|I believe everyone deserves to be told when they|
are loved and appreciated.
Let me preface by sharing that I am a person who believes that everybody and anybody deserves to be complimented, encouraged, and praised when it is obvious that such a thing is due them. I often compliment perfect strangers on all sorts of points. For example, I’m notorious for making sure pregnant women know how beautiful they are, for I truly believe that pregnancy is the most feminine and gorgeous time of a woman’s life. But when the occasion is less brief and unexpected, I am very formal and old-fashioned in my ways, and I love to write “Thank You” and “Thinking of You” cards to random people in my life whom I appreciate. When possible, I am fond of sending them via snail mail. So, I keep a supply of stationary, cards, envelopes, seals, stamps, etc. for this very purpose.
|Sending post, or "snail" mail, |
is one of my favorite hobbies.
Just yesterday I used my last card and envelope on a very worthy friend at church who has so willingly served me multiple times in the past few weeks. That evening, I went to the store to buy more cards and envelopes, but I went to a different store than I usually shop at. I found myself bombarded by overly-feminine, cutesie, generic wedding, bridal shower, and baby shower cards. I thought they were all very cute and would honestly (wishfully) love to send them to people. But looking at my options, as a male, and getting frustrated, I just kept thinking laughingly, “That’s just too gay!”
I realize that my practice of giving out and sending cards the way I do already, and unavoidably, shows that I am a sensitive man; but I didn’t want it to scream, “By the way, I like guys.” So I narrowed it down to some blue and silver cards with a rigid block-type pattern, and some blue and silver cards with an elaborate paisley pattern. I realized that the rigid block pattern didn’t come with the kind of envelopes that I liked, so I was left with the paisley.
|"Masculine" paisley was too|
manly for me.
But then I stared at the design wondering if this paisley was also too feminine for a man. I found some other paisley cards in pink and purple, and the pattern seemed softer and flowed better than the blue and silver paisley cards; so clearly, I discerned, there was a “feminine paisley” and a “masculine paisley,” and I had correctly selected the manly kind. So then, I thought, paisley would be okay. But then I couldn’t help thinking of my very-straight grandfathers and great-uncles at family reunions in their cowboy hats and bolo ties, complete with a paisley western shirt with the fake-mother-of-pearl buttons. I concluded that I was far from the type who is masculine enough (or even interested) to be associated with such a thing even if I tried, so I decidedly gave up on the paisley cards.
|"Feminine" paisley was lovely,|
but of course, too "gay."
All the while, I just couldn’t help feeling like the fact that I was aiming for a little style and elegance in something like greeting cards would likely register as a little feminine in and of itself with the people to whom I gave them, especially if they were male. But since I’ve never been the type to compliment a fellow guy by punching him the arm and declaring “You da man,” I just assume that anything more is going to be perceived by a straight man as a little on the sensitive side, though maybe not necessarily offensive.
With this new logic, my search continued. I finally found something that seemed appropriate and gender neutral from my side, and for my recipients. The cards were black and white with an embossed, elaborate criss-cross pattern on the front, with a checkerboard pattern on the inside of the envelopes (the kind that I like, by the way). All together I thought they were a little boring for my taste, but then again, I suppose that it’s what is written inside that matters and not what the stationary looks like. I just wish I could have come to this conclusion before I spent half-an-hour in the store aisle battling all my gay-related quirks.
|Precise and perfect planning is an obsessive trait|
that follows me in nearly everything I do.
I have to laugh about it, though. My first predicament was my desire not to seem overly feminine and perhaps make people wonder about my sexuality more than I’m sure they already do. I’ve tried to adopt a personal creed that if someone asks me about my sexuality, I will tell them the truth—that I am gay. There are some exceptions, but as long as I judge that the person is willing to ask questions or talk to me about it in more depth, I have no problem with them knowing. My fear is that, without my side of it all, they will run to predisposed prejudices or fears about homosexuality, and judge me based on those things. This is especially important for me because of my active membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). I don’t mind if people assume any stereotypes with me, because I certainly know that many gay and lesbian stereotypes exist and that they do so for a reason. I recognize these seemingly predisposed quirks and traits in myself, hence the current musing.
Second was my quest for perfection in formality and sociality. In many instances I will reject something that does not conform to my own preset standard for whatever task is at hand. I cringe when people approach a task by saying “Oh, it doesn’t matter to me,” or “I have no preference,” because almost always I have things well thought out in advance before tackling any task, and I continue to critically analyze the process as I go along. With the occasional exception of “What do you want to do tonight?” or “Where do you want to go eat?” I will almost always have a preference.
|Father and son bonding seems|
especially important for men who
experience same-gender attraction.
These initial thoughts left me to conclude that, according to my experience with other gay males, my perfectionism was very typical. There are many reasons proposed for why this might exist psychologically—fear of rejection by others for whom one is as a person seems to be the common root; but I won’t expound upon that now. Fear of appearing overly girly or feminine in behavior and mannerisms also seems to be a persistent issue particularly for men who are closeted, or who have not yet fully revealed their homosexuality to others, and don’t desire to.
Then there’s the matter that so typically couples, and often seems to plague same-gender attracted men—issues with masculinity and the views and relationships with other males. I may not have known some of the patriarchal figures in my extended family very well, but as a child with a vivid memory, I received many silent messages from the men in my life. Not all the messages I absorbed were that real men know how to ride a horse or wear cowboy boots. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I had many examples of so-called “typical” manly behaviors. And I knew from an early age that those activities were not what I liked to do.
|Fishing trips were special|
for my father and his boys.
I remember my own father taking me on fishing excursions dozens of times as a child. He and my brothers would fish the rivers and streams, while I would adventure nearby to pick wildflowers and find rocks to take home and decorate using my mother’s vast collection of acrylic paints. Occasionally, if I was present, my father would hand me the fishing pole long enough for me to simply reel in a fish that he had already hooked. I learned to clean a fish by watching my father and brothers do it many times, and I think I did it myself self only once. The other times that my father encouraged me to try cleaning fish, I couldn’t do anything but sob heavily over the loss of the poor creatures, and beg them to forgive me from their new home in fish heaven for taking part in their deaths.
But from these experiences I learned about the love a father has for his son. My father was always willing to take me along, even though he knew I wasn’t going to participate with him and my brothers. I got to see my father in his element, doing what he loved with his boys, after a hard week at work providing for our family. That is something I cherish today.
|Though we've never had much in common,|
I cherish my relationship with my dad.
In later years, I never really did feel included when hunting season came around, and other activities soon took my interest over our fishing trips. I often felt that my brothers’ interests in masculine activities took precedence in my father’s allocation of love. But looking back, I can see that my father loved all of us boys. I think that my father and I both regret that we never had more in common, but I am happy that I have found ways to establish a relationship with him as an adult. I cherish our relationship, and respect him greatly for the hard-working, sacrificing man that he is.
Another behavior that I remember silently witnessing as a child came from my maternal great-grandfather, Chester. My great-grandmother, Irene, was feeble in the last several years of her life. They lived a couple of hours from where I grew up, and my family only visited occasionally. Grandma Irene would sit in a large, comfortable-looking recliner in the living room. I remember the soft puffing of her oxygen machine as we would talk and visit together. Always Grandpa Chester would sit on a small folding chair at the side of Grandma’s recliner. I remember him often holding her hand as we all visited. I remember him lovingly, and with a chuckle, rearranging the nasal canula in her nose that gave her oxygen. He would help her up as she stood to hug us goodbye until she became too weak in later years to stand much unless out of necessity. I don’t recall anything particular about hugging Grandpa, but I know that I must have done it, because I have always been a physically affectionate person, whether he was or not.
|Though my Great-Grandpa Chester's|
love was silent, I noticed and felt it.
His love was always silent, and probably never given a second thought by him. But I noticed it. This was one of the same men whom I had seen in western paisley shirts, a cowboy hat, and bolo ties. But like many of the masculine men I have known, I was not impressed by how much weight he could lift, how many animals he had killed and hung on the wall, or how quickly he could change a tire. I was impressed with his behavior, his attitude, and his heart. His inner man was what spoke to me. He loved his wife, and she was dear to him. He parted this earth just weeks after Grandma Irene did, telling her, “I won’t be far behind you.” This makes my heart swell from my deepest desire to experience my life with a divine daughter of God.
Finally, in pondering the experience with the greeting cards, I was a little disappointed that my appreciation, love, and admiration of others who bless my life and my desire to make it known unto them, was reduced to simple black and white. If I could, I would give out handmade cards trimmed with gold leaf and dotted with precious gems. Such is the extent of my gratitude for those who make my life a happy and fulfilled one. In this way, I am glad that—if stereotypes hold any sway—my same-gender attracted feelings give me a keener sensitivity to all things around me that matter the most. I find myself more humble, more grateful, and more willing to serve. I’m reminded of the Savior Jesus Christ, Who, sitting with His twelve disciples one day atop the Mount of Olives, taught them in parables, saying:
“... Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
The Lord’s tender mercies are ever present, and I can’t help but marvel at them! Who would have known that shopping for stationary, some personal reflection, and a lot of musing at a keyboard could teach me the worth of a soul, and the measure of a man? Sincere and serious intro- and retrospection have always been a blessed gift given to me by God, and my heart is filled to overflowing in gratitude. There are no coincidences. God is in the details.