blogs, thrilled me more than words can express. Through blogging, the entire world feels like it is at your fingertips. I became intoxicated with it for my first month back.

Then something a little creepy happened. I met a blogger through comments he began leaving on my blog in response to my posts. He was gay, charming, well spoken and seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say. At the time, he also had a blog. I began reading his as well and we would comment back and forth on each other’s posts. Eventually we began emailing through our private emails. Here he was even more encouraging and pleasant. He was so congratulatory of my writing. He really made me feel validated in my decision to become a blogger. I really thought he was great.

The conversation did get a little flirty. Though he lived a far drive away, he began expressing interest in meeting up sometime.

Then, he asked for a picture of me. I replied with one in an email and I asked for one of his in return. He shared a total of three pictures of himself with me. It became very obvious very quickly that these were three pictures of three different people. This was so blaringly obvious that it was somewhat comical. This confused me. He had always seemed so open and honest with me about his life and feelings up until that point. Why would he lie about what he looked like? I politely inquired about these pictures in a follow-up email, which made me nervous because I did not want to insult him. Well, needless to say it did not go well.

strangerHe became reproachful to my questions. He was insulted by any insinuation that he would send false pictures. Suddenly, everything he said began to seem shady and like it made no sense. He even tried acting naïve by asking me, “Do people really do that? Share fake pictures of themselves?” Um…this is the Internet, of course they do. He suddenly tried to come across as ignorant of the web, even claiming that he is awful at taking selfies so he has very few, and could get me no others. This man who, only the day before, had seemed so learned about blogging and online communication had suddenly become a 95-year-old man confused by technology.

He disappeared shortly after the picture debacle, coincidentally becoming very busy at that point and unable to email any more. Interestingly enough, he has since tried to reconnect twice, each time seeming to have forgotten about this picture situation. He claims to be oddly forgetful about why we stopped talking, which in my opinion, either implies some legitimate memory issue or some noteworthy craziness. In the end, I view him to be a liar. I feel a gut instinct to distance myself from him.

This experience took somewhat of an emotional toll on me. I felt stupid for having opened up to a stranger so quickly. Did I invite, what could have developed into an unsafe situation by being too open too quickly with my personal information? Worse so, the blogging world felt somewhat dirty to me after this. My positive experience with my blog became slightly tainted and I felt a little violated. Not to mention, I began to feel slightly unsafe in this online community. Was I too naïve to meet people in this way online? Should I be less trusting and more guarded from here on out? Can we ever truly know who another person is online? I was honestly surprised by how much this had affected me.

This one particular experience, combined with some personal stuff in my everyday life, lead to me stepping away from blogging for a brief hiatus from March through June of 2014. Looking back, the break was probably a good thing: a good way to clear my head about blogging and my approach to it.

Moving forward, Gentle Reader, today I feel stronger and better equipped, not only as a writer, but also as an online conversationalist. I find my blog readers to be an extended and very caring family. Though this entire experience did remind me of a children’s book I remember my parents reading to me as a child. It was called Never Talk to Strangers and was written by Irma Joyce. In blogging I wouldn’t say never talk to strangers, but I would say cautiously talk to strangers.

never1Still this is a good lesson for us all. Be careful with your personal information online. Be trusting enough to make meaningful connections, but not so aimlessly trusting that you place yourself in any compromising or dangerous situations. The Internet, like anything else where mankind is involved, can be a tool for kindness and creation or for harm and destruction.

Please know that I am still passionate about worthwhile connections online. It’s these constructive friendships that make us stronger, so that we are not harmed by the would-be devils. I still encourage the connections. Just be cautious, as well as open, in them.