Celebrating 10 years

A couple of weeks ago, Honey and I celebrated our 10th anniversary. Because we aren’t married (and can’t get married in our home state of Kentucky), we annually recognize the day we first met.

We wanted to travel somewhere special for our big year, so we decided on Savannah, Georgia. This was a first visit for both of us, but some of our friends have been there and highly recommended it. We settled on a condo in Tybee Island, which is about 20 minutes from historic downtown Savannah, and made reservations at a few restaurants that looked promising.

Our condo was beautiful and inviting, with floor to ceiling windows facing the Atlantic Ocean. We could sit on our balcony and watch gigantic commercial freighters slowing going out to sea, before they dropped out of sight on the horizon.

1-20150428_180817

View from our condominium.

We visited Paula Deen’s Lady & Sons restaurant for lunch on our second day in town, and it was just as delicious as expected. We walked off some of the buttery goodness with a long trek to Forsyth Park to see the famous fountain filled with mermen.

03-20150429_113728

The Lady & Sons Restaurant in Savannah.

02-20150429_132028

Fountain at Forsyth Park.

01-20150429_132040

Live oaks with Spanish moss in Savannah.

The weather had been overcast and rainy for our first 2 days of vacation, but things changed dramatically when our actual anniversary arrived. I snapped a photo of a beautiful sunrise from our balcony as my heart almost exploded from contentment.

04-20150430_070156

Sunrise on our 10th anniversary!

We learned of a movie being shot on the beach about a mile from where we were staying, so we walked there to do a little snooping. Zac Efron’s character takes his grandfather (Robert DeNiro) to spring break in Daytona Beach, Florida, but they chose Tybee Island for filming because it wasn’t as crowded.

05-20150430_081942

Movie set for Zac Efron and Robert DeNiro movie.

We chose Alligator Soul as our dinner spot for the evening, and it was the nicest restaurant I had ever entered. I felt slightly out of place as our waiter completely reset the table between courses (and even used a crumb scraper on the table cloth), but it was a lovely experience with incredible food.

06-20150430_184304

Lamb chops from Alligator Soul in Savannah.

The next day was our final full day in Tybee Island, so we decided to take advantage of the gorgeous weather with a dolphin tour. I didn’t really have high expectations, but Captain Derek’s Dolphin Adventure knew exactly where to go to get the amazing creatures to interact with the boat. It was definitely one of the high points of our trip!

For our final dinner on vacation, we gorged ourselves on seafood at The Crab Shack. Our “Dinner for Two” included snow crab legs, shrimp, crawfish (yuck), mussels, potatoes, corn on the cob, and sausage. It was pretty amazing. We enjoyed seeing the baby ‘gators outside in the lagoon.

09-20150501_174459

Dinner at The Crab Shack.

08-20150501_184056

Young alligators at The Crab Shack.

It is amazing how fast ten years can go by. I am so proud of our relationship, and so thankful to be sharing my life with such an outstanding person. I am looking forward to the future with great hope (here’s looking at you, Supreme Court!), and I feel like one of the luckiest people alive.

To thine own self be true

Much has been made recently of comments made by Russell Tovey, one of the stars of HBO’s gay-themed Looking. During an interview with the Guardian, he said the following:

I feel like I could have been really effeminate, if I hadn’t gone to the school I went to. Where I felt like I had to toughen up. If I’d have been able to relax, prance around, sing in the street, I might be a different person now. I thank my dad for that, for not allowing me to go down that path. Because it’s probably given me the unique quality that people think I have.

While he has since called his statement “inarticulate,” it is easy to see why so many in the LGBT community found his remarks insensitive and outright homophobic. After all, how many of us grew up in similar circumstances where we often felt the need to hide our true nature from family members and friends in order to fit in with social expectations?

We live in a time when the effeminate male has become a bit of a pariah within the gay community. The standard for a desirable man is often described as “straight-acting,” and many guys are quick to point out they only want masculine, non-effeminate men. Because so many of us exhibit behavior that could be considered feminine, one has to wonder if this is symptomatic of self-loathing within the gay community.

I certainly wasn’t what one would consider a boyish child. Sure, I did my fair share of tree-climbing and the like, but I was just as comfortable playing Barbies with my sister or going shopping with a car full of women. As I got older, there were times when this kind of behavior was discouraged by adults, but most of the negativity I received as a child came from other kids. I absolutely despised being called a sissy. “Only girls play tambourines,” said one boy at church, much to my chagrin.

On the other hand, my maternal grandmother practically encouraged my girlish behavior by saying I should have been born female. She even gave me, my sister, and our two girl cousins matching dolls and strollers for Christmas one year, explaining, “I didn’t want him to feel left out.”

Even though I tried to alter some of what I thought were undesirable traits as I grew older, I never was able to morph into the idealized concept of masculinity. As an adult male, I still have characteristics that most guys would consider feminine. I cry easily while watching television. I love dancing like a slut to Beyoncé music. I worry incessantly about how I look. I’m pretty sure I have at least two periods a month.

But really, why do we care so much more when female traits are exhibited by a man than when masculine traits are exhibited by a woman? I suppose our patriarchal society can’t help but attribute power and strength to masculinity while relegating anything feminine to the weak and defenseless. It does a huge disservice to women when gay men allow themselves to be brainwashed into such a misogynistic way of thinking.

Human beings are complicated, but I wish we could evolve beyond our imperfect expectations of what we think male/female and gay/straight should look like. I wish we all could just accept ourselves as unique and whole persons without pressuring ourselves to become something we can never be.

“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” – William Shakespeare

The winter of my discontent

Our driveway today.

Our driveway today.

The older I get, the less I like winter.

It is so unbelievably cold here. We received several inches of snow last Sunday and Monday, then temperatures bottomed out under zero. More snow arrived on Wednesday, and then we had another round of freezing rain and sleet on Friday. Because the temperatures are so low, most of the snow we got is still sticking around.

A week later, I am not sure we can even get out of our driveway. We tried yesterday, but got the car stuck 3 times before we gave up. Honey wound up shoveling as much of it off as he could, but the driveway is fairly long and some of the snow wouldn’t budge.

I know the local main roads have been cleared of ice and snow, but our rural road wasn’t touched until a couple of days ago when someone came down it with a snow plow. Unfortunately, it wasn’t treated with any kind of salt or chemicals, so we have to wait for the sun to work its magic. Since temperatures are expected to remain below freezing until Tuesday or Wednesday, I guess we will just have to be patient.

Honey was off work all week due to the weather, and I had to catch rides back and forth from coworkers with 4×4 vehicles. I have decided to sell my truck later this year and upgrade to something that will perform better on slick roads. It is too hard to rely on other people for transportation, and I feel trapped when I am at home without a way to go anywhere.

I have felt so sorry for the birds. Since the ground has been covered for days, they have had virtually nothing to eat. I meant to get bird seed before the storm hit, but it completely slipped my mind. I asked a coworker to run me to a local store yesterday, where I paid $3-4 for several very small bags of bird food. It was almost dark by the time I got home and filled the feeder, but I was happy to see them swarming it this morning when I got up.

Anyway, spring can’t come soon enough for me. I am so ready to work in the yard!

View out a back window.

View out a back window.

Checking in

It is hard to believe cold weather is already here, but our lawn is covered in leaves, and Honey has begun nagging me to put up the Christmas trees. As I watch my various plants and trees enter their dormant phase, I am already looking forward to next spring when they will burst forth with new life. The growing season never seems to last long enough, and this year seemed to fly by in record time.

Like every year, this one has had its highs and lows. I officially became a business partner on January 1st. The legalization of gay marriage in Illinois allowed us to travel to see our friends get hitched in Chicago, and we took that opportunity to continue on to Wisconsin to see our wonderful friend Barb. We saw Cher in Nashville. We spent several relaxing days in Gatlinburg last month.

Some of the low points included losing my coworker and friend, Jerry, and then learning of Barb’s passing a few months later. Both affected me deeply, but I try to focus on the good memories. I will never forget Jerry’s belly laugh, his dirty sense of humor, or the way he never ever let life get him down. I will always remember Barb’s unwavering courage and the way she exuded love to everyone around her. I am so thankful we took the time to go visit Barb this summer, and I feel blessed to have known and loved both of them.

We are currently in the middle of refinancing our home. I can get the interest rate down from 5.25% to 3.375% – which will shave 10 years off my loan while increasing my monthly payment by only $20. My goal is to have our home paid for in 10 years, just in time for my 50th (yikes!) birthday.

Other than that, life continues on as before. I always remind myself to appreciate the mundane moments, because it is hard to complain about being bored when you are comfortable and happy.

Did molestation make me gay?

I used to think what happened to me when I was a child was what made me attracted to males. I blamed my uncle for my sexual orientation for many years, and while I definitely believe what happened shaped my sexual interests, I am not so convinced of the connection anymore.

Those encounters are my first memories of sex, and they greatly altered my views of affection and intimacy. As a counselor once told me, the guilt the victim shoulders is because the attention and sexual activity feels good even though it shouldn’t.

Because I was too young to understand what was happening completely and enjoyed the attention, I didn’t want it to stop. When my parents found out what was going on, I was upset because I knew it wouldn’t happen again. It didn’t.

From that point, I acted out sexually with boys whenever I had the chance. There were only two that I did anything with, but it went on for several years. It was always just fooling around to me. I never felt emotionally attached or like I had a crush on either of them. Even though I know it is normal for kids to mess around while they are learning about sex, I have had a lot of guilt over the years about those encounters.

There were guys that I did have crushes on who I fantasized about incessantly, but I never acted on those impulses. I was too scared and also too ignorant to really understand my sexual inclinations. These guys were like idols to me. I watched the way they walked and talked, admired and imagined their bodies, and rarely ever said a word to them. I had them placed so high on a pedestal that they were unattainable.

As I grew older and began to figure out what it meant to be gay, the crushes continued. I fell really hard for a couple of different guys my age, but, again, I was too scared to act on it out of fear of rejection. We would have sleepovers and spend as much time together as possible, but nothing physical ever happened. In my juvenile mind, the guy would be my boyfriend. Both times, the parents of the guy stopped the friendship because they grew uncomfortable with all the time we were spending together. Both times, I about lost my mind from the grief.

When I finally grew up a little, I met a much older man who took advantage of me in many ways. I was ignorant and inexperienced, so I poured everything into a clearly dysfunctional relationship. When that relationship ended, I began another with a man several years my senior. It was also dysfunctional for many reasons.

Looking back, I realize I was substituting sex for affection. If a guy liked me, I felt like I was supposed to sleep with him. Friendship needed to progress to sex in order to mean anything. This was obviously a direct result of what happened with my uncle. Sex equals friendship equals affection equals love. It wasn’t enough to just hang out and have a good time; I needed them to prove they liked me enough, and the ultimate expression of that was sex.

Over the years, I have changed that line of thinking. I met someone 9 years ago who cherished me from day one. He didn’t expect me to show my appreciation for his company through sex (even though I wanted to). He has been patient and kind and anything but a user. I am one of the lucky ones.

My uncle never faced the consequences for his actions 35 years ago, but I know, one way or another, he will. He denies it happened now, even though he admitted it when it was first revealed. I am a forgiving person, but I refuse to consider forgiving him until he admits it and accepts responsibility for his actions.

I said all of that to say this: It would be easy to assume what happened when I was a kid made me gay, but that is oversimplifying it. I know plenty of gay people who weren’t molested, and I know plenty of straight people who were.

Regardless, I am what I am. Whether I was born this way or made this way, I didn’t have a say in the matter. I know being molested shaped my views of sex and intimacy, but those are things I have struggled with and continue to work on. It makes more sense that I was born with this orientation, and the sexual abuse was just a terrible thing that happened to me along the way.