Watching and reading this tonight, it struck me that maybe for an evening, I could use my little corner of the net for something positive.
Thousands of people are attacked every year because of their sexual orientation, and there's still no federal hate crimes law to protect them. This video is the most powerful statement I've seen on hate crimes, and I couldn't help but pass it on. I think you'll see why.
There's a bill in the Senate right now that would address this heartbreaking problem, and we only have a few weeks until the vote. It would mean a lot to me if you could take a minute to watch the video and write your Senators, and then pass this along to five friends. I really believe none of us can sit this one out. Just go to:
(Apologies for the hyperlink not working - Lord knows I tried)
Friday, June 29, 2007
Watching and reading this tonight, it struck me that maybe for an evening, I could use my little corner of the net for something positive.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
My therapy, my relationship with Bob, is on the backstretch. If the purpose of therapy is to understand things better, it has been a success and I suspect the next step – integrating and growing with this new found knowledge – is one I will need to tackle primarily on my own. Much like ordering desert it is time to make my own, hopefully wiser, choices.
There was a breakthrough in my therapy a few months back, a breakthrough both from my time with Bob and from the consequent conversations with my sisters. It seems there was a moment in my life when things went wrong or maybe it would be better phrased to say a moment in my family’s life because I was merely, as the new term goes, collateral damage of that evening. I was four at the time and my eldest sibling was eleven, time for what was then called junior high school. Except she did not want to go to junior high school, she did not want to go to any school. Now I knew this story already and have the slightest of memories of sitting in therapist’s kitchen while my Mom took her for a session.
As I revisit this with another sister, the classic middle child, she asks if I remember the night of the war, the night my father was in “you will go because I say so mode”, a night of raised voices and of, I fear, raised hands. I do not. But then my sister explains how my mother tried to in some way intercede, to protect her eldest, but my Dad was a force of nature not to be trifled with in his own home.
I finally had the answer to the question of my life – when did Mom go missing, when did the depression which morphed into Alzheimer’s begin. It seems it began one night when I was just four. She never truly re-appeared. Sure she cooked dinner, kept me clothed, bagged those school lunches. But emotionally speaking she was gone. This was 1958 – long before the era of Prozac and Lexapro. I can almost hear the gossip – she’s a quiet lady, her husband talks enough for them both (as I had grown to do around this house). Depression – what’s that?
It was not as if my Dad making up for her deficits did much, other than answer questions directed to her, just continuing the crushing of her spirit. He was, as Bob would point out, emotionally absent. An absent Dad, a Mom in the throes of silent depression and sisters who on some level were at best resentful of me, the male heir to the throne, the Prince of Beach Street. Who could blame them?
No wonder when I turned fourteen I adopted my friends as family and found solace in music and pot. As we listened to the music – a rich time indeed with Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, and The Grateful Dead understanding our angst – as we smoked the joints and snuck the sweet wines, there was approval, there was that sense of family. In retrospect it does seem quite a reasonable reaction. But in hindsight, it was not enough: the search for approval became a backdrop to my existence.
And as I look back at my choices over the years I see how many of them have been colored by my desire for approval and acceptance, by my desire for the comfort of a male figure. I do not write this as a “that’s why I’m gay” moment – that is really of little concern in all this. But it has undeniably impacted on my life choices in ways big and small. It drove my educational choices, it impacted my career choices and it downright seized control of my relationship choices. Each of these could be, and someday probably should be their own posts.
But those choices have been made and their consequences are a part of who I am. As I continue to work through these past choices, the central issue remains: learning self acceptance, learning to make my own choices, the “ownership” I wrote of not so long ago. And of course learning to be the first to order desert.
Monday, June 25, 2007
Sunday, June 24, 2007
We have figured out on past visits what we like so even though the Met can be daunting we are a team with a mission – a surgical strike and back onto the streets. Barely past mid-day and what a day it is. Sunny and warm, low humidity, a pleasant breeze: too beautiful to not savor the City some more. So back into the car and downtown: Did I recently mention “an outdoor space on a perfect temperate night”? Why not on a perfect temperate day? I find the place and at that moment a parking space opens right out front. For those who are reading and wondering why such excitement over parking spaces, I remind you we are talking of Manhattan: The gods of parking are never to be trifled with.
The cafe is hopping but we are immediately seated: an outdoor table shaded by trees. Now I need to mention that this is not a gay restaurant but there are gays about. As we sit there Carrie looks over my shoulder – a table with two men and a woman, one of the men clearly gay – and says: “Too young.” Then glancing at a different angle points out a table with three men, three gay men even with the gaydar turned off. She notes they are a better fit – right age, right look. This is all done discretely as our daughter works on her burger. A little later another gay couple: hardly a mention by now. But then they are joined by some more friends and as they kiss European style, I see Carrie smile. Quite the little show.
We return home, seventy-two hours that felt so right comes to a close and as I swing in my hammock I try to put it in perspective. I suppose it is having had so many different pieces of the puzzle that is me come together at different times and different ways. I suppose it is the fact that I can admit to such pleasure of my evening with Phil and with my time with Carrie and family. I suppose it is the fact that I can accept my desires and appreciate how much a bond of friendship adds to the mix – gay or straight.
But ultimately what I am left with was today – the fact that Carrie and I could have such a nice day while continuing to come to grips with the reality of our lives and the fact that we can still talk and joke (though I did not find the first guy to be too young). I asked her tonight – now that she is such an aficionado of gay men – if she saw me as one of them and she thought and laughed. She pointed out how gay I seem to her in many ways – the way I run or move at times – and my knee jerk reaction was to feel hurt. But that gave way in a moment to the sheer humor of it and the fact that she was right.
On Friday my friend asked if magically I was no longer gay could the marriage be repaired. Of course such talk is silly but I told him how if there was a pill I would take it tomorrow, but let’s be real. While there may be truth to swallowing that pill, there is also untruth. The truth, the real truth, is I like myself – always have. Maybe that sounds egotistical but ego in moderation is healthy. And if I like myself then I do not think I get to pick and choose which pieces of Nate’s basic nature I keep and which I toss. I suspect that if the pill was put before me today, I would read the booklet, check out those risk factors, think of being a different person. I would pick it up and hold it between my fingers. And with all my strength I would likely put it back down.
Because last June I was writing posts discussing the difference between wants and needs. This year I chose not to write it, but my thoughts were on the silliness of wants and needs when the real issue is one of being, just being.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
It was Wednesday afternoon that I checked in with Phil – I was in the City and figured we could catch dinner before the suburbs beckoned. It worked for him so we met on a Manhattan street corner and started to wander towards his apartment. On the way we passed a public art exhibit and spent some time looking and talking. And then a quick stop at his apartment which ended up being not so quick. As always, I leave some things to the imagination. Then off to a roof top bar – so what if the average age was twenty years our junior. The drinks were okay: the skyline views intoxicating.
Phil asked of my Father’s Day. I tell him of a cool shirt from my daughter – one that came with the note: “For when you go out!” In case I had missed the intent, she later explained that it was perfect for a New York summer bar. I tell Phil of Carrie’s gifts: a recliner for the backyard – her backyard, my backyard, it is so complicated. And then in the true spirit of mixed messages some boxers and tees – my favored summer sleeping. When I comment she must be bored of my old ones as I float around the house, she tells me these are for my nights out with the boys. In a rare moment of judgment, I do not share that on those nights, I do not use pajamas.
We finish our drinks and downtown for dinner, an outdoor space on a perfect temperate night. And then a walk across the village and some coffee and desert. Phil knows the City better than I and shows me things – different styles of brickwork, unusual buildings. We end the night on a subway back uptown leaning into each other as the evening drew to close. For once I get the coming home part right – it is after midnight and all is quiet.
The next day was a graduation – grade school albeit, but still big for two little ones. An afternoon off, a small family dinner: the real celebration will be the next night, but let’s not get ahead of things. That evening I had planned to attend a gay men’s reading group. It had popped up recently while trolling the net and I had even read the book. But Wednesday had been late and it was a graduation day, so home I remain. I go down to my basement office to write but my daughter is on my computer. She offers to finish up but I tell her keep playing, I lay on the couch, we exchange occasional thoughts and comments. And at some point I nap. When I awake she is still there and we continue to quietly commune. For at least one night I have chosen wisely.
Friday we celebrate – the graduation and a going off to sleep away camp for one of the kids – her first time. We have our insular family, we have a gathering of the older kids, and we have the couple who have been there with us every step of the last twenty years. And yes, we have the steaks and lobsters. In the strangeness that passes for our lives, the total success of the evening is also its dark cloud. This is our life as we once envisioned it, the backyard looks great, the evening air cool and fresh with the backdrop of music punctuated by conversation and laughter: Family and friends that any would take. It was perfect. That is except for the fact that we are separated, that I am gay, that the late night conversation – us and our friends – is on where I should move.
Everyone leaves and Carrie and I hold each other, tears are lurking. We talk but what can one say. Ultimately she is right: I never stopped when the opportunity was offered, I never accepted the unsaid offer of discrete sexual liaisons. Even if I could offer that I would not “live” my gayness, it would not change who I am. And of course that is ultimately the deal breaker. So she sheds her tears, freely now, and I try to comfort, but really, what comfort is there?
For those who are counting we are not yet near seventy-two hours but it is time to step back and let the evening settle. Tomorrow is another day, and early one at that.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Monday, June 11, 2007
Feeling a mite misunderstood in this cyber exchange, I whip out the cell and call across the country. “I do want to go, but bars and me…” And then she pulled out of that bottomless hat of hers a telling point: “Go” she tells me: “Or don’t go. I don’t care, but take ownership of what you do.”
The word – ownership – instantly caught my attention but it is in the days and weeks since that it has continued to percolate and grow richer with time. I have spent much time rejecting ownership of my gayness in ways big and small. I am reduced to Sis reminding me to do what I choose and to Carrie reminding me to read my own blog. I remind myself that I must first own my own life: then the rest will follow. And the twin of ownership – the good twin – is to embrace.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to test these concepts, to take ownership out for test drive. In an e-mail to Phil a passing reference that I will be in the City Friday: an early business dinner. Phil goes away most weekends so I did not expect the invitation to spend the night. Now the last time – the only time - I stayed in his apartment was almost a month ago and my neurosis ran rampant. I fixated on staying and going, on moments with my new friends and anticipated consequences with my home life. I drove myself near mad.
Carrie had already presumed I would spend that night in the City – well before I had even e-mailed Phil. We discussed the problems of last time and she asked that I come home at an off hour – very late or very early – Sunday AM in her mind. A place to spend Friday night was a stretch, but I did pull it off. Saturday night: well, we will get back to that.
My Friday business dinner finally ends and off to Phil’s. This time I knew to bring a bag not my baggage. For the first time I spend the night without a worry of the consequences. I live in the moment without the clouds of guilt and fear obscuring the sun. The “sun” made it better warming all we did: it made the sex better, it made the hanging in the bars better, and it even made the sleep better. It was liberating.
The next day Phil and I woke together – yes we played as two gay men might and yes enjoyed a shower together. Then time for the day – breakfast at a diner, coffee and newspapers and the lightest of chatter. Then some time around town until I dropped Phil off at his friend in the suburbs: a quick hello to Stan, a quicker goodbye to Phil and back in the car. Now I had no place to go, but I am clever enough to know when to move on. It was with a light heart that I popped in the car and disappeared around the corner. It was 3 PM on Saturday.
I was well aware that Carrie wanted me to arrive home at an off hour. I was well aware that 3 PM on a Saturday afternoon is anything but an off hour. And I was well aware that I really had no place to go. Sure I could have killed a few hours, but arriving home at 6 PM struck me as even worse. I round the corner and whip out the cell. I ask permission to return and it is coolly granted. Return I do, quietly but our home is no mansion and my presence is noted. The temperature has shifted, the cool now bordering on frigid.
She is right – how can I walk in like nothing has occurred, like I am coming from the library. I am right – it is my home, my only home: should I just wander for eight hours awaiting the cloak of the night. We are both right and it is a situation that will recur. We have anticipated this, tried to finesse it, but it continues to lurk.
That night I think more about ownership, about my plans for an apartment. I think of the waiting until the fall – no need to rush into things. I particularly think of the winter rental – Labor Day to Memorial Day, a nice beach community: why does it smell so sweet? I know the answer – it’s the dream that in nine months things will be healed, that it will be time to return home or to make new decisions as if the decision has not been already made. It is again a failure to take ownership, a failure at embracing the reality of my life.
Sunday dawns and Carrie and I calmly talk. We talk over the Sunday paper – the real estate section to be exact. It is time to find a place – not a temporary place, not a seasonal rental. It is time to find a new home - close by where I can see my children many times each and every week. But a home – not just a crash pad – where when I return at night I can feel comfortable. We have seven years before packing the kids off to college. It is time to make myself a home for those seven years.
And it is time to do it while Carrie and I are still best friends. I knew on Saturday with Phil when I was about to overstay my welcome. It is now time to practice that with Carrie.
"And then I go outside and join the others, I am the others,"
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Frank again asked if I was interested in the Masons – I struck him as a fine man – and took the opportunity to share a moment about them. Now I was expecting to maybe hear of the sense of fraternity and the fun at the meetings. But Frank – a nice man without agenda – needed to share their current project. They are doing a child safety project – pictures and fingerprints on a CD in case a child goes missing. I was struck by this. I suspect the community service aspects of the fraternal organizations are more noticeable in smaller towns, places where they are the lead in the local papers. But in a close in suburb of New York City it is not exactly front page news.
So I am still going to take a pass on becoming a Mason, but I am glad that I had my five minutes with Frank. It’s funny – I teased about putting a face on the gay community for him and instead he put the face on his community for me.
Friday, June 08, 2007
Yesterday while walking in the railroad parking lot, one underneath a rather dingy trestle, I spotted a glimpse of a hat. There on the ground it was: perfectly folded complete with gold letters along with a starched white apron with a Mason’s symbol, and a folder with a few papers. No one had run it over yet – an inevitability for that spot – and it was clearly possessions cherished by someone.
My schedule was tight so I took the items, tossed them in the car, and hit the trains. I forgot about the whole thing, that is until I got back in my car that evening and saw them waiting for me.
That night I prepared for a project – enlisted the children – to use the clues to track down the owner. When I opened the folder and found a program from the previous night’s dinner, I realized my task was easy: there was the lodge leader’s home phone number. Seven digits and I had his wife – he was (surprise) at a lodge meeting but would call me in the morning.
And so he did. I will return the items to him on Sunday – a ten minute ride. He offered me lunch (I declined) and then said something which caught my attention: Was I interested in becoming a Mason? Now I am not the fraternal organization type on a good day and I am not sure the past year and a half qualifies as a good day in any event. But here was this sweet offer. I politely demurred.
The thing is that part of me on Sunday looks forward to handing him the items and heading my merry way. But there is another part of me which would like to say:
“I don’t think I’m really your target market. I am a liberal Democrat gay Jew.”
I won’t say that of course, but there is that little piece of me which just wants to share that simple acts of courtesy really are universal and maybe leave one little mark that gays are really okay.
Time for the weekend: I am still uncomfortable with the terms, but I suppose I do have a date – a night in the City with Phil (pre-discussed at home: no more surprises) and a day at the beach with him and Stan tomorrow. The new life begins.
Have a good weekend all.
Monday, June 04, 2007
I have written of a choice – drive my car into the City and be prepared for an early morning escape or travel with my friends. It was raining after all: such a good reason not to take two cars with its implications of safety and maturity. I mean I have only been driving into the City for thirty-six years and yes, sometimes in the rain. I did make a choice that evening. I chose to stay with my friends, to go with the flow, to ride in the backseat knowing I would not have it to myself. I wanted to be with them and to experience all of it. The rain does sound better, but really.
I have been considering this but today was called on it. An out of town friend – one who I am fully out to - phoned and I was telling him of this week's decision to find a place of my own. He is about to end a ten plus year run of sharing the house but not the bedroom with his wife: they did it for the children. He truly can say “been there, done that” and today he honestly noted that it is a severely flawed model. He supports the moving out to enable the moving on. I told him of the weekend, of Carrie’s upset over the late arrival. And he politely but directly made the point that I had made choices and those choices illuminate my desires.
I have wrestled with what to say about that weekend in these pages. Part of me says the unsaid says enough and part of me wants to be a sex blogger with a blow by blow (what apt imagery I suppose) of the whole night. I will err somewhat on the side of modesty, but there are some moments that just stand out. One was going to be the basis for its own post – even had the title picked out: Juxtaposition. Our first stop in the City was a party – one where a catering room is rented out by a specific group – this was an Indian / Caribbean party, quiet at 11 when we arrived, but soon pulsating.
Well into the evening Phil asks me if I want another drink – I have already had a few and suggest that I would be willing to share. He smiles and takes my order. A few minutes later we are perched against the wall on a small speaker, a quiet spot under the circumstances. He goes to kiss me and my mouth is infused with alcohol: we truly are sharing the drink. And as we are “sharing”, a woman comes up in front of us and looking beyond us adjusts her – I was going to say blouse, but it was her cleavage. I suspect we were sitting in front of a mirrored wall, we were just background – she was the picture.
Phil is aware of my gaze and I admit that under other circumstances she could also make me happy. He laughs and says that if he was not there I would be happy to do her then, as would he. My turn to laugh as he lifts the glass, takes another drink and we again kiss, the liquor flowing between our mouths. I tell this for a reason, for it was then for the first time that I truly felt that it was okay to be a gay man and still admire and even desire women. I was not being kicked out of the gay club and more importantly I could not use it as the old excuse to myself. To look at women and pretend that I am not so gay may have worked in the past, but to look and then be right back to “sharing” the drink, Absolut Mandarin coursing back and forth, our tongues dancing, tasting. No, that was a gay moment, pure and simple.
It was a night – and morning - of moments, kissing and touching, blowjobs and hugging. A night of sitting at a table with three other men sharing dinner and a morning of sitting at a table with the same men having breakfast. Moments of humor, moments of sex, some raw and some tender. Moments discussing basements (the live-in variety) and moments discussing New York urban architecture.
I wanted to go with the flow, to have the experience and I did. I write of this on some level to share my story –this is a public blog, not a private diary. But I also write because it is true. And maybe one day sitting alone in my apartment (it is out there somewhere), I will go back and re-read this. And on that day as much as I will want to remember the two hours of angst, a misjudgment, I will instead remember all those other moments. And maybe it will bring a little smile to me and surely it will be a reminder of who I am and why I am where I am.
Saturday, June 02, 2007
These skills serve me quite well professionally but have some real limitations in life, particularly as I try to navigate some hairpin turns. If my life was a car you would hear two wheels screeching and the ultimate crash. Navigating the Titanic – that would be me – full speed ahead.
This line of thought struck me on my way home from the gay dads support group. There are men who have been coming for years – five, ten, maybe more; there are men who have been divorced for years, men with partners. Yet here they are at the meetings, struggling with issues of children, struggling with coming out. As one man said tonight, coming out is an ongoing process, just part of our lives. And I look at my life and realize both how far I have come and how far I have to go. A culture of immediate gratification has taken its toll.
I stepped back from my blog last week when I realized that I was just repeating myself, hopefully well written, but repetition of a theme all the same. A whininess had seeped in, that uncomfortable feeling of watching someone embarrass themselves. Time for a break until there is something new to say: I do have some things to add, but as always first I must digress.
Recently there was a day when my therapist asked what it is that I want: my flippant answer – everything. That same evening I went to my Married Gay group – round five of a scheduled six rounder. Maybe it was random or maybe in the facilitator’s playbook that they can get feisty for the last sessions, but the question from the morning reappeared: “What do you want?” I hem and haw, I try to claim everything – the dollar and a dream theory. I answer without answering. Again Jim asks: “But what do YOU want?” Finally in frustration I blurt out an answer: to be with a man, to truly explore my gay side.
The next night an impromptu dinner out with just Carrie – kids off with their friends. We talk as only old friends can. I tell her of being pressed by the facilitator. I do not share my answer. No need: the truth has been clear to her for a long time and probably clear to me in the quiet moments I am willing to admit it. I am not only a gay man, but I want to live as one. We discuss the problems inherent with the current living situation. One of the older kids described it as toxic the other day. It is a comfortable toxicity - carbon monoxide, not sulfuric acid: but toxic all the same in a somnolent sort of way.
We do not expect to be back together, not in the sharing the bedroom sense. But even being back together for sitting on the porch as old friends could only occur upon my returning from these new lands. And one has to leave in order to return. We realize that this is not an overnight proposition and I am beyond "come to Jesus" moments. But the start of that road needs to be through my own front door.
Our timetable will be figured out - presumably the fall when I can get a winter rental in a nearby beach community. We then have the summer to prepare the twins and ourselves, time for us all to adjust to the changes ahead and be made comfortable that even with a new geography, we are still a family.
It would be a move with a beginning and an end - nine months to try it on, to grow into things, nine months gestation for a new life for all of us. And after nine months I suspect the decisions will be easier, the lay of the land clearer. But before the nine months, there are some days coming up: the day we tell the twins, the day I sign a lease and of course the day I pass through our front door, suitcases in hand. There will be many tears that day and hopefully a rainbow when the sun does come out. It always does.
So our journey continues. I harbor no illusions of the road ahead - highs and surely lows. I accept that there will be days this summer - frequent I suspect - when I will tell myself I can change my mind, it’s a nice basement. But my support team of Sis and Carrie will be there to remind me of all I have said, of all I have written, of who I am.
I do not want to grow old wondering who I am and it is no longer necessary for me to know where my road ultimately leads. It is no longer a matter of comfort and I am learning that happiness is a by product, not a goal. If I can live with honesty to myself and respect for those around me then the road will be fine.
It is time to take the ride where ever it leads. It is time to live book three. I'm in.
Posted with the humility the journey here has taught me.
There's a dark cloud rising from the desert floor
I packed my bags and I'm heading straight into the storm
Gonna be a twister to blow everything down
That ain't got the faith to stand its ground
Blow away the dreams that tear you apart
Blow away the dreams that break your heart
Blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost andbrokenhearted
Mister I ain't a boy no I'm a man
And I believe in a promised land