The "C" word.

I am directionally challenged. If you tell me to take two rights and then a left, my anxiety filled response would likely be, “Wait, what? Can you write that down?” I would then proceed to miss the first right, take the second left and then have a little melt down. It’s frustrating, because as a man, you would think that I would never ask for directions, but as a gay man, I can do it. I just can’t retain it. At a gas station, I can remember the exact shade of Martha Stewart robin’s egg blue paint on the walls, the sunglass display and which one would work best with my facial shape or the unfortunate pairing of shirt with slacks that the cashier is wearing, but not “Take two rights and then a left”.


I posted my dating profile online several years ago, and quickly ran out of viable choices within a five mile radius of Boston. After casting the net to include a 60 mile radius I figured if anyone did respond to my profile I would never be able to find him. And then I found Paul’s profile in Manchester, NH. He amazingly agreed to meet me in person, and left it up to me to pick the place. Thank goodness, because if it had been Manchester, I would still be in the car, possibly somewhere in Canada.

The other thing about driving that anyone who knows me will tell you is that I hate to commute. Anything longer than 15 minutes in the car is a torture worse than water boarding in my book. So, it was somewhat ironic that I ended up moving in with Paul after several months of dating. The commute to my job in Franklin, MA from our home in Manchester NH was 87 miles each way. Clearly, I was blinded by love. “Oh, it will be fine. I can brush up on my French by listening to those language CD’s, sing along with the radio. Really, it will be ‘me time’. You know, time to reflect and decompress”. I told my friends. The look on my friend Sam’s face was “Are you fucking crazy?” but the words out of his mouth were a peppy “Yeah, sure it will be great.”

After six months of commuting hell to Franklin, I found a job in Cambridge which was roughly half of the distance. I was thrilled. The first week of commuting was a breeze. Then suddenly, the cast of Mad Max returned from school vacation week and the 47 mile commute became a combat zone. My personality began to resemble those of soldiers that have seen horrible, horrible things. I would be quiet and pensive one moment then combative and hallucinatory the next. Instead of saying “Hello, how are you?” my greeting was “Two fuckin’ hours!! Can you believe it?” Fucking 93. My friends quickly began to avoid the “C” word. My friend Sam, who commutes one mile garage to garage and drives two blocks from his condo to his gym tried to be sympathetic, but eventually cracked under my constant regurgitation of commuting hell vomit. “Would you shut the fuck up about the fuckin’ commute, already?!” Sam said.

Something had to change. Paul, bless his heart, tried to make it easier for me. He would greet me at the end of each day with a homemade dinner, sparkling clean house and a glass of wine. I would down the glass of wine like a shot, grimace, and then quickly pour another while talking about the only thing in my life, the “C” word. Paul in a soothing, let’s talk you down from the ledge voice, said “Pookie, I know the commute is tough, but you have a fabulous home, a wonderful dinner and…” and before he could finish, I spit out words in a possessed Linda Blair animal voice “Fuck the fucking fabulous house, I’d rather clean the bathroom floor with my tongue and live in a crack house in the city!” The next weekend we went looking for a pied-a-terre in the city.

It’s been a year since we moved to the city. I don’t drive anymore. That horror is behind me now. I take the bus or the T and what others call the “Chariot of dirt” I call a God send. No more navigating or driving. The rage has dissipated. Sometimes at night I dream about driving up hills so steep that the car tips over on its rear wheels and then I wake up dripping in a cold sweat. I walk over to the open window of our small bedroom window and listen to the birds chirping at the early morning light and just under that is the soft electric whir sound of the T on Comm Ave. And though I can’t possibly hear it, I know out there on 93 is the rumbling sound of some road warrior hell bent for his destination in the city. But, it’s not me. It’s not me.

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Don't say Gay!

There is a “Don’t say Gay” bill in the Tennessee senate that prohibits K-8 teachers from discussing sexual orientation other than heterosexuality and you know what, dammit? I agree with it. No, no, hear me out. Hell, I waited until I was 42 to come out, these kids can wait until ninth grade! But, I don’t think it goes far enough. Really! I have read the bill and honestly, we need to be a little more specific here or some activist judge is going to rip through this thing like last week’s panty hose. No, we need to protect the teachers from accidently discussing anything Gay.

So in a show of bi-partisanship cooperation, big bow, I have graciously made a list of “touchy” subjects that might lead young minds to think of Gay or Homo things. And this list took quite a while. Have you Googled the word Gay? Yikes! There were some things that shocked even me. But let’s start.

Ok, the 1890’s are totally taboo as it was known as the Gay 90’s. 1890-1900 off the list, no questions. Gay Paris? Hello! France, no talkie. And anyway, we’re calling them “Freedom Fries” now. The 1930’s through 1940’s were full of the word gay in musicals; another decade that should not be tolerated. I’m afraid that leaves some holes in History, but we can’t have a teacher accidently discussing world word II and turning young minds gay. But, we still have Greece! Yay for Greece! Oh, wait, there’s that whole Lesbos island thing and I have seen Spartacus. You know what I’m talking about: wink, wink. And the original Olympics with all those oiled up muscular young naked bodies? Greco-Roman wrestling? No, that’s it! No history. We have to be serious now.

Alright that was tough, no history. Science should be OK, but let’s review. First, if someone says Homo, what do you think of? Am I right? Homogenization. And if you talk about that, you have to talk about Pasteurization. Slippery slope. Louis Pasteur. Au revoir! He was French anyway. Homo sapiens? OK, no anthropology. Prisms and weather gets tricky because you have to talk about rainbows and we all know the gays stole the rainbow and as soon as that thing gets projected on the board, they’re going to be singing Judy Garland show tunes and clamoring for a gay straight alliance group. There was this scientific discovery of over 1,500 animal species that practice homosexuality! Did you hear about it? Who turned the animals Gay? I’m going to get all Whitney Houston on your ass: Hell to the No for science!

History. Science. Gone! End of discussion. Literature? Every British poet gets tossed. And don’t get me started on Walt Whitman, “We two boys together clinging, one the other never leaving?” Literature, you’re outta here!

Current Events. OK, there’s this really bad stuff going on in Japan and when you think of Japan? That’s right, Geisha’s. Technically it has the word Gay in it. I feel bad for the Japanese, but if they’re going to turn my children Gay…Lebanon: Did you see Glee? Poor slow Britney calls Santana Lebanese, thinking it means Lesbian. Ha ha! And to lighten things up here, I have to tell you a funny story. I saw a poster advertising a “Lebanese food festival” and I said to myself “What are they going to serve, fish tacos?” Ok, that was crude. But you get my drift. No talk of the Middle East. That’s some f'ed up shit anyway and it’s too much for young minds to handle. Forgive my French. Damn, I mentioned France again. See how difficult this is?

OK, History, Science, Current Events. What’s left? Physical Education? Young boys and showers? Fuggetdaboutit! There is math, but honestly, I was never good in math and when you start talking about the “universal language” of math, some poor slob is going to think that “love” is the universal language.

Let’s bring back Religion! Screw separation of church and state. What we need are some good old fashioned God-fearing children. Oh crap, Leviticus. As they say, one bad apple. I am a father. If I tell my children NOT to do something, you know what they’re going to do, don’t you? Men lying with men. Can’t have it.

Whew! No History, Science, Physical Education, Math, Literature or finally religion (Like they would EVER let us talk about that…). Our children may be dim-witted, but thank God, they won’t be Gay!




p.s. If you want to thank the Tennessee Senator who created this bill, visit Stacey Campfield's blog here.   Really, that's his name!  I thought it was a drag queen's name too!

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The kids are alright.

Paul is shouting up the stairs. “Children, I mean nasty little creatures that live upstairs, time for lunch!” Evelyn 18, Nick 16 and Monique 13 come bounding down the stairs and join me at the table. I am busy working on two notebook computers. I am Repairing Nick’s laptop for the fifteenth time because he has contracted yet another virus and on the other obsessively connected to the Internet.


Paul surprisingly, is organizing photographs. I say surprisingly, because if you knew Paul, you would know that there is rarely a time when he is not organizing. As Paul places photos in front of me he says “Why don’t I have a pseudonym on your Blog?” I tell him that I am using the French spelling of his name and begin shifting through the pile of photographs in front of me.

I begin to convulse with laughter and suddenly, Evelyn, Nick and Monique are at my side asking what is so funny. “This picture of your father is priceless. I think the collar on that shirt is bedazzled!” Paul, feigning annoyance snatches the picture out of my hands and says “As you can tell, my mother went through a time when she loved to embroider”. I say, “Well, I have to thank your mother, because this is the blouse that turned you Gay. You could take that picture to a therapist and all you would need to say is ‘see’?”

Then Paul finds his driver’s license from twelve years ago in a folder and throws it in front of me. I pick it up and my laughter is suddenly silenced and replaced with a “Yes sir!” It’s the same handsome face, but with a beard. This is something I have not seen before and it’s doing things for me. Paul then grabs the license back and says "OK, you're enjoying this too much.  It's creeping me out."

Absent-mindedly, Evelyn asks “I wonder how long it would take to pass out if you put a plastic bag over your head?” Now, most parents at this point would A) Be alarmed that their child would ask such a question, B) Ask if there is anything they would like to talk about? And C) Make an appointment pronto with a psychologist. But I say “Let’s Google it.” After I have found the answer I say “Apparently, two to three minutes.” Evelyn replies simply with “Huh.”

Paul has ignored this entire conversation and is still hung up on the whole taking the photo to therapy thing and says “I’ll tell you why I need therapy. I don’t have any Gay children, they are all hopelessly straight.” Nick looks at me across the table and with mock shame says “Billy, I am attracted to girls” Monique rolls her eyes, smiles and while patting his arm says “It’s OK Nick, we’re all family here. No judgments.” Evelyn is done with lunch and says “Thank you parental units.” And Paul replies “You’re welcome straight child.” as he kisses the top of her head.

Now, I know how this must sound to the average person; Plastic bags over your head, therapists, turning gay? The simple answer is humor is our medicine.  We joke with our five children about being straight or Gay, because we know that we’re all pre-wired and the world is far too serious about it. In short, we treasure their strange little twisted minds and love all five of them with all of our heart. We love them enough to allow them free reign of their imaginations and teach them what a wonderful coping tool humor is. We also love them enough to set boundaries and impose discipline when necessary. We’re a typical family and really, the kids are alright.

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Down with That!

The other morning while Paul was driving me to work a man wearing a “member’s only” jacket with four strands of grey hair pulled over his balding scalp crossed in front of our car on Comm Ave. His step was sprightly, considering he must have been at least 115 year’s old. My husband Paul exclaimed “Look honey, that’s you in five years. At least you’re still thin!” Thin was an understatement. He was a pile of bones held together by skin.


I have come to expect these comments from Paul and they are full of love, believe me. We joke about our three year age difference because in the frenetic pace of the Gay world, gay years are like dog years. If you were to eavesdrop on a young gay couple’s argument, hypothetically speaking, you would likely hear one of them exclaim “Have the past 48 hours meant nothing to you?!”

Often, I wish that Paul and I had met earlier in life, so that we had more time together. I was dwelling on this when Paul and I took Tina, my new work BFF, out for dinner to celebrate her promotion. When I told Tina we were going to a place called “Cuchi Cuchi”, her response was “I’m down with that!” That’s Tina, she’s down with everything. I could say we were going to get on a plane, fly to Latvia and drink goat’s blood and she would say “Honey, we’re going to stirrrr it up and I’m down with that!”

Towards the end of dinner, our waitress informed us that there was a tarot card reader in the bar and she would put our name on the list if we were so inclined. I have never had a “reading” so maybe it was the three Acai-Blueberry martinis, or the celebratory feeling of the evening, but when I looked across the table at Tina and saw the expectant look in her face, I said “We’re down with that!”

We grabbed another round of drinks and huddled around a small dimly lit table by the bar. The card reader, Betsy, was a middle aged woman with long silver hair and piercing blue eyes. She performed a somewhat vague reading for Tina, telling her how interesting it was that she pulled three cards with African women on them. Paul mumbled under his breath, “Way to state the obvious”.

After Tina’s reading was complete, I was feeling somewhat dubious and Paul had completely checked out. Betsy asked who was next. I hesitated and looked at Tina. Her eyes narrowed and seemed to say “Baby, you’re gonna’ get your reading!” So I said “Deal me in”.

Betsy told me to hold the cards and put my energy into them. I felt silly, kind of like when the waiter pours a sample of wine and you’re supposed to perform all sorts of histrionics before accepting it. I pulled out three cards as instructed and Betsy was clearly impressed with my choices.

“This card shows that you are deeply in love, in fact this card shows you diving into a pool of love.” She said. Then she looked up at Paul. “You two are married?” I nodded yes, not wanting to give too much away. “This other card shows that you will be coming into great abundance and the final card shows that you and your ex-wife made a pact before you were born to have children together.” This was definitely more specific than Tina’s reading. She then closed her eyes and said “You and your husband were warriors in a previous life in Mongolia.” She smiled to herself and said “Yes, I can see it clearly. In fact you have spent many lives together sometimes as a man and a woman.” I looked at Paul and the smile on his face said “I know who the woman was.”

As we were riding home on the T Paul said. “Pookie, I would have given you a card reading for thirty bucks and I would have at least given you a former life somewhere fabulous and warm. Mongolia is not fabulous and warm. Heck, I’d do a lot of things for you for thirty bucks.” I looked at his handsome face, with its mischievous smile and hazel eyes full of our stories. Eyes that promised me love on that first night four years ago. Would I pay thirty dollars to hear that those eyes would find me again and again? I’m down with that.

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Dude, Sweet!

Today is a holiday unique to Boston. Marathon Monday and Patriots day collide to form a weird type of holiday that shutters businesses and schools within the Boston city limits. Sort of like Saint Patrick’s Day, because anyone can claim to be Irish or a Patriot and the only proof you need to display is consuming more alcohol than your body can process. Because I work in Cambridge, technically I do not get this as a holiday, but because I live in Boston, I decided that “working from home” for half of the day was due to me.


My husband Paul and I walked down the sidewalk to catch a glimpse of the race at mile 22 and it was clear that this was a par-TAY atmosphere. The normal Boston College student backpacks had all been replaced with twelve-packs and despite it being just 51 degrees; they were optimistically dressed in shorts and tank tops.

“Oh look, the frat house is open!” Paul exclaimed. It’s not really a frat house, but we affectionately call it that because at the hint of any warm weather, the decks and front lawn are filled with intoxicated college age men. And when you have a group of young intoxicated men, stupid shit follows. Today was no exception.

“Dudes, do you want a brew?” A young guy in plaid shorts and BC T-shirt asked us. “All-set, thanks.” Paul waved. On the front steps were two guys leaning over another young man, his right knee bleeding profusely. “Dab, don’t wipe dude, dab!” One of them was heatedly telling the makeshift medic with a bloody rag. And then we passed by another frat boy holding a plastic bag, with contents that looked alarmingly like urine, getting ready to take a sip, but in a neighborly way held it out to us for a sample. We declined. And this was 11:30 AM, mind you.

I can’t tell you how many times Paul and I have re-enacted the frat boy’s mannerisms and language, leading up to what Paul calls in his Borat accent, “Sexy-time”. “Dude, the coach really kicked my ass in practice today! Can you rub the kink out of my back, bro’?” You get it: Straight-acting. I hate that term. When I posted a profile on match.com before I met Paul, every other Gay man listed himself as “straight-acting”. To say that is to imply that being Gay is undesirable.

I have asked my friends, Sam and Cary what is so appealing about hooking up with someone that is straight-acting. Cary says it is making up for all of those years in high school when the college jocks made fun of us homos and now we get the upper hand by sticking it to them, so to speak. Sam really doesn’t give a shit what his hook-ups act like as long they keep their grimy hands off his fabric headboard, so he really was of no help.

I think that society wants unrealistic definitions and boundaries. Boys play with trucks and guns while girls play with Barbies and dress up. When an advertisement surfaced this week about a mother painting her five year old son's toenails pink, you would have thought that she might as well have been signing him up for sex re-assignment surgery. There were so many critics that thought this was “improper”. The mother and son were clearly playing and loved this; Kudos to the mother for not condemning the son to a life of “This is what boys are supposed to act like”.

If more parents allow their children to be who they are then one day, maybe we can get rid of the term “straight acting” in the Gay community. Who knows, maybe the straight community will advertise themselves as “gay-acting”. And Dude, that would be sweet!

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Flamer

Last night I attended a business event set atop a downtown hotel with dramatic views of the Atlanta skyline. One thousand miles from home and I did not know a single attendee. On top of that, the invitation noted that there would be hand rolled cigars and cabaret dancers (women) with fire. “Oh, yay” I thought to myself. It was a business event that was clearly planned by a straight man. And that’s OK if you are a straight man. But as a gay man I was thinking big yawn.


I have spent so many years in the corporate world pretending to be straight and because I don’t do that anymore, I was dreading the event just a little bit. But, here’s the thing. When you don’t care if people think you are gay, life is so much more enjoyable. You get to be yourself.

Before I was out, I used to worry that the little things I did or said would give me away. I would shop for Old Navy pleated khakis to go with a blue button down shirt. You know, the “Man uniform”. And no need to try them on for God sakes. Why would I care about the fit? I’m a man, we don’t shop, we buy!

Now, I spend time looking for the right fit and color. I will notice and comment on a woman’s (or a man’s) haircut and shoes. Does that make me Gay? No, but even if someone told me that was gay, my reply would be “Thank you!”

Back to the event: I have found that grabbing a drink and a plate of food and then finding a spot at a cocktail table with others is the perfect way to meet people. Opening with “Do you mind if I park here?” seems to be always met with “Not at all!” And that is how I met two attractive women from South Dakota.


While other men were clumsily trying to pick them up, I was being myself and having a lot of laughs with them. In short, the other men were acting like “men” and missing out. At one point, a guy walked up and asked the two women if they needed a refill on their drinks. Marcia, one of the women, turned to him and said "You betcha'! Bill needs a refill." I told him any kind of red wine would do and we watched the poor bastard stumble off to the bar in a daze, clearly bothered to be fetching a man a drink.  Marcia laughed and said “You’re not like the typical IT person, you’re a people person!” I think she got that half right. I am a people person and I am an IT person, but I do not act like the typical man.

As the three of us watched the cabaret dancers light different appendages on fire and prance around the floor we laughed and enjoyed the show. I thanked my drink fetcher for being a good sport and introduced him to Marcia and Stacey and watched the wall around him come down.  I began to think that really, I can have a good time anywhere because I have learned not to care what other people think of me. Straight men would do well to do the same.

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I am here

The other night, Sam, Cary and I met for dinner at Stella’s in the South End of Boston. It is a tradition for us to meet once or twice a month to discuss what is going on in our lives. Things you can’t discuss in e-mails and texts and the conversation is significantly enhanced by a few drinks and a gay friendly location.


Our conversations help to keep us sane, literally. We met in a “coming out” support group some four years ago on a cool October night in Brookline. There were more than the three of us. Six to be exact.  Five of us have stayed in touch but poor Bob, the sixth retreated back into the closet after the sessions ended.

It’s funny now to think of that first night. Each of us so nervous we could barely look at each other, carrying an armload of emotional baggage. I may have been the only gay virgin in the group, but that didn’t make talking about it any easier for Cary and Sam. This group was about self-acceptance, not self-admittance. And we all had big issues with that.

The group met for 12 weeks and somewhere around the middle, we were told that the next session would be the “sex” session. It was promised to be a frank talk that we were extremely interested in and also caused a certain amount of anxiety. Sam reveals now that he sent a three page e-mail of questions to our therapist beforehand.

“Bullshit. He didn’t answer a single fuckin’ question” Sam, still frustrated reveals. In retrospect, the “sex” session was extremely tame. Our conversations these days would make a hooker blush.

As we talk, it is clear that just talking to other people of like mind is cathartic. It does not matter if it is structured in a group therapy session or over drinks. The important thing is that we continue to talk. I would not dream of denying the existence of my husband Paul; Just as Cary would not dream of denying the love of his life.

When I came out to a friend, one of the first things he said was “It’s difficult, because I immediately imagine the sex act” This troubled me. I don’t envision he and his wife having sex and that is because heterosexual love is a part of our everyday vernacular. This is why it is so important that we all come out of our closets. Not being a majority is difficult, but pretending you are not who you are is deadly. Find someone to confide in. And if you need someone to talk to, I am here.

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Best Quality Heart

It is Sunday afternoon and I am languishing on the sofa in our Boston condo while my husband Paul, ever industrious, pieces together an Ikea dresser. Flipping through the TV channels I bypass “Real Housewives” and stop on “The Joy Luck Club”. Because we are scheduled to meet some friends for dinner in Chinatown, my thinking is that I can pick up some Chinese to impress the waiter.



Chinatown-Boston

When Paul mutters something like “Would it kill them to print one written word?” I reply “I know! Wouldn’t you have hated to be a woman in China during the 1930’s? : Although you do have to admire the fashions. Oh, sweetie, can you move just a little to the right, I can’t see the TV screen?” And then I realize Paul is standing in front of the TV screen for a reason.

After I make a huge display of climbing off of the sofa to help with the dresser, we watch the movie while piecing together our Hemnes dresser. I don’t pick up any useful “restaurant Chinese”, but I do begin to think about how parents can really screw up their kids. I am a pro, being a child and a parent.

My mother expected the best of me. Being gay was definitely not the best quality. At Nineteen I tried to come out to my mother. Her response was immediate and severe. It was not an option and a therapist would help me to overcome this. Life she assured me would be dismal if I “chose” this lifestyle. So, I chose differently.





Suyuan says to her daughter Jing-mei: “That bad crab, only you tried to take it. Everybody else want best quality. You, you’re thinking different.”

I married a woman and together we had two beautiful daughters. A choice I do not regret, but every choice has consequences. Eventually life became so numb that even a needle could not produce any pain. I was forced to make a seemingly impossible decision. Continue to fade away or step out of the marriage.

What is right is not always the easiest, but I learned that living authentically is the best thing that we can do for ourselves and our children. My mother had evolved by that time and had shrugged off those inherited prejudices. When I came out to her again, she begged my forgiveness and became my strongest supporter.




“You took worst, because you have best-quality heart. You have style no one can teach. Must be born this way. I see you”
Paul and I were married on a beautiful summer New England day last year, surrounded by friends and family. My two daughters and mother and Paul’s three children and parents stood by our sides. Later that day, my mother told me that I was a wonderful father, a good person and that I had chosen well. These are the simplest, sweetest  and most powerful words a parent can say.


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