If I Had A Magic Wand….2014 Edition

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It’s December and in  a few short weeks we’ll be exposed to the yearly custom; The New Year’s Resolution. While most people find the exercise abhorrent and cheesy, we still think, ponder and hope and want to make lists between the highs and lows of holiday parties and the guilt and happiness that comes with them.

New Year’s resolutions are of course a reflection of us all wanting to do better. Humans have that unique quality unlike most mammals that we get up in the morning and can make a conscious decision to be a better person; to rise above eating, surviving and reproducing.

Rather than ask our friends and acquaintances what their New Year’s Resolutions are we should be working on a blueprint for Our Ideal Life and what we are going to do next to get there.

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We all would like more money and the freedom that financial security brings. To be able to have the time and energy to have high quality experiences with our friends and loved ones. We all want to have meaningful work that not only makes the world a bit better because of us, but gives us the recognition of being part of a successful community. We all hope to find and keep that special person in our lives that brings us emotional and physical satisfaction.

But all of the above are larger than life generalizations. Just wanting them is not enough. Margaret Cho once said that she dreamed of being surrounded by muscular men. She didn’ realized they’d all be gay. “I should have been more specific!” she exclaimed. And so we have to do that too. How much money would it take? How long would it take to get there? How would you do that? What do you need to do next?

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What type of work would make you happy and fulfilled? Who do you know who is doing that type of work? How did they get there? What have you done in the past that has made you feel successful? appreciated? What do you need to do next?

What does your ideal day look like with a partner? What do you do in the morning? What does he/she look like?  What are your deal-breakers? What can you  accept as a financial burden with a partner? (no, two cannot live as cheaply as one).  here are you looking for a partner? online? church? gym? How has this worked out so far? What do you need to do next?

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This Time I’m Wearing My Own Clothes To My Wedding

Rented Suit

This Time I’m Wearing My Own Clothes To My Wedding

One week from today I will be married in the rotunda of San Francisco City Hall. My soon-to-be husband and I have been together for over ten years and even though we keep saying to ourselves nothing will really change…it really does feel some kind of wonderful to have it finally happen.

You see for us, gay marriage was not even a dream a decade ago. I was born in 1950, he is a year older, born in 1949. We both married women in our early 20s thinking that society would never accept our hidden desires; to have a stable emotional relationship with someone you were physically attracted to. Homosexuality was still listed as a deviant behavior in the medical books on the day we both married women in the 1970’s. In a rented tux, in a world that called me sick, I vowed to uphold the laws of Moses, swear undying love to a woman I had sex with while dreaming of a man’s body. Six groomsmen and my own father in clothes we did not own stood by me and witnessed this expensive, religious, lovely charade.

I am not making excuses for entering into my first marriage with false pretenses. I knew I was gay, experienced gay sex before my wedding day, and knew it was going to be a tough go. But I think a lot of straight grooms have second thoughts on the big day for as many good reasons; doubt, honesty, pressure to conform, family obligations, etc.

I did hurt my ex-wife’s expectations of her life plan. Well more than that actually, I probably ruined her life for a few years with my coming out. She had suspicions of course, but you really only see what you want to see and even though my teenage son figured it out one afternoon when I eyed a hot waiter while he eyed a buxom waitress at the same restaurant.

This time will be different. Not only have over four decades passed, but a seismic shift in the political, religious and societal scene on marriage equality. My fiancé and I shopped together for the slacks, shirt, sweater and even matching belts that a city clerk will preside over our union. To be frank, the rabbi that married us had the personality of a cardboard box and left the rabbinate a month after my first rented tux wedding to become an accountant.

In my own skin, in my own clothes, with full love and devotion, I am getting married next week. Sorry about the first one, I had my doubts, remember?

Photo by docnate75

The New Seven Deadly Sins and the Internet Haters of Spencer’s Home Depot Proposal

We are all familiar with the Christian version of the seven deadly sins: Wrath, Greed, Sloth, Pride, Lust, Envy, and Gluttony. These are known as Cardinal Sins…making them even more ominous. Lately there has been a revision. The new ones adjusted for our economic, political and new sexual issues are: Apathy, Cruelty, Duplicity, Hypocricy, False Morality, Abuse of Power, and Cultivated Ignorance. At first, the revised sins look like a rehash of the first but on more careful examination you can see the subtle differences.

From our politicians to the Kardashians to our sports heroes, we can see many examples of all seven of the new sins on our televisions, smartphones, iPads, and of course print media. This blog was going to be a careful discussion, complete with examples and analogies (thank you Mrs. Kolodny, my 10 grade High School English teacher.) But then I saw “The Proposal” one of now several million that witnessed and cried through, “Spencer’s Home Depot Proposal” now a YouTube legend.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, unsuspecting Dustin goes a Home Depot in Salt Lake City, Utah with his roomate to look for supplies for a party. In a deserted aisle he is escorted to a raised platform, puzzled he sees a choregraphed flash mob dancing and lip-synching the song, “Somebody Loves You,” by Betty Who. Soon his family shuffles out, complete with parents, siblings, nieces and nephews. He is recording the event on his phone for his boyfriend, still oblivious that this is a marriage proposal. Soon his boyfriend comes out for the finale, and on bended knee with ring the proposal is complete.

I cried. No really cried. Had to get up and get a paper towel cried. I immediately went to Facebook (doesn’t everyone do that when they have an emotional experience today?) to post and proudly declare my own love for my soon-to-be husband. What I found there was 1. I was a few hours late (no big deal) 2. there were people who HATED the video and not for the usual reasons. You see it wasn’t homophobia that was rampant..it was my own LGBT brothers who were hating on Spencer and Dustin. “It’s so 2008 those flashmobs” “They won’t last a year” They probably have accounts on GRINDR and A4A” (gay hookup sites) “Of course he got a proposal, he’s hot” etc. etc.

A few things ran through my head as I read the negative comments. First, did ANYONE notice that this was Salt Lake City – Salt Lake Fucking Mormon City – where they raised millions to pass Prop 8 writing discrimination into the State of California’s laws. And it was inside a Home Depot a large corporation (granted, they have good record with LGBT rights). Second, they are in their early 20’s and the parents and siblings were there? Seriously? You are hating on them? When most of us were in our 20’s we were so far in the closet we knew everyone’s shoe size. Our boyfriends were still “roomates” or “good friends” and we all had at least one relative who would rather not breathe the same air as we do much less have our small children witness a gay marriage proposal.

No, what I saw on my list of friends on Facebook hating on Spencer and Dustin was a generational gap fueled by several of the New Seven Deadly Sins, Hypocrisy and Institutional Ignorance at the forefront. There is a new world out there with our young LGBT brothers and sisters that we may never fully understand, but should accept with open arms. They truly are standing on our shoulders, our fight was won and we should celbrate them, not diss them. Congrats to Spencer and Dustin, I’m going to watch it again and have a good cry.

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Are we ‘shoulding’ all over ourselves? A Yom Kippur Tome

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Like many Jews I am not very observant …not by most standards. I know of the holidays being brought up by observant but cynical Jewish parents, went to Hebrew School, got married under a chupah (yes I tried) and went through the motions on all holidays at synagogue; waiting – waiting- patiently waiting to feel it. Never happened.

I am not an Atheist. I do believe in a higher power, a universal life energy that goes beyond present understanding. My partner and I do light candles on Shabbat – rarely – but we do it. We are full paying members of an LGBT friendly and affirming Reform Temple and my three appearances a year there reminds me that so many others seem to know what they SHOULD do.

Today at the gym (all gay men go to the gym on Friday – it’s the law like going to the mikveh after a period) an older Jewish gentleman that I barely know waived his finger at me at said, “Remember, no food tomorrow” Something inside me clicked and I snapped back, “Don’t wave your fucking finger at me…ever!” I know that it was rude and crass, but in that moment I was shutting the door on my parents who taught me to do as they say, not as they do, my Hebrew School teachers who had no idea how to teach much less convey what their brand of Judaism was about, and all the finger wavers in my life that have told me what I “SHOULD” be doing on Yom Kippur.

I am a good Jew.

I believe that we should leave the world a better place. I understand “Tikun Olam” – literally fix the world. I believe people can make a difference in the world by treating others with respect and not doing to anyone what you wouldn’t want done to you.. – but – to many, I am not a good Jew – at least in their eyes. My sexual orientation that I was born with, my distaste of Orthodox Judaism, my global world view of spiritual acceptance do not sit well with many. I am an openly gay Jewish man with a husband. I believe that the Bible/Torah was and is a bunch of fairly tales meant to teach lessons, like snapping a dog with a newspaper.

So tonight I will go to Kol Nidre, I will sit next to my husband, and we will chant and occasionally hold hands. Tomorrow I am NOT fasting, I am going about my day as any other day. It’s sparring day at my Karate school.

I am a good Jew.

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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