Monday, November 26, 2012

R GO FCK URSELF


It started with a text.

Me: Any interest in seeing a movie this afternoon? Life of Pi, Lincoln, and Argo are all playing at Lincoln Square.

Matt: I’d love to see Lincoln or Argo.

Me: Argo @ 4. Meet you inside the lobby.

Fast forward to 3:30pm. The lobby of the Lincoln Square cineplex was crowded. Two out of every four ticket kiosks: broken. The line for the ticket counter was snaking almost to the end of the stanchion dividers. I was nervous. I hate going to the movies in NYC. The hotter the ticket the more possible the theater will be filled with those inconsiderate movie goers who think nothing of texting, talking on their phones, or talking to each other. 

Picture me in a lobby full of people when I got to the front of my ticket kiosk line to print my pre-purchased tickets and saw that the movie I’d purchased tickets for was sold out. It was less than 30 minutes to showtime, Matt wasn’t there, my kiosk was one of the broken ones; I had to join new line. My brain was forming a picture of the crowd of people who were already filling seats to the 4pm showing of Argo. I wasn’t planning on getting a snack, but the fact that time was ticking away took the option away from me. I’m not one of those people who will wait in line for snacks while the previews are playing then sneak in just as the movie starts. No, I want to watch the previews. That’s part of my movie going experience.

At 3:40pm I had made it to the front of a working ticket kiosk line and had my tickets in hand. Matt was still no where to be found. I called him. He answered with the voice of someone in movement. He was on his way. I was standing in a prime location. One that would ensure I saw him and that he saw me. I doubted I would be missed. I mean I was wearing my gray coat with my blue scarf thrown fashionably around my neck and my Coach bag was draped over my arm. Even if you weren’t looking for me, I was hard to miss. What can I say? Sometimes I stand out in a crowd. It happens.

People were walking past or splitting up to stand it two kiosk lines determined to waste no moment in purchasing or retrieving their tickets. Others were riding up escalators, laughing with their friends. Shouts of joy erupted as one of the split pair reached the front of their line first, the other jumping out of line to join them. My friend wasn’t there. Time wasn’t slowing it was actively moving forward. I was checking the time on my phone. I was still standing fashionably ensembled in my prime location. The last I looked there were no texts or voicemails. I was no nearer to getting a seat in the sold out showing of Argo.

Then I pulled my phone out of my pocket to check again. Two missed calls. Of course with all the hustle and bustle of the crowded lobby I didn’t hear it ring. I called Matt back. As obviously visible as I thought I was, he had missed me and I him. He was upstairs looking for me when he’d called and failed to reach me. I called him back as he was riding the escalator back down. He was asking me where I was when I caught sight of him. We laughed, said our hellos, and headed back up the escalator.

Argo was showing in one of Lincoln Square’s smaller movie theaters. It made since. The film had been playing for a few weeks. Smaller theater means less seats to sell before sold out. Sold out means crowded. We ended up in the second row.

That’s normally a groaner of a seat location for me, but you know what, this time it wasn’t. I was okay with sitting that close. I asked Matt if he wanted to split up to get seats further back, but the choice was made to stick together. So we had the aisle of the second row. Scooting way down in the seat provided a good viewing angle and the perfect head rest. I won’t lie. As okay as I was with sitting in the second row, my 40 year old eyes wished they’d been a little further back. Eyesight in your 40s starts to suck. I can’t believe I need a little distance now for clarity, but that’s another story. I’m not saying the images on the screen were blurry or anything, they just would have been less strain on the eyes with a little distance.

What can I say about Argo? I don’t want to give anything away, but that film was wound tighter than a cat in a room full of rocking chairs rocking at full tilt. Seriously! If I was a nail biter I would have no more nails. I went along for this ride and forgot to buckle my seat belt. I couldn’t have been more excited to by flying by the seat of my pants. I don’t know if it’s the directing or the editing or the way it all works together combined with just the right music, but this story was taut and I was terrified the high wire was going to snap. That’s an amazing feat considering it’s based on a true story, and we know how it turned out. Amidst the riveting scenario, the screenplay was laced with comedic lines, like that of the title of this blog, to help break the tension. Moments of much needed respite for the heart to stop its agitated pounding and calm down to a resting pulse only to speed up again. Who knew watching Argo was also a way to burn calories?
When I saw the musical 1776 for the first time, my friend, James, saw how anxious I was about whether or not they would sign The Declaration of Independence. He leaned over to me and whispered, “You know they sign it.” History. I know it was signed, but the tension was palpable. Sometimes when I watch Titanic I think maybe this time it won’t sink. To me both of the above references are examples of good storytelling. We know the outcome, but are so engrossed in the story that we aren’t sure it’s going to be what we know.

I was 8 years old when the hostage crises depicted in Argo happened. My sister wasn’t even a year old yet. I don’t remember much about it except there were hostages. What I do remember are the yellow ribbons tied around trees, lamp posts, electricity poles, etc. I remember that. Seeing those yellow ribbons in the film was an immediate connector to the time. Images of Ted Koppel, Walter Cronkite, and Diane Sawyer reporting were priceless -- real life history on display. The Star Wars memorabilia took me to my cousin Kevin’s house. He lived just down the street from me. He had all of those figurines as well as the Millennium Falcon. Memories of my youth were before my eyes on screen. The glasses, the hair styles, the clothes. I was a child of the 80s. I would bet the only event more talked about during that time was Who Shot J.R.?, which happened four months after the hostage crisis began. That phrase is still in the lexicon today.

As my 40 year old eyes watched history’s denouement play out from the second row on a 20 foot high screen (#secondrowsarcasm), I cried. There was nothing I could do about it. I had to release. I was finally able to breathe along with the characters on the screen. I was filled with joy. The pressure I’d been feeling in my chest had welled up into my eyes, rolled down my cheeks and suddenly been replaced with joy and happiness. That joy and happiness was for the characters as well as for the fact that I had just witnessed a damn good film. Oscar viewing season, for me, was officially in swing.

You know what follows a great movie? An amazing burger. Matt suggested we go A.G. Kitchen. I’d never been and was game for the new experience. That burger was of the holla-praise-to-Jesus variety; so juicy that you’ve either got to forget about wiping you hands each time you take a bite or get over yourself and not be embarrassed if you need to ask for another napkin. I didn’t ask for another napkin, by the way, but the one I had was filthy with goodness. Our dinner conversation ran the gambit of what we’d done over the past two days, to work, to food, to drinks, and then turned to twitter. I talked to Matt about setting up a twitter account to promote his business. While he didn’t do that, he did set up a personal twitter account. I showed him how to tweet, follow, retweet, discover. Then I tweeted Ben Affleck about Argo. Why not? He’s on twitter and I had something to say.

After the film and after dinner, Matt and I walked seven blocks in the direction of his apartment and my train. It was a crisp autumn night. I felt like I was right where I belonged. I was walking down the sidewalk in New York City having seen a fantastic film with an audience too engaged to talk. I had what might possibly be the best burger of my life at a restaurant I’d never been to before. I was with one of my two best friends, feeling lighter than air, not a care in the world. It was a good night. “Argo fuck yourself.” Smile.

Hope Ben Affleck reads my tweet.

Friday, November 23, 2012

My Golden Girls are Boys




To be comfortable one on one in the presence of another person is an incredible feeling. To sit across the table and listen as he recounts the day, or week, he’s had, and to find genuine interest in said recounting is gratifying. Then when the tables turn and he’s listening to me bemoan my day, well let’s just say the comfortability level increases to the moon. I’m up there waiting for Alice should Ralph ever follow through with his threats.

I wasn’t on a date and I haven’t met the man of my dreams. I had dinner with one of my two best friends from college. I’ve written about them both before and I’m sure I will again. One lives here, the other in Boston. This particular dinner was with the New Yorker.

We’ve known each other more than twenty years, the three of us, but I consider our best friend status to have turned 20 years old this past summer. You see it was the summer of 1992 when the three of us were doing summer stock together that our friendship took roots. Over the course of the next school year those roots took hold. I have literally grown as a human being, as a man, as a gay man with these two remarkably indulgent, caring, forgiving men. They know everything there is to know about me; the good, the bad, the ugly, the comical, the stinky, the wrong, the right, the confused, the selfish, the generous.



They are my brothers; family that I chose and who chose me in return. They help me through rough patches and laugh with me in good times. Over glasses of Pinot Noir or Malbec in a darkly lit wine bar. Over beer and pizza at John’s Pizzeria. Over Maker’s Mark, Knob Creek, and Jamison on the rocks whenever, wherever.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be the best man at each of their weddings. When the New Yorker got married, the Bostonian and I had a moment alone with him in the hotel where we all stayed. I told a story of the TMI variety that I was not one bit ashamed to divulge in front of them. We three laughed so hard in that room there were actual moments of lost breath and tears. I remember it today as if it just happened. Pure joy. Nothing hidden. No holding back. No judgement. 

When the Bostonian got married, the New Yorker was out of the country. I carried a picture of him in my pocket during the ceremony. That may sound cheesy, but we three love each other dearly. That picture was a stand in for the missing piece of our friendship triangle. If he could have flown home to be there he would have. That picture was our way of feeling his presence. 

I am a better man because these two men are in my life. I can say with some certainty that the road in my life’s journey has been shaped in part by them. We are individuals, our personalities distinct, but we compliment each other. We last. We graduated from reason and season to hit lifetime status.

Matt’s Grill was where The New Yorker and I had dinner. It’s one of those neighborhood restaurants where you expect customers to know the staff and vice versa. The New Yorker frequents the place more often than I and he does know some of the staff. The waitress, for example, knows what he drinks. It’s kind of nice to feel like somebody knows you in this big old City we call home. It’s like mom’s mac and cheese or grandmother’s potato salad; mamaw’s sweet tea or the Bostonian’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. It’s comfortable, easy. Being around the two of them is comfortable and easy. It’s like slipping on that warm sweater you’ve had for years, but wouldn’t trade in for a new for any amount of money.

At dinner we talked about our lives over a hearty meal. We listened to each other. We laughed. There is genuine love between the two of us. That comes from history. Our history has deep roots from Kentucky to here.

That’s not to say there haven’t been times of discord. We’re not saints. I’ve gone months without speaking to the New Yorker before for one reason or another that seems right at the time, but in hindsight is ridiculous. He forgives my childishness and folds me to his chest wrapping me in his arms and I know that he loves me, flaws and all.

I share my life with the New Yorker and the Bostonian because I want to. I’m proud to call them my best friends. The Bostonian wrote a letter to the two of us once, day dreaming of what it would be like if he owned a brownstone and the three of us lived there together, each occupying our own floor. To me, that idea still sounds heavenly. We may never find ourselves occupying the same house, eating ice cream, watching reruns of The Golden Girls, but we will grow old together.

For now, I look forward to the next story I can tell them that will make them laugh or shock them into laughter. I look forward to laughing with them. I look forward to hugging them and feeling their arms around me in return. I look forward to the next bottle of wine we can share together. I look forward to the New Yorker’s next move in owning his own business. I look forward to finally taking that hot air balloon ride the Bostonian wanted us to take two years ago even though he’s “horrifying of heights.” I look forward to the music the two of them will expose me to. I look forward to the moments that are few and far between when the three of us are together in one of our homes; existing in our universe that’s infused with history, breathing in the present, while anticipating the future. 


That future holds amazing things for us; beautiful memories we haven’t made yet. I forget sometimes that I’m the luckiest man alive to have two of the most generous, kind hearted, understanding, supportive, loving men possible in my life.

The New Yorker and the Bostonian are easy to take for granted. They’re always there if/when I need them. I couldn’t be more astounded that our friendship has not only lasted these many years, but has grown stronger.

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true, you’re a pal and a confidant.
And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you knew.
You would see, the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say,
Thank you for being a friend.

In high school I used to watch the movie St. Elmo’s Fire anytime it was on television. I always cried at the end. I used to pray that I would one day have friends in my life who would stick by me through thick and thin. That is one prayer that I know got answered. I don’t need pudding to see the proof either; I have it in memories, in pictures, in my heart.

Ballerinos forever!!




Thursday, November 15, 2012

Perfect or Not, Practice Makes


The desire to write something, anything, can sometimes be overwhelming. Especially when the ideas bouncing around in my head won’t clarify and merge into complete thoughts. I have so many pictures flashing before my eyes, but the slideshow doesn’t pause on any given one long enough for me to say, “That’s it! I’ll write about that today.”

I’ve been staring at the proverbial blank page on this computer for days. There have been times when the black letters -- typed side by side to create words, those words strung together to create sentences -- break the blankness; but mostly it’s been a blank white page.

I desire to write, but I don’t make myself sit down and do it. Writing can be easy for me, but I can be bloody hard, too. When it’s hard I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to sit and stare at the blank page. I don’t want to wait for an idea to reveal itself. I don’t want to wait for the idea that I have to form itself into complete thoughts and sentences. What I’m realizing is: if I just sit down at my desk and begin, something will happen. “If you build it, they will come.” Look at that. I’m having a Kevin Costner moment.

I was watching Days of our Lives yesterday and the twist in one their plot lines became annoying apparent. I could see what was going to happen from a mile away. I was also disheartened. You see, I had the same idea for a couple of characters in a piece of fiction I’m currently working on. An idea that came to me several years ago when I wanted this piece of fiction to actually be a television show; a soap opera to be exact. You can imagine how my heart sank as a saw an idea of my own play out on television in front of my eyes. I’m not suggesting plagiarism. I’m suggesting that someone else had the same idea as I and they used it first. Now it will seem as if my idea came from watching theirs.

This is the third time I’ve found myself in this situation. It’s frustrating every time and always lights a fire under my ass to move on my ideas, to be creative. Then that fire begins to die and instead of throwing another log on it and stoking it to keep it burning, I let it burn itself out until it’s nothing but cold ashes.

I’m frustrated with myself. I’m lazy. I want to go to the gym three to four times a week, but settle for one or two. I want to write every day, but don’t. I seem to have no motivation. I go to work. I come home. I watch television. I go to bed. Sleep. Wake. Repeat.

It’s no wonder my creative juices are stifled. I don’t do anything to get them flowing. I like to think the television I watch is research. I honestly do believe it is research. I love to see well crafted story lines play out. I love to be surprised and stunned by plot twists. I love to cry at the emotion of a scene. I use all of those hours of television viewing when I’m crafting my own stories. But sometimes I find myself numbing my way through an evening with red wine and bland characters instead of creating something that might be more exiting and would definitely be more emotionally fulfilling.

When I started this blog I challenged myself to do something every day so that I would have something to write about. As the years passed, I got comfortable in my life. I no longer lived in a noisy apartment building that I did everything possible to stay away from. I no longer lived with a roommate that I tried to avoid. I created a home for myself that was comfortable and safe; walls that I enjoyed being locked within. I have to talk about the word safe. It is safe. There’s no one here to judge me, but there’s no one here to challenge me. There’s no one to hold me accountable.

The more I write the easier the words flow. The more stories I tell the easier it is to tell the next one. The more I practice the better I get. And right there I landed on a word that I hate. Practice. I don’t like to practice. I like to be good at something immediately. If I have to work at it I tend to walk away from it. I don’t understand that about myself. I know that I have a perfection complex. I need everything to be perfect - from hair to wardrobe to vocal prowess to stories of fiction and non.

I am not perfect. Shocking revelation. I know. As I look back over my life I see things that I had to practice in order to be as perfect as possible. As I’ve gotten older, I don’t want to practice anymore. It’s sad to me that I find it easier to walk away from something rather than practice it in order to get better at it.

I’m not making excuses here, but I think it stems from the fact that I started singing when I was 7-years old, and it was the most natural thing for me. I took voice lessons in high school to learn how to breath properly and to support the notes coming out of my mouth, but nobody had to teach me to sing. Unfortunately, I have gotten myself stuck in an if-it-doesn’t-come-easy-I-don’t-want-to-do-it rut.

I’m the one missing out. I’m the one not singing anymore. I’m the one who isn’t telling his story. There is no one out there missing out on my life more than I.

These are just words. In less than half an hour 993 of them have spilled out of my head. I took action this morning to do that. It didn’t cost me anything and it feels so good. It also exercised my brain to organize my thoughts and get them down on paper. It was practice and it was easy. 

I’m trying to realize that everything I write doesn’t have to be a profound statement. I’m trying to get back to the place where telling the story of my adventures was fun. I’m trying to get back the place where I couldn’t go to bed until I had written of that day’s excitement, sadness, or joy. Whether I want to or not, I’m going to have to practice. 

Practice makes perfect and hindsight shows me that I love the outcome. No one has to know how grueling the process is to learn the song or write the words. They just have to sit back and enjoy the story. Then I, too, reap the benefits.

I’ve got to get it together. This in my life and no one is going to make me live it except for me. I’ve been told more than once I’m the only person standing in my way. That is a true statement. 

So, now that this blank white page on my computer is no longer blank. I can see that I’ve practiced today. It wasn’t painful and I’m still alive. There are no bruises. Practice doesn’t have to be hard it just has to be done.

My journey continues...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Next Stop Is...


As I stepped off the bottom step into my subway station I noticed I was missing a train. It was literally discharging itself of passengers and shutting its doors. My first thought was "shit!" Which I uttered aloud. Then I saw the letter on the train. It was a bold face R in the middle of a once-bright-but-now-dingy dirty yellow circle. I couldn’t believe it. The R train had not been in service since Hurricane Sandy ripped through NYC leaving a flood of devastation and power outages in her wake.

Almost immediately following the R train was an M train. Another train I hadn't seen in a week. My initial reaction was one of relief at its emptiness. NYC had been so limited in its train service that for four days getting to know your fellow strap hangers was not an option; it was a given. Crowded trains were the only trains. Thank God there were crowded trains. In a City that thrives on mass transit anything was better than nothing. 

My train car had three riders including me. I cautiously sat down, prepared, as I had been for the last three days, to listen to the announcement for stops and service changes. 

Was there ever a more welcomed sound than the automated female voice of the train calling the stops? It was the sound of normalcy returning. She calmly and soothingly called the stops, including stations where service had been suspended for days.

It was but a small gift considering all the devastation that still exists, but sometimes the smallest gift can bring the most joy.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sexuality: The New Fear Inducer


It was the picture that initially attracted my attention; a demented looking clown sitting in a chair staring directly at me through the camera’s lens. He’s in the photo to your left. See him? I now know that’s an imperssonation of John Wayne Gacy, Jr. He was dubbed the “Killer Clown” due to his clown persona “Pogo the Clown.” He was beloved at charity events and children’s parties. Who would have suspected that he abducted, raped, and murdered young men? Nice phallic touch with the balloon don’t you think? 

I hate clowns. Always have. They freak me out. I do not see a colorful, cartoony birthday party performer when I look at a clown; I see evil - a distorted personality whose sinister smile and dead eyes are hidden behind outlandish makeup designed to be broad and funny. John Wayne Gacy, Jr., does not make it easy to refute my feelings. Even so, the creepy clown was the first thing that caught my attention. Then I saw the headline: “Want to Know How to Really Scare a Straight Guy This Halloween? Try Gay Sex.” Forget about the creepy clown, I was totally intrigued. I wondered what interesting, funny or down right off-the-wall story this article was going to tell. 

The article with the above-mentioned title was written by Benjamin Solomon and appeared in The Huffington Post on October 15, 2012. Solomon opened my eyes to and enlightened me on a disturbing trend in New York City haunted houses.

Solomon began his article with the quote, “Do you want to run away -- or stay and play?” He described his predicament thus: he’s pinned down at the shoulders by an unseen man. Along with the aforementioned question the man also whispered “little piggy.” Solomon says he was being pretend raped. That happened in Blackout Haunted House according to the article. It was supposed to happen. The manhandling was agreed upon before entry.

To quote Dorothy Parker, “What fresh hell is this?” I wrinkled my forehead and looked at my computer screen with contempt and confusion. The new black in horror this season seems to be pushing the limits of a straight man’s sexual fears by using his fear of gay sex against him. That’s right. Gay sexual advances within the confines of a haunted house seem to be the new horror for scaring what the article tells me is the “typically harder to scare” straight man. 

Solomon’s article quotes Blackout founder Josh Randall saying, “No matter how afraid of monsters or vampires you may be, chances are you can always rationalize that fear away because vampires and monsters don’t exist. So when you’re faced with something that is intensely real and could potentially happen to you, it strikes a different nerve in people and triggers a more realistic response.” How charming.

Since when is sexual orientation the basis for scaring someone? My sexual orientation is not the same as choosing to rape someone or choosing to commit murder. My sexual orientation is not the same as being an axe wielding, chainsaw slashing, machete slicing horror fantasy. It should not be on par with any of those scenarios yet the impresario’s of two of New York City’s haunted houses have put it in just that place. The aforementioned Blackout Haunted House is one and KILLERS: A Nightmare Haunted House is the other.

In a video on the KILLERS website, John Harlacher, a Producer and Co-Director of the attraction in NYC says of 2012s serial killer theme, “I’m most fascinated by serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer or John Wayne Gacy, the ones who seemed to be completely sexually motivated. They’re just born desiring to harm other people in the same way another person desires to get the affection from another person. They’re monsters. They’re not human in a deep way. In a way that we recognize as human they really are not human on a psychological level.” 

There’s not one part of me that enjoys my sexual identity being mixed in with the fear and images of some of the most violent murderers in our country’s history. Let’s be honest, what John Wayne Gacy, Jr., and Jeffrey Dahmer did to real people is terrifying enough. We don’t necessarily need to know exactly what those men did to their victims to be scared of them when the room is occupied by a representation of one of them, their bloody victim , and us. Let him walk toward me and I will make an impression in the wall as I try to back as far away from him as I can. Even in a controlled environment the psychology of the situation takes over and the scene in the room becomes real even if for just a moment. Result = Freak out!

When I was a child, my father had only to put on his Tor Johnson mask and walk slowly down the hall, turning out each light as he approached, to send me screaming and running away in fear. I’m no fool. I realize I was a child, but that was terrifying to me. 

The “Halloween Theme” by John Carpenter creeps me out to this day. I all but hold my breath upon hearing Michael Myers breath from behind the mask, his body hidden in the shadows. Where is he? Where is he? When that white mask begins to emerge from the shadows into light as he moves toward a victim, my heart begins to race. A man in a dark green jumpsuit, white distorted William Shatner mask, and large kitchen knife need only stand staring at me to make my heart beat wildly. I still have a fear of being in water too far from shore or too murky to see the bottom because of Jaws. The name Jason conjures terrifying images of an indestructible man -- unkillable -- with a machete readily at hand for dispatching those who might have decided tonight is the night for sex. Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers never run. They walk at a regular pace and yet somehow always manage to catch up to their victim. Imagine the characters of Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees following behind you as you make your way through a haunted house. Terrifying. Throw in the sound of a chainsaw and I’m hugging the wall, screaming, praying for a way out. Hell, throw in a clown and I’ll run toward the way out. These are just a few of the images and sounds that terrify me, that define horror to me.  That is terrifying to me.

As if there wasn’t already enough fear and hate in the world, the brilliant minds who came up with forcing one man onto another man sexually as a way to generate fear should win the Razzie equivalent for haunted house production.This type of scare tactic feeds into the assumption made by many straight men that gay men are attracted to all men. That assumption breeds on oozing, misinformed, blob of paranoia.

This is just the kind of ammunition the uneducated straight man needs to bash in the head of a gay man who looked at him in a way that he deemed threatening. God forbid a gay man smile at a straight man out of pure friendliness. I have enough agita as a real, live, breathing gay man just smiling at guys on the street or at the gym who might take it the wrong way. The last thing I need is for some dumb fuck horror attraction to use gay sexual identity as a horror scare tactic.

I couldn’t help but wonder (in fact, I had to wonder) if this scenario put a single girl on her own in a room with an imposing black man would we stand for it? Isn’t it the same thing? That female might be terrified of a black man raping her, but even with her permission would we play out the scenario from the beginning of this blog? Would we let him hold her down by her shoulders whispering dirty sexual phrases in her ear? To play out the scenario in that way to me seems offensive and stereotypical beyond belief. Is it not the same situation to put a straight man into a scenario alone to be sexually threatened by a gay or “gay” man?

So play the Jaws theme or the Halloween theme. Set their nerves on edge. But instead of terrifying the haunted house patron with horror devices and images that are tried and true, just send a gay man into the room to solicit sex. That’s all we have to do, right? I mean it’s all in good fun. No one should be offended by this tactic. Least of all the gay man who might fear walking down the street at night in his neighborhood because real homophobic people exist in the world. Without the safety of a haunted attraction the joke might be on the gay man. It’s all theatricality and illusion until some straight man retaliates and some gay man finds himself on the other side of a fear fist or fear gun.

At a time when our country is divided on the idea of gay marriage and the fight for equality is being fought every day, I find it offensive and obnoxious that anyone would use the threat of gay sex, gay rape, gay anything as a means for scaring anyone. 

Maybe I’m taking the whole thing too personally. I don’t know. I don’t enjoy feeling like the joke is at the expense of gay men. What I do know is that I found the idea offensive the moment I read it and I’m not the only person who found it so. 

Maybe the creators of this gimmick don’t intend for it to be homophobic, but it certainly allows the latent homophobia living inside the haunted house “victim” to surface. Who knows what happens to it after that. No matter how desperate the desire is to access that hard to reach place where fear lies, threatening gay sex on a straight man’s psyche is an insult to those of us who actually desire gay sex. Gay sex is not scary and the last thing we need is for straight men to feel we gay people are a threat.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Wrong Choice


I had the chance today to do the right thing, to change the outcome, to be a leader by example. I failed. 

A test was presented to me and I reverted to an old way of thinking. I got stuck on what I thought the answer should be instead of examining all aspects of the situation and understanding what would be the best outcome for all involved.

In the moment I felt as though I would be challenging the information that had been previously given, and by challenging said information, stepping on the toes of the person who gave it. I didn’t feel it was my place. I chose to stick to the rules (a dirty word in the instance) as I saw them. I didn’t even realize until later that by doing so I was making a choice not to help. I shake my head discouraged by my inability to see that clearly in the moment. 

Not only did the people I could have helped not end up happy; I didn't end up happy. My own frustration with my actions affected the rest of my day. If I could go back and make a different decision - the better choice - I could change the course of their day and mine. Instead I stuck to the black and white (the dirty rules) that is more comfortable for me, more familiar to me. 

Though I’ve gotten much better at it, I still struggle with gray area dilemmas. I struggle with them every day. It is difficult to face each situation for its own unique set of circumstances. Hindsight shows me that there was an easy end result for this situation. Hindsight shows me it wasn’t really gray at all. However, the “I’m right and you’re wrong” light blinking in my brain blinded me to those results. 

I'm not only frustrated with my actions, I'm disappointed in myself and saddened at the disappointment that my actions caused others. Also, I don't want to see the disappointment in the eyes of the one who will have to reiterate to me one more time how there isn't a set rule; things aren't always black and white; we function in a gray area.

I always try to do my best. I don't always succeed. Today was proof of that. I attempted to rectify my mistake, but it was too late.

Today I could have made a better choice. Today I could have made someone happy. Today I failed. Today I disappointed myself.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Upon Reflection...


***the below is a piece I started in July 2012 but never published***

Upon reflection...

To spend a week alone on an island full of strangers is an intimidating prospect. I was daunted. I was nervous. I was anxious. I was excited.

Upon reflection...

What was there to fear? I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to do. I wanted to do more than I did. I won’t often give myself permission to experience the life I want to experience. 

Upon reflection...

I’m the only person who stands in my way. Worrying about the way people perceive me is such a detriment to living my life. I’m so thankful that I managed at times to place worry in the back corner of my mind. Doing so allowed me to take off my clothes and experience the freedom of being nude on the beach. Basking in that moment of nudity nobody else mattered; worry or concern about what other people might be thinking about me didn’t pack the same punch I would normally let it pack.

Upon reflection...

Saying hello to strangers is one of the surest ways to put a smile on my face especially when the stranger says hello back (who knew?). On the flip side, when the stranger ignores me like I didn’t just speak, well, that pisses me off like you wouldn’t believe. Thankfully, in Cherry Grove almost everyone spoke or acknowledged one another with a smile or a nod of the head. It’s nice to be acknowledged. Living the on-the-go, focused life of a New Yorker doesn’t allow for moments of looking into the eyes of another person, moments of actual connection.

Upon reflection...

The vacation truly ended when I stepped on the crowded Manhattan bound train in Sayville, NY. Strangers no longer spoke to one another. Generosity seemed to leave us somewhere in the ocean on the ferry ride back to the mainland. There were more people than seats available on that train. Seats without bodies held luggage or propped feet. In some instances a single person lay across two seats reading or pretending to sleep. (I say pretending because I saw the eyes open and close and avert - I’ve played possum before myself so I recognize this traincentric selfishness.) No one offered their nonhuman occupied seat to the old lady or the father with two children - not the people who were lying down on two seats; not the ones who had their luggage in the spare seat; and definitely not the lady whose feet were propped up in the seat across from her. No one seemed to want to relinquish their hold on the spoils of getting on the train early. I observed as they watched person after person search for a place to sit down. I observed as they stopped making eye contact. I observed as they sat by and allowed people to stand with luggage in the cramped aisles and baggage area.  

Welcome back to reality. Welcome back to New York. Welcome back to the place where I chose above all others to make my life. It’s a love/hate relationship that I would trade for the world.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Island to Island


***the below is a piece I wrote in June 2011 but never published***

“Every day is a gift even if it sucks.”

I have been reflecting upon my week (June 2011) spent upon the glorious island of Martha's Vineyard. The one thing I can say without a doubt that I noticed upon being back on my home island is that the people are different - more guarded, more closed off, and definitely more rude.

We don't look at each other here. I started my Vineyard vacation with my eyes averted from one on one contact, but I quickly saw the difference in the people. Vineyardites actually said, "hello" and "good morning" to the familiar and the stranger. What a difference. I've been living the NYC life for so long that my normal is ignoring. My normal is not acknowledging. My normal is walking down the street with my iPod blasting, tuning out the world. Tuning out the bullshit of city noise is not a bad thing, but missing the sounds of the birds chirping or the breeze rustling the leaves in the trees is a pity of a sacrifice.

People are selfish, all of us in some way or another. For example: on the subway, iPod’s are played too loudly, conversations are conducted across the car. When we don’t pay attention to what we’re doing we’re sharing our entire lives with those around us. If we were aware of other people we would realize that many of us are just trying to mind our own business, read or grade papers, or contemplate the day ahead or just completed. Respect is what we don't have for each other.

I don’t want to hear your gangsta rap. I don’t want to hear your bipolar rant. I don’t want to hear you pushing your religion. I don’t want to hear about your boss or last night’s date. I just want to read my book, enjoy my coffee, and make my way to work or home. Of course, it’s a free country and there’s not much one can do about their surroundings when trapped in a subway car in a tunnel between Manhattan and Queens.

The people on the Vineyard have respect for each other and their island. I wouldn't even allow myself to spit gum out in the woods on the Vineyard.  I had this image in my head of some forest creature choking to death on the discarded gum or of the area in which the gum landed rotting away. That last image sure makes me look like I have toxic saliva. You get my point though, right? The space was too precious; nature too important. 

New Yorker’s can be rude and obnoxious. (We can also be kind and generous.) The rude and obnoxious label most often goes to the young people who strut around like they’re tough as shit and ain’t gonna take smack from nobody. I witnessed four of them in a row jump the turnstile at my subway stop on my first day back to work post vacation. I paid the new outrageous price of $104 for an unlimited monthly metro card so that I can ride the train. I guess my price includes the freeloaders. Thank you MTA for your higher prices and staffing cuts. I appreciate paying for it.

Two of the aforementioned jumpers proceeded to get the attention of a female they knew waiting across the tracks on the uptown side. She didn't have time for them. They honestly were such stereotypes that it was amusing as hell to watch her use her words to put them in their place. Of course, they referred to her as a bitch the minute they boarded the train to Manhattan. I guess because she wasn’t buying into their Rico Suave game she couldn't be anything else. Good for you girl for knowing there’re better guys in the world.

So, in an effort to recapture the spirit of the Vineyard I chose to go iPod free on my first day back to work. I listened, I observed. 

What I observed and heard made it difficult to hold on to my week of leisure, but I will always have the memory of life in the glowing sunlight, cool breezes, and “hello’s” from perfect strangers with no agenda on an island in the Atlantic.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Reclaiming the Center


Friday night I took back the center of my bed. I unconsciously propped myself up against two pillows to read and realized that I was not propped up on the right side, but in the center. That may sound strange given that I’m a single man and can sleep anywhere in my bed I choose. If you’re familiar with The Secret by Rhonda Byrne you might understand why it is I was letting this middle zone go unused.

I was introduced to The Secret several years ago by my friend Neal. He called me one afternoon to tell me that the panel on Oprah that day might interest me. I was busy and the call went to voice mail. I didn’t listen to the voice mail until Oprah was nearly over. If memory serves, there were five minutes left in the program; enough time for “thank you’s” and “goodbye’s.” Thanks to the invention of the DVR I didn’t have to miss it though. Having walked away from my television while watching the ABC station on which Oprah aired in syndication in New York City, I merely had to rewind to the beginning of the episode to see what Neal thought I might find so intriguing. 

I have always been glad that he called and that the DVR rewind option gave me the opportunity to not miss that episode.

I was stuck in a rut and yearning to change my life back then. I’m still craving change now - but the struggle is much different; I was at the beginning of it then. I was desiring change, but hadn’t started to make one yet. You might say that The Secret was the catalyst that started me on my journey toward change. I had read or attempted to read other self help books in my life, but it wasn’t until The Secret that I connected to the possibilities that lie in the Universe just waiting to be called upon for service. Maybe the content was dumbed down or maybe I was in a more open place mentally to receive, but the words made more sense to me than any others I had ever read.

I watched that panel of experts talk about asking and receiving, creating vision boards, and being thankful for what you want but don’t yet have, and knew I wanted to be part of their be-positive-get-results world. Being positive is hard for me. It was hard for me then, but thankfully it was harder then than now. I have grown, even if just slightly. I may still struggle with seeing the silver lining when I’m really just waiting for the other shoe to drop, but at least these days if that shoe does drop it’s a silver shoe.

What does all of this have to do with me sleeping in the center of my own bed you ask? I’m getting to that.

There is a story in The Secret that tells of a woman who thought she had done everything right in order to attract her perfect mate. She had gotten clear with the Universe about what she was looking for and was confused as to why the Universe had yet to provide him for her. She returned home one day and parked her car in the center of her garage. It was that moment the cartoon light bulb switched on above her head. She realized she wasn’t making any room for her potential mate. I know you may be rolling your eyes. I know this sounds silly, but these kinds of things are what The Secret is about; being clear about what you want and acting as if you already have it.

She was ready for her him to enter her life, but all signs she was giving the Universe were contradicting. From that day forward she started parking on one side of the garage to make room for his car. She made room in her closet for his clothes. She started sleeping on her side of the bed in order to leave a side for him. In true fairytale fashion her fairy godmother did a little bippity-boppity-boo and her perfect mate came into her life.

I don’t know how long it took for him to show up and I don’t know how she remained positive. The Secret uses the story as an example of getting clear on what you want and living like you already have it; being thankful for it everyday.

It’s not as simple as “ask and ye shall receive” tomorrow, and there’s no fortune teller on the boardwalk saying, “your wish is granted,” but it does make one think differently. 

I was affected positively by The Secret. That’s not to say that I believe it’s magic. What I mean is, reading it gave me the tools to act and think more positively than I used to. I say, “thank you” every morning when my feet touch to ground as I’m getting out of my bed. That is the smallest gesture of gratitude I can offer the Universe, but I do it because I am thankful; thankful that I had a good night’s sleep; thankful that I have another day to live, breathe, see, sing, write, and enjoy the life I’ve been given. It seems a no-brainer to start the day by saying, “thank you” now. Funny how it took reading The Secret to understand that.

I don’t have a car and I don’t have the closet space to leave room for a potential mate, but what I could do was sleep on “my” side of the bed. I’ve been doing that for years. There is no mate yet. But the reason for that, I realize, is that I am so unclear with myself and the Universe as to what I want that no amount of sleeping on “my” side of the bed is ever going to bring him magically to my door. 

So, I’m still working on figuring out me: how to be happy with me, how to love me. There will come a time when my happiness will envelope me and might even extend to another person. Until then, there’s no reason that I can’t sleep in the middle of my bed or even diagonally if I choose.

I just have to continue to be thankful there’s a center of a bed to sleep in. Maybe my potential mate likes to cuddle and we’ll share the center. Who knows.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

(A)Shame(d)?


Honesty can be painful. It can be embarrassing. It can be freeing. It can shed light on the dark inner workings of one’s soul.

I’m going to open the honesty door and reveal a truth that from most I keep hidden. Fear of societal judgement causes me to hide this truth, but here it is: I watch pornography. Shocking, I know. Hey, I’m a single, gay man. It’s part of my normal.

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t masturbate to pornography. I don’t deny myself the carnal pleasure of watching two, three, more men engage in sexual activity. Sometimes I try to limit my intake, but that never works. I’ve tried to cut it out cold turkey, but without fail I fall off that wagon; I succumb to the only sexual outlet I seem to be able to count on these days - Porn: men fucking with wild abandon, sexual activity for pleasure, no consequences, beautiful bodies fulfilling a fantasy that doesn’t exist in the real world. 

Here’s an example: I’m walking down the street. I make eye contact with a hot guy. He looks at me as we pass. I wait the requisite three-seconds, if my patience holds out, and turn to look again, hoping he too has turned to catch another glimpse. More often than not he doesn’t turn. There’s no impending sexual explosion; no sex in the alley or inside a beautiful, Manhattan hotel room with fantastic views. When I stop to question why the person didn’t turn to look at me like I turned to look back at him I then realize I’m not living in a pornographic scenario. Duh! Combining your “sexy” smile with that smoldering, come hither look that you practice in the mirror might make the soufflĂ© rise, but doesn’t mean anyone is going to eat it. 

When I finally got around to watching the film Shame I quickly saw that there was more to it than the gorgeous-bodied-and-not-afraid-to-show-it-off Michael Fassbender. Those piercing eyes. The smile that works as a smirk or a full blast of teeth. That penis that makes one covet. It’s a film in whose central character I could see myself due to his inability to connect or be vulnerable.

Fassbender plays Brandon Sullivan, a seemingly intelligent man; a man of means; a man who happens to be strikingly handsome; a man with the inability to open his heart to love someone, or himself. Brandon funnels all his self loathing into getting off. He needs to have sex or some sort of sexual experience. During sex is when he’s at his best, when he most loves himself. During sex is when he doesn’t have to think about anything, least of all how disappointed he is in his life. His outlets for sexual activity range from watching porn (he cums, he turns it off), to video chatting on websites (he cums, he closes the laptop), to the purchase of escorts (he cums, they go). There is no connection. There is no intimacy. There is no vulnerability. For a fleeting moment the flowing blood and tingling nerves replace everything in his life and transport him to a place where debt, work, family and yes, his self loathing doesn’t exist. 

I am so familiar with this scenario. Okay, so I know sex is connecting; it can be intimate and there’s certainly vulnerability, but you’re not really letting anyone in. It’s physical intimacy; it’s physical vulnerability. It’s not emotional. With a sex-only life, one never has to get to know another person. Words that are exchanged include: are you negative? when was the last time you were tested? top or bottom? what do you like to do? yeah, baby! i’m cumming! bye.

When I do find someone that shows the slightest bit of interest in me, I usually end up chasing him away because I don’t know how to interact with him. My desire for a sexual connection is so strong, so desperate sometimes, that I pursue it like a needy child. It’s no surprise that he then avoids me as if his life depended on it. I know how to be sexual. I know how to use the sex outlets Adam4Adam and Grindr - showing my pics to potential partners, allowing the pics to do all the work - I don’t seem to know how to just flirt, talk, be me. It’s never been more evident to me that I don’t know how to flirt with a potential mate than when I’m flirting with a gay-friendly straight man or gay man who’s in a relationship. There’s no possibility for rejection and I can flirt with no consequences. In those moments, I’m just being me - comfortable, at ease, flirty me. I’ve begun to question why I can’t be me in a situation that might gain me something incredible in my life. Question: What am I so afraid of? Answer: I’m intimidated by men who might actually be interested in me. 

I watched Brandon struggle and suffer with his addiction to sex in stunned silence. At one moment I realized I wasn’t moving. I was so still that I felt it, if that makes sense. My mouth was even slightly agape. This must be what Blanche Devereaux feels like when she’s, “... stunned, just stunned! Stunned is the only way to describe how, stunned I am!” You see, while watching Shame I saw myself. No, I don’t go out in search of (and consistently achieve) sex like the character in the movie. I don’t pay for escorts. I don’t Skype or FaceTime sexually. But I need to get off just like Brandon. My desire overwhelms me sometimes. Brandon’s life is unfulfilled. There is such sadness. Sex does not make a life; it enhances life, but can’t be all there is to life. I am unfulfilled. Frequently it’s out of pure boredom that I masturbate. I wish for a sex partner, a life partner, something, but how much of myself am I willing to give? Mostly I just aim for the release and the goodbye.

Staying on the topic of boredom, I’ve recognized lately I get bored with porn. Seriously, I’m watching two beautiful men have sex, maybe even wishing one of them was here with me, and I get bored. It’s not exciting enough. I press pause, open a new tab on my computer and go in search of something hotter, dirtier, kinkier. Something that will help me get off one more time. 

According to the article “Sacrificing Sex for Porn” by Alexandra Katehakis, published May 15, 2012, in The Huffington Post, “Pornography usage is all about being alone and isolated, it’s voyeuristic by definition, and about a constant search for surprise, novelty, and even shock at times.” Who am I? How will this affect me the next time I’m with an actual breathing human being? 

Tom Matlack recently posted a blog via The Good Men Project, that I reposted here on my own blog, called “25 Things I Want My Sons To Know.” Number 5 says, “There’s nothing wrong with looking at porn, but having sex with someone you care about is a thousand times more fun.” I question my own ability to get out of the porn scenes that run through my head and have fun with a flesh and blood person. Katehakis goes on to say in her Huffington article, “Use enough porn and, like the alcoholic over time, you’ll go numb to feeling pleasure in everyday life.” What is this doing to me? What am I doing to myself?

I can connect. I’ve done it before. Trying to connect can be so frustrating though. “Courting another for the sake of seeking sexual contact requires human interaction, touch, smell, gazing into someone’s eyes, and making yourself vulnerable. Who needs that?!”  Again Katehakis puts my thoughts into words. I’m so much more charming and sexy in my head than what often comes out of my mouth. It’s so much easier to find that 20 minute clip and just get off. Wait. Did I say easier? The search for right clip can be endless. Don’t even get me started on the amount of time wasted trying to find that right clip. I sometimes wonder what I could have accomplished with all that time. No use crying over spilled orgasm.

Desire and sex are twins that can control our lives. Part of the problem I have in my own life, apart from realizing that I don’t live in a porn scenario, is that I proclaim to want someone, to want intimacy with a person, but if I’m honest, I don’t know if I know how to be emotionally intimate anymore. I think there was a time when I did. The truth is I understand better the immediate gratification of the hook up more so than the emotional satisfaction of a caring relationship; the coming together for nothing more than pleasure and the going home. It’s my uncomfortable comfort zone. I’ve never really gotten past the emptiness that it causes me though. I think Brandon felt the same way. He was empty. His life was full of nothing but sex and the next opportunity to cum. When those opportunities didn’t present themselves, he created them - at work locked in the bathroom stall, at home when his sister (I’ll get to her) was finally out of the apartment, or the rock bottom moment when he went into a gay bar and followed a man to a dirty back room and allowed him to suck his dick. That is rock bottom. A heterosexual man in need of sex so desperately that he allows a man to suck his dick just to get off. The look of disgust mingled with pleasure that filled Brandon’s face was brilliantly conveyed by Michael Fassbender. It was heartbreaking. If I’m going for honest, it was hot and heartbreaking. It might have even been a little disturbing.

Now for Brandon’s sister. Sissy Sullivan. Sad, desperate Sissy Sullivan. She ended up in Brandon’s apartment because of trauma with her boyfriend. She seemed to be left with no where else to go; no other family to turn to. One could only wish for her anyone other than Brandon. She throws his world into chaos. In his mind his life is pristine, in order. Her life is vagabond. She has no stability. His way of dealing with life is sex. With her at his home he can’t have sex. Turmoil and frustration ensue. She is just as damaged as Brandon, but in a different way. Sissy wants to be loved - by the man who’s breaking up with her via phone, by her brother who is more annoyed than happy to see her. She’s full of sadness. She’s lost. She’s desperate for human connection just like her brother, but they act out in different ways. He’s a sex addict. She’s a cutter. That’s one fucked up family tree. Stacked on top of one another in the City that never sleeps. I recognize this frustration. I recognize myself in both of these characters. I recognize my desires. I recognize my longings. I recognize my breaking point. I recognize myself.

Brandon had a moment of clarity in the film where he threw away all of his pornographic material: all magazines, all videos, vibrator, even his computer. Tied it all up in a black trash bag and put it out on the street in New York City. The lady with her buggy looking for tin cans that night was going to get more than she bargained for by opening that trash bag. I’ve done that - thrown away all porno magazines and videos before in an effort to cut it from my life. In an effort to force myself to try to meet people. And wouldn’t you know that’s what Brandon tried. He attempted a real date with wine, dinner and...small talk. 

What a challenge. It was awkward. Maybe even a little intimidating. He didn’t know how to connect on that kind of emotional level and just be himself and let someone in. That scene held the most intimate conversation in the film and may have been its most uncomfortable to watch. Brandon doesn’t know how to be himself. Maybe he doesn’t know who he is. He’s uncomfortable. He can’t open up.

His small talk included a statement about people in restaurants, who’ve been together for years, being boring, how conversations don’t happen anymore. He doesn’t know how to sit in comfortable silence with a partner. I understand that. I tend to always feel like I should be trying to make conversation. It’s an impulse. If we’re uncomfortable we want to fill the silence. The only time I don’t feel this way is when I’m with one, or both, of my best friends of 20 years. We can be silent together and there’s nothing uncomfortable about it. Of course I’m not sleeping with, or trying to sleep with, either of them. 

I’ve only had one relationship with a lover in my life and it lasted seven months. Brandon’s longest relationship was four months. I could feel how uncomfortable he was, but I knew that if he was naked with the woman he would be in his element; the only place he’s in control and feels comfortable and knows what to do. The end of the date was awkward. What do you do when sex is not an option? A few days later he approached the woman from the date at work and they went to a hotel for a lunchtime rendezvous. In the moment of purest, truest intimacy the girl stopped kissing him and looked into his eyes while caressing his cheek. He took pause and tried to be present in her moment of intimacy and to give himself over to it. He couldn’t. He tried to move the situation into the direction from which he gains his power and couldn’t get erect. His power was as fizzled as Samson’s strength after Delilah had a servant cut off his hair. The moment was too personal, too intimate. In a moment of weakness he’d let her in. Now, because of fear, or any other reason you can name, he couldn’t have sex her. 

If I’m attracted to someone sexually I never think about having coffee or a drink or dinner with him. I think about how to get him naked. If he doesn’t want to go there with me, I take offense. Truth! Brutal honesty from the shallowest part of my personality. I get offended that my body is not the object of his desire. He should be offended at me for looking at him as merely a piece of meat. I wanted Brandon’s date to work out. I wanted him to be able to have sex with her at their lunchtime encounter. I must admit though, I wasn’t surprised by the ultimate outcome. 

As much as I may talk of finding someone in which to share my life, proper or sexual, there is nothing like the feeling I get when it’s just me alone with my computer and the images of guys going at it with wild abandon. I didn’t realize that the dopamine in our brains that gets released when watching pornography can literally rewire our brains. We can become stimulated by merely opening our laptops especially when we’re opening it to begin our porn search. Do you know that our frontal cortex can actually change so drastically from chronic porn use that we become unable to get erect for actual sex? “Your brain is numb to real-life sexual encounters due to overstimulation by pornographic images, so it can barely send signals to your penis to stand up,” says Katehakis. I had no idea. Katehakis goes on to give a thought provoking analogy to describe what happens to us. “If you put [a] frog in boiling water, it hops out. If you put it in cool water and slowly turn up the heat, it will never feel its demise.” Am I not even feeling my demise, my separation, my isolation?

Intimacy issues, vulnerability concerns, frontal cortex problems. Good Lord! Only a gorgeous Tom Ford tux is going to hide this mess.

I’m too scared to experience most of my sexual desires for myself so I hide and relieve my tensions in the privacy of my room where no one can judge me for being too vanilla or too aggressive or too shy or too kinky. In this privacy I can be who I want to be without sharing me with another person; without letting another person help me evolve, explore and develop the me that explodes in secrecy.

“Of all sexual actions, masturbation remains the most difficult one to discuss openly,” says Mels van Driel in his May 31, 2012, article “Facts and Fantasies About Masturbation” published in The Huffington Post. “When it is good it is a strictly personal experience, which many people have learned quite wrongly is dirty, sinful, shameful or even unhealthy. It is, however, the most common human sexual expression and is perfectly normal.”

So I come to end of this piece and I’m left with questions. Should I be ashamed? Am I disgusting? Am I a cynical New Yorker who can’t allow himself to commit to anyone because someone better might be just around the corner, but when no one better is, gets angry at what he doesn’t have? Should I be ashamed that sex is constantly on my mind? Am I a normal (define normal) man? Should I be ashamed that I masturbate often? Should I be ashamed that I use pornography? That last question is the one I pose to myself most often. I still have no answer.

Honesty can be painful. It can be embarrassing. It can be freeing. It can shed light on the dark inner workings of one’s soul.

shame: the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.