Saturday, April 30, 2016

The enigmatic bolster pillow

"So are you going to come out to your mother on this trip?" I ask boyfriend K last month.

We're about to embark on a month long holiday to Asia :-). The plan is to visit several countries, including a couple of weeks in boyfriend K's home country. And as part of the itinerary in boyfriend K's home country, we'll be spending some time with his family.

"Of course not!" answers boyfriend K, with a very defensive tone in his voice.

"Each time I meet your mother, and each time she sees us spending time together, I get even more convinced that she knows anyway," I say, trying to make it seem like less of a hurdle for him.

"Well she doesn't know," replies boyfriend K with a firm tone in his voice. "As you know, I've told my sister, but that's as far as I need to go."

"How can you be so sure that your mother doesn't know?" I ask, as usual feeling slightly perplexed by his certainty on this subject, "she's a smart woman."

"Oh just leave me alone!"

I decide to leave him alone.

I know that coming out as gay to one's family is a very difficult topic for Asian guys. Often it boils down to the fact that they don't want to disappoint their families. However, two of boyfriend K's gay male friends from his home country have managed to come out to their mothers. And in various conversations, they've both told me and boyfriend K that their families accepted the news, and that their lives have been much easier since they came out.

A week later, just after the start of the holiday, and there are eight of us having dinner in a smart Asian-European fusion restaurant in the city where we're staying for a few days. However, the only women at the table are boyfriend K's mother and his sister. In addition to me and boyfriend K, there's boyfriend K's brother, another gay male couple called M and D, and also a single gay man. To my eyes, M and D are quite obviously gay and a quite obviously a couple.

"So how long have you and boyfriend K been together now?" asks M during the meal, oblivious to the fact that boyfriend K's family aren't meant to know that he's gay.

"It'll soon be two and a half years :-)," I answer, glancing sideways at boyfriend K to see whether he's worried about his family overhearing this conversation. But he seems unperturbed. I know why. He's just as convinced that his mother and brother speak no English as he is that they have no idea about his sexuality!

After dinner, I end up chatting a bit to M, out of earshot of the others.

"Did you know that boyfriend K doesn't want his mother or brother to know that he's gay?" I ask.

"What??" replies M, sounding completely amazed, "Of course she knows."

"Mothers always know!" he adds, nodding his head knowingly.

"Well, I tend to agree. Boyfriend K has been in denial about this ever since I've known him."

"Actually, you're very lucky," says M, changing the subject slightly, "because she's warm towards you :-). As you know, I've had various Asian boyfriends. Sometimes I've not even been allowed to meet their mothers."

"I know the feeling," I say, "because I was never allowed to meet ex-boyfriend T's family. In fact, I wasn't even allowed to meet any of his friends :-(".

"Well with one of my ex boyfriends, I sometimes used to meet his mother, and she was always quite cold towards me. But I can see that things are fine for you, with boyfriend K's mother :-)."

A few days later and me and boyfriend K are spending a night in his mother's house, before flying off in the morning to the next country in our itinerary. We're always given the same bedroom whenever we stay in his mother's house, and when I walk into the room, the usual scene greets me. There's a double bed, and dividing the bed into two halves is a bolster pillow:

But this time, I start to wonder what the enigmatic bed bolster signifies. After all, would boyfriend K's mother leave a bolster down the middle of the bed if we were a straight couple? After mulling the situation over in my mind for a while, I decide that there are three interesting possibilities:
  1. I'm wrong and boyfriend K's mother doesn't know that we're a gay couple, or at least she's not sure. So the bolster is to prevent two straight guys from being embarrassed when they share a bed together.
  2. I'm right and boyfriend K's mother does know that we're a gay couple, but she wants to send us a message that she doesn't like the idea of amorous gay activities taking place in her house.
  3. I'm right and boyfriend K's mother does know that we're a gay couple, but she knows that her son thinks that she doesn't know, and she wants to go along with the charade to avoid any difficult moments.
There is of course a fourth possibility, namely that the bed has that bolster on it just because it always does, in which case there's no enigma after all :-(. However, I prefer to think that my third possibility is the truth :-). Boyfriend K's mother was a business woman when she was younger, so there's no doubt that she's very smart.

Looking to the future, it's possible that boyfriend K's mother will make a trip to visit us in London this summer. If so, she'll see that there's no bolster pillow on our bed. I'll also suggest that boyfriend K's mother meets some of my family while she's in the UK. Although I'd much prefer boyfriend K to come out to his family, I'm also mildly curious to see how absurd the situation can become!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

London 2016 Gay Film Festival

Every spring for about two weeks, the British Film Institute puts on a film festival where all the films have a gay, or more precisely a LGBT theme. For some reason they've started calling this film festival Flare, but the nature of the films they show hasn't changed. My blogger friend Close Encounters often invites me to go with him to see a few of the films, and this year I went with him on three occasions and saw:*** plot spoilers follow! ***

Without doubt I enjoyed the full length film Beautiful Something :-). It was a bit dull to start with, with a broke guy going to a quiet gay bar, picking up a guy, going back to his place for activities, nothing special. But one once gets past the first 20 mintues or so and one gets to know the characters, it becomes a great film :-). At the film festival, the director was there to answer some questions after the screening that we saw, and it turns out that a lot of it is based on his own experiences.

The first collection of short films was pretty good too :-). Although I didn't care at all for the first film which was called The love archive, the next one called Dinner with Jeffrey was mildly amusing. In Dinner with Jeffrey a young gay guy has dinner with his gay uncle, ends up in bed with a young male friend of the uncle, with an amusing catch at the end! More interesting was Discretion, where a university professor (aged about 40, married to another man) ends up indulging in activities with one of his young male students. He feels terribly guilty about it afterwards, but should he confess to his husband?

However the collection of six short films that we saw were, on average, much lower quality. They're probably more the sort of thing that one expects to see at a film festival, namely films of relatively little merit that would never see the light of day if it wasn't for film festivals! This was the last thing that I saw with Close Encounters, and afterwards we end up discussing some of them.

"I didn't see the point of some of some of those films," I say, trying to convey my overall view that on average these six short films weren't very good.

"I didn't think they were that bad!" replies Close Encounters, sounding genuinely upbeat about what he'd just seen.

"How would you rate them," he continues, "using a scale of 1 to 10 like does?"

"Perhaps 3/10 for the first film Mother knows best," I start …

"Oh come on," interrupts Close Encounters, "it was better than that :-). I thought that it raised some interesting issues. The parents of the young gay guy were presumably divorced. Gay men are often closer to their mothers than their fathers, so why did the gay guy in the film get on so much better with his father?"

"Well perhaps it was an interesting situation," I answer, "but we didn't really get to see any of it because the whole film is just a single conversation with the mother."

"And honestly," I continue, "The guy from work, that gets 1/10 and I'm being generous!"

"No way, it wasn't that bad!" protests Close Encounters, "I'd probably give it a 3 or a 4".

"So what's the lowest rating that you'd ever give?" I ask, wondering whether film ratings are a bit like ratings that get given for fine wines. Wine review web sites like give scores out of 100, and it's absurd to me that the scale seems to start around 50/100 instead of 0/100 or 1/100!

"Sometimes I do actually log into and give ratings," he answers, "and I think I've given just 3/10 on a few occasions."

"But haven't you've been to a lot of film festivals over the years? Haven't you seen 100's if not 1000's of films? On a scale of 1 to 10, an average film should be rated 5, and the worst films that you've seen should get just 1. Otherwise you're not using a scale of 1 to 10 :-)."

"I'd probably give The orchid an 8/10," continues Close Encounters, ignoring my complaints about his rating scale.

"But it was only 3 minutes long!"

"Yes exactly," he replies, "and it was memorable, even though it was such a short film!"

"What about Sauna the dead," I ask, "Obviously a joke name because it sounds like Shaun of the Dead. Perhaps that gets 3 or 4/10 from me. I hate horror films :-(. It's the kind of film that must have been great fun making, but not so much fun to watch!"

"I'm not a fan of horror either, but short horror like that is fine :-)," responds Close Encounters.

"But how can you have a film that's set in a gay sauna, and not even show a single raunchy buttock of any of the cute actors!"

We continue discussing the films for another ten or fifteen minutes, but with other things to do, eventually we have to go our separate ways.

If any other readers saw any of the films in the gay film festival this year, please leave a comment and let me know what you thought. And if you didn't see any of the films, perhaps you should put a note in your diary to visit London during the gay film festival next year :-). Although some of the films seem worthless to me, every year that I've been I've always seen at least one great film!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

29th February

It's 7pm on a Friday evening, and I'm doing a bit of work at home in my study when boyfriend K comes in to ask me a question:

"We don't have any plans this evening, do we?" he queries.

"Not yet," I reply, "but it's only 36 hours until we leave for the skiing trip, so perhaps we should start packing!"

"Well, we've just been invited round to B and C's for dinner :-)".

C is a friend of boyfriend K who lives in a smart apartment quite close to us. He lives there with his boyfriend who's called B, and they've tried inviting us round to dinner twice this year, but so far we've always been busy.

"OK," I reply, smiling at boyfriend K, "we can do that :-). But let's try and avoid getting back too late, because we've also got that party tomorrow afternoon with those old friends of mine."

Boyfriend K has got a great set of friends, and whenever I join any of them and their partners it's always good fun. They always live very much for the moment, but a consequence of that is that occasionally one wakes up the following afternoon with a horrendous hangover wondering what happened!

We arrive at B and C's about 45 minutes later and it turns out to be quite a select gathering. Apart from boyfriend K, me, B, C, there's just one other person, a female friend of both boyfriend K and C who's called Z. I've met Z on a couple of occasions before, but in the past I've never had much of a conversation with her.

"Where's your boyfriend tonight," I ask Z a little later in the evening, after we've had a few glasses of wine.

"He's with some of his friends tonight, at a Jazz club," she answers, "and if you like we could all go and join them later."

"Maybe," I answer cautiously, "but I've got quite a lot to do tomorrow so I may skip it this time."

"I'll come :-)," chips in boyfriend K, "you don’t mind do you, GB?"

"Of course I don't mind," I reply, but we're only half way through the meal so no one is thinking of leaving just yet.

A little later in the evening, Z starts talking to me about her boyfriend.

"You're British, aren't you GB," she starts.

"Uh, yes indeed :-)," I answer, "why do you ask?"

"I've heard that it's a tradition that women can ask men to marry them on 29th February, the one day in the calendar when it's acceptable", she replies, "Is that right?"

"I think I've heard that before, but I don't think it's a very big tradition. Perhaps it's an idea that comes from America, I'm not sure."

"So can I assume that your boyfriend is British and you want to get married to him?" I ask.

"Yes, I feel it's time," she replies, "but I'm scared of what his answer will be."

"How long have you been together?"

"Around 8 years! We're both in our mid-thirties now, so if we don't do it soon, I don't know when we'll get round to it."

Like boyfriend K, Z isn't a native European, so there's one question that I feel I have to ask.

"You don't have a visa problem staying in the UK do you? That can be one reason to get married."

"No, that's not a problem, and neither of us want children at the moment either. But I love him, and I see some of my friend having their big wedding day, and I think why can't I have a wedding too. I just want my day in a nice white dress and a big party :-)."

Z is a lovely looking girl, with a great bubbly personality too, so as far as I can tell any straight guy would be very lucky to have her.

"Well you should just talk to him," I suggest, "I'm not sure that something as artificial as any 29th February tradition is relevant."

"But don't ask directly," I say, "British people are a bit like the Japanese. Indirect is always much better!"

"How do you mean?" she asks.

"OK, how about this. Say to him something like 'Have you ever thought that one day, I *might* like to get married to you?'"

"That doesn't say you want to get married or you don't want to get married. It just asks him whether he's thinking about it, and whether he's thinking about what you *might* want, at some point in the future!"

"In fact," I continue, "he can't really answer 'yes' or 'no' to that question. 'No' would be a terrible answer because it means that he doesn't think about what you want. And 'Yes' is a ridiculous answer, because from what you've said, he doesn't ever talk about it! But of course, he's not going to give a direct answer to an indirect question anyway :-)."

"All that might be a bit too clever for me, GB," she replies eventually, "but I do see what you mean."

The conversation gradually moves onto other topics, and by the time that boyfriend K, Z and C start to think about moving to the jazz club, it turns out that Z's boyfriend has already left. So a little later, we thank our hosts for all their hospitality and make our way home. Around 1am I climb into bed with boyfriend K, and with our naked bodies touching each other, we fall asleep.

The next day, a bit of research on google suggests that it's an Irish tradition that women can propose to men on 29th February. I don't know what Z is going to do about trying to get a wedding out of her boyfriend, and whether she'll try talking to him on 29th February, but I hope she succeeds in the end. Any excuse for another party sounds good to me :-).

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Email from a guy with an impolite boyfriend

Just before the end of November last year, a reader sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

My boyfriend and I have been together for almost three years.

My boyfriend was, for a year and a half, amazing, wonderful, and essentially the most loving person I have ever met. He was extremely kind, not only to me, but to others, was very positive and charming, and was very open minded. I love this man deeply, and I truly feel honoured to be with him. I know for a fact that he loves me the same, and we would go to extreme lengths to make each other happy.

But for the last year and a half, he has become quite the opposite. He is extremely rude to others (not me, luckily). He purposely walks in the way of others in public to assert his self-defined superiority, causing one older woman to ask him "Are you okay?", with him responding snarkily, "Don't get in my way." He stares at himself in the mirror for very long periods of time, brushes his hair obsessively, and often mentions how beautiful he is. He regularly mentions how he is so financially successful at such a young age, which is true, but then makes it a competition between him and his similarly successful friends. He thinks all of my friends are a waste of resources, since they are mostly following a traditional career path in their respective fields. He buys $2,000+ articles of clothing and apparel not to look good, but to make others who can't afford it feel inadequate. He is cunning, and uses his people skills and good looks to manipulate others to do things for him. He purposely treats people in the service industry poorly so they feel as if they must overcompensate to earn a tip or good rating. He ignores people when spoken to while staring at his finger nails, and often responds to complex questions with overly simplified and off-topic answers to turn the tide of the discussion in his favour. I have spoken to him about all of this.

I know everything I've stated above seems like he is the worst person to ever walk the face of this planet, but he wasn't always this way. He *tells me* that he has always been this way, but from the first year and a half of dating, that is completely untrue. I have confronted him about this by stating that I believe, when he is acting terribly, that I am staring at someone else, and I cannot recognize him. He is very stubborn, and at first, refused to believe me and tried to make it seem like I'm imaging things, but I was so overwhelmed by his idiocy that burst out in tears, and he finally listened. He told me he will try to be more nice, more focused on how to be a better person. He is extremely romantic and tender in these situations, and really kills it as a boyfriend when it comes to caring for me. He loves who I am on the inside and out, and finds me very attractive. He loves my family, and I love his, and we get along wonderfully as best friends. I've seen some improvement in the recent months, but it's more of a 15% improvement than anything else.

Overall, I'm not happy with the current state of relationship, directly due to his bad attitude. Things could be infinitely worse, as in, he could be treating me badly or not love me, or he could be cheating, etc, but he is not, and I shouldn't take anything for granted. However, I still find myself unhappy with him. His bad attitude makes me want to disappear sometimes, or fall asleep and wake up to a time when he was still acting normal. Even his own mother has noticed a severe change in attitude, and told him that she did not raise him to act this way to others.

Finally, he is not going through any trauma or severe change in his life. We talk about his work life, family, friends, and personal well-being all of the time, and he is very comfortable and happy. He is not stressed out, nor is he worried about the future. He is not self-conscious, more so like overly self-confident. I am more of a quiet person, and much more observant and self-aware. We are both very young, as I've already alluded to, and I believe that we both have much to learn. He believes that he knows all that he needs. Despite all of these changes, I still love him deeply.

Thus, I am unsure of how to act on this. I like to address a problem, and solve it. He is having difficulty understanding the problem, or seeing that it exists, making this a particularly difficult situation for me. Do you have any advice? Is there advice?

Thank you for taking the time to read this, I really appreciate it.

I sent him a reply within a day, in which I said that it was very strange for his behaviour to change like that, and that it was obviously real given that his mother had also noticed the change.

It seems to me that the boyfriend has some kind of physiological or even psychiatric problem. I'm not trained in either of those professions, so perhaps the best advice would be to seek the help of someone who is. However, like a lot of people, I find it interesting to think about these kinds of issues.

Based on my own experiences, the amateur psychologist in me would say that this kind of behaviour might be rooted in some feeling of inadequacy that the reader's boyfriend has. Were there any events that occurred a year and a half ago which might have made him feel that he was a failure in some way? Or what event from his distant past might suddenly have resurfaced in his consciousness to give him an inferiority complex?

There's an analogy here with situations where someone feels that they might be gay, but wants hide their feelings, especially from other people. When that happens, the person often becomes become homophobic and anti-gay. Some of the best examples of this can be seen in politicians who support anti-gay policies in an attempt to *prove* their heterosexuality, which makes it all the more embarrassing for them when their gay experiences are discovered. So with the reader's boyfriend, his constant assertion of superiority could be because inside he's feeling inadequate and inferior in some way.

Maslow's pyramidHowever, I'm not sure what the best course of action is for the reader to solve the problem. Perhaps one place to start would be for the reader to discuss this amateur psychological analysis with the boyfriend. And as part of that discussion, it would be good to point out that genuinely successful people always treat people with respect. I'm thinking here of "self-actualized" people at the top of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Also, if the reader's boyfriend is at all religious and in particular if he follows the Catholic faith, it might be worth pointing out to him what an excellent example Pope Francis is setting at the moment. I was brought up as a Christian (protestant not Catholic), and although I don't follow it anymore, I am hugely impressed by what Pope Francis has to say about most issues. His famous line "Who am I to judge?" and now his new book "The name of God is mercy" are a breath of fresh air. However, the reader's boyfriend is taking the opposite approach, because he is judging people and failing to treat them with them with dignity and respect.

I think this is quite a difficult problem to solve, so if any other readers have any insights that might help, I'm sure the reader who sent me the email would appreciate it :-).

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Suggestions for Christmas Charity donations please

Christmas treeI can't believe that Christmas will soon be here! Looking back over the past twelve months, I feel that it's been a good year for me. My relationship with boyfriend K is going well :-), and we've been on quite a few interesting holidays together.

Many years ago now, I agreed with my family that instead of buying each other Christmas presents, we should donate the money to charity instead. And to help with the process, for the last 8 years I've been asking readers for suggestions regarding who do donate money to . This year there's more than £1000 to give away, so as usual, please leave a comment and tell me who you think I should be giving to? The one rule is that because of the way I do my donations, I can only donate to charities that are registered with the UK Charities Commission. I'll make the final decision about who to donate to on Sunday 13th December (or shortly after), so please leave your comments before then. All suggestions welcome :-).

Update 22-Dec-2015: charity donation result.

I've finally got around to making my donations for this year, about a week later than originally planned. But the good news is that I was able to give away more than I had anticipated :-).

Over the years, whenever Kenski has left a comment on my blog, it's always been useful and insightful. So it was no surprise to me that all his charity suggestions seemed very sensible. Consequently I gave £200 to Food Cycle (registered charity number 1134423), £200 to Food Chain (registered charity number 1003014), and £100 to the Ministry of Stories (registered charity number 1138553).

As I said in a comment, the video that the commenter "P" mentioned led me to a web site called Give Well. Unfortunately though, it turns out to be quite American in focus, so a lot of it's suggestions aren't registered charities in the UK. But it did suggest the Against Malaria Foundation which does have charity status in the UK (registered charity number 1105319), so I gave them £500. Another commenter suggested a Shelter (registered charity number 263710), which is a charity for homeless people. For many years I gave to a charity called Crisis which has similar goals, but I have no reason to favour Crisis over Shelter so I gave Shelter £300.

Finally, I gave some money to a couple of my old favourites. As I said last year, I come from a medical family, so I gave £500 to Médecins Sans Frontières (Charity number 1026588). And lastly I supported GMFA (charity number 1076854) again with a donation of £200.

Anyway, a very Happy Christmas to all my readers, wherever you are. Have a good one! GB xxx