293. circumspect

You didn’t see my valentine
I sent it via pantomime
While you were watchin’ someone else
I stared at you and cut myself
It’s all I’ll do ‘cause I’m not free
A fugitive too dull too flee
I’m amorous but out of reach
A still-life drawing of a peach

– Fiona Apple, “Valentine” from The Idler Wheel (2012)

tumblr_o1htgfvsun1qhmfh4o1_r1_400One of the depressing aspects of being single in your mid-30s is that virtually everyone else you know is probably in some manner of relationship by this point. You’ve become the token single friend.

And it sometimes goes like this:

You had a close group of friends. They’d make plans for Tuesday nights; go on outings to apple orchards or see a film; get together to play games or make dinner a few nights a month. You feel a sense of kinship and belonging here.

Then, gradually, everyone starts to pair off. Maybe a few people in the group start dating or find partners outside the group who then Yoko their way into the fold.

You progressively find yourself more on the outside. Activities become couples-oriented since you’re pretty much the only person who isn’t dating or married now.

They ask if you’re seeing or interested in anyone and you watch them exchange worried glances when you say “no.”

Eventually they start doing couples-only dinners and get-togethers.

You find out about plans after the fact because so-and-so forgot to include you on the group email/chat (but they “totally didn’t mean to leave you out”), but you feel increasingly out of place and othered when they do invite you to do things.

Wedding follows wedding like supernovas going off in a star cluster. You get invited to some, always RSVP’ing for one; are part of the wedding party in some and a musician in others. At receptions, you get seated with random family members or the other misfits who don’t know anyone else there.

People start having children and soon their lives have room for only other parents and families. Talk involves school, vacation plans, sickness, and other familial things. You “wouldn’t understand until you have children of your own.”

When you do get together with someone from the old group, you both feel like such different people, with little in common. It’s like being on an awkward first date.

You didn’t really know how to say anything to prevent it, but somewhere in there you fell through the cracks.

Of course, none of this was intentional. People change as life circumstances change.

Their personal life choices are shaped by the considerations of another’s. Yours are not.

Their sleep is interrupted by their bed partner snoring or a child crying. Yours is not.

They have to coordinate multiple family schedules over the holidays. You have just one family to deal with, yet even those feel lonelier as your siblings and cousins get married.

Le temps passe.

This is the world in which I increasingly find myself. I had such a group of friends after college that gradually dissolved as people started dating and getting married. Our ties, too, dissolved.

In some ways, I feel like a human talisman who brings romantic fortune into the lives of people I’m close to. Every flatmate I’ve had started dating their current partner shortly after we moved in together.

A new friend group forms and the cycle repeats.

This matchmaking power seems to work for everyone else but me.

However, I don’t know if it’s they who change towards me or me towards them. Maybe a bit of both, with my anxiety backseat driving.

And one truth I’d rather not admit to is my inferiority complex around those who are in relationships. I feel I’m somehow not as mature or put together in their presence, like I should have achieved the same things and haven’t, and am therefore not as worthy.

One way this manifests is with guys I’ve long held a torch for, despite all evidence to the contrary that anything would ever come of it.

My response when they inevitably start dating someone is to withdraw and tacitly cut them out of my life, or limit contact to occasionally commenting on or liking a social media post that isn’t of him and the new girlfriend (and hiding those that do).

This just happened with a guy who I’ve known for a couple years—and on whom I’ve been crushing for some time. I’ve never said anything since he’s insisted that he’s 100% heterosexual, and didn’t want to jeopardize the friendship by having that conversation, make everything totally awkward, and in all likelihood lose the friendship.

The crazy thing is I always know this will be the outcome; disappointment is inevitable. It happens over and over because it seems I have zero control over who I’m attracted to. It’s always hetero or bi guys who aren’t interested in me that way.

This is unfortunately how demisexuality works. My brain and conscious mind are in separate departments and never consult each other. So it’s a perennial hazard that, despite ourselves, we tend to fall for friends or people with whom we’re close.

He posted the relationship status last week so I’m faced again with the choice of whether to protect myself and preemptively distance myself before he, too, drifts away; or break the cycle and find an emotionally healthy, mature way to proceed?

In light of all this, I have been asking myself two questions:

  1. Why do I care so much about this?
  2. What exactly do I want/expect from a relationship?

The second question is probably the more important one, but the answer to the first is, again, the intense desire and need for the permanent, secure home I lacked as a child. The emotionally violent reactions I experience to rejection or disappointment is the raw, unregulated response of that child to pain and the fear of abandonment.

We learn how to deal with stress and disappointment from watching how our parents react. As the first born, my mom especially treated scrapes and bruises as if I’d been shot. So instead of being shown how to calmly assess a situation and its actual seriousness, I learned to go into fight mode to protect myself.

In other words, I developed anxious-resistant attachment.

Thus, the need for learning to reparent myself to become more secure.

292. tenacious


In the last post I mentioned the recent end of a community of which I’ve been part for the past five years or so. Apparently it’s been a while since I last mentioned it, which I suppose is telling.

Our local Sunday Assembly chapter was founded in mid-2014 by a group of former Christians and secular folks who were excited about the mission of the organization and had been looking for a sense of community and belonging that was missing from our lives.

We first met in May of that year and in the beginning there was a lot of interest and excitement in what we were doing. People looked forward to seeing each other each month, and many even met outside of monthly assemblies. We had an active board that was excited to build something meaningful and important to people’s lives.

The beginning of the end probably came in early 2017 when a schism occurred amongst the board that had partly to do with my being physically assaulted in 2016. What exactly happened is a long story, but about half of the board sided with the couple that owned the house where I was attacked and when they left they took their friends with them.

From that point on we lost more board members who felt increasingly burned out or who simply lost interest. Attendance never recovered after the split and by late last year we had events where no one besides the volunteers showed up. After another no-show assembly last month, we decided the writing on the wall had been there long enough and that it was time to pull the plug.

On the one hand, for me it’s kind of a relief to have the time and energy that went into planning those events and making them happen. And over the last year and a half or so, I felt more and more like Leslie Knope trying to rally everyone’s enthusiasm, or (and this is probably more accurate) like someone who refuses to accept the reality that a dying family member is beyond help and that it’s time to let them go.

On the other hand, I’ve put an incredible amount of time and energy over the years into making this thing happen and keeping it going so it’s hard not to feel like that investment was a total waste. To admit defeat and that my efforts to revive this group failed also meant this was another community that I’ve lost.

And one of the most difficult things to deal with is the sense that I have been the only person who has really cared about its survival.

Much of this ties back to the longing I’ve had for belonging, community, and family, in part since leaving church in 2011 and losing that network but also throughout my life. Home was never a place where I felt truly accepted, and even church wasn’t an environment where it was safe to let down my guard.

Of course, many people (especially the non-religious) never really find a community like this one. Many never find a group of close friends, or feel the need for such a group.

This makes the loss even more keen.

Frankly, what I most enjoyed about church, aside from social stability, was the musical outlet it offered. That was probably my favorite thing about Sunday Assembly, and it was my favorite thing about college—collaborating with a small group of people who enjoy creating music or simply being creative together. There are few opportunities like this outside of community choirs and ensembles (like bands or orchestras), but frankly don’t fancy being part of a faceless mass.

And if I’m being brutally honest, I don’t care for not being the one who calls the shots.

This is one thing that especially torments me about the demise of our Sunday Assembly chapter. Now that we’ve accepted the inevitable and pulled that lever, I’ve been post mortem-ing everything that’s happened over the last five years to identify any steps we could have taken to change the outcome.

The answer is: probably not much. Our chapter had a lot of competition in terms of there being a number of established groups with a similar purpose (and more resources). And it was difficult to really distinguish ourselves from those other groups or articulate what we had to offer that someone couldn’t find somewhere else.

Also: secular people (especially those who left religion) tend to be wary of church-like organizations, and that was our chief demographic.

There were a lot of mistakes that I made though that I worry contributed to our group’s unravelling. My leadership style as music director tended towards the unyielding rather than the collaborative, because while I was rarely outright dismissive of others’ ideas or input, I often ignored suggestions in favor of my own vision or agenda.

I was also reluctant to delegate or let others do things since no one else would deliver to my standards.

Because, you know, I was 100% right.

Leslie Knope (Parks and Recreation, NBC)

In hindsight, this had the hallmarks of insecurity and growing up in an environment where I had little control. It had the hallmarks of fearing that others would discover I wasn’t that talented–or worse, that someone else was a better and more fun leader.

It also had the hallmarks of being raised in a culture where everything was black and white, and where we were the ones who had it all figured out. I hate that all of that drove (and sometimes still drives) so much of my decisions and behavior.

Was any of this solely responsible for the chapter’s demise? Probably not. But it didn’t make being involved any easier, rewarding—or enjoyable.

These are some of my least attractive qualities; ones I fear will scare off potential boyfriends or partners.

There’s also the fear I couldn’t make Sunday Assembly work and won’t be able to make it work with a guy either.

… and why is vulnerability so damn hard?

291. perspicacity

Finally met with my therapist again after a couple weeks off. The first ten minutes or so were essentially a download of what’s happened over the past few weeks, from the practice of learning to silence negative self talk, to the recent end of a community I’ve been part of for almost five years, to the developments around beginning to experience attraction again for the first time in years.

She thought the news about both getting a better handle on the self talk and the return of experiencing attraction were promising signs that I’m finally getting “unstuck.”

We have a number of theories about what might be happening, but the most important takeaway is that this is a step closer to my goal of eventually finding a partner and establishing the home base that I never had growing up.

It’s also pretty clear that this isn’t any kind of sexual upheaval; that I’m no longer demisexual or something. Rather, it’s consistent with past experiences of only being attracted to guys with whom I have a fairly close connection.

What seems to be changing, however, is the level of openness to experiencing attraction again. Nothing appears to have shifted necessarily in terms of the types of attraction that I experience and the order in which they have occurred. Instead, it’s becoming more like non-judgmental awareness without expectation or feeling that I have to do anything with said feeling.

Of course, this is all fine in the abstract. In practice, it’ll take a lot of effort and practice to not worry about the meanings of different types of attraction or what I’m supposed to do with them, if anything. Should I say something? Is he attracted to me, too? What type of attraction is this even? Are we even compatible??

Because that is getting way ahead of everything.

One big reason why I’m so hung up on this whole partner/dating thing is that at the core of this need is the intense desire for home and intimate belonging with someone who has seen all of the nightmarish things that are underneath my mask and who chooses to love me in spite of them.

In other words, the thing I never got from my parents, as either a child or as an adult. The natural need for love and acceptance by my family became perverted by the reality that I could never truly be myself around them, so the fear of being “discovered” and rejected is one buried deep in the subbasements of my psyche.

During a long walk last week, while reflecting on the mutual attraction encounter I’d had the night before, the connection between this fear and my (frankly) terrifying reactions to rejection or disappointment from the guys I’ve dated became quite clear.

When I’d become enraged over yet another let down by someone with whom I’d actually felt a rare connection, the inner emotionally unregulated child within responded by blowing up and basically trashing our inner childhood bedroom. He’d learned to channel sadness, disappointment, and hurt into anger in order to protect himself from those closest to him.

What this child needed to hear and feel growing up was that he belonged, that he was loved unconditionally, and that he was accepted by his mom and dad. He needed to be heard and understood when he was upset, to be shown how to express himself and his emotions in a constructive and healthy way, and to feel safe opening up to his parents about anything.

Of course, back he wasn’t able to articulate any of that. All he knew was that he felt unloved, unwanted, unworthy, broken, and unacceptable. Although his parents likely never intended to communicate any of that, their actions taught him that when he felt bad that he was bad.

In college, I fell devastatingly hard for a guy named Larry. He was adorable, charming, and incredibly kind to boot. Naturally, he was both heterosexual and engaged. Though he probably suspected the truth, I never told him how I felt, in part because to acknowledge a feeling like that was forbidden but also for fear of hurting our friendship, because you can never unsay anything like that once it’s out in the open.

What’s most frustrating about this is that I don’t seem to have any control over who I fall for. My brain has locked me out of the decision-making process entirely.

Today I discussed with my therapist the possibility that I unconsciously fall for guys who are unattainable, with whom there is next to no chance of anything materializing. Although it keeps me safe from screwing anything up, in reality I carry around whole curio cabinets of unrequited longing and pain, tormented by the knowledge of this fact that I didn’t choose to fall for this person in the first place. Again, it’s nothing sexual. It’s more a sensual (wanting to hold hands, be held, kissed, etc.) or romantic attraction.

Maybe that’s not such an uncommon thing.

What is maddeningly frustrating is my track record.

So back to this gradual return of experiencing attraction.

It’s very likely that the low incidence the past few years is more a result of learning to keep my emotional and sexual life tightly buttoned up and controlled. Control means protection from hurt and disappointment, yet there have been more moments than I’ve wanted to acknowledge where I’ve felt some sort of attraction.

The reluctance to go there comes from fear of vulnerability, of willingness to take risks and put myself out there.

But there’s also pride in maintaining control, of denying myself the common pleasures of physical intimacy–believing I should be above all that messy carnal nonsense. It’s a descendant of the Protestant asceticism with which I was raised.

Because I have been hurt and disappointed.

Not sure what to make of all this but it seems a sign that I’m growing more comfortable with the idea (for now) of loosening my grip on rigidly controlling myself.

More later…

290. circadian

“I don’t think I’m very good at gay… I used to sit there and watch [the Mardi Gras parade] and go, “Where are the quiet gays supposed to go?” I still do.

“… the pressure on my people to express our identity and pride through the metaphor of party is very intense. An afternoon of that … [and] I need to express my identity through the metaphor of a nap.”

Hannah Gadsby. “Nanette.”

20190430_17223575153188963783200.pngWhat does it actually mean to be gay—aside from being attracted to other men (which I tend to think of as the defining criteria)?

It’s a question I’ve been asking myself the last couple of years, in part because my brain is incapable of not overanalyzing everything.

Thankfully, society seems to have firmly settled opinions on this for me.

According to mass media, in no particular order, gay men:

  1. Are extroverted, gregarious, youthful, and always happy, and ironically witty. They especially love clubs. And dancing. (So much dancing.)
  2. Go to the gym, are underwear-model fit, and are comfortable stripping to their Aussiebum briefs/jock strap in public. Especially at the club or pride.
  3. Speak in a higher pitch, often reminiscent of speech patterns and inflections of teenage girls.
  4. Love pop music, especially dance music (e.g., Madonna, Carly Rae Jepsen, Cher, Gaga, etc).
  5. Have location-based dating (i.e., hookup) apps (e.g., Grindr, Hornet, Scruff, Jack’d, Recon, etc).
  6. Are rapaciously flirtatious, unabashedly promiscuous, attracted to all [physically fit] men, and sort neatly into the categories of top and bottom.
  7. Walk quickly and with excellent posture, are very tidy and smartly dressed, and are often more than a little eccentric (which is why they can’t sit properly in chairs).
  8. Can plan your wedding, organize a brunch, and redecorate your apartment in a single afternoon.
  9. Belong to at least one kink community. (Leather is a given since every gay man owns a harness, armbands, and tight black t-shirts.)
  10. Primarily have open—or monogamish—relationships (because #6).

Of course, these are stereotypes.

As such, they do not accurately reflect individuals or an entire population.

That said, as with most stereotypes, they exist partly because there are gay men for whom many of these are true. (Also: gays make great supporting characters.) But many of them do have a basis in the history of gay communities, especially leather and bars.

They also present a wee brain teaser to those of us who are trying to figure out where we fit in all this, and who often wonder “where the quiet gays are supposed to go”.

For me, I’m largely incapable of flirting, partly because I’ve no patience for the subtle rituals men (especially gay men) perform when they’re interested in someone.

Mostly because my style is so distinctly German.

Ditto patience for clothing or grooming habits that take more than two minutes.

Mostly, I just don’t care.

Meaning that it’s difficult to find where—and with whom—I might fit.

This past weekend, as recounted in the last post, I was surprised to find myself both attracted to and flirting with a guy at the gaming mini-con. Granted, we were both pretty inebriated due to a miscalculation of 1) the amount of food I’d had that evening and 2) the strength of an alcoholic beverage a friend of mine had made.

Also, the guy in question was married and avowedly monogamous, even as he was coming to terms with the possibility of being bisexual.

There were a number of reasons why I was surprised at suddenly being attracted to this person and experiencing over the next day or so what can be described as a crush. He wasn’t my usual “type” and was also, for all intents and purposes, unavailable.

In hindsight, that was perhaps what made acknowledging that attraction so easy—the low risk it ultimately presented.

Again, it wasn’t sexual; it was probably more aesthetic or emotional, and even a little romantic. Our deep conversation allowed for a space of vulnerability to open up, where it was safe to acknowledge that I was attracted to him. It’s a bit hazy who first admitted it, but it’s the first time I’d done that in a very long while.

It was kind of nice.

There are moments when I miss sex, of being intimate with a guy. These are moments when I question if I’m truly on the asexual spectrum, but on further reflection, sex has always been secondary to connection, like a palpable extension of the emotional bond that exists between us. Of course, that’s only happened a handful of times, but it was always intense.

Those times also amounted to just a moment in the woods.

That’s part of what frightens me so much about attraction based on past experiences: their one-sidedness. What puzzles me about so many gay men is their casual attitudes towards sex, as if it were just another fun activity—one guy’s much like any other. To be fair, this is probably men in general, though exceptions (as usual) abound.

But, at least outwardly, there seems to be little ruminating or emotional fallout.

I get so caught up in what everything means, whether or not we mean something to each other now, the nature of the new context (if one exists), and if I’m ever going to even find someone with whom I’m compatible.

It’s all a bit of a mood and fun killer.

A healthier, less tortured way of approaching last week’s flirtation may be as practice: just a simple step towards easing back into dating. Because if a partner and emotional connection is what I want, that won’t happen if I just complain about being lonely.

Learning to hear and acknowledge my inner voice’s worries and fears of disappointment would certainly help allay anxieties.

Approaching it in an experimental manner might also be healthier: setting aside biases, setting expectations low, and simply exploring what’s there rather than worrying about what might happen—not to mention trying to make something happen.

Plus, being less resistant to experiencing attraction sounds less tense. Simply noticing when it’s happening without judging it.

(It also makes me ponder whether I really need a boyfriend or if a small group of guys with whom I had an intensely close bond would be enough.)

There’s also knowledge of what didn’t work the first time around: that I was “trying” to be gay, following models set by others for how gay men were supposed to behave rather than following my intuition.

I can find my own way of “being gay.”

289. frisson

Man and woman on motorcycle. Digital image. Unpublished for a Reason. October 5, 2015. https://bit.ly/2Pxx6XrThis past weekend I attended a four-day mini gaming convention with some friends of mine. It’s a biannual event, with one in the spring and one in the fall. The spring one is usually smaller, but it’s still a bit of a stretch for this highly sensitive introvert because of the sheer number of people.

Thankfully though, the combination of meds, therapy, going on walks (thereby getting some vitamin D), and taking introverting breaks helped.

A couple of years ago I attended this con prior to starting grad school, after which my schedule (and inability to cope with most social situations) did not permit my going. This year though, with all the positive steps forward, I decided it was a good thing to test out my new outlook on humanity.

Overall, with a few instances of feeling overwhelmed, it was a good experience. For me, it was less about the gaming and more the freedom from the normal responsibilities of life to just “be” and refresh my wells of creativity.

On one of the evenings, I had a surprisingly frank conversation with a few people about emerging awareness of their sexual orientation or acceptance of a shift thereto. Some of the conversation was about poly relationships and the realities of dating – or being partnered with – multiple people.

(To me, that sounds exhausting, but I’m glad it works for other people.)

Another of the longer conversations though was with a guy I met last time who is coming to terms with the fact that he’s probably bisexual. This is complicated by the fact that he’s married and hadn’t really had that talk with his wife yet.

This was further complicated by the fact that we appeared to be attracted to each other, and actually talked about that, something that may have been facilitated by how much we’d had to drink before this conversation. At first, he said he thought he might be “drunk bi,” but later acknowledged that he’s been noticing this when he’s sober, too.

Apparently later he confided to another friend of mine that he’s now fairly certain he’s bi and was going to have that talk with his wife over the weekend.

Speaking of shifts in one’s sexuality, I’ve become aware of experiencing a recent uptick in attraction to guys. On one of the long walks over this weekend I tried to parse through my feelings about this, ponder what might be going on, and assess whether I’m actually demisexual these days or if it’s a mix of anxiety and growing up repressed.

One of the truths to come out of therapy is that I spend a lot of time in my head analyzing and picking apart everything and that my brain often works much faster than my mind. By the time my mind gets around to even considering something, my brain has already fast-forwarded to the conclusion it has determined absolutely will happen, which is usually the worst-case scenario.

This bodes not well for living in the moment and taking things as they come.

Another truth is the reality that I’m pretty rigid when it comes to things like sexuality… or if I’m being honest, most things. It’s funny though because I’m actually pretty open to change—even though I still like to have some degree of control over those changes, even if that just means knowing as much as possible about what’s coming next.

Now that I think of it, this rigidity is probably my parents manifesting again.

This was a theme that came through in a tarot reading I did for myself on Friday evening during an introverting break.

(If anyone is curious, you can see the spread here: https://bit.ly/2IRFG2P.)

I was reminded by Temperance and reversed Judgement of the need to be kinder to myself and to find balance—essentially becoming friends with my inner critic and acknowledging the fears and worries that get expressed as negativity.

The reversed Page of Wands blocking my Magician makes that pretty clear.

Breaking free of unhealthy cycles of thinking and action was another message that resonated. Fixating on worst-case scenarios is one way my mind protects me from hurt or disappointment, which is also self-defeating but understandably fear-based.

Taking back control of my life and not fixating as much on what I don’t have was yet another theme that came out of the spread.

As was learning to manage my emotions better. Hmmmm…

This led to a couple of insights on my walk on Sunday.

First, in regards to demisexuality, I don’t think there has to be conflict with experiencing an uptick in attraction. The nature of these attractions continues to be chiefly emotional rather than sexual.

What I do think has been going on the last few years is the fear to even entertain those attractions when they arise.

Again, my brain is awfully good at shutting down any hopes or possibilities.

And a big thing for me is the fear of rejection, because without fail, every guy I’ve been attracted to has wanted nothing to do with me beyond being friends. (This goes the other way for me, too.) So at the first sign of interest, my brain quickly fast-forwards the tape to the end of the scene where yet again I’m getting let down.

It would be easy to dismiss this if there weren’t ample justification for the fear.

The reality is I do tell and re-tell myself these stories about how no one is interested in me and how I’m going to literally die alone and forgotten someday.

Another reality is that I seemingly have zero control over who I’m attracted to (e.g., a married, currently monogamous, and emergently bisexual guy), so it’s impossible to predict when and where it will occur.

So am I unconsciously selecting guys who will fullfill my brain’s worst-case scenario to maintain control over a situation in which there is little control?

And what do I even want??

And how to loosen up but stay true to myself?

288. plasticity

nexusHi, friends.

The 454 intervening days between my last post and today have been quite eventful.

For one, I finally started seeing a psychiatrist and learned that the symptoms I’ve been experiencing for a while are likely due to the combination of anxiety and depression. I’m currently on Lamictal to stabilize my ever-changing mood.

I discovered I have a pretty severe vitamin D deficiency, which could explain my energy level, cognitive slowing, and back pain. It could even exacerbate my depression.

I also finally got around to scheduling an appointment to see a new primary care doctor, which is something I’ve been avoiding for a while because of how anxious it made me.

So I’m gradually getting a handle on my health and planning for the long term.

I’m also seeing a new therapist who is helping me process the complex trauma of growing up in a deeply dysfunctional and emotionally abusive home. It’s difficult to pinpoint any one incident from those years since it was more like a steady stream of hurtful and toxic messages that were repeated so often that I simply accepted them since there was nothing to compare it to. It was just normal.

Finally, in 2018 I co-wrote an original musical over the spring summer and music directed a concert in the fall, so from about April to November was an absolute wash. It was often stressful and exhausting, but it was so good to get back into being creative.

The work I’m currently doing in therapy is to identify ways that trauma has shaped my life, how I view myself, and the myriad of ways my parents manifest in my unconscious behavior. For instance, my mother is a control freak, possibly a consequence of moving around a lot as a child and not having a stable environment, which results in going overboard to hold on to people and relationships and thereby driving them away.

For me, this often manifests in anxiety around uncertainty and in outbursts of anger when I feel out of control or blocked in achieving a goal. I also don’t like surprises.

My father had a truly fucked up childhood, enduring physical abuse from his father, his mother dying when he was six, his father remarrying a woman whose son tortured him, and finally being sent to a boys’ boarding school. As a result, he was often emotionally withdrawn as a father but quick to discipline or criticize.

Consequently, I have serious issues with authority figures and get incredibly angry whenever I feel misunderstood or betrayed.

It’s remarkable how much trauma resembles a virus, infecting each generation. There’s even evidence that trauma can be passed on at the level of our DNA.

Because I never felt safe or able to be myself as a child (especially once I understood the ramifications of my sexuality), I have lived in a survival mode, anticipating rejection or judgment whether or not there’s evidence of it. I resort to wearing masks in social situations where I feel uncomfortable or uncertain, limiting my ability to truly connect with people, which my therapist and I have identified as a core need.

Also, because my parents never let me fail growing up or overreacted when I did, I was never immunized against stress or disappointment, so both of things hit me harder than most people. And because I was homeschooled for most of my childhood, I had little opportunity to develop social or coping skills for dealing with adversity.

Consequently, I often feel a lack of agency or fear making wrong or miscalculated decisions for myself. I’ve avoided seeking out a primary care physician for just that reason, worried that the patient-doctor relationship will be a poor fit, that I’ll freeze up or forget to ask important questions, or that they won’t be well versed in LGBTQ issues.

Because of the deeply repressive environment and culture in which I was raised, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the effect that it had on my ability to thrive as a sexual being. Because that is an important aspect of our evolutionary development, and it is something that’s important to me.

Since discovering I was demisexual nearly three years ago, I’ve wondered what effect my upbringing had on my development and the absence of lust I experience. The closest thing to it for me is essentially an intense emotional crush. But I have wondered if my being on the asexual spectrum is somehow related to having grown up repressed, and the concurrent effects of stress, trauma, and worry on all of it.

I do not experience primary attraction, that instant attraction one feels based on some quality of another person that may lead to sexual desire. What I do experience is a secondary attraction that develops over time as the emotional connection grows deeper.

Source: AVENwiki

In his matrix of needs and satisfiers, Manfred Max-Neef identified how axiological human needs (such as subsistence, affection, identity, and freedom) intersect with the existential human needs of being, having, doing, and interacting.

I’ve been thinking about this in relation to being demisexual and why I’m feeling frustrated and stuck on the subject of dating and sex.

For most gay men, it seems, relationships begin with sex and either dissolve or progress to something deeper if there’s enough compatibility (emotional or sexual).

For me, relationships begin with the emotional connectedness and eventually progress to the physical. Because I’m not purely asexual. I do have a sex drive, but 99.9% of the time it’s not directed towards anyone.

There’s a disconnect somewhere on “Affection” axis.


It seems that that’s a problem for many gay or bisexual men who expect to have sex on the first or second date—as if to establish sexual compatibility at the outset. I, however, move at a comparatively glacial pace.

And this is where I feel frustrated, because while I’d like to get back into dating, finding someone with whom I’m compatible has seemed virtually impossible.

More later.

287. stardust

tunnel*tap tap tap* Is this thing still on? Anyone out there?

I am currently stuck in the Tampa International airport, the clock just turned 3am, and I have been up for nearly 21 hours, with another two hours or so until anything opens here, so now seems a good a time as any to get back into the habit of updating this site… if only to keep myself awake.

Not that I don’t miss putting my thoughts out into the void for you.

A lot has changed in the 139 days since I last posted—on September 1. Probably the biggest development is that I am finally, finally done with graduate school… which means that I finally, finally have a master’s degree! 139 days ago, I was just beginning the final semester of my library science degree.

All things considered, it went splendidly. Even though I was taking only one class, there were quite a few stressful moments and meltdowns, part of which had to do with the statistics and technical nature of the course content. But I got to the end in one piece.

And I graduated.

I actually received one of my program’s outstanding student awards this year, along with another good friend of mine, which was a great feeling, especially when I sometimes felt that I wasn’t as accomplished or as remarkable as some of my other classmates.

I was also nominated by one of my professors and selected by a university committee to be the graduate student commencement speaker for the December graduation ceremony. It was amazing and intense, and deeply humbling to address my peers with a charge for what I feel our world needs from graduate students and graduate education. I didn’t want to give some pat talk about following dreams or living up to full potential.

My talk centered around the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, or the restoration of the world.

Three of the key values of my university that are woven throughout all the programs and courses are social justice, diversity, and integrity. Essentially, I encouraged my fellow graduates to view their chosen careers through the lens of those values and look for opportunities in seemingly everyday moments to help heal the brokenness of the world.

That was nearly a month ago now.

While it was certainly a good feeling to be done with school after almost three years, the months leading up to it were tinged with a growing sense of anxiety and worry.

Sure, I was worried about finding a full-time job and how the actual fuck I was going to eventually pay off the tens of thousands of dollars worth of loans I had to take out to pursue a degree that is a basic requirement for virtually all librarian jobs. I worry that the number of MLIS graduates is increasing but that the number of new jobs is not growing at the same pace.

On a more fundamental level, I was worried about losing the close sense of community that I have been a part of for three years. For the most part, my social circle tends to be built around the activities that I am involved with or the people with whom I live. When those activities end or I move house, those social ties tend to dry up for me.

It’s not that I am necessarily edged out or excluded. It’s that I don’t really know how to connect with people. The ironic thing is that human community is something I do want and am often desperate for, but the mechanisms for doing that are unknown to me.

I did not grow up around many people. With the exception of church, Sunday school, and AWANAS, until age ten or eleven, my world consisted largely of my parents and my sisters. Since my family homeschooled, and we lived in a rural area, we never learned to interact with our peers. We weren’t forced to figure out the rules of the playground or the nuances of the school hallway, navigate friendships or weather rivalries.

While not every childhood experience is the same, some of those fundamental lessons about human nature take place during those early middle school years.

For instance, I never learned properly how to play. Play is important for the development of self-regulation, creative problem solving, along with the cerebral cortex. In our family though, play often took the form of psychological warfare. There were moments of fun, but through this, my sisters and I first learned to view human relationships through the paradigm of a threat. Our parents unwittingly taught us that we weren’t worthy of love and acceptance and that these commodities were conditional.

I find myself with a graduate degree and nearly 35, but that I have no idea who I really am apart from external measures of my self-worth—what other people tell me about myself. But I will always have those early voices and memories of my childhood in the catacombs of my subconscious.

My mom turning to me when I was about 15 or 16 during a verbal clash to actually say: “If people knew who you really are, they wouldn’t like you.”

I learned to fear other people, to keep them at a safe and comfortable distance, popping in and out of their reality when needed. While I noted that people liked me and wanted to be around me, I was suspicious and wary, like a wounded animal.

What were their true motives? When would they figure out I was hollow? When would they discover I was Frankenstein’s monster?

The intersection of all this lies in the fear that I will never have a family and a partner of my own—someone who accepts me in spite of my craziness and insecurity, and who is willing to fight the demons with me, but not treat me as the enemy.

I fear I’ll unconsciously push everyone good for me away—that my parents were too good of teachers in the art of toxic, fearful relationships.

286. oppugn

Are you the new person drawn toward me? To begin with, take warning, I am surely far different from what you suppose; Do you suppose you will find in me your ideal? Do you think it so easy to have me become your lover? Do you think the friendship of me would be unalloy’d satisfaction? Do you think I am trusty and faithful? Do you see no further than this façade, this smooth and tolerant manner of me? Do you suppose yourself advancing on real ground toward a real heroic man? Have you no thought, O dreamer, that it may be all maya, illusion? Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass, Book 5, Number 11

Holy ****, kids, how did it already get to be September 1?

Recently, I have been getting a number of singles ads geared towards… mature adults, which is a special feeling. I’m not sure whether this is due to fact that my internet search history reads like a Stephen Ambrose text, or the fact that I am in my mid-30s.

Do all librarians experience this type of thing? Is Google trying to tell me I ought to be dating older guys?

… on the subject of dating older guys…

Yesterday I learned that one of my ex-boyfriends is now dating a guy I went on a date with several years ago, which is a weird feeling. It’s weird because virtually everyone I used to date is now with a long-term partner of some sort, and I’m the only single denominator left.

As of today, September 1:

  • I came out 9 years and 8 days ago.
  • My longest serious relationship to date is roughly 8 months and 20 days.
  • I have now been single for 4 years, 5 months, and 8 days.
  • It has been 3 years, 2 months, and 17 days since I last went on a formal date.
  • The last time I had sex was 1 year, 10 months, and 16 days ago.

There’s a lot of emotional baggage wrapped up in those abstract dates. They’re like mini tombstones, with start and end dates neatly defined for each instance.

Possibly the most sobering is that, as of next year, I will have been out as gay for ten years.

That’s a huge fucking milestone.

I’ll also be turning 35 years old.


It means something to be months away from having a master’s degree, having finished my undergraduate degree roughly thirteen years ago, yet having not held a significant job, not having formally entered a career, or not having had a significant romantic relationship that lasted longer than nine months.

I have my theories as to why I still place so much stock in the institution of the traditional, committed, long-term dyad relationship. Perhaps it’s just the longing for a family unit of my own, something I have never really known or felt safe around.

Yet most of my attempts at finding a partner have either been abortive or disastrous. My relationship with Jay lasted a mere eight months and 20 days. Since then I haven’t met anyone who I was remotely interested in who was even remotely interested in me.

(Alas, note the careful wording in the last sentence.)

A few weeks ago, I went to see one of my favorite musicals, Sondheim’s Pulitzer award-winning Sunday in the Park with George.

There are a several reasons why it’s my favorite.

As Joss Whedon once observed, the first half is about the struggle of living with the weight of genius; the second is about living in the shadow of it. Through most of my life, I have lived in fear of the shadow of expectation, whether of greatness or genius I’m not sure.

There’s another reason, though.

The Georges of both acts struggle to connect with people around them, and that is something I have never been fully able to do thus far. To an extent, I have been able to connect with people through my writing, to affect them and effect some small changes.

“Connect, George, connect!”

While I am good at a number of things, I have always felt acutely separated from those around me. While other children began learning how to negotiate social relationships in kindergarten and preschool, my formative years were spent at home, largely alone.

Because of the repressive, restrictive religious nature of my upbringing, I learned to censor myself, what not to say, who not to be. To protect myself from judgment and censure, my formative years were spent perfecting the art of keeping people away.

While other children had to learn to externalize their thoughts and organize them for an audience, my formative years were spent in my head, with my own thoughts.

In my silences, it’s not that I don’t have anything to say. It’s that I don’t know how to contextualize for others the long, ongoing conversation I’ve been having with myself for those on the outside. I don’t know if this is a skill one can learn at my age.

When I write about the improbability of finding a romantic partner “at my age,” what I mean is that I am terrified it will never happen—that in spite of my desire to connect and to belong, I lack the requisite social and emotional skills to sustain a relationship.

When I worry about seeing an increasing number of grey hairs in my beard, I think of how long I’ve been working at all this, and being nearly 35 and finishing grad school, and still feeling hopelessly behind.

When I think about dating older guys, I worry about being 35 and how much less time I’m going to have with them before they inevitably die, or before I die prematurely due to stress or the effects of my lifestyle of drinking and, frankly, lack of nutrition.

I think about how I never got to experience the insouciance of dating as a young gay man, and the joys and sorrows that go along with that.

I’ve also been asking myself recently  what I really need in a relationship. Do I need monogamy, or will emotional fidelity be sufficient? In the land of gay men, where kink and open relationships are widely the norm, can I afford to be picky? If he’s into leather, am I okay with being the vanilla partner?

Frankly, forming one stable intimate relationship sounds exhausting by itself. I can’t fathom the emotional energy required to establish a constellation of trusted relationships to meet my needs.

These are still uncharted waters, and we’re writing the rules for same-sex relationships as we go along.

285. variegated

paint-260701_640I finally scheduled an AD/HD assessment for myself. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that it isn’t until the end of the month.

When I called to speak with the clinic about setting up an appointment, they asked what I felt were my three biggest area of impairment.

And I froze.

Just three?

For how much I’ve thought and written about this, the bottom dropped out from under my completely and my mind went blank.

It was humiliating but illustrative.

The DSM-5 criteria for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (annotated):

1. Inattention: Six (or more) of the following symptoms have persisted for at least 6 months to a degree that is inconsistent with developmental level and that negatively impacts directly on social and academic/occupational activities:

a. Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or during other activities.

My first semester in grad school in 2015, we had an assignment to review and analyze one year of professional journal issues related to our area of focus. I chose American Archivist. Or rather, I missed the “one year” part and ended up looking at all 77 volumes going back to 1938 and did a qualitative analysis of article titles and subjects covered. This is just one spectacular example of the types of “careless mistakes” I make on a daily basis. I can read through instructions multiple times and the last time I’ll focus on one intriguing detail that will blot out all the other steps.

b. Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities.

During the time that it took to write the above paragraphs, I watched five YouTube videos, looked up diagnostic criteria for three other conditions in the DSM-5, read three blog entries, scrolled through my Facebook feed, went to pet the dogs, took photos of the sleeping dogs, refilled my water glass, checked email, looked through an ADHD resources website, refilled my water glass again, went upstairs to look for a book, forgot why I went upstairs and ended up wiping down the granite countertops in the kitchen…

c. Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.

It’s not that I’m not listening. It’s that I’m trying to remember what you said ten seconds ago, because it was probably important, and I’m not taking notes. I should be taking notes. Where’s my notebook? Why don’t I have a notebook on my desk? Where are the notebooks in the building? Oh god, you just said something else that sounded important. What were you saying earlier again? Augh, why am I not taking notes? Oh, right, I was looking for my notebook. Where do they keep the notebooks again? I should really go get one. Oh gods, yes, you’re still talking!! I should really be taking notes…

d. Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace.

See a., b., and c. Also e.

e. Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities.

It’s ironic that cataloging was the area of librarianship that most excites me, because I am not organized at all in my personal life. Things typically go where I’m going to find them. There’s always a moment at the outset of any task or activity where I feel utterly overwhelmed and overcome with anxiety about how to proceed. If I am working by myself, it’s usually not a problem—if I can sustain the mental energy and it’s something that interests, that is. Usually I start with the thing that seems most important, which may simply be the first thing that catches my attention and seems important. Because priorities are a tricky thing for me—either nothing is a priority, or everything is.

Yeah, I don’t understand priorities.

f. Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort.

This should not be interpreted as laziness. It’s more that a lengthy chapter in a book or an article looks like Mount Everest to me. I know that, to get through it, I’m going to have to take notes to keep track of all the details, and fend off all the other distractions that I know are going to crop up the minute I try to focus.

g. Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities.

Notebooks. Pens. Allergy medication. Sunglasses. Sunscreen. Books. Laptop. Flash drive. Car keys. Work keys. Canvas bags. Lists (oh god, lists). Food. Security badges. Etc.

h. Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli (for older adolescents and adults, may include unrelated thoughts).

See below. Also, having a conversation with me that stays on topic is near impossible. In the span of about thirty seconds I could interrupt myself 2-3 times with a related thought that quickly turns unrelated, which will lead to various anecdotes and things that I am suddenly able to remember that I would never be able to recall if I tried. Last semester I interrupted myself in a final presentation to comment that a thing I’d just explained sounded like a really interesting research question, and I almost didn’t get back on topic, even with my notes. I got lost during a piano performance once when someone sneezed or moved in my peripheral vision, causing me to lose focus entirely.

i. Is often forgetful in daily activities.

A frequent occurrence for me is to walk into a room and have no idea why I’m there. For a while I worried that this was a symptom of early-onset Alzheimer’s. In reality, what happens between the time that I set out to go get something and the time that I arrive is that I’ve gone down numerous thought holes and daydream tunnels, and was really only half focused when I decided I needed to go get the thing that I’ve arrived in the room to fetch. This happens to me at least three times a day.

People talk about AD/HD as if it’s a license to be whimsical and carefree.

It’s exhausting and stressful.