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.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

An Email from Ed

Last month, I received the following email from Ed, a young reader.  He didn't specify where he's from.  I've made minor edits for clarity.      

Hi Rick,

I'm the guy who made a comment anonymously on the post titled "I've Earned the Right" [see also this].

First of all, I apologize for any kind of grammar mistake I make here.  English is not my native language, and I've been learning it for only a few years.  

Second, I did see your post some time ago. I didn't reply to it before because I've been going through another tough time, and there was no motivation for me to answer.  Please accept my apology if you thought I had no consideration for what you wrote.  I just couldn't.

And third, I've only decided to write this because I made the decision to completely open myself to someone. I always felt I needed to do that, and yesterday, after having a terrible day, I decided this someone would be you. This text will probably be long, and you don't need to read if you don't want to.  Writing, printing, and making this the first page of my personal journal (just as you advise) will help me anyway. Here we go then.

I was always a really shy guy. Since the very beginning I knew I was gay. I can perfectly picture my childhood days, when I would steal my sisters' dolls and have lots of fun with them. Since that time, I had an idea that being gay was not something people would accept. 

I was born in a small town, being me the youngest of the family, which was formed by my parents and my two older sisters. At 10, I lost my mother from complications in surgery. As many gay kids, I was extremely attached to her. I remember this being one of my toughest times. I grew up being a creative and smart kid, always drawing and painting. My oldest sister sort of became my second mother and my relationship with my father was nice as well. The other sister... Let's just say we don't get along well.

Things started to get really complicated when I became a teenager (what a surprise, right?!). I was often bullied at school. I didn't go to parties, nor had dates or a kiss at least. I was stuck being affected by all the hate coming at me. I lost that time and sometimes I catch myself regretting it. To make things even worse, my first, and only "love" at that time, was a good friend of mine, a straight one.

When I finished high school, I thought I would finally start being happy as I moved to another city. But my perspective of being happy at that time ( I was 17) was being accepted. I went to a college and even had some girlfriends, trying to fit in. The feeling of being accepted was actually good and I could live like that for a whole year. I was studying something that pleased my family (even though I always wanted to become an illustrator) and dating girls. 

By the end of that year, I had became something I never thought I would: an extremely depressed person. Retracting the true side of me made sad and anxious. It also brought me to something I'm really ashamed of: I became addicted to gay pornography. After 11 months living like this I decided to quit college and move to a different city.

I am living by myself now. My family still helps me because I'm in the capital trying to get into the best art school of the country. It was only last year I could finally have my first gay experiences. I was extremely released because of it and for a moment I thought I had finally found happiness. After one year dating boys and having done things I never thought I would, I find myself feeling empty and sad again. 

I'm not an open gay person and I avoid letting people know about me, probably because I am too afraid that my father will find out.  He's 70 and really conservative. I know he won't deal well with it. So I prefer to hide it from him. What makes me feel even worse is that in all the hard times I have, I turn to the addiction I mentioned before. I feel so bad when I do it that I even thought of harming myself...

I'm 21 now, and I came out to a couple of friends and to my mom-sister. I started feeling more pleased with myself and in peace for the first time. I even found someone I really like and we've been having the best times together for the last 5 months.

Still, once in a while I found myself feeling just like the way I used to when I was depressed. Sometimes because of a mean look, a disrespectful word or even without any reason... I just feel I'm not worthy.  In the country where I live, we have to take an exam to get into college, no matter which subject you want to study. I already did the exam twice and, after failing both times, I started going through a really depressive phase.

Art has been the only thing that kept me moving forward. In every stage of my life, even in the worst ones, I always felt it's the only thing I was born for. It's the only place I feel I can be myself. The only moment I can completely express myself. It's probably the only reason I'm trying to overcome all this struggle. But with all this trouble to get into art school, creating art has become insufficient to keep me positive.

I completely understand Loretta's email.  She's right in part. By everything I learned this far, the best way is to ignore judgmental people. I relate to her story because I was also overweight when I was a teenager, and the comments about me would always be about my sexuality, and not my body shape. I'm not trying to say that it is harder, when you're bullied, to be gay, but in a catholic country, where gay couples get killed on the streets by homophobic groups, being fat is the last thing you have to worry about. Closing my eyes here to only enjoy the moment can also put my life at risk.

I would be lying if I said I don't get angry/sad when people look at me differently or when they call me names. I support the kind of genuineness you showed in your post because that's exactly how I feel. Pretending I'm not bothered by it won't make me feel better than the person who did something bad to me. I learned the hard way that retracting my feelings will only get me sadness. I agree with the fact that we should ignore them, but we shouldn't ignore the way we feel about it.

I found your blog in the end of last year. Everything you write there helps me. In your words, I found a place where I feel safe and accepted. I found the strength to carry on and the hope that better days will come. Thank you for being such a great positive source for gay people out there. In the name of everybody who has ever found strength in your words, I thank you. 

Please feel free to share this on your blog if want to. Any advice would be helpful. I'm already glad I was able to sit and write this. I've avoided it for so long... Thanks for inspiring me to be happy.

With love, Ed.


A powerful and poignant letter from Ed.  Here was my two-part response to him:

Hi, Ed.

What a beautiful email.  I just received it and read it all the way through.

What you shared with me was deeply moving.  I cried when I got to the end and read that my words make you feel safe and accepted.  That’s so much why I write my blog, why it’s so important to me to continue working on it.  I want young people just like you to know you are not alone, because you aren’t.

I know how you feel, I really do.  The circumstances in your life may be different from mine when I was your age, but we have more in common than you realize.  I feel your pain, and I want you to know you must hang in there and never do anything to harm yourself, okay?  Promise me you won’t.  Because you are so important, and so special, and have so much to offer the world by being who and what you are.  You may not see that now, but you will.  I promise.  It may not be easy, but you’ll get there, if you stick around.

You took an important step today in understanding and accepting yourself by writing this email and using it as the first entry in your new journal.  New journal, new life, right?  You know from my blog how I feel about journalling, and I know you will feel the same way if you stay with it.  Not only will it help you with your English (which is already better than you think it is), but also it will help you sort out a lot of what you’re going through.  It will only work, however, if you’re completely honest.  Don't hide anything from your journal.  Tell it anything and everything.  And you’ll see, over time, how it will help you put into perspective how you feel and what happens to you.  I promise it will.  Just stay with it, okay?

What a privilege it is for me to read your words, to learn about you, and to know you felt comfortable enough to share with me when you thought there was no one else you could turn to.  I’m here for you, Ed, I really am.  And, if you ever want to talk to me, just email me, okay?  I promise I’ll respond to you.

Anyway, this was supposed to be a short email.  I’d planned to write something a little longer in a day or so.  So I’ll tell you what.  I’ll read your email again, and, if there’s something more I want to respond to, I’ll be in touch.  How does that sound?

Take good care of yourself, Ed.  Hang in there.  Don’t give up.  It really does get better, so much better.  Just give it time, okay?  (And keep writing your journal.)

All the very best,

Hi again, Ed.

So I just read your email one more time, and I thought I’d thank you again for sharing with me things you’ve never been able to say to anyone else.  I feel so fortunate to receive your email, to get to know you, and to be in a position to help, if I can.

Just a few quick comments:

Don’t be so hard on yourself regarding looking at gay pornography.  I know you’ve probably been taught it’s not good for you, and you shouldn’t look at it.  But you’re not the first person to look at gay porn.  It has it’s place, and, as long as it doesn’t take control of your life, I think you’ll find it may even be beneficial.  So stop beating yourself up over it, okay?

It occurs to me that you’re very much the way I was at your age.  I had so many questions about my life and myself, and I was desperate for answers.  I nearly drove myself crazy, trying to figure it all out–who I was, what I should do with my life, how I should go about doing it.  Well, I need you to take a deep breath.  The answers you need will come to you when they’re meant to.  Just take life one day at a time. And if even that’s too hard, then take it one hour at a time, or even one minute at a time.  

Sometimes, all we can do is breathe, because we’re so uptight or upset about something.  So, when you get frustrated and anxious and don’t know what to do, sit in a chair, settle yourself down, and breathe.  Take deep breaths, and focus on the life-giving air going in and out of your body.    Take a few minutes to do that.  Clear your head.  Then, when you get back up, put one foot in front of the other and go about your day.  We all feel the same at one time or another, and I’ve found this is the best formula for getting grounded again, and for being able to move forward. Try it.  I think you’ll find it works.

A little story.  Perhaps you’ve already read in my blog that I always wanted to be a writer, since I was a little boy.  But, when I graduated from high school and college, I also realized I needed to earn a living somehow, and I was pretty sure I couldn’t earn it as a writer (because, I’m told, writers don’t make much money).  So I got into something I never believed I would.  Instead of dealing with words (which I was always good at), I dealt with numbers (which I was always bad at).  

Through a high school friend, I got a job at a bank, and I was sure that’s all it would be, a job, until I something better came along.  Well, nothing better came along for nearly thirty years.  In the meantime, I tried to write, but I couldn’t.  Too busy, too little time, no energy, etc.  Then, when I was forty-seven, I was able to leave my job. My partner supports the two of us now, and I look after our house and write.  I’ve never written more in my life–over six hundred posts on my blog, a memoir (of sorts) in excess of eight hundred pages, and a novel I continue to struggle with.

Ed, the moral of this story is, hang on to your dream to be an artist, whatever type of artist that is.  It may not happen right away.  You may have do the earn-a-living thing for a while, to get money so you can support yourself.  But keep your dream alive in your head and in your heart.  And if it’s truly important to you, if you’re really meant to do it, it’ll happen.  And if you have to earn an income at something you never thought you’d do, always do the best you can, and do your art on the side.  And keep getting better at it.  Let your soul soar as you draw or paint.  Feel your connection to that which is greater than all of us when you do it.  Never let it go.  Never.

I waited many years to become the writer I always wanted to be, and I’m still not there yet.  But I’m moving in the right direction now.  Hopefully, you won’t have to wait as many years to become an artist.  But, remember, everything happens when it’s meant to.  If it doesn’t happen, it wasn’t meant to.  And you can’t rush it.  Be present, be ready, be prepared to move in different directions and take risks, but don’t try to orchestrate your life.  You have no control over that.  Just let your life unfold the way it’s meant to, and I think you’ll find it will all work out.  In fact, it’ll probably be better than you could ever have imagined.  Mine is.  Just be patient, okay?

I think that’s it for now.  Once again, thanks for contacting me.  I’m here for you if you want to “talk” again. 

Hang in there.  Everything will be all right.  You’ll see.

Take good care of yourself,