And A Good Time Was Had By All

I’m sure this will come as a complete surprise to most of you who read this blog on a regular basis, but I have a tendency to freak out about things I shouldn’t, from time to time.  I worry about being in uncomfortable situations and my default reaction is to avoid them as best I can, often by  ignoring opportunities or declining invitations I should accept.  I usually feel like an outsider in social situations and I fret about not being accepted or  feeling like I don’t belong.

Frequently, I am proved to be concerned for no reason.  My panic is  groundless and I leave the situation at the end of the event having faired just  fine and glad I took the chance.  More often than not, in fact, I have a good time and enjoy the company I kept.

You would think that given this “mountain of evidence”, I would stop worrying and start enjoying myself.  You would be wrong…

I moved to California in early 1998 after having received an invitation to stay  with my best friend from high school… and his wife… and his 18 month  old daughter… and his mother-in-law… who ran a day care out of their home,  until I was able to get a job and find a place to live on my own.  Not long after moving in with this friend and his family, he and his wife took me to a party  that was being hosted by friends from their church.  It was sort of a 20  something married’s Sunday School class type of gathering.  Shawn, my  friend, and his wife, lead me into the house where we were greeted by the  hostess.  They introduced us and then they walked away.  I didn’t see or  speak to them again for the rest of the evening until they told me it was time  to go.

I had only been in town for a few weeks and had just experienced two of the most psychologically traumatic events in life; loss/change of employment and relocation.  The fact is, I was in the beginning stages of my first deep  depression and I’ve no doubt that I was wearing my misery on my sleeve.  Certainly, there are things I could have done to handle the situation  differently and make myself more approachable.  There’s no question about  that.  But the fact remains, I was a stranger in a house full of people who all  knew each other.  I believe, and will believe till the day I die, that it was the  responsibility of the people at that part to approach me and to include me in  their conversations and activities.  Not to wait until I approached them.

This experience was twelve years ago.  It took place in another town many  miles away.  I’m not friends with Shawn and his wife people any longer.  I’m talking about ancient history and yet?  I’m tearing up, just a little bit, telling  this story.

Yes, I have a “mountain of evidence” to support the idea that I get by just fine in social situations and yet, every time an opportunity presents itself, the  only thing I can think of is this party twelve years ago.

So last Friday night, when John, the facilitator of the coming out support  group I attend, invited me to come to his house for a “gay men’s dinner party” later renamed a soirée – which turned out to have more straight  people than gay men in attendance – I was, of course, terrified at the  prospect and part of me really wanted to decline and hide away at home in  my recliner and big screen TV (is 37” considered “big screen” in this day and  age?) I knew it would be in my best interest to go.  I knew that I would probably have a good time once I got there.  And I knew, unlike in 1998, that  John would be a good host who would insure that I was included in the  events of the evening.  Also, I was informed by the boss of me that I was of  course going to go.  (I was also informed that she was the boss of me which I  did not previously know, and man does that take a lot of decision making responsibilities off my shoulders.  Phew!)

So, I went.  And of course I had a great time, even if I was quiet—especially as compared to some of the rest of the group.

I’ve never been very good with names.  I don’t know if it’s a short term  memory thing, or if – as is more likely – I’m just not paying enough attention  in the first place, but I frequently forget names within seconds of being told  them.  So when John introduced me to everyone, I did my best to remember all the names.  There were five people at that moment and I remembered four  of the five names, but drew a complete blank on the last name.  Fortunately, a few minutes later two more people arrived and the names were listed again.  I never had to ask for the lost name because it was  repeated in my earshot.

The food was very good and the drinks, of which I abstained, were free flowing.  The conversation was light and the barbs were aplenty.  Once the  drunkenness set in for some, the “I love you” was free flowing as well.

Five hours later, I was back in my car heading home content with a pleasant  evening among potential new friends and ready for sleep.

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It’s A Two-fer Tues-Monday

I was just reading this over at Dooce.com and as usual laughed heartily (well at least in my head I did – I am at work after all) at the humor contained there-in.  Dooce.com is one of the many blogs I subscribe to in my Google  Reader to make sure that I don’t miss anything and over the last year-ish that I’ve been reading her blog, it has not been difficult for me to comprehend Heather’s style of communicating.  She’s funny, she’s sarcastic, she’s quick  witted.  When I first started reading her blog and hadn’t seen her on any TV  shows or any of the Momversation videos she’s done, my mind automatically drew a connection and I heard Heather’s words in Christa Miller’s voice.  By the way, Heather is totally capable of being serious and doing good things for the world as well.  But why get too caught up in that when there’s humor to be had, right?

Anyway, as I read this post, I was amazed at the idea that people wouldn’t know when she’s being funny and would take her seriously at times when  she’s so obviously not being serious.    I enjoy reading this kind of blog.  It makes me laugh and lightens my day and I frequently wish I could do a better job of writing like that.  See, I don’t think, even for a minute that she means  half the things she says.  They are, at best, loosely based in reality and then  imagination takes over and what finally ends up on the screen is usually the result of placing a higher priority on humor than on absolute truth.

And that, I think, is my “problem”.  Not that truth and honesty are a problem but they are a hindrance in striving for that kind of writing.  I find that, more often than not, I start out with the intent to write something humorous and  while the finished product may be considered “good”, it’s not what I started  out to write.  I’m not complaining or suggesting that I’m going to go out of my way to change my style.  This is my voice and it is what it is.  But it got me thinking…

It’s so easy for me to be completely open and honest on this blog.  It’s almost pathological as demonstrated by the phenomenon mentioned above.  And yet, when I’m talking to people face to face, it’s so hard for me to open up.  Not just hard to open up completely, but to open up very much at all.  I tend to crack jokes to lighten the mood and divert attention from my own discomfort.  I withhold information, thoughts or feelings because I’m afraid  of what the person will think, or how they will judge me.

This past Friday, at the coming out support group (if you can call me and the facilitator a group – no one else attended, again) I talked about not having any friends.  John, the facilitator, said, “I find that hard to believe.”  I amended my statement, “I have one friend.  And I don’t have any gay  friends.”  (As a quick side bar, because I worry about how some people might  take this.  When I say I don’t have any friends, I mean people that I hang out with.  I have acquaintances at work and besides Michelle, I have my friend Heather who lives in Oklahoma and I only see once or twice a year but  otherwise don’t have much communication with.  Michelle is my only  “friend.”)

I’ve talked more than once about my lack of friends during my therapy sessions.  After a lifetime of not having a lot of friends, I struggle with the idea that anyone would want to be my friend.  Deb of course disagrees with this  conclusion, but suspects that I put up barriers to prevent people from really  getting close.  She’s right of course, even Michelle, who I talk more to and  spend the most time with, doesn’t know a lot of things about me.  (She doesn’t even read this blog, for crying out loud!)  I have been astounded, more than once, by the number of people who have shown an interest in me on this blog and on Twitter.  People who are seeing more of the real me, but they only see  that part of me because I let them, because in a way, none of them are real  and therefore there’s no risk involved with showing more of myself to them.   All these people who are only sort of real, but not really, not to me, seeing  the true me and liking what they see, and I can’t seem to manage to do the same thing when I’m looking someone in the eye.

John told me that he had been thinking of inviting me out for a drink or something because he was interested in getting to know me better, outside of the context of the support group.  (John has a partner.  He’s not asking me  out, he wants to be my friend.)  After telling him that I only have one friend  and no gay friends he invited me to his house this Saturday night for his  “monthly gay men’s dinner party”.  I instantly felt terror at the prospect of having to meet new people.  I’ll go.  I need to go. And besides I’ve been ordered to go by a certain carrot nosed reader and twitter friend of mine.  But I’ll admit I’m scared.

We Will Be Victorious!

It’s a cold and dreary day in the Bay Area.  It’s been raining since I woke up this morning, and probably longer than that. I haven’t washed my new car since I  bought it two months ago, because every time I thought about it, the weather  reports threatened rain.  Of course, even when it did rain, it didn’t rain on my car.  I have a garage at home and an in-door parking garage at work and so the rain  always held off until the car was in one of those two places.  My car was filthy!  This morning it poured down rain the entire way to work.  Admittedly, that’s only four miles and in some people’s eyes today is a holiday so there wasn’t much  traffic.  My drive was a short one, but the rain was coming down in sheets and I  think my car is probably sparkling clean again!

Today, as most of you know, is the day we commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. and his efforts in the civil rights movement of the 1960s.  Having been born in 1975 and coming from a northern family, it’s hard for me to conceive of a time when blacks and whites were not considered equal.  Separate schools?  Different water fountains?  Really? That’s preposterous!  Laws prohibiting the marriage of a black person to a white person?  Surely you jest!  “Separate but equal?” There is no  such thing and every conservative I ever knew would tell you so.  We live in a  civilized society where everyone s treated equally and with respect and decency,  right?!?  The idea that all these things existed, just a few short years before I was  born was simply outlandish to me.

Despite growing up in a family which hovered dangerously close to the poverty line (which, by the way is a joke for how low it is) I was privileged.  I’m male.  I’m white.  I have blue eyes.  One could even argue that I’m blond (or was before I lost my hair).  What advantage could I possibly not have?  I mean, really!

Three years ago, I finally accepted something about myself that I really had known  all along.  And in that moment of acceptance, I took a step into a foreign  land.  I found myself in a place I could not comprehend.  I found myself to be a minority.  You see, I was a blond haired, blue eyed, white male, with the world as my oyster (or so “they” would tell you), and every advantage imaginable (except for a fat bank account.)  But with that acceptance, I became a blond haired, blue eyed, white, gay male in a world steeped in controversy over whether or not I  should be allowed to exist; a world that questions the validity of my natural,  God-given preferences and desires; a world that thinks that who and what I am is a choice and not a fact of my life, and therefore, is not worthy of equality; a world that would just as soon send me to a separate school, and have me drink from a separate water fountain and tell me that my rights are equal to theirs, just as long as I keep them separate from theirs.

As a kid, I always thought that some day, many, many years into the future,  Marriage between two people, regardless of race or gender, would be no big deal.  It would be legal for two people to get married and love each other and have a happy and fulfilling life together without fear or retribution from society.  Yes, I was raised to believe that homosexuality was wrong and that those marriages between  two people of the same gender would be immoral, but I was also taught the very  important concept of separation of church and state and therefore believed that marriage between two people of the same gender should be legal even if it was  immoral.  (My beliefs about the morality of homosexuality are different now, but that’s not what this post is about.)

I always believed that some day, right here in this country, we would reach a point  in our political culture where it would be agreed that legalizing same sex marriage  would be the right thing to do.  I also always suspected that it would be when I  was very old, or even after I had died.

It is not without some sense of irony that I began to accept myself for who I  was,right around the time that the mayor of one bustling metropolis decided that it was discrimination not to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples and issued an edict to his staff to change that.  Soon after, loving, committed same-sex couples from around the country flocked to that mayor’s office  applying for  marriage licenses and saying their vows before a justice of the peace, finally  gaining a sense of acceptance and normalcy that they had longed for.

A few months later, that mayor was ordered to cease and desist issuing same-sex marriage licenses and the marriages that had been performed were deemed  invalid.

In May, 2008, six separate appeals were brought before the California Supreme  Court protesting the constitutionality of this action which ultimately resulted in the  court determining that prohibiting same sex marriage was indeed unconstitutional and ordered that same sex marriages be legalized and licenses issued, not just in the thriving metropolis, but throughout the state.

I was surprised.  I was also pleased, because not only had an injustice, that I had seen to be so my entire life, been undone, but it actually mattered to me  personally because it affected me personally… or at least it could, someday.

And then the campaign started when a hate mongering group of people put together a petition to add a law, later to be known as Proposition 8, to the  November, 2008 ballot.  Proposition 8 was intended to add an amendment to the state constitution which would define marriage as existing between one man and  one woman and making any other type of union illegal.  I became aware of the question early on, but I was complacent and delusional.  I saw countless “No on 8” signs, bumper stickers and television commercials, but nary a one “Yes on 8”  anything.  Everything I had read on-line and in magazines was anti-Prop 8.  And the legality of same sex marriages was already in place.  I couldn’t believe that in a state like California there was any chance that a bill like Prop 8 stood a chance  of passing.  I didn’t do a thing beyond casting my own vote against Proposition 8.

I, like the majority of the rest of the country stayed up late, watched and waited for  the results.  November 4, 2008 was an historic day for all of us and I wanted to know how it would turn out.  Who would be our next President?  And by how much of a majority would this hateful, horrible Proposition 8 be defeated?

President Obama won, by a landslide… early even!  Not really a surprise there, but worth waiting up for all the same.  Prop 8, on the other hand, was too close to call  and the ballot counting was taking an eternity, it seemed.  When I awoke on  Wednesday, November 5, 2008, I was shocked and devastated by what I had learned.  Moreover, I was pissed!

I wrote this and posted it to my previous blog:

An Open Letter to 52% of the Voters of the State of California

Dear 52% of the Voters of the State of California-

I want to thank you!

I want to thank you for recognizing that I am every bit as much of a human being as you are!

I want to thank you for finally acknowledging that Separation of Church and State means that even if you don’t agree on a moral level that I should be entitled to marry the man of my dreams, you at least realize that yours is a religious perspective and not a political one and therefore decided to grant me my fundamental human rights to marry the man I love.

I want to thank you for recognizing the direction this country is heading, catching up with the rest of the world, and agreeing to consider me equal, deserving of all the same rights as you.

I want to thank you for voting to defeat this hate mongering proposition to take away my rights to marry the man of my dreams, because you realize that whatever your personal opinion of marriage might be, this issue is much bigger than you or me, and therefore you MUST vote to maintain those rights for all Californian’s regardless of sexual orientation.

I want to thank you for all of these things…

Sadly, I can’t.

Those of you who read my blog on a regular basis have probably noticed a glaring absence from my post recently.  I can’t answer for the first week of January, other than that I was just back from a trip and had work piled up on my desk, but last week (and possibly the rest of this week) I was very preoccupied with keeping myself informed of the goings on with the federal appeal in the courts now (not today – they view it as a holiday) to consider the prospect of overturning Proposition 8.  The defense in this case, the side that wants to continue to  withhold my rights, fought very hard to keep the public from knowing what’s  happening in the court room.  The question of televising the case was shot down.  The United States Supreme Court overruled the sitting judge’s intention to record  the proceedings and post them on You Tube.

There are many outlets available, I’m sure.  I have chosen the Courage Campaign Prop 8 Trial Tracker for my source of information.  Rick Jacobs, the founder of the Courage Campaign Institute, has been in the court house overflow room, where the proceedings are being shown to a small group of media, and has been typing his little fingers to the bone to get as much of the information out, up to the minute, as he can and I have been fastidiously following along.  See, I decided that this time, I do not want to be a bystander who knew nothing about what was happening until  the outcome was announced on the news.  This time, I wanted to know the truth.  I wanted to know what actually happened in the court room that brought us to the  conclusion the judge will reach.

I must tell you, it’s discouraging information.  “Our” side is making compelling, rational, logical arguments that would be hard – in my opinion – to refute.  The Prop 8 side is making irrational, childish, I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I types of  arguments that are short-sighted to say the least and ludicrous in most cases.  It’s hard for me to comprehend that anyone could believe the things these guys are spouting and yet, it’s much the same hogwash that is spouted by my family.

I’m reading this coverage and I’m trying to logically process what’s being said and  it seems like any logical human being would have to come down on the side of overturning the law.  But there’s something inside me…  A voice in the back of my head.  It’s the voice that I often think I need to learn to pay better attention to  because it tends to know things, tends to be pretty accurate…  That voice in the back of my head is saying, “Our side is making an excellent case.  Prop 8 side is acting like ignorant children.  No one in their right mind would side with them…  And yet?  We are going to lose.”

I hope that voice is wrong, but I doubt it.  And the truth is, whether that voice is wrong or not, it won’t end here.  Whoever loses this case will take it to the next  level of courts to appeal it again and again and again until it can’t go any farther.  And there are those who believe that if this question goes to the Supreme Court of the United States and if the SCOTUS rules against “us”, it will be another generation before marriage equality is in place.

Seems that my child hood belief may not be so far from correct after all.  I believe this country will have marriage equality some day.  But if we want to have it, we  will have to fight for it, every step of the way!

There’s a song that came on my iPod the other day and has been in my head ever since.  The band is called Muse and the song is called Uprising.  I first became  aware of it when the chorus was used in the promotional ads for the new TV series V, and the video for the song is nothing short of bizarre.  I’m quite sure I’m making the words fit my own cause and really I’m OK with that because they do fit.

This is Uprising:

The paranoia is in bloom, the PR
Transmissions will resume, they’ll try to
Push drugs, keep us all dumb down and hope that
We will never see the truth around, so come on

Another promise, another scene, another
Packaged lie to keep us trapped in greed with all the
Green belts wrapped around our minds and endless
Red tape to keep the truth confined, so come on

They will not force us
And they will stop degrading us
And they will not control us
We will be victorious, so come on

Interchanging mind control, come let the
Revolution take its toll, if you could
Flick a switch and open your third eye, you’d see that
We should never be afraid to die, so come on

Rise up and take the power back, it’s time that
The fat cats had a heart attack, you know that
Their time is coming to an end, we have to
Unify and watch our flag ascend, so come on

They will not force us
They will stop degrading us
They will not control us
We will be victorious, so come on!