Saturday, February 28, 2009

Through Thick and Thin

Not everyone likes going to the gym, some people avoid it at all cost as did I. I have heard the gym described as the Gay Church and as the Temple of Torture. Unfortunately there comes a time in one’s life when weight and health issues force you to make a decision. Am I going to let myself go or am I going to get into shape? This happened to me less than three years ago.

One fateful evening in 2006 after getting out of the shower I happened to catch a glimpse of my naked self in the full length bedroom mirror. I paused for a moment, took a second look and froze in horror. Denial could no longer shield me from the toll all the pies, chocolates, crisps and other junk food had taken on my body. There I was on full display and on a closer inspection found a pot belly, love handles, cellulite, a double chin and a face that looked like an over inflated balloon. I was fat! How did this sneak up on me?

In retrospect it didn’t sneak up on me, there were many hints on my lard paved path to podginess. The first hint should have been that my pants no longer fit (I wanted to believe they shrunk). My cats could no longer comfortably lie next to me on the couch as my pot belly was in their way. My face grew rounder and it wasn’t water retention. My weight gain was a gradual process; I didn’t just wake up one morning looking like that. The lack of exercise and the overindulgence on calories gently ushered me into the world of flabbiness.

The very next day my husband and I went on a diet and joined the gym - I didn’t want to suffer alone. After all he did vow to stick with me through thick and thin. I noticed that the gym was divided into three distinct groups: The body builders, the fitness fanatics and the brave fat people (the latter I presume had an epiphany not much unlike mine). My first day at the gym made me feel incredibly insecure: There were so many beautiful bodies in skimpy outfits and there I was in baggy clothes trying to hide my unwelcome additions. I choose to train in the fat sections of the gym, where all our beached whales were desperately trying to return to the ocean. It felt as if everyone was staring at me as I battled and profusely perspired, but in reality nobody actually paid any attention or cared.

The first few months were hell. I despised the Treadmill, Spinning Bike, Rowing Machine and Stairmaster; I pretty much hated everything and every instrument of torment designed for a cardio workout. The first few months I bargained and fought with myself during the middle of each session. Just do 10 more minutes… You know you can do it! Well if you don’t you’ll stay fat! Is that what you want? Well then finish the session fatso!!!

As time passed and the pounds melted away, we became brave enough to participate in the group classes. We were always at the back of the class as neither my husband nor I wanted to embarrass ourselves if we fainted due to over exertion. The first group class was gruelling. I was not as fit as the rest of the regulars and there were a few times I almost passed out, but I proudly persevered. The next day I realized my body underwent an ordeal as every muscle in my body was tender and throbbing, even some muscles I didn’t know I had. Simple tasks like climbing stairs, picking things up and washing my hair were excruciating. Even though it was painful I returned for more like a typical masochist. They say exercise is addictive due to the endorphin fix you get, but I in my case this wasn’t and isn’t true. It was a laborious task that I dreaded but stuck too.

After almost 3 years I lost the weight equivalent of a 4 year old child and I am back to my normal and healthy weight. It has been hard work and exercise has become part of my weekly routine. My husband and I now have joined a new instructor’s class fondly referred to as The Hitler! He works us twice weekly like cheap red light district whores; he has no sympathy and the stamina of a sadistic beast. The fact that he’s damn attractive makes the torture worthwhile and the fact that I transformed my body from marshmallow man to toned and slim makes it even a bigger bonus. That harrowing night in 2006 was a turning point for me. No longer having the metabolism I had in my twenties I now have to pay more attention to what I eat and exercise has become essential in maintaining a healthy body. Luckily this beached whale made it to the ocean with the help of the Temple of Torture, Hitler and lots of sweat, internal battles and tears.

Till next time.

Soccer Practice by Gay Pimp

Monday, February 23, 2009

Virtual Coma

Technology has made our lives much easier, but at the same time it can also be a pain in the derriere. Mobile phones allow us to be accessible 24 hours a day every day. GPS gives us direction without having to ask strangers. The internet has made the world smaller and obtuse people brighter. I believe we have unconsciously become so dependent on technology that many of us will not be able to live our lives without it. So when technology fails us it can be more of an ordeal than just a plain inconvenience.

Last week my home computer fell ill. She kept on rebooting herself. This has been strike 3 in spate of near catastrophic technical failures in my life the last few months (first was our DVD player that’s now departed and disposed off, and then it was the clutch of my car which is now repaired). With my expertise in social sciences and not in IT, my first thought was that my computer has been struck down by a virus. In my mind when ever something ominous happens to my computer it must be a virus. Luckily I have a number of friends in the IT industry and a couple of phone calls and a house call later the diagnoses was made - her power-supply was broken. In the mean time I was effectively isolated from the rest of the world: I had no E-mail, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Msn, Skype nothing. All my friends that live inside my computer was trapped there, I could not reach them and they could not reach me. A part of my existence was in a virtual coma.
Even though my real live went on as normal, being disconnected from a part of my virtual daily routine was disconcerting. Even more unsettling was the fact that I planned on fixing my computer myself, because I am stubborn and impatient. I have never attempted anything like this, and it was either going to be a success or I was going to cause irreparable damage. At work I did some basic research with the help of Google and mentally prepared myself for what I was about to attempt. I bought the power-supply and now I was ready to reconnect myself with the virtual world.

Opening up my computer can be equated to cracking someone’s chest for open heart surgery. Seeing all the exposed wires and the nerves of my pc was a frightening sight. With great care I started to remove the power supply. After I disconnected all the wires and the supply was completely detached from my pc, the awful reality of my basic error was sitting on the floor in front of me: I disconnected all the wires but did not pay attention to what I plugged and pulled out where. I panicked, if I plug in the wrong thing at the wrong place I suspected that Guy Fawkes would come early this year. So I made another call to my friend, who I was sure at this stage was getting annoyed with me. He said the cables and instillation of the power-supply was “idiot proof” and straight forward (it may be idiot proof but was it “Pierre proof”?). He asked me to explain what wires I see in front of me and with great effort and by making up a number of new words I described what I saw. His step-by-step guidance was appreciated and helpful.

Twenty minutes later I was confident that everything was plugged in correctly and I was now ready to revive my pc. With everything screwed back, plugged in and hooked up the moment of truth was imminent. I switched on my pc and with bated breath waited, listened and watched. With all my senses fixed on my pc box and monitor I am anticipating an apocalypse inside my computer. Three seconds and no flames or smoke is billowing out; eight seconds no explosion; thirty seconds and the once irksome trade mark jingle of windows confirmed that my pc was alive again. My computer was brought back from her hibernating coma and survived open heart surgery by an untrained and inexperienced technician. I was relieved, and swore to never do this again, not to myself or to my pc.

Being awakened from my virtual coma, after 4 days, my appreciation for technology has been renewed. We never know how much we rely on it and how much time we spent using it until some hardware malfunction reminds us. Without technology we would be back in the dark ages. So even though people sometimes call me when I’m in the loo, my GPS sometimes gets confused and lies to me, I frequently have to reboot my satellite television decoder and my pc sometimes break down, I am thank full to have it in my life and for the ability to accessorise my life with it.

Till next time.

Dustin Black's powerful speech after he won an Academy Award for writing "Milk."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fabulous Fairies and Ghastly Goblins

" The Queens and Kings of yesterday Vol. II"

My initial post (The Queens and Kings of yesterday) regarding ageism in the gay community proofed to be a thorny one. Some comments and discussions that followed made me wonder

Is gay and grey so unacceptable that it makes gay men run flapping and screaming to their plastic surgeon? Or does the sight of an old single gay man rouse a deeper fear?

Research done on ageism in the USA showed that some older gay men feel undervalued and ignored by the gay community. Some also experience hurtful situations at the hands of youngsters (gay men under 30). To a large degree I agree with these findings. We do undervalue the elderly in our community and we do sometimes ignore them. In my opinion, older gay men fall into one of 2 categories – Fabulous Fairies or Ghastly Goblins. It's comparable to a vintage wine apposed to mouldy food forgotten in your fridge. Fabulous Fairies are the ones that have accepted their age, have fun with it and set a good example of a healthy and happy lifestyle; Ghastly Goblins are the ones that scare me! They are in denial about their age, try to pick up twinks and have a less than desirable fashion sense: the old out of shape guy in a tank top and leather pants whose vocabulary does not include the word “no”; the one that’s over weight, dodgy looking, flaunts his wealth and/or is sure to pop a roofie in your drink; and the one that surrounds himself with post pubescent boys – the typical sugar daddy. None of us really wants to end up like that, do we? Predatory…Lonely….Desperate…Vulgar….

Clubs, bars and other sexualized venues cater for the young, making these venues not always accessible to older gay men. There is no formula to determine when old is too old, but once uneasiness surrounds you at a venue, you may have reached that age. In many cases it is more about your own attitude, appearance and behaviour than your biological age. However this should not mean that once you are over 40 you’re are dead or should retire socially. The fairy will not turn into a goblin at the stroke of midnight. Gay men are not dairy products that will curdle a week after the expiry date.

Ageism exists in all social groups, gay and straight. In my opinion it is emphasized in the gay community because ageing scares us. It makes us ask questions we’d rather avoid, therefore we prefer not to think about it. Being confronted with aging secretly makes us ask

When I am old, single and sick who’s going to take care of me? Will I meet someone and have a relationship at that age? Am I going to die alone?

Not all gay people have children to fall back on. Not all gay people financially prepare for old age as they should. Not all gay people have a close nit social network. None of us want to die alone and only be discovered weeks later after your starving cat has feasted on your corps.

Being in my 30’s I must admit that I do make use of the “oils of delay” – the eye creams, night creams, day creams etc. I have even considered Botox, but for now, I still like the ability to express my emotions on my face. In a few years I too will be 40. Being in a long-term and stable relationship makes me less worried about growing old. I have a life partner that is ageing with me. Gravity will be cruel to both of us; we will have matching sagging bums and man boobs not to mention the liver spots, but as our looks fade we still will have each other – if we’re lucky! I will take pride in my appearance; take care of my body and skin keeping the twilight at bay for as long as I can.

There are many older gay men and women who live happy lives well into their twilight years. There are also many gay couples that have been together for more years than I am old, which gives me hope for my own marriage. They have a tremendous contribution to make to our community. They are the survivors of the HIV epidemic and the veterans of the gay rights movement. We are indebted to them for so much we have today. Ageism in the gay community, in my opinion, is the embodiment of the central fear that plague our community - our fear of growing old and the consequences thereof. Some older members of our community set bad examples that make us fear growing old even more, but there are countless others who we do not readily see that dispel the myth about what happens to fairies after they “retire”.

Till next time.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Flu and the peeing Buddha

I love the rain, but delight turned into dread as we have been drenched for the last few weeks. The fluctuation in temperature combined with me forgetting the one golden rule my mother taught me (make sure you are dressed warm) caused me to catch the flu. I absolutely hate being sick! The last time I had the flu was 5 years ago. Between coughing, sneezing, general body aches and fever I was in denial until a simple maneuver with my car ended up with me scratching my bumper against a pole. Staring at the white paint of the pole on the black paint of my car and calculating in my head how much the repair will cost, it finally sunk in – I am sick and must see the Dr!

It was confirmed, I indeed had flu. He prescribed the usual treatment and 2 days of bed rest. Clearly the Dr forgot I am a Type A personality and asking me to stay in bed is like asking the pope to go to a rave club. I can not lie in bed for 2 whole days, I’d go insane. They say men become like babies when they are sick. In my case that holds very true. When ill I have a very short fuse, need to be loved, pampered, cuddled and have things carried after me and done for me, or else I sulk or display menopausal mood swings. Flashes of fever makes me feel like I am taking mini tropical holidays to hell and the coughing resemble the sounds of crazed demons you’d expect to find there.

Having 2 days of “bed rest” I became very creative in passing the time. Besides trying to sleep (I am a chronic insomniac), surfing the net and watching TV (which takes very little physical exertion) I also ventured into the strange world of Chinese teas. A friend of ours recently returned from China and brought my husband I a goody bag, which included amongst other things, a peeing Buddha and Chinese flowering tea. There is a whole ritual to preparing the perfect cup of tea; a ritual that took me just over 3 hours to master and an utter loathing for a small ceramic little fat man.

The ritual seems straightforward. First, you have to soak your ceramic Buddha in water; after the little man is soaked you boil your tea water and then poor the boiled water over the Buddha. If he pees the water is perfect, if not the water is either burnt or too cold. Who knew you could burn water? Seems simple enough, however my Buddha didn’t want to pee! The little ceramic instrument of mental torture made me boil water 12 times before releasing a gentle stream of approval from beneath his fat belly. With the perfect boiled water I was ready for my flowering Chinese tea. Watching tea infuse has never quite been so exciting, watching the odd looking ball bloom into a beautiful flower was the pay off I was hoping for. Tea that’s pretty and aromatic is good for the soul, but taking 3 hours to make it is just obscure.

Being sick is not fun for anyone. Being sick and bored is worse. Luckily it’s not a permanent situation and soon I will be up and about again. My husband has been a very good nurse, just a pity he doen’t have a matching outfit. He has been patient, showed the appropriate amount of concern and affection and been firm when I displayed childish behavior. Getting sick, I believe, is your body’s way of forcing you to take a break, slow down and get some much needed rest. If you are anything like me, absolute boredom will also usher you into exploring strange and sometimes silly things to amuse yourself while your body heals. I would love to hear what you get up to when forced to “bed rest”.

Till next time.

Persimmon Diet - Margaret Cho

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

It will never happen to me!

Many of us live our lives largely unaffected by news events or by the turmoil of others. We are bombarded with atrocious events in the print and news media and think to ourselves “It will never happen to me”. We have empathy for those affected by war, disease, violence and poverty, but it rarely extent past our comfort zone. This week I was forced out of my comfort zone. Media reports had a direct impact on my live and the plight of someone conjured up painful memories.

Last week news broke that the final death blow was delivered to the organization I work for. Legislation fashioned in an undemocratic manner was adopted and signed thereby blighting the future careers of all of us who are affected. A sombre mood followed. Having to face the challenge of integrating with another organization, not having a clear sense of direction and being confused by the process that is to follow is daunting to say the least.

For the first time decisions made by government will have a direct impact on my life. It’s easy to slip into depression and become muted or even passive aggressive due to a sense of powerlessness. Reading the news articles I wonder how many other people read about their fate in the news and whether the feeling of obscurity I had is the same. As the initial impact passed and the shockwaves grew slighter, I realized how resilient one must be to survive. I adopted an attitude of liability towards my own future; no matter what will be thrown at me I will be prepared to face the challenge. It may be easier said than done, but being negative and anticipating that which I don’t know will only hinder the successful negotiation of my future. This holds true for most trials in life.

During the same week a colleague was diagnosed with cancer and a famous actress, I admired, died from the disease. My colleague is a young vibrant woman who has always been in great health and good spirit. The news of her illness visibly destroyed her. Having an oncologist tell you to make sure your affairs are in order is the worst words anyone can hear. The same words fell on my mother’s ears just over 4 years ago. She learned that she had terminal cancer and had less than 18 months to live. We all know that we are going to die, how ominious it must be to know your specific deadline.

I saw my mother go through all the phases from denial, anger, bargaining and depression. Acceptance was tough for all of us but most arduous for my mother. I saw the strong woman that raised me wither away as the disease ravaged her body and at times stripped her of her dignity. The morning she died I felt relieved that her suffering was over. It took a long time to eliminate the visual memory of my dying mother and surrogate it with a memory of her at her prime - therapy helped. We were fortunate, we had time to prepare and had time to say good bye. I am not sure I understand how difficult it must have been for her during the last 9 months of her life, but she remained strong willed until sheer will and faith was not enough.

Cancer is an inhumane and indiscriminate disease. Saying good bye to my colleague as she sets off on the battle of her life, the memory of my mother prevented me from saying phrases like “Stay strong”, “You can beat this” and “Everything is going to be ok” - those words are futile. She will not stay strong, she may die and things are not going to be ok: She will be sick from treatments; her body will be scarred from surgery; emotionally she will go to the darkest places she has ever been and if she survives the memory of her illness will haunt her every time she falls ill, discovers a lump or see her scars. The only words of encouragement I could muster was “Laugh every opportunity you get, cry when you must, take it a day at a time and never loose your will to live”.

The past week helped me get perspective. As I said before, there are no certainties in life and that which is unexpected in all probability could happen to you. I realized that I should be grateful for what I have in my life and embrace adversities as it can only devastate me if I allow it to. The challenges that I face seem insignificant compared to that of others, and I will always remember that all people’s experiences are inherently egoistic. Your own problems, at the end of the day, are more important to you than those of others.

I challenge everyone who read this to take a “tea break” from your own life and have a good look around you and savour the moment.

Don’t let an opportunity go by to laugh. Don’t be afraid to cry. Life is too short.

Till next time.

HERE COMES THE SUN as sung by Nina Simone

Monday, February 2, 2009

The breakup

Some who read my blog may think that I am obsessed with my appearance. Taking pride in the way I present myself to the world should not be misconstrued with obsession. I am no oil painting and achieving a presentable appearance is not an easy feat; this is achieved by having a good hair stylist, cosmetologist and my husband’s fashion advice. Not being a morning person, small children and some domesticated animals may take fright if they are misfortunate enough to have a glimpse of me at sunrise.

Recently, my hairstylist of 5 years told me she was moving to London. The news shocked me. I was among many of her loyal clients who had an adverse reaction to this unwelcome news. It felt like I was being broken up with, my stomach turned and I was flustered having to face an uncertain future regarding my hair. I knew my stylist since she was an appetence at the salon (I have been a loyal customer there for the past 8 years). I saw her develop into an exceptional hairstylist who also has been rewarded accolades for her talent and devotion to her craft. The prospect of losing her and not being able to find someone that could live up to her standard was disheartening. Furthermore, I was faced with the difficult decision whether I would stay at the salon or leave. Leaving would be like cheating, eventually culminating in a divorce of sorts from a group of people who became like family to me from the shampoo girls, the stylists to the owner.

Not dealing well with breakups, I shaved my hair. Work was part of the reason why the hair had to go, but the secondary motivation was to buy time before I had to make my decision. I do not look good as a skin head, the word “convict” comes to mind. My hair could not grow back quick enough. The touch-ups I needed during the initial re-growth and the ghastliness of the barber shop was too much for me to endure: the barber’s skill is limited to one hair style; they do not brush away the previous client’s hair; and I feared getting dandruff or some hair and/or sculpt disease. I was starting to pine for the comforts of a salon, intelligent conversation, juicy gossip and a professional hair cut.

As luck would have it my husband befriended a husband and wife team of stylist, he met through work. We had dinner with them one evening at which point I decided to take the plunge and entrust my hair to them. A week later I made my first appointment. An hour before I was to arrive, feeling nervous and stressed, I almost cancelled twice. I do not like change! Anyone who cares about their hair would know going to a new stylist is as frightening as discovering your breaks have failed while driving fast down a small stretch of road heading for a sharp turn.

Walking into the salon my nerves were shot. The staff did their best to make me feel at home. The atmosphere was informal, light hearted and I was made to feel like a friend being introduced to a new social network - there were even some eye candy to gawk at. My stylist’s wife also popped by to ask whether I was nervous. My nerves soon settled after discussing with my new stylist what I wanted and he explained to me realistically what we can achieve. Diplomacy is a key skill in hairdressing.

I spent a couple of hours at the salon, having my hair coloured and cut. For the first time in 8 years I was allowed smoke breaks during treatments - a big plus! The staff appeared to enjoy their work, had a passion for what they do and the skill to match. I left the salon looking great. Finally I was blond again and have something that resembled a hairstyle. I found a new family who can look after my hair, people whose expertise I can trust and want to build a relationship with.

Driving home, I still had a sense of guilt for divorcing my salon of 8 years. I will miss the times I spent there and the people I came to know. My stylist decision to move to London to broaden her horizons and breathe new life into her career also forced and encouraged me to make some changes in my life. In life there are no certainties. We all change and sometimes the decisions of others instigate change in us. It’s not always pleasant, but without this, life would be far less interesting. I wish my stylist the best of luck with her future and career. Those who she leaves behind will miss her, but those fortunate to cross her path can look forward to a compassionate ear that will listen, a good friend that will tell you the truth and of course GREAT HAIR!

Till next time.

I AM WHAT I AM live performance by Shirley Bassey

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