Thursday, September 26, 2013

Cher, Miley and Me

I've been feeling different lately. Very positive, upbeat. I'm taking more risks. I went to a writers' group and actually shared a piece of a work in progress that's been tormenting me for years. I signed up for a dating workshop for gay men. I ended up cancelling because I came home exhausted from a long day of teaching with a stiff neck I woke up with that morning and was now beginning to give me a headache. I shared this with one of my counselors who also noted my overall energy level was very positive and upbeat, though our session was before I didn't make it to the dating workshop. We both wondered where this change came from.

Oh, and Cher's new CD was due out this upcoming week! That's always exciting, for me anyway.

It's very sad to see or hear of someone once close to you making choices in life that conflict with your original image of them. When that happens to someone in my life, I begin to wonder if I really knew that person. When relationships end, often there is a newfound freedom of singleness, or of "Now I can do whatever I want that I wasn't allowed to do before."

I have heard through mutual friends, a certain someone once close to me is leading a very different lifestyle than what I ever imagined he would.

Through the last few years, I have learned we are all responsible for our own choices, and this person is now responsible for himself. I need to let that just be.

If this is what he wants, I hope he finds it.

And when I said that, I knew. That's where the change in me had come from. I'd let go of some of the past. There will always be some difficult and awkward moments between us, but if I was now feeling empathy for him and actually wishing he finds whatever it is he's looking for, I've grown. I've moved forward.

I also realized someone else once very important to me had a birthday and I was filled with an overwhelming desire to wish him a happy birthday. This realization and desire came to me out of the blue, as I didn't feel this way last year. I debated contacting him, as I didn't want to stir up old memories or hurts, for me or for him. (This is my curse of being so empathic.) But, as I am learning to trust my instincts, I followed through. As of today, I have not heard back, and I don't know if I will. And I don't know what I will say if I do hear back. I'll trust in the moment. I don't know where he is in his life now, and whatever he's looking for I hope he finds it.

I think the fact I took that step and wished him a happy birthday also tells me I've moved on.

This sentiment was cemented as I played Cher's new CD, Closer to the Truth and was struck by the chorus in the song, I Hope You Find It,originally recorded by Miley Cyrus:

And I hope you find it 
What you're looking for....

And I hope you're happy,
Wherever you are...

And I mean it.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My New Boyfriend, part 2

In my last post, My New Boyfriend, I responded to a reader's question of what physical qualities in a man make me catch my breath. In short, I described with a masculine, muscular, tall, bearish type man, usually with dark hair and eyes. 

Yet, I have been known to veer away from this. 

Quite far.

A few years ago, a man I met shortly after my divorce asked me if I had ever truly been in love. Immediately, someone surfaced from the recesses of my heart. "Yes," I replied. 

This memorable man was the antithesis of what usually draws my eye; tall, skinny, blond, blue eyes with a wimpy mustache and slight overbite. To this day, he is one of two men I feel I fell in love with. (For the record, I did love both my partners, but I grew to love them, but that initial physical attraction was not there. A big difference.)  

So, why do I feel I fell in love with this tall, skinny, blond? And why did he make such an impact on my heart?

Because we connected on so many levels; spiritual, age, education, communication. We did not set out to be boyfriends, lovers or husbands.

We were friends first.

We met around 1985 at a Gay Christian Bible study. He was searching for answers, and I had some. We hung out together, he invited me to his church's young adult volleyball night. Some of them knew he was struggling with the church and the closet door. The more time he and I spent together, not thinking about dating, sex, or romance, and just sharing, talking, and supporting each other (he was there for me when I came out to my family) the more I opened up and fell in love with him. 

I finally told him. 

He loved me, too. As a friend.


But, he did acknowledge we would have an amazing relationship, if....

Would have, if....?

Yes, those were his words. 

I must give him credit, for he knew he wasn't ready for the type of relationship he saw we could have. He was still coming out, one hand still on the church door.  He also felt he needed to explore himself more sexually. He said I didn't deserve that. I deserved someone who was ready to settle down, someone who had no more questions, someone who knew who he was. I loved him all the more for that. 

At first, I wanted to wait for him. Eventually, I had to move on. And then away from him. We haven't spoken to each other since 1996 when we both attended a memorial service for a friend, and even then, some eleven years after I walked away, it still hurt.

Maybe my lesson here is not to focus on the package, but the contents. I would agree, but I also want to add there has to be some physical attraction, and some attention to one's own instincts. And this time, I will pay attention to both.

The Friend Zone is a tricky place. Yet, in my opinion (and experience) most of the successful relationships begin with friendship and then evolve into something greater. The idea, though, is not to limit oneself when meeting someone and that's not an easy thing to do, as many of us, gay and straight alike, meet someone and in the back of our minds we begin thinking of the possibilites: friend, lover, spouse, trick, none of the above.

Because I believe a solid friendship was lacking in my past relationships, I really want that this time. 

I want my boyfriend, to be my boyFRIEND.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

My New Boyfriend

I may come off as superficial and shallow in this post, but I'm learning not to care what others think of me. So, I don't care if you think I am superficial and shallow.

After a recent post, a reader asked what a man has to be like in order to pique my physical interest. And that got me thinking about my two relationships. Because neither of them did, at first.

It's funny, but after they both ended, people told me they expected my partners to be somewhat different, that neither of them looked like what they expected my partner to look like, that we didn't look like we belonged together so I must have seen something deeper in them. To which they gave me credit.

Maybe that's what the problem was. We didn't even look like we belonged together. And maybe what I thought was deeper, wasn't deep enough for me.

In the three years I've been single, I have been reflecting on the mental/spiritual/chronological/emotional/financial qualities I'm looking for in a boyfriend/potential husband, and maybe I haven't considered the physical attraction enough.

So, this time, I'm going to pay more attention to it. 
To that end....

I want my boyfriend to be hot like....Ben Cohen. Ben is a British rugby player who is taking a stand against bullying with his Stand Up Foundation. He was recently asked to participate in Britain's version of Dancing with the Stars, and was quoted as hoping for a male partner. I love his attitude, his muscles, and the fact that this openly straight man is so comfortable with himself only adds to his sexiness. But, his heterosexuality, as well as his wife and daughters, are major drawbacks to our getting together. I'm not a home-wrecker.

Or, I want my boyfriend to be hot like.....Brian Sims. Brian is the first openly LGBT person to be elected to the House of Representatives in Pennsylvania. He has recently introduced legislation to ban conversion therapy against minors in Pennsylvania and has previously introduced marriage equality legislation. One of Rep. Sims' most famous quotes came after a discussion in April, 2013 on abortion when he said to the Speaker of the House, "Each of us put our hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. We did not place our hands on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible." Some drawbacks to our getting together would be my unwillingness to relocate to Pennsylvania; ironically, my first partner's home state, as I hear the winters are a bitch. And I'd be in the spotlight as a State Representative's boyfriend, potentially campaigning for his elections. I'm a bit more shy and reserved than that role would require. And as he's even younger than my ex, that puts him on the AI list (Age Inappropriate), which I might be able to overlook, just maybe not those Pennsylvania winters.
It seems I tend to be drawn to muscly, bearish masculine men, who also come off as genuine nice guys. Yet, I have found myself attracted to men who weren't quite as muscly or as bearish. (I'm not talking about my past partners here. Neither were muscly or bearish at all.)  What drew me to the not-as-muscly/bearish men was their intelligence, their passion, their confidence. And yes, I did think they were handsome. 

So, now you know. I'm superficial and shallow. But, I have been drawn to a man for a variety of reasons other than his looks; intelligence, passion, creativity, confidence, compassion, to name a few. And all of those added to his overall attractiveness. But, this time I will pay a bit more attention to 'a hotness factor' in addition to those other qualities of what I want in a partner. After all, I think I deserve a partner I could salivate over and who piques a bit more than my brain. I want him for a little more of the whole package, not just for his own package.
And not just because he shows an interest in me.

That's not superficial, is it? 

I think it's only natural.

For more information on Rep. Sims, click here.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Social Medium

Social Media can be a wonderful thing. 

It can also go horribly wrong.

But, I'm not going there.

I prefer the former. It's a more positive thought.

Facebook has allowed me to re-connect with some of my long-lost cousins, family friends and college pals. And it has brought wonderful people into my life from around the world.

Twitter has brought me a wonderfully supportive group of writers/bloggers who have become my tribe! Some of whom I've had the privilege of meeting personally, the rest I hope to meet one day.

LinkedIn has connected me with some of the above people on a professional level, and now with someone on a more personal one. 

And this last connection has brought me a glimpse of myself.

I received an invitation to join a network from a friend who had drifted away. It was this friend who had introduced me to my now ex-husband. I accepted his invitation, and suggested we get together soon. About four days later, I received his reply and in short he said it was good to hear from me, that he and his partner had celebrated a milestone anniversary, and were doing well and he hoped the husband and I were doing well. Ouch. 

Since my mind is an active one and I have a mind for details and memories, I went back to a particular conversation nearly twenty years ago;

"Jeff, you really should meet our friend."

"No, I need time to explore more of who I am. I've only been widowed about six months and I still need time to grieve."

"Yes, but just meet him. He's a nice guy."

"I'm sure he is, but I need to get to know myself a bit better."

"Okay, but...."

He eventually wore me down. I figured if I met his friend, my friend would be quiet about it.

So, I met my now-ex, and was not initially impressed. I even remember wondering what could my friend have been thinking! Did he not know me at all? But as time wore on and we spent more time together, he grew on me. My ex, not my friend. 

But, that's in the past. It has brought me here today.

I answered my friend's answer via email, not via LinkedIn, and explained to him I was now single. I left out all the other gory details and particulars as to how the friend he once knew no longer resembles the man I now know. If he asks, I'll tell; if not, I won't. But, good gossip is good gossip. But, is it gossip, if it's true?

But, this recollection got me thinking. Why didn't I listen to myself? Why didn't I trust my instinct? 

Because that was then, and I didn't know how.

And because, I liked the fact I was getting some attention. (Don't we all?) Here was someone who was interested in me. While that's a powerful aphrodisiac, it doesn't make for a good relationship especially when it comes at you full force like a hurricane. I let it continue, because I really didn't know what I wanted in a relationship, in life or at that moment. I let it continue because I liked having someone interested in me, someone who didn't play games. He was very clear from the beginning in showing me what he wanted. I was overwhelmed with it all. What should have been, in essence, a rebound for me turned into a nearly sixteen year long full blown relationship, complete with marriage certificate, divorce decree, and all the pain and suffering that comes with it.

It also came with some happy memories, when I stop and think about them.

But, lessons came along as well. 

Hopefully, I'll trust myself a little more this time. 

Just because someone shows an interest, it doesn't mean I will marry him.

It might not even mean he wants to marry me.

He might just want a friend.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

I Take the Plunge

I took the plunge and asked someone out.

No, not the cute plumber in the picture.

But, a guy who I suspected was showing some interest in me.

There were subtle signs; some seemingly exceptional customer service, a couple of hugs at his place of business, a couple of comments, "It's good to see you again"; "I'm sorry I'm so sweaty" (as he was giving me one of those hugs.)

As I am learning to be in the moment in most areas of my life, it's the dating moments that are the hardest. I know I've said I'm not looking, and while I still am not ACTIVELY LOOKING for a relationship, I will not look the other way when the Universe offers me something to look at. How else will I learn to navigate the treacherous waters of the dating pool? How else will I separate the wheat from the chaff; the goats from the sheep; the jackasses from the stallions? How else will I get to understand the enigma that is gay men?  How else will I get to know myself better?

And here, I have learned a bit more about myself.

With the evidence mentioned above, I suspected he might be interested in going out. I began to think about what I would do if he asked me. Or, did I want to ask him? And from there my mind went into a million scenarios. I was no longer in the moment. I did feel drawn to him; yet, there was something nagging at me telling me this would not work as a relationship, that this was some kind of mismatch, and this was all before we'd even had any serious conversation or before I even found out if he was indeed gay. And I couldn't figure out why I was doing this, yet again.

Because old habits die hard.

Yes, he was cute, in an off-beat kind of way. And yet, I was still drawn to him, still believing anything serious wouldn't work. I thought about it, and realized I wasn't physically drawn to him; yet, I couldn't get him off my mind. Especially when I was home alone with all the time to let my mind wander. Then when I would see him, my gut instinct kicked in, "You still haven't found what you're looking for." Was I attracted to him because I thought he was a nice guy? Yes. Was I attracted to him just because I thought he was showing me some interest? Yes. Was I attracted to him physically? No.

So, when I meet men who seem nice, who may show some interest in me, maybe have a bit of conversation, though I may not be drawn to them physically, I'm off thinking we're settling in together, even though I sense a strong disconnect between us.

Red flags immediately went up!
I recognized my ex here. I remember growing to feel attracted to my ex because he was showing interest, because he was a nice guy (back then) but, there was no immediate physical attraction. In fact, I remember wondering what my friends were thinking when they thought we'd make a nice couple. And yet I still dated him, and later grew to love him, though early on there were several other warning signs I ignored.

Not wanting to compare the new guy to the ex, (after all, that's not fair) I decided I would just be in the moment and if I wanted to ask him out the next time I had the opportunity, I would. I would just let things develop, but I would be honest with myself, and with him. Yet, I was still questioning myself as to why I was doing this. I still wasn't sure of his interest in me; was I a client, or a potential boyfriend? And if he was interested in me as a boyfriend, was it fair to lead him on knowing it would have to end sometime?

It's this kind of thinking that keeps getting me in trouble, and I need to stop it. It keeps me from being hin the moment.

I had business at his establishment twice more, and the first of the two times, the opportunity to ask him didn't present itself.

This last time, it did.

Our transaction complete, and following some brief conversation, with my heart pounding and my mouth dry, I asked if he would be interested in meeting for coffee sometime, and he looked at me and said, "I'd love to, but I'm married." (I never saw that coming.) I said that was fine, it didn't matter, and he responded that just a cup of coffee couldn't hurt. Okay, so maybe it wasn't the best response, and I'm not sure what gender his spouse is, (though, a straight man would probably have said he was straight to avoid any possible misunderstanding).

Once he said he was married, a huge relief was lifted off my shoulders. While I realized I was not physically drawn to him, the attraction was still there. And the attraction was to his being a nice guy, a possible friend. His honesty and integrity of telling me upfront that he was married endeared him to me even more.We left it with the fact he has access to my number in my file at the business, and I suggested he call me. I felt awkward asking a married man for his number, even if my conscience was clear.

If he calls, he calls.

If he doesn't, at least I took the plunge and asked.

Because if you never ask, the answer is always, "No."