Young Love/Old Love

These are hackneyed ideas, but they are worth repeating.

Young people fall in love too easily. When you are young hormones rush through your body. You feel the most intense emotions of your life, and since intense emotions strengthen memories, first loves stick in the brain. Young people meet someone on Grindr, have a couple of “dates”, and convince themselves that they have met Mr. Forever. They start fantasizing about joint bank accounts and extravagant nupitals. Lost in limerence, they ignore the red flags their partners are waving, and are deluded into thinking they have met The One. Then things don’t work out and their hearts break.

Older people do not fall in love easily enough. They may meet somebody on Grindr and feel a spark, but when that spark does not blaze into flame the way earlier relationships did they wonder what went wrong. But these later relationships are not fuelled by hormones or the novelty of first love, so why should we expect them to be as intense? More importantly, older people are wary. Older people grow set in their ways. They establish routines and patterns and become reluctant to uproot them. So they shy away from relationships that might capsize the boat. They have been hurt already, and who wants to repeat that? So older people protect themselves from vulnerability, which makes it more difficult to open up to potential partners, and curtails their chances of falling in love.

I wish young people had the perspective to understand that their first loves are probably not their final loves.

I wish older people had the courage to put themselves out in the world wholeheartedly, because even though older love might not be perfect, it still might be worthwhile.

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Anal Sex

Two entries ago, Mistress Maddie (the dear!) left a comment about “barely enjoying anal sex”, which got me thinking.

It seems that lots of different demographics are obsessed about anal sex. The stories about teen girls using God’s Loophole as a way to preserve their virginity while having sex with their boyfriends is probably apocryphal, there is anecdotal evidence that at least some straight people consider anal sex as “not counting” in terms of preserving one’s virginity.

On the other hand, straight men appear to be strongly interested in having anal sex with their wives and girlfriends, as if their wives and girlfriends do not have sufficient orifices in which they can insert their penises already. I get the sense that straight guys see (penetrative) anal sex as a form of conquest. Maybe this is aprocryphal too? Porn sites would seem to disagree.

And then there are the gays. Anal sex seems to be such a priority in this culture that we identify as “tops”, “bottoms”, and “versatiles” according to our preferences in anal sex. Not all practicing homosexuals engage in anal sex, but many consider oral to be much more casual, to the extent that getting a blowjob does not count as “cheating”. [citation needed] My impression (which may be inaccurate) is that we consider anal sex “real sex” in the same way that straights consider penis-vagina sex “real sex”.

I am much less confident in these conclusions than I was when I started putting together this entry, but it struck me how differently these three demographics treat anal sex. In the first case it is a way to preserve one’s virginity. In the second it is a sex act that goes above and beyond “normal sex”. And in the third it seems to be what defines “normal sex” for gay men.

It is also strange that so many straight guys think homosexuality is gross because gay men are perceived as having lots of icky anal sex, when many of those same straight guys think of anal sex with their wives and girlfriends to be great achievements.

Reconsidering PrEP

After my mini-meltdown last entry, I did some additional looking into PrEP in general and weekend PrEP in particular. I also reread the thread that freaked me out.

It turns out that Weekend PrEP is a thing. In the literature it is refered to as “intermittent PrEP”. You take two pills before hitting Grindr, then a single pill 24- and 48-hours after. According to two studies (which go by the acronyms PROUD and IPERGAY) this reduces transmission rates significantly (by 85% or so). Furthermore most of the gays in the study were able to adhere to the regimen. So I guess the world is safe for barebacking, if you can afford the drug costs. These are only two studies, and the Centre for Disease Control does not advocate Weekend PrEP, but there is evidence that it works.

Those advocating bareback sex with PrEP (or, as I like to call them, the PrEPers) bring up a number of other points that have merit:

  • Assume PrEP works. Then it does not matter whether other people are lying or not. You can’t say the same for condoms (you may not want to click that link at work. Or ever). Taking PrEP prevents you from getting HIV and prevents you from transmitting it regardless of who your partners are.

  • Old trolls like us might worry about another epidemic, but there is no actual reason to expect that one will occur. If you think that, then you probably also believe that we deserved AIDS because we were promiscuous.

  • It is true that PrEP does not prevent any infection other than HIV, but we prehistoric Marys have no reason to be smug, because nearly all of the other STIs that matter (syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, HPV) are transmissible via oral sex, and exactly nobody uses condoms for oral sex.

  • In order to get a Truvada prescription you supposedly need to be tested for STIs every three months. That keeps the population safer than a bunch of gays who live in denial about their statuses.

  • Taking PrEP intermittently helps people tolerate the side effects better.

  • If we ancient queens are so worried about drug resistance for Weekend PrEP why aren’t we similarly worried about regular PrEP? Regular PrEP is a pre-emptive drug, the same way that antibiotic dish soaps are. And we all know what the overuse of antibiotics has led to.

  • PrEP is expensive. Intermittant PrEP is presumably safer, so more people might adhere to it, so maybe the community as a whole will be safer. (Fun fact: without insurance, a daily Truvada prescription would cost me more than my average monthly income in 2018.)

It should surprise nobody that I still feel anxious about this:

  • We are putting a lot of trust that Truvada will continue to work. One of the big problems with HIV is that it mutates so quickly. A condom will stop a new strain of HIV that mutates. Can we say the same for Truvada? (Fun fact: on paper, the reason gays are not permitted to donate blood is because in 1996 there was a strain of HIV (HIV-1 Type O) which was not detectable by testing at the time.)

  • No, there probably won’t be another plague. But if there is, then sex (particularly unprotected sex) with multiple concurrent partners is the best way for that infection to spread. This is why AIDS hit gay men so hard in the 1980s, and why it hit certain countries in Africa so hard later on.

  • It is probably true that if you are the one on PrEP then you are safer than if you are not. But you must be very very careful about trusting that somebody else is on PrEP to keep you safe. If that person is actually on PrEP, then hooray. If not, you are at greater risk than you would be using condoms.

Maybe none of these are my real concern. My real concern is TRUST. There is something that feels deeply untrustworthy about hookup culture, and I have to presume that anybody who would be willing to sleep with me is also sleeping with other people. Can I trust that person? How does that trust level change when the norm in gay culture shifts from using condoms to routine barebacking?

Personally I am too much of a hypochondriac nellie to trust anybody. (Honestly, I suspect that there are so many of us in the gay-o-sphere that I wonder how anybody has sex at all.) But hookup culture makes me super-anxious, and the way we have collectively decided that barebacking is okay now increases that anxiety even more. A lifetime of unhappy celibacy it is, then.

The Last Straw

That’s it. I’m done. It’s time to tear up my gay card, return the toaster oven, cancel the monthly subscription of Homosexual Lifestyle magazine, purge my appointments from the Gay Agenda. My status as a homosexual (never mind a practicing homosexual) has always been tenuous, and it is time to throw in the towel. I don’t want to be in this club any more.

You see, I was innocently researching the Internet for information about Three’s Company when I ran across this bulletin board thread (which is pretty NSFW if you click any of the outgoing links):

https://www.datalounge.com/thread/22296869-millennial-guys-barebacking

To spare you the trauma of reading the thread, let me summarize: a bunch of gays are asserting that barebacking is now the norm in hookup culture, because we have PrEP now and who cares about the other diseases? Apparently, guys who refuse to bareback get a lot fewer hookups. Welcome to our post-AIDS world.

Stop the train. I’m getting off (and I never asked to be on this ride anyways). I mean: what the hell? Is this what poor Steven has to deal with in finding Grindr hookups? I had presumed John Gray was just being prudish when he expressed reservations about PrEP, but nope: the Stupidest Timeline has come to pass. Or maybe I am just a bitter old queen, spouting my bigoted sex-negative views like your racist aunt during Thanksgiving dinner. It’s difficult to tell sometimes.

Some of the commenters in that thread must also be bitter old queens, because at least a few of them echoed the horror of the 1980s, and a few smart gays pointed out that not that many people actually are on PReP, so some of the guys who claim they are must be lying. That makes me feel worse, not better.

I have complained about being defined by HIV a bunch on this blog, and I guess this is more evidence of that. I came of age at the wrong time, when having sex with anyone even once was inviting a death sentence. Had I come of age twenty years earlier or twenty years later probably I would be barebacking too. But I didn’t, and I am not, so goodbye homosexuality and good riddance. I’ll take those anti-gay pills. I’ll do seances to get therapy from the ghost of Joseph Nicolosi. I’ll learn to appreciate sportsball and learn to speak in monosyllabic grunts. I have no desire to be straight, but at least the straights don’t have to deal with this nonsense, and the asexuals don’t want me in their club. Alternatively, maybe it is time to enroll in a Catholic seminary. They don’t need to worry about this nonsense either.

Edit: “Weekend PrEP”?! Aaaaah! AAAAAAH! AAAAAAHHHHH!!!!! Are you people not familiar with evolutionary pressures!? I recognise that HIV is a virus, but have you never heard of antibiotic resistance??? Aaaaaaah!!!

Gay Voice Followup

In the comments of the last post, Kato (the dear!) brought up a good point: the “gay acccent” in her city was not that different from the inner city accent. I have noticed this too: often young men (not all metrosexual) seem to adopt vocal mannerisms from the gay accent, to the point where it is difficult to distinguish the gays from the straights. Maybe the accent really is culturally developed, and not intrinsic. But then where did I pick it up? Reruns of Three’s Company?

Certainly mainstream accents have drifted over the years. Listen to newscasts from the 1970s or 1950s and you can clearly tell that our vocal inflections have drifted.

Deedles (the dear!) also brought up a good point: the perception that there is a “black accent.” Ever the maladroit, I countered that I did believe there was a mainstream black accent, and that furthermore I was adept at distinguishing it. Then I listend to this podcast and realized that I am just racist.

Do I Sound Gay?

Overall, my gaydar is pretty terrible, but over the years I have developed an ear for “the gay accent.” If I was better-versed in linguistics I could describe it to you, but you know what I am talking about.

We tend to emphasize the gay accent when doing drag or speaking in camp, but many of us possess (or suffer) from the accent even in our everyday speaking voices.

Many of us internally-homophobic wannabe-straight guys don’t like the gay accent. There are many disparaging, often misogynistic phrases for it: “He looked so butch, but then he opened his mouth and a purse fell out.” I confess that I did not like the accent either, but as I have gotten more involved in the LGBTQ+ community locally I would like to think that I have gotten over it. Nonetheless, I detect the accent in my voice, and I hate it. Why can’t I sound butch, like the straight guys I idolize so much? What did I do to develop this? Was it conscious? Subconscious? Is it something in my biology? Where does this accent come from, and why is it so prevalent in gay men?

A few years ago a filmmaker named David Thorpe made a movie about the gay accent called Do I Sound Gay?. Like me, Thorpe struggled with the accent in his voice, and like any good documentarian he went on an adventure to learn what it is, where it comes from, and whether he could get rid of it. He visited speech therapists and interviewed famous gay people like Tim Gunn, Dan Savage, and George Takei. I read press for the movie when it first came out, but did not get around to watching it until recently.

The documentary is.. okay. I learned a few things about what makes the accent the accent. I learned that there are LA speech therapists who promise to train you out of the accent. Also, David Sedaris is kind of dreamy, in a David-Lettermanesque way.

The movie definitely has its flaws. Thorpe offers some explanations about how gays develop the accent, but they are uniformly disappointing, hearkening back to 1950s psychological theories of possessive mothers. The ending is very sad. The movie also contains gratuitous shirtlessness, which might be upsetting to some of my readers with more delicate constitutions. On the other hand, the movie is well-made and heartfelt. I don’t feel that I wasted my time in watching it, which is rare for me. (I keep trying to watch Hollywood movies, and I keep being disappointed.) If you are looking for a way to fight off existential dread for an hour and seventeen minutes, watching this movie is not a bad way to do so.

HIV vs Diabetes

Content warning: I discuss both HIV and diabetes (duh), and will probably write upsetting, thoughtless things about them even though I know full well some readers deal with HIV and some deal with diabetes.

I have been thinking of both afflictions lately, and it occurs to me that they are similar in some strange ways. Both were once death sentences, and are now considered managable chronic conditions. Both have had epidemics. We usually think of the epidemic of HIV subsiding, but the epidemic of type-II diabetes is in full swing. Naturally, I have elevated risk factors for both, given that I read Fearsome’s blog and eat potatoes.

Of the two, I am almost certain to contract diabetes — probably within a few years. Just as I have been defined by HIV, I have been defined by diabetes. The disease runs in my family, and I have been staring it in the face for years.

At first I thought that HIV suffered much more stigma than diabetes, but now I am not so sure. It is easy to blame those who deal with either condition for their plight. Certainly I am obese and am sedentary. When my pancreas fail it will be my own damn fault. Similarly, I think lots of people judge type-II diabetics harshly. The difference between diabetes and HIV is that people perceive diabetes as being less transmissible than HIV, although indirectly this may not be the case. That said, I think the stigma against HIV remains strong, although perhaps there is less open discrimination against HIV+ people than there was in the 1980s.

Thanks to Big Pharma, there are effective treatments for both conditions. But I strongly suspect there will never be a cure for either. Why would there be? What is the incentive for Big Pharma to sell a one-time cure when they could continue to milk patients for the rest of their lives? I am even skeptical of PrEP. Now people at risk of HIV infection have the privilege of paying for HIV drugs for their entire lives without the bother of actually being infected. (I am glad no drug researchers read this blog, or I bet they would push back hard against this. Nonetheless, my cynicism runs deep.)

I have lived in fear of both HIV and diabetes for most of my life. I understand that other people deal with their conditions and lead happy, fulfilled lives. I doubt I would be one of those people. When I contract one or both of these conditions, I think my life will be over. My life is not with living now; how will it be any more valuable when I have an expensive condition that requires great responsibility to manage properly? If I was responsible enough to manage a chronic condition then presumably I would be able to control my overeating and/or urges to engage in unprotected anal sex with strangers in parks. But I don’t, so I’m not.

Shadow Penguin

Believe it or not, I do lurk on a a few blogs without opening my big fat mouth. Travel Penguin’s blog is one such example. Every day David posts a nice picture and a short mini-essay. Often these mini-essays express wise life lessons. They usually end with a question, prompting his readers to join in the fun. Although Travel Penguin is the mascot of the blog and not the author, I get the two confused and think of “Travel Penguin” as being David’s handle.

It is a good thing I am not a Jungian, because over the past few weeks I have started to realize that I am probably Travel Penguin’s Shadow blog. He posts interesting pictures and pithy entries with concrete points; I post rambling walls of text. He consciously avoids writing about the bad stuff; I wallow in anguish. He looks forward to travels and new adventures; I agonize over purchasing a different brand of toothpaste. He made his family proud by becoming a lawyer and devoting his life to public service; I have disappointed everybody. He is generous and spends money for quality; you already know how miserly I am. He is open to experience, conscientious, outgoing, and agreeable; I am deeply neurotic.

Travel Penguin posts every single day, almost always on the stroke of midnight. He blogs for personal fulfillment, not for adulation or comments. In fact his excellent blog receives few comments, and it does not bother him. He is not envious of other bloggers, does not write entries comparing himself against them, and would never have inappropriate crushes on them. He is comfortable with himself and his body. He has overcome adversity and come through the other side. A decade ago he took a big risk by taking a new job in Washington DC, and despite the sacrifices it worked out well. He appreciates that life is finite and our opportunities for adventures is short. His blog comments are always kind and supportive and never mean-spirited criticisms disguised as “jokes”.

He is now reuniting with his witty and attractive husband (who — for mama — is a scholar) after a decade apart. His recent entries make it apparent how much this pleases him — he is almost giddy. I am happy for them too, and not even in an Alanis Morrissette “You Oughta Know” way. (Travel Penguin also uses analogies that — when not contemporary — are at least recognisable by his readership.)

I will never admit such, but I think I am the Gollum to Travel Penguin’s Frodo. I would bite off his finger to gain his precious gift, but of course his gift is not to be found in any of his possessions or any of his digits. It’s not even a gift. It’s his character, which he has worked hard over the years to develop. No amount of finger chomping is a replacement for that hard work.

Open Letter to Deedles

Dear Duchess,

From time to time you disappear from our corner of the blogosphere, and when you return we find out that you have been in the depths of depression. On behalf of bloggers everywhere I would like to observe that we all like you and enjoy your presence whether you are feeling down or not. Please do not isolate yourself because you think you will drag us down.

In addition to your comment threads, I hope you have off-blog contact information for some of the many bloggers who love you, and that you reach out to them when the depression hits. Dr Spo says that a strong network of social connections is important when you are feeling down, and you have developed such a network here.

Hypocritically, I don’t think I can be one of those off-blog contacts. But I know a bunch of bloggers use Facetime and Facebook an texting to keep in touch outside of their blogs, and I am sure several of them would be delighted to keep in touch with you even when you are blue.

Sincerely, Old Lurker on behalf of bloggers everywhere

Grinch Meme

In the true Grinch fashion, I stole this from Dr. Spo, who stole it from a Who named Doug. In true Lurker fashion, it took me 12 years to get around to posting it.

If you are Grinchy you should post this meme to your blog too, lest your heart grow three sizes and you end up with cardiomegaly.

What do you hate most about Christmas?

As a condemned sinner, I can avoid most of it, but the calories are the worst. It is difficult to avoid Christmas baking.

What is your least favorite piece of Christmas music?

Anything that promises that the holidays are going to be happy or jolly. A special dystopian shout-out goes to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”. It is bad enough that Jesus hates me; now Santa is on my case as well.

What traditional Christmas food OTHER THAN FRUITCAKE (too easy) is being sent down the garbage disposal?

Ham.

Which animated Christmas TV special leaves you wanting to rip the wallpaper off the walls?

Do I have to choose just one? Fine. How about The Grinch Who Stole Christmas? It has such an unhappy ending.

Alternatively, how about the He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special? This atrocity inspired the plot device that brought He-Man to Earth in the terrible 1987 live-action film Masters of the Universe.

What was your least favorite Christmas gift ever?

Verbal abuse escalating to domestic assault, which I received a few more years than I care to remember.

Who on your Christmas list is the hardest to shop for?

Jesus. It doesn’t seem as if declaring fealty and accepting the gift of His blood to wash away my sins would be so bad, but it is much more difficult than it sounds.

How would you spend this time of year if you weren’t caught up in all of the holiday madness?

Wallowing in depression and wondering whether the sun will ever come back.