Monday, September 29, 2008

Time and time again...

I continually find myself placed in an age bracket that I do not belong.

This past weekend, I attended a gay soiree. A friend of James' was having people by for what was to be their house warming...even though they've already lived there for a few months.

We were greeted at the door enthusiastically by our host. That is to say, James was greeted enthusiastically by our host, while I got an awkwardly-weak hug and hello. I know that I've got probably 40 pounds and an extra foot on the guy, but I always prefer a genuine hug over some half-assed imitation.

As we circled the room, I, like any other red-blooded gay, drank in the scenery. I instantly recognized his friends, and said my hellos, as well as enjoyed the sight of a few other cute ones I'd never met before.

The second most important step in these situations is getting your ass into the kitchen and getting a drink in your hand. James got distracted by his friends as we made our way towards the kitchen, so I cut my losses and went on ahead. And there he was.

Standing under the tube lighting was a guy my height, with short cropped brown hair and a staggeringly innocent face. Not that he was 18 years old, but he just looked genuine, happy and friendly. He immediately said hello as I entered the room, and gave me an electric smile.

Probably the number one quality I appreciate in any gay is if they're unpretentious. I have no problem with a guy who loves the scene, loves partying and loves fashion; I hate when that means he has to hate everyone else, judge everyone else and act as if he were above everyone else.

Unpretentious is the definition I give this guy. And damn, was he unpretentious wrapped in nice packaging.

After Rick and I shook hands, and I'd made a drink, James showed up to claim his. Again, Rick introduced himself with a hearty handshake and smile. We started talking, and James asked if he would like a drink.

"I'm not much of a drinker," Rick said. "Half a glass and I'm falling all over myself."

We all laughed, since he was pretty much the same build that I am, and I can tuck away quite a few before I loose operational status.

"Oh, ok then," James said simply. "If you want some, it's right here."

Rick's eyes glinted slightly as his smile flashed again. "Thanks," he said, still smiling. "But wait, you guys aren't trying to get me drunk?" he added coyly, staring directly into my eyes.

Since I don't know how to flirt, I did my best to beam a smile and little eye glinting back at him. James stepped aside to talk to some other people who had just arrived, and I took the moment to try and get to know the unpretentious character in front of me.

"So, you a student?" I asked, since everyone else in the room was.

"No, actually, finished school a couple years ago," he said. "But wait, you must be around my age, right?"

I hesitated, trying not to roll my eyes. It was happening again...

"Uh, well, that depends," I said, playing along. "How old are you?"

"Well how old do you think I am?" he shot back, a grin cracking across his face.

In truth, I was 90% sure he was 27. But that sounds so close to 30, and if he wasn't, I didn't want to be insulting.

"26," I lied.

"Wrong, 27," he said. I explained that I'd already figured, but didn't want to offend him in case I was wrong.

"So how old are you then," he questioned.

"Well, actually, a couple years younger...I'm twenty...uh," I said, pausing, since I'm not really used to saying 22 just quite yet. "Twenty two. But I know what you were going to say," I added with a self-deprecating laugh. "That's how old you thought I was, right?"

He paused, sensing by some divine insight that this might be a bit of a sensitive subject with me. "Well..." he said, trailing off.

"It's ok, I get it all the time!" I said as cheerfully as possible, and navigated the conversation on to other subjects.

Like it or not, the rest of the world seems to think I look 27. And they've been saying it for about a year now. For some reason, even though I really don't understand what exactly about my appearance looks that age, people just come up with the same number. Over and over, person after person, all claim the same thing. I look 27, but still many days under 30.

Last night, the topic came up again with my roommates. I recounted the story, and with a bit of disgust, thrust my face in a mirror and asked, "Just what exactly makes me look five years older than I actually am!?"

Sufficed to say, neither of them could pin it down. "It's of those things?" said one. "You can't control it, I can't even say what features make it that way. You just look a little older."

"We both look younger than our ages," the other added. "It's just the way things are, it's just 'the way' you look. Don't take it as such a bad thing."

Even though it's not necessarily a bad thing, I still resent it. And even a guy who belongs to my phantom age can't tell the difference. Not that I'm profoundly disturbed by it, by my perceived older age...I just would like an explanation why the configuration of my eyes, nose and mouth conspire to add five years to my actual age.

Somehow, I don't think I'll ever have the answer.

It's just the way it is.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Au natural/Illigally Blonde

To my horror of horrors, practically all my blonde hair is gone.

Thankfully, it hasn't all fallen out. More like washed out.

I saw my family a few nights ago to celebrate my birthday. Now, it was a little belated, but I still appreciate the fact that I get a birthday cake, not to mention that it was nice to see my family, including my grandparents, after weeks apart.

As we sat around waiting for dinner to arrive at our table, I noticed my mother's head swivel. She stared at the top of my head, my hair clumsily styled (since I wasn't really going out with anyone I wanted to impress).

"Your hair has really gone dark," she said, sticking a finger into it. Thanks mom...

"Meh," I said, shrugging it off. "Not like I've been outside much in a month to give it some natural lightening."

"No, it's really dark!" my grandfather chimed in. "Looks brown now."

"Remember when it used to be so blonde it was white?" my dad said, all sentimental-like. It was around this time that I started getting a little self-conscious.

"Oh, come off's gone a little darker, but it's still got a lot of colour! I mean, it's got some red, some darker blonde..." I said, trailing off.

"Well, is it coloured?" my grandmother asked. "It looks like you dyed it brown!"

Ahh! Fuck, really? I thought to myself.

"It''s...well," I said in my hair's defense.

Other than a naturally-high sloped forehead, my hair has always treated me quite well. It grows like mad, a nice thick texture. And though I can't grow it too long before it starts flying everywhere, much less have it swoop dramatically a-la Zac Efron, it's not really failing me.

Up until now. I've gone from white-blonde, to blonde, to dirty blonde, to ash brown. With red strands.

"But your beard still grows in red, I bet," my dad added.

Jesus, I'm multi-coloured. Add to that black chest hair, blonde arm hair, beige pubes...

Point being, I'm now questioning if I'm a legitimate blonde anymore. I've let my highlights wash away after having them touched up for about a year...and now I realize that there really isn't much blonde under the added colour.

It's a little ironic, since I've been thinking lately of a change, to the point of dying my hair quite dark and doing some non-blonde highlights. I haven't ever explored different hair colours, so I figure I'm entitled to making at least one really stupid mistake before packing it in.

But now that people are apparently recognizing me as non-blonde, I find myself gravitating back to my blonde locks. Save for the fact that now, my claim of being a natural blonde will be practically a lie. I'll become illegally blonde.

Ah well, it beats bald.

Monday, September 15, 2008

We're all fucked...

Things that are wrong with the world:

- A new Cold War starting: featuring NATO vs. Russia. I'm not even being overly-dramatic about this, it's quite real I'm afraid. For the past few year's I've subscribed to the whole argument that I'd rather be fighting the Cold War than the war on terror. After all, it's nice to have the 'us' versus 'them', and actually be able to point to 'them' on a map. But now that we're plunging into another one, I think I might have to rethink that answer.

- The markets collapsing on themselves: like today, when the TSX lost over 500 points, on top of the DOW loosing the same value. Oh, plus an bunch of financials declaring bankruptcy/needing liquid cash infusions. What better time to be looking for a real job than during a rampant recession, brought on by over-zealous greedy pricks wearing very nice suits sitting in very nice offices fucking very nice looking people. (I'd generalize to 'boys', but I'm sure they're not all closeted, or that kinky.)

- Rick Wright, Pink Floyd pianist/organist/etc, dies at age 65, putting the last 'nail in the coffin' (pun unintended) on any hopes that the group will ever reunite for a world tour. At least I got to see him and David Gilmour when they passed through Toronto in April 2006 (or was it '05...). But still, fuck. And I just found out about this, on top of all the great market closing numbers.

- A few days ago I officially became 22, passing out of the ever-sexy 18-21 bracket and pushing one more year closer to that dreaded adulthood. 21, while still not incredibly young, was bearable because it was barely in the 20's. Now, I'm pushed whole-heartedly into that bracket. At least maybe now people in the 18-21 bracket will want to sleep with me. After all, I'm practically old.

and on a lighter note...

- The Toronto International Film Festival has once again finished screening another fine selection of entries. And I missed them all. Once again. I swear, one of these years I'll actually make it out to see one of them.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lighting candles...

Yes, there are reasons that I haven't been posting at all.

To leave you all mid story is horrible, but my life has been a huge challenge since the day I came out to my father. There has been lots of good, mostly thanks to being back in the city I love, seeing people I love. But there has been bad, including a lot of family stress and a funeral, which I'll explain at some point soon.

And there's been the busy. I've been run off my feet, to say the least, since the first second of the academic year. I'm a project manager of our practical exercises (and more I cannot say, I'm sorry :p), which requires me to be on call (and on hand) 24/7. Seriously, this is the first night since starting out that I've been home by this early part of the evening. It's enjoyable work, but it's draining; I have basically no life outside of what has now become my 'job' and I feel like I'm missing out on a few opportunities to get back into the swing of Toronto life.

Still, I've managed to be as social as possible throughout all this, even if it means getting fairly little sleep. As one friend put it, I'm still putting myself out there, even if I'm sacrificing sleep and laundry time.

But none of this is really what spurred me to write this post today. I've got bigger annoyances at the moment.

It's my birthday this week.

Again, the year has gone by, and it's once again time for me to 'celebrate' my being born. And again, it's once again time for me to be more stressed and annoyed than celebratory.

Already, my close friends have asked me what my plans are. Where would I like to go? What would I like to do? How would I like to celebrate this joyous occasion? My answer is the same as every year: I simply don't know.

Like every year before, my birthday brings out more stress and anxiety than feelings of happiness and love. The same questions are asked, the same answer given. To put it bluntly, the sum of all my fears can be expressed in one question:

If I had a birthday party, would anyone come?

Sounds insane, I know. But it's something that has always worried me. I have great friends, know people in different walks of life and different towns and cities. But I don't have the archetypal 'group of friends' that so many people identify themselves with. I've got small pockets of people, but not enough to fill a room simultaneously with 30 people who all know each other.

And each time I get asked what I want to do, my insides shrink a little. I don't want to say aloud that I'd have a hard time trying to figure out just who would exactly care enough to spend the evening celebrating my birthday.

So as usual, instead of trying to set up an elaborate series of birthday-style events, I've simply stuck my head in the sand.

Another sticking point is the gay thing. My roommates want to be a part of my birthday, but they want me to be able to kiss boys if I want to. I appreciate that fact, since James will most likely be part of my birthday plans. We can't make out drunkenly at a straight's just not done. But at the same time, no matter what I wind up doing, I'll have to be as inclusive as possible.

"So, we figured that we could have dinner on Friday night together," one roommate said, "and then you and James can go out with your gay friends."

In my mind, I heard a very loud voice ask, "What gay friends?"

It is truly annoying to be reminded, at a time when you're supposed to be happy and exuberant, that there really is something amiss. While I'd love to go gay for my birthday, the fact remains that I just really don't have any gay friends. Guys I dated aside, I still don't have my 'gay group', even though the rest of the world apparently thinks that I do.

Then again, I'm still overwhelmed when I think of having to attempt to round up a group of people, gay, straight or otherwise, to be in the same spot at the same time on my behalf.

I don't have long to decide. I've never really had a 'great' birthday before, merely a slew of unremarkable ones (and a few crappy ones, like last year). For my part, I'd almost prefer to pretend that it's any other day, and to just carry on with life as is. But I question whether that's because I'm truly non-plussed about the event itself or because I'm horrified at the implications of a poorly executed celebration.

Maybe I'll just close my eyes, and hope that someone else will just do it all for me...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

All that life offers (Part 1)...

I know I left you all hanging, but it was impossible for me to have the time up until this second to continue the story.

Flash back to last Friday. I spent most of the day feeling nauseous, knowing that in a few short hours my life was about to change yet again. It's a funny feeling, knowing one is about to change the course of their powerful yet so helpless in the same second.

I don't recall most of what happened that day, because really, I accomplished nothing. I was fixated on what was to come, what would happen after we ate dinner as a family surrounding the glass-topped table, after the dishes were tucked away in the washer and my dad had drifted in to sit on the couch.

My mother was equally on pins and needles, giving me the occasional glance as I walked by that seemed to remind me constantly of the gravity of the situation. We didn't really talk about it, save for a few moments where she confirmed that it would be 'tonight'.

At roughly 4 p.m., both parents were leaving the house, bound for different destinations. Outside, mom told dad that I had something to talk about, and that we needed to talk tonight. He retraced his steps, back into the house, calling up stairs to me, who had slunk back to my bedroom.

I came down to him, completely unaware of what was going on. "Come here," he said. "Sit down." We sat on the small bench in the porch, barely enough room for the two of us to fit. I still had no idea what was happening, save the idea he was going to tell me he'd miss me once I went back to school.

"I just really want you to enjoy your last few days at home," he said. "I just want you to enjoy them."

"I...uh...well, of course," I said, "so do I." It would only be 48 hours before I had moved back to Toronto and left home once more, and I understood where he was coming from.

He paused. "I know what you want to talk about," he said. I sat there, confused, and asked just what he meant, since I hadn't said a word about anything.

"Your mom told me just now you needed to talk about something," he said, "and I wanted to let you know I already know what you have to say." There was something in his voice, a naked honesty, that finally made me see the light: he knew.

The room swayed, and I burst into tears.

Everything that I had planned, everything that had been taken into account, simply flew out the window. There we sat on the bench, me clinging to him, sobbing, trying to form words, form a sentence.

"It's ok, it's ok," he said, pulling me to him.

"What do you mean you know?" I asked through sobs.

"I know, I've known for a while," he replied.

" long is a while?" I asked, still gasping for air.

"A long time. A couple years," he said.

So I started to talk, started to try and tell him how awkward life has been, how difficult summer was, knowing that I needed to tell him and not knowing how he would react.

But all the pep talk that I had thought through simply vanished. I didn't know what to say, how to say things. I didn't understand just how much he 'got it' or if he was confused and unsure. So we sat there, with me attempting to get conversation on track.

He really had no questions, which bothered me a little, since my understanding of his gay education was stereotypes and bad TV. So instead I focused on the positives, how happy I am, how I feel more comfortable in my skin and with my life.

"But you gotta admit, it's pretty weird," he said. "It's not really normal."

And so we talked, and I tried to clear things up (gently) about what exactly 'normal' is, and how being different from a majority isn't necessarily weird. I tried equating things to being left handed versus right handed.

With that, we got to the root of his he feels like something 'went wrong' somewhere genetically, from whose side of the family the gayness came from.

I still don't really understand just what he's thinking or how he feels. On the one hand, he made it very clear he still loves me, that I'm still his son and that we're still a family. On the other, he still seems to be pretty uncomfortable with the whole situation, not really sure of where he stands..."It's going to take a lot of getting used to," he said. "Two guys...that will take a lot..."

Throughout it all, he did give me a bit of insight into the hidden gays in our community. There have been some before me (no surprise), though I'd never heard of them before. Other farmer's sons who had been gay, and who had come out years and years ago. They all left, of course, but it feels nice knowing that I wasn't exclusively alone in my situation.

Like my mother, he was most concerned about safety, both interior and exterior. He worries that I'll get killed in a straight bar, or that people would hurt me for being gay somewhere, sometime in my life. And he worries about me 'getting sick' (since he couldn't seem to bring himself to use the word HIV) like one of the other farmers sons had. He died, tragically, in Vancouver.

Overall, it was a surreal experience. I had no idea he knew, no inclination that he had known for so long. In many ways, I got my wish after all; I only have to deal with the awkwardness after the coming-out conversation, I didn't have to break the news to him that I'm gay. Even now, looking back, I still don't really know exactly how he feels about the whole thing...I get the feeling he is accepting more because of the love for his son than the true belief that being gay is OK.

And so we've entered a new phase of life. Both my parents know now. I'm out to my family. Now what?

It seems crazy to be thinking about the next step, but I couldn't help but wonder as our conversation wound down just how things would progress. I told him quite clearly that I have no intention of this just becoming a family secret, of it being spoken of once and then never again. But just how much it's discussed, and in which way, is something that we'll have to discover.

And as if there wasn't enough drama on this weekend, Sunday proved to be no slouch...