Discovering a Diamond in a Discount Store (An Open Letter to Straight Women)

This is a guest post from one of our friends……

I have been a gay man for a long, long time. I have a lot of straight women friends. Whether it’s similar interests and objectives, less competition or less estrogen flying around, this type of relationship can be strong – often stronger than relationships between straight women.

We are true friends.  We will NOT let you leave the house looking all wrong. We tell you when that dress doesn’t look right, that color is not for you, or it’s time for that diet you said you’d start. Why? Because we have your best interests in mind.  We will remind you of what you said last week, or even 10 years ago… not because we like to be right (we do) but we too have a need to cultivate something.  Our product tends to be well-adjusted, confident and fashionable women who avoid the wrong men, bad outfits, uncomplimentary lighting and tacky accessories. Is that so wrong?

Many of us gay men were raised by strong women.  We are not threatened by strong (and fashionable) women and like to help develop the species. We give back through our friends and relatives by nurturing self-confident individuals to go out into the world and compete with, and live with, straight males. We freely share some of the male psyche for better insight. We can empathize with female subjugation and often envy “a little” female objectification (How many of us still hum the words to Madonna’s famous song – “make you feel like a queen on a throne, make him love you till you can’t come down”). Unfortunately, my boyfriend does not understand these prophetic lyrics. I will have to start singing them in French.

Is there a straight fashion designer out there that has done more to flatter the female form than gay men? It is because we’ve walked in your shoes – and we have!

I am proud to be a gay man and three memories will always stay with me. The time a gay friend and I dressed our friend for a college party and all heads turned when she walked in (the men in admiration, the women in envy). Or when my mother awaited my arrival to select her outfit for my grandmother’s funeral.  My mother needed the right outfit that dually signified somberness but also the celebration of a 107-year life – navy blue pleated skirt, a crème Chanel jacket, pearl necklace and a clutch – what else? And lastly, when a friend sent photos of herself at a wedding and queried if she should keep yet another bridesmaid gown.  I returned a shot of her from behind with three words: “keep the dress”.

The shoes may be high and the pencil skirt uncomfortable – it’s fashion!  Life can be hard and uncompromising.  Perhaps having a gay friend or relative makes the world a better place.

Finally, I believe this relationship is so strong because we are able to share, without judgment or competitiveness that idealized vision of you! And that is why you assist willingly and lovingly with the circus that a gay wedding can be… or simply because you are giving back for the gay man who may have designed your wedding gown, arranged your flowers or created perfection in hair and make-up on your special day.

Jeremy

Shopping for Milk at the Hardware Store

On June 24th the Marriage Equality Act was passed in the State of NY and since then I have already been invited to the weddings of three gay couples. This seems like a lot for someone who is neither a gay man nor a professional wedding planner. But I have a lot of gay friends. A lot. I even have a lot of gay ex-boyfriends. My high school boyfriend, my college boyfriend and the guy after that all turned out to be gay (well the guy after that’s conservative voters don’t know, but the rest of us do). When I write my autobiography it will be called, “Jen, I’m Gay.” Subtitle: “The life and times of the world’s biggest fag hag.”  It used to really upset me, especially the boyfriend part. What was wrong with me that I was such a gay magnet? It was like I had the kiss of queer. My gay friends used to make me go stand next to hot straight men to see if I would change them purely by proximity.  Then as I got older, I came to realize that the things that all gay men have in common – they like all things fashionable, fun and fabulous – must mean that I must just be extra awesome.

Always Outnumbered

I don’t doubt that spending so much time with gay men is not good for my dating life. My very concerned mother figure at work used to tell me, “Darling, you’re shopping for milk at the hardware store.” Which was true, gay and straight men do not tend to travel in the same circles. They eat at different restaurants, go to different bars and go to the gym for very different reasons. And I have a much higher standard for hygiene and style for straight men than I probably should.   

So with this in mind, I made a decision a few years ago not to take on any new gays. When I meet new ones who start to become attached, I simply have to tell them that I currently do not have any openings but if they would like to submit an application, someone would be in touch should I have an opening.  I have had to grandfather in a few who I’ve known for a very long time and then they came out after I made the rule. Who expects guys to still be coming out in their 40s? I mean it’s sucking a dick, not Proust, how long does it take to figure out?

Accessory Approval

I am always trying to come up with ideas as to what to do with my growing gay surplus. One of my oldest gay friends (chapter 2 in my autobiography) thought it would be a good idea to start my own fag/hag online match service.  I didn’t get it. Why would anyone need something like that just to find themselves a fag to hag with? His response was, “Jen you can’t understand – it’s like a Saudi not understanding why people need oil.” So if any of you ladies out there are in the market for a sassy gay friend who will dress you, cook for you and force you to wear uncomfortable shoes –  or any gays out there are looking for a girl that you can dress up and take to family gatherings in Arkansas, let me know. I am doing market research. – Jen

Drinking the clearance kool-aid

I’ve been packing the last few days for an upcoming vacation.  Since we planned this trip last fall, I’ve had plenty of time to ponder my wardrobe.  Over the past few months I’ve perused clearance racks for summer clothes for both my husband and I thinking they would be great for vacation – and a steal at that.

As I started pulling out things to pack, I quickly realized we both have more new outfits (daytime, nighttime and swim time) than number of days we will be gone.  For some bizarre reason, I feel every vacation requires buying a completely new wardrobe.   Needless to say, I have totally drank the ‘clearance’ kool-aid and feel if there is an $100 dress on clearance for $10, I would simply be an idiot if I didn’t take it home.  Besides, I have a vacation coming up where this dress would be fabulous, right? 

The worst part of my clearance rack purchasing sprees is that I would never wear these clothes during normal life.  So everything I’ve purchased will be for a one-time (or no time as some of my finds aren’t even making it to my suitcase) wearing as I will most likely buy new clothes for the next vacation. 

So the next time I am pulling items from my closet for the local charity clothing drive, there will be a fabulous $100 dress, and many other special summer items (many with the tag still on) that will be filling the boxes I set out on my porch. 

When will I learn that I’m blowing hard earned cash for clearance items that I simply must purchase only to donate to charity?  Hopefully, someone will benefit from my inability to refrain from bringing these steals home.  BTW — Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Chico’s,  I know you were waiting for a chump like me to come in and take a lot of clearance items off your hands and you’re welcome.

Oh, and this is the third time we’ve gone to the Dominican to an all-inclusive.  I know (absolutely am positive) that I’ll wear the same flip-flops, shorts and t-shirt to breakfast every morning, quickly change into a bathing suit and may or may not dress up for dinner.  I could travel with a carryon that has sunscreen, a bathing suit and visor and be all set.  Anything else I need I could pick up at the local Wal-Mart.

- Susan

New Wheels

Today, I sent my passport off for some new tires.  I’m almost out of pages and with 2 years still left on my old passport (in addition to some of my favorite memories) I’m opting for new pages to give this one a few more miles. 

I told you before, I have a travel twitch.  And with a new year, and a whole bunch of new vacation days available, it’s starting to go crazy. 

But the thought of not having that passport and having to start fresh (with no stamps) makes me really sad.  I love browsing through my passport while traveling or waiting in line at immigration, looking at the stamps and thinking of the memories that I’ve taken with me from place to place.

I think it’s for that reason too, that I’m always amazed when I talk to friends, family, or even strangers that have no desire to leave the US.  Some don’t even care about leaving the state!  And apparently they aren’t alone.  According to a recent study on cnn.com, only 30% of Americans have passports, and 50% of the international trips that Americans took in 2009 were to either Canada or Mexico, which didn’t even require a passport before 2007! 

Anyway back to my passport… it’s in the mail and I will be nervous until I get it back.  Am I the only one that feels this way? 

- Erin

Sheality’s New Years Resolutions

Here are some disturbing statistics released in a poll by the  Opinion Corporation of Princeton, New Jersey:

  • 62% of people make New Years resolutions
  • 8% are successful
  • 19% achieve resolutions every other year
on average
  • 49% have infrequent success
  • 24% NEVER succeed and have failed on EVERY resolution EVERY year!

So we at Sheality decided that we were not going to make the usual, vague, unattainable resolutions. The weight loss, the exercise, getting more sleep – it’s all been done and undone.  We were going to resolve to do just ONE attainable thing that we have never done before.  Happy New Year!

You made your bed, now lie in it….

This year I am going to make my bed every day. Gretchen Rubin wrote The Happiness Project, which is an account of the year she spent test-driving studies and theories about how to be happier.  And to her amazement, her findings showed that the most significant thing you can do on a daily basis to be happier is to make your bed. Not make more money, not being in a relationship, not meditating, not exercising – making your bed.  And there are two very good reasons why it works. First, it is a resolution you can keep. Even if you end up making it two minutes before you get in it, you did it. Victory! And it also just lends some order and peacefulness to the place where you sleep. And you can find your shoes.  Now there may be some of you out there who grew up with a drill sergeant for a parent and are trying to escape the strict rules of your upbringing and for you I say – DON’T make your bed every day and enjoy the freedom!- Jen

Being of sound mind and body…

My husband and I have said for the last few years that we absolutely HAVE to write up our wills.  As we are packing to go to the Dominican Republic on Saturday, and once again getting on a plane together, I am once again kicking myself for not having a will.  While I don’t plan on leaving this life any too soon, I don’t want to leave any more of my hard earned assets to the government than I have to. 

Yesterday I found an on-line document (Rocket Lawyer) so have at least started the process.  It was not as painful as I feared.  Now I have to actually make an appointment with an attorney so my husband and I can make it official.  This is something I am definitely doing this year and since tasks like this take me a long time to actually finalize, I need to make that appointment soon.  After this is our living wills and discussions about burial (or cremation) and other very important decisions.  Getting old sucks , and planning for getting old sucks,  but it’s the responsible thing to do and its better than the alternative…..

- Susan

Evaluating my emotional footprint

Recently, Jen turned me on to a great zenhabits blog and it has really been capturing for me many related threads that have been developing in my life. I am a firm believer that to change anything on the outside, you need to change the inside and I have been a road that brings me to this place where I ultimately want to develop my ability to be a more considered person… that is, for the thing I want to do for 2012, I want to be able to consciously evaluate my emotional footprint  and consciously choose my behaviors… everything from tone of voice (my last post) to what I put in my mouth to how I interact with others. 

So the first thing I want to do more of is sit and watch – something that helps bring that joy and appreciation of the moment. It makes me feel that I am taking a step outside the moment in a way that leads me to really appreciate this exact moment and the crazy confluence of events that it may represent. There is no other time like right now – ever. That is just an amazing fact and reflecting on it brings me the equanimity that I crave in my life.

With this as a first step, I think I will be able to more successfully move towards consideration of the moment and conscious choice of my action, my tone and well, just about everything.

- Michaela

Back to school

This year I’m going to start taking classes again.  Not necessarily toward a degree (at least at first), but classes to start learning new things. I’ve been feeling lately that my life has started to revolve only around working, and I need to add a few things (besides drinking cocktails with friends all weekend) to mix it up a bit.   

So I’m planning for two classes right now: Italian  (I’m planning a trip to Italy in June and would like to know the basics) and Woodworking for the Total Beginner (I want to refinish furniture and would like to do it the right way).  I’m really excited about not only learning both, but having more of a variety of activities going on. 

Eventually, I think I’d like to get another degree but in the mean time, I’m going to get back into the swing of things with just the fun stuff.    :)

- Erin

Estate planning

This year I will hire an estate planning attorney and ‘have papers drawn up.’  Granted, I don’t really have an ‘estate’, but I’m single and I have no children.  It’s not totally obvious what I’d like to do with the things I have accumulated.  For instance, who gets my egg collection?  And my fourteen containers of costume jewelry? And my dogs?  My little one that is at least 12, is on daily medicine and is well-known at the vet’s office will have everyone fighting over him so I need to settle that now!  But really, I want to provide financial assistance to the person who does wind up with him.  But mainly I’m concerned about my Mom.  She juggles a lot of responsibilities already and I’m an only child.  If anything does happen to me, I wouldn’t want to unnecessarily add to her burden.  This year, I’m going to do the grown-up thing.  I’m going to get a will and a trust with clear directions on how to dispose of my assets.  At the same time, I’ll be working hard to see that she never needs it :-)

- Lori

Say WHAT???

I am repeatedly struck by the impact tone of voice has on any one remark. Whether from a spouse, friend, family member or co-worker, the same sentence or phrase said with an ounce of care will carry your message much further and it really isn’t all that hard. Seems that all it takes is a little bit of awareness and keeping kindness and/or that person at the center of your mind, vs the specific desire to be right and/or make your point.


This seems to ring true especially with spouses or other close one who you spend a lot of time with, somehow concentrated in times of stress or over holidays! Take the common situation where you and said person are in a conversation either which each other or another third party and one of you says something incorrectly. Possible responses are (bold used for emphasis of tone):

No, that isn’t right, it was…
..that isn’t right, it was …
..that isn’t right, it was…
Actually, what I remember is

Amazing what a good choice of words and a kind tone will do for you.

My husband and I have agreed to call each other on these kinds of things when we see them and this is one area we are actively working on. The way I see it, I aspire for our dialog (and relationship) to be one couched in mutual respect and kindness that shines through… and therefore I am working on making that last option more of a default reaction.

I’ve also found this whole tone thing to be key when talking to our lil puppy Zuger (who is topping the scales at 100lbs now). It is too easy to be angry/impatient with a puppy when they have no idea what they are doing… for example, when you want them to come,  are you basically yelling their name or are you saying it in a very excited tone that indicates that if they do come, there will be so much fun in your current location that they shouldn’t miss it? I continue to work on that one.

So in a world where voice to voice conversations are diminishing in favor of the typed message… how do you work on this? Can you get do-overs? The best advice I’ve seen lately is as follows:

How can we guard against that tone?  If you feel it creeping into your voice, slow down or stop, take a deep breath, and start again.  Or, if you realize ,after the fact, that your tone may have garbled your message, make amends by apologizing for sending out a mixed message, clarify it, and then move forward.

… And I have to say, in a conversation with an employee recently, I stopped mid-sentence and apologized for the tone that was coming out of my mouth and said I wanted to start again. Repeating my words in a different tone changed the conversation.

I can’t say I’m advanced in this area.. But I am aware at least and isn’t that the first step to sustained change?

A very happy new year to you and your family!

~Michaela

A Very Maui Christmas

I had the opportunity to take a last-minute vacation this month and decided to make my first trip to Hawaii.  The initial challenge was choosing an island.  I searched the internet and found a scorecard.  Less than ten minutes later, I was looking for flights to Maui.

Coming home from Hana

After a few days there, you forget you are in the United States.  It’s so tropical, and beautiful, and diverse.  Then, you ask for directions or suggestions and the person easily understands you; the stores don’t give change you’ll have a hard time spending.

My most memorable experience was a whale-watching trip on the first day of the breeding and birthing season.  We started out at Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment shop where we had a brief introduction to the humpback whale, then were off in a Zodiac boat which quickly found a calf and mother with an escort!  The yearling entertained us by waving his fins while lying on his back (their fins are the largest appendage in the animal kingdom), and later leapt halfway out of the water!  He will eventually become larger than a school bus and weigh 40 tons IF he can avoid disaster, which normally comes at the hands of humans or something we have put in his way.

Being from Florida, I’ve seen my share of surfers BUT I have never seen surfers and windsurfers like in Hawaii.  Ho’okipa Beach is perfect for the sports and even has sharing rules.  Surfers have priority until 11:00 a.m. when windsurfers take over.  One morning, there were 60+ surfers visible from where we stood.  Another day, 30+ surfers and 30+ windsurfers shared the spot.  The churning waves make the water look like larimar.

There’s also great snorkeling from the side of the road.  It’s odd to lift your head from viewing healthy coral with beautiful fish and hear cars driving by.

You can visit black sand beaches, which I didn’t realize are made of black pebbles of varying sizes.  My favorite was at Wainapanapa State Park.  We found it on the ‘road to Hana’ which we luckily drove clockwise so we were against the mountain rather than the cliff when meeting cars on blind turns.  That road also took us to Coconut Glen’s roadside stand, which offers tasty diversions.  Glen sold my goodies to me, and his humble demeanor didn’t give away his secret.  Turns out he was an actual chef who found his paradise selling incredible ice cream and coconut candy on a mountain in Maui.

The road to Hana leads to beautiful sunsets, such as the one above from our drive or those seen from the Sea House, where we had multiple meals.  But, the restaurant we frequented most was Maui Brewing Company’s brew-pub.  They have wonderful craft brews (and unique cycling shirts – men’s sizes only).  My favorites were Old Chinwig and Island Hopped Red, which are occasional brews.  Their staple brews are available daily and even sold at other outlets.

Obviously, I’m not the only one that finds Maui awe-inspiring.  This is easily demonstrated by the property prices.  I could tell Makena Beach was a nice area and my smart phone quickly proved just how high a price beautiful views can demand.  Check out this house for $19.5 million or this one for a mere $3 million.

Thankfully, there are homes or hotels that are more in reach.  And, the great views are always a short drive or walk away.  That means normal people like me can share the beauty of Maui and have a very Maui Christmas!

~ Lori

My kind of theme park