Friday, December 19, 2014


The month of December is getting on, and I haven't posted anything yet.

On the eleventh, Chris and I returned from nearly two weeks in Hawaii.  While we were there, a couple of people took pictures of us together–one an employee at the Honolulu Coffee Company, in the Westin Moana Surfrider Hotel, and the other a man walking down the pier at Waikiki Beach.  I've included both pictures here.  One of them will end up on our customized Christmas card next year.

If you have one, which is your preference?

(By the way, the hat was a lot of fun to wear.  I didn't think I had a hat face, but maybe I do.)


Monday, November 10, 2014

Chris and Me, November 2014

Time to ditch the picture of me wearing a cast; that's so October.  (By the way, I know I didn't post anything in October.  It was a rough month, considering…)

This past weekend, Chris and I were already thinking about our custom annual Christmas card (you can never be too prepared for these things).  To that end, we brought our camera and tripod to Queen Elizabeth Park on Saturday, and wouldn't you know it, the first picture was the best of the ten or so we snapped.  This was the one we used for our 2014 Christmas card we send to everyone (except each other, of course).

And look…no cast.  That doesn't mean I'm not still recovering.  I'll be at that for some time to come.  But I can give a good semblance of normalcy in a picture, can't I?

(By the way, I'm thinking of writing a post on the aftermath of wearing a cast for six weeks.  But I don't know if I'm up for it yet.)

I hope you like the picture.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I Cried…

I cried.

I cried…first on the side of the road, the sky clear, the air late-summer crisp, my bicycle propped against the stop sign. 

A few moments earlier, I’d seen construction ahead, two cars traveling in the same direction as me, the flag-person waving them through.  What I had not seen was the uneven pavement, the opposite side of the road four or five inches higher.  Not until it was too late.  That's when I lost control of my bike, crashed hard, fell on my left arm, my handlebar cutting a deep groove in the new pavement (it’s still there).     

Dazed, pain searing my arm, I  stood, maneuvered my bike upright with my right arm and hand, wheeled it out of traffic, asked the flag-person to call an ambulance.

“You need an ambulance?”

Yes, fuck yes, I said to myself.  Did you not see me slam into the road?  Look at my left arm.  What’s wrong with you?

I was shaking, in shock.  After I fell, I looked down at my arm, to the wrist, saw something poking up under the skin.  Blood dripped down my hand and onto the road from a wound I couldn’t see.  Fuck!  I guess I wouldn’t just shake it off, get on my bike, ride away into the beautiful morning. 

I thought I’d keep standing, use my right arm to prop up my left, while I waited for the ambulance to arrive–that is, if the flag-person had called one.  But I couldn’t.  I sunk to my knees in the gravel on the shoulder, shaking, scared I might lose consciousness, collapse.  Better to fall from a kneeling position than from a standing one.

Then she was there.  I don’t where she came from, but she joined me on the ground, began to wrap medical bandage around my arm.  Pain shot through me, I tried to pull away.  When I looked at my arm again, I saw a hump where there shouldn’t be one.  I freaked.  She said her name was Tara, told me not to look, take deep breaths.  I leaned my head into her neck for support.  She told me she understood, said she was a mother.  I needed to hear that.  I needed a mother.

“It’ll be all right,” she said.  “The ambulance is on its way.”

“Thank you, thank you for being here,” I said, between sobs.  “I really appreciate your help.”  Breath grabbed in my throat.  “Oh, fuck, it hurts.”

“I know it does,” she said.  “I know.”  I shook harder.  “Hang on.  You’ll be okay.”  I pushed my head into her neck and bawled, the pain more intense than any I’d ever felt.


I cried…when the ambulance arrived.  Finally.  FINALLY!  What had taken so fucking long?  I heard someone say fifteen minutes since the call to 9-1-1.  Too long.  Far too long.  Weren’t they supposed to get there faster?  Much faster? 

The paramedics asked how I was doing, where the pain was, could I stand up on my own, walk over to the stretcher with their help, get on it?  I said I thought I could.  Anything to get to the hospital faster.  The pain in my arm was so severe, I could scarcely open my eyes, see where I was going, what was happening around me. 

All I wanted was something for the pain.  Give me something for the fucking pain, will you?  Put me out.  Let me come to only after I’ve arrived at the hospital, after surgery’s over.  Please.  PLEASE!  I don’t want to know, feel, anything that goes on.

In the ambulance, the paramedics asked me questions.  I answered them, bawled, wiped my face with the back of my right arm.  They told me to take deep breaths, keep sucking on a mouthpiece delivering some sort of gas (or was it just oxygen?).  It didn’t smell anything, put me out, or even deaden the pain much.  It just seemed to calm me down.  A little, anyway. 

Still conscious, I was aware of being in the back of an ambulance racing down the road, the siren, the pain burning up and down my arm, the IV going into my right hand.  I cried, knowing I was finally being looked after, knowing I was in a worse mess than I’d ever been, knowing how upset Chris would be when he spoke with Tara (who’d called him and left a message while we’d waited; who’d said she’d make sure my bike got home safely).

I cried…in the emergency ward at the hospital.  “Help me!” I yelled out.  “PLEASE, HELP ME!”  Someone there said I was being helped, his tone impatient.  People scurried around me.  Lots of people.  More questions.

“He’s in a same-sex relationship,” I heard a female voice say.  How did she know?  Must have spoken with Tara.  Somehow, everyone knowing comforted me.  Thankfully, no references to a wife.  No clarifications necessary.  No potential embarrassment.  I didn’t need that.  Not then.

“We have to get you out of these clothes.  Does what you’re wearing on top have any meaning to you?”  I told him it didn’t.  I heard the scissors cut, felt the fabric release around my arms, neck, and chest.  Next my shoes were removed, my shorts and tights pulled down, my underwear taken off.  I was naked, shivering.  Someone covered me with a blanket.  It was warm, felt good.

Thankfully, the fingers on my left hand hadn’t swollen yet.  The emergency staff removed the ring Chris had given me to mark our twentieth anniversary, a couple years earlier, without cutting it off.  Or whatever they do in those situations.

I was sat up, checked over, laid back down.  I was told to keep breathing the gas, to prop up the mouthpiece with my good hand so I could keep sucking on it.  I sucked, deeper and deeper, hoping the more I took in, the more I’d be knocked out.  I wasn’t.  I felt numbed, dizzy, but the pain was still there, rolling up and down my arm, throbbing, only a little more dully.

I heard someone say I needed surgery, but I couldn't be operated on for a while.  The OR was booked for the day.  Great.  But the bone in my arm had to be reset.   

Please, God.  Please make them put me out for that.  Please don’t let them tug on my arm while I know what’s going on.  While I can feel it.  PLEASE!

I woke up.  I don’t know how much time had passed.  I was still in the emergency room, only a few people around me.  My arm had been reset.  I’d been given something for the pain, but I still felt it, knew it was there.

When would Chris arrive?  I wanted him there so badly.


I cried…that evening, after I’d been wheeled into a hospital room with three other patients, following surgery, Chris appearing at my bedside after waiting for hours.

The rest of that morning and all afternoon, I’d waited in the emergency ward for him.  Someone had told me Chris knew what had happened.  I thought he’d be there any minute; I wouldn’t have to go through this by myself.

But hour after hour went by.  I kept looking up from my bed whenever I heard a noise, expecting to see his face.  Instead, I saw the loved ones of other patients. 

Where was Chris?  Why was he taking so long?  He should have been there already.  Surely, he’d take the bus from downtown Vancouver, not wait for the first train to leave around three-thirty.  I needed him.  Didn’t he know that?

I asked one of the nurses, wearing street clothing, a sweet-smelling perfume, what time it was.  She told me.  I said I didn’t understand why he wasn't there yet.  She asked if she could call someone for me.  I told her Chris had already been contacted, but gave her his name and phone number anyway.  She called, left a message. 

A while later, the phone rang.  She looked at me from the desk, mouthed, “It’s him,” shook her head.

“Would you like to talk to him?” I heard her say into the phone.  She transferred the call to a cell, brought it over to me.

“Where are you?” I asked. 

Pause.  “I’m still at work.”


“I can’t get away.  I didn’t tell you, but I’m Mark today.  Then someone called in sick.  Other people have the day off.  There’s no one here.  I can’t close the office.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means I can’t leave until the usual time.”



“So you won’t get here until some time after six?”

“I can’t.  I’m so sorry.  I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

“Hopefully, I’ll be in surgery by then.”

“I’ll see you after surgery, okay?”



I cried…Chris now standing beside my bed.

“What’s wrong?  Why are you crying?”

“I’m just glad you’re here, finally.”

But it was more than that, so much more.

The hospital staff had been great, all of them; I couldn’t have asked for more compassionate and dedicated caregivers.  But Chris’s face was the one I’d most wanted to see. 

For the first time since the accident, I felt safe again.  Chris was with me.  I’d be all right.

The weight of the day overcame me, and I couldn’t help it–tears came.  I had no control over them.

How had I gone from riding my bike on a glorious morning one minute, to kneeling on the side of the road in the gravel the next; holding my arm, seeing shapes under its skin that shouldn't be there, my fingers bent at a contorted angle?  I cried because I needed to, because I was overwhelmed by everything, because I had to let go.


I cried…when Chris returned to the hospital the following day.

This time, he brought a small bag of assorted Lindt chocolates he’d bought on the way over.  I took one into my mouth immediately, trying to mask the taste of breakfast from earlier that morning.

A lunch tray was placed on a table beside my bed.  Chris helped me with it, opening containers, feeding me as necessary.  I felt so cared for, so cherished.  Not that I usually didn’t. 

But this time was different.  I wasn’t me.  I was dependent, vulnerable, childlike.  Chris’s generosity and selflessness moved me.  All the things he did made me feel connected to him like never before. 

“Why are you crying?”  The same words from the night before.

I shrugged.  “Because you’re being so kind to me.”

He seemed put off by that.  “Of course I am.  Why wouldn’t I be?  You’d do the same for me.”

Yes.  Yes, I would.  In a heartbeat.  Count on it.


I cried…the following night in Chris’s bed.

I hadn’t thought I’d be home yet.  The surgeon had said I could probably leave the next day.  I thought that unlikely, but what did I know?  When he came to see me in the morning, he said there was no reason why I couldn’t be released.

At home, still feeling sore, and vulnerable, and fragile, I got into bed with Chris, unable to find a comfortable place to put my arm in its heavy plaster cast.  Chris held it up for me, took on the weight.  Later, as we chatted quietly, he twisted his arm so he could cup my sausage-like fingers, protruding from the cast, inside his.  The sweetness of the gesture made me cry, I couldn’t help it.  And it opened something inside me.

I cried because I was sad–sad that all this had happened.  In fifty-five years, I’d never broken anything, been seriously ill.  I took care of myself, was in good health.  I didn’t do anything foolhardy, tempt fate.  Bad things happened to other people, not to me, right? 

Wrong.  None of what I'd done, all the precautions I'd taken, mattered.  None of it had prevented my bike from crashing, me from landing on my arm, fracturing it in two places.  None of it made me immune from the reality of what lurked out there, ready to strike at any second.  The thought of that scared the hell out of me.  It also upset, disappointed, and saddened me.

I cried because of how good Chris had been to me, how, without complaining or thinking of himself, he’d attended to my every need.  How he’d done things for me I’d never imagined he would, shown, in every single task, how much I meant to him, how much he cared for me, how much he’d been affected by what had happened too.  Of course, we know our loved ones are there for us.  But, sometimes, they’re given the chance to prove it even more.  And Chris had proven it.  Over and over again.

But, most of all, I cried for the fraud I felt I was.

Over the years, I’d preached to countless readers that they must love themselves, believe they deserve their own love and that of others.  Believe they deserve good things happening to them, because they are worthy.

But, there I was, snuggling with Chris before bed, believing I’d gone from being an asset in our relationship to a liability, an inconvenience, a nuisance.  Same old story:  As long as I produced something, earned my keep, I was worthy of his love.  Otherwise, I wasn't.  That I still felt that way hurt.  It hurt a lot.

Had I really learned nothing over the years about my intrinsic self-worth?  Did I still believe, somewhere deep within me, that I was less than everyone else, that I didn’t deserve Chris, his kindness, or his love?  Why hadn’t I been able to accept his selflessness at face value, and not think he was doing it because he had to, or because it was the decent thing to do, or because he would do it for anyone? 

How could I continue to write my blog, counsel people about loving themselves, when, obviously, I still had work–lots of work–to do on myself?

I cried.  The tears that fell were the bitterest of all.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Astute Observations from a Recent Reader

I have to share this with you.  It's a response I received from a recent reader to a post I published here some years ago titled "The Trouble with Many Gay Relationships" (if you wish to read the post, you'll find a link below).

Every comment Simon's written me, on a variety of posts, has been noteworthy, but this one goes a little deeper and is, to use a common expression today, brutally honest.  I hope you'll appreciate what he says, especially if you still insist on finding Mr. Right (a myth, by the way).

(Note:  For clarity, I've edited Simon's comment slightly, but I've left in a few words some readers might find offensive--they are original to the comment and help set the tone for the piece.)

Thanks, Simon.  I look forward to hearing from you again.

It's true, and very very sad.  The world has so few models for healthy relationships, and the gay world has even fewer.  This notion is self-perpetuating, really.  If we don't have models for healthy love, then who are we to aspire to be?  Oh, fuck it, just go get laid...that's what men are meant to do, etc. etc. is the main rebuttal.  Why not try to become that healthy role model, as best as you can?  Why not seek out role models instead of magazine models?

The ease of getting laid as a gay man, coupled with the ease of communication and instant gratification in the new digital age, gives us a lot of distraction from ourselves.  It's a permanent candy store mentality.  By the time we find someone we click with (and it's always an accident), we don't know what to do.  So we stare into our phones, and dream of getting free from them.

I know many men who were presented with someone that worked well for them, but they got bored and dumped them to be single again.  How many times can a gay man do that?  Just as many times as he can, given the current climate of instant gratification, until he's left a graveyard of lost love in his wake, and wonders how it got there.

At this point for him, it's all too easy to keep self-medicating with sex, claiming that no guy is good enough to really partner with, and maybe going so far as to be honest that they really aren't either.  

"Hey, I need to have a partner that's attractive.  If he isn't attractive, then it isn't going to work!"  I've heard this one a lot.  I've even heard the laundry list that some of my gay friends rattle off, which would include all the attributes they require, many of which they don't even possess themselves.

Well, "attractive" is something that morphs in time.  What's attractive to you in your youth can be very different from that in middle age, and ideally it should be, I think. When I was young and coming out, I wanted someone young and boyish looking like myself, and I never got to have that.  I got interest from older guys, and was all, "Um, no".  When I got older, I wanted guys my own age, and these younger, boyish-looking guys are simply cute, but not interesting to me now (even though I did get to have a few fun encounters with them in my 30s).

But I know guys my own age (mid 40s) who are still hung up on getting a cute young thing...and sometimes they get one, and it's fun for a while, but that's how they still define 'attractive', and what must be for them to retain interest in a mate.

Ultimately, attitude is important.  If your attitude is that you will never get a mate, then you probably won't...or you'll get a masochist who wants to prove you wrong. If your attitude is that you deserve a mate, and where the fuck is he, well, then you'll attract a sadist who will tolerate your demands.

If your attitude is that you're willing to be open to it, and try to meet as many people as you can, in as many ways possible, while continually doing what makes you happy, and nurtures your soul, without a mate...then IF you do meet someone, you'll be more likely to discover that it's the right one. 


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Old Man Down the Block

When Chris and I lived in Victoria, an old man lived down the block from us.  Most often, we saw him walk past our townhouse, probably up from Mayfair Mall, a short distance away.  For a long time, I didn't know where he lived until I was walking down the street one day and saw him leave a decrepit-looking house.  In all the time we lived in the neighborhood, I never saw the lawn mowed there, the drapes open, or a light on.  Yet, there the old man was, by himself, trudging from the back of the house to the front, going about his business.  

Do you do this?  Do you make up stories about people you see?  Do you look at them and imagine what their lives are like:  who they are, what they do day-to-day, what their houses look like inside–that sort of thing?  I do it all the time, and seeing this old man got me thinking.  

See, I'm convinced he knew Chris and I are gay couple.  How could he not?  Sometimes, when he passed by our townhouse, I was alone, working in the small front yard, walking out the door, whatever I happened to be doing.  Maybe he would have been able to tell, just from looking at me, that I'm gay.  But, often, he'd pass by when Chris and I were doing something, like planting a tree, or watering our garden, or sitting on the front porch (a rare occasion in Victoria, since the wind is cool and incessant, even in the summer).  And he'd always look at us and smile, like he was interested in what we were doing.  Every time I looked into his eyes, I believe I saw a spark of recognition–that he knew about Chris and me, what we are, and he understood.      

Not only that, but I also thought he might be envious.  In the life I imagined for him, he never married.  Rather, he was gay himself, coming from a generation or more before me (assuming what I've read of a generation being twenty-five years is correct), when being gay was not only tougher than it was for me, but when it wasn't spoken of, when it was kept hidden, when, in fact, it was still illegal in Canada, because that was the case until 1969.

Back then, by my calculation, the old man would have been in his early 30s.  Who knows what he could tell me today about what it was like to be gay then?  Who knows how difficult it was for him to meet other young gay men like himself, how the stigma of being gay was so severe that he had to keep to himself, remain isolated for decades, not even imagining the possibility of finding someone, falling in love, and building a life together?  

When I looked at that old man, I saw envy in his eyes.  But I also saw regret.  Regret for how he was forced to feel about himself because of society's attitude toward homosexuality.  Regret for making connecting with other men like him so difficult.  Regret even for never experiencing love fully, for never being able to give of himself completely to another man.

Sometimes, when the old man passed by and smiled at me, I smiled back at him.  I felt so sorry for what I imagined his life story to be.  For how things were back then, particularly in relation to how they are now, when, despite the challenges Chris and I still encounter from time to time, circumstances are so much better for us than they were for him.

And I hope my smile conveyed to him that I understood his situation, and I wished things could have been different for him all those years ago.  I hope it conveyed that the life and love Chis and I share is not only a victory for us, but a victory for him too, and all the other men of his generation and before, whose lives were forced to take a different course because of nothing more than their sexual orientation, and their need to love and be loved by someone of the same gender.

I hope every time he saw us together in our front yard, he felt our implied thank-you for all the risks, large and small, he took over his lifetime, to help us, collectively, get to where we are today.  So that Chris and I can be openly gay, share a house, a life, a love, and be more ourselves than most gay men ever got to be in the past.  We owe a huge debt to those who came before us, who pushed the boundaries, who, in a sense, helped set us free.    

To the old man down the block, this one's for you.        

Sunday, August 24, 2014


I'm embarrassed to admit I have pairs of underwear…well, shall we say, not in the best condition (I suspect that's a minor thing to be embarrassed about, considering some of the other admissions I've made in this blog).  The crotches have multiple holes or are wearing so thin you can see through them, and, in several places, fabric's torn off the elastic waistband.  In fact, some of my pairs have been so bad, I've told Chris, one of these days, when I put them on, they'll be nothing more than the waistband.  (When I told Chris I might write this post, he assured me most, if not all, of my readers would know a thing or two about worn underwear.  Please tell me that's the case.)  

Fast forward to yesterday.  Chris and I took a mini-vacation to Park Royal in West Vancouver, something we do from time to time in various parts of the Lower Mainland.  While we looked at Banana Republic for black dress pants for Chris, and a fall shirt for me, I discovered the shelf with underwear, in my size and favorite colors (grey is okay, but black is better).  And they were even discounted.  How could I say no?  I mean, I didn't need them, but…     

This morning, I went through my dresser to locate any pair of underwear I should have retired years ago.  (In the past, I've shown Chris the condition of some of them, holding them up so the holes were visible–and even peering at him through some.  He just shakes his head.  That's when I've looked at him and said, indignantly, "What?  There's at least another ten years worth of wear here."  He ignores me.)  I found several pair today, and showed Chris what I planned to throw out.  He rejoiced.

Before I tossed the pair in the worst condition, I came up with an idea.  I tore everything off the elastic waistband–a task easier to do than I expected (I suppose I shouldn't have been so surprised).  Then, scarcely able to hold in my laughter, I got inside the elastic waistband and secured it around me.  I walked out of my bathroom and stepped into the upstairs hallway, where Chris had his head down, pulling clothes out of the laundry hamper.     

I wish I could have been deadpan when I delivered my line, but, glancing down at myself, and seeing how ridiculous I looked, it was all I could do to get out, "So what do you think?  This should give me a lot of support, huh?"  (I'm laughing so hard as I type this, I can't see what I'm doing.)  Chris looked at me and rolled his eyes.  I couldn't stop laughing my face off, and he was as straightfaced as he could be (sometimes, he has no sense of humor).

His response?  "Sure," he said.  "Go ahead.  Give it a try.  See how it works for ya."

No, kids, there are no visual aids.  You'll have to use your imagination on this one.   

Friday, August 22, 2014

Chez Moi

I cut Chris's hair.

It's really easy to cut (although I didn't think that when I first started doing it about six years ago, as I had no training whatsoever).  Since Chris is bald on top, all I have to do is use a No. 3 attachment on the clipper and shave his whole head the same length.  Then I square off the back, trim around the ears, reduce the sideburns and sides, clean up the neck, and scissor the odd long hair here and there on top that escapes the clippers.  And that's it.

Takes me about half an hour or so.  (I probably take a lot longer than an experienced stylist would, for the amount of hair involved, but this is my partner's hair I'm talking about, not some stranger's, and I want it to look nice–for him and for me.  A little extra time to do a good job doesn't hurt).

Oh, my "salon" has a name.  A long time ago, I branded it Chez Moi.  For those of you who don't speak French, that means My Place.

When it gets to the point Chris wants his hair cut, he'll ask me, "Can Chez Moi open this weekend?"

Now, you have to understand, Chez Moi is a French salon–with attitude.  So I'll answer, "Well, I don't know.  Chez Moi might be busy this weekend.  We'll see."  Then I'll pretend to slam a door.  I'll say to Chris, "Oh.  I'm sorry.  Did you hear that?  Chez Moi was just open, but now it's closed.  That's it for this weekend." 

Sometimes, Chris will laugh along with me and say, "Well, I guess I'll have to wait."  Other times, he'll have none of Chez Moi's attitude.  "Well, open it," he'll say.  "I need my hair cut."  Apparently, customers have attitudes too.

Other times, I'll answer Chris's question by saying, "Oh, I heard Chez Moi will be open on Saturday, from 3:23 am to 3:27 am.  If you make yourself available then, we might be able to fit you in."  Chris just gives me a look.       

(For the record, over time, Chez Moi has gotten involved in other businesses (I suppose being open for only four minutes in the middle of the night isn't so profitable).  Some of these other businesses coincidentally include just about everything else I do around the house to make our lives run smoothly–from making travel arrangements, to doing all our financial stuff every two weeks, to cooking our dinner meals, and so on.  Believe me, those businesses aren't exempt from that surly French attitude, either.)

I started–I mean, Chez Moi started–cutting Chris's hair to save money.  Why pay a hairstylist to trim his fringe every six weeks or so when I could do it for free?  So, after we finally figured out we needed to buy a professional-grade clipper to do a decent job (a $45 Wahl doesn't "cut it"), several cuts later, not only had we recovered our money but also we'd started saving it.  And, over six years, I've gotten good enough that I don't think my cuts look any different from what a pro would do.  (Although there was that time when I took a large notch out of the back–by mistake, of course.  But what Chris can't see won't hurt him.  Shhh!  Don't say anything.)

All kidding aside, cutting Chris's hair–a simple, innocuous task–has had benefits I could never have imagined.

First, it takes a degree of trust on his part to put his hair in my hands and expect I'll do a good job.  Of course, he trusts me with everything; why not his hair?  Fortunately, I don't think I've ever let him down (except for that notch).  If I can stand to look at him after I'm finished–and, believe me, I'm nothing if not fussy–then I must be doing something right.  So, the confirmation of the trust he has in me makes me feel good.

And, yes, cutting someone's hair, especially your partner's, has a sexual component too, because you're doing something very personal, even intimate.  (But a hair-cutting session's never gone there (hmm, that I can remember), because I'm too focused on what I'm doing, and it creates one hell of a mess all over his bathtub (and on him), where he sits naked, on a cold stool, patiently waiting for me to stop fussing around.  Oh, by the way, I recommend naked hair-cutting–something you could never get at a professional salon.)

But what I really love about cutting Chris's hair is how connected I feel to him.  I mean, I always feel connected to him.  He's my partner, after all, the love of my life, my soul mate.  But there's just something about touching his hair (what little there is of it now), playing with it, working with it, that connects me to him in ways nothing else does.  That reinforces for me how much he means to me, how much we mean to each other.

Who knew something as simple as cutting Chris's hair could end up being so much more?


Oh, Chez Moi also clips those nasty errant ear hairs and trims eyebrows (ain't being male and getting older a kick?).  If you can ever get the damn place to open at a convenient time, and for long enough to get the job done.

If you'd like to make an appointment to get your hair cut at Chez Moi–  Oh, did you hear that?  It was the door slamming again (I'm surprised it hasn't fallen off its hinges, it's been slammed shut so many times).  You didn't really want to go there anyway, did you?  That French attitude…  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Make Peace With Your Looks

How do you respond when someone says something positive about your looks, tells you you're attractive–for example, likes the way you wear your hair, or the sparkle in your eyes, or your beautiful smile?  If you're like most people, you probably dismiss what they say, because the critic in you doesn't believe it, or, at the least, is suspect of it.  So you put yourself down. You say something self-depracating, something that says you know you're not worthy of their kinds words.  

I was reminded recently, when I received an email from a reader in the United States, of how I used to do this all the time.  In part, he wrote:

Another insecurity is my body.  I don't feel fully confident with my body, though I'm not heavy.  In fact, I'm tall and I think [I have an] "average" build, though X. tells me "I think you are perfect the way you are." He's so sweet.  Following our recent trip, he told me that he can sense I'm insecure about my body.  I asked him how and he said when I touch you, I can tell.  I told him the insecurity about my body comes from the pressures of the gay world, how we are so visual and that having a lean or muscular body is the goal.  X. told me it's all in how you see yourself, think about those pressures and standards.  It's true.  I hope to get more secure about things soon.

Wow!  Could I relate.

Here's what I wrote to my reader in response:

What I learned from being with Chris is this:  I used to put my body down [how I looked] all the time too, because I struggled with feeling good about myself (for the same reasons you do).  Yet Chris would always compliment me.  He said I looked great, that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.  Later, he pointed out that, when I put myself down after he'd complimented me, I put him down too, because I called into question what he’d said about me.  If he said I looked great, but I said I didn’t, wasn't I calling him a liar?  Didn't I suggest he didn’t know what he was talking about?  See what I’m getting at?  

If someone pays you a compliment, accept it gracefully.  You don't have to do anything more than say "Thank you."  You are not expected to object.  X. obviously sees something in you.  Maybe you don’t see it now, but you should.  Until then, go along with it.  Believe me, he's looking at you in a more levelheaded, fairer way than you’re looking at yourself.  Don’t insult him by suggesting you’re not as attractive as he thinks you are.  In other words, don’t give him a reason to push away from you.  Just accept what he says and believe he’s being sincere.  Make sense?

The lesson here is, we need to see ourselves as others see us, which is far less subjective, harsh, and unrealistic.  Sure, we have to live with ourselves all the time.  Sure, we see what we consider our flaws whenever we look in a mirror, or when we're in the shower, or when we get dressed.  But are they really flaws?  Not at all.  They are nothing more than those things that make us human, that make us who we are, and they are neither worse nor better than anyone else's. They just are.

Learn to love what you don't like about yourself, because there's a good chance you're the only one who's hung up on it.  Chances are, someone thinks what you're hung up on is what makes you special, what makes you, you.

Accepting how you look is foremost on the list of the things you need to do to improve that relationship with yourself–and, coincidentally, with those around you.  Make peace with how you look.  Like I've written before, your body is merely a vessel.  It's what's in that vessel that means the most.  That's what you should work on.  

There are so many more important things in your life than how you look, which, as you get older, you'll (hopefully) come to realize.    

Looks are fleeting; character is forever.        

Monday, July 21, 2014


So here’s what we know:

    A 14-year-old boy in San Diego, Calif., killed himself last fall after a fellow
    student snuck into their high-school bathroom and recorded a video of him
    masturbating in a stall.  The student…posted the video on social media, it…
    went viral, and two weeks later, on American Thanksgiving weekend, Mat-
    thew, bullied, friendless and beyond comforting, took his own life.*  

When I read this, I was angry, really angry.  But perhaps not for the reason you might think.  Sure, there’s a whole lot wrong with what happened here; however, I don’t believe one of them was the young man masturbating, not even in a bathroom stall at school. 

No, the real problem is our culture’s perception of masturbation.  If jacking off was not so stigmatized, there’s a good chance Matthew’s classmate wouldn’t have recorded him doing it.  With no video, nothing would have been posted online or gone viral, and a Southern California family would still have their son today. 

I don’t care where you stand on the subject of masturbation, I think we all agree this young man should not have ended his life because of the embarrassment, shame, or guilt associated with it.   

Over the years, I’ve learned a good number of my readers, particularly those who take the time to contact me, are young people, both male and female.  No one in their family is gay (that they know of, anyway), so, in a sense, they see me as a surrogate father, someone they can trust.  I’m gay and older, I’ve been in a relationship with another man for over twenty years, and I have some experience behind me.  As a result, they feel comfortable talking to me, opening up, telling me what’s going on in their lives, what some of their concerns are.  And they ask questions.  I believe, from reading my posts, they know I’ll be straight with them, and tell it like it is. 

That’s why I’m going there today–all the way there.  That’s why I’m talking about masturbation.  As we’ve seen in the case of Matthew Burdette, the stakes are too high if we keep silent, if we don’t tell young people what they want to know, what they need to know.  If parents or guardians or someone in authority isn’t comfortable telling them, then I will.    

And I’ll start, as I usually do, by talking about my own experience, so you know I know what I’m talking about.    

I masturbate.  There.  Another closet behind me.  If admitting I masturbate makes you laugh, or squirm, or somehow lessens your opinion of me, then so be it.  I’d rather be honest than not.  As I see it, what’s the point of writing this, or any post here, if I don’t tell you the truth?  If I don’t opt to help instead of hide.   

I’ve masturbated for as long as I can remember, starting when I was a little boy and had no idea what I was doing.  All I knew was, it felt good, I liked it, and, after it was done, I felt sleepy (in fact, many doctors recommend insomniacs masturbate before bed, because it reduces anxiety, relaxes, and encourages sleep).   

I continue to masturbate today, even though I have a partner.  I enjoy having sex with Chris, but I also enjoy having sex on my own.  Chris knows I masturbate and has no problem with it.  He doesn’t believe, as some do, that it takes away from our sex life.  Sometimes, we even masturbate together.  Sex is a multi-faceted experience.  There are all kinds of things to do, either with someone or alone.    

A lot of myths surround masturbation; perhaps you’ve heard some of them.  Like, if you do it, you’ll go blind.  Or you’ll grow hair on your palms.  Or you’ll get acne.  Ridiculous.  Believe me, if they were true, I’d be afflicted by all of them.  And, just in case I need to say this, I’m not.  Nor are 95 per cent of men, and 60 to 80 per cent of women, who are reported to also masturbate.   

When it comes to masturbation, I’m particularly concerned with our culture’s misguided perception of it.  And how you might perceive it, as a result, or perceive yourself, if you do it.   

So, let me be clear on this.  It’s possible you’ve gotten information from somewhere that jacking off is wrong.  Or shameful.  Or self-indulgent.  Or something else that’s negative or awful or even sinful, because of religious beliefs, or because whoever told you was embarrassed and wanted the subject to go away, or because he didn’t want to admit he does it himself.  But all of that is nonsense.  To repeat, it’s nonsense.  Don’t believe any of it.  

Masturbation is useful.  If you have no one in your life, which a good many people don’t, you can still be sexual (as you should be), and still enjoy one of the most pleasurable experiences available to us as human beings (and it’s completely safe sex).  Masturbation is good for learning what you like and what you don’t like; what feels good and what doesn’t feel good.  There’s nothing wrong with knowing your body, exploring your sexuality, enjoying what you’ve been given–even if it’s by yourself.  What you learn will make you more self-aware, and it will make your sex life with a partner more fulfilling. 

So, if you feel guilty because you masturbate, stop it.  You have no reason to.  

In the end, masturbation is no different from eating, or sleeping, or going to the bathroom, or any other function we do.  It’s perfectly natural and normal, not shameful or self-indulgent or sinful.  And we owe it to ourselves, and each other, to see it that way.  I do it, and millions and millions of people around the world do it.  There’s no reason why you shouldn't too.    

In his article, referred to below in the footnote, Peter Scowen, editorial writer and editor at The Globe, writes:  

    In the absence of even nominal public education about masturbation, what Matthew
    Burdette needed was some person of stature in his social circle–a teacher, or a jock, or
    maybe a celebrity–to step forward and admit, I do that too.  In the absence of that,
    and if it could help other boys struggling with the fear, guilt and shame of being
    caught, maybe all of us men should find the courage to stand up and say, don’t worry,
    guys, you’re not alone.                              

So here I am, standing up and saying it.  You are not alone.  I masturbate.  And it’s okay if you do too.
* Quotes are from “Masturbation is…a Sin, Selfish, Healthy, Harmless, a Weakness, Human Nature, the Last Taboo,” by Peter Scowen, The Globe and Mail, Saturday, July 19, 2014, p. F4.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Is It Love?

From time to time, a reader asks me, Is it love?  Or, How do I know it's love?  Or, How long does love take?  Or some variation of that.  A good many of my readers are younger and haven't experienced love yet–not romantic love, the kind you feel toward someone other than a family member, for example.  I've done my best to answer their questions over the years, but I've never felt totally comfortable with what I've said.  After giving it some thought lately–and inspired by a recent email correspondence with a new reader (thank you, Chad)–I want to give my answer another try.

I begin with a little about my own experience of love.  Before I'd met my partner, Chris, just over twenty-two years ago, I'd never been in love.  I was thirty-two at the time and thought, if I keep going like this, I'll never know what love is.  I knew I couldn't accept that, and I'd keep trying until I found someone to love and to love me back–even if it took the rest of my life.  I would never give up, not about something as important as that.  (I'll say a little more about the experience of learning to love oneself in a bit.)

So I met Chris on a beautiful, warm late spring evening in June 1992.  I knew he was special from the start, and I knew he was different from all of the other men I'd met over the years-different in a good way, different as in, I could see myself with him.  We complimented each other.  We clicked.  Our rhythms were the same, if that makes sense.  Was it love at first sight?  No, I don't believe in that.  I believe in infatuation at first sight and lust at first sight, but there was none of that with Chris.  It was all very level-headed, and tentative.  I'd been down this path with a few other guys before, and it had never worked out.  With Chris, I planned to be cautious.  But I was also hopeful.

And needy.  Yes, I'll admit it.  I needed a man in my life.  I needed not to be alone anymore.  I needed not to feel like it was just me against the world.  I needed someone to come home to.  I needed someone to talk to about the day I'd had at work.  I needed someone to spend evenings and weekends with.  I needed someone to share some of my interests.  I needed someone to hold me.  I needed someone to kiss me.  I needed someone to want me.  I needed someone to care.  That's what I needed most of all–someone whose very presence in my life told me I mattered.  Sound familiar?    

I told Chris I wouldn't play games with him.  If I wanted to call him on the phone–this was before cellphones, smartphones, and the like–I would.  I had no intention of waiting for him to call, just to stroke my ego, to prove to me he was genuinely interested.  I owned how I felt about talking to him or being with him, and, if I wanted to, I'd do something about it.  In other words, I would not wait for him.  (What I'm trying to get across here is, don't play games with someone you're interested in, or you might play yourself out of the best thing that might have ever happened to you.  Don't be insecure, and don't be a fool.)  

I'm a shameless question-asker.  I will literally ask anyone anything, given the opportunity.  The worst he or she can do is tell me to mind my own damn business (it's never happened, by the way, because I'm convinced most people like to talk about themselves, if someone is genuinely interested in what they have to say).  So, when Chris and I spent time together, I asked questions.  Lots and lots of questions.  Never once did he tell me it felt like I was interviewing him for a job, but he could have–the job of being my partner.  I needed to know everything about him.  And Chris being Chris, he told me what I wanted to know.  And I knew what he said was sincere.  I knew I could trust him.  That way key. 

Okay.  So back to love.  My recent reader asked me, how did I know when I loved Chris?, or something to that effect.  It's the same as asking, Is it love?  Or, How do I know it's love?  And my answer was, I didn't.  Not really.  I kept waiting for the fireworks to go off, but they didn't?  I kept waiting to feel head-over-heels for Chris, but I didn't.  I knew I felt something toward him, but I wasn't sure what.  I knew I felt connected to him.  I knew I felt invested in him, the more time we spent together.  I knew I didn't want to lose him.  But were all of those facets of love?  I had no idea.  I'd never experienced love before.  I hoped I'd recognize it, but I wasn't sure I would.  I just went along, because I'd never felt better than when I was with him.

Ten months after we met, Chris and moved in together.  A big step.  A big change in my life.  Was I ready to make it?  Oh, yes, I was, if it meant I'd be living with Chris, if it meant I'd see him every day, get to share everything with him.  Was I in love with him then?  Maybe.  I still wasn't sure.  But what I'd felt toward him at the outset had certainly gotten stronger.  It was undeniable.  And I felt less cautious about feeling it.  I was pretty sure Chris wasn't going anywhere, and it was safe to invest in him completely, but I still wasn't certain how he felt about me.  I mean, people say and do all sorts of things, but do we ever really know exactly how they feel?  That's where faith comes in.  And hope.  I had the faith and hope that Chris and I were the real deal, that what we had would last.  So we rented a new, beautiful apartment in Vancouver's Yaletown, and began our life together. 

Every night before we went to bed, I told Chris I loved him.  I made a point of telling him that.  No one had ever told me he or she loved me.  We weren't that sort of family.  So, when I got to know Chris better, I told him I'd tell him that I loved him.  Again, no games.  If that's how I felt, I'd say it.  The problem is, I still didn't know if what I felt toward him was love.  We'd been together a year or so by then, and I still wasn't sure that's how I felt.  When you have no experience with love, how do you know if what you feel is the real thing, is what all the writer's write about in great literature, what the recording artists sing about in great songs?  How do you know?  Love is exalted to such a level that, unless you can relate exactly to what you've read and heard, you have no idea if what you feel is the same thing.

Some time between then and today, I fell in love with Chris.  To put that into perspective, some time over the past twenty-one years, I fell in love with the love of my life.  Can I narrow it down from that?  No, I can't.  Did I fall in love with him closer to the time we met than to today?  Of course.  I know in my heart I've loved Chris for many years.  But do I know exactly when it happened?  No, I don't.  All I know is, it happened.  And that's good enough for me.  I have what I've always wanted, and it's everything I ever thought it would be.  I've experienced great and deep and abiding love, and, even if Chris were taken from me today, at least I can say that.  My love for him wouldn't end.  I'd continue feeling it until the end of my days.  In that respect, I'm a lucky man.

So, where does that leave us in our discussion of, Is it love?  With the very best answer I can give you.  Perhaps with the very best answer anyone can give you:  What's the hurry?  Why do you need to know right now?

Sure, I'll admit that when I told Chris early on I loved him but I didn't know for sure, there may have been a part of me that thought, if I tell him I love him, maybe it'll happen.  Maybe if I say it, say it often enough, my feelings will match my words.  In other words, maybe I can will myself to love this man.  And maybe there was an element of that.

I know for sure there was an element of, if I tell him I love him, he won't leave me, thereby guaranteeing the success of our relationship.  Remember, I was needy as hell.  Did what Chris had to offer satisfy that neediness?  Absolutely.  But did my telling him I loved him guarantee we'd stay together?  Of course not.  I see that now.  Lots of people are madly in love with each other and break up, for a variety of reasons.  Just because you love someone doesn't mean you'll be together for the rest of your lives.  But I thought, if Chris doesn't really love me, but I tell him I love him, then maybe he'll come around, feel the same way I do, and everything will be great between us.  Delusional, for sure.  But, hey, you do what you've got to do, right?  Or what you think you have to do at the time?

Love.  It's the experience of a lifetime.  It's what we're here to do.  There's nothing else like it.  Life is meaningless without it.  And I believe the greatest tragedy is when one dies and has never known true love.

But, if you've just met someone, and you're having fun together, and you can't wait to see him, and your days are filled with thinking about him, and you wonder if what you're feeling toward him is love?  Don't.  Don't wonder about it at all.  What's the hurry?  Why does it need to be love right away?  Like is just fine too.  Or strong like.  Or whatever you want to call it.

There is no need to fall in love right away, or to know you've fallen in love.  Frankly, if you have to ask yourself if you're in love, you probably aren't.  Because you'll know.  You'll know when you're in love.  The knowing won't come from your head, from intellectualizing it, it'll come from your heart, the center of love.  Your heart will tell you when it's love.  And I doubt you'll look up one day and realize you're in it.  I don't think it happens that way.  You'll just feel it.  It'll be there.  The ground beneath your feet will finally feel solid.  And you'll know.   

So, take the pressure off.  Just be with that person.  Do things together.  Have long conversations.  Go for walks.  Laugh a lot.  Then laugh more.  Spend evenings at home.  Enjoy nice meals at restaurants.  See a good movie.  Dance.  At this point in what you have together, you're doing exactly what you should be.  There's no reason to complicate it by asking yourself, Is it love?  Give it time.  Let your feelings work on their own timetable.  Don't rush anything.  Be sure.  Relax.  Just enjoy yourself.  If it's meant to happen, it will.  It will.

And, in the meantime, if you haven't already, fall in love with the most important person in your life:  You.  That is the person you should ask if you're in love with, because he or she is the greatest love of your life.  If you don't know that yet, I pray you will.  Because that love is the source of all great love.  Don't believe me?  You will.  At least I hope you will.  

Friday, June 13, 2014

Happy Twenty-Second, Sweetheart

Twenty-two years ago today, Chris and I met.  We count our anniversary from that day for a couple of reasons:  Because we weren't able to marry legally then, no matter how much we may have wanted to (we can now); and because we've been inseparable since.

It's hard to believe we've been together twenty-two years already.  Where has it all gone?

The best twenty-two years of my life.  I can't imagine being without you.  You are the best thing that ever happened to me. 

I love you so much, sweetheart.

I took this picture of Chris a number of years ago, while riding on a BC Ferry from Victoria to Vancouver.  It's still my favorite of him.   He's such a handsome man.  I'm such a lucky guy.

Friday, June 6, 2014


This piece was inspired by David Levithan's young adult novel Two Boys Kissing.


For some time now, I've wanted to write you.

You are that young man I've seen at the mall, on the street, in Starbucks, not just in the designated places, and you're being yourself, in a way I could never be myself when I was your age.  Among other things, I've seen you hold hands and even kiss, carrying on as though it's always been this way, as though you've always been able to.

Maybe you've always been able to, but we weren't.  Between my teens and forties, it was rare for us to be ourselves in public.  In fact, you would have thought we didn't exist at all then, unless we got so fed up that, in a defiant outburst, we held each other or kissed and didn't give a shit who saw us.  And, afterward, we'd look around and hope like hell no one had seen us.  The last thing we needed was someone hating on us, following us, beating the living crap out of us. 

No, you don't have to do that now, at least not to the degree we did.  Society's become more accepting of you.  Remarkably, you can even get married in some countries, like the one I live in, or some states in the US (if the federal government gets its act together there, soon to be all states).  Some people are even losing their high-paying jobs now, because they've done or said something to show how bigoted they are against you.  I've even heard of instances where straight boys are befriending you–they're called stag hags–something that never would have happened when I was your age, for fear they might be thought of as the same as me.

Yes, as Bob Dylan once wrote, the times, they are a-changin'.

And I can't tell you how glad and thrilled and grateful I am that they are.  Enough of us have suffered at the hands of those who wish all of us were dead, who believed, in the '80s, with the AIDS crisis, we were finally getting what we deserved, and it would be only a matter of time before we were wiped out, and the world would be rid of us once and for all.  Thankfully, we're not there anymore–although I know there are still those who feel the same way.  We're not all the way there yet, but it's coming.  And your courage and boldness are helping us get there faster than ever.  Just keep doing what you're doing.  You're making a difference for all of us, and you don't even know it.

So what I'm about to say will shock you, maybe even anger you.  But I hope you'll stay tuned to fully understand it.

I resent you.

That's right.  I resent you.

It feels too easy for you now.  Sometimes, the way you carry on out in public disgusts me, embarrasses me, embarrasses all of us.  I wonder, who the hell does he think he is?  And, where does he get off doing that?  And, doesn't he realize how he comes across, how he makes us all look bad, how he should save that for the privacy of his home, where no one has to be subjected to it?

Of course, that's the old man in me talking (just ignore him; I do).  I've done okay for myself over the years.  I've been in a relationship for probably longer than you've been alive, and, for the most part, my partner and I have found support from family and friends.  I've done a lot of work trying to understand what growing up different all those decades ago did to me, and it's through understanding that I've been able to undo some of the damage, give myself those things I never could have, find what was necessary to keep my relationship going all these years.  Hell, I've even had this blog since early 2009, which has connected me to more wonderful, and often struggling, people from around the world than I thought possible.  It's the best thing I've ever done to help myself and to try to help others.

No, the old man in me doesn't resent you.  Not you specifically.  Not any of you.  What he really resents, if he's honest with himself, is not being you, right now.  Not being able to do all the things you can, without feeling like he has to look over his shoulder all the time, without thinking he's going to upset someone who might then, in some unfortunate way, come after him and make his life even more difficult than it already is.

The old man in me resents all the wasted years.  Imagine who I might be today, both out in the world and within myself, if I hadn't had to spend so much time and energy hiding who and what I was.  If I hadn't had to push it down, time after time after time, and deny it.  If it hadn't been so impossible to find those who were just like me.  If I hadn't felt so isolated and alone.  If I'd just been allowed to be me.  



I can't go back, I know that.  None of us can.  And, in some respects, I wouldn't want to go back.  Like I said before, things are pretty good now.  I'm a lucky, and grateful, guy.

But, in spite of the progress I've made over the years in understanding and accepting myself, even using some of what I've learned to help other people, I realize there will always be a part of me that resents what happened in the past and wonders what could have been.

I'm so proud of you.  We all are.  Maybe you have no idea, but those who came before you fought so hard and so long for what you now have.  Whether we marched in a parade, or carried a sign, or got arrested for what we knew was right.  Or whether we joined in the battle by just having the courage to tell those we loved, one at a time, what we were, then set a positive example for all of us in how we lived our lives–we've waited for this day.

You carry the torch now.

I celebrate you.

I love you.               

Life Advice to a Young Gay Man

Here's a response I wrote to a reader, and friend, from another country, who I've been in correspondence with since last summer.  No set-up is necessary.  The details reveal themselves throughout.

I hope this will be helpful to anyone going through a tragedy, dealing with coming out, and trying to figure out who he is.     


My dear Y.,

You are so brave.  I'm sure you don't see yourself as brave now, because you're in so much pain, but you will.  At some time in the future, you will realize how courageous you were, and you will respect yourself for making a very difficult decision.  And you will also know, if you don't already, you did the right thing.

First, let me assure you, everything will be just fine.  I have a favorite expression:  This too shall pass.  And so it will.  The pain you feel now will, over time, diminish, as you move on with your life, as you open yourself to new experiences, meet new people, and, yes, even fall in love again.  But let's not put the cart before the horse.

Y., the person I want you to fall in love with most now…is you.  But I already love myself, you're probably saying.  And that might be true, to a degree, anyway.  But what I see in everything you've written over these months is that you don't.  Not really.  Not in the way you should, or in the way you need to.

If you think about it, you haven't been on your own–truly on your own–for a long time, if ever.  You met W. when you were in your early twenties, when you were just becoming an adult, when you knew so little about yourself, when you still had so much growing up to do.  So you never really had the chance to become you, who you were meant to be, independent of anyone else in your life. 

I can compare you to my mom in that respect.  My mom met my dad when she was in her late teens.  She got pregnant with, and gave birth to, me when she was just nineteen.  In those days, a young, pregnant, Catholic girl had to get married, or she was shipped off somewhere until she delivered the baby.  And then the baby was often taken away from her and given up for adoption. 

So Mom got married to Dad, never having the chance to figure out who she was, who she was supposed to be.  She never become herself, independent of being a daughter, a wife, or a mother.  To this day, I don't think she really knows who she is, who she was supposed to be.  She's in her seventies now, her health is not good, and I doubt she ever will.

Do you see how similar your stories are?  No, you didn't get pregnant (of course), and no, you didn't get married.  Well, not officially.  But you were with another human being for years, and you had to adjust who you were to suit the relationship you shared with him. 

Many years later, you lost W. in a tragic accident.  No one should have to go through that, certainly not at your age or any age, really.  It's an awful thing to happen.  And you went through a horrific several months, making your way without him, trying to figure out who you were when he was no longer in your life.  It wasn't easy; I appreciate that.  And I think, to a degree, you were looking for relief from the loss and pain and uncertainty.

Enter A.  You knew A. already, but only as a friend.  He was there for you when you were most vulnerable, when you really needed someone.  And, as it turned out, he needed you too.  But maybe not for the right reasons.  And maybe both of you were too needy, in different ways, to really be right for each other.  Emotions got mixed up in all of it, and, before you knew it, you were in a relationship with him. 

I'm sure it felt like A. would be the answer to the loss of W.  But the reality of being with A.–that is, learning more about him than you knew before and trying to adapt to being with him–was more challenging than you realized.  And, in some respects, it added to the burden you already felt, not just about dealing with W.'s loss, but also dealing with your sexual orientation, and your family's reaction to it.

I'm not saying you didn't love A.  I'm sure, in your own way, you did.  And there's no reason why you can't go on loving him–just not in that way.  The two of you were friends before, and you can go on being friends.  But you don't need to complicate your life by being with him as a life partner. As I wrote before, just because you love someone doesn't mean you're meant to be together, or you're good for each other.

So you've broken up with A.  What a huge opportunity this is for you.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Opportunity.  Y., I don't have to tell you you have lots to work through.  And, yes, you will likely need friends to help you along the way.  But most of the work has to be done on your own, over time.  That's called life.  We all have to do it (or we should).  And it's the most important work you'll ever do.

You need to truly accept yourself as a gay man.

You need to deal with the issue of being a gay man in a country that doesn't accept gay people.

You need to figure out how to come out to your family, so you don't have to live a lie for the rest of your life (you're already on the road to doing this).  Or you need to not come out to them, resolve that you can live with that, and move on. 

You need to learn to like yourself, just as you are.

You need to become your own best friend and lover.

You need learn how to be on your own.

You need to figure out who you are when there is no one else in your life.

You need to become the very best human being you can, so that, when you meet the right young man (and you will–have faith), you will be ready for him.  And, together, you will have the most amazing relationship.

I'm sure I've forgotten something you'll need to address, but that's enough for now.  In the end, you'll be a very different person from who you are now, after you've worked through all of these.  But I can't think of anything more exciting. 

Now, before you start feeling overwhelmed, like you can never do all of this, just know it doesn't happen over night.  It takes time.  Lots and lots of time.  I'm still working on some of this stuff myself, and I'll be 55 this year.  But there's no time like the present to start.

And how do you do it?  You live your life one day at a time.  You put one foot in front of the other, just like you do now, and you deal with everything as it comes at you.  You do the very best you can in every instance, recognizing that your very best right now might be different from your very best in the future.  That doesn't matter.  You're only required to do your very best from one day to the next, from one moment to the next.  That's all any of us can do.   

And, while you should always keep your eyes open for a new love in your life, I think you need to wait to get involved with someone else.  Grieve W. completely.  Grieve the break-up with A. completely.  Allow yourself to feel the pain.  Feel it deeply, right to the bone.  Take all the time you need to feel it.  Don't try to run away from it.  And don't try to relieve the pain by seeking a new lover, because that's not the answer.  Believe me. 

If it's loneliness you feel, then feel it completely.  It won't hurt you to be lonely once in a while.  All pain helps us grow, as does all joy.  As you already know, life will be filled with great pain and great joy.  Each experience, whether it be painful or joyful, is a learning opportunity.  Work your way through it all.  Learn everything you can.  Feel yourself become stronger, more the human being you're meant to be. 

Just be with yourself.  Learn to love your own company.  Learn to love doing things on your own.  Learn to love doing things just for you.  Learn to love who you are.  And don't be scared to be with yourself, and by yourself.  It will be some of the best time you've ever spent.  

I hope you see in my words that I'm putting my arms around you, and giving you the warm hug you're in need of.  As I started out saying at the outset, everything will be just fine.  And so it will.  Your journey as a single, vital, amazing, worthy gay man begins today.  Embrace it.  You have no idea what's ahead of you.  Take it one day at a time.  Work on you.  Don't be frightened of who you find yourself to be.  It will all make sense in the end.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

An Email from a Reader Who Requests Anonymity

Hey Rick,

I’m in need of a bit of advice. Normally I would never email somebody like this to get advice, but here I am. I don’t really feel like I have anybody else to talk to about this. Admittedly, I haven’t really read your blog, but I’ve been looking for a gay relationship advice blog and maybe you can offer me a bit of help. Also, sorry in advance that this email is probably going to be ridiculously long. If anything, it’ll be a way for me to think things through for myself.

I’m a nineteen-year-old college freshman who just recently (like two months ago) accepted the fact that I’m gay and began acting on it. I met this guy and we began texting a lot. We had both known each other a bit before we met (on grindr… I know, I know), but neither of us knew the other was gay. So we were texting and things were going well. We decided to meet up and grab dinner, so we did. That went well. Eventually, we started hooking up. It was a once per week (if not more often) thing, but when we weren’t hooking up, we’d still talk. I met his friends and I really like them and I think they like me. In the six weeks or so that we’ve been doing this I’ve developed feelings for him. I don’t know if its simply because he’s the first guy I’ve ever done anything with or if the feelings are genuine. But I’m almost positive they’re genuine.

Anyway, a little while ago, I was beginning to get quite confused about the nature of our relationship. What were we? Friends with benefits? Hooking up? Was it something more? I decided to ask him what we were doing, and he told me “I couldn’t tell you because I honestly don’t know either.” When I asked him about how he felt about our ‘relationship’ he said, “I’ve definitely never been one for labels. I say we just keep doing what we want and not worry about what to call it.” So I asked him what the “rules” of our relationship were. I said, “I don’t know the rules. Like, are you hooking up with other guys and should I be hooking up with other guys?” To which he responded, “I haven’t been hooking up with other guys, but I’d say they’re not off limits to either of us if we find ourselves in a position where we want to.”

That wasn’t at all what I wanted to hear, but I said, “Cool, that sounds good.” (Probably a mistake, but whatever. I didn’t want to scare him away with my feelings. In this case, I didn’t want to end what I had, even if it wasn’t all the way what I wanted).

Ever since this conversation, things have been weird between us. Strained. And I can’t get my mind off him.

Whenever I’m on grindr and I see him on there I can’t help but think about how quickly and natural it was for us to go from chatting to texting to hooking up, and I picture him hooking up with other guys. And it gets me down. Now, I know— going on grindr is like the worst possible thing for somebody in my position to do, but I want to meet other guys too.

Since this conversation, we’ve met up twice. Once was for maybe an hour and all we did was cuddle and make out a little bit. It was nice, but he cut it short to leave for dinner with his frat brothers. The other time was last Saturday. We went for a walk (and didn’t really talk all that much), and I was fully expecting to go back to his room afterwards. He cut that short too. When we got back he told me he had to get to a party. I didn’t even have physical contact with him that night. There was no cuddling, there were no goodbye kisses like there used to be. It was just… cold.

My texts with him have been cold and strained, and I can’t help but feel like he’s cutting me out. He’ll still respond to my texts, and sometimes even text me, and we snapchat each other quite frequently— but I think he’s lost interest in our ‘relationship.’

I really like this guy. I want more than hooking up with him. He obviously he doesn’t want that with me. Which is fine, can’t win ‘em all, I get that. So I guess what I’m asking is… how do I get over him if he’s gotten over me?

Everything I’ve read about getting over somebody involves cutting off all contact. I absolutely DO NOT want that. He’s a great guy. I want to be friends with him at least if we’re not hooking up or together or whatever. I don’t want to cut him out of my life.

So how do I get over somebody that I don’t want to get over?

Seriously, any advice about anything would be so, so appreciated. Should I bring this up to him? Should I ask him if he’s done with me and with our ‘relationship'? Should I try and meet another guy? I’m in college and the dating scene has pretty much been replaced by hookup culture. Unfortunately for me, I think I’m just a sentimental person. Cold, empty hooking up doesn’t at all interest me. I want more than that.

If you read this whole email, you’re amazing and thank you so much. A response would be so amazing to me, as I have so many things I want to say and ask, but I’m not sure how to put them into words. If you have any questions for me, let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them.

And this probably goes without saying, but I’d really appreciate anonymity with this.

Thanks so much!

My response:

Hey, ______.

Let’s get right into it.

You asked me some specific questions at the end of your email, so I’ll structure my response on the basis of them.  I suspect I’ll be able to add anything I want to within the context of my answers.  If not, I’ll record them at the end. 

Remember, I’m going to be completely honest with you. These are my opinions, based on my knowledge and experiences.  You may not like what I have to say.  Take or leave it as you see fit.  Ultimately, I hope my responses are helpful.

Here goes.

Question #1:  “So how do I get over somebody that I don’t want to get over?”

You start with a tough one.
I think your friend (I’ll call him David) has been as honest with you as he’s capable of being, at this point in time, about what the two of you have.  He’s not as emotionally involved in your relationship as you obviously are (or, if he is–which he might be; you never know–he’s not willing to show that to you). 

The way I look at it is, you have a decision to make: Can I only be with David if he’s something more than a friend, or can I be happy if he’s a friend only?  If you push too hard to make it something more than he wants it to be, you risk losing him altogether.  If you play it cool and go with the flow, he may get over the initial awkwardness, resulting from the talk you both had, and things may get back to the way they were between you. 

Which will put you in a good position.  You’ll still have his friendship, which you’ve said is important to you, and you may have some benefits with that as well, if you want them.  If you don’t want them (because you’re not into hooking up), then that is your choice to make.
I’ve just read your question again, and I’m not sure I answered it.  Let me try again.

I think you’d be better off if you turned “I don’t want to get over him” into “I don’t want to lose him as a friend.”  Do you see the difference? 

Ultimately, you want David in your life.  If you can’t have him in your life in the way you’d like him to be, I assume it’s still better to have him in your life as a friend.  You’re going to have to make that switch in your head–and heart–if you want to keep him. Only you can decide if you’re capable of doing that. 

And here’s the good news, as I see it:  If the two of you are still in each other’s lives, you may find, as you share more fun times together, that he’ll realize what he has in you, and he’ll try to get closer to you.  Stranger things have happened.  Friends often turn into the best relationships.  But don’t go into building a friendship with him, thinking for sure it will turn into something more.  It may not, and you’d have to untangle yourself from him all over again if it doesn’t.

The bottom line is, focus on the friendship.  Keep him in your life because you like him. But go on living.  He may never fully be yours, so keep your options open, keep meeting new people. 

And, if you’re serious about being in a relationship, frequent better websites than Grindr.  I found a few you might be interested in, that seem to be more focused on helping gay men develop long-term relationships: Compatible Partners (the gay equivalent of eHarmony), Plenty of Fish, Zoosk,,, and  I’ve never tried any of these sites, so be careful with your safety and your heart, but, clearly, there are more options out there than Grindr. 

Question #2:  “Should I bring this up to him?”

No, you shouldn’t discuss this with him anymore–if you want to maintain your friendship with him.

When I initially read your email, I thought you should probably sit David down and be completely honest with him about where your heart is.  But, because you want to maintain your friendship with him, I decided having another discussion might just push him further away.

So, no more discussions for now.  Focus on the friendship.  If it’s offered, have sex with him, or not.  That’s your choice.  In this regard, be true to who you are and how you feel about casual sex. 

And keep living your life.  David may never be yours.  You have to accept that.  I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but, to use a cliche, there are lots of fish in the ocean.  You don’t want to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with you–at least not in that way. Have more respect for yourself than that.  When it’s right between you and another young man, you’ll know it.  And it won’t be a struggle.  It’ll feel good from the beginning. 

Question #3:  “Should I ask him if he’s done with me and ‘our relationship’?”

You know my answer here.  No more talk.  Unless, perhaps, he invites it.  If he doesn’t, just be friends.  If it turns out you can’t be friends–because it hurts you to know every time you’re together you’re not something more, or because you know he may be fooling around with other guys–then make a clean split with him. It may be the only way to go. You’ll have to decide that for yourself. 

Question #4:  “Should I try and meet another guy?”

Yes, you sure should.  In fact, you should try to meet lots of other guys.  You should always keep your options open until you're one hundred percent committed to the guy you should be with. Meeting other young men will give you perspective on what you have with David.  Either it will confirm what you had with him is the real deal (in which case, you have a problem, especially if he still isn’t interested in you in that way), or it will show you your feelings for David weren’t grounded in something that was real and true.  In other words, that your feelings were nothing more than infatuation.

Listen, ____,  you're still very young.  I don’t want to sound like a parent here, but let’s be honest.  You’ve just accepted your own homosexuality.  The whole gay thing is pretty exciting, especially the part about meeting other young men like you, and some of them actually being interested in you, either as friends or something more.  What you’re going through is an initial bit of excitement, and, believe me, it’s a heady experience.  It can really throw you, particularly if you’re not prepared for it.

So…take a deep breath.  You have a lot of life ahead of you.  At the risk of marginalizing it, what you have with David is a crush.  It’s great fun, and it’s so damn validating, knowing you’ve turned someone else's head.  You've gotten his attention, and he's interested in you.

But there’s a good chance it was never meant to be anything more than a friendship.  That’s certainly the indication David's given you.  So accept that.  Don’t fall into the arms of the first young man who shows interest in you and plant yourself there.  There are so many young men who would be lucky to have you as a friend–and maybe something more.  Think about how exciting that is. 

You’re going to discover so much about yourself over the next years, both in terms of who you are as a human being and who you are as a gay man.  You might think you and David are a perfect match now, because of where you’re at in your life, but that could all change tomorrow, when you discover you’re really someone else.  Or that your priorities are different from what they are today.  Or that you’re really looking for this type of young man, not that one. 

Making a life long commitment to one person is a huge responsibility, and you want to be as certain as you can be that the one you commit to is absolutely the right person for you.  You shouldn’t be in any rush to do this. 

I met my partner, Chris, when I was thirty-two, and he was just twenty-three.  I was ready for a serious relationship, but I remember thinking at the time Chris was probably too young, and I had to ask myself questions like, was I being unfair not letting him experience more of life, meet other people, find out what he really wanted?  It turned out well for us, and, in the end, it might turn out well for you and David.  You never know.

Maybe David really is THE ONE.  But he’s not giving you that indication yet.  So keep moving ahead.  Don’t get stuck in one spot, waiting for him to come around. If he never comes around, you’ve wasted too much time.  Who knows, if you both keep moving ahead, but you both keep coming back to each other too, it just might be right, after all.  Only time will tell.

I hope you’ve found this helpful.  I hope I’ve been able to help you see past the feelings you have for David.  And I hope this makes sense.

You write in your email that you have other things you want to say and ask, but you don’t have the words for them yet.  Well, when you find the words, I’m here for you.  If you respect what I have to say, send me an email with additional comments and questions, and I’ll see what I can do to help.

Thanks for sharing with me, for trusting me, and for being open to what I have to say.

I wish you all the very best.