Posts Tagged ‘experiences’

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last Christmas.

December 15, 2012

I remember when I started this blog that I would write quite lengthy, detailed posts about my personal life and about all of my feelings and experiences. This blog has been around for over 3 years and during that time my life has transformed in a lot of ways: I did a postgrad, started working in jobs I actually wanted, learned to drive and bought a car, entered a long-term relationship, moved to London and supported myself, moved in with my boyfriend… I made the decision not to talk about my relationship in too much detail because I feel that my private life is just for me and for Toby – but he informs everything I do now and is such a big part of me that every post on here, more or less, is influenced by him or concerns him to some degree.

Although I am certainly more mature and guarded about what I choose to post on the internet, sometimes I miss the honesty and openness with which I used to post. Sometimes, when I have dilemmas in my life, I find myself typing my question into Google in search of some advice. And sometimes I find some decent food for thought, whereas other times there’s just nothing sensible or nothing that quite touches the nature of what I am going through. But on those occasions where I do find something that can help me, through offering a kindred voice or shedding an alternative perspective on a situation, it’s really valuable. And so I have decided that in this post, I am going to be honest and talk about what is on my mind, in the hope that one day someone else might find my post and it might help them to know that they are not alone.

Yesterday I was speaking to my mother on the phone and apropos of nothing, she asked me that when I am in Bristol for Christmas, that I don’t voluntarily reveal the fact that I am gay and in a healthy, happy long-term relationship with my partner. The reason for this is that my uncle and aunt are coming up from Melbourne for the holiday to visit my grandmother. My cousin (my uncle and aunt’s daughter) has been living in Bristol with my grandmother for the past six months, and during this time she has demonstrated that she has grown up a lot from the irksome child and teenager that she was when I had previously met her. And yet the other day, my mother was having a conversation with her and my grandmother, and my cousin asks “how is Alan getting on with his flatmate?” Toby is my boyfriend, my lover, my partner with whom I share a flat – but he is so much more than my “flatmate” that I paused a little bit – because surely this is obvious, and my cousin (whose recent displays of emotional intelligence lead me to believe that she would have caught onto this) must know that Toby is my boyfriend. My mum then told me that my cousin has revealed in the past that my uncle (who has hitherto always been nice to me) “hates certain celebrity chefs because they are gay” apparently. And so, my mother has asked me not to volunteer any information about Toby to “keep the peace on Christmas Day” and to keep my grandmother happy, because otherwise relatives’ reactions “may cause a scene and my grandmother will get upset.”

What the fuck.

I am not at all angry at my mother for wanting a peaceful Christmas – it’s perfectly understandable. My mother’s side of the family is Italian (and therefore Catholic, although I wouldn’t describe them as religious with the exception of my grandmother who goes to church twice a week – but only since my grandfather passed away 5 years ago). But I have introduced Toby to my father (who has made crass comments about gay people in the past but has never been anything but welcoming of Toby and supportive of me in my relationship – I feel that his macho posturing isn’t really indicative of his views, which annoys me somewhat – why does he even need to act a certain way therefore? But I appreciate the fact that he is accepting of me) and everything has been fine – Toby has never felt uncomfortable or unwelcome in my parents’ home. My grandmother has met Toby a few times now and they get on ok too – neither is my grandmother stupid; she knows who he is to me, even if she doesn’t say it out loud. But here lies the crux of the problem – everybody knows, but nobody wants to talk about it. Everybody is actually fine with my sexuality, but everybody seems to think that they are the only “enlightened one” and that nobody else approves. So it remains a big open secret. Which to me is partly laughable, but also quite painful because I have absolutely no shame in having found a man that I love with all my heart, and having established a strong and secure relationship with him. Shouldn’t this be something that could be appreciated, if it’s too much to ask for it to be celebrated? Why do I have to keep quiet about the most positive (out of a range of very positive things in my life) part of who I am today?

I have always been the Beyoncé of the family, if you will. (Prepare for me to toot my own horn in the next couple of sentences.) Not only because I’m musically talented, but I am the only person on my mother’s side of the family to go to university, let alone to the University of Oxford and then on to achieve a postgraduate qualification afterwards. I am the only one who has successfully moved out of Bristol. I’m the slimmest and most fashionable out of me and my cousins. I have an interesting job which pays a decent wage (but more about that in another post, as I have an announcement to make!). I am 27 years old and I have done pretty well so far (with some wobbles along the way – but hey, that’s life right?). With all of this hard work (which was for myself, but it didn’t hurt that it pleased others also), it would appear that the fact that I am gay, that I happen to be attracted to men, and that I have now built a life for myself with another man whom I love deeply, resets everything. I will never be good enough, and no matter what I did or what I achieve in the future, I never had a chance at being “good enough” because of my sexuality, which is something I cannot control. I love being gay, I love Toby, I am very happy with my life and with myself (apart from the fact that I ought to quit smoking and that next year I am going to lose weight – but there’s a forthcoming post for that too because my musical goals and my aesthetic aims are going hand in hand in 2013).  And I can’t talk about any of it, because other people may react to it, and it may upset someone else. Well, it upsets me! What about that?

Back to the phone call. So my mother asked this favour of me. I fell silent, and I said that I didn’t know if I could do that – I certainly couldn’t promise anything. I know that she understands, and I know that she didn’t like asking, and I am not angry at her. But I am angry at my family because I am never going to be good enough, and I am not able to relax and completely be myself. I told my mother that I didn’t understand why I should compromise myself. It’s not natural for one to shout their gayness or their homosexual monogamous relationship upon entering a room – this is not my intention. But I am 27 years old, and I am not afraid of them anymore – I have built my own life, and at the end of the day, I don’t live in Bristol and I don’t need the validation of my family. It’s nice if I could feel comfortable with them – but if that’s not going to be a possibility, c’est la vie. I will choose Toby over them, if it has to come to it. I am sad that it might have to come to that – but maybe we can’t have everything. I have a lot, and that’s enough. But I refuse to be intimidated by small-minded, low-aspiring people. I don’t even really know if they are small-minded – this is all just rumour and myth. But after all – I’d better not say anything, just in case.

I want everyone to have a lovely Christmas day. I want Toby to feel welcome when he comes to Bristol, and the fact that he does perplexes me even more in light of this request. I don’t want my grandmother to be upset, and I don’t want anybody to cause a scene. But it’s not my fault if they cause a scene because of their own prejudice, surely? I don’t understand why I have to conceal, compromise and sacrifice my identity in the presence of people whom I see only occasionally, and who are my frickin’ family, so as not to rock a phantom boat. Am I being unreasonable? Because perhaps it’s not such a big thing to ask, for one day. But then, to me, it’s not really about one family day – it’s about me being denied the ability to openly be myself, to celebrate all of the things I have achieved and the precious gift of Toby’s presence in my life. He is wonderful, and I don’t see why I have to downplay this. I’m not going to shout it from the rooftops (though sometimes I want to! 🙂 ) because that would be unnatural, but neither am I going to lie about it because that is no more natural either.

This is bringing me to the sad conclusion that, whether or not a scene occurs, I feel like this will be my last Christmas in Bristol with my family, for at least a while. I don’t want to hurt my family by not celebrating with them, but at the same time I am an adult now, with the right to live my own life. (I can’t lie – it will be nice to actually not do a big travelling jaunt for one year.) I’m old enough to make my own decisions and to choose to stand my ground and enjoy my life in my own home. I have proven my worth time and again, and I now have the flat, the job, the relationship – the evidence to show for it. It’s not my fault that my family members may be insecure or jealous, and I don’t see why I should compromise myself to appease any inadequacies they may or may not feel. It’s not my problem. If I cannot be myself on Christmas day, then maybe next year it has finally come to the point where I’ve got to start making my own traditions, and if it means being by myself then hey – I’ll do it. I would never begrudge Toby going to spend time with his family, and maybe I would be able to join them instead. I don’t know – this whole situation has thrown me into a realm of “I don’t know”. What I do know is that I won’t lie, I won’t hide, and I won’t be ashamed. I am strong enough and secure enough to stand alone – I’d rather not have to, but if that’s the way it has to be then so be it. A part of me hopes I’ll be pleasantly surprised this Christmas and all these worries and postulations will count for nothing. I really don’t know what will happen – I am confident that I feel the right way about the situation, but I hope that I will have the grace and the presence of mind to react correctly and in a dignified manner to whatever situation arises.

I’ll let you know.

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travelling.

August 14, 2012

I’m currently just over halfway through a well-earned two-week break from work, and I’m back in Bristol at the moment with my family. But over the past week I have bounced up and down the country, from London to Peterborough to Hastings then back to London via Heathrow!  During the car journey with Toby and his parents from Hastings to London, I played “the adjective game” with his mother in the back seat, which involves taking turns in saying the following rhyme:

I love my love with an A because he’s _____ (positive adjective beginning with A, e.g. “amazing”)
I hate my love with an A because he’s _____ (negative adjective beginning with A, e.g. “arrogant”)
His name is _____ (boy’s name beginning with A, e.g. “Aaron”) _____  and he comes from _____ (UK town beginning with A, e.g. Aberystwyth)

The next person does the letter B, then the letter C, and so on. It soon became apparent that while I could think of adjectives and boys’ names fairly quickly, my knowledge of British geography is woefully lacking. Apart from when my dad’s mother was alive and we would visit her for a couple of days in Filey, Yorkshire each summer, and travelling to the outskirts of London to see various members of my father’s family when I was young each Christmas, I didn’t really get to know much of England. School trips stuck mainly to the south west – occasionally Birmingham or Wales, but never any further.  In my late teens, when I was doing my university applications, I visited cities such as Oxford and Cardiff for the first time. I hadn’t even gone to central London and used the underground until I was 19 years old. I only like two cities in England – Bristol (more about that later), and London. I’m certainly not attached to anywhere else. Nevertheless, I feel that it’s important to visit cities in my home country (as well as countries throughout the world – Toby and I spent an hour last week making an exhaustive list of desired holiday destinations that will probably take us through to our seventies) to experience new places and broaden my horizons.

During my time in Peterborough, Toby’s mother suggested to us that we might like to go for a picnic at Rutland Water, which is a giant man-made lake / reservoir in the middle of the countryside.  Within that sentence, there are two words which unnerve me deeply: “picnic” and “countryside”. I don’t like picnics because they conjure up images of sitting on grass and mud, eating miserable sandwiches and constantly warding off bugs and insects. My preferred way of experiencing the countryside is through Google Earth or iPhoto – that way, you don’t have to smell it or get hot and sweaty walking through it, and you can turn it off once you get bored. I realise this sounds bratty, and I’m poking fun at myself a little bit – but I’m truly not one for gazing out over endless fields. I see it, my mind takes a picture, let’s move on – the fields do not do anything entertaining to hold my attention, and there’s no focal point. However, I tried to be up for something new, and I didn’t want to outwardly reject Toby’s offer of an outing, so we went along. The first hour of walking along a cycle path through clouds of midges, lumps of poo and flocks of sheep with the sun beating down on me and cyclists weaving all around us did not do much to endear me to Rutland Water, and I felt really bad. While my worst fears had indeed been confirmed, Toby had tried to do something nice for me and I wasn’t being very appreciative – he got a bit upset, I apologised and made more of an effort at conversation, we ate our nice sandwiches on a bench (at first he did come close to breaking his promise that we wouldn’t sit on the grass, but I firmly put the kibosh on that one), and soon it was a much more pleasant experience. We then drove round to the other side of the lake, which was far prettier and felt a lot more like a park.  For the record, I really like parks – we visited Battersea Park on Tuesday and it was lovely, plus we fell in love with nearly every dog that we saw (one of which, a bichon frisé, fell in love with me and followed me for about 5 minutes much to the chagrin of his owner). My mood had lifted a lot and I was actually enjoying myself, and Toby was too – as guilty as I felt for my initial ungratefulness, I am proud that I was mature enough to get over myself, enjoy myself and thank Toby for his thoughtfulness in the process. We skimmed stones (I discovered that I am really bad at this), looked at a very strange metal sculpture (apparently created purely to be aesthetically capitivating):

and walked along a dam made of piles of stones, which was very romantic. I ended up having a lovely time and after my initial disquiet, I appreciated the fresh air and open space.  Would I go again? I probably wouldn’t be the one to suggest it as a destination, but neither would I feel anxious about going. I still majorly dislike the countryside – that’s just me, I’m afraid – but I think I can learn to get along with it.

A couple of days later, we went a long drive from Peterborough down to Hastings for Toby’s brother’s engagement party (his brother’s fiancée is from there). I would personally never choose to live in Hastings, as it’s extremely tiny (I do not cope with tiny towns) and feels underdeveloped and a bit tacky, but – walking along the waterfront at night, and then picking my way down to the shore the following lunchtime, I could see that living by the seaside does have its charms:

Walking along the waterfront with Toby’s dad and Katie’s father as the sun set was truly lovely – people were playing crazy golf, a live band was playing, and there were stalls selling confectionery and ice cream. On Sunday we had lunch at a restaurant on the shore, and we went down to the water’s edge after finishing our meal and being that close to the water did feel a little bit magical. It did help that the weather was wonderful, but the venue just possessed a holiday atmosphere which I was able to appreciate. We drove back up to London and Toby’s parents dropped us off at Heathrow airport, which did feel exciting – we joked about just getting on a plane and leaving the country (and there were certainly plenty of appealing destinations on the departures board), but Toby had to be well-behaved as he is back at work this week. We each had a lemon San Pellegrino at the Caffé Nero there, and then got the tube back to Earls Court – and I ticked another underground station off my list:

And now I am back in Bristol. I am having a lovely time seeing my family and friends, and it is good to be home… but at the same time, I really feel that London is also my home now. I’ve lived there for a year (which has flown by!), and every time I return to Bristol, I notice how small the city feels, how tiny the buildings are, and how a considerable amount of the people look a bit… idiosyncratic. Obviously, you get dodgy-looking people everywhere, but I guess that until I started to see more of the world, I didn’t notice it in my own city as much. I always knew that the public transport in Bristol was a joke, but today I paid £2.90 for half an hour’s bus journey. The bus driver was on his mobile phone at the bus stop and I had to wait for him to finish his conversation before I could buy a ticket; I then asked how much it cost (as he didn’t tell me the price of the ticket – he just assumed I would know), and upon paying the driver, he practically threw my change at me, slamming it into the little money tray. I know that Bristol is a very friendly city, and that London is notorious for its rudeness and impatience, but the London public transport is far superior not only price-wise (a bus journey is less than half the price, and even the tube is considerably cheaper), but attitude-wise too – I’ve never been sassed by a London bus driver to date. So sort it out, Bristol! It’s sad that unless something major happens, we’d never be able to afford to buy somewhere in central London, because that would be a dream – but I’m looking forward to Toby and I moving into our own place (we are renting our own flat together in the next couple of months – I’m so excited!) in the next couple of months.  My sense of exploration is blossoming.

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g4l. (my new tattoo)

February 6, 2010

Yesterday, I got my second tattoo done, check it out!

That picture is taken straight after the guy had finished tattooing, so that’s why it’s quite red – the blood is at the surface.  In a couple of weeks when the tattoo has healed, the shading will look much more black and grey, which will be perfect! Needless to say, having a tattoo on my ribs was a tad bit more painful than my first one above my collarbone, but I handled it like a man, and Mike reassured me a couple of times which was helpful (we’re both two tats apiece now!).  I didn’t get hardly any sleep last night, because my tattoo is quite sore and every time I rolled over on it, I seemed to wake up, but I’m happy to sacrifice a little sleep for a piece of art I’m truly happy with.

A lot of people have asked “Why a gun???” I think that it’s a little darker than people expect from me, but it has its significance to me.  Firstly, I like the fact that it’s a little dark, a little edgy, a little dangerous.  I was inspired by Rihanna because she has a little gun on her side, but I really didn’t want to just copy her tattoo: a) it didn’t have that much detail in it, and b) I wanted it on my ribs as opposed on my side on level with my chest.  I had my own ideas, and that’s the most important thing I think when getting a tattoo: it has to be what you want.  That’s why I’m so into custom design, rather than picking something from a book or from the display cards in the studio.  The gun means that I’ll never be defenceless again, and it’s a little reminder of the fact that I always possess some power, some control in life.  Finally, I modified the design to make it a revolver instead of your average pistol / shotgun, because I am in love with Rihanna’s song “Russian Roulette” – not only is it a beautiful song to listen to and to sing, but the lyrics mean so much to me.  In short, when I listen to it, it’s the story of Mike & me, it’s a story of love and heartache and the danger bound up in that.   And for those reasons, I wanted to get the revolver barrel put on my gun to honour that; over the past 4 months I’ve had to grow up a lot, and those experiences have really shaped who I have become and my maturity, my outlook on life.

The tattoo studio I went to this time was Iron & Ink on Bristol Road in Whitchurch Village: Dean and Lewis are both fantastically talented and really nice blokes, and having done this tattoo + two for Mike, and Phill’s getting one there next week (where are our loyalty cards?!?! 😛 ), I can’t recommend them enough.  They may be a tiny bit pricier than some other tattoo parlours (their minimum charge I think is £40, rather than £15 or £20 that you might find elsewhere), but I hope the picture above demonstrates that you get what you pay for.  At the moment, they have small waiting lists (I expect this to change as they become more well-known!) and I booked my gun last week, got it done yesterday, thankyou very much – and they’ll work on a design brief you give them and customise it so that it looks the best it can.  I thoroughly recommend them!

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edgier.

December 10, 2009

Having been on my new university course for 3 months now, and having made some really close friends who are generally a few years older than me (my closest friends on the course are 33 and 35), I’ve really been able to see how far I’ve come as a person.

Looking back at myself even 4 months ago when I had only started writing this blog, I knew myself, but myself was unsure and nervous.  I felt as if I was in a rut professionally after graduating with a good degree from a prestigious university, personally I had had “friends” who turned out not to be friends at all slander me and accuse me of things (theft, bullying) that I had and have never done, and would never do in a million years.  I took it all on the chin and just had faith that things would get better, but I knew in my heart that I didn’t know what would happen.  Would this careers guidance course be the right decision for me?  What was going to happen to me?  Had I peaked already in my life?

The answer to that last question, now I see, is an emphatic NO! Obviously I was only 23 (now 24) and to paint myself as an underdog who had it all and then lost it was more than a little unfair to myself.  I now know that I have so much going for me, so much to offer, and I am not an ugly or stupid person no matter how much certain people may endeavour to make me feel that about myself.  I deserve the best, and with this new qualification, new friends who seem to value me for me from the jump, and new confidence, I feel that I can get the best.  Once again, I’m back on track, and more than anything I’m so relieved.  I may paint myself as confident and assertive – and I am those things – but underneath I still get nervous and insecure.  Now, I finally see that I really am worth more.

I guess it’s a part of natural evolution.  I’ve grown up a lot, and although it took pointing out, I am older than my years.  I don’t feel out of place hanging out with 30-year-olds, because we have the same mentality and experiences.  People generally have trouble guessing my age (I still get ID’d for buying cigarettes on the one hand – which makes Mike LOL and envious at the same time!; on the other hand, a couple of people on my course originally thought I was late 20s because of the fact I can articulate myself and hold my own in discussions), but although I may tease my colleagues at university about receding hairlines, wrinkles and old age, I don’t feel any difference between us.  Aaliyah really had it right – age ain’t nothin’ but a number.  Usually it correlates to maturity, but not always.  At the end of the day, people are people, and we are all human.

These are things that I already knew to be true, but having them held up in front of me has forced me to accept these things as positives about myself.  It’s finally really sinking in.  And the truth of who I am as a man, as a human being, is finally coming out.  This is what I wanted to write about really, but it took the backstory above to get there! (Sorry… but I always give you the main course – no snacks here!)  I thought that I was an adult after university (by which I mean my undergraduate degree at Oxford), but it took me a bit longer.  Working at the Perfume Shop gave me a taste of the hard grind, working for not enough money and being treated like I didn’t have a brain (the saving grace was superficially decent friendships and getting to work with fragrance and deepen my knowledge of it).  My newer job at the hospital has made me see how people can be valued in their work, both monetarily and in terms of being treated like an intelligent human being.  My new course at university has helped me see what I really want to do, and now having that thrust forward has completed me and erased some of my doubts (not all, but some is certainly a step forward) about my future and my life’s purpose.

As things around me have been moving in the right direction, so I’ve been able to spread my wings and become more of who I am.  I love smoking – I’m not a moron and I know it’s not good for my health nor my voice, but I enjoy the feeling from it, the fact it kills time, and the socialising aspect of it – I think it goes hand in hand with being confident and conversational, as you often get approached by people who want a light / spare fag, and you end up conversing with strangers because you share an appreciation of nicotine!  In turn, smoking has reduced my hunger (allowing me to stick to my no-evening-snacking policy) and I’ve dropped a waist size – people at uni have christened me “good looking”, “pretty boy” and lots of other complimentary things referencing both my physical looks and my fashion style. I feel more confident in and out of my clothes – although I’m such a perfectionist that I’ll never be satisfied!  But looking at my vanity and my past issues with my own body and self-esteem, I’ve come a long way.  I feel happier in my skin physically as well as emotionally – and I’m feeling more confident to express the edgier, darker sides of myself which set me apart from others.

After years of deliberation, changing my mind and refining my ideas, I’m finally set on getting tattoos!  One is a stylised A, which you can see here; the other will be above my left collarbone mirroring it, and will be a gun.  I’ve been inspired by Rihanna‘s gun tattoo, but I want it because to me a gun is a symbol of strength and power, of aggression and conflict, of edginess and darkness.  These are all things that I embody – I am tougher than some people initially assume, and I want an emblem of that grit and fire.  I feel it’s applicable to me, and also quite exciting and sexy.  And whereas before I might have balked at the permanence of a tattoo like that, now I feel mature and comfortable enough in myself to be able to wear it and pull it off.  This is me – maybe I’m a good boy gone bad, but I still have a good heart; I have just spent too long in my life pleasing others, and now I’ve finally lunged for myself with this course and am reaping the rewards much more than I ever did listening to other people’s opinions on what was best for me, I believe in my own capacity to make decisions.  I’m not an angel, I’m not a good boy, and I’m tired of portraying that.  I am me and I have a good heart and an intelligent mind, but sometimes I enjoy being provocative or sexy or pushing the boundaries.  That is just as valid a part of me, and my new friendships embrace that part of me too and love me for it.  My infatuation with a married man who has become my best friend and is actively ok with my affection and flirting and actively returns it has been a revelation to me.  We understand each other, we can control our affections (he feels the same way about someone else) and be mature adults, but we also have fun with it – we accept each other and I never felt so comfortable to be able to be so emotionally honest with someone I knew would accept me for who I am. From him I learned what it is to be a good father, a good husband, a good man, and also that whatever I’m feeling, I am a rational person and I should never feel guilty for my feelings.  I should never feel stupid, and the sign of a good friendship is being able to admit how you’re feeling and that other person accepting you for it and not telling you it’s wrong or silly.  Again, these are things I superficially knew, but feeling and living them is a whole other revelation.  I hope that my friends can one day think of me in the same way.

So my embracing my dark side instead of being afraid of it; my becoming edgier is a natural emancipation, a natural evolution of me.  I am free to be who I am, and I am proud of who I am.  I’ve felt ashamed, even in small doses, for too long.  It took a long time to get here, and I’m sure in the future I will still make mistakes and waver, but hopefully I can come back and read this post and remember my feelings right now, and that’ll keep me going.  Once a good boy goes bad, we’re gone forever – but I wish I’d gone sooner and I look forward to where I’m going and whom I’m going with.