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.

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?

18 October 2009

Lovesac Epilogue

I've decided to briefly ("brief" being a relative term) describe the aftermath of Love and Longing in a Lovesac.

A lot happened after that, with a roller coaster of alternating acceptance and bitterness. I wasn't able to fully let go as I'd hoped while we were spending time together still. My love for him seemed to become bitter to our friendship as I watched him enmesh even more with his other friend while I tried to carry on as the same old friend I'd been. I didn't always succeed. I'd still try to push a "friend" boundary or two here and there, and I'd feel stupid afterwards, like I was making some desperate attempt to show him he should have chosen me or entice him into wanting me as more than a friend. But I knew that wouldn't work, nor did I want it to. My brain fought my emotions. I’d tell myself, "I must be able to do it. I'm strong. I can reason with my emotions. They don't control me." And yet all that mental exertion seemed to do was deaden and numb the tenderness I had felt in an effort to not care whether or how it was returned. I then unintentionally tried to counteract the numbness by holding on to the pain.

It's a funny thing the psyche does. When you've felt so deeply for someone, when you've felt such tenderness, and you can't hold on to the love as you had hoped to, the next best reminder of that tenderness is to hold on to the kind of pain that can only come from such love. It's not healthy, but I think it's what I did. A line of a Weepies' song suddenly made sense one day: "I keep pushing the bruise 'cause I don't wanna lose what I loved about you." I wasn't letting go. Not really. Not as long as I held on to the pain, which I couldn't seem to help, because letting the pain go meant letting the care go, and letting the care go felt like letting the relationship go, which would waste all the emotional effort and energy I'd already spent to stay in it. But the more I tried to "get over it" and maintain the friendship, the more the emotional wound hurt and festered, being reopened each time I spent time with him.

I decided that, rather than remain in what seemed like a toxic, withering version of what I once regarded as a beautiful friendship, it was necessary to make a clean break and let the cards fall where they may later. This was one of the hardest decisions I'd made in a long time. I had been afraid to do so because it might end the friendship and because I would then surely lose him to his other friend. But that had surely happened anyway in the romantic sense, and the friendship was, to me, already not what it had been and consequently not what I wanted to hold on to. Though he told me he was fine with how things were, and nothing had changed for him, that was no comfort but rather a reminder of the non-returned feelings. It was too different for me, and I accepted that I probably wasn't going to be able to buck up and deal with it. So I called for a complete break, admittedly required by my own weakness.

The break was painful but essential. We've since moved on, not in touch much anymore. Now, with that distance and with the detachment I've gone through, the feelings I felt on that wintery Sunday are hazy, almost like they were for someone who no longer exists except in my memory. Strange how that works. I'll chalk it up to my own perceptions and rose-colored memories. I care about him and hope he's happy. Maybe that's just what my brain tells me to make "sacrificing" the friendship worth it, like a defense mechanism that tells me what I went through was only worth the pain if it ends with everyone being happy. Could it be that? I don't know. What I do know is that I care about him and can't just throw that away. I imagine I will always care about him and even love him in some way. I don’t know if I could just stop loving someone like that. I have stopped feeling affection for certain people for whom I used to, but even though the relationship itself may necessarily end or change drastically, to simply stop loving someone in the sense of caring about their welfare and happiness is not something I aspire to.

I'm OK with it now. I feel pretty resolved. Writing about this doesn't elicit the emotions it used to. It's been a process getting here, though. Occasionally as the thoughts and emotions around that relationship resolved, in moments when old feelings have begun creeping back in, I'd remember that moment in the Lovesac, and the pivotal perspective, and the motivations, and that intense love I felt, and didn't need to understand it all but just let it remind me of what induced some emotional craziness in me and of how sweetly I once felt, and I was able to let go a little more.

15 October 2009

Love and Longing in a Lovesac, part 2

<<< Continued from part 1

One night, I had consoled and comforted him when he and his other friend with whom things had become complicated were going to be taking an indefinite "break" to sort things out. I secretly wished his devastation had been about potentially losing me. I was also irritated that we had arranged to meet and discuss the situation between us, and he was using the time to moan about the other guy. I wanted to swear at him and call him unbelievably selfish, but I couldn't dwell long on those thoughts because he was so clearly upset that I had little desire to make it about me and have two of us focused on our own pain. I could see he was in real pain, and I knew I was his main confidant. Ah, so that was it. I was the confidant, not the heartache. I pushed away the sting because to mope in self-pity over that was to distract from his pain now when I could do that later on my own or with another friend, since he couldn't help me with that anyway.

I had intended to call for a break that very night as well, but I played the role of supportive friend while feeling my heart break a little at the realization of the feelings his reaction over their indefinite break probably indicated. I thought, "I can't stay and comfort him just to try to keep him from feeling alone. I need to do what's best for me, and he's a big boy and will survive; don't flatter yourself thinking he'll crumble if you turn away now. Besides, I can't stay now hoping the other guy is out of the picture and won't come back. It's not like I'm going to move in on him anyway. And maybe the best love right now is tough love, letting him lie in the bed he made." I thanked myself for trying to intervene to my own benefit but informed myself I was willing to take the risk for his sake.

I told myself it wasn't too late to keep the friendship and let go of the romantic part without needing the break right now. I decided not to call for the break because I wanted to see what would happen if I just focused on him and our friendship rather than focusing on self-preservation. But honestly, in part, I think I was afraid that if I withdrew, and the other guy came back, I'd somehow be the bad guy, the one who didn't stay, the childish one who couldn't deal with his emotions. I had hoped, for a moment, the other guy would never come back, so I could prove I was the one who cared, but I quickly brushed that thought aside as a selfish and petty one. I didn't want him losing friendships, mine or others, and I wanted to maintain his friendship.

Within a day or two, the other friend called him and wanted to talk. He seemed relieved and happy, and I was glad he was happy but tried to hide my dismay that we were back to the triangle so soon. My bitterness had begun. I had somehow interpreted some things he'd said as meaning he was more comfortable and himself with me than with the other guy, which I in turn thought should mean I'm the one he should've fallen for if he wasn't thinking with his hormones. I didn't take into account the fact that we don't always choose whom our hearts lean towards or why and that certain traits in someone, great though they may be, don't mean the best fit for us. "Why choose him, though, if you said those other things?" I demanded of him in my mind, "Why fall for him instead of me? Is it because he's more willing? Is it because he has a much hotter body than me? Are you picking passion over intimacy?"

I was questioning to myself this way in the Lovesac as I lay now distanced from him, making it clear that he had made his choice. If he wanted affirmation, he could go to his other friend for it. And then it hit me: "he's not the one 'picking'; you're the one forcing the choice because you're too invested now to handle not being the favorite, not having your love and affection returned exclusively and in the way you want it." I was feeling unreciprocated love, the other side of which I’d experienced a few times, but this side of it hurt so much that even intellectually recognizing the irrational nature of my emotions didn't change them or take away the pain. I still felt defensive, rejected, and guarded, and I struggled not to let that manifest itself as angry or bitter behavior or language.

I had seen him with the friend he was falling for. I noticed how they interacted and how my friend smiled, and how naturally they seemed to talk, how at ease he seemed. While I had a natural connection with my friend as well, I began to see the two of them as coming together more fully than before in a way that he and I weren't. Or maybe I was purely jealous. But somehow, it didn't feel like jealousy. In that moment, seeing them together, I realized what I most wanted was for him to be happy, because I loved the cuss, and if that meant watching him go for someone else, I hoped I was prepared to let him go in that way and "strong enough" to keep the friendship. That's a painful kind of relief to find, that love of letting go. If I could let go of my romantic or exclusive feelings while staying close and maintaining the intimate friendship we had, I wanted to try. He seemed to think it was possible.

I felt a definite but subtle tension between us. For whatever reason, I was beginning to realize that some dynamic in our friendship or in my emotions was truly changing, that whatever fantasy thoughts I'd built up were dissolving, and it was hard for me to really recognize how or to accept the necessary changes. I felt insecure. I caught myself being flirtatious or getting almost clingy when I noticed any apparent indifference or lack of attraction towards me. We had decided to back off of the flirtation, so he was probably just doing his part, but part of me wanted to test and see if he had really lost interest or if he was actually having to resist temptation (me). I could find out by flirting until he caved, then stopping because the test had proven what I wanted to find out and the flirtation was no longer necessary. Who was I becoming? Was I really playing that game? Of course, there were also times when I was behaving myself and he was the one to push. I realized I didn't want this to become an unhealthy cycle (too late?) and backed off, trying to focus on appreciating the friendship we had without needing that romantic affirmation from him.

After I'd been more distant from him for a bit, he started to cuddle in. I said, "Back off. Don't touch me." I didn't want to cuddle with him. Yes I did. Kind of. I didn't want to be a consolation cuddle, a recreational cuddle, or just another cuddle buddy. I didn't want to be the "safe friend" anymore. Yes I did, because I didn't want to cross boundaries and muddy a friendship I definitely wanted to keep. But I wanted to be the preferred cuddle. But why would I feel that way? I didn't want a romantic relationship. Not really. I did want the intimacy. Wait...were they different in this case? Looking back, I should've known exactly what was going on, but in the learning process, it's not always so clear.

I found myself feeling fed up with gay friendships and their complications. I found myself wanting to find a girl I could settle down with and start a family with. I'd take the complications of a mixed-orientation relationship over these ones. I didn't want to spend the rest of my life in pseudo-romances, never really engaging because I either end up never loving a girl the way I hoped to or not accepting a same-sex romance as a viable or doctrinally acceptable option for myself. I could just be single and very careful about my male friendships, but the easiest answer seemed to be a wife and family, without all of the moral questioning, religious conflict, social stigmas, family tension, wondering if my adopted kids should have a mom, and wondering if I'd ever even find a guy who was interested in committing to me monogamously and faithfully, let alone willing and even capable of doing so. In the back of my mind, I knew these were probably passing, defensive thoughts.

I realized my defensiveness and cuddled back, trying to just trust and let go of the defensive feelings. Physical affection was to remain benign because of our now-even-stricter boundaries since he and his other friend had realized the nature of their affection for each other, and we were all trying to figure things out. I didn't want to get into some sort of competition. ...I just wanted to be 'the one'. Would I ever really be someone's 'one', and they mine? I looked up at the Christmas tree my roommate and I had put up and wondered if I would ever have my own "family tree" with my own family and our own traditions. That tree, decorated in sparkling silver, glowing gold, and rich bronze, looked stark and tinny in that moment, full of store-bought decorations devoid of life and meaning. I told myself to stop wallowing in holiday blues and to quit projecting this one friendship, which never even involved any expectation of commitment or romantic dedication, onto my whole future of companionship and attachment and to just trust the moment.

We tucked ourselves in on our sides in front of the TV and continued watching the beautiful performance. I lay there behind him, with his back partially resting against the front of my torso, my face just next to his neck and head, my arm not tightly around him as I had done so often before. I started to gently play with his hair as I had before, but I thought better and stopped, resting my hand by his head instead. I breathed in his familiar scent and looked down at the side of his face as he watched the TV screen. I wanted to wrap my whole body around him in enveloping love that could enmesh our very souls, but instead I just looked at him and smiled wryly as I imperceptibly shook my head at our predicament.

Our shared experiences and conversations to that point in our friendship flashed through my mind. The connection we’d developed--the laughter and tears we’d shared, the places we'd gone, the physical closeness--came flooding in. I simultaneously felt a deeply peaceful, overflowing love and appreciation for him and his friendship as well as the sharp realization that though I could hold him in that moment as intensely as I could or as tightly as I ever had, he was not and would not, and maybe should not, be "mine" in the way I was now recognizing I wished. Though pressed up against each other, and though I believed he truly appreciated my friendship, the part of his heart I was now realizing I wanted was probably increasingly directed at the friend he was falling for. I was still his good friend and confidant, but now I finally knew I was also "the other guy", and I knew it was really time to start letting go. Though I still wanted to wrap my arms around him and pull him tightly in to me, to kiss his cheek and rest my cheek on his, I just lay there "respecting" the boundaries of the friendship while giving up on holding on to something that never was mine, and it tore me to my core but also felt very right.

My heart might have ached in that moment as I held him while losing him, but deep gratitude for the love I was feeling washed over me, and I was strengthened by the assurance that what I wanted more than having him for myself was to see him happy, to treasure what we did have, and to maintain our integrity with each other. I realized that the most important expression or form of love I felt for him was that his welfare and happiness were worth sacrificing my own comfort or convenience, not in a doormat kind of way (one which would compromise my principles and general welfare) but a sort of magnified version of what I'd felt for family and friends. The romance or passion, while beautiful and enriching in their own right, are ultimately less important to me. This feeling was better, more glorious, more full, harder won. That might've been a very sad, hard moment, wondering if I'd ever feel it again with someone in a romantic context, but I simultaneously felt a quiet confidence that somehow, someday, I could find the kind of love moments like this reminded me I so deeply longed for and that someday I could feel so richly for someone else who felt the same in return, which made it easier to face letting go more fully.

The confluence of such poignant love, loss, appreciation, hurt, and gratitude welled up to produce a warm, salty stream running across my cheek and tickling my earlobe. I let it run. To wipe it would be to both reveal and dismiss its existence. I didn't want to concern him with it because there was nothing he could do about it, so I held back the additional tears pushing behind it and tried to calm my shuddering breath. "What if it drips onto his neck?" I wondered. "Maybe he'll just think the music got to me." I never asked if he knew I was crying quietly behind him or if he was aware of the intensity of love and loss I'd felt in that moment. It didn't matter. With that single tear, I started to let go, and it felt right. Whether or not I was truly "in love", I felt enriched and enlarged with magnificently beautiful, incredibly pure love as I smiled subtly through wet eyes, absorbing the clarion sounds of the chorus adorned with Sissel's angelic voice, in the warm glow of my Christmas tree, in one of my most poignantly bittersweet moments in recent memory.

>>> Continue to the Epilogue

Love and Longing In a Lovesac, part 1

I mentioned, in a recent post, the messiness of friendships-turned-romantic with other LDS gay/SSA guys. Sometimes, I think this phenomenon puzzles people, or they wonder how it happens, or they wonder why mohos foolishly get themselves into these situations. I've listened to some (gay, straight, or otherwise) mock the whole idea and say it's all about self-loathing or mixed-up feelings and misplaced longing. I guess I'm not interested in trying to disprove that. They're allowed to perceive it how they will, and I'm not likely to change their minds. They may be at least partially right. And I readily admit that it seems a little silly for someone my age to be getting into those situations. But I'd like to try, at least, to convey the feelings and the conflicts I, for one, have been through in such an experience, and how it got to the point it did. With that said, the following is an expounded version of a journal entry I wrote some time ago about such a friendship, along with the back story (indented), in the hopes that someone might identify with part and know others have been through it, or someone might gain understanding or insight into what it's like, or...maybe in part...at the risk of minimizing any noble reasons I might think I have, to get something off of my chest.


On a peaceful, chilly, Christmas season Sunday afternoon, I was laying next to him in the Lovesac watching a Christmas concert of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with Sissel. We'd had a peaceful day and enjoyed lunch, and it was time to wind down and enjoy the gorgeous music of the concert. I looked over at him and felt mildly odd about our distance, about the fact that we weren't nestled warmly together as we had been so often in the past but instead were simply sharing the bean bag as good friends, shoulders touching but nothing more, to maintain more typical friendship boundaries. In a way, maintaining this distance seemed more unnatural and confusing. But it was necessary. I knew I felt something for him. I had wondered if I was just letting the romance of the season get to me, or I was feeling romantic and he happened to be the most available candidate, or if I was actually... I looked to my side at his eyes reflecting the TV's glare of lush Conference Center Christmas decorations, and it hit me again: "I think I may be falling for him. Is this what being "in love" is? If not, it's the closest I think I've ever been."

We'd known each other for close to half a year. We clicked, and I felt a familiar trust in a way I only feel with a few people. But we were just friends, and I liked it that way. It wasn't complicated or "undefined". It wasn't dramatic or messy. We watched our favorite TV shows together, went on walks or hikes, talked over some meal, typical friend stuff. We had a lot of fun together, and there was always a small element of flirtation in the friendship, but nothing I couldn't keep in control...

When I first was getting to know him, he'd been somewhat of a hot new item among some local mohos, and one of my friends seemed to have fallen for him, and vice versa. So I was initially bound and determined not to get to know him because I didn't want any part of some possible triangle. The first time I met him, I found him charming and surprisingly attractive in a way I couldn't put my finger on, and I wasn't about to risk crushing on someone my friend was interested in, too. But he persisted in contacting me, and I decided I was being extreme and agreed to hang out a couple of times, and the friendship grew. I eventually decided this friendship had too much potential to be so reserved about it. That came with risks.

Over time, there were aspects about him which I found attractive. He had such a thoughtful way of remembering details and sending text messages each day to keep in touch, often laced with a touch of flirty innuendo (both of us did this). Because we could talk about anything, I felt at ease with him and began to let down my guard as far as keeping myself emotionally distant so as to not become one of the many competing for his affections. He had a wicked grin and laugh, along with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, that I relished in a way. He had also expressed attraction to me and some confusion about those feelings.

Along with his somewhat confusing feelings towards me and his process of getting over the romantic aspects of his relationship with our mutual friend, he told me of a developing attraction for another new friend. Since he and I had started as friends without romantic attraction, it seemed natural to talk about everything in our lives quite openly as we always had, and we did talk about even this for some time without trouble. But after a while, it became a bit uncomfortable for me to discuss his relationship with his other friend, and I was beginning to realize why: my feelings for him ran deeper than they used to in a way I had hoped to avoid and in a way I wasn't sure he fully returned. Still, I hadn't really faced the developing reality right under my nose that I was setting myself up for emotional wreckage. As long as I believed he and the other guy were trying to stay platonic like he and I were (he said they were doing just that), I could push away the unpleasantness of it all.

As I watched the concert, wrapped in my own blanket rather than sharing one and wrapping myself around him, our history flashed through my mind, how we'd gotten to this complicated point in our friendship. Maybe it wouldn't change anything to cuddle up. Maybe I was being silly. We were already in a bit of a mess, and I was already defensive, so why not just be affectionate and try to break down that defense without awakening romantic feelings? Shouldn't that be possible? I knew from other friendships that cuddling could be purely about affection and intimacy and devoid of romance. No, this wasn't such a simple friendship anymore, if it ever was, and we had decided to set up stricter boundaries, and aside from needing to protect my own emotions, I cared about him too much to push those boundaries for my own gratification.

To keep things platonic, he and I had decided we should keep certain boundaries to avoid complicating our friendship because the friendship, not the romance, was what mattered most to us, despite a mutual attraction of some sort.

Neither of us fully wanted or was willing or ready to actually commit to a romantic relationship with another guy, so to me, it seemed foolish to pretend some version of it as if we were school children playing house. It also seemed self-serving and mutually disrespectful to be 'friends with benefits'. We each had faith-based, social, religious, and/or personal reasons for not wanting such a relationship. But over time, I began to fight off feelings of romantic attraction, and the typical "friend" boundaries had become harder for me to maintain. They had also become harder for him to maintain, he confessed, and I understood him to mean it was for the same reason. Regardless, each of us was apparently confused about our feelings towards the other, and we had determined that we'd have to be careful about that and set some rules for ourselves to avoid regrets.

I’d yearned to kiss him on several occasions. I didn’t want a passionate kiss, most of the time. I more often wanted a tender, deeply affectionate kiss, a slow and deliberate one: one that needn’t lead to more but expressed my affection or appreciation for him. I would've settled for a peck on the cheek or even on the lips in a platonic way but questioned whether it really would stay platonic, considering the romantic feelings I was trying to suppress. It would probably open a door we had both said we didn't want to open. It would clearly tease the line between friendship and romance in our case. And since when did I feel such a strong desire to kiss a "just friend" in that way? I reined it in and refrained from kissing the person I was sure it would have meant more with than anyone else I'd kissed.

Over time, our physical affection did push the boundaries of "friendship" in some ways, though we didn't kiss and never really "made out". But when I found out he and his other friend had been less strict or successful at keeping things platonic than he and I, I felt foolish, betrayed, and undesirable. I knew these emotions were irrational, but my mind had trouble convincing the rest of me of it. Hearing him insist that he had been more careful with me because my friendship mattered so much was no consolation, since I was pretty sure he cared about his other friendship, too. I knew I should only be concerned with what happened between him and me, not him and anyone else, if the friendship really was all I desired, but I couldn't let it go.

When I realized their developing romance was more a trend than an isolated feeling or incident, I became nearly obsessive over it. I kept most of the thoughts to myself, but I couldn't get them out of my mind every time we hung out, though I tried to control and suppress them as much as I could. I wasn't the one he'd chosen. I wasn't the one he most wanted. I wasn't his favorite. He offered aspects of himself to someone who accepted them while I would not have, had they been offered, though so much of me longed to. I couldn't stop aching over it, and it wasn't good for our friendship.

Laying in the Lovesac, yearning to be closer to him but wanting to push him away at the same time, I was still trying to get over the lingering hurt and bitterness I’d felt at the boundaries I’d kept with such effort for the sake of our friendship being crossed and removed with someone else. I didn't want to be some idiot doormat to be played, just one of several available to fill his need for affection and affirmation. "Calm down," I told myself, "That's not what he means to do, and you're just defensive and hurt and taking it out on him. He probably doesn't really understand what you're going through, especially if he doesn't feel for you the way you feel for him, and there's no need to punish him for what you can't handle. Had you and he done things a little differently, it might be the two of you in the romance and the other guy the third wheel. Would that be better? Would you rather have not kept your agreement and ended up in a romantic relationship you'd have to end because you've decided that's not an option for you right now, and possibly lose the friendship as a result? You've both done what the two of you said you'd do between yourselves. You've kept your promise to each other. That's what matters most, whether or not he and someone else have done the same. Besides, you've never been in his situation, so who knows how you might handle it? He's a good guy, and you know it. That's part of why you like him so much. Just remember that."

I blandly and somewhat begrudgingly accepted the self-counsel, and I moved away from him to stop our arms from touching. I distanced myself just enough to end the torture of being close enough to touch but too distant to satisfy. If I couldn't be as close to him as my whole soul intensely longed to be, I wanted to be distant enough not to be reminded of the desire, not to be teased by his touch. This was a shadow of the night I probably should have made the break.

>>> Continue to part 2

12 October 2009

Other Movie Recommendations

I maybe haven't seen all that many gay flicks (I've started watching a few but couldn't make it through). I just can't stomach the crappy acting, shoddy cinematography, and hideous scripts of most homo movies I've seen parts of. I'm not a total movie snob, and I can forgive some shortcomings for a good story, but I won't pretend to enjoy a film just because it's supposedly about "people like me", whether homo, Mormon, American, brunet, acne-prone, whatever.

But I do have a list of movies I've really liked that have significant or primary gay themes or characters in them, so without further ado, and for the few of you who give a rip about O-Mo's movie recommendations (all two of you), here's the list:

Maurice - one of the first gay-themed movies I saw. Confession time: if I remember right, I originally watched it because it was a Merchant Ivory film of an E.M. Forster novel, the same combo which created A Room With a View, which caught my attention one day on Bravo because of its infamous skinny dipping scene, and I thought maybe they'd have more eye candy in Maurice as well. ...they did. So be advised: you do see floppy bits in the unedited version (rated R). But I originally saw it edited on Bravo. BUT the story is an interesting one and well done, and I don't think any of the nudity is during sex scenes, if that makes any difference to you. The part that initially stood out to me is the scene in which they first touch romantically, and as I watched, I felt a surge of electricity through me as I watched them making that connection for the first time, and I longed for that touch. I thought surely this was a confused and distorted emotion I shouldn't be feeling or a perversion of a desire to be accepted by men (yes, I came up with "reparative"-like conceptions as early as I was feeling attracted to members of the same sex, but that's...you guessed it...another post). As such, I pushed away the feeling. But I never forgot it.

For the (completely innocent) part I mentioned, watch from time stamp 3:10 to 3:21

Brokeback Mountain - I initially refused to see this (the R rating and the hype from the gay activism crowd turned me off), so I instead read the short story it's based on, which was, at the time, available for free online. The story was probably new and groundbreaking to people who hadn't personally dealt with homosexuality much before, but I found the language bland and the characters completely unsympathetic. I finally caved and watched the movie when my roommates were putting it on one night, and I liked the movie a lot more. The characters, though still dirtbags in their own right, were more sympathetic, their pressures and reasons for being dirtbags to their wives more nuanced, and the acting was really well done. Aside from the unwelcome and mildly upsetting boob shots, I liked the movie.

Milk - this is one I own. I really liked this movie. I don't agree with all of Harvey Milk's perspective or decisions, but the movie tells a story I think many people would benefit from watching, and it tells it very well. I like that it doesn't glorify Milk but portrays him as a man who saw a need and worked for the cause. One message I wish people would take away from it is that the gay rights movement isn't just about shoving sexuality in people's faces or validating sexual preferences: it's truly about equality and justice in the minds of most who pursue them. Anyway, I've watched this one several times. And James Franco doesn't hurt anything, either.

Another Country - I've just reviewed it. I'll say no more.

The Talented Mr. Ripley - Compelling cautionary story, powerful acting from an all-star cast (Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Cate Blanchett), riveting suspense, well-developed characters, disturbing but fascinating psychology, great cinematography and a beautiful setting all contribute to my cautious love for this movie. It's so hard to watch in parts when you're hoping against hope for the redemption of the unexpected protagonist...but it's such a beautifully told tragedy...and definitely one of the best-made movies in this list. I even have a friend who shows it to groups of friends with pauses for discussion because there are so many lessons, both subtle and less subtle, to be learned from the story. (Oh, and I have this one edited, if any of you who know me want to watch it.)

The Hours - Solid acting, interesting premise, sensitive and familiar treatment...Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman (as a brunette with a prosthetic nose acting as Virginia Woolf)? Can't hate that.

Fried Green Tomatoes - Don't even try to deny it has homoromantic overtones between the female leads. If you missed it, watch it again. You'll see. But that's just part of the story. I actually haven't watched this in over a decade, but I liked it as a teenager. :-)

The Celluloid Closet - Interesting expose on the history of homosexuality (or, as I say, homoromanticism) in film. You might be surprised at some of the connections. I think some of them are a bit of a stretch and examined through today's modern hyper-sexual lens, but it's still interesting. And it's narrated by Lily Tomlin, which was a selling point for me.

The Family Stone - I also own this one. And I love love love this movie. Love it. The only gay thing about it is the gay son and his partner and adopted baby. Some people notice, to their relief or chagrin or celebration, that the gay couple is the most "normal", stable couple in the movie. I just love the movie and the fact that the whole "gay" thing is just another part of the family's dynamic.

Far from Heaven - emotive performances from the leads and a story about a middle class suburban family struggling to deal with issues that are social no-nos in the 1950s (homosexuality, divorce, interracial relationships) make this one stand out for me. Also, it's the first role I really like Julianne Moore in. She is also in The Hours.

Bent - I hesitate to recommend this one because of some of its content. Had I known in advance the extent of the content, I probably wouldn't have watched it unedited. But the story drew me in, and I watched it while skipping the crude stuff, particularly what I regard as a completely unnecessary portrayal of the decadence of Berlin at the beginning of the movie--the rest of the movie was much tamer than that initial shock-and-awe I saw a glimpse of. I think it's available in two versions: one NC-17 uncut and an R-rated version. For those of you not sure about or opposed to watching R-rated movies, skip this one. If you can watch it edited somehow, though, I recommend that, because it really does beg some interesting questions. Regardless of the version, if you're not comfortable with strong, crude sexuality and nudity (as I'm not), but want to watch it for the story, either see the play it's based on or skip the sexually explicit material on the video. In my opinion, it's totally superfluous. I didn't feel like I missed anything. The dark psychology of going through something as trying as World War II and the disturbing concentration camp scenes are thought-provoking "what if" scenarios that make you really question what you would do in a given situation, where you would draw your strength from, and whether you would allow survival to override humanity. The lead (Clive Owen) keeps you guessing as to whether he'll find his own humanity right up to the end. It stars quite a cast (including Ian McKellen, whom I really like). I probably won't watch it again, to be honest, because parts of it really were a bit too "R" for my taste, but it was moving.

Brideshead Revisited - I've only seen the recent film, not the British TV series. I really liked this movie. Emma Thompson is always golden, and Matthew Goode is one of my celebrity crushes ever since I saw his beautiful beautiful self in a supporting role in Match Point (a movie I did NOT like, despite loving him and Emily Mortimer, because it never really went anywhere and ended terribly...it's a Woody Allen film, I suppose I should've known). But more than that, I really identified with the conflicts in the movie and appreciated the tension from the questions raised, the relationships forged, and the moral, ethical, and religious conundrums encountered. I did get the feeling I was rushed through the last quarter of the story and felt a bit puzzled by the ending, wondering what the creators of the film were trying to convey, but I live ambiguity, so a puzzling ending intrigues me, as long as it's not too "what the H?" I'm a sucker for a tease sometimes. Anyway, the British TV series is coming up in my Netflix queue, so I'm looking forward to comparing it and seeing if it expounds on some of the issues I thought might have been brushed over more than they were in the novel it's based on.

Philadelphia - I know it's probably cliche to like this movie, but I do. I thought Tom Hanks did an outstanding job in his role, and the story of a man fighting for his rights and his life is gripping. It's truly a story not so much about homosexuality as humanity and respect.

I may have forgotten some, but a couple which are notably and intentionally absent from my list are:

Latter Days - I finally caved and watched this just a short while ago with a female friend, and we couldn't help but laugh a little at the poorly delivered/poorly written lines and the after-school-special-style cinematography. I mean sure, the leads' bods are hot hot hot, but that doesn't quite compensate for the campy dialog and seriously slanted/selective (despite being occasionally somewhat accurate) portrayal of LDS culture. We got halfway through when she had to leave. I looked at her and asked if she was going to want to finish it. A sheepish grin spread across her face as she said, "I kind of care about them now and want to see what happens." We finished it later. So yes, I guess there was something to like about it, and it did have a message, even a positive message or three. And I guess it does provide a glimpse into the conflicts of a gay LDS guy, particularly through the lens of a 19-or-20-year-old, and a not-so-very-independently-thinking one, at that. But despite being made probably fairly well for what I imagine was a very small budget, it's just...so...gay-movie-ish that I can't recommend it. Well, that and the fact that the crude dialog really is excessive, and the opening scene of sexuality is explicit.

Angels in America - I discovered this on TV when we had a trial of all channels under the sun, and it captured my attention before I realized it was the movie adaptation of the play a friend had told me about a couple of years prior. It's intriguing, and it challenges paradigms, and I wanted to like it. But I didn't. Don't get me wrong, it was funny, sad, dramatic, witty, and...extremely grating and abrasive and heavy-handed and preachy and biased and darkly negative. Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, Mary-Louise Parker, and Al Pacino combined couldn't make me actually like this movie. It was just too much of an axe to grind, too gawdy, too irrational. Patrick Wilson was quite attractive, I'll give it that, but that may be the main reason I waded through most of the movie, off and on, wincing at the crude language and rolling my eyes at the overbearing script. This movie is actually "well done" except for the story itself.

Another Country

I just finished finally watching Another Country on Netflix, and I really liked it. I'd been curious about it for years but never "in the mood" until this week. It stars Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, and Cary Elwes, all ages 22-25 at the time. It's a sensitive and thoughtful film adaptation of a play portraying the based-on-truth story (with plenty of artistic license) of a young gay guy, Guy Bennett (the actual person's name was Guy Burgess), who became a spy for Russia, and his Marxist friend, Tommy Judd, and their experiences as inside outsiders at an English boys' school. The rigid social stricture steeped in tradition, the control of hypocritical hierarchy (no, I am not alluding to Church leadership), the alienation from one's "home", and the personal journey of realizing it's "not just a game" stood out to me.

Keep in mind, it's a dry British film from the eighties, so you're not going to find a fast-paced, rapid-fire plot, flouncing drag queens, or a glittery musical score here. And it's rated PG, so it's not "spiced up" with some hot mancandy or saucy dialog. It's understated and even a bit bland at times, particularly the beginning and ending (the end left me a bit flat), but I liked it and recommend it to those of you who are into that sort of thing. :-)

Apparently, someone's posted it to YouTube as well:

09 October 2009

All The Wrong Places

Speaking of large gatherings of clean-cut LDS guys...

Bless my moho heart, it looks for love in all the wrong places. No, I'm not talking about seedy bars or sweaty nightclubs. Many of the kinds of traits and qualities I look for in crushables aren't necessarily discernible on a dance floor or in dimly lit smelly places. No, I crush on the "good guys". "Good guys? What's the problem with that?" you ask? I shall tell you: the problem is that the "good guys" I meet are typically active LDS guys, attractive, sometimes straight, and even when they aren't so very straight, they're bound and determined to live a church-centric lifestyle, meaning no same-sex funny business. That's all well and good. I mean, I'm not looking for that either. Stop raising your eyebrow at me. I'm not. I want "safety" unless/until I ever decide to be open to a "real" romantic relationship (not the kind where you're friends and crushing but it can't go anywhere so it gets all messy...maybe I'll post more about those later). The troubling part comes when I think, "What if I were looking? Would I find someone at all, considering the 'good LDS guys' wouldn't be an option? Or might my tastes change? Am I capable of being interested in anyone who's not a 'good LDS guy' and therefore completely unavailable?"

I also sometimes wonder, "What if I never decide to be open to a 'real' same-sex relationship and never meet a girl I'm interested in? Will I never allow romance in my life? Is nothing better than occasional, messy somethings?" Then I quickly shove that last wholly unhelpful, speculative thought aside as the nasty troublemaker it is. Back to the point...

You see, I know a girl in Utah who has similar questions. Having become basically agnostic, she's not so into the whole "church" thing anymore, so she has been dating outside of the church. A "good LDS guy" generally wouldn't want an apostate former-LDS girl. But as with many formerly LDS agnostic folks, this does not mean she wishes to revel in all manner of debauchery while bitterly scorning the church and all it stands for. She meets people through a variety of avenues, but she is struggling to find good guys outside of religious communities who aren't garishly self-absorbed, selfish, obnoxiously bitter towards the church, or otherwise primarily interested in sex and substance abuse. So she's tempted to go to church just so she can find someone who has retained some kind of moral foundation and selfless perspective but may be doubtful as she is about the whole "one true church" thing or maybe even the whole "God" thing.

In a way, I think I can identify with her dilemma because I, too, don't know where I'd meet someone, particularly a guy, if it weren't within LDS circles. And it wouldn't be, because if I were at that point, I certainly wouldn't want to waste my time messing around with conflicted LDS guys. How ironically twisted.

I know, intellectually, there are good, principled people outside of the LDS church and even outside of religion (I've always thought that if I weren't LDS, I don't know where my spiritual home, if any, would be). But finding them appears to be tricky (maybe the Unitarian Universalists or the American Humanist Association?). And finding gay ones seems even less probable. I mean, there's seemingly so much working against guys who are looking for stable, committed, long-term (e.g. longer than two years) relationships with other guys (and yes, I've talked to former-LDS and never-LDS gay guys about this who have observed the same). While I don't accept the notion that gay men are incapable of truly long-term, committed, monogamous relationships, as some seem to believe, those who practice such do seem to be a small minority. Whether that's a symptom of the emotional deficits purportedly causing homosexuality or the result of years of social stigma and cultural reinforcement is largely irrelevant: it's still seemingly rare! Gay society as a whole seems to have accepted "open relationships" as a normal, "healthy" form of committed relationship. Pardon me and my lack of sexual liberation, but I think an "open relationship" is generally a lazy, self-serving excuse for a relationship, but that's another post for another time (I have a lot of those).

Without any expectation of marriage and family, and until they start realizing they're too old to be hot stuff anymore, many guys seem more interested in getting around than getting intimate. Get a bunch of horny, young dudes dating among each other, and who's going to say, "Hey, you're not getting any of this without monogamous commitment, pal"? 'Cause there are thousands of hotter, younger, more sexually experienced dudes out there willing to just "have fun" and move on. Are the only guys who aren't uber-sluts simply too unattractive to pull it off? No, I suppose not because I'm told I'm not an ug-mo and I've never been an uber-slut, to my knowledge. So I guess they're out there, but the guys with the principles and standards I find attractive seem to be mostly in the church, where I wouldn't have any interest in finding them and dragging them away to the fiery depths of mohell. Nevertheless, while it's easier to eschew or set aside some objects of attraction with whom I suspect I don't share all that many values, it's a little harder to push away my crush on the really good, genuine guy in the ward.

And then you have the mohos bound to live moholy lives who "make mistakes" here and there before recommitting themselves to ultraconservativism (yay for repeated repentance!). I have a formerly LDS gay friend who once marveled at how much more action the "good LDS mohos" were getting than he, an out-and-looking gay guy got. I would assume most people looking for an actual relationship are not interested in being one of the moholy rollers' "slip-ups". Though I must admit every once in a while, I've met someone and thought, "Dang, I wouldn't mind slipping up with you." Oh, the unhealthy contortions of a moho's mind! But I don't really want that. I mean, who would ever want to knowingly get into a situation which is bound to end in an explosion of angst?

Some guys may be into the whole "flirt to convert (to living contrary to church policy)" thing, but I wouldn't be, for a couple of reasons:
    a) I'm not interested in convincing someone to abandon their beliefs or change their entire lifestyle on my account, and
    b) I'm not confident the retention rates are great, and I don't think I'd want to waste the time to find out if they were really committed to the change or just entertaining a fantasy to see where it leads.

Gosh, realizing the dead-endedness almost takes the fun out of crushy, flirty relationships with non-sexual benefits between active LDS guys.

Fortunately for me, I'm not on the market or looking for a relationship (despite desiring that kind of intimacy someday), so most of this is not entirely relevant. Perhaps that's why my moheart seems firmly locked right now except for occasionally crushing on these "safe" boys who will obviously not return the feelings. Or maybe I just am into guys who aren't into me. That'd be a sad indicator of my self-esteem. Or maybe I'm just afraid of a real relationship in general, so I focus on people who are certain to offer only passing fancies.

So here I am in this funky place, where I've had enough pseudo-romances to know I don't want to do that again anytime soon and have learned ways to avoid it (though I acknowledge it could still sneak up on me somehow, as it has in the past), but I'm also not wanting a "real" romance with anyone of either sex for various reasons. Yet even though I am not on the market, that doesn't mean I don't at least partly desire that kind of companionship, so my ol' heart just goes on crushing on these seemingly really good guys who are either straight or otherwise untouchable, and I get disappointed when I find out they have a girlfriend, even though I know I wouldn't want to pursue anything unless both of us were ready to really date and pursue the possibility of a relationship anyway. Go fig.

You might think, "You've questioned this a lot more than I would expect from someone who's totally sure what they want from life and who is committed to living church standards." And you'd probably be right. But there are other reasons for these questions, and when it comes right down to it, to stay in the church only because you believe a relationship of the sort you want would be highly unlikely anyway seems a rather half-hearted and hollow discipleship to me. When I see others questioning along these lines, I want to tell them a decision to pursue or be open to a same-sex romance shouldn't hinge on whether or not it's possible to find someone (a fairly flimsy hinge and decidedly beside the point) but on whether it's what you truly believe is the right thing to do. Not kept in check, questions such as these I've posed serve only as a distraction from the more important, central questions which I think require a touch more soul-searching than, "Gosh, is Mr. Right even out there, and how could I find him?"