28 September 2012


Yesterday morning, I was pondering again Viktor Frankl's assertion that life's meaning can be found in work, love or suffering. Specifically again, work is not just career, but whatever task or creative exercise one can put his hands and/or mind to at the moment. Love is usually thought of as love for another person, but it can also mean any sort of absorptive experience. Suffering is fairly self-explanatory.

In pondering these I realized that they all three could be summed up in one word: struggle. To make an effort, to focus oneself in the experience of another person or thing, or to endure suffering means to struggle. Through struggle we find meaning.

I think most religions and philosophies worth considering give due place to struggle, but I think the Sufis express it best. They consider the highest form of struggle (jihad) to be the struggle with one's ego (jihad binnafs). That means to tame one's ego in order to move toward wiser and kinder living.

Although I'm agnostic, I do appreciate the work spiritual persons have done in the past to make themselves wiser and kinder. I think I can learn from that dedication, that struggle.

So my task, as I see it is to struggle to grow 'spiritually', adapting wisdom of the past to my agnostic present, and to become wiser and more compassionate.

26 September 2012

Preparing to Put Myself Out There

I thought it would be helpful to outline what I’m up against when it comes to posting a profile on a dating site, and furthermore finding someone to date. More specifically, who I am as a person limits my appeal, and the appeal of others to me, and that will make it much more difficult for me to find someone. Here’s a summary:

Agnostic: I’ve tried very hard to make myself believe, but I cannot. I really, really wanted to believe because I think having a faith community makes it easier to find a life partner. Being among people of the same faith gives one a ‘family’ and a pool of persons one can draw closer to, especially if there are a number of lgbt persons in the faith community. But I cannot fake believing in God, particularly the one of the Abrahamic religions. I’ve tried. And I could get along with Buddhists if it weren’t for the fact so many white Buddhists are as bad as Evangelical Christians. Some seem to view carnivory with the same horror Evangelicals view the Folsom Street Fair. I don’t want that judgementalism in my life.

Metro-dependent: I haven’t driven in 18 years. I don’t want to drive. Therefore the exurbs (and all their denizens) are as remote to me as Richmond or Philadelphia is to someone with a car. I’d prefer not to have a long-distance relationship, and that includes the long-distance of DC’s exurbs.

Trying to lose weight: Gay men in DC mostly fall into two camps: the gymbots who’re already fit, and the rest who’ve given up, embraced obesity and even call themselves ‘bears’. I fall into neither camp. I’m trying to lose weight, which means watching what I eat, cutting down on and/or cutting out certain very common foods, and trying to get some exercise in, without turning fitness into a full-time job. It would be nice to meet someone who could support that effort.

Living with a weird cat: Manuel is special, and he doesn’t take kindly to visitors. He sheds like a beast, too, and getting all his dander off me is impossible.

Bookish, but with a certain pop culture streak: I love reading, but I also love watching Teen Wolf and listening to Pierce the Veil. I actually have a fairly low tolerance for art films, having seen more than my fair share during one particular relationship several years ago. That carries over into going to the theater, which to me is usually nothing more than an excessively expensive live-action art film. When it comes to “art”, I’ve paid my dues.

Into tattoos and piercings, and wanting more: this is definitely not mainstream in DC.

Not drinking (alcohol nor doing drugs): In DC this is even more non-mainstream than being tatted and pierced. Usually those who aren’t drinking in DC are going to meetings. I don’t go to meetings; I’ve simply decided I don’t like who I am when alcohol disinhibits me (i.e., I become even more of an asshole!). And since I want to avoid for the time being venues that remind me of drinking (and consequently tempt me to drink), there is quite a list of places I do not go to. Not only that, but I’ve just started building a list of places I can go to that I don’t associate with alcohol. It’s almost like I’m straightedge, without the bullshit obnoxious attitude.

Introverted: I like people, but dealing with people takes energy away from me. Usually at the end of a workday, I’ve a very small fund of energy to draw from.

25 September 2012

Gay Dating Is a Shit Show

An acquaintance of mine said gay dating is a 'shit show', and I agree. I pondered for a while why the situation has proven to be so dismal, and I have several ideas, but unfortunately no solutions.

First of all, gay dating is a relatively new phenomenon, and everyone is still trying to figure out how to do it. For most of gay history, we didn't date. We hooked up, and that was it. Most went on to marry women, and still hook up on the side from time to time. A few formed stable, life-long partnerships with other gay males, but even those partnerships were initiated by a hook up, not dating. We simply do not have a long history of dating in our community. A mere 10 years ago, there was a program in DC trying to teach gay people how to date, because the concept of dating (as opposed to serial hooking up, which might eventually lead to a relationship) was still so novel among us.

Because of the relative newness of gay dating, we've resorted to trying to import the dating model from straight people. But the world of dating among straight people is in flux, and I don't think they even know how dating should be done. For most of history, straight people didn't date either. The families negotiated a marriage, and it was an economic deal. Then as individuals asserted more independence, courtship came into play (even though the marriage deal was still largely economic). Only in the last century, and only in the "Western World", has heterosexual dating arisen, and as women in our society gain more power, the dynamics of dating remain in flux. Who asks out whom? When and how is sexual activity initiated? Etc. Furthermore, there are new studies suggesting that straight women are adopting more of a hook-up paradigm. As if instead of gays learning from straights, they're learning from us.

Finally, because gay communities tend to be more insular, I think there is a tendency for one to have his reputation destroyed before he even gets a chance to prove himself to other people. Gay men gossip, and viciously so. I've been on the receiving end of the gossip, and to my eternal and deep shame I've done my share of spreading the gossip. I know of people who've left town because they needed to start over. And often, the bit of gossip in no way represents the real character of the person. One bad night of acting out, and suddenly you're known as the world's biggest asshole.

People change, and some people actually mature, learn from their mistakes and grow to become better persons. But with decades old gossip following that person, he often doesn't get the opportunity to show the world he's changed.

The only hope I can offer is simply this: learn what you are in control of, take responsibility for those things, and leave the rest to others. In other words, keep trying, keep putting yourself out there, keep offering to prove yourself, and give others the benefit of a doubt. There are seven billion people on the planet. Chances are at least one of those persons would be worth dating.

24 September 2012

It Was a Good Weekend

I fought off a cold all weekend, but I enjoyed the time nonetheless. Saturday morning I got up and watched my cartoons, then bussed down to Dupont Circle. I went to Second Story books to pick up a copy of Husserl I'd seen there a few days earlier. It had occurred to me that I've never seen any Husserl on bookstore shelves before, despite the fact he taught both Heidegger and Sartre. From there I hit a few stores then Metroed out to the burbs, picking up a lacrosse stick pocket stretcher at PJ's Sports, and bussing to Tysons Corner Mall.

The mall was bustling. Even one of the shopkeepers mentioned how packed the place was. I guess people are still doing their fall/back-to-school shopping. I didn't pick up much at the mall, but I did get a meal at Elevation Burger.

Sunday was even more enjoyable. I met an old friend for brunch — we tried a place down in Clarendon, where we both had ridiculously delicious french toast. We did the Clarendon shopping thing (I picked up a volume of Heidegger), and had great coffee at Java Shack, which is now officially one of my favorite coffee shops in the area. We also caught up on about 6 months or so of life news. I'm glad we did.

So while Sunday night was my usual downer, it wasn't as nearly a devastating downer as the recent Sunday nights have been, and I'm starting my week on a relatively good note (although I'm still fighting off that cold). I think I would do well to try and spend some time with friends on Sunday afternoons. I think that makes me feel better over all.

21 September 2012

Tumbling Down, Crawling Along

This week has tried my patience. I cannot point to any one particular event or difficulty. It simply started bad with the general bummer I had on Sunday, and never got much better. Since I will not shut my brain off with alcohol, I've had to sit in the full light of my life as it is, in all it's blandness and restrictedness.

I felt particularly bad the other night when a young man whose blog I follow on Tumblr expressed a lot of discontent and self-loathing. He wasn't quite suicidal, but he did sound very down on himself and his life. I tried to communicate care to him, but beyond that, I couldn't in all honesty say, "It gets better," especially since a lot of what he was bummed about are the same things I'm bummed about (loneliness, feeling unlovable, being overweight, etc.). I let him know I was concerned, but I could offer him no advice. I felt very inadequate, and it was only my concern for him that outweighed that enough for me to say anything at all.

I will say this about Tumblr: the community is pretty good about taking care of each other. Yeah, there are some haters; but usually when anyone expresses genuine sadness or even suicidal thoughts, people rush to send them messages of support. Who knows? This world might get better yet.

My weight seems to have hit a new "set point": ~194 lbs. That's good compared to a year ago when it was ~210 lbs. But I need to get it lower. I like to drop at least another 20 lbs., but I would be happy with 15. The biggest struggle I have now is that my traditional way of dealing with ongoing bummers is to eat (especially if I'm not drinking alcohol).

I need to start focusing on other things I can do to occupy my time. The evenings are just so fraught with opportunities to make things worse. I need to fill them with ways to make things better. I need a hobby, other than reading, surfing the web and watching television. Something that engages my attention fully for hours.

19 September 2012

On Life Support

My social life is in a coma. It had been struggling for some time, and finally succumbed when I decided to stop drinking. What little socializing I did was mostly in bars or at parties, and I generally avoid those now.

I haven't yet discovered new venues for meeting people and socializing.

I've contemplated putting a profile on OKCupid. I realize that there is little likelihood, given my tastes in men, of actually finding a partner on OKCupid. But I might make a friend or two. I've even considered putting up a profile on the new site for meeting transmen. (Yes, I would date a transman, if I found him sexy and interesting. It's about personality and appearance, not plumbing. Even moreso, I'd hang out with transmen who are cool – I already know a few, but they life way the fuck out in MD.)

I haven't put up any profiles yet because I'm just not ready to say no thanks.

I know that beggars can't be choosers, so I'm trying very hard not to be a beggar.

Still, it would be nice to have a social life again, with men and women who are cool, who don't creep me out with unwanted (sexual) attention, who also don't drink (0r at least let themselves get fucked up) and with whom I have enough in common for a basis in conversation.

17 September 2012

Questioned by Life

“It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”

― Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

13 September 2012

Reality-Based Dating

I have decided to create a profile on an online dating site. As I make my plans for doing this, I've decided on a few rules to protect myself.

1. Never make the first move. If I make the first move, I automatically become the supplicant, which puts me in a position of disadvantage. I want to be the gatekeeper, not the person begging for an opening. This is especially important as I get older. I do not want to be the typical "old gay man" trying to get others to pay attention to me.

2. Define from the outset the limits of the first date, namely that we will meet for coffee and conversation, and nothing more. Naturally, this pre-empts premature hook ups. But it also avoids awkward dinners with someone uninteresting. If I say from the outset we will not have dinner on the first day, I forestall the risk I'll be trapped buying a meal and enduring it with someone distinctly not for me.

3. Remind potential dates to keep their expectations reasonable before it begins, and I will do the same. There's a one-in-a-billion chance that I'll actually find someone dateable online (or in real life), so no one, myself or others, needs to go into a situation with their hopes too high, only to have those hopes frustrated yet again. If everyone has reasonable expectations, then no one will be too disappointed, and if by some miracle I actually do meet someone dateable, then it will be all the more awesome.

10 September 2012

My Weekend Would Probably Bore You

I bought too many books this weekend, but I enjoyed myself just fine.

I decided since Metro would be difficult to deal with this weekend, I'd start my errands on Friday evening. I metroed out to the burbs and picked up an hard-to-find copy of Derek Parfit's Reasons and Persons. I also got a few more craft supplies from AC Moore. Other than that, Friday evening was chill.

Saturday morning I woke up early. The weather report warned of a massive storm system coming our way, due to hit in the afternoon, so I got an early start on my errands. I bussed up to Bethesda, but got there so early, stores weren't open yet, so I had breakfast at the Tastee Diner, which I had not been to in years. It hasn't changed a bit.

In Bethesda I picked up a stringing kit for a lacrosse stick head, and some athletic drawers and five-toed socks from City Sports. Then I metroed down to Dupont Circle. At two used bookstores I got a slender volume of Descartes, a slightly heftier volume if Kierkegaard, and a huge paperback Bible (KJV with Apocrypha).

I started on my way home, but got off the bus when we encountered a downed tree across Columbia Road (the storm was still hours away; maybe a stiff breeze knocked it down). I walked the rest of the way home, trying a different route for kicks.

The storm finally hit, and it was something to watch. Manuel hid in the closet and napped. I checked on a neighbor's cat, and she too was napping in the closet. No problems, except for Manu's jealousy.

Saturday night was so boring, and I was so tired, I went to bed at 2100 hours. I slept until 0800 hours Sunday morning. I guess I needed the rest. I cleaned my bathroom, and myself, and met friends for brunch at Pho 14. Then I wandered down 14th Street. At Palace 5, one of my favorite boutique shops, I got a t-shirt. I looked around U Street, 14th Street and Dupont Circle, and only picked up a few things (including yet another book at Kramerbooks). I walked home from there, and then went to supper at The Heights.

I'm relearning how to do weekends. Since I'm avoiding alcohol these days, I'm also avoiding the places I associate with drinking, restaurants as well as bars. This means rethinking where to eat when I choose to eat out. I need to try some new places. I may need to make a mental list.

Also, I have too many books. One of my projects for the fall is to cull out some of the books I no longer need/do not want/cannot really use after all, and trade them in/give them away. I wish I had two of me for that project, since getting rid of books is something I have to talk myself into.

Finally, I picked up another cute hoodie yesterday, so I have two new hoodies to debut this fall when the weather cools down just a bit more. I'm looking forward to it.

04 September 2012

Life Is Not Perfectible

Many people have the silly idea, gleaned from movies, adverts and glossy magazines, that life is perfectible. The idea that other people out there have achieved the perfect life. So, they feel dissatisfied with the life they have or even downright cheated out of the life they think they deserve but don't have, the life that no one has.  They yearn for a life of perfect happiness that is impossible, while failing to take control of the life they do have and make it more rewarding through decisive, realistic action. Existentialists are nihilists because they recognize that life is ultimately absurd and full of terrible, inescapable truths. They are anti-nihilists because they recognize that life does in fact have a meaning: the meaning each person chooses to give his or her own existence. They recognize that each person is free to create themselves and make something worthwhile of themselves by striving against life's difficulties. Life, or rather death, will win in the end, but what matters is the striving, the overcoming, the journey.

—Gary Cox, How to Be an Existentialist, New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2012, p. 15.