Posts Tagged religion

No Day at the Beach

For one, I was really enjoying the company of my new friend, The Navigator. Secondly, the weather was amazing. I couldn’t have been happier to be away from the cold weather on the East Coast.

Contrary to my plan, the weather wasn’t fully cooperative. The closer we got to the coast, the cloudier and colder it got. I didn’t care how cold it was, I was not putting the top on the convertible back up. I did, however, turn the heat up. That kept us cozy while we acclimated to the new weather pattern.

We drove around for a little before finally finding a parking spot. We walked to the beach, and we spread out the blanket I asked him to bring. He sat down, and he started pulling out the other provisions he brought — A bottle of Sprite, a bottle of Absolut, and some snacks and granola bars. I think I was falling in love. He was spontaneous and courteous. I added the provisions I grabbed at the gas station to the pool.

We sat next to each other commenting on how much the weather deteriorated and chatting about some of the surfers. We were among sparse company. The only other people brave enough to hit the sand that day were the surfers we both scoped out.

We relaxed and the conversation from the car continued. He talked about his family and his background. I learned he was a Jehovah’s Witness. He wasn’t very passive in his faith either. He had the prestigious honor to attend a bible college in Brooklyn. While there, through a slip up, it was discovered he is gay. He was excommunicated from the religion and has very limited contact with his family.

My heart was breaking to hear this sad story. He was an incredible man for surviving all that, and even more impressive for his comfort telling this to virtually a complete stranger. I told him about my religion, and my new outlook on it. I told him about my conversation with my mother on Christmas Eve, even though it was nothing compared to what he went through.

As if his story couldn’t be more complicated, I learned his brother is also gay and struggling with his religion. He was actually finding men online and hooking up with them at rest stops until he was nearly caught by police. His brother chose to take a different route in dealing with this. The Navigator tried to suppress his homosexuality with the aid of his religious elders, but came to accept who he is. His brother was not as fortunate to have the mental confidence to know himself. He was going through conversion classes to help him become heterosexual. They were trying to brainwash him. My skin was crawling at the sound of this.

After leaving his religion, he moved around a lot. One move was for a man, but obviously that didn’t work out. He’d been in LA for roughly a year and was still settling in.

I was really enjoying his company. We took turns making trips to the restroom, and when he stood to walk away, I took the opportunity to check him out. In the back of my head, a voice was screaming, “Be careful! You’re on vacation. You can’t fall for another West Coaster!” My heart was not going to be so easily convinced. I was cautiously proceeding. I really liked this guy. If he lived in New York, we’d definitely be dating. He was just what I was looking for. A masculine man who had his life together and knew what he wanted in life.

When we sufficiently froze our a$ses off, we hopped back in the car and made our way back inland. While we drove back to Glendale, I realized I’d already used up all my condoms and almost all the lube. I would need to stop for provisions along the way, but it wasn’t going to be easy with The Navigator with me. I decided to stop at a CVS. While he looked for the bathroom, I looked for the condoms and lube. I told him I needed to buy sunscreen, which I did, but that was very low on the priority list.

When I finally found what I needed, I realized they were under lock and key. I had to push a button that made the announcement, “Assistance needed in the family planning department.” Family planning couldn’t be further from what I was looking for. The irony was killing me. As Broadway always joked, “Butt babies don’t live.” I wondered what I’d done recently to deserve this karma. It was going to be nearly impossible to pull this off without him seeing what I was purchasing.

Someone came to unlock the case, and he turned his head in an attempt to give me my privacy. That was long gone. I grabbed what I needed and quickly walked to the checkout counter. Of course, when I arrived, there was a long line. I took my place in line behind an old man and hoped The Navigator was still looking for the restrooms.

I was next in line. Maybe I was going to get away with this after all. It wasn’t in the cards for me. The old man in front of me was taking FOREVER! Every second that passed was nerve-wracking. I didn’t want him to see what I was purchasing because it may have been perceived presumptuous.

Just then, he walked up behind me. My cover was blown. I tried to hide the products in the crooks of my crossed arms, but there’s a really good chance he saw what I had. Of course, this was also the moment the next register opened up. I walked up and purchased my items. I paid, and we walked back to the car without mentioning what I bought at all.

We talked the whole ride back to his apartment. When I turned onto his street, he turned to me and said, “Sooo, do you want to hang out some more?” Without hesitation, I shouted, “Yes!” He asked if I want to go back to my hotel room and hang out, and I agreed that was a great idea!

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Let’s Talk About… God?

Christmas Eve, my family and I always go to mass. We wake Christmas morning and open presents, so we go the night before.

Every year when we get home, it’s a tradition for my family to take a picture in front of the tree. I am always the obligatory photographer, which for some reason I strongly resent. Everyone in my family has a point and shoot and knows how to set up a tripod and click a button. I’m not exactly sure why it is my duty just because I’ve taken photography classes. I digress…

We take the family portrait and make our ways to our separate rooms to take off the Christmas outfits and get comfortable for the rest of the night.

My father and my sister wanted to watch a football game, and my mother and I had no interest. I can’t for the life of me remember what we decided to watch, but we were in the family room while the other two were in the living room watching the game.

Somehow my mother and I got back on the topic of church and the changes to the mass. For those non-Catholics out there, the Vatican altered the verbiage used in the mass this year. Apparently when they originally translated the mass, they messed up. All of a sudden they felt the need to “fix” it to be truer to the original text. I was arguing the changes weren’t necessary. The changed things like the following: The priest says, “Peace be with you.” In the past the congregation responded, “And also with you.” Now, the response is, “And with your spirit.” To me, those changes are semantics.

My mother heavily disagreed. She felt the changes were necessary and good. She felt it helped her pay closer attention to the mass. To me, it was a distraction. I was now paying more attention to a piece of paper I had to read than I was to the mass. My mother asked me if my priest had been explaining the changes, and somewhere I slipped up. It became apparent I hadn’t been going to church every week.

My mother got heated about that issue. “You haven’t been going to church every week, have you? But you had no problem receiving communion tonight!”

My sister and I had discussed religion and my status as a gay man on numerous occasions. I told her there was going to come a point where I told my parents I don’t want to go to church anymore more. She asked that I hold off on that for a while. I told her I wasn’t going to bring it up anytime soon. I wasn’t going to bring this topic up, but when my mother brought up this topic, I was gonna go with it.

“Really, Mom? Really? That’s going to be the reason I don’t go up to receive communion?” I quipped. “What do you mean? she said. “I mean, not going to church is going to be the reason I don’t get communion, not me being gay?” I responded.

My mother voiced her opinion that being gay is not a sin. Not attending church is a sin. I pointed out to her that both are sins in the eyes of The Church. She tried to convince me The Church’s stance on homosexuality is based on decisions made by men, and not attending church goes against a God-given law in the commandments. I pointed out to her the commandment to honor thy wife. (I know my argument is flawed here because the commandment refers to adultery). She sighed a bit because I did have a point in her mind.

“Well then everyone who’s ever had premarital sex shouldn’t be receiving communion either,” she added. “Exactly! That’s exactly what the Catholic Church believes,” I told her.

“Well then I shouldn’t be receiving communion because I’ve used birth control,” she noted. “Exactly. If you don’t believe birth control is a sin, then you’re not truly Catholic. You’re Catholic lite,” I exclaimed. “I have never been a true Catholic. I’ve always been a ‘cafeteria Catholic.’ I pick and choose what I want to believe. That is what religion is. It’s personal. I don’t always need to go to a specific building with a specific man to have a relationship with God.”

“You’re not going to church because you’re lazy, not because it’s against something you believe,” my mother accused. “I don’t want to be a part of an organization that doesn’t want me to be a part of it. It’s insulting. I am a man of convictions,” I defended.

“Then why go at all?” she asked. “I go because sometimes I want to go. Sometimes I want to be in church and among other people. And, sometimes I can’t get over it, and I decide not to go. But, that’s my choice. Religion is personal. So maybe I’m not a Catholic, but I am still a Christian. And, I still believe in God.” I declared.

My mother wasn’t happy with this. She was raised staunchly Catholic, and it’s been a part of her entire life. She didn’t see my side of the argument at all, but it was clear it was upsetting her. She had been crying during the conversation, and she’d had enough. She said, “I need to go to bed,” and turned to leave the room.

I walked into the other room with my father and sister. My dad asked, “Did you chase your mother to bed?” I told him, “She wanted to talk about God and gays. You can see how well that went. I wasn’t going to bring it up, but when she did, I wasn’t going to avoid it.” With that, the subject was closed.

I felt bad she got upset, but I was honest about my feelings. It’s how I felt. I really wish it wasn’t how we spent our Christmas Eve, but it had to happen sometime. It wasn’t a positive conversation, but at least the subject was broached, and at least we were having an open dialogue.

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Birthday Lunch

The official day arrived. Smiles was turning 36. He celebrated his birthday in conjunction with two friends a week earlier, which didn’t go so well for me. I wanted to rectify that situation.

I also wanted to dote on my new man for his birthday. I called him early in the afternoon to wish him a happy birthday and ask if I could take him out to lunch. The Ace Hotel is near my office and has two great restaurants and a bar adjoining it. Normally I’d let him choose, but I couldn’t wander too far from work on my lunch break.

I met him not far from the hotel on the street corner. I greeted him with a big ol’ kiss and a hug to say happy birthday. As we walked, he made comments about how casual my work attire was. He was under the impression people in advertising walked around in Mad Men suits all day. I explained how far off base he actually was.

As we walked, he reached down for my hand. I love it when he does that! We arrived at the first restaurant he chose, and after checking out the menus at John Dory, we decided to leave and hit up the other, The Breslin. I’d been there many times and absolutely love their lamb burger. I knew he’d be happier with the choice as well.

When the waiter asked if we’d like anything to drink, I declined, but encouraged Smiles to order a drink. He requested a dark and stormy. Without looking at the menu, I immediately knew what I wanted, and ironically enough, we both ordered the lamb burger. I also added another dark and stormy to the tab after seeing how refreshing his looked. Afterall, I work in advertising… It’s only natural to have a cocktail lunch, right?

Somehow the topic of conversation turned to religion. My mother was just telling me about a book a majority of my staunchly Catholic family read, Heaven is Real. We discussed the book and how we were brought up with religion. We even got as deep as to discuss our beliefs in a higher being. This is usually a risky subject for discussion, but the conversation remained casual and flowed while we ate. I think it actually brewed a stronger connection between us.

When the check came, I insisted on paying. He was pulling out his credit card, but I forced the server to walk away with just mine. There was no way in hell I was letting the birthday boy pay. “It’s your birthday. I told you I wanted to take you out to lunch for your birthday!” I exclaimed. After saying, “That’s an expensive birthday lunch. You really don’t have to,” he thanked me.

When we finished, he decided he wanted to grab a coffee. Since I met him, he has become addicted to the Starbucks salted caramel latte, or as he likes to call it, “his salty pretzel drink,” which I find adorable! While we waited for our concoctions to be made, he took the opportunity to lean his back against my chest. For me, the little things matter a lot. Those signs of affection really speak volumes. We got our coffees and walked towards my office a bit before saying goodbye. He was out of his downtown comfort zone, so I relished guiding him around to find a subway back home.

We said goodbye with a gentle kiss. I put him on the subway and made my way back to the office. Of course, I had a smile from ear to ear as I walked. It was a short encounter, but I was happy to get to see him. It was his birthday lunch, but I think I got more out of it than he did.

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Losing My Religion

Religion is a very important aspect of life for my family. I was raised Catholic and went to mass every Sunday. When I was in high school, I was recruited to be a Eucharistic minister (the person who hands out the communion and the wine at mass). Ironically, as a kid, my mother asked if I wanted to be an alter boy but was quite happy when I declined out of slight fear of a pedophilic priest. In CCD, I was such a religious scholar, other in the class called me “God boy.”

My religious beliefs were part of the reason I struggled with my homosexuality for so long. I had faith in God, and I thought he was testing me. I took it at face value that homosexuality was wrong. The Bible teaches against it, and I have always been taught it was a sin. It was a burden I would have to bear the rest of my life or somehow manage to overcome.

I moved into an apartment my sophomore year of college on a Sunday. I was particularly busy, and I rationalized an excuse for not attending mass. After that, I stopped going to mass every week and believed if I had faith in God and was a moral person, I no longer needed a weekly dose of church. I went when I felt I needed the extra help or when I simply missed the ritual. As I was becoming an adult, I began to own my religion. I’m certainly not as devout a Catholic as my grandmother was. I am a cafeteria Catholic. I pick and choose what aspects of the religion I want to follow.

One of my best friends from college is my freshmen year mentor. He is a Marist Brother, a Catholic congregation dedicated to the Christian education of young people. We have shared a strong bond since I met him and continue to do so. I haven’t yet figured out how to break my news to him or how he’ll take it. I’m not afraid he’ll judge me or anything of the sort. He cares a lot about me and always inquires about my mental, physical and spiritual health. I just need an opportunity to have a heart-to-heart with him. However, he’s like a grandfather to me, so it’s almost as stressful as it was telling my parents.

In my adult life post-graduation, I made every attempt to go to mass weekly. My friends and I went as a group and cooked dinner for each other following services. Ironically enough, dinner was when the gossip about our sex lives flowed freely (mine was nearly non-existent and still with women). When others started falling off from the group, so did I. Once again, I was responsible for my religion, not a priest.

I started having doubts in the Catholic religion when I began to come to the terms with my homosexuality. After I met Broadway, I had a conversation (one-sided of course) with God. Ironically enough, I never felt so close to God as I did in that moment. I simply laid on my bed, and thanked him aloud for allowing me to finally feel comfortable with my true self. I realized being gay was not a choice, not a sin and simply a part of who I am. God loves me regardless. I finally stopped resenting that part of me.

While I have come closer to God through that experience, I’ve become more disenfranchised with the Catholic Church. Who wants to be part of an organization that doesn’t accept him or her? Their congregation has evolved over the years, but the Church has not. Any organism that can’t evolve becomes extinct, and the Catholicism is slowly shrinking in numbers.

Some days I think about marriage. I think about the idea of marriage I once had in my head and how that idea has evolved. Sadly, I will never be married in the eyes of the Church, let alone the state. Honestly, that saddens me greatly. I believe strongly in the sanctity of marriage, even if that marriage is not in the traditional husband and wife. When I make that commitment to a man, it will be ironclad, but it will still be incomplete without the recognition of a congregation of believers.

My belief in God will never wane, but my faith in my fellow man is tested every day. One day, I hope all will be accepting of homosexuals as equals, but until then my relationship with God will have to be exclusive.

There’s nothin’ wrong with lovin’ who you are she said, ” ’cause he made you perfect, babe.” So hold you head, girl, and you’ll go far. Listen to me when I say, “I beautiful in my way, ’cause God makes no mistakes. I’m on the right track baby. I was born this way. Don’t hide yourself in regret. Just love yourself and you’re set. I’m on the right track baby. I was born this way.”

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