He sits, alone, alone, alone,
afraid and angry, lashing out in pain.
(But no one gives a shit about him.)
Who will sing for him?
He’s ugly, gangly, short, or fat
or anxious, cold, resentful, bitter –
what a man’s afraid to be
and what a woman cannot stand to see.
In short, unfuckable.
So who will sing for him?
Will anybody ever touch him?
Gently hold his hand and kiss him sweetly,
run their fingers through his hair?
Or gaze at him with longing,
tell him that he’s beautiful?
(Could he be beautiful? Or only
All his million secret yearnings –
who will sing for him?
Will someone write his song in fire?
Could they understand?
That underneath the spit and ire
lies a broken man?
I sing for him.
(crossposted from Facebook)
I started seeing a sex therapist last April, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I have a lot to say about that whole experience, but one thing that’s particularly come up for me lately in conversations is a session we did where we were cuddling and she asked me, playfully, “so what do you want to do?” and I had a clear experience of
- knowing the answer, which was “I actually just want to keep cuddling,”
- feeling embarrassed and a little ashamed of it, and
- noticing this and promoting it fully to conscious attention.
The narrative I absorbed growing up of what it meant to be a sexual man was that I was supposed to constantly want all these sexual things with women, and was supposed to just be waiting for yeses to immediately dive into doing all of them with gusto. But that has basically never been my experience. I also absorbed a narrative that men who expressed sexual desire were monsters, so I never felt safe even feeling sexual desire around women (as opposed to porn), let alone expressing it. My first clear experience of feeling sexual desire for a woman in front of me was a few months ago.
Before sex therapy, what I sometimes (often? I have no idea, honestly) did with partners was perform desire; touching them in ways that I thought would make them feel desired, because if I didn’t then they’d feel bad and I would have failed in my role as a loving partner. And it’s not that I didn’t know that this dynamic existed, but I only knew it as a thing that happened to women; I had never heard a man describe it happening to them. (Actually growing up I never heard a male friend describe any sexual problems whatsoever. It was just not something any of us ever talked about.)
Closely related, for me, is performing dominance. I have a history of being attracted to submissive women but having no idea how to dominate them because I had absorbed all these narratives around male dominance being toxic. The result, as far as I can tell, was that I faked it and I didn’t make it. I experimented with choking and hair pulling and none of it really felt like it was coming from a real place in me; I was doing it to make my partners happy and that’s about it. And based on conversations I’ve been having recently I’m not alone in this.
Anyway, I hereby consign all of this to the flames. I release performance and the narratives that give rise to it. There’s so much more richness and vulnerability and beauty available in the moment-to-moment dance of physical connection with another human being.
My sex therapist and I ended up cuddling for another 10 minutes or so and it felt great.
(crossposted from Facebook)
(Written after Day 1 of volunteering at the Authentic Man Program.)
A man craves love, desperately, the way a bird craves the sky. But a man’s life is barren of love. The men around him are afraid of loving him and each other; they have never been shown how. The women worry about him, but it’s not the same, or there aren’t any. He dates, or not, but it doesn’t last. If love stumbles its way into a man’s life, unexpected and sublime, he gropes at it clumsily and it slips through his fingers.
A man, thinking of love, feels fear. A man feels grief. A man feels despair. A man feels rage. All of these are unacceptable, and so he disowns them. Who could love a man’s face made ugly by fear, or grief, or despair, or rage? Who could love so much pain in a man? A man locks away his fear, his grief, his despair, and his rage, and sinks them as deep in the ice as he can.
A man wanders through his life, frozen and alone. A man finds it easy to keep doing this. In time his pain can become a distant memory. He can take comfort in the ice. But he is unsatisfied (being unsatisfied is acceptable) about something.
One day a man might follow his dissatisfaction back to the ice. A man might stare at the ice. A man might take a deep breath, and blow out slowly onto the ice. A man might see the ice begin to melt. A man might be scared shitless of the flood to come.
And so the work begins.
(crossposted from Facebook)
Happy Valentine’s day. I’d like to issue the following apology to every woman I’ve ever dated:
I am sorry for casting you as the love interest in my movie.
● ● ●
For most of my life, my understanding of how romance was supposed to work was centered around four archetypal characters: let’s call them
- the Jock,
- the Cheerleader,
- the Nice Guy, and
- the Nice Girl.
All of these characters are white. The Jock and the Cheerleader are blonde and the Nice Guy and Nice Girl aren’t. The Jock and the Cheerleader start out dating each other and bullying the Nice Guy and / or the Nice Girl. The Nice Guy and Girl gradually fall for each other even though the Nice Guy is kind of a goofy dork, and maybe something bad happens to the Nice Girl and the Nice Guy rescues her from it, and then happily ever after or something. Along the way maybe the Jock and the Cheerleader break up because they deserved it.
I believed that it was my job to
- never be the Jock (because he’s Bad / superficial / popular / cares about looks / cares about sports and being physically strong / too masculine),
- never pursue the Cheerleader (because she’s Bad / superficial / popular / cares about looks / cares about being sexy / too feminine),
- aim to become the Nice Guy (because he’s Good / not popular / sensitive and emotional / looks beyond physical appearance), and
- aim to “win” the Nice Girl (because she’s Good / not popular / sensitive and emotional / appreciates the Nice Guy).
I also believed that as long as I stuck to this script, my relationships would basically work out fine and I would get my happily ever after. Needless to say, that is not what happened.
I didn’t understand for the longest time how the thing I was doing to my partners was taking me out of contact with them; I couldn’t see them for who they were because I was too busy seeing them as the role I wanted them to play in the story of my life. Even when I was trying to be emotionally sensitive and understanding, in large part it was driven by my need to perform my own role, the emotionally sensitive Nice Guy boyfriend.
(Separately, refusing to be the Jock held me back in a lot of ways, that’s a whole other post: it’s the reason I was not supposed to care about fashion or fitness, and also the reason I was not supposed to ever openly exhibit sexual desire.)
My edge right now is being fully present with a woman, experiencing attraction and affection for her if that’s what’s there, without making it the opening scene of anything, without layering over the moment a tired narrative that draws me into old patterns and blinds me to the full humanity of the person in front of me and the connection we’re sharing.
(crossposted from Facebook)
I used to pay basically no attention to representation in the media as a problem, because it didn’t seem to me that lack of asian representation was holding me back personally in any way. If anything – and I thought this very, very quietly, all to myself – it seemed to me that being held back by lack of representation was in some sense a weakness.
I was completely wrong, but I couldn’t see the problem for years because it was so embedded in my background assumptions about reality that I never thought to question it. Here is what I have come to realize:
I never saw someone who looked like me as a romantic lead growing up (the closest I got was Jackie Chan in Rush Hour, which, come on). I have always carried with me a pervasive fear that I in particular am, and asian men in general are, fundamentally ugly and undeserving of love. And these two facts are probably related.
I have been surprised by almost every relationship I ended up in. On some level, I never understood what my partners saw in me. I felt lucky. That sounds almost romantic, but actually it consistently fed in me a growing desperate conviction that I had to get the relationship exactly right because it might be my last chance. I couldn’t help being ugly, but maybe I could make up for it by being the perfect mix between a Disney prince and a romantic comedy lead. That went okay, sometimes; it even led to some beautiful moments, which I don’t regret. But it never lasted, because the desperation underneath always shone through.