Saturday, January 22, 2011

Race: The Oprah Effect

I have never considered myself a racist. My parents raised me with the ideal that everyone was equal. I can distinctly remember asking my mom if my friend, Michael Patterson, could come over to play. I told her that he was black. I'll never forget it when she said, "it doesn't matter if he's is black, white or purple." That has stuck with me throughout my life.

I will admit that my year in East Harlem did make me a little jaded. I would see people through their trash out of windows in the projects, rather than use the trash cans. I would see women use their EBT cards while talking on their iPhones and holding their Gucci purses. I could hear people screaming and fighting while children played on the sidewalks. I think that I used those experiences to develop what I'd like to call an environmental prejudice. I wouldn't say that I was racist, but I think I over generalized the experiences of my neighborhood.

Ironically, it was also during this time that I fell in love with Nicki Minaj and began exploring hip-hop. As I explored the culture, I began to realize that if a musician was going to use the word "faggot," it was most likely going to be a rapper. Singers of pop, country, jazz or rock would never say it. I began to become angry. I would think, "Well if they want to call me this, then I'll call them that." As I have come to learn, that is the worst possible way of thinking.

That all changed because of one woman...Oprah. She did a special look back at all her episodes on race from the past twenty five years. She showed men and women in the 1980s who were so unbelievably racist. I also noticed that they were against homosexuals and communists. I began to think that my way of thinking seemed to resemble these fat, rednecks. It disgusted me.

It wasn't until Oprah recited a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr that I really got it. She recited this line, "Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." That line really changed my life. It was an "aha moment" as Oprah would call it. Yes, some people may use derogatory, gay slurs. Yes, they may be black. But I'm only proving that I'm just like them by sinking to that same nasty level.

I feel like I learned so much from that one episode of Oprah. I hope that I can take that lesson and practice it in my daily life. I think that would be a small change that could make a big impact. They say that God created one race – the human race. One race is how we should see ourselves. Black, white, gay, straight – we’re all people. Let’s treat each other that way.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Meeting Momma

There are plenty of milestones in a relationship, but none are more nerve-wracking that meeting your boyfriend's mother. After dating for about seven months, I finally met Antonio's mother over lunch on Sunday. I was so nervous, even though I usually do well with middle-aged women. Antonio and his mother are very close, so I guess there was little fear that she wouldn't like me and that would cause problems between us. I am polite, respectful and sweet. I know that I would be the kind of guy that a parent would want to be dating their son.

We went to her house in Newark, New Jersey for lunch. We walked in and she instantly gave me a big hug and said that her house was my house. She doesn't speak much English, having come to this country from Portugal in the 1980s and spent most of her time in the Portuguese neighborhood of Newark's Ironbound neighborhood. She instantly put me at ease.

My stepmother's family is Polish and the meal is an important aspect of the culture. I know that they like it when you eat and it's a bit of an insult to refuse to eat something. Luckily, all the food that Antonio's mom made was delicious. We had shrimp as an appetizer and then had pork, veggies, rice and salad. The bowls were full of food - way more than three people could eat. But I figured that since our conversation would be limited that I'd make up for it by eating...everything. And I did! We did talk a little, though Antonio had to do some translating. She really is one of the sweetest women I've ever met. She and Antonio have such a loving relationship.

After lunch we had dessert! A Trader Joe's cake, chocolates and fruit...lots of fruit. Again, I wanted to keep up appearance so I ate. The couple of hours that we were there really flew by. All my nerves were completely unwarranted because the day could not have gone better. I think it's a good sign that this step forward in our relationship went so smoothly.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Uncle Fred

Today was the memorial service for Uncle Fred. I distinctly remember where I was when I learned that he had passed away. I was listening to a voicemail from my younger sister during Joey's bachelor party in Atlantic City. I remember feeling a genuine sadness. I knew that he was not doing well and that he would not be around much longer, but it still came as a surprise.

It's weird to know someone for your entire life and then they are just gone. He and I were not close and I rarely saw him after we moved to Landenberg, but I still feel like he was a big part of my childhood. I always remember that he was kind and asked me how I was doing. The service was very nice - very poignant thoughts for everyone to reflect upon. Renee began crying and I reached over and held her hand. I didn't start crying but only because I fought hard to keep the tears back. I think funerals are always so sad.

I realize that my tears and sadness weren't for my personal grief. I was sad for Aunt Kathy. I can only imagine the paid of loving a partner for 20+ years, raising children with them, building a life together and then one day they are just gone. I wouldn't know how to go on. I would be completely lost. Aunt Kathy was putting on a brave face and smiling but I'm sure she's very lonely. There was a big reception afterward with lots of people, but I would think the sadness came back when everyone left.

The only comfort I take in the situation is that Uncle Fred and Aunt Kathy had a wonderful life together. They had two great kids, a beautiful granddaughter and a happy marriage. Some people aren't lucky to experience these things in their lives. I know that it's only a minor comfort, but I hope she finds a little peace in knowing that she was blessed with love and that she still has so many people that deeply care for her.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Friend or Foe

It's been about 3 1/2 months since Spencer and I had our huge, explosive fight. For the first month or so it was very tense and awkward. Then things started to mellow out. Now I get the feeling that we're in the uneasy, limbo. It's an inconvenient place to be because we're going to have to make some tough decisions in the coming months and having a definitive attitude towards would definitely help us make those decisions.

We've started talking about what's going on in our lives and we've begun joking a little. It's not to the level that it was before the fight, but it's almost comfortable. I don't get that anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach when I walk home while dreading that he's going to be there. It makes for a more comfortable living environment, but also an uncertain future.

Our lease ends at the beginning of July. Our original plan was to live together for the remaining three years that Spencer was in school. I'm pretty sure we've scrapped that plan. But that's the funny thing about living in New York. Even if you don't want to live with someone, it's not always an option. It's a fact that he needs a roommate and so do I. I don't enough money to afford a studio apartment in my current neighborhood. I feel that moving back into Spanish Harlem would be a step backward even though having my own place would be a step forward.

I have a feeling that this apartment is going to become the focal point of our metaphorical divorce. He wants to stay and so do I. If we want each other to move out, who gets to stay? I would think that I would because I could find another roommate easily and we'd both have income. To the landlord, that would be a more desirable situation. But nothing is guaranteed. That also brings to mind the expression "better the devil you know." Sure, Spencer and I aren't friends, but I know him and trust him despite everything. Is that better than allowing a stranger to move into my home?

Ideally, we'll begin to mend things and get back to a point where we can actually be in the same room for more than 10 minutes at a time. If we can do that, we may be able to salvage our friendship and continue co-existing. If not, then we'll have to make some very tough decisions - decisions that will most likely having him move into school housing and me looking for a new roommate.

Friend or foe? The next few months will tell and ultimately decide our living situation for another year.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pre-Wedding Fun in Atlantic City

I love weddings. I love seeing two people in love. But before you can get married, you have to have a bachelorette / bachelor party. This past weekend were Joey and Hannah's respective parties in Atlantic City. At first our plan was only to attend Joey's party and then sleep on the floor in their suite. That plan, thankfully, expanded into spending the whole weekend there, getting our own room and also partying it up with the girls at Hannah's party. It was a crazy, Jersey Shore-esque weekend, but it was a blast.

The weekend started off right away. We got to our room around 8:30 on Friday and were eating dinner with all the ladies by 10:00. I love Hannah and Suzanna so I knew it'd be fun. The other girls were nice. I feel like gays and girls go together like honey and flavored tea. We had a nice dinner, though there was a little dispute about portion size. Just a tip - ladies, just because we're gay doesn't mean we don't eat. Then it was on to Mur Mur for dancing. It was just like a scene from Seaside Heights - lights, fog, dancing, fist pumping. Everyone was having a good time.

The next morning we met up for breakfast before the girls left. Then it was off to gamble and rest before the testosterone injected bachelor party. We left the Borgata for the evening for the bachelor party at Harrah’s. We got the suite and it was exactly what I expected - beer pong, porn, sports. I think we both instantly felt out of place, but I put on a smile. We left the room to get some food and wander around the casino. We got in the elevator and then all the guys, along with older men already in the elevator, started yelling the Jets chant. It was actually scary - I almost expected them to start pounding on the walls like gorillas.

We had a decent time watching the game, gambling, etc. We headed back to the room around 11:30 to wait for the stripper. I was excited and anxious. I thought it'd be fun and one of the only times I'd be in the situation. I'd humor her ("good for you honey"). Then I thought about how degrading it must be to have a group of guys making lewd comments and you for money. It's like two steps away from being a hooker. It didn't really matter because she never showed up. I was actually a little disappointed and I felt bad for Joey. That's the big finale and then it never came. We left to go back to the Borgata after "Melanie's" non-arrival. We finished off the night with some hot, Starbucks tea, a slice of lemon cake and an episode of Sex and the City on E! Now, that's the best way to end a bachelor party.

We got up and packed on Sunday morning, while salivating for the highlight of our Atlantic City getaway - the breakfast buffet. Being a body obsessed gay man living in Manhattan, I don't overindulge. I don't really do sugar, saturated fat or friend foods. But a trip to Atlantic City is like a little escape with privileges like eating like average Americans. I got eggs benedict, apple crepes, bananas foster with whipped cream. I ate until I was stuffed and it felt so good.

But alas, all good things must come to an end. We left and made our back to the city. It doesn't take much to get back into the New York City state of mind. It takes about 20 blocks of yelling at other cars, honking, and laughing while watching pedestrians try to decide if they can make it across the street without getting hit. It was an amazing weekend with my boo. I'm so grateful to have been included in all the pre-wedding festivities. It'll definitely be something that I remember for a long time.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Office Politics (7th Grade Revisited)

I like my job. It pays the bills and it's been a great introduction into a professional environment. That being said, there are days where I feel like I'm in the 7th grade again. Today was one of those days. It started with someone in our department accusing another employee of stealing time, which she probably has been doing. I don't know all the facts so I can't really make an opinion either way. I can predict exactly what will happen...nothing. I've learned that you can threaten to kill people (that's also happened recently) and they won't do anything. Whoever coined the phrase "get away with murder" must have worked in my department.

So this morning started with lots of gossip and drama. The afternoon can't get worse, right? Well, I find out through the grapevine that another employee thinks my friend and I talk too much. This employee also didn't like that we ate lunch and laughed. I was more than mad when I found this out and not necessarily because of what they said. It's that they said it behind my back to another employee. If you have a problem, why not come to me? I can't change anything unless it's brought to my attention. Hearing that someone doesn't like the way you do your job through the grapevine is utterly infuriating. I'm sure my 13-year-old sister is dealing with similar situations right now. Maybe I should ask her for professional advice.

I don't get it. In my entire working career so far, Barnes and Noble has been the most productive, accountable and professional job thus far. My current position seems to be divided 50/50 right now - 50% work and 50% dealing with unnecessary, political nonsense.

It may be time to dust off my resume.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


It's that time of year again. It's time to make unrealistic, self-improvement goals that will be forgotten by the end of the month. I can already envision the gym being packed with newcomers who will certainly not last through spring. I'm going to the take this opportunity to make some goals for the new year. Let's hope I do better than the majority of people who make resolutions.

1) Get out of debt! This could very easily spill over into 2012. I've got about $6,600 in credit carddebt. I can already hear my mom's voice nagging in my head. It's been out of control for a while, but I've reached my limit. Literally. I mean, I am at my credit limit. No more spending for me. I want it to be more than just not spending. I want to save. I want to make better financial decisions. I want to improve my overall, financial wellbeing. Ideally, I'd like to follow Nicki Minaj's path and build an empire. Since she's still working on her's, I figure that it'll take me a while to figure out how I'm going to build mine. I've begun deducting money from my checking account automatically and depositing into an ING Direct savings account. I've also begun tracking all my debit card expenses so I can see where my money is going each month. I think these first steps are a good way to ensure that I stay on track and still vigilant through 2011.

2) Gain 15 pounds. 2010 was a transformative year for me at the gym. I really increased muscle mass and cut fat. But I want to take it even further this year. I'll keep my diet on track, drink plenty of protein shakes, and avoid hunger at all costs. I've got my workouts down and I love them. I'll still try to switch it up and maybe even get a session or two with Jimmy when I can afford it. I think I can make even bigger improvements this year. My iPod has the perfect playlist and I am so ready!

3) Personal upkeep. I'd really like to quit biting my nails. It's gross! Antonio has such smooth, clean hands. I look like they've been chewed on my sewer rats. It's just not a good impression. I'd also like to start flossing each evening (floss already purchased). These little things will make me feel and look better

4) Personal growth. This is a broad goal. I'll be starting Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth soon. I'd like to be more comfortable with myself and maybe even accept myself the way I am. I think having a positive outlook on life and spirituality would be a good step in the right direction. This resolution is big picture and I know it'll take time. But every journey begins with a single step.

So there you have it. Four goals for 2011! Some will be more challenging and some will just take some patience. But I think I've got the tools to make all my resolutions stick this year. With a little determination and will power, I'll transform all aspects of my life - bank account, body and mind!

Sunday, January 2, 2011


I spent my second New Year's Eve in Manhattan and this one was much better than last year. Last year, I got drunk at a party in Brooklyn and ended up making out with an acquaintance. This year, I spent it drinking champagne and kissing my wonderful boyfriend. It may have been less eventful, but it was much more enjoyable.

We watched Carson Daly's coverage of the mayhem in Times Square. I'll be honest, though, it did seem like the people were having fun. Luckily for them, the weather was much warmer than last year. We then switched briefly to Andy Cohen's New Year's Eve party on Bravo. It was funny, but something that didn't need to be seen live so we DVRed it for later.

One of the highlights of the evening was Nicki Minaj's performance on a rooftop on 5th Avenue. She did Moment 4 Life and she killed it! I absolutely loved her outfit and performance. We had to take pictures with her. And by her, I mean her image on the TV screen. We were also able to get some pictures with various housewives and our celeb crush, Andy Cohen.

We took lots of goofy pictures in hats and silly glasses. I loved my outfit - tight, dark jeans and my new Banana Republic shirt. It's my go-to outfit! We had a great time! It made me realize that it's not where you go, but who you're with. I wasn't at a crazy party or crowded bar. I was with the guy I love and that's the best way to start the new year. And the night ended with me wearing only a smile and my New Year's hat ;-)