Tag Archives: self actualization

Brokenhearts Clubs and Vulnerabilities Show, These Are Our Valentine’s Day Woes

vday

We are officially in the season of love. A time we know will soon be perfumed with flowers that bloom and sweeten the air. The days become longer now and the sun greets us after a long hard day’s work. Our urges to hibernate from the cold ebb away and our mood is lighter with each passing day. We are more likely to seek out new people and places to go and endlessly imagine all we want to do when summer arrives. By nature, we as gay men are more expressive in how we show love and just become so much more livelier during this time of year. We begin to listen to more songs that speak to the beginning of love to welcome new possibilities…but this time is not all rosy.

Even though we love all aspects of love this is also the time of year when we measure our entire worth based on whether or not we have a relationship. The subject of love is always looming to the point that it feels like it’s taunting us because we are examining what love or lack there of, we have in our own lives. And we begin to dread the international day of love. A day that is penned as the day of expressing our love turns into a diatribe about shattered hearts from inflated egos of our exes. We being to relive betrayal from infidelities and show apathy towards love that did not last. We lament on missed opportunities that we fear may never grace us again, Love consumes us in every aspect of our lives around Valentine’s Day.

If we’re single, we incessantly examine if it is the men we’ve been pursuing in the past calendar year. So we begin this at first objective list of what we are looking for in our potential soulmate, with trepidation and fear. It starts off innocently enough. First we may wonder are we looking for the wrong attributes in a man, how that can be tough.  We ask if our standards too hard to obtain. Should we settle for the guy that completely lacks ambition but looks great naked, or should we abstain?  Is the city I live in just lacking in worthy men or can we never win at love again? And then we turn this one day into the biggest self-deprecating examination into our looks and personality.

Are we too fat? Too skinny? Too tall? Too short even in top hats? Too much or not enough muscle? Too little ambition with not enough hustle?  We will go on dissecting every single inch of our bodies with great care, to find a flaw that is not there.  Then we examine our faces as aging in the gay community is hardly granted any graces. We’ll ask if our eyes are too close/far apart, and if our noses are too big/small by just an ounce.

Are our brows too pronounced or are our ears too big by just an ounce. Do we allow our scruff to sprout or just all hair out. Should our clothes mismatch or is there another reason we can’t find the ultimate catch. We’ll pull at our lips to see if they’re gigantic or in desperate need of snips.  Is it our voice or a bad accessories choice, our walk our smile too wild, our laughs, our dancing has too much prancing… It all begins to sound like a bad rhyme in our heads.

We’ll ask ourselves if we’re too needy or too detached. We’ll begin to wonder if we’re not affectionate enough or if we flirt too much with other guys. Are we too political or not worldly enough. Maybe we’re just boring/bland or too adventurous and spontaneous. Ponder extensively if we don’t communicate enough or know when to leave well enough alone. Could it be we’re too dry or never takes anything seriously. Are we too trusting or should we have trusted our instincts. Maybe we’re too cocky or too insecure. Constantly questioning how our past is affecting our present.

No matter how much friends and loved ones convince us otherwise. Their words are hallow to us now and facetious to boot. We feel patronized because we want to see what the guys we pursue don’t like about us. We’ll listen to sad songs, write sad, dark poetry and darker clothes. We get angry at even the slightest mention of love, the one thing we crave with our entire being. All we crave is to feel anything other than this constant drive to fill this void placed in our hearts.

Single people aren’t the only ones that do this. If we’re in a relationship we are constantly evaluating if that relationship measures up to not only our standards but the standards of everyone else. Wondering how to spice things up and try new things. Speculating at how truthful those relationships that make everything seem easy when you have to put so much work into your own. Wondering why the passion has left your relationship. Maybe even if only for a minute wondering if the love has ended and you both settled for comfort.  Also, you’re wondering if he feels the same way. So the day of love becomes a critique of both yours and his performance up until this point.

I have been through all of these stages just like everyone else, especially when I first came out. So often we critique ourselves to our communities standards whether we blindly follow them or not. It resulted in bad hair experiments and excruciating muscle building regimes. Attempted a really bad clothing makeover. Stared at myself in the mirror off and on for hours readying myself for discovering something heinous that was preventing me from finding “the one”. Made a list and called my exes to see what I could’ve done differently. Secretly studying other happy couples seething at how effortlessly they made their relationship seem and comparing how my interactions with past loves measured up. Hey, I’m human just like everyone else.

I was examining what I’ve done right or did wrong in all aspects of my life for the pursuit of love. Wondering what other measures I could take to make myself more desirable both inside and out. Inspecting my body and my behavior to see what I thought others would see, through their eyes. I did this regardless of whether or not I was in a relationship or not. Constant speculation of failed relationships and lack of consistency when I had a boyfriend. All these negative thoughts about myself going round and round like a bad rhyme.

Then I remembered what love really was. How the beginning wraps you up in euphoria. How when he mentions your name you get week in the knees. How hearing his name can make your day infinitely better. The little things like small notes or buying your favorite brand of cereal to show you he cares. How kisses are electric and holding hands makes you feel immortal. How love gives you the strength you never thought you had. How you are more focused than ever on your dreams and making them come true for the both of you.

Or when after a long very difficult end to a relationship you are able to look at yourself in the mirror and smile. That even though you want love, your life is what you worked hard to make of it. That loved ones are there for you to make you laugh and smile. And even when you are not alone you are not lonely. All those moments came from confidence  They come not just from the fact that someone loves you, but also the belief that you are in fact worthy of love. And that you love yourself.

Both of those moments of strength came from self love. And as the depth of how I loved myself  grew so did the love I gave and received from others. The point of this is first to not let this day be a measurement of how successful you are in the arena of love. Too often, in the season of love, we forget to love ourselves because we are too busy evaluating what love is given to us. What constantly ask what kind of love we want in relationships, whether we’re looking for one or attempting to reinvent the one we’re currently in. Being single is not a weakness and being unhappy about some aspects of your relationships is not the end of love. And we should also remember to give the same kind of love we are seeking to ourselves.

 

First Loves To Push & Shoves; More Tales Of Growing Up Gay

 dark gay

In my last piece I focused on the beginning of our process. The time of innocence and discovery that allows us to see how we’re different. And now this tale is about the middle part of this journey. It’s darker because this is when the internal conflict of accepting who you are and what everyone else believes you are.  During this time of the process we are presented with pushes and shoves that drive us to acceptance. Some are subtle yet linger with us while others are overt direct conflict that consumes every aspect of our daily lives. The time in which we leave our adolescence and begin adulthood is marked with these shoves during our process. Even though this is not as lighthearted and carefree as the first tale, it is just as important. Maybe even more so.

So I had learned I was different in third grade. Even though this discovery is monumental, the way I came about it was so carefree and innocent. And I was not prepared for the dark twist and turns of development coming my way. As we get into adolescence and later adulthood, we start to feel those push to understand and accept being gay. The first shove was to understand why I was different. Why I thought about guys instead of girls. Why I felt the need to want I wondered for what seemed like years why I didn’t like girls the same way. I thought girls were great. Still do. They’re nice and have amazing hair that I always want to play with for hours on end.  But that shove to be like all the other guys was strong; I was never quite able to be as they were.

It lead me to take on more androgynous behaviors and to this day I am still not sure if it was intentional or because I enjoyed those activities. And this understanding leads me to my first dark period. Bad hair, bad clothes and a sullen guy that listened to R.E.M. on repeat every day. That was coupled with my brief consideration on whether or not this was truly what God wanted for me. I also knew it was about how I didn’t fit into everyone else’s mold of what a stocky 6’4 guy should be like. I quickly learned not to care what others thought about every other area of my life but I still refused to confirm what a select few had suspected. And the representations of what I thought gay was did not resemble me at all so I didn’t know how to be gay. Or maybe I was just stubborn.

Those awkward years ended and finally I was an adult. I felt like as soon as I arrived on my first day that I would feel this euphoria and be able to just come out, everyone would be cool and I wouldn’t care either way because I was happy. And even though that year was the best of my life I still felt hollow. Because I still hadn’t come out yet. The shove of a new life and new beginnings was not enough for me to come out and fully accept my sexuality. I knew and accepted it years before. And more importantly to me, my parents knew. At that time their opinion and support was all that mattered. I often wonder if it was fear of being judged on one more thing I could not change. Because of my race I had faced discrimination. And I did not want to have to always be aware of something everyone else would constantly judge me on. But until I had that final push came the first of much one summer night. Or maybe I was just scared.

And during that summer after my first year of college came another shove. I had the privilege of making friends to two men like me that felt they could trust me with their secret. I was the first person they told that they were gay. That secret that was also my secret, but I just wasn’t brave enough to do so. One friend was there on campus working during the summer months after my freshman year, also known as one of the best years of my life, with me. One night he pulled me aside and asked me to go out for a walk with him as he had something to tell me. And I obliged wondering what he had to say.

We walked across the street and sat on the surprisingly cool steps of our university’s conference building and stared up at the stars, our favorite pastime. But Mick (I nickname all my close guy friends that, I don’t know why) was so quiet that night. And I sensed something was wrong. He turned to me with a tear falling down his face and said, “I don’t want you to hate me, Sly.” And my heart sank for him because I couldn’t take away his pain. I assured him for several minutes that he didn’t have to be afraid of him and that I will support him no matter what. And he said. I’m gay. And I said okay what else is there? And he smiled. Letting out a huge sigh of relief he started to cry tears. I’ll never forget this expression of ease and freedom that was so visibly etched on his face. And then I began to cry.

My heart felt like it was in my throat because I so desperately wanted to say “So am I, Mick” but I didn’t. And he asked what was wrong, holding my hand and more tears strewn down to the ground. The push was one of the most intense feelings I’ve ever felt. So torn on when to come out. I kept thinking would I take away from his moment or would this be a double celebration. Finally I recovered saying I’ll always be there for you and support you no matter what. This doesn’t change anything between us. And even though I meant those words they felt like cruel malicious lies because I was unable to say that I’m gay too and you’re not alone. We talked and laughed and when I went back to my room I cried until I fell asleep. The push, or this internal desire was not strong enough to do it. Or maybe I still felt alone.

The next shove was the most subtle and the most powerful. It has the scale and drama of those relentless romantic comedies I avoid religiously.  Because one of my last shoves was love. I had met a guy the very first day of college and I was in awe. He was lanky but still so statuesque. A business major with charisma that could woo the most uptight person into having a good time. He was smooth and I was in love. And even though neither of us was out at the time we were drawn to each other as if we knew each other’s secrets. A common trait of mine is to hide my greatest treasures away from everyone else in order to preserve them. Or maybe I’m just a little selfish.

We flirted off and on for years and came so close to something happening. But knew the moment either of us gave into our desires, we would have to share that secret about us. We weren’t willing to do that yet. We’d lose touch with each other then randomly find each other. But we still were unable to commit to announcing that we were both gay. Then during the summer before I started grad school I saw him randomly again. Before we had a chance to say hello we kissed. Impulsive and right in public. We hugged and talked as he asked me about when I finally had come out and I said I hadn’t yet. This changed the tone and he wanted to give us a real chance at something but only after I was out. But I still wasn’t out yet. And we hung out more and I felt the shove to embrace my sexuality more than anything because I wanted to be with him. He went on his way later that week and we kept in touch. I wasn’t fully ready but I was closer than ever.

And then a few months later my last shoves came. They weren’t sweet with hints of love even though I thought about my sexuality more than anything. They were dark and cold. The last shoves were death itself. I had been so stressed with school and grades I thought my appendix erupting was a simple flu virus. When I finally arrived at the hospital they had me prepped for surgery within 15 minutes because I was bleeding internally and were uncertain I would even survive the procedure. They said I should make a quick phone call to my parents and I did. This acceptance of being gay had consumed my thoughts so much that I ignored my own health. And as they rushed me to the operating room, O remember the bright fluorescent lights above me and I vowed that if I made it I would live as openly and authentically as possible.

Then news came of a college friend that had committed suicide because he was gay. Reading and hearing about it as I was healing from major surgery, I remember crying because I wasn’t just sad. I was livid. Because I felt that maybe if I were out sooner that he wouldn’t have felt so alone. I know that it’s not my fault, or at least convinced myself that I had no control over his actions. But I will always wonder had he been around more people that were completely out would it have changed the outcome and that I believe is true in anyone’s life.

So I had shoves in all states of my being. From the emotional, what felt like physical when confronted with how someone else’s truth was also my own and the spiritual side. Sometimes all at the same time, all shoving me to either come out or be alone forever. And I was terrified of both. You see there’s this push and pull. This shoving and stalling the entire time until you are full out. There is time of frustration and anger throughout. I felt even with all I knew and awareness I felt I possessed I still couldn’t own it yet. Even with my parents’ support I still hesitated for years in completely embracing my sexuality. Because that conflict, that pushing and shoving doesn’t end until we allow that process of understanding that we are different in one aspect than everyone else. Self-acceptance comes on its own time when you are willing to accept it. It took years for many of us. But thankfully that is changing for the better.

Again, I tell these stories because I feel we all need to share them. Because even though the newer generation of gay men and women have it better than us it still does not make that process any easier. But the way we make it easier is a result of them reading our stories and life lessons and insights so that maybe they avoid some of the things it took us years to learn. And for them to know that their feelings and emotions through this process is normal. Because it is about their development. So maybe they find more tears of joy than sadness. To know that they are not alone.