Sunday, September 29, 2013

WHAT NOT TO WEAR—GYM EDITION

Okay, first off, full disclosure. I do not wear tank tops. I simply cannot carry off the look.

It goes back to when I was twenty, jogging along a less traveled road in a Dallas suburb on a Saturday afternoon. I’d just bought a teal Calvin Klein tank top as part of my new running gear. It was a daring purchase. At the time, I was completely devoid of biceps. The only noticeable bump between shoulder and wrist was a dry, boney elbow. But I was pie-eyed optimistic. My arms would grow into it, I told myself.

Five minutes into the run, a car passed, windows down. I don’t recall the exact message the passengers yelled but, without a doubt, they were mocking me.

It could have been for a number of reasons—my awkward stride, my acne-riddled face, my chicken legs—but I surmised it was a tank top taunt. Confirmation that I had no business wearing the shirt. I cut short my jog and retreated for home. The tank top remained at the bottom of a drawer until I readied for my next move when I dropped it off at a clothing donation bin. Let a homeless guy rock it in his Calvins.

That incident has led to bicep envy. Over the years, I’ve watched men successfully carry off the tank top look, doing fewer reps with lighter weights. While I’ve made gains, I still have reluctant biceps.

My recent month long stay in West Hollywood immersed me in an all tank top gym. It was the unwritten dress code. On each visit, I was one of the half dozen sad-sacks that donned a regular t-shirt, mine hanging over my body like a poncho. I told myself I was being non-conformist, a muscle tease, a rebel. Not that anyone noticed. Not with all those bulging biceps.

My first weekend workout spawned culture/clothing shock. At my small town gym, no guy would ever lift weights in a lilac or peach tank top, but I spotted both. I’ll admit to spending the rest of the month on the lookout for a lilac tank in clothing stores. If I ever dared trying the tank again, why not do it in a festive color and wash it repeatedly with Febreze-scented Tide? Why not sniff the shoulder strap for a refreshing whiff to fend off the stench of man sweat?

This is a modest version
of what the guys wore.
Aside from the range of color, the design of the tanks caught my eye. These were not standard tanks. These were thong tanks, a dire scarcity of fabric. The straps dipped low, fully revealing men’s pecs. I don’t think a man’s nipples should be exposed in a shirt any more than a woman’s should. If you’ve got the body and you must flaunt it, just rip your shirt off and sun yourself as soon as you exit the gym. Go ahead, cause a traffic accident. Isn’t that the ultimate ego boost?

The sides were also fabric free, coming together only at the waistline. Between front and side profiles, nothing was left to the imagination. Call it the peek-a-boo shirtless look.

Admittedly, most of the men had bodies worth showing off, but it seemed too much. The twenty-somethings could get away with it, but it smelled of desperation for guys in their thirties, forties and fifties. Why didn’t someone put an expiration date on the thong tank label? Along with WARNING: Entire shirt may get lost in dryer lint basket, add Best before 30.   

It reminds me of female pop stars. In their twenties, Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Miley Cyrus try to push the envelope, exposing as much flesh as possible, making censors earn their pay. But when Madonna continues to flash audiences in her fifties, it seems a little tired, doesn’t it? She needn’t be wearing turtlenecks, but age is supposed to bring a modicum of restraint.

Just because you can wear a thong tank doesn’t mean you should. Still, these men were better attired than the frizzy haired man in the camouflage FLOSS OR DIE t-shirt. And I probably looked more ridiculous in my poncho tee, but as the car hecklers of yesteryear made clear, I am not the workout fashion god. I’d just like to think an athletic forty-five-year-old man would look so much sexier in a form fitting t-shirt that catches one’s eye without giving it all away.

What do you think? Am I too conservative/modest to be gay? Am I still scarred from an ancient tank top misfire? Has rural life nuked my appreciation of a little exhibitionism? I cling to the hope I still have some fashion sense.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

WALK ON

I awoke frequently in the night, aware that rain was pelting my roof, but there was a greater consciousness that made sleep elusive. My mind thought of Stephen, of Don, of Farrell, of José. When the alarm finally sounded, I dared not snooze. I had a ferry to catch.

Before heading out, the dog needed his morning walk. He looked at me between piddles, seeming to beg me to turn back. Rain has never been his thing. Definitely not a water dog.

I knew as I sailed, then drove toward Vancouver that I could have stayed home. I could have tried to get a rebate on rest, maybe head into the work week with less pronounced bags under my eyes. Why slog things out in the rain? All my money had already been accepted online. No one would know the difference.

But I’d been absent for too long, perhaps as long as seventeen years. People had fought, even emerged victorious in the battle with AIDS, but I had lost my way. This AIDS Walk is intended to be a rebirth, a renewed commitment to causes far greater than my own hapless dating life. Thank goodness.

I’d like to think I have remained concerned and connected regarding the struggles and advances pertaining to AIDS. In truth, however, I had become complacent. Deeply sympathetic, indeed, whenever a news article surfaced online, excited to hear about people living HIV+ without ever progressing to the point of having AIDS, but I’d gotten consumed by a career that mattered, a writing passion and a couple of little dogs who lapped up every minute I gave them. Admittedly, AIDS lost its urgency.

There was a time when most of my sleepless nights were due to AIDS. I read Randy Shilts’ And the Band Played On and raged over governments, religious institutions and medical providers that denied the crisis, hailed the epidemic as God’s wrath, underfunded research studies or got mired in political maneuvering. I feared intimacy as my mind twisted Silence = Death into Sex = Death. I consciously lost contact with an aunt after she ranted about me wasting my time volunteering with AIDS Project Los Angeles. I drew strength from my mother’s negativity, betting that I couldn’t handle being a buddy for persons with AIDS since I had a history of fainting over films in high school Biology and during standard hearing tests. There was a time when AIDS made me stronger. In fact, AIDS made me a better man.

Somehow I lost that within a year of moving from Los Angeles to Vancouver. The move left me underemployed and in debt, but it also threw my priorities out of whack. Having left my alcoholic ex back in La-la Land, I could now flit from tea dance to dance club to drag show with a new group of friends whose behavior I didn’t have to monitor or correct. I never became a wild boy, never went through a sowing-his-seeds stage, but I let frivolity take the forefront.

Things started to change this summer, first with a stop at the AIDS Memorial Grove in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and further with an extended stay in L.A.—and my alcoholic ex’s disclosure that he was now HIV+. I recommitted myself. For starters, I pledged to participate in the Vancouver AIDS Walk.

So rain could not keep me away. Putting it aside for another year might push the issue away for good—actually for bad.

And so I parked my car and sloshed a half mile along the seawall toward the starting area. When I’d first participated in an AIDS Walk twenty-two years ago in Los Angeles and even during that first year in Vancouver, I’d always felt a rush as so many headed toward the start. This morning was radically different. I seemed to walk alone. There were a few other fools walking or running, but they had other agendas.

I am not the only one who grew complacent.

To be sure, the constant rain may have discouraged dozens, but weather cannot account for the light numbers roaming the muddy field encased by opportunistic food trucks and corporate sponsor tents. Where once I would have been guided to a short string of alphabetized letters wherein my last name fell, I was instead ushered to one volunteer who searched through a single alphabetized list of online registrants. Four pages of names. There are far more names on Vancouver’s AIDS Memorial wall.

There is complacency and then there is charitable competition, perhaps even donor burnout. On this day alone, Stanley Park was also the site of an Ismaili Walk and a cycling event for schizophrenia. As well, the downtown core played host to a First Nations Reconciliation Walk. When governments fall short in supporting the neediest citizens, competition for dollars becomes fierce and all the more vital.

Not sure what caused the magical firefly effect,
but I'd liketo think I did not walk alone.
It did not take long for the crowd to thin out as we began the walk. When I wasn’t navigating puddles and green globs of goose poop, I had plenty of time to honor the sweet dreamer that was Stephen, the fatherly orchid grower that was Don, the conservative tennis pal that was Farrell and the goofy, lovable José. All gone far too soon.

My shoes sounded a squishy, squeaky beat to my march. Water climbed the legs of my jeans, passing my knees and stopping just short of the pant pockets. Ducks splashing in puddles on a field provided further distraction. Around Stanley Park’s Lost Lagoon, I glanced at two plaques intended to educate the public about local wildlife and habitats. The first read. “Everyone needs a home”, the second, “To each their own”. Twenty years ago, these might have been the messages on placards carried by walkers.

I did not linger within the temporary tent town at walk’s end. Glancing in that direction, it seemed nobody did. I slogged back to the car, envious of a little boy in rain boots who gleefully jumped in the biggest puddle he could find. How is it that I have lived here nineteen years and never bought a pair of puddle stompers?

As I sat in the driver’s seat, door open, finally sheltered by the Granville Street Bridge overhead, I dumped water from my soggy Converse shoes and wringed even more from my socks. I drove barefoot with the heater on as eau de wet sock filled the car. All a temporary inconvenience.

Meanwhile, the daily struggles, setbacks and, yes, successes surrounding AIDS continue. I hope to have a better sense of things in the year to come. And I’ll be back for AIDS Walk 2014, rain or shine.

Friday, September 20, 2013

TWO BOYS KISSING

By David Levithan

(Alfred A Knopf, 2013)


As a gay man nearing fifty, I am amazed by how much has changed since I spent my teen years in the darkest regions of The Closet during the late ‘70s and ‘80s. Gay icons were rare. (Elton John was a bisexual who married a woman.) No one ever talked of things getting better…just going to hell. And the closest thing to porn was the high cheekboned pretty models gracing the pages of my GQ magazines (this was before the editors switched to celebrity covers). “Gay marriage” was never contemplated, but then again, neither was AIDS.

What do today’s gay teens know about the way things were? Do they appreciate the freedoms they have…while pushing for more? In Two Boys Kissing, David Levithan strives to enlighten a new generation about the past, particularly what things were like during the peak of the AIDS crisis. The story is told by fallen angels as they watch eight gay teens live out one weekend that is punctuated by so many foreign components: a gay prom, the internet, texting and a one very long, very public episode of, yes, two boys kissing.

What the angels observe brings awe:

We were once like you, only our world wasn’t like yours….

We resent you. You astonish us.

And, not to overstate things, Levithan’s novel, particularly the first quarter of it, astonishes me. There is a back and forth between the angels and the storylines of the eight gay teens: Neil and Peter are an established teen couple, dating for about a year, Harry and Craig are a former couple making the transition to friends, Peter and Avery are a potential couple having met at the prom, Tariq is a gay teen recently the victim of a hate crime by strangers and Cooper is unwillingly outed to his parents, leading to his hasty decision to leave home.

Despite all that has changed, much is the same. The angels have experienced all the stages of relationships, they have been bashed or have feared the imminent possibility and they have gone through awkward, often vitriolic reactions to coming out. The angels’ words express nostalgia and longing. Here are some samples from random page flips:

Page 3:  He has no idea how beautiful he is as he walks up that path and rings that doorbell. He has no idea how beautiful the ordinary becomes once it disappears.

Page 22: Waking is hard, and waking is glorious. We watch as you stir, then as you stumble out of your beds. We know that gratitude is the last thing on your mind. But you should be grateful. You’ve made it to another day.

Page 84: Some of our parents were always on our side. Some of our parents chose to banish us rather than see us for who we were. And some of our parents, when they found out we were sick, stopped being dragons and became dragonslayers instead. Sometimes that’s what it takes—the final battle. But it should take much, much less than that.

While this is a young adult novel, it will have high appeal to any of us who recall a time when AIDS went unchecked in North America. I am not certain how young readers will respond to the angels who are never defined as individual characters and are never even named. Youth may put aside the book after ten pages or skip to the sections with the current teens. Without a clear frame of reference, they may not get a real sense of the times that preceded them. And that would be a real shame.

This is a slim book, a story told in 196 pages, but I found myself stopping frequently to savor the words of the angels. For me, the real challenge seems to be the storyline referenced in the title, the quest of Harry and Craig to sustain a single kiss beyond thirty-two hours to break a world record while standing outside their high school over the course of a weekend. It is hard to keep this interesting as both a stunt and a story. This couple is stuck in one place for one purpose. Still, one cannot help but root for them and admire their bravado. Who among us dared to steal a kiss with a boy in front of our high school, for even a fleeting moment? Thirty-two hours in front of cameras and witnessed on internet feeds? Unfathomable. And astonishing.

There is plenty to admire in Levithan’s writing. I know that this is a book I will return to on rainy days, breezing through it or lingering on phrases that will seem all the more potent based on my most recent moods, experiences and my own nostalgic memories of the times when I was growing up gay.

Two Boys Kissing is absolutely worth a read. After you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

THE TRAVELING SHOW—Part 3

This is the final installment in sharing what was to be my dream date with a doctor, a romantic set-up starting with me taking the ferry and him traveling by float plane, all for the sake of trying to find love at a point when both of us felt local prospects had dried up.

You can look at these three blog entries as Before, During and After. More specifically, I view them as The Hope, The Reality and The Despair. I blog this because I have a feeling many other chronic daters will relate.

And so, here we go, bring on the despair.

The first thing I did when I arrived home was send Roland an email, thanking him for flying over to meet me and apologizing for the fact I did not feel a connection.

It’s not easy to let a guy down. It’s worse knowing the time and expense invested on this occasion. As I pressed the Send button, I tried to channel positive thoughts for Roland, wondering how he’d take another rejection. Being single and in his fifties, he’d no doubt had his share of dead-end dates.

Of course, it didn’t take long to turn the focus on me. It feels awful to let another eligible man slip away. Most of us who are still in limbo, single and searching, have to draw on our resilience to rebound and look forward to another opportunity Somewhere Out There in Fievel-land.  I am not feeling resilient at the moment. After dozens upon dozens of mediocre first dates, hope fades.

Gone are the days when I feel each bad date takes me one step closer to finding the right guy. Instead, it seems like I am drifting farther and farther away. Dud dates are the norm.

Will mutual like/lust/love ever return? Will I have a chance to feel something like butterflies again? Will I have a chance to hug again and not want to let go?

Is it indeed possible that all the good ones really are taken?

What will it take to break the cycle of mismatch after mismatch? I wonder what joy people get out of a house full of cats. Do they all pounce on your head in the middle of the night or have I just had the misfortune of cat-sitting psycho kitties? How many cats will it take before my neighbors stage an intervention? I’m really not a cat person, but in the wake of another non-starter date, a kitty connection seems more likely than being a relationship with a man. I am sure I can Google how to clean a litter box.

I’ll feel better in a day or two. I can be resilient. I still have that “ha, ha, ha”, “he, he, he”, “LOL” guy who messaged me. There’s a good chance he’ll think I am funny. Maybe it’s best to go in with low expectations.

Monday, September 9, 2013

THE TRAVELING SHOW--Part 2

My date with the Victoria doctor seemed up in the air. Or, more precisely, it was not in the air, with fog grounding his flight. Still, I refused to let distance and weather take away the opportunity to meet a fine man.

I willed the fog away.

And so we met, two and a half hours later than initially planned. As the plane approached the dock, I tried to act casual in meeting my doc. I fought to suppress a sudden image from “Fantasy Island”. Why did I immediately connect to the role of Tatttoo, instead of Mr. Roarke? “Ða plane, da plane!” On that old TV show, lonely souls retreated to a quiet resort to ultimately find love forty-eight minutes later. Oh, what a fantasy. Here we were fleeing our quiet paradises attempting to find love (or something like it) in the urban jungle.

As so often happens, reality hit within seconds of sighting my date. It was easy to spot one another. He was the only black man disembarking and I was the only guy with a schnauzer at his feet. Roland walked through the Arrivals gate and the date was DOA.

No attraction.

Damn.

I skipped both hug and handshake, opting for a simple “Hi” instead. Roland smiled, I smiled. Everything was perfectly civil.

Initially Roland had arranged his flights to allow a six-hour visit. I’d tried to be tactful in reply, saying that seemed too long for a first meeting. He dutifully booked an earlier return flight, still leaving almost four hours. I figured we could walk around Stanley Park. Two, three times. Let the dog stop and mark every tree in sight.

The flight delays proved to be a blessing, cutting our time to allow a quick lunch and nothing more. As I drove toward a vegan place I’d discovered in Kitsilano—why not make the most out of this?—he disclosed that he was 54, not 45. “You can take me right back to the terminal if that offends you.” Perplexing, but not offensive. “Guys my age are out of shape,” he continued. “And no one will look at me online if I provide my real age.”

In that moment, my date went from being a no-go to a downer. My fifties are just around the corner. Would even the bad dates dry up? Would I recognize Mr. Last Chance before it’s too late?! Fifty is still thirteen months away. This is my biological clock ticking.

I paid for lunch. It was the least I could do since he’d gone through the expense of flying to meet me and I’d picked a restaurant that he probably didn’t like one bit. He was still in the pleasing mode, telling me the food was “really great” and he’d love to come back again. That’s when it dawned on me that the disinterest wasn’t mutual.

Double damn.

I was perfectly cordial throughout, but the conversation didn’t flow. I close off when I know things aren’t going anywhere. Why invest? Why provide any sort of mixed signals?

In a sense, I was relieved as Roland mentioned a number of things that are clear turn-offs to me. It’s not important to go into details. The point is that this was no longer about a lack of physical attraction. Personality-wise, he wasn’t my type either. Would I have overlooked things if he were Dr. McSteamy? Campaigned for a second date? I’d like to think not, but that’s admittedly an easy thought when McSteamy is a mere hypothetical.

I played the role of timekeeper, intent on getting him on the 5:00 flight and catching my 5:50 ferry. As I drove, he said, “I’d really like to do this again. Would you be up for it?”

Just when I needed an urgent traffic situation to pretend to require all my focus, Vancouver traffic never flowed so smoothly along Burrard Street. I pride myself in always being honest, but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t glance at the man in the passenger seat and say, “I don’t feel a connection. Sorry.”

I went with a gutless, watered down assent, something like, “I suppose that could be a possibility. It is a lot of travel though.”

From his grin, he took that as a clear yes. I pulled into the drop off zone, gave him an awkward hug while still strapped in the driver’s seat and wished him a nice flight home. As he exited, he said something complimentary about my online photos not lying. He grinned again and was gone.

Driving away, I failed to wave or look back. That final grin lingered. I knew it. I’d felt it before and even flashed it a time or two, the gleeful expression on someone anticipating good things to come. I was wracked with guilt. For the flight home at least, he’d be thinking about our second date. I should have been completely honest. Better yet, I should have done something blatantly buffoonish so he’d not think a second about a second. I was raised too well.

And triple damn.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

THE TRAVELING SHOW--Part 1

“I’ve never done this before.” It’s rare for a middle-aged man to say that about anything, but I believed him.

When it comes to dating, I am usually the one with the more extraordinary journey, heading out of the house hours before the agreed upon time and schlepping over to Vancouver via ferry and car. But this time Roland had me beat. He was flying in.

When Roland first messaged me on Plenty of Fish, I was immediately skeptical. I replied by saying I was a ferry ride away from Vancouver and two ferries away from his home on Vancouver Island. But rather than going to fade out, Roland responded by suggesting we meet in Vancouver, a halfway point of sorts—I’d go the familiar ferry route while he planned to arrive by float plane.

Well, okay. I must admit that the set-up sounded romantic. I pictured us as one of those older couples in the vignettes of “When Harry Met Sally.”  He came by plane, I came by boat. What’s a little distance?

But, of course, that is getting several decades ahead of myself. We still had to get through the first date.

I had reason to be optimistic. At the very least, Roland had impeccable timing. His initial message came right after I stumbled upon my adorable and definitely taken family doctor on a trip to Whistler. The encounter had thrown me into a fit of envy and a whiny state of unfulfilled entitlement. Why can’t I find me a gentle, hunky doctor?

Roland just so happened to be a doctor. More importantly, he’d written a thoughtful profile and was articulate in his messages. (By contrast, another would-be suitor who first messaged me within five minutes of Roland, ends every run-on sentence with “he he he”, “ha, ha, ha” or a should-be-forever-banned-from-all-discourse “LOL.”)

Our date was supposed to be a week ago, but Roland cancelled when friends from Calgary showed up. At the time my mind naturally went to “The Brady Bunch”. Remember that episode when Greg advised Marcia to back out of a date by saying, “Something suddenly came up”? No?! Am I the only one whose childhood was shaped by syndicated sitcoms? Such a shame...

The week’s delay gave me too much time to think. As much as I repressed our “When Harry Met Sally” cameo, I couldn’t help but entertain the idea of dating a doctor in Victoria. He’d fly to me, I’d fly to him. Would they allow my dog on the float plane? I barely held it together aboard large aircraft; how would I handle being on a wobbly toy plane? Every dream has a little turbulence.

I checked my messages when I woke up, bracing for another something suddenly coming up. Nothing. The date was on.

I took an early ferry in so I could meet up with my friend Ron at a farmers’ market. As much as Ron and I have in common, I don’t talk to him about dating. He is completely indifferent on the subject. In the eighteen years I’ve known him, he has never been in a relationship, has never groused about men or pined for a date. As far as I can tell, his one true love is sushi. So when I casually told him what I was doing later on, I was taken aback by his enthusiasm. “Oh, that’s great! A doctor! From Victoria!” And that’s when it became clear that, while I was excited about a guy, he was more enthused about a dead queen. “It’s perfect! I can come visit you guys! Victoria!” Fortunately, Ron’s mind (and stomach) drifted to other matters. On the ride back to Ron’s, he downed an entire bag of fresh cherry tomatoes. “These are the sweetest tomatoes I’ve ever had! I have to go back for more. They’re amazing! This is the highlight of my week!” That’s when it dawned on me that Ron was cheating on sushi.

Distraction over, I headed to the float plane terminal. Long-range visions were replaced by imagining our first moment. What should I say? Would a handshake be too formal? A hug too friendly? Coffee dates were so much easier. I always arrived early, got my coffee and settled in a booth.

As I idled at a traffic light, my phone rang. The screen displayed a Victoria number. Roland called to say his flight was delayed due to fog in Victoria. Subsequent calls and texts kept me apprised of further delays and cancellations. Finally, he texted, “Should I give up?”

Where’s the romance in that? I let him know that my dog and I were content sitting at Kits Beach, with me starting a new book and the pooch enjoying some prime butt sniffing. Fog schmog. This was one medical appointment I would will to happen.

Monday, September 2, 2013

ALWAYS FIVE, NOT FOUR

Okay, I’m obsessing now. I’d love to blog about something else—anything else—but today ‘s post is an attempt to clear my head. Not that it will work, but I can say I tried. It is safer to share in the virtual world. You, potential reader, can quickly click over to something more interesting—perhaps a YouTube video with crazy cats on catnip, an impassioned defense of Miley’s right to twerk or a how-to article on filing down the corns on your feet. Yes, there is so much competition for your time on the internet. I just need to purge myself of a weighty issue, namely, my weight.

To be clear, I am not a candidate for “The Biggest Loser” or some other televised humiliation approach to dieting. In fact, fully clothed, most people would think I am trim. But I have five pesky pounds to shed and, like unwelcome houseguests, they won’t take the cue from my looks of contempt and disgust and leave.

Oh, how I hate my five hangers on! They have led me to an existence of non-fat/low-fat flavor-lite meals and six workouts a week. Nothing I do gets them to scram once and for all (or even for one blessed day).

Every summer I have to up the effort to trim the gut and every summer I have succeeded. Until now. A month away from 49, I fear that my body is changing. There are a few men with super slim physiques that are part of their DNA, but most men acquire Permabelly of some size once middle age hits. I don’t hear men talk about it. They continue to sit shirtless in summer chairs, swigging from a six-pack and downing Doritos while dreaming about the thick slabs of steak that will sizzle on the barbecue in a matter of hours. (I cannot relate to anything in the previous sentence.) I cannot stomach the notion of Forever Flab. It is simply not an option.

Part of it has to do with being single. Many of us let go a bit when we’re settled into a relationship. He loves me for my mind, not my midriff. Yes, I can recall a time when I was partnered and I had ten—maybe eleven—extra pounds to shed. How repulsive! It is hard to fathom. Five is plenty.

Not that I know it is five. That’s just what I’m going with. I never weigh myself. I went through years of trying to add muscle and then panicking over the increase on the scales, only to resort to radical dieting, thus losing all muscle I’d sought to gain. When you struggle with body image as much as I do, the mind lacks any sense of logic. I now go with what I see in the mirror rather than what shows on the scales. And what I see is a stomach making a spot-on impersonation of Jell-O.

I don’t just see it; I feel it. As I write this, I know it is there. My gut doesn’t have the grace to hang tight. It sits over my waistline, even on the shorts that I bought two sizes larger than I ever wanted. The larger size was supposed to keep things in check, create a laissez faire scenario as I grab a belt to prevent the saggy look.

As a single guy, first impressions matter. I cannot attract a man with amusing anecdotes about the life of Miley or insightful analysis of matters in the Middle East if he is distracted—repulsed—by my belly. And, more to the point, I cannot confidently interact with a desirable single gay man (should one ever surface in my present Never-land) as long as I am repulsed by my belly.

Sometimes it takes repulsion to get a person to take action. That would be great if I weren’t already working furiously to trim the fat. (Okay, I suppose I should have done without Saturday night’s pint of Ben & Jerry’s, my once a month indulgence of my favorite food.) I will carry on with the extended workouts and continue feasting on non-fat cottage cheese each and every freakin’ lunch. I shall continue to deceive myself into thinking that spooning a cup of frozen apple juice is almost as pleasurable a dessert as Cherry Garcia. And I shall hope upon hope that in the days, weeks (months?!) to come I will finally clear the five-pound hurdle. I need to know that it is still possible.