Tag Archives: bears

Don’t touch the Bear there

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The belly in question.

This morning I’m filling out my registration for this year’s Bear Pride, which is to be held over Memorial Day in Chicago. For the uninitiated, the term “Bear” refers to larger gay men who usually choose to sport facial hair. They proclaim that they prefer to gather in groups with other “Bears” to get a little something-something and to fight the stigma of body shaming.

There is a lot of body shaming.

I know I don’t wear flannel shirts and a beard because they look particularly fetching on me. I wear flannel shirts and a beard because flannel shirts are easy to find in XXL, and a beard is really only the socially acceptable way to cover a triple chin, extra jowly.

So I will travel to Chicago for Bear Pride to NOT be nervous about my body and instead judge people on normal things like the wittiness of their quips, or the irony of their t-shirts, or inanity of their WOOF tattoos. [FYI to the uninitiated: Some Bears like to say “Woof.” Avoid these Bears. They are stupid, and this one word will be the extent of their conversation.] Continue reading Don’t touch the Bear there

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A phenomenological exploration of what happens to me when I see a Bad Drag Show.

…in which I lay bare my internalized homophobia and other stuff I’m not allowed to talk about.

I didn't want to offend any actual drag queens, good or bad. So, I figured no one likes Rudy Guiliani.
I didn’t want to offend any actual drag queens, good or bad. So, I figured no one likes Rudy Guiliani.

I had the honor of seeing a Bad Drag Show the other night. Before I begin, I want to say that it was for a worthy cause and I applaud this. I also enjoyed the company of the person with whom I attended the show. Heck, I even tipped the performers. That said, I most definitely did not enjoy the show itself.

Also, I am not calling all drag “bad.” This is not that.

My knowledge of phenomenology has been entirely gleaned from an article I used to assign to my students in a class I taught called The Mechanics of American Retro. The article was entitled “The Dislocation of Time: A Phenomenology of Television Reruns.” All I really remember about it was the notion that even the most serious television drama devolves over time into “an intense comedy of obsolescence” where the viewer just mocks funny lapel widths.

But basically phenomenology is looking at how a something affects the subject, who in this case is me. Therefore, I’ll be looking at what goes through my body and mind when I see what I consider a Bad Drag Show. I will not be analyzing any specific show; instead I will be constructing a generic show for the purposes of this exercise. However, it should be noted that all Bad Drag Shows are pretty much the same.

I will be the first to admit that a drag show needs to clear a pretty high bar with me before I will consider it something more than really bad. Don’t get me wrong, I have seen some amazing drag (and gender-fuck, etc.), but I feel those folks were entertainers first and foremost. For example, I am sad I will not be in Provahncetown to see the legendary Dina Martina this week.

Here goes:

  • When I enter the venue and I realize that there will be a drag show, my shoulders slump, I sigh, and I feel a tightness behind my sternum. When I am not expecting a drag show and then realize there will be a drag show from which I cannot escape for whatever socially-mandated reason, I feel trapped. I begin to do breathing exercises. I continue to focus on my breath throughout the evening.
  • When I see the tackily hung rainbow PartyCity detritus, I ask myself, “We’re in a gay bar, is anyone really gonna forget that they’re gay? Do they think I’m stupid?” I try to remember all those other things that remind me I’m gay, like the dude-lust, the coming-out struggle, and furniture with the clean modernist lines.
  • I cringe when the mistress of ceremonies grabs the microphone and shouts into it in a voice that naturally does not require amplification. The tightness behind increases due to the physics of the soundwaves upon my person.
  • Minor anger wells up behind my left eye when she welcomes the crowd by calling them “BITCHES!” I wonder where all this hostility is coming from.

Continue reading A phenomenological exploration of what happens to me when I see a Bad Drag Show.

Grindrin’ and Growlrin’ Me Down

[In which I apparently date incorrectly]

My delete screen from Growlr.
My delete screen from Growlr.

I went and checked out a different bar in Columbus Thursday night. I didn’t bring my book into the bar. This was new territory, and I didn’t know if it would have a good place to flash the glittery raccoon. [No, this is not a euphemism. Click on a link once in a while, people.] Needless to say, I was bored almost immediately. So, out came the phone. Thank god for Instagram and the endless twiddle-worthiness of its filters, or I would’ve been tempted to re-up with any one of the several “location-based dating apps” that used to litter my phone. I cannot go back to having things on my phone that make me feel bad about myself. That’s what the rear-facing camera is for.

A few weeks prior to my move from Brooklyn to Columbus, I deleted my profiles in those various apps and sites that supposedly would help me find a geographically convenient guy with whom to do anatomically inconvenient things. They go by names like Scruff, Manhunt, Recon, Grindr, Growlr, Lepr, Regrettr, Alienatr, etc. It’s too easy to just mindlessly scroll thru the endless parade of thumbnail photos of body parts, judging people based on pictures smaller than one-inch square. And if I’m judging, I know I’m being judged right back.

In all of these, I am very specific that I am not interested in a random hook-up. I need some connection before the depravity begins. I also add something along the lines of: “There is no greater aphrodisiac than a complete sentence.”

So, I would obsessively flip between the apps, allowing that weird repetitive behavior aspect that’s somehow part of my bipolar to take over. Of course I never actually initiate contact with people because then they might actually respond. So I wait. The replies of course are slow to come in because, despite my childlike demeanor and that cement truck full of Just For Men I regularly back up onto my face, I refuse to lie about my age.

But eventually replies trickle in. Continue reading Grindrin’ and Growlrin’ Me Down

Reading Books in Bars with Bears

bearmontage2 copy

It’s going to take me a few words and sentences of ever-so-pertinent background until I get to the part where I actually read a book in a bar. You’ll probably also notice, if you notice these types of things, that this is the first post since mid-February. There’s been a massive amount of writer’s block –even grocery lists were an exercise in futility. I punched myself in the head a lot. Literally. It’s a lousy coping mechanism, but at least it doesn’t work.

I always forget what reading and feeling on the same wavelength of a book can do to get one writing again. A good and museful friend who works at a major publishing house located in an architecturally significant triangular building sent me an advanced reading copy of an upcoming book from an author whom I’m admire but am not allowed mention because it’s not my place to promote this book. Also, my good and museful fears that the great and powerful editor of this book will hurl him from the roof of this architecturally significant triangular building if I reveal the name of the author.

This book has made me [adverbially] happy and has given me a “Hey let’s turn the barn into a stage and put on a SHOW!” attitude towards writing. Plus the heady scent of the cheap Scholastic Books paper on which they print advanced reading copies has fired up my wordy part of my brain stem.

And the author of the above-not-mentioned book does this kind of preamble stuff, and it works for them. So, consider the previous couple of paragraphs homage.

At the beginning of April I moved back to my hometown of Columbus to live with my sister for a while. The bipolar had been acting up for quite a while my last months in Brooklyn. Nothing made sense; everything made noise. There seemed no escape. Suicides were being planned. In the lead was a very Romantic one to be held in Green-Wood Cemetery that involved finding a tombstone with the right combo of a funny 19th century name like Hortense and an angel decaying in a pleasing manner.

However, I decided that offing myself was not really fair to the cat. Yeah, yeah, and loved ones, too. But, really the cat. Like her owner, she’s kind of obese, middle-aged, and makes a lousy first impression. A death sentence for me would’ve been a death sentence for her. Yet, the status quo could not remain. When your cat is your most definite connection to this mortal coil, maybe it’s time for a change.

My first thought when I moved to Ohio was that I was going to live some sort of monastic lifestyle. I dwelled on the disconnect: How I missed my friends in NYC; how people on a certain location-based “dating” app think phonetically typing out animalistic grunting noises counts as a complete sentence; how pedestrians are invisible to most drivers in Columbus; and how crappy that online writing workshop I signed up for through [insert name of oh-so-creatively named nonfiction magazine here] turned out to be. But when I found myself four thousand words into an essay I had titled “The Ouroboros of Disconnect,” I figured it was time for a change. Stuff was just happening TO me –sometimes even AT me. That’s not the formula for interesting wordsmithing. Besides, I couldn’t figure out a way to end the piece.

Get it? Yeah, it was four thousand words of ouroboros metaphors. And puns. Ouroboring!

Stop it!

So, I made a decision to seek out connection. During all this disconnect, I have come to the conclusion that I am not, in fact, an introvert. I am an extrovert with crippling social anxiety. I draw energy from people, yet I don’t understand how one is expected to deal with them. Continue reading Reading Books in Bars with Bears