Bite Back @ Valentine’s Day

As written for the BITE issue of Naked City.

Solo is Sensational

There’s nothing that bites more than being single this time of year. More than a simple day to force consumerism on the romantically entangled, Valentine’s has evolved into a full-on season. Even if you’re coupled, the Cupid hype can gnaw. The ruby-red pressure begins to mount as soon as the New Year’s Eve confetti is swept up. Nearly every store caters to the narrative that you’re nobody till somebody loves you– and is willing to spend lots of money on you. But you ARE somebody, and this February 14th, you should take the bite out of Valentine’s Day by biting into your own bliss!

It’s time to do that one thing you’ve always wanted. Is there a restaurant in town that you’ve been craving? You should go, and take yourself as your very special date. There currently is no local ordinance that prohibits an individual from dining alone on St. Valentine’s Day.  Is there a movie you want to see, but all your friends are on a date?  Go see it alone! The U.S. Constitution protects the right of single, adult individuals to publically assemble. Are you in the mood to dance? Venture out to a club, and sashay your sexy, solo self to the rhythm of the moment. While a legal Kansas marriage consists of one man and one woman, there’s no amendment banning single-sex dance floor movement…at least not yet!

Many are afraid of being alone in such situations, though, and that’s understandable. Several will cite fears of what other people will think of them if they are seen in public sans-partner. Others will claim personal uncomfortability with such bold public displays of self-solidarity. Why do we give other people so much power over our own satisfaction, though? And if you can’t sit down with yourself for dinner, what makes you think someone else will want to dine with you? Biting questions, I know.

The answers may be more tender than you think, though. Strong individuals make for stronger relationships. The more you know about yourself, the more you have to offer to someone else. Even if you’re partnered up, personal development is paramount. You have an identity and interest outside of your relationship that deserves cultivation.

Some of this language may seem supercilious, but isn’t the box we allow Valentine’s Day to put us into even more absurd? We’d all be a lot more fulfilled if we stopped waiting for someone else to make us happy and just acted upon the whims that bring us joy. Romance doesn’t define our existence. In fact, it’s the light that shines within each of us that is most attractive. If we don’t take time to fuel it, that radiance will dim.

So, bite back at forced romance, and get intimate with yourself this Valentine’s Day! Regardless of what your Facebook relationship status reads, V-Day is pretty much an over-hyped hassle for everyone. There’s bound to be something you’ve always wanted to do for yourself that you never have. There’s nothing that bites more than not doing what makes you happy!

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The ICK Factor

Virgin.

When you see that word, it’s likely that its sexual nuance is the first thing that comes to mind. As a concept, though, “virgin” is more encompassing than simply describing a person’s first sexual experience.  To be virgin is to be untapped, undefined, and undeveloped; it is an empty slate with endless possibilities. Limiting that word to its corporal connotation only limits the essences of these potentials.

Homosexual.

Odds are that when you read that word, you also immediately think about sex—same sex. Let’s be honest. That probably makes some of you uncomfortable. It likely even grosses out many of you who consider yourselves to be open-minded. That’s because when we think of words related to sex, we often immediately think of how those words apply to us. A happy heterosexual going about his or her day who happens upon the word “gay” or “homosexual” immediately has their sexual identity subconsciously projecting unsavory mental images of themselves engaged in same-sex acts. ICK!

That “ICK!-factor” is the root of a lot of the stigma and problems gay and lesbian people face. You don’t have to be a bigot or a hatemonger to be slightly grossed out by another person’s private intimate practices. However, when that disdain manifests itself in discriminatory behavior (like not hiring someone for a job because they’re a lesbian or not buying advertising in a magazine because it employs a gay writer) well, that’s an entirely different matter.  When it comes to words and their subtexts, we need to get our minds out of the gutter!

Sex is actually a very small part of what it means to be a homosexual. Most of us are so busy working, spending time with our friends, being with our families, and occasionally relaxing that we don’t have a whole lot of time to spend in the bedroom. True, new relationships probably bring an uptick in libido. However, committed partners tend to find a carnal wane as the routines of daily life take hold. Sound familiar? The ratio of sex for heteros and homos really is a level field.

The field should be level outside of the bedroom, too!  More important than legal rights are social interactions. The “ICK! Factor” contributes to a lot of the reasons why straight people are sometimes apprehensive to mix with the gays. There’s a subtle fear that association will lead to amalgamation. The simple fact is that sexual orientation is not contagious. Either you are gay or you are not. If your mind is conjuring up unsettling imagery when you see or hear of homosexuals, it’s your thoughts that need to change—not the people you’re thinking about!

Just like putting “virgin” in a box dilutes its meaning, we’re limiting the holistic possibilities for homosexual people when we box up that word right along with it. Let’s take our focus off of sex and put it on to people. In doing that, our mind itself becomes like a virgin.

An Alternative Lifestyle

Grindr isn't really a great marriage partner.

“Are you still living an alternative lifestyle?”

That was the baffling question I was asked during a recent, routine doctor’s visit. It was a sincere topical inquiry that came up as part of my yearly physical exam. There wasn’t a glimmer of hostility in the voice of my doctor; she is a caring, adept physician. Now and then, the most caring of people are in need of a little enlightenment, though. For the record, while I am gay, there’s nothing alternative about that particular part of my lifestyle. Just like heterosexual folks, my sexual orientation isn’t something that’s going to change.

This incident got me thinking about what IS an alternative lifestyle, though. It seems to me that for people who are gay, the alternative is to live a lifestyle built on lies. Sadly, this still happens today. It’s a lifestyle that begins when someone with feelings of same sex attraction can’t muster up the courage to accept some of the side effects of honesty. The fear of rejection by others sometimes overpowers truth that is intrinsic. Few people want to live life alone. For those who can’t accept their own truth, others are unknowingly drawn into a fake reality.

Brides waltz down the aisle unaware that their groom is checking out the best man. Husbands are bewildered when their brawny guns can’t satisfy their wives. Children are conceived with hopes that their joyful arrival will fix all of the problems. Happiness becomes secondary to keeping up appearances. Often times, homoerotic desires are acted out with clandestine encounters.  Double lives become the norm. Secrets eventually get discovered, though. Innocent lives get ruined. It’s this perversion of authenticity that is the true alternative lifestyle.

We in Kansas pride ourselves on being sincere people. Indeed, honesty and morality are among the strongest of Kansas values.  Some with certain religious beliefs may believe that homosexuality is incompatible with morality, though. I would reference them to the Ten Commandments. Not telling lies is a very clear directive from up above. Inherent in that is not lying to yourself. People who are gay didn’t choose their sexual orientation, and they can’t change it. They can only change what they do with it. The choice is to be yourself or bring other people down with your own uncomfortability. If you don’t believe me, go ask a woman who was once married to a gay man. I’m sure she’ll give you an earful about what a real alternative lifestyle is like!

To answer my doctor’s question, I never did live an alternative lifestyle. For me, living an honest life has always been more important than living a socially accepted life. Kansans are quite keen on spotting fakeness.  Sometimes the secrets we think we’re hiding so well are actually being worn on our sleeves. The only alternative we have is to be ourselves!

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