Friday, June 26, 2009

A sense of progress...

So, a little bit of an update: it's been six man-dates with my MOHO "just a friend" (JAF). So what does that mean? Does that mean we're going steady? Do guys go steady anymore?

We complement each other well. It's been a fun adventure along a new path, as I've pushed him in ways that he feels he needs to heal and grow and he's pushed me in ways that I need to heal and grow.

For example, I have had serious hangups and anxieties being surrounded by men in a sports setting and locker room environment. I am sure it comes from the angst and persecution suffered back in junior high where I was chewed up and spit out as being "different" and "not welcomed" into that world of athletic and confident men. Something was "wrong" with me, and I've dwelt on that ever since, to my detriment, I'm sure. I have isolated myself from that jock-world and have allowed those memories to continue to push me around and make me feel weak and insignificant, and I have not entered a locker room or actively and / or voluntarily participated in athletic or sports pursuits since then (even with the obvious enticement or fringe benefit of beautiful eye candy to behold)... that is... until yesterday.

JAF was the first person to instill enough confidence in me and encourage me to overcome my self-image issues, my hangups on feeling inferior and insecure, and succeeded in getting me into a locker room at a public emporium, and putting on a racer swimming suit and going into a pool to swim laps surrounded by other men and a few women. (NOTE: I do go swimming on occasion, but typically at a beach or swimming pool on vacation with the family where it is casual and confusing and focus is on the family and there is no locker room to be found. And I do lift weights, but at home in a home gym - I still wouldn't be caught dead going to a real gym to exercise - way too scary for this inferior skinny-boy! And a further note: for the record, the temple locker rooms don't count - though the baptistry locker room is close to counting!!!).

Needless to say, it was not a scary experience at all (or at least not to the degree that I imagined). The world of junior high locker room taunting was not to be found, and I enjoyed swimming the laps with JAF immensely (and enjoyed the speedo eye candy as well :)).

As I contemplate this, I feel this is good, healing therapy. It is easing my mind and building my confidence in this other "world of men" from which I have isolated myself, and again, to my detriment. Why do I have such hangups? Why do I hate my skinny body image so much (not that I want to be fat, but a bit more muscle would be nice to cover my my bones!)? Why do I feel so inferior for so many decades now? Why have I allowed this to fester so long? This is silly. I'm not in junior high anymore. So, why do those memories of pain flush back into my mind and why do I hear those voices that make me feel so "beneath" other men?

I hope that this is one step toward conquering these fears of mine and maybe there is more healing in ways I haven't yet anticipated. And I thank JAF for bringing me to this point and helping me to dive in and become a participant in life again.

One interesting twist with the "man-dating" gig. Unlike a straight date where you go to separate locker rooms, with a man-date, you get to share a locker together, shower together, and see each other in all your glory... pretty fun stuff. Yes, I can say I've seen my first MOHO naked! :)

Sounds like progress to me... what do you think?


Joe Conflict said...

Sounds like fun, and good therapy.

Alan said...

What Joe said.

Forester said...

Has it been hard keeping your sexual attractions in check, especially in such discerning moments being completely naked together? Or have you been able to get beyond this? In the same situation, I would have failed miserably and been extremely emberrased by my uncontrolled bodily response to naked men. I don't seem to have the control you do over your body and mind.

Philip said...

Forrester: I would have failed miserably and been extremely emberrased by my uncontrolled bodily response to naked men. I don't seem to have the control you do over your body and mind.

I had to respond.

My eyes get wonder anywhere but if I look at his face, especially his eyes, then I'm in trouble. Isn't that crazy.

Bror said...

Save a man date for me. :)

Public Loneliness said...

It is great that you were able to reach this level of comfort. Horay for milestones : )


felipe said...

How does your wife react to your man dates? I have wanted to do the same, but not sure how the wife will respond.

Beck said...

JOE: I hope it is good therapy. I don't look at the friendship as therapy, but there certainly is something therapeutic about it.

ALAN: You were able to break through the athlete-man world and achieve a level of comfort and validation in the process. I feel maybe a small portion of what you've been able to feel.

Beck said...

FORESTER: Keeping the "sexualy attractions in check" is something we talk about a lot. We are both committed to our families and have established boundaries that we both respect. There is a confidence and trust developing. I do not know, nor can I say, that boundaries won't be crossed, but I do know that as we talk about it, and keep our respective families in focus, it seems to help.

This is a trailblazing experience. I don't see examples of others where they've been able to "keep the sexual attractions in check", and maintain commitments to families, while developing a bromancing friendship that helps to meet the needs we have of man-to-man contact. I guess it remains to be seen if we can pull this off.

As for the nakedness, I guess I was self conscious and nervous, and he knew that and respected me and so we handled it okay. Where the issue will come up is when I become more casual and accepting of this environment, I may become more open and physical... So, I hope the control can stay in check as we strengthen each other in other ways.

It is a dynamic that is unique to these relationships that aren't found in the gay-straight, or straight-straight community - particularl showering together...

Stay tuned.

PHILIP: I love the eye candy (isn't it obvious?) but the eyes themselves are a source of "trouble".

Yet, I am learning to desexualize / objectify men as I get to know them as real people.

Beck said...

BROR: So when do you want to go?

PL: Thanks for your encouraging words and seeing this as making progress.

FELIPE: To the disappointment of many, but to the encouragement of others, I haven't crossed that bridge yet. I'm trying to have a man-to-man close friendship that I have hungered for, and rarely achieved, all my life. And the purpose of this friendship, at least one of them, is to strengthen me as a person, to bring healing, and as such, to strengthen and heal my marriage.

I'm struggling deeply with the secrecy of it all, including the struggle of keeping this blog a secret, and the whole existence of the MOHO community and my connection with them. There is a time and place of everything. I want to be able to reach the point where she can be comfortable and non-threatened by this kind of activity as I remain true to her.

There are a lot of dichotomies and ironies and contradictions in this trailblazing experience. And I can't say what is on the end of the trail, nor can I say that I will get there with family and friend in tact.

I just know that I've got to do what I'm doing the way I feel I should.

Ned said...

Hey Beck, congrats on adventures! I well remember the first time I stood showering with friends after we had exercised together.

Like you I thought about Junior High and quickly realized this was much different. We were men, not 14 year-old boys. Rather than uneasy silence or taunting, there was casual conversation punctuated with occasional gentle laughter.

Hundreds of times since we have shed our work attire for athletic armour to run, golf, swim or bike. Occasionlly blood from war wounds will mix with our sweat, but scrapes scab over and tender pink skin fades to almost imperceptive scars and we return to undress, shower and redress together.

For straight men this routine may largely go unnoticed, just a necessary step to unencumbered exercise, but for me, as one who has struggled with self-acceptance, it is a life-affirming ritual.

Congrats on your first time, Beck!

Beck said...

NED: I have always felt inferior compared with other men. I'm sure it started with persecutions of those jr.high years and has continued for decades since.

That is why I enjoyed my work with the Young Men - they accepted me for who I was and encouraged me to face my fears and do things I never did as a kid (water skiing, cliff jumping, snowmobiling, rock climbing, etc.)

But hanging out in a locker is still a scary thing. Those defense mechanisms learned as a 14 year old boy, and associated barriers I put up to keep from facing other men in a physical sense and environment, are hard to break down.

I feel that wall crumbling. It hasn't fallen yet, but it is definitely cracked after this week's experience!

Now, if that wall falls down around me and I lose my inhibitions and become "free" of my past barriers... well, then what?

Ned said...

Well after the fall of the Berlin Wall, German reunification was next. So perhaps some type of unification is ahead for you. A wall separates things. The lack of a wall unifies, or at least it has the potential to.

Beck said...

NED: Yes, but "fences make best neighbors", right? And if fences aren't there, crossing the line can be much easier to do. At times I want to tear down the fences and cross the lines and throw caution to the wind. I want to know what it feels like to be free of "boundaries" and to express love naturally.

Boundaries, walls, fences... they keep us in, they keep us safe, they keep us within predescribed limits. What happens when there is no boundary? Unity? Bliss? Disaster? Danger?

I want to know!

Sarah said...

I think I would be very uncomfortable with the idea of Scott showering naked with a close male friend...

Just my 2 cents.

Meanwhile, all the married moho's reading this are dreaming and hoping that they can find themselves a friend like yours. :)

I hope you are both able to meet your goals with regard to your families.

Beck said...

SARAH: You are so perfect in not judging me. I feel the need to be scolded by the "spouse" point-of-view, and you spin it into something positive. How do you do that?

We didn't "hang out" in the shower. It was quick and appropriate - nothing inappropriate at all. It was a normal guy experience of going swimming together. I know it is easy to conjure up other scenarios of inappropriateness, but they didn't exist and didn't happen.

That said, it was something very healing, very necessary in overcoming decades of repressed fears and anxiety. I hope you can sense that. I see that you do and that you see the good in all this as well - even in hoping for other married MOHOs to so engage as well.

Thanks for trying to understand. I see it in your words, and I feel it between the lines. Now, if my wife could be as understanding...