Archive for December 2009
I’m about to embark on one of the most difficult journeys I’ve ever made.
Here I go.
I’m giving up alcohol in the new year.
There. It’s out. It’s public. No going back.
There are a couple of reasons behind my decision.
Reason number one: I simply want to see if I can do it. After all, it’s a big old challenge. Booze is the lubricant that greases the wheels of new friendships, flirting and one night stands. How different will life be without that crutch to fall back on?
Reason number two: I desperately want to give up smoking.
My problem with smoking and drinking is that as soon as I get even a whiff of an alcoholic substance, I’m overcome with the craving to stick a fag in my gob and puff away.
This would be fine if I could limit myself to social smoking, but for me, it’s all or nothing. It starts with accepting every social invitation I get just so I have an excuse to smoke. Then before long, it’s crept back into my daily routine like bindweed in an untended garden.
Reason number three: As I hurtle further along the road of thirtysomething-ness, the effects of too much beer and wine tend to hang around a lot longer than a simple next-day hangover. Namely on my belly.
Having spent my entire twenties being the envy of my friends because I had abs you could bounce a fifty pence piece off of, this is, as you can imagine, somewhat horrifying.
So all in all, a couple of really good reasons to ban the booze.
So why does the thought of a life without alcohol strike utter terror into my heart?
Far from it being socially acceptable to be teetotal, most people look at you like you’ve grown an extra head when you ask for a soft drink instead of a beer.
Having just spent Christmas on antibiotics and therefore tipple-free, I found myself getting mildly irritated as my family and friends slowly became louder and gigglier as the day wore on. I felt like I was on a different wavelength.
And what is this going to do for my sex life? No longer will I have the ‘confidence’ to walk up to fit boys in bars and devastate them with (what I believe to be) my witty repartee.
Am I going to become *gasp* boring?
Before I go and hurl myself into the Thames, let’s look at the positives:
- I’m going to lose my rapidly expanding beer belly
- I might make it to the gym on a Saturday morning for once
- I might actually kick the fags for good
- I’m going to be a hell of a lot healthier (see points 2 and 3)
- I won’t waste my weekends dying on the sofa with a hangover
- I’ll stop snogging guys I wouldn’t fancy in a million years if I was sober
- I won’t wake up in a strange bed and recoil in horror at the person lying next to me
- I might actually make it through a party without creeping off to a bedroom somewhere to crash out for an hour
- I can laugh at my friends when they get into a state and remind them of what they did when I see them the next day
Hmm, this is actually looking a lot better than it did a few minutes ago.
So I guess mine’s an orange juice.
Well, for a while, anyway…
So I ventured into the West End yesterday on a kamikaze shopping mission for Christmas presents.
I approach shopping, especially Christmas shopping, with the same mindset I approach having a full sexual health checkup. Get in, get it done and get out. It’s going to be uncomfortable, but it’s necessary. And yesterday was no exception.
What struck me as I fought my way through the throngs of people and stood in endless queues to pay for stuff I couldn’t afford, was that nobody looked all that happy and festive. In fact quite the opposite, most just looked harrassed and lacking any real desire to be there. Including me.
Did I see anyone with a smile on their face yesterday?
In fact, I vividly remember one time about five years ago when I saw a full-on fight break out between two women in Tesco because one believed the other had pushed in front of her at the till.
Is this what Christmas has come to? A stressful, costly time of year we just need to deal with so we can get it out of the way? Is it now nothing more than a huge marketing machine designed to fill the pockets of the retailers and corporate fatcats?
A quick poll of my Facebook friends revealed that a large proportion of them are simply not bothered about this time of year.
Unless you’re religious, Christmas seems to have become nothing more than an obligation to be endured. The expense, the preparation, the feeling that unless you’re sat at a table full of people on December 25th wearing a ridiculous paper hat, you’re in some way sad and pathetic.
Certainly for a lot of my gay friends in London, the thought of travelling back to the bosom of their families and the bubble of small town living they so desperately tried to escape fills them with dread. Even if it’s just for a day or two.
At the risk of incurring the wrath of my Christmas-obsessed sister, having a red ‘X’ painted on my front door and my windows pelted with stones to the cries of ‘Scrooge!’ I have to say that up until yesterday evening, I haven’t really been in the mood for Christmas.
But something I read last night changed that for me.
In his beautifully poignant Letter To A Brazilian Brother In Law, my good friend, the ridiculously talented Paul Burston, updates Roberto, the brother of his husband Paulo, on how the brother Roberto has disowned for being gay is getting on.
I urge you to read it, and if you’re feeling jaded like I was, I hope it will remind you to be grateful for all the good things you have in life.
I feel for Paulo, and any other people out there who are spending Christmas estranged from families and loved ones because of feuds or lack of acceptance. I’m glad that Paul’s family are welcoming Paulo as one of their own this Christmas in Wales, and I hope he has a holiday to remember.
I’m outrageously lucky to have a loving family whom I can turn to whenever I need. It seems I lost sight of that temporarily as I got caught up in the cacophony of crowded shops, Santa hats and endless adverts set to the sound of sleigh bells, all trying to convince me to buy this product or that.
Presents don’t matter. None of my family are rolling in it this year. Instead, what I’m looking forward to is sitting down to a nice meal and celebrating the fact that we have our health and each other.
It’s been a year of amazing highs and crashing lows, and although I have some great memories, I also won’t be sorry to see it go.
Roll on 2010, a new year and a new decade.
And in the meantime – Happy Christmas to you all – whatever you’re doing.
Question: When is free speech not free speech?
Answer: When it’s oppression.
Like a lot of you, I’ve been following the recent debate about homosexuality and the death penalty on BBC Africa’s ‘Have Your Say’ forum with a curious mix of disgust and fascination.
I would never call myself a political kind of guy, and much as I don’t want to launch into some long winded diatribe about what I deem to be right and wrong, I have to say my piece.
Seriously, BBC – what were you thinking? Since when did it become acceptable to debate whether genocide is a valid option because a few superstitious barbarian leaders are getting their knickers in a twist over the fact that sometimes boys like doing each other?
Perhaps even more sickening (and worrying) are some of the follow up comments on the forum:
“Totally agree. Ought to be imposed in the UK too, ASAP. Bring back some respectable family values. Why do we have to suffer ‘gay pride’ festivals?” asked Chris in Guildford.
Because of people like you, you insipid moron.
It’s ironic that as an intelligent, well rounded gay man, I can’t naturally have what I would imagine to be equally intelligent, well rounded kids, yet bigoted halfwits like you are able to breed freely.
People like you are the reason I march at Pride every year. Why I’m proud to stand up and be counted alongside my gay brethren. People like you are like fuel to me; the reason I refuse to be bowed or cower and hide who I am.
You don’t like gay people? Well stop having gay babies, then.
Let’s play devil’s advocate for a minute.
The BBC (the people that brought you Nick Griffin on Question Time – enough said) wanted to provoke discussion ahead of the latest edition of ‘Africa Have Your Say’. By creating such a sensation and publishing it as a forum, they’ve ensured the subsequent outcry takes the issue at hand and cleaves it into the public consciousness like an axe blow to the temple.
So let me put this one out there:
What if I took every instance of the word ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual in that article and replaced it with ‘Jew’? Would the BBC be so quick to allow free discussion? If the internet had been around in Hitler’s time, would we not have seen something shockingly similar in a forum about the Jewish community?
If we go with this line of thinking, validating the execution of homosexuals technically means that we should also think of the Holocaust as a ‘necessary measure’.
There are better ways of raising awareness. As my (straight) friend Simon so eloquently put it: “The fact that the BBC hosted this as discussion, rather than a straight condemnation of such an abhorrent and evil ‘law’ sickens me.”
And to the people of Uganda – there are much, much bigger things in this world you need to worry about than men having sex with each other.
War and famine, for instance.
Perhaps President Yoweri Museveni should look a little closer to home to see where the real problem with his country lies…
Something totally unexpected happened at the gym today. Someone I don’t know all that well came up to me and said “I’ve been reading your blog. You’re a really good writer.”
It’s one thing to have a guy stumble up to you drunkenly and slur “you’re fit, mate,” but quite another to be complimented on something which, to be honest is quite an intimate part of you.
And at the gym of all places! He works in publishing, though, and is one of the very few non-Brazilians there – most of whom think ‘reading’ consists of trying to pick out their friends in amongst the headless torso shots in the back of QX – so I shouldn’t have been all that surprised.
But for a second I didn’t know what to say. I was gobsmacked and flattered.
Someone asked me once to sign a copy of an advert I was featured in as a model.
I couldn’t do it. I’m ashamed to say I cringed.
I didn’t ‘make’ my face. It didn’t require any skill or talent; in fact it was all down to my parents. So I find it hard to accept compliments for just sitting in front of a camera and looking a bit moody for a few hours.
“Tell you what, when I’m a published writer, I’ll sign an article or a book for you.” I said.
And it was true. I’d rather be complimented for a skill or talent than the way my face got put together about thirty-one years ago in my mother’s belly.
Does that make me ungrateful for the way I look? No. I’m eternally grateful that I don’t make small children cry. Especially as I’ve got a six year old boy running around the house (more about that later). But a compliment about something I’ve developed and practiced and regularly put out there for criticism, means far more than an appreciative glance from someone in a bar or changing room.
I write for a living. I know how to craft an attention-grabbing headline, I know that when putting marketing copy together you should always reiterate the intention of the article in the first and second paragraphs. I know about AIDCA. I know how to write for the web, I know when to use ‘that’ and when to use ‘which’ and I know all about SEO, keywords and metadata.
But when I write my blog, all that goes out the window. I don’t care about my Google ranking, I don’t care about structure – I rarely edit. I don’t even mind if I don’t get any page views on the article.
I just write for me. It’s such a joy to have the freedom to write without all those restrictions. So wonderful to put pen to paper and just write what’s in my heart.
So, am I a good writer? Some would say no, some might say yes. But if you’re still here, then I guess I’ve done an OK job this time.
Thanks for reading.
So I think I mentioned before how I got dumped a while back. It wasn’t a long relationship, and looking back, he probably wasn’t right for me for a number of reasons. But when you’re happy one minute and by the time they’ve finished saying their piece, you’ve had your happiness taken away from you, it’s still a bitter pill to swallow.
My friend Mike’s also been dating a bit of an idiot lately, and finally called time on the relationship a couple of weeks ago.
So we decided we were up for a bit of soul food – and what better than to watch your favourite movie with a good friend?
For the bruised of heart, I recommend a movie called Trick. The plot involves two guys – Gabriel and Mark – who meet on the subway in New York one summer night. Trick devours every gay cliché in the book as we follow them on a tour of the city, fighting off bitchy drag queens, high maintenance best friends, and randy, bedroom-hogging flatmates in a desperate attempt to find a place where they can just get down to some good old fashioned boy on boy fun.
Or is that all it is?
Mark is everyone’s perfect man. Tall, dark and handsome – with a body to die for. He’s got the crooked grin, the dreamy eyes, and cute, sticky out ears and I fell in love with him the minute I laid eyes on him.
OK, I know he’s a movie character, but he’s Athena poster beautiful, exuding masculinity and vulnerability in equal measure. He’d blow your mind in the sack, then melt your heart the next morning as you watch him sleep like an angel.
At first you’re inclined to think that Mark is out of Gabriel’s league, but as the film progresses, you realise that Mark isn’t your average muscle mary, and he’s falling for Gabriel as much as Gabriel is falling for him. When they finally kiss on a street corner as the sun rises over the East Village you just want to cheer.
We’ve all had one of those nights. Crazy nights where you end up in all sorts of places and you come home with a smile of pure contentment on your face. The world seems to be bursting with possibilities. It was a time before life got complicated, before mortgages and careers, responsibilities and bills. When I could stay out all night and still function the next day.
Yeah, I’m cynical, yeah I’m sarcastic. I project an air of cool confidence and you would have to work darn hard to crack it.
But I’ll let you into a secret.
I want to fall in love. Big, scary, stupid love.
I’m not saying you should measure every guy against Mark. Nobody is perfect and life isn’t some heartwarming romantic comedy. But what Trick reminds you to do is never, ever lose sight of love. Never settle for second best and never close your heart to the possibility.
Everyone has a ‘Mark’ in the world somewhere. I’m looking forward to meeting mine. Until then, I’m lucky to have some of the greatest people in the world as my friends and family, so I know I’m never alone.