22 July 2010

Frustratingly ambiguous server...

Speaking of adorable and hot, I was eating with some friends at a restaurant in West Yellowstone recently, and one of the hosts behind the counter caught my eye. My first impression was that he was probably cute (I hadn't had a good look) and quite possibly gay. I casually caught a glance as we were led to our table, and he caught me looking back, returning my glance with one I had a hard time interpreting. But it was OK because on closer inspection, I decided he really wasn't "my type", so it was easy to shrug it off and move on.

...Until he came to take our orders. Of course he'd be our server. One of my friends was quickly smitten, but I was more reserved. Until his personality started to come out, and he was so charming, engaging, fun, polite, easy-going...and oh, look at that smile! So cute! And oh, nice arms, too. He's not only adorable but kinda hot! How had I missed that before? ...Oh yeah, because I'm a face guy. OK, so I became a bit smitten, too, but I tried to play it casual. At one point, I decided to just throw something out there and told him he reminded me of Topher Grace, which he said he gets all the time and also gets Tobey Maguire. He had fun with it. My friends accused me of being a flirt. How dare they? I wasn't flirting. I may have been...testing a bit. OK, testing by half-flirting. But I couldn't get a clear reading from him.

From my vantage point, I could see into the kitchen in the back, and he walked by with his hand sort of dangling in a stereotypically gay way. My eyebrow went up, and I noticed him acting a bit flamboyant as he told a coworker a story, and I reported my finding to my friends, who were now wishing they'd sat where I sat. At one point, I glanced into the kitchen to see him dart a glance from inside the kitchen right to us. He totally caught me looking at him, or was it the other way around? Shoot, I couldn't tell. But if you know me, you know how much I enjoy a good puzzle, so this was fun. He seemed unfazed and carried on with the same engaging demeanor as always, stopping to banter with us here and there but never in an overtly flirty way, just really friendly and smiley. But despite the signs, my 'dar was still giving a frustratingly ambiguous reading. Shoot...now I was suspecting he was one of those straight guys who enjoys getting attention from people, even gay guys, and just rolls with it, especially if there's a good tip in it for him. At the risk of seeming like one of those creepy old single guys who flirts with anyone who's friendly, I just shrugged and enjoyed the banter.

When asked how big a dessert portion was (or something like that), he showed us with his hands how big around, and I stifled a smile as I noticed the shape he showed was, for the friend asking, perfectly framing his...eh...belt buckle area. I snagged the opportunity to pretend this was the first time I had noticed his belt (which I liked) and asked him where he got it, and he said he bought it from Express...online...OK, big ol' red flag on that one. But hey, some straight guys shop at Express, though not so much guys in Montana, but he explained he discovered Express in Texas and really liked it. So no jumping to conclusions. But going online to buy clothes from Express...when you live in Montana...hm...

By this time, straight or not, I informed my buddies I had decided I was going to leave him a note about how much fun he was and maybe leave my number "just in case" for kicks and grins. Part of the whole "vacation" experience, right? I've only left my number for a server one time, so I'm no seasoned veteran, but I figured I'd risk the awkwardness for a funny memory. Much to my dismay, he brought us the bill and informed us we could take it to the register to pay. I had no pen, no paper to leave a note on, and I couldn't exactly give the note to the cashier. I thought about asking the cashier to pass a note on, but what if I'd be putting him in an uncomfortable position? No, I was thwarted, and we didn't even get his name. Gosh, I'm such an amateur.

I may have to stop in for dessert there the next time I'm in West Yellowstone, a sucker for their secret weapon, which sure as heck ain't the fine cuisine!

13 July 2010

Showing forth afterwards...

"Reproving betimes with sharpness...then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy..." - Doctrine & Covenants 121: 43

I always liked this passage. I've tried to live it, not in the "I just abused you and raked you over the coals and will now pretend I care about you to manipulate you into believing I'm a good guy" way, but in the "I meant what I said, but I don't want my 'sharpness' to come across as hatred or destructive criticism. I understand there's likely more to the story than I see, and I want you to know that even with my belief that your behaviors are a problem, I care about you and want you to know that I'm supportive of your positive efforts, willing to talk through it with you, and recognize that you have great traits and qualities" way. My previous post wasn't directed at or referring to any one person, but I want to post a follow-up along this vein.

I posted what I did not to expose or harp on anyone. Had that been the case, I would've given specifics, or I would've done it when I first wanted to, a couple of years ago. I did have a few individuals in mind while writing it, but it's also something I've seen repeatedly over many years, and it's often like an elephant in the room. Nobody wants to call anyone out because we all know we have faults and can't possibly understand fully where anyone is coming from, and we all know that as soon as we cry "hypocrite", we're going to become one in some way and eat our words. The secret behavior or double lives I see often cause a lot of unnecessary pain and sorrow, and I think the consequences need to be understood, but my post also was an exploration of what I'm thinking and feeling around something that has brought me a lot of personal pain and confusion, and I genuinely wanted input on how to resist the bitterness or how to maintain perspective because I believe bitterness will only cloud my judgment and overshadow the love I have for those involved.

After all, some of the guys engaged in this kind of behavior haven't seemed, at least, to realize the consequences of what they do, and I don't think they're malicious. I'm sure the same goes for me with certain things I've done or am doing. I've done things I regret that hurt other people, and even though hurting someone wasn't my intent, I was glad when someone helped me understand what consequences my actions had or nudged me out of complacency or inconsistency, even if it was uncomfortable, so I could keep those things in mind in the future. But I acknowledge that love or concern for them was probably not my main motivation for writing what I did. It had to do more with concern for those affected or who might be in the future if they're not on watch, and to seek advice. I may have left too negative a tone in it, but I'd been holding those thoughts in for a couple of years now, and I finally posted it, for better or for worse.

I wrote from a very frustrated, angry, hurt place, to be sure. Part of me feels a very deep-seated anger and distrust from being personally lied to, misled, or what I perceive as used, and from resentment for being judged for my beliefs while those who say the right things seem to get a free pass while making contradictory decisions, and from wishing church members had a clearer picture of what "the struggle" is really all about, and from the trail of hurt I've discovered while talking to others who have had similar experiences and wanting to stop the people who seem to leave such trails. But however many woe-is-me or hero-complex reasons I may have to be angry or upset, I have to let go of it, and I can't shake the fact that when I really think about it, what I most want is to believe such guys don't mean to hurt people, to believe they're the good guys I've hoped they are and which they seem to be in so many ways.

And I know being a wounded victim isn't productive. I try to own my part. I trusted too much too soon, or I set myself up, or I read too much into someone's actions, or I expected more of someone than they were able or willing to offer, or I chose to give in to temptation when I knew it probably wasn't a good idea, or...a lot of things. That's my fault, not theirs. So some of it just comes down to personal differences and my own unwise decisions. And for each case where someone was hurt, there's probably some of that, and it can't all be placed on the common person.

I also want to make clear that I know that even if certain behaviors are hurtful, that doesn't necessarily mean they were meant to be. I suspect--or at least hope--that some guys would feel remorse if they truly understood how their actions have affected others, that they'd be less cavalier about their behavior and would recognize the damage caused and the urgent need to avoid repeating certain patterns. I think they'd be surprised if they'd listened in as I've talked with those they've left in their wake who were hurt or felt abused but try to downplay it, or they'd be dismayed to see the other incidental effects and damage to the credibility of the church or other organizations they are associated with. I've been there. They probably don't see the consequences they're accumulating in their own lives, either, and especially in a closed community, it often comes back to bite you. As hurt as I may get, I'm not so vengeful that I want to see them entangled in their own web.

MOST OF ALL, PLEASE don't let mine or anyone else's rantings make you feel unloved or unsupported in trying to make better decisions or be who you want to be. As I thought about some hypothetical guy reading this who has been caught in a cycle of unhealthy behaviors and relationships, who doesn't know how to change but genuinely wants to, who feels trapped between a rock and a hard place between beliefs and desires, I wondered if such a guy out there might be tempted to throw in the towel if this is how people feel about him and stop trying. Don't. That's not what this is about. I am certainly not saying you're useless, or a lost cause, or should just be a whore and abandon your beliefs, or anything of the sort. I know some of you are trying to remain positive about your foibles or "slip-ups" and trying not to get dragged down by guilt and self-punishment but trying to just move on with renewed vigor each time you fall. I'm not trying to rub your face in the mud. I do think each of us should search our soul more deeply if we keep doing the same things at the risk of others' emotions and health and our own welfare and reputation, but I certainly agree that when someone does "slip up", they should get right back up and carry on while taking the time to learn from it if their goal is genuinely to never repeat it. If they don't actually have that goal, then they should admit it. I think we all are capable of living honestly and with increasing authenticity and need to face the reality of the ripple effects of the decisions we make and the masks we wear. I also know that process takes time, and I'm still learning, and I know I'm just as imperfect as anyone, and chances are you're a really good guy in so many ways, and I'd more often rather comfort you (if you needed it and I thought it'd do any good) and learn from you than scold you and preach at you.

If any of you think you're one of the people I'm talking about and want to know where I'm coming from and want to clarify where you're coming from, please contact me. We can talk about it. I'd actually like to, if you're open to having a real conversation about it. I'll try not to bite if you'll promise the same.

Fighting bitterness over moho hypocrisy

I am generally a pretty optimistic guy, I think. I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt, and I prefer to focus on how things can become rather than on how terrible they may be now. I prefer to try to understand where someone is coming from and their motivations, talking with them one-on-one rather than publicly calling them out for their blatant hypocrisy or endangerment of others.

But for a while now, I have been fighting a bitterness that tries to creep in as I've learned things about people I once trusted, or at least wanted to, or how deceived most people are about where someone really is at, and how that can affect people's perceptions and understanding of homosexuality in general. I'm floored at how compartmentalized so many keep their lives, how bent on maintaining images they are. I've lost respect for people I once loved because I see them consistently making decisions that are clearly not leading to what they claim to want or believe, and I see them deceiving themselves as well as others. It's sad, but I have to stop caring for my own sanity. But then, not caring seems to open a door for bitterness and resentment.

And then there's the recognition that others may have thought the same of me at some point, and I've been grateful for those who kept an arm extended for me when I eventually realized my own folly, if they were correct. And I may be wrong to be upset. I may be ignoring the beam in my own eye. I may be losing sight of what it means to love someone, warts and all, because I'm defensively caught up in how their actions may threaten my well-being and people's perceptions of me or others. I'm easily bothered by proliferation of false information and perceptions, so that certainly comes into play. But then, isn't it fair to be upset about most of this?

Part of the resentment is that I, because of the shift in my beliefs, am seen as dangerous or as fallen, while the smiley BYU boys who look like your all-American wholesome good ol' boys are screwing each other right and left but praised and held up as heroes because they're "trying" to live the gospel. It's ridiculous, from an outsider's perspective. You can get away with anything, with maybe a slap on the wrist, as long as your heart's in the right place and you claim to believe the right things. But then, isn't it a positive move for the church, away from Pharisaical, rules-based punishment to a focus on the desires of the heart? Isn't that more Christlike? Shouldn't I be happy? I try to be. But it's hard. I'm trying to get over the "woe is me" resentment born of losing a community, being a guy with no cheerleaders, nobody telling him he's doing the right thing because there's no community groupthink or institutional definitions of what anyone is supposed to be doing for someone in my position. I'm on my own, except for the few individuals I've met who are similarly forging out on their own, with slightly different motives and values but a common respect for finding one's own way. I believe I'm loved and appreciated individually even by many in the community I left, but I'm also an outcast of sorts, no matter where I go, despite my life being more consistent with my stated beliefs and values than just about any BYU poster boy I've known. So I acknowledge quite openly this possible source of anger.

I guess I'd have less trouble with it if I thought the church members cheering these guys on knew half of what they've been up to. If they had told their bishops about their sexual escapades and gotten into BYU anyway, I could accept that.

I could accept these guys saying they're grateful for their families' unconditional love and support if they had given their families a chance to make it unconditional, if they hadn't told me that their family doesn't know about their behaviors and doubts.

I'd have more sympathy for a guy who says he's trying to keep his relationships "appropriate" if some hadn't uncomfortably forcefully attempted to make out with me after I said we really shouldn't, and I didn't want to.

But I know too many who have kept their behaviors and thoughts hidden, all while letting everyone think they're "doing so well".

Their ecclesiastical leaders don't know what they've done because, hey, if the bishop doesn't ask, he doesn't need to know, and what a "struggler" believes and is striving for is more important than what they've been doing. They seem to think a month or two of abstinence proves their intent. I call bullcrap. Forget lip service, show me your conviction in action.

I see guys going to the temple who clearly couldn't if they were honest in their interviews. But if the church isn't what it claims to be, anyway, what does it matter whether they're worthy in the church's eyes? They don't offer any consideration for respect for the beliefs of those who regard that place as holy and the rites as a sacred experience. It's a lie one tells oneself to quell guilt and to save face. I'm calling a spade a spade. You chose comfort over integrity.

Yes, I'm pissed. Truth be told, though, I'm thoroughly livid at and disgusted by only a couple of people, and painfully disappointed in a couple more. This is more about a collective, cumulative emotional response, probably. It's less about refusing to believe people are flawed and more about the frustration of hearing yet another person say, "I really respect So-and-so, he has his act together," when I know fully well he does not, or hearing about yet another couple of guys in a support group fooling around with each other but not telling anyone else in the support group, lest they should be censured or expelled, which then permits quite a nasty interwoven web of escapades before anyone wises up to what's been going on. It's about sitting quietly by after having experienced something with someone but respecting their privacy by not spreading word about what happened, and then finding out they've done the same thing with numerous others who could have been warned if a predator hadn't been protected by secrecy. It's about watching guys I respect and would love to treat right entering social circles where I can be pretty sure they'll be lulled into a sense of security by other "faithful" LDS guys who will have their way with him or use him and lose him, when I think he's worth so much more than that. I recognize that those are the risks in any group, and it takes two to tango, but I want to warn people not to be lulled into that false security just because someone's active at church and has a temple recommend.

These aren't feelings I like to have about people, and I'm trying to work through it all and recognize that some people have felt similarly about me at times, whether or not I deserved it. I probably did deserve it at times, but they probably were suffering from self-pity or resentment other times. I may be going through some of that. I try to love regardless. I suppose I wouldn't care about someone's hypocrisy or destructively duplicitous behavior if I didn't care about him, as well as the people he's interacting with or deceiving.

To those of you who can't seem to keep it in your pants but claim to believe you're supposed to, shut up and be a man by taking ownership of your decisions and exercising some self restraint. Nobody but you is going to keep you from temptation, so stop blaming the people you're around: you choose to be around them knowing fully well what they're about. Or acknowledge you don't really believe what you think you're supposed to. You're not the only one with a sexual appetite, and you're not the only one who's conflicted, so quit with these pathetic whines or excuses about how "weak" you are or how you just "end up" in situations where it's hard to control yourself. We all do that from time to time, but some of us man up and acknowledge we put ourselves in those situations by choosing not to avoid them when we knew what was coming. If you're not going to LEARN from your past, admit that you don't want to. Admit that you don't believe you need to. But quit with this act of "I know what I want". Your actions prove otherwise! Just stop using the atonement as a crutch for your lust for animalistic pleasure-seeking. Talk about taking the name of God in vain. Grow a pair, man.

To those of you who find it so important to be "seen" as a "good guy", maybe you should try being the guy you think you're supposed to be, and if you can't or won't, admit that you're either lying to everyone including yourself about what you really think is right, or you're too lazy to figure out how to change your behaviors. Either change to be the man you want to be, or admit that you're lying to yourself about why you're doing what you're doing, admit that it's all for appearances. Admit that you don't know what your identity is. No, you don't have to be perfect, and yes, it's good to strive for more and try to be better than you are today, but stop pretending you're already there as if you're doing it for anyone but yourself. Own up to where you are now, even while saying you hope to be better tomorrow. I understand how hard it can be to admit you're not as "together" as people want to believe. I fully understand the temptation of believing there's no harm in motivating people by letting them think you're better than you are because people need examples to strive for. I also don't believe your personal life is everyone's business. But a simple, "Hey, believe me, I have my own issues and do some stupid things, so don't think I'm all figured out and together," is often enough to keep someone from comparing themselves or a loved one detrimentally to a false perception of what you are.

But having gotten all of that off of my chest, I turn now to the only thing I can control: my own response and reaction. I don't know quite how to direct my anger. The people I'm most angry with aren't worth talking to about it, nor have they responded well in the past to such lines of questioning. I have felt some bitterness for the religious cultural community which seems to breed this kind of neurotic need for plastic perfection. But that's not productive, either, and I believe that same culture has a lot of positive within it as well, so I'd rather fully acknowledge the bad while refusing to allow it to taint the good, as I also try to do with individuals. I've thought of just running from everyone associated with the cultural sicknesses I see, but to truly get away, I'd have to alienate myself from people I do care about and want in my life, and let's be honest, cultural ills are not exclusive to this one organization or situation. So I opt for facing it and dealing with it. I've dealt with these kinds of feelings before, and I've come to a place of relative peace with them, working through it and coming out of it with a more patient perspective. But this has been a tough one for me. I'm struggling, partially because I keep learning about what's been going on behind the scenes that I didn't know about before. If I didn't have a handful of friends who are honest about where they are and are actually quite successful at living what they believe, I'd think there wasn't a healthy or honest moho in the church. I do know there are some, and I'm grateful for that.

I guess I'm just trying to process it all without being judgmental and petty or letting hatred and pain creep in too much. Most of the time, it's not a big deal, and focusing on the people I know who have integrity and the love I feel even for those who I think are deceptive helps. I try to see them as a family member, someone I hope for rather than give up on. But sometimes, like today, I just lose the strength and energy to pretend I'm not angry and hurt and have to direct that somehow. Any suggestions?

Note: please see my follow-up post, "Showing forth afterwards..."

And for a related post, see "As long as you put 'it' in the right place."

09 July 2010

...in which O-Mo announces he's going hetero.

That's it. I've been meeting a few gay dudes, mostly online through a compatibility dating site or what I call "the gay Facebook". Admittedly, it's only been half a dozen or so. But suddenly, I meet a friend of a friend (my preferred way to meet someone), and the bar for quick and natural connection, complete with attraction, has been raised above anything in recent memory, let alone among the gay dudes I've been meeting, and who was it? It was a conflicted moho, the punk. My idea of who's right for me may shift with time and experience, but forget it: it's too late. I give up. It's over. Bring on the women now that gay, non-LDS men all pale in comparison to yet another attractive, conflicted moho. Gosh.

Yep, I'm going hetero. If I met and married a woman, my family and friends can be more fully happy when I get married without that "oh, we're so happy you've found happiness even though we wish it had been with a woman and didn't eternally damn you from the highest kingdom of glory". And I wouldn't have to struggle with all that "rights" hooey and wondering how we'll have kids, and who would be legally able to adopt them, and whether they'd stay with their daddy if their other daddy died, etc. It's just so much to take on when you're not content with the carefree Gaga-worship life. With a woman, I don't have to be a pioneer of social change or live in a way that brings inherent stress and complication to my life and that of my theoretical future family. I could have my own biological children with a wife whose biological children they are, too. It'd be the "natural" way, filling the measure of our creation, taking joy in our posterity, yadda yadda yadda. None of this heteronormativity within a homosexual context blah blah blah.

Heck, maybe I'll just start going back to church while I'm at it and go back to being the good LDS boy who "just hasn't found the right one yet". It'd certainly be easier on my social life and help me meet people who share my values, even if many do primarily because they'll be ostracized or disciplined if they don't. Some of them are sincere and would live similarly without the watchful eye of accountability to an institutional patriarchy and nosy neighbors. And I could have ready-made community waiting for me wherever I go again, people to help move, etc. That'd be nice, right? Cute little invitations to ward events taped to my freshly painted door, people who come to my home to share a message I've already read and act interested in whether they can do anything for me once a month, casseroles brought to me when I'm injured...it's quite lovely in some ways. I could get used to the whole "God" thing again, and LDS theology. I did it for a few decades, I could go back. It'd be nice to tell myself some of the more hopeful ideas are true. Oh, and I could stop mentally replacing the words "God" and "Christ" with "Truth" and "love", and replacing "commandments" and "church standards" with "true principles" and "wise decisions" when listening to talks to make them applicable. I'd have doctrinal and cultural clutter to deal with, so I'd probably have to be a closet cafeteria mormon, one of those who believes the "core" doctrines but isn't so sure about the peripheral stuff, even the stuff the current administration doesn't consider at all peripheral, but I could swing it. It might be worth having a community of that sort again.

Yep, I give up. This whole "gay" thing is too much work, too much stress, too few predetermined, neat and tidy formulas. It's like living post-dictatorship: nobody likes the discomfort of self-determination and lack of governing rules to make life's decisions simpler, nor the difficulty of changing one's ways of thinking to fit an entirely new system or way of doing things. It's too much for what it's worth to find a hypothetical Mr. Right who probably doesn't exist except as an LDS guy who similarly can't stay away from the church and therefore won't commit to a relationship with another man. I suppose this means I'll be filling my Sundays with meetings, my days with scripture-reading, and praying hard to get a testimony again. I'm sure I can muster more convincing and poetically intense feelings I can call "the Spirit". I've done that before, too: I know what a "burning testimony" feels like. Maybe I was right to think it was divine, after all. I could try to re-convince myself of that. Maybe I'd be right. After all, better to play it safe and avoid the whole damnation thing in case it's real. Fire insurance. And I wouldn't have to be as judgmental as I used to be. I could be one of those "cool" mormons, maybe.

And now that I've experienced compatibility and attraction with both guys and girls, I know what to look for in a possible relationship with a woman, so I have that going for me. Maybe I'll go to JIM for extra measure and let them bring out supposedly repressed memories of daddy issues and masculinity-diminishing trauma. "Whatever works" to make me feel more ready to tackle a woman with my newfound, raw masculinity. I'm a warrior, hear me roar.

Plus, this way, I can flirt with other mohos, and they won't be as wary of me because I'll be one of them again. And even if I'm fooling around with other good LDS guys, I can call it "slipping up", repent, and be seen as a hero for "trying so hard to do the right thing" because my heart will be in the right place if I'm repenting sincerely. With more church leaders moving away from Pharisaical rules-based ministry, focusing instead on the intent of the heart, it's maybe easier to have your cake and eat it to. ...Has anyone else wondered if that expression even makes sense?

Gosh, it's a tempting prospect. Seductive. Little voices whispering, "Come on, you know it would be socially easier, everybody's doing it, it'll make life so much simpler, it's what you always wanted growing up, it keeps your relationships more harmonious, you never know when the right woman may come along..." What a relief, going hetero and/or moho again. I'll let you know how it goes. *mischievous wink*

Note: This is all meant to be light-hearted, so hold your horses with your righteous indignation and untwist your knickers. No, I don't think every gay guy who returns to church or hopes to marry a woman does it for these reasons. I do think some or many do bend to these reasons, whether they realize it or not, mingled with other reasons and often convictions, and they must find better, more lasting reasons if their resolve can be maintained and a happy marriage made. But that's for them to decide, not me. And no, I'm not "going hetero", even though I am open to a relationship with a woman if all the essential elements are there between us (a longer story than I care to explain here and now). I'm merely voicing some thoughts about a struggle/tension between what feels and seems right and what seems familiar and comfortable...from a different angle than I might have a couple of years ago.

And seriously, I need to stop meeting mohos who unexpectedly blindside me with their attractiveness but are still too recently coming to terms with things...which is probably part of why they're so attractive--they haven't done the whole Catholic-schoolgirl-gone-wild thing yet and bought into the lies so many gay circles shove down newbies' throats about what "being gay" means or requires... *le sigh*

01 July 2010

Adorable and Hot

Few people pull off both adorable and hot at the same time. But Color Splash's David Bromstad just does. And he does it with such positive energy! I really enjoy his personality on the show and love a lot of his work. He seems like a fun and talented guy. I don't think we'd be a good couple (so sorry, David), but I still have a bit of a crush on the guy, not gonna lie.

Just makes you want to both pinch those cheeks and get busy...on some quality home improvement projects.