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.


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.

256. amaranthine

Apologies for the gap in posting. I’ve started so many drafts the last couple of weeks, and then a project or an emergency comes along, or I simply don’t have the energy to write, or I start something and then lose the train of thought.

A few months ago I started with a EMDR therapist, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.

The goal of EMDR is to reduce the long-lasting effects of distressing memories by developing more adaptive coping mechanisms. The therapy uses an eight-phase approach that includes having the patient recall distressing images while receiving one of several types of bilateral sensory input, such as side to side eye movements. EMDR was originally developed to treat adults with PTSD; however, it is also used to treat other conditions and children.

It’s supposed to be helpful for individuals who have experienced a trauma of some kind, and growing up gay in a fundamentalist household probably counts as some kind of traumatic event. My regular therapist suggested a course of sessions (typically 8-12 in number) after events in December made it clear that triggers from early childhood are really preventing me from moving forward.

The challenge is doing all of this while in school and working full-time. Good thing I’m not dating anyone right now, eh?

Speaking of dating, I’ve been keeping an eye on the calendar, and this Thursday will be three years since I broke up with Jay, my last boyfriend. Singleness is one thing I seem to be obsessed with at present. Although I’m bracing myself for the worst case scenario of never meeting anyone, whenever I encounter a nice guy there’s a part of me that still thinks, “Maybe this guy, somehow, is the one.”

Then, in the span of several minutes, I go through the entire process of imagining our life together until the inevitable realization or discovery that he’s hetero, not available, not suitable, or (the more likely scenario) not into me.

At heart, I’m still a relentless optimist and romantic.

It’s the quiet, intimate moments with another person that I’m envious of. I’ve observed many such moments with other couples, moments that come after years of knowing a person, of learning about their foibles and faults and loving them in spite of and for it.

Thinking back over my nine-month relationship with Jay, and with every other guy I’ve dated, I tried to feel or find those moments, but it always felt forced and unnatural, like I was in rehearsal and just not getting the truth of a scene.

The underlying fear I’m beginning to unpack in EMDR is this feeling of being dead inside. I know, that’s cliche. But at last session a few days ago, I talked about the sense of there being a firm dividing line on my birthday in 2011 between my life prior to that moment and life afterwards. It’s like the moment when a star collapses and a black hole forms.

The fear is that I’m a emotional singularity.

Growing up in a household that was judgmentally religious forced me to create a fortress of walls, retreating to and hiding at the center in order to survive. If I’d been any other kind of person, or lacked resiliency, I probably would’ve caved long ago and become just another fundamentalist Christian drone, obediently following the marching orders of my pastors and the Bible, and being a good citizen of the church and of Heaven.

As it is, I fought to keep those secret, private parts of myself, doing whatever necessary to stay alive and safe. I kept my desire for men, along with rational doubts about the faith I’d been handed, hidden.

It did not leave me without deep wounds and scars.

Now that I’ve been out for five years, I’m worried that my lifestyle of privacy and seclusion became something of a habit, one that may take a long time to unlearn, if ever. There’s safety in being reticent and reclusive. I can observe everyone safely from the parapets and ramparts without the risk of having to leave.

Trouble with security is that it’s  also very lonely.

The sense of feeling old at 33 is not so much about age as it is about being 33 at this point in my life, when I’m effectively starting over and having to learn how to be “human.” It’s a sense that if my development hadn’t been artificially suspended for 28 years by my parents and upbringing, I could be so much further along right now.

Perhaps I could’ve learned how to flirt and properly date; had a number of relationships that taught me what it is, realistically, what I want in a partner; and probably been with a decent spouse for a couple of years by now.

… that is, if I hadn’t been fucked up by my parents and their hateful religion that teaches people to think of themselves as evil and worthless unless they say the proper magic words to an imaginary friend who is always watching and taking notes for your permanent record to determine whether you’ll burn forever in Hell when you die.

It’s all so cosmically unfair because I never asked to be born in the first place, let alone to neo-Puritans who fear sexuality, sensuality, and true intellectual freedom.

I’d like to be able to see couples (male couples, especially) without feeling a surge of hatred, jealousy, and resentment.

I’d like to be able to truly believe that I’m loveable, worthy of love, and that I’m capable of both giving and receiving it.

I’d like to think that the gay male community (with exceptions) isn’t comprised of mostly lost boys (the Neverland variety, not the Kiefer Sutherland) while any decent guys paired off years ago.

As much as the resiliency that kept me going and alive keeps me hopeful (albeit cautiously), I can’t blind myself to the reality that the situation doesn’t look good. I can keep myself busy and productive, but it won’t render me any less lonely.

255. vicissitude

One man he disappoint me
He give me the gouge and he take my glee
Now every other man I see
Remind me of the one man who disappointed me
— Apple, F. (2005). Get him back. On Extraordinary machine [CD]. New York City: Epic Records.

Blue_candles_on_birthday_cakeHappy a month and a half into 2016, everyone!

So far this year has been incredibly busy with school and a new (temp) job that still isn’t in my career field but isn’t entirely horrible in its own right. That seems to be the theme of things at present: not ideal, but also doesn’t make me long for the inevitable and final release of death.

As far as a school update goes, after about a month and a half break I feel as if I’m finally getting back into the swing of things. I’ve stopped eating regularly and my sleep schedule is wacked out, but that’s the essence of grad school, right?

The things I’m working on are things that seem to finally matter, mainly because they feel connected to innate passions and talents of mine—not things that any gibbon could pick up and do for $11/hour. I get energized and excited about cataloging and archives, and concepts like metadata standards and schema. Information access is important in our world right now, especially as we’re trying to sift through more data than ever in our history, and we need clever people who can make sense of it all.

At least, enough for most people to find the information they need.

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. This fact did not escape me, nor did I forget. I simply chose not to acknowledge it. I did see an increasing number of memes on Facebook and Twitter that were trying to recontextualize it as a day to celebrate love of all kinds, including love for your friends and for yourself. That was nice.

Earlier this month I also turned 33, something I only reluctantly called attention to about five minutes after midnight on the day after my birthday, much to the consternation of friends who did remember and would like to observe it.

My decision for now is to stop calling it a birthday because my birth was something that merely happened, brought into a world that is no longer a part of who I am.

So this year I’ve decided to start calling it my Independence Day, because, as some of you may remember, it was five years ago that Seth dumped me on my 28th birthday… or whatever you call it when someone ends a one-sided friends-with-benefits relationship because they just met someone on a blind date and aren’t really sure where that’ll go, but they don’t see a future with you or a reason to continue giving you false hope anymore.

Happy birthday, indeed.

That was also the night I officially became an atheist. I won’t rehash the whole story, so if you’re new or need a refresher, go here. It’s a fun read, if you enjoy that sort of thing.

So the short of it is that I’d rather not observe that anymore. I need a different context, and reimagining that day as the anniversary of independence from my upbringing seems much more uplifting.

As Björk cries on Volta (2007): “Declare independence! Don’t let them do that to you!”

Since we’re on the subject of dates, it’s exactly one month and nine days to the three year anniversary of the end to my last (probably final) relationship with the narcissistic fibromyalgic. On March 24th, I’ll have been single three years, without crossing paths with any realistic romantic partners in that span.

And from today, it’ll be four months and ten days to the two-year anniversary of the last time I was actually on a date.

Probably the biggest fear right now is of being alone for the rest of my life, ending up one of those people who die alone in their apartments, their absence unmarked for months until their mummified remains are finally discovered one day.

Is that likely to happen to me? Probably not. But still.

What probably bothers me is that though I want a relationship, I still don’t what I’d do with one. The only concrete associations I can picture are having a (relatively) dependable plus-one for events, and a (relatively) reliable sexual partner. But I know there has to be more to it than that, because why else (besides social convention) would couples stay together for decades if it’s merely a glorified fuck buddy arrangement?

Frankly, I haven’t met anyone who I could conceive of spending virtually every day with for the next twenty years (well, at least anyone who could also feel that way about me) , and beyond. And I’m skeptical about the chances of meeting anyone in the Midwest.

Part of the difficulty is that, after almost seven-and-a-half years “out,” I’ve come to the realization that I’m a demisexual, as described here:

Demisexuals aren’t suppressing sexual desire; it’s simply not there until a bond is formed. They can’t look at a stranger and think, “Wow, I want to f*ck him”—while they might admire a person for his or her body, the urge to have sex isn’t there until an emotional attachment is formed. The deeper the bond, the hornier they are. It’s a simple matter of the heart leading the pelvis.

It isn’t that I don’t have sexual desire. It’s just not that important without an emotional connection present… which does not appear to be how most gay men around me are wired. They’re: A) sluts and proud of it; B) already coupled (with a 75% chance of being monogamish); or C) emotionally compatible but physically not my type.

The irony is that now I almost get reverse slut-shamed for not being promiscuous, as if that’s the default “gay” mode. And I did try it for a while, but it wasn’t me.

So I’m not sure where to go from here.

Ah well. Back to library homework, I guess.

220. tumultuary

PsychotherapyI started seeing a new therapist on Wednesday. It’s through the same agency as my last therapist, but it’s the woman I initially got connected to back in 2012 through the Secular Therapist Project. Apparently I was the first client to contact her through that site, but due to our schedules not quite aligning it didn’t work out the first time. She said she now has about a dozen clients who are recovering fundamentalists, which is really awesome.

She’s also a recovered, ex-Mormon, which in some ways is probably a harder thing to be than an Evangelical fundamentalist. From what I know of them, Mormon communities are much more tight-knit than most Christian communities. Your family is the core of your world. Leaving that behind can be truly catastrophic.

Our first meeting went well. There’s always a first-date quality to an initial session. What’s going on, what brings you to therapy, etc. Thankfully, I don’t have to explain why I am no longer a Christian. That part is always annoying.

One idea I’ve been exploring lately, that I brought up in the session, is that my childhood wasn’t nearly as awful as I remember it. That’s not to say that it wasn’t traumatizing in its own right, or that my parents didn’t have a hand in causing some of the damage. But I’ve been doing some revision.

So far, the narrative is that, as the first born of the three kids in my family, my parents were the hardest on me throughout my life and that this is why I’m currently so hard on myself. I’ve pictured my parents as slightly less psychotic versions of the iconic stage door mom or angry soccer dad.

The truth is more nuanced.

From what I can recall, and from some of the things my parents have admitted, this is partly true. As the first born, they were a little harder on me, at least at first. They freaked out more when things happened, and were probably harsher in scolding me when I did something wrong. Expectations had to be adjusted as my sisters were born and they learned from their experiences, and by the time I reached middle school age, they’d chilled out a lot – at least when it came to pushing us to achieve.

Something I hit upon while discussing this on Wednesday was the idea that, because my early childhood was much more intense, when my parents backed off I essentially became my own crazy soccer dad. When I made a mistake and they didn’t yell at me, I was screaming from the sidelines at myself, to pick myself up from the dirt, to quit being such a fucking loser, to stop being such a disappointment.

How this played itself out as I got older was that I drove myself to be the absolute best at everything. I was determined to be the youngest published author ever, so I worked like mad at becoming a great writer. I was determined to be the best at piano, so in addition to practicing long hours and refining my technique and musicality, I eliminated any possibility of sibling rivalry by dropping subtle hints to my younger sister (who was taking piano lessons with me at one point) that she wasn’t any good and should quit. Which she did.

When I got to college and majored in music composition, I would write late into the night, sacrificing sleep and often my health to become the best.

However, the truth is that no matter how hard I worked or what I achieved, I was never satisfied. No effort was ever good enough, no progress far enough. The more disappointed I became, the more I hated and loathed myself. Even my efforts to force myself to be straight failed, although i can’t say that I regret that one too much.

This is why I’m particularly unhappy about being single right now, because almost everyone else I know is coupled, and it feels as if I missed learning some life skill that came easily to everyone else. My housemates have been together twenty years, and married for the last sixteen. Another friend of mine is getting married next month and has been with his boyfriend for fourteen years.

My longest relationship is barely nine months, the last three of which I was waiting for the right moment to end it.

My current refrain is that no one wants a thirty-one-year-old gay man. Some have said that this is ageist; that thirty is the new twenty; that age only exists in the mind. In the past couple weeks, I’ve realized that this anxiety is less about being single and more about an acute awareness of how “behind” I am compared to most people I know. At thirty-one, it feels as if I’m truly starting over at a point when most of my friends are coming into their own.

Being raised a fundamentalist Christian did stunt my growth. Now that I’m out as both gay and as an atheist, I’m finally getting to a place where I can begin to grow. It’s just difficult to do that while my friends are so much further ahead in their personal lives and careers.

On the surface, just as I fear being looked down upon for not driving a nice (i.e., adult) car, I worry about being viewed as less-than by those around me. Intellectually, I know this isn’t true; that everyone struggles with the grass-is-greener mentality. However, I do seemingly lack an internal locus of reference for my identity and sense of self-worth that most people develop in their formative years. So if I perceive someone as doing “better” than me, it means that I have nothing, that I’m an abject failure. If I am rejected, it’s because I’m worthless. Are these thoughts rational? No. But it’s what I feel. And depression is an illness of the emotions.

So what to do? Well, getting a handle on my depression seems the first step…

175. hellion

MrMrGoing into Monday after a hectic weekend is never a great way to start the week.

This Saturday I was the best man in my friends Beckie and Mike’s wedding. Overall, it was one of the more low-key affairs I’ve attended and been a part of. It was maybe ten minutes long. The bride wore blue (almost TARDIS blue!), her brother officiated, and the wedding processionals were both songs by Christina Aguilera that I arranged for two violins.

The reception was also low-key and started about an hour after the wedding, with an open bar and beautiful weather for sitting outside while we waited. Per tradition, I delivered the opening toast, which ended up being a two-and-a-half page essay that included mentions of the United Nations, evolutionary biology, and an excerpt from The Little Prince (which I’ve quoted on this blog once before). Surprisingly, it was relatively well-received, and the bride has even titled her Facebook photo album from the wedding “The United Nations of Mike and Beckie’s Wedding”!

It was also an emotionally difficult weekend for me to get through, partly because it came barely a month after Jason and I broke up (the bachelor party happened the week of the breakup), and almost everyone was there with their spouses or significant others. Aside from me and the maid of honor, everyone there in the wedding party was coupled. Even the one bridesman was there with his boyfriend Roy, who took all of the wedding photos. So I was constantly being reminded there of how single I am, and of how incompatible I am with most gay men my age, so I came away feeling less confident that I’ll ever find a guy to marry.

Eager to get away to get some emotional room (and so that the middle-aged women wouldn’t keep trying to make me dance with single girls—apparently they didn’t understand what “gay” means), I left the reception early to visit a friend of mine. He’d texted me earlier that evening that only eight people had come to his birthday party, and his husband was out of town, and I needed some cheering up too so it was rather perfectly timed for both of us. I ended up feeling much better for the visit, and we had a great conversation that got me thinking about the qualities I want in a future husband, which I’ll write more about later.

Another element that made the wedding weekend difficult was running into the last person I was expecting or wanting to see—Seth, the guy who broke my heart on my birthday in 2011. Last Wednesday I was attending an LGBT networking event at a local restaurant where Seth is apparently a bartender there—a fact that nobody thought to mention to me. I arrived at the place, and was saying my hellos and ordering a drink when I heard someone say my name. I turned around, and there he was, looking sheepish and slightly surprised himself. I’m not sure what the hell possessed him to speak to me when I’ve made it clear that I want nothing to do with him. Probably the same thoughtlessness that allowed him to intentionally ignore the fact that he knew I was in love with him so that he could keep having sex with me. (Very convenient for him. Not so much for me.)

It was an inevitable moment that I’d been dreading. For its size, the Twin Cities is a relatively small place; and for the gay community, it’s an even smaller world. So that he and I would run into each other, or even possibly date some of the same people, was bound to happen.

My reaction to seeing Seth there was to respond with a curt, “Ah,” quickly turn away, and pretend I’d barely noticed him. It was the same tone I’d used when seeing him a few weeks after my birthday in 2011, when I’d snarled “What the fuck are you doing here?” at him.

I spent the evening ignoring him, which was difficult as he was behind the bar for most of it, often chatting with some of the cuter guys at the event. I found myself wondering how many of their numbers he’d managed to get, and how many of them he’d be fucking soon. Part of me found my jealousy after over two years ridiculous and hilarious, but his presence there made it difficult to concentrate or even think.

When the event started to wind up, I closed my tab and left as quickly as possible. I was about halfway home and at Starbucks when I realized that in my haste I’d left my card. Fortunately, I had my tablet with my Wallet app on it, so I was able to pay for my beverage; but it did mean I’d have to go back. When I got there Seth was on the phone. I walked past him to find someone to ask about my card and was waiting for about a minute to talk to another bartender when Seth walked up with my card and handed it back to me, saying quietly, “Here you go, David.” I had the twin impulses to say something snide and cruel in response, but also to get as far away from him as possible. So I hissed a “thank you,” and virtually ran back to my car.

So that was the Wednesday before the wedding, when I was already feeling lonely and undesirable, and there was Seth, looking handsome and charming as ever.

The theme of my romantic life is that I can never fall in love with anyone who is able to love me in return, and vice versa. And seeing him last week when I was feeling single, miserable and pathetic was another cruel irony of coincidence.

All that loving must’ve been lacking something
if I got bored trying to figure you out.
You let me down. I don’t even like you anymore at all.
– Fiona Apple


174. flashforward

separate waysSo it’s been a rather eventful last couple of weeks for me personally since last I wrote regularly.

My creative nonfiction class is over, and my writing project is slowly starting to emerge from the star nursery of invention. I’m gradually starting to put bits and pieces of my history together as more memories emerge from my childhood and young adult years that I forgot about. So it’s been a useful process.

Many of those memories I buried because they were too unpleasant and turbulent to think about, but it’s good to revisit them now as an adult, with a broader and more knowing perspective. The ultimate goal is to develop about fourteen essays on the themes of survival, acceptance, all around the dual journeys of coming out gay and atheist. From various reactions so far it sounds like a marketable story, but who knows.

Hell, who knows if I’m even good enough of a writer to tackle it…

The other big piece of news is that, as of a month ago today, I’m a single man again. This last relationship lasted for just about eight months. I’m feeling good about the split overall. It was the right decision and call to make, but it was still hard, and I’ve still felt like shit over it.

There were a couple of challenges to the relationship to begin with. One, he lives about an hour north of the Twin Cities, and for most of our relationship he didn’t have a car so every weekend I drove up to see him. He did get a car a few months before we broke up, but there was something wrong with the brakes or something and he didn’t feel safe driving it.

Another challenge was fibromyalgia. In case you’re not familiar, fibromyalgia is widespread chronic pain that’s usually accompanied by fatigue, trouble sleeping, and joint stiffness. During the summer when he was able to spend time outside he was mostly fine, but when any kind of weather shift happened he’d be knocked out flat. So once winter came along he was in a rough state.

As Esther Perel says in the TED Talk below, “There is no caretaking in desire. Caretaking is . . . a powerful anti-aphrodisiac. I have yet to see somebody who is so turned on by somebody who needs them. Wanting them is one thing. Needing them is a shutdown.”

I enjoy how she summarized responses she got from people talking about their lovers: “I am most drawn to my partner when I see him in the studio; when she is onstage; when he is in his element; when she’s doing something she’s passionate about; when I see him at a party and other people are really drawn to him; when I see her hold court. Basically, when I look at my partner radiant and confident, [it’s] probably the biggest turn-on across the board.”

With Jay, I so rarely got to see him in his element, or see him passionate about anything. When he was passionate, it was about sustainability or something that had to do with the outdoors or systems thinking. Which is great, but not something that got me excited.

Once we started getting serious, he started talking about marriage and moving in together. (Mind you, this is after about four months. Big red flag.) I was on the fence about whether or not I was ready to commit, but given my attachment issues, I wanted to give our relationship a chance and see if the feelings followed. (They didn’t.) My mistake was not being more honest about that.

When we talked about where we wanted to live, the primary factor he was considering was staying out of the urban circle of the Cities – as close to rural as possible. Since he was the one with fibromyalgia, his needs apparently outweighed mine. His argument was that since I plan to be a writer, I could work from anywhere.

A couple months later he was talking about moving to a dryer, warmer climate. I said that I wasn’t too keen on moving to the middle of nowhere, as it’s in the middle of nowhere and far from culture and resources. He dismissed that, saying that I need to be less reliant on stores and start growing my own food, and that I don’t need culture as much as I think I do.


So I was initially attracted to Jay because of his passion for the environment and the fact that he’s an unabashed nerd and a Whovian, like I am. And he’s an attractive guy. But the more our relationship progressed, the less we really seemed to have in common. There was also the fact that he never really wanted to do anything with my friends, or meet the people in my life who are important to me, even though I’d met most of his friends and family.

My biggest regret is letting it go on for as long as it did, and not listening to myself that it wasn’t the right relationship for either of us. Truth be told, I was afraid of being single again, because this time I’d be single, gay, and thirty. And I didn’t want to be alone.

What it comes down to for me is less about age, and more about the fact that I don’t feel desirable. I feel awkward, crippled by my fundamentalist Christian upbringing, mangled by my inability to flirt with guys I like, and hugely undermined by my brain, which usually makes me feel old and weird around the guys I’ve dated. In reality, they’re probably just not very interesting and consequently not right for me.

I also feel like a failure for still being single at my age. Most of my friends are paired off, and have been with their partners for years. So I wonder what’s wrong with me that I haven’t found someone.

Truth is, I’m just not good with uncertainty. Or being alone with myself.

143. levigate

Tonight I just feel like bitching, friends. Sorry for the break in usual programming. I’m just suddenly incredibly sad and discouraged. Time for anti-depressants and major therapy, because this isn’t working.

As many of you know, I’ve been following through on my resolve to end my single status this year because I’m tired of complaining about being single, and so is everyone else in my life. So I’ve been going on more dates, which has ended in my being crushed over and over again.

This past week I’ve been emailing with a guy from OkCupid who messaged me expressing interest. From what we were saying we seemed to have a lot in common and similar goals in what we were looking for. He had a busy week, as did I, and this weekend he had a wedding to go so we set a date for Tuesday evening to meet. We’ve been emailing back and forth in the meantime, sharing a more but not too much in the event that.

Tonight I got an email from him saying that he’d read through my blog (I’d shared the address with him yesterday) and didn’t think that we’d be a good match. I emailed back a little while ago asking if there was any particular reason, because I’m genuinely interested in what about me doesn’t work for people, or if there’s something that I do that makes getting to know me or seeing potential in us as a couple prohibitive. You can’t fix what you’re doing wrong if you don’t know what you’re doing wrong.

He emailed back just now to say that from what he read he thinks that there’s too much still to work through about Seth, that I seem angry about it, and that it’s not fair to him to be dating him while that ghost is still hanging around. Which is a valid point, which is why I really need to go through therapy (only problem being that I’m fucking broke, uninsured, and can’t afford that kind of treatment).

He also accused me of being ageist, which is probably also valid. But why am I so terrified of being single at 29? Because I’m 29 and I’ve never been in a serious relationship. Period. Because I already don’t see myself as valuable. I’m already terrified that nobody wants me as a person, that there’s nothing intrinsically worthwhile about me, that I’m an oddity that no one knows what to do with, and that I’m damaged goods. And I’m terrified of the future, because experience has taught me thus far that everyone only sees me as a friend or a fuck buddy, and nobody wants me as a partner. I’m the fucking best friend who sees everyone else married off and happy. I’m a trope.

As I was driving home, I thought a little more about it. Why am I terrified of being single at 29? Because I’ve never felt loved in my entire life, and every day that goes by the hope that I’ll ever learn to love someone gets dimmer and dimmer. I never felt loved by my parents growing up, and there was really no one else in my early life who I had close relationships with besides my family. My younger sister and I were homeschooled until the 10th grade so our world was incredibly insular.

My parents have pointed out all of the things that they did that showed their love for me: things like coming to pick me up in sub-zero weather when my car died on 35W in the middle of the night, coming to all of my shows (even the ones they didn’t like), and not rejecting me when they found out I was gay. But those things don’t communicate love for me. They’re just nice things you do for each other because that’s how we evolved as a social primate species. Otherwise the world would go to hell pretty quickly.

People say that I need to let them love me. Truth is, I don’t know what love feels like. My personality is so fractured from the different people I have to be in different settings that I don’t even know who it is that they’re trying to love. Love for me is like the affection that you feel for a pet.

In the end, I can’t deny that his assessment is valid. He’s right. I’m a toxic mess, and it’s wrong to inflict that on someone. I don’t blame him for running for the hills, and it’s my own goddamned fault for over-sharing. I shouldn’t have shown him my blog right away, not until he got to know me better. Lesson learned. And maybe I do deal with things too publicly, which isn’t fair to people who don’t know that they’re being discussed out in the open like this. It’s one thing for me to do with that with my own life: it’s another to do it with someone else’s.

And he’s right about Seth. To quote the ever-prescient Fiona Apple, “I can’t help you out while she’s still around” (I know). I just don’t know how to get him out of my system 100%. I let him in on the fool’s hope that he could love me and he couldn’t. It was so easy falling in love, but how do you fall out of love? And that’s what always happens, I guess. Did I even truly love him, or was it just me wanting the idea of him?

It’s not that I’m disappointed that I was turned down, or that I was even attached since we’d never even met. It’s more that this possibility went to sod before it even had a chance to seed; that it always goes like this; that guys get interested and then decide that I’m a mess they don’t want to clean up (Paper Bag).

So what am I looking for? Someone to rescue me, I guess, because I haven’t a fucking clue how to save myself.

123. cordate

Tree on firecordate, adj1. Heart-shaped; 2. (Botany) heart-shaped, with the attachment at the notched end.

it may not always be so; and i say
that if your lips, which i have loved, should touch
another’s, and your dear strong fingers clutch
his heart, as mine in time not far away;
if on another’s face your sweet hair lay
in such silence as i know, or such
great writhing words as, uttering overmuch,
stand helplessly before the spirit at bay;

if this should be, i say if this should be–
you of my heart, send me a little word;
that i may go unto him, and take his hands,
saying, Accept all happiness from me.
Then shall i turn my face and hear one bird
sing terribly afar in the lost lands
— e.e. cummings, Sonnets-Unrealities XI

On the subject of love lost, regrets and things that I should let go of, this is probably the one thing that the people in my life would most like to see me get over, as they are likely tired of both hearing and reading about it. I’m tired of dredging it up so often, and of it seemingly dominating everything.

Two years ago to the day, I was waking up with Seth, something I never would’ve thought happened. It was shortly after we first met for coffee, and I was rather taken with him and wanted to spend more time with him. So I went over to his apartment on February 13th with the intention of watching Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain, which he hadn’t seen. For some reason I couldn’t find it in my bag (I later found it buried behind something), but I’d brought the DVD of John Doyle’s 2007 revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Company. I ended up spending the night, we ended up making out until about 5am.

That was the first and only time I ever woke up with someone on Valentine’s Day. It’ll probably be the only time that I ever do that.

Yes, Valentine’s Day is a corporate marketing ploy. It’s empty ritual and shamelessly overt commercialism couched in gaudy romantic sheep’s clothing.

As a homeschooled kid growing up, we didn’t do Valentine’s Day. Sure, my mom baked cookies (but then my mom always baked cookies), and I still have a fondness for that pink icing that was slightly crispy on top and still moist the rest of the way, like a good crème brûlée. But unlike the rest of the kids who went to public school, my sisters and I never partook in the ritual of exchanging cards.

I think I’m afraid to let go of what’s left of my feelings for Seth, even though nothing will ever come of them and it’s a waste of energy. He’s a great guy, and he has a lot of great qualities (which is why I fell in love with him in the first place), but emotionally speaking it’s a dead end.

I’m afraid that I’ll never feel anything like that ever again, and thus far I haven’t. There have been people who have fallen in love with me, but it wasn’t reciprocal. Aaron, my first boyfriend, was crushed when I ended our relationship. In a way, the fiasco with Seth was somewhat karmic, although it’s probably just an inevitability of dating that you’re going to hurt people and be hurt in return.

I’m afraid that if I let go of Seth altogether that there will be no one to fall back on; that there is truly no one out there for me. The thought of that is unbearable, because my dating prospects have been disappointing thus far. The thought of waking up alone every morning, let alone on Valentine’s Day, with the memory of that one day, that one chance I ever had at something like that, is too awful to think about.

A relationship with another human being seems like the one thing that actually matters in life, aside from leaving an enduring legacy. We’re here for the blink of an eye geologically speaking, and then that’s it. No second chances. No great hereafter. No life everlasting. This is one of the major reasons why I finally chose to come out as gay, because I suddenly realized that life was too damned short to surrender my happiness to others.

Yet here I am doing just that with Seth—surrendering what could have potentially been a happy year to basically emotionally freeze myself in carbonite. However, I’m not sure that the alternative would be much better.

To be perfectly honest, I hate myself. Not some kind of stereotypical gay self-loathing or residual homophobic. It’s hard to explain, but it has to do with never feeling good enough to please myself, which means that I’m not good enough for other people, which has largely to do with the complete lack of acceptance that I felt as a child growing up. I’ve always felt like a contractor, trying to impress clients in order to keep their accounts—in this instance, people’s friendship, and that at any time they could find a better deal from the next guy. In the case of a boyfriend, the stakes are even higher.

And we all know that I don’t deal well with rejection. As a kid with extremely judgmental parents, I tend to take it personally.

So I’m a bit lost. I need to learn to love and accept myself, flaws and all—but how to do that when I can’t see my own face and don’t trust the mirrors that others hold up to me? And I need a guy who won’t give up until he’s convinced me that he truly loves me and isn’t going anywhere. Most of the guys I’ve dated over the last few years have left me feeling like that will never happen. And though I never dated Seth, of all of the guys he was the one who left me feeling the most undesirable and unlovable.

But I haven’t found anyone yet to take his place.

108. facades

It’s a bit frustrating to be nearly thirty years old and basically starting over in life. It’s true that there’s no check list for where you “should be” by such-and-such an age, but when you suddenly find yourself basically set back at square one after over a quarter century of heading down one particular path, it’s rather disheartening.

True, it could always be worse.

It also doesn’t help being nearly thirty, still being single and watching your friends who are five years younger than you finding their “soul mates” (hell, even writing that word brings the taste of bile to my mouth), getting married and having kids. Yes, I know enough about their personal lives to know that it’s no walk in the park and there’s nothing perfect about it (especially once children enter the picture), but still, it’s got to better than single life. And for a single gay man, the older you get the more you start to feel like a carton of milk in the fridge with a rapidly-approaching expiration date.

Last night I saw the movie Bridesmaids for the first time. I rather expected it to be a female version of The Hangover, with estrogen instead testosterone-induced idiocy. What I saw instead was a film about a single woman hitting rock bottom while surrounded by people who had seemed to have everything she was looking for. Of course, as dig you find that everyone is a mess: the gorgeous housewife is beleaguered by three teenage sons and a horndog of a husband; the sweet, seemingly innocent newlywed isn’t getting laid nearly enough; the Barbie doll socialite has two stepchildren who (understandably) hate her, and her husband is always travelling. Melissa McCarthy’s character is the only one who seems to have it together, despite all of her… eccentricities. And it’s true. If you look closely enough, everyone is more or less barely keeping it together.

I can also relate to dating guy after guy who inevitably disappoints, and to having a fuck buddy who, despite your better judgement, you keep going back to because of how lonely you are; who is just using you for sex under the notion that you’re both adults having fun, no strings attached (though he secretly knows what’s going on but still takes advantage of you). I’ve even had that conversation at the top of the film, where she assures him that of course it doesn’t mean anything, we’re just having fun—even though she’s dying inside.

When (like Kristen Wiig’s character) you’re constantly surrounded by seemingly successful people, constantly reminded by their lives of how far you are from where you want to be, it’s pretty demoralizing. I can’t even count how many weddings/wedding receptions where I’ve been asked the inevitable, perennial question, “So, are you here with anyone?” Or, “Oh, hi, you must be David’s girlfriend!”, only to have to backpedal and explain that not only do I not even know this girl but that I’m also gay. (“No, grandma, I like cock.”) Once I even had to explain that the girl I was with was my younger sister, not my wife.

No joke.

So I’m less than a few weeks away from my twenty-ninth birthday (which, for those of you who are curious, I won’t be observing again, for one glaring reason). Every year since I’ve come out, I’ve made the resolution that this will be the year I buckle down to the business of finding a boyfriend, a partner. Because I’m nearly thirty, not getting any younger, and the older you get the more impossible it seems for a gay man to find a permanent, lasting relationship with a decent guy. And I’ll be damned if I’m one of those pathetic forty- or fifty-year-old men who are still sleeping around like some bloody twentysomething.

It’s brought up the question the past few months of what sort of guy I should date—and specifically, whether I should date someone of faith. It could be any religion, but (for example) a few months ago I was dating a Christian guy. He was fairly liberal in his views, but there were a number of things that irked me about him intellectually to the point where a relationship was untenable. Then his father was diagnosed with cancer. It wasn’t terminal, but he was hurt that I wouldn’t pray for him. What was I supposed to say? I don’t think that things turn out for the best, or that there’s a plan for each of us. I believe that things happen, and we’re each of us caught in the inexorable clutches of time and chance. It’s not a comforting thought, but that’s reality, and I’ve always been one of those that liked to know how things are, devoid of the illusions of comfort and cozy half-truths, like the guy in a Western who’s been shot and blearily slurs, “Give it to me straight, Doc.”

And, assuming that he wants kids, how would we raise them? No doubt he’d want to take them to church on more than a bi-yearly basis, whereas I’d be for a secular upbringing—the upbringing I wish I’d had. While I don’t want to be my parents and bring them up in a vacuum, at what point do you draw the line? Do you turn Sunday morning into a cultural field trip, exploring synagogues, Hindu and Buddhist temples, Protestant and Catholic churches? And how to reconcile that one parent believes in absolute truth whereas the other parent believes faith is patent nonsense?

Then there are things like end-of-life. I support euthanasia (we consider it “humane” to put down dying animals that are suffering), whereas he’ll likely believe that god alone has the right to determine life and death.

However, so much of it will likely come down to chemistry and whether or not we love each other, but I would like to be with a guy with whom I share views, because you do look at the world differently as a non-theist.