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Why I won’t be tossing out this Dolce & Gabbana shirt

“We oppose gay adoptions. The only family is the traditional one. No chemical offsprings and rented uterus: life has a natural flow, there are things that should not be changed.” — Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana in Italy’s Panorama magazine

First of all, a disclaimer is in order…two of them. The statements above were translated (and poorly punctuated) from Italian to English by The UK’s The Telegraph. Having seen ideas get mangled in translation from Spanish to English and vice versa, I would consider this more in the spirit of what the Italian designers said than what they actually said. (If any native Italian speakers are reading this, please help me out here.)

Second, since when are quotes attributed to more than one person? Are Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana two simultaneously talking heads?

All that aside, the part of D&G’s interpretation of family that I object to most is the part that rejects gay parents. If the only family is the “traditional” one, then they must oppose single mothers, single fathers, single foster parents, single legal guardians, widowed parents and anything else that doesn’t reflect the picture-perfect Norman Rockwell version of family.

It’s misguided thinking for sure, but it warrants understanding and communication more than knee-jerk moral outrage. When I first came out and my mother was taking a minute to adjust to having not one but two gay sons, my friends cautioned me to be patient with her and consider where she was coming from. She was a woman born in the 1940s in an ultra-religious society. Should I really have expected her to immediately start waving the rainbow flag?

One could make a similar case for Dolce and Gabbana and some of their more antiquated ideas. Dolce said that procreation “must be an act of love…You are born to a mother and a father — or at least that’s how it should be.” Gabbana added, “A child needs a mother and a father. I could not imagine my childhood without my mother. I also believe that it is cruel to take a baby away from its mother.”

Italy is devoutly Catholic, so Dolce’s archaic view of procreation should surprise no one. And considering the matriarchal bent of the classic Italian family, it makes sense that two staunch Italians would deem a maternal presence necessary to that unit. However, that makes me wonder what they think about lesbian adoption and adoption by straight single men. Note to interviewer: Don’t forget to ask the obvious follow-up questions!

I could spend hours poking holes in their views on gay adoption and “traditional” families, but everyone else seems to be focused on their comments about in-vitro fertilization, which are pretty over the top. “I call children of chemistry, synthetic children. Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalog,” Dolce declared, spurring Sir Elton John to blast him on Instagram for calling his children “synthetic” and vow never to wear their designs again.

Elsewhere people wondered how two gay men could say such things. I asked myself the same question, not because of their stance on gay adoption or IVF but because of the lazy implied link between the two. Who died and made IVF a gay issue? Nicole Kidman, Angela Bassett and Sarah Jessica Parker have had babies via IVF and surrogacy, 51-year-old supermodel Elle Macpherson is expecting thanks to it, and Kim Kardashian’s doctor supposedly just told her it’s the only way she can have more children. I suspect that half of straight Hollywood uses IVF to become pregnant.

I have several straight female friends who have turned to IVF to become mothers, so I don’t see how it’s possibly a gay thing. Now that it seems to have become one, however, do I follow Elton John’s lead and boycott Dolce & Gabbana? I considered it for a hot second, but what would be the point?

I have gay friends who oppose gay marriage and nobody has ever suggested I boycott them. There are likely plenty of people with whom I do business on a regular basis, gay and straight, who oppose gay marriage, and possibly gay adoption, for whatever reason. It’s definitely misguided, but I’m not sure I can automatically equate it with outright homophobia. Do I banish them from my life anyway?

It’s interesting that some gay people are quick to defend sexual prejudice within their ranks (“No Asians,” “No Blacks,” “No whites”) as “preference,” yet they’re unwilling to tolerate ideology that differs from theirs. That’s the height of hypocrisy.

As for IVF, I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had my issues with it. We take people to task for buying expensive dogs instead of getting a homeless one from the shelter or pound, and one can make a similar case with babies when adoption is an option.

I remember cringing a little when a gay friend of mine described the process he went through to find a suitable egg donor and a surrogate. It sounded a lot like the process of choosing a 15-minute stand on Grindr. But how many people who become parents through traditional means would turn down the option to pre-determine certain baby qualities before conception if it were possible and free of charge? It may not be, for me, the ideal commencement of life, but it’s certainly not an invalid one.

So who am I to judge anymore? But just because I’ve put aside most of my reservations and fully accept pre-natal technology doesn’t mean the rest of the world has to do the same.

I considered tossing the one Dolce & Gabbana item in my wardrobe, but I’ll be hanging on to it, after all. If I can be friends with Republicans (and I am) and people who’d never date anyone of my color, enjoy entertainment created by artists and performers who embrace different political and religious points of view and live in a country where gay marriage is still illegal (Get with the program, Australia!), I can wear a shirt by designers who are ill-informed enough to call children of IVF “synthetic.”

The supposedly “synthetic” ones I’ve seen look pretty authentic to me. However, looking at them through Dolce and Gabbana’s eyes, does being “synthetic” also make one soulless and less than human? That sounds like the basis for future prejudice and discrimination, and two gay men should know better than to stir that particular can of worms. But they’re designers, not philosophers.

It’s important to call people on their stupidity without dismissing them. As long as they don’t express outright racism or homophobia — the kind that leads to name-calling, rejection and violence, or denying service to gays or certain ethnic groups (Shame on Indiana!) — I can deal with the unenlightened and any ideas they might be trying to sell.

But one Dolce & Gabbana shirt is probably enough.

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The lost art of talking: 11 things I’ve learned about having a decent conversation

“It’s so funny how we don’t talk anymore.” — Cliff Richard.

So sang Sir Cliff in his massive 1979 pop hit. I wonder what he’d sing about the state of conversation today.

Talking is such a lost art. Some blame social media and modern technology, which is ironic, since both have improved the expediency of communication exponentially. If they were to add the deterioration of good grammar to the list, I’d say they have a solid argument. But this is not about grammatical shortcomings in a world where the misguided can mistake “conversate” for a heightened command of the English language.

This is about a world in which we’re “friends” with strangers we’ll never meet on Facebook, and our self-worth is determined by our number of “likes” and “followers,” the latter of whom we communicate with through narcissistic selfies and in 140 characters or less (#hashtags included). In this strange new world, people aren’t really saying much anymore.

Many 21 year olds are hard to talk to but not because they’re young and have nothing to say. They’re hard to talk to because they’ve grown up in a modern world where they don’t have to do much actual talking. Texting and tweeting don’t exactly allow the gift of gab to flourish.

So if you were born in the ’90s or later and struggle with face-to-face communication, or if you’re old enough to know better but don’t, this one’s for you.

1. It all begins with “hi,” “hey,” “hello” or “howdy.” A clever opening is optional…and unnecessary. Some jerks on Grindr insist on being impressed and take issue with certain one-word openers. Personally, even if I were up for “Fun?”, I’d prefer “Hi” to some of the crude alternatives (“Horny?” “Looking?” “Hung?”).

If you want sophisticated opening prose from a stranger, listen to “All I Want,” track one on Joni Mitchell’s Blue album. Taking issue with “Hi” makes you seem like a douche before the conversation has even begun. How does the line go? “You had me at ‘hello.'” Yup, that’s good enough for me.

2. Q&As are for interviews. Maybe it’s the grumpy old man in me taking over, but nothing will make me want to end a conversation faster than a string of queries. I know, questions are the cornerstone of conversation, but a good conversation should flow naturally, and it shouldn’t be all about the person doing the heavy lifting. Answering boring questions is a lot more work than coming up with them. After asking two or three good ones, start making some interesting declarations…about yourself, not the other person.

3. Speaking of lame lines of questioning, “What’s up?” and “What’s doing?” are not conversation starters. I really never know how to answer those ones. They make me feel like I’ve got to deliver some vicarious excitement. “How are you doing” never gets old, though — especially if the person asking really cares.

4. Look at me when I’m talking to you. I was recently chatting in person with a 20 year old who spent most of our conversation messaging his friend on Snapchat. I let it go because he did offer some interesting information about the driver’s licensing system in Australia. (There are fewer requirements to run for President of the United States than there are to become a full-fledged Australian driver.) Good thing it wasn’t a date, though, for if it had been one, he would have been breaking my cardinal rule of dating, which is…

5. Put your phone away! Answering one’s mobile at the dinner table is the No. 1 date killer. Don’t do it.

6. Acronyms should be used sparingly in writing and never in oral conversation. I admit “YOLO” might look kind of cool on paper, or onscreen, but “LOL” takes more effort to say than simply laughing, which sounds infinitely more sincere.

7. Don’t stand so close to me. If I can smell what you had for your last meal, we have a problem. Lean back!

8. It’s OK to ask someone how old he or she is, but if they don’t want to divulge a number, let it go. No matter how often people say age is just a number, it’s not. It’s so much more than that. For better and occasionally for worse, I’m not the man I was at 25, or 30, or…well, we’ll just stop right there!

Age matters, and if it didn’t, people wouldn’t ask. Not everyone is comfortable with big numbers, so take the hint if someone declines to reveal theirs, and just drop it. If it does matter to you and you must know, move on. The world is full of people who have no problem revealing their true age.

9. Just drink up. Toasting, though harmless, is pretty pointless…and it often results in unnecessarily spilled booze. It’s extra-annoying when the person insisting on toasting acts like making eye contact when the glasses clink is the height of courtesy. Making eye contact when you’re actually talking — and listening — is far more important.

10. Don’t say a word when the other person is talking…unless it’s to interrupt them. Yes, I’m totally fine with people getting passionate and talking over each other from time to time. Raised voices mean people care. I’ll take that and the occasional (occasional) interruption over quiet indifference. That said, there’s no need to pepper someone else’s monologue with “yeah…yeah…yeah.” When people do it to me, it makes me think they’re in a hurry for me to shut up.

11. Be respectful of conversations of which you’re not a part. I’ve rarely had someone interrupt a conversation of mine for something that couldn’t wait. If you have to ask “Am I interrupting?”, then you already know that you are, so why even do it?

Now talk, drink and be merry!

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In defense of NSA (“no strings attached”)…sort of

They’re probably my three least favorite letters in gay life: NSA, aka “no strings attached.”

Even if I wasn’t completely over acronyms, I’d probably never actually use this one in everyday conversation. In the gay lexicon, it’s something considerably colder and less romantic than the straight version of NSA that inspired the Ashton Kutcher-Natalie Portman rom-com No Strings Attached, which was not about puppet love.

In the cinematic version of NSA (and, by extension, the straight one), there’s more of a human element. It’s a lot like the “friends with benefits” thing also documented in a movie (starring Justin Timberlake, whose former group NSYNC once released an album called No Strings Attached, and Kutcher’s future wife and Portman’s Black Swan costar, Mila Kunis).

Gay NSA is generally less personal or personable, at least as I understand it in Grindr-speak. Size (Hung?) and preferred position (Top or bottom?) are far more important than pesky details like names. Yes, it’s as incredibly unsexy as it sounds, but when you wake up horny craving sex for breakfast, it’s a pretty expedient way to satisfy morning hunger.

I presume the reason why the old, antiquated phrase “one-night stand” doesn’t apply is because the peak NSA hours tend to be right before and after dawn when gay men seem to be at their horniest. “Anonymous sex” is apparently also passe, probably because it sounds too brutal and unfeeling, and “casual sex” sounds like you’re watching a ball game at the same time. “NSA” may be direct and a little lazy (which doesn’t necessarily bode well for the sex), but it’s vague enough to almost pass for something people do in polite company.

I spent many years being wary of NSA under all of its names, and I still cringe a little every time I see those three letters on Grindr. Would it kill guys to pursue it without spelling it out? Shouldn’t it be understood that if you have sex with a stranger there won’t be strings attached?

What un-deluded gay man is dreaming of a white picket fence and mentally picking out matching wedding bands while riding home in a taxi with the boy he just met. Even in Buenos Aires, where porteño guys would often drop “Te quiero” (I love you) before the cab reached its destination, I knew better than to ever take them seriously.

All that said, I used to pride myself on never hooking up with anyone I wouldn’t be open to seeing again, even ones I met on holiday — or ones who were on holiday when I met them. Paolo, one of the two great loves of my life, was visiting New York City from Milan when he and I met. That our relationship (doomed as it was) ended up unfolding on three different continents over the course of nearly a decade is proof that anything can happen between two strangers in the night if both are open to it.

Then one depressing birthday (incidentally, the one after I saw Paolo for the final time), I decided to throw caution and moralizing to the wind and take the NSA plunge. I’m terrible at names anyway, and I rarely remember them, so would it kill me to not bother asking?

The experience itself was unmemorable, but I’ll never forget the way it made me feel — not cheap and dirty, as I was expecting, but strangely liberated and, well, clean. There were no messy emotions. I was able to turn off my brain in a way I couldn’t before when I was half thinking about the future. If I was never going to see him again, who cared what he thought about me? I could go way out of character for once and just live in the moment.

But once the moment was over, there was nothing, no future prospect, not even afterglow, which has always been my second favorite movement in the extended sex suite (my favorite being the dance leading up to the first kiss). That’s the downside of NSA, and as a cuddler/spooner, it’s a pretty major one. I was proud of myself for giving it a go, and I could finally say I understood why people do it, but it wasn’t really me.

It’s still not, but I have an even better understanding of it today than I did right after that mind-opening birthday. I think that for some, NSA is almost a form of armor, especially in a city like Sydney where, to quote the guy at the 2:19 point in this clip, nothing means anything. If he’s just a body, not a person, he can’t hurt you.

And if you’re after instant gratification — and in the Grindr age, nearly everyone seems to be? — NSA is the uncomplicated way to get it. You can turn off your mind and just enjoy now. Who cares if you don’t remember it an hour later? There’ll be another new NSA session soon enough, if you want it, because there’s always another hot guy “looking.” (And “hot” is key to NSA because if personality isn’t going to be a factor, the NSA prospect has only the physical to work in his favor.)

It’ll probably never be my thing because my brain is too pivotal to my turn-on process and living in the future is just part of my character. But now that I understand NSA, it’s easier to live with it. And if I do decide to go there, I know I won’t have to worry about making awkward conversation or how to delicately usher him out the door in the unlikely event that I want to skip afterglow.

By the time I think of an excuse why he can’t stay, he’ll probably be already gone.

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Why clothes no longer make the man for me (as long as both are clean)

Mens_Coats_1872_Fashion_PlateIf I could turn back time and change three things about my much-younger self, I know exactly what they would be: 1) I would have come out sooner (during the summer between my freshman and sophomore years at the University of Florida); 2) I would have cared less what others thought about me; and 3) I would have rethought my entire approach to footwear. The latter could have cost me meeting Mr. Right much earlier in life.

In my twenties, bad footwear was my public enemy No. 1, and I had the most ridiculous sartorial rule about it: I wouldn’t date anyone who wore running shoes when he wasn’t running. It didn’t matter what he was wearing on the rest of his body — his feet had to be perfectly attired.

That’s not to say I’m a suit-up kind of guy. I’ve never been one, and thank God, it’s never been required of me. But I had my clothing hang ups, which had more to do with level of stylishness than degree of formal. I kept them until my last year few years in New York City.

If only Kevin had stuck around that long. He’s the ex who dumped me in the spring of 2003 because he wanted “a t-shirt and jeans kind of guy” (his words). I wonder what he would have thought of “Casual Weekend Jeremy,” the alter ego who started emerging twice a week toward the end of my time in NYC. Whenever my best friend Lori saw me on the weekend, she’d marvel at what I had on (frequently a t-shirt and jeans or track pants) because it was so unlike the trendy and sometimes flashy business-casual designer attire that I favored the rest of the week.

“I love Casual Weekend Jeremy,” she once said, coining the moniker that she still occasionally drops. I’d smile, knowing that he’d soon go away for another five days.

After I moved to Buenos Aires and no longer had an office full of people to dress to impress, I spent the next eight years looking like Casual Weekend Jeremy 24/7…at least when warmer weather permitted it. When I flew from Cape Town to Sydney last September to be interviewed for my current position at Ninemsn, several of my friends asked me what I was going to wear because they couldn’t imagine me dressed up. Dov said he’d never even seen me in a shirt with a collar and couldn’t imagine me wearing one.

On the day of the interview, I dressed like it was a Tuesday morning in 2005. I wore black slacks, a brown button-down Hugo Boss shirt and $800 black John Varvatos boots. When one of my future bosses commented that I looked too fresh to have just arrived after a billion-hour flight, I knew I’d passed the dress test.

Now that I have the gig, I don’t dress up every day, but I’ve yet to wear track pants, shorts or flip flops to work unless it’s my once-a-month Sunday shift when there is no one there to see (and judge) me. I do miss Casual Weekend Jeremy, though, especially since he once again only surfaces on weekends — and sadly, not always to great reviews.

You’d think Casual Weekend Jeremy would be a smash in Australia, a land where board shorts and Havaianas rule, but I may have miscalculated Aussies…we all may have miscalculated Aussies. They have a worldwide reputation for being so laid back, and in some ways they are, but there’s another side, one that’s anything but easy.

I find that as a general rule, they’re cool, calm and collected mostly in presentation. Truth is, I’ve never lived in a more micro-managed society. It’s in the strict adherence to rental rules, the unyielding customer service, the lockout laws and the dress codes. Yes, dress codes. I never had an issue with them until I moved to Australia, and Casual Weekend Jeremy was just as under-dressed in Buenos Aires, Bangkok, Cape Town and everywhere else I’ve been since I left New York City.

To date, I’ve been denied entry into three nightspots down under for not dressing up to sartorial code — one in Melbourne and two in Sydney — and they weren’t fancy blazers-required establishments. Wearing running shoes on a Saturday night in Melbourne and Havaianas on two separate Friday nights in Sydney led to my being turned away from places with dirty sticky floors where people who looked far worse for wear than I did were being admitted.

Several months ago, my friends and I couldn’t have lunch at one of my favorite places on St. Kilda Beach in Melbourne because, according to the host, who could have used with a bit of grooming, my shorts could pass for gym wear. Never mind that it was a blistering summer day, and the restaurant was right on the beach. Was I expected to show up red-carpet ready?

Things might be about to get worse. I recently read that Qantas Airlines will be imposing a strict dress code in its airport lounges because, well, looking good is apparently more important than feeling good during a billion-hour flight. Considering those micro-managing Aussie tendencies, I wonder how long it will be before the new requirements extend to long- and short-haul Qantas flights.

The writer of the pro-Qantas dress code editorial was thrilled by this development because “Thongs, bad shorts, trackies and sloppy singlets fill up terminals and airport lounges to the point where we’re seeing better-dressed bodies on bus and train trips.” Not in the airports that I frequent, and even if they did, bad body odor and terrible breath are far more frightening to this frequent flier than what that writer perceives as lapses in good fashion sense.

Telling fliers that they can’t be as comfortable as they want to be in-flight is as unfair as twentysomething me expecting my boyfriends to look sharp from head to toe 24/7. I love flying Qantas, and I hope the dress code backfires because I want to continue to love flying Qantas.

Clothes don’t necessarily make the man nor do they define travelers, who can be annoying and revolting dressed to the nines. A friend of mine recent posted a Facebook status update where he slammed the woman sitting beside him on a flight for snoring, farting and picking “parts of her body that ended up in her mouth.” Yuck. I thought he was a bit harsh, but to his credit, he never mentioned what she was wearing.

On a packed airplane with crying babies, too little legroom, lousy in-flight entertainment, farting, snoring and picking, board shorts and exposed toes really should be the least of everyone’s problems.

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Is This the Smiling Face of Passive Homophobia?

“To each his own. I’m not with it. I have relatives that are gay. I’m not biased towards them. I still treat them the same. I love them. But, again, I’m not with that. That’s not something I believe in. But to each his own.”

So said Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson during a May 23 Sirius XM NFL Radio interview, making what must be some of the most contradictory, muddled comments I’ve seen on the subject on gay marriage.

First of all, I think he meant to say he’s not biased against gay people (though he clearly is — more on that in a second), but I’m not here to correct Peterson’s grammar. I’ve got bigger fish to fry.

I don’t want to take a giant leap and say that to be anti-gay marriage is to be homophobic, too, though I do suspect there is a strong correlation. Homophobia, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals.” To seek to deny marital rights based on sexuality is the epitome of discriminatory, in this case, against homosexuals. Draw your own conclusions.

It’s not Peterson’s lack of support for gay marriage but the way in which he expressed it that troubles me most. He’s not biased against gay people (in his intended words), yet he clearly has issues with them. It wasn’t enough for him to say he’s “not with it [gay marriage].” He had to reiterate, “I’m not with that,” adding, for extra discriminatory emphasis, “it’s not something I believe in.”

So why don’t you tell us how you really feel, Peterson? Except he left out one important piece of information: Why is he against gay marriage? The implication is that he just is. It is what it is, right? Gay marriage is just wrong. No explanation necessary. Unspoken like a true homophobe.

Not only is what Peterson did say incredibly biased, but it was pretty dismissive, too. He couldn’t be bothered to present a compelling argument. He’s just not with that. If he was trying to make himself seem like less of a jerk by not saying too much on the subject, he failed. I’d still give him an A for asinine.

As for his kicker, “to each his own” is a cliche whose very non-committal ambiguity makes such a crystal-clear statement (while underscoring a dismissive attitude). He wants us to think he’s a swell, accepting guy, but “to each his own” reeks of disapproval. It’s tantamount to saying, “I don’t get it, but I’m willing to tolerate it.” I’m so tired of straight people who treat homosexuality as something to be tolerated. That indirectly implies that it’s bad, since you generally “tolerate” something that’s negative, an annoyance.

I don’t want anyone’s tolerance. There’s nothing wrong with me, so I don’t need to be tolerated. I do demand acceptance, though. Either you accept me, or you’re against me. And you’re against me if you feel the need to qualify your acceptance: I love you, but I don’t truly respect your relationships. Well, no thank you.

When I was younger, I remember hearing certain white people taking the same approach to mixed-race marriage. “I don’t believe in interracial marriage,” they’d announce, before trying to protect themselves from accusations of bigotry by insisting, “Some of my best friends are black.” It sounded as racist to me as the whites of the ’50s must have sounded when they rallied against desegregation while, as Peterson did, declaring their love for the very thing they were trying to keep separate.

It might be shocking to some to find out that being against interracial couplings was at one point a perfectly acceptable point of view where I come from (and for all I know, might still be). I wonder if Peterson, who once compared the NFL to slavery, sees the irony here or the parallels between the antiquated black and white point of view that I grew up hearing and his own ideas about gays and gay marriage.

Of course, he doesn’t. He’s just not with that. Clearly his thoughts don’t go that deep.

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Is Your Boyfriend the Biggest Loser Behind Your Back?

Tengo novia pero vos me gustas mas.

If I wasn’t sure that my mystery texter wasn’t talking to me earlier during breakfast when a one-word message arrived from the same number declaring, simply, “Linda,” now I was. Unless I’ve been cross dressing in my sleep, taking the feminine-specific adjective for “pretty,” and possibly flirting with random people who have girlfriends, this was clearly a case of mistaken identity.

Or was it? I met my ex-boyfriend two and a half years ago on a wild Thursday night in Melbourne when he was out with his girlfriend at the time. Was I turning boys again — if it was indeed a guy? And more importantly, did the girlfriend know?

The person refused to reveal who was texting, only that it was “alguien a quien le gustas.” If nothing else, I was talking to someone with a lot of confidence, which might have been sexy if it weren’t for the fact that he (or she) was being so duplicitous with his (or her) girlfriend.

As I started dreaming up storylines for the love triangle — Was I supposed to be a good friend of the girlfriend? Had I already crossed the line? Had I previously been completely oblivious to the fact that this person was into me? Was I getting between a lesbian couple? — I wondered if I should play the role that had been assigned to me, or if I should reveal my true identity. I opted for the latter approach.

Querrias enviarme a mi eses mensajes? Soy Jeremy, un chico!

That’s when more true colors started to come out. The mystery texter called me a “puta” (in this context, more or less the Spanish equivalent of “faggot”), as if the fact that he (It had to be a he, right?) had sent me an amorous SMS automatically made me one, and chided me for having the nerve to like boys and “tomar la leche.” In his warped world view, on the list of abhorrent human behavior, being gay (which, apparently to him, also meant that you must drink semen like it’s water) trumped hitting on other women behind your girlfriend’s back.

I decided to let him have the final word. His scale of morality was obviously tilted to the wrong side, and his girlfriend was about to be the biggest loser. It wasn’t any of my business, but I still felt so badly for her. It wasn’t so much that her boyfriend was primed to cheat (guys do that all the time) but that he liked the other woman more — and he was homophobic, his most offensive crime.

On the bright side, she wasn’t the biggest loser at all. He was.

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Should Exes Get Back Together?

presidentabrahamlincolnmarytoddlincolnLately, the ex factor keeps messing with my mind. I’ve wondered if exes can be friends, pondered if exes should live together, and examined why sex is better with an ex. Now once again, I’m re-entering the ex-files to pose another all-important ex question: Should we ever even consider reuniting with one of ours?

There was a lot of that going on in the season finale of Girls (Marnie + Charlie, Hannah + Adam — again), but something (experience, hard earned?) tells me happily ever after isn’t part of the plan for either couple. A few lucky examples aside, it rarely is for exes on TV. And even Carrie and Big and Miranda and Steve had to break up and reunite a series of times on Sex and the City before they finally got it together and got to the altar.

While the process of coupling and uncoupling and coupling again (repeat one, two or three times) makes for great story on TV, in real life, you’re just likely to increase your battle scars. I recently watched a biography on Abraham Lincoln which revealed a few things I’d never known before. First, he despised his tyrannical, physically abusive father and refused to see him on his deathbed. (Who would have thought Lincoln could be so vengeful and hold such a powerful grudge?) Second, when U.S. President-to-be Lincoln and future First Lady Mary Todd were first dating, they got engaged, and when he got the proverbial cold feet, broke up. They spent 18 months apart before reuniting and finally marrying.

For those who didn’t glimpse those tense scenes from a marriage in Lincoln, by many historical accounts, the state of their union was often fairly miserable. It was one dead son, a Civil War and an assassination short of happily ever after. And that doesn’t even take into account what was going in the marriage, which, according to the documentary, may have been filled with spousal abuse inflicted upon Lincoln by his wife. This is the Lincoln story I want to see on screen! (Maybe Joaquin Phoenix can play him as a younger guy and get his Oscar.)

In contrast to the turbulent Lincoln marriage, future 26th President Theodore Roosevelt’s decision to marry his ex, Edith Carrow, after the death of his first wife, yielded far more blissful domestic results — or so claimed another Presidential documentary I recently watched.

My ex experiences are closer to that of the Lincolns — though without war, death and slapping. I recently reconnected with one, hoping that a year apart had changed us both enough that our relationship could evolve into something sturdier and more mature. Alas, it didn’t take me long to realize that it couldn’t, and I had to let him go once more. Unfortunately for us both, he hadn’t changed at all. In fact, he had become even more like he was before.

It was my second failed attempt at recapturing lost love. The previous time was nearly 10 years earlier, with an ex whom I had dated 10 years before that. On the surface, he had changed immensely. Formerly the life of every party, he’d morphed into a teetotaling zealot. While I applauded his health-consciousness, when it came right down to it, he’d traded one addiction (party favors) for another (self-righteous sobriety). Same guy, new drug. He had to go.

What did Luke Spencer say again? “People don’t change, they just get older.”

As much as I try to embrace the idea of moving forward, never looking back (after all, as yet another TV great, Vanessa Huxtable, once said, “The ship that sails backwards never sees the sun rise” — technically untrue, but I get her point), a part of me — the hopeless romantic — thinks the perfect love would actually be rediscovered love with an old flame. It’s a hyper-romantic dream, but trying to force it into reality can be like re-watching an old movie or re-reading an old book and expecting a different outcome at the end. If you’re lucky, you might enjoy the story even more the second time around, but the ending will still be the same.

Of course, if you resist the human urge to fall back into old patterns (which with both of my returnee exes, especially the second one, I did — new year, same relationship), together again, two exes can write a brand new story, one that might not be quite happily ever after but rather, to be continued. A perfect denouement might not be guaranteed, but the great scary thing about love and life outside of Bangkok massage parlors is that happy endings never are.

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