Posts Tagged comfort zone

The Next Chapter

Two years ago, I started this blog. I began writing because I felt alone. I knew there had to be other gay men out there who were looking for the same thing I was, and I wanted a way to connect with them.

grindrAt the time, I just ended my first gay relationship, and I found myself in very unchartered waters. I was already out to close friends, but not publicly. Because I had so few gay friends and a strong aversion to gay bars, I had to find a mate digitally. I began serial dating, at one point going on four dates in four days — And thus, One Gay At A Time was born.

Since the beginning, I have gone on MANY dates and put myself in many situations well outside my comfort zone. I have not only grown more comfortable in my own skin, but I’ve also grown up as a gay man. I got all the hookups out of my system and began searching for a meaningful, long-term relationship.

This blog began as an open forum diary of the daily occurrences I encountered navigating the gay world. I told my side of the story honestly in hopes that others out there would be able to relate, comment and most importantly, realize they are not alone.

The time has come for the next chapter of my life and for this blog. For quite some time I’ve been blogging about CK (aka Clark Kent or Superman). You’ve gotten to know him through my eyes in the early stages of our relationship. It’s been some time since I’ve blogged, and I apologize for leaving you, my readers in the lurch. I do not mean to abandon the small community I’ve worked so hard to foster, but I’ve been struggling with the next chapter of the blog.

When I first told CK about the blog, he was very open to and even grew excited about the idea of my writing our relationship. Over time, as you could probably understand, his excitement waned, and we began to argue about the content of the blog.

I had to make a choice between the blog and my man. It’s quite obvious which I chose. As a result, I will no longer be blogging about the specifics of my relationship with CK. However, in lieu of continuing to finish our story in a daily dairy format, let me catch you up on what has happened since July. Here are some of the highlights…

In July, CK joined my family for our annual beach vacation. While I went for the entire week, he only joined us for a few days. It was the first time we’d spent an extended period of time apart, and with my trust/cheating baggage, it was a true test of my sanity. I was thrilled and relieved when he finally arrived. It was also nice that he would finally get to spend some real-time getting to know my parents.

In early August, I traveled to Miami, CK’s birthplace to surprise his family with a visit to celebrate the birthdays of his two beautiful nephews (turning 1 and 2 only a week apart). I felt incredibly special taking this trip with CK. I was meeting his ENTIRE extended family. Before this point, I’d only met his mother. I was welcomed into the family with open arms and came to grow strong bonds with them over just a handful of days. This was unchartered territory for both of us, as I’d never been brought home to meet the family by anyone other than my high school girlfriend, and he’d never brought a man home to meet everyone before. It could not have worked out better!

Around Labor Day, CK and I went on week-long vacation to the Hamptons with 15 of my friends and family. While there, our relationship grew very strained. I felt he was trying too hard to impress my friends. I wanted him to be himself so all of them would come to love the man I knew, not the man I felt he was trying to be for them. By the end of the week, I reached my breaking point. I was so stressed out from organizing the vacation and ensuring everyone was happy that I made myself miserable, and I took it out on the person closest to me. In the penultimate moment of the trip, one night we not only exchanged words but also fists and shoves, as my closest friends and sister witnessed the lowest moment of our relationship.

It took a lot of time for CK and I to figure things out. This wasn’t the first time our relationship reached physicality, but I hoped it was the last. It also took a long time for things to return to normal between CK, me and my circle of friends. My sister wasn’t speaking to me for over a month and my friends had semi-ostracized me from typical gatherings. I burned a lot of bridges on that trip, and I am still working to rebuild them today. You can expect to read about my experiences and feelings dealing with issues such as physical violence in a relationship as one of the topics I will cover in coming posts.

In September, CK and I found an apartment in Hoboken to call our own. We moved in together in the midst of Hurricane Sandy’s wake on November 2. Although the experience of moving immediately following a hurricane is incredibly overwhelming, we are both stronger as a result of the experience. In my experience, moving in with a lover is unlike sharing a space with any other. You’ll certainly be reading about my experiences and the things I’ve learned from this experience as well.

After Sandy exhausted my last modicum of energy, I decided I was too tired to shave my upper lip. CK and I both decided to raise awareness and funds to fight prostate cancer by growing mustaches for Movember. I proudly raised over $500 for charity as a result of my stache, and I was thrilled when we both shaved them off — We both looked like pedophiles.

For the first time in my life, I had someone to take home to meet my family for Thanksgiving. Before venturing home, I sent my extended maternal family an email to get the awkwardness out of the way. You’ll be pleased to know my family welcomed him with open arms. I imagine coming out to extended family creates a lot of anxiety for man, as it did for me, so I hope sharing my experiences will encourage more to share the truth with the ones they love.

When I returned to Hoboken after Thanksgiving, preparations began immediately for what would have been my Sixth Annual Holiday Bash. This year, it became Our First Annual Holiday Bash. I finally had someone to share the hosting duties with, making it extra special.

Although CK and I spent Christmas apart, after all the festivities with my family, I hopped on a flight down to Miami to spend the rest of the holiday season and New Years Eve with my man and his family. CK’s sister and brother-in-law planned a trip with their two boys to Disney World for two days. After a little persuading, I convinced CK we should join them. I preferred Disney to a raucous gay party any day, and it was truly magical to see Disney World through the eyes of a two-year-old.

In February, CK and I took a romantic trip to Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY. Although it seems we can’t go anywhere without having some kind of quarrel like an old married couple, the trip was amazing and couldn’t have come at a better time. We went ice skating, snow shoeing, swimming, hiking, and much more. It was a perfect escape for both of us to get out of the city and away from the bustle of it all after the holidays.

In between, there have been countless brunches, parties, trips, nights out, Broadway shows, fights… Oh yea, and plenty of sex — Can’t forget the sex! Overall, things have been going well for us. You have good days and bad days, but you have to realize the bad days are just there so you appreciate the good ones all the more. I am thrilled to announce, this past Saturday, CK and I celebrated our one-year anniversary at the restaurant we went to on our first date, Frankies Spuntino 570. Although we waited nearly an hour, the evening was perfect, and I look forward to many more years together.

Although I won’t be detailing the specifics of my relationship going forward, I hope to share with you what I have learned along the way. It’s not easy being in a relationship, but then again, the things that are worth it never really are.

To my most dedicated readers who haven’t let me lack of posting stop them from commenting words of support on my blog, thank you. You are what has motivated me to get back into this once again. I feel like many of you have integrated my writing into your daily routines, and I have left you with your morning coffee in hand and no reading material. You will not see the frequency of posts you may have grown accustomed in the past, but I still hope you find time in your lives for One Gay At A Time.

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Small Expectations, XL Frustrations

For weeks upon weeks, I stressed about Pride Weekend, and it finally arrived. CK wasn’t helping, and it exploded into an argument over the phone, culminating in a temper tantrum on my part.

We were finally able to come to an agreement, and I went back to packing a bag. Needless to say, I still wasn’t thrilled with the idea of the weekend ahead of me, but my nerves were slightly calmed after my chat with CK.

I made the voyage into the city to head to CK’s apartment. The plan was to head to XL that night. I’m not quite sure why, but none of CK’s friends were joining us that night. We had plans to hang with some of them the following day/night, but we were on our own for XL. I would have preferred to have more familiar faces around me in such an unfamiliar place, but that wouldn’t be the case. I got dressed with a little help from CK, but of course this turned into a bit of a heated discussion. Our nerves were very exposed, and he was encouraging me to expand my wardrobe comfort zone further than I was ready to. I wanted to fit in, but I still wanted to stay true to myself. I didn’t want to dress like everyone else there, however, I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t stand out.

As we walked there, I was very quiet. CK and I were holding hands as we walked the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, but all I could think about was how I could make myself feel comfortable in this foreign land. As we approached the entrance, there were gay men in every direction. I felt reasonably comfortable with my wardrobe choice and laughed to myself a little at some of the ridiculous outfits. I know this is going to come off as if I saw myself as better than them, but quite the opposite. I give them a lot of credit for feeling so comfortable in their own skin that they dress the way they do, but I could never pull it off. I would feel too uncomfortable and self-conscious, and then I’m absolutely no fun to be around. That was one of my main worries going into this weekend — I would feel uncomfortable, clam up, and I would be no fun to be with.

The cross-dressing boy checked our IDs, and we made our way inside to pay the cover charge. CK had some kind of VIP card and encouraged me to sign up for one with one of the boys holding iPads for just that thing. We paid, and I was a little shocked how expensive the cover was just to get in. Obviously, it was cheaper for CK since he was a member, but overall I was a little taken aback. I wasn’t aware of any talent performing that would justify the rate being so high.

As we made our way inside, I needed a drink bad! There were men in every direction, half without shirts on already. This wasn’t my kind of place. I liked the run-down pubs where the bartenders knew my name and they played good music. This, on the other hand, was a scene. We made our way to the bar and ordered drinks from a shirtless bartender who made me feel I needed to go to the gym immediately. I downed my first drink pretty quickly. The only way I would survive this would be with some help from some special spirits.

We made our way down to the dance-floor and started dancing and grinding with each other in front of the fog machine. I’m not sure why we didn’t relocate. At one point, I couldn’t breath, let alone see CK in front of me, and his back was pressed against my chest. Directly in front of me was a feast for the eyes. There were go-go boys dancing on the stage wearing very skimpy briefs. Some of the guys had the most gorgeous bodies with cute smiles, and it was hard to divert my attention at times. I even received a text from my old roommate asking me if I wanted to go out. I responded telling him where I was, and he jokingly responded reprimanding me for not inviting him. That’s when I responded with a picture message, to which he said, “Okay. Never mind. I’m good.”

I wasn’t the only one on his phone throughout the evening. CK was on his phone a lot when we were together, so this was nothing out of the ordinary, however, I wasn’t aware of the plans he was making over text. Minutes before he walked through the door, CK informed me the guy from his old building he used to hook up with would be joining us. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy. I can be very reasonable, but the idea of hanging out with one of CK’s old hookups didn’t thrill me. It also didn’t exactly seem on the up-and-up since he waited until he was walking through the front door to tell me he was joining us.

When he arrived, CK gave him, who we’ll call Old News, a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. He was thrilled to see him. I swallowed my pride and extended a hand to shake his. From then on, and for quite some time, CK and Old News were deep in conversation. I felt like a third wheel in my own relationship.

We began to make our way to the bar to get another round. CK and Old News walked ahead of me, and as I climbed the stairs, a guy extended his arm out to shove me out of his way as he passed me. It was so obvious my mind flashed back to my days on the basketball court in junior high. He wasn’t being subtle at all. He was also messing with the wrong guy at the wrong time. I wasn’t about to let this little sh*t get away with it. I was already on edge on so many levels. I gave him a solid shove back in the opposite direction, so much that he stumbled down a stair. When his glance came back up to meet mine, I looked at him in a way of saying, “Go ahead. Bring it! What you got?” Me being 6′ 2″ and him being about 5′ 7″, he immediately turned and walked the other way.

When I got to the bar, of course CK and Old News were ordering and didn’t quite notice I was lagging behind. I understand the need to catch up, but I felt I had no part in the conversation. After I was handed my drink, I felt so outside the conversation, I simply walked away and stood at the railing overlooking the dance-floor. It took CK quite some time to even notice I’d stepped away.

From then on, Old News was attached to us. When we went to the bathroom, he came. When we danced, the circle was opened up to him. I didn’t think we would ignore him for the rest of the night, but I felt like he always made sure to put himself between myself and CK. I was shocked and  happy to say, I was actually having a great time with CK before he arrived. We were dancing shirtless and taking pictures in front of the fog machine and on stage. I finally felt comfortable in this new setting. I was no longer concerned with anyone else’s eyes on me. My only slight concern was CK’s eyes on anyone else. My whole mood went to sh*t the minute this intruder arrived. I wasn’t just dealing with being at the club anymore — I was having fun, but now I was back to being miserable again. I tried to be cordial with him, but I was not happy with his presence. He and CK hooked up at one point, and while CK assured me they were just friends, I was never quite sure Old News fully got that memo. I could tell he still had feelings for CK. He was very flirtatious, and took every opportunity to exclude me when possible.

In the middle of the night, a crazy drag queen named Ebonee Excell came out and performed. It was a welcome distraction. When the go-go boys came back out on stage, I recognized one of them from the Meet Me at the Ice Cream Truck music video.

Finally, our night was coming to an end. We were ready to head home. CK was hungry for sex, so we said our goodbyes to Old News and made our way back to CK’s bed. Old News may have garnered CK’s attention throughout the night, but in the end, I got to go home with him. He was my man! But, neither of us were quite expecting what was to come next…

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Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself

It had arrived. Although this would be my third year “participating,” I was legitimately scared. I wasn’t sure why it was so scary, but honestly, I was petrified for so many reasons.

My first interaction with Pride Weekend was a mistake. I was making my way to Governor’s Island for a polo match with my family when we found ourselves “stuck” in the parade route. The following year was the first year I was out when the weekend came around. It wasn’t pleasant as I witnessed my relationship crumble before my eyes like an out-of-body experience. I missed the parade that year, but I got a sampling of the other aspects of the festivities.

My fear was grounded mainly in the unknown. While I am a gay man, I do not participate in the typical gay culture. I’ve never been a big fan of gay clubs and what goes on there. I come from a background of a traditional relationship. In the gay world, that is like finding a diamond in the rough. The clubs seem to be the antithesis of this. They are a hot-bed of drugs, promiscuity and raunchy behavior. I know all gay men who go to bars don’t fit into this stereotype, but this stereotype is founded in truth. While I’ve been to a handful of gay clubs, and my comfort level was rising, I still had no idea what to expect. Never before had I been to a circuit party. I was venturing into the abyss, and this caused me incredible anxiety.

While I have learned to let go of the men in my past, I still carry the scars of my relationship with them. They’ve all hurt or used me in some way, shape or form. My biggest fear in life is being alone, and this fear is fed by thoughts of cheating, which is birthed from my baggage. The idea of CK with another man broke my heart. I had clear definitions of cheating, but there were worse things floating through my imagination — Like cheating in a form I feel is unfaithful, but the offender does not.

My relationship with CK was building a great foundation, however, the cement was still wet. We were only dating two months and ten days — Very young for any relationship. In the first month, I had strong suspicions I wasn’t the only man entering his bed. Things didn’t always line up and some of the clear indications were there, however, our relationship was still just forming. I knew there would be a transition period. While he told me he was only interested in me, and I was the only man entering his bed, I was aware how we met. I was also aware of his intentions before we even met through his first major slip-up on Grindr. I couldn’t expect monogamy from the first night — That wasn’t realistic.

While I was fairly understanding and looked the other way early on, I was not going to tolerate infidelity as our relationship progressed and strengthened. For starters, my heart wouldn’t be able to handle the pain, and lastly, it wasn’t safe for my health. I needed to trust him to be faithful. Outside the heartbreak, frankly, we were having unprotected sex. We’d been tested, but there are no guarantees. I trusted him with my life, literally, and if he was sleeping with other men, he was treating my life carelessly.

I sincerely had a feeling his intentions had evolved, but I couldn’t be sure how he would react when faced with temptation. I hoped I was the only man for him. As a result, I was petrified for the life of our relationship. I’d watched my relationship with N publicly combust the previous year, and I didn’t want a repeat.

I’m sure many of you reading think I am overreacting. It’s just a party… It’s just a parade… It’s just a weekend… Well, not to me. To me, it was a litmus test for the strength of my love for CK. I didn’t want that love to be tested, and I didn’t want to have to make a decision that could end my relationship with CK. He was my Superman. He was my world. If I lost him, my world would come crumbling down.

We had plans to go to a huge party at XL Friday night, Matinée circuit party Saturday, and the parade Sunday afternoon. I was venturing into this unknown abyss with faith and hope I could persevere. The thought of CK dropping X and losing control of his inhibitions with some other guy caused me great pain and panic attacks. The idea of another man’s hand groping his package caused me panic attacks. Picturing him dancing shirtless against another shirtless man caused me panic attacks. Every time these scenarios and many others entered my brain, my heart rate would increase drastically, I would start to sweat, and I would get light-headed.

All this added up to me being petrified and frustrated. When I asked CK what clothes I should pack to bring to his apartment for the weekend, and I didn’t get any cooperation or help. It all became overwhelming. To begin with, this wasn’t something I was looking forward to, and his lack of cooperation made me lose my sh*t. “Okay Babe. I’ll talk to you in the morning. Have fun tonight!” I said on the verge of tears as I hung up the phone on him.

I think that was the wake-up call CK needed. I don’t think he fully understood how much anxiety this all created for me. I voiced my frustrations for weeks leading up to Pride Weekend. I told him I was going out of my comfort zone, but I was willing to do it as long as I got some hand-holding. I needed help to get over this. It was just another fun weekend for him, but it was a big deal to me.

After a few minutes, he called me back. We discussed things a little more rationally, and CK’s tone changed. He finally realized I was struggling and tossed out the life-preserver. Now that I knew I had him in my corner, I was a little more relaxed, however, I still wasn’t completely comfortable. It was going to be a long, stressful and exhausting weekend both physically and emotionally. I bit down then and there, and braced for impact as I packed my bag and walked out the door.

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High Anxiety

After my amazingly awful date with CK, we went home and went to bed. Waking up the next day with him in my bed was my true heaven. Not a day went by I didn’t appreciate waking up next to him, whether in his bed or my own. We were growing inseparable, however, that night we would spend apart.

When we woke, we couldn’t keep our hands off each other. Since we didn’t have sex the night before when we got home, we were both particularly horny. Our sex was becoming so much more than sex. We started making love. We started becoming one. This was something completely new to me. I have had sex with more than a handful of guys, but I never felt the connection CK and I have in the bedroom. We share a strong unbreakable bond as a couple, but when we’re making love, it feels like we could move mountains.

We spent the morning being lazy. That night, I was taking my roommate to J’s wedding. I’d planned to take her before I even met CK. Part of me wanted to pull her aside and ask if she minded if I took CK instead, but another part of me wasn’t sure I was ready for that. I wanted to be ready for that, but it was a big step. Just thinking about it, I could feel the eyes of the people around the room watching us — The two ‘mos dancing up a storm. I know I shouldn’t care about that. I know I need to get used to that, but I wasn’t quite sure I was ready yet.

We watched a few episodes of Game of Thrones while I got ready for the wedding. When the time came for me to head out with my roommate, I had a conversation with CK about his plans for the night. He was planning to hit up a circuit party. I was incredibly uneasy about this. I’d never been, but from the pictures and the stories I’d heard from others, as well as from CK’s own mouth, I was very apprehensive about the whole idea. I trusted CK, but then again, I didn’t. We’d only known each other two short months. Who’s to say he wouldn’t pop X and grind up on some guy all night? Who’s to say he wouldn’t fool around with said guy in the bathroom? Who’s to say he wouldn’t go home with said guy? We were growing very close, but I had no idea how CK would react to the temptations placed in front of him. All these thoughts, and many more, were swarming in my head. But, in spite of all this, I tried to be cool. I had to learn to trust CK. My baggage was not his fault. I would never tell him I didn’t want him to go without me. Hell, I didn’t even want to go myself, even if I was available. It would purely be his decision, however, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be a nervous wreck about the whole thing.

When the time came to say goodbye, I simply gave him some parting words gently expressing my concern. “Behave tonight,” I added. “What does that mean?” he asked. I simply just repeated myself. He knew what it meant, but he wanted me to prescribe for him exactly where the line was drawn. The thought of him in another man’s arms made my heart palpitate and beat uncontrollably. It gave me incredible anxiety to picture him sweaty and shirtless with his tongue in another man’s mouth. I wouldn’t be there to hold him back, and my imagination was running wild to fill in the blanks. Because of this, and because I didn’t want to seem psycho to him, he would have to define behaving. It didn’t instill confidence in my mind when he asked me “Well, what exactly is naughty?” If he had to ask, there was a good chance he’d cross the threshold of my comfort zone. I feared for the life of my relationship with CK. I was jealous of faceless men, and he hadn’t even walked in the door.

When I commit to a relationship, I commit fully to it. There are no other guys for me. That doesn’t go to say I don’t notice/admire a hot guy walking by, but I won’t ever act on my admiration. I won’t smile at him or wink. I’ll simply admire him as a gorgeous specimen of a man. I have had my transgressions in the past, but I have learned from these mistakes. I have committed to my man, and he is who I am with. This is incredibly frustrating because I have a very traditional view of a relationship, and the majority of other gay men have quite the opposite. To many of them, boyfriend just means the guy the spend more of their time with than the other guys they see/have sex with. I digress…

Between my regret of not taking him and his going to what I equate to a rave without me, I was an anxious nervous wreck. I kissed him goodbye as we dropped him off at the PATH to head back into the city. My roommate and I sped off to the wedding location and arrived just in time.

It was a gorgeous ceremony and the reception was a blast! I nearly cried watching J tear up as his gorgeous bride walked up the aisle. I pictured myself in his shoes with CK coming to meet my arm and knew I would be a complete mess. I tear up now just writing about it. There were parallels between this wedding and my relationship with CK as well. It was a marriage between a white bread dude and a Puerto Rican fireball (CK is Cuban). For instance, the ceremony was bilingual, as I imagine a ceremony between CK and I would be.

After one of the toasts, I even sent CK a text saying “Te amo con todo mi corazón.” (I love you with all my heart). I was really missing him and wished he was by my side.

When the time came to head home from the wedding, I said my goodbyes and reveled in the love and joy I witnessed between J and his wife. I hoped I would get to the blissful place they were someday. In the car on the way to the hotel, I called CK. I figured he’d already be at the circuit party or wasted or high, but I needed to try. As the phone rang, all my anxiety rose back to the surface. I certainly was not prepared for what was about to happen next…

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