Monday, December 17, 2012

Building Bridges and Sitting On Them

This morning I received a Facebook invite for an event called Sit With Me Sunday. According to the FB event page, the idea is to "Invite a gay or lesbian or transgender person to sit with you at your regular service for the Christmas program," or if you are LGBT, to "come to church and enjoy the meeting with us." The event is sponsored by Mormons Building Bridges, which is an organization I respect, and the invitation came from a friend I like and respect. If she lived near enough that the invitation were actually to come to church with her, I would go just to support the cause of bridging the gap between Mormons and the LGBT community. She lives in Washington, though, and I'm not quite dedicated to the cause enough to go to church on my own--going twice a year to hear my kids sing in the Primary program and on Fathers' Day is enough for me.

This is how Superman builds bridges.
It was interesting to scroll down the event page and read the comments. The majority of them come from Mormons saying, "I would love to have an LGBT person sit with me at church! Where do I find one?" I don't mean to make fun of them; I fully support racial equality but if I had to come up with a Mongolian friend for Sit With A Mongolian Sunday, I'd be at a loss. But right now what I see is a bunch of people with good intentions and no clear plan. I don't by any means have all the answers for them, and in the long run I don't have exactly the same goals as they do, but I do share in their goal of bringing people together, so here are my two cents, speaking as a former Mormon and a self-appointed representative of the LGBT community:

One of the first things you all need to do is make some real-life LGBT friends. You could try cruising the 24-Hour Fitness saunas, but the guys you'd meet there are looking for something other than church. Perhaps more effective to volunteer at the local Pride Center or LGBT Outreach Center. You're wanting me to come to your territory, after all, so why not first show that you're willing to come to mine? By all means, be open about your religion. People may be skeptical at first--Mormons don't have a great reputation among queers--but what better way to show us that Mormons are not our enemies than by actively doing service in our communities? Missionaries use this tactic all the time, and I know my sister has challenged a lot of assumptions by participating in a PFLAG group as an active Mormon.

Second, if you want us to come to church, you first need to understand why we aren't going to church in the first place. The answer to this question will vary on a case-by-case basis. Some LGBT Mormons stop going to church because they don't feel welcome, but deep down they still believe. This group is the one most likely to benefit from an event like Sit With Me Sunday. Other LGBT Mormons, like me, may leave the church initially over the gay issue, but once we realize the church was wrong about that, we start to question other things as well. Many of us stop believing in God altogether. You may get us to sit with you for one Sunday, but if your goal is to get us back into the fold permanently, well, good luck with that. And then of course there are the LGBT folks who have never been Mormon. They come in all shapes, sizes, and religious backgrounds. Your primary obstacle here is going to be the fact that many people's only associations with the Mormon church are Prop 8 and Mitt Romney, but you've already solved that problem by joining PFLAG in the previous paragraph, so we're good there.

Finally, you need to ask yourself what your long-term goal is. My impression is that the majority of folks in the Mormons Building Bridges movement recognize that homosexuality is not a curable condition. The ones I know either believe that the church's current stance on homosexuality is based on the human limitations of church leaders who don't fully understand God's will, or they take a stance of "I don't know what God's will is, but I know I love and support my LGBT brothers and sisters no matter what they believe or how they live." I fear, though, that there are some hopping on the Sit With Me Sunday bandwagon who believe that if only gay people felt more welcome by church members, we'd come flocking back in hordes. Yes, LGBT folks feeling judged and unloved by Mormons is a big issue and I'm glad it's being addressed, but you have to understand that if you're asking people to participate in a church that teaches that their only options are celibacy or marrying someone they're not attracted to, then you're asking a lot. Would you leave your spouse in order to be able to take the sacrament and hold a temple recommend? Would you ever feel like you're fully part of a church that asks this of you? And then, of course, there are those of us who have other reasons for being outside the church. The LDS Church could announce tomorrow that they're going to start performing same-sex sealings in the Salt Lake Temple and I'd be happy for them, but it wouldn't change anything for me personally. That whole not believing in God thing is sort of antithetical to church.

So if you see Sit With Me Sunday as part of a missionary effort to convert or re-convert gay lost souls, you've got some huge obstacles in your way. If your goal is simply to build bridges, to show that Mormons and queers can be friends and work together regardless of religion or sexuality, then you've still got some serious obstacles, but I'm right there with you. Rock on, my friends.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

PDA Revisited

Last week I took my nine-year-old daughter, S-Boogie, to a Christmas concert at Temple Square in Salt Lake City. We had a nice evening seeing the lights, eating out for dinner, and enjoying the music together. As I sat on a bench at the back of the Assembly Hall with my arm around S-Boogie, I had a mini-epiphany: I'm not as screwed up as I thought I was. 

Back in August, I wondered why it is that I'm bothered by the need for Clark's and my relationship to be a secret. "Do I feel a sadistic need to shove my gay relationship in the faces of my socially conservative acquaintances?" I asked. "Do I want others to be jealous of my awesome boyfriend? Or am I just an exhibitionist who gains pleasure from displaying himself before the world?" 

At the concert last week, I realized that I was being just as affectionate with S-Boogie as I would ever want to be with my boyfriend in public. While walking around Temple Square we'd held hands, and in the Assembly Hall she snuggled up against me while I had my arm around her shoulders. Obviously I felt no need to shove our father-daughter relationship in the faces of the people around us, because no one would be shocked by a nine-year-old holding her dad's hand. It would be silly to think others would be jealous of my awesome daughter--most of the others there were also parents, who are no doubt under the mistaken impression that their kids are every bit as awesome as mine are. As for exhibitionism, I wasn't displaying anything that anyone would even notice. 

I was just being a dad who loves his daughter. I display my affection for her not because we're in public, but because that's what comes natural to me, no matter where we are. When I'm with someone I love, I tend not to notice the people around us. If I were in a relationship with someone who could be more open about our relationship publicly, I wouldn't indulge in any more PDA with him than I do with my kids. I have no desire to make out with my boyfriend in public. 


See? The Justice League isn't flaunting anything. They just love each other. 

None of this changes the fact that I am in a relationship with someone who, for many reasons, is not comfortable with any level of PDA. I'm at peace with that. I know I'm not going to change him. But for my own peace of mind, it's nice to understand why it took me a while to come to terms with this. And nice to cross one psychosis off the long list of ones I really do have. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Singing My Life With Her Words

A few years ago I read Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, a graphic memoir about Bechdel's repressed gay father, and was disturbed by how much I saw myself in him. I had a lot of anxiety about my role as a gay man in a straight marriage, and how that affected not only me but everyone else around me--particularly my children. Bechdel's account of how her father's repression seemed to manifest itself in a sort of parenting schizophrenia, coddling one moment and vicious the next, struck a little too close to home for me. I wrote an essay about it.

When I heard that Bechdel had written a sequel of sorts, this one a memoir about her mother, I was anxious to read it because I'd been impressed by Bechdel's talent as both a writer and a graphic storyteller, but I did not expect to identify with the book in the same way as I had with Fun Home. I was wrong. In Are You My Mother?, Bechdel tells about her relationship with her mother, focusing largely on the events surrounding the writing and publication of both books. In many ways, this book is a memoir about memoirs. It's also an intense session of self-psychoanalysis, as Bechdel weaves in discussions with her therapists over the years, as well as her own study of British psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott. At several points while reading Bechdel's words, I felt like I was reading about my relationship with my mother, my experiences with writing, my attempts to understand my own psychology.

On more than one occasion concerned family members and friends of mine have questioned the wisdom of putting so much of my personal life on public blogs, on Facebook, in published essays. I myself have questioned my motivations, the narcissism it takes to assume that anyone wants to read about my life except me. One of the major conflicts of Are You My Mother? is the ambivalence Bechdel's mother feels about her daughter revealing so much about their lives publicly. When discussing a poem she read in The New Yorker, Bechdel's mother says of the poet (not Bechdel), "Who cares about the fellowship she didn't pursue when she was twenty because she got married instead? It's too specific." Bechdel replies, "Um... I dunno... Can't you be more universal by being specific? Everyone regrets something, right?" Her mother starts to go on to another topic, then says, "I just don't know why everyone has to write about themselves."

Not only do I identify with the conflict of wanting to write about my life without offending the people I love, but I believe in Bechdel's reasoning. The universal can be found in the specific. When Bechdel was ten, she got sick and threw up on the bathroom floor. While recalling how her mom helped her, she says, "I guess I felt like I'd failed her. She had so many demands on her... The one thing she needed from me was that I not need anything from her." When I read this passage the other day I had to stop and read it again four or five more times. I don't remember ever feeling guilty about getting sick. There is no stain on my childhood bathroom floor like the one that haunted Bechdel for years afterward. Her specifics are foreign to me but the universal experience they represent is all too familiar. I grew up believing exactly what Bechdel expresses, that my job was to not need anything from my mother or, for that matter, from anyone. I have spent the past couple of years trying to unlearn this, to make myself believe that it's okay for me to have needs, even when the people I need things from are just as needy as I am. To read Alison Bechdel express this feeling that is so profoundly a part of who I am was a transcendent experience, one of those moments when writing uses its powers of telepathy to connect people in ways we wouldn't otherwise.

Hey, a comic book cover that is actually relevant to my blog post! 

The title of Bechdel's new memoir, of course, refers to the picture book by P.D. Eastman about a bird looking for his mother, who asks each animal he comes across, "Are you my mother?" Bechdel refers several times to wanting people to be her mother, whether it's Donald Winnicott, her therapists, or her actual mother. I'm not really on the market for a new mother, but Alison Bechdel, will you be my friend?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The All-Powerful Mr. Fob

I am one month away from fulfilling my goal of doing something new every day this year, and I just successfully completed NaNoWriMo. This should tell you something important about me: I am one stubborn bastard. When I determine that I am going to do something, I do it. Setting and reaching goals makes me feel good about myself because it makes me feel like I'm in control, like I can do anything. It makes me feel powerful. So not only am I stubborn, but I am also cocky. If I decide that toilets should flush counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere, then goddammit, I'm going to make that happen.

This sense of power that comes with reaching goals is great because it helps me overcome the fear of trying new things, but sometimes it can lead to frustration. There are, unfortunately, some things I cannot control, no matter how great my will. I cannot force other people to be what I want them to be. I could not simply will myself to be happy in a heterosexual marriage. I can't make money appear out of thin air. Even the things I can do are balanced by limitations. I wrote a novel this past month, but in order to do so I had to give up other things--time I might have spent doing dishes, going out with Clark, going to the gym, or sleeping. So while to some extent I can do anything, I can't do everything.

When Green Lantern became all-powerful, he tried to destroy the universe and remake it in his image. Perhaps limitations are a good thing. 

Limitations frustrate me when I first hit my head against them, but then I get used to them and accept reality. Just like everyone else, I make choices and then live with the consequences. I evaluate, then reevaluate what is most important to me. This year I put broadening my range of life experiences at the top of the list. In November writing another novel was my priority. I'm starting to form ideas of what my priorities will be next year. Whatever I decide, I'm feeling pretty confident that I will make it happen. I am Mr. Fob. Hear me roar.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Aculturation

A quick break from NaNoWriMo to check in here: I'm at my sister's house and my oldest daughter, S-Boogie, is upstairs doing Native American beading with her and some friends. My two oldest sisters are both half-Seneca. S-Boogie has benefited from this connection before, when my sister took her to hoop dance classes along with my nephew, and S-Boogie ended up getting to perform in the BYU Pow Wow. I'm grateful that she gets to participate in these cultural traditions, even though the culture is not technically her own.

I grew up in Hawai'i, where I was a minority. My friends called me Slappy White, White-White Boy, or Whitey (again, that's what my friends called me). I had friends who learned hula from their aunties, who spoke Japanese with their grandparents, who went to the Chinese Buddhist temple with their parents. Although I'm glad I was exposed to all these cultural traditions while growing up, I never felt like they were mine. I always felt cultureless in comparison to everyone around me. The irony is that my culture is everything else around me--from McDonald's to our system of government, the bulk of American culture is European in origin. But that fact doesn't exactly make me special.

My sisters all married men of Hawaiian, Chinese, or Thai ancestry and have beautiful hapa children. I always imagined I'd do the same, but I ended up marrying a white woman, and we created beautiful children who (to our surprise) are very, very white. I hope my kids are able to strike a balance I've never quite managed to strike myself--between appreciating other cultures and not being ashamed of my own. Perhaps their Seneca, Hawaian, Chinese, and Thai aunts, uncles, and cousins will help them feel like they belong to a broader human culture.

If my family were a superhero team, we'd be the Global Guardians--a collection of multicultural stereotypes. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Who Da Man?

Recently a friend asked me who is the man in Clark's and my relationship, and who is the woman. She's not the first to ask me this--my dad asked the same thing last year when I was dating my first boyfriend. It's a natural question to ask, based on the experience most people have with relationships. In the overwhelming majority of relationships, one person is (literally) the man and the other person is (literally) the woman. So it's natural to assume that gay relationships would somehow fit into this existing template, with one partner taking on the masculine role and the other taking on the feminine role.

And some gay relationships do. There are some gay men who are "tops" and some who are "bottoms," not just in the sexual sense but also when it comes to their roles in relationships with each other. I know a lesbian couple who, when I saw their wedding photos, I was not in the least bit surprised to see which of them was wearing a gown and which was wearing a tux. But there are also many gay relationships that make no attempt to mimic heterosexual roles. Clark's and my relationship is one of those.

Without knowing Clark, my friend guessed that I must be the woman in our relationship, because she saw a lot of feminine qualities in me. And it's true--I do have a lot of traditionally feminine qualities. I like to keep things clean, which means I'm usually (but not always) the one who does the dishes and cleans the bathrooms; I have no interest in sports except for the sake of learning to enjoy something my boyfriend enjoys; and I'm not afraid to wear pink or to put a little swish in my stride when the mood strikes. It's also true that Clark has a lot of traditionally masculine qualities: he loves to do yardwork, he not only watches football but played it in high school, and he's not afraid to get dirty. But the reverse is also true. Clark has much more experience and talent than I do in traditionally feminine activities like drama and music. I work in a traditionally masculine profession while he works in a profession more strongly associated with women (but it's worth mentioning that the team of managers I work with happens to be female-heavy, and my boss, her boss, and her boss are all women). Clark has a beautiful high-tenor singing voice while I have an ugly low-bass. In short, neither of us is the woman. As Clark likes to say, "If I wanted to be with a woman, I'd still be married."

Sure, you can call this sexist because it suggests that women are only concerned with trivial things like getting runs in their tights, but the real tragedy here is that Batman gets runs in his tights all the time but he can't talk about it, for fear of failing to live up to society's expectations of him as a man.

I'm personally not a fan of gender roles in the first place. I accept that some gender stereotypes are true of many men and women. But this is because we live in a culture that teaches and reinforces gender stereotypes. If I'm taught from the time I'm born that men are aggressive, then I'm going to grow up being aggressive and believing it's because I'm a man. Many gender stereotypes are harmless, but the problem with believing that they are genetically intrinsic is that you then allow them to limit you. I've become especially conscious of this since becoming a parent. I don't want my daughters believing they can't be construction workers or basketball players or Republicans if that's what they want to do. I don't want my son believing he can't be a nurse or a florist or a homemaker if that's what he wants to do.

So no, I don't try to fit myself or my boyfriend into traditional gender roles, because I think the traditional concept of gender is a flawed and silly system. But then Ellen says that better than I do. Seriously. Go watch Ellen.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Still Coming Out

I planned to write this post last Thursday, which was National Coming Out Day, but I ended up taking an unplanned trip to Las Vegas. So as you read this, pretend it's still last Thursday and you're still wearing your Coming Out Day party hat and maybe there's still a present or two sitting under the Coming Out Day tree. Maybe put some Coming Out Day music on to set the mood. (Lady Gaga's "Born That Way" is the one all the kids are listening to nowadays, but of course there's always the more traditional "I'm Coming Out" by Diana Ross.)

Most gay people--at least those of us who can pass as straight whether we want to or not--will tell you that coming out is not a one-time event; it's a regular occurrence. The first time is the hardest and typically it gets easier each time thereafter, but the thing is, the act of coming out does not permanently put a big "G" on your forehead so that good conservative parents know to hide their children from you. Maybe I came out to Matthew, Mark, and Luke last week, but if John wasn't there, then I'm going to have to come out to him this week. With each new person I meet, I need to come out all over again. And honestly, I kind of hate it. I love being out--I don't feel I can have genuine relationships with people when they don't know this major part of who I am--but I hate the process of coming out. I don't like to shock people, I don't like to make them uncomfortable, and really, this is all old news to me. It's kind of boring to have to explain stuff I've already explained a thousand times before.

Ideally, I'd do it casually with an offhand mention of my boyfriend. No explanation needed, no rehashing of old territory, just a single word that communicates this part of who I am without making a big deal of it. I did this last week when I was getting to know my sisters' cousin because I sensed it wouldn't faze her, and as far as I can tell I was right. I'd do it this way more often if I lived someplace like Seattle or San Francisco where I could be pretty sure no one would be shocked by the fact that I have a boyfriend. But I live in Smallville, Utah, where a good number of people are shocked by that kind of thing. Or they just don't want to hear about it. There are people here who would interpret a casual mention of my boyfriend as me flaunting my sexuality or shoving it in their faces. And you know how I feel about making people uncomfortable.

So I get around it in my passive-aggressive way by talking about my sexual identity on Facebook and on my blog, and very rarely in person unless I'm with someone who I know is aware of it and at least somewhat okay with it. Which puts me in the awkward situation of having some friends who may or may not know I'm gay, and I don't know unless they say something, so I avoid saying anything until they do. Which is sort of like being in the closet, in a weird way. And I think this is precisely why some gay people do "flaunt their sexuality." Don't get me wrong, I think some people are just flamboyant because that's their personality, but I believe for some it's a conscious or perhaps unconscious decision to wear their identity on their sleeve. If I'm a man in daisy dukes, snapping my fingers and talking in my best RuPaul voice, there's no doubt that everyone knows I'm gay, and I know exactly where I stand with everyone I know. I don't have to live in fear that people who are close to me will back off when they find out what I really am. I can definitely see the appeal.

This guy, for example, doesn't have to explain anything to anyone. 

At the same time, I recognize the advantages of wearing my sexuality a little more subtly. People who would otherwise avoid making a gay friend might be more likely to open their hearts if they already know me and know that I'm a good person before they realize I'm gay. Essentially, I can go undercover in the straight world and do some gay PR--win people over one at a time. More visible minorities don't have this option. A black man will have to get past a racist's prejudice before they can even become friends. I'm not saying it's ideal--ideal would be not living in a world where we have to worry about these things--but I am saying that it's probably good that among gays there are those who are too fabulous to fit in any closet, and those of us who fit so well in the closet that we need to come out over and over again. I'm at peace with my place in the big picture.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Deus-Ex-Machina

The other day a friend asked me about my religious beliefs. I told her that I'm agnostic--I won't say there isn't a God, but I'm not convinced that there is. She said she doesn't believe me. She thinks that deep down I know there's a God, but I just don't want to admit it because I've been hurt by religion and I'm protecting myself. I don't agree with her assessment, but I'm fine with her believing that. Her belief is based on her worldview, and I won't claim that I never draw conclusions about others' motivations based on my worldview. But I'm self-aware enough to recognize what I do and don't believe, and my motivations for believing as I do.

In reality, I'm much more motivated to believe than not to. First, there's twenty-five years of religious training that has informed the way I interpret the world around me. When happy coincidences happen, I can't help but wonder if there's some divine force at play, guiding my life. Beyond that, there's my education in literature, which taught me to find meaning in everything. In a book, every word, every action, every act of nature is assumed to be part of the author's master plan, an attempt to convey some hidden meaning. It's only natural for me, then, to transfer this assumption onto the world around me, and if there's meaning behind every detail then there must be an author. 

But being a student of literature also gives me a pretty healthy understanding of the human psyche. Well-written literature gives us a peak into why people think and do what they do, after all. So applying my skills of literary analysis to the character Mr. Fob, I can see that there are reasons he is prone to reading meaning into everything. Apart from the above-mentioned, he is like most other human beings in that he wants to make sense of the world around him, and it would be very comforting for him to know there is a Master Author writing the story of his life. It makes him happy when a friend randomly shows up to talk on a night when he really needs to talk. He is grateful when another friend departs from her usual routine to read a blog post of his and reaches out to let him know that the content thereof does not, in fact, make her uncomfortable. And when he feels grateful, he needs someone to feel grateful to. So why not assume there is a Master Author, someone writing all these deus-ex-machina coincidences into his life? 

Really, I'm hoping that one day I'll find out that I'm the star of a comic book and get to meet the writer, like Animal Man did 

And perhaps there is. But I distrust my motivations for wanting to believe. The skeptic in me recognizes that these very same reasons--the desire to make sense of things that simply don't make sense--are likely what led humanity to invent God in the first place. There are too many ways theism fails to explain what it attempts to explain, reasons I won't get into here because I'm not trying to convince anyone and that's not what this blog post is about. So instead of believing in a Master Author, I choose to see life as the collaborative work of many authors. Just as with any collaborative work, it can be a mess if the authors are each trying to write a different story, but in the moments when those authors' visions sync up, the result is a synergistic masterpiece. And in those moments, I will be grateful to the authors who make it happen. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

One Year Later

One year ago today I moved out of the house FoxyJ and I had bought together and into a rented townhome. I was recovering from shingles at the time. We had been making plans to divorce for seven months, but hadn't told anyone until just a couple of weeks prior. The week after I moved out we filed our divorce papers and a week after that it was final.

We had been married for nearly ten years, so it was by no means an easy decision. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt FoxyJ or our children. I also didn't want to be the bad guy. I didn't want to be the kind of person who gets divorced--which is how I'm sure most people who get divorced feel. I wouldn't have been capable of making this decision if I believed there was any way for me to stay married without sacrificing my own happiness for the rest of my life. Despite all my fears and despite the fact that I am characteristically indecisive, from the time I told FoxyJ in February that I could no longer continue in our marriage to the time we separated, and then over the course of the past year, I have not questioned my decision. There are few things about my life that I claim to know, but this is one of them: I know that ending our marriage was the right decision for me.

I hope that it was the right decision for my children. Divorce is never ideal for children, but nor does it need to be the traumatic event that it is for some. FoxyJ and I have done our best to maintain a stable environment for our children free of conflict. I would like to believe that I am better capable of being a loving parent for my children now that I am in a position to be a healthier person. I hope that my children will always know that I love them, and that they will learn from my mistakes and my triumphs to make choices that will lead to their own happiness.

I would like to believe that in the long run our divorce will prove to be a good thing for FoxyJ. I admit that this desire is partly motivated by my need to see myself as someone who does not hurt others, but the fact is that I made a decision that hurt someone I love. I will have to live with that, but more importantly she will have to live with that. Whether or not she is better off without me, she has proven in the past year that she is capable of making the best of a difficult situation, and I am thankful for that. FoxyJ is a strong woman who will forge her own destiny.

As for me, I have no doubt that I am in a better place now than I was a year ago. I have been in two relationships and have learned a lot about myself in each. I also learned a lot about myself during the time that I was single. I'm in the process of learning what a healthy relationship looks like, and who I am in such a relationship. It would be a lie to say that leaving my straight marriage and starting a gay relationship has solved all my problems or to claim that I have a perfect life now, but I am genuinely happier, more fulfilled than I have ever been. I feel like I am more me than I have ever been.

And I like the me that I am, flaws and all.

I don't know what happens next, but apparently it's pretty exciting.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

...And There's Gonna Be Trouble

Actually, I'm not anticipating any trouble, but my boyfriend's back and that song has been in my head since I went to pick him up from the airport last night. (Hey na, hey na.) Clark was out of town for a few days, spending time with his family. I, meanwhile, had a nice few days alone. Not completely alone--I went out with friends on Saturday and spent time with my kids at least a few hours each day--but alone enough for me to get the "me" time I need and to refocus on who I am apart from Clark. I enjoyed my time alone. And I was also happy to have Clark back home last night. I think this is a good thing.

Shortly before I met Clark, I read The New Codependency by Melanie Beattie. While reading the book, I had a little epiphany and realized that I have a very codependent personality. I looked back on my life up to that point and the various relationships I've had--not only romantic relationships but also with family and friends--and realized that I've spent most of my life trying to be what other people need, regardless of my own needs. I've had several relationships where I felt it was my job to fix someone else, where it was my responsibility to make the other person happy. Meanwhile, my own happiness wasn't even on my radar.

So as I started dating Clark, I was very conscious of this fact. One of the first conversations we had was about codependency and what a healthy relationship should look like. Over the past several months I've made a deliberate effort not to fall into old people-pleasing habits and to make my own needs and happiness a priority. It's been a struggle, because this means I need to express opinions, which means I need to have opinions in the first place. Which sometimes leads to conflict, which is sort of terrifying. It's difficult to find the balance between being needy and insecure on the one hand, and selfish and inconsiderate on the other. I think I've erred on both sides of that line on different occasions.

At least I haven't let him keep me in a glass bubble.

So it was really good for me to have a few days for myself, to find my bearings again. I started re-reading I Need Your Love - Is That True? by Byron Katie, which is a great book about questioning the thoughts that lead us to spend our lives trying to impress others. It's a good reminder that we are happiest and most able to form meaningful relationships when we drop pretenses and live completely honestly with ourselves and with the people we love.

Clark got in late last night and we both needed to work this morning, so we really didn't spend a lot of time together. He held my hand on the way home from the airport, and we chatted. I enjoyed hearing about the fun time he'd had with his family, and I appreciated the little signs of affection he showed. There have been times in the past when I felt like I needed him to show me how much he loves me, like no matter how much he did, it wasn't enough. Last night, by contrast, I felt happily confident in myself, and, as a result, in our relationship. So no, I don't think there will be trouble.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

I Hope This Post Doesn't Make You Uncomfortable

One of the reasons Clark doesn't publicly discuss his sexuality is that he doesn't want to make others uncomfortable. He recognizes that we live in a conservative culture and that we're the odd ones out, so he feels the onus is on us to bear the discomfort involved in going against the grain--it shouldn't be the rest of society that has to conform to us. In principle I disagree with this way of thinking, but in practice I'm much more in line with Clark than I think he realizes. Ultimately what it comes down to is that both Clark and I are people-pleasers.

It's true that I can be somewhat loud-proud-and-in-your-face, but usually I do it in a very passive, non-confrontational way. I'm quite vocal about sexuality and politics on Facebook, for example, because in that context people aren't required by social norms to respond to what I say. They can pretend they never read it if they so choose, and it seems that most people who disagree with me choose to do exactly that. I would never say most of the things I say on Facebook unless I were sure that the people I'm talking to are sympathetic. This is true not only of political statements about same-sex marriage or anti-discrimination laws; it's also true of casual references to the fact that I'm in a same-sex relationship. The other day I was talking with some friends who may or may not know that I'm gay. They're all my Facebook friends, but I don't know how closely they pay attention to my posts there. At several points in the conversation there were opportunities for me to mention Clark--things like "Oh, your husband is a very private person? So is my partner!"--but I hesitated and ultimately said nothing because I didn't know how my friends would react. There's a good chance these friends already know I'm gay or even if they don't they'd probably handle the news just fine, but I couldn't get past the fear that my saying something would result in an awkward silence.

Another way I like to quietly proclaim my sexual identity is through what I wear. I have a Human Rights Campaign t-shirt and another one that I got from volunteering at Pride this year. I like wearing both of these shirts because they say something about who I am, but without shouting it in people's faces. People who aren't familiar with HRC might think I'm just pro-civil rights in general (which I am), and you kind of have to read the fine print on the Pride shirt to realize what it's from. By contrast, I also own a neon green t-shirt that says in bold letters across the chest, "UTAH GAY FATHERS ASSOCIATION." I've worn this shirt maybe three or four times since getting it in June. One time when I was wearing it, Clark asked me to change into a different shirt before we went to a movie together. That upset me because it made me feel like he was ashamed of who I am, but the truth is that I rarely wear the shirt not because of Clark, but because of me and my own fears. Every time I consider putting it on, I think about where I'm going that day and who I'll see, and I usually decide against wearing it. I'm always worried that if I wear it to a PTA meeting, some parent will get upset and demand that I renounce my position as treasurer, or that if I wear it to the grocery store I'll get nasty looks. To some extent, I am ashamed of who I am. It's hard not to be when so many people around you think you should be.

See what happened when Batman tried to wear a flamboyant shirt?

Last night I went to a play with my ex-boyfriend, Clone Wolf. He put his arm around me while we watched the play. I enjoyed this because he and I are friends and we care for each other, and it feels nice to be able to show that affection in public. This is not something I can do with Clark. As much as I enjoyed it, though, I couldn't help feeling self-conscious at the same time. There was one older man in particular who I felt was staring at us the whole time. It may just have been that we were sitting on one side of the stage and he was sitting across from us on the other side, so he was watching the actors and we happened to be behind them, but it felt to me that he was judging us. I kept imagining a confrontation similar to the one on this week's episode of The New Normal, which made me feel simultaneously indignant and terrified. That confrontation didn't happen last night and honestly I've never been in one, but I know they happen. The two competing impulses I have are to avoid such a confrontation on the one hand, and on the other to do my part to create a world where that type of confrontation doesn't happen. I'm afraid if I want the latter, I need to be willing to deal with the former.

I get that I need to be the change I want to see in the world. I just wish I could do that without making anyone uncomfortable--myself included.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Weekend Report

I made it through the weekend without losing my cool, as promised. To be fair, my kids didn't make it especially difficult, so I can't take too much credit. The biggest challenge didn't have to do with me responding to the kids' emotions, but rather my other weakness: the stress that comes from trying to do too much in too little time. For reasons that are too boring to explain, on Friday night I ended up needing to get my kids to eat dinner quickly at my mom's house, get them back to my house, get them ready for bed, put P. Bibby in bed and get S-Boogie and Little Dude watching a movie with the Kent kids, then drive half an hour to pick up my car from the mechanic in Middletown, all within a little over an hour. To use a metaphor my ex-mother-in-law is fond of, trying to get children to do anything efficiently is like herding kittens. Typically this turns me into Angry Dad, but I managed to stay relatively calm on Friday--mostly because I knew I'd promised my blog I'd do so, and one simply does not break promises made to one's blog.

The rest of the weekend went pretty smoothly. Yesterday morning my kids played well with their cousins while I did the Color Run in Metropolis, they had a fun time feeding ducks with the Kent kids in the afternoon, and we managed to get all seven kids bathed and in bed last night without too much trouble. This morning Clark made pancakes for everyone, and the kids went to church with their moms.

And since this post is already all over the place, a list of things I particularly enjoyed about the weekend:
  • That I was able to leave my kids at home with Clark on Friday night while I went to pick up my car. It's nice having someone to help. 
  • That Little Dude and Charles really seemed to have a good time together. The three older girls have gotten along great from the beginning and the little girls play together as much as toddlers ever play together, but Little Dude isn't as social as his sisters are, and Charles is two years younger than him, so for a long time they didn't really play together. They've become very close lately, though, which is nice because neither of them has a brother. I'm glad they each get to have a "brother," even if it's only for a couple days every other week. 
  • That I went upstairs this morning to get P. Bibby dressed, and found that Wisp had already taken care of it. It was sweet of her to help without being asked, and it's always nice to have extra help with the little ones.
Overall, I'm just happy to see all of the kids getting along. Stepfamilies can be difficult. Perhaps another benefit of our current arrangement is that no one has told the kids they're in a stepfamily. No one has told them they need to act like siblings or stepsiblings or whatever, so they get to define their relationships themselves. And thankfully, the relationships they're defining make for a pleasant home environment for us all.

The Kent-Fob family weekend: Kind of like when the Avengers and the Justice League get together, but with less fighting (and only two super-hot men flexing their muscles)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Empathy

I consider myself a pretty empathetic person. When I hear about a teenaged girl devastated by the pimple on her face the morning of prom, I feel devastated for her. When a friend tells me he is proud of the papier mache walrus he made, I feel proud for him. When an old woman is anxiously awaiting the results of her gymnastics performance, I am anxious for her. I can often understand why people do or say the things they do, because I can imagine how I would feel if I were in their shoes. Not trying to toot my own horn here, just trying to make an honest assessment.

This image would totally make sense here if you were a comic book geek. 
The thing is, empathy is not always a good thing. The downside of empathy is that I often find myself mirroring the feelings of people around me--particularly negative feelings, like sadness, frustration, and anger. This makes caring for children, who are emotional jumping beans, stressful. When my kids come home from school fighting with each other, I feel the tension the moment they walk in the door, and I jump right into the fray. When S-Boogie gets frustrated with an art project that isn't going her way, I get frustrated along with her. When Little Dude is yelling at P-Bibby, I yell at him to stop yelling. I am not that parent who responds to a temper tantrum with a calm "Let's talk about how we're feeling." I am that parent who throws a temper tantrum of my own.

For the sake of modeling good behavior, and for my own sanity, I need to change this. My goal is to maintain a cheerful attitude even when my kids are grumpy and rude. My goal is to be the kind of parent who makes my kids laugh when they're upset, who calms them down by singing a silly song. My goal is to not be Angry Dad. But as lofty as these goals may be, I'm not stupid--I know I won't change overnight. So I'm not going to tell myself that I'm going to never let other people's moods affect me again. Instead, I'll start small. My kids are coming over to my house tomorrow afternoon, and they stay until Sunday morning. That's a little less than 48 hours. For a little less than 48 hours, I can choose to be calm and cheerful, regardless of what other emotions are being thrown at me. I'll report back on how it goes.
No, Dr. Fate, your powers will not work on my emotion-controlling masks. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

On the Upswing

I've always heard about the Six Month Curse, but I'm not sure I've experienced it before. I've only been in one relationship that lasted six months before this one, and that relationship was not a typical relationship. Perhaps FoxyJ's and my Six Month Curse was the point when I freaked out about marrying a woman and very nearly didn't go through with it. For the most part, though, she and I very rarely fought like most couples do after they get past the honeymoon stage.

In the case of Clark and me, I think we hit the Six Month Curse a little early, the process expedited by us moving in together at four months. It's hard not to be faced with reality once you're living with someone. It was about the time we moved in together that we started to have arguments, which freaked me out because conflict scares me and because like I said, I had very little experience with relationship conflict before that. I think we have both handled our disagreements well, doing our best to voice our concerns without being mean or spiteful, and honestly more often than not our disagreements are no more serious than the difference between "to-may-to" and "to-mah-to," but still my impulse when confronted with any type of conflict is to call the whole thing off.

It's a good thing we have Clark's friends Batman and Robin to help us overcome this curse. 
Partly because I was aware that the Six Month Curse is something most couples go through, and partly just because I'm stubborn, I have made a conscious decision to face my fear of conflict and stick with it. It has been encouraging to me to see that Clark is also willing to put in the hard work to make our relationship a success. He steps outside his comfort zone regularly to show his commitment, and I often notice him quietly doing little things to address some concern I voiced once a few weeks prior and had not brought up again since. I think it's because of the work that we are both putting into the relationship that it feels to me like we are back on an upward swing lately. We're in the "hard work" phase described in this article--we're slowly getting to know each other better and to understand what makes the other tick. It may take us a long time to achieve any kind of relationship nirvana, perhaps if we're lucky it will take us the rest of our lives, but in the meantime I'm going to focus on enjoying the ride.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Evolution of Thought


A little over six years ago, Mr. Fob blogged about his feelings about his relationship with FoxyJ.  In this blog he shows growth in his understanding of the situation. In an essay he published while in college he stated being with a man or a woman was a “a choice between one's heart and one's libido.” An article written in a local newspaper used that quote in a story years later, causing him to reflect on his beliefs and decide that “The decision was no longer a simple one between love and sex.” The “evolution’’ in Mr. Fob’s thinking somewhat mirrors how my thinking has evolved over time. The rest of his post focuses on the reasons why he chose to stay married at the time. They were all fantastic reasons to stay married.  As a reader of this blog, you know how that eventually turned out.

I didn't enter marriage expecting it to end in divorce.
In time it became apparent that our lives were heading in different
 directions, and we decided to move on. It wasn't fun. Superman and
Lois have some tough times ahead

Reading Mr. Fob's post got me thinking back to a letter I wrote to some family members about why “Lois” and I  decided to get a divorce. I’d like to share some of it with you.

                 Lois is an amazing person. I love her, I enjoy spending time with her, I wanted to share my life with her.   Soon after we were married I struggled a lot with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. The feelings were not going away, no matter how hard I fasted and prayed.  I ended up at that point in time talking with Lois about my feelings, and we talked to the local bishop for help.  Lois and I would both meet with him. I wouldn't have blamed Lois if she had left me at that point, but she stayed by my side, and tried to help me the best she could. I felt empty inside, and was afraid of hurting Lois. I put all my efforts into being the best husband, and eventually father I could be. I love being a Dad, I love making Lois happy. Working on projects together, having adventures- things were good. At the same time I always had an empty feeling inside. Every time I would have a stray thought I would beat myself up inside. In the end I hated myself for who I was. Several times I considered ending the marriage, but I couldn't bear the thought of hurting Lois and the kids, or letting everyone else down.

                Things came to a point where I was no longer happy with anything, and Lois could tell. She was feeling that she wasn’t performing the duties a wife should. Despite frequent moments of joy, celebrating our children’s successes, or our accomplishments together, I was unhappy with my life. The wear of it got to me and Lois both.  I felt that Lois deserved someone who could give her everything she needed and deserved, and I was failing to give her that.  At the same time when I considered ending the marriage, I couldn't bear the thought of hurting Lois and the kids, however I realized I was hurting them as I continued in the pattern of silent discontent and guilt-induced recommitment to stay. Over the past 10 years my faith in God has been tested, and at the moment I really don’t know where I stand in regards to religion. I do know that if I still believed God could “cure” me, I would have stayed. I no longer believe that. And really, it comes down to that. Lois and I saw our lives heading in different directions. We no longer had a common goal in mind, and felt we needed to move on. 

Move on we have. My feelings for Lois haven’t changed, though our relationship has. I must admit, over the last few weeks I have really missed Lois and the relationship we had. She was my best friend, in many ways she still is. In my own way I loved her, and still do. We spent nearly 10 years together, taking care of each other. We knew what each other needed without saying much of anything. With one glance we could communicate many things. I miss that part of our relationship. It is an odd feeling, on one hand feeling more fulfilled than I have ever felt, and on the other missing what I used to have. I am happier than I have been in a long time, I know that one day Mr. Fob and I can have the relationship I miss, but that takes time.  Time I am willing to invest. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Justify My Love

I am:
  1. Rational to a fault. By which I mean my brain doesn't allow me to simply think or feel something if I can't rationally justify it. So, for example, it's not enough for me to know that I love Clark just because that's how I feel; I need to constantly review the reasons why I love him in order to justify the feeling. This is probably not fair to him, as he shouldn't feel like he needs to constantly provide me with reasons to love him, but I'm going to count my recognition of that unfairness as a safety net--if there's ever a day when I can't think of reasons to love him, my rational brain will point out that it's not fair to require reasons, and force me to fall back on the fact that I just do. 
  2. A list-maker. 
If I were a supervillain, this is the supervillain I'd be. Yes, I know, lame.

 Therefore, Reasons Why I Love Clark Today:
  1. He went to a Common concert with me last night. He was worn out from a long week, finds rap music grating, and feels claustrophobic in crowds, but he went with me because I wanted to go and didn't want to go alone. He did not have a good time, though he made a valiant effort, swaying to the music of the opening act and singing along when audience participation was encouraged. I will not ask him to go to a rap concert again, as I don't enjoy making him suffer, but I appreciate knowing that I'm important enough for him to do something he really doesn't want to.
  2. On a similar note, he blogs because he knows blogging is important to me and therefore he wants to be part of it. I don't need him to blog--I would be okay with it being my thing--but it means a lot to me because it's his way of showing that what matters to me matters to him. Also, I enjoyed reading his first post, and I look forward to reading any future posts.
  3. He reads my blog. Not just this blog, but also my old blog. He's somewhere in the middle of 2006 now. This is something he just decided to do on his own, but it delights me to know he's reading my old posts. My sister always accuses me of not talking about my feelings. Admittedly I don't go too in-depth into my feelings even when blogging, but I do express myself more openly in writing than I do in real life. Meaning, writing is one of my primary methods of forming intimate relationships, so I appreciate that Clark has shown interest in getting to know me better in my native language, as it were.
Okay, my rational mind is satisfied. Now I will go find something I can do to give Clark reason to love me back.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Setting the Record Gay

As you may have heard, some nasty rumors have been going around about my boyfriend. Specifically, that he's been seen kissing Wonder Woman. Or rather, his alter ego has. I want to reassure all my loyal A Fob in Smallville readers that Clark is not, in fact, cheating on me. The fling with Wonder Woman is a PR thing, really. Gets people talking about the Justice League, maybe results in more funding for the team, yadda yadda yadda. And I understand, he's just doing his job. Do I feel threatened? Not in the least. Sure, she's the living embodiment of female perfection, but Clark's about as interested in her as... well... about as much as she's interested in him. What, you thought Wonder Woman was straight? Don't be ridiculous. The woman was raised on an island populated solely by women, didn't even meet a man until she was in her twenties. Her being attracted to men is about as likely as you being attracted to a Martian.

So no need to worry about me and Clark. We're good. Go about your business.

See? I'm secure enough that I can post this image on my blog.

Friday, August 24, 2012

My Other Ex

I have only two exes (and neither lives in Texas). There's FoxyJ, who was my first serious relationship and to whom I was married for nearly ten years. And then there's my first boyfriend, Clone Wolf (blogonymmed after my misreading of his Match.com username, SLClonewolf), whom I dated for three weeks (we were officially boyfriends for eight days). This post is not about either of these people. Rather, it's about my other ex, the LDS Church.

I realized recently that my relationship with the LDS Church is very much like a relationship with an ex-spouse. We've been separated for six years now, though I didn't officially file divorce papers until a little over a year ago. That's a long time to wait before making our separation official, but then we had been together for a long time--eighteen years of marriage, and eight years of courtship before that. It was an arranged marriage, but in many ways a good one. By many standards, the Church was a good husband (husband rather than wife because the LDS Church is fundamentally male and because it amuses me to think of my marriage with the Church as a same-sex marriage). The Church is generally kind, loving, and in all things a gentleman.

But there was a dark side to our marriage, too. One of the things I loved about the Church was that it inspired me to be a better person, but the problem was that he wanted me to be a different person. I spent years trying to be a better me for the Church before finally realizing that there was no version of me that could be what the Church wanted me to be. It was in some ways a co-dependent relationship--I bent over backwards to please the Church, even to the point of defending him when he hurt me. When I realized how unhappy I was in my relationship with the Church and stopped looking at him through rose-colored glasses, I realized that it was not only the truth about myself he had hidden from me, but also truths about him and about the world around us. (He has a different version of this story, but then that's how it goes with most divorces.)

Nothing says "We're done" like ripping the word girlfriend out of your comic book title

So I left. For a while, I was angry. I wanted nothing to do with the Church. But we'd been together for twenty-six years, so untangling our lives was no simple matter. We had--and still have--a lot of mutual friends and family. For the sake of our shared loved ones, I did my best to be civil toward the Church, but then he'd do something to open up old wounds, like campaigning for Prop 8 in California, and I'd lash out in return. It was a transitional period for us, trying to figure out what our relationship was now that we were no longer lovers. There were a lot of bumps, but eventually things smoothed out.

Now, a few years later, we've finally achieved a comfortable distance. We see each other fairly frequently--I do live in Utah, after all--but by now those old wounds have scabbed over and healed. Occasionally he does something to upset me, but I get over it quickly enough. Ultimately, what he does or says doesn't have much effect on me. And why should it? Now he's just somebody that I used to know.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Keeping It In The Family

As I've mentioned before, Clark and I have decided not to tell our children yet that we are in a relationship. As far as they know, we're roommates. This is mainly for the benefit of his children, who don't know yet that he's gay, and who would likely make such knowledge known to all of Smallville if they did (they're kids, and kids don't keep secrets, nor should they be expected to). Mine know that I'm gay, but we figured it's best not to tell them about Clark and me because they can't be expected to keep a secret from his kids anymore than his kids can be expected to keep a secret from everyone else.

That said, children are observant. The following conversation took place between my nine-year-old, S-Boogie, and me last week:
S-Boogie: Is it legal to marry your step-brother or step-sister?
Mr. Fob: I don't know, it probably depends on what state you're in. But you probably wouldn't want to, because if you grew up with them then you'd feel like they're your brother or sister.
S-Boogie: So P-Bibby [S-Boogie's sister] probably won't want to marry Charles [Clark's son]. Because he's kind of like her brother.
Mr. Fob: No, probably not.
S-Boogie: And Little Dude [her brother] won't want to marry Wisp [Clark's daughter].
Mr. Fob: Nope.
S-Boogie: Hm... But it's okay to marry your roommate, right?
Mr. Fob (with a big smile): Yes, yes it is.
So yeah, basically she knows. I still won't confirm it for her unless she outright asks me, because she's less likely to share speculation than a known fact, but I'm glad she's figuring out things on her own, because eventually we will tell them all, and I'd rather it not come as a shock. Ideally, the progression from Dad's roommate to Dad's partner/husband/whatever will seem natural to the kids, not like a major change for them to digest all at once.

Also, I hope that none of my children marries one of their step-siblings. Because they did that in one of the Brady Bunch movies, and it sort of ruined the Brady Bunch for me. Because ew.

But not as ew as admitting that the only thing stopping you from marrying your underage cousin is Kryptonian law. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

In which I go to a gay strip club, learn something about gender dynamics, and reaffirm something I already knew about myself

Tonight I went to a gay strip club. Clark laughingly predicted that I would be so uncomfortable at the club that I would run in, then run right back out. This ended up not being the case. I was certainly outside my comfort zone, but I was not in any way ashamed or embarrassed. I don't feel ashamed unless I'm doing something I believe is wrong, and I did not feel so tonight. It would be wrong if going were a violation of my commitment to Clark, but it was he who suggested I go in the first place so that wasn't the case; it would also be wrong if I did anything to treat the dancers with less than the respect they deserve as human beings, and I had no intention of doing that. So considering how far outside my comfort zone I was, I felt surprisingly comfortable as I walked into Nob Hill Theater, paid my admission (they gave me the local discount even though I told them I'm not local), and entered the theater room. 

Woo hoo, take it off!

I walked into the theater to find a skinny man wearing a towel and talking to a group of women. Apart from the dancer, there was not a man in the theater, which I found odd. The dancer immediately approached me and started dancing right in front of me. This made me uncomfortable because I didn't know what to do. Or rather, I didn't want to do what was expected of me--he was a stranger, not especially attractive to me, and he was invading my personal space. After a minute he gave up and sat down in the chair next to me. We chatted, and I relaxed a little. He whispered to me that he was annoyed at the women because they weren't good tippers and they were scaring away all the men. This seemed strange to me--it hadn't occurred to me that I should feel any less welcome because there were women in the room. After all, this was a gay strip club; I am the intended audience. 

The next dancer spent the first fifteen minutes of his performance focusing entirely on the women. While on stage, he smiled at them, and when he came off stage he hovered around them. He didn't even look in my direction. I enjoyed the show but felt just a little snubbed. Meanwhile, other male patrons poked their heads in, then decided not to enter when they saw women in the room. Again, odd. Then the women left and the dancer walked over to me. He apologized and explained that the women had told him that they didn't realize this was a gay club and they could only stay for a little while, so could he please dance for them before they left. We chatted some more while he danced, and then other men started trickling in, and I realized why they felt the need to maintain gender segregation. See, men enjoy a strip show in--ahem--a very different way from how women do. In ways that they probably don't want women to watch. 

And I guess that's what makes me a strange gay man. I wouldn't want to enjoy a strip show in the way those men were enjoying this strip show in front of anyone, not even the dancer unless that dancer were someone with whom I was in a committed relationship. A recurring theme of this blog is that Clark is a private person and I am not, but when it comes to sex I am very much a private person. I have no desire or interest in sharing that part of me with anyone apart from Clark. It's not that I'm clinging to the moral code I was raised with; I'm just not interested in anything other than monogamy. To be honest, as much as I appreciate the male form, I didn't enjoy seeing men dance right in front of me nearly so much as I enjoyed making the little start of an emotional connection when I talked with them. And that doesn't begin to compare to what I feel when connecting with Clark. So now that I've checked "go to a strip club" off my bucket list, I think next time I'll just stay home.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Exploding Heads Revisited

     This is Clark, in my first attempt at a blog post. Being a private person, writing a personal blog is something I've never really shown interest in. But I believe that a key to building a successful relationship is the ability to show interest in things that are important to the other person.  I know that Mr. Fob enjoys blogging, and so from time to time I hope to write a post here to show that I am willing to share that interest with him.

     I have started this post several times, but have struggled to know what to write about. Some things feel too personal for me to share, and other things seem rather trivial. I finally turned to Mr. Fob’s  blog, The Fobcave, and looked at one of the first posts there.  In that post Mr. Fob reflects on his feelings about his religion by sharing the following quote:

"If you live in a closed belief system of certainty, resistance to new information is intense, and the breakthrough feels like death. You feel as if your head might explode." --Alan Jones, Reimagining Christianity: Reconnect Your Spirit Without Disconnecting Your Mind

     When I read this quote, I think of all the changes in my life over the last year, and I wonder how my head hasn’t exploded! A lot of people in my situation get upset at family and friends not being as supportive as they “should be.”  I admit, I wish my family were more supportive than they have been. At the same time, change is hard. My family has been living in a closed belief system.  I know that the changes in my life have presented them with new ideas to deal with. Accepting these ideas may indeed feel like death itself.  My patience with them comes from me understanding this is a big change for them too. Change is hard. Their heads must feel as if they are exploding.  I hope that time will help them deal with the discord with their beliefs and my reality.  One day they may have a change of heart, as the barber does in this video clip.





Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Six

Those who follow my Facebook updates (and really I think of this blog as sort of an extension of Facebook) know that I am doing something new every day this year. Although today is the seventh (actually, because it's the seventh), I am thinking of the number six today, so here are six of my favorite New Things from over the past six months:

  1. In February, I went to a Superbowl party for the first time. After the half-time show I kept catching myself humming "Like a Prayer." I felt horribly embarrassed that I couldn't stop myself, but Clark just found it amusing. This was our sixth date.
  2. In March, Clark and I took a trip to Las Vegas. We did several New Things there, but what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, so I'm not allowed to talk about those things publicly.
  3. In April, we walked the full length of the Provo River Trail, from Vivian Park to Utah Lake. 
  4. In May, Clark and I took our kids camping near Bryce Canyon so that we could see the solar eclipse. The kids were all covered in red dirt the entire time and all three of mine pooped their pants within an hour or so of each other, but the experience was worth it.
  5. In June, Clark and I moved in together. Probably the most significant New Thing of the year. 
  6. In July, I was in a musical, My Fair Lady, thanks largely to Clark's support and encouragement.
Clark (reading over my shoulder) says he sees a common theme here. Do you?

Hint: The secret is not that Clark and I joined a team of assassins.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Benefits of Secrecy

Four years ago, FoxyJ and I decided to move back to Utah, despite having vowed never to do so. She was done with school and I was working from home so we could live anywhere, and it made sense to live where it was cheap and we had family nearby. Before we made the move, I promised myself that I would not let myself become one of those people who chooses to live in Utah (or anywhere, for that matter) and then complains about what a horrible place it is. Sure, there are things about Utah I don't like, but it was my choice to live here so it would be kind of lame of me to whine about it all the time. Also, I'd just make myself miserable. So instead I've made a conscious decision to focus on what I like about living here, and I believe this has made for a more positive experience. 

It occurred to me today that the lesson learned from this needs to be applied to a situation I'm currently in--specifically, being in a relationship with a man who cannot make our relationship publicly known. No one forced me to be in this relationship. I knew what I was getting into. And I absolutely believe he's worth it. And yet I complain. Which is lame. So I resolve not to complain anymore. And to help me focus on the positive, here are seven things that I genuinely enjoy about being in a secret relationship (for the record, Clark prefers the word "privacy" over "secrecy," but I maintain my right to call it what I want, just as I respect his right to call it what he wants):
  1. It gives me reason to refer to him as "Clark Kent" online. Which makes me giggle with delight every time I type it. To be honest, dating Clark Kent is kind of sort of the fulfillment of a lifelong fantasy.
  2. By the same token, the whole secret identity thing is kind of fun. I don't mean to make light of Clark's genuine need for privacy (see? I even used his word), but thinking of it like a game transforms it from a burden into an adventure. The key is to make sure he and I win the game.
  3. Adversity makes us stronger. Dealing with this issue--which has been a greater source of tension in our relationship than just about anything else--has forced Clark and me to have some difficult conversations. I can't say I enjoyed those conversations at the time, but I do believe that working through them is helping us to build a better relationship in the long run. 
  4. Realizing how much it bothers me to keep our relationship secret has forced me to ask myself why. Do I feel a sadistic need to shove my gay relationship in the faces of my socially conservative acquaintances? Do I want others to be jealous of my awesome boyfriend? Or am I just an exhibitionist who gains pleasure from displaying himself before the world? I honestly don't know, but asking these questions will inevitably lead to greater self-awareness. I'm practically halfway to nirvana already.
  5. Secrets make those who are "in the know" feel special. Do you know Clark's secret identity? Do you feel special? You should. (And I'm sure that those of you who don't know have something else that makes you special. Like maybe you can play the kazoo with your toes.)
  6. Despite how anxious my kids are for both me and their mother to remarry so that they can have three dads, it's probably a good thing that for now they believe Clark and I are just friends and roommates. In the last year they've had to deal with their parents getting divorced and me moving out. They can take time now to get to know Clark and his kids better as friends before getting used to the idea of them being family. 
  7. Quite honestly, I enjoy having my bed to myself a couple of nights each week. Clark warned me the other day that he will likely want to keep his own room and sleep in his own bed now and then even after it's no longer necessary for the children's sake, simply because he likes to have his own space, and that doesn't bother me in the least. Cuddling with Clark is heavenly, but sleeping alone can also be nice. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Agreeing to Disagree

A month ago Clark and I were talking about our favorite fast food places and I said, "I love Chick-Fil-A, but I won't eat there because of all the money they donate to anti-gay causes."

Clark sighed. "It annoys me when people do that," he said. "It's the same logic that people use to say that public school teachers shouldn't be able to donate money to political causes, because their money comes from tax dollars. It doesn't make sense. You're paying for a service, not for a political belief. What they do with that money is their business, not yours."

I countered that I see the two as different situations. In one, you're seeking to legislate what individuals can or can't do with their income; in the other, you're choosing not to give money to a corporation because you don't want them to use your money to hurt people. Clark acknowledged my point but maintained his position. Part of building a relationship is learning to show your partner enough respect to allow him space to disagree with you. Clark and I have both been working on this a lot lately. It goes against our natures as stubborn, opinionated people, but we're worth the effort. :)

Like Hawkman and Green Arrow, Clark and I sometimes disagree on political issues. Unlike Hawkman and Green Arrow, we rarely resolve our disagreements with maces and arrows. 

At any rate, it's been interesting for me to see the Chick-Fil-A situation explode in the past week or so, and to find myself on a different side of the controversy than I would have expected. If you haven't been following along, I'll get you up to speed: Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy was asked point-blank whether the company opposes same-sex marriage, and he answered, "Guilty as charged." He cited the company's traditional family values as the basis for their opposition. And then the shit hit the fan. Facebook memes calling for people to boycott the company spread like wildfire. The Muppets backed out of their partnership with Chick-Fil-A. The mayor of Boston wrote a letter refusing to let Chick-Fil-A open a restaurant in his city. And, of course, Jon Stewart made fun of Cathy.

On the one hand, I'm happy to see that there are so many passionate supporters of gay rights. I see the country getting closer and closer to a point where equal rights for all people is an obvious conclusion. At the same time, I'm a little uncomfortable with the vitriolic nature of the response to Cathy's statement. As supporters of gay rights head toward becoming a majority in the US, we run the risk of bullying those who disagree with us into submission. I want to win the fight for equality by convincing people that I deserve the same rights they do, not by making people who disagree with me feel stupid. (Full disclosure: My natural tendency in arguments is to try to win by making the other person feel stupid. Thankfully Clark is patient with me while I try to overcome that tendency.)

I'm okay with the Muppets pulling their products out of Chick-Fil-A's kids' meals. That's their way of voting with their wallets, just like I do by not eating at Chick-Fil-A. I'm a little less comfortable with the mayor of Boston's response, just because he's representing an entire city of people and I'm not sure his statement accurately reflects the feelings of every Bostonian. I suppose elected officials do that all the time, though, and Bostonians will get their chance to re-elect him or not based on how well they think he has represented them. When Jon Stewart called Cathy an asshole, that definitely crossed outside the bounds of my comfort zone. I love The Daily Show and Stewart makes fun of people all the time, so I guess what makes me uncomfortable is that I don't think Cathy is actually being an asshole. He made a public statement of his beliefs. I find his belief system to be narrow, ignorant, and closed-minded, and I disagree with his conclusion, but I believe he has the right to express that belief. To be fair, Stewart is not threatening Cathy's right to free speech. The law ensures that Cathy can say whatever he wants, short of hate speech, without being incarcerated or hung for it. But in order for our society to really thrive, I think we need to go beyond acknowledging the legal right to free speech and get to a place where we actually show people respect even though they disagree with us.

In other words, a successful society requires the same kind of mutual respect that a successful relationship does. I knew there was a reason my discussion with Clark was relevant to the rest of this post.