28 February 2008

Cross Stitches and Doilies

I went to spend some time with friends one evening recently, and we were at the home of a middle-aged female relative of one of my friends. The home was, by all appearances, a fairly typical suburban, mormon home. Flowery decor, cute epithets in stitching on the walls, a piano with a little light atop it, doilies, the whole nine yards.

This lady isn't married, and I would guess she never has been, but I don't know that at all because I didn't ask my friend about it. She's a tough-looking woman with whom I'd rather not tangle but nonetheless seems warmly personable. And I thought, "OK, yes she's suspect, but regardless of the direction of her attractions, here's an older, single woman who has made a comfortable home into which she welcomes family and friends, and who obviously lends service to her community and seems to be living well." She had toys for visiting friends' and relatives' children. She had memorabilia from service she has given. She had a cheery and confident disposition. She had cross-stitches with hopeful messages designed to motivate on tougher days. Strangely, those things which most often seem trite or mundane to me took on a brighter glow.

It just sent my mind scanning over my years of life, so far, to all of the older, single people I've known and how much love they have offered to those around them, how much service they've rendered to their communities, and how meaningful they have made their time. Yes, there may be some component of "making up for" a deep deficit in their lives. Yes, they probably have hard, lonely nights in which they want nothing more than to hold someone they love or be held by a companion and protector. But notwithstanding, they move on. They live. They contribute. They offer and accept love in other ways in life. And in the process, they teach each of us to be more loving and open to those around us rather than limit our love and influence to only our supposedly self-contained families.

Sometimes, the thought of living "alone" for the rest of life is depressing, bleak, and completely draining. Other times, like when I see someone like this, I remember how it can be done and done well, and though it may not seem ideal, it doesn't seem so bad.

Don't Fence Me In

***Posted 16 Oct 2010***

I disagree that sitting on the fence is always a bad thing, depending on what you mean by sitting on the fence. I hear so many people decrying the vice of fence-sitting, especially in a culture which preaches that hesitation amounts to laziness, slothfulness, and "serving two masters". And then there's the statement of President Bush that "you are either with us, or you are with the terrorists". I understand that what he (hopefully) meant was that if you are not going to act to help us stop what is being done, then you are allowing their proliferation and success, so if you're not going to help us, you're helping them by your inactivity. But to insist that someone is decidedly on the side of the terrorists if they don't agree with how the situation is being handled and refuse to take part is, in my opinion, wrong.

If sitting on the fence means hesitating to act due to fear, yeah, that's probably not good for your progress or self-concept. If sitting on the fence means waiting for a "perfect" scenario before getting anything done, then yeah, you're probably never going to get anything done. If sitting on the fence is pretending a conflict doesn't exist and ignoring it as long as possible, also not good. But I just don't understand the concept of making a decision for the sake of making a decision. There are always going to be things in life that are conflicting or pull you in different directions, and sometimes, I think it's good to actually focus on other things in life, examine your options, come back to the perplexing issue enough to remember it's there but then move on with other things if you're not ready to make a call...

Sometimes, maybe the only thing you can do with any integrity is stand still on a certain issue until you gain a bit more clarity. Sometimes, you gain the clarity by simple acting and making a mistake. Other times, to act one way or another would be to betray personal principles, and until you find a way to act without compromising those principles, or until you realize some of those principles aren't as important as you thought, it may be totally appropriate to refrain from action. I think that exact struggle, wrestling with seeming contradictions or conflicting options and seeking greater fulfillment of the most principles is what leads to finding options previously ignored. By refusing to engage in the current, supposed dichotomous options, new ways are found, and reconciliation begins.

Certainly our culture frowns upon it, but our culture's version of decisiveness often seems asinine to me. But then, I'm supposedly on the fence, so what do I know about it?

27 February 2008

Grocery Store Delight

I just have to say that shopping at Maceys is rarely devoid of sparkle. Almost every time, you'll see someone you know. Which is kind of interesting. But what's more--much more--there will always be at least one really good-looking guy. The kind you want to feel up apples next to and pick bananas with. Seriously. Every time. If there ever isn't one, I'm going to consider it an omen, put my groceries away and leave the store. I wasn't meant to shop that night.

Brother's Questions

Not long ago, I told my parents and one brother (and his wife) about my homoliciousness. Since then, we've spoken about it some, fairly openly, in fact. My older, married brother occasionally asks me questions. I had told them I don't want to talk incessantly about it but they were allowed two or three questions at a time. He's taken me up on that a few times, usually starting with something like, "OK, my first of my three allowed questions..." I thought I would share a small sampling of my brother's questions:

Question: Explain something to me: you've said you could see yourself making it work with a girl, even if it wouldn't be as fulfilling as it might be with a guy. But I can't even begin to think I could be with a guy romantically or sexually. It's just not in my comprehension. So how does that work?
Answer: Well, some people would probably argue everyone's meant to be heterosexual, so what I experience is a deviation from the norm and I therefore have remnants of normality. But I'd also argue that you'd definitely be able to imagine being with a guy if you grew up in a culture where homosexuality was the norm, and you spent most of your life looking forward to someday finding your partner but wondering why you just didn't seem to be as into guys as other guys and why girls caught your interest so much. Imagining being with a girl is certainly nothing new to me. I was raised to think that way.

Question: I think I have a pretty good gaydar, but you don't set off my gaydar, except knowing how little you've dated and how much opportunity you've had. Is it safe to assume there are a lot of people who are just not stereotypical who I just don't notice?
Answer: Yup. We're everywhere. At least a couple in every ward. Probably more in many wards. The guy who likes sports and seems almost comically homophobic might be. Male ward organists. A fair portion of the BYU Men's Chorus. Don't get me started on how I've heard of BYU Men's Chorus members making the rounds... Oh, and BYU Young Ambassadors (a ...flamboyant broadway-ish music/dance performing group)? Yeah, total red flag, even if they're not particularly femmy. Probably most of them are unusually fond of men. As for more stereotypical, that effeminate guy in the ward you've always thought would be gay if he weren't married: he's probably just gay AND married.

Question: That friend who picked you up at our house one time. Was he one of the two you mentioned as having been romantic?
Answer: Yeah, he was. But by then, we had already curbed the romantic side of things, but that may have been the first we'd seen each other since I moved away. So...yeah...there was probably some excitement to see each other again.
His Response:: Oh good! Our 'dars aren't totally broken. 'Cause I have to tell you, [Sister-in-law] and I both noticed something different there. When you left, I looked at her and asked, "Did they--"
She said, "Yup!"
"--seem like a couple to you?"
Then we both shrugged it off.
My response: Yeah, I thought it was obvious. Good job on that one.

Question: How do you meet other guys who deal with this? Are you sitting in a PPI with your Elder's Quorum president, and just say, "Hey, you're neat..."?
Answer: Only once. ...No! Actually, it's mostly like, you meet one through some coincidence or an online group or something, and you just start meeting others. They come out of the woodwork. It's a big, homo snowball effect. In Utah, they're coming out of every nook and cranny. Seriously. They're everywhere. You have to watch where you step. Don't want homo on your shoe.

Question: OK, so look over here (points towards a very seductive-looking woman with long, reddish-brown hair and tight-fitting clothes on her trim, curvy figure which I'm sure should send me into a drooling stutter). Are you telling me that--(he points again emphatically)--that just doesn't do it for you?
Answer: I recognize she's a nice-looking woman, for sure. But see, here's the thing: when you asked me that, you distracted me from watching an attractive guy walk over that way.
His response: (hearty laughter)

26 February 2008

Church-backed Legislation

There's a bit of buzz, right now, regarding a couple who withdrew their membership from the church due to their opposition to the church's position on gay marriage and supposedly to how their situation was handled by church leadership. I don't know this couple. I would guess, though, that their vocal opposition to gay marriage was just the tip of a very large iceberg and that their final parting with the church is about a lot more than this one issue. I'd guess gay marriage is a red herring, and a convenient one for gay-activism sympathizers. But like I said, I just don't know that; I can only go from other similar situations I've seen more closely.

That said, I have never, never been fully comfortable with the active involvement of the church, as an institution, in moral legislation, or especially with the leadership--at any level--urging that members vote a certain way (implied or explicit) or support specific legislation, whether prohibition or same-sex marriage, regarding morality. I wasn't fully comfortable with it even when I more ardently opposed legalized same-sex marriage and argued that it was necessary to defend the rights of children to have fair opportunity to be raised by a mother and father.

I could never fully subscribe to the argument that it's OK for the church to get so involved because the "prophets may see more potential consequences that the rest of us don't see, should certain legislation pass or fail." That's not to say I don't believe that could be true. It probably is, if they are oracles of the Lord. Regardless of whatever human shortcomings they may have, in their wisdom and experience and calling, they probably are bestowed with ample vision and inspiration on such matters. But when we begin gathering the troops to legally enforce our perspective with "morality" as our banner, it just conjures unsettling images of small steps towards a potentially overly-restrictive theocracy which limits the joy of knowing you've exercised free agency as we supposedly believe we came here to do. I understand even a theocracy can seem ideal to many people, especially if you subscribe fully to the doctrines promulgated by the leaders of such a government. But it is, nonetheless, a rather uncomfortable notion for me, and always has been, even though my behavior needn't be different. But I like to know that I made the choice. I chose to obey. I chose to live this way and believe what I do. There is joy and motivation in knowing that. And there is joy in allowing others the same privilege.

If we are to oppose legislation, shouldn't it be guided by our understanding of gospel principles and in defense of the rights and freedom of ourselves and others? Am I missing something, here?

I guess I'm just an intellectually apostate sucka, though, so what do I know about it?

25 February 2008

"Love Yourself" Balderdash

In response to a friend's blog entry, I wrote:

"I'm really glad to hear you've reached a degree of acceptance and love of yourself. I suppose it could be argued that the truly fulfilling sense of love comes from connection with deity and feeling that purest of all loves. But there's something to be said for finding it in yourself, as well."

I continued to write more but decided to post only the short version as a comment on his blog and use his entry as a catalyst for some related thoughts of my own. I think he's found a healthy self-acceptance, but I hear others adopting what I consider to be less helpful attitudes that are, in the long-run, probably self-destructive. I shall now expound. *big breath in*

I've always thought society's version of "love yourself" was actually misguided and often laughable in its shallow insignificance. I cringe when I hear people say, "I'm perfect just the way I am," or, "I'm beautiful just as I am and don't need to lose a pound." I cringe because the people I've heard saying those things on TV and elsewhere most often have lazy or abrasive personalities (which could be improved by considering adjusting habits or communication in consideration of other people), or put all kinds of terrible food in their body and don't exercise and then curse society for making them feel less than beautiful.

I am not calling these people fugly or crappy. It's just that it takes no particular degree of personal character to pretend you're perfect and insist everyone should love you and everything about you just as you are. Poppycock, I say to that. You're as imperfect as the next person, and there are things about you that are hard to love, and you're as responsible as anyone for putting some effort into improving some things about yourself. Face up to that fact, change what you can, and let go of what you can't. The stuff you can't change is not a reasonable measure for anyone to hold you up to anyway.

Neither am I saying society's standards of physical beauty are fair. They're not. They stem from a void of the idolization of airbrushed, hollow shells. So I fully respect efforts (such as Dove's campaign) to break down the unreasonable expectations paraded by pushers of soulless images.

It seems, to me, hugely healthier to be able to say, "I'm lovable just as I am, even though I have my shortcomings," or "I'm beautiful when I'm kind, loving, and I try to be a good friend and bring out the best in people around me, leaving every place better than I found it. My countenance can outshine any physical imperfections." I realize that sounds comically corny to say, but seriously, folks, a tight butt and perfect skin can not make up for an ugly personality. Not even close. Not for anyone whose opinion matters.

Anyone can be attracted to a tight body and a pretty face. It takes character to see through that to the personal qualities which actually make a person rather than mask them. Anyone can buy the right skin care products, get the right haircut, get plastic surgery, and spend money on perfectly-fitted clothing. Anyone. It only takes money and know-how, and not a bit of character. It may take time. But it requires no selflessness. We get so hung up on things anyone can do. But it takes true strength to put aside your own desire when you recognize someone else's need. It takes character to even notice the need. But maybe I'm digressing into another topic that's been annoying me lately: the nauseatingly singular focus on people with physical beauty, connections, and other self-serving reasons to be attracted or drawn to people. I'm sure I do it, too, and I disgust myself a bit when I catch myself doing it. But that's another discussion for another time.

Along the vein of focusing on strictly physical self-image, I'd say a healthy attitude is, "My body may not be society's ideal (which changes over time and cultures and individual preference), but I do my best to take care of this gift I've been given and use my body wisely. I could eat better, I could be more fit. If I expended all my energy on 'looking good', I could probably be hotter by today's Western standards, but though my body doesn't look like an Abercrombie model, I should do my best to take care of my health, and even if I'm never society's ideal, that doesn't matter in comparison to my overall health and effort. My genetics may only let me get so close to the ideal, but I can choose to be as healthy as I know how. Meanwhile, there's a lot more to me than whether Abercrombie would want to recruit me."

To me, recognizing my imperfections as imperfections and accepting my abnormalities (whether or not they are "imperfections") without duping myself into believing they're "normal" or insisting others adopt them as such is part of the process of truly accepting and loving myself as I am without denying myself the motivation to strive for improvement where improvement is possible or necessary. With that perspective, there may also be some things, normal or not, which I may believe to be outside of my control, of which I can let go and make the best. I don't even have to love everything I do and say, just like I don't love everything my dearest friends and family do or say, but why should I withhold acceptance of myself more than I withhold it from them? Unless, of course, I really am that judgemental and cold.

21 February 2008

Breast Preference

So I got together with the fam recently, and we were all sitting around the dinner table, my brother and his family, my parents, and myself. We were eating spaghetti with pieces of chicken cooked in the sauce. I took a smaller piece, not being very hungry. But it turned out to be darker meat, and I prefer light meat when it comes to poultry.

I commented that the piece I had taken was dark meat and offered it to the first taker. My mom said she'd take it (not just motherly self-sacrifice--she actually likes the stuff...weird) and said to look in the sauce for more. "There should be some breasts left. I made sure to put in plenty 'cause I know you prefer breasts."

My brother, grinning wryly, quickly quipped, "Apparently not, we've learned." And there was much laughter.

Later that evening, the subject of an old breast pump came up and the comedy of using such a contraption (I won't even go into that, but let's just say they were talking piston-driven suction), along with the necessity of using them when babies won't breastfeed. My mother commented that when I was a baby, she had to find ways to feed me because I wouldn't nurse. I always fell asleep.

...now, would you pass up this opportunity? I sure wouldn't. I said, "Wow. Bored from a really early age." And there was much laughter.

Breast jokes are fun.

Big Bad Sexuality

***Posted 16 October - This post started as a comment on someone else's blog (I forget which, now), but I intended to round out and complete the post someday.***

Good thoughts.

I find your last statement, however, to be troublesome: "friends' faith is damaged by feelings of sexual attraction". This is an association two of my friends seem unable to let go of. I have another friend, a female, who has been so aggravated by the fact that sexuality seems to be the root of the downfall of people, societies, civilization as we know it. Maybe that's right, but I disagree and think it stems from not understanding it (both of you have expressed, extensively, your confusion over sexuality in general), so it's easy to go all scapegoat on its A.

I think you can make such an argument for rebellion in general: for lust and greed and hedonism in all its forms.

And aside from hedonistic distractions, people will often re-evaluate their beliefs in light of various additions to their experience and understanding which may, for better or worse, shake up their priorities and ability or desire to ignore already-existing questions and doubts which were previously easier to gloss over: academia, careers, traumatic events, or other pursuits are some such catalysts.

For those who still believe, when others decide they no longer do or never did, it's hard to accept as anything other than "falling away" or "denying their faith", because we are, again, looking at it through our own lens, our own current experience. But I accept that maybe, for some, they are actually discovering that they never believed as much as they thought they did. It was always easier for me to chalk it up to sinfulness or spiritual slothfulness leading to apostasy, but in some cases, I think it just amounts to realizations and integrity, in a strange way. I am simply not comfortable claiming to know how much someone believed or why they are deciding to choose another path. It's not mine to know. All I can do is focus on what I believe and what choices I am making.

It's the application and focus and priorities, not the thing itself, which is the cause for departure or re-evaluation of core beliefs and peripheral beliefs or concepts.

On what may be a tangent (though totally relevant to your blog), I think it's important to remember that lust is not unique to sexuality, and sexuality is not lust. Sexuality and romantic or physical attraction are not testimony-destroying monsters. They are, according to LDS doctrine, god-given drives to be directed within a gospel framework and are beautiful things when expressed meaningfully, ennobling relationships and increasing intimacy on all levels. They are part of the soul, the whole of body and spirit. As far as I understand our doctrine, this life is not a time to reject and eschew the physical as the burdensome "trial" it is but to join it, righteously, with the spiritual, as a whole being.

Sexuality, in our fallen world, may be misused, and it may be misguided, redirected, or lacking altogether, in certain individuals, due to whatever factors relating to the fact that we do not live in perfection. But sexuality itself is not the problem.

Sexuality is the root of all evil

*** Published 27 Oct 2010 ***
*** Presumably started as a comment on someone's blog entry, but I don't remember. ***

Hm...good thoughts.

Your last statement, however, is troublesome: "friends' faith is damaged by feelings of sexual attraction". This is an association two of my friends seem unable to let go of. I have another friend, a female, who has been so aggravated by the fact that sexuality seems to be the root of the downfall of people, societies, civilization as we know it. Maybe that's right, but I disagree and think it just stems from not understanding it (both of you have expressed, extensively, your confusion over how people can be so ga-ga over sexuality), so it's easy to go all scapegoat on its A. :-)

I think you can make such an argument for rebellion in general. For lust and greed and hedonism in all its forms. After all, lust is not unique to sexuality, and sexuality is not lust.

I've seen people leave the church in relation to sexual issues, for sure. Much of the time, they come back later when the embarrassment of their actions has worn off, or when they "get it out of their system" and decide that what they were chasing after wasn't as fulfilling as they thought it would be, and they reassess where their true happiness is found. Sometimes, they go through a period of disbelief but come back with renewed, stronger conviction. Sometimes, they still believe but do not return to activity because they don't feel able to "fit in". Sometimes, they stay away, wondering why they waited so long to leave. Sometimes, whether or not they feel they can "fit in", they have been grappling with doubts and questions their whole life, and now, they no longer see fit to set those doubts aside and decide, instead, to let go and admit that they just "can't buy it" anymore, especially in light of opportunities which they had never considered but which now seem viable and fulfilling, and they can't keep holding on to the cultural benefits and comfort of home for the sake of appearing faithful. There's a wide spectrum out there. And I just can't justifiably chalk it up to, "well, they chose sex over their faith". But for those who believe that their faith is concrete truth (as latter-day saints do), the only explanation is that the person abandoned truth for something they wanted more. So I get what you're saying from that standpoint.

But people do the same with academia, or careers, or other pursuits. It's the application and focus and priorities, not the thing itself, which is the cause for departure or re-evaluation of what are core beliefs and what are peripheral.

20 February 2008

The Big Spoon

It's an elegant term, "spooning". The gentle, intimate connection between two spoons nestled neatly aginst each other is a perfect reference for the same comforting behavior between two people showing mutual affection. Regarding spooning, I have a question which may be relevant here: do you prefer to be the big spoon or the little spoon?

For my part, I prefer being the big spoon. In almost all cases. And I'm a relatively little guy, so this can pose logistical challenges. Being the big spoon to a considerably more girthy person can be slightly awkward, but these things can be worked through.

It seems like men are usually big spoons and women little spoons, but it seems like most gay males with whom I've discussed this prefer being the little spoon. I don't. Does that make me less gay? I mean, I could enjoy it enough at times, and maybe it depends on the person and the relationship, but I prefer either to have someone cuddled up against my side, arm resting on me (incidentally, this is quite a nice positioning, allowing for face-to-face conversation but maintaining nice, intimate contact), or to have them as the little spoon. I think I prefer holding over being held. Don't judge me.

Do the spoon roles reflect subjugation and dominance? Trust and protection? Maybe I should take a survey. Find out if there's a statistical correlation between gender, sexual orientation, and spooning preference. There's some splendid research to be done here. If only I could find funding.

Note: I'd just like to report that I found the spoon image on, coincidentally, the blog of a gay guy in Vegas who, coincidentally, talks about being the small spoon. I tell you, I'm an oddball among homos.

Note: click on the "Spooning" label below for more spoony wisdom.

Missing Out On The Fun

*** Published 27 Oct 2010 ***
*** Ha, thinking back to when I originally typed this, I do remember I was going to expound more on it and explain that I don't really wish I'd gotten in more trouble, but I kinda do, but I don't, but... ***

Sometimes, when I hear friends talking about their past mischief and curiosity with their (straight or otherwise) guy friends in younger years, I feel like I really missed out not only on the whole adolescent male experimentation thing but the innocent fun nakedness. Gosh!

19 February 2008

Principles Lived, Not Sob Stories, Change The World

Truth: most of the world, probably very few people at all, are actually concerned with my woes nor should they indeed be expected to be, beyond a voyeuristic glimpse or academic excursion. The world doesn't care about my individual, inner turmoil. Honestly, very few people give a hoot. People care what I am doing with my life and how I impact those around me. Our actions, what we choose, is what matters in the end. Why we did it or against what odds are interesting and can be inspiring or disillusioning, but the difference we've made, the influence we've left, the love we have increased, the kindness we have shown, regardless of why, are what most matter to others in "real life".

Maybe that flies in the face of the idea that I must remember to try to see past the concrete things and what is in front of my material eyes into the part of the person which chose, the naked soul, and understand that their upbringing and physiological makeup and mine may be starkly different, therefore our actions cannot be directly compared. But I don't think it's entirely in conflict. That perspective is beautiful and is the one I must keep in mind when "judging" others. But when looking inward, maybe it's helpful to remember that, in the end, however hard my decisions have been, those around me don't see my inner world, they don't see through my mind's eye, and my perceptions are most likely just as skewed as the next guy's, so how I treat people around me and change the world is all I can offer everyone except the handful of people who get close enough to see more.

Some people, who are actually my friends, care about me because they hope for my happiness. They feel for and with me because they are invested and love me. But even then, at some point, constantly making my sorrow and motivations and turmoils known to others becomes somewhat moot, meaningless, and robotic if I never do anything about it or if I never come out of it. And if I go through my whole life voicing, to the world, my turmoil and angst and dilemmas, in an attempt to "explain" my stagnation and emotional apathy, all I have done is proven that it conquered me. I lost out on happiness. I had what many would regard as very good reasons for losing, and they are known, and few people would probably "blame" me, but I lost nonetheless, and nobody was inspired or made more hopeful that a human being is more than his or her circumstances and struggles.

Maybe there are times to stop explaining and just act. In the end, I can express my conundra all I want, but what I choose to do with what life has dealt me is what really matters. Forget circumstance, forget emotional fragility, forget confusion about what is true, I am ultimately left with the freedom to choose my path and make of my life something self-serving or self-giving, pleasure-seeking or person-building, comfort-motivated or truth-motivated.

18 February 2008

The Dark Side

Some people close to me casually acknowledge the difficulty of what I must be going through and then advise me to buck up and deal with it and move on with other aspects of life. While I realize their intent in helping me focus on the positives and not get mired in self-pity or paralyzing mental knots, it's hard not to resent the apparent insensitivity in that attitude. Regardless of what I choose in the long run, and even though I don’t currently feel like I'm in the depths of sorrow, there have been truly hellish times, and I sometimes attempt to express, in my blog, some of the more difficult or darker aspects of what I've gone through, without getting too "personal". I don't say this to mean I'm the only one going through hellish times, but I sometimes wonder if people understand the emotional and mental implications of this situation.

I sometimes feel that in my headiness and "reasonable" analysis, I manage to dehumanize my story. I don't fully admit the difficulty of what I've gone through or the intensity of what I have felt. So I may explore the "darker" sides a bit more or gloss over them less, at times, in an attempt to remind the reader that I'm a person with passions as well. I realize more negativity is about the last thing the blog world needs, and it's no mystery that there is emotional turmoil among gay mormons, so do I really need to voice mine? I think I do, to some extent. No matter where I'm going with all of this, my story isn't complete without acknowledging both sides of my own experience.

With that said, I don’t want to be heavy and somber and whiny. But at the risk of looking unstable or "all over the place", you may notice I'll share some of my thoughts from more volatile times as appropriate.

I hope I'm not just looking for sympathy in such posts. I'm not even looking for reassurance. Not usually, at least. Some entries I post are more for other people to understand what it might be like to be in my shoes. By the time I post the more angst-ridden entries, I've most often found my own degree of resolution to them and moved on or set them aside for later re-evaluation.

So just slap me in the face if you think I'm out of balance, and I'll either respond by adjusting or slap you right back. It'll be fun...

14 February 2008

Getting Through the Woods

I heard someone say, the other day, "We're not out of the woods yet," and I thought of this blog entry, which I actually started several weeks ago but never finished/posted. Sometimes, parts of familiar stories or music or art stand out to you because of your current experiences or recent thoughts. I had one such experience while listening to this musical in my car a while back.

For those not familiar with Into the Woods, it's a funny and, at times, poignant Stephen Sondheim musical involving several fairy tale characters mashed into one story, interconnected, with a couple of extra people thrown in as glue, especially the Baker and the Baker's Wife.

The whole musical has so many themes, it's hard to touch on them all. It's an allegory on life and going "Into the Woods", which is, as I see it, going into the unknown, greyer, or trying parts of life. The theme which probably most stands out to me, is that of leaving the contented safety of quotidian life to pursue dreams, or help someone, or conquer dangers, and the growth that can come of it, as well as the necessity to understand that we truly are interconnected: nobody is an island whose decisions truly affect nobody else, and our actions have a ripple effect. Therefore, we benefit greatly from understanding that we are, in fact, in this together.

In the story, the Baker sets out to find four items to satisfy the demands of the next-door witch who has cursed him and his wife with the inability to have children. He sets out alone, or tries, because he's the head of the house, so he believes that places the responsibility squarely on his shoulders and insists he must do it alone. But his wife finds ways to intervene and help when he falters, and they end up working together in pursuit of their shared goal.

While listening to this song during a drive back from the holidays, the lyrics stood out to me in relation to how we handle our individual difficulties in life and how much we actually take risks and go live life rather than hanging back until the storms clear. I believe it mentions the principle that there are strengths and personal qualities that are truly only revealed and developed when we dare to leave what is comfortable, effortless, or natural in pursuit of something more difficult, more elusive, more rewarding. It also speaks of the importance of having a companion in the journey. As much as I sometimes long to have a romantic companion on my journey, for now, I rely on the investment and strength of good friends who walk with me. I suppose the lyrics are nothing earth-shattering, but I thought I'd share them because--let's be honest--we like our musicals.

You've changed.
You're daring.
You're different in the woods.
More sure.
More sharing.
You're getting us through the woods.

If you could see-
You're not the man who started,
And much more openhearted
Than I knew
You to be.

It takes two.
I thought one was enough,
It's not true:
It takes two of us
You came through
When the journey was rough.
It took you.
It took two of us.

It takes care.
It takes patience and fear and despair
To change.
Though you swear
To change,
Who can tell if you do?
It takes two.

You've changed.
You're thriving.
There's something about the woods.
Not just
You're blossoming in the woods.

At home I'd fear
We'd stay the same forever.
And then out here-
You're passionate

It takes one
To begin, but then once
You've begun,
It takes two of you.

It's no fun,
But what needs to be done
You can do
When there's two of you.

If I dare,
It's because I'm becoming
Aware of us
As a pair of us,
Each accepting a share
Of what's there.

We've changed.
We're strangers.
I'm meeting you in the woods.
Who minds
What dangers?
I know we'll get past the woods.
And once we're past,
Lets' hope the changes last

Beyond woods,
Beyond witches and slippers and hoods,
Just the two of us-
Beyond lies,
Safe at home with our beautiful prize,
Just the few of us.

It takes trust.
It takes just
A bit more
And we're done.
We want four,
We had none.
We've got three.
We need one.
It takes two.

13 February 2008

Magical Indeed

Amazing. I share these results simply to satisfy your scientific curiosity, of course. Upon my second night of sleeping on the Magical Makeout Pillow, I had my second straight makeout dream.

...ok, poorly chosen wording. It was my second consecutive makeout dream.

But unfortunately, I do not remember the details of this one. I do remember that it wasn't as hot as the previous night's dream. But I remember the makeout being followed immediately by a bunch of people standing in the kitchen, where someone had just finished an arduously-made masterpiece of a cake. It was in two large, rectagular layers, and the texture, the light fluffiness, the flavor, was incredible, melt-in-your-mouth goodness.

I held the bottom layer as the master cake-maker (I don't remember who it was) ever so delicately placed the top layer over it. Every movement was carefully calculated to make only the most minute impact on the bottom layer. We all held our breath. As the last corner of the top layer was rested into place, the whole thing crumbled like a house of cards all over the floor, in as comical a way as a cake can crumble awkwardly, and somehow, this was a ridiculously hilarious sight.

Have you ever laughed yourself awake? Yeah, I woke up laughing and thought, "That was really funny, and I don't know why, and oh yeah, I made out with someone right before the cake fiasco. I should blog about that tomorrow."

The end.

12 February 2008

Magical Makeout Pillow

Wow, it's been quite a while since I've had a good makeout dream. I think I've only maybe had one since Max Power tried to plant one on me and I denied him hardcore. Poor guy. He's doing alright now.

So last night, I decided to actually go to sleep before midnight, and I also switched my pillow because my neck has had a kink in it. I've been to bed before midnight a few times in recent weeks, but this is the first time I've used this particular pillow in months. It's a very plain pillow, firm with a foam core. Seems simple enough. But seeing how this is the only factor that really changed, I've decided to give the pillow the credit for my dream.

In this dream, I had a good makeout session (hey, some of us rely on our dreams for a little action, OK?) with someone I'm pretty sure is a trainer at my gym. This is the first time I can remember that I've dreamed of making out with an actual person rather than a stranger. I say I'm pretty sure it was him because the body matches (and a very nice body it is, I must say), and the hair, but I think my psyche found it necessary to take the attractiveness of his face up a few notches to make him makeout-worthy, so I think it was him but with a little dreamworld plastic surgery. Hey, the mind does what it's gotta do.

But what I remember as much as the hot makey-outy was the fact that after the NCMO, he said, "Well, I've got to go to work," and disinterestedly got up and left.

Now, in real life, I would be really angry about that. "Great--a self-gratifying slut-fest with no emotional attachment." But in our dreams, I guess things can be a little different, and I shrugged and went to chat with some friends in the next room and didn't think anything of it. Even in my dream, I remember thinking, "Oh great...I'm one of them. I just enjoyed a non-commital makeout with no emotional attachment and moved on with my day, not caring if I ever saw him again..."

So I guess, in my dreams, I'm a lip whore. Who knew? I guess I can handle that.

I'll be resting my pretty little head on that pillow again tonight. You know, for the sake of scientific experiment...

11 February 2008

No Safe Investment

In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis wrote, "There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell. I believe that the most lawless and inordinate loves are less contrary to God’s will than a self-invited and self-protective lovelessness. ...We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armour. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as a way in which they should break, so be it. What I know about love and believe about love and giving ones heart began in this."

I think this statement raises relevant questions of various sorts for all of us. There is likely nuance and context to this which I am overlooking, but it nonetheless provokes many thoughts for me, especially around the need for vulnerability. It doesn't come naturally to me. And an experiment or two in vulnerability were badly chosen and therefore ended poorly, but I think it's important enough to bite the bullet and try it more. There's truly liveliness to be found in real love.

06 February 2008

To Whore Or Not To Whore

When I've felt the desire for more physical intimacy, and have lamented that I probably won't have it the way I want it, friends have either tried to console me or to stop my whining by saying it's not for lack of opportunity. I could have my pick from one of many, they say, so who am I to complain?

First of all, I don't think it's entirely true that I could have anyone. But hey, if Brad Pitt is interested, then alright. Yet I'm so thoroughly, completely inexperienced (just trust me on this one--I don't care to expound on how inexperienced I am) that even if I were to start lip-slutting around, I'm sure word of my inadequacy in this department would circulate fast enough to kill any such prospects. My attempts would surely be condescendingly "cute" in comparison to the much more experienced maker-outers out there.

But that's all beside the point. The point is that despite my desires for that kind of physical intimacy, I don't have someone with whom I would feel sincere in being physically affectionate at that romantic level. And as appealing as the idea of having a hot and heavy make-out may be on certain lonely nights, I just can't see myself being that affectionate without feeling real connection, and I don't come by that kind of connection easily, being the heady cold fish that I am. So in those moments when the slut in me is raging, I either want to feel attracted more often or want to abandon my reservation about physical expression because, hey, it's nice to be physically close to someone. But go fig, I don't think I would want to bring myself to make out just because it's fun or feels "nice".

I'm not trying to be preachy here. Most people I know, including some I love dearly and respect a lot, have gone through make-out sprees (or other sprees) once they discovered the joy of smooching (or other...things). Gay adolescence brings out the eager teenager in most of us, in some way or another. I've been through a "yay for cuddling" phase myself.

But now, I'm a bit gun-shy about being physically affectionate at all, due to realizing I've either given an occasional person the wrong impression with casual cuddling, or I've ascribed more meaning and depth to a relationship than there was partially because of physical affection, and I felt ridiculous afterwards for my foolishness. But c'est la vie. I've been burned by being a little slutty (letting physical affectionate go beyond the nature of the friendship), and apparently, it doesn't take much for me to learn that kind of lesson and clam up again. Maybe that's because I'm just ultra-righteous and have a more active conscience than the next person. OR maybe I'm just an emotionally delicate, defensive prude with trust issues. Or something.

In any case, I don't worry that nobody could find me desirable. I mean hey, just look at this. A veritable paragon of masculine beauty. Wait, OK, so it's not because I think I'm hot stuff but because experience indicates it wouldn't be hard for anyone to find someone who'd be up for a little makey outy, and let's be honest, guys are easy.

But I'm discovering a phenomenon I don't think most guys experience but with which most girls are probably all too familiar: the question of WHY I'd be desirable. Is it because they think they can get some action? Is it because they're physically attracted? Is it because I'm fresh meat? The next new thing? An option for some fun? Forget all that! That means nothing to me, so to encourage me by telling me I could find anyone I want to make out with is akin to saying I can find a dog who will hump my leg. Sure, it's a given, and the dog's probably going to enjoy it, but thinking, "I might as well be a pillow or a blow up doll" just isn't my idea of a good time. Even with a really good-looking dog.

I've never had this issue with girls. With women, I somehow have more confidence that they're interested in me personally, in who I am. I don't doubt they would consider it a bonus to find me physically attractive and fun. But I also don't doubt they are usually drawn mostly to me, to my mind, to my personality, as cliche as it may sound to say so. And I don't doubt they're less likely to get bored and move on to the next guy who comes along, maybe because they've invested, or maybe because they just choose more consciously, or maybe because they're just more insecure...who knows, right?

But guys? Guys are a different ballgame. Hot guys who may think you're fun and intriguing (for now) but who are mostly interested in getting off on you and moving on to the next best thing are a dime a dozen. An acquaintance who was, in the past, sexually promiscuous, attested that many of his anonymous encounters were surprisingly all-American jock types. He's bisexual, he said, but it was simply always easier to find guys who were up for a quick way to climax and be on their way without needing to know their partner's name than it was to find girls for the same. I've found the moho world to operate on a similar vein, though obviously not at the same level.

Now, before you start ranting about how you're not like that or how I'm overgeneralizing (which, duh, is what you do on a blog), please understand that I'm not saying cuddle-slutting around or having random NCMOs is akin to that kind of let's-meet-in-the-restroom sexual promiscuity, and I'm not saying all mohos are sluts. Yet I've never known so many lip whores (and I use that term affectionately, at least in this one instance) in my circles of friends as I have since I broke into the moho world. I just think the motives are similar. It's about you. It's about your pleasure. It's about fun. It's about ignoring the emotional consequences and disregarding the feelings of the other person because it feels so good to have you very own "live porn"--physical/sexual pleasure without the reality of commitment or real relationship. And hey, it's not sex, and straight people are allowed to do it without people making a big deal, so why not you? All I have to say to that is, if you want to be as slutty as the average straight person, that's your business, but slutty is slutty, toots.

But maybe I'm just "making too big a deal" out of this. Maybe I'm personalizing it too much. Maybe most people just enjoy a little recreational make-out here and there, like you might enjoy a casual conversation or flirtation, and it's no big deal. And maybe if you're not one of those people, you need to grow up and join the real world and stop making it all emotional and meaningful when it's not and move on. Maybe.

And I guess most social groups have their networks of non-committal make-outs and quick flings, and people deal with it all the time. But I have never been personally affected by that until I started experiencing attraction the way I've felt it the past couple of years, and a difference here is that the moho world is so small, that your friends are all flinging with each other. And it's really disgusting after a while to know where everyone's hands and lips have been. Ew.

I'm not exempting myself from this. I've cuddle-slutted around at times. "Hey, we're just barely getting to know each other, but here, I'll give you a foot rub, and let's spoon!" What is that?!! Have I become....a typical guy? Wait, no, maybe typical isn't the right word...

So now I have to remind myself, when I see an attractive guy, "Wait, yes it's nice to look at, but does it have a soul? If so, does he have a personality? Is he sincere? Is he kind and sensitive and intelligent and selfless? Do you want a relationship? If so, there's a lot that needs to come before physical intimacy. And if not, just enjoy the view and let go of the rest." Why does it take effort to remember I'm dealing with a human being? Oh! This is why guys in high school were bumbling idiots and insensitive jackasses with girls.

So now, when I have those moments when all I want is to participate in a little physical fun, I do have an impulse to grab the most attractive thing nearby, but damn my puritanical sensibilities, I just can't feel good about doing it without a sincere relationship. So I'm occasionally left stewing in the lovesac alone as I watch the crystal-clear tender or passionate embraces on our large-screen HDTV, wanting some action but knowing I don't really want it without a relationship and simultaneously cursing my lack of sluttiness.

...then I wrestle my roommate for a bit and wear myself out, and I'm OK for the night.

05 February 2008

Since My Candidate Is Gone...

If the race ends up being between Obama and Romney, I'd be interested in and open to either candidate.

Between Clinton and Romney, I'd probably go for Romney.

Between Obama and McCain, I may go for Obama.

Between Clinton and McCain, I'm moving to Canada for four years. I'll send postcards to the rest of you suckas.

04 February 2008

Pressure Cooker?

A concerned blog-community friend contacted me about the recent tone of my blog entries. Reading between the lines, he expressed concern about any inner turmoil I may have been experiencing and just touched on his own experience in thinking he was "handling" things but later realizing it was building up in unhealthy ways.

So am I somewhat of a pressure cooker on the verge of exploding all over the moho scene, catalyzing the next blast in an extensive, almost legendary network of drama? My response was as follows:

Thanks for the concern.

My blog may sound more angsty than I actually feel. I just kind of get tired of people shrugging off my questioning as if it's a phase I'm going through simply to justify entertaining desires I'd like to act on. There's more to it than that.

I don't feel much intense turmoil. I'm processing things and making decisions that aren't easy and trying, in some way, to convey that process in writing. I do not deny that I often feel torn, stuck between a rock and a hard place on occasion, but most of the time, I simply am just trying to sort out what I really believe and living in accordance with what I do. I have few regrets.

In any case, thanks for letting me know you're available. I do talk with quite a few close, trusted friends and family about everything. I don't keep much bottled up these days. By the time I post something on my blog, I've usually discussed it, to some extent, with a few different people, and by the time a post is published, it's usually been in the works for a while. I actually consider myself to be in a pretty good place, albeit tentative in some ways, and I'm a bit perplexed by these guys who claim to be so sure of things but whose behavior is all over the place. And they are making out with and dating boys one day and then preaching the virtues of anti-gaydom the next day. It doesn't make any sense to me, but hey, my way probably doesn't make sense to them, either. I just don't want to shy away from admitting why sometimes it's hard to just "accept and move on".

I hope things are going well for you, too. I'll catch you later.

So, for any of the rest of you (all 8 who regularly visit my blog) who may be similarly concerned, that's what I have to say on the matter.

02 February 2008

Goodbye, Ol' Chap

I just watched Gordon B. Hinckley's funeral service, broadcast from the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, and at the end, I was touched by the image of his family and his brethren in the church's leadership lining the exit as his casket was quietly wheeled out to the peaceful tune of "God Be With You Til We Meet Again". I wept as I watched him exit, one last time, from that building in which I have, many times, seen him speak with such love, sincerity, and plainness and then humbly and spunkily walk out, waving his cane, maybe tapping someone here and there. Then I smiled through the tears at the thought that maybe he was, in spirit, joining his family and friends in the Conference Center, lined up for his body's exit, and that maybe, with a charming gleam in his eye, he tapped his spiritual cane on his casket as it passed by and said some clever quip.

I'm going to miss him.

Can You Stay In Middle Ground?

*** Published on 27 Oct 2010 ***
*** This and other posts were not published when written, partially because I wasn't sure if I was articulating what I wanted to get across and largely because I didn't feel comfortable expressing doubt or conflict beyond a certain degree. I think the statute of limitations on that concern has run out. ***

On Young Stranger's blog, he posted a thoughtful essay on living in the "middle ground". As indicated by my blog posts, some of these ideas have been on my mind a lot lately.

I've never really felt "angry" at the church in the way many do. In fact, what bitterness I have felt has been directed not even at the doctrines but at the members and their complacency, venomous or ignorant as it may be. I've thought about that whole idea of going to church without being in full fellowship, and I suppose I could do that. It has taken some adjustment to shift from being the "go-to" man in my wards to the unknown face in the back, but I've refused to let ego have heavy bearing on my decisions.

I just can't, yet, imagine having a burning testimony of the "restored gospel" and NOT sacrificing my dissident beliefs and practices, even if church policies were to later change, because isn't it worth it if it's true? Isn't making excruciating sacrifices a remarkably purifying process? It has felt that way for me in the past, when I've been sure of my reason for sacrificing, even if I wasn't sure what I was being asked to sacrifice was entirely reasonable (e.g. a few select mission rules). I usually later discovered it was worth it. And sometimes I just shrugged and said, "not sure if it did any good, but at least I know my motivations are pure".

I realize sacrificing the company of your beloved companion is a far greater issue than not listening to my favorite singer's music for two years, though. But then, didn't Joseph Smith say we would all be tested as Abraham was? How much am I willing to lay on the altar? How much will I refuse and withhold when the Lord's servants ask it of me? Or does it matter, if I don't feel the Lord, himself, has asked it of me? And then, Abraham's hand was stayed, yet mine surely would not be when letting go of a beloved companion. ...or could it be? How can I know until I am willing to give it up?

Maybe it's the jump between knowing that the Lord's servants are asking me to give up companionship in this life (or find it in another form with a woman), and the confidence that the Lord, himself, is truly asking it of me. Maybe this is dependent on my understanding and belief of what a prophet really is and how "inspired" his words are?

It's hard, when I read conference talks and Doctrine and Covenants passages, to believe the gospel leaves room for ignorance of "certain" commandments just because I felt miserable or depressed when I was following them. This is not perfectionism. It is a large network of principles laid out in scripture about least degree of allowance and prophets never leading us astray and sacrificing all things (not just the moderately hard stuff) for building the kingdom. It only makes sense to me if I look at it and say, "I may have been obeying, but my heart was in a different place and not in-line how it needed to be, so of course I was depressed because my eye wasn't quite single, even if my behavior was compliant. Maybe this time will be different." Don't we do that with every other aspect of life? "I'll try again, because a lot has changed, and maybe this time will be different."

We certainly seem willing to do so in relationships with other people when our hearts and groins are aflame. Or maybe, "Yes, I am depressed. Yes, I feel a void. Yes, I hate surveying the dreariness of the rest of my life facing the probability that I never again will know the tender embrace of a romantic partner. But 10 years down the line, or 20, when my heart has had time to heal and strengthen and find peace in the Lord, when I have learned to develop a network of intimate friendships and love of the Lord, when I am finally accustomed to the purifying fire and the incredible strength that has come from faithful (not blind) obedience and painful sacrifice, THEN I will realize that my happiness is deeper and more abiding than any human relationship can provide." Maybe. But I'd probably have to have more confidence and "faith" than I currently have to be ready to say that again.

I mean, when I hear people say they believe the gospel but simply can't fully comply with church standards and practice and believe that to be justified on the grounds that they need to be true to "themselves", I see a potential for impure motives under the guise of nobility: self-gratification masked by selfless love of partner, need-fulfillment stubbornly exercised my way and not the church's masked by "the Lord knows I'm different", refusal to sacrifice masked by the proclaimed haziness of doctrine being interpreted according to cultural construct. Yet, I understand, to some extent, the philosophy, or at least the desire for the "middle ground".

I understand the middle ground on a temporary level, but there has to be some awareness that if not today, then one day, another step will be required, whatever that step may be. I cannot pick one aspect of my life and, unyielding, insist that it is my exemption card. But I can maybe say, "I realize the church leaders have counseled me to leave this, and I will keep that in mind, but for now, until the Lord himself touches my heart with that counsel, I have other things to work on. I have other things to do. And maybe, someday, when I am ready, I'll give that counsel another try and give it a chance to bless my life." Not in a token way. Not by way of dismissal or indefinite procrastination. But by way of humble acceptance that perhaps my ways are not the Lord's, and that he will show me how to integrate this counsel into my life when I am ready to take another step to demonstrate my willingness to humbly lay all things on the altar of his love.

...if you believe in God and you believe that's how he works. But maybe, when I read the scriptures and the teachings of modern prophets, and I expound on them as I have here, I'm unwittingly doing my own fair amount of interpretation, too. Maybe I don't understand.