Guest Blogging at J.p. Barnaby

I’ve posted a guest blog on the website of the wonderful and generous J.p. Barnaby. She allowed me to talk about the origin of my new novel 3 and the lesson I learned from the book. If you’re interested on how this novel came about, hop on over and take a look.

J.p. Barnaby–The Uncommon Trio: http://www.jpbarnaby.com/?p=906

My Thoughts on Father’s Day

Father’s Day never was a really big deal when I was growing up or even as a young adult. You see, my father has been absent for most of my life. He’s still alive, he’s remarried, and has six daughters with his new wife, but I’ve never met these half-sisters and haven’t spoken to the man who contributed to my creation in years.

As such, the day never really merited much celebration. I had good male role models, my grandfather and step-father. I happily celebrated the day for them and made sure they knew how much I appreciated them, but inside my heart, I knew they weren’t my biological father, and since he didn’t seem to give a damn, I never really gave a damn about the day either.

But eleven years ago something happened to change my perspective. My daughter was born, and I suddenly realized how important Father’s Day truly is.

Please don’t misinterpret my meaning. I’m in no way suggesting that Father’s Day is now important to me because I am now the father. Although I enjoy being appreciated by my sweet angel, this day is more than a celebration of me. I now understand that I am the father I am now because of the father I had (or didn’t have).

Bad role models are sometimes far more powerful than good role models.

Because of my father, I’m a constant presence in my daughter’s life, even though I’m now divorced from her mother. She spends more than half of her time with me, and we have developed a special bond that is ours and no one else’s. I’m her playmate, confidante, snuggle bunny, but also her disciplinarian and authority figure. She has my unconditional love and never has to wonder “does Daddy love me?” She hears how much I love her every single day.

Had I not had the father I did, I might have taken my munchkin for granted or lived in the periphery of her life. I might not have taken the extra steps that all fathers should take to ensure that their child feels safe, loved, and cherished. I’m not always the good guy. In fact, there are days when I feel like I’m nothing but a pain in her ass, but all actions I take in her life, whether a hug or a reprimand, show her how much I truly love her and that no matter what, this daddy is here to stay.

So on this Father’s Day of my 39th year of life, this is my Happy Father’s Day to the man who gave me life. Without you, I wouldn’t be the man I am today, and I, and my daughter, sincerely thank you for that!

Whatever Happened to Gym Etiquette? Top 10 Rules to Follow at the Gym

I’ve noticed a rather disturbing trend at the gym these days: people are becoming increasingly inconsiderate of others. I don’t know about you, but it just bugs the hell out of me. Gone are the days of alternating sets with someone using a specific machine or bench or even appropriate decorum or behavior within the gym itself. Since these discourteous actions seem to be on the rise, I thought I’d write a post about appropriate gym behavior, so you can avoid someone taking a dumbbell to your head for breaking one of these simple rules.

Rule #1: If you sweat on it, wipe it off!

It’s a gym, and we all sweat and smell while we’re there. I know I get all manstanky by the time I’m done, but when did it become common place for people to walk away from the bench press leaving almost a full body print of sweat behind? That’s just disgusting! No one wants to walk up to a bench to find it dripping with your nastiness. Every single person walks around with a white towel courteously provided by the gym. Use that towel for what it’s meant for and wipe down the equipment. It’s not only good manners, but it’s also hygienic.

Rule #2: Don’t set up camp

It’s important that we all remember we are gym members not gym owners. I don’t own a single piece of equipment at the gym and I certainly don’t act like it. Therefore, don’t become some oversized Kindergartener and hog all the equipment. Do you really need ten sets of dumbbells, three benches, the Bosu ball, a work out mat, and the four machines you’re cycling through? I don’t think so! Only use the equipment for the muscle you’re currently working on. If you’re doing bicep curls, then select the appropriate dumbbells and bench (if you need one) and do that exercise. When you’re done, you can move on to the equipment you need next. Don’t worry, the toys will still be there for you to play with; you just might have to wait your turn like the rest of the adults at the gym.

Rule #3: Socialize/chat away from the equipment

While I have been known to stop a set to chat briefly with someone I know or take an important call, I don’t stand at a machine/bench for fifteen plus minutes getting all the town gossip or stand idle at the equipment while I talk on the phone. If you see someone you know and the conversation is going to last awhile or you get an important phone call, move away from the machine. There’s no reason for everyone to stop their sets because you’ve decided to get all chatty with your BFF. I have no interest in your life and neither do most people, but I am interested in the bench press you’re preventing me from using, so proceed elsewhere. This allows you to get your much-needed dose of chit chat and allows me to move through my routine.

Rule #4: Do I look like I want to talk to you?

I’m at the gym to work out. I’m not there for your entertainment. But some people think it perfectly acceptable to strike up a conversation while I’m obviously trying to work through my set. I have my iPod ear buds in my ears for a reason. I don’t mind the “good morning” or “how are you?” I don’t even mind stopping for a minute to chat with a friend or acquaintance, but if I don’t know you outside the gym, there’s really very little reason for you to think I want to hear about your life or the fact that you like my shoes, even if they are fabulous! So while it’s perfectly acceptable to be polite and cordial, there’s also no reason to become overly familiar. That’s just creepy!

Rule #5: Save the grunting and screaming for the bedroom

I know that men have been doing this in the gym for ages, and I admit that I grunt occasionally when my muscles are tired and I need just a bit more than my body is willing to give. I get that. The grunt is our way of pushing the body passed its limit, but is it really necessary to grunt and scream through every rep for every set?!?!?! The answer is no! Moderation in all things is good, and this applies to those people who turn into apes while lifting weights. We all know you’re really trying to get attention. You’re grunting and screaming is saying, “Look at me! Look at how much I can lift!” But when the woman next to you is quietly lifting weights almost equal to yours, I think it’s safe for you to just shut the heck up.

Rule #6: Put equipment back where you got it

It seems that most people never learned to put away their toys when they were done playing with them. Need proof? Look at the gym floor. It is often littered with abandoned dumbbells, mats, and weights or machines are left with six 45 pound weights still resting on the bars. I mean, really? I have kids I pick up after at home. Do I have to also pick up after lazy, inconsiderate adults at the gym too? It’s really very simple to put everything back where you got it. I know I do it every time, and I still get out of the gym in about an hour.

Rule #7: Wear gym shorts over your bicycle shorts

This has become quite the problem lately mostly for older women at the gym. They wear skin tight bicycle shorts and a T-shirt, thinking all is good. Well, it’s not! I can see your panties through the bicycle shorts not to mention your camel toe. It’s really quite disturbing, so don’t do it!

Rule #8: Give me a break, not advice

While I’m always willing to learn something new, unless I ask your opinion, I’m not really looking for it. I’m not interested in your gym supplement that’s doing wonders for your body or how tightly you squeeze your glutes. Take your supplement and your clenched butt elsewhere, I’m busy.

Rule #9: Limit your gym buddy to 1

While women are typically the worse offenders at this, I have also noticed men to be slowly catching up to them. Having a gym buddy is great. It helps keep you motivated, but do you really need 4 people standing around you while you work out? I mean, come on! Don’t you realize how much time it takes for all four of you to go through three sets of 12 reps? Not only are you delaying the routines of others, but you’re really not contributing much to your own work out. If you have to wait 5 to 10 minutes between each rep, you’re basically just wasting your time–and mine.

Rule #10: Don’t confuse the mirrors at the gym for the ones at home

Now, we all look at ourselves in the mirrors at the gym. It’s how we can tell progress made during the day’s exercise, but is it really necessary for you to stand there and pose like you were competing in a bodybuilding competition? Must you flex your bicep and smile at yourself or take countless pics of your body with your phone? That can wait till you get home. All you’re accomplishing is looking like a complete douche and making us all laugh at you.

Have you seen people break these rules at your gym too? Does it make you as angry as it does me or am I alone on this? Also, let me know if I’ve missed a rule or two.

The Adonis Factor in the Gay Community

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The clip above is from a documentary called “The Adonis Factor” by Christopher Hines I recently watched, and it got me thinking about the typical gay male quest for physical perfection. Why do we as gay men put such an emphasis on body image and how healthy is this pursuit on the individual as well as the community at large?

To find the answers, I started by looking at myself. I’m just as guilty at propagating this quest, and most who know me well are at this moment nodding their heads vigorously in response. It’s not like I can deny it. I watch my caloric intake–no more than 1,600 calories per day. For breakfast, I eat a protein shake with a banana and flax seed. I have a whole wheat chicken sandwich, another banana, and a protein bar for lunch, and for dinner a nice meal lovingly prepared by my husband, who knows my caloric and dietary restrictions. I drink water all day. No carbonated drinks cross these lips unless I’m having a vodka and sprite on those rare nights out. I go to the gym six days a week religiously, and I can be quite the bear if my workout schedule is interrupted.

Why do I do this?

Well, I do it to stay healthy. As the fat kid for most of my life, I have no desire to once again weigh 195 pounds, which is what I weighed at my heaviest, and since I stand only 5’6″, we all have to admit I was quite chunky.

But is health the only reason I do this? Of course not!

Looking good means being appreciated by others, and who doesn’t enjoy that? I certainly do, and I’m married with children! So to say that the quest for physical perfection is merely what we do to snag a mate is not true. The strive for physical perfection doesn’t stop once we’ve reached the happily ever after. And it’s not just me. I know many gay men who continue to hit the gym and watch their calories way after they are in a fully committed relationship.

“The Adonis Factor” claims that gay men are “visually programmed” and that “attractiveness is key to a man’s self esteem.” I can’t argue with those points. Like women, gay men are inundated with models of physical perfection in the media daily. The hunky models and the shirtless actors affect us as much as supermodels sometimes spur women to reach for physical perfection. We want to be desired like those hard bodies we see on the screen or in the magazines too. Also, to catch someone’s eye or cause that shirtless muscle man across the bar to stop mid sentence and stare at you with his mouth open just feels damn good.

Gay Times Ad

Sample Ad depicting gay life

But I think the gay male’s quest for physical perfection goes beyond being visually programmed or self esteem. I think it appeals to a more base instinct–competition. Men are competitive by nature, and most don’t like to lose. I know I don’t. So while the promise of sex and the boost to our self-esteem are definitely contributing factors, I think so is competition.

Think about it. We work harder, so we can be the best, or as close to it as we are going to get. When gay men see someone with a hot body, do they want to be with that person sexually? Well, yeah. That’s usually a no-brainer. But most also secretly want to have that body longer than just for the night. They want their pecs to be as sculpted, their biceps to be as bulging, and their abs to be just as flat.

You can see it happening at any gym or gay bar. Gay men dress to impress, but their eyes are constantly scanning the crowd in search of a body they not only want sexually but one they wish they could have. The guys with the best bodies are usually either shirtless or wearing the tightest shirts possible, and they typically get the most guys coming on to them. They put what they have on display, and it motivates gay men who fall just shy of them to increase their reps at the gym or the number of sit ups the next day. When the inevitable craving for a chocolate bar or a pizza hits, those striving for physical perfection think about the hot guys at the club or on television, and they pass on the empty calories for the delayed gratification of a flatter stomach and more muscle mass.

And while this makes for a more healthy conscious community, what effect does the pursuit for physical perfection have on the individual and on the community?

There are certainly positive effects. Gay men maintain their bodies for far longer than straight men do, and as a result, typically suffer from less health problems. A study conducted by American Journal of Public Health and reported on in South Florida Gay News states that “… gay men are 50 percent less likely to be obese compared to their heterosexual counterparts.” Since we watch our weight, we suffer less from diabetes, heart disease, or other illnesses related to lack of physical fitness. The study also quotes Dr. Greg Pizzi, a psychologist, who states that “men or women, who are in relationships with men would generally take better care of their bodies, since men tend to be more visual in their attractions and make it pretty clear that they are looking for a partner who looks good.” So while gay men take care of themselves better than their straight brothers, there is no true altruism behind the gesture. They do it to remain sexually attractive and competitive with other gay men.

But this craving to remain as sexually attractive and competitive for as long as possible also comes with a price. I found an article titled “Men are Dying for Sex: Mating Competition Explains Excess Male Mortality” on Phys.org, a popular science, technology, and research news website that focuses on biology, among other subjects. The article states that “men compete with other men for mating partners and trying to make themselves attractive…. This competition leads to strategies that are riskier for men both behaviorally and physiologically, and these result in higher levels of mortality.” While the article focuses on male/female relationships, the information found within it can definitely be applied to gay men.

In the gay community, where gay man battles gay man for physical perfection and mating rights, the results can be dire, as stated in the Phys.org article. A recent survey reported on in PinkNews, a large European gay news site, states that:

48% of gay men would sacrifice a year or more of their lives in exchange for a perfect body.

The research also said 10% of gay men would agree to die more than 11 years earlier if they could have their ideal body now.

Nine in ten gay men admit they enforce ‘unrealistic’ images of lean and muscular men in conversation.

In comparison, only a third of straight men said they would give a year or more for an ideal body shape, and 77% admitted buying into the body image ideal.”

As you can see from the survey, the quest for physical perfection is problematic, when half of our community would die early just to have the perfect body. And if they are willing to die early, then logically this means that many gay men are falling into unhealthy body image issues, such as bulimia/anorexia, steroid usage, and cosmetic surgery. According to the survey, “record numbers” of men are seeking these alternatives. Another study conducted by psychiatrist D. Blake Woodside, a faculty member with the University of Toronto, states that gay men make up a significant portion of the 1 million men suffering from eating disorders.

So not only are gay men willing to die for physical perfection, but many are also killing themselves to accomplish it. Apparently, many gay men will do whatever it takes to be as competitive as possible in the meat market.

This has to stop. Perfection isn’t possible. We are human–gay or straight. As such, we are inherently flawed. The pursuit of perfection is unattainable and if we measure ourselves by our BMI, we may find ourselves alone but with a flat stomach. In our drive to reach perfection and the competitive sexual games played as a result, we focus on the exterior instead of what is on the inside. This is why dating sites like Manhunt or apps like Grindr and Scruff can be problematic. They reduce gay men to profile pictures that other gay men window shop through in order to find the picture that is most appealing, the perfect man with the perfect body. They also add fuel to the fire of left wing rhetoric that gay men are superficial and incapable of maintaining long term relationships.

We need to remember that what’s on the outside doesn’t reveal anything that is lasting. Our bodies will grow old, and they will get flabby and saggy. That’s simple biology.

Instead of striving for physical perfection and being competitive about that, let’s get competitive about being compassionate, loving, caring, industrious, intelligent human beings. If we commit to that with the same verve we pursue physical perfection, there are no limits to what the gay community can do. We could call this the Franklin Factor, after Benjamin Franklin. He was a flawed man, who tried his best to become the best man and citizen he could be. He even kept a journal on his progress toward becoming a better man.

If we as a community strove for the Franklin Factor, something far more lasting than physical perfection, we could bring about societal change that would not only benefit us but future generations, and if we eat healthy and exercise instead of strive for physical perfection, we will also look damn good while we do it.

So instead of trying to be an Adonis, as a community we should grab the occasional slice of pizza, see others for more than just their bodies, and enjoy the lives and bodies we have.

That certainly sounds like a better deal than killing ourselves for the perfect body. What about you?

Lessons Learned in New Orleans

I posted on Thursday that I was being whisked away on a surprise trip by my dear husband. Well, we ended up in New Orleans, and the surprise didn’t stop there. He reunited me with two dear friends–Chris and Jill. Jill, as you may remember from my fruit fly post, was my most recent fly who unfortunately flew back home to Alabama and away from me–her fruit!

When we saw each other again this past Friday evening, the three and a half years of separation melted away as if they never existed. The four of us simply picked back up from the moment we said goodbye and never once missed a beat.

That moment was very special to me. At a time in my life when dear friends seem few and far between, it was nice to be reminded that I have true connections in this world–connections that link us together through time and space.

So in honor of our weekend in NOLA and of time spent with friends I miss dearly already, I wanted to share some lessons learned this weekend.

Lesson #1 True Friends Never Say Goodbye

  • To quote Stephen King, one of my favorite authors, from his novel Stand By Me: “Friends come in and out of your life like busboys in a restaurant.” Never than more recently in my life has this been true. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and befriending some wonderful individuals, each of whom has profoundly changed me for the better. To list them all and how I’ve grown would fill hundreds of blog posts, so I won’t even attempt that. But what I’ve learned after this weekend is that true friends are never gone from our lives. The busboy (friend) may depart your table (life) to attend to other duties (their lives), but a good busboy always returns to check the cleanliness of your table, to help clear away any accumulated mess or simply to check in on the status of your table. A true friend is like a good busboy–always in the periphery of your life and willing to return when summoned or needed. Thanks to Chris and Jill, I was reminded that even when you leave the restaurant, good friends remain on the menus of our lives.

Lesson #2 Gay Men Steal (or attempt to steal) Fruit Flies

  • In case you didn’t know, gay men are very protective of their fruit flies. It’s a relationship that’s almost as sacrosanct as marriage. When a gay man and straight woman bond, it’s till death do us part! Luckily, the husbands of our flies understand and are not threatened by the relationship. After all, we can’t steal (and don’t want to steal) their wives from them. BUT flies are in danger of being stolen by other fruits. It’s a gay man’s worst nightmare and one that I relieved this weekend! Some shirtless queen sashayed over to my fly, talking about “how gorgeous and fierce she is.” Compliments to my fly don’t intimidate me because, well, they are typically true: she is gorgeous and fierce, but the look in his eye was more than just pure admiration of her awesomeness. He was looking at my fly as if he was a fly trap trying to derive a way of making her his own. When I realized what was happening, I was like “Homo, please!” and sent him on his way. Thanks to the Shirtless Wonder, I stayed close to my fly the rest of the night. There was no way I was letting another fruit get illusions of grandeur about stealing this fruit’s fly!

Lesson #3 Beware of Motorboating Waitresses!

  • When a generously endowed waitress shoved my friend’s face between her breasticles, I thought it was hilarious. Even though he had a good time, I knew she had an agenda. The motorboat led to two shots, which led to her demanding money for her services. I was on to her game and promptly turned from her. I had no intention of finding myself suffocating between her “fleshy pillows” (Another quote from Stephen King; this time from Carrie.) This woman, however, was shrewd. Like a true motorboat, she circled the pond and went into stealth mode. Before I knew what was happening, my face was shoved between her mounds of flesh and she was attempting to force feed me two shot vials. Luckily for me, I’m immune to the charms of breasticles. My lips remained shut and nary a drop of liquor entered my mouth. She was denied her sale, and I sent her back into the pond for far easier fish. So, for anyone who goes to the French Quarter, watch out for big busted waitresses. Their milkshakes aren’t free!

Lesson #4 Flip Flops and the French Quarter Don’t Mix

  • If you’ve ever been to the French Quarter, you know how nasty and disgusting the streets are. If you haven’t been, well, just imagine strolling across pavement filled with an assortment of body fluids and you might get a snapshot of the whole disgusting picture. Though the streets are power washed daily, no amount of water can sanitize the nastiness, especially when you see how frothy and brown the water gets as attempts to clean it are made. Still, despite watching someone spew bodily fluids the night before, people actually walked through the streets during the day wearing flip flops. Really? Do they not realize that whatever liquid they walk through will be splashed across the backs of their bare legs. That’s just inviting a staph infection–or worse! When strolling through the French Quarter, always wear sneakers or footwear you don’t mind disposing of when you get home.

Lesson #5 Gay Bar + Football = A Good Time For All

  • I’m not a football fan; however, if football had been presented to me as it was this weekend, I just might have learned to like it. We watched the LSU/Alabama game at a gay bar, and I had a great time. I don’t know if it was the game or the go-go boys on the bar dancing, but it was the most fun I’ve ever had watching a televised sport (well, except maybe for figure skating or gymnastics!) I didn’t know what the score was most of the time or why people were booing or cheering, but I booed and cheered along with them–in between sips of my cocktails and ogling the barely clad boys. So, if you find yourself having to do something you normally don’t enjoy doing, throw in some alcohol and exposed flesh of whatever gender gets you going, and you’ll be having a blast in no time!

All in all, the New Orleans trip was a success! I learned to value true friendship, to forever guard my fly from fallen fruits, to be wary of waitresses sporting too much cleavage, to wear appropriate foot ware in NOLA, and to add alcohol and go-go boys to every event!

Top 5 Lessons Learned from Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley

I realized the other day that I missed the birthday of another of my favorite actors–Sigourney Weaver! (Please forgive me, Sigourney!)

I know there must be other people out there who love Sigourney Weaver as much as I do, but I challenge anyone out there who thinks they love her character Ellen Ripley from the Alien movies more than I do. Those would definitely be fighting words!

Alien was the first scary movie I saw, and I absolutely loved it! In fact, because of her and that movie, I became a rabid fan of the genre.

I was only seven years old when the movie premiered, and I begged my mother to take me to see it. Now before you bash my mother for daring to take such a young boy to such a scary movie, keep in mind that I pestered her almost nightly to see it. I wasn’t forced, and I wasn’t dragged. I wanted to see that movie! I was willing to do whatever I needed to do to see it once I saw the trailer.

In case you’ve forgotten it, here it is!

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When I first saw that trailer, I remember thinking what the hell is in that egg?!?! (Yes, I most likely said hell at that age. I was always very advanced!)

The movie trailer intrigued me, and I just had to see it. Boy, was I glad I did!

Even though my mother attempted to shield my eyes during the infamous chest burster scene, I pried her hand open, so I could watch what would become a momentous cinematic event. I was neither emotionally scared nor terrified by what happened. I thought it was awesome!

Since then, Sigourney’s Ripley became my first action hero! (Well, besides Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman, but I’ll save that for a later post! Today is Sigourney’s day!)

So, to commemorate her 62nd birthday, I wanted to share some lessons I learned from watching Sigourney Weaver battle her alien nemesis throughout the years.

Lesson #1: Always Follow Standard Quarantine Rules

  • Ripley knew they should never have let Cain back aboard the Nostromo with the face hugger wrapped around his head. In fact, the science protocols for Weyland-Yutani (yup, I know the company the original crew worked for) explicitly stated indigenous lifeforms are to be kept off ship at all times! This was for the safety of the crew, but did they listen to her? NOOOO! They let Cain on the ship and then died for their stupidity. It served them right, really! Since that movie, I don’t allow anyone aboard my ship without first making sure they pass quarantine procedures. If you don’t dock safely, you could be in serious trouble. Just ask Cain or Dallas or Brett or Lambert or Parker. Ashe doesn’t count; he was a robot after all!

Lesson #2: Always Wear Good Panties (or undies)

  • At the end of Alien, Ripley had to fight the monster in close quarters, wearing only her drawers. Thankfully, she wore a nice looking pair prior to jumping into the spacesuit and knocking the Alien out the shuttle bay door. She was fierce and attractive while kicking Alien @$$. Because of that scene, I make sure that I always wear a good pair of undies in mint or near-mint condition. You never know what situation may suddenly come up, requiring you to be barely clothed! No matter the reason, wearing a good pair of underwear will boost your confidence and allow you to beat whatever monster needs beating at the time!

Lesson #3: Damsels in Distress Don’t Survive

  • While I enjoyed Veronica Cartwright’s portrayal of Lambert in Alien, her can’t-save-myself attitude only got her killed. She refused to take action and sat by while others made plans or sacrificed their lives (poor Parker) before ultimately dying herself. Ripley never traveled down that road. She took action, made plans, and saw them through. She had no trouble setting the self-destruct sequence, even if it meant killing herself in the process. She was always going to be in control of her fate. Thanks to Ripley, I’ve learned to never rely on someone else to save me. If I’m going to make it out of a hairy situation, I have to set events in motion to make sure I come out on top.

Lesson #4: Stand Up for Yourself and Your Loved Ones, No Matter What (or as Ripley put it: “Get away from her, you bitch!”)

  • In the 1985 sequel Aliens, Ripley returned to LV 426, the name of the now-colonized planet that she landed on in the original movie. She went back with a squadron of  Colonial Marines, who were dubbed the baddest @$$es in the known universe. Obviously, they were all fated to die because, well, they weren’t Ripley! The marines died one by one, but Ripley survived to challenge the Alien Queen in the end. The queen’s alien drones had kidnapped Ripley’s surrogate daughter Newt, and well, Ripley was pissed off. She charged into the alien hive, rescued Newt, battled the queen, and made it safely back to the Sulako. Of course, in a surprise twist, the Alien Queen stowed away and threatened Ripley’s daughter once again. Not to be outdone, Ripley battled the queen courtesy a futuristic hydraulic lift and uttered her famous words: “Get away from her, you bitch!” Naturally, Ripley saved Newt and the day, and I learned that no matter what the odds, no matter how ugly or vicious the monster you must face, you have to stand up for those you love. Because in the end, their love is all that really matters.

Lesson #5: You Can’t Keep a Good Woman (or Person) Down

  • In the less popular third part of the series Alien 3, Ripley died, sacrificing herself for the good of humanity. You see, Weyland-Yutani, her original employer from the first movie always knew about the alien and wanted it for its weapon division. Ripley, impregnated by one of the aliens, wasn’t about to let that happen. After surviving yet another alien attack and being one of two survivors, she jumped in a pit of fire. Did that stop Ripley? Nope. She was reborn in Alien Resurrection, where she continued to survive and ultimately made it back to Earth. From her trials, I learned that a truly good person may have crap happen to them in life, but in the end the crap doesn’t win. By some force, be it sheer determination or divine intervention, the good person wins out in the end. So I do my best to be as good, strong, brave, and loyal as Ripley was throughout her run in the Alien franchise.

Looking back at everything I’ve learned, I have Sigourney Weaver to thank for helping me in my relationships and my character. If I had never seen Alien at seven years old, Lord only knows how messed up I might be today!

Top 5 Lessons Learned from Olivia Newton-John’s Films/Music

Yesterday, one of the most important women of my childhood celebrated a birthday–Olivia Newton-John. (This would have been posted yesterday, but my hosting server crashed. My apologies, Olivia!)

I imagine there are many gay men who also fell in love with ONJ in their youths. Not only was she beautiful but she was amazingly talented, and her songs bewitched me the first moment I heard her open her mouth. I still remember when I first saw her in Grease on the big screen. With my mother sitting next to me munching on popcorn and nachos, I was transfixed upon seeing her playing on the beach as Sandy with John Travolta’s Danny. The song “Love is a Many Splendored Thing” played in the background of our first glimpse at their burgeoning love.

I was hooked. I had to shush my mother for interrupting the dialogue, when she asked if I wanted some popcorn.

For a young boy struggling with his sexual identity, she was my first official fag hag, before I even knew what that was or meant. Her fresh, innocent face and gorgeous blue eyes had me hopelessly devoted to her. After Grease, I watched every movie she starred in (okay, there were only three others, but I anxiously awaited each one), I collected every single vinyl record she ever put out, and I danced and sang to her tunes in the privacy of my own room. She was my BFF, and she knew exactly what I was feeling. When she sang, she did so just for me–to help me get through those tough times in life.

So, for her 63rd birthday, I decided to write some lessons I learned from the Australian-born singer/actor’s career in film and music.

Lesson #1 from Grease’s Sandy: Bad boys LOVE the innocent type, but they like them even more if they occasionally take a ride on the wild side.

  • Being a good boy at heart (Those of you who know me well can stop laughing! I am a good boy!), I knew I needed to adapt my image if I wanted the boys I liked to actually take any interest in me. While I didn’t immediately adopt those lessons at the time of my youth, when I grew up I knew exactly what I had to do. Men enjoy trash for sowing their wild oats AKA Rizzo and Cha Cha DiGregorio, but when it’s time to settle down, they want the tart wrapped up in a helping of sweet. So, during my single days (and a bit still today), I was the good boy capable of hopeless devotion but who was also known to don leather pants, smoke, and make the boy strip off his sweater for a mere chance of singing “We Go Together” with me. And, eventually, I found my own husband, a mixture of the good and the bad himself, and who must’ve watched Grease a lot too!

Lesson #2 from Xanadu’s Kira: When you play hard to get and act aloof, the boy wants you that much more!

  • As the mythological muse in this not-well-received movie, ONJ’s character remained just out of reach of her intended Sonny Malone played by Michael Beck. That drove him crazy! He pursued her relentlessly, even challenging her father Zeus, for merely a chance of spending one more moment with her. Lesson quickly learned. I realized men, no matter how much I loved them, had very short attention spans. You give them everything they want, and they lose interest quickly. But when there’s a challenge, something for them to overcome, they will run whatever obstacle course you place before them for the mere chance to get to you. And let’s face it, we’re all worth a challenge. Some boys failed the challenges. They were promptly eliminated and sent packing. But, eventually, you meet the boy who overcomes all the obstacles until he finally reaches you. When that happens, even if your father is Zeus, you know you’re good for eternity just like I am.

Lesson #3 from Two of a Kind’s Debbie: When you sacrifice all for love, incredible things can happen.

  • Even though this ONJ movie took some serious hits from critics, her character still taught me a lot. ONJ played a good girl turned bank robber, and she clashed with fellow bank robber Zack AKA her Grease co-star John Travolta. They spent the movie trying to outdo each other and falling in love, and it was their love that eventually saved the world. (Apparently, the devil and God struck up a bargain. If God didn’t find true love on the planet, then the devil would be granted dominion over the Earth.Yeah, I know, it sounds awful, but lessons can be learned from awful too!) Thanks to her character’s selflessness, I learned that for the sake of true love you sometimes have to put everything, your reputation and even your life, on the line. After all, it’s not true love if you’re not willing to do that!

Lesson #4 from ONJ’s “Physical” video: You can’t win them all!

  • I’m sure many of you have seen the steamy video I’m mentioning. In it, ONJ is training some rotund fellows at the gym, all the while singing about more than just physical education. However, once her work is complete and the boys are sculpted masses of superb man flesh, the boys fall for each other and not her. While it was a hard lesson to learn in life, it was one that everyone needs to accept. No matter how attractive we might make ourselves and no matter what we might do to catch the attention of that guy, sometimes, he might just not be into you. That is no reason to fret, though. Men are like tissues. When one leaves, another pops up as ONJ found out at the end of her video. That lesson helped me through many a heartbreak, so if heartbreak happens to you again, be confident that just beyond the gym room door (or bar door, or club door, or whatever other doors you open), the right man is waiting on the other side. We all find him. Eventually.

Lesson #5 from It’s My Party’s Lina: A good friend is always there–no matter what!

  • In this movie, ONJ played the best friend to Eric Robert’s Nick. Nick was dying of AIDS and rather than continue to live in pain, he wanted to end his life on his own terms. ONJ’s Lina didn’t want him to do it. She begged him not to do it, but he went through it anyway. She didn’t like it, and she was deeply sad to watch him do it, but she stayed by his side–a true blue friend indeed. This was a lesson that I try to hold true. I have friends, some of whom have changed drastically, and though the distance between us may now be great, I will be here when those friends need me again. True friendship is not a ship that should be missed. Once you board it, you’re on it for life!

Looking at these lessons I’ve learned, it’s easy to see that I am indeed a fan of Olivia Newton-John, and I always will be. She was there for a fat, insecure kid who grew into a man I think she would be proud of.

So for her 63rd birthday, I want to thank you personally, Olivia (we are on a first name basis now), for the lessons on love, life, and friendship you taught me throughout your career. They have shaped me into the person I am, and I love you for it. I will always be Hopelessly Devoted to You!

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Allergic to Marital Aids?

I’m sure many of you are wondering about the topic of this blog post today? Is he referring to being allergic to couple’s counseling or something else? It couldn’t possibly be what I think it is. Could it?

Well, it is!

Recently, thanks to a light-hearted and quite comical conversation with a dear sweet friend who shall forever remain anonymous (so don’t ask!), I stumbled upon a topic that I just had to write about. With his consent (and with a thousand promises guaranteeing the safety of his identity), I decided to do just that.

What do you do when you realize, at probably one of the most inopportune moments imaginable, that you have suddenly developed an allergy to latex?

If you’re like my friend, at first you wonder just what hell is going on and then, well, you panic!

You see, my friend had no idea he had such an allergy. He’s gone pretty much his entire life using latex products (quite extensively) without such a reaction as what happened recently. For academic purposes only (and for a bit o’ humor), I will provide you with some of the details (in very G-rated form), so you will know the signs in case it happens to you.

He was in the middle of a “situation” where the use of latex was sanctioned and agreed upon. At first, the use of the object involving latex progressed swimmingly as it had before. Then, not so usual events started to occur. His nose became twitchy and he started to sneeze, almost uncontrollably. A few minutes later, after trying to work past the breathing issues, some discomfort and itching started to occur in some rather private places. Like a trooper, he tried to forage ahead, determined not to let a runny nose or some slight irritation interrupt the progress made so far.

After awhile, though, the irritation turned to a burning sensation, and the runny nose became serious tracheal problems with his throat closing shut.

Now, imagine, as I did, finding yourself in this predicament. You’re in a rather intimate posture. You can’t breath because you’re throat is swelling shut, and your secret garden has suddenly been set upon by an out-of-control wildfire. (I was in stitches by this point, too!)

Eventually, the pain became too much for my chum to bear, so he politely excused himself from the situation and sprinted to the restroom. After a quick inspection, he realized the area in question was splotchy red and swollen, and he fought the need to scoot around the room like a dog trying to dislodge something from his bum. At first, he thought he caught some particularly virulent STD that infected upon contact, but then realized quite astutely that the culprit was the latex. Prior to the admission of the latex into the party, the shindig had been a blast. After the latex, BAM, party over! Not many people I know wish to continue such festivities with red, splotchy skin, painful irritation, and uncontrollably sneezing.

His latex allergy brought the entire soiree to a screeching halt!

So, that begs the question: if this happens to me, what do I do?

  1. Well, first you need to fix your breathing. Take an antihistamine. If you’re home, this should be easy to find. If you’re at a friend’s house, (as embarrassing as it might be) ask for one. It will be more embarrassing to pass out from constricted air ways than to admit you need an allergy pill. If no antihistamines are to be found, skip to step 2. (You will hit step 2 anyway).
  2. Jump in the shower. Scrub to make sure all parts of your skin that may have come into contact with the latex are washed clean. Make sure you do a thorough job too.
  3. Put out the fire. Find a steroid cream (such as Cortaid or any other Corticosteroid) and apply generously to the area. Never use the creams internally; they are for external use only. Once again, most houses (and friend’s houses) have this readily available in the medicine cabinet. If not, skip to step 4.
  4. Head to your local pharmacy retailer. Purchase a steroid cream and antihistamine and use them immediately (either in the bathroom of said pharmacy or in the privacy of your own home.)
  5. Laugh about the experience with your party partner (if he or she is still around) or vow never to see said individual again.
What should we learn from this?
  • Obviously, allergic reactions are serious offenses and can be dangerous. They could lead to a full body reaction called anaphylaxis, which might prove fatal and is most definitely not a laughing matter.
  • It’s also important to know that allergic reaction to latex (or other substances and/or foods) is possible even if you have never been allergic to it before. Many adults develop new allergies over their lifetimes, so it’s a good idea to get an allergy test every few years to see if you’re body has suddenly decided it no longer likes something it never had a problem with. (Similar to your current reaction to your ex!)
So I’m allergic to latex. What now?
  • Many marital aids exist that are not made from latex, such as those comprised of 100% silicone, hard plastic, acrylic, stainless steel, or glass. From the research I’ve done (on the web, not through actual sampling), those products work just as well (if not better according to some comments I’ve found). You can find a veritable cornucopia of said devices by clicking here. (Site called The Pleasure Chest, so definitely NSFW). Be wary of anything with the word “blend” in it as it may have latex as part of the composition or as part of the assembly or packing. If you decide to purchase such a product like a “silicone blend,” keep some steroid cream and an antihistamine handy just in case!
  • Additionally, various latex free condoms are also for sale by many popular and trustworthy brands. Those can also be found by clicking on the link above.
As you can see, if you find you have a latex allergy, the party is not necessarily over (as my friend learned). You just have to switch up the party favors and then invite a new or special friend to the get-together. Then, let the good times roll!

 

Lessons Learned from 9/11 and Jackson’s “The Lottery”

As the day concludes on this ten-year anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, I find myself at an unusual loss for words. The magnitude of the events on that day still baffle my mind, and the pain that continues to reverberate through the nation remains strong, rippling outward and touching us all. It makes me wonder if the nation will ever truly recover and if we won’t constantly keep one eye on the sky, waiting for the next terrorist attack.

Still to this day, we ask how such a thing could have happened. We contemplate what could have been done to prevent it. We hunted those down responsible, and we  have tried to make them pay. But will any of those things help the victims (we as the nation are those victims) still traumatized by the crime? For the criminal we truly seek isn’t a single person, or a group of revolutionaries, or a country. The true criminal is a tradition of hate and violence.

That is what we have to change.

When I think of the tradition of destruction this world and its nations have so far emblazoned on the skin of our planet, I am reminded of a short story called “The Lottery” written by Shirley Jackson and published in the late 1940′s. In this story, for those of you unfamiliar with its plot, an unassuming town in Somewhere, USA holds its annual lottery. Slips of paper from an old black box, which is battered and contains remnants of the original box used in the town’s first lottery, are drawn. The family that plucks the slip of paper with the black dot will produce the winner. When The Hutchinson family unfolds their paper and see the black dot, additional slips of paper are added to the box, one for each member of the family. Each family member must then draw from the box, and the one who drew the paper slip with the black dot is the winner. When the mother of the family, Tessie Hutchinson sees the black dot on her slip of paper, she begins screaming “It isn’t fair!” The town then converges on her and stones her to death.

Why did this happen? For the simple reason Jackson gave us in the story: “lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.” The town’s lottery is a sacrifice to the fertility gods, and the purpose of the lottery is to guarantee a bountiful harvest for the upcoming season. As then and still to this day, readers wonder why would Jackson write this story? What was her point?

For me, the point is quite simple. Jackson is comparing the barbaric tradition of stoning someone for the sake of a good harvest to traditions themselves that are hurtful and destructive. According to Jackson, such beliefs shouldn’t be allowed to exist. They should be changed. If not, then someday we will become the victim of hateful and destructive tradition. We march through life hurting others, through our actions and/or thoughts, and rarely give them a second thought. It’s time we all start thinking and start changing how we live and how we treat others in our family, in our neighborhoods to the cities and states and countries beyond our own personal spheres.

If we can do this as inhabitants of this planet, not just this country, then further hate and destruction like 9/11, the Nazi Concentration Camps, or the Spanish Inquisition, to name a few will never happen again.

We have all been given this same planet by God, or fate, or providence, or natural evolution (whichever you believe for it doesn’t really matter), and we need to treat each other with only love and nurturing if we intend to survive as a species.

Sometimes it takes a disaster like 9/11 to realize the true power of hate, which only begets more hate. While it may sound cliche and/or simplistic, the only thing that truly heals is love and hope for a better tomorrow.

9/11 Never Forget

9/11 Never Forget