6/26/2015 – A Fine Day

Do you hear that? The roar of celebration sweeping across the United States of America? The cries of joy – charged with emotion and tears? This is Marriage Equality. Finally, it has arrived.

Do you feel that? The swell of positive emotions from others reacting to this historic occassion? Vibrating and resonant deep within your chest as you reflect on what it means now that the law recognizes you as equal in terms of marrying someone you love.

Do you see that? The immense amount of work that is still left to do for the other members of the LGBT community who are in need of equality – specifically trans* people of color. Marriage Equality is a grand victory but it does not mean that the fight for equality is over. Things will not suddenly be peachy. Intolerance and hatred are, unfortunately, not so easily defeated.

Do you smell that? The celebratory dinners, barbecues and parties that are being held in honor of this momentous decision. Along with the gay wedding cakes and gay wedding pizzas too.

Do you taste that? The salty, bitter tears of frustration from those who have spent millions of dollars and countless hours attempting to curtail a segment of the population merely for being different. Merely because they did not agree with how another person lives their life. It’s okay, Opponents of Equality, this ruling has literally NO effect on your lives.

Today has been a fine day. Tonight will be filled with celebrations, laughter, smiles and tears. But tomorrow and beyond will need continued focus and dedication from those in the LGBTQ community (and allies) in order to fight for equality for ALL.

Advertisements

(Mis)Adventures in dating – Kona Grill.

At the behest of a few friends, I’ve recently decided to start chronicling my experiences involving dating and dudes.

Let me start by saying that, when it comes to dating and love and all that, I’m pretty weird about it all. I’m a hardcore a bit of a commitmaphobe and if someone tries to push something resembling commitment on me or talks about ‘us’ in the future before I feel ready or comfortable with it, I will disappear. This is perhaps why I don’t go on many dates. And if I do, there’s rarely ever a second one.

 

One of the first train-wreck dates I went on was with a boy named Oliver (not his real name). Oliver and I had met through Myspace, back in the day when everyone had Top Eights,  and posted vague bulletins about their feelings.

I had agreed to meet him at a restaurant named Kona Grill. I had never been there, but I liked sushi and all that well enough so I figured I’d give it a try. I arrived at the restaurant a bit early and found Oliver standing out front. He seemed pretty nervous and stood up awkwardly to give me a hug. I was nervous too, but I think I was just better at hiding it.

Oliver looked very different from his expertly angled, black and white Myspace photos. He jawline was not nearly as sharp, he was a bit shorter and rounder than I had imagined and it looked like he had squeezed himself into the tightest pair of jeans he could manage. The scarf around his neck also seemed incredibly out of place in the August heat of South Texas.

He gave a nervous laugh as we were seated. Our date began with stale conversation about pretty boring topics. He asked about my family and possibly if I had any pets. I responded and couldn’t think of anything to ask him. I remember him smiling constantly – as if the corners of his mouth were being held up by an invisible tape of sorts. It was a bit unnerving.

Our conversation, at one point, moved into the ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ territory. He began talking about something he liked – I forget what it was, let’s say…menudo.

“Oh man, I don’t like all the tripa that comes in menudo.” I said with a grimace.

“Yeah, I mean it’s kinda gross…” he said. “But it’s way better than barbacoa. I can’t stand barbacoa.”

“Oh, I love barbacoa!” I said. “It’s so good.”

“Yeah, it is actually pretty tasty…” he replied with a nod and a smile.

What was going on? His opinions were changing in real-time with our conversation. It was almost as if he were trying to impress me and make himself seem more likable? I was very confused by it all.

The date went on like this for another uncomfortable hour or so. If we agreed on something, it was nice but whenever there was anything that we had differing opinions about, Oliver would casually switch his to whatever he thought I wanted to hear.

Eventually, we finished our meal. I was mentally exhausted with constantly agreeing with him – whether or not I wanted to. The waitress came by and asked how we wanted to handle the check.

“Separate! Please.” I said, possibly a bit too eagerly.

We exited the restaurant and made our way to a good separating point. Luckily, I was parked in the opposite direction as he was. We stopped and stood for a few beats, doing that awkward thing that happens at the end of a date when neither person knows what to do.

 

 

A short distance away, fireworks from Six Flags exploded in the sky above us. Yellows and reds and greens burst through the darkness. I’m sure it would have been very romantic had I been with anyone else.

“I had a really good time…” he said, turning and giving me a look that I felt belonged in a Nicholas Sparks movie.

“Yeah, it was…cool.” I said, fumbling over my words. I wanted to be nice but I also didn’t want to give him any hope of another date. What was I to do, what was I to do?

“I’d love to see you again,” he said, his hand reached out and took mine. I threw a nervous glance around.

“Ummm well…” I began. “I….”

It was happening. I couldn’t hold it in. It was like verbal diarrhea. I had already taken the first step, said the first words, and the rest was now just tumbling out.

“…I really think we’d be better of as just friends, man. I don’t think I feel the same way about you. Maybe we just don’t click on that level.”

I gently but firmly tugged my hand out of his clammy grasp. His face was a mix of surprise and hurt – exactly what I had been trying to avoid.

“It’s not that you’re not cool or nice or anything – you are,” I couldn’t stop. I was trying so hard to let him down easily but it was spiraling out of control.

“Oh…” he said simply. “…I guess I thought you were into it.”

“I mean, you’re really nice,” I said, unconsciously wiping my hand on my jeans. “I enjoyed meeting you. And like, we can be friends and stuff.”

An awkward silence settled over us. The only sound was the deep BOOM! of the fireworks as they continued their show in the sky.

“And you know what,” I added. “ I really liked Kona Grill!”

This was my desperate attempt to find something positive in this – any glimmer of sunshine that could possibly help break through this gray cloud of angst that was so quickly billowing from the boy in front of me.

He looked at me, his eyes dark and brooding and heaved a dramatic sigh.

“I wish I was Kona Grill.”

I stared back at him for a bit, dumbfounded. I was unsure what to say or do. Part of me wanted to give him a pity hug because he was obviously not handling this well. But another part of me was suppressing the urge to laugh. I mean, how could I not? What a ridiculous thing to say.

 

Oh, how I WISH I was a restaurant.

 

 

“Well…” was all I could manage to say without cracking a smile. “…er….sorry.”

Against my better judgement, I pulled him into a brief pity hug. My hand patted his back a couple of times before I bid him goodbye and headed back to my car.

On the drive home, I reflected about what had just happened. Had I been an asshole? Had he been too dramatic about the whole thing? Had it been a little of both?

If it had been me in his position, I would have rather my date be upfront about his lack of interest. Better that, I thought, than to continue feeding my one-sided infatuation with hope.

No, I decided, I did the right thing by nipping it in the bud. There were probably a million better ways that I could have done it, but I was young and clueless. I think that had I done it any other way, I still would have gotten the same melodramatic reaction.

It’s been eight years and I haven’t seen Oliver since. I have, however, been to Kona Grill several times and I still quite enjoy it. So I suppose it wasn’t a complete bust.

 

What do you think? Have you been in this position before? How did you handle it? Is honesty the best policy or is it good to give someone another chance even if you’re not feeling it? Is there a way to break this kind of news to someone and NOT hurt their feelings?

 

Things I didn’t “get” in 2014 – a look back

Hey! Guess what? It’s almost 2015! Holy shit!

If 2014 were a series that you were bingewatching on Netflix, you would be on the penultimate episode! If it were a book, you would be on page 364 of 365! Isn’t that CRAZY?

When I talk about this past year, it’s with a lot of confusion. Like…a lot of shit happened. But at the same time…not much seemed to happen at all. I don’t know, maybe it’s me? 2014 wasn’t entirely unremarkable…but I think I’m just so ready for it to be over. I’ve kind of already emptied my brain. I’ve deleted the caches of memories from the year in preparation for 2015.

I decided, though, to make one final post before 2015 begins. Everyone loves lists, right? Especially END OF YEAR lists!

Here are some of the things that happened this year that I just didn’t “get”. I’m hoping these are all from 2014 but, like I said, my memory of this past year has been a bit hazy. Also, please please please don’t assume I’m some kind of cultural guru or connoisseur of all things pop culture; I’m not. I’m simply a bored twenty-something who wants to write about stuff in his blog.

  •  Flappy Bird – Like…what was this game, even? I never downloaded it. It looked like a huge ripoff of Super Mario. People were going craaaazy over it! People seemed more than eager to torture themselves with something that seemed impossible to win.

 “Yeah yeah, I’ll donate or whatever. But first….let me take a #SELFIE” 
  •  The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – I had a couple of friends tag me in this and I promptly ignored them. ALS is definitely a terrible disease, there’s no doubting that trying to raise money for its research is a great idea.

    Butttttt I think the message got a bit lost somewhere in the millions of repetitive videos. I mean, everyone from Malloree P. from Delaware to the President of Turkmenistan seemed to be dumping water on their heads for attention. It was nice to see the Ice Bucket Challenge give so much exposure to ALS and the need for research. At the same time, though, something about the whole thing was just really off-putting to me.

  •  Snapchat – I tried it. I really, really tried it. Maybe I’m just too old for this app, though? I would get group snaps and think that the sender was talking to me personally, so I would respond back and not make any sense. I just never understood the point of it. I don’t know, call me old-fashioned but I guess I just prefer to send a picture via text message to someone.

No thank you, creepy Pringles dude. Please leave me alone.

  • Mustaches – Were mustaches a thing this year or am I just imagining it? It seemed like every white trendy hipster boy was trying to rock a sad little caterpillar ‘stache twisted up on the ends like a wannabe Dali.

Yo Iggy, drop a sick freestyle!

  • Igloo Australia
  • Igthorn Amoeba 
  • Igby Aragorn 
  • Iggy Azaelia – I just…can’t stand her, really. I don’t know if it’s the way she raps – she sounds like a toddler trying to read their first book. Or maybe it’s her irritatingly catchy ‘Fancy’ song. Or maybe it’s how she capitalizes on Hip Hop/Black culture while not seeming to actually give a fuck about doing so. I don’t know. Whatever it is, I just really don’t get why everyone was so obsessed with her this year.

  • American Horror Story: Carnival – A lot of people seemed to wet themselves over the new season of AHS. Admittedly, I’ve only seen the first season. I watched the first episode of Carnival and though “Hm. Okay.” and then I couldn’t ever remember to watch it again. I don’t think I missed much, though.

  • The fascination with Nick Jonas – Okay, I get it: Nick Jonas is hot. He really is. And he’s cool with gay fans too? That’s awesome. He was spotted in a NYC gay club and flashed abs? Wow, awesome! Oh? He…flashed his abs again on the cover of a gay magazine? Oh-okay.

It seemed like so many people went apeshit over ~*~*~*~Whether or not he’s gay~*~*~*~*~ . It seemed like he was bombarded by all things queer just because he expressed that he was an ally. I saw one unfortunate interview where he was made to awkwardly “guess the bulge”. Like, c’mon now. Whether or not he is or isn’t LGBT is none of our business. Although I do have a bit of trepidation about how far he’s willing to ride this rainbow wave of publicity. *shrug*

  • Gluten-free shit – I don’t know…I just never really understood the whole craze.

 So that’s it! My list! Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know! I think that it’s a very strange, oddly specific list so I would be interested to know what others thought of 2014 haha. 

 ALSO! I just want to give a huge THANK YOU to all the people who follow my little blog and all the ramblings it contains. I seriously appreciate it and I look forward to 2015! ❤  

Rain and Rainbows, 雨と虹

 

ビショビショだね〜

ビショビショだね〜

 

As a child, June always began with a rush of excitement. School was on the brink of letting out for the summer, my birthday was right around the corner and the air seemed to buzz with the promise of adventures waiting to be had.

In Japan, however, I learned to my dismay that school was still in session during my birthday month. Schools in Kumamoto did not get out for summer vacation until mid-July or so. And even then, their summer break was only a couple of weeks long.

I remember the chorus of shocked “EHHHHHHH”s and resentful “IIIII NAAAAA”s when I told my sixth graders that Americans get three months off for summer vacation. The homeroom teacher threw me a scared look and then cast a wary glance at their class; I’m sure she feared an uprising of Japanese children who demanded a longer break from school.

“WHAT DO YOU DO FOR THREE MONTHS?!” they screamed incredulously.

“…forget EVERYTHING we learned.” I said, only half-joking.

The month of June, it seemed, was incredibly different in Japan. There, the air grew heavy with moisture and dark clouds covered the entire country. At night, the rice field directly behind my apartment came to life with hundreds of frogs croaking loudly from within.

Days later, as if responding to the amphibian rain orgy, the skies would open and torrential rain would begin to fall in sheets for days at a time. It was so unrelenting that the rice field would routinely flood and I would often find myself opening the curtain to lakefront property.

IMG_2835

Without fail, the calming pitter patter on my window would put me back to sleep so I always had to set at least four different alarms to make sure I got up. When I eventually rose, whatever motivation I had had for the day would sink down through my chest and disappear somewhere into my body.

I would make my way downstairs slowly and see my living room and kitchen bathed in gloomy gray light instead of brilliant sunshine. The intense humidity gave my walls a sheen of moisture, causing the posters to crinkle sadly. Sometimes they would simply give up and detach themselves from the rubber cement that held them in place.

I had to learn to consistently check for and clean up everyone’s least favorite guest during rainy season: mold. It sprouted everywhere, looking as if a tree sprite had run gaily through my apartment. During my first miserable rainy season, I was horrified to find it all over my floor. It stretched from my bathroom to the front door in a massive carpet. I hadn’t known that it was mold. I hadn’t even noticed that my floor had darkened.

Or maybe I had noticed and just didn’t care. Contrary to the feelings of excitement and opportunity that June gave me in the US, Rainy Season brought with it an overwhelming sense of melancholy and listlessness. I wanted to do things, but the onslaught of never-ending rain dampened any kind of desire I had.

Whenever I did venture outside my apartment, it was only to go to and from work. Wrapped in a poncho and rain pants that did little to keep me dry, I would hop on my wet bike seat, and ride to school – ignoring the rain that stung my eyes and blurred my vision.

This was my face most mornings.

This was my face most mornings.

When I finally arrived at school, I threw my soaked shoes in my cubby and padded barefoot through the hallway to the staffroom, leaving a wet trail behind me like a slug.

“Ohayou gozaimaaasu”, I would say as I entered. I always tried to be as cheerful as I could, but some days were harder than others. Especially during rainy season.

“Ohhh Ian Sensei,” a teacher would call out to me. “今日、自転車?” they would make an exaggerated bicycling motion and rock back and forth as they looked at me.

“Yes,” I would answer them in Japanese. “Today, bicycle. Every day, bicycle.”

After the fourth or fifth time of explaining to all of my teachers that my bicycle was indeed my only means of transportation, it got harder and harder to be patient with them.

“Ohhh,” they would say some mornings. “ビショビショだね〜”. You’re soaked, aren’t you?

“ちょっとだけ!” I would respond, my hair hanging in front of my face in wet spirals. Only a little! My sarcasm never translated well and they would always giggle innocently as I resisted the urge to wring my hair out over their desks.

ビショビショだね〜

ビショビショだね〜

Aside from the weather, another huge difference between June in Japan and June in the USA is the celebration of Pride.

Before I went to Japan, I never really saw Pride as something worth my time. I figured that it was just a bunch of drunk white people dancing around and sporting garish, risqué clothing while riding giant inflatable penises down the street.

I went to a Pride once when I was 17 or 18 in Las Vegas. I remember being underwhelmed and not really ‘getting’ it. Since then, I’ve never really had much of a desire to participate in or go to another one. Even though San Antonio Pride is a big deal, and even supported by the mayor, I’ve still never made the trek downtown for it.

This year will be different, though.

In Japan, the topic of being gay rarely came up – if ever. I would constantly be asked questions like ‘Do you have a girlfriend?’ and ‘What’s your type?’ and ‘Do you like Japanese girls?’.

I would answer these questions vaguely – not giving any more information than I needed to. No, I definitely did not have a girlfriend. My type? Nice people (never stating a gender). Yes, I liked Japanese girls, they were very nice. I had several girl friends who were Japanese.

The longer this went on, the more frustrated I became. Coming from a country where I was out to everyone from my family to my coworkers and classmates, it was torture to dance around these issues and be so vague. I wanted nothing more than to answer honestly: that I didn’t have a girlfriend, but rather a boyfriend who was Japanese. I wanted to tell them how we’d been dating for two years and how he was great and how being gay is nothing like the ridiculous caricatures that are paraded across Japanese television.

But I didn’t. Instead, I kept my mouth shut, rolled my eyes and bit my tongue harder and harder as I answered the same questions again and again.

It was tough for me because as much as I wanted to be the cool openly gay American ALT in my city, I knew I wasn’t prepared to take on the responsibility of such an announcement. There were too many uncertainties – how would the students react? How would the teachers? My board of education? If a problem were to arise, CLAIR (the organization behind the JET Program) would surely have my back…but was that really something I wanted to dive in to?

The questions and constant assumptions of my heterosexuality were annoying and difficult to deal with some days, but it was the price of choosing what I did. I’ve known openly gay ALTs (GAyLTs, as I lovingly say) who have had great experiences and were completely accepted by everyone. For me, the risk of outing myself and possibly changing my entire experience in Japan was just not worth it.

Now that I’m back in the US, though, I’m reminded this June about what it means to be LGBT. With marriage bans being struck down left and right, the president officially declaring June as LGBT Pride Month and emerging conversations and education about trans* issues, it’s an exciting time to be in the United States.

 

Things that I had taken for granted before living in Japan are once again readily available to me: Being able to go to gay bars without having to go to a different city. Being around other openly LGBT people. The ability to bring up and discuss things like LGBT rights in public without feeling like I’m committing an enormous faux pas.

And, of course, the fact that it’s SUNNY.

As Pride events pop up throughout the city and I meet other people who share a common thread with me, I find myself feeling very different about Pride than I have in years past. I feel an appreciation for my local community, proud of how far the LGBT rights movement has come and optimism for its future. This must be what Pride feels like. And I’ve missed it.

While I miss Japan and the life that I had there every day, I am grateful to be back in the USA (for the time being) to experience this. This is my first June since coming back and I’m so happy to be experiencing more Rainbow than Rain.

Kiss me hard before I go.

“Will you do that for me?” I asked him.

His answer was a small laugh. It was a scoff, but not a derisive one. He leaned forward and kissed me squarely on the lips. In private, we had exchanged hundreds of kisses. Thousands. Tens of thousands, surely throughout the duration of our two-year relationship.

I watched as he turned his attention back to the black and white manga that he held open expertly. His long fingers had seemingly evolved into perfect bookmarks.

“You know what I mean,” I said with a sad smile. “So?”

“Uunn,” he responded.

Throughout the two years, I had gotten used to these kinds of responses. ‘Un,’ short and sweet, was an affirmation. ’Uun,’ on the other hand, slightly longer and drawn out, was negative.

Occasionally, when being intentionally vague, he would murmur the third option that was harder to to discern: ‘Uunn’.

“You don’t want to kiss me at the airport?”

“No, I want.” he said in his adorable English. He patted my cheek, breaking away from whatever story he had been lost in. “But is hard…”

With a sigh, I stretched out comfortably on my futon next to his. The interlocking wooden cover pressed coolly into my back. I stretched out my leg and entangled it in his own outstretched one. Closing my eyes, I listened to the rhythmic whir of the small fan positioned next to us – the welcome gust of air passed over me once.

On its second trip across my body, I opened my eyes. I sat for a spell, staring at the bright, fluorescent light of his bedroom ceiling. It looked like a glowing marshmallow.

“I know,” I said quietly in Japanese. “But nobody will care.”

Being gay in Japan is a strange experience. Any kind of LGBTQ lifestyle is not very well understood. The only real exposure comes from atrociously camp celebrities on TV who exploit whatever stereotype they can for coveted airtime. Apart from this, it’s rarely even discussed at all.

My boyfriend was by no means ashamed of me when we were in public together, but he was always cautious. He would give me a playful nudge or poke in the stomach every so often. If we were out of eyeshot of others, he would even occasionally intertwine one of his fingers with mine. But it was always tinged with the unspoken fear that someone might see.

A favorite activity of ours was to take couples purikura and then decorate them afterwards. We would scrawl sparkly words like ‘Scandalous!’ and ‘Handsome guys!’ across pictures of us kissing or holding hands.

But this kind of carefree, normal expression of affection for one another seemed to be best left in photo booths that made our eyes enormous and in the company of our friends. In the real world, it seemed, it was just too uncomfortable and dangerous for him.

My last day in Japan, we headed to the airport at around six in the morning. We sat sleepily in uncomfortable airport seats, partially isolated from the rest of the empty waiting area. I let myself slump over and rested my head on his bony shoulder. He didn’t shift away awkwardly as I had (ashamedly) expected him to. Instead, he tilted his head to rest against mine as well.

We sat that way for a while, perfectly secluded in our subtle embrace. No photo booths, no friends or familiar faces around us. It felt right. And natural. And I felt my brain and heart give a kind of sigh. A shudder. Why didn’t we do this earlier? Why couldn’t we do this earlier?

Eventually the time came for us to say goodbye. I stood up, my limbs heavy in protest and my heart filled with dread. I willed myself to move toward the security gate – the rabbit hole I would disappear into, leaving this strange, wonderful country behind.

I turned to him. My boy. My rock that I had been fortunate enough to cling to for two years. His face was contorted into the stoic expression that the Japanese have perfected for times when they don’t want to cry.

“I’ll…see you later.” I said in Japanese, almost casually. “It’s not sayonara, it’s mata ne.”

He nodded and I saw his bottom lip begin to quiver. Mine quivered in response. We both wanted nothing more than to use our lips like we had grown accustomed to doing for the past two years. But we couldn’t. Not here.

Instead, I pulled him in to the biggest, tightest embrace I could.

As I passed through the metal detector and collected my things at the end of the conveyor belt, I cast a look back to where he was still standing. He waved sadly. I returned his wave and suddenly the tears burst from my eyes unannounced. I hurriedly gathered my things, tucked my head down and forced myself onward.

I was able to make it all the way to my gate before I devolved into a quiet, sobbing mess.

It hit me all at once and I cried for it all. I cried for the friends and relationships I was leaving behind. I cried for the country that I had grown to love. And of course, I cried for my first love.

But mostly I cried because I knew that nobody would ask me if I was okay.

I wanted to shout to all the people staring awkwardly at me that they were all bearing witness to heartbreak firsthand. I wanted to tell them all that I just left the man that I loved behind. To tell them that all I wanted was to run back and kiss him one last time.

“But…” my brain answered me in Japanese. “…nobody will care.”