Posts Tagged ‘adolescence’

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my gay online adolescence.

January 28, 2013

Just the other week, Harry Hitchens (from BBC’s Young Apprentice) posted a video on Youtube coming out to the world.

He states that his main motivation for doing this was so that other young people who were learning to accept themselves and their sexuality did not feel so alone. I wish that there had been more of these videos when I’d been growing up, because my gay adolescence was quite lonely; and although I knew I wasn’t the only one, it was a long time before any of my peers were willing to expose themselves so publically and so deeply.

In my youth, we had no Youtube or Twitter. Facebook didn’t arrive until the end of my first year of university. As a teenager, all I had was Faceparty and MSN (and AIM for a brief period, but few in the UK used it), and Myspace (which I used primarily for my music, but I was fortunate enough to meet a couple of people via that medium who have ultimately become good friends). Otherwise, to talk to other people, there were online forums and bulletin boards; awkwardly enough, for a year and a half I navigated my adolescence writing cathartic and experimental poetry on a largely Christian bulletin board. Eventually, for a range of reasons, we drifted apart (although amicably so).

My father took a long time to cave in to broadband; over dialup, I used WinMX to download music one song at a time; occasionally I would download brief gay porn videos that would take HOURS for just a couple of minutes’ worth of footage, that I would then delete upon logging off the net for fear of my dad seeing them. A couple of times late at night once my parents were long asleep, I also cybered with randoms I found in chatrooms on WinMX. The screens of these chatrooms were black, and the writing for different people would be in different colours; it looked much more aggressive and raw than the internet looks now, but there was no permanence to the interactions; the words spiralled into an abyss, into nothing. In the present, every single thing you do online has ramifications; thankfully, I didn’t have to navigate my sexuality and my youth online with the fear of my words being screenshot, paraphrased, used against me at any opportunity being a realistic one. (I know it could still have been done, especially with my father’s IT expertise, but it wasn’t prevalent the way that it seems to be today.)

During the year I spent living in Spain, I used to spend a hell of a lot of time chatting to Hannah on MSN, and a site we explored for a little while was called MeetYourMessenger, which was a combination of Faceparty and MSN. It was not very fruitful however; I remember having one conversation where a guy spoke to me exclusively through ostentatious, glittering animations and smileys. He was blocked after that conversation. I also used to read gay fanfic on Nifty, and I actually got talking to a guy on there; we even met up a couple of times! We also used to cam, and all of these memories remind me of how when flirting on all of these different sites, people were desperate for pictures, for videoed conversations. Separate USB webcams are now a thing of the past, but back then they were an indispensable part of the online experience for some, threatening symbols of sexual predators for others, and a laugh for the lucky rest of us in between.

A lot of people don’t know this, but I originally found Toby through Fitlads, a gay dating site that intimidated me far less than Gaydar. I didn’t have an iPhone at that point so I have never used Grindr, and I think I’d probably find that too intimidating too. Anyways, after a couple of successful conversations on MSN where we both proved to one another that we actually had thoughts in our brains, once we found out that we both were attending UWE for our postgrads, we decided to cut the online stuff and just meet in person. And the rest, as they say, is history.

I had forgotten a lot of these things until I started looking back over my teenage years in detail, and thinking about all of the websites I used to visit. They sound almost quaint compared to what sites are around now, and at the same time as the internet became faster, sleeker and more commonplace, I thankfully became older, wiser and more prudent with my actions. At the age of 11, 12 or 13, I don’t know if I would have been savvy enough to evade every pitfall Facebook (let alone more adult sites) has to offer. From my time at Cirencester College, teaching young people about how to be intelligent about what they share on the internet is important – especially in a culture of digital natives where there is a lot of pressure to share everything (from peers and otherwise). In this same way, just as I discovered the internet as I grew older, is the right to privacy something young people of today will only really discover and understand in their twenties – once it’s, perhaps, a little too late?

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sensitivity.

May 27, 2012

I find that as I’m getting older, rather than becoming more blasé and desensitised to things, significant and insignificant events alike have a deeper emotional resonance. As a teenager, I watched endless horror films without ever getting scared (the very occasional example aside); I sped through various important academic achievements and educational landmarks without batting an eyelid or appreciating the gravity of them (even when everyone around me was congratulating me and making a really big deal); I would visit new places without often taking in what surrounded me beyond a cursory acknowledgement. How could I be more jaded in my adolescence than I am now? Going to a wedding or even the graduation of my students brings a lump to my throat; watching a romantic drama or action extravaganza that is meant to be a disposable way of passing a couple of hours can have unexpected meaning that makes me stop and really contemplate. I’ve always been in touch with my emotions and music & lyrics have always been a great emotional conduit for me (which makes sense), but lately it feels like I have more of them!

Is it because, as a fully-fledged adult, I’m more aware of my own mortality and my lack of invincibility? I don’t ever remember feeling “invincible” per se… Am I just more mature and thus more able to appreciate and find the value in art, nature, landmarks (both literal and figurative) and emotions?  Am I just more easily emotionally manipulated the longer I’m exposed to mainstream entertainment? Is my resilience being worn down, or is my emotional intelligence developing? I sincerely hope it’s the latter! 

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responsibility / Tube update: Hyde Park Corner and Green Park.

February 11, 2012

So after living in London for 5 months (to the day today!), I finally got around to registering with a GP this week. It was my second choice of doctor, after the top choice recommended by the NHS website turned out not to take new patients from my area (when I said that the website recommended me, they apologetically informed me “Ah yes. The website is wrong”). I think the website was wrong again, because my first appointment with the treatment nurse on Friday evening was nothing short of horrific.

I was informed that my blood pressure was that of a “much more mature person”, and that I need to go back in a month and keep monitoring it in the meantime. Ok. Furthermore, I need to lose “15-20 kilos”. Now, in my own opinion, over the last few months, I have put on a few pounds. But at 6 foot, I am not delusional enough to believe someone when they say that my ideal weight is 11 and a half stone. I would be skeletal if I lost that much weight – I am not fat as it is. I am my own harshest critic, but at the most I could do with losing half a stone or so. No more. I promise you all I am not kidding myself – I wear small or medium sizes in clothing. Yet I apparently have a 40″ waist (again, despite the fact that I wear 32″ and 33″ trousers). I also had to do a urine test, and when I said “um, right now?!” she said “is that a problem?” I ended up being able to perform, so to speak, and I told the nurse upon my return that “I drink a lot of water”. She eventually confirmed “yes, your urine is clear.” No shit, lady. In addition, how dare you tell me to lose so much weight – not only is this essentially promoting anorexia (because obviously she says this to everyone; I am not a special case), but it’s hypocrisy from someone who is definitely more overweight than I am! I am outraged that people in a position of authority and whose responsibility it is to promote healthy living, is telling people to become dangerously underweight.

I apparently have to go for a yearly check-up, “because things can develop without you knowing”; ok, but if there is nothing wrong with me, why would I waste a doctor or nurse’s time? I never had to go before, except for when I felt that there was something wrong with me. After checking my blood pressure, the nurse kept insisting “are you sure you don’t feel dizzy? Or ever have headaches?” Lady, no means no. I am perfectly happy and healthy. No matter how much you want to make me feel like something is wrong, you won’t convince me that you know my body better than I do. I spent most of my childhood and adolescence hating the way I looked and the way I felt. I finally got myself right a couple of years ago or so, and I will not let some irresponsible woman set me back. I will keep y’all updated on my future adventures with this doctor’s surgery. The last thing on my mind is that she mentioned the possibility of taking tablets for my blood pressure if it doesn’t go down. I am confident I have white coat syndrome – I am nervous when it comes to having my blood pressure checked, and I have done it on my mum’s machine at home and it has come out a little high, but far closer to normal. What’s more, I have seen my grandparents existing on cocktails of pills, and it was one of the things that contributed to my grandfather’s ultimate deterioration in health and multiple health problems that culminated in his death in 2008. I know that doctors and nurses have a job to do, but they do not know everything, and I refuse to be bullied into a dependency on medication that I neither want nor need. I am 26 years old; I do not need to be on tablets for my blood pressure when I have no other health problems or symptoms. I was telling Mike and Caroline this today, and they both said that this woman sounds insane and that I should never go back there. But even though this visit was horrific, it did ultimately mean that I accomplished my goal of registering with a GP.

You’ll notice that I mentioned Mike and Caroline just now. Well, Toby and I saw them today! They came down to London for their wedding anniversary, and are staying in the hotel just around the corner from my flat, in West Kensington! They went to the Science Museum today with Billy – we met them there (I had never been to the Science Museum before! A lot of it went over my head, tbh) after Toby and I spent a very long time walking! I suppose that a good thing about my visit to the surgery last night (I was seriously searching for a silver lining to that cloud!) was that is has further kick-started my desire to lose those few pounds and keep walking and exercising. So from Toby’s flat in Fulham, we walked to my place to pick up my sunglasses, walked to Brompton Library where Toby and I both joined and were rewarded with festive-looking membership cards (I will also be able to take out some books in Italian and develop my skills in that language!), went to the V&A, made my first purchase from Harrods, then walked to my favourite Starbucks in Belgravia (although they went down in my estimation somewhat today after messing up my drink – twice!), and then walked to Hyde Park Corner:

Now I realise that you can’t see which station it is from this picture. Hence:

And then we went to Green Park, before going back to South Kensington to the Science Museum and having a lovely afternoon with Mike, Caroline and Billy:

And from there, a lovely afternoon and evening with Toby, re-organising my flat and watching Desperate Housewives tonight. Tomorrow I am going to sort out my Valentine’s gift to him and have a quiet but productive day before another week of work!

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hidden memories.

January 22, 2012

Lately I have been in situations which have triggered me to remember things that were long buried in my childhood and adolescence. These are things that I had basically forgotten about, and aren’t really important but they make me pause and think “did I really do those things? I was evidently such a different person back then!”

Toby recently bought a book about fonts called Just My Type, and he has really been enjoying it (I might be borrowing it from him afterwards, though I have two books queued up to finish first!) and we have been noticing the uses of Century Gothic (our favourite), Helvetica and so on in the public domain and media. We were in Starbucks in Richmond yesterday and Toby observed the use of various fonts on the menu boards, napkins and articles on the walls – it was a little bit random and I think that it is probably down to different things being created at different times. I subsequently remembered that in Year 7, I had an IT lesson where we actually created our own font and we had to engineer the spaces around the letters so that words didn’t look too spaced apart etc. It was interesting, but not really anything in itself to write about. The thing that interested me is that I was 12 years old when this had happened, and yet it felt buried in my past and when remembering it, it was dim and cloudy like I was remembering the life of another person.

I suppose this is proof for the fact that at 12 years old, although we feel like young adults and don’t want to be referred to as ‘children’, we still have a lot of growing up to do and by the time we are fully-formed adults, we have changed a lot. Recently I was working on some lyrics for some new songs, and I remembered that when I was a teenager (12-14 years old), I spent quite a lot of time on the internet writing poems and sharing my poetry on forums. Now, these poems were probably frequently bad, but it didn’t matter – at the time when I was still only allowed on dial-up internet for half an hour each night (remember the days?!), it was the most important way for me to express my innermost thoughts and creativity, and read others’ as well. As I shared things that I had written, I made friends and ended up being invited to another forum where I would contribute regularly, and I also remember most of these people being quite Christian and I believe from the southern USA. At a time when I was still questioning my own beliefs as well as discovering my own sexuality, there were certain things I could talk about and others that I couldn’t, and from a place where I had been granted freedom of expression without judgement, I found myself (even at 15 years old) being careful about what I could and couldn’t say for fear of backlash from people I didn’t know that well and yet knew intimately. I didn’t stay on the forums for much longer after that (although I wrote poetry infrequently and headed up the St Anne’s Creative Writing Society with my friend Daria in my second year of university) because I could tell that I was headed on a different path to the other people on the forum, who were all adults and knew themselves already. I didn’t leave on bad terms, and I think that the forum fizzled out naturally shortly afterwards, but to think that for a substantial period of my teenage years this was one of my main hobbies, and yet now I barely remember it and it feels like I am looking at my adolescence backwards through a telescope. How far I have come is a very good thing, but it’s something that I can only really appreciate when I compare it to where I started from.

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act your age.

August 4, 2010

The other night I was on the phone to Toby walking through Tesco when I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of a big cuddly Hello Kitty in a half-price toys bin. I checked the price (£10), fell in love with it, plucked it out of the bin and kept walking, all the while telling Toby what I had just done.  He chuckled at me, as people often do when confronted with my weakness for cute cuddly toys. However, all my friends know what I am like by now, and my family does too – they think it’s part cute, part bizarre, part they just shake their heads in despair.  The cashier at Tesco thought my mum was joking when, in response to what age the toy was aimed at, my mother gave me a glance and a grin.

In my bedroom at home, Hello Kitty joins my menagerie of Nemo, Ramón, Bing and Bong the white seals, Pikachu & a giant dog called Doug. I guess I always loved cuddling stuffed animals and teddy bears ever since I was a child, and they are soft and warm and comforting. They all come off the bed at night, except for in the winter when it’s cold and I want the weight of something on top of me to make me feel more cocooned and warm (hopefully Toby is my grown-up replacement! 😉 ).  They make me feel at once whimsical and cosy.

Unlike Taylor Lautner, who keeps me warm in a very different way:

After much deliberation and resisting buying the Eclipse poster in the cinema, I finally caved and bought the above poster yesterday in HMV, which is now framed on my wall as you can see. When I was with Toby (although it is in a slight ironic way, I do really enjoy the Twilight Saga!) queuing for Eclipse, I pointed out the poster and was tempted to buy it; the same happened when I was queuing for the same film with Karina, Davina and Deena. Both times I resisted, and Toby’s teasing reproach was that “get it if you want, if you have no problems with having pictures of teenage boys on your bedroom wall”.  Well, when he put it like that… I was briefly shamed into restraint, but as they say, resistance is futile.  Anyway, Lautner is 18 and therefore a legal adult, as well as a total hottie (far more than Robert Pattinson, at any rate).

Both of these purchases made me think that I’ve always had a certain kind of taste for both men and cuddly toys. I’ve not changed in that respect since I was young; I like big cute stuffed animals and I like sexy men; I doubt this will change from 13 to 30 to beyond. As a teenager, my appreciation of teddy bears was considered a cute throwback to childhood in the face of so many pressures of adolescence and incipient adulthood. And it’s natural to find others attractive as you become in touch with your sexuality: I always was attracted to people who were older than me when I was a teenager, and now it’s to people who are the same age as me.  Perhaps I’m an eternal late teen? Unlike Mariah Carey who claims she is “eternally 12”, perhaps I’m eternally 19. After all, Taylor may be 18 but he has a better body than most people in their 20s, and when sexualised as he is both above and in the Twilight Saga films, he comes off as early twenties rather than a teen. That’s my defence and I’m sticking to it, but while I physically age, my mentality and preferences will evolve and mature in some respects, but I guess that some of my tastes will remain constant.  This is just who I am, and I think that it’s very healthy to be in touch with your inner child and indulge that fun-loving, fresh side of your personality. 🙂

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onyx paradise.

April 11, 2010

Those of you who know me will know that my screen name for 85% of the forums that I use is “onyxparadise”.  Originally I only liked the ‘onyx’ aspect of the name (since the word looks and sounds pretty), but the name ‘onyx’ had been taken already on the forums I was interested in using at the time, and I was inspired by Britney Spears’ Onyx Hotel Tour.  Choosing an alternative, mysterious-sounding gemstone quickly became apparently not an option: “sapphire” and “topaz” (both in reference to my mother’s favourite stones, and both pretty-sounding words once again) were far too girly, so I thought about adding something to “onyx” to make it work.  Again “sunset” and “beach” sounded too feminine, but I hit upon the idea of “onyxparadise” and it had a magical, mysterious ring to it.  When I think of what the word represents, it symbolises some sort of fantasy faceted-glass multicoloured landscape within a gemstone.  I don’t know how to verbalise it better than that, but I know that those words create nothing close to the image / atmosphere in my head.

Returning to Britney Spears, she did teach me something interesting about the onyx: although the stone is traditionally black when we see it used in jewellery (and although black is my favourite “colour”, I’m not a fan of onyx jewellery), any light that shines into it can be refracted back out in a multitude of colours.  Now, Wikipedia tells me that this is false (or somewhat exaggerated at the very least) but I’m going to go with it because it supports the metaphor that I want to explore and essentially base the rest of this blog entry on.  Ever since I can remember, I’ve always felt like I’ve had multiple personalities.  Different sides of myself expanded as I got older and I started to give them different names: Alan; Miles (ok that was ill-advised but he didn’t last long); AC; purehonesty; onyxparadise; Chase.  They embodied different things, different representations of me, and now I reflect upon it I see that onyxparadise was really the perfect name.  Rather than multiple personalities, I am one person with all these different facets, different colours, different aspects to my being.  Just like an onyx (or Britney Spears’ version of it, anyway).

Sometimes I feel like I keep getting it wrong: I hated the movie Kick Ass, which I went to see last night, because I could only see reference after reference to Kill Bill – at want point does a parody/homage become a rip-off? It must have just been me, as the vast majority of reviews online are hugely positive, but I guess I just didn’t get the sense of humour (though I enjoyed Hit Girl). I don’t eat pizzas quickly enough for my father to have as much space in the fridge as he would like, and the first thing he said to me this morning was “who opened the back door?” as if by getting my milk from the fridge I had unwittingly committed a cardinal sin.  It’s times like these that I feel socially awkward or incorrect (like when I confused the barista at Costa by barking at Toby not to be so healthy in his choice of biscotti, as he was making me look bad with my vanilla frescato and carrot cake), and it’s only recently that I’ve taken a personal stand not to let my family make me feel so ugly, because their problems are no reflection of me.

There is a facet of me that feels tough, dark and edgy.  I now have 3 tattoos, I dye my hair black on the regular, I smoke and drink and stay out late.  I’m still a good person, I have many friends and I work damn hard juggling studies and employment. So I feel I’m entitled to play hard, and I feel that at 24 years old I’ve proved to myself (and to anyone else, not that that matters) that I am intelligent and sensible enough to make my own decisions and to stand by them and live through the consequences, right or wrong.  By embracing that side of myself, I take less nonsense, stand up for myself more (although this is still a work in progress)and I feel that it’s been key in the shift in my life over the last 9 months to being much more happier and taking control.  I feel happier indulging the edgier, mysterious side of me, acknowledging there are dark depths of my personality and essence that I have yet to plumb, because it makes the light shine that much brighter too.

And now, I have some really good friends, people who are close to me.  If my family more and more are the source of unnecessary stress and drama in my life, then my friends feel like what my family should be.  So I almost glow when my new best friend tells me how glad he is to be friends with me; when my boyfriend tells me for the first time that he loves me.  These are experiences I never had before, that make me feel almost uncomfortably good because I am valued, I matter.  Sometimes being strong, being independent, being tough – even if it’s a self-fulfilling façade at times – is really lonely.  But it’s times like that, it’s times when Mike offers me to spend the day with him and his family, when Billy gives me a big hug and kiss before bedtime, when Toby holds me tight in his arms as we watch TV and I feel so safe, that I know I don’t have to be, don’t deserve to be alone.

I never used to wear designer clothes or jewellery.  I have never been a 32″ waist since I was a child, and I find it funny to be posing as a model in Toby’s photos on beautiful days walking around Bristol, because I always dreamed of being a model and assumed it was out of reach.  After the strife of growing up between my parents and their families, the violent alcohol-fuelled arguments and mental abuse I experienced as a child and adolescent, the periods of unhappy rebellion as a 16, 17, 18-year-old, the disappointment of not really knowing where I was going with my life having graduated from Oxford University, the turmoil of a year in retail unable to fulfil my potential, I finally get to experience everything slotting into place, the lights shining from the onyx in a rainbow of the right colours.  Life finally feels good, if not how I imagined it to be! So this entry is really personal to me, because it’s how I see that I’m a whole host of different things – I am one person with many different aspects, not all of them necessarily pretty but all of them important, all of them of value.

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in this body.

February 4, 2010

On the bus yesterday on the way to see T, I did a little bit of reading of Push by Sapphire (the film Precious was intense, but a very good adaptation of the book I thought) and a little bit of people-watching.  Occasionally, my gaze would meet someone else’s, and I would look away as if I were just flickering my vision across the periphery.  And my mind began to think, what do people see when they see me?  I mean, everyone makes snap judgements about people they see based on first impressions and looks, and I wondered what kind of judgements people make when they see me.  I’m slim now, I guess I am quite pretty (according to what everyone says, and I personally don’t think I am ugly most of the time) – I noticed that nobody ever says “handsome”, I’m always “pretty” / “gorgeous” / “beautiful”, which is interesting considering I’m a guy who’s 6 feet tall and broad shouldered. But anyway – and I’m always listening to music, reading a book or looking out of the window and somewhat preoccupied.  What image does that create of me?  What do people see on first glance?

The funny thing is, I guess that I am now considered quite attractive, but I never used to be that way.  I feel like I’m the same person inside, wearing a completely different body.  I know that a lot of people from school whom I pass in the street don’t recognise me anymore, despite my not being facially any different since the age of 3.  I found my dress sense, I found the slim person inside who’s been dying to get out for 23 years, and people who see me now don’t know who I’ve been, where I’ve come from, what I’ve been through.  And maybe I don’t want to be an open book for everyone – privacy is something that’s very important to me – but it’s odd to think that nobody can tell that I used to be chubby, that I used to be unhappy, somewhat geeky, that I used to have “interesting” taste in clothes and piles of junky jewellery instead of the Armani and Gucci that I wear now.  Call it adolescence, call it growing pains, but those are memories that I still carry around with me every day, and all that makes me part of who I am today.  I don’t feel any different, just that finally all the extra layers seem to have fallen away and the “pretty” person waiting inside has finally been revealed.

There’s an element of “now what…”, too.  I appear to be achieving my aims of tattoos, of learning to drive (theory test in a week and a half!), and of having a relationship with someone.  Just by looking at me, nobody can know that these are things that I’ve struggled with, that I’ve been working towards.  Something I said to T was that in the first month I’ve known him, I’ve gotten 2 tattoos: it’s not really representative of me, because it’s not something I usually do or in fact have ever done before! He just seems to have come into my life where I am doing more exciting things than usual.  Does that mean that as a person I’m changing, I’m stronger and now able to realise the things that have always been in my head?  Or is it all just about timing?  People who see me now see me as a smoker, but I’ve only been smoking for two years.  It’s funny to get my head around the difference in ideas of me that my new friends have, with those that are held by people who’ve known me for years.  Who is closer to the real me? I think there’s a little truth in both… This body I’m wearing apparently looks so different but it feels the same to me: I enjoy the reactions I inspire now, but it’s still a little alien to me despite the fact that I have tried so hard and finally am reaping the rewards of being a little braver, a little edgier, more attractive.  And where do I go from here?  What happens next?  This new body of mine that I’m wearing, this person inside that’s a mixture of everything I’ve been through and everything I’ve become… how will I change next?  What does the future hold in store?