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My first kiss is something I would like to redo. Not undo but redo because I think the guy was really nice and I feel things would have been better if the setting was different. It happened in a dark, loud club, I was embarrassingly drunk and incoherent but somehow this guy still thought I was kissable and asked if he could kiss me. Even in my near blackout state I was impressed with his instance on my consent because he didn’t make a move until I said the word ‘yes’.
As I think about kissing guys and specifically that night where the alcohol assisted in my giving consent to be kissed in a club in the pseudo-liberal Cape Town filled with straight people from across the country. It’s something I would never have considered a possibility in a sober state given my absolute fear of being outed.
The freedom was so refreshing, the courage I embraced from the spirits was emboldening. I can say that I may possibly understand why there are some men who first need a few drinks before they allow themselves to be free especially if that freedom includes letting another guy kiss him in the dark moments of the night.
The night because day, I woke up in my bed and I wasn’t drunk anymore. My wits were back but dulled by the hangover but more importantly my fears were back. I kicked myself for daring to do something so brazen and be so care-free about it.
Queue in the guilt.
But then I remembered how free I felt and how every breath felt fresh and new and affirming. That kiss, as sloppy as it was, changed my life.
But I’m not a drinker, nearly all my male relatives and neighbours are committed alcoholics and I have seen the damage it can do, so I’m generally not interested in alcohol. I’m not interested in sustaining myself on alcohol every time I need to breathe free and I certainly am not interested in ever being as drunk as I was on that day at the club.
I did, though, start mourning that feeling of freedom as it was fading into memory. I did everything I could to prolong it, clinging on to how great the release of years of repression felt, but with every passing second it all was falling to a drunken yesterday.
The solution was obvious; I had to come out, I had to state it to everyone. If I wanted any bit of that peace that I felt. I had to get out of bed and say it.
But then I thought “who did I come out to in that club?” All I remember was that the room darkened and the noise quietened when that moment of ‘first kiss’ happened. I knew what dangers and real life effects of being gay and care free could bring about in a conservative society but I didn’t let that stop me (blame it on the alcohol perhaps?). In that moment, I just existed
What I’m saying is that I didn’t need to state anything to anyone, I just needed to exist.
Growing up I depended a lot on the coming-out stories on YouTube. They brought me comfort and relaxed my anxieties of my fate as a gay human person on Earth so I’m not going to downplay the necessity of coming out in this society of ours. Humans interact with symbols and symbolisms and also humans don’t like being alone, so representation does a lot to starve the demons of loneliness and worthlessness that many men feel. What I will downplay though is this new cultural rite of passage that makes the coming out event a sort of duty for LGBT people.
I feel there is this expectation that expects gay men and women to ‘come out’, to announce their orientation. You hear it with even within the settings of liberal parents, family and friends when they respond to a coming out with ‘why didn’t you tell us before’; well-meaning but kind of silly if they are the type that perpetuate an environment of heterosexism or awkward gay-inclusive-heterosexism where you say and encourage heterosexist behaviour but then add disclaimers like “women…and some men…like a man who is [insert masculine characteristics]”
The pressure I felt to announce myself was instinctual. I felt that people wanted an announcement, wanted to be sat down, wanted a reading of a highly emotional letter, wanted the tears and wanted the ‘gradual phase of acceptance’ that comes after. But I want none of that I just want to live free.
People have come to romanticize coming out to be something that is done for the other instead of something that is done for the self.
But that ‘conversation’ will happen. It will happen because people expect everyone to be straight and thus heavy words are going to be shared to adjust that misinterpretation of reality.
It’s good to know that most coming outs I have seen throughout my youth have gone reasonably well or very well (unless there has been an over representation of good stories). I hope when the moment to address my sexuality as an announcement comes, I would have found enough solace and have resolved enough things within myself regarding my orientation.
What my epiphany did was allow me to refocus my energies to a more effective end without feeling like I was robbing others of what I though they deserve from me; a good coming out announcement. The work now is to be alright with myself because I know that just by saying ‘I’m gay’ doesn’t dissolve the internalised homophobia callouses I have formed over the years. The more important thing I can do for myself is not necessarily working up the courage to come out with bold words but dealing with those callouses that have formed which I can only predict will only serve to diminish whatever happiness I would ever hope to attain. I have already come out to the most important person… myself.
I hope someday I get to redo my first kiss and I hope I won’t need liquid courage to be fully present within that moment because there would be no shame to try drown out but just me and another good man.
Photo: Getty Images
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I want to embrace being single, but every girl I’m with, I’m constantly evaluating if there’s the potential for a relationship. I can’t even enjoy a female friendship without analyzing if they’re attracted to me, or if I am to them. I know I prefer monogamy, but I wonder if I’m missing out, and that fear is screwing with my head. Any ideas for how to handle this?
–Rubix 0817; Binghamton, NY
I have always been close with my mom and dad.
We’re not just parent and son; we’re actually friends. And as friends do, we see many things the same way, from the virtue of Baskin Robbins to the awkward brilliance of Larry David.
But one dynamic on which we’ve never seen eye to eye is dating.
In my parents’ day, as they’ve described it, dating was more about the journey than the destination.
Few people had boyfriends or girlfriends, while the majority maintained free agent status, allowing them to go out with one person one night and another person the next.
This wasn’t a big deal because each date wasn’t a big deal. It was just what you did on a Friday or Saturday, in the same way my generation hung out in big groups.
And a date’s significance seldom extended beyond that evening’s curfew.
Relationships often didn’t get serious, or even exclusive, until a deeper commitment was at stake.
Case in point: My mom was still dating another guy when she got engaged to my dad.
She was “The Bachelorette” before Chris Harrison was ever born.
So when it was my turn to start dating, my parents implored me to not take things so seriously, to keep my options open and meet as many girls as I could.
But I couldn’t do it.
Their advice made sense rationally. But emotionally, I wasn’t built for it.
I was just like you, Rubix.
Whenever I’d meet a girl, no matter what the circumstances were, I’d assess if there could be a future with her. If I thought there might be, I’d do everything possible to pursue it. I couldn’t just cast those feelings aside.
I didn’t want to be with more than one girl at a time, because I wanted nothing more than to fall in love.
And thankfully, I did. Eventually.
You can too.
But that doesn’t mean you have to be unhappy or have your head screwed with until you do.
It is possible to make the most of where you are now, while still keeping an eye on where you want to go.
Audrey: You just make jokes about relationships because you wish you could have one.
Russell: I am a little bit jealous, you’re right. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and do whatever I feel like doing, all the time.
That exchange comes from the underrated sitcom, “Rules of Engagement,” which starred, among others, “Seinfeld’s” David Puddy as a financial manager and David Spade as the aforementioned Russell, the group’s fifth wheel whose romantic conquests mirrored those of the actor who played him.
(Did you know Spade dated the likes of Heather Locklear, Jillian Barberie and Claire from “Modern Family”?)
While you might be wrestling with the jealousy Audrey’s talking about, don’t discount the freedom Russell references.
As a single guy, you are master of your domain.
You can do anything you want. You can go anywhere you want, when you want, with whom you want.
Don’t take that for granted, because when you get what you want — a relationship — you won’t be able to.
Obviously, when you’re committed to someone, you’re not the sole decision-maker.
I’ve been married for two years and in a relationship for nearly nine. And there are times I do things out of obligation/respect for my wife, Emily, just as she does for me.
And I’m happy to do so. My investment’s return far, far exceeds the buy-in.
I do not miss the freedom I had as a single guy. Really, I don’t. (Maybe because I don’t have kids.)
But I’m glad I appreciated it when I had it.
A different girl every night.
That’s the single guy’s dream, right?
For many, yes.
But for you, it’s not. You’re wired for monogamy. And there’s no need for you to fight that.
I’m wired the same way.
Admittedly, my wiring was likely installed as a defense mechanism. I had enough trouble getting one date a month, much less two in the same weekend.
But even during the one stretch when I dated around, I never felt at ease.
I’d just moved to Washington, DC, meaning I was finally in a city where there were girls who I, a) hadn’t gone out with, and b) hadn’t been rejected by.
I had a clean slate. And for about a month, I tried to make the most of it.
But it wasn’t long until my monogamous mindset was validated.
While there’s something to be said for companionship, I never saw value in going out with someone just to have someone to go out with.
What was the point?
Once I knew I wasn’t ending up with a girl, I had no interest in seeing her again.
And I knew that if I continued seeing her, one of two things would happen:
I’d dump her.
I’d get dumped by someone I never liked in the first place.
Is that what you’re afraid of missing out on?
As foreign as my mom and dad’s approach always felt to me, I now question if it also was rooted in genius.
By the time they were 23 and 24, respectively, they were happily married.
Granted, that was how it worked back then. You met someone, you got married and you started a family. Quickly.
There were no gap years, no sabbaticals, no taking time to get to know yourself.
My parents hardly took time to get to know each other.
They’ll tell you that. They’ll tell you they barely knew each other when they got engaged, and that their ensuing 45 years of marriage (and counting) were largely born out of luck.
But I believe it was more than that.
All that dating they did, it paid dividends. It had to. They might not have been aware of it, but it helped dial in their radars. It got their compasses tuned toward true north.
And when they might the right person, they knew it, even if only on a subconscious level.
You have the chance to gain this same expertise.
Instead of viewing the single life as a burden, view it as an opportunity — to experience new people, to figure out what you like and don’t like, to meet the girl you’ve been waiting to meet.
It’s all a process. And with the right attitude, it can be a fun — and fulfilling — one.
The more you’re willing to commit to the present, the more likely you are to find a future worth committing to.
Need more advice? Check out the most recent installments:
Healing a Broken Heart—While Hanging Out With the Person Who Broke It
Sex Isn’t The Answer
Man’s Search for Meaning
Lending Millenials a Helping Hand
Photo: Getty Images
There’s this thing everyone talks about called unconditional love. You hear about it from people who seem to have good relationships. You see it plastered all over Facebook. Unconditional love is presented as the purest form of love, the gold standard, the summit of bliss we’re all trying reach. And you begin to think, if I could just learn to love my partner unconditionally, or better yet, if I could find someone to love me unconditionally, I would be supremely happy.
Because I want you to be supremely happy, I’m calling bullshit on unconditional love. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist. But it doesn’t mean what you think it does, nor does your supreme happiness depend on it. So let’s correct some major misunderstandings. Because if you try to love unconditionally and you get it wrong, you will be miserable. Supremely miserable. And you won’t be doing your partner any favors either. You’ll be creating a relationship in which you tolerate and enable hurtful behavior that doesn’t serve either one of you. Here are five things I’ve learned about loving unconditionally that you can put into practice for better, healthier relationships. When you practice these yourself and expect them from your partner, your understanding of love will change, and your whole life will change with it.
1. Unconditional love is not an obligation; it’s a choice. Loving your partner unconditionally doesn’t mean loving—or staying—no matter what. The power to love, to give love, and to walk away from love always resides with you. If someone abuses you, or is cruel to you or your children, holds you back in life, or consistently trashes your sense of well-being, you’re not obligated to stay or to keep giving your love to that person. You may still harbor a kind of love for this scoundrel in your heart—a love that keeps a safe distance—but you are not required to leave yourself vulnerable to emotional or physical harm. Saying no to hurtful behavior is not setting a condition for love. It’s simply saying I love myself first, and I refuse to abandon my self-love to indulge in the love of another who hurts me. Some people do choose to remain in relationships that don’t bring them happiness or worse, bring them harm. Justifying this choice with the excuse of, “But I’m obligated to love unconditionally,” perpetuates powerlessness and a victim mentality. Choosing to be with a person who respects you, honors you, treats you with kindness, and enriches your life is actually the first step to loving unconditionally; it prepares the ground for unconditional love to flourish.
2. Unconditional love doesn’t mean unconditional forgiveness. Your partner does something that pisses you off—big time. Or repeats the same mistake twice, or five times. Or says something that’s, well, unforgivable. Unconditional love doesn’t mean you let it go. You can demand—and accept—your partner’s apology, but you don’t have to forgive unconditionally, meaning without defined expectations for future behavior, in order to love unconditionally. In fact, calling your partner on his or her crap, not accepting lame excuses, and refusing to be a doormat is a higher form of love than forgiving everything to keep the peace. First, it challenges your partner to a higher standard of behavior, which is in the best interest of the relationship. And second, it enables your relationship to grow by ensuring that you and your partner learn from your mistakes. Relationship dynamics do not remain static, and sometimes, the way partners interact with each other needs to shift for the relationship to improve. Unconditional love requires you not only to allow but also to enable that shift by making your forgiveness meaningful and real.
3. Unconditional love is not a kind of love but a way of loving. If you’re a parent, you know that you can love your child and simultaneously hate what that child does. Your child’s horrible behavior doesn’t make you stop loving your kid; but it does compel you to treat your child differently in the moment and respond appropriately with corrective action. So to say, “I love my partner unconditionally” doesn’t mean you love that person with some mystical purity that transcends your everyday interaction. Instead, it means that in every interaction, you come from a place of love. That place of love means you act respectfully and treat your partner as an equal. That place of love means you don’t judge or try to control. And that place of love means you don’t hit below the belt and use your partner’s vulnerability against him or her. Those are the conditions you don’t violate.
4. Unconditional love has boundaries. To understand this, it helps to understand the value of boundaries and that boundaries are not selfish. A boundary is not a condition you set that says, I’ll only love you if you do x, or I won’t love you if you do y. A boundary is nothing more than a healthy understanding of your own value and of what behaviors value and devalue you. While it is necessary in some cases, particularly in high-conflict relationships, to attach consequences (such as leaving) to the violation of a boundary, in an unconditional love relationship consequences are not needed. The consequence is the impact to the feelings of the person you love whose boundary you have crossed. If your partner knows that coming home late without calling makes you feel unappreciated and disrespected, your partner can choose not to engender those feelings in you, because he or she doesn’t want you to feel them. Setting a boundary is making your feelings known, and respecting a boundary is making a choice to respect your partner’s feelings and making that choice from love rather than fear of retribution. Failing to express clear boundaries sets up a dysfunctional dynamic in which partners cross lines and cause pain unintentionally, then suffer the angry reaction to the offense—a pattern of interaction that erodes love over time.
5. Unconditional love is not one-way. If you love your partner unconditionally, as described above, but your partner doesn’t love you the same way, it isn’t unconditional love—it’s damaging self-sacrifice. Similarly, you need to hold yourself to the same standard you expect from your partner and that your partner adheres to. Unconditional love is a mutually supportive dynamic in which both partners pull each other up to the healthiest way of loving and neither partner tears the other down. Many people get stuck in unhealthy, self-destructive relationships because they think that applying the healing salve of what they believe is unconditional love to a difficult or even abusive person will change that person into the partner they desire. Trust me. It doesn’t work. Despite our conscience and sense of morality, the human animal tends to do exactly what it can get away with. No more, no less. Your one-way unconditional love will never heal or change your partner. It will only change you into a bitter and resentful person. Demanding that your partner love you in a healthy, respectful, reciprocal way—which sounds like setting a condition but is actually recognizing your own self-worth—is the only way to improve your relationship.
I don’t know what you thought unconditional love was, but I’m betting it wasn’t this. I know when I first fell in love, I thought it was something different, and it took a long time and a lot of pain for me to learn these truths. So I share them with you as an act of love, a gift forged in the crucible of my suffering. Because love isn’t supposed to hurt. Abandoning yourself, sacrificing your happiness, stifling your true character, and giving up your dreams is not unconditional love. It’s unconditional surrender. It’s ceding the territory of your joy before the first shot is even fired. To achieve intimacy, you do need to take off your armor. But always remember, your heart is sacred ground.
For more of Thomas G. Fiffer’s writing on love, check out his book, What Is Love? A Guide for the Perplexed to Matters of the Heart, on Amazon.
by Harris O’Malley
Click on the link to for the podcast recording.
When you’re talking to someone you think is hot – whether you’re hoping to get a phone number or a date, to practice your flirting or lay the groundwork for future interactions, it can feel like you’re having to juggle while riding a unicycle. And the unicycle is on a tightrope. And the tightrope is also on fire.
You’re trying to do a dozen things at once – you want to be witty and funny because you want them to laugh but you are also trying to be a bit flirty because you want them to like you and you’re also desperately trying to gauge how they’re responding to you so you’re looking for any clue about how you’re doing and you’re also trying to think about what you’re going to say next because the last thing you want to do is let that awkward moment of silence crop up and make everything uncomfortable.
If you want to get someone’s interest, you have to learn how to talk to them without freaking out. This week, we’re going to talk about what it takes to learn to talk to hot women without fear.
…and so much more.
The Art of the Cold Approach Pt. 1
How To Tell Stories
Five Secrets To Make People Like You
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Want more dating advice? Check out my books at www.doctornerdlove.com/books
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