Tag Archives: character

Breaking the Silence

19 Jul

I realize that I have not written in the blog for a long time–weeks, in fact. Please excuse the fact that I haven’t been fulfilling the obligations to you, my readers, and to myself. I hope you that you will enjoy this entry, and I promise I will be writing a lot more often. Also, please realize that the events written in the following blog are now several weeks old, and the situations described have, like bread in the open air, gone stale.

People react to silence in many different ways, probably because there are so many different kinds of silence. I could argue that there are as many ways to react to silence as there are continents, or countries, or people populating the planet. But, there are three very noticeable ways that we humans deal with the midnight monster—invisible, but with a notable, crippling presence—that is silence. Some people try to fill up silence, penetrate its pure, virginal nothingness with streams of nonsensical chatter meant to make a point. Others try to wring it out like a towel, and absorb every moist bit of wisdom before it soaks into the ground. But the common denominator between those two opposing silent camps is that both want to tamper with silence’s innate beauty. Those in the third camp, mothers of newborns, people in new love, and those studying for the big upcoming test, cherish silence. They do not wish to see it altered, but cradle into it like a Tempurpedic mattress.

I went on three dates with two different men recently, and I have experienced these three different types of silences, and I saw myself chameleon into each one. The date with the first man, Liam, was filled with silences I tried to fill with more words. When trying to fill up an empty silence, you can’t expect Shakespeare to come through. The first things that come up are the commonalities—the “how-are-you’s?” the “How-was-your-days?” It takes heroic effort to move past them, but in a date filled with this much silence, commonalities could do little to salvage the pieces. We went to a nice restaurant, and then out for drinks, and we had spoken previously on the phone and on the Internet, so I thought this should have been going better. However, we just weren’t clicking that well.

What about the last two types of silence? Before we get to that story, I have to lead you in and hold your hand through the little story of how I got to these dates. I was attending an open mic reading to support my friend who I knew would be reading at the event, only I thought it was a closed poetry reading, not one that openly encouraged participation from any patrons of the bar. I was approached by the organizer of the open mic—a nerdily cute, charming, talented man in glasses—who told me the event was open, and that I should read something. I sat towards the back of the bar, far from the stage where the readers opined about things like sex, high-pitched voices, and meeting new partners, in silence. I had erected a cocoon of silence for myself as a place of safety and protection—and antisociality. However, it was the encouragement of the cute organizer that made me go up and speak, and I did. I read a series of letters about how much I had come to dislike the online dating world. And it was well-received. After I had broken my own silence, I spoke to the organizer of the readings, who encouraged me to come back, gave me his number, and asked me to call him sometime. His name was Bruno.

On our first date, we had dinner, drinks, and a walk through Riverside Park. We sat in one of the park’s waterfront benches, where we discussed our writing styles, our histories, and exchanged wit back and forth with heavy fire. Each time there was a silence, it was like we had to catch our breath from the laughing, or we just had to sit and appreciate the person sitting across from us. It was then that I became the second type of silent person. I was trying to glean so much from this silence. I was trying to read his verbal and bodily cues like roadmap of where he wanted us to go. Except the roadmap was scattered all over his body. It was in his green and yellow eyes, in the stubbles of his facial hair, and the warmth of his smile.

Breaking a Heavy Silence

On our second date, we marched through Heatpocalypse 2010, stopping along the way for brunch at a Russian diner and two overwhelming ice coffees. We were having a blast. After a while, we came in from the heat, and we had a beautifully honest conversation together. This time, our words, like bricks, were mortared together with silences that each of us wouldn’t dare speak over. We knew these silences, sitting there, were okay. We need not alter them, or wish for something more or less from them. Like we accepted each other, we accepted these silences for all their baggage and all their meaning, and we hoped that they would change us for the better.

So, why such a long break in between blogs? I consider myself a very reactionary writer. This writing blitz that I’ve been on in the past year—stretching all the way back to last summer—has been out of unhappiness. Part of my reacting to unhappiness is writing. Even the creation of this blog is evidence of that. And, with my new enjoyable dating situation, I found that I had less and less to write about. But, then again, that might just be a personal challenge for me in the future. What happens to the writer who suddenly becomes happy? Hopefully, this long writing silence of mine will find me doing three things:  trying to fill it up with writing, trying to glean something from it, and enjoying the happiness while it lasts.

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It Takes a Village, Part 2

29 Jun

The past two weekends, two friends of mine have come back to New York City to visit. While my friend Ryan came down for his birthday, Daniel came back for this past weekend’s NYC Pride March. During the summer, my friends, like me, have gone on individual paths of self-actualization, working to improve their lives and try to make sense of what they want to do. With all of my friends on their own paths, it is rare that those paths intersect. But, when Ryan came back for the weekend, the tribe seemed to gather together as if nothing had happened at all.

Going at it alone is often a sign of strength. We don’t want people to know that we’re hurting, or that we missed our morning workout, or that we’re more insecure about ourselves that we put on. To get through our walls, our friends either have to hulk through them, or shimmy up the sides. Either ways, friends need a set of skills in order to relate to each other. We have to remember people’s favorite flavors of cake on their birthday, slow our pace if we walk too far ahead, and open up our couches to each other when they need a place to sleep. Sometimes, it may show a bigger sign of strength if we lean on our friends shoulders instead of putting all the pressure on our own two feet.

A Meeting of the Walls

Ironically, it takes a lot of strength to show others our weaknesses. I see strength in a lot of my friends. I see strength in my friends who are able to recover from unfairly losing their jobs, or able to confess that their relationships aren’t as perfect as an outsider might think. I see strength in the friend who can call me up any time of day to tell me that their insecurities are at an all-time high, and I see strength in the friends that put pride aside and ask me for help.

Speaking of pride, my other near and dear friend Daniel came in this weekend for the NYC Pride March. This was my first year attending the parade, as in past years the thought of attending caused me a bit of anxiety. Though I am a huge gay activist, and now work in-depth in the community, I have always felt a tenuous connection the gay community, a completely opposite feeling from my friend Dan, who has a tenuous connection to the heterosexual community. However, if the parade taught me anything this year, it’s something very similar to something I’ve already written today. The community is nothing but a collection of individuals, and the parade is the place to gather when the community chooses to deconstruct its own walls.

The gay community can be just as racist, transphobic, and ignorant as many other communities. We don’t talk about a lot of issues, we value whiteness, and we still fret over whether the “T” belongs at the end of the acronym “LGBT” (which is too short as it is). But at the parade, svelte twinks, bulging bears, and overly active clubbers come together to celebrate that which makes us the “other.”

So, did I finally feel a connection to the gay community on Sunday? Somewhere between the end of the parade and my return home, my friend Dan and I wandered through the winding streets of the West Village. Adding to its usual labyrinthine layout, police guards and yellow taped herded us around like cows, and getting out proved to be a time-consuming difficulty. The streets, like my feelings, can be very difficult to navigate. And yet, there is another common denominator between the two:  people. Everywhere I went on Sunday, I was always within about three centimeters of another sweaty, proud person. They may not be three centimeters away, and I may not be able to reach out and grab them, but I know I always have others in community with me. As much as I may go at it alone, my strength is buttressed not by confidence and attitude alone, but by the friends I have at my fingertips.

It Takes a Village, Part 1

23 Jun

Why do we stop being raised after we grow older? If it takes a village to raise a child, then who raises the twentysomethings like me who wander through life—not exactly aimlessly—without a clear guide map through young adulthood’s piney forest? If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes a family, a campus, and a city to raise a twentysomething. We, Lord of the Flies—style, have to fend for ourselves and raise each other. And we people of the concrete jungle know that our island can be just as rough as the one in Lord of the Flies, because rather than a group of gangly boys, we’re dealing with eight million people who would put our head on a pike to get ahead of us personally, professionally, and romantically.

I think a lot of us in our lives try to paint by the numbers. We see how others have succeeded, and try to follow along within the lines other people have outlined. Putting personal flare into our lives is a topic that I have previously advocated in my blog, but it was advice that I didn’t take myself until a friend of mine swooped in and caused me to color outside the lines.

Patrick is a friend of mine through a long line of connections. He goes to Fordham at Rose Hill, and I met him because he dated one of my best friend’s roommates. With such a tenuous link between us, it seems weird that he was still in my life at all, but we have kept in contact through this time. Last Friday, he called me up because he was in the city, and he took me to lunch at Empanada Mama where I mislead him as to the size of the empanadas. I could’ve sworn they were bigger. But what they lacked in girth, they made up for in flavor.

The date went really well. It wasn’t a romantic date, and neither of us have any interest in each other (unless Patrick is one to conceal his passions, and from his out-there, expressive demeanor, I doubt it) but it was the best date I had so far. Patrick had a lot of great advice, and it was really great to work through some of my problems with someone one-on-one. Whereas most dates cause anxiety, this one worked as a kind of relieving therapy session, only a booth replaced the couch, and the office was Hell’s Kitchen.

I had become discouraged because, while I have seen and felt my body respond well to the diet and exercise, I felt as if I was failing in my mission. Patrick, though petite and healthy, is on a personal journey to lose weight, even if I believe he doesn’t need it. It’s always part of the plight of the fat person to believe that every skinnier person should be happy with his or her body. However, we may have a bigger blind side to the problems of pretty, skinny people than skinny people do to those of us who are an extra pizza slice away from visiting the tailor to have our pants let out. He advised me to not always worry about the numbers, and that if I felt myself shrinking, it was best to follow what my mind was thinking, and if I liked the way I looked in the mirror, then I shouldn’t ache to bring a scale into my circle of friends. Whereas friends can give subjective, personal advice, scales cannot.

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child, It Takes a Bulldozer to Raze the Concrete Jungle

As I related in my previous blog, I recently began speaking with my ex-boyfriend. Though he hurt me in the past, much like Patrick felt obligated to help me where he had experience, I feel an obligation to him to help him through experiences I share with him. He has been having problems with his boyfriend, and when he called me to talk to me about it, I heard a lot of the same things I said last summer after we broke up coming out of his mouth. Even though I knew how to deal with them, I remember how hard it was for me to take advice last summer, even from friends of mine who knew how I felt. When someone is going through a break-up, it’s especially hard, because the person is expected to transition to the single life while simultaneously going through a period of trauma. Transition is hard enough without having to do it in a distraught personal state. If being broken up taught me anything, it’s that you need other people to get through it, because going cold turkey doesn’t work when it comes to break-ups. Breaking up is a team sport, and your friends are the star players. However, my ex-boyfriend finds himself right out of college, most of his friends have moved back home, and he now has no boyfriend, which is why I have come in to help him through this period.

I got the job as the intern for the About.com GayLife blog. During the interview, my boss talked a lot about how he believes that journalism is an important platform for social change. The blogosphere is a place where people can feel community without being within physical proximity of each other. If you can relay important news to a lot of people, and force people to think about important issues, then you can change the way their brains think and their hearts beat. It’s very powerful. With this blog, my writing is a force for personal change. However, there is still a community. Knowing that I have readers who are coming along with me on this journey is important to me, because you are an unseen motivation, the unsung heroes behind the biking, the dieting, the reading, and the writing. It still takes a village, but at this age, it’s a village of equals who stand to learn from each other. We are often blind alone, only able to see peripherally, or not able to see past the end of our nose. But together, we navigate the concrete jungle in search of love, financial success, and friendship, and along the way, a little bit of not-by-the-numbers fun.

Leaving the Body

1 Jun

Today,  I saw two friends walk into the gym together and begin working out. One was clearly fit, a small mousey man with spiked hair, and the other was a bearded man with glasses, who was, frankly, the more attractive one. The man with glasses, who was of average weight, was being trained by the mousey man as to the correct way to do pushups, pull-ups, and sit-ups. While on his pushups, the man in red almost stopped until Mega Mouse told him “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” What kind of messed up mantra is that? Do pain and weakness have a hot and cold relationship where the presence of one (cold) is merely the absence of another? Does one have to endure pain simply to live a life free from weakness?

I’m not saying that some pain isn’t necessary in order to push through certain parts of our lives. While I was with my Global Outreach trip in Nicaragua, my leader said that “Crying is our body healing,” meaning that our body uses crying as a way to heal itself—to grow stronger. If crying and pain are ways to toughen up, then pain is necessary to all humans for improvement.

I felt some pains today. I went working out as usual today, and I realized I’m able to bike longer and faster everyday, which is making me feel much better. If I’m feeling less and less pain, does that mean I’m toughening up? Though I may be toughening up in my workout, psychologically, I’m still weak. Food-wise, temptation is everywhere. Today, I had a program for the entire building, and I shouldn’t have eaten anything, but I had chicken alfredo, hummus, and a cupcake. I felt guilty, because I really shouldn’t have eaten it, especially after I had such a good day food-wise. I had eggs and turkey bacon for breakfast, nuts and berries for snacks throughout the day, chicken salad on whole wheat for lunch, and then whole-wheat pasta with turkey meat for dinner. Then I had to go mess it up all at the end. If temptation is everywhere, and I’m weak to it, how do I toughen up? Does the pain come from the guilt I feel after eating the cupcake or the jealousy I feel that everyone else gets to enjoy the food? Will the weakness of temptation ever truly leave my body?

Sometimes, I think I’m a hypocrite. One of my main criticisms of the gay community, especially the New York City gay community, is their inability to welcome those of us with meat on our bones. Though part of my weight loss goals is to be healthy, I can’t deny that part of it is to fit into a community which I feel has huge problems. However, I truly believe that someone can’t change a system if they don’t work within it. So, if I am ever part of the healthy, skinny gay community, I won’t hesitate to be an advocate for those chubs like me who, though skinny may never be a word that describes us, attractive may not be far away. Though it will take a lot of pain to change my body, and if weakness takes an exit cue along with my gut, then maybe what will be left will be someone who has the strength to stick up for others like me, the ones who literally and figuratively don’t always seem to fit in.

Action is Character

17 May

I think it was F. Scott Fitzgerald who said, “Action is character” regarding, I expect, not only writing fiction, but also life. His words are a guiding light for most writers. They are unwritten writing rule, and a go-to mantra for undergraduate and high school writing teachers across the country. Recently, I was revising a short story I wrote, and I was listing traits of the main character to attempt to come to a deeper understanding of him—and to help finally move the plot along. To be blunt, I was the main character, just like every facet of me is a LEGO I use to snap together all my characters. But, for this character, the only adjectives I could list were unsure and emotional. As you can imagine, these are not two adjectives useful to a writer. How do you give a character a purpose, how do you propel forward the plot when your main character is anchored to the seafloor, tethered at the ankles and gargling to survive? Of course, I knew these adjectives were a sheer guise behind which I was hiding truths about myself.

Starting the Summer Book Pile...

I was this character completely, from the waves in the nappy hair to the mismatched socks on his feet, and the uncertain steps he took. None of my fiction had such a complete portrait of me, and it was boxing me in. My other stories’ main characters, or supporting characters, were facets of myself, of my need to be vindicated, or my inability to curb my desire for cupcakes. It was easy to write a story about things that I did—about things that made up my character. But how does one write a story about inaction, about a character who is striving to become something, yet is too unsure to act? Quite simply, few writers do, and those who do are those who have Classics editions at Barnes and Noble, or authors who we feel comfortable quoting on blog posts. They have already proven themselves.

I began to think of ways to cure my inaction. I wasn’t exactly unhappy with my life. I had great friends, a great family, but I found myself in a rut. I needed to do something to revivify myself. I looked around the room at my bookshelf that holds my small personal library. It’s three decently high shelves kept together by curved metal rods on either side. On the top, I keep textbooks, fiction on the middle shelf, with a collage of non-fiction, anthologies, and writing books on the bottom. But for the kind of instruction I wanted, I looked to my middle shelf and dusted off twenty books that I knew deserved my attention and had been undeservingly denied it for so long. I was so good at buying books, I could burn a hole through my debit card at Strand faster than you could imagine, but reading them was always a slower process. You could buy five in one hour, but it would take you upwards of weeks to plow through them, by the time life gets in the way. Turning my attention to the books on my shelf the longest, I picked out twenty that should have been read by now. These twenty books, ranging from prim and proper European classics to New York Times bestsellers that are chirped about on Twitter, form a thorough summer education course of my own design that inadvertently sparked the rest of my summer mission.

Why stop at twenty books? Why should only my mind expand and my bookshelves lighten when there are so many other areas of myself that deserve a close look?  I turned my attention right away to my weight problems. I have always been heavy, and I have always been uncomfortable with it. The feeling of discontent comes tethered to the extra pounds. They pal around together, one carried with you on your bones, the other walking a few steps behind, though still part of your entourage. So, I decided to finally take action on weight loss, and to lose at least twenty pounds by the end of the summer.

Lastly, I wanted to get out of the building in which I live. I live in McMahon Hall, a little box of an apartment building on the thin edge between Hell’s Kitchen and the Upper West Side, and the only residence hall for Fordham University at Lincoln Center. I also work here as a Resident Assistant. As such, getting away from the building becomes a chore. So, I decided to get out and date, and not just any dates, but twenty little adventures. I want to go on interesting dates in parks, museums, or outdoor concerts. I want twenty unique experiences that can’t be interchanged or confused with one another.

There’s the mission, folks (who are soon to be addressed as faithful readers.) Twenty books, twenty pounds, and twenty dates in one summer. What you will read following this entry will be reviews and reflections on literature, recaps and analyses of gay male dating habits, and the woes and wants of a foodie who will be relearning how to eat healthily. I hope this first entry intrigued you enough to continue reading, and I hope that you all enjoy the next months reading my blog as I will enjoy writing, reading, eating, exercising, dating, craving, enjoying, and loving it.

And, as for my story, the character finally took action, and the reader was able to see his true character. Let’s see what you can see of mine as I reveal the story of my summer to you.