Monday, June 21, 2021

Getting Back in the Saddle

In response to Saturday’s Moment of Zen post about the pharmacy guy, VRCooper said, “Girl...We have to send you back to gay school.” I know it was mostly a joke, but I never went to “gay school.” Growing up in rural Alabama in a religious family, I never knew any gay people or anything about gay people until I went away to college and began reading gay books and researching what it meant to be gay on the internet. 


Most gay people I know have gay friends. I never had a gay friend (notwithstanding a few short-term boyfriends) with whom I could hang out, go to bars, watch a movie, or go to gay events. I had one gay friend and confidant, who lived about a thousand miles away. We met through my blog and became good friends. We texted each other all the time. I am so much better at texting than being on the phone. Then, my friend died in a car wreck, and I've never had another close gay friend. I am a painfully shy person. I've always hated talking on the phone because I’ve hated how my phone voice sounds. You can ask Susan. We also became friends through my blog, and it took her forever to convince me to talk to her on the phone. Now, we talk on the phone at least once a day. She's my closest friend and confidant. I don't talk nearly as much to my best friend who lives in Texas.


I’ve never made friends easily. I've made female friends more easily than male friends, but they are still few and far between. I have a hard time talking to people I don't know. So, when VRCooper suggested, “Strike up a conversation,” it’s quite a difficult thing for me to do. I feel awkward. The truth is, I need constant encouragement to give me a little courage to be my charming self, and I am a charming and good-hearted person. My friend who passed away was always encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone. VRCooper also said my “tone in writing reeks of defeat.” I know it does because I have zero self-confidence when it comes to men. Once I get to know someone or become comfortable around them, I can talk their ear off, but I am not one to initiate a conversation.  When the other person is a man, it is even more challenging getting comfortable with them.


Even when I do make friends, I tend to have a hard time opening up. There are certain things about my personal life I have a difficult time discussing. I had an easier time with my friend who passed away because he was gay. There were things I could talk to him about that my conservative, sheltered upbringing doesn't allow me to talk about to just anyone comfortably. There was something exceptional about that friendship which is why I was so devastated when he died. It took me a long time to try to be social again. I finally decided that is what my friend would have wanted me to do. I had to try to get back in the saddle which is an apt analogy. I fell off a horse when I was a kid and got kicked in the head. Every time I’ve gotten on a horse since, I find it impossible to get comfortable and enjoy it. However, if I ever had the chance to ride a horse again, I'd hop back in that saddle and try to enjoy it.


Also, I have often found like with any group of people, gay people have their clicks. Before the pandemic, I went to as many gay events in Burlington as I could. Sometimes I had one of my female friends go with me; sometimes, I went by myself. Whether it was First Friday (monthly drag shows and dances) or Burly Bears (the only gathering for gay men in Vermont), I tried to fit in. I tried to make conversation but found it extremely hard. Occasionally, someone would come over to talk to me, and I'd chat and have a good time, but inevitably they went back to their friends. Again, I was left standing there alone with my drink. Soon, gay events will start up again in Burlington, and I will try again. I have also tried to meet local people online for friendship, but no one ever seems to want anything more than sex. It seems impossible to find someone willing to have just dinner or even just meet for drinks.


I know I sound incredibly pathetic, and I know I’m complaining. I just needed to voice my frustrations. But I also want to say I’m trying to do better; I'm trying to be bolder. But it's not easy. I've spent my whole life hiding behind my shyness, and I know it's time I got over it and be more confident. What better time to do that than during pride month? It's a time when we celebrate ourselves and boldly proclaim who we are. That’s why I went to the pharmacy on Friday hoping to see the cute pharmacy tech (CPT). I wore my pride polo shirt. It’s subtle, but hard to miss. It was obvious people noticed it. Unlike in the South, where I would have gotten ugly looks and rude behavior, everywhere I went that day, and everyone I saw including the tech at Verizon, the cashier at PetSmart, and yes, the CPT and others at the pharmacy, they all seemed nicer and friendlier.


BosGuy said...

Hi Joe,
I have a couple of thoughts I wanted to share after reading your post. Keep in mind, I'm not a therapist but I do have a phenomenal Mom and I am going to share some of the things she has said to me over the years.
1. Writing and sharing your thoughts can be cathartic or it can reinforce how you see yourself. Always make sure your writing is doing the former and not the latter. Putting your ideas on paper can help you evaluate your progress over time.
2. When you are gripped by apprehension, fear, etc... ask yourself these questions.
a.) What is the worst thing that can happen?
b.) Based on feedback from people whom I respect what do they tell me?
c.) You only grow when you try something new. If you keep doing the same thing expecting a different result you're only going to be disappointed.

You have a lot to offer, and should you find yourself coming down to Boston, let me know. I'd be happy to grab a coffee or a cocktail with you.

Joe said...

Thanks fro the great advice, BosGuy, and I would love to get down to Boston for pleasure and not business. I think I have only been to Boston about four times, and each time was for work. I need to get away. I've been stuck in Vermont since the pandemic started. Since the Canadian border is not open, Montreal is out of the question, so maybe Boston is the answer. I'll let you know if I come down.

Anonymous said...

Next time you're in a group of people, and standing alone, try this: Walk up to someone you think you'd like to meet and say, "Hi, I'm an extremely shy person and it's difficult for me to meet new people. But today I decided to get way out of my comfort zone, introduce myself to a complete stranger, and see what happens. I'm Joe.

VRCooper said...

I thought I better check in or get my ass kicked.

Yes, meeting people can be hard. Trust me I have been where you are at. I have tried many venues to meet folks. I tell the story of joining a gay men's professional group. I said I would try it for a year. So once a month I geared my loins and went. It was hard. In my professional life, I am out there/on. I went each month, put myself out there. I chatted up folks, introduce myself, and even waited for folks to chat me up. I went home several times in tears-well not crying but frustrated as hell. After about 8 months or so I quit going. Yes, the gay world can be cruel and cliquish. But also you can be rewarding and one can find friends that will last a lifetime. I say find an activity that you love, join the group, and just be you. I know you have heard of Meet-Up. There are all kinds of groups out there. Hell, why not create your own group. I have done Meet-Up as well. I joined a lot of the hiking groups. Just meeting folks in a common interest setting, scoping folks out, thinking I would like to get to know that one better or you hit it off with someone right off the bat and it develops to the point of you taking Saturday afternoon naps on their couch. One does not expect you to be perfect or a smooth operator. But too it does not have to be formal. In your line of work, you make small talk. Translate that to chance encounters. Just plant the seed of interest. You don't have to bare your soul on the first, second, or third encounter. Just be present. Be southern. Maybe follow-up after a chance encounter.

I believe it all boils down to being comfortable in your skin. I did not say anything about being perfect. Just knowing that you ARE good enough for someone to spend time with. Once we start doubting ourselves, playing those tapes we are doomed. I had a friend who would always say "Do something that scares you!" That is how we grow. Moving away from the comfortable.

I can wait to read about your adventures. And no you don't have to be a slut. Just be Joe.

Happy Hunting---


Joe said...

Thanks, Victor. I hope you didn't think I was picking on you. I thought you made some very valid points, and I knew it was too much to say in a reply comment, so I wrote a post about it.

I love all of the advice I get. I read all of it and take it all to heart.

By the way, I had to see my doctor today, and he said something that made me laugh when I was thinking about tit after the visit. I was discussing safer sex practices (actually I was discussing PrEP) with him, and I am going to put this in gay terms, but he basically said, "If you find yourself having a mask off, legs up summer, then by all means have fun. We can discuss PrEP more at anytime if you think you want/need to start taking it." I have to say, I lucked out with my doctor. He may be straight, but he has never made me feel the least bit uncomfortable talking to him about anything. That has not always been the case with me and my doctors, but I can communicate with him like I have never been able to with a doctor before. (A little off topic, but I thought I'd add it anyway.) So, maybe I will have a "hot girl summer." 😂

I'll keep everyone posted on what happens.

VRCooper said...

Dear Joe:

Hell, we all need a "hot girl summer" after all we have been through the last year. Sexual health is important. Many years ago I volunteered at Whitman Walker Clinic as a Risk Reduction Counselor. I really enjoyed talking to folks about their sexual health. I don't care what you do. Top, bottom, leathered up, gag ball... I just don't care. Do you. Be safe. Oh, and make sure your partner knows your safe word.

Your PCP seems like a keeper. It is vital that we are transparent with the ones we trust our health to. If that person makes you feel less than then it is time to search again. I have been in health care for over 20 years. I have seen and heard it all. When I did work the floor-medic/urology tech-I was known for my bedside manner. Meaning no formal terms. I called it as I saw it. "You did what to your dick!" I'll tell you about the pen cartridge later.

Joe, I am a simple man. I am not saying I have all the answers or my advice is king. I just want folks to be happy. Just that simple. I just wished I had folks in my life that would pull me aside and give me the advice that I needed. I had one former friend tell me after all these years that he watched me stumble through life. Never once had the "I am your friend and I want better for you talk." I am open to criticism and advice. Now, it is up to me to accept it or reject it. If it is coming out of love I am grateful. We all need that someone or maybe a few others to guide us along the way and you to them. That is what life is all about.

Have a great rest of the week. Continue to be you.

PS-Now, let me know if I need to fly out and screen applicants and complete interviews for the next Mr. Joe. I can be brutal.

RB said...

Think about how some gay guys compare to nerds. Some Gay guys are not athletic, not masculine, and in some cases effeminate. Gay guys aren't popular and have a hard time making friends, especially in the mainstream. Same is true for nerds. The most popular people will shun the least popular. Even the less popular will shun the least popular for fear of being grouped with the least popular.

Maybe this makes no sense. But it's what I'm thinking when I read your post.

Joe said...

RB, I guess I got a double whammy. I was a nerd, and I was gay. No wonder I’m such a shy person. When your always ridiculed for being too smart or too effeminate, you try to hide that part of yourself, and basically, you try to hide in general so that others won’t find something else to ridicule you about. Which may explain why I was able to come out I’m graduate school because no one made fun of me for being too smart, quite the opposite. Most do them faced ridicule growing up as well. Nearly all of us were once seen as misfits in some way. I finally felt comfortable in who I was. Now, I’m in a profession that it pays to be the smartest person in the room. They all look to me for the answers.