Wednesday, February 09, 2011
Do you really need to drape yourself on everyone?
Bravone, among others, can testify that I am an indiscriminate hugger. I have been this way ever since my mission. (NOTE: If you've followed this blog over the last five years, you may remember the story from where I acquired this propensity to hug). I have mentioned in the past that if I find myself holding back, extinguishing my sense of touch and natural affection, then I feel like something inside of me is dying, describing it like a wrinkled last leaf on a withered vine. I told myself, after sensing this "dying" affect, that I wouldn't be that way anymore. I would have to be the way that I naturally am and that this is just the way it has to be for me to find some sense of balance as a man in my situation.
A few weeks ago, an anonymous person commented on my blog and got all over me about me "hitting" on men in church, particularly young men, and essentially called me a pervert, accusing me of using my position of authority to get close to them and get my kicks from them in church settings in a predatory sense. I was very concerned about this reaction to my blog. This person expressed how she would hate to be in my ward and would want to be sure to keep her young boys away from the likes of me. This person obviously didn't follow that the "young men" that I was describing as my friends are in their mid to late twenties now, and married, and very much adults, choosing to be affectionate with me as a sign of a straight-friendship and brotherhood. It makes me wonder though, how I must come across to others... Am I putting myself out there too much? Do I unknowingly drape myself on others whether they want to be recipients of my signs of affection or not?
Case in point, last Sunday: After church, I was in the foyer greeting and saluting folks as they departed for home, and as I am wont to do, I hugged indiscriminately... young men, old men, widows and elderly sister, and wives of my "young men" mentioned above. I must have hugged a dozen or so, when my wife caught me hugging one of these young-straight-married-late-twenties friends in what she thought was a full-body groin-grinding hug. She called me on it and said she didn't like what I was doing, and that it made her feel like I was being unfaithful to her. She left a bit upset. Her reaction made me a bit upset as well. I had to stay behind to take care of things, one of which was giving someone a blessing... I was very confused and befuddled inside wondering how mad she was going to be of me, and whether this was going to spiral out of control, and I started to doubt myself and wonder whether I was fooling myself for believing that this was all as innocent as I meant it and portrayed it to be... It was difficult to feel the spirit as there was a confusion inside me.
When I finally came home nothing was said. Yet, I could sense the coolness in the room. The proverbial elephant had returned and taken up residence in the parlor. The more I thought about it, the more assured I was of myself. I am an affectionate person. I, as a gay man in a straight lifestyle, am needing to express that to others. I do so as a natural extension of myself and this is the way I've got to be. Choosing to not be in a gay relationship, but staying committed to my marriage, has been tough, but I am okay with this decision, but I'm not okay with holding back the natural tendencies of affection.
But, that night she brought it up again as we were getting ready for bed. She wondered why I did it. Why did I have to hug everyone? And why, especially, did I have to hug young adult men to whom she knows I'm attracted. And why, knowing that this is hurtful to her, do I continue to do this.
I decided it was time to talk... I told her that I had to be the natural person that I was and that if I couldn't be who I was then I might as well die. I explained that I was hugging all sorts of people, not singling out or isolating myself to special "men" that I am attracted to... In fact, I honestly told her that my attractions for this particular friend has diminished substantially since he moved back into the ward, that seeing him every week was actually better than not seeing him for a long time.
She still didn't appreciate the fact that I had to be so affectionate, and particularly in long hugs. (It's interesting to note that I heard on the radio this last week that a hug longer than 3 seconds is too long for most people... I'm just getting going at 3 seconds!). I told her that I wasn't going to stop, that I couldn't stop and that I needed her to not request me to stop, and to try to accept that this is the way I am. I tried to be sensitive to her feeling, but asked her to be sensitive to mine and realize that I'm not trying to inflict pain on her as I do this particular questionable behavior. She felt like I was betraying her or being unfaithful to her and I told her that I am not doing it for anything but brotherly love (which is true - it hasn't always been the case, far from it, but that was when I was still figuring out who I was / am). Yet, right here and now it is where it is - I'm extending myself and my brotherly love for my brothers AND sisters - evenly and universally).
I explained to her how I've tried to re-earn her trust, how I have been FAITHFUL to her and tried to show her that I only want to be with her. She admitted that she felt that way, that I was being faithful and that my devotion to her has increased and that I have been affectionate to her... but she still didn't like it.
She's going through a vulnerable and stressful time right now, and I can see and understand that these expressions of affection I make, particularly to some, triggers past pain and deep hurt. So, I understand her feelings of uneasiness and jealousy. That said, I can't stop. I'm not a pervert and I'm not getting my kicks in church.
Finally, yesterday, she was particularly upset and I came and gave her a full-body hug, grabbing her tight to me, pulling her into me from below. We full-body hugged and kissed each other for quite some time (maybe 20 times the legal limit of 3 second hug comfort of most) and then she softly asked if I hugged anyone else this way... and I said no. I showed her that when my arms are up over the shoulders of the huggee, I am pulling my shoulders and head to mine, but not our groins. It was such a simple gesture - something so obvious to me, but finally she got the difference.
As I held her, she whispered: "I trust you. I want you to be you. I want you to be free to be yourself. I will try not to be jealous of the attention and affection you shower freely on others. I will believe you and trust you when you say that you are not feeling unfaithful or that your attractions aren't getting in the way of your affection for me. Just remember to pay attention to me, too!"
I smiled and gave her a big hug and kiss... so much for another baby step...
Am I really just an unfaithful, insensitive husband, as well as a confused pervert, getting my thrills where I can, and church is full of easy targets?