"not an april fool" | tuesday | april 1, 2008 | 11:01 am
HREE YEARS AGO TODAY, I PASSED MY
I purposefully chose the first of April,
April Fools' Day,
because it seemed fitting. In a sense, I wanted to make the occasion serious by not taking it
too seriously. It took me nearly eight years to finish my Master's degree (a five year struggle
inititally, though left unfinished, and then two more years down the line to get it wrapped up).
A milestone, no doubt. And upon completing my MA at the
University of Maryland, I moved to
Seattle to begin my PhD program at
UW. In the nearly three years
I have been here, I have finished my coursework and passed my
PhD Exams (on Valentine's Day). Now, hopefully, my
dissertation process will go smoothly and swiftly.
This day also seems like a good a time as any to talk about the last three months, in part a
reflection on what it means to be post-exams and in part a musing on my life and my current
(and still very new) relationship. The first few months of this year were all about flux,
all about change, all about challenge. And I feel like I am really starting a new chapter
of my life. Though I am not done with my doctorate and though I am not off to heaven-knows-where
for my first teaching appointment, I think the "growing up" forced by the exam process and
the dissertation project is a major corner rounded. I have some serious thinking to do: about
my project, about where I want to get a job, about where I want to write my dissertation, about
who I am as a scholar, about what kind of work I want to do, about where I think I'll be in
a year, two years, five years, and about what I want and need besides all of this academia
So, I am seeing someone. I have been a little trepidatious about talking about it, much less
writing about it. I think I just didn't want to jinx it. It has been such a long time since I
have dated someone, much less reached the "relationship" stage. I think my last relationship was
when I was still living in San Francisco, when I dated briefly
Josh. (That's probably the last time I had sex, too,
sadly to say.) I didn't date anyone when I moved back to Maryland. And my first couple of years
here in Seattle were pretty bone dry. I remember upon first moving here that I made an ultimatum
to my friend Sydney: Seattle had to put out by the end of the year or I would have to leave or
jump off the Aurora bridge. Well, that new year's went by -- nothing. The next year's went by --
nothing. I kind of gave up after that. Granted, I was pretty busy with my
PhD exams to really worry about anything else. But, surprisingly,
things happen, things change, and maybe it was just the right time.
For the romantics in the audience: Greg and I met on New Year's Eve. Talk about timing, right? My
friends and I were out in
Late in the evening, before midnight, after drinking elsewhere, we ended up at
Changes, the local gay (dive) bar.
With midnight approaching, everyone in the bar was getting ready for the "ball to drop" (a phrase
that takes on other meanings in a gay bar). I sat down at the end of the bar with my friend, Jason.
To my left, as my muddled memory recalls, was a tall, shaved headed, lanky, handsome, older white
guy with bright blue eyes and a cute smile. We got to talking and flirting. He seemed a little
nervous, and I was my usual aggressive self. But he didn't balk. He stayed with me for the rest
of the night. Midnight came and went, though I don't believe I kissed anyone. Greg eventually
had to take off. We exchanged emails, and he said he would drop me a line to get together soon.
I walked him out of the bar, gave him a long hug, and kissed him goodnight. Though I didn't make
the getting laid deadline, it was still better than the usual nothing.
Greg is only a couple of years older than me. He's originally from Montana, has lived all over,
and settled in Seattle. He is an IT guy for an investment capital company. He has a degree in
economics and is fascinated by the investment world. He kind of fell into the IT business
(like so many people I know) and is now thinking about making a career change. He likes art
and likes to draw. He's a runner (of the marathon type), has a black belt. Though from
Big Sky country, he grew up in Missoula and is not really a cowboy (though he does have a
pickup and boots). He has a pretty good geek streak in him and loves to eat spicy food.
And, he is just coming out. In true Ed fashion, I go to a gay bar and come home with the straight
man (or at least the newly gay man). Ed the gateway gay rides again! In fact, Changes was the
first gay bar that Greg went to by himself. He went there on New Year's Even as a way to inaugurate
his coming out.
Facetiousness aside, Greg and I do seem good together. On the surface, we seem very different.
There are definitely things that Greg likes to do that I have never had an interest in. And there
are things that I like to do that Greg could pass up. But I guess this is true of all relationships.
It doesn't mean that I can't grow to like and appreciate watching football. Hah. And it doesn't
mean that he can't grow to like and appreciate watching four consecutive hours of
Bravo TV. We overlap in key ways.
We enjoy each other's company. And we genuinely like each other.
The first couple of weeks were basically spent getting to know one another, having dinner,
exploring Capitol Hill, and introducing Greg to different gay establishments. At first, Greg
really just wanted to be friends. He really wanted a "gay friend" to talk to, to talk about
coming out and what "being gay" (as if there really is a definitive answer for that) was about,
and to explore the "gay life" (another term that means a lot of very different things). There
was a bit of negotiation, a bit of fussing over definitions. Our first weeks were spent doing
things that people going out on dates did: sharing meals, going to the movies, holding hands,
showing affection (publically and what not), getting to know one another, being excited to
see each other, sending cute emails, hanging out on the couch, making out, and the program
continues. However, Greg really was resistant to the idea of getting into a "relationship"
too quickly. He had just gotten out of a long term relationship with a woman and felt gunshy
about any relationship -- straight or gay. He also wasn't quite sure he was attracted to me,
into me, but also admitted to not know what he was attracted to, into per se. He was afraid
that he was just playing along with the courtship rituals and affectations because that is
what he thought I wanted, what he thought would make me happy, and what the thought was
expected of him. He was afraid to lose me as a friend. But I told him that I didn't want him
to do anything he didn't want to do, to do anything he didn't feel was honest, and to be
with me out of some misguided sense of gay duty or obligation. I also told him that I felt
that there was genuine affection between the two of us, that there was intellectual, emotional,
and sexual chemistry, and that things needed time to sort out. I told him that we
should just date, just see each other, just keep an open mind and heart and see where things
went. If it didn't develop beyond friendship, so be it. If it became more, fabulous. But
to not try would be a shame.
There was a lot of push-pull to start. I pushed his comfort zones. Sometimes he would
rally and be right there with me, excited, happy, and wanting to take the next step. And sometimes
he would back away, run, disavow, put up walls, and move out of reach. One day he would
be all into us. The next day he wanted someone else, maybe a woman. One day he would
ask whether we were boyfriends. The next day he wanted to be just friends. I don't want
to make this sound to capricious. I really did understand the kind of psychic and physical and
social turmoil coming out can cause, particularly coming out after so many years. Greg
admitted to being confused and contradictory and frustrated. And I said that I would do my
best to be supportive, patient, open, and honest. I thought the relationship was valuable,
worthwhile for the both of us to pursue, and that surviving the bumps and bruises was part of
it all. To a point. I didn't want to amputate my own desires, my own fears, and my own
feelings. But I don't think I ever was dishonest with myself or disingenuous with Greg.
One month turned into two months. Greg and I were still seeing each other a few times a week.
We still hadn't had the discussion about what "we" were yet. But I think it was a good thing
to keep things loose and flexible. We continued to get to know each other, to get comfortable
with each other. And I invited Greg out to hang out with my friends, to go out to
grad pub, to
experience different places, things, and people. We had good fun. But there was still
a lingering doubt, a insecurity that complicated things. One of the main issues is that
Greg is attracted to me as a person, as a mind, as a soul, but I don't make the top of his
hot list. He's attracted to fit bodies, to hot models, to porn stars, to Asian twinks.
All of which is "normal" and expected. And all of which, alas, makes me crazy, pissed off,
disappointed, sad, and let's not forget self-deprecating. I cannot compete with the
Jeremy Lorys of the
world. Nor should I. But I do want my partner to be erotically attracted to me. Otherwise,
what's the point?
The saving grace here is that Greg understands that much of his desires and much of his
definitions of what is "hot" are informed by the stereotypes, standards, and unattainable ideals
of the culture, particularly "gay culture" (which by in large is still pretty fucking young,
white, affluent, urban, and
Abercrombie & Fitch).
We are all complicit in buying into these hyper-eroticizes, hyper-commodified, hyper-idealized,
and hyper-sanitized bodies. I remember when I was coming out and working out what I thought
I wanted in a partner, much less a sex partner. As an overweight, four-eyed, overly-intellectual
geek, I pretty much feel low on the scale of what gay, citified America thought was hot.
Geekchic and nerdcore weren't even quite "in" then; I didn't even have that to save me. Alas,
while I felt shunned, alienated, shamed, demeaned, demoralized, and dejected for my body,
my race, my masculinity (or lack thereof), and my bookishness, I was simultaneously lusting
after the jock, the stud, the underwear model, the fratboy, the marine, the boy-next-door.
This is what growing up, watching TV, sitting in movie theatres, and looking at the world
around me taught me was beautiful, desirable, fuckable (I would argue that the rise in homoerotic
advertising, stories, images, sports, subtexts are capitalizing on this even more). All
the while I thought I wanted these things I felt even worse about myself. I beat myself up
for not wanting the guys that deviated from the social norm, the cultural script. And I
beat myself up for not looking like the guys that I wanted. This isn't a question or an
issue of shallowness or superficiality. That would be too easy a way out. If it were so
simple, it should be easy to just turn it off, to select a more evolved object choice, to
deny the decades (if not hundreds of years) of inculcation, enculturation, naturalization,
and commodification. What is important is the proliferation of desires, the multiplication
of what is "hot" and what is "allowed" and what is accepted and represented and reflected
by the culture at large. And for me it was important to realize that most of the men I
actually dated were not the mystified and idealized people in my head. These were "real" men,
flesh and bone men, present men, and men who at least at the time wanted to be with me.
I am still having difficulty with all of this. This particular issue gets me and Greg into trouble.
We disagree and debate all sorts of things like in any healthy relationship, but the issue of
attraction is the one thing that cannot be intellectualized away. Unfortunately, because he has
been lukewarm about whether or not he's attracted to me, it just plays into all of my own
current insecurities. Part of the reason I started running last year was because I wanted to
change my appearance, my physicality, my relationship to my own body, my appeal, my sexuality
(in the sense that I wanted to see myself as a sexual being), and my health. But the motivations
here are not all noble and unselfish. As much as I want to really become comfortable with who I
am in my own skin, I also want to be "hot" just like all of the other men who primp and pump
and scrape and spray and sweat and scream and sex their way to the top of the "hot" list.
Luckily, I know that I will never be a twink. I know that I will probably not even be thin.
But I can be happy with thinner, with being more proportionate, with being able to look at myself
in the mirror and not jump immediately to criticism. And, hopefully, I know that I can be
happy as a partner to someone, as a sex partner to someone, and that I will be more than enough
I am convinced, particularly as I get older, that desire, love, and relationships are best
over time, best when they are grown into rather than the chaos and flurry of burning too hot
and too fast. I'm not saying that a relationship can survive without some combination, some
formula of lust and love, heart and head, attraction and devotion. But like the idealized,
mythologized perfect specimen of a body, might love and relationships also be similarly
idealized and mythologized? Of fucking course. And I think that's what Greg and I are willing
to and wanting to explore. He is honest that he doesn't know where our relationship is going
or where it's going to end up. Neither do I. But I think it's worth the journey. And, if
there is a time when all of this is costing too much or hurting too much, then we will know
it is time to change the relationship.
The other big issue is that Greg is not out yet to anyone except me and my friends. The fact that
he can be with me, go out with me, hang out with me, and be affectionate with me in public places
is why I think I haven't told him to take a hike. I know that many of my gay friends would never
take on a "project" like a partner who is just coming out, that it's just too much work and
full of too much drama. I guess it's just part of my personality, my nature, my desire to
want to help, to support, to be there for someone. It is no surprise that I am the gateway gay.
And it is no surprise that I have battled codependency most of my adult life. It's easy
to feel wanted, needed, cherished, and indispensible in a relationship where one person really,
really needs the other. No relationship is perfectly fifty-fifty. There will always be
asymmetries. But the hope is that the asymmetries are complementary or workable. Luckily, I
think our relationshp is more than just codependent. He has been very clear about his boundaries
and needs and concerns. I have been clear about mine. But that doesn't mean it isn't hard.
Greg just turned forty a few weeks ago. His coworkers took him out. His friends took him out.
His family took him out. And, even in our nascent relationship, I was not able to go. It
wasn't that I wasn't allowed to go -- Greg knew that would probably piss me off -- but that
it would require far more effort and emotional sleight-of-hand for me to go than not. I didn't
want to pretend to just be a "friend" and he didn't want to have to put me in that position. And
I didn't want to make him come out before he was ready. So, that was hard. It would have
been nice to be able to share such a milestone with him. We just had to celebrate separate
from his "other" life. It is this split life, this double (even multiple) life that Greg is
sorting through, that most gay men in his culture have to figure out. I did it. Now he has
to do it. And there aren't any roadmaps or handbooks or "right" ways or "right" times. I do
hope that he start the integration of these lives so that I can share in more of his life
and that he can share "all of himself" with everyone he knows.
It's been great and tough. At the end of our second month, we went on a trip to San Francisco.
I had mentioned that I was going for my spring break, and I invited him to come along. I
planned the trip as a treat for me for passing my exams and as a way for us to spend an
extended period of quality time together. There is nothing that tests a relationship more
(be it familial, friendly, or romantic) than a trip. We would go down for six days, five
nights. We would spend the first and last nights at my sister's place in Berkeley. The
remaining nights, over the weekend, we would stay at a fancy hotel, just the two of us,
just one bed, and explore the city. He had been to SF in the past but didn't really see
much of The City (and certainly not as a gay man). Obviously, such a trip was a big step,
and it did send us into a little tailspin. I think he agreed to the trip before his internal
censors caught up with him. Suddenly, he was going on a trip, with a man, a romantic trip,
to a romantic city, to a gay city, and I think the closet door got slammed in both of our
faces. He tried to back out by wanted to go as just friends or to not go at all. I think
the week before the trip we broke up and got back together at least three or four times.
I pretty much said that I wanted to go on the trip as a couple and that I couldn't go as just
friends. It was unfair to me at that point, and it was unfair to our relationship. Nor
did I want to guilt him into coming and coming as my boyfriend. Greg had to really think
about it. And after a few days apart, he decided that he did want to be with me, he did
want to go with me, and he did want to keep seeing where the relationship would take us.
The trip was great. We got along well. We packed as many sights and experiences as we could
into the six days we were there. I got to see my sister and her boyfriend Brian. Greg got
to meet them and hang out with them. I got to see some of my Bay Area friends. And I got to
show Greg the city from the point of view of someone who had lived there. I loved every
minute of it (even days where I was tired and grumpy). I think he had a great time, and
he was surprised by how open the gays of SF really are. He commented that he felt comfortable,
at home, and a part of a larger community. We went out to some of my favorite bars (though
POW was long gone), out dancing, walking around different neighborhoods including the Castro and
the Mission and the Haight, to different parks, to the ocean. We drank a lot and ate a lot
of good food. We even spent a day up in Sonoma wine-tasting with Alenda and Brian. All in all,
it was a whirlwindly fun trip. Greg said that it was the easiest, least stressful, most
enjoyable trip he's taken in a long time (particularly with a significant other). Pictures
Since we got back from the trip, things have been a bit smoother. Greg still wants space,
time to think, time to grow and recharge. I definitely test his introvertedness, but he says
he has a good time with me. The trip didn't magically transform us into this lovey-dovey
couple, nor would I have wanted it to. But it did demonstrate that we do have a bond, a
closeness, an intimacy, and that we can be together. Will we be together for the long haul?
I don't know. We do call each other boyfriends now. And we have talked about the whole
exclusivity thing and have decided to keep things flexible. I know Greg really feels like
he's behind, he's got catching up to do, he's missed out on a lot. I think many people
coming out feel that way, particularly if you come out well into your adult years. He's
going through a self-described second adolescence, the very metaphor I (and others) used
when I came out. But the point is that the map of your life makes you who you are. You
cannot deny it or forget it or jettison it as much as some might want. The point is to
live now, in the present, and into the future (not for it as others might want). I am
mostly happy with Greg and that's fantastic. And I do hope we have a long, affectionate,
thoughtful, sexy, adventurous, honest, and hopeful relationship together. One of my
measures of success in any relationshp is whether or not I am learning from the other
person, whether or not the other person surpises me (in a good way). And Greg still
surprises me, particularly when he is loving or cheeky or demonstrative or creative or
sassy or smart, particularly when he touches me or checks up on me unbidden. And I
learn a lot from him, even though he says I'm the intellectual one, especially about
what it means to be me plus one.
We're three months in as of the end of March. A goodly amount of time, really. The longest
(in terms of consecutive time) and best relationship I have had to date. I hope the next
three months are less challenging and more rewarding for the both of us. I like Greg a lot.
My friends like him, too. My sister likes him (and perhaps one day my father will meet him
and like him also). It's nice to know he's there for me. And it's nice to finally be more
than just a virtual gay man. I have been single and celibate for most of my life. Now
I can say I have a boyfriend. Now I can say I have a sex life. Now I can say I am a
They can't take away
my pink card now, can they?
read footnotes |
• • •
"postcards from the city" | thursday | april 3, 2008 | 10:07 am
ERE ARE SOME PHOTOS FROM MY TRIP TO SAN FRANCISCO.
Over spring break, I flew down to the Bay Area to visit Alenda and as many friends as I
could squeeze into six days. It was really, really, really good to be back in The City
again. It really feels like home to me for a lot of different reasons. I'm always happy
to see my sister. I'm always happy to visit with friends (and apologies for those who I
didn't catch up with). Thought short, this trip also held some significance because I
brought my boyfriend
Greg along. The story to come.
read footnotes |
• • •
"kegstand" | monday | april 21, 2008 | 11:01 am
ERE ARE SOME PHOTOS FROM MY FRIEND ANDREW'S KEGGER.
The third annual spring kegger! It was also Andrew's birthday! Since our
first year at
UW, Andrew has thrown a house party -- a
sort of rebellion against the usual grad student social fare, which is often full of wine and
cheese or cocktail napkins and hors d'oeuvres. We were hoping that this year's would top
last year's with nudity, cops, and all sorts of rambunctiousness. But, alas, the weather wasn't
particularly cooperative (rainy, slushy, cold). And though we drank and partied into the wee
hours, I think most of our cohort is just too tired with being busy to actually get busy.
As per tradition, I provide the eats. This year, I made and bought some yummy dips and made a
gorgeous "chipscape" (you know, like a landscape but only made out of four different kinds of chips),
which is tres reminiscent of
Sandra Lee's tablescapes, I know. It
was hot! Here is some photographic evidence of the party:
read footnotes |
• • •
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