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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A Letter to My Closeted Brothers and Sisters

letter to my gay brothers and sistersHello My Dear Friends,

I hope this correspondence finds you doing well. I hope that the sun is shining on your face and the wind is always at your back, as the saying goes. First off, I wanted to congratulate you for all of the positive progress you have made so far on your coming out journey.

You may be thinking, “I haven’t made any progress yet. I’m still completely hidden inside of my closet.” To this I say, you are not giving yourself enough credit. At the very least, you are realizing that you are not happy and completely satisfied in your closet. This is a step. It may seem small, but self-awareness is no small feat. Many people live their entire lives ignoring their internal gut instincts.

Your knowing that you wish for change proves that you have a rebel and a dreamer inside of you. I bet if you let your mind wander you imagine a life for yourself where you are not closeted. Visualization is key. Performing this visualizing has the chance to create hope within you. Hope is a powerful thing, My Friend.

Please take time to congratulate yourself on working as hard as you do. It is hard work to be closeted and still function at your job, with family, and with friends. In many ways, you are working twice as hard as the others around you just to perform the same tasks and to stay calm and centered. And all the while you may be blaming yourself for being who you are and acting as you do.

Please let yourself off of the hook for any lies you may have told friends, family and co-workers to hide who you truly are. These things do not make you a bad person. You are merely surviving in the only way you can think to at the present moment. To some extent, everyone exists as two different people; the version of themselves they know to be true inside and the version of themselves which they share with everyone else. No one else ever knows who we completely are from our core to our outside.

Lies and secrets happen. One lesson I can share with you from my personal, coming out journey is that, when it is all said and done, none of that matters. Who cares? You can’t change the past. All you can control is what you are doing right at this moment. Let yourself off the hook for being so concerned with other people’s feelings. Let yourself off the hook for living your life more to please others than to please yourself. In actuality, it means you are a kind and good person. That, My Friend, is a positive thing.

If you have experienced negative responses from people who you have come out to, brush it off. In the end, pretending to be someone you are not, simply to serve the comfort level of someone narrow-minded and backwards, will never be a path to your personal happiness. Remember that these people’s reactions say more about them than they do about you. We are not meant to mesh well with everyone in this life. Don’t pressure yourself to be an exception from this reality.

I want you to give yourself credit for feeling fear. It may seem like a burden, but it has a place in this life. Fear can make us slow down, think about our moves carefully, and be an active, thoughtful driver behind the wheel of our life. Sticking with the car metaphor – remember that fear is a rear view mirror to help you consider your turns, but it is not the steering wheel by which you should actually make your moves. I will make the suggestion that Hope should be your steering wheel, or at least one of the ones that you use.

I wish I had words to better explain the moment where my internal light switch flipped for me and I suddenly cared more about my personal comfort level with my being gay than I did about everyone else’s feelings and reactions to it. I guess I shouldn’t describe it as a moment; it was really a long transition over several years and several instances of coming out to people. You will get there. One day you will look back at these internal monsters, which feel so huge and scary right now, and they will suddenly feel like tiny, non-threatening, stuffed animals.

Remember to give yourself time to become the person you are meant to be. We all start somewhere.

Remember to feel all the emotions that come with your journey: the fear, the joy, the sadness, and the satisfaction. When it is all said and done, the memories of these feelings will make you a better partner, when you find the love of your life, and simply a better person.

Remember to feel love for yourself. One day, you will see, you are doing just fine.

Chin Up. I have faith in you.

All My Love,

Adamfingers hug in support

Finding My Voice

taped-mouthBeing closeted can feel like having no voice. It is difficult to ask for help, if you have no voice.

The first person I ever came out to was my friend Stacey. It’s easy to understand why I chose to tell her first. Stacey has the kindest demeanor about her. Everything from her laughter to her body language expresses acceptance. To this day, I am hard pressed to think of anyone with a more benevolent tone to their voice than Stacey. She smiles a lot, and she always has this unique expression on her face that seems to say, “Go ahead, whatever it is you want to say, I won’t judge you at all”.

I met Stacey in college and the night I decided to tell her that I was gay happened to be during our junior year. I had been anticipating it all night. I remember we had been hanging out, ate a bunch of junk food, and watched a movie. After the movie we were just sitting in her room talking when I finally leaned towards her and said, “So, I want to tell you something.  It’s kind of a big deal…” Now, I said it with a nervous enough tone to my voice that she immediately lowered her voice, trained her eyes on me with concern, and replied, “Okay…”

I remember taking a deep breathe and jumping out of my chair because I was so nervous. I remember a lot of walking around the room, darting in circles. I remember a lot of flailing my arms around as I repeatedly yelled about how scared I was. I also did a lot of nervously clenching my hands into fists and avoiding eye contact with her. I kept saying things like, “I’m sorry I just can’t say it” and “Oh man, oh man, oh man” and “Jesus, Stacey, this makes me so freakin’ nervous”.

Considering that she had no idea what I was getting at, Stacey was supportive in every way she knew how to be. She was patient as I freaked out. She tried to calm me down. She tried to get me to just say it. I remember that it took me an hour to finally tell her. And I remember it feeling like 8 hours. It was hard to just say it. Saying nothing had begun to feel safe to me. Staying silent was the price I paid to feel safe.

Now, she would be the first person I said this out loud to. What terrified me the most about that was after I told her; there would be no going back. You cannot unsay something like that. I kept thinking about how big of a deal that was. How I was changing my life forever. Once I said it, then it would be real. My declaration would make it true.

Yet, even with all of these worries and apprehensions, this need to tell her still burned inside of me. It’s amazing, I was so afraid of the truth, so afraid of my life changing forever, but I could still feel this need underneath all of that. At last, the need to speak the truth far out weighted the fear.  I think all closeted men and women eventually reach this breaking of the equilibrium, and that’s when we finally say it out loud. There comes a point where saying nothing just doesn’t feel safe anymore. When we reach that point, we not only find our voice, but we start learning how to scream.

man_wordsThat night, Stacey helped me speak. I remember her finally getting worried and taking control. She got slightly stern with me and said, “Adam. Seriously. You are starting to scare me. Just tell me what you are trying to say.”

So I stopped pacing, sat down next to her, looked at the ground because my eyes were too afraid to look up, and I said, “I’m gay.” It felt like someone just ripped a band aide off my arm. I barely got the words out and I followed them up with, “Oh my god, I said it. Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. I’m sorry that took so long. Please don’t hate me. If you hate me, don’t tell me cause I can’t handle that right now.” I felt sick to my stomach. I continued looking down at the ground.

And Stacy replied, “Adam. It is fine. It is totally fine.” She put her hand on my arm. I managed to look at her. She smiled at me. I sheepishly smiled back. And as always, her face said, “I’m not judging you at all”.

And just like that, someone else knew I was gay. But most importantly, they knew because I had told them. I had summoned up the strength to tell her from my own lips. I had taken the first step.

And looking back on that very scary and very arduous first step, words alone cannot express how proud I am of myself.

The pride I feel today far outweighs the fear I felt then.

I found my voice. I found my words. And you are reading them…

No More Playing Games

game_nightIn my coming out process I have been very lucky. I’ve been met with mostly acceptance, love and support. We all deserve these reactions when we tell the truth about our sexuality. But I’m here to tell you first hand, Gentle Reader, that sometimes the world is less fuzzy.

One of my best friends is a girl I went to my high school senior prom with. To describe her a little, Crystal is a loving mother, a devoted wife and a god fearing Christian. She’s been my friend for 16 years. When I told her I was gay she told me that she loved me and that was that. She’s always been a great friend and I am thankful for her. Yet, she was one of the last people who I told I was gay. Why?

One of the reasons my friendship with Crystal has always been so rewarding is because there are several other friends I have made through her. Over the years I have become friends with almost her entire family. Her parents, her siblings and her husband have always treated me as an honorary member of their family. And this inclusion always felt wonderful. Myself, Crystal, the siblings and some extended friends developed a fun tradition years ago. We call them game nights. Nights of friends playing board games, eating food, drinking beer, listening to music, joking around and just simply having fun.

This sense of inclusion in this extended family filled me with a lot of joy. But as the years passed and I became more comfortable in my reality as a gay man, this sense of inclusion was masked by a sense of worry. Worry about telling them that I was gay. Crystal’s reaction to my news was not the only hurdle to overcome here. Telling her meant telling her 3 siblings, each of their spouses, her parents, extended friends and more.

It is one thing to worry about a single person’s reaction to you being gay. It is a very different thing to worry about a large group’s reaction. That is a lot of individual reactions to worry about. To make matters a bit trickier, this family is mostly conservative Christians. I was literally going to be the only gay friend that any of them have had, so I was extra worried about rejection from at least one of them, and possibly from several of them.

Sure enough, when it was all said and done, one of Crystal’s brother-in-laws deemed me a sinner and has not spoken to me or acknowledged my existence since he found out I was gay. We will call this man Richard. (It should be noted here that every single other member of this group accepted me and expressed love towards me when they found out I was gay.) I’ve been in a room with Richard once since he found out and several times that night he literally ignored me and walked around me to get to other people. He believes that I am going straight to hell and has even asked his wife to not associate with me until I seek help. He collected bible verses to support why God is against homosexuality. He went as far as to say that he does not care if I am gay, but I must repent, pray for God’s forgiveness and never engage in any homosexual activity ever, for it is the acting upon these hellish urges that is the sin.

At our game nights, whenever a game is played that requires groups, we would always split up into teams of boys vs. girls. With Richard now refusing to speak to me or acknowledge my presence, these teams suddenly threatened to be very awkward. So, Crystal and I came up with a plan to alternate game nights. Richard could have one, then I would have the next, and so on. This negotiation was to take place at the first of these game nights where Richard would attend and I would be absent. A discussion was to be had that would include all regular game night attendees. I spoke with another of the involved peoples beforehand and anxiously awaited the verdict of what was sure to be an interesting conversation that night.

sorryBut no conversation or compromise was ever made. In fact a second game night came and went with Richard in attendance and still no me. I guess life got in the way, which is understandable. But what seemed important to me, a conversation about my sexuality not being a valid reason to exclude me from game nights with my friends, didn’t seem as important a conversation to have for the others.

Dealing with the reality that sometimes people we love turn out to be homosexual, would result in an uncomfortable conversation amongst these individuals. Difference of opinions among them on this issue would inevitably lead to arguments and some drama. I don’t think anyone really wanted to create that awkwardness in the family unit for someone who is not really a family member. After all, they must all co-exist at holidays and birthday parties, so it would be easier to just avoid any ugliness. Especially when there is only one gay person in this social circle to need to deal with. (God forbid any of their children turn out to be gay)

I know that Crystal truly wants me at game nights and at other events like her children’s birthday parties (which I will also not attend since Richard is always there). And I understand her predicament; she is close to her sister and doesn’t want to exclude her from events due to her brother-in-law’s beliefs. And Crystal has since apologized to me for this situation and the results. Still, it has suddenly become blazingly clear that, although I have always been included as such in the past, I am not actually a genuine part of this family.

Ultimately, no awkward conversation was necessary because I decided that I would no longer take part in the game nights. I felt that any further negotiations would have created resentment in me towards these people who have all meant a lot to me throughout my life. So instead, I walked away.

walk awayNow I don’t want to sound too overly dramatic. Crystal and I are still fantastic friends and I still plan on being involved in her life, her husband’s and especially her two children’s. Their kids call me Uncle Adam and I love them both very much. I see many wonderful years ahead of me being a positive adult influence in their lives. Though I can’t help but to wonder about what will be said to them once they are old enough to understand that I am gay. I worry that it may be handled in a way, though unintentionally, which may teach them that being gay is different and not a good thing.

One of the lessons here, Gentle Reader, is to not allow such situations to cause us to become bitter. Also we must be careful to not villainize my friends too easily. Sometimes people have a hard time getting used to things that are outside of their comfort zone. And sometimes people do not stand up and fight battles if the battles do not directly affect their own personal well-being. All we can do is be there to offer them information and love should they seek it.  It is all of our jobs to work together to invoke positive change in this world which we call home.

But just because love and understanding are main lessons here does not mean that our comfort levels and our right to feel respected are any less important or less deserved. We do not need to put ourselves in any situation where we end up feeling like a second-class citizen. Those who exclude us would stand for no such thing in their own lives. Strength and determination on our part is also vital for positive change.

Friends are allowed to disappoint us some times, and that disappointment does not necessarily negate all of the good they have done. But for those who outwardly reject us simply for being who we truly are, well concerning them, my suggestion to you is to make your stance known, and then simply walk away. After all, negotiating with our happiness and our feeling accepted is not a game that any of us should be playing anyway.

The Fantasy

~ I wrote the following in March 2011 right before my 29th birthday. At the time I was closeted. ~

cropped bright
I have this fantasy…

It starts black, like my eyes are closed. Suddenly they open and at first everything is a blurry flood of light and colors. Then things begin to focus and take shape. I’m standing in a large room: a banquet hall. The air feels warm; comfortable and inviting. The lighting is dim and yet bright enough to fill the room. The gentle glow illuminates from lamps on tables and flows down from beautiful chandeliers hanging safely above the room.

Then the room is filled with people, some sitting at the tables and talking, others simply standing together conversing in clusters. They are a moving wave of colors, sometimes stopping to talk and then moving on to greet others. I can see their faces and it is obvious that they are all delighted to be there. It’s a sea of friends and pleasant acquaintances. As they talk, some tell jokes causing laughter, others hug their familiar friends and still others touch their mouths while hearing pleasant memories.

I realize that I am watching everyone from a large stage, and as I glance around, I further realize that I know each and every one of them, all from various points of my journey through life. I see my mom and dad and my little brother. I see my best friend from when I was eight, and my grandmother who’s been dead since I was 14, and a close college friend of mine who died in a car accident right after we graduated, and there’s even a boy from soccer camp who I knew when I was 5. Everyone looks healthy and well and there is nothing odd about any of them being there. They are there for me. Each face fills me with a memory and there are only good memories to remember.

A light above me turns on and slowly everyone notices that I am there and turns towards me. Over a hundred eyes are suddenly all focused on me, and at first I can’t remember why I am there. I freeze for a moment fearing stage fright will take ahold of me, but before I can freak out I notice their eyes. Their eyes are all sparkling, recognizing me fondly and smiling up at me. Everyone is happy to see me and glad that I am finally there. I remember that I’m there to say something important: to give a big speech. I’m there to tell them all that I am gay. But my lips can’t remember how I was going to tell them…what I was going to say…

I open my mouth to speak but a sudden movement stops me. One person in the middle of the crowd has raised their glass to me in a toast. Then a second person raises theirs. Then another and another and soon everyone’s glass is raised. I realize that everyone already knows, and that it is all right. My eyes tear up from the overwhelming feeling of total acceptance. I know they are glad to see me right now, as I exist, exactly as I am. And suddenly I realize that I don’t actually have to say anything at all.

glassesRaised

And there is a glass in my hand. It was always there. So I raise it to them, to each of them for their role in my past, their role in my present; their role in making me who I am. I thank them with a nod, a smile and happy tears beginning to roll down my cheeks. And there, in a room filled with tolerance and compassion, time stands still and I feel complete.

There is no need for anyone to say anything, because we are all loved and that is enough.

And the warm lights shine down upon us…