Monday, June 28, 2010

World Cup - how we rank our favorites.

Ah the exquisite pain and joy that the World Cup brings. There is a particular joy to watching the World Cup from Miami. Being Latin America's northernmost city it is a tremendous pleasure to watch the world cup here. Only in Miami can a native of Honduras have friends empathize with a loss at the worlds biggest sporting event. Better still they know where Honduras is.

Yet in Miami its easiest to understand the complexities of rooting for several teams and nations at the same time. We know that we can cheer with as much heart for Honduras on Monday as for Brazil and Argentina on Friday. Here is a way Miamians like to rank their teams:

1. Where you were born. It's easy because you have to root for your natural born team. It doesn't matter if you left when you were two, it's your home team forever.

2. Where your parents were born. Again, a "home" team.

3. Team U.S.A. its home now, it has earned our respect.

OK the rest of your choices are all subjective but here are some ways to help guide your choice of teams ask yourself some of the following questions:

1. Are they a winning team?
2. Are you living with someone with a team in the World Cup?
3. Who throws a better Word Cup party?
4. Did you have a good vacation there?
5. Did you date anyone from that country...and did it end well? or badly?
6. Is your boss from that country?

The final tier of questions help with any tie-breakers:

1. Do you like the uniform?(Green and Yellow)
2. Do you find their team, women, or men particularly attractive?(Where is Ronaldo from?)
3. Would you find that if their team won, would they become more arrogant than they are already? (A certain South American nation comes to that claims its "Europeaness")

In any case I will go with the Univision rule: "Que gane uno de nosotros"

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Great Expectations?

A conversation at a party the other night really got under my skin. A woman casually mentioned her son, so I asked how old he was. She said he was 22. I mentioned my own 21 year old and how proud I was of him. Before I knew it, I was blasted with the accomplishments of her 22 year old and at that tender age he had accomplished much more than me at 42 and probably most of the 300 people at the party...combined. She rattled off each college degree, scholarship and award with such a degree of smugness that she really just came off as a shrew. With a mother like that I would have worked my ass off to get as many scholarships get my ass out of the house as soon as possible. Not feeling the desire to try to match up my son's or my own accomplishments with that of her 22 year old prodigy, I excused myself. She stood there by herself with a very satisfied look on her face.

That conversation and the fact that Father's Day was last Sunday made me think about expectations, my own and as a father and as son. Unlike my adversary at the party, my parents were very vague about expectations. There was a lot of "as long as you're happy" comments about careers, colleges and life expectations. The only time expectations were clear when we clearly failed them: failing grades, wrecking new cars, arrests.... By the time I was a teenager my brothers and I had earned a whole new set of expectations from our parents.

So as I sit back and try to remember what my parents wanted from me I have some concrete ideas, as in things they wanted me to have...but not much in the way on how I was to get those "things." I remember I was supposed to be a "good person" and not "kill anyone." We went to church regularly. If I met a police officer I was supposed to say "yes sir" (this came in really handy having talked my way out several traffic tickets and arrests). My mother wanted me to have a "beautiful wife and live in the suburbs and own a Volvo". She said this to me tearfully after I told her I was gay. I managed the suburbs and a Swedish station wagon, although not the brand she wanted. My father wasn't so specific, he just wanted me to graduate college (check.) and consider "delayed gratification." which meant to him "save all your money and plan for a great retirement." It sounded okay, but my own personal circumstances indicated a more live for now approach.

When I look back what did I want? It was probably close to what my Mom wanted for me, which was stability. Of course my natural tendencies tended engender chaos, so my hope was to find an anchor and keep me in one place. I wanted a full life, with lots of friends and lots of things to keep me busy. I wanted to be taken seriously and to have fun. I never wanted to be bored. I didn't want to be fat. I think I've achieved most of my expectations.

My therapist once told me that my son had not met my expectations for a long shot. I think of all the unmet expectations in my life, mine, my parents; those of your kids are the hardest to let go of. At the time, on some level that therapist was right, but he was 17 and had a lot of growing up to do. At 17 he hadn't killed anyone, he always said "yes sir" to the police and he hadn't been arrested so on some level he had met some expectations. Yet the dreams you have for your children far exceed any you had for yourself. Dreams that go far beyond a pretty wife and a SAAB station wagon. Your son is your chance to get it right, to play sports or be the bad boy rebel that you never could or would. I always taught him to be different, to be an individual and find his passion. I wanted him to question authority and fight the norms. On so many levels he has achieved this. He's proud, he's truly independent, he works harder that I ever have or ever will. He's a good person. He's only 21, he can still go to college, get a degree and earn his Nobel Prize. In the areas that count he has met and exceeded many of my expectations.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Remember our peak earning years?

In my 30's my income was significantly higher that it is today. So was my partner's and with exceptions, most of my colleagues and friends.

In our 30's we had pension plans and a 401K match. We had health and life insurance through our employers. We got raises and cost of living increases. Life was good.

Vacations increased with seniority. You could even accrue unlimited vacation and sick time. You could donate it to other employees who needed it.

My home was appreciating in value every year.

Layoffs were virtually unheard of.

Its weird, but somehow all that work on our careers isn't paying off, but all that work on our selves is. The less my job gives me, the more I realize that I'm free to structure my life around family, friends and hobbies and less around work.

I'm happier for it.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I Need A praise of Sci Fi.

We all need heroes, real or imagined. We need to know that an ordinary person, caught up in extraordinary events, can rise to the challenge set before them. We need our heroes to be brave but also humble. We need to know that as the planet or the galaxy spin out of control, somebody smart and plucky is going to control the Force, break the Orgazmitron, or throw a gold ring into the volcano.

From our adolescent dreams spring Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins and Captain Kirk. Luke and Frodo share many common rubes forced into manhood by evil circumstances and a destiny beyond their control. Virginal, innocent they represent all the promise of manhood. For a gay boy like me they represented the promise of heroism, that if I just did my best, worked hard, saved the galaxy, nobody would question the fact that the only crush I've had in a decade was on my twin sister or that I spent an inordinate amount of time with my best friend Sam. Luke and Frodo tells us gay men that if we're extraordinary, our non-existent, secret personal lives won't matter.

Captain Kirk on the other hand tells us being extraordinary forgives personal weakness. Unlike other heroes, Kirk is a kinky son of a bitch. You know its not a big leap from sleeping with a green female alien to to sleeping with a male one. Kirk was a sexual rebel but a great captain...again telling sexual rebels your job well and you can sleep with whomever you please.

So as hopeful as Luke, Frodo, and Kirk each case the hero ends up alone. Again, the rewards of heroism are transitory and fade away. Do any of our heroes get a happy ever after? No! Frodo remains tortured and depressed and sails away, Kirk dies in one of the movies, childless and Luke is left staring winsomely at spirits of dead people. That's the other message: saving the world/galaxy/universe takes a huge toll on your personal life.

Monday, June 7, 2010

11 Questions You Don't ask Gay Men

I think as "the Gays" become more mainstream, non-gays are feeling emboldened to ask questions they might not otherwise ask. The Gays, who initially were pleased by this sudden curiosity in gay-subculture seemed happy to just "let it all hang out"(I'm just speaking metaphorically, of course). The usual culprits asking these questions are stylish women who want "a gay" to complete an image. Or it is a blossoming homosexual asking. Of course rules of disclosure have changed in our era of shake and bake friendships and faux intimacy. Women (and some straight men) find it titillating to know about the mechanics, quantity and quality of the personal lives of gay men.

In more innocent times (the 80's, say). The Gay held a slightly more elevated stature than a maid. The florist, fashion designer, interior decorator, hair stylist all knew their place as passive listeners, as society confessionals but never disclosed any personal details about their life whatsoever beyond making things pretty. They were mere conduits for society gossip. The previous century's equivalent of Facebook.

Now, many women (and some straight men) are now fascinated with the intimate details of gay lives. Gay men are being asked questions that they themselves only figure out about each other when their pants are down and negotiating about who's gonna wear the condom. So I thought I'd put down a list of questions that you shouldn't ask a gay man if you're a woman and ESPECIALLY if you're a straight guy. Lesbians sometimes can get a pass.

1. How big is it? I have been asked this question by women on three occasions. I wonder if its some kind of trick that might work with straight guys. If you're a woman I am not going to show you my junk...hard, soft, cold, hot. Forget it, its off limits to you woman.

2.A You mean you've never been with a woman.....ever? Some gay men have, my husband has a son to prove it. What difference does it make? If a man says he's gay, in the present tense, he likes men, with penises, in his bed...tonight.

2.B If you haven't tried it how do you know? Yeah, I don't think I'd like vagina....most gays feel this way...its innate, instinctual, we just KNOW. Leave it alone already, your vagina is not going to be the one to change me.

3. Are you the man or the woman in bed? I am always a man. Gay men are always men, that NEVER EVER CHANGES. We love our masculinity and we love it in our partners. I could be crude....but being penetrated is not the same as being emasculated.

4. Does this dress make me look fat? No, it makes you look FABULOUS. That's why I picked it out for you.

5. Do you wear women's clothes? Is it Halloween? Is this a costume party? Gay men wear women's clothes for the laughs....the same reason straight men wear women's clothes. Its not a daily habit. (next column: ten questions you don't ask transvestites.)

6. Do you hate women? Yes, except you, because you're not like those other bitches. Just men dislike women about as much as straight men and other women do.

7. What's the deal with Gay men and Lesbians? Don't ask that question...because gay men tend not to see Lesbians. Which kinda pisses them off.

8. How many partners have you slept with? Don't ask a gay man this question because he really doesn't know or care. Virginity, purity, chastity are rarely adjectives ascribed to men. Gay men generally don't like to deal with virgins....way too complicated, takes too long to get them to relax. Any answer to this question is generally a lie, which is a good thing.

9. Are all gay men sluts? If given the option all MEN would be sluts. Gayness just makes slutty a viable lifestyle choice.

10. Does gay sex hurt? Not if you do it right.

11. Aren't you scared of getting AIDS? Yes. But discussing my community's greatest fear is none of your business. However, being gay is so much a part of who I am, of my core being, not even the threat of death would make me want to stop and change. I'd rather live with the fear of illness than give up my ability love and be happy with another man.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Yes I read Gay Pulp Romance Fiction...what about it!?!

I am an avid reader. I read three or four books a week. I just have one general requirement in the books I read....that there is at least one gay character. I don't really care if the character is good or bad, smart or attractive, they just have to be there. Why? Because as a child I read just as much and there was nobody like me. There were no gay pirates, firemen, spacemen, spies, soldiers, superheroes, heroes, doctors, or scientists. No we were not reflected in popular literary culture.

There are contemporary gay "reads" on characters; like Biff Loman, or Frodo Baggins and see perhaps a hint of pink. But it is a stretch of the imagination to see these characters in any context but what they are. To apply a "gay" label is just wishful thinking.

My passion for reading came from my mother. As a pre-teen I would read her books. She only read two genres: romances and spy thrillers. So I read a lot of Harlequins novels, Barbara Cartland, the queen of romance, mixed in with Robert Ludlum and Clive Cussler. Barbara Cartland's books always had her dressed in fuzzy pink hats and with a white fuzzy toy dogs on her lap. My older brother read Doc Savage, about a scientist and his intrepid band of talented friends. There is a definite gay "read" on Doc Savage by the simple fact that the novels are completely devoid of females and that Doc Savage was a musclebound god....sorta like a buffer, more tan Mr. Clean, with platinum blond hair.

My first inkling of a gay character was in Susan Isaac's book: Almost Paradise. Which was one of her best...about an agoraphobic that marries a movie star...yeah you can see there's a challenge there, I'm sure its hard enough to marry an agoraphobic if you're not a movie star. In any case her devastatingly handsome brother was caught kissing a producer or something. It was too subtle for my 12 year old mind, but somehow "I got it." I didn't really know what gay people did until I read Judith Krantz' book Princess Daisy when her fashion designer boyfriend (really Princess Daisy had no idea? Fashion designer...come on!) goes back to his "assistant" and Princess Daisy catches them in flagrante-delicto. Ms. Krantz goes into a bit of detail about what gay men really do. Thanks Judith!

So one day I was wandering through the Barnes and Noble bookstore, not the big superstore ones they have now, but the dinky little ones they had in Malls in the 80's. It was like a Hallmark store with a newsstand attached. So there I am, a suburban bookworm, and I happened across a rather intriguing paperback with two beautiful men, reclining in the sun, unusually close, with a beach scene in the background. It was done in the style of my Mom's sappy was like Fabio and his boyfriend were at the beach. The cover was very a straight Harlequin romance kind of way. It was a series of gay romances by Gordon Merrick

The Gordon Merrick story-lines were weird, but then again they were written in the mid 50's so the sex scenes were written in classically euphemistic terms like " his manhood" or "reach ecstasy" and being "taken". I had no idea was ecstasy was but I know I sure wanted it and I was so ready to be taken. Only mushrooms grow well in the dark, so Merrick's romances were "mushroomy" in the sense that they blossomed inside the closeted world of the 50's. There were weird relationships of married men with "understandings" between wives and lovers. Young men yearning and having "furtive" gropings in rowboats. There were rapes of young men by Greek sailors(duh). None of the characters worked, they were all rich and angst ridden. It was as satisfying as muddy water would be in a very dry desert.

As the 80's drew to a close, better novels appeared by Edmund White, James Baldwin and a plethora of new voices arrived at the local Barnes and Noble. The internet was a long way away and the term "gay bookstore" had a different meaning entirely.

Still for many years, aside from a few "respected" gay authors which managed to come out or break out after they were established, there were still very few writers willing to populate their books with gay characters and even fewer willing to create gay characters that weren't tragic. and Google put gay literature literally just one click away. Today the gay romance genre is dominated by women.....strange but women seem get much of the longing that gay men have for acceptance, earning self esteem, and self respect yet at the same time create compelling plot lines and very erotic sex scenes....its as their gay best friend has given them all our secrets! The books are populated by extremely handsome men, who have interesting careers. The overcome the usual obstacles to love: class, low self-esteem, werewolves, vampires, jealous love interests, fallen angels, angry exes, murderous exes, disapproving parents, and being "out". Gay romance also has many sub genres: sci-fi, firemen, werewolves(WTF?), vampires, you name it. While I'm not sure where gay characters are in "straight" literature, but I'm sure they're there. Suggestions welcome.