Saturday, March 31, 2012

Reflections on the Demise of the Gay Dance Club

The gay dance club is dead.  It has been dead for a least two years now due to several influences, so ggod, some bad, and some due to changing times and attitudes.  There is no place where men can go and dance with other like-minded men to the greatest hits of the day.  Let's follow the clues and see where it leads us.  I just have anecdotal evidence, and have not compiled a CSI-like train of clues to lead to the killer.

Dateline Palm Springs 2012- Toucan's Tiki Lounge
This place, ostensibly a gay bar,  has a small dance floor and a large tiki bar atmosphere. The DJs range from so-so to fabulous depending on the night. ON the surface, it sounds great. Once inside, clues began to appear that this place had a clientele change.  On the video screen was a reminder that this place was a gay bar, never a good sign. Who were they reminding? I knew where I was. Second clue, large coteries of straight women, spinning around a girl either in a crown or bridal veil, proudly proclaiming that hey were there for a bachelorette party.  I watched a single man try and pick up a single woman. I watched as straight women dragged their GBFs (Gay Best Friend) onto the dance floor since their boyfriends would not dance. I watched as signs of the polite society disappeared, such as bar tabs requiring two forms of ID and no real glass barware. The final clue, a good-looking gay guy and friend of mine, asks me to dance with him so that the straight women will stop bumping and grinding up against him and he can meet someone gay.

Part of the mainstreaming and acceptance of gays is the fact that straight people will feel comfortable around us and come out and party with us. A good thing, overall, but the distress of seeing spots disappear that allow gay men to party and be themselves is overwhelming at times.  Straight women, mainly twenty-something city dwellers and suburban housewives, who were our first allies, wanted to come to our clubs to party without worrying about being hit on by skeevy guys.  Their boyfriends and husbands were not threatened by us.  This started as a once in awhile type thing. Then they decided to bring their friends, their own parties, and their boyfriends/husbands.  These straight men, while trying to be brave, added an undesirable element in that they were uncomfortable and afraid of being hit on or afraid of NOT being hit on. These straight men brought their judgements and comments with them, when seeing two men either dance together or, heaven forbid, kiss each other.

Now if I hear about a hot gay dance club in town, I do go and check it out. Here is what I see, a line around the block of straight women in provocative attire and if I manage to get into the club, there are maybe five gay men and that is it. If I wanted to spend my evening dancing with straight women, I would go to one of the straight dance clubs. Almost all of my night spots are experiencing this takeover. My husband, my friends, and I heave a collective sigh as we watch yet another drunken bridal party enter our clubs, hog the dance floor, completely surround the go-go boys, and  stomp on our evening and force us out of our own clubs. A couple of clubs in Washington DC tried to do something about it by outlawing bridal parties or restricting entry in other ways. This was only partly successful and I am sure is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Dance bars in major metropolitan areas I have been to recently have either closed because they became straight bars on the nights when people go out and lost all of their gay business during other nights or have put up sign all over the place stating that this is a gay bar and have instituted more security than the Michael Jackson trial.

I value all of our straight allies and love them for the hearts and minds they help us win over towards full equality. This just does not mean I want to party with them all of the time.  Sometimes, I just want to dance with my "sisters" on a crowded dance floor. Is that so wrong?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Husky Pants

I have always been uncomfortable in my own skin.  I do not remember a time, when confronted with my image in the mirror, I did not think that this could be better.  I know I am not alone in this and I also know that I do feel good about myself in other ways, so this thought process, while not entirely healthy, is not life-crippling either.

One of the more damaging times came when I was a child, somewhere between the first and fourth grades. I do not remember the year. I was an overweight child, not as massive as some of today's youth, but not lean and mean either. Because of this, I had to wear the dreaded "husky" pants. The pants, in denim or corduroy, had a huge label like Levi's does on the waistband above the derriere that states in large print "HUSKY".  It might as well have said "child-size wide load" and come with flashing back-up lights. I hated wearing those pants, especially when I came to realize that not all clothes had this label.  My ever-loving classmates at the private Christian school with Southern Baptist leanings were more than happy to point this out to me. These same classmates were also quite happy to be the first to call me "fag", since I did not play touch football with the other boys, but wanted to trade brightly colored stickers with the girls.

Looking back through my yearbooks, a exercise more emotionally damaging than anything else I can think of, I have always been husky, even in junior high when I first kissed another boy and it meant something to me, and in high school, when as the lone male cheerleader, I desperately tried to prove my hetero-tendencies by kissing several girls. I remember my cheerleading adviser telling me to lose weight over the summer and get buff and tan.  Interesting instructions since our squad was primarily dance driven and not focused on partner stunts nor pyramid building. This is when it dawned on me that dancers are judged on their looks as well as their ability to perform. Sigh.

Fast forward twenty years and I am still "husky". Not as bad as I was a few years ago, but not where I want to be either. My husband and I started Weight Watchers together about two years ago.  Then came the physical separation where I moved to California before he did and then lived 100 hundred miles away form him for the better part of a year where I only saw him on weekends. This separation played such havoc on my psyche that I slipped into old eating patterns very easily and undid most of the weigh loss I had experienced.  My husband kept up with his weigh loss and reached his goal weight. I am very proud of him for this.

The other side of this is that mutual friends who have not seen us in a while, constantly comment on his weight loss and how good he looks, which he does. They then glance over to me and the momentary look crosses their face of how I have not changed that much. It is good to see me, but let's get back to fawning over my husband. Bigger sigh.

I have made dietary changes, a switch to vegetarianism being the most fulfilling. I am slowly losing weight again and getting back on track.  This is where shame gets the better of me though. Although I did well on Weight Watchers, I do not want to go back until I am where I was when I fell off the wagon so to speak.  Same goes for picking out a new primary care doctor.  I just do not want to get back on the scale and blush so hard that blood vessels will surely burst. I fully realize that this is not the behavior of a rational person.

I started working out with a personal trainer this past Monday. If you want to see how far you have to go, do squats in a mirror at the gym. This exercise forces you into the most ugly position and you will see how far you have to go.  Biggest sigh of all. However,  I will get to where I want to be, slowly and on my own terms, if only to be shame free for that part of my life.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

You're A What?

People are funny with their responses when I describe who I am or what I do.  I am a gay surgical nurse who is vegetarian. That is me in the simplest of terms. There are not a lot of adjectives to comprehend. A person upon hearing this does not need the newest edition of Webster's to figure out any of the terms I just used.

The fact that I am a surgical nurse is usually a conversation killer.  When standing in a group of new acquaintances and the subject of work comes up, most people describe some sort of desk job which involves thinking about something or pushing papers to a subordinate. Upon my turn and I say "surgical nurse" most people respond with a horrified stare. I do not know what is in their mind. Perhaps they imagine me as a scalpel wielding psychopath willing to do an emergency tracheotomy at the slightest sign of respiratory distress. The other picture is usually of me elbows deep in someone's abdomen covered in gore and pulling out all their internal organs. Both of these are quite far from what I actually do, but the human mind is a vast wasteland filled with nonsense form cable television.

The other response if that of "how noble'. I never think of what I do is noble. I just like helping and caring for people at one of their most vulnerable times, which is when they are under anesthesia and unable to advocate for themselves. There seems to be at times an underlying judgment with that statement though. Like they think that I think that I am better than they are based on my career. Also, very far from the truth. I used to be a government paper pusher until I decided that I could be more fulfilled as a nurse. I make no judgements about how others make a living.

The responses to the fact that I am a gay man are to numerous to mention, but usually range from acceptance to a silent acknowledgment. I luckily have not had too many truly horrific responses to this utterance.

The vegetarian thing is the one that most people have the hardest time wrapping their heads around. This revelation is usually followed by a grocery list of meat, poultry, and seafood products that I am asked if I eat. I want to scream as the quizzing continues, "None of these items is a vegetable, so I do not eat it!!!" But in the interest of enlightenment and education, I politely answer each and every question.

I have never liked seafood and always had weird issues around meat and poultry, in as much as it did not take much to put me off my meal. Quite a few people want to offer helpful nutritional advice about proteins and supplements. I politely listen, and then disregard most advice as misinformed about modern vegetarianism and how we get our nutritional needs met. I do just fine and have come off my medications for various diseases of prosperity by making the switch. I also feel much better than I have in years.

Desert living has been good to me in that I live in a beautiful place with a simple way of life and am trying to leave less of a footprint on the planet everyday.

I invite you to follow my blog as I continue this funny and interesting journey in desert living.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Defining Myself

Since I have just passed a milestone year, I am consumed with trying to define myself in concrete terms that reflect who I am as an individual. There are the adjectives I know, the adjectives I aspire to, and the adjectives I hope never to have applied to my person. When writing a eulogy, it is the adjectives that help define the person who has past and will inspire the audience to tears, or anger, or both.

Some of the adjectives I know already and come from my chosen occupation as a surgical nurse.  Some are just universally applied to me by people who do not know much about me. "Kind", "helpful", "caring" come with the job and make me one of the better nurses in the field. "Smart" is usually applied to me my past teachers and some co-workers by how quickly I can pick up on new routines and how I absorb knowledge like a sponge.  These adjectives I cherish because not everyone gets them for themselves and I have definitely earned them.

There are other adjectives that I long to achieve in my lifetime. Aspiring to some of these is a shallow effort and play to my vanity. I am ashamed to admit to this. One of these is "stunning". I have never had my looks called stunning.  I can pull off "cute" with some effort and with a lot of effort and some drinking by the adjective giver," adorable" and "kissable" are within my grasp.  Never stunning. Perhaps my lack of a gregarious nature or ease in social situations plays into this. Better diet and more exercise that I currently get would help as well. I know, all vanity, and I will say my mea culpas later. How does a Jew say mea culpa?

Another one I aspire to is "creative". I have never really had an artistic or creative outlet, at least not in many years.  Dance in high school through classes and my cheerleading was the last time I tried that particular outlet. I have always wanted to take a ballroom dancing class. Just find a class, where I could show up without a partner and where no one knew me so I could learn in anonymity and not feel self-conscious. I do not think my husband would understand this, but there it is. My propensity to trip over nothing injures my pride more than anything else. I have just bought a digital camera in hopes that I could use photography as an outlet for me. Still not sure how or who I would share these photos with, probably with this blog in the future.

The adjectives I do not aspire to, but am afraid have been applied to me are "temperamental", "selfish", "thoughtless", and a few others that should not be shared in the blogosphere with out a profanity sensor. I recently gave the wide world a look into my temperament (see previous post), which I was not exceedingly proud to do. On more than one occasions, the others have been applied to me in various situations, where in an attempt to find a gracious way out, I took the easy way. also, not my shining moments.

My biggest hope is that the good outweighs the bad and the help I give outdoes the hurt I cause. I choose not to look back on anything with regret, but as a learning experience. It should all lead me to the noun I desire most, "mensch".