Month: March 2014

Set me free, why don’t you, Baby

I didn’t write a post last week.

On Thursday, the day of the week I usually set aside to broadcast my inner turmoil and bad dating stories to the internet, I received an email from WordPress saying,  “Time for your weekly post!”  But I didn’t have anything to share.

When I first created this blog, I made the goal that I would publish something every week.  For 10 weeks in a row I held to it.  I know this might shock you, what with my easy-going nature and devil-may-care attitude, but I can be a rigidly disciplined nightmare.  I love a good schedule.  My email account and calendar are meticulously labeled and color coordinated.  I cringe when any one adjusts brunch plans.

So last Monday rolls around.  Typically this is when I start putting my fingers to the keyboard composing a symphony of quips, pop culture references and GIFS.  But last week, I felt nothing.  I was like Diana Morales in A Chorus Line in Mr. Karp’s class.  I didn’t feel like a table or an ice cream cone!  I hadn’t really been dating any one interesting.  Nothing was particularly disastrous or beautifully exciting. I even contacted an old flame to see if that I would inspire a story.  I dug right down the to bottom of my soul and I felt Nothing!

Actually, I felt totally overwhelmed.

Nine months ago, while I was living with the Ex, I found my free time consumed by him.  I’d come home from work and was expected to bequeath all of my attention.  Now, I wasn’t forced into this.  I’m a grown man who can take responsibility for his own actions.  He would just get sassy if I tried to read work emails or do singular activities (No Angry Birds!)  And I’m such a sucker for making the people I love happy that I would often (read: always) acquiesce to his demands.

At the time, I resented it.  If I wanted to check my email or kill a bunch of damn pigs using misshapen birds then yasthat was my business.  But he felt that I should give our time together my undivided attention and respect or whatever.  I was catching up with a dear friend over drinks once years ago and she lamented about the same problem.  She so accurately described her significant other as a heavy burden weighing her whole life down.  I raised my hand to Jesus with a, “Mmh, yes Lawd.”

Eventually I cast off my weighty burden (as we all know by now) and I initiated an open door life policy.  You want me to work extra hours? Sure! You, other theater company, want me to manage your website? Why not? Publish a blog on my own and decide that I MUST share something every week? What could go wrong?  More freelance unpaid writing? How can I resist?!

its-handledI can handle anything! My time is my own!

However, if you’ll notice in my list of activities, no where do I mention, “Take time for myself.”  Eventually all that activity was bound to catch up with me.

It did.  Hard.  Last week, I suddenly felt like I couldn’t do another thing.  And yet I was so obligated beyond a reasonable capacity.  I was pissy and aloof with my friends and co-workers who I love so dearly, completely exhausted and on top of all of this, I had closed off any space for Love. AND ISN’T THAT THE WHOLE POINT?!

Suddenly, coming home every night to a loving albeit impossibly demanding partner, drinking too much whiskey and watching hours of The Office on Netflix didn’t sound so bad.

Now let me be clear, I took on all this responsibility because I LOVE these projects and individually they make me happy.  I have the best job in the whole wide world and I’m totally digging the other companies I give my time to.  This blog has been a gift.  It has helped me cope with this confusing and scary new phase of my life more than I could have ever imagined.

But I was overrun, overworked, and wearing pair of bitter pants that made my butt look lumpy.

Love should never be a burden.  Sure, Love is hard and makes you crazy but it’s a battle you want to fight every day, right?  Like my grandfather says, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”  (Quoting him is weird for me, for the record.)

I’ve always put a lot of pressure on myself.  Even as a kid, in those impossibly rare moments when I would do something “bad” like get a poor grade or that one time I snuck out and got caught, my mom would never really punish me.  She said that I would make myself feel way worse than any time-out or punishment could.

So I read the WordPress email that nagged, “Hey Tim, you’re next blog is due.  Don’t let yourself down,” with more anxiety than this thing should ever have caused me.  I decided not to write anything.  I know it was the right decision but still I felt guilty.  I know that it doesn’t have any affect on any one else if I publish or not, but I set out to accomplish a goal and this felt like giving up.  I don’t do that.

me party 3I recognize now that I need to give myself a break.  I can’t be everything to every one.  It’s ok to take some time off just because I need it.

I’m putting my blog on hold for awhile and making time for me.   I need to recharge my batteries.  And I’m giving myself permission to say that.  I’m so proud of this project and taking time off does not mean I’m quitting.  In fact, the slight twinge of sadness I feel tells me it will be back eventually.

But I’m going to allow myself the luxury of free time.  And maybe it will be filled with a new exciting romance.  But even if it means more sitting at home watching TV and cuddling with my cats, I’m cool with that too.

truman show

Already missing me?  Here, you can relive all of our best moments together:

Our First Date     OkCupid? Not, OK     Sex Offenders    Racism     Reconciling with the Ex

Valentine’s Day: Party of One    FROZEN!!!   My existential love crisis    Body Issues   Online Dating Rules

Winter must be cold for those for those with no warm memories.

(Identify that quote and we’re in love forever!  Two answers are acceptable)

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The (previously) unwritten rules of Online Dating.

I’m forever in an on-again, off-again relationship with Online Dating.  I’ll go from hopelessly relying on it to absolutely despising its presence in my life.  We’re like Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling in The Notebook: we fight, we do the dirty in an old home he wants to buy, I go away to college/be a nurse during WWII and my mother hides the letters he writes me and in the end I leave James Marsden for my OkCupid account.  Eventually I’ll be put in a home while I read old correspondences from past suitors.

A few weeks ago I was catching up with a friend over coffee so obviously my dating melancholy was brought up.  He gave me an inspiring little pep talk wherein he reminded me that I’m a  great guy and I don’t need those apps to find love.  Real love will show up when the timing is right and it will be amazing.

After I woke up from my romance coma, I marched home with a new found zeal and shut them all down.

sister act 2

I was home alone eating a peanut butter sandwich in my pajamas on a Friday night a few weeks later when it suddenly dawned on me: What the hell does he know?! He’s beautiful, kind, smart, artistic, bearded for the gods and always in relationships with outrageously attractive men.  His advice may have given me the vapors but this realization woke me up like an old peddler’s smelling salts (Yes, I did just take you to Oklahoma!)

So here we are. Online Dating 2: Back in the Habit.

For those of you who read this, you’ll recall I’ve been painfully unlucky with Online Dating (Revisit my worst encounter here.)  This time however, I’m changing the game.  During my first foray, I faced so much nonsense that I have taken it upon myself to lay down some ground rules.  No longer will OkCupid Dating (OCD) be the wretched affair of the past.  No more will I feel digitally molested by the predators on Grindr and Scruff. No more shall I face the tyranny of the Hot or Not rulings of Tinder!

If all of us abide, we’ll survive the Online Dating Battlegrounds with our faith in humanity in tact.

1) Make sure all photographs look like you.

lafou

I once met a guy for an OCD and when he arrived he was at least 6 inches shorter and 50 pounds heavier than his pictures lead me to believe.  Looking back on the photos, I was able to understand where I might have been lead astray. I’m pretty sure the camera was on the floor for each shot and his clothes were awfully baggy.

Everyone is entitled to present themselves in the best way they possible can.  However, honest representation will spare your potential suitors from politely trying to hide their shock and disappointment when LaFou arrives when you thought you were meeting Gaston.

2) Always begin with a greeting.

This goes for all dating applications.  Especially Grindr and Scruff.  I’m not opposed to receiving nudey pics but nothing makes me feel more repulsed or violated as when I see I have a message in my inbox only to find an unexpected picture of a dick.

Even if your penis is made of gold and sculpted by the Zeus himself, I will see all surprise dick pics as if it were a mushy brown banana resting on two overripe avocados.

Always start at least with a “Hello,” then you may follow up with, “Can I interest you in a picture of my penis?”  It’s called consent, people!

3) Do not shame yourself for being on any Online Dating sites.

“I don’t usually do these things,” or “I thought I would give this a try,” or “These are so cheesy” communicates one of two things.  1) You’re really embarrassed of being here and admitting you’re lonely.  Or 2) You think you’re too good for this website.

Let me help you out: Nope.  Both are wrong.  You’re just like the rest of us losers.  Embrace it.

4) Do not try to tease out personal details you might learn over the course of several dates before actually meeting in person.

Online dating accounts are simply devised to make a first impression.  If you find some one attractive and had a few witty or pleasing exchanges, be bold and ask them out for drinks or coffee.

Asking personal and invasive questions through Grindr chat or OkCupid messaging tells me you’re trying to figure out if I’m worthy of spending $2 on a cup of coffee and an hour getting to know me better.  It is not flattering.

Also, so much typing!

5) Take your opportunity to sing your own praises. 

How often do any of us get a platform upon which to stand and proclaim we are the best human beings on the planet and everyone should want to date you?  (Ok, so I do that often.)flawless

Being withholding may cause you to think you’re coming off as modest and demure (which is a persona I regularly use at the bars.)  But more often than not, I interpret it as a lack of confidence and pride.  And honey, I’m a Leo.

6) Do not transition your digital relationship to other social media platforms until given explicit permission.

I always try to find the guys I chat with on OkCupid on Facebook.  Tinder basically does it for you.  BUT you will always come off creepy if you try to friend them before you at least exchange last names.  There is no way to make “Well, you told me your first name and what you do for a living and where you went to school so it was easy to find you using Facebook search filters,” sound sexy.  Trust me.

Addendum: If you publicly link your dating page to any of your other social media accounts, you have thereby invited any one to stalk your life and revoked your rights to complain about consequent stalking.  And fellow stalkers, yes, go ahead, but be careful not to be that stranger liking your crushes every photo on Instagram.

7) Take responsibility for what you say.

blanch eyeI wrote a post a few weeks ago about a white gay man who tried to argue it’s not racist that his Grindr tag reads, “Whites for White only.”  (Read here.)  I also recently talked to some one who made a Nazi joke on our third exchange.  And neither of these boys seem to think what they said was a problem.

Possess a higher level of awareness that some jokes or statements might offend an absolute stranger.  If you catch yourself thinking, “I wonder if this is going too far,” then you probably shouldn’t say it.

8) Exercise fiscal responsibility.

Dating is super expensive.  Dinner at any moderately priced restaurant is probably going to run you $30 a person these days.  (This is assuming you have any amount of alcohol, which I highly recommend for all first dates.)

Those of us who work in the non-profit sector (me) or in the arts (also me) may not be able to budget 10 dinner dates a month (HA! Oh, that I had 10 offers a month… moving on.) A coffee shop will always be an ideal location for your first meet-up; low key, inexpensive, and, if you actually like the person, you’ll be revved up from the caffeine that maybe you’ll want to prolong the date into a meal or jaunty walk through the park.

Addendum:  I will go anywhere you want if you promise to pay for everything.

9) At least acknowledge that some one contacted you.

I’m typically all for returning the greeting in most cases.  I mean, what could it hurt?  And if the interest isn’t there then the conversation will fade organically.

However, if you do not wish to even start the conversation, please politely visit my profile so that I may know you at least saw it and have chosen to ignore me.  (This works in cases when the service allows you to see who has viewed your account.)

fassbender

Currently, I am waiting on a reply from a man who I’ve already convinced myself that I could fall in love with forever and ever.  I messaged him a week ago and he hasn’t so much as viewed my profile, which has caused me to obsess over how I may go about nudging him for a response.  And then I wonder if he selected that option where people can’t see you’ve looked at their profile, thus denying you the ability to see who checked you out.  And if that’s the case then I can read over his as many times as I want, right?

Heaven, help me.

10) Check your account daily.

I understand that an online dating profile may not be any one’s number one priority.  Reasonably speaking, it should probably be some where in the double digits on your daily list of things to do.

However, there is absolutely no reason you can’t open your account and see if any handsome Future Husbands have been trying to get a hold of you.  Lord knows, we all squeeze in a moment to check all the other social mediums.  Add this one to your list ESPECIALLY if you have already been in conversation with some one else.

11) The people you talk to are strangers.  Treat them accordingly.

I’m generally a friendly person and will strike up a conversation with any one who seems willing.  But I’m a reasonable human.  If some one isn’t interested in hearing about my relational woes in line at Starbucks, I can take a hint and move a long.

People can ignore you for any reason.  And you don’t know them or have any idea why.  Don’t assume anything.

12) When some one breaks any or all of these rules, LET. IT. GO.

I know how vulnerable we are exposing ourselves like this publically.  And I know the sting of one too many online rejections.  But it doesn’t do us any good to hold grudges or stamp or feet or verbally assault the men who hurt our feelings over the interweb.

And you will never come off as cool or empowered if you tell them off in the bar for not messaging you back.  Don’t take Julia Roberts advice to Jena Malone in Stepmom.  No one knows what snow blowing is.stepmom

If some one doesn’t see how wonderful you are (which how much can they really glean from a few pictures and paragraphs) then they aren’t worth your time any way.

At the end of the day, my friend’s advice is probably right.  You probably can’t find love browsing a website like you were looking for a copy of Homeward Bound on Amazon.  It will show up at some point.  Maybe even when you’re sipping coffee with an old friend.

But in the meantime, I’m going to at least give myself a shot here and with these new rules, I’m determined to succeed.

Because rules make everything way more fun, right?

And where is the body…

Spring is in the air… I think.  Ignore the snowstorm this week and the below freezing temperatures.  As we turn our calendars from February to March each year, I immediately shift into a spring frame of mind.  It’s as if everything is actually coming up roses even if they’re buried under snow and road salt.

But Spring is a double-edged sword.  With it comes the realization that Summer is nearby meaning tank tops and bathing suits and beach parties and the occasional skinny-dipping.  Thus initiating my usual guilt cycle as I notice the ways in which “winter weight” has turned my svelte summer self into a more insulated container.

honey boo boo

I’ll start to examine every angle, bouncing around checking to see which parts have become extra jiggly.  I will admonish myself for every wrong turn that led me here and swiftly devise an intense fitness routine that will get me back up to snuff in time for my first excursion to the beach.

Over my gay years, I’ve developed a healthy love-hate relationship with my body.   I first discovered going to the gym right around the time I came out.  But this was only a correlation, coincidental even.  The first time I actually set foot in a gym was after I was cast in a play my sophomore year of college that required I get naked on stage.  There is no greater motivation to get one to start pumping iron.

I stopped eating my daily pizza with a salad smothered in Ranch dressing (extra so I could dip my crust in it,) actually found my school’s fitness center and then by ShowTime, I felt really good about my body.

While this physical obsession was budding, I started accepting myself for the beautiful gay creature I am.  There was a lot of change happening for me.  A few years earlier, I was sitting in my childhood home thinking that it’s too bad I’ll never get to experience these things; kissing dudes and looking fabulousI believed having a hot body was for models and athletes, not for friendly theatre nerds, and coming out was for any one but me.  Sigh, pass the Doritos and turn on The OC.

But eventually I realized being happy and satisfied is something I could be as long as I was honest enough with myself to identify what I really wanted and brave enough to pursue it.

It’s six years since that transformative phase of my life.  Being open and working out have become habit.

Mostly.

I mean, I’m living out loud all day every day.  But I’ve been rather lax this winter when it comes to the body stuff.  It all stems from the break up.  You see, the Ex and I created a life that put everything one would need to be healthy right at our finger tips.  We had a Bowflex in the office plus all the P90X and Insanity videos.  We were even vegetarian thanks to too many Netflix anti-meat documentaries and his penchant for expensive organic foods (plus he had the income to back that up.)  My skin was great, I was BMing like a rockstar and I was fit as a fiddle.

I can have it allBut he was such a dick about it.  He some how turned our healthy lifestyle into an ugly power game (not atypical.)  So once I got out of that relationship, I went meat and cheese crazy, gobbling everything that once bled as fast as my grubby little paws could get a hold of it.

Eventually, I calmed down and stopped using gluttony to demonstrate my freedom.  But the damage was done.

I noticed subtle changes to my body.  I’m rounder around the haunches.  Bending in some ways produces ugly rolls where they had not before and suddenly I’m counting chins like you count rings on a tree. I’ve ripped the butt out of three pairs of jeans now.

If you know me, you might be thinking “Aw, Tim you look great.” Or more likely “Girl, enough. You look fine.  Stop mugging for attention.”  I know I’m not overweight by any stretch of the imagination. I know that.  But there are definitive changes that I have noticed, that you might not see unless you’re looking at me naked on a regular basis (which is only me right now), that remind me that I’m not at my best.

So here comes the question: Does it matter?

Short answer: hell yeah!

Long answer: Because I hold myself to a high standard, because I can check myself at any given moment of my life and compare it to how successful I’ve been in previous ones whether we’re talking professional accomplishments, friendships, love, money, body, etc, because I’m always striving to be better than I was yesterday, I reserve the right to acknowledge when I’m less than what I know is my best and feel some type of way about that.

Self-satisfaction ebbs and flows.   So the fact that my body isn’t at it’s peak right now isn’t doing any real psychological damage.  It only makes me work harder (ok and maybe fills me with a touch of anxiety.) But what I am making time for is understanding why the way my body looks is something I value this much.

I know I’ve thought one or twice before that if I want some one with a rocking body, then I have to look like that.  As if we’re making an equitable trade off with our physiques.  This weekend, I was hanging out with my dear friends, David and Brian.  We were talking boys and perusing one of those Instagram accounts that show hot guys in their underwear when David says, “I just want a man who when I take off their clothes I think, ‘Why are you with me?’”  Truer words ne’er spoken.

(Although after I emphatically agreed, David also followed up with the more empowered, “Eh, I’m just going to keep working on me so I’m the one they’re lucky to be with.”  He’s so fierce.)

You'll take off your shirt if I buy a shot? I'll take them ALL!

You’ll take off your shirt if I buy a shot? I’ll take them ALL!

But it’s not always tit for tat.  What attracts some men to others is an absolute mystery [to me.]  I mean sure, we all probably find ripped guys to be very sexy, blah blah blah.  We get it.  That’s why we put them in speedos and buy cheap shots with hardly any alcohol from them.

This summer, right after the Ex and I broke up, we were at one of the famous Gay Boat Parties.  It was the night before I moved out.  I reluctantly went because of the monstrous day ahead of me but there I was.  We were all about ready to head home when I caught the Ex hopping into a cab.  I rushed over and kindly reminded him he better be back to help me move in the morning and then I noticed the guy waiting for him in the backseat.

He was way too attractive.  Like super hunky, coifed, bearded, plastic, looked rich.  Way out of both  our leagues.  And yet, there the Ex was heading off for a late night canoodling session.

It was in that moment I realized nothing about attraction makes sense.  People want what they want.  Even if you’re obviously the cuter one, sometimes hot guys have weird taste.

I could never resist.

I could never resist.

I have weird taste.  I’ve gone on record saying my dream man would look something like Chubby Andy Dwyer from Parks and Rec or Jason Segel.  I mean, sure I wouldn’t kick Jake Gyllenhaal out of bed, but the heart wants what it wants.

So understanding that attraction is ultimately senseless takes a lot of the pressure off of me to think I have to look a certain way to attract the types of men I want.

I know that I can’t control how attractive some one finds me.  I can message them until my fingers bleed insisting we’d look great together and even OkCupid thinks we’re a great match, what with our 92% score.  But if they don’t want me then I gotta move it along.  I can’t control what some one else wants.

So my body hang-ups are not about how attractive my possible suitors may find me.  It’s really about how I see myself.  When I feel I’m at my best, when my hair looks the way I want it, I’m wearing an outfit I love, when I don’t feel bloated because I ate too much food, I trimmed all the unwanted hairs, my eye boogers are handled and there is nothing in my teeth, I feel free.  Because even if I seem ever present, if I don’t feel good about some part of my appearance, there’s always a portion of my attention that’s focused on it and it’s really distracting.

I don’t think it’s superficial.  I think it’s very human.

I’m never going to look like this.

hugh_jackman_lifting_weights_full

I understand that that body type comes with rigorous diet and exercise and boo, I love nachos and beer.  I also don’t really want to look like that.  I define my personal best based on my own standards.  We all should.  We all have that power.  Sure, we’re inundated with images from the media that tell us what is desirable and what’s not. And sure, they probably have subconsciously affected our own self-perception.

But my body is not built like those guys.  I’m cool with that.  Feeling satisfied with the way I look doesn’t mean I’m vain or shallow.  My version of satisfaction is a product of my own values and sense of self.  Just because I like to look a certain way, also does not mean I think everyone ought to look like that either.  We’re free to define for ourselves what our best is.  Future Husbands of the world, be damned!

I feel underwhelmed with myself body right now and I’m working on it.  That’s ok.  But it’s important to love ourselves all the time even when we’re not at out best.  Isn’t that what we’re looking for in a partner?

If I work out a bit harder for the next few weeks and abstain from too much booze or cheese, it’s because I’m trying to make me better for me.  To any one who says, “But you look good!”  I say, Thank you, really, that means a lot.  I do have to head to the gym now, but sure, I’ll eat one more scone with you before I leave.

And to my friends out there who are looking in the mirror right now feeling like I’m feeling, we’re fine.  Maybe we’ll go to the gym a bit more and maybe we’ll pretend we’ve stopped eating bread.  But we’re fine.  It’s ok to feel less than your best.  It means you actually possess advanced self-awareness.  But whatever you do, make sure you are improving yourself for your sake alone.

There is no greater love story than the one we share with ourselves.

Grill for me, Future Husband

Grill for me, Future Husband