Gay Drama

Say what you need to say

Happy National Coming Out Day friends! As we all know, coming out isn’t one moment.  It’s a lifelong experience  you share with literally every new person you will ever meet.  There is no one coming out moment that defines me.  But for today I thought I share one that always makes me smile.

It was spring semester my junior year of college when I started coming out. I kissed a guy for the first time when I was 17, shared a secret romance with an other man during my first semester freshman year, and along the way, fooled around with more than a few men willing to participate in my charade.

I was still “straight” through all of that. At least that’s what I told myself, my family, my friends, social media and more importantly, those poor souls who just wanted to be with me. Sorry, boys, these walls are up and they are FORTIFIED.

Eventually, I started accepting it. I remember the first time I told myself I was gay. I was in “Media and Society,” a required course for all first year communications majors at Muhlenberg. We were talking about queer representation in the media… in 2005. This was cutting edge liberal arts education at its best y’all. One day in class, we were watching the famous Ellen coming out moment from her sitcom. I sat in my chair in that darkened class room watching Ellen say “I’m gay” into the airport intercom when  I finally let my self think the words “I’m gay.” While the rest of the class was studying this moment in TV history, no one knew that in my brain, a quiet revolution began. It was terrifying and exhilarating, like I was Peter Parker suddenly realizing I didn’t need my classes anymore and my abs were so tight. After class, I went back to my dorm room, locked my door and said it to myself in the mirror. “I’m gay.”

Two full years later, I said it out loud again to another person, “I’m Gay.” I won’t get into it here but a few things happened to discourage me from letting more people in. I don’t remember who I actually said those words out loud to first. Who ever you are, thank you for listening with out judgement. Gradually, I started telling everyone on campus.

By spring semester, it was a well known fact that Tim Popp was another Muhlenberg Theater & Dance Department gay. (Although let’s face it, friends, we all always knew because secrets don’t keep in a small liberal arts theater program.)

One night, one rainy Friday night, my roommates and I were drinking too much Bankers Club Vodka in our suite in Benfer Hall.  Benfer suites had four bedrooms for two people each, a living room and a bathroom.  I lived there with 7 other theater majors in chaotic bliss.  It wasn’t uncommon to hear two roommates dueting “I will never leave you” from the musical Side Show while both in the adjacent showers at any given point in the day.

We were laying in Wilma and Magda’s room probably doing that thing we did back then where we all log rolled on top of each other… Benfer was weird. In that moment, something suddenly struck me. I was free here. No hiding or shame. Spring break was coming soon and that meant going back home to a place where no one really knew me any more… not the new me.

I didn’t want to go “home” and feel like a stranger to myself. Home is the place where you wear sweats, never shower and watch terrible TV for hours. Home is where you are comfortable. I understood comfort in a more complete way now and I wasn’t about to compromise that ever ever again.

Strategically, I knew my high school friend group would be first I’d tell. They loved me, they have been with me through various hardships, and they always accepted me for the silly farting clown I am. My family would be the biggest hurdle and I needed to be really thoughtful about that moment. I did have a plan for how I was going to tell them. I would write beautiful mother’s day cards for everyone that May, spend the summer being the best son, grandson, nephew ever. Make them realize how much they loved me and then drop the crushing news… No part of that plan came to fruition… they still love me any way. That’s family ya’ll.

Back to this rainy Friday in Benfer. So a bunch of us are platonicly cuddling in bed, drinking shitty vodka with whatever mixers we could find, and no doubt Mike, my lovable bear of a roommate, was trying to tickle us because it was a thing that was really funny to everyone in Spring ’08 when I sprung out of the cuddle puddle to announce to my friends I’m ready to tell my people back home. The room cheers with support. “That’s a great idea! And it’s almost spring break! You’ll see them all in a few weeks.” No. I replied. It has to be now. It has to be RIGHT NOW. To this day, put me in a room with positive people, a few drinks and a big idea and suddenly I’m Olivia Pope making shit happen.

I decided to call my friend Erin first. Erin and I may not have been friends quite as long as I had been with other members of my inner high school circle but we did share a sense of romanticism that no one else understood. We languished together over heartbreak and new love. I once even tried to kiss her while we were at the movies seeing god knows what because I was trying to kiss my very straight, very pretty but very much committed friend. When Erin fully blocked my kiss (we’re talking hand in my face), I dealt with the rejection like any overly dramatic future homosexual would. I went home and wrote her an email telling her how I’m the right guy for her, how I would have given her “the stars and the moon,” and how I’m not sure if I can hug her again. She wrote me back telling me she’ll “never stop hugging me.” So if any one was going to get behind dramatic drunken coming out phone call, it was Erin.

I took my Motorola cell phone (it’s 2008) to our shared bathroom as my friends waited with bated breathe just outside the door. I was flushed red from the excitement, embarrassment and cheap booze. I dialed her number because we remembered those back then and hit “send” when the most miraculous thing happened.

Remember ring back tones? Like when you would pay a premium to have a song playing while some one was calling you instead of listening to the phone ring? I pulled my phone to my ear and heard “Please enjoy this song while your party is being reached.”

Suddenly, a familiar song starts playing… something folksy with a gravel voiced crooner, instantly nostalgic but also not a song I immediately recognize. Then I catch a lyric “Say what you need to say, say what you need to say…” the crooner repeats. The song was John Mayer’s “Say.” Hearing these words, which seemed to be selected just for this moment by some divine spirit, broke me. I was suddenly ugly crying in my bathroom to a grainy John Mayer song followed by Erin’s voicemail message.

I spent the next 60 seconds sobbing into my phone. Somewhere in there I managed to say the words “I’m gay.” Or something resembling that. I don’t actually remember exactly what I said.

The next morning Erin called me to see if everything was alright because listening to 60 seconds of incoherent emotions might make you think your friend is in real peril. Also, did she hear me say I was gay? Was that real or did I make that up, she asked.

We talked it out for a while and she couldn’t have been more supportive. As was the case with everyone in my life. And while “support” doesn’t always present itself at first with a big warm hug or an immediate “I love you no matter what,” any one who puts in the work to accept you as fully as you are, loves you, even if it takes them a little longer to get where you want them to be.

My advice to you, my friends, is listen to John Mayer. Say what you need to say.

…. ok but also maybe only listen to John Mayer on this particular issue.

A Brief History of Public Nudity

I went to a nude beach for the first time this weekend.  I didn’t go to prove a point or for some exercise in exposure therapy or to reclaim a confidence lost to tragedy and ridicule.  I went simply because my friends and I have heard tell of this mythic place in up state New Jersey and were curious.  

A few weeks ago, we compared calendars and picked an available weekend just like you’d plan a trip to a vineyard or that cool new bar on top of an old school.  The day finally arrived.  We all got up early as fuck because we’re grown people who rise before the sun, packed up Brian’s car, made a trip to Starbucks and hit the road.

We arrived at the beach two hours later, bypassing all traffic.  Gunnison beach is tucked away in a state park in New Jersey.  For $15 a car, beach enthusiasts can enjoy a quaint and well preserved stretch of beach that feels sequestered and peaceful.  There’s no hustle or bustle that’s generated by a busy boardwalk or dense residential development.  

At every turn, the park gives off a family friendly vibe which I found surprising given that we were about to visit a nude beach.  I had been primed to expect a gay-centric space that catered to muscles and hot bods.  I found the opposite.  Sunbathers of all sorts were there. Men, women and, presumably gender non-conforming individuals of all sizes, shapes and colors made camp with their umbrellas and coolers.  At the bathrooms just outside of the beach we even saw families with small children though they seemed to hang away from the nude bathers.  

In any case, what I expected to feel like a sexualized day was anything but.  More like “anything, butt” am I right?!  Anyway, my friends and I stripped down to nothing and enjoyed what felt like every other day at the beach I have ever spent in my entire life.  Sure, I checked out the bods, but, like, even that felt like pretty common place. 

Within my own self, I also didn’t feel any anxiety about getting naked.  I was just one naked body in a sea multi shaped bodies.  There wasn’t a specific aesthetic expected of the bathers.  It felt inclusive and sublime.   

I’m no stranger to being publicly nude so the whole ordeal wasn’t particularly shocking either.   A friend of mine has been known to throw naked parties once in a while.  A year ago, my two besties and I attended our first one.  We weren’t sure what to expect.  Given that it was thrown by gay men for only gay men, I was sure it would to turn into an Eyes Wide Shut situation.  

When we arrived at the house, we were greeted by a horde of naked dudes holding solo cups chit-chatting like you do at a house party.  We were directed upstairs, given trash bags for our clothes, and stripped down.  The three of us shared a deep breath and made our grand entrance.  

Sexualized it was not.  Not really anyway.  We all checked each other out, for sure, but strip away the stripping and it was a pretty standard house party as far as parties go.  I caught up with people I hadn’t spoken to in a while, had some drinks, ate pulled pork and we all played a game or two.  

After the initial shock subsided, the novelty of the nude bodies kind of passed and we were all just a bunch of cozy dudes chatting about Game of Thrones.   

Now let me be clear, I didn’t walk into the party with anything resembling the confidence or nonchalance I’m presenting right now.  I did a lot of soul searching, iron pumping and physical landscaping to prepare for it.  I feel as complicated about my body as anybody else.  

I mean, I love it.  I do.  Generally speaking, I think I have a pleasing face with balanced features.  I’m relatively in shape and have an ass that won’t quit.  I’m good.   

But then there are those mornings or weeks or months when I feel betrayed by it.  I’m either too bloated, too soft, there are too many surprise crevices that spring up as I reach for a T-Shirt in the bottom drawer of my dresser.

The journey to personal physical satisfaction is a damn bear and I’m just Leonardo DiCaprio wrestling it, doing whatever it takes to earn a damn Oscar.

That said, at this point in my life, I’ve been exposed enough times that I don’t really feel threatened or fearful of it.  I accept myself, flaws and all, and understand that nudity can be a source of fun and joy.  

But like all things that require extreme amounts of bravery, it often takes an unexpected thrust to cross that boundary.  

Flashback to 2007…

I spent the summer between my sophomore and junior year of college dancing for a very corporate theme park in Tampa, Florida which shall remain unnamed because I’m not tryna get sued here.  I, along with seven other people, was put up in deluxe suites for the length of the gig. We worked six hours a day, six days a week and were home by 2pm with unlimited pool access at the hotel and free entry to a local water park.   As far as summer jobs went, this one was pretty dope.  

This was, however, an especially tenuous moment in my life.  At this point, I had never admitted my sexuality to anyone save for the few guys back at school with whom I shared tawdry clandestine trysts.  I made them all cross their hearts and swear to secrecy like all terrified closeted homosexuals do.  And like most juicy gossip, word started to spread that I was one of Rupaul’s chosen people.  

Nevertheless, my secret persisted.  Or at least I chose to believe that.  While I was firmly denying any public accusations, like  Winona Ryder in The Crucible, I was also slowly beginning  to personally accept the truth of accusations, like how I wished The Crucible ended #witchesrevenge.  

Tensions inside of my own brain were high.  My grip on that closet door was slipping and a swift breeze would have blown the damn thing off of its hinges.  Fortunately, I was living with a group of people with whom I felt just as comfortable as I did unfamiliar.  Our relationship began and ended with this job.  

In our group were two gay men and five women who couldn’t have been more open and loving.  I was asked on day one if I was gay or not.  I choose to answer with the lie while white knuckle gripping my closet doors shut.  Obviously they assumed I was in denial but no one pressed me further.  Regardless, the gays boys treated me as one of the fold and I didn’t protest too much.  

I decided this was the perfect opportunity to test out the homosexual life.  We would spend our afternoons at a nearby water park.  I know, they’re gross but we got in for free so get off my back.  Bobby, one of the gays, made up a game where we would assess the hotness of the bathing men.  If we passed a guy we wanted to smash, we’d say “No” and if we wouldn’t smash, we’d say “yes.”  It wasn’t the most original code but if anyone heard us, it shrouded our intentions to a degree.  I kept silent at first, making my own notes until I started vocally agreeing or disagreeing with the men they spotted but never initiating assessment.  As it turned out, Bobby and I had similar tastes which he found all too fun.  

During our stay, we befriended another sweet gay man, Andrew, who also worked at the park.  Andrew took us under his wing and decided he would show us the fun places to go in Tampa.  There weren’t all that many and, as I mentioned before, we worked 6 days out of the week starting at 7am each morning performing three times a day.  Night owls we were not.  

Monday was our day off and so we lived for Sunday Nights.  We were a mixed crowd of people over and under 21 which made finding a spot that would allow us all in together a challenge.  As it turned out, the only bar that would let us all in was this divey gay bar.  

The first time we went there was as rebellious of a moment as I had ever experienced.  Not only was I under age but it was my first time stepping foot into a full gay space.  Nothing about who I told myself I was belonged there and yet I bubbling with energy and excitement to be standing where I was.  I was flirting with what felt like every possible disaster.  

I don’t remember much about the first night there.  Partly because I wasn’t yet great at holding my liquor and partly because I was so concerned about how enthusiastic I appeared.  At one point, Bobby and I were in the bathroom when someone flirted with me.  I remember blushing and telling the guy I was straight.  Bobby rolled his eyes and  I dashed from the exchange but felt a powerful force drawing me back to that man.  I never went back.

Another week went by and it was time for our night out.  We went back to the same bar.  That night, they had their outdoor patio opened.  It stood over the sidewalk and overlooked the water.  My friend, Amanda, and I sat on the patio and chatted with Andrew.  I started getting loose as one does after a few drinks.  I felt dazzling and magnetic, like I was letting myself fully effervesce for the first time.  

Eventually, the three of us heard a ruckus coming from the dance floor.  A circle had formed and inside of it was a drag queen emceeing what we took to be a dance contest.  There was a shirtless man performing a lame Magic Mike-esque dance.  This was, of course, before Magic Mike actually came out so we can’t hold his subpar moves against him now.  

Amanda and I, feeling overconfident from the Long Island Iced Tea, decided that we could dance circles around this dingus.  Were we not literal professional damn dancers?  We slammed down our glasses, no doubt splashing cheap cocktail over the railing and onto the sidewalk below, and pushed through the riff-raff around the circle launching ourselves into its heart.  

Now, for context, this was the summer that Rihanna’s “Umbrella” came out.  We were HUGE fans of that song and naturally had our own choreography to it.  I’m not sure if “Umbrella” was actually playing in this moment but we gave it a 5, 6, 7, 8 and fully and spiritedly started to set the dance floor on fire with our well prepared moves.

Just as we were deep deep into our groove, two burly shirtless men came charging into the circle and pushed Amanda aside.  I started to panic.  We were busted.  Not only were we underage, we must have violated the official rules of the dance contest.  We were pariahs and were going to be kicked out of the bar, or worse, arrested.  

The two men flanked me.  They were positioned within an inch of my face and back.  I stood stone still ready to surrender myself and exit the bar with what I now understood to be the bouncers into the custody of the Tampa police.  Then I felt a tug at the bottom of my Hollister polo.  Suddenly I felt the man behind me yank the bottom of my shirt over my face lifting my arms above my head while the other man began unfastening my cargo shorts (remember, I’m still straight in this moment.) With my arms tangled over my head, I was unable to stop whatever was happening below.  

Then, at the same time, both men pulled in opposite directions, tearing away my shirt and lowering my shorts to my ankles leaving me stark naked in the middle of the circle.  The crowd began shrieking and I was left wholeheartedly alarmed and, honestly, fucking confused.  I pulled up my pants with a quickness, grabbed my shirt off the floor and booked it to the safety of my group who had been watching from the perimeter of the circle.  

It turned out the innocent dance contest Amanda and I attempted to crash was in fact not a dance contest but a strip contest.  And because our dance was going on for far too many 8 counts without so much as a button undone, the go-go dancers, not bouncers, decided to take matters into their own hands.  

It was mortifying.  But fortunately, my company of pals helped me laugh off what was, in retrospect, a comical misunderstanding.  Not only that, they had befriend another group of people who all wanted to get to know the “straight” fool who wandered into a gay strip contest.  What was a truly horrifically embarrassing moment turned into a conversation starter and I was lauded as brave and hilarious: two of my favorite descriptors. 

In the end, I not only survived but I also came in second place.  Obviously this had nothing to do with the sensuality of my strip tease and everything to do with the fact that our party made up about a third of the people at the bar that Sunday night.  The prize was free drinks all night which I rightfully decided was not necessary.  And because this was before everyone owned a smartphone no one was able to record this moment which I maintain is for the best.   

Most of my coming out stories were like this one: unexpected and immediately filled with paralyzingly terror.  A simple conversation took a sharp turn and somehow I was completely and utterly exposed.  Not every one, of course, ended with a laugh and free drinks.  Some were infinitely more challenging than others.  All of them are, however, cherished memories that forged deeper love for the people with whom I shared them.

It’s been ten years since that summer where I clung to the last vestiges of my secret.  Where exposure seemed deadly.  I stand now stark ass naked, amongst friends and strangers feeling the sand in my toes, the wind on my backside, and the sun on my front daring anyone to tell me to cover up.    

I will, however, keep that spf 70 within arms reach.  

On vulnerability…

I’ve been feeling vulnerable recently. I mean, we all have.  The recent gay bashing sent a shiver of fear down all of our spines. Violence towards a member of the LGBT community is not something new. Over the years, we’ve all received emails from the HRC or have seen posts on Facebook or the NYTimes about some one gay or trans being victimized by some ignorant straight person in one town or another.   But they have always felt removed to me. In the 5 years I’ve spent living in Philly, I can’t recall anything being so brutal, the reaction so public or hitting so literally close to home.

This attack, which rendered a couple battered and bruised at the mercy of a drunk group of 15, has been a cruel reminder that even though our beautiful gay community is so close knit and strong and this city seems to embrace us with open arms, still we are endangered.  Sometimes I forget that.

On top of all of this, my car was broken into on Wednesday.   I had a particularly rough day at work; one of those days wherein everything I did was wrong. Being the perfectionist I am, you might understand why I felt particularly frustrated with myself. After work, I forced myself to the gym despite my despondency.  30 minutes in, I was spent. I left deciding to treat myself to something lovely for dinner and a six-pack (because grocery stores sell beer now and it’s amazing.)

I got in my car, put on my seatbelt and that’s when I noticed the shattered glass on the seat next to me. I let out a “What the fuck!!” before noticing my backpack, which had in it my wallet, phone charger and various work materials, had been nabbed. Without screaming, crying, panicking or freezing, I got out my phone, dialed 911, reported the crime and my location, then called the bank, cancelled my credit cards. I, then, informed my coworkers of my situation alerting them that they must cancel my company card.

I did all of this while remaining steady and focused.

In the half hour I had to wait for the police, I congratulated myself for handling everything so calmly.  How adult of me. The cops arrived, I gave them the necessary information and waited (and waited) for them to fill out whatever paper work they needed.

Still calm. But eventually the breath gets heavy and the chest feels tight. The realization that I have been violated hits. I maintain my cool even though I start thinking about what needs to be replaced, how much a new window will cost, that the mechanics are closing and it’s going to rain tonight and these damn cops are chatting and smoking a cigar (no exaggeration) when they could be chasing this criminal!

But the thing is, I know the rules. Losing my temper and displacing my anger does not make the situation better. Suppressing keeps me safe, right?

I started thinking about the couple, those victims. So the story goes, the drunk assholes called the couple “dirty faggots” and other harassing terms. And they yelled back. My friends and I debated this action recently.

All of us had been there. Had been walking around holding the hand of a boyfriend or displaying our gay in some other way when a person of group gave us a look or shouted from a car or did something vile to let us know that they hate us for being who we are and either verbally or physically wanted to destroy us.

For the most part we all agreed on the appropriate response: You shut the hell up and move along. Don’t yell back. Don’t even make eye contact. Because if you engage then it’s going to escalate.  (For the record: I get why those boys defended themselves because no one needs to be harassed walking home.  They had every right to tell those assholes off and NO ONE should be attacked for that.)  But we all learn that the safest move is to ignore, ignore, ignore.

So there I was: standing next to my car, furious that my shit was stolen and outraged that the police were taking their sweet time to dismiss me and catch this perpetrator. (Didn’t they hear me when I said my boss was told by the credit card company the perp made a purchase at 7-11? Why weren’t the on the way immediately!?) But I kept it all in because yelling at the cops or chasing the perp myself would only make this worse.

IMG_3308Instead, I posted this picture of my car on Instagram and Facebook. I typically only use my social media to post funny non-sequiturs, news stories I feel passionate about or Beyonce. Shitty things that happen to me are kept away from the FacePlace because when I’m upset I tend to want to be left alone. But I figured the condolences or likes might lift my mood. They really did. Knowing I have a community of people who not only felt badly for me but are willing to help me out meant more to me than I even knew.

Like the “I’m sorry” comments left for my broken-into car, seeing so many friends, gay and straight alike, posting about the gay bashings was another warm reminder that people in the world do care. Not everyone is as despicable as the “La Viola 15” (a name I’ve now coined so please credit me, all media outlets.)

Sometimes pain and tragedy teach us valuable lessons or show us what we need to fix. We are all now fervent that Pennsylvania must include sexuality in its hate crime laws. I know now that I must hide my belongings in my trunk when I go to the gym. Change is in the works.

The day after the incident, I went back to the gym, admittedly, with some trepidation. After talking it over with my mom she reminded me that if a criminal can’t see anything worth stealing, they won’t break into my car again. So I went.

I stopped at the front counter just to tell the employees what happened. They apologized profusely, which was sweet since it wasn’t their fault. They also told me they noticed some guy suspiciously riding his bike around the parking lot, looking into car windows right around that time of the break-in… probably the criminal. Hopefully next time they see something suspicious they’ll deal with it before any one else is robbed.

I got on the elliptical, still feeling uneasy and eager to finish up quickly so I could return to my car before another incident or, worse, return home to ensure that that wasn’t burgled too now that the criminal had my license and address. But I breathed and was proud of myself for being there.

As I got my cardio on, I was listening to my gym playlist, sinking into fitness mode and glancing once in awhile at the various  TVs broadcasting the evening news. Eventually, I noticed one of the stations talking about Brian Sims and the rest of gay Philly at Thursday afternoon’s rally. It was a wonderful sight, seeing our community stand together to demonstrate that we deserve equal protection.

And just then, I caught the guy two ellipticals away from me scoff. I took my headphones out and tried to surreptitiously listen to his mumbled rant when I caught this:

 “We’re still talking about this? Who gives a fuck? Get over yourselves!”

It was like some one ripped the air right out of my lungs. My eyes began to water and I wanted to just stop moving and collapse into a lifeless puddle of tears and fear. Like the slight pinch of pain I felt when my finger caught the tiny shard of glass left behind on my passenger seat, I was brutally reminded that I am still not safe. We are not safe.

Hiding my bag will not totally prevent future burglaries just as including sexuality into hate crime laws will not stop violence. If laws could prevent this, then no one would ever be robbed and white men wouldn’t kill black children claiming self defense and no one would ever be raped or abused.

Our problem isn’t legal; it’s ideological. We can pass laws until we are buried in rules and regulations, but when we still live in a society that teaches us to celebrate certain traits in people (straightness, whiteness, maleness, wealth) and devalue and denigrate others (gayness, anything not white, womanhood, poverty, etc) maintaining dominance will always lead to violence. And we learn this from childhood. (I shudder when I think that Kathryn Knott, one of the attackers, was allegedly raise by a police officer, some one we entrust to uphold these laws.)

Sure, we cognitively know that racism and homophobia are wrong. But even in this “progressive” or “post-racial” society, I still hear of my own students sitting alone at lunch because they are bullied.  Somehow our knowledge is not guiding our actions.

I do not profess to know the answer to these large sweeping problems. But it seems to me that passing a law teaches us that we shouldn’t commit a crime because of the punishment NOT because it is inherently wrong and every life is valuable and should be cherished.

I know now that hiding my belongings might prevent future burglaries. And witnessing my beautiful community come together to fight for a common cause fills me with a love and pride I can’t seem to find the words to express. But I don’t feel safe.

And yet…


And yet, I’m going to continue to be out and open. I’m going to sashay when the music and spirit moves me. I’m going to hold the hand of a man who is lucky enough to be the object of my affection and kiss him hard on the street because I can’t help myself.

We all will. Because, no matter the act of violence, we won’t hide. We won’t disappear.


“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

-Nelson Mandela

As I blow out my candles…

I celebrated a birthday recently. Not a major one. Turning this new age didn’t afford me any new privileges and the number it self doesn’t signify any major milestones. Nevertheless, it’s time to speculate wildly as to what the next 365 days will bring.

Inevitably, some one always asks what I wish for in the new year. Somehow, I’m never prepared to answer it. Sure, I could say something generic like “world peace” or “good health for all.” But as a person with a penchant for the fantastical, I take these wishes seriously. (I may or may not still make a wish every day at 11:11.)

For the record, world peace and health are important and I want them. But this is my birthday wish. I don’t take this request to the birthday fairies or whatever wish granting creature you believe in lightly.

Whimsy aside, the birthday wish, for me, is a challenging concept because it forces me to ask myself one brutal question: Was there anything missing in my latest year of life? The answer is not always easy to admit.

Before I divulge my birthday “wish,” I think I should operationalize the term.  A “wish” is different from a “goal.” A goal is something I’m actively going to try to achieve. A wish is something magic, something I want but something I hope stumbles into my lap unexpectedly.  Most importantly, a wish is a thing I can’t seem to obtain despite my best efforts.

The last time I posted, I took a firm “Who needs a boyfriend” stance which I proudly confess I’m still holding to. In the weeks since posting, I’ve been enjoying the hell out of single life without ever once thinking about the missing Future Husband in my life or getting fervent about any one boy.  Freeing myself from that tyranny has lead me to a personal renaissance.

BUT… in the objective interest in stating my wish for the Gods of Birthdays and Cake, I submit the following: Romance.

Now before you roll your eyes and click over to the another tab, hear me out. I think it’s time we all sit and have a conversation about Romance because I’m not entirely sure everyone is on the same page.

When we start thinking about Romance, there are certain images that come to mind: nice dinners over candle light, champagne, roses, jewelry etc. But that is a list of tangible and purchasable things. It’s more complicated than that.  Romance itself cannot be simply acquired with a Groupon.   It’s an elaborate sensitive experience.

You see, Romance is not simply a gift. It can be a gift.  Sure, you can hide a rare piece of jewelry (think heart of the ocean) in a chocolate cake at the most expensive restaurant in town. But for some one like me, I’m more likely to devour that sweet treat without ever noticing Billy Zane’s lost treasure until many hours later (which sort of kills the vibe.) So it’s not about showering some one with gifts on gifts.  When we behave romantically, we create moments that are surprising, thoughtful and personal.

Sometimes a simple act that shows some one you’re paying attention can create a moment that will imprint on their heart forever.  (Note to self: Sell that line to Hallmark.)

I first developed my concept of Romance when I was in elementary school watching an episode of The Cosby Show. I can never stress enough the impact this show has had on the type of relationship and family I one day hope to have. (Future Husband, please be prepared to stage lip sync numbers with our children for every major event.)

In this particular episode, Cliff challenges the two men courting his daughters, Denise and Vanessa, to a “Romance-off.” (Note to self: pitch “Romance-Off” to every major network. John Legend hosts from his piano.) At the end of the episode, the three couples sit down to dinner and the men demonstrate their Casanovic ways. Alvin (I think) and Denise’s guy do something for their ladies that obviously made no impact on me since I can’t remember it or their names.

Then it’s Cliff’s turn. He tells a charming story about one of his first dates with Claire. During this date, teenage Claire pointed out a wooden barrette she adored while they passed by a drug store. Cliff, being the penniless young man he was, could not afford it. That memory stuck with him for tacky braceletmany decades. And so to commemorate this special occasion, Cliff tracked down and purchased that barrette at last.

The other couples sighed being moved by this gesture. Claire, oh wise Claire, smiles coyly, seemingly touched that he remembered this relic of their history.

But this coy smile was a TRAP. Because she never wanted that barrette. Eunice Chantily wanted that tacky barrette. Claire wanted a green plastic bracelet. The other couples gasp and laugh in a mixture of delight and embarrassment.

Claire, fuming, admonishes Cliff for his most unfortunate careless mistake. She opens the box intending to pull out the barrette to prove how horrible it was only to extract the exact green bracelet she had just described. They embrace, the studio audience cheers, and a young man’s understanding of romance is forged in the fires of an NBC sitcom. Witness this moment here.

Even as a child, I was enchanted by that most perfect reveal. I still have to fan myself off before I catch the vapors every time I watch that clip (I’ve always had a flair for the dramatic.) Cliff Huxtable, MD of Love, did not rely on extravagancies to continuously sweep Claire off of her feet. Instead, he created a lifetime of precious moments that were tailor made for her.  He presented his affections with a boldness that made Claire fall in love over and over again.

So I come back to my point about Romance. I worry that we’re not doing it right. These days it feels like we date without consequence. When we can open an app or go to a website to find a database of other dudes instantly to replace the one “that we’re just not into” it’s easy not to appreciate the beauty of starting a new relationship. Our investment in each other diminishes.

With most guys (that I’ve dated any way) I get the sense they are waiting to see if they are really interested before showing up with their A-Game. Like why waste all their romantic charm until we’ve reached some arbitrarily designated milestone (like the third date or first official Facebook photo or some other silly third thing.)

For some one who’s former Scruff tagline read “Modern Day Meg Ryan” this can be very disheartening. (Which might point to the very reason why I quit all of those apps.) I’m a chronic romantic and I have reason to believe that makes me very passé.

It’s not uncommon for me to surprise my gentleman callers with subtle but romantic gestures. Something to appropriately express that I enjoyed the first date and look forward to exploring a future.  I can’t say that it’s ever been met with the overwhelming response I had anticipated.  More often than not, those sweet nothings yield cold dismissive nothing. With each passing disappointment, I get more and more jaded.

Not everyone is good at Romance. And maybe not all of us have been brainwashed by a lifetime of exposure to romantic comedies to value it.  I get it. Starting out a courtship with a big romantic gesture requires a lot of balls.  Because behaving romantically communicates unequivocal interest.  Which is not the MO of any one these days.

However, part of developing meaningful relationships requires a certain level of vulnerability and risk.  As romantic interactions become more sterile, the signals get murky.  Dating, then, which can be a giggle inspiring affair, becomes like an awkward bro-session that may or may not result in dry humping where I’m not sure if he’s actually “feeling it” or just feeling me up.  And honey, you can save your ambivalence for some other girl.  Swipe left.

So 26 was awesome. But if you want to know what I wish for in this next year, which is to say what this year lacked, then the answer is romance.  And, yes, I am absolutely nervous that having told you this my wish might not come true.  But I’m here to prove a point #altruism.

***I have a feeling this may be received with mixed reactions. We all know “traditional” romantic narratives tend to enforce certain limiting gender norms. But I’d encourage us to keep breaking out of that mold. Because no matter who you are or what gender(s) you prefer, EVERYONE likes getting a thoughtful surprise from the apple of their eye. And I firmly believe we can do it without any sexual commerce attached. Like, be sweet simply because you want to see your honey smile, not just because it’s a guaranteed ticket to the bone zone.  But I digress…



Let Freedom Ring

It’s been one year since the break up, since the Ex and I took a long hard look at one another and bravely admitted that our relationship no longer worked.  We spent an uncomfortable month living in the same apartment, sharing a bed and too many drinks in this weird nebulous state of obliged dYouve-Got-Mail-dont-cry-shopgirletached attachment. And then we were free.

I walked away bursting with a restored sense of romance and energy that months stuck in a failing relationship dampened.  As we all know by now, I fully expected that it was only a matter of time until I met Future Husband during a meet-cute scene that would make Meg Ryan herself wish she were lucky enough to experience love like that.

Well, I’m not any closer to that vineyard wedding and the matching set of his and his Subarus than I was a year ago.  I’m still as single as a slice of Kraft.  But the thing is, I kinda love it.  Like a lot.  Which is utterly shocking. This whole year of freedom has illuminated things about myself I never was able to see before, good and bad.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the person I was when I met the Ex. I moved to Philly shortly I graduating college having no job, no real plan and my friend group was basically my roommates.   I was utterly incomplete.  So in that emptiness, I was grasping at anything that would fill me.  (Insert dirty sex joke here.)

Enter the Ex.  He knew the city, had lovely friends, a killer job and for what it’s worth, always paid for dinner.  Those first few months were intoxicating because I finally found something that made me feel special.

And no it wasn’t just the emptiness that he filled.  All of my life, I had placed romantic love on top of my list of priorities even when I didn’t have it.  Maybe you’ve picked up on this by now, but I can be intense.  I bring a certain “all or nothing” energy that screams, “Because I’m interested, I will be single-mindedly focused on you.  Whatever you need, potential suitor, I’ll give.  Call me Effie White, because you’re gonna love me.”

The Ex was the first guy ever (and maybe ever again) to effortlessly pick up the intensity I was putting down. So our relationship took off quicker than it probably should have and we reached milestones a bit premature and we moved in before we were actually ready to. But damnit it was love and it was mine.

As time went on, I eventually found a job that was greater than anything I could have imagined and developed friendships that meant more to me than any relationship I’ve ever had. By the end, I didn’t need him any more and I’m not sure he ever needed me.

On Fourth of July weekend, 2013, I declared my independence.  (For the record: it was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done.)

titanicSince then I’ve maintained a healthy dating life. Much of which has been captured on this blog (and much of which will stay with me because if Titanic taught us anything, it’s that a woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets.)  Some guys were great, some god-awful.  Through it I’ve made new close friends and sworn enemies.  It’s all been like a wonderfully tawdry season of 90’s Melrose Place.  And like a smutty evening network drama, I was obsessed.

When I’m elderly and my grandchildren have gathered around and I force them to look through my old photo albums or whatever Facebook has created for the purposes of chronicling our every move, I’ll be amazed by what I have accomplished this year.  I’m not one to brag, but from July 2013- July 2014 I killed it all day every day. In this year, I have blossomed into the person I always hoped I would be.

But, and this pains me to admit, as a byproduct of my obsession, there was never a moment, even through all the successes and victories, that I wasn’t on some level lamenting some boy or lack thereof.  And that sucks a big bag of dicks.

I’ve treated Love this year like I was that same scared 22 year old with nothing else going for him.  I’d go on a few dates with a boy and suddenly I couldn’t think about anything else.  I’d check my phone incessantly, post on Facebook desperately hoping to score a like, and would be trying to schedule the next date before we even had the main course.  Love was distracting me from the abounding joy. Every time it invariably didn’t work out, it crushed me.

All of this led me to one shocking conclusion: Love, romantic love, has never made me happy.  The rare moments of happiness I have experienced were simply punctuation marks in an endless Dickens-esque run-on sentence of anxious misery.  It was the worst of times, it was the shittiest of times and once in awhile it was a’ight.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve not turned into not some cynic certain that Love is pile of rotten garbage.  Obviously not.  I’m still the same hopeful romantic who believes Love is the greatest thing humans can express and share.  I’m literally listening to my favorite Love Song playlist as I write this.

But I was explaining this to my dear friend the other day and he aptly pointed out that it’s an important moment when we realize we have all the love we need.  I’m very fortunate in that way.  I am surrounded by so many people whom I love and love me back that sometimes I don’t know what to do with all of the feelings.

My skewed priorities insisted though that in order to really feel whole I needed some man to fill this specific role. Despite all the truly wonderful things I had, I still felt like I was missing something important.  I consistently clawed  and scraped at any chance to find Love, focusing so much of my attention on it as if knowing one person loving me in a romantically inclined way proved unequivocally my worth or value or whatever thing I hoped it would do.

scandalI’m no longer at the point in my life where I’m a naïve lost little boy looking for some one to hold his hand and guide him through the world.  I’m a grown ass self possessed man with literally everything to offer (except riches#artistlife.)  I’ve learned only recently that I don’t need to surrender all of my goodies for the first pair of cute eyes who gives me a sweet look. Today I’m Scandal‘s Olivia Pope and Love is Fitz trying to get back with me whenever it’s convenient but I’m walking up to the White House looking incredible shouting back, “If you want me, earn me,” loud enough to ensure the secret service agent in the hall way heard it so I know it’s recorded forever on a formal government document.

A year later and I am making another declaration of personal independence.  For I see now that being single I am complete.  No longer will I bend my desires or compromise myself for the sake of any silly boy.  Farewell to the tyranny of romantic Love.  God Bless America.

And so I leave you with this:  When you’re ready for me Future Husband, when you think you’re worthy, I’ll be here having a wonderful time eager to see how you’re going to contribute and share in my joy.  You still have my number.

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)

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.


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.)


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.


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.


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

With me, it’s all or nothing lately.

For the first time in a few months, Philadelphia wasn’t a frozen waste land this weekend. enchantedI couldn’t be happier.  I had a brunch date at a local doughnut and fried chicken joint (yes that is a thing, Non-Philly readers.)  I put on a light sweatshirt and sauntered out into the beautiful day where I would be greeted by an animated bird that rested upon my finger and joined me in a jaunty tune on my front stoop.

The Chicken/Doughnut shop was about a 30-minute walk from my place.  Four days prior, I would have been grumbling about it being too cold and too far from easily accessible public transit, but this weather had me head over heels in love with my city again.  I needed to strut.

So I’m whistling Dixie, on my way to a pile of deliciously unhealthy food and a guy I’ve been seeing with regularity when a few paces ahead I notice a man jogging towards me.  (Pfft, runners, am I right?)

As the runner got closer, I realized I knew his face.  I went on a date with him a few weeks ago.  He texted me a few times after that attempting to plan a second date but I never followed through.

This was the first I had seen him since that date.  I held my breath and felt a twinge of guilt in the back of my neck as I braced myself for what would be an undoubtedly awkward conversation.  I may have been a touch unclear about my lack of interest.  You see,  I did that thing I always do when I’m not feeling it; I politely explain I’m busy whenever they say they want to meet, promise I’ll get back in touch in a few days once I “get a better hold of my schedule,” and then never make contact again.

Somehow I’ve been able to convince myself that I do this because it preserves their feelings so they aren’t broken by the news that it’s not going to happen.  But really, I do it because I’m selfishly avoiding hard honest conversations.  And it’s making me feel like shit.

The runner passed me and without breaking his stride or smiling, greeted me with the coldest wave you ever saw.  I should have been wearing my winter coat.

In the past few months, I’ve dated a number of guys.   Very few of them have made it to the second date with me.  I keep taking an “All or Nothing” approach; either they are my Future Husband or I never need to see them again.  And their FH potential status is decided probably in the first ten minutes.

For some reason, I can’t seem to reconcile a place for them in my life if it doesn’t immediately involve a ring… wedding ring to be clear.  I started this post ready to argue that this is analogous to all gay men, but I don’t think that’s true.

mean girls walk

Over the past year, I’ve been developing a close knit group of friends, all of whom are gay men and the greatest people you will ever meet. (Yes, that is a Mean Girls reference.)  This clique has been together for a few years before I came into the picture.  I’m the new girl, the Cady Heron if you will.  (Don’t roll your eyes, Brian, I’m the Cady.)

In the early days of our friendship, I had a lot of catching up to do.  I adopted the group jargon easily enough and studied our herstory.  What I still find most surprising is that most of their friendship origin stories began with a date.  Their romantic encounters with each other turned into deep but (mostly) nonsexual friendships.

I don’t know that I’ve ever successfully made that transition.

Which causes me to realize that I am the anomaly.  I am the one with the issue.  I’m the asshole.

This is uncharted territory for me, this single, city life.  Seriously.  I moved to Philly in November ’09, fell in love the second weekend I was here.  Four months later it totally and utterly fell apart, I met the Ex maybe two months after that and was spoken for until this past July.

So maybe I’m doing it wrong.  Maybe I should be able to turn my luke-warm feelings into a friendship with my various gentleman callers.  Maybe it’s okay to keep a line of communication open even after I’ve firmly decided I don’t want to date.  I mean it couldn’t hurt.

I don’t know.

I don’t know if I want to.  I don’t know if I should have to.  I don’t know that I need to.

sad walk

I passed by the chilly runner and all of this was swirling in my head.  When I first moved here, I was 22, heart broken, wandering without direction, and working at a coffee shop.  I was every Taylor Swift song.  When I was overwhelmed by all the ambiguity of my early twenties, I would go on what I called my “Crisis Walks” where for hours I would roam the city streets reflecting on my choices.

The lush and unique landscapes of my city were always the perfect cure for the 22 blues.  Inevitably, I would applaud my bravery for taking this risk, moving here without a real plan, and enthusiastically dream of the possibilities that lay before me.  All of that terror and anxiety would wash away.

My walk to the Donut/Chicken Joint became a Crisis Walk.  (Sorry, fella! Though don’t worry, I got it together by the time we met.)

I started asking myself what is it that’s missing from my life right now.  What is this specific role I’m trying to fill that these duds aren’t satisfying? What do I want?  I have a job I love.  It fulfills me artistically, emotionally, intellectually often to the point of happy tears.  I freelance for another theater company on the side, which I totally dig.  I have a fantastic group of hilarious, ride or die friends.  My relationship with my family couldn’t be better (except, sure, I could visit more often!)  I have a great living situation with one of my oldest and dearest friends in a killer row home.

I’m pretty damn lucky.

But still, something is missing.  Something important.

This is a strange moment in my life.  Don’t get me wrong, I really love my life and to sit here and bitch and moan is not my point.  In fact, punch me in the face if I ever do that.  But I’m starting to  contemplate my independence.  I’m totally free.  As much as I love my family and friends, we don’t need each other in any measurable way.  And with the exception of my professional responsibilities, no one actually relies on me for anything significant.  The success or failure of my life will only have a direct causal effect on me.  Suddenly “independent” feels very lonely.

So the short answer is a boyfriend.  That’s what’s missing.  But you all knew that, that’s why I’ve called you here each week.  I don’t mean some one to go to dinner with, or sleep with or see my shows or hang with my friends.  That’s easy.  I can make a patchwork quilt out of these silly boy swatches for that stuff.  It’s deeper than that.

What I’m missing is my partner in crime.  Some one that I can build my life with.  Some one who cares if I succeed because when I do, we do.  Some one who, when I fuck it up, is there to help me make it right.  Some one who makes me feel as important and capable as my work does, who makes me laugh as much as my friends do, who supports me like my family does, who wants me even when I have eye boogers.  Some one who is there to share the often crushing weight of existence.

Each day, I’m going it alone.  And I’m handling it.  But like Olivia Pope: flawlessly empowered while hopelessly fragile hoping Fitz is going to get it right.  And I’m not looking to rush into something because it feels safe and cozy.  I’ve been there before and it ain’t cute.  I know this thing I’m looking for is rare and special and I’m picky.  I know it takes time.

RestlessnessAnxiety and Disappointment are all names of magazines in the waiting room of Dr. Love’s office.

I reserve that right to be disinterested for any reason at all.  Because at the same time that I think I know exactly what this man will be like, I also have no clue.  I’m a fickle pickle.  And these boys that I could give or take, I am not obligated to make space for them in my life because they bought me a beer.  I don’t need to turn boring conversation into a life long friendship.  Besides, you would have to be pretty damn amazing to join the pantheon of my loved ones.

But in the meantime, I could stop being such a scaredy cat, put on my big boy pants and tell these boys up front, thanks but I’m not interested right now.  And maybe they will become a friend instead of another person I’m trying to avoid at Woody’s.

Something Worth Melting For…

I saw Frozen this weekend.  This was the cinematic experience I had been waiting for all year.  August: Osage County? Pfft, more like August: No-sage… HuntyAmerican Hustle? I’d rather hustle past your theater to see Frozen.  (But actually, I want to see these two before the Oscars.)

This should surprise no one when I say I found the whole thing utterly enchanting.  It was whimsical, musical, and delightfully awkward.  It was as if some one captured my essence, removed all of the potty humor and turned it into an animated feature film.

I wasn’t surprised that I liked it so much.  After all, I’ve been singing “Let It Go” for months now. Idina took me all the way to synagogue and threw me a Bar Mitzvah what that one.  And basically every one with a heart and access to Facebook has been singing its praises.

But I never ever expected to be so taken with this story’s depiction of “True Love.”  It broke the Disney mold I had so come to expect.   I arrived ready for a love story and found the central narrative had nothing to do with romantic love.  Even in the moments where that typical trope would rear its ugly head, BAM.  Some one would show up and Shut. It. Down!

I grew up watching Disney classics like The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, stories of women on a journey to achieve that one great True Love.  They sacrifice everything; their homes, families, freedom, fins, voices for it.  And we rejoice when at last they share that perfect kiss on their wedding day!

I can’t help but wonder how much of my real adult expectations of love have been based on that narrative.  If I’m being honest, probably a whole lot.

Like Belle and Ariel, I’ve spent my life dreaming about that sweeping romantic experience wherein I spot Future Husband across the room and in an instant, I know unquestionably that he’s “The One.”  I’ve ended multiple relationships because I didn’t feel that “spark.”

Allow me to describe my vision of a perfect relationship: I meet a man and we instantly know we are “meant for each other.”  We forge that kind of relationship where there is nothing on earth more important to us than each other.  If need be, we’d sacrifice our dreams and other relationships for the sake of our True Love.  And in some mystical way, we always have the perfect thing to say no matter what the situation.

A few years ago, I fell head over heels in love with a man from Michigan the moment I met him.  And this Love had all the makings of that epic romance.  The circumstances of our meeting were beautifully serendipitous and he vaguely looked like a Disney Prince.  But like the poor grad student version.  I remember clearly, during our first kiss, before I knew he lived so far away, thinking, “Oh, this is it.”  I committed myself to him and our prospective future vigorously.

If he asked, I would have up and moved to be with him in a second.  (Instead, when I suggested I do this, he refused because I couldn’t possibly reach my full potential if I uprooted myself for him.  Ugh, whatever, he respected my goals and knew Michigan would be a dead end for me.  He’s perfect.  Moving on.)  Eventually the distance was too much and our wallets were far too tight.  Artist and Grad student, what are you gonna do?

This happened almost five years ago and I still I’m regularly visited by the nagging thought that he’s not only “The One” but now “The One that got away.”

In the past few months, partially due to this blog, I have scrutinized my concept of love and what it is I’m looking for.  Well, I’ve come up with the resounding conclusion that literally no one is good enough for me.  I told my mom this a few weeks while we were both complaining about men and she laughed and said, “Maybe we just demand too much. We expect everyone to be perfect.”

Duh.  Because I believe that my love story, my final ever-lasting love story, will be made of perfection and rainbows and I’ll sing songs with animals when it happens.

Why do I expect that? Have Disney movies and all the romantic comedies I’ve watched in my life informed my expectations of the kind of love I want?

I mean, YEAH.  I didn’t grow up witnessing that perfect true love at home.  My family is far from “traditional.” So I didn’t learn to value it by experiencing it.  (No, I don’t feel like I missed out on anything or I’m trying to compensate for it in my adulthood.  And if you or any one you know wants to talk to me about how children only thrive in a “nuclear family,” I’ll shout you the hell down.  But I’m not here for that today.)

Ok, so admittedly, growing up as a young boy, I was having alternative gendered experiences with Disney Animated Classics and Rom Coms by associating myself with the heroines.  As a gay man, I do allow my self the license to have a more fluid understanding of my gender.  That’s just me, not necessarily all gay men.  But still, the way I value love and, more importantly, the way I have come to expect Future Husband to value me have stemmed directly from these stories.

And in comes Frozen.  This film not only reinvents the rules of “True Love” for this genre (Animated Princess Musical Rom Coms) it blatantly criticizes them.

Early on, we meet Anna, the younger sister of the ice queen (really, guys?) who craves a life beyond her castle walls. (Ariel, much?)  Anna, eager to see the world, meets the charming albeit bumbling Hans, a young prince about five minutes after leaving the castle for the first time.   They declare their love for each other during a deliciously campy musical number ending in a sudden engagement.  And I believed it.

I sat and listened to their silly song and swooned thinking, “Aw, I wish my love life were like this.”  As she as she announces her pending nuptials, everyone is all like, “Anna, gurl, you just met this guy.  What’s his last name?  What side of the bed does he sleep on?  How much student loan debt does he have?  You’re really jumping the gun here.”  Her sister, Kristoff, and even the damn Snowman who has been alive for like 30 minutes calls her on it.

Like Anna, my first response was to cross my arms and fight back with a “You don’t even know him!”  And then, I calmed down, stopped shouting at the screen and realized that they’re probably right.  Maybe they should go on a few dates first or something.  I guess people shouldn’t jump into an engagement after only four hours.

Ok Hans and Anna aren’t the love story here.  I’m sure something will come up.

anna and kristoff

Enter Kristoff, the smelly reindeer guy who sells ice.  So every word I just used to describe him immediately would have sent me running.  And had Anna not actually needed his help she probably wouldn’t have given him the time of day. 

But because they had mutual objectives, they had to work together.  As they continued to overcome obstacles by supporting one another while also having friendly conversation, they started to notice an interest budding.  Ahh, here’s my romantic fairy tale couple.  It had all the tell tale signs; flirting, secret smiles, he caught her when she fell off the mountain.  Call me India.Arie because I am ready for love.

After all the build up and drama and other hilarious happenstances, Anna’s heart is frozen.  The cure: an “act of True Love.”  If every love story ever has taught me anything, a kiss solves all of the problems.  That’s the only way.  I was a little put off when Anna, Kristoff and Olaf conclude Hans has to deliver the kiss.  Didn’t we already establish that her relationship with Hans was stupid and Kristoff was her soul mate?  Whatever, she’s committed I guess.  So she finds Hans and, OH NO, he’s a secret villain! I knew it! She and Kristoff were the It-couple!

But once again, the movie totally obliterated my expectations.  Anna, on the brink of death (or ice death?), was faced with a choice: run to Kristoff for  20ccs of “True Love” by kiss injection or save her cold mopey sister.  The big dummy chose to save her sister, forever turning herself into ice.  When Anna froze because she chose Uteruses over Duderuses, I was really disappointed in her.  Doesn’t she get that True Love will break all spells and make life everything you dreamed of?  ISN’T THAT WHAT I’M SUPPOSED TO BE DOING WITH MY LIFE?

However, it turned out that the love Anna had for her sister ended up releasing her from a frozen death.  And I was floored.  Because really it should have been obvious that Anna’s love for her sister was the only thing that could be deemed “true.”  It’s literally the only significant relationship she’s ever had her whole life.   She may be crushing on Kristoff or even Hans but it’s unreasonable to expect that given the choice between these men she’s known for maybe a day or so and her life long (albeit cold and distant) sister, she would choose the Crush. 

And yet I never saw it coming.

Like most people, I’ve learned to expect certain outcomes from these narratives.  True love wins. A kiss breaks the spell. The hot couple winds up together at the expense of the heroines whole life.  And I love it. I dream about it happening in my own life.



I grew up watching these movies and I base every romantic encounter on how much “magic” I feel.  And I won’t settle for less than Harry Potter.  Step aside Siegfried and Roy.  Get back in your box, Harry Houdini.  If it doesn’t feel “real” then I don’t want it.

The longer I live and the longer I’m single, I start wondering how realistic my ideals are.  Probably not very.  That’s why I find Frozen to be such a positive depiction of love.  Now that this story is part of the Disney cannon, it’s going to be as ubiquitous as The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast.  Frozen will be irrevocably tied to the childhood of so many young people (ugh, I feel old.)  Maybe they’ll see that love doesn’t come from magic and maybe you don’t have to give up your family or your power to find it.  Maybe two people who share similar goals will discover a mutual attraction while working together as equals and explore the possibility of a romantic and sexual relationship over time and through open communication.

Now for the record, I don’t think Frozen is a shining beacon of socially progressive children’s entertainment.  Actually, it’s quite problematic.  I mean, the central conflict of the whole thing is that a woman has too much power and is ruining everyone’s lives because of it.  The people of Arendelle only love Elsa once she learns to suppress her power.  (It’s cool as long as she used it for like fun stuff like ice skating or snowman preservation.)     Oh and every character is beautiful, white, able bodied, and straight.  So yeah, Disney has work to do.

But I imagine 5-year-old Tim growing up today watching a movie like Frozen.  First of all, I’d be belting “Let it Go” in the Disney Store at the mall instead of “Part of your World.”  The idea of a child me singing a song about accepting myself instead of giving up my identity for love already brings a tear to my eye.

I wonder if he would grow up into a person who has a healthy sense of romance but understands it shouldn’t come at the expense of his family, friends, or self worth.  It’s taken me a lot of years in my adulthood to figure that out.

That alternative-reality version of myself might still be single, sure.  But I bet he would be less hung up on it.  I bet he would scoff at the idea of having an online dating profile and writing this blog about desperately seeking love.

It may be too late to save myself.  Even now, I hear a not too quiet voice in my head screaming, “BUT LOVE IS REAL! Stop being a cynic!”

My heart, like Anna’s, is warmed imagining a future generation of little weirdos who understand that love isn’t a zero-sum game.


Look out, I’m Fabulous!