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.

 

Rainbow Colored Resolutions

rainbow new yearWelcome, Gentle Reader! I send you the sincerest of wishes for a Happy and Hope-Filled New Year! It was 12 months ago that I felt called to return to this blog and continue to write about my experiences of being a gay man and with coming out of my closet. Though my blogging has been sporadic, it has been therapeutic and wonderfully fulfilling. I’ve met some amazing people, many of them fellow bloggers, and now I truly feel less alone on my journey towards understanding and self-acceptance. I can’t express in words how much that has meant to me, and continues to mean to me.

Exploring myself through these posts over the last year has been such an amazing way to revisit my fears, my successes, and my lessons related to my coming out process. I cannot claim to know what 2015 will hold in store for this blog and for me, but I am hopeful and optimistic. And, as I have mentioned many times before, Gentle Reader, feeling Hope is very important. In today’s post I would like to share with you my resolutions for the New Year.

resolutionsAdam Resolution #1: Feel less Isolated and Lonely.

In many ways for me, 2014 was the year of my blog. As 2013 came to a close, I was feeling creatively stifled and trapped in my predominately straight world. I had verbally stated to everyone in my everyday life that I was gay, but I was still ‘In Search’ of what that meant to me inside. I wanted to start really talking about it. I hit the ground running on January 1st by exploring ‘how to become a better blogger’ and by writing my first new post on this blog. The rest, as they say, is history.

Now, as December 2014 was coming to a close I found myself looking back at what I did for the past 12 months. I concluded, other than writing for my blog (which trust me, my process for writing my long and researched blog posts is lengthy :-)), I didn’t do a whole hell of a lot. I am thrilled to be able to say I put significant time into this blog. It is worthwhile and I love it. But what else did I do in 2014?

Let’s see: I worked at a job that I don’t hate but I certainly don’t love, I read only 4 books, was a groomsman in two weddings (processes unfortunately more torturous than fun), and watched a lot of movies and television. When I try to think of events and moments that stand out from the year… I can’t. I am drawing an almost complete blank on what I did to better myself in 2014 other than blogging.

When I really think about it, I spent a significant amount of 2014 alone at my house. Now there is nothing wrong with alone time. I find it very comforting and helpful in my development process as an individual. But in 2015 I want more interactions with people. I want to continue blogging, but I also want to better myself through some more socially centered processes as well. It’s time to take living outside the walls of my house.

gay flags friendsAdam Resolution #2: Have a little more Gay in my life.

Specifically, I want to have more interactions with other gay people.

In 2014 I talked a lot about being gay. In 2015 I would like to continue to talk about it, while also doing a little more ‘gay’ living as well. Does that make sense?

I want to really own being a gay man this year. I want to feel more empowered in my role as a member of this gay community. Maybe even start dating…god forbid. It would be nice to find a special someone who thinks about me first when he wakes up in the morning and smiles when he pictures my face. It’s time to gay up my daily activities a little.

man's back2Adam Resolution #3: Start living in my body again.

In 2013 I was an active and enthusiastic member of a CrossFit box. I was working out multiple times a week and loving it. In 2014 this ended. There are multiple reasons behind its ending, none of which are relevant to this post, but as a result I spent most of 2014 over-eating, not exercising and sitting on my ass.

I know that this lack of physicality affected my overall mood and movability in 2014. Losing my CrossFit friends definitely lead me to feel more alone and somewhat sad. But this lack of movement also made me feel like my body wasn’t mine. It feels stagnant, lumpy and foreign.

It’s time to take my body back in 2015. I know that every one and their brother make a resolution to eat right and work out more in the new year. That is not what I am professing to do. I will be exercising alone, without my CrossFit box, and in some ways this will make the process harder, but I feel drawn to doing it alone at this moment.

I think there is something to be learned in picking my chubbier, less coordinated body up, brushing it off, and reclaiming it solo. Doing it on my own terms. I know it won’t be easy, but at least my body will be proud of me for starting to move.

Film SchoolAdam Resolution #4: Film School & My Future.

I’m currently working two jobs to save up money. I have three monetary goals in 2015. To reduce my debt, save up to finally move out of my parent’s house, and get accepted into a local film program while paying for it with cash. The film classes will start in September. To get accepted into the program I will have to apply in the spring. It’s a long shot with a lot of hard work, but it is so nice to be moving towards a goal that I want again.

One of the things I did accomplish in 2014 was to spend time thinking and contemplating my future. It may not look like much in the physical realm, but for me, these thought processes are real and necessary, and may be the driving force behind why my 2015 will be better and brighter. Happy New Year, Gentle Reader. Let’s make it one to remember!

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

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.

Pushy, Pushy: Being Pushed Out of the Closet by Gay Friends

push-cliffIn honor of National Coming Out Day I offer up this post to you, Gentle Reader, in celebration of everyone’s right to be proud of who they truly are, as well as their right to share their truths with others in their own time, when they are fully ready. Here are two stories from my days of being closeted, each telling how sometimes others may prefer for us to come out in their time, rather than in our own.

In the fall of 2009 I was 27 years old and had known, without a doubt, that I was gay for about 8 years. I look back on that particular fall and try to understand why I was still so deep in my closet after all that time. Being closeted had just become such a labyrinth of internal and external obstacles for me, I suppose the more I tried to find the perfect way to accept myself and come out, the deeper I got lost in my maze.

I met my friend Ray at a gay bar in September of that year. From the first moment I heard him speak, I felt comfortable around him. He is the kind of guy that immediately comes across as intelligent and funny. I thought he was so hilarious. Every sentence out of his mouth was fueled by intellectual humor. In my opinion, that is the sexiest kind of humor.

We became fast friends and, looking back, I’m really thankful that he came into my life at that particular point. Ray is brazen and proud of being gay. I needed to be around that back then. Hell, I need to be around that right now. Ray was great because he would speak his mind and if you didn’t agree with him, then too bad for you. I, on the other hand, have always leaned more towards politely bending my will to agree with others so as not to create conflict. Ray helped me view a lot of things in a different light. He was one of the first people to help me understand that I could be proud of my sexuality if I just gave myself time.

Ray and I would have gotten along almost perfectly, if I hadn’t been closeted. Ray hated the fact that I was still in my closet and he constantly tried to push me out of it through our conversations. He would say things like,

“You will be so much happier once you are out. Just do it already!”

or

“You are making a conscious decision to be miserable by staying in the closet. Why are you torturing yourself?”

On one hand I could understand what he was saying and I truly believed that I would be happier once I was out. But I just wasn’t at that place yet. This reality caused many arguments between us, all of which left me feeling stupid and cowardly. (Not things that your friends should make you feel on a regular basis.) My being closeted was one of the major things that ultimately unraveled our friendship. I know Ray mostly just wanted me to be happy, but his pressure-fueled tactics were flawed. Being nagged at does not make coming out any easier. But I still find my mind wondering to thoughts of Ray often. I smile remembering how genuinely funny he was. I miss how he made me feel when things were good and I wish him well.

coming-outJumping back seven years prior to Ray, during the fall semester of my junior year in college, I existed even deeper in my closet. At the time I had just begun meeting guys online for dates and I was only just beginning to accept that I was probably gay. In those days I was really immersed in ‘The Closeted Game”. I had a whole system worked out so that I could live two separate lives. I had two AIM screen names and two emails (one gay and one straight). When I would go on dates with guys I would sheepishly ask them to keep my identity and sexuality a secret. I nervously explained to them that no one at my college knew that I was gay. I was terrified about acting on these gay feelings and I was actively begging the guys I dated to help me stay on the down low.

I went out on one particular date with a guy named Mike. Then several months later Mike coincidentally began seriously dating an out gay man that went to the same, small liberal arts college that I did. (We will call this fellow student Neal). Well, one day Mike decided to tell Neal,

“Hey, actually, come to think of it, I went on a date once at this school with a guy named Adam.”

And he then proceeded to describe me in great detail, to the point where Neal knew exactly who I was. At first Neal must have said to him,

“Nah I know who you are talking about, he’s not gay.”

But eventually…Ding Ding Ding. A light bulb went off and Neal realized that I was closeted and that no one on campus knew about it.

Now Neal just happened to be the only out gay man on our small campus: a situation, which I am sure, was not ideal or entirely pleasant for him. Now Neal saw a unique opportunity with this newfound information and, instead of keeping this to himself or coming to privately discuss the matter with me, Neal began telling my friends and other random people on campus that I was gay and that his boyfriend had dated me once.

push badOne brisk autumn evening one of my friends called me up on my dorm room phone to tell me that Neal was spreading this rumor… I. Was. Pissed. I found Neal’s phone number in our campus directory, called him up, and made him meet me in person. I angrily confronted him, basically threatened him, and demanded to know why he would do such a thing. I screamed at him,

“How dare you! Why in the hell would you do something like this? You of all people know what it is like to be gay on such a small campus. If I do not chose to share my sexuality, which I am literally still figuring out, with everyone else then that is none of your god damned business! You have no right to out someone else! If I am gay then we should be sticking together and helping each other, not going behind each other’s backs and spreading rumors. In this small community how would we benefit from attacking each other?”

Neal cried a lot during that conversation and explained to me,

“I’m sorry. It’s hard for me being the only gay person at this school and I figured that if someone like you, who is involved in a lot of clubs and stuff and who is in a fraternity and who has lots of different kinds of friends, was gay then everyone would see that it is not such a big deal and I guess I thought it would make it easier for me.”

All these years later, thinking back on Neal, I can’t help but to feel a little bad for him. He was scared too. But he really pissed me off. Gay or not, he was sneaky and I can’t respect that. As you can imagine, the whole experience scared me and, in some ways, pushed me even deeper into my closet and my paranoia. Still, to my knowledge, he never spread any further rumors about me, and I was once again free to uncomfortably hide in my closet for many years more.

So what is the purpose of me droning on about these two less than perfect stories on a day that is supposed to be about hope and freedom? The moral is, no matter what, we all come out when we are ready. No sooner and no later, and that is the way it should be. Those of us who are out and proud need to be supportive of our closeted brothers and sisters. Show them we love them while not being pushy. We all arrive at these milestones exactly when we should; when we know in our gut that it is time. There may still be fear and apprehension, but eventually we know the time has come.

So in further honor of National Coming Out Day, I think I will be brave and display a link to this post on my personal Facebook account. I feel ready to now… and I got here completely in my own time…

cliff_jump_suit_xlarge

Procrastination & Wanting to be Liked

procrastinate-now-and-panic-later

If I may speak frankly, I hate the word Procrastination. The act of procrastinating, putting off work that is necessary for me to complete, has filled me with anxiety and fear throughout my life. Lost in thought a few days ago I began wondering, like all tasks that are uncomfortable, did I procrastinate on coming out? Did mere avoidance play a part in not coming out until I was 29 years old? This lead me to further examine my relationship with procrastination and to unearth some old wounds.

In college, I was afraid of not being as good a student as my peers. I was afraid that I was not studying the correct major and that this was the reason I always felt so out of place. I was afraid that I was on the wrong path and that I would never find the right one. I was afraid that I had a concentration problem and that I would never be able to focus on my studies. I was afraid of being a bad student. I was afraid of letting myself down. I was afraid of letting my professors down. I was afraid that my friends would view me as weak and too fragile. I spent a lot of time feeling unsettled, like I was about to fail at every moment. I feared deadlines, papers, tests, and of course, finals.

Looking back on it, these feelings of dread have stayed with me even ten years after college has ended. I’ve never really let myself off the hook for having these feelings in college. I still have not let Adam, age 18 to 22, off the hook for being scared. God, I’ve been so mad at him because he was so scared.

Procrastination became a way to avoid these intense feelings of fear, inadequacy and sadness. I would avoid work by spending time hanging out with friends, talking, laughing, visiting stores to pass time, attending parties and simply walking around campus. Alone I would watch TV and movies, chat online, endlessly Google more entertaining topics and masturbate.

My sophomore year I started seeing a counselor to talk about, what at the time we labeled as, my anxiety caused by my procrastination. On top of everything else I was feeling I began to feel guilt for procrastinating. Obviously procrastinating was something I was doing which was leading me to have trouble in my classes and feel anxious.

Part of the real bitch of procrastination was the wedge it created between me and myself. All of the classes I missed, and all of the work I didn’t complete, became attacks I was personally performing against myself. I became an enemy to me. I was an obstacle between myself and happiness. What a horrible way to feel about yourself. How do you move forward with yourself if you think you are the enemy?

scary ticking clocksTime also became my enemy. Ticking clocks and passing hours brought me closer to failure. There never seemed to be enough time left in the day to finish a task, so why bother even starting it?

 Looking back, I was trying so hard in college. I just wanted people to like me. It felt so important that people like me. I just wanted to be interesting, funny and worth their time. Perhaps school work and classes played second fiddle to this need to be liked. But, in all honesty, does this really make me any different from every other college student in the world?

Now, I wish I could go back and give myself a hug. Tell myself that it will all be ok and let myself know that when it is all said and done college will be a bundle of happy memories. Tell myself that procrastination, and all the fear it covers up, will not define me. And that at the end of it all, what is most important is that I forgive myself for being afraid and being flawed and for deep down just wanting to be liked.

Moving forward, I try to remind myself to not give the word procrastination so much weight. It is, after all, just a word. Remember that it is possible to still be successful and accomplished with occasional procrastination. Give yourself permission to keep going and complete tasks at your pace in your own time. And remember to give yourself credit for the tasks you do complete, they are successes. And it is important to remind myself that everyone procrastinates, and the act of procrastination does not make us bad people or any less worthy of love.

In the end, Gentle Reader, it is important to not procrastinate on loving yourself. Give yourself as much time as it takes. That ticking clock is not judging us.

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Some related articles on Procrastination you may find interesting
Mind Tools: Overcoming Procrastination
Smithsonian.com: Why Procrastination is Good for You

The Fantasy

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

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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…