On One Hand

December 31, 2004

2005 Resolutions

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 12:57 am
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I was talking to a fifteen year old about some of the things he claims to know he’ll never do, and I couldn’t help but laugh. I used to get pissed when people told me I’d change, now I get perturbed when someone else seems so sure that they won’t – it seems so naiive to me now. I think one of the most fundemental signs of maturity is when a person stops making difinitive statements. Here are a few things I said I’d never do, back when I was a teenager:

1. Pierce something (I still haven’t, but I’ve strongly considered it).
2. Smoke a cigarette (not only have I smoked, I’ve bought several packs, though I’ve never been addicted).
3. Miss Mass three or more weeks in a row (ha!).
4. Move out of Colorado (about a month after I said that, living in New York became all I would dream about for years and years).
5. Drink Alcohol (once again: ha!).
6. Take a naked picture of myself (done it, deleted it, did it again, repeat process).
7. Do drugs (I’ve smoked pot a few times).
8. Have cyber sex (done and done).
9. Have anal sex (I used to find it utterly disgusting. Everyone said I’d do it someday, and I’d get angry at the suggestion. Then I learned that you can actually have an orgasm in your butt. And I got used to the idea, after thinking about it long enough. I still haven’t done it yet, but I’m more than sure I someday will).
10. Have sex before marriage (I haven’t done anal penetration, but I have done lots of things I consider sex, and they count here).
11. Cut myself (I used to think it was crazy. I’ve done it).
12. Date a [insert pretty much anything you want here]. (Back when I was struggling to balance being gay with being Catholic, I thought that dating a non-Christian guy was bad for me; I didn’t want anyone to pull me away from my faith. I never thought I’d be attracted to a black person, an Asian, or anything outside what I was used to. I wasn’t racist, I just wasn’t attracted to certain face or body types and assumed that there wouldn’t be exceptions. Since then, I have dated a black person, said “I love you” to him, and have been seriously interested in an Asian guy – actually, more than one. And I can’t think of a single person I’ve dated who was still Christian at the time that we dated.)

Anyway, back to what I came here to write – 2005 Resolutions:

+ Start working out again (I slacked off for a month)

+ Have sex by my birthday (May 21) – I don’t want to be a 20 year old virgin

+ Be published by the end of the year (I don’t care if it’s a shitty magazine or a campus newsletter or what, I just want to be published)

+ Get my CU GPA back up above 3.5

+ Be earning enough money to cover my life by the end of the year – no more asking my parents for favors

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December 30, 2004

Best Quotes Pre-2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 11:41 am
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Best Quotes Pre-2005

Snapshots

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 2:24 am

My grandma flashed me tonight.

I went with my parents and sister to a family reunion of sorts, visiting a section of extended relatives we see only every few years. My aunt, uncle, and grandparents, who I see much more often, were there, along with my mom’s distant cousins and their kids, who are less frequently with us. In the hostes’ living room we all played bunco, which I consider to be most ridiculously understimulating game on Earth, and then the women gathered on the couch looking at old wedding photos.

I always make sure to be right in front when someone opens a photo album. I do it hoping to catch an old family story, which is the main reason I go to these family outings in the first place, missing opportunities to hang out with friends or do something more typical of people my age. I always try to give meaning to the stories I hear, to draw them together and use them as a connection between me and my relatives, as a banner of pride to show where I come from. I listen to the stories each time they’re repeatedly told, asking questions, trying to retain as much as I can. On the other side of my family, my dad’s side, my great grandmother now has alzheimer’s disease and has lost the capacity to tell her stories, showing me how important it is to take advantage of opportunities while they last. My cousin and uncle on my dad’s side both died young, in separate untimely tragedies just a few years ago, erasing still more countless memories from my reach. On Mom’s side, death is never quite as imminent: the old Italians tend to hang on. My great Aunt, who was considered old when my mom was growing up 40 years ago, is now ninety seven, and still ticking. She was finally put into a nursing home a few months ago, but the women in my family still visit her (she protests to having any men “see her without her eyebrows plucked”), to keep her company and to learn her old traditional Italian recipes. She is the youngest of thirteen children, born soon after her parents came to America. Her name, Leena, was recycled from an older sister who died back in Italy at age four, falling into a pot of boiling tomato sauce.

The only story I caught tonight was about some deceased great uncle who was Jewish and converted to Catholicism after he married his Italian wife. This uncle was very, very religious. My family is full of superstitious “cafeteria” Catholics – Catholics who gamble, Catholics who have babies just five months after getting married, Catholics who would keep unorthodox books on Astrology and dream divination right along with their devotions to saints and pamphlets on the rhythm method. But all old Catholics will tell you that the zeal of a convert often borders on extremism, since converts adopted their religion by choice, many in a time when switching faiths was much more controversial than it is today. According to parts of the story I heard years ago, this uncle refused to sleep in the same bed as his wife out of religious conviction. He had a little dog that he loved very much, which my grandmother claims “looked just like him,” that died after having been with him a long time. Tonight I learned that, after the dog died, this uncle went straight to the church to ask for a Mass to be said for the dog. Catholics will traditionally hold a Mass in the name of a person who has died, along with a tedious public Rosary and a funeral, as a part of the typical mourning ritual. Such prayers are thought to shorten the individual’s suffering in Purgatory. I didn’t catch how my uncle’s parish priest responded to the unusual request – it wasn’t an important part of the story.

While we were looking at old photographs, one of my mom’s cousins pulled out a camera to take a photo of all the girls. I leaned back to stay out of the photograph while my aunts chattered and joked about how they should pose. The more unimaginative settled on making peace signs, when suddenly the Holy Ghost inspired my grandma to lift up her shirt to flash the camera. She had forgotten that there was a boy in the room. “Oh God,” I said loudly, standing up to leave the room as my grandmother realized her mistake and pulled her shirt back down. My aunts cracked up, and my grandmother apologized. “It happens,” someone told me, “they sag when you get old! Don’t be surprised!” I wasn’t surprised that my grandmother’s breasts were sagging – I was surprised that she lifted her shirt up to show me. But maybe, considering the audacity of so many of the women in my very matriarchal family, I shouldn’t have been. They may be religious, but they aren’t prude. These are the women who break into tears at their children’s and grandchildren’s dance recitals, drawing odd glances from the other parents as the only ones crying in the room, the only ones who came with all the uncles and aunts and cousins and grandparents when most were there as one parent. The women cry at the slightest provocation, yet they laugh at memories of my uncle having a seizure as a child, when everyone thought he was calling wolf. My mother has asked me about my masturbatory habits and my great aunt jokes about being “finally sexy” as she drops down to 87 pounds under her looming hump of a back in old age (she claims that she was fat all her life until now). I guess these aren’t people who typically hold back.

December 28, 2004

Soul Patch

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 2:14 am
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I just want to point out that I am growing a… something. It’s not quite a goatee, more than a soul patch – I don’t know what to call it. But I like it. When I got my braces off, they gave me this gummy retainer called a “positioner” that adjusts my teeth when I bite down on it. It lined up the front teeth better, but the biggest impact the positioner made on my face was the way my jaw muscles got much bigger from biting down all the time, giving me a more square, masculine jawline (and dimples when I smile). I like the goatee because it gives my face some length again, drawing it down where the retainer made it wide. And facial hair is always masculine, and always adds a little character.

So I figure, if I could just come up with one more paragraph of talking about my face…

fat face
This could be described as an awkward angle.

more

December 27, 2004

Mom, Dad, I Want You to Know Something: I Have a Penis.

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 6:58 pm
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“Hey Dad,” I caught him on his way out, “one thing before you go – do you know where the digital camera is?”

“It’s on the kitchen table,” he answered. “But before you use it, upload all the pictures onto the computer, because the memory chip is full from Christmas.”

“Oh, right,” I said. “Do you know where the cord to upload the pictures is? Wait- here it is, never mind.”

“I think it’s in the desk drawer,” he went on, “in the family room-”

“Yeah I already found it,” I interuppted. “Thanks.”

“Oh, and one thing,” Dad paused before going out the door. “No more nudie pictures.”

“What?” I looked up.

“I found your pictures on the computer. Don’t take any more. And never post them online.” Then he left.

Each time I use the family camera, I double check to be sure I deleted the pictures off of the memory chip, avoiding the potential disaster of leaving one on there for my sister or some little kid to come across. But in worrying so much about the chip I slacked off the way I hide them on the computer. I forgot to bury the graphic ones deep in folders within folders on the hard drive so that no one would aciddentaly find them. A few weeks ago Dad was looking for photos of me for Christmas cards, and probably stumbled onto the “My Pictures” folder then.

And now, my dad officially knows what my dick looks like.

Things my parents have caught me doing as of December 27, 2004:

Looking at gay porn – Dad found it when he searched “AOL History,” when I was 13. I blamed it on my little sister, who was 11.

Masturbating – Mom caught me (get this – she actually peeked through a crack in the bathroom door), asked “why are you sitting on the floor?” age 14.

Looking at gay porn, saving the really good pictures on the computer – Dad caught me again, when he found pictures in my personal folder, age 15.

Writing love letters to boys online – Dad caught me, age 15 (still before I came out), didn’t tell me about what he found until years later.

Trimming my pubic hair – Dad says he found “curly hairs” in the shower drain that are “Matthew’s color,” age 16.

Talking to a girl friend about fooling around with a guy – Mom listened in on a phone conversation, age 17. I made up an elaborate story to convince her we had actually been talking about coffee.

Trimming pubic hair with Mom’s “good scissors” – she found a hair stuck in the hinge (I had actually been trimming my sideburns), age 17.

Keeping a bottle of lube in my drawer – Mom got upset, moaned to Dad “what are we going to do about what I found in Matthew’s drawer!?” (Dad said, “nothing.”), age 17.

Keeping condoms in a box on my nightstand – Mom found them, got pretty upset, but they were actually just souveneirs from a school conference, age 17.

Having phone sex – Mom claims to have heard it through the wall, age 17.

Having more phone sex – Mom claims to have heard it through the wall, yet again, age 18.

Saving naked pictures of myself on the family computer – I should have learned my lesson from all the other things they found and kept them solely on my laptop. Age 19.

Pains

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 1:17 am
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I try to brush things off, but I have a body that won’t let me forget when something is wrong. It interrupts a seemingly serene situation with annoying stomach pains, chest and shoulder cramps, deep back soreness, eye aches and facial twitches, always leading back to some recondite emotional issue. Right now I have a deep ache just beneath my ribs on the lower left side of my chest. Sometimes I wonder if pain in different places corresponds with different kinds of emotional anxiety: rejection tends to hurt me in the heart, right behind the sternum, deep inside, while anger gets me between the shoulderblades and clenches down to the small of my back. The pain I have now isn’t localized so much. It migrates up and down, lulls for a moment before shooting out between my ribs, remaining to the left, and lessens somewhat when I breathe deeply.

I can think of a few things that could be bothering me. One, I fought with my family today. I was defending someone my parents don’t like, and Dad said my problem is that I “always think [I] can get in the heads of other people, as if [I] can know how they feel.” I told him that the exact opposite is true; I defend people because I realize that I don’t know how they feel – I don’t know what their motives are, so would rather we all refrain from judgment. Two, a friend is angry with me because I wouldn’t agree to get up at seven in the morning to babysit the inner city kids tomorrow; I’m zombified from sleep deprivation enough as it is, and the holidays are just a busy time. Three, there’s a guy I like. I’m anxious about him because I don’t think it’s appropriate that I like him so much, considering how little I’ve actually seen him. I don’t know how he thinks or feels about me, and I naturally fear the worst in these situations. I don’t know why I care so much if he likes me. My spontaneous ardor seems to have come from nowhere, abruptly displacing all the fun, unstressful crushes I usually have with one serious, unrequited interest.

None of these issues are particularly heavy on my mind, but here they are, in my chest, demanding attention. I close my eyes, relax, try to exhale my pain into the stale air, but it returns quickly between breaths or jumps to the sinews of my shoulder, wrapping around my back. I wish he was here now, with me, to massage them out or distract me with his smile. I have an urge to play strip poker or start some witty, sexual game with him. But he’s not here. And not knowing if he would want to be here anyway, I guess such thoughts are a part of my problem.

December 25, 2004

The Body of Christ

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 3:44 am
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I went to Midnight Mass as I always do on Christmas with my family, and this time I invited April along. She, in turn, brought somebody else.

About halfway through Mass I realized that neither April nor Chris are Catholic and probably don’t know much about the Communion ritual. I asked April if she planned on recieving Communion, and she asked why not. It hadn’t even occured to her to pass on Communion. I told her that non-Catholics usually don’t go, but that it was her choice, since I don’t consider myself an authority on other peoples’ rituals, and said non-Catholics can go if they believe the right things. In several whispered sound bytes I tried to explain the doctrine of Transubstantiation and the difference between that and the Real Presence, but I was having a hard time speaking over the “In Excelsis Deo” chant rising from the choir, modified into a synthesized modern pop version of the traditional hymn. April asked me if I was going to Communion, and I said no; I haven’t gone to communion in over three years, not since I decided I wasn’t Catholic.

She and Chris decided to go, and I watched them wander naiively into the procession along with the experienced partakers. Only after they were down the isle did I realize that April and Chris don’t know how to take communion even if they think that they should. They both come from churches that pass out grape juice in little plastic shot glasses, who don’t hold the ceremony in nearly as high importance. I watched them, fingers crossed, as they fumbled through the motions of the Most Blessed Sacrement.

When they got back I briefed them on the ritual to make sure they did what they should have done. “You hold your hands out like this,” I explained, “and then the Eucharistic Minister says ‘the Body of Christ,’ and you say, ‘Amen.'”

“Oh,” April whispered, “I said ‘thank you.'”

Sigh. That’s a mark of a pretty obvious non-Catholic. I wondered what the Eucharistic Minister must have thought, handing the embodiment of God to ignorant hands, knowing it will be defiled in the digestive track of a nonbeliever. I’m not exactly sure how the process is supposed to work, but I gather that Jesus only gets absorbed by True Believers who are in a state of Grace. For everyone else, it doesn’t work; Jesus dares not leave His consecratd Host to merge with the rancid body of a Fornicator or Methodist – the Lord remains a chewed, dissolving wafer, to be passed through, to end up, well, on the other side. But April wasn’t denied communion, even in her blunder. I’ve never seen a priest or anyone giving Communion turn a communicant away.

December 23, 2004

Evolution.

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 12:25 am
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People feel very uncomfortable when cultures change. Such angst is understandable, but since change is inevitable we might as well do our best to embrace it. There has always been a prejudice against new ideas or trends. Today my mother was complaining about Christmas becoming a secular holiday, stolen and “bastardized” by agnostics who “want an excuse to party.” I told her Christmas was originally a pagan holiday centered on the Winter Solstice, but she argued that Christmas has been Christmas for so long that the pagan rituals don’t count. Her gripe sounded a lot like the Conservative Christian argument that the United States should remain Judeo-Christian because it has “just been that way for so long.” In fact, it sounded like a lot of arguments I have heard, about anything involving change.

Conservative religious blacks complain about the way the term “Civil Rights” is “bastardized” by the gay rights movement, while Eisenhower Conservatives (and liberals) complain about the way the Republican Party has been “bastardized” by Neo-Cons. Union workers complain about the way the Democratic Party values have been “bastardized” by environmentalists and social libertarians. Libertarians complain about the Republican Party being “bastardized” by the Religious Right. The truth is, everything, everything, is a “bastardization” of something that came before. Modern-day American Evangelical Christianity is a bastardization of early Protestant Christianity, which is a bastardization of medieval Catholicism, which is a bastardization of early Christianity, and Christianity as a whole is a bastardization of Judaism, which is a bastardization of Zoroastrianism and the evolving pantheistic and dichotomistic religions that emerged with the dawn of civilization. Modern day intellectual liberalism is a bastardization of an older populist liberalism, which is a bastardization of the liberalism that ended slavery and founded the United States of America.

Ideas evolve. Cultures evolve. Such things have always evolved in the past, and will continue to evolve perpetually into the future. No ideological group or segment of the population, no matter how popular or how forward-thinking, will own the future. Even their own in-group successors will change and modify the in-group tone. People get offended when their ways change, even though they were happy to accommodate past changes, and they agree with all the changes that occurred before they were born. They feel this way because they fallaciously think that, after thousands of years of ideological evolution, they finally got it “just right,” achieving the perspective that will endure forever because it is perfect. Especially when religion is concerned, people think that no changes will occur in the future, that God’s will for the faith has only just been fulfilled as it was in the beginning, despite acknowledged changes in the past which are seen as positive. People get offended when the train keeps going forward, when their ideas are, essentially, “bastardized;” synthesized and adopted, incompletely, into new ways of thinking. People hate it when that happens. Get a clue: it always happens.

December 21, 2004

Volunteering

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 11:25 pm
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I was with April last night when she told me she’d agreed to volunteer at some school the next day. “Oh, cool!” I said, not thinking much into it. She waited a while to tell me is that she had actually volunteered both of us. “It’s at 8:00 tomorrow morning,” she said, “and could you pleeeeaaasseeee go do it with me?”

“Ummm,” I said, not sure how to answer. Being there at 8:00 meant getting up at 7:00, which is five hours earlier than I usually get up, and only two hours later than I’d gone to bed the night before. I begrudgingly agreed, not even sure what I was signing up for. “Is this some kind of a religious group?” I asked, knowing that April is religious and noting that the place was in a church. “I don’t want to be volunteering somewhere I’m not welcome.” I assumed we would be going to some sort of special parochial middle school, and I was worried because I don’t know anything about teaching kids, especially about religion. When I was still Catholic I taught LBC to fourth and fifth graders, but I had a lot of help then, plus I actually believed what I was teaching then.

I finally agreed to the plan, stayed at April’s house that night, and got up deathly early and everything, covered in prickly hairs and smelling like dog, because evidently her dog likes to cuddle. April and I found ourselves driving to an old neighborhood in Denver near Downtown, in a section of town called “Five Points” known for being the region’s largest African-American neighborhood. The old, decaying Methodist church we arrived at had the smallest sanctuary I have ever seen in my life, and a smaller assembly room (former sanctuary) that we gathered in. There were about thirty kids inside, ages ranging from about four to thirteen. We came up to the doorway to see the kids buzzing around like a swarm of bees, energetic, aggressive, loud, and confrontational. Initially, working with these children was a scary prospect. My memories leading a Boy Scout troop when I was fifteen are filled with images of frustration, anarchy, and chaos. The boy scouts used every opportunity they could to undermine authority, and argued and bickered over campsite chores, leaving the scout leaders like my friends and me to roll our eyes and do most of the work assigned to the younger kids. April and I were still unsure as to what we were supposed to do here, and nobody helped by filling us in, so we just came inside, got our name tags, and started talking to the kids.

Surprisingly, the inner city kids were very obedient and respectful. A small group might be biting and scratching each other without refrain, but if you would only step in and tell them to stop, they would pause everything to look up at you, waiting for further instruction. They looked up to April and I, and were even more friendly with us than they were with older adults. They never told on each other when they fought. Babysitting the little kids in my family usually implies hearing a lot of “he stole my gum!” or “she touched me like… like this!” These kids handled quarrels on their own, standing up for themselves aggressively and always having an individualistic sense of retributive justice. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is certainly debatable, but it was something I took note of.

When I was this age, I was always the brunt of group mentality. Cliques frequently aligned against me, and in all my experiences leading other kids I observed the same thing happen again and again. But the inner city kids seemed not to have the same clique mentality as their white suburban counterparts, and whenever a group formed among them it dissolved quickly. Kids were liked if they were nice and not liked if they were mean, lacking in concern over who seemed nerdy or who was unusual. Popular, socially savvy kids joined up with the awkward ones and the awkward ones had just as much ability to start an idea, movement, or appeal for the group to decide who had been wronged by someone.

There was one kid there who really stood out. She was about ten or eleven years old, initially unidentifiable as male or female. Very heavyset, awkward, and shy, she looked much more like a boy than a girl, and was dressed in tattered boy’s clothing, but I still wasn’t sure. It wasn’t that she looked dykey or masculine; she was just genderless, physically ambiguous at the most structural level. Like a statue of Buddha. I was afraid to ask if she was male or female (I was pretty sure she was male but unsure), knowing it would be an embarrassing question, but the answer came down on us anyway in the most disastrous possible way. One of the leaders referred to the kid as “he,” sparking an explosion of laughter from the group. “That’s a girl,” the kids shouted, laughing, “and you called her a boy! That’s a girl!” Unwitting, the group leader referred to her as “him” once again, inciting further laughter from the group. They were laughing more at the group leader than at their peer, but she took it personally regardless. Embarrassed, she ran and sat under the table, tears streaming down her face. Oh God, I thought, this is awful. I wanted to do something, but I didn’t know if it would be appropriate for me to approach her and say, “it’s OK, when I was your age everyone thought I was a girl,” which would have been a total lie anyway, but it was all that came to my mind to say. Being male, I was an unideal counselor to an eleven-year-old girl, unless maybe I could come out to her, which wasn’t a good idea here. I waited for someone else to help, but no one stepped forward. Then other kids began to notice that the girl was crying, and pointed it out, some mirthfully, others concerned. She only started crying harder when her tears were made an object of group attention. Finally, April got up from across the room, peeled off the wide-eyed five-year-olds clinging to her legs, and approached the crying girl, who began to howl loudly as she fled outside into the hall. Good girl, April, I sighed, relieved, as April followed the despairing girl outside to talk to her.

I gathered that this was some sort of day care service for kids on winter break. They get free food and eight hours of babysitting, while their parents go to work or attend to whatever they need to. Anyone who wants to come and help can come help; the small group is struggling and will take whatever assistance it can get. There was a religious theme, since the event was put on by a church, but most of the kids were not religious, especially the older ones, and most of the activities, while religiously themed, were not religiously oriented.

I’m so glad I did this! I recalled a time that the kids were painting. They were painting on canvas cut-out doves, and were told to manifest “whatever messages God inspires them to paint.” One girl, about six years old, stared intently at her half-painted dove, nodded, and said “yeah, I think this might be a message from God.” I recalled another time when a group leader was talking to the kids about movies. She was talking about all the roles on a movie set and what they do, teaching the kids about directors, actors, and set technicians. She asked, “And where do movies originally come from?” referring to the writers, and a younger kid replied by saying “they come from Hollywood, China or Tokyo.” I looked up at April and we both laughed. I don’t know what it is about young kids that allows you to connect with other people, but I know I want that so badly. I don’t think my life could ever feel complete until I have the opportunity to raise children. I want to be married to a man that I’m raising my kids with, who I can love even more whenever our child says something cute.

On a more short-term level, I want to volunteer again, and I probably will the next opportunity I get, which is a few days after Christmas.

December 20, 2004

Wind Dream

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 11:03 pm
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Last night I had a dream that I was back in Boulder and everything was blowing away. Then I woke up at home in Westminster and the wind was whipping against my bedroom window, the trees dancing wildly outside. I heard on the news that the wind reached 80mph in Boulder around the time that I had the dream. Evidently my brain subconsciously picked up on the sound of air whistling around the house, and placed my dream back in Boulder because that’s where I’d been for so long before coming home. More on this later, unless I totally lose interest in this before getting a chance to update again.

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