pour some sugar on me

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It’s an odd, very “this century” phenomenon, thanks largely to the internet, that when bored white people like myself quit something we expect a medal or a round of applause. Like maybe Sharon should take a few days off in honor of her brave undertaking of the Whole 30. Perhaps Tyler needs a special parking space since he recently gave up vaping. God bless. In lieu of fighting against racist and discriminatory systems to get our basic needs met, we invent little challenges for our “best selves” and really want everyone to know how hard it is. Thus I recently went an entire month without sugar and I really resisted in an online call for prayers and round the clock encouragement.

Thankfully, for the entire world at large this experiment didn’t subject the internet to  shirtless after photos with captions like “Hot #sugarfree #dadbod.” Jesus. No. My ego is not yet that fragile. I say “yet” because much like Ben Affleck, you never know when my ego will shatter in a million pieces. I can say since quitting actual the hard shit like cocaine and daily drinking, I have dabbled in quitting all kinds of stuff and usually out of boredom. I was vegetarian for a few months, I’ve fasted, I’ve juiced and I’ve even had other rounds of me quitting sugar. This bout of sugar detox came on the tail end of the holiday season where I basically consumed sweets like a round-the-clock tournament of Ms. Pac-Man. I baked all of the cookies, I ate all of the holidays cookies and I would do it all again. To paraphrase Jon Bon Jovi in the epic ballad “Wanted Dead or Alive”, I’ve seen million pastries and I’ve eaten them all. It was an amazing holiday season but I wound up on the other end of December cracked out on sugar and bloated as fuck.  It was time to step away from the sugar. At least temporarily.

Having a background in recovery is really helpful when you decide to crash diet or try some bullshit nutritional thing. When you get sober, you learn the process is all one day at a time, that you won’t feel better right away and the progress is slow-moving and hard-earned. Intellectually, I knew this going into quitting sugar on January 7. I didn’t tell all my friends I was quitting forever and that my life was going to change! Child, I’d learned that lesson a zillion times before I got sober when I would blab about being done forever only to be found the week later with a straw in my nose and a beer in my hand at some shitty gay bar. I know better now. Unless, I’m really ready to quit, I should wait until I send out a press release. I kept it low profile in the beginning, allowing for some gentleness if I happened to stumble on a Reese’s peanut butter cup along the way. All of this was great and knowing how to quit things without setting myself up for failure is a huge gift. Still, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t totally suck.

In my mind I would go sugar-free until February 14th. It would be a month plus one week and I’d celebrate with chocolate hearts. I had the Instagram post already planned out in my mind. However, due to a friend in a real crisis way bigger than nonsense, some chocolate had to happen on February 8th. So I did make it a month and what a month. When people at work or in my personal life would ask me about quitting sugar they’d always say, ” Good for you! Don’t you feel great?!” My response was the  always same: “No. I don’t feel great. I’m bitchy, I wanna punch people and sit in a bathtub filled with gelato.”I would also tell them it was a stupid idea and that I wouldn’t recommend it. This response might have been a tad crabby but it was authentic. I didn’t instantly feel better. I didn’t lose 50 pounds (I did lose 10 pounds though). I didn’t suddenly have all this energy people talk about. What is that energy thing anyway? People say that about everything. I quit eating meat and got so much energy! I quit smoking and got so much energy! This has never happened to me. Then again, as a cocaine enthusiast, my idea of something giving me energy might be different from most folks. Anyway, my real problem with quitting sugar was that it wasn’t a cure-all for every minor or major thing wrong in my life.

Quitting sugar for a month didn’t’ cure my PTSD or lifelong depression or occasional bone-crushing self-doubt. Quitting sugar didn’t make a better person. Quitting sugar didn’t cure my insecurities or prejudices. Quitting sugar didn’t make me less selfish. It just made me a bitchy old gay who really wanted a cookie. Turns out I’m sort of a cunt without a steady stream of chocolate. Now we know! But it also helped me realize that as far as my bigger character stuff, the nitty-gritty, emotional growth and the real juicy spiritual journeys that I’m 100% committed to, I’m in a great place. Over the past year and a half, I’ve pushed myself really hard to get to the bottom of some really gnarly, core personality stuff that has been holding me back. It’s not pretty or cute work. My relationship has been going through a similar process too. It involves putting the ways I think under a microscope and honestly noting that a lot of them are out of business. Changing the way I’ve operated for years is some hardcore shit. Comparatively, quitting sugar ain’t no thing.

Another month later and back on my sugar bullshit, I’d like to say that month helped me put my relationship with sugar into a healthy perspective. But seeing as though I currently have a chocolate cream pie in my refrigerator, that might be a stretch. What it did do is make me realize that recovery taught me how to live my life, how to quit stuff and how to give myself a fucking break and eat a cookie.

 

 

to all the bros I loved before

Justin Bieber goes for a jog with his PosseWhy is it that the people who push you around, the ones who beat you up and the guys you don’t wanna run into are also the ones you wanna impress the most? Okay, not you. You’re probably pretty healthy. I’m sorry to put this shit on you. I meant me. Why am I like this? Why do I know in the pit of my soul that these men are garbage fires of individuals but I want them to approve of me anyway? Child. This is a deep thing that I’ve been paying a professional to talk about for over a year. There’s binder full of notes somewhere and a large conspiracy theory type of wall map that we could pull together to try to unravel this. The short answer is that my self-esteem was nonexistent for most of my life so I just wanted these dudes, these bros, theses assholes to like me. They usually never did and what’s more guys like this are the kind of guys who bullied me in school, pushed me in the hallway, threw things at me and mocked me. Painful? Sure, but not impossible to overcome. For the ones who hurt me when I was young, through the hours of work, therapy and 12-Step Meetings I’ve been able to reach a place of “Fuck ‘Em” in the most spiritual way possible.

I’m thinking about all of this right now for lots of reasons but chief among them being because asshole dudes who get away with whatever they want are kind of in fashion. We want to put them in power. We still want to give them things. We want to look the other way at the sheer fact of how much they suck. And here I do mean we.  You are guilty too. I listened to that weird dude cry, sniffle and yell during a job interview for a position on the highest court in the land, all the while knowing that even his inherent shittiness wouldn’t sink him from getting the job. Jerks like him always win. Life isn’t an 80’s movie. Wimpy Ralph Macchio in a headband won’t save us. The Biffs, the Johnnies, the Chads– they run this world and we don’t get a redemption storyline. Just ask Anita HIll or anybody bullied by guys like this. The victims of guys like this get to say their piece and put their necks on the line, only to have their lives ruined all over again. There’s no prom or trophies. Yet what we do get to walk away with is a rebuilt version of ourselves that’s stronger and capable of amazing things like even being able to love these jerks, these dudes, these bros.

Whoever is the head writer for the primetime drama that is my life deserves an Emmy because they can really come up with a plot twist. Little did I know that when I got sober in 2009 that my life would be filled with straight guys, ones that even looked like my tormenters from the past. For years, groups of white men would give me a panic attack and now here I was sitting next to them in meetings. The amazing thing about being in a room of addicts and alcoholics is that whoever you were or where you come from doesn’t matter. There have been too many times to count where I see someone who does not look or sound like me start to open their mouths and I think, “Oh this is gonna put me to sleep” only to have my brain blown open and my heart melted because they said exactly how I felt. I now considered myself blessed to have a network of straight men friends who are sober and who I can count on. Oh and it goes deeper than that.

In my professional world I work with a lot of guys right from jail, from rural and not exactly gay friendly neighborhoods and basically guys who in a different time and place who would kick my ass. Yet meeting them addict-to-addict and from a place of support, where we come from really doesn’t matter. I’ve had burly dudes that people might even describe as scary tell me they love me. Not only do I believe them but I love them too. It’s oddly profound and perfect that the types of guys I thought I hated and who hated and tortured me are the very ones I get to help and get the honor of being a person they can lean on. See? I told you it was a good plot twist. If this was a movie from the creators of This Is Us, you’d be crying right now.

The last reason these bros are on my mind is because one that I loved who didn’t love me back recently left this realm. I got news the other day a guy I used to hang out with was killed in an accident. We were friends when I was 20. It’s a gay story as old as time. We met on ecstasy, went to raves, hung out constantly, I fell in love with him but he didn’t love me back becuase he liked vaginas and I don’t have one of those, he fucked my best girlfriend, I did more drugs and cut them both out of my life. You know. These things just happened in the 1990’s. The impact of this non-romance was powerful though. We were never the same as friends, although the meth might have had something to do with that. Nevertheless, we drifted and over the years I wondered about him. I would see posts from mutual friends on Facebook or hear news of him when I’d return home to Denver over the holidays. By not loving me the way I wanted him to he taught me something too: he taught me I deserve more. He taught me that I shouldn’t chase things that aren’t meant for me. He taught me that I could be loveable. His death hit me like a ton of bricks. I mourned him because he was actually one of the good ones. I also mourned for that 20-year-old drug addict version of myself with the painfully low self-esteem.

Sadly, this will be one of those essays that maybe doesn’t answer the questions posed at the top. The fact of the matter is, I don’t know why we loves these dudes, these jerks, these bros. I don’t know why we love people who hurt us or push us around or who are simply unvailable. And I sure the fuck don’t know why our culture is obsessed with rewarding bullies, rapists and misogynists. This also will not end with me saying that we should try to love and understand straight white males more. God no. Eww. I mean, yes they are not all rapist, bully assholes but that’s the best you’ll get out of me right now.

What I do know is this: the men who’ve hurt me, the ones who’ve bullied me and the ones who couldn’t love me back have only made me tougher, more compassionate and even able to love more. For that alone, I’m grateful for their bro asses.

A Little Respect

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Part wood nymph, part rock star, the mere sight of Andy Bell in short shorts and wearing a flower crown undoubtedly changed me. Throughout the concert, he was flanked by two fierce black backup signers also covered in glitter and flowers. It was like a Renaissance painting did ecstasy while watching Little Shop of Horrors and decided to put on a show. And what a show it was. I was 16 years old and here was this rare, gay man out and proud and having a huge musical career in 1990 while I was a closeted, burgeoning drug addict who didn’t even know who I was. Bell was almost too much to look at. So in-your-face, so sweet, so charming and so out of fucks to give, it seemed like the me that could be but a me that was totally out of reach.  I mean Andy Bell was the lead singer of Erasure and I was just some effeminate teenager in Golden, Colorado.

Bullied, beaten up and black and blue, I ran towards anything that looked shinier and more beautiful than the existence I had as a teenager. It wasn’t just music like Erasure’s but Bowie, Sinead O’Connor, Deee-Lite, Madonna and anything else I could dance to and forget who I was. Drugs fit fabulously into this plan too. When I was high, I didn’t have to feel the pains of growing up gay and from an alcoholic home. When I was with the kids I used with I was cool, not just some kid that got routinely called faggot as he walked down the hall. I wasn’t the kid you pushed in the cafeteria because he wouldn’t push back, I was a smart ass drunk and drug addict and who could drink you under the table. I was cool or at the very least cool adjacent. I knew who to hang out with to at least give the appearance of being cool. I was also a kid with an incredible taste in music.

Drinking, drugs and listening to cassette tapes or going to teen alternative clubs was basically my whole life. Smoking cloves dancing to “Personal Jesus”, drinking Big Gulps spiked with whiskey and watching Book of Love in concert, taking drugs and seeing Love and Rockets, smoking weed and singing Madonna at Burger King instead of being in class. I had no use for traditional school, a place where I was regularly fucked with for being who I was. Instead, I sought out personal enrichment through drugs, pop culture and music. Like why go to biology when you can take acid, listen to New Order and go to the mall? Perpetually in peril and in over my head with a life out of control, most anybody who knew me who didn’t do drugs with me was probably concerned about me. People of all kinds tried to help or tried to figure out what was wrong but to no avail. After all, I was a nice kid, a creative kid and a kid who couldn’t if fit with everybody else no matter who hard he tried. I couldn’t even be invisible which was a real bitch. Okay, fine. I’ll be the gayest child that Colorado ever saw in 1989 but can I at least camouflage into the background?

Yet that was not my story. I was extra before we even started saying extra. Therefore the “extra” artists of that era– Erasure, Cyndi Lauper, Pete Burns, Boy George– forged the path for me to walk down. But what did I do when I wasn’t listening to music or dancing or going to concerts? It’s not like Andy Bell could magically appear like the fairy from Pinocchio and perform Blue Savannah every time I felt horrible. Likewise, giving myself platinum blonde hair like Madonna wasn’t a real substitution for self-esteem although it didn’t stop me from trying. Drugs and alcohol, thank god, gave me the ability to not give a fuck, like Mr.Bell himself. After spending my junior year harassed and pushed around, I emerged my senior year of high school as some kind of faux phoenix. The kids who fucked with me the most had graduated and now I could smoke cigarettes, talk shit, get high and listen to music in my friends cars without caring who hated me. Sure, I was still teased but after a summer of going to gay clubs, doing acid and dancing all night long, as directed by Miss Cathy Dennis, I had developed a swagger that sort of looked like self-esteem. I tried my best to own who I was but without actually being out of the closet or actually liking myself, it was just a performance.

A long running performance, at that. A tough exterior of joke cracking gay best friend who knew all the cool kids served me well and even well into my thirties. But the thing about that kid who knows all the good bands and has gossipy stories about celebrities and bitchy take downs of coworkers is that’s all there is to him. My inability to get real about the hurt, sadness, shame and self-hate that I felt inside 24 hours a day was killing me. Towards the end, drugs and alcohol didn’t just loosen up the act and make life more comfortable, they were vital for even leaving the house. I hated myself and no amount of  male pop stars in hot pants could make that go away.

At age 45 and counting, I am now unable to suppress a deep sigh or at the bare minimum a low-key eye roll when people flippantly say, “Love yourself.” Undoubtedly catchy for some other generation to enjoy in a Justin Bieber song, the idea of loving yourself to a person like me sounds downright puzzling. “Love yourself!” and while you’re at it solve world hunger. Love yourself. Please. As if someone merely telling us to love ourselves is enough. In fact, a lot of times when people say “They need to love themselves” it’s a way to comment on the perceived low self-esteem of others. Love yourself, you pathetic mess. Even Rupaul’s well-intended and much quoted,”If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”is a loaded shortcut to something that I’ve found very hard to do. Trying to love myself sounds a little easier while liking myself more than I did before is sometimes really the best I can muster.

In 2010, a good 20 years after I had the magical gay epiphany of seeing Andy Bell and Erasure on stage, the band once again entered my conscience. A year and a half sober, I was visiting my sister and her kids in Colorado. The place I had grew up in had changed too– thanks marijuana! It was no longer the deep red state steeped in homophobia and hatred. It had come around a little and so had I. My niece and nephew, who possess not just great sets of eyelashes but incredible senses of humor, were obsessed with the video game “Robot Unicorn Attack.” The ridiculous game had its moment in the sun as sort of viral obsession and along with it came an Erasure reemergence. The band’s song “Always” is winkingly featured as game’s theme song. Quick to pick up on anything amazing, my niece and nephew loved the song too. They’d giggle uncontrollably when Bell would dramatically sing, “Open your eyes. Your eyes are open.”  It seemed all too perfect that this band and this song would show back up at a point where I was starting to like myself.

Now aged 50-something with his hot pants days behind him,  Andy Bell is sober too. He’s talked openly, like we would expect anything less, about his battle with drugs and alcohol. There’s something comforting about knowing that this gay icon who was utterly 100% himself maybe hated himself too and that makes his role in who I grew up to be even more profound. It makes the beautiful angel I whose music I loved in on friends cassette tapes relatable and real, Perhaps Andy Bell, like the rest of us, faked loving himself, until he could get close to the real thing.

Maybe that’s the best any of us can do? Maybe we should take this ultimatum of “love yourself or fail at life” off the table completely. Because what I know is all of this–this feeling better, this trying to stop killing myself, this path to even tolerating myself, much less loving myself– is that it’s a lot of fucking work. No amount of Bieber songs or stickers or mugs or even Drag Race episodes can make me love myself. It’s a long road I have to walk (and occasionally fall of) everyday. Being the good drug addict that I am it’s unfortunate to discover I can’t snort self-esteem like I used to snort cocaine. Instead, it self-esteem and yeah even loving myself comes in little doses through small efforts. Just not being a dick to people at the grocery store. Holding the door open for someone and not expecting a round of applause. And not using drugs or alcohol one day at a goddamn time get me closer. Closer to a little more happiness, a little more self-esteem and a little respect.

eventually, you’ll think about your ass

tumblr_mdm66xNgHD1rrajnno1_1280.jpgEventually, you’ll think about your ass. And by think about “ass”  I don’t mean, ass in general, like “ass” as a greater entity. As in getting yourself some or a piece of. And I am also not talking about thinking about someone being an ass. If you are awake and reading this, you’ve already done that 40 times today. Nor do I mean you’ll think about someone else’s ass which again has probably already happened today. No, I mean “ass” as in the one attached to you. Eventually, you’ll think about your own and wonder where it all went wrong.

Someday soon or maybe it’s already happened, you will walk by your ass in a full length mirror and say, “Well, fuck.” You’ll give it a double take, questioning your first glance. Surely, that whatever that is can’t belong to you. Or you’ll wonder if there’s a lightbulb burnt out in your bathroom. Or perhaps it’s the angle you’re staring at it which it makes it look so depressed. Maybe it has dimples where it didn’t before. Maybe weight changes have left tiny tracks across it. Maybe it was happy and now looks sad. Maybe it used to be solid and now jiggles. Or maybe if you’re like me, you’ll notice that what was once high, tight and smooth is now a flattened, saddened shell of its former self. Like if 2016 was an ass, it would be yours.

In an act of aging gay male rebellion, I do not however spend a lot of timing romancing my younger self. When your younger self is a glitter and cocaine covered coke whore and not a male model this is easy to do. Nevertheless, I don’t spend hours looking at myself and wondering if there was a twink wandering around nearby whose youth and life-force I could suck dry in between spray tanning sessions. I’m okay with my impish, Moby-ish looking self and know what my physical strengths are. I have nice blue eyes. I have dreamy dimples. I have soft and attractive hands that proudly tell a life story free of physical labor. I have good skin, nice legs and calves, thanks to walking everywhere and I have a great ass. Or I used to, anyway. In fact a random drunk guy at a beer bust at a leather bar in Los Angeles once said I had “the best ass in the city.” Which me even remembering is remarkable for lots of reasons, primarily of all the compliments I’ve ever been given this is the one I’ve cherished? Sigh. So much for not being a vapid, shallow gay man. Anyway, the point is my backside was my magical power in the gay world. Sure, I didn’t have abs or massive biceps but none of that mattered when you got a glimpse of ” the best in the city” ass. So imagine my surprise when I noticed at age 44 it didn’t exactly look like it would win any awards.

What it is about tragedies that happen in the bathroom that make them harder to deal with? Is it the lighting? The intimacy of the setting? Or the fact that you went in there to do one thing and discovered something awful instead? Whatever the case may be, it happened last year as I stepped out of the shower. The old mirror with the shitty brass frame that lived in the linen closet broke the bad news: my ass had flopped down. Gone was the “you could bounce a quarter off of it!” posterior of the past and here was this butt that looked like it gave up. Like it just decided to quit. Suddenly, I had the “I can’t even” of asses. I went to bed and woke up with middle-aged white man ass and I was not happy about it. Like what the hell? Didn’t the goddess of great body parts owe me a few more years of great butt-ness? I didn’t know it would just vanish at midnight like Cinderella’s coach and horses. I thought we’d have another decade or so together. Just to make sure, I put on my glasses and checked out the situation in two different mirrors. Son of a bitch. After, failing the three mirror test the writing was on the wall, or on my ass rather, I was getting older. Despite having multiple people (all of whom I promise I do not pay) tell me regularly that they thought I was in my thirties, my ass knew the truth. I was a forty-four year-old gay man who’s last free pass in the hot to trot gay world had literally gone south.

But really why did I care? I’m married and not out there shaking my stuff five nights a week trying to land a man. So who gives a crap if my butt had seen better days? The answer lies, as it often does, in a Google search.  In preparation for this piece, I Googled, “How a butt ages.” The search results are as hysterical as they are depressing. “My Butt Keeps Going South As I Age-Help!” an article from Prevention was my favorite. Titled with the same urgency as say, “My Husband is Cheating on Me-Help!” or “My Teen is Addicted to Crack-Help!” it says everything it needs to about how we feel when we find out our ass has fallen into a deep sleep and probably won’t wake up. Other results like, “Ways Your Butt Changes, By Decade” from Cosmopolitan and “Spending All Day On Your Butt Ages You By 8 Years” from Men’s Health are so damn sad sounding that I considered just buying big, billowy men’s caftans and riding my days out left on this planet with my ass in hiding. This little search tapped into the bigger reality: aging is hard and unavoidable.

One of the things we people who’ve stopped killing ourselves with drugs and alcohol do  is practice “accepting the things we cannot change.” Aging, despite what Men’s Health and science might tell you, certainly falls into that category. Despite having the interests of a 13 year-old girl and the mental focus of a 22-year-old, I have to accept that I’m aging. Granted, I know I’m only 44 and not 87 but time is marching on, and to paraphrase Dolly Parton’s line from Steel Magnolia’s eventually you realize it is marchin’ across your ass. For me, accepting this is easier than say, getting butt implants or-gasp- doing lots of exercises to reverse the aging of my ass. I am trying, as a whole, to be a person of quality. A person who has rolled with the tides of adversity and come out the other side. Therefore, my state of my rapidly sagging butt can’t be something I freak out too much about. Now that the shock has worn off, I do know that when I die and people get up and say nice things about me (again totally uncompensated to do so) the guy who said I had the best ass in LA won’t be there. Instead, or at least, I hope, people will talk about how I wasn’t awful and that I tried to do nice things or that I at least made them laugh.

So yeah, eventually you’ll think about your ass. Or maybe it’ll be your arms. Or the skin around your eyes.  You’ll wonder where it all went wrong. But then you’ll move on. I promise you will. You’ll wonder about important things like what you’re having for dinner or when’s the next time you’ll get to lie down.

Sorry Bitches, But We Still Exist

e87284f3bfb531e450930710bf8c8043This morning, I got up like a boring ass normal person and drank my boring ass coffee and ate my boring ass banana and read the boring ass headlines on the internet. I’m sharing these boring ass details because a stream of mundane activities such as this happen all day long to me and therefore make up my existence. This sounds like a crazy thing to even be talking about but I swear when I look at some of those boring ass headlines I question if I as a gay man even exist.

Listen, I’m 44-years-old and have done the appropriate amount of therapy, self-help and 12 step groups to survive on this fucked up planet. I am lucky that my family has embraced me and my husband and that I love myself for exactly who I am. So when I read this morning about Chechen authorities rounding up and killing gay men, my head shook. Like shook in that involuntary sheer disgust kind of way.

Per the New York Times:

On Saturday, a leading Russian opposition newspaper confirmed a story already circulating among human rights activists: The Chechen authorities were arresting and killing gay men.

While abuses by security services in the region, where Russia fought a two-decade war against Islamic insurgents, have long been a stain on President Vladimir V. Putin’s human rights record, gay people had not previously been targeted on a wide scale.

The men were detained “in connection with their nontraditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such,” the newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, reported, citing Russian federal law enforcement officials, who blamed the local authorities.

There’s no doubt that those details alone are horrible enough. But when I read the authorities response to the story, my head didn’t just shake, it damn near exploded. “You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic,” spokesman and clearly delusional asshole Alvi Karimov, told the news agency. “If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return,” Mr. Karimov said. What in the absolute fuck. This isn’t minotaurs or mermaids that we’re talking about here. It’s human beings, specifically it’s gay men. And where the hell do they send them? On second thought, let’s not go there. We can assume from Russia’s long abysmal track record with LGBT rights that they aren’t sent to Palm Springs or Ibiza. What messed with me as I did my boring morning stuff is this idea that a government can simply say that groups of people do not exist. We can certainly chalk this headline up to #RussianBullshit, which it is, by the way. No amount of arguing that Chechnya is filled with Muslims can divorce the region from Russia especially since this kind of horrific stuff is sort of a national homophobic tradition. So fine that’s Russia’s shit but it doesn’t help that or existence is being questioned back home in the USA too.

Flashback to just a few days ago when a casual headline was slipped into a current news cycle shitstorm that the Trump administration has decided to leave LGBT questions off the 2020 survey. Why this matters to folks like the Human Rights Campaign and should matter for people like me and you is that without accurate numbers of LGBT communities the federal government won’t have a clue on how to allocate resources to them. While the Census Bureau has never asked sexual orientation questions, it did take a huge leap forward in 2010 by allowing participants the opportunity to identify themselves as part of a same-sex relationship. What’s more is the Bureau previously collaborated on gender identity and orientation with outside agencies. Again, fine. We know we’re still here and don’t need a damn census to tell us that. But still how many messages that shout, “You are not valid and you don’t exist” do we have to hear until we believe them?

For me the answer is zero. As a gay man who is also an addict and alcoholic in recovery and who is living with HIV, it would be easy for me to feel like I don’t exist. My existence is inconvenient. My existence is unexpected. My existence isn’t neat and tidy. And honestly, IDGAF, as the kids on Twitter say. I have been earned my right to exist and quiet frankly didn’t die when I probably should have. So I fucking exist. And so do the millions of other gay, lesbian, trans and queer folks around the globe. We can’t be erased out just because our existence is problematic or messy or doesn’t gel with what you want. Take us off surveys, leave us out of conversations, lie and say we don’t live places. But we are actually here. I am here. The reality is I am here and I’m having a quiet, peaceful and boring ass Sunday like everybody else.

I know I’m unloveable. You don’t have to tell me.

love haring

First off, let’s calm down. Those are Smiths lyrics in the title. This isn’t some piece about how miserable and unloved I am. This isn’t some 1,200 word soliloquy about how much I hate myself. But wouldn’t that be evolved if it was? No, seriously. If I was all, “Look I’m sort of over myself and here’s why.” In a culture where we’re all trying to convince one another how “great” we’re doing,  wouldn’t people freak out if we just blurted out how shitty we felt about ourselves? In fact, I know they would. As a person in recovery, I’ve seen people’s faces flop to the floor when I casually mention depression or make jokes about thoughts of suicide. (Thoughts of Suicide- the new perfume from Estée Lauder. It’ll pass.) It doesn’t go over so well. I’m breaking a fourth wall and people do not dig it. It’s like telling people who love wrestling how fake it is. They know it’s fake. They just don’t want to talk about it, okay? So fine, fine, fine. I get it. Well, now I do. (sometimes) I know not everybody wants to hear cocaine stories or tales of mental woe. That’s why I have these here pages and the rooms of recovery.  But since I’m not at some polite function where everybody is sipping red wine and trading puns about the news of the day, let’s get back this business of being unloveable. This is my house we can talk freely about those sorts of things. Dammit.

Back in the summer of 2009, with seven months sober, I found out that I was HIV positive. I’ve told this story before and probably will a lot more because it’s perhaps something I can say out loud that might help other people. Thus if it’s a story that makes folks uncomfortable, I kind of don’t give a fuck. Anyway, I most recently told the whole tale here, if you’d care to read it. Or you can just wait until I turn it into a musical ice show extravaganza. One of the many reverbs of that diagnosis was this thought in the back of my mind that I’d never date or fall in love again. Now this, unlike the title, was a real moment of self-pity. This was a sad music, wear black and chain smoke state of mind. This was me feeling like the big love story I wanted again wasn’t going to happen. Before we start crying, let’s put on Dionne Warwick.

The music of Hal David and Burt Bacharach doesn’t make it all better but it couldn’t hurt. Besides, I was in bad shape. I was trying to stay sober, trying to process this health diagnosis and getting over a 12 year relationship imploding to boot. Never falling in love again sounded like a very real prospect, Ms. Warwick and I wasn’t too happy about it. Nevertheless, me and my unloveable ass marched on. What other choice did I have? I heard them, the infamous them who say wise shit in 12 step meetings, say in my early recovery, “We’ll love you until you learn to love yourself.” This was a relief because I had no idea what loving myself even looked like. My attempts at loving myself included dropping ecstasy during the day and going to a bathhouse, shopping and drinking margaritas alone and smoking weed and watching 80’s movies. Yeah, pretty sure you won’t find any of those activities in the self-help section of your local bookstore. Clearly, I was going to need all the help that “they” could give me. For someone with low to zero self-esteem, this notion of loving yourself sounded obtuse. I mean where did I even begin? Did I need to send myself flowers? Take myself to dinner? I had no clue so I was thrilled that people who seemed to really like themselves would show me what the fuck it was all about.

lift love up

Here’s the thing: I really hated myself. I don’t know where it started or why or how. But the feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing were so long standing with me, that they felt normal. Therefore, I needed to start simple on this whole loving myself song and dance. “Self-esteem through esteemable acts” is what they said. Things like going to meetings, resting, eating well, laughing, helping others– all fell under the esteemable acts category. Basically, doing less horrible stuff regularly would help me feel less horrible. And they were right. Over time, these little things helped me flip the script. Yet I hated myself for decades so it wasn’t like I woke up one day and was like, “Oh my gawd, y’all! I totally love myself!” This hatred paired with my other longtime homie self-sabotage didn’t hit the road right away. It took me months to give myself a break, to be nice to myself and to stop trying to self-destruct. Even in recovery, I wound up in many self-hating situations and slipped back into old behavior like it was a cozy sleeping bag.  But fear not. I promised you a non-downer post. I swear there’s a silver lining. Listen to this Ne-yo song written by Sia, a sober alcoholic and we’ll get there.

Despite setbacks and fuckups, I got there. I eventually could hang out with myself and really enjoy it. Before I knew it, romance entered the picture too. Nearly a year after that diagnosis, I met Michael. I was in Denver hanging out with my sister and met this funny, charming lovely being. We had several dates and we were instantly taken with each other. But he didn’t know that I had a condition that put me in the unloveable category. After being together for days, my sponsor at the time told me I had to tell him. My stomach was in knots at the very idea but she was right. I planned on telling him as soon as possible. We were on our way home from a movie and I just blurted it out. There I go with the blurting things out again. His reaction was shocking: He said he didn’t care. Insert lots of tears and kissing and the catapulting of our romance.  The point is I was wrong. Turns out I was loveable. Shows you what I know.

I mention all of this now because this guy who proved me wrong and I are currently separated. Oh god, no. Not like that. That would be a fucking downer. No, he’s just out of town working for the next six weeks. But here’s the real miracle of this whole rambling roller coaster of emotions: even though he’s not around, I know that he loves me, that others love me and that I even love myself.  And that’s the best ending of all.

Fade to black. Roll credits. Play The Smiths.