278. esoterica


There hasn’t been much time to write recently, nor is there much time to write today, so this is going to be a bit scattered. We’ll see where this goes.

Eighteen days ago was the four-year anniversary of my breakup with Jay, the narcissist ex-boyfriend who nevertheless turned out to be—as I rightly feared—my likely last chance at a relationship before I turned 30.

I was hoping for some spark of insight about lessons learned about life choices, but instead I found little more than regret at having stayed with him for nine whole months.

Besides, there isn’t that much of my mind free to reflect on things like that these days.

One of the insights that I did have after things ended with my last therapist is that one of the reasons I feel so ambivalent about my parents is that there was a time when I was very young when I was happy with them.

This was before I was self-aware and able to internalize the bullshit theology that they were feeding me.

The world was simpler, brighter, happier, and there’s a part of my mind that still remembers what it felt like. A gulf of time and trauma now stands between me and that previous proto-self, and there is no way to get back.

You can’t go home.

I suppose that’s one of the things I most hate my parents for—robbing me of my childhood (and my future adult happiness) by teaching me to hate myself.

They also robbed me of the ability to truly enjoy things since I constantly view things that I like with suspicion or skepticism. There was always a fear growing up that one or both of my parents would disapprove of something I enjoyed or liked, for whatever reason, and would take that thing away.

I’ve also been thinking about my emerging asexual/demisexual identity as of late, where it came from, and whether I’ve always just been this way.

The present hypothesis is that, yes, I have always been this way. My hypothesis acknowledges that the relevant events happened between twelve and fifteen years ago, and that memory is an imperfect reconstruction of past events.

There’s also the reality that my sexuality formed under hostile, repressive circumstances, so it’s possible that my resultant sexual identity is a product of emotional trauma and abuse, isolation, and cult-like psychological programming.

That being said, while I definitely experienced the Saturn V rocket-like explosion of male sex drive during my teenage years, I do not recall ever being sexually attracted to specific guys. I had crushes, yes, to varying levels of intensity, but I don’t remember wanting to do anything sexual with any male peers.

Was that because I was unconsciously suppressing those desires on account of the then-impossibility of realizing them? Perhaps. I was intelligent enough then to have done that. Yet while my peers (even the Christian ones) seemed preoccupied by their sexual impulses (and, naturally, the struggle to resist and remain “pure”), I was more aware of the absence of such impulses in myself.

Piano, writing, research, or literally anything else held more interest for me than sex.

For my male friends especially, the struggle to tame their sexual needs and desires seemed ever-present, something that created a mountain of anxiety for them. I, on the other hand, struggled with just the reality of being same-sex attracted rather than any specific desires.

Being gay was largely an abstract concept for me.

What I experienced in terms of desire for other men wasn’t even necessarily sexual. Even today, I don’t have sexual fantasies about guys. What I do have are emotional fantasies—imagining going on vacations with a partner, buying our first house together, brushing our teeth, curling up on the couch together under a blanket while rain patters on the window.

It’s more the desire for intimacy than it is for sex.

That’s the homoromantic aspect of my orientation.

However, I’ve also been thinking back over my experiences as a sexually active gay man, because over the course of just a few years, I did have a lot of sex. I’ve been thinking about what that meant, especially considering how emotionally unfulfilling and empty it was.

To use a metaphor, I felt a lot like Dharma and Jane when they pretended to be German tourists and were confronted by an actual German speaker.

When I was sexually active, I largely went through the motions, doing what I grew up doing in most social situations—mirroring behavior, and generally faking emotions without understanding what was going on.


At the time, I thought I was “discovering” my sexuality after years of repression. The discomfort I felt was internalized homophobia, I thought. Yet no matter how many guys I fucked, I didn’t feel any less confused or empty.

If anything, I actually felt resentful.

No automatic alt text available.

Wolf, Tikva. “Kimchi Cuddles.” Comic strip. 2014. http://kimchicuddles.com.

Reactions to my demi or asexuality have been interesting. There’s been a lot of Oh, I’ve felt that way before. I must be demisexual too.

Or: Are you sure I can’t convince you to give me a try?

Or: Your view of sex is just too traditional.

The notion of the absence of sexual attraction is apparently stymieing to many people. It’s the air they breathe, familiar and comfortable. Gay men especially seem to have a difficult time imagining life without being aroused by any hot or cute guy.

That’s one of my worries about dating again—finding a guy who:

  1. I manage to establish an emotional connection with that’s strong enough to move into sexual attraction;
  2. I find physically attractive;
  3. Is fine with not rushing into sex, and even waiting for me to determine if I’m attracted or not;
  4. Isn’t scared off by my crazy.

So yeah… I don’t know how this is supposed to work. Ultimately, my goal is to build a family of my own to make up for the one I didn’t have, but that doesn’t seem likely.

188. formidable


BeardsAuthor’s note: personal disclosures ahead that might make you feel slightly uncomfortable. You’ve been warned.

Boys are an odd bunch, especially once adolescence arrives and puberty starts wreaking havoc on their bodies. Comedian Eddie Izzard remarks in one of his shows, “… you think, God, I want to get off with some of these people, I’d better look my best. And then Mother Nature says, No, you will look the worst you’ve ever looked in your life!

This is especially true for boys, many of whom are rather gangly to begin with. But then the violent chaotic upheaval starts to resolve itself. There’s a lot of idealization of the male body that goes on amongst young men (of any sexual orientation) as they attempt to wrap their minds around what’s going on physically, particularly around muscular development. This has been true throughout human history for the guys with more muscular physiques. Women (and gay men) want them; other men want to be them.

There’s also a bizarre kind of fetishization that’s been present with men concerning facial and body hair since, well, forever. Allan Peterkin’s book One Thousand Beards: a cultural history of facial hair explores the historical record of attitudes and trends in facial hair throughout history, all the way back to depictions in cave paintings of men shaving.

My own relationship to facial and body hair growing up was rocky. I didn’t like my body very much as a teenager, which I suppose isn’t uncommon, though it seems most guys come to own their physiques at some point. They seem to exhibit a lack of shame when it comes to showing off what nature has bequeathed them, shucking shirts and pants without a second thought, either not caring who looks or basking in the attention they receive.

I was not crazy about getting hairier once puberty hit. For years I was painfully, neurotically self-conscious about this, always wearing jeans and long pants, and certainly never appearing without a shirt. Some of it had to do with not wanting to look like my dad, who is fairly hirsute himself. (Thanks, dad.) Some of it likely had to do with the anxiety from not reconciling to the fact that I was madly attracted to the developing (and increasingly sexy) teenage bodies of my male peers. For some reason I found (and still find) guys’ leg hair incredibly sexy.

Throughout high school and college I kept both my face and chest clean-shaven, which meant that I spent a lot of time doing what I later learned was called manscaping. That probably had to do with the kind of porn I was watching at the time and finding smooth guys most attractive.

It wasn’t until later in college that I began to accept my body hair, and that it might actually be an attractive feature. (Of course, I still wasn’t thinking in terms of other guys finding it sexy yet.) My first semester in college I learned about “no-shave November,” which provided an avenue of competition for the guys and a reason to complain for their girlfriends.

Several trumpet player friends of mine in college were obsessed with beards, facial hair, and in general all things manly. As far as I know, all of them were straight, but this helped move me more in favor of my own body hair. I even had a beard for most of college. There were frequent exclamations of: “Check out that guy’s beard!” or “Look at that his chops [sideburns]!”

Once I started having sex and discovered that guys found my being an otter both sexy and desirable, the more I liked how I looked that way. My first boyfriend enjoyed it when I didn’t shave my chest and encouraged me to let it grow. He was the one who introduced the term “otter” (gay slang for a skinnier, hairier guy) to me. My last boyfriend also liked that look on me, but frankly, longer that hair gets the itchier it becomes so I usually keep it neatly trimmed.

Again, boys are weird.

Yesterday afternoon I attended a Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra concert in Minneapolis. They were playing Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 4, Mozart’s Serenade No. 7, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. All in all, it wasn’t a remarkable performance, which one reviewer described as “lacking in passion” and urgency. I’d agree with that assessment.

It’s sad to say that probably the most satisfying part of the concert for me was watching one particularly handsome violist who I noticed almost immediately, partly because he was sitting next to the harpsichord during the Bach piece. (I’ll always be a keyboard nerd, no matter where the rest of my musical life goes.) I’m not sure what his name is since he was an auxiliary player, and the program didn’t specify which auxiliary violists were playing that afternoon. But he was very pretty to look at.

I’m not exactly sure what qualities made him so attractive. (My friend who was attending the concert with me also pointed him out.) It was hard to tell, but he looked to be on the shorter side, of slim build, slightly swarthy, and square-jawed. It certainly looked like he had some stubble on his face, which on the right guy is very irresistibly, devil-may-care sexy.

It’s hard to say what is attractive in another person. Some people have a “type” that they go for, or a list of qualities that they either want or can’t stand. While there are characteristics that tend to make a guy stand out more (it’s an evolutionary strategy for sorting out potential mates), for me it has more to do with their overall physical and mental attractiveness. A guy could be smoking hot but isn’t intellectually curious or interested in the arts. Conversely, he could have a great personality but I’m just not physically attracted to him…

I guess all I’m saying is that this whole business of finding a boyfriend/partner is a mess.