16 December 2009

Soy Made Me Sigh

For the first time in a long time, because of a link, I ended up on an old blog: Soy Made Me Gay. I loved this blog. Correction: I love this blog. In fact, I half envied the way he burst onto the scene, wowed us all with his wit and verbal panache, and exited gracefully before becoming old, tired, irrelevant, crusty...

*sigh*

But seriously, if you haven't read it. Do it. Share it with your bishop and friends.

Then I read through a few of his posts. Dang, he's good. And I realized: he probably, in those few short months, deftly articulated the most important and amusing things I've written about, but he did so much more succinctly, with much more humor, in a much more personable and engaging way, while I've gone about spouting off endlessly and repetitively ad nauseam about the same stuff...and I'm jolted by the comparison game back into wanting to just shut down and direct readers to his blog.

*sigh*

But now I've morphed, as I've just said, into the cautionary tale. Too late to go out in a blaze of glory, leaving everyone to assume I'm faithfully serving in my ward and shining as a brilliant, multi-chromatic beam of joyful celibacy. Nope. I'm still here. Hey, folks. Yeah. Still blabbing on about this homo-mormony stuff, now with the added tinge of agnosticism, which probably changes my readership a bit and makes me mostly irrelevant to my original audience...

*sigh*

Gosh, I need to go to sleep. Yes, sleep. Oh, don't worry, the two of you fretting that I might shut my blog down. We all know it's not going to happen. I can't stop writing my thoughts and having people skim over them while thinking, "I'd read these if they weren't so LONG" but idealistically thinking somewhere, someone will be helped by my incessant rambling. Hey, it could happen. No e-mails from readers whose lives I've changed, like one blogger friend who apparently gets fan mail fairly regularly. I don't. But I don't care to. That's a big difference between him and me, I guess. It might be nice to believe I'm somehow making a difference, but I've never been convinced of it. Meh, I don't need my ego stroked or anything. I just quietly write and hope it's for some kind of good.

Seriously, I'm still typing. Why am I going on? Oh, right: sleepy. Filters are mostly off. Why are you still reading? Go to bed, for goodness' sake, or read the news, or...I just dozed during that sentence. 'Night!

15 December 2009

I Am a Cautionary Tale

I recently wrote about what might go through the minds of younger guys when someone of my ripe old age shows an interest in being friends. In a related online conversation with one such younger guy whom I shall not name, he expounded to me what's going on in his head. In this particular case, most of my suspicions were confirmed, such as him being defensive since I had expressed that I had somewhat of a mancrush and him not really knowing what to do with that, feeling no such thing in return. I had suspected as much, and I thanked him for his honesty. It's good to know where you stand with people, even if it's not where you might prefer to stand.

I was inclined to clarify that when I talk about that kind of crush potential or the sort of mancrush I felt towards him, I really don't mean I'm interested in getting into someone's pants or even that I expect to develop "romantic feelings" for them, but it usually just means I find them unusually endearing and am interested in their thoughts and journey and have a kind of playful urge to coax them out of their defensiveness, even though I almost never actually try to do that. When people state their boundaries, I try to respect those, maybe to a fault. But that doesn't mean I won't tease a little here and there. *wink* Oh shoot, that probably doesn't help with their defensiveness. *grin* Ah well, let them be defensive. As I told him, I don't think I have the energy for that degree of delicacy with relative moho newbies anymore. I'd rather let them do their thing, figure their stuff out or simmer down, and whenever they're more stable or settled or secure, if our paths intersect, and both parties are interested in being friends, maybe we will be. If not, good journey to them. Part of me wants to be there to answer questions or offer support in whatever direction they choose (more to help them think deliberately instead of acting sporadically than to imply I agree with their decision) rather than leaving them to a bunch of inexplicably erratic, seemingly dually-minded mohos who seem to believe one thing intellectually or at least proclaim they do but apparently base their decisions on the emotions of the moment or repeatedly seek secret opportunities for deviation from what they preach. But let's be honest: if they want my opinion, they'll ask for it, and who am I to think I'm about to "rescue" anyone from stupid role models, if that's even what they are?

But the main point that stood out to me in this brief conversation was a painful, bitter truth: I am, to him (and, presumably, many others), an example of one of the things they most fear--still being undecided or conflicted about what to do with it all (not to mention single) at my ripe old age. He said that by my age, he really hopes he'll have decided one way or another and be happily living his life with a companion, whichever way he chooses. Oh, it cut me to the core! The pain! The agony! OK, so I actually totally identified with it, and all I could do is furl my brow for a moment in wounded consternation, then nod and shrug understandingly with a resigned chuckle.

When I first joined an online discussion group consisting mostly of Evergreener types, I read some posts from 50-60-year-olds still lamenting their porn or "self abuse" habits, or the loss of their family due to cheating, and I thought, "Oh, hay-ul no, I do NOT want to be THAT in 30 or 40 years. Please tell me there's more ahead than crying myself to sleep after all that time." I withdrew and didn't read for months, until I had a chance to process more on my own and come back with a steadier perspective. When I returned, I was able to see that their future needn't be mine, that they had a much later start dealing with everything and were maybe just as new to the "struggle" as I was, that they likely had much different social and generational challenges than I do today, etc. And it was OK. I figured there was a chance I might still not know what to do with it all, or I might not have all the answers, but I hoped to be more resolved by then, and I was pretty sure it needn't be a heavy weight on me all the time, and it hasn't been.

I have to admit, however, to myself and to everyone, that I am not at a point most people hope to be at by my age. I don't have a career. I don't have a companion. I have no children. I don't own a home. I am a single guy who hasn't committed to finding a same-sex partner and isn't keen on dating the chickadees. I'm not convinced a same-sex companionship would be fulfilling, I would love to have my own children, I'd much prefer not fight society my whole life in defending a "lifestyle", I kind of wish I wanted to marry a great woman and raise a family, I'm not sure if my companion, male or female, should be active LDS or agnostic LDS or not LDS at all because I don't know what I want to be for sure, I'm trying to figure out which of my interests I want to make a career of...I'm friggin' all over the place. But...I'm used to it. I don't mind it most of the time. And I try not to define myself by what I haven't accomplished or don't have, despite what others tell me I should be or should have. Despite some occasional keen awareness of those things I don't have, I'm OK with me. I like me. I'm not perfect, but I'm OK, and I have something to share and contribute in most settings.

I wish everyone else were comfortable with me as I am, but not everyone is, so when I get this sense that someone is really bothered by my ambiguity or lack of set-in-stone goals and direction, I'd just as soon not bother them, and I lose interest in keeping them close. Defense mechanism? Maybe. Rational measure to reduce unnecessary clutter and stress in my life? I think so. It's not a pattern, just an occasional response.

To most people, I may be a nice guy, or a good guy, or respectable in many ways, but I also am a cautionary tale, an example of what not to become, a frightful product of spiritual apathy and religious inaction or a tragic casualty of the guilt-ridden emotional clutches of organized religion! But I like me alright, and I am figuring things out as I go. I don't apologize for my non-traditional state of being or my supposed lack of direction. I'm a work in progress, and I feel like I'm progressing in ways that matter to me, but it's mostly undetected to the casual observer or even perceived as digression to the observer who adheres to a certain perspective. I guess that's OK. I may look back and wonder how I ever dealt with being where I am now. One day, I may have a home and a family and look back, glad I am not in the sorry state I'm in now. I may look back and consider it a dark time of weak faith and lost perspective. I may look back and see it as an awakening. Who knows? But for now, I feel OK. It is what it is, and amid the lack of conclusion and the conflict I have a lot of happiness.

And that very fact--that it feels fine--may be a red flag to those of you who never want to be where I am at all, let alone be where I am and thinking it's OK. I have to chuckle a little to myself to realize that. How scary to be like me and not have a problem with it, right? I get that. I really do. I guess I can't describe it, and I'll give up trying to defend it. I really do understand if my existence or presence is a source of discomfort. It's my turn to be that person to someone else after others were that person to me. To each of you in my life, I invite you to try to just love me for me, support my efforts you think are positive in the best way you know how, try not to cry for me when I'm not crying for myself, trust that I'm doing the best I know how, trust that I'm not constantly and secretly lamenting my sorry state, and offer constructive feedback and support as requested or if you think it necessary to keep me from ruining my life. I'll try to listen patiently and consider it. But I'm not perfect either, so we'll both need some patience and longsuffering to deal with each other's perceived foibles and frustrating traits.

Now, off to the gym to maintain whatever youth I may have left. *wink*

08 December 2009

Slavery This, Civil Rights That, Blah Blah Blah

Something seems familiar about the Senate majority leader's newest scandalous remarks. I just hope any of my LDS, GOP friends out there who are expressing their distaste for Senator Harry Reid's recent comparison of resistance to hasty change in health care with resistance to hasty change in other historical efforts, such as abolition, also expressed distaste for Elder Dallin H. Oaks' comparison of the attempted silencing of same-sex marriage opponents to the attempted silencing of Civil Rights Movement supporters.

05 December 2009

Beyond the Social Awkwardness

The other night, I was talking with a new mohomie (new to me), and he had a smirk on his face, which I asked him about (as I tend to do). He said something about enjoying learning people's stories after having seen them around for so long but not knowing them personally, and that led to discussing how long we'd seen each other around but were just now getting to know each other. How long had we figured the other person was disinterested? Part of our conversation involved discussing first impressions, and we learned a thing or two.

But before I describe that, I'll say you obviously can't interact with everyone you want to when you want to. Time and energy and emotional investment don't allow you to become friends with everyone at once. I choose those in whom I invest my time and energy somewhat selectively, I think, reserving enough time for quality interaction that I feel like I'm actually connecting with and maintaining quality contact with a few people but leaving enough time for more incidental, "shallow" interaction to find possible casual friendships or future closer friendships as well. Of course, as I discussed with another friend last night, there's often one person or another who isn't as interested in spending a lot of time together or talking as much, and it can be a little difficult to learn to navigate those friendships where personal interest is uneven or is of differing natures (romantic vs. platonic, etc).

Back to the topic at hand: about a week prior, I had gotten to know one of our mutual friends who invited me to a get-together with some guys from a group I just didn't think I related to, and I almost backed out and said I'd just drop him off and pick him up later (I was his chauffeur for the weekend, since he was visiting from out of town) because I didn't want to crash the party or be this awkwardly not-entirely-welcome presence. But in the end, I decided to buck up and give it a shot, and I had a good time. Now there I was, sitting in the room of one of those guys, with another mutual friend of ours, having a good time and enjoying each other's company and wondering what took us so long, shaking our heads and musing about the signals we had interpreted from each other unnecessarily.

We wondered why it took so long for us to hang out, and we learned that we each had the impression that the other person was disinterested. This isn't terribly uncommon for me: I'll chat with people, but I honestly don't find most people terribly interesting on first impressions. I'm generally slow to warm up to people, and I'm slow to find them interesting. It's just kinda how I roll. So I think people read that, and they respond with equal disinterest or defensiveness. But whatever the case here, we learned that we were seeing each other as disinterested when that wasn't necessarily the case.

I told him I'm a shy guy by nature and completely introverted, and I don't naturally go up to a group and introduce myself. I sometimes introduce myself to individuals but not groups without some real effort. And this guy was always with a group. Well, I also saw him as a super conservative Utah wannabe-sporty boy, and wasn't sure how we'd relate. There were always other people who appeared more relatable, so I wasn't sure introducing myself to him was worth the effort. Anyway, I told him when there's a group of people, I'll sometimes come up and talk with someone I know within that group, for example our mutual friend who was there with us as we were discussing this. But I told him when I did that a few times, he and others kind of avoided eye contact or turned away and started talking to each other, which I read as disinterest or even possible disdain for me on some level, so I never tried for more communication. In fact, they have a female friend who hangs out with them who I always thought was kind of looking at me thinking, "Who are you and what do you want with my friends?" Because of these signals I read, I backed off and figured that was just one group I'd not get to know at all, and that was OK because, like I said, I only have so much energy for expanding social circles. He laughed and said that certainly wasn't the impression he'd intended to give and that he thought I was disinterested and didn't care to speak to him, which is why he disconnected when I came over and started speaking only to the mutual friend and not to the group (not knowing that speaking to the person I know when they're standing with their group is sometimes my shy-guy way of opening the possibility of getting to know others in the group). Oh, the zany miscommunication of it all.

The thing is, it's just hard to know sometimes whether we're reading signals correctly or to be aware of the signals we're sending and how they might be interpreted. An acquaintance recently blogged about how he goes to Matis firesides and kind of stays detached but secretly wishes some people would talk to him. He commented in passing that the older guys and younger guys don't seem interested, and I had to laugh because just the night prior, I'd been telling these same two guys I've been talking about that I often refrain from engaging with younger guys at the firesides or other social events because I feel like the uninteresting older guy.

I can't help but think, when talking or hanging out with some of the younger guys, that at least part of them is thinking, "Dude, let's not make this too long 'cause there are a dozen guys I could be spending time with who are younger, hotter, more flirtatious and likely to lead somewhere, and more fun than you, but you seem like a nice enough guy, so I'll give you a moment." Perhaps that's my own projection because part of me has thought that way, which I figure is only human, even if not entirely admirable. And of course, for a lot of these guys, a moment is all I want, anyway. Just touching base, a friendly hello, and we're on our way. But there may be, for example, an interesting-seeming guy who I'd like to get to know better, but who is, say, in his early twenties (read "much younger than me"), new to the moho thing (which makes me think I should stand back so he can befriend more "faithful" guys), and already knows I'm open to getting to know him (let's pretend I've let him know so in e-mails but left the ball in his court because I don't want to pressure him), and I don't want to keep talking to someone who seemingly has some reason for not pursuing communication with me because the last thing I want is to be the creepy older guy who won't leave someone alone. :-)

So what's the result? I'll say hello to him, refrain from the hug I wanted to give, maybe ask a benign question or two, try to read his response and see if there's any more openness than last time or if he'll invite more conversation or seems to at least want to, and finally decide to move on and maybe come back to him later if the opportunity presents itself because I'm not sure how to read him and don't want to force myself or take up time he could spend talking with the people he'd rather be talking to. Slightly awkward, maybe, but worth it for the possibility of having a good chat sometime and letting him know I'm still open to it if/when he's ever ready. And yet I wonder: what does this look like from his side? What interpretations does he have, while I'm wondering how to interpret him?

I'm left wondering, in such a case, if he really just is less interested in getting to know each other any better on a personal level than I am (as I discussed with my friend), or if he's generally wary except with a few chosen people of whom I'm not a part, or if he's secretly afraid his inner beast will try to rip my clothes off and doesn't want to deal with that conflict, or if he's heard some kind of rumor about me which makes him cautious, or if my lack of "testimony" makes me a non-candidate for friendship, or if I'm just too old to befriend, or if he just plain thinks I'm boring, or if he is disgusted by acne-prone people, or if he is interested in chatting more but just doesn't know how to let me know it's OK to talk to him, or if my breath offends him, or if he's afraid I'll crush on him, or if I remind him of his elementary school bully, or...funny how many scenarios one can come up with to interpret signals, isn't it?

Fortunately, I've had several years to learn not to let myself get carried away with this stuff. When things just "don't seem to work" with someone or with a group of people, I've learned not to try to figure it out too much or to tell myself negative stories because you just never know quite what's going on with someone else. Any more, I tend to shrug, hope for better in the future, try to let them know I'm open, or just move on and let it go and let the cards fall where they may. I've tried the "blame myself" or "blame them" thing, and it's not healthy either way. I've tried the "push for an explanation" thing, and it can create unnecessary friction or defensiveness completely unnecessarily and unjustifiably. I've tried the "withdraw and retreat" thing, and it leaves me feeling hopeless and disconnected. Anymore, I generally try the "check in and set the invitation out there and then move on without any expectation of response" thing, an important component of which is to stop checking in after two or three non-responses, and I'm finding that to work best for me.

This way, the connections are just open enough that somewhere down the road, whether or not we ever become close friends, a few of those connections might just end up with us sitting together with friends and chatting until 2:30 in the morning about deep things and stupid things and learning from each other and laughing about how long we awkwardly passed each other up.

02 December 2009

Walking About

No, nobody has asked me where I've gone or whether I'm still alive since my blog's been pretty quiet lately. I'm not disappointed about the lack of inquisitive e-mails. I mean, since when was I a consistent, dependable, regular blogger? I just blog when I have thoughts to share that I think might be interesting and/or amusing to my readers, or--in rarer instances--mainly just cathartic for me. Most of you who know me know very well that I've been busily gallivanting around and simply not still long enough for thought-out blog posts.

That said, it's possible that part of the silence is because there's a facet of my life about which I've generally only hinted in my blog and haven't known how to introduce smoothly: agnosticism. It has set in rather deeply over the last couple of years, and despite some stress of adapting to a different context and paradigm for life, the universe, and everything, and the discomfort of likely being perceived as being in a sad spiritual decline by many close to me who believe a testimony of LDS doctrine to be a sign of righteousness and who believe LDS doctrine to be absolute truth, it's not been so very rocky a road. It just...is. It's been challenging, question-inducing, and even a bit sad in some ways but clarifying, peaceful, and beautiful in others.

I'm bringing this up primarily because I don't mean to make myself out to be something I'm not or to deceive any readers as to my beliefs or lack thereof. I've been on a bit of a spiritual "walkabout" for close to a year now, not attending church regularly and exploring the possibility of life without...well, of life and eternity from a different perspective. This probably conjures all kinds of questions, fears, tears, or even rejoicing from some of you. Some of you may think I must be turning away to justify some decisions. Some of you may think leaving the church means being free to find a same-sex partner. I'm pretty sure neither of those is true, as I'll probably write about in the future.

I have so much more to say on this subject and to clarify about what this does and does not mean. For now, I'll say that everything I've written here has been completely sincere, and I still firmly believe in principled living and general "goodness", whatever that means independent of the context of presumably God-given edicts. I have more to say about the tension of feeling LDS in a sense but deeply questioning truth down to the very existence of God. I have more to say on the journey from Peter Priesthood to...well, wherever I am now. I have more to say on how the religious/doctrinal questioning interplays and doesn't interplay with my own same-sex attraction. I have more to say on the questions that surely come, such as, "But you knew it was true in the past, right?" This aspect of my "journey" may likely become more prominent in future posts, as it's proving not to be a brief phase and is a big "if" in my life right now and for the last few years.

I still see the world through very LDS-tinted glasses, of course. My friends are mostly active, faithful LDS, and I don't wish to alienate myself from them because they matter to me, and I love their traits and identify to their adherence to principles I agree with. If my perspective ever shifts back, I hope they'll be not "waiting for me to come back" but with me still. I'm not particularly interested in gaining converts to my perspective. The agnosticism comes with the freedom to say, "I just don't know," without having to prove myself to those who may make all kinds of assumptions about my character based on this.

I won't be spending my energy trying to convince my faithful friends and readers that I'm right to think or question the way I do, but I will write, as I have, to share my thoughts and perspectives as they come without tiptoeing around my lack of burning testimony in "the gospel". But along with this comes a reservation: if someday I were to become more "faithful" again, I would hate to think that I "led some astray" by my preaching, which has been a big reason for not going into this in the past. But the need for authenticity has become greater, and this perspective colors my thoughts and decisions to some degree, so I will share more of this facet of my journey, whether right or wrong, good or bad, to avoid a potentially even more harmful kind of deception through half-truth. Now you know, though many of you have already suspected (even if only by the self-description on my sidebar): you are not reading the blog of a fully faithful, active LDS moho but one who still believes in living a principled life of goodness.

As one quite conservative, active LDS fellow I talked with about this said, "You're on a spiritual walkabout of sorts, and that may be necessary on your path to truth, as it was for me, even if it takes a year or five." So it is, no offense intended to the true practice of walkabout which I think is more ceremonial and structured. I don't know the end, or if there is one, but I feel freer than ever to pursue it and be open to it, no matter what it may be.

13 November 2009

Church Supports Nondiscrimination: What's the Big Deal?

My mummy dearest sent an e-mail to some family regarding the Church's recent statement regarding an nondiscrimination measure passed in Salt Lake. A relative, who, incidentally, isn't LDS, said she thought that seemed like common sense and wondered what all the hubbub was about.

I responded with the following e-mail:
What's huge about this statement is that many members of the church wouldn't dare say they support anti-discrimination laws because they either believe them to be unfair in protecting a group of sinners or because their church has been silent on the issue except for one statement during the Prop 8 campaign saying the church "doesn't oppose" certain rights for gay people. I think many LDS people just shrugged at that or never heard about it because "not opposing" really just means "not actively fighting"; it doesn't mean supporting. Now they've come out in support of certain anti-discrimination laws, which is great.

I know a lot of LDS people who will, only now that the church has said this, feel comfortable vocalizing their support for equal protections under the law in areas like housing and employment. Would've been nice if more members even considered that during gay marriage wars. Would've been nice if the church had come out with this statement during the Prop 8 battle to temper some of the rhetoric its members were throwing around, but that might've compromised the passion behind passing the proposition. It's hard not to view this as political timing or too little too late, but I think it's a much-needed clarification for so many of the members who are afraid to voice such support until the institutional church does it, so I try not to be too cynical about the timing, and I'm thankful to the church administration for doing it.

...you didn't think I'd have a one-line response for this, did you? :-)



She responded:
Thank you [O-Mo]. You are right and I am very glad the Mormon Church has come out in support of anti-discrimination laws. Let's hope more churches do. I was being short-sighted not to realize the positive impact of this. It just seemed to me to be the right thing so what was the big deal. The big deal is that this is not the norm for many "Christians" and it should be.



FYI, examples of how the Church is taking flack from extreme social conservatives (such as the writers on a site purportedly spreading the "truth" about homosexuality):
Mormon Church Decision to Embrace Homosexual Laws Could Presage a Split in the Pro-Family Movement

Sutherland Institute Calls LDS Support of Salt Lake City Gay Ordinance Problematic

Gary Glenn Responds to Regrettable Mormon Church Decision to Back ‘Gay Rights’ Laws - in part, he implies the LDS Church isn't operating on principle but naively ignoring that some courts have used antidiscrimination laws to push same-sex marriage. Actually, it is the operation of principles rather than blind dogma which demands the tougher road with greater complexity and concessions to reason. Only a jackass thinks it's his way or the highway in all things. I firmly believe in a principled approach to life and politics, but what this man described is not principled in my estimation, it's idiotic.

These are people who are apparently unable to distinguish the parts from the whole of a movement, concept, or philosophy or to understand that every good thing can be misused, but that doesn't make the thing itself bad. They live in a childlike reality without subtlety or clarity. They believe experience determines reality. It's juvenile and intellectually pathetic, and I see it rampantly on both sides of this and other issues. But that discussion is for another time, as is my diplomacy, apparently.



Now that my flight is about to board, and my "bored" time at the airport is about over, I'm going back to vacation mode. :-)

10 November 2009

Soap Studs

*TRIGGER ALERT*

WARNING TO PRESSURE-COOKER GAYS AND SEX ADDICTS: Read no further if you are prone to give in to uncontrollably lusty thoughts or compulsive behaviors upon seeing attractive physiques in acrobatic splendor. Although, if you do fit into that category, it's probably too late, the curiosity is killing you, and you are already unable to click away, and I therefore have your porn binge and/or Craig's List cruising on my head now. Thanks a lot.


What kind of sorry excuse for entertainment is this show someone posted on Facebook last night? I mean, a bunch of ripped, shirtless, wet young guys acrobatically contorting and climbing on each other in homoerotic ways under the guise of theater? Psh. I'm going to view it again while shaking my head disapprovingly to show my disdain for such flaunting of fleshy feats.

It's a darn good thing we don't have such a show in, say, Salt Lake. If we did, we'd probably have sacrament meeting talks about not attending. And you'd have that awkward single dude in your ward trying to organize a young men's outing to go see it. "Soft male" husbands in buttoned-up cardigans and neatly combed hair telling their wives they've heard it's "an impressive show of acrobatic skills" as their wives skeptically shake their heads with furled brows and refuse to go, not knowing quite why they so vaguely but sharply fear their husbands seeing it. No, it would rock the boat too much.

OK, upon second viewing, I have decided it is "pretty cool" (read "I've had time to quell and cover for my self-loathing fear of finding it dang hot in parts and talked myself into seeing it as quality entertainment based purely upon its artistic and athletic merits, the lack of clothing being a practical need and incidental to the greater production"). If it's still running the next time I'm in Berlin (read "the first time"), I don't think I can pass up a show that combines so many of my favorite things: acrobatics, theater, gymnastics, baths, wetness, and...Germans. *cough*

For those of you who are in the category I described at the beginning of this post and are feeling triggered: quick, sing a hymn and picture the temple and hope it doesn't backfire by sexualizing the hymn and making you think of hot guys the next time to see the temple. ...I've always wondered if that happens to some.


07 November 2009

8: The Mormon Proposition - Tooth-Gnashing Extravaganza

Disclaimer: This is not my most diplomatic post ever. I'm not going to refrain from posting some potentially controversial thoughts to make sure my readers have something fun and fluffy to read. If you are prone to take offense where none is intended or to read into people's words your own perceptions of what people who say such things are like or what their motives are, you might consider skipping this post or finding a nice, relaxing activity to lower your blood pressure after reading. I will not be intimidated into silence by those who are supposedly looking after my best interest. Progress comes from conflict and constructive criticism, which is what I am attempting. Sue me if I don't pull it off. I'm genetically flawed.



Same-sex marriage supporters everywhere (at least in Utah) are buzzing about the documentary called 8: The Mormon Proposition. Some are touting it as a groundbreaking, bold exposé on the lies and underhanded tactics used to pass Proposition 8 in California, and the vast Mormon conspiracy against equality in an effort to subdue the nefarious homo uprising supposedly seeking to undermine and destroy society! I was intrigued, so I looked up the trailer on YouTube, and for the first minute or so I was really confused: opening the trailer with Chris Buttars, some Utah state senator who is too cantankerous about homos even for most conservatives? Then showing tightly cropped clips of Elder Ballard saying, "When something needs to be done, we know how to do it" all sinister-like? This felt somewhat like a flipside of those ridiculous "I am afraid" NOM ads, but more emotionally charged and using real people instead of those awful, plasticky actors. I was mildly puzzled until I figured out...it must be a sort of mockumentary! Of course! I then didn't feel bad about laughing out loud at a couple of clips.



I'm sorry, I couldn't help it. Actually, I'm not so sorry. I couldn't help but laugh at a couple of clips of over-the-top statements or sensational editing. I mean, I know many people regard this as the great civil rights battle of our time and can't understand how anyone could see it otherwise. I can't fathom someone laughing at Civil Rights Movement proponents in the south as they passionately decry the inequality forced upon them. "Ha ha! Look at those silly black people and their overwrought emotions!" Obviously (today), racial prejudice and fighting for rights based on ethnic background is nothing to mock. When you're dealing with a population which feels downtrodden or which is (undeniably) denied certain rights, obligations, and protections based on sexual orientation or the sexes of partners, that's a real issue with real emotions not to be scorned. This isn't about mocking those silly, drama queen homos (though I think there are plenty of drama queens out there who would do well to take it down a notch). And I am not going to defend my stance on same-sex marriage or other rights based on sexual orientation or partnerships here because that's not the issue. This is about something more, something aside from fighting for equal protection, rights, and obligations. In fact, as I see it, it's about my thinking many in the gay community are shooting themselves in the foot with all of the gnashing of teeth.

I don't mean to be insensitive to the real hurt people feel around this. It's just that some things they say are so old and tired and nonsensical that...I'm sorry (kind of), they're laughable! "They don't want us to love," for example. I don't even care to dignify that nonsense with a rebuttal. Saying that is completely missing the issue in most cases! Do some of you actually believe that's what it's about, or are you just being deliberately emotionally manipulative because you're either out of logical arguments or are convinced nobody's listening? Another common sentiment I hear is one a good-looking, sympathetic guy says in the film trailer, "I can't believe that people could hate us this much. ... I'm a good person!" That's an understandable emotional reaction, I suppose, though I don't identify with it myself, but it's something I'd expect to hear out of a teenage girl. I do sometimes feel like crying when I hear someone speak like him because I feel terrible for them that they are so hurt and that they see it that way: their pain is very real and not something to laugh at. I might rather hug that guy than argue with him when he's in that emotional state. But the statement is a bit logically absurd. Believing marriage is and always was intended to be a religious institution preserved for man-woman pairings and that government should not change that does not equate to hatred just because the two admittedly do coincide in some people. I can only hope that maybe some Prop 8 supporters who see that clip, which I believe to be sincere, may recognize the need for more compassion, even if their opinion or political stance doesn't change. But compassion isn't, I don't think, what the filmmakers are after. They're after political change, are they not?

Which brings me to a side note: this blog is public and can be discovered by people searching for content related to the film, so it's conceivable (though probably quite unlikely, considering I'm just a teeny blip in cyberspace with few readers) that someone involved with the film could come to my blog and read this. I have tried to temper my language, to present a complete response, not my initial, more flippant and dismissive, emotional response to the trailer. Nevertheless, I am probably an enemy to their cause, having written this. I may lose readers because I'm posting this. Some may feel betrayed. Battle lines are drawn, and there's no time for fence-sitters or switch-hitters who aren't "yes men". "You're either with us or you're against us" seems to be the message from my most ardently activist friends. I even wonder, if I were more public/influential and less tempered, if some activists wouldn't do all they can to discover my true identity, make threats, lash out in various ways, try to shut me up through intimidation or harsh criticism, or campaign against people like me who don't jump on the train and toe the line. And no, this has nothing to do with Elder Oaks' talk. I've seen such behaviors firsthand long before Elder Oaks compared them (insensitively and inappropriately, in my opinion) to intimidation during the civil rights movement. I've been petitioned to join boycotts and publicize the names of donors to 8, etc. I declined. That all seemed beside the point, too. Though some more prominent members of the Church have butted heads with and felt the swift, hard action of church headquarters, I feel more threatened and vulnerable opposing gay activists than I do opposing church leaders. But screw it, I'm going to call it as I see it.

I won't completely poo-poo the film based on the fact that the sensational trailer made me laugh. And I admit I may possibly be partially using this film as my punching bag for the consistent pattern I've observed among my friends who are passionate about this issue. People I like and respect in many ways are close to people who were involved in the film. While I may disagree with a lot of their rhetoric or approach or even their beliefs, I can still like and respect them as a person, but I've been informed that if I don't support marriage "equality", I don't love my gay friends and should remove myself from their lives. That seems awfully narrow-minded to me, but I figure that's more an emotional statement than a rational one, so I let it go and figure I'll let them make the call if I were to ever vote to "preserve" marriage as between a man and a woman.

I don't doubt a lot of hard work has gone into the project, and people have likely invested much of themselves. I know what that's like, so I don't criticize such an undertaking ignorant of how much work has gone into it. I've helped build an organization I whole-heartedly believed would help save lives and contribute to the emotional well-being of many people and would increase education and understanding and family unity, and I've listened to some very harsh criticisms of the organization and its founders, including declarations that it is harmful and deceptive or mockery aimed at those who are part of it, but that's to be expected. The attacks are inherently impersonal, since those making them generally don't know me, and the rational criticisms are such that I've taken them into consideration and thought, "Is there validity to that claim? If so, how can we respond to make appropriate corrections? If not, how can we more accurately present what we're about?" Not everyone will agree with your aim, or your philosophy, or your methods, and some will believe you're doing an amazing work, and others will only see the flaws. I don't intend personal assaults or degradation on those who were a part of this film. My criticisms, you may notice, aren't about value judgments of the people involved but criticisms of the methodology and balance, or the lack of logic in the statements of some of the subjects.

I tried to watch the trailer open-minded, despite expecting the film to be at least somewhat sensational based on the rhetoric of some of its proponents. I see that, if nothing else, it may very effectively present a common viewpoint. I just doubt it will be seen by more than a select few of those to whom that viewpoint would be new or eye-opening because it doesn't command the attention of those who don't already agree with it. It doesn't seem to even care about meeting them in the middle, so does it even deserve to be given a fair chance by them?

I mean, come on, folks, if you want to present something even mildly convincing to your opponents, you're gonna have to show that you at least partially understand where they are coming from. Otherwise, what reason are you giving them to show you such respect and consideration? I've said this to both the supporters and opponents of Prop 8. I've become pretty thoroughly convinced it's a futile effort to keep making this point, so I've largely backed off from trying to get either side to see the other's viewpoint. They, by and large, just don't care. Get a grip, activists on both sides, or you'll just look like a bunch of ignorant ninnies on a playground making asses of yourselves, providing a good laugh along the way to the people "in the middle" you're supposedly trying to reach out to. But maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe the film isn't about reaching out and is precisely about making an angry voice known. If so, it should be advertised as such.

FYI, this is from the perspective of someone who didn't support Prop 8 and thought there must be a better way to satisfy both sides and found plenty to criticize in both sides of the campaign, but more so in its promulgation by "Yes on 8". I am interested neither in circling the Church wagons nor gay rights activist wagons where Prop 8 is concerned. But most seem to be doing just that: since a cultural war is on, stakes are high, and emotions are heated, and rational analysis and real dialog seem to be sacrificed to quicker, easier tools on both sides. Maybe that's what it really comes down to: maybe logic and dialog have been tried and failed (could've fooled me), and it's time for war. It's time not for logic, not truth, but popular opinion bolstered by emotion. I worry this documentary is just another example of that, but I sincerely hope I'm wrong. Maybe the trailer isn't indicative of the greater film. I can only hope.




Note: For a post and comments about this on another blog, see Limits on A Mormon Enigma.

03 November 2009

Dead in Gay Years?! What the @#$%?

A long time ago, in a land far, far away, at a friend's birthday party, an acquaintance asked how old I was. When I stated my age to said youngster, he said, "Wow, that's, like, dead in gay years." I laughed. You bet your sweet bippy that if I were super sensitive about my age, I would have shed tears or brought the smackdown. Fortunately, I'm pretty OK with my ripe old age--which is probably not quite as "dead in gay years" as he proclaimed--and I kinda like my light splashes of grey hair: I earned them. But there are occasional reminders that I am, in fact, on my way to being well over the homo hill.

See, for those of you not familiar with it, in the gay male world, youth and beauty are seemingly valued far out of proportion to other more lasting qualities. Hot, young gay guys love the idea of being in hot, young gay couples, but I've talked with enough guys to believe that the idea of being a wrinkly, old gay couple is either not something most young gay dudes wanna think about or is outright repulsive. Some staunchly proclaim their desire to die before they really start sagging and wrinkling. Do straight guys think about being an old husband and wife on the couch together and want to retch rather than saying, "Aw"? I doubt it, but maybe some do. Anyway, in much of gay culture, by the time age is really setting in, you'd better have either settled in with the bears and leather daddies or have a committed partner 'cause ain't nobody else gonna want some of that old hairy action. ...except maybe other old hairy dudes, but who wants one of those? You see how this is problematic thinking? It's not true among everyone, and there are always exceptions, but I'm just saying it's a prevalent attitude in gay circles.

Anyway, since I'm not on the market, I don't spend too much time thinking about who I could date or who would be attracted to me (OK, so maybe I do spend some time), but in random social situations, I'm reminded of my increasing lack of youth. Let me hold on to the idea that I still have beauty if not youth...at least "for my age". Really? When did I get to the "for your age" point? "You have a good body for your age." *sigh* Yeah, thanks. I do appreciate that; I just wish that "for your age" part could be sincerely dropped. But it can't: I just don't have a college stud hotbod. Never did, never will. [Oh dear, I just realized this post may very likely draw an unusual number of unsavory Googlers.]

On a related note, there's another aspect of aging I've refrained from blogging about in the past: though I firmly believe in sexual restraint and abhor promiscuity and wouldn't change what I've done (read "not done"), I do have this faint, smirk-inducing sense of disappointment that my most youthful, energetic years were spent without putting that youth and energy to some really fun use, and now they're waning forever. It's not a bitter thing, not a sad thing (except maybe briefly during my hypersexual stint and occasional, brief aftershocks), just something I occasionally pout-smile about and then move on with my prudish self, happy I've made the decisions I have even while wishing I could've at least been married and divorced or something... *kidding* *...mostly*

"Why bring this up now?" you ask? Well, a couple of recent events have triggered this post, I suppose. First, I am trying to work off my skinny-fat lovehandles, small though they may be, and maybe get back some muscle tone in my torso, and doggonit if it's not more difficult than it's ever been.

Second, I ran into Calvin at the gym the other day, and he mentioned me having said a good workout takes a few years off for a couple of hours afterward, then he said even with the years removed, I was still way too old for him. I laughed, then I said, "ouch," then I called him a pedophile. Of course, I keep giving him a hard time about making an old man feel older, and he assures me there are probably some younger guys who find me attractive, which only serves to inform me that I am now attractive to a niche category of younger dudes who like "older" guys. Nice. Helpful, Calvin, very helpful. And I simply can't compete with the young hotties anymore if I ever even could. But no, I don't think about that at all. Totally over it. Not even an issue. *scowl*

Third, something hit me at the Matis fireside last night: I'm too old to be befriending the majority of the crowd there, which I didn't feel when I first started going. Between chats with various friends and acquaintances, I observed (as always) the groups of younger guys standing in circles and chatting it up, and it dawned on me that anymore, I'd just feel like the awkward older guy trying to chum it up with the young whippersnappers if I were to join those circles. I don't approach them or introduce myself, partially because I'm not especially interested in chatty group conversations with a bunch of people I don't know (especially really young ones), and partially because I don't want to look like or be one of those older guys who "goes after" the younger dudes. Besides, they're surrounded by guys closer to their age, often attractive, flirty ones, so what place do I really have in all that? Don't get me wrong: this is no self-esteem thing or Eeyoresque mope-athan. I'm just calling it like I see it. By and large, it seems like they're too young for me, and I'm too old for them. There are, of course, exceptions.

I've talked with guys who are a few decades older than me who express similar sentiments, and I laugh that I'm only...well...my age and am already feeling it. But I, a younger guy to them, still talk with them at the firesides and am not itching to run away to the younger crowd. OK, occasionally, but not most often. In fact, I often find it refreshing to talk with someone with more maturity and a more age-informed perspective. But then, I'm kind of unusual that way--I'm one of those exceptions, perhaps. And I do have to admit, I occasionally wonder if they're experiencing an attraction, and it occasionally weirds me out a little to think they might be, but I try to set that aside. What's troublesome is when I wonder if the twenty-three-year-old I'm speaking with is wondering if I'm attracted and is doing the same thing. *awkward*

In short, mine is, in some ways, an awkward age to be a gay guy. Maybe that's just bound to increase as long as I'm single. Maybe being a forty-year-old single gay guy isn't any less awkward. Or maybe it's more a "single people" thing than a "gay" thing. But either way, I'm pretty sure the "gay" thing compounds it, with its youth obsession. I mean, I'm not all knotted up over it; it's just a touch ...lip-furl-inducing to be on my way to "dead in gay years" never having even been on the market. What's a lip-furl you ask? Eh, it's the only way I could think of to describe that look you might make when you're trying to show someone how frustrated you are with them but are half-grinning in the process...you know the look?

Ah well, it probably helps keep me humble and out of trouble. I mean, heck, it's a lot easier to shrug and walk away from a total hottie when you're pretty sure you don't stand a chance anyway because he sees you like this:

You Turn Me On

So...I was in the gym tonight, getting my cardio workout in, and I realized something that may help me avoid future run-ins with shower stall pervs.

When my regular workout shirts are dirty, I resort to my backup T's, two of which are funny gifts from some friends in Seattle, one which reads "Grade A Beef" (funny because it's completely farcical) and another showing a bunk bed with a big moving lump under the covers on the bottom bunk and reads "Sleeps well with others." They thought that'd be funny since I was moving to Utah to live with other mohos. Hardy har har. When I'm feeling particularly flippant, I'll wear the "sleeps well with others" shirt just for the comedy factor (maybe a few times a year). Such was the case tonight.

A couple of times, I've forgotten I was wearing it and kept wondering why people were looking at me: did I have something on my face? Or I'd wonder why people kept chuckling when I walked by. Then I'd remember the probable explanation and laugh to myself. Tonight, though, I was well aware.

I also am aware that wearing such a shirt might actually attract the attention of people for whom it isn't completely laughable and silly to consider hooking up at the gym. So I figure if I see any of those, "yeah, baby, you like it dirty, I'll see you in 10 minutes in the sauna" looks, I'll do my best to communicate utter disinterest or disgust at their sleaze.

Tonight, as I went into the locker room, I was humming along with my MP3 player. I had actually been to the locker room earlier to go to the bathroom, and was humming along to the same song then because after leaving the bathroom and resuming my workout, I stopped the song to listen to the TV instead, then turned it back on when I finished my workout and headed back to the locker room. So here I was, second time in the locker room, humming the same song by The Ugly Americans to myself, and it dawned on me that perhaps, late at night in the gym, during repeated trips to the locker room, wearing a shirt that says "sleeps well with others", I should consider not humming a song called You Turn Me On. Relatively obscure though the song may be, it seems like just one too many invitations...

You Don't Know Me

...and I'm OK with that. Weird? Maybe. Do I care? I don't think so.

Hidden In The Light said he wanted his readers to get to know him, as I think other bloggers do. I think the whole "ask me anything" thing is kinda fun and interesting; I just don't care to do it, myself. I'd like to see more interest-grabbing questions, though, like "Are you into slightly older, skinny dudes?" or "You don't know me, but did you know I know where you sleep?" or "What's your oddest physical feature?" or "Can you do the helicopter?"

Besides, I prefer to talk about what's interesting to me, not what's interesting to you. Duh.

I do enjoy tracking stats and such--I've been a bit fascinated at times by trying to figure out what nights are prime, what times of day, what topics attract more comments, whether more people visit when I post when others are quiet or when I join some furious blogstorm, how people find my blog, how many return readers I have, that sort of thing--but it's more about identifying trends and patterns than it is about lusting after hits or satisfying the masses. If I were hit-greedy, I'd be a lot more dramatic and controversial or would be more careful not to offend my few precious faithful readers. I have very few hits compared to many bloggers, maybe peaking at 110-120 page loads when I post (and that's including loads from a small handful of readers who sometimes come back multiple times a day, maybe to check for comments, maybe because they're obsessed and stalking, maybe because they're bored), and even that's a relatively recent increase.

If I write something that gets no response (which is pretty typical of the posts I think are particularly enlightening and will make the world a better place), I frown in puzzled consternation at the lack of appreciation for fine thinking then shrug and move on with my life, saying, "Hey, I tried to change the world. If nobody cares, I guess the world will just be worse off without my vast wisdom and experience," and making a mental note, "Nobody cares about your stupid insecurities, cognitive dissonance, loneliness, icky crushes on girls, or affinity for gymnasts. Then I tell myself, "Now now, it's not that nobody cares, it's that you wrote a crappy post." Then I offer myself some comfort, "That may be, but it's just as likely that there just wasn't anyone out of your dozen readers who had something to add or expound on. Could be as simple as that." Then I shrug and go back to perusing Facebook.

Incidentally, part of me wants to put my face on my blog, my name, just be out and open like I am in general. But more of me thinks that's all irrelevant and distracting and would rather retain some degree of anonymity. Besides, I'm a "man of mystery" by some assessments, and I kind of enjoy that. You think you know me well, but you don't know me. You can't see it, but I'm making a mystery man face to prove it.

I'm interested in doing more podcast-type posts, which feel more "personal" to me, with inflection, tone, etc. Kind of like YouTube but without that distracting, boring video. OK, sometimes I like seeing people's expressions, but seriously, there are few people I want to look at for more than a minute at a time, and doesn't it all seem the tiniest bit narcissistic to be posting videos of yourself pontificating or venting? What? A blog's no different? Take it back. OK, so maybe I just think video is a bit fluffy in most cases.

Speaking of fluffy, my eyes feel that way. It's late. I should be sleeping. Actually, I should be using the bathroom. All that water. Oh, speaking of water, I drank a bunch 'cause I was at the gym, which reminds me of the post I was going to write when I got home. Shoot. I'm going to write it now, aren't I? Right after the bathroom. Blogging is so weird...

31 October 2009

The Curse of the Werehomo

At this time of year, many celebrate and dread the thrills and horrors of vile creatures and evil spirits. Society is filled with movies and costumes depicting creatures of the night who suck blood, cast spells, or turn into raging monsters by the light of the full moon. Most of them are very fictional, but there is one monster about which I feel compelled to warn the susceptible masses.

By day, he is a wholesome, same-sex-attracted, active and faithful Mormon boy. He holds a calling in his ward, goes to YSA activities, proclaims his faith in the restored gospel with all the zeal of an A.P., and reaches out in kindness and support to vulnerable young mohos just beginning to face their own homosexuality and hoping to find good friendships to help them stay active in the church, faithful in their testimony, and dealing honestly with their issues.

But beware, oh moho newbies, the danger which lurks unseen until it is often too late! Not all wholesome, LDS not-quite-hetero young men are always as they appear, for some have been cursed by an explosive manwhore power beyond anything they have the ability to harness! Pity them, friends, for well-intended though they may believe themselves to be, deep inside lurks a ravenous beast which has, time and time again, released itself with the fury of a thousand sexually repressed gay men at moments least expected, devouring their victims in a flurry of lust followed by sudden retreat, leaving the victim abandoned and desolate. These beings have been cursed, and though they may not be intentionally duplicitous, they are fighting a monster within, which they fear and over which they may have little control. The beast may not manifest itself for days or weeks, so it sometimes can be very challenging to identify one of these outrageously dichotomous beings, these werehomos, but you must learn to spot them for your own protection.

Some clues for spotting a werehomo:
  • They are secretive creatures, benign by day but highly stealthy and mysterious by night. Their nocturnal activities are elusive, leaving friends unsure of where they've been or how they can spend five hours at the gym...
  • They cruise Craig's List, purportedly looking for "someone to talk to", while ignoring the many friendships and ears they have available. Some people are genuinely looking for someone who understands in a way nobody else seems to, but more often than not, more than "understanding" is secretly sought, indicated by the secrecy of these late-night prowlings...
  • They isolate friendships and keep social circles very distinct, for when others have experienced the "beast", they can't afford for the word to get out and mar their reputation, destroying their chances of living a normal "Peter Priesthood" life in the fantastical future when the inner beast has been slain.
  • They are often first in a support/discussion group to extend to unsuspecting newbies a hand of friendship or a phone number to call on lonely nights. They know, at the time, the beast within is compelling them with ulterior motives, but they cannot help themselves. They must play the part of "faithful priesthood holder" to lure the intrigued, attractive ones who seek belonging into the "let's help each other stay faithful with our hands in each other's pants" society.
  • They may harshly judge out-and-proud gay men, or formerly LDS guys who have since left the church and are pursuing same-sex relationships, even decrying such faithless abomination with Tartuffish indignation.
  • Sometimes, one of these may befriend a newbie supposedly to support him and protect him from the wolves in sheeps clothing but find himself unable to resist his own inner-wolf and end up passionately lip-locked with the object of his protection. Some have done this in isolated incidents, but for some, it is a pattern which the creature inside will not let them learn or change; its insatiable hunger for gorging on the affection of impressionable mohos will not be denied...
  • They fear themselves and the rage of their caged beast. They don't know when or where it may manifest itself, so they exert all energy to keep it safely locked away when the moon is not full, never to be spoken of or revealed lest it should suddenly take hold at inopportune moments.
  • Those who have embraced the rush they experience when the beast comes out are different, though: they have an odd confidence about them which attracts some newly-coming-out mohos who don't consider the possibility that some guys are perfectly comfortable with a weekly routine including attending church and getting more stud action than a small-town prom queen...


So beware, my friends. It is a tricky beast, a cunning one, and often not identifiable until you've become one of its many victims in a whirl of passion and rage and piety and shame, and before you know it, you, too, may have been infected by the curse of the werehomo, seeking out new victims to perpetuate the horrific tale. Many mohos are, as of yet, not under this curse, but the perils mustn't be ignored nor feared but faced and confronted! Go now, and enjoy your Halloween activities, warned with a sharp warning and alert to the dangers lurking not in the shadows, but in Peter Priesthood in the pew right next to you or, even more terrifyingly, in your own soul, threatening to burst out in all its horrific, uber-slut terror, devouring your virtue and leaving you in withered and divided shreds of who you once were! How's that for frightful? Happy Halloween! *ominously evil laughter*

29 October 2009

Gaydar Fine Tuning

Pretty much all of my friends with whom I have regular contact are aware of my homoness. For many of them, I'm their first really personal contact with anyone with same-sex attraction who isn't a clownishly gay coworker or whatnot, so their learning curve has been steep.

As their first "token gay friend", I have proud little trainer moments when they use a term like "family," "moho," or "twink" casually in conversation as if everyone should know what this word means. OK, actually that's not entirely true: I still feel a bit awkward when my straight friends refer to someone as a "twink". I don't like that word and don't remember teaching anyone what it means, but one or two of my straight friends have used it, to my mild chagrin. It does, however, indicate a certain level of comfort with the topic that is oddly comforting even if simultaneously disconcerting. But I'm digressing: some of the proudest moments are when they successfully identify a gay dude in a crowd or come back from church saying, "Yeah, I'm pretty sure there are a couple of gay dudes in my new ward. You need to come verify them for me." And when they've asked me to offer my opinion, to throw my gaydar readings in the mix, mine often agrees with theirs.

But they're not quite fine-tuned yet. They catch the obvious ones, or the ones who are more "out" or flamboyant. And sometimes, they even catch the subtler guys by a hand movement or the way they talk about wanting a family but never mention looking forward to having a wife...but they're still thrown off by some of the finer points or confounding variables involved when it's a closeted moho who may or may not even have admitted his own mohoness to himself.

For example, I'll meet a guy and get an immediate vibe and suggest we might have "family" here, and they'll say something like, "No, he's definitely not gay. He talks about girls all the time," or "Oh no, he dates girls," or, "He made out with my roommate and I know for a fact he liked it." My response is usually something like a yawn or a slight eye roll, followed by, "Well, he may not be, but I'm sayin' I got blips on my 'dar, that's all." Or I might sometimes challenge them: "OK, so he talks about girls all the time, but has he dated them?" Or, "so he dates girls, but how many girlfriends has he had?" Or, "Listen, I can't tell you how many gay guys I've known who have enjoyed making out with girls here and there but who still prefer making out with guys and who don't fall for girls like they fall for guys..." I'm not trying to be contrary or make the whole world gay. Sometimes, a guy sends signals that confuse my 'dar, and the blip turns out to be nothing, so I have to acknowledge that probability too. I merely try to indicate to people that making out with or being married to a girl is not a sure sign of straightness.

There's a lot told by eye contact, and maybe this is something SSA/gay guys are uniquely equipped to pick up on because we've been there, done that and because there's something that happens between two guys attracted to guys, a sort of subtle, "Are you family? I think you might be family" exchange that happens in an instant, or a lingering eye contact that may either be mildly flirty or "oh no, I've been found out"-y. I'm not sure it can be taught, but I intend to try. Of course, I can't mentor my young 'dar apprentices in the finer points of homo-location until they learn that "made out with a girl" does not equate with "no chance he's gay", so we're taking baby steps, here...

28 October 2009

Moho Friendship Encyclopedia, Volume 1

I've noticed a lot of posts lately about friendships between gay/SSA/heterosexually-challenged folk. Several months ago, I started a post about the joys and conundrums of gay friendship which I have yet to go back and expound on. In the meantime, though, I figured I'd go through my blog and compile a list of posts on issues around moho friendship and romance in case anyone wishes to go back and read some. I've added a label (I'm very slowly working on back-labeling my posts and making "labels" useful for finding old posts on certain themes) called "Moho Friendship Issues" which I'll apply to each of those posts and any going forward.




About wanting that one best friend:
The Perfect Friend - 9 Dec 2007
About the longing to find an all-fulfilling friendship, a "best friend" who is everything and totally trusted and always available...




Questions around the blurred line between friendship and romance or sexuality:
Homophysicality - 31 July 2007
Exploring the distinction between passion and affection, and maintaining appropriate boundaries.

The Flesh is Willing But the Spirit is Appalled - 13 Jul 2009
Does physiological arousal mean you're on the brink of sin?

Heading It Off - 22 March 2008
Avoiding regret by averting temptation before it becomes overwhelming.

Keeping It Real - 9 Jun 2008
A personal example of how having made decisions ahead of time helped deal with an enticing opportunity.

To Whore or Not to Whore - 6 Feb 2008
Questioning what to do when desire for physical affection and passion is strong, and whether being a lip-whore is really not an option.

Why Be Friends When You Can Just Have Sex? - 29 Apr 2008
Reiterating my lack of interest in physical intimacy without emotional intimacy, in response to a silly "late night" question in a group of friends.



Crushing:
I've Got a Crush On You - 22 Oct 2009
Whether to tell a crushee about your feelings, hide them, or run away from the person.

Different Little Black Book - 15 Sep 2009
Secretly noting the guys I've crushed on as potentials if we both ever decided to date guys.

Desire Assuaged By Familiarity - 1 Jul 2007
The phenomenon known as "demystification": the loss of the fantasy you build around someone attractive by them becoming a "real person" as you get to know them.

Many Mohos (and Homos) In Mormonville - 19 Jul 2007
Recognizing how many gay/SSA LDS folks there are here and realizing they, not the out-and-proud ones, are the dangerous ones for me, the ones I tend to crush on.




When friendship turns into romance, and "breaking up":
Romance 101, Preface - 13 Mar 2008
Examples of a few romantic relationships and what I learned from the very distinct experiences they were.

Love and Longing in a Lovesac - 15 Oct 2009
The story of one good friend I fell for and let go because I couldn't reconcile my feelings for him.

I Liked You, You Putz - 3 Sep 2008
About a dream I had in which a formerly romantic friend and I almost rekindled what I originally thought we had...then waking up.




Kid in a candy store syndrome (or gay adolescence):
Hypersexual Stint - 22 Feb 2009
About my gay adolescence or uber-flirtatious time after beginning to meet more mohos.

Feeling Real at the Matises' - 8 Jan 2008
Coming off the fantasy and selfish flirtation into a more grounded place, socially.

Many Mohos (and Homos) In Mormonville - 19 Jul 2007
Recognizing how many gay/SSA LDS folks there are here and realizing they, not the out-and-proud ones, are the dangerous ones for me.

Lacking Intimacy Among the Mohos - 1 Jun 2007
Realizing my friendships had taken on a sort of "heaping mohos unto myself" trend, which wasn't conducive to true intimacy in friendships.




Other challenges I've encountered in moho friendships:
Whom To Trust? - 31 May 2008
The tentative caution of one who is initially coming to terms with his/her homosexuality and whether friendships with other mohos are "safe".

Looking Around Dismayed, Trying to Look Inward - 8 Jun 2008
Noticing unseemly behavior around me and trying not to be judgemental about it but learning from it.

Lacking Intimacy Among the Mohos - 1 Jun 2007
Realizing my friendships had taken on a sort of "heaping mohos unto myself" trend, which wasn't conducive to true intimacy in friendships.

Nobody's Bulletproof - 7 Sep 2007
Experience of briefly understanding how some people get into trouble by jumping into connections based on physical attraction; wondering how things might have gone differently had I not already made certain decisions...

Is It Really Just About Sex? - 23 Jan 2008
Responding to a friend's question about homosexuality seeming primarily physical.




Friendship insecurities I have heard more than once:
Why Do People Like Me? - 18 Oct 2007
Wondering if people ever like me for me, or whether most friendships are mutually selfish.




Misc thoughts on friendship and relationships in general:
Living Love - 13 Jan 2008
Questioning what it means to "love".

Marriage, Manlove, or Misery - 1 Aug 2007
Rejecting the false dichotomies that you must either marry a woman, or find a same-sex partner, or be miserable.

Regaining Perspective in a Lovesac - 15 Nov 2007
A conversation with a female friend about meaningful relationships and the slap upside the head it gave me.

Thank Goodness for the Discomfort of Friends - 2 Jan 2008
What friendship means to me: not someone to stroke my ego but someone to help me be better.

No Safe Investment - 11 Feb 2008
If a relationship is to be worth it, some investment and risk and vulnerability will be required.

Conflict, Integrity, and Ownership - 25 Aug 2007
Dealing with inner conflict through trying to maintain integrity and owning the decisions which are mine to make.

Coping With Scrapping Celibacy - 21 Feb 2009
Dealing with difficult feelings in reaction to seeing friends go from "celibate" to "sexually active" almost recklessly, and trying to figure out where the frustration comes from.

24 October 2009

Becoming a Blogfloozy

I almost did it. I considered it. But I refrained. And I thought, "What has come over me?"

You see, when I entered the blog world, it was all very impersonal. I had a small handful of friends who did the blogging thing, and I cared about them and their thoughts, but everyone else was a faceless blog name, an impersonal presence divulging entirely too much personal info online. I started blogging to make a perspective known and heard, not to make friends or to pour my heart out to anyone who would listen. I had friends I talked to. I didn't want a bunch of anonymous readers to try to validate me. And I didn't understand the people who would read someone else's blog and really want to meet them. I was disgusted by the way some bloggers seemed to use the blogs to hook up with each other under the guise of wanting to talk with someone in person and make friends. It all seemed so...cheap and...needy. I had my friends, both straight and mohoish, and I didn't need to go out in search of other friendships, especially not through some online system. I mean, why do that? What are people really looking for?

Of course, if you don't already have moho friends who are queer mormon poster boys through whom you naturally meet other mohos, how do you begin? But then again, I began through an online discussion group. Of course, the discussion group was, for me, not a support thing as much as a place to bounce ideas and get feedback and perspective, to help process stuff. But when I moved to the Seattle area, I asked about mohos there because I thought it might be helpful to have someone to talk with in person. A couple of people recommended someone, so I met him in a public, neutral place. Then, a couple of months later, I met someone else he'd met through the same group, then a few months later, another friend someone met at a JIM weekend, then the Queer Mormon Poster Boy himself (I called him Quimpby [Q.M.P.B.]), and it snowballed from there when I moved to Moho Valley, went to Matis firesides, etc. Thus, my interest in online interaction continued to wane.

I guess of all places you could meet someone online, blogs are a decent one because you really do get to know aspects of a person pretty well and get an idea of where they're coming from and whether they'd be a support to you, though some blogs are deceiving in that regard, but that's another discussion. And not everyone is so impersonal and cerebral as myself. Some paint quite a picture of who they are or perceive themselves to be. But I never had interest in meeting people through blogs. Until one particular blogger challenged my disinterest.

It began with Soy. You know, the famous "Soy Made Me Gay" blog through which many of us mancrushed or just plain crushed on Mr. Soy himself...didn't we? Was it just me? No way, couldn't have been. I found myself surprised that, for the first time, here was someone I actually really wanted to meet after reading his blog. Something about his writing, his attitude, and his persona attracted me. When I saw his picture, I said, "OK, not necessarily 'my type' but certainly not a deterrent at all." Soyman, just tellin' it like it was, baby. I felt both drawn to meet him and wary about the prospect. What if he didn't like me? What if he already doesn't like me based on my blog? What if I crushed on him? Of course, I'd asked that question before with someone else, with whom the crush-potential dissolved as soon as we met in person, and I just knew we'd be friends. I have yet to find out that would happen with Soy. Well, I missed the chance to meet him when I was unable to make it to Scott and Sarah's gathering the night he was supposed to be there. I got over it and moved on, figuring the anonymous mancrush-slash-crush was an isolated incident, probably one-way, and might never happen again.

It happened again. Some time later, I notice this mysterious fellow who commented on my blog. I liked his "style". I went to his blog. I liked the blog. I liked his thought processes. He seemed like a good guy, a nice guy. I thought, "I might like to meet him." This time, I wasn't exactly crushing as I had with Soy, but I was still kind of surprisingly interested to meet him. When I passed through his city of residence, I met Jon Jon, but I decided to forego demanding a public, neutral place. I was pretty sure I had enough experience under my belt...no pun intended...to handle myself...I'm honestly not trying for innuendo...in situations with other gay dudes, so I agreed to meet him at his house. I informed him, when I walked in, that I'd told three people and the news media where I was, so if I wasn't at dinner at my friends' house in time, he'd better be well on his way to the border. He didn't try anything funny. Despite not having "crushed", I'm pretty sure we both had those stupid semi-grins on our faces at first: you know, the kind that's trying to hide the relief that you're not disappointed with the person you're meeting and the mild giddiness of a meeting you've anticipated somewhat nervously... We visited, I liked him, and I decided we should be acquaintances, even adding him on Facebook. Whoa. I had just made friends with another blogger without any personal, mutual connections (except one we discovered during our conversation). I was becoming a true blog nerd.

But it reached a whole new level last night. I was going to the symphony in Salt Lake with my roommate/friend and his girlfriend, and our other mutual friend who I'd invited wasn't able to make it. So (sorry to those of you I invited), I went through my phone trying to think of people I knew who I thought would enjoy the symphony and who I hadn't seen in a while. I asked Chedner, but he couldn't make it. I called our friend Derek, but his phone was turned off. I thought, "I'm really tempted to ask...no, I couldn't ask him. I shouldn't." I asked another female mutual friend of ours, and she had a date. Again, I thought, "I know someone who is into music and who I'd like to get to know better...oh, stop being silly." I asked Mr. B, but he had plans. "It'd be a fun thing to invite him to...stop it, you don't even have his phone number. You'd have to e-mail him, and you couldn't know if he got the message until he responded. Besides, it might freak him out, asking him to what looks like a date situation." It was getting late, and I wasn't hopeful to find someone at the last minute on a Friday night, but my brain grasped at options. "Maybe it wouldn't harm to ask, at least. He's obviously into music, though maybe not this kind. Why not find out? But why? Are you crushing on him a little? Besides, you're probably too agnostic to be a beneficial 'new' friend to the more faithful LDS guys, no matter how well-behaved you are. Just forget about it. Besides, you've never even met the kid. He's probably cautious about you anyway." I asked two other friends, both busy until after the concert was to start. By then it was too late, anyway, to contact the blogger-boy who I thought would make a good symphony date...I mean non-date.

I was left marveling that I had even considered inviting a blogger I've never met (you heard me--never...met...) to go to a sort of formal event after only incidental personal communication and knowing he's only met a handful of mohos so far and is taking his time. "What's going on with me?" I wondered, "I would never have even considered that a year or two ago, even if he were a veteran moho." Granted, I can think of some reasons why I may be feeling like reaching out to new friends, since many friends here have moved away or are often busy. But then why reach out to a blogger I don't know except through his blog? Because he sounds smart and sensitive and principled and creative? Are those reason enough to invite a stranger out before even having a decent conversation? I don't do friendships like that. I meet people through friends and don't ask practical strangers to go to the symphony. And I seriously thought about doing it...am I on my way to blogfloozihood? This process must be reversed.

Incidentally, if this post makes the jazz-loving, skinny-handed, puppy-puppeteering blogger I considered inviting even more wary of me than he already may have been, then it's probably for the better: honesty and forthrightness, right? *sigh* I'm going out now to feel like less of a loser after blogging on a Saturday night about not being able to find someone to be my non-date on a Friday night. *wink*



P.S.--the symphony was beautiful. Loved it. And though I was more in the mood for Aristo's or Mazza, the food at Trio afterwards was good, too. The "baked Alaska" flourless dark chocolate tort? Mmmm...

23 October 2009

If It Ain't Broke...

The more I've read from Dr. Warren Throckmorton, the more I appreciate his moderate approach and balanced perspective, even if I'm unsure of some of his work and theory. Of course, he initially began winning me over with his critiques of Byrd et al's reviews of In Quiet Desperation and their misquotations and distortion of the work of others. My heart was immediately warmed, and I felt the tinge of affinity one feels for the enemy of an enemy.

I recently ran across his article, I Am Not a Reparative Therapist, from a web site with some of his archived work, and I gained even more appreciation for his way of thinking as he raised many of the questions and concerns I've had, including many points of dispute I came up with while listening to Nicolosi at the last Evergreen conference.

Check it out if you have doubts about the "I HAVE THE ANSWER" reparative therapists but have never fallen into the illogical trap of dismissing all theories around "nurture" of homosexuality as bunk and adopted a strictly and exclusively deterministic or genetic basis for homosexuality, despite lack of irrefutable proof as of yet, just because the flawed theories and overconfident assertions you've encountered in your own experience prove incomplete or don't apply to you--in other words, if you're a fair-thinking, open-minded individual. Oooo, did I just say that? Yeah, I did. Diplomacy be damned, I'm in a mildly flippant mood right now. It happens. Get used to it.

22 October 2009

I've Got a Crush on You

Apparently, I'm sort of emotionally available in a way I haven't been for some time because I've been having multiple mini-crushes again, which hasn't happened in quite some time. Granted, they're just mini crushes, and none are even remotely entertainable as anything more *sigh*. But gay friendships have such...interesting dynamics (that's another draft topic I've never finished).



Scenario: you're a gay/SSA LDS guy, and you meet another gay/SSA LDS guy. You hit it off, conversation is good, he's attractive, funny, intelligent, has good taste, seems like a genuinely good and nice person, and...crap, you're crushing a little bit, and you suspect he may be crushing back a little.

Between mohos, it's sometimes a bit problematic. Crushing on a straight guy is much simpler: he's not going to return the attraction, so nothing is going to happen even if you do start crushing a little harder, and there's not much point in telling him about your crush because what's he supposed to do about it? Or in most cases of two gay men meeting and crushing, dating is an option for them. While that obviously requires some navigation, it's more typical of what happens when someone's interested in someone else. But when it's two gay guys who are LDS or otherwise not wanting a relationship or even hanky panky, what are you supposed to do with that? Do you tell him you're crushing on him or keep it to yourself? Or do you just avoid him altogether?



Option 1: Keep it secret, keep it safe. If it can't go anywhere anyway, or you're both trying to be "good" and not date guys or mess around, then what's the point in telling him you're crushing and making things potentially awkward? Why not just maintain the friendship, secretly crush, and not speak of it so as to not make a mountain out of a molehill?

Hopeful outcome of option 1: You remain friends, and nothing questionable ever happens because neither person has really admitted a crush, so nobody feels free to make a move that would get you both in trouble. The friendship continues blissful and crushy, and you become besties for life. Or at the very least, the friendship hasn't been made unnecessarily awkward or stifled by worries around what might be a passing crush.

Hazards of option 1: Let's be honest, how long can two guys crush on each other without them realizing it and opening up avenues of...affectionate expression crossing over into sexual? Really? And how likely is it that neither one will ever crush on someone else, leaving the other feeling dejected and hurt? Not talking about a crush isn't going to make it magically dissolve, and some pitfalls could be avoided by both parties being open and setting bounds. Also, I see SO many guys waltzing around their wards, the blogosphere, and support groups claiming to be good LDS boys who want to marry a girl but, in all of their denial, getting more stud action than any girl in their ward. In such cases, often nobody's calling a spade a spade because they just try to sweep everything under the rug rather than openly discussing it and owning up to what's really going on.



Option 2: Tell him. Just lay all the cards on the table. It can come in various forms. If he cuddles in, tell him cuddling can't happen because you're "not sure if you can maintain appropriate boundaries" (code for "I'm likely to jump you if you come any closer, you sexy beast you"). Another way is to flirt openly and shamelessly, exaggerating the crush into a comical parody of itself. Or you can simply say, "I have a crush on you," and maybe enumerate what measures you are going to take to guard against letting the crush get the two of you into a situation you don't really want.

Hopeful outcome of option 2: Communication is opened, and with all the cards on the table, you can openly admit you're crushing on each other, openly discuss that it can't go anywhere, and decide what boundaries are going to be necessary to keep situations benign, emotions in check, and hands out of places they shouldn't be. The friendship continues, and if someone begins to crush on someone else, you've been open all along and are discussing this and responding accordingly.

Hazards of option 2: Sometimes you think you're communicating and have things under control, but there are still misunderstandings and emotions out of control (I mean, did you read my little Lovesac story?). No guarantees. At worst, the openness is taken advantage of by whoever believes he has the upper hand, and he deliberately toys with the other's emotions and uses his affections. Besides, it is possible to talk a relationship to death or make things unnecessarily awkward.



Option 3: Turn tail and run! Don't even bother. If you're not going to pursue anything, and it's obvious that mutual attraction is a likelihood, and you're crushing, don't fool yourself into thinking you can "make it work". You can't. It's like Harry says in When Harry Met Sally, a gay man and another gay man can't be friends. Well, OK, so that's like the When Harry Met Sal version, but you get the picture. Sure, you might have this lingering crush and never "demystify" the object of it, but in these cases, it's best to leave well enough alone. Just don't even play with fire. It can only end in tears. It's all fun and games until somebody has to see the bishop.

Hopeful outcome of option 3: You're safe. No risk, no pain, no confusion. The crush wanes, you move on, and there's no friendship lost or made awkward because you never began one. No messy emotions, no boundaries crossed. You move on without regret.

Hazards of option 3: You wonder what friendship you could have had, whether you made too big a deal out of it and it would have passed, but you'll never know because you chose the comfort of safety over investing in a potentially beautiful friendship. You push people away whenever there's a hint of possible romantic or sexual interest, and it becomes a pattern of isolating yourself from people who could provide a lot of support and love, and you never learn to really deal with the complexities of relationships, so you're more likely to be caught off guard when a situation sneaks up on you.



I think different situations may call for different responses. I've tried all of the above, with varying results. Perhaps it's an art I'm still just beginning to learn. But I have to say, I probably most prefer and have most used option 2. I've been described as "forward", which is funny since I typically end up being all talk. I guess it's my way of defusing tension. It's frank, it's open, it allows for the friendship to develop with fewer walls of doubt or ambiguity. It's certainly not foolproof, nor is it guaranteed to save you from heartache, but it just feels right to me most of the time. ...but timing matters, too. I've decided to try not expressing my crushness until I know someone better, then reassess if the crush still exists after I've gotten to know them, if I get to know them. Sometimes, I enjoy the quirks of moho life.

19 October 2009

Addicted to Porn, or Just Fond of It?

Some people have real pornography addictions. This hit me during an Evergreen Conference session a few years ago, when a therapist or psychologist was presenting on sexual addiction. I was intrigued to see what was said at an LDS-centric conference. Besides, it was probably a choice between that or something like "Overcoming Self-Hatred" or some such thing. Sexual addiction was far more interesting, despite wondering if I had any right to be going because I didn't experience it. During part of the presentation focusing on pornography, a select few people from the audience, or interviewees from research presented, shared their experiences with pornography addiction. Some had been fired from a job for viewing pornography at work or that they, at their worst, had spent three or fours hours every night looking at pornographic images and videos online. Others confessed they became emotional wrecks if they didn't get their fix. They craved it. They couldn't function without it. It severely interfered with their day-to-day life. It began with a little here, a little there, and blew up into a major problem which consumed hours of every day. My eyes secretly bulged out of my head. I apparently had little concept of what "addiction" could mean. As far as I knew, "addicted to porn" probably just meant "can't seem to kick the habit". This was a whole other ballpark, and I felt a little sheepish for having intruded and having underestimated the extent of addiction experienced by some fairly normal-seeming people (and some not-so-normal-seeming ones, of course).

I was careful not to let this revelation lull me into a false sense of security in thinking porn was fine in moderation. Many people, including many psychologists, believe it's even beneficial and healthy in moderation and as part of normal sexual expression. I'm not one of them. In my opinion it's not wholesome, enlightening, genuine, or enriching, and isn't worth the time that could be spent on any of a number of other things. It takes something beautiful and mutually selfless and degrades it into something superficial and crude for selfish entertainment. It comes from an industry that is corrupt and demeaning and dehumanizing. And on the list of productive and beautiful images and thoughts to have in my brain or on my mind, it's not in the top 20 or so. In short, I tend to regard it, at its best, as a not-so-great habit and, at worst, a vile and loathsome scourge insulting and degrading the beauty of something meaningful.

But is it possible that for some, or many, the viewing of pornography is more on the "bad habit" side of things than the "addiction" side? In LDS culture, the viewing of pornography is, in no uncertain terms, condemned and decried as an unholy and impure practice, and is said to include not just X-rated videos or photos but any medium of entertainment designed to titillate and induce lustful thoughts. In such a culture, I wonder if we haven't sort of watered down the meaning of the term "addicted" and promoted self-destructive shame and inaccurate feelings of freakishness. Should a guy who looks at pictures of scantily clad people in provocative poses once a week for a few minutes think of himself as addicted to porn or a vile and disgusting sinner? I'm pretty sure I've known one or two guys in that category who at least referred to themselves as having a "problem with pornographic images". And I didn't want to falsely console them into thinking a little lustful coveting is OK, so I refrained from saying, "Hey, that may not be a good habit, and I support you trying to minimize or rid that from your life, but don't be too hard on yourself. You're actually doing pretty well, all things considered. Just keep aiming higher, and you'll be fine."

Actually, I think I did say something like that to one, and he immediately pushed it away, presumably because he was afraid to see himself as anything other than vile and sinful for doing it, lest he should give himself license to become a porn-addicted mess, specializing into things like midgets or vegan dungeon porn. I wanted to explain to him he would probably see no less improvement if he could look more fairly at it, but I let it go 'cause I wouldn't want to create a porn-monster. Why have I been so worried about sounding like I might be condoning something I shouldn't be? Have others experienced this, or am I the only one who has thought of this?

I mean, is it damaging to allow those who are really quite normal or even less porn-loving than most to punish themselves because of it rather than regarding it as a pretty normal habit that is nonetheless spiritually destructive and unworthy of one's attention and time? Is it unwise to say, "Dude, you're not addicted. Let me tell you about addicted..."? Is it non-constructive to say, "Listen, if it's something you believe you should avoid in your life, then I support you in eliminating it. But if it's an occasional thing that's been part of your life off and on since adolescence but hasn't interfered with your daily life or turned sex into something impersonal and selfish for you, then don't be too hard on yourself." Isn't it fair and accurate to say, "You're right not to be proud of it, but pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again, and don't heap more guilt on yourself than is due. You're not alone in this challenge." I mean, maybe viewing porn is to spiritual sensitivity like smoking is to one's sense of taste: people don't realize they've lost the sensitivity until they stop the habit for a while and regain the sensitivity. So maybe in that sense, porn is not excusable or justifiable in any quantity, but still, is it such a slippery slope to tell someone who's not addicted but rather fond of porn that it's not adultery, and it's not an addiction, but it is a bad habit?