Dating Entertainment

Life taught me early that existence was being in a state of constant heartbreak.  Abandonment became engrained in middle school when everyone began pairing-off to experimenting with relationship dynamics, leaving me feeling alone.  The domesticity templates of Jodie Dallas and Ellen demonstrated life would never consist of a cozy bubble with another; only longing.  Jodie Dallas was perpetually single, and Ellen’s relationship was full of bickering.  Will Graham, Will & Grace, was single through the majority of the show’s run, having serious relationships after the show found success.  The domesticity on Will & Grace was not perfection, but the characters created a bubble of playing house.  These were not perfect reflections of what I wanted, which was the rom-com-styles of How to Marry a Millionaire, 13 Going on 30, What’s Your Number?, and Sex & the City.  I wanted to emulate the relationships by running errands, sharing chores, and cooking together.  Shared calendars and outings would dictate our existence.  It would be teamwork and comradery.

Throughout high school and undergrad, I exchanged emails and messages more with middle-aged adults but felt that their eagerness to meet only reinforced my Jodie Dallas induced greatest fears.  Still, though, I quickly accepted an adult’s invitation to meet.  Older men had seemed like the best possibility of exciting juvenile antics like in Queer as Folk or big Sex & the City glamor of theatre and art openings.  What I found instead was sneaking off to funhouse mirror of the backwoods and trailer parks.  I was an adolescent playing adult, attempting to stay out past bedtime by hanging with those without a bedtime.

Freshmen year of college, relationships were fleeting but sex was not.  Sexual encounters were often furious and fleeting, held in others’ dorm rooms while their roommates were away, or secluded areas within lecture halls late/early mornings.  The relationship that I had dreamt of, had hoped for during the college experience, eluded me.  I was good enough for a lay, but not to spend time with.  I looked away from the campus to familiar older gay males, hoping they’d be more worldly and attractive than when I lived at home.  Jodie Dallas’ specter faded from the peripheral of my concept of homosexuality.  Rather than the big city experiences that I had expected, from Sex & the City and Queer as Folk, I reversed course and escaped the dorms for ticky-tacky Connecticut suburbs.  The men that I hung movie and TV inspired fantasies on, whom I went home with, would close their curtains, citing a need for privacy.  Behind closed curtains I gained experiences where I came to see “privacy” as a bent mirror to my rejection of the homosexual label. They were adults trapped in adolescence, attempting to stay past their prime by hanging with the freshly prime.

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Unlearning Groups

When I left undergrad to “romantically” be with my first boyfriend, I did it because it was a dramatic and interesting move.  To me it made me as worldly and spontaneous as my college friends.  After that and the rest of my twenties, I un-learned the group mentality.  I wondered what about who I was that was unacceptable.  I separated myself into different baubles, guised with adjective-derived masks to fit in, which denied myself a confidante.  Because I was scared that if I shared my real fears, secrets, and thoughts, with anyone they’d not like me – and that there is no possibility for repair. I imitated others’ expectations, hoping to be included, itself predicated upon adopting various skins that brought me affection and attention.  My not being seen combined created a spiral of neglect bound with being loved.  I had observed my peers and saw what I wasn’t. Growing up, I was bombarded with the norms you’re transgressing, or will come to transgress. Passing and normalizing have great benefits in day-to-day ease of life—what they meant for my spirit was an entirely different issue, of course.  Compliance allowed me to go unseen

I felt punishment was warranted. Over time I learned to express feelings and practice self-compassion, by putting a strong spotlight on the dried and cracking leather hid of my baggage.  I embraced my uniqueness – shown self without a mask.

 

Identity in Separate Baubles [2018.02]

1/25

Beginning when I was 9 years old AIDS entered my consciousness, gleamed from celebrity deaths, bringing the original facts I had about homosexuality to me.   I learned of the need to doctor acceptable variations of myself, deferring to others to avoid insult and derision.  Receding behind partners’ goals I built up their hopes, while exploring how to play with the truth, creating narcissistic chaos that ultimately resulted in implosion.

I was diagnosed with HIV on 1/25; Marvel Comics had published the death of the human torch.  And I was single.  I had contracted HIV after a break-up, and I indulged in work and play.  Numbed myself with drugs and experimentation.  I made a few poor choices.  In relationship of my youth I was a chaos creator, which resulted in me contradicting HIV.  The behavior was me shouting, Don’t act as if I was just something you accidentally stepped into.

When my ex eventually learned of my HIV-status in February 2011, a month after I did, I was told that ultimately, he felt betrayed.  As the summer of 2011 rolled in and out my ex’s cowardice told me he was unsure of being with someone with HIV, with me, because he didn’t want to catch HIV.

What’s horrible about dating with HIV is friends who set up – in their infinite kindness – forget that I have HIV.  The friends don’t anticipate the nerves that come with offline dating and having to revel status of a person that is liked and hopes like back.  If they do like back who is to say the HIV isn’t a deal-breaker?

My high school façade was designed for survival

In high school, I didn’t go to parties because I wasn’t invited.  If kids were doing drugs and drinking it wasn’t with me because no one asked.  Popular was the jocks or musicians because they got all the attention; and paid attention to all the girls, and not to.

My high school façade was designed for survival, leaning heavily on the cartoonish geek persona from middle school.  The comic books that had sheltered me in middle school became the defining trait in high school.  The differences I had from other boys was easily masked by the label “geek.”  I welcomed being considered a geek because it allowed me to avoid being ostracized as a “sissy.”  While this got me socially accepted, it limited the depth of my character.  I allowed peers to dictate my identity and silence my own interests. I strived to fit-in but gained attention because the adjectives that allowed me to nonchalantly shift cliques fixed a spotlight on me, and the impending question about my outsider status.

I knew acceptance wasn’t me being made into a token, but I sabotaged acceptance by defensively rejecting labels.  Instead my rejection came from refusing my own skin, which was rooted in the denial that was needed in high school to survive.

In high school I met Luna, an openly butch lesbian.  We ended up meeting over Erykah Badu, Live, in Freshman English.  I do not know what Luna’s true feelings were towards me, but our friendship was one sided.

Luna seemed embarrassed by me and our friendship.  She aligned herself with me while in school, but when it came to life outside of high school she dissuaded me from participating in the same, and only, local gay youth group.  The handful of times that I asked Luna what happened at the meetings, she told me they talked about what was going on and their problems.  When I followed-up with inquiries to go, Luna told me that I would hate them and that they weren’t filled with my people.  Luna was confident in her identity, her labels – similarly to those in the youth group who had already presented to their parents – gave them the bravery to confront the world that I lacked.

After asking Luna those handful of times to participate, I got the hint that I was not welcomed into that part of her world.  I could not discern what it about myself that kept me from being acceptable for a youth group targeted at my group.  I had made my friendship wholly unconditional and fully.  It was when I discovered the usage of the internet and Gay.com as linkage to fellow young gays, was I able to comprehend why.

The homosexual teenagers I conversed with through the internet, just as the youths in the gay youth group, had an acceptable idea gay youth: Bruce la Bruce models.  Repeatedly from the other teens, who lied that they were 18 as well for access, I was not an acceptable because of comic books.  The geek façade that protected me in the halls of school isolated me from the homosexual community because I didn’t appear to fawn over pop-idols as porn stars.

David is maddeningly confused

David is maddeningly confused.

David says has been spending evenings with Ex, who spontaneously stopped by. I only know Ex came-by since I sent David a text at about 3:30PM, when I was certain he’d be off his double shift. He was still working because he changed shifts. So, I asked what he did last night, even though I had already surmised the answer through a gut instinct. David, to his credit, was very upfront. Since I know the answer about what he’s doing and with whom, I wonder if I should even ask. See what he says if he even rings up being with the Ex. it’s not to trip him up because I believe already have made up my mind, but I won’t ask because it’s none of my business. If what David has said about the ex than what does it say about what David wants if he’s undecided about being with Ex. If it’s me vs. a club/drugged-out/abuser, that David must choose between, I can make that decision for him – by removing myself as an option. Should we had progressed, I wasn’t going to go forward having the thought that I was picked because Ex had changed their mind. I won’t think of myself as second choice.

I’m more disappointed that I couldn’t regain a sense of hope in dating, or the future. I wanted something to show that the risk was worth the benefits. I didn’t expect forever but something that shows I can date. What I got was wondering what is so wrong with me that an ex is appealing? I return to the old idea from when I was in high school – back from when I was 16 – that I’ll be journeying through adulthood alone. I always had a belief I would be perpetually single and alone.

When I was younger I’d hide my singlehood with the declaration I was too unique for a match. A wild horse. Any metaphor that makes me the gypsy or vagabond. A person living by the wind.

I’m mad that this David-experience feels like a repeat of my youth – guys would always choose their ex or another (such as their crush) over me. While true time has not decided who he shall choose I have a suspicion he will select Ex. I thought David was a different caliber of guy I was used to, but he’s the same.

In middle school, ‘gay’ was a pejorative

Playgrounds, as evolutionary survival, teach the necessary fact that it is important to be like everyone else, to find acceptance into the group dynamic.  From pre-historic to ancient-times, and beyond, avoiding being ostracized meant avoiding death.  This evolutionary hold-over pushed stagnation in the formation of an authentic identity from others, keeping interests, past-times, and loves from friends and families.  Unsurprisingly, children are acutely aware of the differences amongst each other, particularly when there’s one who doesn’t participate in the same activities and games.

Feeling distant from classmates and peers, particularly the boys, began in elementary school when I wasn’t naturally inclined to want to participate in the same games and activities.  While I could rough house and play with the best of them, my over-exuberance must’ve rung inauthentic to those around me.  The thing I had that other boys did not have was my father’s Playboy magazines, which he kept openly in the living room on the end table near where he sat.  The other boys would accept invitations to play or have sleep-overs in the living room, allowing free perusal of the Playboys.  They were in awe that the nudity was on display so openly.  I explained that my parents thought it was better to see healthy relationships than to see violence as natural solutions; when I turned thirteen I still hadn’t seen Terminator 2: Judgement Day, but had seen 9 & ½ Weeks.

Middle school was a complicated time – while other boys discovered girls, I had no interest in them.  What I found more appealing were the boys, who became the subject of fantasy and infatuation.  In middle school. there were no boys to roleplay intimacy or boundaries; everyone’s burgeoning masculinity was too fragile.  Other students’ sexual exploration didn’t have many venturing far from home, but my search had me travelling far into the realm of gay-other, which at that time was predominately found in the character Jodie Dallas, from Soap reruns on Comedy Central.  Jodie Dallas was ridiculed and dismissed every time he came out.  He was a sad sack that never was taken seriously by his family, and was unable to find happiness with another person that was similar, whom to divulge his thoughts and feelings to.  Jodie was constantly alone, single, and friendless because homosexuality separated him from his family.  This was a typical portrayal of homosexuality in the early & mid-1990s, and Soap was from the late 1970s.

In middle school, ‘gay’ was a pejorative for ‘stupid,’ ‘sissy,’ ‘girly,’ or ‘less than.’  With group acceptance as the primary goal being labeled the outsider was unacceptable, so I steered far from the homosexual labels.  I was intimidated.  I wasn’t ready to be placed in any box, let alone the wrong one.  kept any suspicious ‘gay’ buried through comic books.  A lack of interest in sports was chalked up to geek, safely hiding within the group.  I ignored the adventure of exploring a gay identity, and embraced the descriptions that avoided me being ostracized into the group with the more flamboyant homosexual boys – the ones labeled “sissy.”  So, when a girl asked me to be their boyfriend I said yes, lacking the vocabulary and experiences to know that it would be an ill-fit.  I withdrew and couldn’t muster the interest to mimic boyfriends I saw modeled on TV, and waited for the inevitable implosion.  When she did call to break-up I didn’t feel relieved, or even numb – I simply went about my afternoon watching cartoons.

Me vs. His Ex

By the Wednesday after my birthday, David reported that his ex is asking to take him back, and David tells me he is confused because the ex has had since May to ask him back, and he doesn’t know what to do.  They had been together for four years and even been engaged.  Apparently, David’s ex heard that he was talking to someone (that’s me).  From what David’s described was not a pleasurable experience, and was so bad he had to sell the home he had owned where his children grew up.  It was a borderline abusive relationship, with the Ex taking financial advantage of him.

David surprised me with a text reading, It was your birthday last week, and then asked if I wanted company.  I stated Yes.  Who was I to turn down an additional date that week, to the planned Friday to Saturday of the next night.  We had planned on me bringing my computer over and watching Patty Cake$.

That whole evening, as we sat on my couch, with David’s head on my shoulder I kept thinking David was just comparing experiences; Me vs. His Ex.

The biggest let-down is that for all the Ex’s biggest flaws they’re still not so grievous as to give David pause.

While I was unsure of the future, I was hoping I’d see that I can put myself out there and not be damaged.  A break-up or fizzle-out because of a miss-match I could handle, but not David’s unintentional douchery.

The next morning, I asked David if he wanted me to bring my computer over for a movie, like we had planned earlier.  David said that he couldn’t that night.  I had thought last night was in addition to tonight, not replacing.

David and I barely conversed that day, ending with me sending the first text asking how he was, and he said, “I’m good.  I’m always good.”  I heard echoes of my ex Ben’s, I’m Ben, no one worries about Ben.

I repeated my question to David, with a bit more authority, “You are not – you’re stressed about your ex and concerned about work.  How is everything?

He didn’t answer all the rest of the afternoon.

I sent David a text that evening asking how work was.  He didn’t answer.

Did David come over last night to cancel tonight to spend it with his ex?  Was it the ex’s turn to be compared to me?  It is really none of my business, but it kind of is if he’s cancelling to be with his ex.  I deserve to know (I guess).

My second text was, “Everything ok?”

Nothing.

 

Since I was 9…

Beginning when I was 9 years old homosexuality entered my peripheral through knowledge of AIDS, gleamed from the deaths of Anthony Perkins and Robert Reed, attaching a dark stigma of death, separation, and sensationalism to homosexuality.

Self-contempt, isolation, and a strong sense that I was untrustworthy accompanied one another until shame became my core identity, and locked in a set of very unhealthy beliefs. I was incapable of trusting my own emotions as a compass for living; I felt shame for being abnormal or wrong, that my failures would bring unnecessary drama.  There was no developed skill to ground myself in the present, and being in the moment and staying observant without judgment of my own emotions.  The parts, believed, that would force support networks away are believed to be shadows of our true place in the world.  I diluted or ignored parts of myself that I thought would alienate me, believing I was a failure.

I made masks for acceptance based on the expectation others had of who I was in relation to them.  I created an untrue place in the world, a false self that wasn’t defective or flawed, amplifying the most acceptable of myself.  I sanded off the more off kilter interests, such as poetry and Southern literature, and less culturally mainstream – comic books, cartoons, and fantasy.  I buried what I did on weekends with

I didn’t want to give a reason to have the spotlight on me.  I lived in fear that my masks would not be viewed survival, but would be duplicitous, bring about rejection from others.  I became paralyzed by the intense feeling that I would be ignored or thrown away.  What didn’t lead to being ignored was compliance to others’ needs. It was easier to serve another than to assert myself.  The very nature of my game necessitated duplicity as I navigated the numerous worlds that I had begun inhabiting, as I tried on various masks and identities.

I tap danced to be seen.

Unfortunately, the dance is all that is seen.

 

New Year Optimism

A new year brings with it a refreshing first few days, when the year is barely known enough to be more than enamored, barely smitten.  It’s personality and the way it shows concern is quaint. I do like the year enough to hope.

David seems refreshingly sweet.  While he is not the antithesis of everyone prior, David does feel like an evolution.  Someone happy with their life, striving to do and be better, it is very difficult to put my finger on it.  He seems to have his act together.  Comparing David to my previous boyfriends is inaccurate because I am not the same person, and so am not pursuing the same type of man.  David seems like just that – a better caliber of person.

What do I want now?

We held hands which was nice – but I greatly was the clandestine rubbing of knees, the forbidden hand grazes, and secretly hooked fingers.  David’s open affection is a divergent course it isn’t unpleasant, or off-putting.  I enjoy it – but am unfamiliar.  David’s seemingly genuine concern is the same.  Perhaps, I have fetishized the underground code of homosexual life – removing the norm as stimuli.  It’s possible – have spent so much time with masks and hiding, dodging glances, and finding life in shadows.  There’s a lot about David that is brand-new to me.

He is divorced, has three college-age sons. I am unwilling to be a rebound, but if he just wants to have fun that’s OK too, if he tells me that’s what he wants.  Has it been long enough for David to be dating?  Or long enough for me to consider him for dating?

For my birthday on Thursday David came over on my birthday. While he suggested both going out or eating in, I went with eating in at my place, since he’d be parking on the street and that would be difficult to find a space again.  We ordered in from Red Fern and watched Call Me By Your Name; a very good romantic film.

Birthday Post 2018

Chronic shame developed from the best of intentions of my parents when raising two children.  They were good at it, striving to create balance for two radically different kids – providing food, shelter, and safety, but I still felt neglected because my parents did not bond emotionally with me.  I have few memories of being held, comforted, played with, or asked how I was doing; plenty questions about the events of a school-day, but not their impact.  When they didn’t live up to expectations they privately, and I’m sure to this day, scolded themselves; they failed less times than they believe they did.  My parents instilled in me the three F’s – family, food, and fun.  If there were two then the third would be automatically follow suit; should food be part of the family gathering then we’d have some fun; if there was food and fun, then one must be amongst family.

Growing up, I overcompensated to be the “good child,” or just being generally more agreeable; in comparison to the spectacle that was my sister; I didn’t want to be the reason for everything or have the spotlight on me.  The chaos she created taught me that disruptions to a plan lead to eruptions of anger and violence.  My sister’s behavior drew my parents’ attention, exhausting them, resulting in an often-chaotic home life.  I was not going to add more concerns to their already full plate.  I vowed to not be the straw that broke any one’s back, becoming respite for my parents from my sister.  I felt shame for being abnormal or wrong, that my failures would bring unnecessary drama. The feelings of my parents, whether expressly communicated or sensed became internalized and automatic. The state of being alone and powerless became pervasive.

I never enjoyed the idea of celebrating my birthday; I do enjoy getting older though.  What I feared was not getting older, but that no one would ever come to a birthday party for me.  Ever since grade-school, I have always wanted a surprise birthday party, where a home would be filled of people that wished to be there.  That dream has never come true, even when it was mandatory to report to a classmate’s birthday.

My sister was unable to make time to celebrate my birthday, and since family waited for each other to acknowledge milestones, birthdays adhered to my sister’s schedule; my sixteenth birthday was two months late because my sister couldn’t be bothered to take time off from work.  Eventually, I stopped sending invitations out at all, choosing to ignore the celebration and take enjoyment only from cards – and then settle for Facebook birthday posts.

My birthday was where I learned to exist within the cracks, as typically during the school year it fell in the middle of Winter Recess; becoming the excuse for why no one needed to hold a celebration for me.  I wanted to avoid any fuss that would draw attention from friends because if they were paying attention to me, I believed they’d peak beneath my mask and judge me inappropriate – or worse, inadequate.  Around friends, I remained shy as if they were strangers because facades kept everyone at an arm’s length.  It was simpler to cover my self-consciousness and inferiority beneath masks, that were fashioned for inclusion by adopting specific friend-interests, and sub-cultures, and abandoning my own.

Authenticity’s exposure is informed by expectations, the measurement ruler that experiences are held against.   Expectations color our how we present our authenticity, often diluting, covering up, or ignoring parts of myself that I would alienate me from those around me – the unique parts of an individual.  These interactions become cornerstones of authentic identity, informed by cooperative experiences.