A Most Beautiful Man

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A most beautiful man sitting at the outside window table at Starbucks on Lincoln Road in South Beach, FL. He was dressed casually but crisply and you knew he just threw the outfit on from his closet without a thought; but the black fitted hooded pullover, cargo shorts, the leather flips – blended with his taught defined chest, muscular tanned calves and gentle wisps of just-the-right length arm and leg hair.

His face belied no worries, casual – gorgeous and almost ready for his male model photoshoot – like scores of others on Lincoln Road that day, but I was blessed with sitting not ten feet away drinking in his every pose.

I stared at him briefly – he never looked up from his book or focused on anything other than an occasional blank stare at the cacophony of pedestrians outside.

Just as I exhaled feeling satisfied to be in his presence, but slightly envious of his relaxed beauty – an elderly man – badly in need of a haircut, bath and meal, nervously crept up to his table walking past mine – and carefully pulled out the opposing chair to my Starbucks Adonis and began to sit down; folding himself awkwardly into the space with his complementary ice water, wad of napkins and shopping bags.

The most beautiful man looked up in amazement – not a word was exchanged between them – their eyes must have met for a brief moment and a slight look of disgust flickered in the most beautiful man’s eyes.

And with a wheezing exhale they settled in together from different worlds on an afternoon at Starbucks.

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Things I Totally Suck At

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If you have ever typed in “self-help” into Amazon, you would know that there are over 35,000 active entries of books you can buy that will ultimately change your life, if only in your wallet, and/or hard drive. We love to buy books, I’m not sure anyone really reads them, but that’s not what this blog is about.

Things I Totally Suck At

Like many Jewish Gay Men growing up in the suburbs I was not encouraged to play sports. God I tried, but with “don’t get hurt, don’t get sunburned, don’t get dehydrated, etc.” constantly being drummed by my mother, aunts, and grandmother it was pretty hard for me to get out there and get sweaty and dirty. I played violin. Yes, in elementary school, high school and into college – violin! And people were surprised when I came out??? really??

In my late 30s and early 40s I hit the gay body bug and began working out…America’s Gay Religion.
My body responded nicely as I researched, planned, and executed my workouts the same way I achieved my 3 college degrees (I got a 4th later but who’s counting?) But I was still a klutz, totally unco-ordinated. I could do my curls, my squats, my kick-backs. I could count carbs and shave my back all by myself.

I still can’t jump rope.
At all.

But when I started to think about what I really sucked at….not the physical, I realized that I have trouble remembering to say good-bye to people. Many times in a conversation I’ll just end my last sentence and get up and leave. That’s it! I have no idea why or where I picked up this habit, but a few friends have caught me and said, “Hey Nate… you’re leaving me hanging here!… you done? Tell me!” At first thought I thought it was because I was gay growing up. (Isn’t that the reason for all our negative behavior?) Obviously my low self-esteem was to blame for my abrupt departures. I never brought this up in my many therapy sessions or late night talks with close friends or lovers. There were bigger fish to fry. There was finding love, keeping love, marriage equality, HIV discrimination, where to vacation, who to invite for brunch; how could my pattern of not wanting to say goodbye be of any interest to anyone…including me?

20130825-102251.jpg One of my many attempts to be a physically co-ordinated man. That is me on the right fighting in a tournament.

Maybe someday I’ll figure it out. Maybe I won’t if anyone else has noticed this problem and has found a good way to tackle it, let me know. I’ll try anything except a rubber band on my wrist to snap when I’m misbehaving

What Do We Really Have Control Of?

What do we really have control of in our day to day lives? Some of us believe that for the most part we are the masters of our own destinies. Others are convinced that your life outcomes are based on the zip code you are born in. A child born into a discreet poverty neighborhood with poor schools, a limited family support system and few relatives that are fully employed will have fewer lifetime options than children born elsewhere. Likewise the roll of the dice of genetics can give us height (30% higher wages over a lifetime for men) square jawbones and a pleasing face (teachers call on attractive children and give them higher grades than those deemed unattractive.) No matter how many times your mother and society say “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” we do anyways.

So given that we are born with a few marks for and against us, I feel it all comes down to how we relate to events. You have all seen versions of “Candid Camera” where unsuspecting victims are put in unusual situations and we laugh at how different their reactions are. But really this is a great learning tool. Imagine a coffee shop. Every day at 1PM you walk in, step up to a certain table and seat, and kiss the person on the forehead. You do that every day for a year, 365 days. Sometimes you will be smacked, sometimes you will be rebuffed, other times you’ll get a smile, a laugh, or get thrown out on your ass. Same event, different results. Why? Everyone at a certain time and place has a framework of how we see and react to the world. You might chance upon a person who has recently lost a spouse or relative and your peck on the forehead is just what they needed that day to come back and trust humanity again. You might be very unlucky and kiss a person who was sexually abused and the kiss on the forehead was part of the nightmare they lived.

What all this means is that you really don’t know how people will react to what you say or do at any given time. You make assumptions. Your brain is an excellent tool at filling in the blanks. By the way a person is dressed, their body language, their conversation, etc. gives us cues to make a ‘whole person’ out of the few facts we pick up. so what does this have to do with control?

We have the ability as humans to change our beliefs, either temporarily or permanently depending on our ability to figure out what the best reaction is to a particular event. Of course a hot stove means pull your hand back. Not a lot of control involved there. What about a stranger coming up to you and telling you that you are the handsomest man he’s ever seen? Do you rebuff him because your dating history is such that all men who act this way are pigs? What if he’s the ONE and this is his way of being honest and open?

You have a moment when an event comes at you that you can either get angry, get real, or get out. That very moment you and only you ARE IN CONTROL.

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Why Do We Write?

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Why do we write?

 

What human need does writing fulfill? From the caveman drawings in France to the Dead Sea Scrolls to Thomas Jefferson’s Federalist Papers why does this species feel the need to write? To express ourselves not by human auditory voice, but by symbols carefully crafted to imitate and represent our human emotion.

 

Like all writers I have moments of clarity when I sit down at my computer or writing pad and the words just flow. It’s as if I’m not the real author, but some mystical being has taken over my hands and I am channeling his/her song.

 

Recently I have been working on a book, part memoir – part self help book that began from a repeated phrase from friends, “You should write a book.” I’m not sure where they got the idea that my life or my thoughts would be any more interesting than theirs or any other Gay-Male-FormerlyMarried-Grandfather-Husband-Jewish-TallSkinnyGuy on the Planet.

 

So the title of the book is “Muscles Money and Mayhem: How I Found the Good Life, a great Husband, and Peace.” Observations and musings of living as a gay man in South Florida probably won’t make the NY Times best seller list, but it does fill some sort of need, probably the same one that caveman in France felt when he scratched his musings on the wall.

 

So to continue with the thread of Why do We Write; I’ll throw in some basic human needs and let the gentle reader see where they fit in.

 

6 Human Needs

 

CERTAINTY

VARIETY

SIGNIFICANCE

CONNECTION/LOVE

GROWTH

CONTRIBUTION

 

When I look at this list, I immediately think of where you are in your life right now makes all the difference in your needs. To younger people, Love and Growth take center stage and you burst out into the world as a unique individual. You find a partner, establish a career and all the while take so many of your needs for granted. Towards the end of your life both Certainty and Significance come out of the shadows and the joy of accomplishment or the pain of regret fuels our last days.

 

Moving away from the morbid. I showed a friend these six needs and he said, “Damn, that’s why Facebook is so popular. It fulfills all the needs in about 5 minutes. I laughed. But then I realized he was right.

 

I wonder if that caveman is pissed right now.

 

Straight People Have Hobbies Like Arts & Crafts…We Gays? We Judge!

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How quickly can you decide whether a guy is fit? rich? educated? kind? 5 seconds? 10 seconds? Faster? Going back to our evolutionary biology, how quickly we could tell if someone was going to eat us or fuck us was the difference in survival and so the ones left on this Earth are the ones that were better at figuring out who would give us the most children and who would not kill us. Makes sense if you are being chased by a saber tooth tiger and you only have a few moments to decide where to pop your nut for the most progeny. Not so much now.

What’s left of this vestige of our ancestors is the knack we have of judging EVERYTHING. Your mother always said, “Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover” but we now have scientists working with artists to do just that.

So why are we so quick to judge so negatively in Planet Gay? What does it mean when we perceive someone as too effeminate? too fat? badly dressed? driving the wrong car? We are giving meaning to some external cues that someone we believe are the true authentic values, expectations, and strengths of that very person we are judging.

Could it be that the years of gay men being surrounded by all these negative societal words and actions make us internalize them and then somehow protect ourselves from others getting close by quickly dispatching them with our quick judgements?

Next time you pick up a book, take it home and love it.

A Blog for a Hot August Day

ImageWhat Life is and Isn’t

‎”Life isn’t about keeping score. It’s not about how many people call you and it’s not about whom you’ve dated, are dating, or haven’t dated at all. It isn’t about whom you’ve kissed, what sport you play, or which girl or guy likes you. It’s not about your shoes or your hair or the color of your skin or where you live or go to school. In fact, it’s not about grades, money, clothes, or colleges that accept you. Life isn’t about if you have lots of friends, or if you are alone, and it’s not about how accepted or unaccepted you are. Life just isn’t about that.

 

 But life is about whom you love and whom you hurt. It’s about how you feel about yourself. It’s about trust, happiness, and compassion. It’s about sticking up for your friends and replacing inner hate with love. Life is about avoiding jealousy, overcoming ignorance, and building confidence. It’s about what you say and what you mean. It’s about seeing people for who they are and not what they have. Most of all, it’s about choosing to use your life to touch someone else’s in a way that could never have been achieved otherwise. These choices are what life’s about.”~