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A letter from the future

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Image: Message in a bottle

Message in a bottle? Methinks a blog post is a little more effective...

On this day in 1997, the words immortalised by Baz Luhrmann ‘Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)‘ are 14 years old.

The original article appeared in the Chicago Tribune entitled, ‘Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young’.

The author, Mary Schmich set out to write a fictitious graduation speech: “Most of us will never be invited to sow our words of wisdom among an audience of caps and gowns”.

She invited her readership to do the same. Fourteen years later, bloggers from over the world took up that mantle and the ‘Sunscreen Challenge’ was born.

Bloggers have spent one hour creating a graduation speech. Essentially, it’s the advice they’d pass onto school leavers today based on their own life experience.

If you’ve enjoyed this blog – please retweet it or repost. For Twitter, include the #sunscreenchallenge tag and find other blog posts using this hashtag.

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When you’re young, the ‘future’ seems like a million years away. 25 is old, 30 is ancient and 40 is a different species. There are so many things I wish I could tell my younger self, but knowing what I was like when I left school, I probably wouldn’t have listened.

So this is a letter — a letter from the future if you like — and it’s for the kids of today. I’m going to tell you what I’ve learnt during those years since I left school.  I could drone on about the importance of a good education and the need for a solid pension plan, but just like the 16-year-old me, you won’t listen.

Instead, I’m going to tell you about the things you can’t buy or get a piece of paper for.

The important things.

Tell your parents you love them

Tell them as much as possible. Yes, your mum has that annoying habit of calling at the most inconvenient time she can find, and yes, your dad still looks a bit awkward when he gets a kiss from his gay son. Parents get on your nerves; it’s their job, but one day you’ll look at them and see two old people who may not be alive much longer — and it’s terrifying.

Being a ‘rebel’ isn’t cool.

The motto ‘live fast, die young, leave a good-looking corpse’ is a load of crap. You ever seen the body of a crystal meth addict? Exactly

Find something you love doing and do it.

There’s a saying: “money can’t buy you happiness.” It’s true, but lack of it can make you miserable as well.  Well, here’s a newsflash: you can earn money doing what you love without subscribing to a life of poverty; you just have to be creative and work hard. After all, there’s a big difference between having a job you hate and having a career you love.

Think before you judge

Next time you see someone who’s thinner, more beautiful, has a better body or is more successful than you, don’t be in such a hurry to tear them down. Life is lonely when people hate you for no reason.

Find something you love about yourself

It’s strange how we need to be inspired to love ourselves, but need no inspiration to put ourselves down. So take a look in the mirror now and pick a part of you that you love. Appreciate it every day. Say it out loud. It’ll make up for the rest of the time when you’re being hard on yourself.

Enjoy silence

Life is loud. We live in the age of TVs, the internet, smartphones, Facebook, Twitter, iPods, rush hours and work. In a world filled with noise and commotion, learn to appreciate those moments when all is silent. Take ten minutes every day. Switch off your phone and tell the world to do one for a bit.

Learn the difference between strong and hard

Take it from someone who still falls back on the ‘I am an island’ mentality. Islands are lonely. Hard people are usually just very, very frightened, so they’ve made themselves impervious. You see, when something is impervious, it doesn’t need to be strong because it can’t be damaged. Accept your vulnerable side. You’re not weak, you’re just human. We all need a cuddle sometimes.

Fall in love

Love can’t be ‘created’ and it can’t be stopped. Love doesn’t adhere to a schedule or a timetable — it just happens. If you love someone and they feel the same, grab them, hold on to them and never let them go. It’s terrifying, wonderful, exhausting, painful, exhilarating and ridiculous — and it should be experienced whether it ends up hurting you or not.

Nothing beats a hug from a child who loves you

Seriously, it’s the most unconditional love there is.

A smile can make someone’s day.

Really, it can. Think about the last time someone said, “have a nice day” and meant it. Think about how nice it felt. We spend half our lives scowling at people who get in our way. So next time someone steps on your foot, just smile at them and see how good it feels when you get one back.

Don’t be in a hurry to grow up

Every day I see kids trying to be older than they are. Stop it. You’ll be an adult for way longer than you’ll be a kid, so learn to enjoy it while you still can. When you’re lying in bed at the age of thirty, worrying about mortgage payments, divorces, children and grey hairs, you’ll long for the days when the biggest worry in life was whether you had enough pocket money for a new X-Box game.

Regret nothing

Make mistakes, fuck up, fall down and get back up again. It’s human nature to make mistakes, but that shouldn’t stop you from living. Don’t be the person who gets to the end of their life and says “I wish” — be the person who says “I did”.

 “Don’t regret anything you do — because in the end, it makes you who you are.”

—  ‘Closer To The Edge’ by 30 Seconds to Mars

Other bloggers taking part in this challenge are @windsorbuoy, @DonkeyColm, @PeacockPete @LucasOwen85 @bainser @baxfail and @ChrisGolds. These guys inspire me. Give ‘em a read.

Written by guy_interrupted

June 1, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Why I’m an activist (and why you should be too)

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Press launch for Body Shop/UNAIDS Be An Activist campaign

With Boris Johnson at the campaign's launch at City Hall

I can’t quite describe how it feels to be standing six feet from Annie Lennox, as you have your photo taken by one of the world’s top fashion and portrait photographers.

The fact that I was doing it for an amazing cause made the whole experience even more special.

This year, The Body Shop has teamed up with UNAIDS and photographer Rankin for a global World AIDS Day campaign called Be An Activist. It showcases activists of all ages and races, from all walks of life, from popstars and CEOs, to your average man on the street, like me.

In a world where treatments are improving and AIDS is becoming less of a killer, sadly, people are becoming more complacent. Ignorance is high. Lack of education is a constant problem, and as a result, infections continue to rise.

This is why I’m so honoured and passionate to be a part of a campaign which reinvigorates the message that HIV is always out there, and it doesn’t discriminate.

Arm yourselves with the knowledge to protect yourself and make safer decisions, and let’s end the stigma surrounding HIV — and hopefully one day, eradicate the virus itself.

Below is a transcript (and a shaky video!) of the keynote I delivered (along with my best mate Emma) at the campaign’s press launch on 29th November 2010.

World AIDS Day is on December 1st, and I urge you all to stand with me and wear your red ribbon with pride.

I am proud to be an activist. Join me, and be an activist too.

————————————————

Every morning, I wake up, and the first thing I do after throwing the alarm clock across the room, is go to the bathroom, where I carefully place two bits of plastic onto my eyeballs so I can see properly.

Yes, I’m short sighted. Shocking, isn’t it? I mean, you wouldn’t know unless I told you. But yep, I genuinely can’t see my hand in front of my face without my lenses.

Being short sighted isn’t my fault; it’s just something that happened to me.

An hour later, before I leave the house for work, I tip four small tablets into my hand and knock them back with a glass of milk. To help my immune system cope with the effects of the HIV virus.

So there’s two things you wouldn’t guess from just looking at me. But only one of those things has the potential to change the way I’m perceived by other people.

We’ve been brought up to believe HIV is ‘unclean’ and that the people who carry the virus are somehow lesser beings, to be feared and ostracised. But I’m not, I’m innocent, I’m just like you.

I’m the person who gave you his seat on the tube. The guy who smiled at you when you bumped into him because you were walking along engrossed in your phone. I work with you, I cross the road with you. I’m not locked away in some dark corner of a hospital, gaunt, dying and covered in lesions. Every day, you come into contact with HIV+ people — you just don’t know it. And we’re not evil, we were just unlucky.

I hope one day, World AIDS Day is a day to reflect on the past and feel grateful that we live in a world free of stigma, a world where people can go about their lives without feeling they have to hide their status. I hope it becomes a time to remember those who lost their lives to the disease, and to thank those who developed treatments, and maybe one day even a cure.

Being an activist doesn’t mean you have to run a marathon. It doesn’t mean you have to march in a parade with a banner. You don’t have to stand behind a lectern at City Hall and deliver a speech. It can be something as simple as pinning a red ribbon to your jacket as you make your way to work. It’s an act of compassion towards a fellow human being. It says, “I’m with you on this’. Because after all, ten thousand voices whispering can be a whole lot louder than one person shouting.

I’m so proud to be a part of this campaign, to stand alongside such inspiring people and finally put a face to HIV. I hope that by sharing my story, I can empower people to take control of their health, get tested regularly and protect themselves from this virus.

I’m not ashamed of who I am, and I’m not afraid to be honest. And I will carry on holding my head up and fighting on behalf of those who live in fear so that we can finally end stigma once and for all.

My name is Kristian Johns, I’m HIV positive. And I refuse to hide, because I shouldn’t have to.

———————————————–

The exhibition at City Hall runs until December 7th 2010

Full pictures from the campaign

Shots from the press launch day

Written by guy_interrupted

November 29, 2010 at 6:10 pm

What everyone should know about HIV

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Image: AIDS awareness ribbon

Do you have all the facts?

I often get contacted by people on Facebook or Twitter asking me about HIV, either because they’re curious or believe they’ve put themselves at risk and need some reassurance.

I’ve always been very open about my status, and I’m glad people feel they can ask me instead of sitting there stewing. But it’s become increasingly obvious to me recently just how many people there are out there who know almost nothing about HIV. I’m not judging anyone, just making an observation.

You may remember a while back I wrote a post called ‘Why we should never stop being scared of AIDS’, and I stand by that sentiment. You should be damn scared of AIDS — it may be a manageable condition nowadays, but it sure ain’t fun — but there’s a difference between those who fear it because they’re ignorant, and those who have the facts, protect themselves and still have fun.

So I’m going to give you the basics. I’m not a doctor, so this isn’t written with the education of someone with a medical degree. I hope I’ve managed to slim down the technical side of things without compromising accuracy, but I’m quite happy to be corrected if you want to leave a comment.

This blog has had over half a million visits in the past year. If I can make just one of those visitors think twice about taking risks, then I may well have saved a life.

So here we go:

The science bit:

HIV’s a clever little bugger. When it enters your body, it targets your white blood cells. There are many different types of white cell, and they don’t just live in the bloodstream. But in very simple terms, they’re your immune system — the more of them you’ve got, the healthier you are.

HIV latches on to the white blood cell and empties its DNA into it. In doing so, it effectively turns the cell into a factory for producing more HIV — when the white blood cell reproduces, so does the virus.  Sneaky, huh?

But it gets sneakier. When HIV copies its DNA to human DNA it makes a small ‘mistake’ and mutates ever so slightly. This is why it’s so hard to find a cure — because by the time we develop one, it’s irrelevant because of how much the virus has changed.

If you imagine the yearly mutation of the flu virus to be the size of an A4 piece of paper, HIV’s equivalent could arguably be a couple of football pitches.

How do I know if I’ve got it?

Well, the simple answer is — you can’t. Not without a test. Once you’re exposed to the virus, your body will try to produce antibodies to fight off the infection. It’s the presence of these antibodies that the doctors look for when they test you for HIV, but it can take anywhere between thirty and ninety days before there are enough of them to detect in a test.

Some people will develop flu-like symptoms a couple of months after infection. Others may not show any symptoms at all. My experience was pretty traumatic. I was so weak I couldn’t even move, I barely ate. I lost nearly two stone and I had a blotchy red rash all over my body.

Attractive, huh? Thinking twice yet about barebacking?

PEP

It stands for post-exposure prophylaxis — and it could save your life. It’s basically a course of HIV medication that you take for a month after you’ve been exposed to the virus, and it could cut the risk of you developing HIV by around 80%.

But you need to be quick — you’ve got about a 72 hour window after exposure to get the treatment (the HPA in the UK say ideally within one hour and not beyond 72 hours). You can get it from Accident and Emergency or through selected GUM clinics. Have a Google and you can usually find where to get it in your area.

Accidents happen, condoms split or get forgotten in the drunken, drug-fucked heat of the moment. Nobody at a clinic is going to judge you, they just want to help. But make no mistake; this is not some magic ‘morning after pill’ — the side effects can be gruesome, and can include heavy vomiting, diarrhoea, nausea, insomnia and dizziness — but it’s better than the alternative. It might be a second chance at an HIV-free life.

So don’t blow it — and take a bit more care next time.

So what should I classify as safe sex?

There are certain activities which can be said to be lower risk than others. Oral sex, for instance, is a lot lower risk than penetrative sex. But the actual risk is dependent on a number of factors.

For instance, if you have oral sex with someone who’s got a high viral load and is highly infectious, that’s obviously going to be a greater risk than if, like me, they’re undetectable (I’ll explain what that means in a second).

On the flipside, they could be undetectable, but if you’ve nicked your gums when you dashed to the bathroom to brush the taste of vodka from your mouth before you got down to it, then the risk goes back up.

And whether you’re male, female, top or bottom, barebacking’s a no-no. Just stick a bloody condom on. You may think you can’t catch it from a passive partner, but you can, and you probably will. If you rupture something while you’re banging happily away up there, you’ll be absorbing the virus straight through the head of your dick.

Nice.

So should I avoid sex with someone who’s positive?

Sex with a positive person — as long as it’s safe — shouldn’t be something to be frightened of. If they’re kind enough to tell you beforehand, you should assume they are in control of their health, and are at the right stage of their treatment, and therefore won’t do anything they feel will put you at risk.

However, you always have a choice, and it’s your decision whether you have sex with them or not. Don’t just go with the flow’ while silently freaking out.

I’ve been turned down by countless guys because of my status, but the one thing I always say is: “I’m not the first positive guy you’ve slept with — I’m just the first one who’s told you.”

So why should I get tested?

Well, apart from the obvious peace of mind, there’s another thing to consider. So here’s science lesson number two:

There are two indicators of how an HIV+ person’s body is coping with the virus:

  • CD4/T-cells: It’s a little complicated, but they’re pretty much the same thing. T cells are a type of white blood cell, and CD4 is the protein on a T cell’s surface that the HIV binds to. For this reason they’re sometimes known as CD4+ T cells. A healthy person can have a count of anything between 500-1500 per drop of blood.
  • Viral load: This is the number of copies of HIV per drop of blood and can vary wildly. At my worst, it was over half a million. Now I’m on drug therapy, it’s below 50 — or in clinical terms ‘undetectable’

So therefore, high CD4+low viral load = good news. When the CD4 drops below, say 250, this usually indicates the immune system has suffered damage, and then it’s usually time to consider drug therapy.

So if you don’t get tested, you won’t know if you’ve got HIV, and if you’ve got it, how the hell can you know how your body is coping with the virus? The longer the virus goes unchecked, the more it’ll have the chance to damage your immune system — and that’s where the trouble starts.

Also, the higher the viral load, the more infectious you are to partners — even if you’re indulging in relatively low risk sex.

You may not need to go on meds straightaway. I didn’t start taking them until I’d been positive for six years (I was diagnosed eight years ago). In fact, my CD4 was still around the 1000 mark, it was just that the virus was multiplying exponentially, and it was time to bring it under control — I looked awful, I was about two stone underweight, I was ill all the time, eczema, night sweats, diarrhoea, the lot. I was quite glad, actually.

In a nutshell

Well if I haven’t hammered the point home enough already, I’ll just say it one more time:

Go. Get. Tested.

And if you feel you don’t know enough about HIV, make it your mission to learn about it. You can find out a lot about HIV from websites like AIDSmap, or from charities like GMFA or Terence Higgins Trust.

You may think it’s one of those things that just happens to other people — like a house fire or car accident. But it’s not. It’s real and it’s on your doorstep.

Knowledge is power as they say. And the more people who take control of their health, the better. There is no cure, but with the right care you can live a long and happy life.

I’d like to think of myself as living proof that having HIV and having a fucking great life aren’t mutually exclusive, but if I hadn’t got myself tested, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t be here now, and I wouldn’t have had the chance to experience all the amazing things life has sent my way.

Thanks for reading.

Guy, Interrupted

Written by guy_interrupted

October 3, 2010 at 10:03 pm

Why are gay men so crap at eye contact?

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Image of man looking out of the corner of his eye

Who's looking at you, kid?

“What’s wrong?” asked my colleague Claudia, as we exited Prêt a Manger and crossed the road back to the office. I’d suddenly stopped talking, which always unnerves people.

“Nothing,” I replied, “There’s just a really hot guy sitting on the wall and he just totally eyed me up!”

And it was true; he was sitting on the wall on the corner of Lambs Conduit Street in Holborn, talking on the phone when he clocked me.

He jerked his head in an upwards ‘hello’ nod and smiled.

So what did I do?

Well naturally, I looked at the floor and carried on past him.

“He’s really hot!” said Claudia, chasing after me, “why don’t you talk to him?”

“Nooo! Anyway he’s on the phone. I’d be standing there like a muppet.”

She looked back, “Well he’s not now, so go talk to him.”

I looked back too, and sure enough, there he was, looking back, phoneless and still smiling.

“Nooo! I can’t!” I cried, “I’m too nervous!” and I scurried inside our building.

“I can’t believe you didn’t go and talk to him,” said an exasperated Claudia as we got in the lift, “he was obviously interested; he was really smiling at you. And he was gorgeous!”

Fuck it, I thought. You only live once.

“You know what? I’m going to go and talk to him.” I said with a grin. So I caught the lift back down and ran outside.

He was gone.

Despite his inability to ready my clear-as-mud signals, this guy had the right idea. He acknowledged that he’d seen me. His smile wasn’t a drunken or drug-fucked leer. It was a ‘hey, I’m friendly, come talk to me’ kind of smile. It was me that screwed things up and made him think I wasn’t interested.

Why is it that so many guys (me included) look away when you eye them up? Is it embarrassment? Lack of confidence? Lack of Dutch courage? Is it just a case of ‘look, mate, you’re lovely, I’m just not in the mood — I’m late for work/tired/drunk/hungover/had a bad day’?

Who reading this, has ever had the following internal dialogue?

Hmm, he’s looking at me, but I only caught a glimpse of him, so I’m not sure whether I fancy him or not, but if I look and he’s looking back and we make eye contact, he might think I fancy him, in which case I’ll have to look away quickly and I won’t have caught a proper glance at him, which means I’ll have to look again to see if he’s fit or not. But what if I look again and he’s looking and he’s not fit? Then he’s going to think I’m interested! Best I just look at the floor…

…Oh, but what if he’s hot? What if….

And so it goes on.

Seriously, guys. What logic are we using that tells us the best way to let a guy know we’re interested is to look away when he makes eye contact and spend the rest of the night studiously ignoring him?

And who in God’s name made us believe that a scowl is far sexier than a smile? Is it supposed to be enigmatic? Do we think it makes us look moody and sexy? Newsflash: it doesn’t. It just makes you look like a miserable cow.

The only way is to bite the bullet and take a look. At least you won’t have to resort to tracking him down on Manhunt/Gaydar/Facebook three months later to let him know you thought he was hot.

Which brings me nicely to the heady world of online dating.

I recently joined Manhunt, and I’m sorry to say, I’m bored already. Yes, it’s sex at your fingertips (and I’ve made full use of it), but apart from the constant stream of monosyllabic messages saying ‘hi’ or ‘hey’, I’m shocked at the amount of people — really fit guys from my gym or the scene who I’ve previously considered out of my league — who have sent me messages saying “I’ve always thought you were hot.”

Then why haven’t you LOOKED AT or SPOKEN to me before now?!

Why is it that as soon as people get behind the safety of a computer screen, their confidence skyrockets? Why, in the offline world, do guys never have the bollocks to show interest unless they’ve got a belly full of beer or Ecstasy?

And if we apply Manhunt/Gaydar etiquette to the ‘real’ world — who on earth walks up to someone in a bar, flops their dick out onto the bar stool and says ‘hi’?

Don’t get me wrong, I know there are guys out there who can make you feel like a deer in the headlights with their incessant, rabid staring. These über-confident, oversexed guys need to be dealt with equally as confidently.

I had it in the gym the other day while getting changed — this guy was making no secret of the fact that he was checking me out while I towelled off.

I turned to face him, stark-bollock naked (luckily the shower had been warm) and said in a very loud voice “Had a good look, have you?”

Bingo. Instant power shift. Suffice to say he went rather red and went back to getting changed himself — rather quickly, I may add.

It seems we, as gay men are either at one end of the scale or the other. At one end there’s the no-shame, ultra-confident (or desperate) starers, while at the other, there’s the rest of us, who have absolutely no idea how to deal with — or show — attention.

How many missed opportunities go by every week, every day, because people don’t know how what to do when someone flicks an appreciative glance their way?

How many happy relationships have never even begun because both parties opted for ‘bored and disinterested’, when inside they were aching to say hello?

Try it next time you’re out. If you catch a guy looking at you, look back. And for God’s sake — crack a smile. You never know — he could be the man you end up marrying.

Oh, and if by way of fate, this post falls under the nose of sitting-on-the-wall-in-Holborn guy — I’m sorry. I’d love to have a drink sometime…

Written by guy_interrupted

September 26, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Posted in Love, sex and dating

Tagged with , , ,

Am I on the shelf?

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Image: Woody on the shelf

Can I come down now?

Forgive me.

It’s been a while since I’ve paid attention to this blog, but I’ve been dealing with a few issues of the ‘personal’ variety, and to be honest, it’s been like holding the nozzle of a Dyson to whatever gland I have that allows me to do anything creative.

Forgive me again, therefore, that I’m not heralding my return with some barnstormingly funny or hard-hitting ‘comeback’ post. Nope, instead, I’ve opted for something that can only be described as…well…self indulgent.

You see, it’s these damn civil partnerships.

Up until 2005, I never really thought about marriage, but with the advent of same-sex unions, suddenly everyone wanted in on the act, and all of a sudden, I seemed to be living in marriage-ville, with a new one happening every week.

I now have a plethora of friends with cute double-barrelled surnames, because neither of them wanted to be the ‘woman’ and take the other’s surname.

Last month, yet another schoolfriend got married, the month before that, two. My best mate from school is a divorcee and my other friend is on her second marriage. I’ve got no less than three civil partnerships coming up in the next six months, and I’ll admit it — I’m getting jealous of all these cute, loved up couples, with their dinner parties and Saturday mornings at Sainsbury’s. I’m kind of wanting in on the action. I reckon I’ve paid my dues to the single world for long enough.

I’m the guy people always look at and say “I can’t believe you haven’t got a boyfriend”, but here I am, thirty-one and single, and facing an ever decreasing pool of available men. But I’m fucked if I’m going to lower my standards and settle just because I don’t want to end up on my own.

I’m considered attractive, I’ve got a good job, a nice place, a great set of teeth and a talent for mimicry that always goes down well at parties.

However, my talent for picking absolutely the wrong man still astounds me. Out of the three long-term relationships I’ve had, the first beat me solidly for two years and left me bankrupt, the second knocked me up with HIV (he was sleeping around and forgot to tell me) and the third was a control freak who made playing mind-games look like an art form.

My latest spectacular misjudgment was an affair with a married man that I chose to end three months ago.

Since then, I’ve been careening from one encounter to the next like a pinball in an arcade game. Some of them have been fun, others plain disastrous — all of them ultimately empty. It must be the same for heroin addicts — methadone is no substitute for the real deal.

And yes, despite the fact that The Married Man was never really mine, it was the real deal for me.

So this is the reason why, at the moment, I’m probably not going to meet the love of my life. I have wounds that need a considerable amount of licking before I’m ready to date again.

Dating’s a funny old game anyway. Nobody at my age is without some sort of baggage. We’re all of us ‘damaged goods’ in some way or another, we’re all scared of being hurt. And the thing is, I’m not sure whether I can be bothered with the whole rigmarole. I’ve been on my own for five years now (affairs with married men notwithstanding) and I’ve kind of gotten used to it.

I can do what I like, when I like, and with whomever I choose. And having been this way for so long, I know I’d find it hard to have to consider someone else’s feelings and needs on an almost constant basis.

Does there come a point where you’ve just become too hardened by disappointment and heartbreak, too self-sufficient, and let’s face it, too damn selfish to be able to function in a relationship? Would the shock of having to share my life and bed once more be a bit too much to take?

So perhaps the question isn’t really about whether or not I’m on the shelf. Perhaps I should be asking myself a different question:

Have I put myself there?

Written by guy_interrupted

September 20, 2010 at 8:44 pm

What a cup of coffee taught me about breakups

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Image: man with cup of coffee

A cup of coffee and a life lesson to go, please.

It was just a coffee.

I wasn’t even expecting a response when I messaged him on Facebook with the razor sharp and achingly original: “Has anyone ever told you you’re ridiculously hot?”

(Seriously, come on. How can anyone fail to be floored by that?)

But it worked, because last Thursday afternoon found us sat in Café Nero on Old Compton Street, smiling, laughing and flirting.

He casually put his hand on the small of my back as we were chatting, eventually moving to my knee and then taking hold of my hand.

“Sorry, is this too…?” he asked, indicating my hand in his and not needing to finish the sentence.

“No, absolutely not.” I replied, smiling. And to my surprise, it wasn’t.

You see, anyone who reads this blog regularly will know that a couple of months ago, I made a heartbreaking decision before I went on holiday, regarding someone I loved very much. I had a short, intense affair with a married man, and I truly believed he was going to leave his sexless, platonic marriage for me. But the stark reality was actually the opposite — he merely wanted a toy he could take out of its box and play with when he felt bored and horny — a bit like a Fleshjack.

So I finished it, and I came out of it heartbroken, bereft and so numb, I felt like jamming my fingers into a plug socket just to remember what it was like to feel something.

I’ve never been a ‘rebounder’. When a relationship ends, I don’t go looking for another one to use as a bandage for the wound. It takes time for me to heal, trust and let my guard down again, so you can imagine my astonishment when I looked at my date and realised: I really like you.

He leaned in for a kiss. And boy, was it good. So good in fact, it had me regretting my decision to go commando that day. I could only look on in embarrassment as I started pitching a tent in my army shorts.

His voice was like butter, with a soft Manchester accent, a bit like the actor who played Vince in Queer as Folk. I could have happily sat there and talked with him all day, but we both had stuff we needed to do. We left the café holding hands, and as he caught sight of us in a shop window, he turned to me and said: “I think we look good together, don’t you?”

I kind of agreed.

I dropped him off at the tube station, and as I walked away I chanced a look back. He was looking too. We grinned at each other before turning away one last time.

Will I see him again? I’d certainly like to, and he seems keen as well. Although he’ll probably read this and run screaming for the hills. But even if that happens, it was just nice to realise I can feel a spark with someone again. If nothing else, I’ve learned a valuable lesson — that there is, indeed, life after an ex.

It was just a coffee — but it was a damn good one.

Written by guy_interrupted

July 26, 2010 at 7:57 pm

How to heal a broken heart

with 15 comments

Image: heart

Hearts  aren't stones. Because stones are hard to break.

Breakups are never easy. I recently split with the man I saw myself marrying. The worst thing is that it was my decision — he wasn’t in the right place to give me a whole relationship, so, as much as it hurt, I had to walk away. And believe me when I say it hurt.

So I’m faced with the task of finding my way back to happy again. I’ll get there. I was happy before I met him, so I’ll be happy again in the future. And this is how I’m planning to get there:

1. Put it in a box

Amy Winehouse got it right with her song, Take The Box. Some may disagree, but I say cut contact and remove all those reminders that, for now, are going to stop you from moving on.

Delete them from Facebook/Twitter (but tell them nicely why). Take all those photos of them off your phone, un-sync “your” songs from your iPod, change your phone’s screensaver. Put everything in a folder on your computer and set that folder to ‘hidden’.

Don’t get rid of it all though — don’t delete things or throw them away, just put everything out of sight where it can’t hurt you, and come back to it at a time when you can view it more objectively.

It’s like setting a broken bone in a cast. Your heart is raw and open and needs time to heal, and you need to protect it while it does that.

2. Don’t try and second guess them

You can only go on what you know, and all you know right now is that you’re not together. Don’t drive yourself insane trying to guess what’s going through their mind, because you just don’t know. So concentrate on the stuff you do know.

And don’t try and find out either. You’ll make people uncomfortable, and you’ll also look like the freaky-ex-who-isn’t-over-it. So have some dignity.

3. Listen to music

And no, I don’t mean wailing along to Celine Dion’s All By Myself . I mean, seriously, is she even still alive? And if she is, why hasn’t someone shot her?.

Screw all those crappy power ballads about lost love and being heartbroken, Sarah Maclachlan’s I Will Remember You sums up perfectly the notion that you can let someone go, but still have them in your heart.

For the pop fans, I recommend Jennifer Lopez: I’m Gonna be Alright. It’s a strong song,  full of grim, grit-your teeth resolve, and it’ll make you lift your head up and walk with a purpose.

To lift a mood, you can’t beat the shiny, disco-pop perfection of Agnes: Release Me. So sing along with her as she proudly proclaims “I’m better off without you” — even if you don’t feel like you are yet.

And for the times when you’re so furious you could put your fist through a wall, Apocalyptica’s I Don’t Care and Three Days Grace’s I Hate Everything About You are awesome, angry rock songs to scream along to.

Just don’t put your fist through a wall. It hurts. Take it from me.

4. Get distracted

Go on some dates. Enjoy being single again. Flirt back with the guy at the gym who’s been eyeing you up for ages.

Jeez, have a sweaty, no-strings fuck with a random stranger if that’s what you feel you need.

But accept you’re on the rebound. You’ll be comparing others to your ex for a long while yet, so accept that for now, dates are just a distraction. And be honest with them. Say you’re just getting back in the dating scene after a breakup, but leave it at that — they want to have a drink with you, not console you.

And whatever you do, don’t hurt a nice person by using them as a replacement. You might meet someone fantastic, who’s ready for a relationship, but you’re not in that place yet — and starting something on an unequal footing, where they stand more chance of getting hurt, is just not fair.

5. Count your blessings

A friend recently suggested I take a couple of minutes every day to acknowledge the five nice things that have happened to me that day. It doesn’t matter how big or small they are, just make yourself aware of them.

So today:

  1. The sun was shining and I was in my shorts in the park at lunch
  2. The sandwich lady gave me a free portion of carb-tastic pasta with my chicken roll because I said I was going for a run later
  3. I had an uninterrupted half an hour alone with a great book
  4. My friend Dillon is treating me to 30 Seconds To Mars at the O2 in November
  5. My other friend Paul took me out for a run this evening to prep me for the Asics Great London 10K Run (see next section)

And in addition to all that, I’m grateful to have found an amazing set of friends who are there with a smile and a hug whenever I need it.

When people are there for the drama as well as the fun, you know you’ve found your gang. Guys, you know who you are.

6. Run

No, it’s not a metaphor, and no, I’m not referring to that god-awful Leona Lewis desecration cover of the Snow Patrol song, I mean actual running.

A friend said to me: “Running is great. There comes a point where all you’re thinking about is putting one foot in front of the other and your mind is totally clear — it’s like mediation.”

So I tried it, and he was right. Bring on the endorphin high.

7. Hope, but don’t live in hope

There’s a difference. A big one. Some people put their life on hold waiting for that person to come back to them.

Hope isn’t a bad thing — as long as it’s not all you’re living for. So it’s okay to hope, but eventually, there will come a point when you realise you’ve stopped hoping — but it’s alright — because all it means is that you’re over it.

8. Let go.

Mourn it, and miss it, but let it go.

If you can put your hand on your heart and say you did everything you could, you just have to accept it and move on.

You split up for a reason, and yes, it hurts, but there’s no use going back to something just because it’s easier to be with them than to be without them.

Your problems would still be there if you got back together, you’d just be pushing them under the rug for a while longer.

Be grateful you’ve had the chance to be close to that person, remember them and take on board the lessons you’ve learned from them and from the relationship in all its stages.

And as my very wise and wonderful mother always says to me when life kicks me in the teeth:

“Don’t look back — you’re not going there.”

So look to the future — your future — and embrace it.

Written by guy_interrupted

July 9, 2010 at 10:45 pm

Why we should never stop being scared of AIDS

with 27 comments

Image: AIDS awareness poster

The "Don't Die of Ignorance" campaign of the 1980s

As an HIV/AIDS activist, one of the questions I wrestle with daily is this:

At what point does educating people about HIV start to dilute the fear of the virus itself?

Sorry to get all controversial on you, but bareback sex feels good — that’s why people do it.

It’s no good brushing it under the carpet in the hope that people will conveniently forget this small point, because it’s a simple fact of life; your dick is packed with nerves that respond favourably to something warm and wet. And no, I don’t mean apple pie.

Well, I’ll tell you what doesn’t feel good: The fact that I couldn’t snog the face off of my gorgeous, HIV negative (now ex) boyfriend when we went to bed at night, because there was usually blood in the sink after I spat my toothpaste out. Nope, that’s pretty depressing, actually.

Or what about the fact that I can’t drink alcohol any more because of the damage the years of medication has done to my liver? Tonic water, anyone? Just me? Oh, okay then.

I’ll tell you what else doesn’t feel good: that despite still being relatively young and in my prime (I’m 31), I’m usually so exhausted by the end of the week that I sleep for half of Saturday and tend not to move past the sofa for the rest of it.

And did I ever tell you about how I got this scar on the side of my face? No? Well that was from last November, when I changed my medication, had a massive allergic reaction to it and was found hours away from a coma at the bottom of my stairs by my mother, who came round to check I was OK after nobody had heard from me for four days.

This, ladies and gents, is the reality of HIV.

In July 2008, I wrote for the Pride Blog, and I talked about HIV and the “Tombstone Generation”. For people like me, growing up in the 1980s, HIV/AIDS was without a doubt regarded as a killer. We were bombarded with images of falling tombstones and icebergs, and ominous voices telling us: “don’t die of ignorance.”

Before this period, the message was even closer to home. Paul Burston, author of “The Gay Divorcee” recently told PinkNews: “”For those of us who are 40-plus…we didn’t need ‘icebergs’, we saw friends die in hospital.”

I guess if you were sexually active in the 80s, going to a funeral every week in the 90s would have put the whole barebacking issue into perspective.

Fast forward to 2010 and things have changed dramatically. Take me for instance. I have a great job, I earn a good salary. I don’t live on benefits. My boss is very understanding about taking time off for hospital appointments, and treating the virus means simply taking five pills in the morning. It’s just become a part of my daily routine, like putting my contact lenses in so I can see properly.

Yes, HIV is now very much a ‘manageable condition’ — rather like diabetes.

In the developed world at least, we’re so fortunate to have treatment and care available to us, and I can’t put into words the respect and gratitude I have for the men and women who dedicate their lives to finding new treatments, vaccines, and hopefully one day — a cure.

But with all these advances in medical science, we’ve ended up with AIDS no longer being the killer it used to be. So it’s only natural we worry about it less.

It’s also invisible — you can’t see it, so it becomes easier to bury your head in the sand and forget about it, as opposed to, say, a dirty great weeping sore on the end of your cock.

It feels like lately, AIDS awareness campaigns have taken a very softly-softly approach, concentrating on a gentle “use a condom” message.

This is all well and good, but what about showing people the harsh realities of HIV? The anti-smoking lobbyists have got it right, with a slew of increasingly more graphic ad campaigns, and images of rotting teeth and blackened lungs gracing every fag packet.

Should we take our lead from the anti-smoking groups and start including similar on the DVD cases of bareback porn? Or would that ruin our fun too much? I mean, who wants to think about AIDS when you whack a porno on in the background while you’re sticking it to/getting banged senseless by some cute guy who thinks you’re hotter than molten lava?

If you were around in the mid 90s, you’ll vividly remember the image of Leah Betts in her hospital bed, which was circulated to the press in 1995. Her mother released the photo in the hope that people would see it and think twice about taking Ecstasy.

What would make you think twice about barebacking? An advert asking you very nicely to use a condom, thank-you-very-much, or being slapped round the face with the image of someone in the last hours of their painful life, covered in KS lesions, getting water through a drip and pissing it from a catheter?

Now ask yourself this: Is a few seconds spent having a giddy, bareback orgasm worth that?

Written by guy_interrupted

June 26, 2010 at 11:21 am

The lessons I learned in Ibiza

with 2 comments

Image: Ibiza Town

Ibiza Town

This is what I learned on holiday in Ibiza:

  1. I’m never again flying from Stansted…
    …and the same goes for flying with Ryanair.
  2. Getting a tan may be bad for the skin…
    …but it’s incredibly good for the soul.
  3. My friends are even more fantastic than I realised…
    …and my best friend knows me frighteningly well.
  4. A jetski is guaranteed to make you look cool…
    …and even falling off one is fun.
  5. Most of the island’s public toilets have run out of soap…
    …and the hand dryers are all broken too.
  6. Mixing beer, mojitos, caramel vodka shots and gin is a tremendously bad idea after six months off booze…
    …and smoking on top of it doesn’t help the situation.
  7. I never used to get knackered after five minutes of dancing…
    …and my stomach never used to wobble either.
  8. The film ‘I, Robot’ in Spanish translates as ‘Yo, Robot’…
    …and this makes me laugh like a seal.
  9. Laughing can make you forget you’re hurting…
    …even if it’s only for a few seconds.
  10. I learned that saying goodbye always hurts like hell…
    …but even more so when it’s your decision.
  11. And that I don’t know what’s worse — only having part of someone…
    …or not having them at all.
  12. That sometimes you shouldn’t dare to hope…
    …because it can be as destructive as despair.
  13. And when you’re missing the person you love…
    …there’s little difference between one mile and a thousand.
  14. That you can run as far as you like from a broken heart…
    …but eventually you have to return and try to mend it.
  15. And even though I didn’t want to come back…
    …it’s also really nice to be home.

Written by guy_interrupted

June 13, 2010 at 11:10 am

Sex with friends: dangerous liaisons or good, clean fun?

with 14 comments

feet in bed

Not our real legs, in case you were wondering...

As gay men, we’re more likely to sleep with one of our immediate or extended social circle than our straight counterparts – I know I have. Take any group of gay friends and you can guarantee that at least two or three of them will have boffed each other at some point. It’s a bit like that six degrees of separation thing, except stickier.

Let’s face it. We’re homos. We like sex. We are lucky that the people we sleep with are also homos who like sex.

Which brings me nicely to the reason for this post.

I’m sleeping with one of my friends.

I never meant for it to happen. It just sort of…did. We’ve always flirted with each other, but I’m the exact opposite of his type, so I was actually rather knocked for six when we ended up back at his place after rather a few beers one Friday night before Christmas.

I’ll refrain from giving too much away so as to protect his identity, lest the follow up comments turn this blog into some elaborate online version of Guess Who? The likelihood of him reading this post is slim to none, but I’ll still spare him any potential blushes.

So why are we keeping it quiet? I mean, he’s good looking, has a good job (and a mighty fine backside) so it’s not as if I’m having it off with Quasimodo. We’re both single and therefore not hurting anyone so it’s OK, right? And the nice thing is we still have stuff to talk about before and after the sex. Kind of a “friend with benefits”. I actually find him fun to be around.

We simply haven’t told anyone because quite frankly – it’s none of their gosh darn collective business, and putting it out there for everyone to just start pitching in with their comments and judgements, etc…. Gah. Thanks, but no thanks.

So I guess what I’m wondering is this: What happens when feelings start becoming involved?

I’m used to being hit by a bolt of lightning where men are concerned, but perhaps it’s just a fact of life that as you get older and you’ve been hurt a few times, you become more guarded and less prone to rushing in feet first. At least I have, anyway. But am I doing it because it’s ‘safe’ and there’s less of a chance I’ll get hurt, or am I in denial that I do actually care for this guy?

Like it or not, the longer we carry on, the more potential there is that feelings will eventually develop, from one side or both. So someone’s potentially going to get their fingers burnt. Is it worth risking a friendship for that? More to the point – can I stop what I’ve started?

As I woke up a few mornings ago with him snuggled up on my chest, playfully moaning at me to go and make him a cup of tea, I didn’t have a definition for our situation. But I’ll tell you this. It felt bloody nice.

Written by guy_interrupted

January 14, 2010 at 5:24 pm

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