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...


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.


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...


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.