Sunday, November 24, 2013

You Know How Marriage Will destroy Us

I miss the word Lover.  It’s an action word. One that can be taken as a verb,‘to love’ or as ‘one who loves.’ 

When I was a kid men took lovers.  And I’m not just talking about dark, blue-eyed men who gazed into each other’s eyes on dark moonlit streets and felt their hearts race and sweat.  Hell, Cary Grant and Rock Hudson took lovers in the old 60’s flicks.  Peter Gunn had a lover, Edie Hart.  He called her ‘Silly’.  It was playful and sexy and gorgeous and dangerous all at once.  Exciting and adventurous. Spontaneous.  It was cool.

Back before all this arguing about men marrying men went on we were rebels.  Guys who took lovers.  It was sort of dark and mysterious the way we’d meet, fall for each other and become something active: men who engaged in love.  It always made my knees go weak when someone—the coolest guy I knew—cause, who the hell else would you fall for, right?—told people I was his lover.  I still remember the first time it happened.  It was an exciting and rich and powerful experience.  A man and his lover can do anything together.  If you don’t believe me look up the concept of an army of lovers in ancient Greece.  Love inspires courage: romance, enthusiasm and hope.

Lovers gave you their leather jackets to wear. They took the diamond stud out of their ear and slipped it into yours. Lovers showed you their tattoos on dark patio bars and flexed their muscles for you while you laughed and stared into each other’s eyes and told each other how much you fucking loved that song that was playing and, oh yeah, by the way, they fucking loved you even more.  Lovers walked you home in the dark and grabbed your hand protectively when creeps walked by—especially cops.  Lovers knew what you loved and surprised you with it.  Even if they didn’t read they brought you a bookcase cause they knew you read.  Lovers gave you a ring no matter what the world said about how the two of you could or couldn’t love each other: and that act of defiance was what mattered more than any piece of paper ever could because it meant they were willing to fight by your side which is a real rarity right now.  Lovers danced with you slow to the fast songs.   They were your friends.  And that was the best part.  Cause you could tell them anything. Your rebel status made you partners in crime.   And the fact that they could walk away at any time made you appreciate them more.  And hopefully, hopefully: you gave them twice as much.

Then, at some point, some pinhead sociologist who worked for some god-awful University and who desperately wanted the acceptance of everyone around him, even though he’d never fought for anything in his life, raised the banner of mediocrity in the name of all male lovers and decided he wanted to take what was exciting, adventurous and rich and sling it to what already had proved to not work: marriage.  He and all his mediocre buddies made the word 'lover' shameful.  Asserted that it implied only sex, which means that’s all they had in them.  To them being ‘one who loves’ only meant ‘fucking’ because it was the height of their romantic imagination and capabilities. 

I know a little something about Romance.  It’s not just that I write about it.  It’s a driver in me.  I have this sort of innate aversion to anything that threatens it because Romance is a powerful force that can propel us to greatness.  King Arthur knew this.  So did Guinevere. They used it to build Camelot.   And the ancient Sage Kings in the East used it to build unbreakable, powerful and prosperous kingdoms that people would die to defend.

So, why?  Why this hue and cry for marriage when being lovers worked so wonderfully?   I have a dark theory about it.  When you see something dangerous and exotic: exciting and tantalizing and you want to destroy it, the best way to do so is to feed it apathy and sloth.  You bring it from its mysterious shadows and make it mundane and it dies in the sunlight like a night dragon.  You expose it to the light and suddenly the precious and exotic moon flower that only bloomed in the glistening silver of night suddenly becomes tawdry and common, shriveled up all the way to the roots.

Of all the generations who had witnessed the pitfalls of marriage, GenX is the one that should’ve known better.  And yet, true to GenX form, it wanted exactly what had proved to not work in its life to become an enforceable law.  They wanted to be “husbands” because the people they’d watched on television growing up had been “husbands”.  Instead of wanting to be something bigger.  Because being something bigger meant being a maverick.  And that scares people.

Husbands make promises  to be active then lie on the couch and watch TV.  Husbands believe secretly that the piece of paper is the magic talisman that keeps them bound together even though they tell people it isn’t.  Husbands can neglect what’s real important in their lives because the law makes it more difficult for the other person to take off on them.  Husbands are all about security and banality. Husbands prefer baked goods to adventures.  They get fat and stop working out, because, after all, they got the security now, so what the hell have they got to prove?  And if they let themselves go and get sick then the legally appointed ‘caretaker’ in their lives has to baby them: if not, their social support network will ostracize them.   Husbands overlook.  Husbands are proud of their jobs and their toys and all that shit that doesn’t matter in the world more than the fact that their lover is the coolest person they know. 

We watched our fathers do it.  Our friends.  Our uncles.  Our grandfathers.  Our TV role models.  Why the hell would we want to take what was vigorous and rare and magical as lovers and turn it into that?

There’s a reason why women are so drawn to writing romances about men loving men.  And it’s not any of the reasons they’ll tell you.  They are drawn to it because male lovers are mysterious, forbidden, exotic and luscious.  The whole world of lovers is full of romance in its truest sense: so far from the mundane: marriage, children, jobs and taxes that it represents real excitement to them.  As a man who has experienced it in both its fullest, craziest, most passionate and at its most boring, neglectful, mundane incarnations I can say: they are right.  Romance is truly magnificent when treated as the rare thing it really is.  Grasping at security (which is only an illusion anyway) kills romance.  It’s a game we run on ourselves.  We tell ourselves that if we are married we will not die alone.  We will matter. We will be cared for without having to work to maintain our worthiness for those things because, after all, weren’t we born deserving unconditional love like Oprah told us?

And yet, more and more people are dying alone every year regardless of the constant emphasis in our society on the power of marriage.

Now, before I continue I want to say that I’m not saying that only men can have that kind of romance.  Everyone can have the romance of lovers.  Man-man, man-woman, woman-woman.  So long as they treat it as the exotic special and rare thing it is and choose not to force it into the pressures of a system that’s designed to inject cynicism, stress and commonness into our relationships like wedges.  Men who loved men had an advantage, though, that’s now being taken away.  They’re getting their 'rebel status' revoked and are being sorted into a system that works less than 50 percent of the time.  Jesus!  Would you buy a smart phone that worked only fifty percent of the time?  Then why the hell would anyone take those chances with one of the greatest driving human forces out there: romance?

There are several assumptions about marriage that need to be broken right now before this madness continues. 

  • First: the concept that marriage, as we currently know it, works to begin with is a joke.  The divorce rate proves that’s just not true. Just because the law says you're married doesn’t suddenly mean some dude is gonna stay with you forever.  It just means any break up that happens will now be bloodier!
  • Second, the concept that marriage will somehow heal mens' souls is a fallacy.  If you don’t love yourself now, no publicly sanctioned ritual is gonna make you love yourself.  In fact, it’s gonna do more damage than good because it’s going to create an event in your life full of expectations that you then have to live up to.  When you don’t live up to them you will either feel you’ve failed or start to lower your expectations and settle.  Both are detrimental to your health in general. 
  • Third: marriage is the apex of romance.  That’s not true because legal marriage removes one of the essential pieces of romance: scarcity.  It’s hard to appreciate the rarity of  something that the law has lashed you to by contract.  If I had a dollar for every couple I knew who hated each other but stayed together simply because a divorce would be too costly, I could insulate my house with bread.

Now, I know that many of you are gonna hate me like poison after this blog or erroneously assume that I’m cynical.  But that couldn’t be further from the truth. I prize romance as the jewel it is: rare and precious and to be cherished and upheld.  And I do have an alternative for those of you who also cherish romance.  You rare few who see the heinousness of what’s going on with this marriage jive will truly dig this.

Instead of standing in front of some judge you’ve never met before or will meet again and saying “Please tell me my relationship is valid,” consider looking into your lover’s eyes on a full moon night and saying this to him, which is much more honest and healthy: “I’ll stick around as long as the laughter lasts between us.”  And then stick by it.

This is a vow that can’t be broken.  Because as long as you and your lover laugh you will be able to overcome any obstacle that life throws your way.  And as long as you know that, at any moment, if you choose to indulge in selfishness, misery or self pity, you could lose this precious individual who makes you laugh, you will appreciate them for their rarity and specialness.  And you will take every action in your power to care for the beauty you have found in him.  Because, and remember this my friends—words are cheap and easy.  Vows are quickly broken.  But actions are undeniable.

Friday, November 15, 2013

It's Your Life. Are You Missing It?

Imagine if you were to create a painting or a sculpture.  Something of beauty.  Imagine feeling the medium in your hands…the coolness of the clay and it’s suppleness as it warms in your palms and fingers and becomes more pliable.  Feel it on your finger tips as you spread it, mold and cup it, getting it to bend smoothly to your vision of beauty….  Imagine the time it takes to get it just right.  Then the time it takes to fire it, if it must be hardened.  Imagine it finished.  Being admired by people for its beauty, it’s simplicity, it’s…youness….  Hear their ‘ooohs’ and ‘ahhhs’ as they compliment you on your vision and talent.

Or imagine the chalky odor of Gesso on a freshly stretched canvass.  And how acrid the paint smells as you twist off the smooth little plastic paint caps and create rich colorful globs of on a palette.   Little wells of glimmer and loveliness.  Hear the swishing as you start to apply the paint to the canvas.  Feel the brush in your fingers.  How long is it and what kind of bristles does it have?  How hard is it?  How long does it take to bring your vision to life?  Hours?  Days?  Months? Years?

Or maybe art isn’t your thing and you prefer food.  Maybe you get a creative urge to bake some sort of pastry and you mix a rich, silky batter by hand with a polished whisk until its shiny and glossy; full of divine cocoa or vanilla aromas.  Or maybe the scent of bitter orange and lemon rise through your nostrils and fill the space around you with their sweet, citrusy scent? 

Imagine how your masterpiece ribbons when you pour it from the slick mixing bowl into the baking pan.  How shiny it looks and how sweet and rich it smells. Imagine setting it in the oven protectively, the blast of warmth hitting your face as you set it in place.  The feel of the timer as you punch the buttons or twist the dial and set the countdown to your gastronomic ecstasy.  You are a God, forging your Opus with flame, sugar and flour: like Zeus shaping humans out of mud.  How your house fills with the sweet aroma as it blooms until finally you remove it from the oven.  You let it cool and frost it before presenting your masterpiece to the people you love: an offering of your creativity and joy.  Your inner desire to share what you are with others.

Now, imagine taking this beautiful piece of work that you invested your time and energy on.  That you invested your sense and sensual appreciation into.  That you conceived of, dreamed up and labored into being.  Imagine this thing that you made.  That came from you and your energy, your desires, your wishes and passions.  Imagine taking it and then throwing it into a public toilet.  Where the rich aromas of paint, clay or sugar and cocoa mingle with the stench of filth and excrement.  And imagine standing there in that public head and encouraging people to go into that stall and destroy your creation in the most foul and disrespectful way any human can.

Pretty absurd, right? Pretty awful. And yet we do this with our lives every day.  We take how many years to create the ultimate piece of art each of us has to showcase in the world: our lives, and we throw them in the toilet.  We sacrifice them to jobs that squelch the beauty out of us because we are told by social proof from the time we are children that this is what we must do.  We let teachers steal our gifts and friends convince us that we are less than we really are.  We settle for lovers who do not touch us or gaze into our eyes and say, “You are beautiful.”  We let doctors corrupt our understanding of heath.  We let TV feed us cynicism and dysfunction like geese being force fed for foie gras: in both cases the end being the same….  We drug ourselves on food and booze and superficiality until we are numb.

And what’s the result after we take our masterpieces and toss them in the can?
We isolate ourselves from each other. We close ourselves off with cynicism and anger. We talk only about ourselves and avoid making real connections with others.  We hold anyone who wishes to get to know us with contempt, because after all, we tossed out masterpiece in a fucking crapper, so what the hell could they possibly see in us?  We are suspicious and jaded and, goddamnit we like it that way!  Because, fuck it, we’re gonna show the world how much we hate it because, after all, it forced us to give up our beauty didn’t it?

Or did it?

I’ve said it before, to you, my friends.  Either in my books or blog posts, or even to some of you in person.  You cannot create beauty in this world if you are not willing to make the space for that that thing to be defended.  Whether it be our ideas, our art, our romance, enthusiasm, prosperity or hope.  You cannot create beauty and then throw it in the fucking trash, because it is worse than if you’d never even tried to make beauty to begin with.  And if you choose not to create beauty, right here, right now, in this world full of billions of people because the price is just too high to learn how to defend it: if you are choosing not to make that magical thing that can grow between people and animals and nature when beauty is present, then you are not only throwing your masterpiece away, but you’re pissing on what you were made for.

You may say, “But Hayden I’ve been hurt.”

To you I say, “What artist hasn’t been?”

“You are an artist. And your life is the beautiful thing you are creating. From great hurt can come great understanding and profound revelation about the nature of  what we are.  But only if you choose to see it that way; if you choose to remain open and childlike in your appreciation of the world.  

When I was a boy, I used look at around at people who claimed they wanted to be happy, to be in love and find romance, to be prosperous and enthusiastic and creative and I’d watch them push those things away every time they showed up in their lives.  Every chance they got to be happy, they chose victimhood, sadness and self-pity instead: because those things were easier.  They were familiar.

I used to say to a friend of mine back then, “Most people spend their lives just missing it.”  It was a horrifying thought, that propelled me to look further for answers.  It’s a thought that that I’ll leave you with now.  

And I’ll leave you with this bit of hope.  There are two big keys to gaining a life that full of romance, enthusiasm, prosperity and hope that I’m going to share with you now...  One is laughter, the other is sincerity.  If you can take those two clues I’ve given you and do something meaningful with them, nothing will stop you ever again.  Because they will lead to everything that’s really important in this world.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Are These Men Who Kiss Gay?!

When I was younger I struggled to published stories about men who loved other men.  It was very frustrating because I thought I had something valuable to say, but my words bounced off of publishers who didn’t want books about men who—god forbid—kissed each other or—even worse—overcame obstacles, found magic in the world and realized happiness.  I left writing and publishing for awhile because of that.  Then, with the birth of the new era of publishing I returned to writing and went back to creating the kind of stories I always wanted to create with the freedom of not having anyone else telling me how I had to do it.

It seems rather hypocritical now that many of those same people who wouldn’t touch the stuff I was writing back then have jumped on this new “gay fiction” trend. Ideas I came up with twenty years ago that I couldn’t sell then are now flooding the marketplace. Stories about men loving men are hot right now. The topic is on fire and seems very interesting to many.  

What’s also interesting is that, in many cases, the reasons for interest are superficial ones.  Physicality, identity and gender stereotypes abound: all of the things that keep people limited in their experience are the reasons why many people are attracted to the subject.  Those are OK subjects to cling to if you want to stay isolated, angry and anti-social, but we’re living in a world full of humans, who, the majority of which, don’t necessarily fit the tiny mold that each of us casts him/herself into.  At some point, we have to reach out past what we do in the bedroom or how we define ourselves on insurance forms and touch people (smiling wickedly) where we are similar.

Now, don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying everyone does this.  Some people, like me, just want to read a good story and they love well-developed characters and a forbidden adventure, regardless of all that other garbage. I really don’t care that Yuko in xxxHolic was a woman, That Han Solo was a dude who dug chicks, or that River Tam in Firefly was a freakin’ basket case.  All of these characters kicked ass and went beyond human limitations to become examples of something heroic. And the people who understand that concept are the ones I write for.  

See, growing up my favorite stories were either fairytales, children’s adventure novels, or those written by writers  like John Irving who seemed to care about bigger issues than what someone did with their penis or a vagina.  Irving was great because he said shit like: “We invent what we love and what we fear…”; “Just when you begin thinking of yourself as memorable, you run into someone who can't even remember having met you…”; and, “You've got to get obsessed and stay obsessed…”  Those were things, I thought, worth saying, because they were things that, if understood, could change a life: any life.

But something very strange started happening to me after I wrote Year of the Bull and was working on Anatomy of a Wish.  People started asking me if Anatomy was going to be a, “gay novel.”  

That baffled me for two reasons.  First: I had spent so many years writing “gay stories” that no one gave a shit about.  And second, for years gay people have been begging everyone to take them seriously, to accept them as they are without conditions; and yet, the first thing we do when we demand everything or most things in our lives be labeled as “gay” is set up conditions.

It’s very telling that this stuff is going on in our stories.  Because our stories mirror our lives and our values.  And if you watch, you can see how those limits are playing out in our world. The isolation and confusion currently affecting people from the labels that we are constantly coming up with is astonishing.  The other day I saw someone refer to “the community” as LBGTQ.  A friend of mine was confused because they didn’t know what the Q stood for.  I had to confess I didn’t know either.  But then I wondered how many freaking initials we have to have to divide an already small group?  Are there enough letters in the alphabet to classify us by our flavor of hurt that we will ever be satisfied?  And when we are finally the LBGTQRSTUVHUNLOPFSCXZAC community will we finally be at peace or further dividing our identities by algebraic equations to keep the separation going?

Recently single again, I went with a friend to a bar the other night for the first time in like ten years.  When we were younger she and I went out all the time and we were always baffled by how hard  people worked at separating themselves from each other; but now, it’s almost hysterical the limits people are putting on themselves and trying to put on others. People kept asking us if I we were a couple.  I would look at them smile and say, “No, I really love men (And I’m pretty good at it.)  Is that…um…” *still smiling* “…OK?”  

They all crashed because they saw the genuine, non-sexual affection my friend and I had for each other and were confused by it.  (They were also confused by the passion I have for loving men: but then, passion seems to be a thing people are afraid of these days.)  But let me ask you: If we can’t have affection for each other that goes beyond gender and sex how can we ever expect to find the love we as humans claim to really want?

That same night, a dude we were talking to showed us his sparkly phone case and asked us if it was too gay?  Is that even possible? I mean—seriously, do the people who would judge anyone for having a sparkly phone case really matter in anyone’s lives?

I specifically chose to classify my books as “Urban Fantasy” because I wanted people to realize that they weren’t just about “gay people”.  Oh yes, men kiss in my books.  And some even have sex with each other if it’s important to what’s going on in the story.  But there are other characters in my books too.  And the new book I’m working on, The Particle, has a lot of characters who really don’t think pride parades are the highlight of the summer.   

There comes a point in your life when you really begin to understand the truth of the things you tell yourself as a kid when you’re coming out.  Love is Love.  People are people.  And there should be bigger experiences we try to aim for in art then how we can best label ourselves.  

The phrase, “Is it a gay book,” should be outdated.   If we can’t reach each other in our stories in ways that illicit romance, enthusiasm, hope and prosperity then we have no business claiming we’re artists.  Because those four things are what will bring about the kind of changes we need to see in the world now. If our art stops at gender, sexuality, and identity then we limit ourselves from the truly powerful experiences that awaken us to each other as humans like our ability to come together, heal each other and create unity and wholeness.

Those of you who’ve read Anatomy of a Wish know that I threw a curve ball into the gender thing.  That was on purpose.  Because I wanted people to start feeling the truth of what they are: that we are something bigger than these bodies we reside in and all the tiny labels we attach to them like travel stickers on a suitcase.  The connections we have to other people are more significant and at the same time more fragile than we have ever imagined.  And if we really want the things we say we do: love, respect, honor and a deep connectedness to others, at some point we have to stop looking at the superficial flesh and realize that we are something so much more than an “X” or “Y” community.  We are vessels for something that could become limitless.