Wednesday, April 15, 2009

being gay, now and then

Several months ago, my older nephew Kyle (22) confided in me that his good friend Joe just came out to him and was struggling. This elicited a few different emotions from me: pride, confusion and jealousy – to name a few.

Pride, ‘cuz Kyle is so accepting. I feel entitled to take some of the credit here. I mean, come on. Kyle has known since he was 16 that I am gay, and quite frankly, I am a pretty darn cool uncle. (The fact that I refer to myself as ‘cool’ surely means I’m not, but let me have this!) This must have somehow helped him to be open-minded. Right?

I was a bit confused, however, as to why Joe would be struggling. It’s 2009! He’s from a suburb of Chicago (that is, he’s not a ‘red neck’) and his family is relatively liberal – what’s the big deal? It’s not like when I came out in 1989 at the age of 24. That was pre Will & Grace, and before celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres and Lance Bass came out. Now it’s almost hip to be gay! (‘Hip’ … there I go being all cool and stuff.) Look at Lindsay Lohan. Is she gay? Is she bisexual? Experimenting? Crazy? Who cares?! The list goes on …

I found myself being a bit envious that Joe is ‘coming out’ (my words, not his) at a time when being gay is generally thought of as a genetic trait, akin to eye color, rather than a perversion or a mental disorder.

I grew up with such shame about being sexually attracted to members of my own gender. It’s so clique to say, but I have felt different most of my life. I felt defective. I was certain that if I didn’t ‘straighten up’ I would surely live a life of solitude and become an old recluse one day. How could Joe even begin to understand what gays my age have gone through?

Oh, I thought, if only I were able to grow up in the much more enlightened world we live in today. I could go back and have an authentic childhood. I could play with my sister’s Barbie dolls without shame (seriously!), I could share my first kiss with a boy … I’d drift off to sleep with my David Cassidy poster hanging in my bedroom … I could attend prom with my boyfriend, even though I would wish it were with the hot guy (Charles Frank) who played Jeff Martin on All My Children … and most importantly, I could have just been myself – perhaps I would have had friends who knew me. Who really knew me, and who loved me for who I was … and am.

David Cassidy!

I missed out on so many things by not being true to who I am due to fear. Fear of rejection, fear of alienation (which, ironically, I felt anyway). Fear of ridicule and physical harm. Fear of not being loved. I carry some of this old baggage around me to this day.

But Joe lives in 2009. Gays can live openly. We can even get married in some states and have kids! We’ve come so far …

And yet we have so far to go.

While attitudes are changing, there still exists so much ignorance and misunderstanding. Many believe that living the ‘homosexual lifestyle’ is a choice – one that will earn you a free pass to hell. Some believe still that gay people are sick, child molesters, and that we try to ‘convert’ others. Others ‘tolerate’ us, (BARF!) but don’t think we should tarnish the sanctity of marriage nor should we be anywhere near kids, let alone have the right to raise any ourselves.

(I will surely cover these topics in a future blog or two – stay tuned!)

The fact is, I haven’t walked in Joe’s shoes. I don’t know what he’s going through, although we have casually discussed things on a few occasions – mainly chatting online. Nor do I know what it was like for a gay person who grew up before me, although I can imagine.

Sadly, prejudice will always exist, and we’re all guilty of it to some degree. Whether it be someone’s race, religion, sexual orientation, weight, social status – take your pick.

And it doesn’t help to whine about whose ‘battle wounds’ are worse. Nobody said life was easy.

Rambling Rex

Thursday, April 9, 2009

bad date story #1

I hate first dates. They're awkward. They're scary. They're often a waste of time. 99% of them aren't good, but that little part of me that's still optimistic (think Charlotte from Sex and the City) about meeting 'the one' tells me it's all worth it -- that it's just a numbers game and I'll meet that 'special' guy. Date after date, I'm asking and answering the same questions: Where did you grow up? What do you do? What are your hobbies? Blah blah blah ...

Last fall, I went out for the first time with a guy I had met at a party. (This is my favorite way to meet guys -- much better than a bar, and infinitely better than the online thing!)

'Carl' and I went to a restaurant/bar in Boystown -- the gay area in Chicago. As far as first dates go, this one started out well. No awkwardness, plenty of conversation, and there was a mutual attraction.

Shortly after I began martini number one, my friends Rick and Bob walked in. No problem ... I introduced them to Carl, and they grabbed a table not far away. How fun! This is almost a double-date, I thought.

I should tell you now, that I am an on-again, off-again smoker. (Off right now -- good for me!) But after half my martini was down the hatch, all I could think of was a cigarette. (Think Carrie from Sex and the City, when she first met Aidan. Kind of.) I quickly confessed to Carl that I was in need of a nicotine hit, and although he didn't look too pleased, I apologized in advanced before running off to get a pack at 7-11 down the street. I was back in no time -- no harm done.

When I returned, I noticed more drinks on the table, courtesy of Rick and Bob. How sweet of them! Carl didn't touch his.

At this point, Carl was dominating the conversation -- breaking first date rule number one and spilling all of the dirt about his prior relationship. Turns out, he was in a co-dependent relationship with an alcoholic (and smoker) for eight years, and he just had recently jumped back into the dating pool after a lot of time and therapy.

I appreciated his candor as I finished martini number one, and started on the fancy drink that my friends had sent over.

And then he told he the saga of how he was adopted ... how he he began to search for his birth parents ... and I listened. In between smoke breaks, of course. And drinks.

When it became apparent he wasn't going to touch his drink, I asked (while he paused his life-story long enough to take a breath) if he was going to let his cocktail go to waste. He slid it over. Mmmmmmm, this made his dull tales a little more tolerable. And I didn't want to offend Rick and Bob -- I'm a good person. And I honestly thought I should be getting extra points for being such a good listener. Even though I swear, the room was beginning to spin. Just a little. Was I the only one who felt this, I wondered?

And then it hit me. I was drunk. Not just a little buzzed, but full-on drunk. Uh oh. I stood up while Carl was still talking, put my hand over my mouth, and made a mad dash to the restroom.

The rest is all a bit fuzzy, I'm ashamed to admit. We settled our tab, he insisted I 'crash' at his place, and somehow we walked there without another puking incident. Back in his apartment, I got sick again (I think only once) and fell asleep in his bed with him beside me.

Not surprisingly, I woke up the next morning with a pounding headache -- the kind that only the combination of too much alcohol and too many cigarettes induces. I was thankful that Carl had an extra toothbrush. And I gathered from the way he was all over me, all was forgiven. So before I headed back to my place, I channeled my inner-Samantha Jones (yes, Sex and the City) and made the most graceful exit possible once we were done.

On my way home, I replayed the whole evening back in my mind ... and was horrified. He'd droned on about the struggles of living with an alcoholic, while I sat there and drank myself into oblivion. Nice. Way to make a good first impression. I was wracked with regret and guilt.

So I left him a voicemail. Trying to be funny but failing miserable, I said, "Hey, just wanted to say last night was fun, but you're probably wondering why you keep dating guys with drinking problems, huh?" Ugh. Where's the 'delete message' option?!

After not hearing back from him (surprised?) I sent a more sincere e-mail to him, apologizing for my behavior. The next day, I received a novella from Carl. He was just as long-winded over the Internet as he was in person.

I wish I had saved it, but the gist of it was he was turned off by the 'smokey, drunken over-indulgant' behavior I'd exhibited. It had reminded him of his ex. And to add insult to injury, he felt like I did most of the talking. (What? I wasn't that drunk!)

Now I was irritated. Was he turned off before or after we messed around that morning?

My response to him was short but not too sweet. "Thanks," I wrote. "I hope you have a nice Thanksgiving!" (And a nice life!)


Until next time ... Rambling Rex (aka Miranda Hobbes)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

online dating sucks

So ... I'm an attractive, young-ish looking 43-year-old. Or so I am told. Some days I feel like I'm still in my 20's but other days I feel every bit of my nearly 16,000 days here on this earth. Wow. I'm old. And my name is not really Rex. (I thought it sounded sexy, and good with 'rambling').

I've done the online dating thing before. I've met some good friends that way, I've had some fun hook-ups (I'm human!) and I've had some terrible dates. I'll get to that another day.

Having been single for far too long, I recently decided to try again. Today I finally checked my several dozen messages after a week of having my ad online, and I must say, I am discouraged.

My profile is straightforward, albeit brief. As I state, I think chemistry is everything, and even if I prefer quiet nights in with a DVD and Chinese food, and he loves to try a different French restaurant three times a week, we'll make it work if we connect. And by connect, I mean if we're attracted to each other.

Let's be honest -- looks matter. And when it comes to online dating, a photograph is worth 1,000 words. (10,000 perhaps.) The site I joined even states that members with no picture of himself will get no response. Well, it doesn't say NO response, but come on ... It's 2009. If you haven't figured out yet how to upload a photo, you have no business dabbling in online dating.

But I digress ...

Back to the reason(s) I am discouraged. Almost all of the replies were from guys resembling child molestors, but two profiles especially caught my eye for completely different reasons.

'Fred' (not his real name) claims to be 63. (He could easily pass for 75.) He describes himself as 'younger than my years' (as do I -- that scares me!). He also admits to being 'thick' (fat), having 'a little gray' (the rest has fallen out!) ... but wait! He's got a 'somewhat sexy voice'! Whew. Hot. Gimme some of that!

But here's the kicker -- he's seeking only men between the ages of 25 and 50. What? If he looked like Harrison Ford, maybe. Even that would be a stretch. But he looks more like an over-stuffed Mickey Rooney. Or Andy Rooney for that matter. (Do a Google image search.)


Then there's Brian. That actually is his real name. Fuck him. He's 31 and adorable. Unlike 'Fred', Brian didn't contact me. Why would he? He is seeking twinks ... I mean guys from ages 22 - 32. Maybe I'm just being a bitter queen 'cuz I'm too old for him. Or so he thinks. He doesn't know that I am funny and I brush and floss daily, and that I usually smell pretty good! FUCK HIM!

Oh my gawd ... I'm turning into 'Fred.'

Rambling Rex