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?

Bow Down for “Boy Band”

There might be a few of you who are familiar with the new ABC reality competition, “Boy Band”. I say “a few” with minimal sarcasm, because aside from a handful of well-targeted social media ads, I have not observed a whole lot of buzz about it. It aired toward the end of June and is now about 6 episodes in.

Most of you are probably assuming that I would have dove in head first on Day 1 and not come up for air since, which would not be unjust…but this assumption would be inaccurate. My interest was piqued, for sure, but I had a lot of hesitations about it.

First, I was just straight-up confused, because I mistook it for the scripted series spearheaded by Zayn Malik that I had been promised previously, titled “Boys”, and thought that the producers had dropped their balls and resorted to yet another unnecessary and unoriginal reality series instead. Shame on me for not reading up more carefully. Who could commit such an error?

Second, it just…didn’t seem relevant.  Which I hate to say, because I always want boy bands to be relevant. But aside from One Direction’s half-decade heyday, there hasn’t been a substantial demand for boy bands since the early 2000s, so I didn’t see the need for supply. In short, It felt like they were trying to make fetch happen.

As the release date approached, I did a bit of research. And by “research” I mean I sat through the “meet the boys” segment on the series’ Instagram story. As I had expected, I was greeted with 30 perfectly chiseled faces with expertly coifed hair, carefully constructed outfits and panty-dropping smiles. All between the ages of 14-19, which seemed like a ridiculous age to embark on such a journey until I remembered that was a standard set by the boy bands of my era and I’m just old and regretful. There was an impressive range (from my caucasian perspective) of ethnic diversity, but for the most part, the guys all looked relatively the same.

Personally… I was bored.

I know that sex appeal is a gigantic factor in a boy band’s success, but I got the impression that the casting team was relying too heavily on looks before giving their vocals or (god forbid) their personalities a chance to shine. With a package so pristinely decorated, I couldn’t help but question the quality of the actual contents, so I did not approach with high hopes.

When I finally took the plunge, my expectations weren’t immediately proved inadequate. There were a lot of fine voices, but none that really stopped me in my tracks. Save for one, who ended up being the first one kicked off. Because fuck my opinions. What reeled me in almost instantly, though, were the judges: my idols from my pre-teen years, Backstreet Boy Nick Carter and Spice Girl Emma Bunton, along with Timbaland, whom I was not very familiar with as a personality but won me over within five minutes. All of them, as well as host Rita Ora, gave some of the most solid feedback that I’ve seen on any reality competition, while still contributing to a fun, “we’re all in this together” atmosphere. Encouraging, and completely sincere.

Once the competition was officially underway, my perspective began to warp. I watched as the boys rotated and formed new bands every week (Six weeks, which I consumed in two days. Naturally.) I watched as the judges developed relationships with the contestants. I watched them all work together to create music together, and about halfway through, I had an epiphany:

This show may be the best antidote for toxic masculinity that I have ever seen.

And I know that’s a bold statement, but hear me out.

The last time reality TV was used to create a boy band, it was the very first “Making the Band”, where late record producer scumbag Lou Pearlman auditioned naive talent to form what eventually became O-Town. My memories are faint, but I recall a substantial amount of conflict and egotism, as well as Lou’s unsubtle and unbridled greed.

Now…here…we have eighteen teenage boys, who are constantly being rotated throughout different teams, selflessly supporting each other without hesitation, hugging and showing each other physical affection, crying together when the time is right, and overall, just not giving a damn about their masculine presentation. There was one moment where a singular ego disrupted the flow of things… but that was it. And sure, there’s a bit of talk about making the girls go nuts, but it is far from a priority for anyone. It is mainly about the music and the bonding for everyone. It’s pretty magical, to be real with you.

The moment that really rocked my socks off to the fullest was on an episode that was dedicated to movie soundtracks. The first band, ‘All In’, performed “How Far I’ll Go” from Disney’s Moana. If any insecurities emerged here, or during any of the other songs the boys sang that were made famous by female vocalists, they were promptly edited out. But when the song began, I bit firmly into my fist, waiting to see how tragically they would alter the lyrics to be more becoming of a group of young men. The answer: none. My fist flew from my lips to the air as Sergio Calderon sang “I wish I could be a perfect daughter”, as if nothing was unusual. As if to say, “What? I might be a perfect daughter. You don’t know my life.” My emotions were amplified exponentially when 19-year-old father Chance Perez brought his daughter (who is a *huge* Moana fan, I hear) up on stage to meet the crowd. That. Shit. Was. Precious.

I feel odd putting this much weight on a reality competition, as I have been dismissive of the value of almost every single one that’s existed in a decade and a half, but there is something very special happening here. A show that encourages sensitivity, allows room for growth, and refuses to capitalize on failure… especially with a cast full of young men…is groundbreaking, I feel. If you have even an ounce of patience for pop music… preferably a ravenous thirst for it… I encourage you to give the show a watch.

 

Perverts of the World: Unite?

After I attended my first kink event, I discovered a need that I didn’t know I had. A new appetite that would now need to be satisfied. It was a lot like acquiring a new pet: Overall it’s a big bundle of joy, but it’s also another mouth you have to feed, and you end up buying a lot of weird new toys and only a few of them get played with. Since then, I have been on a constant search for more consistent playmates within a reasonable radius of my dwelling.

Spoiler alert: my success rate has not been high.

Between various apps and websites and, well… everywhere booty calls are sold, I have consistently described myself as “kinky”. And I’ve received a reasonable amount of inquiries about my more taboo interests, but time and again it wasn’t a match. And that’s putting it lightly.

After a great many disappointing discussions, I began to pick up on a theme. A motif, if you will:
Dudes would ask me what I’m into.
I would respond: “Fucking, groups, rough play, dirty talk, impact play, bondage.”
I would ask them the same question.
They would respond: “Dirty jockstraps, sneakers, sniffing pits, piss.”
And I would think, “Well, that’s a whole lotta hard limits for me.” (Minus the watersports. I’m totes down.)

I’m not about to try to prescribe anyone else’s definition of kink, but when I think of kink (yeah, poetry!) I think of…you know…whips and chains, handcuffs, smack ‘er little booty up with my belt. In technical terms, BDSM. The activities that these other guys came at me with fell more into the category of what many refer to as “pig play”, which is primarily focused on *ahem* bodily secretions. And excretions. Yeah.

I racked my brain for years, trying to figure out why there was such a divide between two worlds in terms of what “kink” consists of, as well as why no gay man in the entire universe knows what “impact play” means, despite the fact that plenty of us do it. (Hint: Hitting sex. Flogging, Spanking, Whipping. Punching. Love that shit.)

Eventually, it struck me. Well, something did. I can’t claim to be knowledgeable enough to know that it was, in fact, “it.”

The primary element of BDSM is an exchange of power. In most cases, the submissive relinquishes their power, in some capacities, to the dominant, and in return, the dominant provides an exciting experience for both of them (ideally).

However, gay men have already incorporated power exchange into their sexual encounters for years. It is so deeply engrained into our our culture that it is rarely recognized as kink at all. The obsession with the dichotomy of ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ is epidemic, in my professional opinion. It is largely assumed that a bottom is inherently submissive and that the top is inherently dominant, and a gray area is rarely even considered. This leaves little wiggle room for those who may prefer one position over the other, but don’t necessarily want the power, or lack there of, that comes with it. I have long identified myself as a top and gone to great lengths to defend my preferences, but I don’t usually want to be dominant or in charge. I prefer a collaborative effort, on most occasions, and even like to not be in control.

Is your mind blown yet?

Because these roles are so frequently assumed, a lot of gay men don’t bother with the negotiation processes that are the literal backbone of the pan kink scene. For example, if I say that I’m a bottom, most prospective partners assume that I not only like to get fucked, but that I also like to be tied up, spanked, humiliated, etc., and if I say I’m a top, it’s assumed that I am happy to take control without hesitation. I recently had a new partner who assumed that if he made a lot of noise while I fucked him, that I was going to shove his face into the pillow and tell him to “shut up, you little cunt”. But that’s not my style. I like the moans. I like the screams. They tell me my partner is having fun. And I would have told him this beforehand if he had asked. But he didn’t. So I didn’t. A portion of the blame is mine.

Being sexually bilingual is a skill, I will admit, but it is one that I really wish I didn’t have to acquire to survive. I get off on negotiation, and I know a lot of others that do too. Unfortunately, our anatomies and sexualities are rarely in alignment with each other, so we aren’t able to help each other out. So I soldier on, with this extra appetite hanging around my neck like a papoose…containing something very grumpy and… vaguely human?… waiting for a mate, however casual, who wants to give me what I want, how I want it, by asking me about it with words.