31 January 2011

Return to Zion

Yeah, I "got the hell out". And then I got back in. First solid job offer was here, and I've been back for a few weeks now. So if you notice renewed angst and frustration in my posts, it's because I'm back in the land where it often seems like every gay man is either married to a woman (I see oblivious-looking pleasant women with detached-looking husbands every day), in a committed relationship (I suspect the good ones snatch each other up fast), cruising Craig's List (legitimate dating isn't really an option unless you live in certain pockets of Salt Lake and are clearly marked as "non-Mormon" [heathens acting like heathens is tolerated]), is a BYU student (which often includes one of the previous classifications as well), or is an otherwise perma-adolescent, mincing mess. Makes for blog fodder, though, doesn't it?

But there's something about this place, or the people, with which I identify. Despite rampant consumerism, there's a certain simplicity about people here. But dang it if that same simplicity isn't a total frustration in other ways. I think that's what I like about the northwest. People often "get it" up there in ways I appreciate, but they still have souls and appreciate the simpler things in life. I get the feeling many areas of Europe are like that, too. Anywhere else in the U.S. y'all recommend trying? Despite having good friends here, and really enjoying things like Sundance and An Evening With Sondheim and Zion Nat'l Park and the mountains and cheap skiing and...etc, I really am not wanting to put roots down here. Votes for my next stop, judging from what I've described?

29 January 2011

Temptation and Cognitive Dissonance Revisited, Part 2

Back to Part 1

This is where I admit, to everyone's shock, I'm sure, that I parallel this idea of abstinence from sugar and carbs with emotional health and "rules" of healthy living. We may think we know exactly what's "good for" ourselves or anyone else, but most of the time, though it may generally be true, it's not always exactly as we think it is, no matter how well a certain "pattern" or "habit" has worked for any one person or general group. Often, a productive habit or practice carries accompanying destructive ideas or aspects, and only as we remain open to better solutions do we parse those apart and identify the underlying truths and principles and learn to apply them more personally, with more surgical accuracy. A medication that saves one person's life might kill another. Sometimes, "temptation" might not be just a personal flaw and weakness but may actually be your body's or soul's cry for what it truly needs. Sometimes, a craving isn't just a weakness or addiction to resist but is a sign of something which you maybe haven't learned to satisfy or fulfill except in ways which bring accompanying harm, and a little education will help you satisfy that need in ways which are healthy, rather than ignoring it as if it's only a test of your resolve. You needn't abandon certain practices entirely but learn to refine and incorporate positive principles.

Incidentally, I think JIM-dandies talk in related terms about paying attention to messages your emotions or body send you as real needs to be met, and I actually agree on much of the principle. But the way reparatives use this to describe homosexuality as a craving for intimacy that really just needs to be met non-romantically and non-sexually, like a craving for nutrition which people try to meet by eating junk food...we'll probably agree to disagree on the prepackaged application of that principle. Confession: I don't think it's true, in general, even for people who believe it's true for themselves, even when they honestly don't insist it's necessarily true for anyone else. Maybe I'm skeptical because I've talked with many guys who used to subscribe to those theories but have since found explanations which make more sense and brought more lasting happiness and personal growth. But since I can't know for sure, I acknowledge that it's not my decision to make, and it may be true for some, so I don't make judgments on an individual basis. How could I? But this is all a tangent, since I'm not just equating this with homosexuality...

There are even extreme cases which defy general dietary guidelines entirely. In most cases, empty calories or junk food are simply not a healthful choice except in small amounts. But for a diabetic in shock, a candy bar may save them: concern for whether it has nutritional value goes out the window. Maybe some would be tempted to explain the life-saving sugar scenario as only true in cases where a person has an unusual illness, and ideally, if they were in a perfected body, they would never need such a thing. They might relate that to 'spirituality' or moral issues. And in that case, it's no wonder that when I've felt conflicted over religious beliefs and what I regarded as 'temptations', I've found it hugely attractive to want to see myself as a paragon of emotional health, thereby not in need of 'sin' to fulfill me. Even if I was compassionate towards those who 'sinned', if I were to 'sin', it would only reveal to myself and others that I was spiritually/emotionally diabetic. This is only one "exception" scenario.

Admittedly, in the vast majority of cases, a candy bar is not going to do anything positive for your health except maybe some minimal effects of substances in cocoa or peanuts or something not nearly making up for the sugar and empty calories, but if it's enjoyable to eat, and/or it will improve your mood (and therefore your interactions) when you're hungry and crabby and don't have anything else, and/or you're going to run for half an hour to burn it off, and it's not going to lead to a candy bar binge...perhaps you have bigger priorities in life to spend your self-improvement energy on? Or maybe it's really not a problem at all anyway, especially if you only eat one candy bar per month? Should you beat yourself up for eating a candy bar every month? Should you admit that maybe you shouldn't be eating candy bars ever, at all, and admit that you only do it because you're weak, or should you just enjoy it and know that you're not going to go on a binge of any sort anyway, so it's OK?

In addition to this, remember that every one of us needs sugar and carbs to survive and thrive. To cut them out entirely because they're linked with obesity or other health concerns might seem rational but is unhealthful. Sometimes, being overzealous in what was a fine and positive endeavor can create unintended, destructive consequences, particularly when you haven't understood the reasons for the thing about which you were so zealous, such as complete elimination of sugars and carbs. The physical body is full of balances, counterbalances, and apparent paradoxes which only make sense as we learn more about how it all works and is interrelated. This is why I don't poo-poo scientific health advice when it seems to flip-flop, but I do expect it will always evolve and change now and then as they discover that they usually were right all along, just in different cases and at different levels. I experienced a major paradigm shift in my own life when this idea clicked into place beautifully in relation to moral rules.

Athletes need carb boosts to sustain energy levels the rest of us don't need to sustain. Most of us would be eating far too much if we tried to match certain Olympic swimmers. Fortunately, over time, we've learned better and worse ways of obtaining carbs. We've identified interplay between nutritional components and cellular processes in increasing levels of complexity, and we're always learning more about good, better, and best dietary choices to obtain the unique combination of vitamins, minerals, and other dietary considerations each one of us needs for our body, activity level, and other physical needs. On an emotional/moral level, there are people everywhere who think they've identified what "healthy" carbs are, or they insist carbs are carbs, no such thing as "healthy" or "unhealthy" carbs, and it's how they're ingested that matters... There are conflicting ideas about what are healthful means of getting carbs we need...and most of us just sort it out the best we can.

Many years ago, I would have responded to such an argument as I've just put forth with acknowledgment that you can't equate physical health with spiritual and that they operate under different laws. Later, I would have said it might apply in some way but that we fortunately have an all-knowing nutritionist who has laid out the complete diet, and the best health is found in following that diet completely to keep it all in balance, and that's the great quest of this life. I'd have said that even a healthy reduction of sugar may well involve temptation to eat sweets, and that only after I'd resisted sugar intake for a long time did I lose the desire for it, and I was healthier for it and glad I'd done it, difficult as it was. And I still see reason in that moderate approach.

The problem is that I'm not convinced every dietary rule we have is given by an all-knowing 'nutritionist'. I believe 'truth' exists and is waiting to be understood, but I believe most rules are given by well-positioned observers or spokespeople who have identified trends and feel strongly about certain guidelines, but that the underlying principles of those are still being learned and discovered, so the application of them necessarily varies. The trick is to remain focused on improvement and open to truth. As long as the prescribed diet seems to be working, as it may for many or most, there's seemingly no need to question any aspect of it, and it becomes easy to think that those for whom it doesn't work just didn't do it right. But when your body starts to wither and wear beyond what others have described when they've assured you they "went through some of that, too," it's time to re-examine the diet or, at the very least, your specific application of it. Is there far more to the true, full diet than you have yet understood?

I believe the rules should be generally respected as the positive general guidelines they are but can and should be adapted as each individual gains understanding of his or her own life and situation. That seems like real obedience: seeking out and living by true/proven principles rather than clinging to arbitrary rules. I think looking beyond the stark rules to the reasons they work is necessary if we are to truly put a full effort into understanding our own health and the workings of our unique bodies with unique needs.

I also believe there's clear danger in poo-pooing counsel to reduce sugar, especially for some people with certain conditions for whom it could mean death to take in too much sugar, and those are probably more common than the people who would be detrimentally affected by reducing their sugar intake.

But if the nutritionist spokespeople told us all to cut all carbs and sugars from our diets, and to cut all fat from toddlers' diets because fat is bad, and to run 3 hours a day because running is good for you, you bet your sweet bippy it's OK to take that counsel with a grain of salt and acknowledge the underlying principles while moderating the actual implementation, without an ounce of guilt for not being 'healthy' enough to run 3 hours a day without taking in any carbs. Even if some people can do that, they're odd anomalies, not you, and that doesn't mean theirs is a strength, as it probably comes with some serious drawbacks.

I think we all can and should prioritize our 'dietary considerations', not letting that be an excuse for laziness or disregard but actually compelling us to a more engaged, informed, discerning, intelligent approach to our health. Depending on where we get our information, or how we prioritize, we'll each find different balances in different ways at different times, and that's OK because we can teach and balance each other. I think the more we increase our own health, the more we encourage those around us to do the same. And to my chagrin, maybe even the extreme zealots have a role to play in that balance, illustrating for the rest of us the consequences of their extreme decisions, so the rest of us don't have to.


Sundance Refreshment

As I've been volunteering at Sundance Film Festival, which of course attracts people from all over, I've had some glimmers of hope in the dating-interest department. Despite having to keep from laughing at the many pretentious and self-important people there, I was refreshed to see a few people I suspected were gay and who seemed well-adjusted, comfortable, genuine, and even...dare I say it...soulful. I checked the name badge of one such person with whom I interacted briefly in my capacity as a volunteer who immediately struck me as an interesting and sincere-seeming person: Ricky S. Turns out he's a producer and vice chair of The Trevor Project. I held back from being flirtatious but totally did a double-take and looked him in the eyes for a moment. Ha, I think he noticed, but I don't think 'flattered' would describe his return expression, so I quickly focused on the task at hand.

And then a really beautiful female volunteer joined me, and she seemed a bit shy or otherwise distant, so I talked with her, and she engaged, but she always kept her face pointed slightly away, looking at me somewhat askance, looking into the room we were in but glancing over and leaning in slightly when I'd talk to her. I figured she was either uncomfortable--maybe I had a dangling booger or she was afraid I was trying to come on to her and was trying to make it clear she wasn't interested--or maybe--though it seemed more of a stretch because she was the kind of woman who probably gets a lot of attention from men and who probably wouldn't be into guys like me--maybe she was actually attracted or something and was trying to play it cool. I realized, for the second time in the last month, "Wow, I have no idea how most career-oriented, financially independent, image-conscious adults approach dating and flirtation, let alone most women my age who have careers and would probably regard me as all kinds of ineligible for a real relationship even if I were straight. I just know how to flirt with Mormon types or college students." But I like direct, honest, games-free interaction. I like people who don't care much about money and social networking. To be honest, I'm more accustomed to college-level interaction than typical, urban thirty-something interaction.

For example, I sent flirtatious glances to the cute-seeming guy outside the projector room of the theater I've been working in...and when I accidentally grabbed or brushed him through the curtain when I reached to pull it aside just as he was passing through, and I said, "Oh, excuse me," and he said, "No, you're fine," and then the smile and nod I gave him as he left which he returned with a sort of grin/smirk as he left last night that I couldn't quite figure out: was he flirting? Was he flattered but not interested or not even gay? Was he amused at my obvious inexperience? Was he thinking of a completely unrelated joke? Am I in high school? Yeah, letting it go. ...But if I see him again, I will probably strike up a conversation out of curiosity. Just sayin'.

28 January 2011

Heteros do it too (and what I really think about most therapy of homosexuality), Part 6 of 6

Back to Part 5...

All else being equal, I would like to marry a man and raise children with him. But as much as I'd like to believe future generations won't have to face the choices or prejudices I have or that the dynamics and aspects of a male-male partnership and parenthood were exactly the same as those of male-female pairings, all else is just not equal, due to religion, social dynamics, biology, and legal ramifications, to name a few. Maybe same-sex couples aren't the first to wonder if society would ever accept them, but until things change, it's going to remain a big deal.

I also understand, firsthand, the reality of facing an apparent choice or tension between fighting for what the future can potentially be and saving myself the stress by living the best I can within the current bounds. Perhaps not everyone had the tenacity, energy, personal fortitude, or vision to be among the first inter-ethnic couples before society figured out such relationships can work, that accompanying differences of perspective can be beautifully and ably navigated for the personal growth of both parties, and that children raised by such couples are more stressed because of society's lack of understanding and acceptance of the couples. Perhaps not everyone can or even should be a social pioneer. So I reiterate that if certain practices work to make a same-sex attracted man's future marriage to a woman possible or current marriage better, and that's the option someone wants to pursue, as long as they're being honest and open and not hurting anyone, I want to support them in seeking happiness.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Yes, I wonder whether gay guys experience being "in love" as intensely or in as soul-animating a way with women as with guys (in at least 98.702% of cases, which statistic is great for those who find the right woman but not great for the rest), and I do think there are probably inherent, very personal and unique difficulties built into mixed-orientation marriages on top of the usual issues. But the more I expound on these ideas, the more I think it may sound like I'm saying my mixed-sex-married gay/SSA friends are living a lie for religious or social convenience, which is not what I mean to say. When it comes to people I know and love, I'm not comfortable making that assertion for their very personal, very sacred relationships. Let me be clear: I do not think my married friends are secretly unhappy or unfulfilled or fooling themselves about truly loving their spouses, I don't think their decision to marry a straight spouse is an inherently selfish decision, and I fully respect the straight spouse's right to choose. I believe that even the inherent additional challenges are often mitigated, if they've approached the marriage wisely, by an unusual level of communication and openness going into the marriage.

So I have this dilemma: I support and am happy for my friends who are married and having children as I've always dreamed of doing, and I believe they are genuinely happy, yet I believe that in most cases, were it not for religious and social paradigms which will likely change over hundreds of years, they would have chosen to be with someone of their same sex, but things haven't changed, or they do believe it's not allowed, or they did want biological children with a spouse of the opposite sex, so they had to act within their belief, and even if they wouldn't have chosen their spouse if same-sex relationships were an option, that doesn't detract from the fact that they're glad they did, and they wouldn't trade what they have for anything, and their spouses feel the same way...

I do think they're not "straight" or even, in any cases I personally know, truly 'bisexual', but since their sexual energy is now directed exclusively at their spouse of the opposite sex, and their thought processes on sexuality are far healthier than they used to be, I respect their right to reject labels which would downplay or distract from that focused love and whole-hearted dedication. I even think they are often more self-accepting than ever, which is something I think most anti-reparative people don't even recognize, let alone understand.

I fully hope for the success of my mixed-orientation married friends. In the cases of friends whose marriages are in challenging or rocky positions, especially where they have children, I fully hope they'll be able to work things out and have confidence that they can, in most cases, if they work at it and find the right ideas and support systems. Heteros have to weather tough times, too. The idea of having a wife of 6 years and two or three kids sounds pretty nice sometimes compared to facing a possible life of bachelorhood, I gotta be honest. So to my happily married friends, I say you have a beautiful, wonderful thing, and it may well be far better than anything you would have had either alone or with another man (or woman), and I hope it always remains so.

Marriage aside, though I think reparative theory is mostly bollocks, I still support my friends in doing what they believe works for their happiness, and I think some of the methods and practices can be very useful to many people in helping them identify and improve communication, cognition, and relationship skills and tools, in order to function as they wish to. I also think there are other ways to learn the same valuable lessons without the money, or the emotional baggage of theories of which I'm very skeptical, or the substitutes for cuddling explained as healing touch, or contrived "masculinity" (incidentally, some of my favorite decidedly hetero, self-assured, intelligent, and engaging friends are lacking popularly 'masculine' traits and don't seem bothered by it).

Did I think he was the smartest person I'd ever met? Nope. The most physically attractive? Nope. The funniest? Bah. The most accomplished? Who're we kidding? The most popular, athletic, confident, kind, refined, world-wise, happiest, or most creative and artistic? None of the above in the superlative, not even while I was the most emotionally invested, but all of the above to some degree or another in a combination I considered myself completely fortunate to find, and more than I felt I could ask for. He was (and, I imagine, very much is, in the most important ways) a great guy. I loved him because of who he was, even if a touch idealized, like heteros do.

But here's the real kicker, which probably requires more explanation than I have time to give right now (I know, why stop now, right?): I still consider, from time to time, going through reparative therapy or Journey Into Manhood. It's not because I actually think the theories are sound, it's not just to quell the "he hasn't even tried it himself" arguments (especially since I'd have to try 100% for at least 3 years to be considered a valid effort), and it's not just in case that whole eternal marriage thing is true. It's because if it could at least work to bring myself to a place where I'm more ready to consider or open to a heterosexual relationship, maybe it's worth wading through the muck to find the truths if it will open me up to more opportunities for happiness.

I don't know who else besides reparative types are willing to help a gay guy prepare for the challenges and dynamics of a relationship with a woman should that option become available and desirable. After all, if I can have a life without the social conflicts, denied rights, and inability to reproduce currently attached to same-sex pairings, maybe it's worth exploring the theories firsthand, giving them a real chance, and seeing if they apply more to my life than I ever realized while analyzing them from a bit of distance. Or maybe I just feel that broken, with nothing to lose...is that how they get us? Well, shoot...maybe I'm more free to 'be gotten', having gotten all of this off of my chest. Or maybe I have finally understood "desperation". Maybe I'm tired of defending myself and others and just want to quietly live my happy life...like heteros do...


27 January 2011

Match Schmatch

Ha ha, officially--and now quantifiably--hopeless. These matching percentage breakdowns of me and a few attractive gay male users on OKCupid (none of which live in Utah) with whom I have an overall match of 96% or up are examples of why I honestly question whether I'll ever really find a match where there's enough mutual attraction and the whole God thing won't be a deal-killer, and why I'm focusing on being happy and content as a single man. *big gay sigh*

You match...
  • 76% on Ethics questions
  • 91% on Sex questions
  • 48% on Religion questions
  • 84% on Lifestyle questions
  • 88% on Dating questions
  • 91% on Other questions

You match...
  • 87% on Ethics questions
  • 91% on Sex questions
  • 27% on Religion questions
  • 91% on Lifestyle questions
  • 78% on Dating questions
  • 87% on Other questions

You match...
  • 69% on Ethics questions
  • 87% on Sex questions
  • 9% on Religion questions
  • 95% on Lifestyle questions
  • 80% on Dating questions
  • 87% on Other questions

Heteros do it too (and what I really think about most therapy of homosexuality), Part 5

Back to Part 4...

What if we told straight men that going through only two or three years was "giving up" and that it may take many years for the changes to set in, that it would take finding the "right man", and that in the meantime, they had holding therapy and quality friendly time with women to fill their needs in healthy ways, but that they were not to date them? What if he were told that "infatuation" he feels for women on occasion is unimportant and but a hint of the lifelong intimacy he could find with a man? Would we be correct to believe that those who changed had proved that the process can and does work, that they are pioneers of change, or would it only prove that, given enough time and programming, you can convince people of just about anything? Does it even matter which it is as long as they feel 'happy' in the life they find?

The more clever purveyors of the theories insist same-sex attraction doesn't need to be cured: it needs to be fulfilled in healthy ways and is a very natural sign of the need for intimacy all men have. Nevermind that you could say something akin for hetero men who have failed to recognize or seek true intimacy with women in their lives, instead substituting sexual gratification or lust for real intimacy, perhaps partially because they've had no respected role models to teach them how. I suspect that for those who focus on developing their supposedly latent heterosexuality by building their masculine identity, these questions might be interesting but are disregarded as the musings of one who "hasn't experienced it firsthand".

Speaking of experiencing firsthand, I'd be interested to know what it's like on the other side of a mixed-orientation marriage. Maybe, if I lived in that society where same-sex relationships are the norm, I could date, fall in love with, and potentially marry a straight man who was trying to change and be homosexual or at least function in a same-sex relationship to live according to his beliefs. I've been attracted to a small handful of hetero guys, and the thought that one would be trying to change to be with me might be flattering and would probably increase my love for him more as I tried to be the kind of partner he needed to make our relationship work, saw him as needing my help and patience, and educated myself to know his needs and prepare for the challenges ahead. If he seemed really interested in me, enjoyed physical affection, even making out (the mechanics all worked, and he seemed to get passionate), we could talk in a meaningful way, he was honest and open with me...then maybe I'd try it.

I'm sitting here actually thinking I might, especially if I was feeling pretty fed up with trying to find the traits and values I wanted in a gay man. I mean, yeah, if an attractive straight guy who was "my type" and was trying hard to prepare himself for a meaningful same-sex relationship, and he had been sober from women for a while, I'd love to believe that was possible. And it wouldn't matter to me if many men had later gone on to fall back into being attracted to women and had affairs: I'd trust my man to do it right, to do what it takes. I tend to take the experiences of others into account and learn from those, but if I see discrepancies between my situation and theirs, I'm typically inclined to learn from those and adapt while trying it 'another way'. There's something very refreshing and intellectually stimulating about being part of a potentially pioneering group.

I might even acquiesce to my man engaging in holding therapy done safely and to quality time with girls in safe, group settings...eh, but there's where the analogy breaks down a bit for me because there's something inherently different about being with the guys, even other gay guys, where we just relate in ways a typical guy and girl don't. Gatherings of gay guys aren't big ol' orgies: they're just guys' nights, often with froofier food and less grunting, maybe.

Assuming Straightie cared deeply about me, appreciated me, even enjoyed sexual intimacy with me, and loved spending time with me, then I'd be interested in making it work, if I'd fallen for him, even without that sun igniting in his soul as I'd felt, or his heart freefalling, or him wanting to be sexual with me nearly as much as I would with him (in a soul-bonding way, not a simply down-and-dirty way). But I question whether I should deal with it or should have to, or anyone else, for that matter. It seems a bit sad, to me, for someone I care about to be in a relationship with someone who doesn't feel for them what I've now felt, if I know the person I care about has felt it for the other person. But is the less "in love" love really 'less' or just...different? Relationships with completely equal kinds and intensity of "love" are probably rare even among straight folk, and being open to experience it for myself, if the opportunity comes, without deciding ahead of time what kind of "love" I can or will feel. There's maybe no way to know until you've been there, right?

...Continue to Part 6.

26 January 2011

Temptation and Cognitive Dissonance Revisited, Part 1

If you believe sugar is bad for you, based on observations and teachings that people who eat lots of sugar get fat, and there is a real problem in our nation with overconsumption of sugar, and you consequently conclude (not irrationally), that you must exert every effort to remove sugar from your diet, and you follow through, surely you have done a healthy thing. Maybe you've heard success stories from those who have cut sugar from their diets and felt so much better, had so much more energy, and experienced signs of improved health. Maybe you took it further and joined the ranks of those who eliminated sugars in all forms as much as possible, including natural or unrefined sugars.

You might even have heard people say not to go so far, that you're being extreme, but you decided they just can't hack what you can, or they're taking the easier road that doesn't require as much sacrifice and commitment, and your health will be that much better for the effort you're making beyond the bare minimum. Maybe you've heard of diets requiring reduction of carbs and incorporated those into your dietary restrictions as well. You don't do anything halfway. You're proving your dedication.

Over time, in such thorough dedication and self-denial for health's sake, when your body starts to tell you it needs carbohydrates to fuel basic biological functions on a cellular level by responding with self-preservation in the form of reduced energy or other symptoms, you might be surprised. Maybe you will crave sugar as you have never craved it before. You might even 'give in to temptation' and partake of some sugar, and suddenly, you're wrestling with a form of cognitive dissonance: you've done something you don't believe in doing, and your experience seems to conflict with your beliefs about it.

As far as you can tell, either the action or the belief must be wrong, being in apparent conflict.

In the face of this temptation and cognitive dissonance, you have a few possible responses:
  • It seems clear that to justify the action would be the easy way out, so you cling to the belief (in this binary mode of thinking) in order to make sure that you are not pandering to weakness or sacrificing truth to your appetites. The perception of the ease of abandoning the belief, rather than evidence of the belief itself, determines its veracity. You commit even more to fight the weakness you are facing. You don't partake of sugar in such moments of weakness. Surely the temptation will pass, and to back down now would be to undo everything you've done. Besides, there's meaning in the struggle, and you're not about to let a temptation change your beliefs (sugar = bad) but will maintain your course according to your beliefs. "Lift your behaviors to match your beliefs," you think. You decry scientific efforts to defend light-to-moderate sugar intake as pseudointellectuals pandering to a sweets-addicted society.
  • Same thoughts as above, except you binge on sugar and carbs when the craving gets strong, admit your mistake or weakness, and quickly re-commit to your anti-sugar, anti-carb diet, again an affirmation of your beliefs. You engage in an intense cycle of self-denial and binging, perpetuated by emotional triggers and unmet dietary needs.
  • You decide this whole anti-sugar thing is too hard and start eating every gorpy, syrupy, heart-assaulting dessert you see, abandoning any concern for health. Nevermind the belief: this is easier.
  • Your indiscretion didn't kill you or create any ill effects. You feel stable now, and have more energy since eating a moderate amount of sugar or carbs, and the craving is gone. You decide that maybe a little here and a little there never hurt anyone, or maybe it's just not worth putting yourself through the stress of resisting the temptation to eat sugar. Maybe you find you feel happier worrying less about it but still eating in moderation, and you don't care about the judgemental looks from the anorexic girls at the table next to you. Let them punish themselves: you have more important concerns in life, and more important matters of self-improvement to pour your energy into, than worrying about a little sugar you can work off at the gym. You might occasionally overdo it, which isn't helping your health any, but you're not about to snarf a whole cake by yourself or anything.
  • You look into the matter more. You discover that our understanding of how sugar works, how carbohydrates in general work, and how other nutritional factors interplay with those is always evolving, expanding, and becoming more complex or nuanced. You learn about the differences between refined and naturally occurring sugars, learn about the need for carbs to fuel biological processes, learn that different bodies actually process foods differently, that some diets work for some people but not for others, and that we're increasingly learning how to tell which are which but don't yet have all of the answers on these things, so people need to adapt their decisions to their bodies' distinct needs. While we used to think sugar was OK, then we thought it was bad, we have increasingly realized there are far more principles underlying the matter, and while a general rule of thumb may work for most of the population, a decision that may be healthful for one person may be detrimental for another. And rarely can we simplify any food to one single component of it, like sugar, or carbs, and by stripping away a certain food to reduce one component, we may unknowingly also remove a needful component which we haven't been getting in other ways, whether or not we can. Ideally, you can greatly reduce sugar intake while maintaining necessary nutritional balance. But that takes a more complex understanding of nutrition than most people have.

Continue to Part 2

23 January 2011

Heteros do it too (and what I really think about most therapy of homosexuality), Part 4

Back to Part 3

As for gay guys who "experience a decrease in homosexuality" after therapy, I know a lot of straight guys who had naive, unhealthy, or oversexualized attraction to women until they did this amazing thing as life, time, and experience taught them to do: mature. I imagine feeling like you wanna jump on every hot guy you see is downright troublesome at times. Tempering the overpowering sexual appetite aspect of attraction, or realizing that not every hottie is the one you want to be with forever, is refreshing and liberating. But I'm not sure it's that different from what straight men go through in their sexual and personal development.

Oh, and then there's that pesky issue of age. Funny how many guys I've known have experienced "diminished homosexuality" after their mid-twenties. Go fig, right? I wonder how my straight friends would feel about me calling their diminished sex drives and more mature perspectives on attraction and relationships "diminished heterosexuality"?

I wonder what straight men would think if you tried to tell them they fall for women because they want to internalize their traits, and that if they'd only become more sensitive and nurturing, learn to decorate and bake, and maybe even wear make-up once in a while, they'd feel a diminished attraction to women, having assumed those qualities for themselves and therefore not needing to seek them in sexual gratification.

Maybe they just need some healthy, non-sexual touch with mother-figure women (some who are young and very attractive) in a safely monitored environment, to get the intimacy they really want, and it's OK to get an erection as long as they don't use it and that they'll eventually get erect less and less as they practice this holding therapy more often, and the healing influence starts to hold sway. Maybe they'll never stop going to holding therapy, but as long as it still feels centering and grounding to them, and nothing sexual happens, it's all good. Don't let them think it's just about connecting on a trusting level with another human being. It's about healing wounds.

And they need to learn to overcome their nervousness in women's lockerrooms by going and just talking (without flirting) with the women in the lockerroom. If you straight men will approach a woman as a friend, constantly downplaying the perverse sexual attraction and reminding yourself that she's a daughter of God and a fellow human being not to be objectified, the sexual tension is diminished, and you'll find that she is a person you can relate to and be friends with rather than some Venus you want to possess.

Actually, there might be more healthy mixed-sex relationships if more men thought like that. Of course, if healthy mixed-sex relationships were viewed as wrong, we'd need more than that healthier approach to relationships to quell them and open straight men up to same-sex pairing because unless the woman he becomes friends with is a lesbian, one or the other of them is likely to crack and get all romantic at some point. So we should encourage friendships with lesbians, ideally. But for some reason, most straight men undergoing this therapy prefer straight women. We can deal with that, maybe.

Perhaps if they go shopping with women and do womanly things, they will learn to relate to women on a more natural, personal level rather than objectifying them as sexual idols. I'd bet certain men going through such programs would proclaim a "diminishment" of their heterosexual attraction as they learned to identify with rather than seek to possess women. Maybe they'd even experience an increased curiosity in men if you could raise them since birth in a world in which the bulk of society were built around facilitating and nurturing monogamous same-sex partnerships as favorable over other relationships. And if their family disapproved of them dating women, and laws didn't protect mixed-sex relationships, and some people got beat up or killed for being heterosexual, that might help motivate them to develop same-sex feelings even further. Tah-dah! They're changed to homosexual! Some of them, anyway. ...Or at least adapting consciously and behaviorally to what works best for their situation, upbringing, social and family life, legal status, and sense of security, even if it's not what they would have chosen had things been different.

And for those straight men who were able to find happiness in same-sex partnerships, why should they have to call that anything other than the hard-earned change it was? Why should they be blamed for the straights who couldn't go gay? Sure, there are many who get over their "experiment", realize they've been heterosexual all along and were just convincing themselves, and it breaks homes and tears apart (adopted) families, but their failures or self-deceptions are not the problem of the still-happily-married-to-a-man formerly-straight man who has shed the label "straight" because it doesn't seem appropriate for a guy who deeply loves his husband and is living a gay lifestyle and wouldn't have it any other way after 15 years of commitment, investment, intimacy, and happy memories. Ha, taking it too far? OK, retreating from the completely abstractly theoretical...

I think we're generally or often attracted to people whose traits complement and fulfill ours. I think that's why an "effeminate" (exhibits an unusual abundance of traits and/or behaviors/expressions more commonly exhibited by females of the species) but straight man is better off marrying a more "masculine" woman than trying to act more like other men and finding the ideal "feminine" wife to make himself feel more "masculine". One relationship is built on frank assessment of strengths and complementarity, while the other is built on creating a contrived persona and finding a complement to that facade. Yes, I said contrived because even though I do believe we can each develop certain traits and strengthen our weaknesses and adapt our behaviors, I do think there's something "right" about identifying one's core personality and innate (not needing constant effort and refinement) strengths and finding someone who complements THOSE. In that way, both people are reinforced in the best way, finding a true complement to their weaknesses and building and balancing each other accordingly. But maybe not everyone can afford that. Maybe I can't. Maybe there aren't enough people in the world who truly complement me, so I can either hold out for what I want and die single defending that conviction or put on the appearance of strengths and, as Tim Gunn says, "make it work", and see if a masterpiece doesn't come of it.

I guess part of what I'm getting at is that there are many gay men who, when they hear the prepackaged explanations about how gay men are attracted to men because of their ideal masculine traits, think, "Oh my gosh! That's so me! I do that! I've always felt like I lacked confidence, so I've idolized guys who had it! I've never been good at sports, so I've been attracted to athletic guys!" Well aside from those kinds of traits being generally attractive to most people, male or female, gay or straight, there's something very natural about being attracted to someone with traits that complement yours or might help you strengthen weaker aspects of your personality. Abundant romantic versions of this dynamic aside, there's no shortage of movies about the small, wimpy nerd befriending the strong, popular guy and learning from him while discovering he has a thing or two to teach him as well, and they become best friends because they grow from that friendship. I think your average therapy client regards that as how it should be, with his attraction being a perversion of that desire, and I think that's bullcrap. A lot of gay guys experience it because a lot of guys in general experience it. Same with the daddy issues. The gay guys just also had all this other stuff mixed in, not because it was the result of it but because it's just how it was. I guess it's a chicken and egg scenario, and everyone has to decide for himself whether he believes his homosexuality was really born of masculine detachment or whether he was experiencing a very normal growing pain with the added element of homosexuality from the beginning, exacerbating the feelings of being different, and not the other way around.

Continue to Part 5...

Heteros do it too (and what I really think about most therapy of homosexuality), Part 3

Back to Part 2.

I'd guess some same-sex spouses or partners experience a lack of infatuation to an extent, too, maybe even fully. Would gay activists decry that relationship just as much as a mixed-orientation relationship based on a lack of euphoria, intense but unearned trust, and/or the feeling of walking on clouds and feeling deliriously happy? Would they decry it if the partners had to work on the sexual aspect of their relationship? Might they just as well have married people of the opposite sex if they were going to forgo the whole "euphoria" thing anyway? Or is that a specious question because gay men still experience infatuation even with their wives? Or is it possible to be "in love" in a way unique to pair-bonding without anything like the infatuation or euphoric feeling? Is that all just insignificant, doped up brain chemistry in the end? Is being in a committed, fulfilling relationship really not even about being in love? All else being equal, if you knew you could choose to have a committed, fulfilling relationship with or without being "in love" in this euphoric or deeply emotional sense, would you choose to go without? To you straight people who tell me it's not that important anyway, would you have married your spouse if it hadn't been for those feelings? Whether or not you think you should have, would you have? What stopped you from marrying your opposite-sex best friend for whom you had no such feelings? Shouldn't you have done that?

I think straight people generally do have the "in love" feelings, at least in the beginning of their relationship, and throughout, if they work to maintain them. I also think they take them for granted, and it does wane with time, although some brain activity research indicates that long-term couples tend to still dope up each other's brains quite nicely. Is a chemical reaction in the brain something to base a lifetime decision on? No, I don't think it is. Is it something to reject just because it's chemical, even when other important factors line up? I think you'd be a fool to. If the match is a good one, and the values and commitment line up, then that doped up brain is a total bonus, and who wouldn't want that?! I believe rejecting the euphoria as if it's proof of shallowness of affection is what many gay men are doing when they "explain away" their attractions to other men. Whether acting on those attractions lines up with their values and beliefs is another question: I just wish more such men would call a spade a spade, admit the authenticity of the experience, and see that they needn't decimate their concept and experience of being in love in order to justify their decision to live an alternative lifestyle and seek love in a form more compliant with their beliefs.

Mind you, I think many gay men do idolize the "objects" of their attraction, thinking them to be everything they'd want in a man...or, as the reparatives narrate it, everything they wish to be. I think many straight men "idolize" the women they're attracted to, as well, seeing the ideal feminine (often rooted in evolutionarily biological preferences reinforced by societal norms and structure) in them even well beyond reality until something snaps sense into them, often well after it's likely to make any difference in their love. I wish there were an accurate way to get into the mind of any given gay man and see his attractions for men, and the traits he finds attractive, and then get into the mind of a straight man and his attractions for women and see if they're patently differently motivated in a quantifiable way.

Let's pretend, for a nutty moment, that some people are truly, physiologically wired, for whatever reasons (environmental, genetic, whatever the triggers for that wiring) to fall for people of the same sex. Now, why wouldn't a guy be attracted to guys who represent ideal men? Why wouldn't any given same-sex-wired guy be attracted to guys similar to those hetero women are attracted to? And why wouldn't a guy who is truly primarily attracted on a personal, not romantic or sexual, level of admiration or aspiration to a guy who also happens to be physically attractive find it difficult to sort out which kind of attraction he's dealing with? Don't hetero girls also have a tendency to think they're in love with the "perfect guy" when in reality they just really look up to them but wouldn't necessarily pair well with him or would realize, if they started dating him, that they're not actually that interested after all but were idealizing him based on admirable hobby traits? I know many women who have gone through that. If certain parts of gay guys' inner workings resemble the inner workings of the average female of the species, as some brain structure research suggests on at least some level, wouldn't it make sense for them to experience some similar processes?

Continue to Part 4...

22 January 2011

Heteros do it too (and what I really think about most therapy of homosexuality), Part 2

Back to Part 1.

That "in love" feeling is proclaimed by some to be unimportant in a "real" relationship since it eventually fades anyway, which is actually a pretty key thing for a woman-marrying gay man to accept because as I understand it, in most cases, a gay man isn't going to have the same euphoric "in love" phenomenon with a woman as he likely would with a man of equal caliber and compatibility. That's not to downplay such a relationship: whatever I may think "most" relationships have or start with, I know at least one or two happily married, completely hetero couples in which at least one partner confesses to never having had the butterflies they thought you're supposed to have, but that it's always been something more. Maybe that means they didn't have the "in love" feeling, or maybe it means they just describe it differently, or kept it in check differently, or something.

As I write this, something's dawned on me that I'd forgotten. I actually wondered, from very early while we were dating, if I was maybe not as giddy as he might be, not quite as carried away, in a sense, as one might expect. Of course, there were also times early on when I actually thought he was disinterested and "over it" when I knew very well I was not. I just knew I was experiencing something different from what I'd felt with other guys, something more like a mix of them and what I'd felt with a couple of girls...and I feared that he was only experiencing...his first reciprocated crush. I didn't long to have him with me every moment we were apart. Instead, I looked forward to seeing him again but carried on with my daily life as usual. As time went on, and we grew closer, I felt him with me rather than feeling a void when he wasn't around. Even now, I feel like a part of me went with him in a way, and the space was filled with something he gave me, or something our relationship gave me. How corny is that? I didn't fantasize and daydream like a Disney princess; I took it a day at a time. I did just about collapse on buckling knees and shout for joy when he called me asking to officially "date" me, feeling like a new sun was igniting inside of me. I remember thinking, in that moment, that there was no way to describe in words what I was feeling or how beautiful and powerful it was, that it was like the entire cosmos was tuned to animate my soul. So yeah, that might be carried away, especially after only a month or so of friendship. And once, in an intimate and admittedly sort of 'passionate' moment (in a totally PG-rated way for you folks trying to spice this up to quell your "excessive gushing" gag reflex), an admission which concedes the possibility of influential chemistry, there was a pause and tender moment in which we looked into each other's eyes, and tears unexpectedly fell from my eyes in a happy moment because of the exquisite joy of the mere idea of our relationship, with all of its quirks and qualities, lasting indefinitely colliding with the exquisite sorrow at the probability that he would not be ready to pursue that, and I would have to let him go without finding out where it could lead. That emotion may have been as much about a formerly abstract concept really becoming a present reality for the first time as it was about him personally, and I knew it. But I also saw him as a beautiful person, the kind of person I'd want to be with, possibly the person I wanted to be with, and I was torn to tears by the tension between wanting to give myself over in a freefall to find out but believing it wouldn't be fair to him, and realizing I was afraid to take that risk but knew I was on the brink. He asked me, in that moment, to let him in, to share what I was thinking, as he gently combed my hair with his fingers, pulling me in with that familiar, encompassing, gravitational gaze. I loved him the more for it and told him, "Someday, but not now." Well! *shaking head vigorously* How's that for a tangent? Where was I? Right: But I didn't walk on air every time we spent time together. I did after the first night, but it quickly became...something more steady, more filling, more secure, more meaningful than twitterpation.

So is that what they're talking about when they say they didn't have all the giddiness and butterflies? Because if that's it, wow, it makes complete sense! ...I have no way of knowing, since I can't experience what someone else has. And then there's the question: "How authentic could all of those feelings have been after only a couple of months of friendship and dating? Clearly, it was more emotional than rational." Maybe so. But had we stayed together and proven those feelings, that wouldn't be in question. Had we been a straight couple who became sealed together for time and all eternity, those moments would be considered beautiful testaments of our love and dedication for each other, seeds we planted and nourished by dedication, commitment, and mutual respect and appreciation.

Well, whatever the "butterflies" are, and whether infatuation is present early on in most relationships, "most" relationships fail, butterflies or not, and arranged marriages in some cultures have incredible endurance rates, with many couples in arranged marriages saying they're fully happy and don't believe in the necessity of all of this western romanticizing we do. Either way, there's something beautiful about choosing to be with someone even without the euphoria, or the butterflies, or infatuation "stage" because in that case, it's clearly not just a hormonal insanity, and more likely a real connection, appreciation, and attraction of a more enduring kind. But all else being equal, if I can choose to have that real connection along with what I felt for him or instead with what I've felt for those to whom I wasn't romantically attracted but with whom I've had enduring friendships, I know which one I would choose. That's if that's actually an option.

Continue to Part 3...

21 January 2011

Heteros do it too (and what I really think about most therapy of homosexuality), Part 1

I loved him. I did not idolize him. But I may have idealized certain traits in my mind. This probable idealization or possible misperception of his traits which never had a chance to be validated or debunked does not mean my love was only a symptom of an inferior and illusory infatuation due to some developmental hiccup. I don't believe it was the result of the sexualization of masculine traits I wanted to possess for myself but wasn't manning up enough to acquire but instead lusted after through a copout sexual desire. I think it means I was...um...falling in love. And I knew it. And I knew the risks. And I'm certain nobody would question what I felt and expressed had he been a woman and I a straight dude. I'm pretty sure I saw him for who he was and was willing to explore "us", including the bumps I saw in the road ahead. Maybe I was nothing but a mirage to him, a symptom of a "problem", but he was much more to me: awkward at times, naive sometimes, inexperienced in certain ways, rebellious in others, yes, and other things which weren't entirely attractive, but so much more importantly, he was kind, sincere, fun, silly, sensitive, sweet, thoughtful, attentive, open-minded, humble, happy, bright-eyed, curious, playful, responsible, loving, family-oriented, affectionate, communicative, respectful, honest...not perfectly so on any of these, but a beautiful combination of them. Maybe I even idealized some of that, but I am so grateful to have had even a short time with him in that kind of relationship.

Having blinders or rose-colored glasses is a very real, explainable phenomenon associated with physiology like dopamine in the brain. Healthy hetero people have to keep it in check just like gay people, but when it's happening in a gay man, he's told by some that it's a symptom of detached masculinity or some horse manure along those lines primarily because it's directed at the wrong gender. I suspect most of those who buy into this idea find it easy to do so because they're still in their gay adolescence, learning the ins and outs of that kind of relationship far later than most people have. It's pretty easy to dismiss your first crush or fling as something silly, especially if you've never given it a chance to mature because you believed it shouldn't be allowed to in the first place, somewhat like neglecting a plant and then calling it weak because it dies.

Heteros have fumbling, unsatisfying, disappointing, or romanticized relationships too. They just usually get much of it out of the way and learn to identify them in actual adolescence. Yay for them. Head start. Those of us who say, "Oh crap, it's not a phase," in our mid-to-late twenties are starting a bit late, even if we've had relationships with members of the opposite sex in the past. I can't speak for anyone else, but even though my relationships with girls have often turned out to be meaningful for longer-term (probably partially because it's easier to maintain a friendship when one or the other isn't emotionally vulnerable, partially because I'm more often adept at choosing matching character when my hormones don't get in the way, partially because women are, I think, and for whatever reason, often better at the kind of intimacy I value), the vulnerability and emotional dynamic with guys has been a completely different ballgame, something much more intense, animating, and satisfying in additional ways, rather than friendly and respectfully attracted with flirtation and a hint of romantic affection.

Continue to Part 2...

Pearls Before Swine

Enjoy this video of a performance of the song which happened to play on my media player as I wrote this blog post and which felt so appropriate as I wrote that I decided to throw it in as a sort of soundtrack for the sheer, unadulterated heck of it:

"Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces." - Matthew 7:6

I have had many thoughts, experiences, and relationships which have been sacred to me in various ways. Sometimes I want to share bits of them to illustrate principles or expound ideas. Sometimes I want to share them just because their beauty seems worth expressing. Sometimes I want to invite challenge and clarification of ideas and theories. But I sometimes have feared treating something special too lightly or defiling it by bringing into public scrutiny, like a flower which begins to die when picked for the vase, or a poem whose original meaning is completely perverted by masses who project into it their own more accessible ideas. I also, admittedly, have probably subconsciously feared having closely held paradigms blown apart by being brought to light and thereby scrutinized and revealed as not quite how they looked inside my mind. If I never ask Mom and Dad about Santa, I don't have to know. If I never share my special experience, I never have to find out I'm not the only one. If I never express my love, he won't have a chance to reject it.

It's easier to remember things how you want to when you don't bring them up with others who have conflicting memories, it's easier to believe you're right when you don't expose yourself to challenging notions, and it's easier to cling to romanticized feelings about beliefs or people if you keep them locked away from probing questions or avoid current interactions.

Particularly when it comes to polarizing issues, I think this scriptural passage often is used in defense of a faulty idea. I think that behind a mask of, "There's no point in discussing certain things in a public forum when they are better discussed in intimate settings, with receptive minds and open hearts," is hidden the truer motivation of keeping ideas behind closed doors where enemies can't run with a concession or challenge a theory with credible arguments, or in more manipulative cases, a recognition that keeping the "real" arguments private keeps the opposition hacking away at straw men, making them look more ignorant and less intelligent when potential disciples start to learn the real facts. The gay activist never publicly discusses gay culture's rampant promiscuity and substance abuse, sacrificing solution-seeking to avoiding confirmation of stereotypes. The reparative therapy mentor discusses masculinity detachment theories only with thirsty minds more interested in well-defined steps for escape than in critical analysis. But that's beside the point...sort of. OK, not really. In criticizing this tendency, I cannot deny I may be doing something similar all the time in my own blind ways, despite thinking I'm pretty WYSIWYG. Ah, the easy pitfalls of diplomacy and endeavoring to change paradigms. It's tricky business, isn't it?

According to that interpretation, I may risk throwing some pearls in the coming months. I'm still debating what to say or how. I have admissions left to make which might tempt self-appointed experts on either side of a given argument to analyze my life as if they know enough to piece it all together in their little boxes. I have intellectual concessions to lay out which people might pick up and run with in any of a number of directions faster than I have energy or interest to catch up. I have questions which might actually be answered if asked, and not by those whom I respect or like or support but who might sometimes be right in ways which could make me cringe or could make me jaded, or they could be unanswered when I so hoped for someone to answer. It's all a bit of an uneasy prospect, but this whole personal blogging thing is kinda like that. And the question always accompanies the brink, "What for?"

18 January 2011

And So It Goes

I've always really liked this one. Now I feel it, too.

17 January 2011

Contented Slovenliness, Broken Love, Fatherhood Fears, and other not-entirely-related things

Casual observation of the day: I find it easier not to care about dating, to be contentedly single, and to refrain from checking out hotties frivolously when I am letting myself go and grooming less. It's weird. But somehow makes sense.


On a related note: I've realized I'm probably scared to "not have an excuse" for never having had a serious relationship. What if the understandable conflicts around processing my homosexuality and religious background are gone, but I'm still floundering without an excuse for floundering because it's all I know how to do by now? What if I still choose to pursue people who aren't right for me, and I endlessly and senselessly play the martyr? What if I actually am terrible at romantically intimate relationships, and nobody can (or should have to) put up with me beyond about three months? What if I really am a "one-man guy"? Easier to let go and stop hoping, then. Is that how I've been happily single lately, or is there something more fulfilled in it?


On a related note: I must resist the tendency to live in a way which "explains" in my mind why I'm single or keeps me from hoping to find someone (being a bit slovenly, neglecting fitness, delaying professional development), and instead work to become the kind of person to whom the kind of person I want to be with would be attracted. That may mean risking losing any 'excuses' for being single in defiance of the aforementioned fear. I didn't take marriage prep and dating courses more than once for nothing. And all that listening to Dr. Laura and attending communication workshops and courses in college. And taking painful steps to improve relationships I could have abandoned. And going to college to educate myself. I need to improve myself personally, emotionally, financially, professionally, mentally...I have a lot of work to do. I've never been much of a pleaser, but I'm realizing I do want to minimize legitimate concerns a potential mate might have. But I want to do it for me, too...to build a life of my own. Surely it will be worth it, even if I live out my days as a bachelor. Life will be meaningful. The alternative is emptiness. I will contribute something. The alternative is being a leech worthy of non-existence. If I'm to resist the temptation to end it or lay it all down when I feel like a complete and total leech ultimately worth nothing to the world except occasional fun and distraction from 'what matters most' (which I did feel intensely not long ago), I have to find ways to contribute and make more of my life. I have to continually learn to live more selflessly, to be more open, to love more freely, to seek truth more humbly and earnestly, to laugh more purely.


On a related note: I'm simultaneously pushing away the urgent sense that it's a shame to let what little is left of my youthful beauty, my energy, and my abundant affection go to waste, unshared. Tragic, right? ...Or shared with flings. Hopefully, it doesn't all wane and wither before I meet the person I hope to spend the rest of my life with and look back fondly on our relative youth together.


On a related note: I've always wondered, at times, if my love was broken. I tell myself I "should" feel strong "love" for people I actually trust, who have earned that trust, who say they love me and want me around. But I don't "miss" them when we're apart, in most cases, and I don't have urges to give them hugs or offer other affection gestures. I don't long to be close to them, even geographically. I do, however, feel affectionate urges for some people who I don't "appreciate" as much as others but who are just somehow "squeezable" in a "cute" or "vulnerable" way, and admittedly most often males of a not completely unattractive variety, even if I feel absolutely no sexual desire for them at all and even shudder at the thought. Is that normal? Do other people experience that? And I miss and long to be close to those to whom I'm attracted in a romantic or even sexual sense, if there's an emotional connection there, too, even before we have a history for them to really earn that trust and affection. I keep it measured and rein it in to not get carried away, but the fact that I have to rein my affection in with them while I've felt something vaguely like mild indifference to people who have invested and sacrificed for me and who I know "matter" to me has made me wonder if I've mistreated and neglected those family and friends in some incredibly selfish way, by not returning some affection they might feel, and it's bothered me. The fact that I've felt my general love and affection magnified by many times when I was in love and loved in return makes me wish I didn't need to be in love to feel that way and wonder if I'm broken for not feeling that way normally. Or was I only full of love when loved romantically or by someone I wanted or needed to love me. I wonder if that's one reason the "love of Christ" idea worked for me, because I wanted and needed to be loved by deity who fully knew me, and I felt secure in that belief. Secure. Is it all about security? Did belief in the love of Christ patch an insecurity? Am I insecure after all? The suggestions I've heard from reparative types or pop psychologists only superficially or initially seem to make some sense or even address the questions I'm voicing here, so it's unresolved so far. Whatever the malfunction, if any, I keep established friends close, regardless of whether their friendship or love makes me feel somehow joyous or sunny, because I trust them, and we understand each other in ways which can't be easily replaced, and I figure my stability and happiness may depend on having them close or accessible someday if not today, as may theirs.


On a related note: I wonder if the same vague sort of indifference of affection I feel for people closest to me will eventually occur with my spouse and children as well, and it worries me. Sometimes it makes me feel like I shouldn't try and risk the damage. I hope I'm capable of keeping it. I admittedly fear this much, much less in the context of marrying a man, as I've personally envisioned, with at least one man, an endless, enduring path with ups and downs supported by an abiding, pure, invested, sacrificial love underlying us the whole way. I hope that vision was a reflection of truth.


On a related note: I fear that very affection and sunny feeling I've felt for those I've fallen for is "supposed" to completely go away after a few years, based on statements by people who have been married a long time and insist the "infatuation" wears off, leaving a deeper, more abiding love that is essentially just another form of familial love, or the love of Christ, or whatever language they use. I do imagine it will wane, but I can't shake the notion that there's something about the love of spouses "in love", even if "in love" requires work to maintain, that is patently different from the love you feel for a best friend. I have faith that "in love", as uniquely distinct from other love, is possible and preferable in a mature marriage. Call me nutty.


On a related note: I have had a few moments in recent years in which I felt a notable 'spark' with females and actually thought, "Wow, just for this brief moment, I feel like I could totally kiss you right now." Then there's the less "charged" but comforting moment of, "There's something that feels very right about having her on my arm and keeping her safe right now, more so than I've felt with a guy so far." I think I'm attracted to many of the same things in women as I am in guys, but if it's ever going to work with a woman, I may have nailed down some requirements, the common thread between these women: really skinny, short, playfully sassy, and seductive. Oh, and "liberal" as far as Mormons go. Bring on the skinny, liberalish, forward Mormon/ex-Mormon women!


On a related note: I've realized I'm mildly terrified of being responsible for anyone else's financial stability or shelter as a husband or father. One thing I loved about the couple of people I've fallen for was that I knew that if I failed, they'd pick up the slack. I believe the reverse to be true in other aspects of life, that I would make up for their shortcomings or priorities in other areas. But I would like to not have to rely on that. I have a goal to become capable of supporting someone besides myself, to position myself to be a father and partner, however I can be, should that opportunity present itself. Maybe it won't present itself until I take the steps to be ready for it. I'm finally beginning to take those steps. I need to take them faster, though. I'm nervous. But through confronting the nervousness I find confidence.


Here's to self-improvement apparently without immediate romantic or eternal religious incentive.


On a related note: this doesn't necessarily mean I'm "back". Maybe not. Maybe.