The Inkening

I’ve done a lot of changing over the last two years. My body has changed. My relationships have changed. My mental health has become an unpredicatable spin cycle, which may or may not be slowing down in the coming months but is definitely improving. I’m not going to pretend it has all been enjoyable. Honestly, most of it hasn’t been. But I’m feeling optimistic about the growth that’s come with it.

Anyway, that’s enough inspiration porn. On to the point.

The most recent change? New ink!

Apollo on my right.

After sitting on this plan for four and a half years, I finally got my second tattoo. And my third. A symmetrical pair of images flanking me on either side by way of my biceps.

The images here represent the Greek gods Apollo, god of music, healing, prophecy and light, and Dionysus, god of wine, ecstasy, revelry, and theatre.

In addition to being, essentially, my favorite superheroes penned by an ancient civilization, their dichotomy is a long-running philosophical concept. A lot of credit for this concept has been given to Neitzche and his work The Birth of Tragedy, but it actually predates this particular work. Apollo represents rational thinking and order, while Dionysus represents irrationality and chaos. It’s like a gay artsy yin yang. This dichotomy is most often applied to creative works, in that a work must have a healthy balance of both influences to be effective. Even the most perfectly crafted play, film, book, whatever, must have at least a little bit of madness to it.

The concept of the Apollonian and Dionysian was first introduced to me by author Joel Derfner, when I interviewed him for my senior thesis and first solo show, “VGL 5’4″ Top”. I quickly realized that the balance between these two elements explained the way I experience art and theatre and… well… just about everything. These were already the two deities that I derived the most inspiration from since I was very young, and to learn that they were connected, in a way, dramatically altered and enhanced the way that I consume art and observe the world around me.

Dionysus on my left.

In the months leading up to my first appointment, I carefully contemplated not only why it was important to me to get these tattoos, but always why I was getting tattooed in general.
1) There are days when I need to be reminded of what drives me, what inspires me, and that something or someone has my back when I may not be able to motivate myself. While I’m not a particularly religious person, the ideas that these two figures represent give me that encouragement.
2) It’s an expression of body-positivity. I’ve been struggling with my own a lot for the last few years. And it made sense to me that one of the best ways to show love for myself was to give my body some decoration. In a culture where we are constantly told that our bodies are wrong and need to be fixed, it only makes sense that one make a drastic choice that establishes their body as the unique vessel that it is. It’s a reminder that my body is mine. It is beautiful, it is individual, and it is correct.

My inner demons nagged at me quite a bit during this period, inspiring doubt that I wouldn’t be able to wear these images with grace. But you know what? I think I’m digging the tatted look. What do you think?

This may or may not be a thirst trap.

Oh, by the way, this fabulous ink was done by Alicia Thomas at Boston Tattoo Company in Somerville. I would recommend her 100%.

An Update on Life, for Lack of a Better Description

Hi. Hello. Welcome back to my long-forgotten lair. I hope you find it comfortable. Please ignore the dust. The bats are as harmless as they are adorable. I’ll light a few candles to disguise the smell.

When last we met, I had…feelings. Lots of them. Loneliness…hopelessness…sexual frustration… I was like an anthropomorphic portrayal of Pandora’s box. I had little to go on besides a piece of paper from my insurance company that included the words “Generalized Anxiety Disorder”, which was like an initial spark on a beacon of hope that someone effeminate young boy scout (who really didn’t want to be a boy scout but his insecure parents made him do it) was trying to light with a couple rocks and a faggot.

Did I just compose that sentence so that I could use the word “faggot” in that context for the first time in my entire life? Maybe. Probably.

Anyway, earlier this year, my therapist (who is definitely not a psychiatrist and while I don’t entirely know what the differences are, I know they are prominent) suggested I see a psychiatrist, in hopes of finding a medicinal cure for whatever it is that ails me. He suspected Bipolar Disorder, but I thought that seemed unlikely. If I was bipolar, I was pretty sure I was getting the short end of the manic stick. (Also, Manic Stick is the name of my new Scissor Sisters cover band.) But through my conversations with others, Bipolar did not sound like the likely culprit. However, I was still fairly certain that depression and anxiety were in the picture somewhere.

I set up an intake appointment at the health center where I already get my primary care. The psychologist I spoke with asked me a bunch of questions to measure what shapes and colors of busted my brain was to see if I was eligible for psychiatric treatment. He also found it peculiar that anyone would think I was bipolar, which added as many question marks as it did exclamation points to my situation, but several weeks later he called me and said I was cleared to register for psychiatry (I don’t know if I’m using any of the right lingo here but I’m using the words I know to get you to understand what the hell is going on.)

I called the office (like, a month later because when you’re depressed you might as well be a snail. But slightly more verbose.) The human on the other end of the line warned me that it would be several months before I could be seen in the behavioral health department, and suggested I talk with my primary care provider about obtaining medication before that time. The glorious hiccup here is that I didn’t know my primary care provider. My previous PCP had just left the practice to open up his own boutique health care situation (which would have been geographically more convenient for me but most certainly would have wreaked havoc on my wallet and therefore no.) I felt kinda crunchy about the prospect of meeting with a new doctor for the first time and asking him for happy pills, but I already had an appointment on the books so thought “what the hell.”

Anyway, about two months ago, I had said appointment with my new PCP(ILF). After we covered the original items on the agenda, I brought up the topic of my Twelve Herculean Labors of trying to not be sad all of them time. I told him what my therapist and I had discussed. I told him what the psychologist and I had discussed. I told him what the psychology coordinator and I discussed. TLDR; “I am quickly learning that my brain is giving itself reasons to constantly be upset and I would like them to stop but everyone is telling me I have to get my remedies from someone else and now here you are.” He listened intently, and told me he’d be perfectly comfortable setting me up with a prescription to help me handle my anxiety and depression. I was gobsmacked. I totally thought it there would be several more hurdles to leap through but sure enough, I went home that day with a month’s worth of Zoloft to try on for size. I knew full well that mental health meds rarely work out on the first go, and that things were likely to get worse before they got better, but I was proud of myself for taking action and very excited about this new doctor.

I understood that I should not expect results for 4-6 six weeks, so I added my meds to my nighttime routine and otherwise tried to forget about it. And for the most part I did. Until about four weeks later when I thought, “Hmmm, it’s been about four weeks”. I felt the same, but chose not to stress about it and shrugged it off. About a week later, however, I noticed something. Nothing super dramatic. But I realized that social interaction seemed…less horrifying? Normally, if I walk into a store, even if I need sooooo much help, if an associate asks me if I need help I yelp “NO I’M FINE” and continue to awkwardly browse by myself. Within that week, though, I found myself going into three different establishments and asking for exactly what I want without stressing about it for an hour beforehand. This is a very big deal. I feel like a lot of people were of the belief that I just chose not to interact with others. That’s not it. In addition to the idea of initiating contact with another human being extremely frightening more often than not, it also just felt…impossible. Like I was opening my mouth to speak and an invisible force would cover my mouth and muffle me.

The transformations continued in the weeks that followed. I found that I was able to focus on work better than before. I was able to interact with other people more comfortably. I was…happy. Sometimes for no reason. For the last few years, my default mood was sadness and anger, and only perked up when given a *very* good reason. Now, I have found a nice neutral default mood, that switches up to happiness much more easily. My self-esteem is significantly more solid, and I’m way less preoccupied with how other people perceive me.

This is comfortable.

I definitely still have my dark days. And I definitely still have a lot of the same problems as before. But they are much more manageable now, and don’t consume my brainspace the way they did before. Things are not perfect, but I’m looking forward to being able to enjoy life more for the foreseeable future.

I think you can expect more from me soon.

 

 

 

Oh, I should also tell you… I did a play. For the first time in seven years, I was in a piece of theatre as someone who was not me.

I Miss This Place

Hello, Bloglets (is this a name we like? I’m experimenting. Bear with me.)

I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. I always do, even when I’m not around. I’ve been turning several thousand things over in my head for quite some time, and I think what I need right now is to just dump it all out and attempt to gain some sense of organization. If you fancy such rubbish, by all means, read away. If it’s not your jam, I won’t be offended. Emotional labor is totally a thing.

Since I moved to Boston, my mental health has been… unusual. Things that have always been there have taken new forms and proven to be more of an obstacle than they ever have been. I’ve always speculated that I suffered from depression in some capacity, but it was never bad enough to drive me to seek out treatment or a diagnosis. I might have some days or nights when I felt lonely or unwanted, but they typically passed by the next morning and all was well-ish (if my memory serves me.) In the months leading up to the move, I had several spontaneous…somethings. I don’t know whether I should call them anxiety attacks, emotional breakdowns, or something completely different. But I had never experienced anything like them and they terrified me. They lasted for several days and I had no idea how to process them so I spent every free moment I had during that time literally hiding under the covers. The anxiety has stayed with me. I’m fairly certain now that it’s always been there, but I misinterpreted it as shyness or introversion. It is rarely as intense as it was during those spells, but when it is, I’ve managed to keep it more or less under control, at least in the presence of others. Whatever it is that’s going on inside me, it’s left me feeling mentally and emotionally… constipated? Paralyzed? A mess, to say the very least. Where I once was able to channel my thoughts and feelings into writing with minimal effort, compiling a well-crafted paragraph has felt nearly impossible. I haven’t even been able to read an entire book since 2016. It’s a truly humiliating feeling for me.

I’ve been seeing a therapist since September. He’s fine. I don’t always feel like he’s able to follow along with the specifics of my weird, sparkly, gay AF life, but he’s given me some helpful tidbits. I’ve become better at recognizing whether my moods are based in reality or not, and stepping out of my own head to analyze my situations and give myself better consult. I don’t have a solid answer as to what may or may not be wrong with me, but I received a piece of paper from my insurance company with the words “Generalized Anxiety Disorder” on it, so there’s that.

This is my brooding face. Adorable, ain’t it?
Photo credit: Mélissa Kooyomjian Kemp

Meanwhile, I’ve also been having a very tumultuous relationship with my body. Early last year, in a fit of frustration, I impulsively purchased a membership to the most affordable and conveniently located gym. Despite the plentitude of doubt I had in myself, I’ve managed to stick with it. I can’t say I personally enjoy the process of working out, as many do. And I can’t say that my results are what I hoped they’d be one year later. But I can say that while my original motivations were based in vanity, I’ve found that my satisfaction has been derived from becoming stronger and doing things I thought my body would never be able to do.

That said, body dysmorphia is still one of the major antagonists in my storyline. When I started this journey, I felt small and weak. Now, while I’m still short, I am noticeably more muscular, but have also put on a lot of weight in places that I would really rather not (read: tummy). I’ve outgrown a great deal of my clothing, even items I just bought this past fall. When I arrived in Boston, I wore an XS t-shirt. Now, I wear a medium. T-shirts actually look better on me than they ever have, which is cool, but now I can’t find a single button-down shirt that doesn’t look atrocious on me. This is a very serious problem for a dapper gentleman such as myself, and I feel completely lost. In this time, I’ve gone through several hundred dollars in wardrobe adjustments (and colored my hair at least half of the colors of the rainbow), but I can’t seem to find an aesthetic that makes me feel like myself.<

Socially, things are fine. I have a great support system here in Boston, but I still feel… lonely… disconnected. I have some the most loyal and encouraging friends I’ve ever had in my life, but there are parts of me that I still don’t know how to share with those that I spend my time with. And it’s not that they wouldn’t care, but they wouldn’t know how to relate. My interactions with gay men are extremely limited, which is a bigger problem for me than I ever would have ever anticipated. And it’s not just because this means that my dating & sex life sucks. I’ve learned that queer comradery is something I deeply need in my life. And this may be the depression and/or anxiety talking, but the gay men I come across don’t seem to find me interesting (and most of them don’t seem so spectacular to me, either).

Burlesque has been both my primary source of joy and the main cause of stress in my life. In Boston, whether I’m performing in a show or just attending, I can’t think of a place where I feel more comfortable in my skin. But the political climate of burlesque nationwide has been incredibly tense as of late, and I’ve lost a lot of sleep over relationships that have been strained and shattered since I left New York. There have been times I’ve wanted to quit completely, and times where I feel like it’s all I have. But my community has lifted me up and shown me sides of myself that I’ve never seen before, and I can’t even begin to gush at how grateful I am for them.

What I’ve learned, though, is that I can’t let burlesque be my dominant creative outlet. Having a separate sexy persona is very empowering, and I would recommend it to anyone, but letting him take the reigns for too long has done a number on my own self-esteem. As much as I love my butt, I have a lot of other skills, traits, and quirks that I’m proud of and want the world to see.

So I’m trying to turn myself around again by putting all spare energy I have into reconnecting with the other aspects of my life that I’ve been missing… sex education, acting, writing. I still have a lot of work to do, but there are several sparks of good things to come that have me feeling hopeful:

  • This week, I gave a guest lecture on sex toys for a class on Sex, Society, & Health at Emerson College. This was my first time doing any kind of sex ed since leaving The Pleasure Chest and while I was rusty, it felt good to be back.
  • Next month I will be entering the workshop rotation at Good Vibrations here in the Boston area. Keep an eye out for details wherever I regularly talk about myself.
  • I’m acting again. Like, actually acting. Playing someone who isn’t me. I’ve been given my dream role, Puck, in a local production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. I never realized how badly I needed this until it happened, and I still get emotional when studying my text, but I’m feeling really positive about everything that’s going on with it.

These events have done wonders to help me feel just a little more like myself, and I’m starting to get a clearer picture of who I want to be and what I want to do. There are still countless components that need be uncovered before they can fall into place, but progress is progress.

Amidst all of this, I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog, and what’s to become of it. I can tell you right now that something needs to change. I have some ideas, but I’m not sure which of them are good. But I know that I’m leagues away from the person I was when I started writing this nearly ten years ago, and my goals have changed drastically. My brand ought to be altered accordingly.

My main question is whether I can be my genuine self in my writing and still appeal to an audience. It seems like everyone wants a blogger who harbors a mysterious surplus of positive energy that they can spread around cyberspace and still manage to keep their own supply well stocked. I don’t have that to offer right now. I don’t know that I ever will. But I don’t want that to stop me from using my experiences and ideas from entertaining and inspiring those who can benefit from it.

To summarize:

  • My mental issues are being addressed, but I’m impatient. I feel like I deserve more happy chemicals in my brain.
  • My body image is in the crapper, but I’m the strongest I’ve ever been in my life. I even have a visible tricep. This is nuts. Now I just need clothes to fuckin’ fit me.
  • Things are mostly great but I’m sad anyway.
  • Burlesque is a blessing and a curse.
  • Things are looking up.

If you made it this far, thank you for reading.

Woes of a Fruitless Fruit

A blog, once ripe with the fruit of first-hand smut and recommended butt plugs, now grows barren. Every now and then, a tiny blossom emerges from one of its short social media branches…a selfie, a message of inspiration, a rant… and it thrives for a brief time, but then is promptly whisked away into the ether. A few still come to visit it, but finding no fresh content, they never stay long. But they all hold out hope that the blog with once again yield sweet fruit.

I feel like a dead tree, is what I’m trying to say here.

This blog used to be my pride and joy. I mean, it still is. I’m proud of the work I’ve done here, and the work I’ve acquired through it.  I never want it to end. But I feel…stuck. I don’t know how to move forward.

A large part of this is: I write a sex blog, essentially. And right now, I barely have a sex life. I realize that I don’t need to being having sex to write about it… Lorde knows I haven’t given graphic detail about the sex I’ve been having in years… but to be plain, it pains me to write about sex for others when I’m so horribly dissatisfied with my own sex life. I can be a bitter, bitter man at times, and this is where these feelings manifest the most often.

I try to write about other things, but it isn’t the same. I would like to discuss more politics, but I’m so distraught about the current state of the world that I can hardly bear to think on it more than I need to. I could try to keep up with pop culture, but I feel l would need to get up way too early in the morning to tackle it before everyone and their mom has already blasted their two cents across the web.

Right now, all I have is complaints, and one thing I absolutely do not want for this blog is for it to become a dumping ground for negativity. So I’m waiting until I have more fertile soil before trying to regrow.

I hope to blossom and thrive again someday soon. Please be patient with me.

Let’s Talk About Self-Love

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”
– Oscar Wilde

“Easier said than done, amiright?”
– Me

The topic of self-love has been uncharacteristically hot in recent years, especially within queer culture. The increasing popularity of social media and seemingly unending urge to broadcast one’s life to the world has sparked a perpetual debate between generations regarding when it is okay to love yourself and how. When we were children, we were read and told countless fairy tales and fables about how horrible it was to be vain. And then we grew up and learned that many adults had been keeping a piece of furniture called a vanity in their bedchamber this whole time, which is a hell of a mixed signal, if you ask me.

Yet, at the same time, we’ve been taught through numerous lessons in our childhood that we ought to Be Yourself™ and not compare ourselves to others, but find contentment from within. Finally, it looks like some of us have actually cracked that code and are ready to spread the good word.

But now, the concept of loving oneself has become so popular that it is being forced on some of us like a blind date we never asked for in the first place.

Last week, comic genius of the internet and creator of “My Drunk Kitchen” Hannah Hart tweeted the following:

The tweet was greeted with a barrage of unsatisfied replies that I don’t think the author had anticipated when she posted it. I, however, was not particularly shocked. See, I’ve heard RuPaul say her infamous variation on this same sentence upwards of a hundred times on “Drag Race” throughout the last decade, and after a few years of persistent praise, fans and critics have been less impressed of late. I, myself, used to feel that twinge of inspiration every time RuPaul said it to her contestants (and viewers) at the end of each episode, but in the last couple years that inspiration statement has been significantly less infectious.

Complaints from the masses largely refer to the implication that those who are mentally ill…who struggle with depression, anxiety, and other conditions that make a person feel unloveable… are therefore incapable of loving another person, which thousands upon thousands of real-life examples will prove is indisputably incorrect. I can’t claim to have been diagnosed with such a condition (yet), but the stories and symptoms resonate with me all the way from my childhood until now, and I firmly stand behind their messages.

I am absolutely not writing this to attack Hannah, because I think she’s the fuckin’ bomb (and here’s a photo of the time I met her in at Housing Works in New York back in 2011 to prove it.) I’m also not necessarily defending her, either. It was a moment of poor taste… especially considering her fan base… but I ultimately believe that it was meant to come from a positive place. But it’s a topic that is close to me right now, and therefore a well-timed device:

I rarely felt pleased with myself as a kid. Even when I did something I was proud of, the feeling never lasted long. In my pre-teen years, it finally became plausible to me the someone might find me physically desirable, but whenever I became comfortable with this, and a little bit excited, a friend would point out my vanity and I would instinctively feel ashamed.

It wasn’t until my third year of college when a close friend called me cocky for the first time. I was overwhelmed with shame upon hearing this, initially, because it was presented to me as if I had done something wrong. But when a former partner heard this news, he was ready to throw me a goddamn party, because he never believed that I loved myself as much as I should and he was proud of me for making such progress.

Flash forward to now, where my self-esteem is at all-time low. Every now and then I get an entire day when I feel good about the person I am, but it hasn’t lasted longer than that in…years, probably. And it’s always one thing at a time. Looks. Brains. Talent. I’ll feel good about one or two of them at a time, but I’m perpetually displeased with the complete package that is me. I’ve apparently developed a subconscious defense mechanism of seeming confident more often than not, but it is, for the most part, a lie, and I really should be getter more acting jobs for it.

It’s interesting, because the only time I was this low was when I was in a relationship that was very short-term, but very emotionally abusive. I was made to feel stupid and invaluable for the longest four months of my life by someone who supposedly cared about me. I’ve had much healthier and more rewarding relationships since then…well, one… but the aforementioned feelings still haunt me despite not having spoken to that person in an unmeasurable amount of time.

Now, I haven’t been in a romantic relationship in close to 7 years. My life has been turned on it’s head more times than I can count. I have a very loving and affectionate community. I have no apparent source for being so down on myself. I just…am. I recognize that it is bullshit, but it is not a thing that is easily rectified. Contrary to popular belief, it is not so simple as flipping a switch.

I acknowledge both Hannah and RuPaul in their intended messages, because I think it is beyond important to encourage people to love themselves when so few do. But we need more than to be told “just do it”. We need stories. We need representation. We need help to understand the reasons we are lovable, when they so clearly escape those who should know them the best. If it isn’t clear to us why we are lovable, how can we expect it to be clear to anyone else?

To quote a popular meme (whose origin is quite literally untraceable at this point):

 

Can I get an amen?