Posts tagged “love

THIS SHOW IS SO GAY gets even gayer–with me!

A huge shout out to Ken Schneck at THIS SHOW IS SO GAY for the fun interview.  He had actually read the book and done his homework, leading to some really great and surprising questions.  I’m so appreciative of the opportunity to be on the show, and hope that you all check it out.  The podcast is online, and the show is carried on several radio stations, so listen and let me know what you think!

Am I a Slut or a Prude?

The other day, a friend who had just read my debut novel said, “Wow, Kergan, I didn’t think you were that sexual!”  His reference was to the amount of sex which occurs in the book, which admittedly is a lot, but his assumption about how that translated to my own sex life prompted, on my part, some self-examination.  And not with a dildo.

You see, to set this up properly, I am a 47-year-old gay man, with a few pounds of extra fat, and am rarely viewed these days as a sexual being.  I long ago entered the Invisible Era, which, for gay men who work out regularly, occurs at age 28.  (It is several years earlier for those who do not.)  In my daily life in suburban Orange County, CA, those I interact with see me primarily as partner to my not-legally-wed-hubby, Russ, and father to our two boys, Mason and Marcus.  As such, our days are filled with school, work, home, and sports, with me serving as glorified chauffer, cook, maid, tutor, nurse, and personal shopper.  That I have had, and continue to have, sexual thoughts and experiences never seems to cross most people’s minds–though they rarely leave mine.

Perhaps sexual longing, past a certain age, makes some uncomfortable.  Perhaps it brings up images of our parents.  Perhaps people assume I can no longer get it up.  Perhaps the visual of me tucked with my toes behind my ears, belly bulging even more than normal, isn’t appealing.  Or perhaps, more likely, people just don’t care one way or another about my sexual cravings.

But it wasn’t always this way.  In my twenties, I was a Professional Gay, living in the gayest of gay cities, West Hollywood, where the prospect of sex was all around me.  During the day, I worked at AIDS Project Los Angeles, running a safer sex program, where thousands at Pride witnessed me pulling strangers out from the crowd, strapping a dildo onto them, and rolling a condom down it with my mouth.  (Yes, I’m highly skilled.)  But, strangely enough, that prowess didn’t directly translate into getting dates.  Instead, each night my friends and I would perform our mandatory WeHo welcome wagon duties and circulate through the clubs, our route never varying.  My constant fear was that if I didn’t go out, that would be the one and only night Mr. Right would be there, and I’d have missed him. So I went out relentlessly, always hanging self-consciously on the periphery, fearing rejection, and invariably returning home alone.

Still, I did manage to have lots of sex.  In fact, if being a slut is determined solely by the number of people with which one has slept, I clearly win the crown, as my number is quite staggering.  But sex for me was always in the context of a relationship, or in a test-run of a potential mate.  There was always the expectation that the sex would or could lead to something more, which allowed me to separate myself from others.  In my mind, what I was doing was quite different than simply hooking up, and somehow “better.”  I looked down on those who fucked without introduction, as if the simple addition of a shared meal or movie substantially altered the meaning of the encounter. The irony, of course, is that while this self-serving world view allowed me to remain “pure” and above the common sluts, I may have had more sexual partners than they ever did.

I was both slut and prude, at the same time.

There is a part of me that regrets such prudishness.  I would’ve loved to have more fully explored all the sexual pleasures available to me.  There was so much I didn’t do, but I wonder now if that prudish hesitation is what kept me alive.  So many others from those days, including my partner Shane, weren’t so lucky.  But the combination of my own judgmental nature and my stellar HIV education kept me firmly in check, with condom in hand.

Today, in the Grindr Generation, there are so many issues with which men grapple, I’m not sure I could navigate love and sex.  Putting all of my physical stats out there?  No, thank you.  Photos of my cock?  Not until MiracleGro expands their product offerings.  Figuring out what “type” I am? Well, I could be a bear, given my extra weight–or do my 6 straggly chest hairs and full head of hair immediately disqualify me?  And let’s not even get into whether I am a top or a bottom.  I’ve always hated having to categorize myself, but the lead character, Gabriel, in my novel expresses my feelings better than I ever could:

Although far from butch, I really like to fuck.  And, though not incredibly femme, I also enjoy a hard dick shoved up my ass.  That these acts should somehow become confused with personal characteristics was both unfair and misleading.  In my not-so-distant past, I have been fucked silly by a rather overweight bald man, who favored lavender and pearls and, the very next day, served my saucisson to a ravenous French marine.  Both proved thoroughly enjoyable, but what label did these experiences warrant?  (Please don’t say “whore.”)

To say that I am simply “versatile” is also misleading, as it implies that I am capable of performing stupendous circus tricks at will (“And, folks, you should see what he can do with a cantaloupe!”)  Basically, “versatile” means you have no morals and will open your ass for anyone.  Although I am not always incredibly picky about my choice of partners, I do like to think that I have guidelines, however mutable.

As a younger man, my head was filled with such guidelines, but as I age, the lines between what I view as proper and improper have blurred, more than just a little.

Our eldest son, Mason, recently had the sixth grade “health talk” at school.  While the school nurse, understandably, focused on anatomy, conception, and health risks, we took this as an opportunity to speak with him further about all that sex is and can be.  We talked about love, and lust, and urges.  We talked about knowing when the time is right, and the importance of expressing feelings not only through actions, but through words.  And, most importantly, we talked about respect, for both our partners and ourselves.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter if you think me a slut or a prude, for it is how I view myself that matters most.  The number of sexual partners we have isn’t as important as how respectfully we treat them–and how we feel about our actions later.  After all, one can have sex with a thousand people and still be a prude.  And, if you’re doing it right, you can have sex with only one, and still be a slut.

Cross-Posted on Huffington Post and Bilerico Project.

An Epic Kind of Love

I’ve been thinking a lot about love lately. I’m grateful to be able to give it, and equally humbled to receive it, from Russ and the boys on a daily basis.

At a recent reading/signing for my novel, Songs for the New Depression, a woman asked if the book was about depression.  A valid question, given the book’s title, but “depression” is not what I was going for…

The title actually comes from an old Bette Midler album, for whom lead character, Gabriel, has an affinity.  Gabe has long been challenged by his past, particularly his unwillingness to fully deal with his emotions, which has lead to a long string of quick sexual encounters and ultimately futile relationships.  He has taken the easy route, never really facing his issues and, as much as he may want love and affection, he has no clue as to what real love is, let alone how to fully give himself to another.

When I was younger, I was much the same.  For me, though, sex was never casual.  It was all about finding “the one”.  I pictured an all-engulfing, romantic kind of love, but whenever I did feel “the fireworks”, a fire would soon follow.

It wasn’t until meeting Shane, who had been diagnosed with AIDS, did I rethink what it means to love, both in giving and receiving.  Prior to jumping in, as I would previously do, with him I carefully weighed my options, considering all outcomes, before entering into the relationship.  And that considered approach, in turn, led  to a more adult type of relationship, a richer love, and eventually a personal awakening.  Through giving myself over to someone as not only as partner, but caregiver, I finally faced my fears and darker emotions.  Through love, I discovered who I am and the strengths I have, and I am all the richer for it.

Many people think, because I attribute this to my experience to Shane, that Russ must feel slighted.  But Russ understands how transformational real love can be.  Russ and I moved slowly into our relationship, making sure it felt “right”.  And there is something about that more considered approach which not only feels authentic and “grown up”, but also seems to lead to an ever-increasing emotional connection and deeper affection.  Despite our 9 years together, our love continues to evolve, strengthen, and flourish, growing more rich and nuanced every day.

Thus, the theme of my book is not depression — or depressing.  Rather, it is all about love.  Wanting love, sometimes desperately.  Not knowing how to love, or what it really is.  Confusing sex with love.  Finally finding love–and then losing it.  And how love has the power to fully transform one’s own soul, if only we let it.

Love can be redemptive, changing our very existence.

To me, Songs for the New Depression is about that epic kind of love, fully engulfing.  Real love is not the fireworks.  It is the slow burn that comes from total enrapture.

And this song exemplifies just that: