Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Ramblings: No Ho Ho


 
I’ve lived through too many festive seasons to mention and for those of you without a wise older (and slightly forthright and occasionally downright rude) relative to guide them here’s my top tips for festive survival. Forget the zombie apocalypse; this one is more dangerous than you can even begin to imagine:

1)      Don’t Spend it Hung-over: During my drinking days, I’ve spent many a bleary day retching over the stench of softly dissolving Brussels over-boiling in a steamy kitchen and clutching my head whilst weeping softly. Do: Avoid the demon drink the night before or better still, stay drunk. No one minds at Christmas time. You’re not classed as an alcoholic unless the bender stretches on till at least mid January. Just check that your insurance is enough to cover rehab. Being drunk might even make Noel Edmonds seem bearable...well...maybe not. That would need Class A’s.

(Seriously people: look after your liver and sanity by avoiding excessive alcohol and Mr Edmonds).

2)     Don’t Spend it With Your Family: Unless you come from Walton Mountain or are working on keeping enough goodwill going to seal an inheritance, then these people are best avoided. They’ll only grate on your nerves and remind you of something embarrassing you did when you were six. You’ll be wincing at the fact you share genes with these people by the time the Queen’s Speech is on and demanding that they tell you that you were adopted. Do: Spend time with your chosen family: your friends. They say blood is thicker than water but unless you’re like one of those creeps from those pappy “Twilight” films, then blood isn’t as refreshing to drink.

3)     Don’t Break Up With Anyone: I got dumped once at 6pm on Christmas Eve and it wasn’t pleasant: for anyone. I sobbed through Christmas Dinner, drank my way through a bottle of wine during a Disney Pixar film whilst proclaiming what a tragic story it was and then collapsed in a heap. The next day, I was fine again, if a little embarrassed.  Do: Keep some perspective. It’s not easy to remember this with a million advertising images of joyous plastic families and smiling couples everywhere, but not everyone is happy on Christmas Day. It would be a true miracle if they were. It is after all, just a day and like any other, it passes: slowly, but it passes. Lots of people are alone, unwell, bereaved or heartbroken. Huge arrays of people are working too. If you want cheering up then look up the stats on the darker side of the season. I’m not giving the plot away if I reveal that your chances of breaking up or down and running up crippling debts are significantly increased by Yuletide efforts.

4)     Don’t Spend One Final Christmas With Someone You’re About to Split Up From: I tried this once as a misguided emotional gesture and ended up with a scenario akin to that of a bad Christmas soap plot. I ended up with a plateful of turkey in my face and actually got smacked with a Christmas tree and had a mild concussion. Luckily the gravy washed out of my good clothes. Fact: Soap operas may be fun to watch but not so thrilling to enact. Do: Escape well before December even rears its ugly head. It’s infinitely better to be single than in a bad relationship. I just wish I’d known this when I was younger. Get yourself out of there and on the market again or spend time recovering. It’ll be more fun than picking pine needles out of your scalp.

5)     Don’t Feel That It’s Compulsory: You do have a choice. If people disapprove of what you want to do on the 25th of December then that’s their problem. It’s your life: assert yourself. Do: Try to enjoy whatever you do with your time off and if you’re working, then feel smug that you’re missing out on all that bickering over the TV remote and enforced games of drunken Charades.

As for me, I’ll be the one hiding in an old Anderson Shelter, slowly sucking a vintage Valium and waiting for it all to be over, before emerging, triumphant, and slimmer in late December. Enjoy!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Ramblings: The Twelve gays of Christmas


I wrote this article for last week's column at www.thegayuk.com and it seems to have gone down well. Unusually festive for me, being a Christmas phobic, but a gay has to write what a gay has to write...and besides, it enabled me to subvert an irritating little song into something vaguely funny.
 
"The festive season can be a perilous time for the single gay man. I’ve navigated the dating circuit from time to time and have had more relationships than the late Liz Taylor, so thought I’d share the benefits of my experience on the pros and cons of the festive gays.

12 Drummers Drumming: (A.K.A.) New Age Gay. This is the man who owns his own set of bongos and can navigate a chakra or two. He’s kind and thoughtful, good with his healing hands, but won’t buy you a present as he’s totally against consumerism. Unless you want to spend Christmas Day munching on tofu and chanting with an absolute lack of television then these gays aren’t for you. The sound of those tribal drums will have you reaching for your Valium long before Winter Solstice is over.

11 Pipers Piping: (A.K.A. Home-maker Gay) He’ll be waiting in the immaculately ordered kitchen, piping bag in hand. This is the man who owns a full set of Martha Stewart cook books, has watched every episode of “Great British Bake-Off “ twice and has hand made his own decorations. Avoid him if you don’t want to gain three stone and receive hand embroidered gifts.

10 Lords a Leaping: (A.K.A. Camp Gay) Can you control this boy’s excitement? He’s had the tinsel up since November, Kylie is on a loop singing “Santa Baby” and you’ll spend the festive season learning Steps routines in matching outfits. This could be exhausting and may lead to a potential massacre before Yule is out.

9 Ladies Dancing: (A.K.A. Disco Bunny Gay) Toned and topless, he’ll make your winter paunch look positively hideous by comparison, as he spends December gyrating in a series of darkened nightclubs with no shirt on. By the time you’re done trying to keep up with this one, you’ll have an assortment of blisters and a sweat rash from skin tight Lycra. Do yourself a favour and favour the sofa instead.

8 Maids a Milking: (A.K.A. Sauna Gay) Wondering why he has such clean pores? It’s because he’s milking for all he’s worth in the saunas day and night. Unless you want to join him and that’s your thing, then steer clean or you may have to cope with a serious case of verrucas and an over-developed right arm, amongst other things.

7 Swans a Swimming: (A.K.A. Sporty Gay) He’ll be up and at it by 6am every day, hitting the pool, doing his lunges and cycling around the park. He’s got a great torso and thighs that could crack a festive walnut but beware: he may want you to join in. Be prepared for early starts, no booze and a lot of muscle pain. Be prepared and buy in a stock of anti-inflammatory pills.

6 Geese a Laying: (A.K.A. Sex-Addict Gay) The short days are so tiring. If you’re anything like me then you’re too tired and nippy to be putting out every five minutes. If, however, you can manage it five times a day, have a handy supply of Savlon and don’t mind his occasional forays into Grindr sex meets whilst you’re out buying the turkey, then this man is for you. He’ll certainly keep you busy.

5 Gold Rings: (A.K.A. Pierced Gay) This man has more holes than a colander and a huge sex toy collection. If it moves he’s pierced it. O.K., he’s easy to buy for but watch those nice wool jumpers, one wrong move and you’ll be covered in snags. On the plus side: it’s somewhere to hang your spare baubles and the after dinner party games could involve more fun than you’d have with charades.

4 Colly Birds: (A.K.A. Technology-addict Gay) He’s on Twitter and is tweeting like a bird with an egg jammed up its lady pipes. Be prepared to be ignored as he Instagrams all his food, photographs all his gifts,  captures your special “ooh, what a lovely gift” face and is sending it all out for everyone to see. He’s tweeting every 2 seconds and in between is Skyping, messaging, texting and talking on his mobile. Be prepared to be lonely this Christmas and totally lacking in privacy.

3 French Hens: (A.K.A. Euro-gay) He’s sleek and stylish and his mother is called Collette and is never without an Hermes scarf. He opens doors, has an accent that melts your underwear and is utterly charming. Just be prepared for the disdain. He won’t understand our tedious English Christmas food rituals and will affect the kind of face you want to slap as he repeatedly fails to see the joys of that Iceland Prawn Ring, the Yule Log and the pickled cabbage which you queued for hours to get.

2 Turtle Doves: (A.K.A. Grumpy Gay) Like a turtle, he hides in his shell and avoids anything festive. He’ll drain all the joy from any gathering, refuses to leave the house from mid November and will be holed up with a set of DVDs, a bottle of Cognac and a pile of books. (This describes me, by the way). Avoid him, unless you’re a kindred spirit and also think that Santa is just an anagram of Satan.

A Partridge in a Pear Tree: (A.K.A. The Keeper) This gay man is right where you need him: in his nest. He’s loyal, homely, faithful and kind. He’s also a rarity but worth searching for. I always say a gay in the home is worth two in a bush. If you haven’t found him yet, then don’t give up. He’s out there somewhere.

 Whichever type of homosexual male you choose to spend your Yule with or whether you choose to spend it alone, at work, with good friends or with family (brave, but I understand that some intrepid people do this), then have a good one."

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Ramblings: The Ugly Truth


There are certain facts about me which I know aren’t actually true, yet a small part of me still believes them, in spite of evidence to the contrary.

1)    I can still fit in miniscule clothing: I was way too thin in my teenage years and throughout my twenties. I had to buy tiny belts from children’s wear shops to hold my trousers up and tops in small or extra small were the size of choice. My bones would hurt when I sat on hard seats as I had not an ounce of excess fat as a cushion. Thanks to a combination of walking hours a day to and from work and with my dog and working in a heavy physical job (nursing on a geriatric ward), I remained emaciated.

Fact: I still forget that I’m more average in my size now and still occasionally buy clothes which whilst fine whilst standing up, will burst buttons if I ever sit down. I’m no longer dangerously thin.

2)     My hair isn’t going thin on top: I have a double crown. For those who don’t know what this means, it means that I have two of the whirly bits of hair where it grows outwards on the top of the head. Naturally that’s why when I have those hideous moments where I catch sight of the back of my head on a CCTV camera or in a changing room, it looks like my hair is getting very thin at the back. Baldness runs in families. All the males in my line had great heads of hair. It can’t be that I’m losing my hair

Fact: I’m losing my hair.

3)     I’m not very tall: This stems from teenage insecurity and inferiority. On an intellectual level I knew I wasn’t short. In terms of logistics I could see that I towered over a lot of people. It’s just that in my own mind I felt small and vulnerable. My inner voice told me that I was petite and weak. It’s not so bad now that I’m older and more confident but I still get moments where I feel tiny and frail.

Fact: I’m six feet tall.

4)     I can be anything I want to be: I’m over 40, have spent 25 years smoking too much and am also pretty slow to pick up physical tasks. I can understand concepts and theories easily but give me a simple physical thing to do and I’m very puzzled. A recent example is trying to tie a bowtie.  To me, it’s like the hardest riddle invented. Whilst it may be true that I could re-train for a new career at any age; certain careers (Olympic athlete, world class ballet dancer or Formula One driver) are beyond me. I often see contemporary dance pieces and leave thinking that with a week or two of training I could do that too. I see myself flying around gracefully, in singlet and shorts, wowing audiences worldwide. I then remember that they are probably twenty years my junior and started training soon after vacating the womb

Fact: I’m not 16 still. Some of my potential (if it ever existed) is gone.

5)     I’m still 21: I look at learned media experts, experienced senior doctors at work and government officials and automatically feel younger than them. I’m not. Lots of older people say that they still feel like a teenager inside. I’m not sure that this is true of me as I’ve felt 85 inside since I was about 12. I do however equate authority with age and it comes with a jolt when I realise that I’m older than lots of politicians, police inspectors and hospital consultants.

Fact: I’m officially middle aged.

I’m not sure I’ll ever have a true grip on reality. I think our inner selves will always struggle to keep up with physical reality. For now I’ll go with it: signing off here as a very petite, teenage future ballet star with an amazing head of hair.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Ramblings: Bad Nose Day


I used to enjoy shopping. I mean clothes shopping, of course. Not food shopping; I’ve always found that dull and hateful and don’t really get off on trying to push past people who are studying the packs of bacon like it’s fine art they’re buying.

I ventured out yesterday to buy a pair of shoes I’d seen on line. I came to a sudden decision that were I to shell out my cash on this particular pair of brogue boots in tan leather, my life would suddenly become complete. It wasn’t to be. I’m ashamed to say this but I’m a failed ex-shopper.

First I had to brave the autumnal chill and rain and was dressed accordingly. This was fine until I entered the shopping mall. The huge grey box looms above the skyline of the city, looking about as tempting as an ugly grey box can i.e. not very. Bright lights, shiny floors and oppressive heating and within minutes I was sweating and irritable in my jacket. This wasn’t a good start. I felt like I was on the set for “The Stepford Wives”.

The shop didn’t have the boots. They also didn’t know why they didn’t have the boots. “Unavailable” was the only answer they could give. I scowled and set off in search of alternative boots and of course, having something in mind means it doesn’t exist. Tan boots have become as common as virgins in Soho.

Walking into the shoe shops became a minefield as assistants lunged at me asking if I needed help. I didn’t need help. I’ve been in shops before. They told me that if I needed any help or advice I could ask them. This was not news to me. I’ve been in shops before. I’ve learnt how they work. Trying anything on is also an invitation for pestering and I become belligerent. The minute I took off my brogues to try on a shoe I was accosted.

Smiling blonde woman: “Would you like any help?”

Me: “No thanks, I’ve tried shoes on before. I’m kind of OK with it.”

After 15 minutes I started to feel trapped in the hot house of the shopping centre. It all looks the same: coffee chains, clothing chains and pasty shops. There are so many coffee chain stores in the city centre now that I have to think hard where I am when I see one. It’s all become so homogenised.

I managed thirty minutes and successfully bought a tie rack and a bottle of vitamin B tablets. My tie collection is growing and I needed some storage as well as some energy from the pills. I then made a foolish mistake. I tried on a shirt and a pair of trousers. The changing room was claustrophobic and starkly lit. There were too many mirrors. I’m at an age now when I don’t really want to see the back of my own head. The gradual onset of male pattern baldness is not something I like to remember. I was also having a bad nose day and became distracted by how big my nose looked in side profile. I didn’t buy the clothes. I never end up buying the clothes on a bad nose day. Nothing looks right with a bad nose. I looked at my nose from several angles though. It stayed bad.

On the way out I was stopped by a man trying to get me to sign up to a TV package, a woman wanting to wash my hands and apply some lotion (my hands are already clean and Fairy-soft) and a teenager being over-familiar in order to try to get me to gift money to a charity. I politely declined their offers.

Leaving the shopping centre, I lit a cigarette and inhaled toxic fumes which felt preferable to the dead air inside. In need of an antidote I headed into the nearest charity shop where I instantly spotted a vintage 50s vanity case in a soothing blue and a checked jacket which would suit a leather elbow patch. The charity shops were comfortingly stale and grubby with subdued lighting. The people weren’t over made up and felt somehow more real for their oddities.  They also ignore me. I’m happier being ignored. The jacket was too small and besides, my nose was still too big. I bought the case to use as storage. This lifted my mood but didn’t complete my life (as the boots surely would have). The tattooed assistant smiled a yellow gap-toothed grin as his hairy paw slammed my change down.

Arriving home I decided to do the sensible thing and buy the boots on-line. OK, I have to pay for delivery. I’ll probably be at work when they arrive and have to make a trip to the depot to collect them but it’s still less bother than facing the shops. I should have stayed at home and done this in the first place. I tried to log in to the site and upon entering my password it locked me out, demanding an account number. I’d lost the account number. I tried to call them and was instantly stuck in a queue.

The boots can wait. I’ll think of something else to make my life complete. Where can you buy offensive weapons these days?

 

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Ramblings: Corrupting Influences

 

It’s a common misconception among lots of my straight friends that homophobic bigotry is almost non-existent in modern society and that people are generally pretty tolerant.  I’m sure they’d be shocked to read that a peer who sat in the House of Lords has branded the website I write for (ww.thegayuk.com) as displaying an “aggressive type of behaviour”, being a “perverse pressure group” and having a “corrupting influence on susceptible and vulnerable young people.” Bigotry clearly stalks the corridors of power and is pretty poorly informed.

Personally, I wouldn’t call myself perverse or corrupting. I’m certainly not aggressive either; assertive, maybe. I can stand my ground. I work hard in the public sector, pay my taxes and keep a clean house. I even subscribe to the Radio Times, listen to Radio 4 and like walking in the Peak District. I’m thoroughly wholesome, mostly. Just because the gender of the person I sleep next to and have sex with is the same as my own, it doesn’t make me a degenerate. I don’t go around spewing venom and hatred either. That, to me, is the hallmark of an aggressive bad influence. Hatred aimed against whole groups of people is a true evil.

As a younger gay man, the corrupting influences which affected me adversely did not originate from the gay community. They came from the mouths of bigots and zealots. I was continually told by teachers, the government of the day and by religious groups that I was sick and depraved and an abomination. This didn’t make me feel warm inside. The eighties were nasty in many ways, not just because of the bad clothes. The positive influences on me were gay celebrities, gay literature and gay films, which showed me that actually they were all wrong and being gay did not equate being the spawn of Satan. It was just something I was born being.

If only the internet had been around then. I feel heartened that young gay men and women can now access internet forums and sites like this to help them learn that the way they were born is not a crime and doesn’t make them wrong or bad.

The city where I live hit the news in February of this year when three men were jailed for homophobic hate crimes. It was a case that made me feel physically sick. This was a test case using the newly amended laws from 2010. The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, which came into force in 2010, made it an offence to stir up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation. These three men chose to distribute leaflets in the street and through letter boxes which were intended to insult and abuse gay men and to stir up hatred against them. The leaflets called for the death penalty for homosexuality and suggested we either turn straight, burn in hell or face execution. Thankfully these dangerous bigots were jailed for their actions. I know I would have been disconcerted and felt threatened to receive one of these leaflets.

You only have to keep a faint eye on the news to see that bigotry is still big business and hate crimes exist in many forms and at all levels of society across the globe. I know who I think are the real bad influences here and I have just one thing to say: Bigots, bugger off.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Ramblings: Miss Manners

 
 

I suspect that I’ll die in a shushing incident. Someone will take exception with me for telling them to stop talking during a film, eating noisy crisps during a play or playing music out loud on a bus on a tinny mobile phone. They’ll draw a knife and I’ll be done for. Of course, I’ll then become a Saint. Beatification will beckon and I’ll become the Patron Saint of Good Manners. My house will become a shrine and people will come to lay their hands on my cravats and polish my china poodles for hope of an endowment in the form of a Blessing of the Manners. Paul will sell tastefully painted knick knacks.

Damn. I’ve just looked on Google and there are already several patron saints of manners. There’s always someone in the 16th Century who got there first. Apparently, I also have other certain unsavoury qualities which exclude me from sainthood, but hey ho.

I love shushing. It’s become my mission. I was delighted to read that at a cinema in London they now have a set of volunteers who act as theatre ninjas. They stalk the cinema waiting for people sending text messages, talking or eating loudly and dive in and shush them. I want this job.

Recently I saw an incredibly dull film. It left me unmoved and dragged limply towards a dull finale. During the film three middle aged woman were sitting two rows in front of me. They seemed matronly, respectable and well to do but had very poor manners. They talked at normal volume throughout the film.

I accosted them afterwards in the foyer: “Hello. I’m very sorry to trouble you but I wondered if you’d realised that you were talking all the way through that film? It’s quite rude.”

Bossiest of the three: “No we were not.”
Me: “You were.”
Woman; “We were not.”
Me: “Well, the thing is, I’m not psychic at all. In fact, I don’t believe in that stuff. I do however know that you recently had some surgery on your womb, your daughter is about to get married and you’re mum hasn’t been too well. Explain that one?”

She couldn’t. I shall continue with my mission.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Reviews: Coming Out Fiction


Coming Out: Top Ten Novels

 This month, the website which I write for is featuring articles and personal stories about coming out. Having always been a fan of reading, I navigated my way through my teenage years by devouring as much gay fiction as I could. It made me feel affirmed and like I belonged. It’s always good to know it’s not just you. Here are my top ten “coming out” novels:

1)      Maurice by E.M. Forster:
 
This is one of the original classic gay novels. Written around the time of War World I, it’s never going to be a smooth sailing when Maurice discovers that he’s gay in a world where homosexuality is illegal and considered a perversion. It’s a beautiful story, though, with some gripping moments.


 

2)     A Boy’s Own Story by Edmund White:
 
 
 
This literary masterpiece from 1986 outlines the coming of age of a young gay man in a tender and well written account. The writing is lyrical and moving with an evocative and fascinating story.


 

3)     Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs:
 
 
 
This is a coming out story with a difference. Burroughs’ childhood was far from usual. He grew up with an alcoholic father and a mentally ill mother, ended up being adopted by his mother’s psychiatrist and his eccentric family and had a relationship with a 33 year men whilst in his early teens. Memoirs don’t get much more compelling, brutal or funnier than this one, thanks to Burroughs’ comical take on his life. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Running-Scissors-Memoir-Augusten-Burroughs/dp/1843541513/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1347107448&sr=1-1




4)     Sucking Sherbet Lemons: by Michael Carson:
 
 
Young Martin Benson is a teenage boy who’s gradually coming to terms with being gay in a predominately Irish catholic community in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It’s a humorous and touching book of a boy’s dilemma between the joys of discovering gay sex and the guilt instilled on him by a religion that labels him as sinful. It’s is also the first of a trilogy which goes on to follow Benson as he navigates his way through life.


 

5)     Fifty Ways of saying Fabulous by Graeme Aitken:
 
 
 
Billy is a young boy living on a farm in New Zealand. He’s not quite cut out for farm life and spends his time imagining he’s Judy from “Lost in Space”, fumbling with a friend and lusting after the 19 year old farm hand. It’s a very funny and entertaining read. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fifty-Saying-Fabulous-Graeme-Aitken/dp/074725298X/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_3

 

6)     Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron:
 
 
James is a misfit and in discord with his surroundings and fractured family. Caught in a limbo between leaving school and starting university he feels adrift. His psychiatrist is driving him more insane and his crush on a co-worker is getting more than he can manage. This is an above average account of the pain and confusion that sometimes accompanies being a teenager. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Someday-This-Pain-Will-Useful/dp/0312428162/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

 

7)     Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim:
 
 
 
This is a dark and at times disturbing read. It’s a coming of age novel but with a twist. Brian is a guileless innocent and forges an unlikely friendship with savvy cynic and part time male prostitute, Neil. The novel is fast paced and at times shocking as the two move towards a conclusion which causes Brian and Neil to re-evaluate their shared  past. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mysterious-Skin-Scott-Heim/dp/0060841699/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1347108912&sr=1-1

 

8)    A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham:
 
 
 
 
Pulitzer Prize winner Cunningham has created a moving account of the extraordinary situation which Bobby, Claire and Jonathan, three friends and lovers find themselves in. The book explores how people manage to find a place for themselves and is an accomplished piece of work. http://www.amazon.co.uk/A-Home-at-End-World/dp/0241954533/ref=sr_1_sc_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1347109241&sr=1-1-spell

 

9)     How I Paid for College by Marc Acito:
 
 
 
This camp tale is reminiscent of a 1980s teen movie but with a musical theatre loving cast of misfits and a gay main character. It’s a light and funny book with lots of tongue in cheek moments and an amusing storyline. http://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Paid-College-Friendship-Musical/dp/140880221X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1347109542&sr=1-1

 

10) Terre Haute by Will Aitken:
 
 
 
      Jared is the son of a wealthy family growing up in Indiana who happens to fancy boys. He’s sly, manipulative and cunning and has a predatory nature. When he enters into a relationship with an older man he quickly gains the upper hand. This is a moody, erotic tale which is really compelling to read but also makes the reader wince a little. Jared is definitely an anti-hero with a difference. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Terre-Haute-Will-Aitken/dp/0385298722/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1347109819&sr=1-1



Happy reading people.


Ramblings: Coming Out Again



I came out when I was a teenager and once the tension of the event passed I found that I quite enjoyed it. There was the usual sense of liberation and empowerment and I discovered that the things I’d worried about were not so worrying. I wasn’t reviled or beaten, which was fortunate. Maybe I need to come out again but what about? I’m an open book generally. I could have invented the phrase ‘over sharing’.  I’ll tell you my life story any time you ask. Maybe its better that you don’t ask, actually. It’s lengthy.

I don’t shout my gayness loudly but it’s there to see. I don’t hide the fact that I fancy men. I don’t pretend my partner is just a friend. I don’t mind not being “straight acting”. What’s left to admit? Are there worse things to admit than being gay? How about my bad habits, oddities and quirks? I have a few I’m willing to share. If I tell people I’m gay they’re not generally too shocked or hostile. If I tell them the following then they often look at me with deep suspicion and horror.

1) I don’t drink alcohol. This is very embarrassing to come out about. It automatically leads to an interrogation. Not drinking is viewed as something highly suspicious or odd in the U.K. I’m not an alcoholic; I’m not a prude and am not in a temperance movement. I just gave it up a few years ago. I was a typical binge drinker who binged a bit too often and it made me feel trashy. I sometimes consider pretending that I still do drink but subterfuge is too much like hard work.

2) I really don’t like weddings. I avoid them like the plague. Unlike the stereotypical gay man people imagine, yards of white tulle and fancy waistcoats don’t make me wet around the eyes or anywhere else. I hate a tacky disco and making small talk with someone’s dreary uncle. I find them horribly boring and a waste of money which could be spent on a good holiday. I also find them a little embarrassing and pointless. I’m not against gay marriage though. If that’s what you want then I’m supportive of you. I just don’t want to come to your weddings. If you invite me I’ll politely decline with the line: “I’ll come to the next one”. People also ask me when I’ll marry my partner. I say that I’ll wait till I need a new toaster. My toaster is fine so far.

3) I don’t find eating fun. In fact, food bores me a little. I could throw a brick at the TV if a cookery program comes on. I’d rather watch some other more interesting chore like hovering or dusting. If I mention this me I get dubious looks. I’m not an anorexic or some weird futuristic person who would like nutrients through a pill. I just find eating a little tedious at times. It’s a chore for me. People get offended when I mention this and they resentfully recall meals they’ve cooked for me. (I did enjoy them by the way; perhaps just not as much as they would have liked me to have.)

4) I rarely watch television. This is a great one to get rid of salesman trying to doorstep you into subscribing to pay television channels. They generally look really shocked, then puzzled and usually come up with the killer sales line: “Well maybe if you tried watching it more you’d like it. You need more channels.” I’ll stick to my books and Radio 4 thanks.

5) I still smoke. Admitting this one is like admitting to committing a terrible crime. I sometimes get told I don’t look like a smoker. Am I meant to be a mass of wrinkles, stained yellow and have a wicked glint in my eye? It’s worse than that though. I sometimes smoke indoors too. I know: it’s terrible. I do actually know it’s a horrible too but I’m an addict. (Disclaimer: like most smokers; I’m giving up soon)

Seriously though, there are more embarrassing things than admitting you’re gay. I’m much more ashamed of some of the CDs in my drawer than I am about liking men. We’re all different and we all exist. Isn’t that what matters most? Think about it: which would you rather admit to: your Celine Dion collection, your adult romper suit or your sexuality? No contest.

Originally published at: www.thegayuk.com

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Ramblings: Jingoism Jingle


 
There’s been a lot of talk about being British this summer, what with that Olympics thing and the Jubilee business. I don’t think I fit the definition of being British in those categories. Indeed people criticised me for not being British due to my total disinterest.

I didn’t get too excited about that poor old lady having to watch a load of ships go by in the rain. I just wondered when she might get to retire. This raising the retirement age campaign by the government is getting a positive nod from the royals when a little old lady has to put in an eight hour shift in the rain. I just hope she had some comfy shoes and a vest. I suspect she gets as excited at the prospect of watching a flotilla as I would.

I definitely don’t fit the bill of being British when it comes to sporting fixtures. I really couldn’t care less who can cycle faster, throw an object or kick a ball round and whether they can do it better than anyone else. I’m not sure it makes us any better than anyone else in the World and I’m also not sure that I care about competing against other countries. Do we have to prove anything to be valid? I fail to get excited about it. It bores me senseless and jingoism puzzles me as much as most forms of less socially acceptable and widely encouraged fanaticism.

I can’t bear the horrible teary eyed faux sentiment and flag waving at concerts either. I’m not really sure what that’s about but much like the spirit of Christmas past, it fails to sweep me up in its passion. I find it kind of creepy, like an odd political rally for an extremist group.

I have words for the detractors though. Just because I don’t cry, get excited and raise a flag for “Jerusalem”, Mrs Windsor or a man grabbing balls, doesn’t make me not British or less than adequate. I’m British to the core.

What I believe makes me British is my obsession with rain and the ability to utilise a whole range of words for the condition. Like the Eskimos are to snow, we are to rain. We can revel in drizzle, spit spots, showers, deluges, downpours and torrents. I love my M and S brolly. I obviously fear for my tweeds getting wet in the aforementioned conditions but am actually so British that I would happily sit on a beach or have a picnic in the rain provided I have a sturdy umbrella to hand.

I burn to a frazzle in any temperature above 22 degrees and develop heat lumps. I get edgy if people display manners which are anything less than Miss Nancy Mitford would have advocated and know all the words to several Noel Coward songs. I think coach trips are a good idea, distrust overly spicy foods and I am terrified by the concept of the extended family. I like to see people with comedy teeth and indeed have a set of slightly crooked and chipped teeth of my own which are a lovely colour somewhere between to Magnolia and Nicotine.

I like hefty dry cakes. I keep a well scrubbed doorstep and have read the complete works of Evelyn Waugh. I get edgy if people don’t queue properly. I’m mildly pre-occupied with social class. Do I need to go on?

In fact, may I be so bold as to suggest something? I’m a lot more British than most self proclaimed British people. Cheering loudly at sports or crying in public through joy are just a little bit well...American. There’s nothing wrong with being American at all, provided you are one. I think the more British reaction to an event such as the Olympic sports thing would be to sneer faintly. Pretend it wasn’t happening and be slightly embarrassed at winning a medal. I suspect, I may be a lot more British than people think. I can complain to professional standard. I’m also so British that I don’t actually care that much about it and am of course, very apologetic about it too.

 

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Ramblings: Just A Phase You're Going Through


All gay people have fears about coming out. It’s only natural. We’re told all these horror stories about people being disowned and beaten, told we’re a little bit dirty and wrong by some sections of society and taught self loathing by others. For some, coming out as gay/lesbian/bi or transgender does become a total nightmare. There are plenty of unfortunate stories. For the majority though, it’s more of a whimper than a bang.

Talking to friends about it, I quickly realised that for some it can be a humorous experience. Let’s face it: straight people can have some odd ideas. They’re a funny bunch.

I’ll start with me (of course). I told my mother when I was 17. I’d already come out to all my friends a few years before and was pretty open about it. I’d left home and was actually living with a male partner so thought it was maybe time to spill the (not very well tinned) beans. I caught her on an evening when she was alone at home and braced myself with a large vodka.

The response was: “I’m very relieved. I thought you might be bisexual and I don’t like that. It’s greedy.” I disagree with this but it did make me laugh.

Next: “I’m a little bit sad. Homosexuals lead very sad and lonely lives.” Oh Mother, how wrong you were. It’s not the 1950s anymore. We don’t all lurk in shadows and pine over unavailable straight men. I’ve never been especially lonely. In fact I’ve met quite a lot of very nice men, some not so nice men and some terrible monsters. Being gay has meant I’ve met a fair few men. Not to mention all those women who long for a gay best friend. It’s the latest accessory along with a pug and Radley handbag. I’ve also had a few long relationships which were fulfilling and fun, mostly.

Finally: “I won’t tell your dad. He won’t accept it. I won’t tell your brother either and your grandmothers are too old to understand.” Within a week she’d told them all and they all accepted and understood. It wasn’t spoken of much, which is our way of dealing with things. It’s a British thing I think.

Enough about me. Here’s what happened to some of my mates. The names have been changed to protect the less than innocent:

1)      Patrick told his parents and they took him to the doctor who told them it was a terrible phase he was going through. That was nearly 40 years ago. He’s still waiting for the straight phase to start.

2)     Dan told his mum and gran together (ten out of ten for bravery there). His gran chirped up “Ignore him Maureen. He’s making it up. He’s always been a little show off.”

3)     Adam’s mum asked him if it was a side effect of drug taking. That’s a new one for the ‘Just Say No!’ Campaign.

4)     Matt’s mum said “Gay? That meant happy when I was young. They can’t all be bloody happy can they” She’s not wrong.

5)     Jack had been married and had a teenage son and a very angry ex-wife who outed him to his son. His son’s response: “If that’s a lie then you’re wrong for lying. If it’s not a lie then you’re wrong for not letting him tell me himself.” I think he was a wise young man. He also accepted that his dad was gay.

6)     Seth’s gran blamed it on his sister. She believed that his sister had turned him gay by leaving her text books lying around the house whilst training to be a midwife. Mind you, those pictures can be grisly.

7)     Ben’s dad seemed to think there was inevitability that he’d end up having sex in public in toilets and develop A.I.D.S. He’s done neither yet.

8)    Mark woke his parent’s up and told them one night and his dad was jubilant. “See! I’ve been telling you for years he was gay.” He suspects they may have had a bet on.

9)     Max came out to a friend at Uni who said “Great! I’ve always wanted a gay friend!” They didn’t become friends.

10) Rich was petrified that his teenage children would be teased at school. In reality, they had a lot of jealous friends who thought having a gay dad was pretty damn cool.

Joking apart, coming out can be scary and we don’t all get the supportive or warm reactions we deserve. If you’ve done it then congratulations; if you haven’t then good luck. I hope it goes well. If you don’t want to do it then it’s your prerogative. Who am I to judge?

 
(Originally published at www.thegayuk.com)

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Ramblings: Mind the Gap


What is it with gay couples and the age gap thing? It seems to be so much more prominent in gay life but that could be my perspective as I have a mildly jaundiced view.

A friend of mine is in his mid forties yet wouldn’t consider entering a relationship (sexual or otherwise) with any man over the age of thirty. His ideal is twenty-five. He constantly trawls the internet, bars and Grindr looking for attractive younger men who he can bed and or develop a relationship with. Oddly, these relationships don’t seem to go well. They tend to be messy and short lived. I can’t imagine dating someone a lot younger than myself. If they haven’t heard of The Clangers, vinyl records or can’t remember when the pound was a note, then I don’t want to know. What could we possibly have in common apart from sex and you can do that so many hours of the day?

Maybe my view is skewed through past experience. My first boyfriend was older (by one year). It was a full on teenage infatuation. I loved him madly to the point where I couldn’t eat or sleep. Two weeks later I realised he was actually a bit dull and had a funny whiff about him. I then upped the ante. My next boyfriend was a lot older. I met him aged almost seventeen in a gay bar (I was precocious and illegal, O.K.?). He was 41. He wooed me, by telling me I was beautiful and buying me books and gin, which was a sure fire way to my heart.

The power balance was skewed from the outset and by the time we were living together a year later he was definitely assuming the role of the older and wiser one. I didn’t know how to manage money, pay bills and shop. I was still a teenager.  I could cook and clean but not much else. I was pretty useless with a power tool too. This felt fine and him keeping my bank account card seemed a positive and sensible thing.

I think I made a fundamental mistake though. I fell in love with an older man rather than pursuing one for his money. My older man was penniless with terrible career prospects and a deep love for alcohol.

Fast forward twelve years: I was now 29, still without my own bank account and believing I was unable to function at the most basic level without him supervising everything practical for me. He chose the holiday destinations, the TV we watched and where we went out. The basic problem was that he wanted me to stay a teenager, naive and vulnerable. Unfortunately for him, in the intervening years I’d gained a career, friends and confidence. The balance of power shifted and along with this I gained the characteristics of someone hurtling towards thirty (ear hair, the beginnings of crow’s feet and general grumpiness). It didn’t bode well.

When I finally left him it was a revelation that paying bills, changing light-bulbs and making choices in life wasn’t that taxing for me. I’m also pretty good with managing my own money. I vowed to myself that never again would I enter a relationship where the age gap was more than the amount of time Eastenders has been on the BBC for.

The world of internet dating that I found myself in aged 36 (after another happier relationship with a four year age gap had fallen by the wayside) was at times frustrating. I’d read through a profile for a hot looking man of my own age only to come to the crunch line: No one over the age of 25 need apply. This happened time and time again. It seemed bizarre to me. It seemed to be a recurring theme that the older you get the younger you want your take out or take home to be. I’m not bitter, I met some decent men and of course a few cads. It was fun at times, demoralising at others.

Then there was the withholding of truth. A hunky thirty five year old man would turn up on a date and you’d quickly realise that he was actually ten years older and twenty pounds heavier. Maybe the grainy Polaroid picture with the Wham posters in the background should have been a clue. The Eighties mullet should have told me those photos weren’t recent. Liars are really not my thing.

Eventually, I met my current partner. I know that’s a lot of long relationships but serial monogamy is so my thing. We didn’t meet in a bar, on the internet or Grindr but in actual real life. How odd is that? Here’s where I reveal my hypocrisy. He’s a fair bit older than me. The balance of power is fine. We’re both equally powerless. It’s pretty good so far. I go with the flow and am happy with that.

I know some of you will be shouting at your screens: “But I’ve been with my boyfriend who’s twenty years older/younger for ten years and we’re blissfully happy.”

Good luck to you, if that’s the case. Maybe I was just unlucky and it was just the wrong man. I just hope you can cope with those awkward restaurant moments well. It’s never nice when people address him as your dad or son. Unless that’s your thing of course but that’s a whole other topic.
(originally published at: www.thegayuk.com)

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Ramblings: Funeral Derangements



My friend and I passed a huge rotting of fading flowers in the street the other week. There were the usual mawkish notes and grainy photos pinned on the wall. We both looked away instinctively and didn’t utter a word about it. We weren’t horrified that someone had been killed. We’ve become quite immune to that.

My best friend, work colleagues and Paul have all been given a task to perform should I die. The task to be completed as number one priority by all is to remove any flowers and things from the place where I die. I strongly suspect that I’ll die in some hideous accident due to my innate clumsiness so I don’t want attention drawn to it. I also think that these roadside shrines are kind of tawdry and messy. They get in people’s way and I so hate a wilting flower. If I have flowers in the house they only have to so much as start to look a bit sickly before they’re tossed in the recycling bin. I’m also not too keen on tea lights and soft toys. I like an antique bear but if you’ve gone one of those and leave it on the pavement round here it’ll be gone in no time.

Paul has a special job should I lapse into a coma. He’s in charge of the pubic topiary. If I’m lying on a bed in Intensive Care surrounding by bleeping machines, I want to maintain a nice tidy growth. I want regular nasal hair trimmings, smooth ears and a daintily tended garden of hair. I also want nicely ironed pyjamas and a lot of cologne. A picture on the bedside locker would be nice too so that the nurses have a frame of reference and know what I looked like before and after the juggernaut smash.

It’s a horrible thought, loss of control. The idea of losing control of how you appear to the world horrifies me. More importantly the idea of having choices made which wouldn’t have been yours is even worse. The thought of someone arranging a religious funeral for me fills me with rage. In fact, the thought of a funeral fills me with rage. I don’t want one at all. Not even when I’m dead. I despise them.  All the funerals I’ve attended have felt dull and empty to me. I’ve never gained anything from them. I even found my own father’s funeral really tedious and pointless. He was already dead. I’d known that for three weeks. It certainly didn’t help me to go through a long winded and dull church service. My current plan is that my body goes to medical science or failing that a no frills Tesco Value funeral in a bin liner. Sorry to disappoint but it’s one party I won’t be inviting you to.

I suspect some might think that I’m morbid for even thinking about these things but I call it pragmatic. We all die and we all need plans. We also need to communicate them. It’s kind of tricky when it’s too late. I’ve sorted out a will but some of my requests (e.g. no roadside shrine and a neat parting in my hair) are hard to enforce. Hence I’m telling you lot. Make a note!