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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sex, Television, and Avoiding the Middle-Age Body Slide

There was an Australian study that came out recently that claims that for every one hour of television a person watches they lose 22 minutes of their life expectancy. The study included 11,000 people who spent an average of 6 hours in front of the boob tube a day. Contributing factors sited were the mindless eating that accompanies heavy TV viewing and the lack of physical activity involved. It was concluded that those who habitually watch a significant amount of television programming run greater risk for obesity and chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

There was also a Harvard study that found that watching television two hours per day puts one at risk for developing type 2 diabetes; increasing one’s risk by 20 percent. It also increases one’s chances of developing heart disease by 15 percent. More than three hours of TV? You increase your risk of death across all diseases.

At the most, I watch three hours of television a day. That’s not an average. It’s just the most time my ass can stand sitting on the couch. I would say, overall, I am more like two hours a day – which is still quite embarrassing. Though it should be noted that during commercials I frequently get up and do housework, cook, or do laundry.

In light of the findings above, I’ve decided to bring up a yoga mat and a pair of dumbbells and put them in my living room. I plan on doing crunches and lifting a bit during commercials in order to combat the sedentary aspects of television viewing.

Not sure how to combat the mindless eating part. For, you see, I recently discovered that my blender is not just for fruit and fruit juice. I have been making things like pesto, salsa, and guacamole. I love it because it tastes so fresh. It also takes very little skill. It’s pretty fool-proof stuff, as in, whatever I happen to have on hand seems to do the trick. Last night, I made guacamole: an avocado, a couple of peppers someone gave me at work, some black olives, half a tomato and a little orange juice to get the whole thing spinning. The peppers were much stronger than I had anticipated, but it was still delicious and I ate about 3/4ths of what I had prepared with natural tortilla chips I heated in my little countertop toaster oven. Okay, so maybe not that healthy a snack and maybe I over ate a bit, but it tasted so good.

Point is, if I work on portion control, maybe this type of eating won’t have too much of an impact on my physical self, especially if I start off-setting it by pumping a little iron during commercials. Granted, it would probably be best if I simply left the television off and went outside, but with winter coming – I ‘m thinking that’s not gonna be happening except when it’s time to shovel..

The reason this television study caught my eye was because I have been thinking a lot lately about why it is that as we get older we start caring about our bodies less. Is it an act of surrender? Do we just give up? Or is it the logical outcome of what takes place because of the aging process? When we’re young we don’t necessarily think about our bodies – because they pretty much takes care of themselves. Once our metabolism and hormonal balances shift after age 35, because we are in the habit of taking our body’s resilience for granted, maybe we just never change our habits and slide quietly and stealthily into obesity and slovenliness.

I was talking to this guy I have known on and off for the past 5 years. We both share a similar taste for sex outdoors and anonymous encounters in general. He’s short and cute. And aging. In fact, yesterday, when I saw him at one of my usual haunts, he looked a little older than usual. Oh, his face still has its boyish charm, despite the day’s growth of graying stubble he chose to wear on his particular outing. But one of the reasons he’s kept those boyish looks is because he is also gaining just the slightest bit of weight and allowing his flesh to go soft. He commented on what good shape I was in – which made me question why he would think I was in that great of shape. I’m not. I’m okay, but nothing to comment on. That’s what got me looking at what he’s allowing himself to fall into – the middle-age body slide.

He asked what I do to keep in shape and I told him about zumba, my step classes, and my current work out regime. He told me about his adventures at the YMCA in his youth and the ethical conflicts involved when talking with a sixteen year old on Grindr. Huh? I was a little appalled (about the sixteen year old), but then ethics is not exactly the dude’s strong suit. He’s married and has children and, yes, I need to start avoiding him. I walked away wondering just when he was going to start paying attention to his body and get some common sense.

I judge, because I do believe I’m starting to slowly gain some common sense. Last weekend I decided I would start avoiding going on-line to hook up for sex. It is such a dehumanizing experience and even when I do happen to land a fish, I am usually disappointed in the quality of the sex. Not to mention all the time it takes. I mean, yes, sometimes you luck out and hook-up with the first strike, but in general you are looking at three to four hours with no guarantee of a pay off. I could do something better with my time… like watch television!

Or take care of my body.

When I began considering giving up sites like bbrts, Manhunt, and Adam4Adam, and avoiding the places where I habitually run into people like the guy I mentioned earlier, I also had to question my motivation for working out and taking care of my body. And by taking care of my body – I mean eating right, keeping my consumption of alcohol to a minimum, along with trimming fur, maintaining skin integrity, etc. It made me realize I need a new motivation. Sex can’t be it anymore… because I need to find validation for myself in a different way.

I am of a certain age. Sex is not what it was, because I’m not landing the hotties by accident the way I used to. I know this is true because recently a black dude on Adam4Adam told me, after seeing more pics of me than I had on my profile, that I wasn’t his type. Now this black dude was ten years my junior, but he was not that good looking and also, his mid section had a tiny pouch. I thought I was being generous by overlooking the little Buddha belly in the making he had going on, only to learn that I wasn’t his type – translation – I’m too old and ugly. Well, I can’t argue with the ugly part – but my bod looks damn good for my age, and certainly much, much better than his sagging ass. So, obviously, I walked away feeling a little wounded and bothered. Yes, it is well within his right to say no – I take no. But it had been yes up until he saw more of my pics. See, initially it was he who had been pursuing me. So was this some mind game he was playing? Or truly a case of – after having done further research, changing one’s mind?

What did I walk away with? One – I need to not put so much value in the opinion of people I encounter on-line. I mean, if that was his best picture – the one with the little pouch, then imagine what he probably looks like in person! And two: I need to stop seeking validation via the internet and hook-ups in general. I need a new focus. I need some new motivation. I need to meet better quality individuals.

As far as taking care of my body and working out? I’ve decided I just need to please myself (and my standards are pretty high when it comes to me). I need to stop thinking in terms of what others think or what kind of attention having a fit looking body might get me. Not only is it time to start turning them down, it is also time to maintain that which they ain’t getting! As in – see this? Not for you, boo!

Yeah, I know – I’m all over the map with this, but I really do feel rather hopeful for the first time regarding my sexual addiction. I see the sex I have been having for what it is – the wrong kind of validation. Empty and meaningless sex leaves you feeling empty and without purpose. Constantly basing my self-esteem on the type of encounters I have been pursuing is a lot like an endless road trip where the destination ends up not worth the drive. In any event, I have this pure sense that I am in the process of changing again.

This summer? Not one of my favorites. I gave up Twin Lake and the prairie early in the season because they mowed it all down and have begun to blacktop all the dirt roads. They also cleared out all the wonderful shrubbery on the hill that leads down to the lake. It looks so manicured and depressing. No more wild woods. So, time to adapt. Like all wildlife, the cruising gay must adapt to their changing habitat or perish. This cruising gay? Is going to curtail the bulk of his cruising. It will mean finding something else to do with my time… other than watching television.

So in light of the changes at Twin Lakes and the prairie, I hung out at one of my other cruising spots, deciding to sun where no one else suns. I developed a new habit of going there, and had some fun, but also a lot of not-so-fun encounters. In fact, I probably walked away in the midst of fooling around more this year than any other. Usually I like to see it to the end, but all too frequently, I could tell within five minutes of getting busy that sticking around for the ending wasn’t going to be worth the effort. In fact, I noticed that I’d begun to focus on how much work I had to put in to get a dude off, rather than enjoying the experience – which I think is a sign when something ceases to be fun and becomes work. Since I’m not getting paid for it… what’s in it for me? I’d rather get my tan on. Or watch television.

Going forward… I have a few buds I will try to stay in contact with or not… not sure. And there’s always Friday nights at the warehouse. But, hmmm. The STD thing makes that problematic. Maybe I need to take my act to a different venue altogether. I know I don’t want to do the bar scene and I don’t want to be a politically active gay or a gay chorus member, or do theatre. I don’t see myself on a volleyball team or a baseball team. Volunteer work? Ummm… there’s that word again: work. And I do a lot of volunteer work via my job and the church, so spiritually or karma-wise I got that covered.

So what does that leave? NO. I am not dating. Ugh. Kill me if I ever try to date again – that is so… not me.

So now what? Well, I plan on concentrating on this little writing project I’ve been working on since May. If nothing else, it’s good brain exercise. Nothing will probably come of it, but I am trying not to be tied to outcomes. I just want to see if I’m disciplined enough to finish it. I’m at the halfway point. So, we’ll see.

I could concentrate on cultivating my non-sexual relationships. I have friends. I just never see them. Recently I did make a real effort to change that and ended up spending a few evenings with a couple that I haven’t seen for two years – we had dinner, shopped and hit the bars. I also have my family to consider.

And my remaining dog. She needs a lot of attention. More on that at a later date.

So, it’s not like I don’t have places to put my energy. I have even taken my second bedroom and converted it back into my music room. Maybe I’ll start writing music again, who knows?

But I don’t think you’ll see me in chat rooms for awhile. Or cruising on-line or in the parks. See – I recognize when the pay-off is no longer there for me and value myself enough to know when I need to find a new outlet.

That’s hopeful… right? That’s common sense. Like not over-eating or watching too much television and avoiding the middle-age body slide.

Well, wish me luck!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

The Great Minnesota Homophobic Get Together: The Fair That is Unfair

This week I went to the Minnesota State Fair – not once, but twice! I had a great time, doing the exact same things I do every year: checking out the questionable art, the dogs on display at the Pet Center, the flower arrangements, the baby animals at The Miracle of Birth Center, the Swine Barn and the Cow Barn (and the peepholes in the mens rooms of both). I love it all.

I know a lot of people go for the food, but that is such a small part of it for me. I did take some risks this year with what I ate and was pleasantly (excellent soft serve ice cream at the Dairy Building) and not-so-pleasantly (Australian Potatoes, a bad Falafel Pita) surprised. Best thing: a Papa Dog – a foot long corn dog by the Pronto Pup people – excellent and well worth the price.

Yes, I was having a good time. And then… on my second day, as I was floating above the throngs via the Sky Glider, my eyes fell upon something that made my heart sink: a booth promoting Minnesota for Marriage – the anti-gay group that plans on getting a constitutional amendment passed that will ban gay marriage in Minnesota.

I’d seen their booth in front of a church a few blocks away from the fairgrounds, but did not realize they’d also been invited to the party. It ruined my day and I cut my second visit short. Had I seen it on my first day, I doubt I would have come back for the second.

Do I think we should have conversations about banning gay marriage in Minnesota? – Absolutely. I would love to understand just what is so terrifying about two men or two women committing themselves to each other and how supporting such an institution threatens what is currently defined as marriage. Given the divorce rate, it’s not like heterosexuals have treated marriage like the sacred cow they now want to make it out to be. That conversation? I would love to have, but not at the State Fair. Not amidst the Dairy Queens, the cheese curds, and the lights of the Midway.

So, I’m pissed. And not sure what to do about it.

Yes, I realize that there is plenty that is political about the Great Minnesota Get Together. We have all the political parties that can afford to be represented. We have candidates running for or in office with their own booths. But in this setting, that sort of partisan bullshit is just par for the course – part of the old-fashioned flim-flam showmanship that is the fair. I also realize that there are a number of religious organizations present on the state fair grounds. While I was more than a little uncomfortable walking by a card table outside a new evangelical hall designated as a ‘prayer table’, staffed with an eager believer ready to shout the demon out of you if you so chose, I am more than happy to allow them room at the table. The nice thing is, you can avoid those institutions by keeping your head down and walking quickly by.

So why does the presence of Minnesota for Marriage go against my grain?

Because gays don’t get to have an official day at the fair - like other groups of people. Yes, we do, have a day at the fair, but it is unofficial and communicated in the community via underground messenger pigeons. We don’t have an official day, because that would create controversy. We politely understand and accept that – The Minnesota State Fair is not about controversy. Right?

So… where do the get off allowing Minnesota for Marriage a booth?

Surely they realize that hosting what is essentially an anti-gay group (despite what they would have us believe) on the fairgrounds opens the event to some pretty sensitive and divisive waters. I remember all too well the days when church groups were allowed to hand out free mini-comics intent on brainwashing impressionable youth as to the dangers of homosexuality, sexual freedom and abortion. At the time, I thought the graphics were cool and kind of got off on some of the language – actually rubbing one off to them on occasion – probably not what they had intended. However their depictions of homosexuals as demonic child eaters did keep me in the closet way past my expiration date. Thankfully, those groups either disappeared or weren’t invited back once the world became a little more PC and in touch with the realities of life. For now, those little comic books have become a thing of the past - which is where they belong – and have gone the way of the sad, dead whale in a refrigerator truck that used to sit outside the midway and minstrel shows.

But that’s not necessarily where that kind of thinking will remain. Allowing Minnesota for Marriage their platform opens the gates to anti-abortion rights groups and hate groups of all kinds. Because if you allow one controversial group in, I guarantee you that more will come a-knocking.

Hopefully those in charge know enough not to let them in. But then we live in a world where Michele Bachmann is running for President, so don’t hold your breath or assume that common sense will win out.

So what should I do? Well, get involved for one. I do plan on doing my part to see that the constitutional amendment proposed never sees the light of day. I will also probably breakdown and contact the people at the fair to voice my opinion – not that it will actually accomplish anything, but maybe my voice will not be the only one casting doubt on whether such a group should be invited back.

But that is what will determine if I go back next year. The idea that the fair can’t be part of my life kind of makes me sad – it has long marked the end of summer for me, something I truly dread, and have long compensated for it’s passing by distracting myself with the glitz and nostalgia that is the state fair.

But I won’t support something that supports bigotry.

Like it isn’t already bad enough they had Toby Keith at the grandstand this year.