Friday, June 27, 2014

GB featured in Evening Standard Magazine :-)

A few years ago, I did a phone interview for a journalist who worked for London's Time Out Magazine. The result was that I was one of the bloggers who was featured in an article called "The Sex Diaries".

History has now repeated itself, but this time it's the turn of London's Evening Standard Magazine! Today's issue contains an article called "Sex on file" and one of the bloggers who gets a mention is me :-). They've taken an extract from quite an old article (Black tie), and although it might have been better if they'd used something a bit more recent, it's nice to get a mention :-).

Email about relationships and fear of intimacy

Last month, a reader sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

We've communicated a few times, and I appreciate your insights in relationships, gay male interactions, and other issues.

Anyway, so I've been out to friends since I was 15, and I'm now 20. Throughout this period, I haven't come out to my family, and I'm not likely to do so anytime soon since I come from a very conservative Muslim family. I've dated a few guys, and slept around a lot, but never really had a relationship. There were 2 attempts lasting more than a month, both of which failed dismally because I never invested in them so I ended up cheating, not caring about the other party, and leaving the first chance I got. I suspect that those 'relationships' even lasted longer than a month, 4 months with one and slightly over a month for the other, because I knew they wouldn't lead to anything. In the instances that I've actually connected with a guy, I've managed to push him away much much faster, and with such skill :). There's usually a lot of pressure and, simultaneously, I end up feeling inadequate, plus feeling that I'm being conned somehow, and setting out to ruin his opinion of me, besides finding fault with everything about him (too short, too tall, too smart, too good-looking, too considerate, etc.). I've been told that this constitutes a fear of intimacy, the causes of which I'm not sure of. Thing is, I actually do want to be in a relationship. I'm not desperate or anything; I do quite well alone cause of less drama and insecurities to confront, but I also realize that my current situation may be unhealthy and detrimental to future happiness. I know you're not a mental health specialist so I'm not asking for a diagnosis and a prescription, but I would greatly appreciate your opinion and suggestions, including how to handle future cases with potentials, and maybe a few anecdotes of how you've dealt with such issues.

Kind regards,

I didn't recognise the name that he put at the bottom of the email, or the email address, so I sent him a reply in which I asked him when we'd communicated in the past. In the email, I also included the following thoughts about his problem:

In terms of mental health specialists, one thing that occurs to me is that you've made your own diagnosis. I think that's a very good sign for you :-). I can tell from your email that you're a smart guy, and in these situations working out where the problem lies is more than half of the battle to sorting yourself out.

Another thought is that you should try and build your self-esteem. The fact that you say that you feel inadequate suggests that your self-esteem could be better. I know that some guys with low self-esteem sabotage their relationships because they don't feel worthy of having a nice boyfriend.

Within a day the reader had sent me his response, in which he told me that I'd done a couple of "Dear GB" posts for him in the past. The first post was in 2011 with the title Email from a frustrated young gay guy. Looking back at that email confirmed to me what I thought from reading his latest email, namely that he's a smart guy, because that old email was very well written and entertaining. The second "Dear GB" post, with the title Email about Asian-discrimination and penis size was also very well written, and in terms of the number of comments it received, it was a very successful post for this blog.

Once cause for concern is the change of tone that's evident between this reader's first email and the email that he sent me last month. The first email had a happy-go-lucky feel about it, the second email contained some disillusionment, whereas his last email is saying that things aren't really working out for him.

My second boyfriend (ex-boyfriend P, a.k.a. boyfriend number 2) was a Muslim, so I know something about the problems that the reader must face. It could well be that family pressure has a lot to do with the way he feels about his life. The fact that he's not Out to his family is the first important thing that he mentions in the email here, and now that he's grown up a bit, there must be some (or more) family pressure to conform and lead a straight life. It's hard for anyone to develop lasting relationships in that environment, so the amateur psychologist in me does wonder whether that is the source of his fear of intimacy.

However, the reader's behaviour with friends and on the gay scene suggests that in private he doesn't have a problem accepting the fact that he's gay, and that's obviously a good thing. I think he's right that his "current situation may be unhealthy and detrimental to future happiness", because having a life partner is a very natural for most people. My own experience suggests that that in the long term people are much happier if they end up in a good relationship. But how can he achieve that given his Muslim background and (perhaps) unsupportive family?

He hasn't told us anything about what he studied (or is still studying) as a student, whether his work life might end up being related to his family in some way, or whether he's going to try and follow his own career. Obviously in his situation it would probably be better to try and follow his own career if possible. Beyond that, it seems to me that the best course of action for him is to do what I suggested in my recent email to him, namely to build up his self-esteem. That simply means trying to make a success of all the different projects and activities that he's involved with. Success in one area of life naturally flows in other areas because successes help to build confidence.

In my response to the reader's first email, I already told him to take any potential relationship slowly, and that's certainly always good advice. Apart from that, I'd simply suggest being open about the issues that he has at the appropriate time as any relationship develops. For example, whenever I find myself dating, eventually the subject of past boyfriends comes up and why those relationships failed. The next time that happens to this reader, he might consider opening up about the kind of things that he put in the email here. Honesty and trust are two of the most valuable commodities in any relationship so he certainly shouldn't try to hide anything.

Do any other readers have any thoughts on these matters?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Email from a gay Asian guy about his boyfriend

At the end of April, a reader sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

Just a bit of a short introduction, I have been reading your blog for a bit and might I say it is a truly great blog to read! It's nice to see how someone can be honest about their life as well as their struggles as a person. And I do apologise in advance if this email is a bit too long.

I myself am currently a student here in the UK and will be moving down to London later on this year due to my Training Contract. I come from Indonesia and due to my cultural background and all, have only accepted the fact that I am gay about 3 years ago. I am only out to a very select group of people and still thinking about what I'm gonna say to my family when the time comes I guess.

Ok, but that's beside the point of why I wrote this email. I am currently in a relationship of 2 years with my boyfriend who is a local guy. He's a good 9 years older than me and I just fell nicely into the N/2 + 7 rule that you've made. We've been together for 2 years but of course throughout those two years we've had a few major fights and almost break-ups. Later on this year I will be moving down to London and although at first he wanted to move in with me, due to his financial conditions he can't. So I am rather nervous at how things are gonna turn out for the next year, before (hopefully) he'll move down to London to join me.

I have just read your post about your boyfriend K, and you mentioned that you loved him, and that you try to explain this because you can't get your mind of him, you worry about him etc. For me now I am asking the same question to myself about my bf, do I really love him? One thing that's been bothering me is that a curiosity to look at what's out there. I am currently 23, and my current bf is my first ever relationship. So sometimes I do feel scared if I've gone into this a bit too fast. Questions like "Am I missing out on something?" or "Have I settled too early?" sometimes pop into my head especially when things are not going well between us. And I do feel afraid that I am not doing justice to his feelings to me because I have these doubts sometimes.

Well that's about it I guess. I know it's not that interesting I suppose, but yeah would appreciate it if you can share some of your life advice to me! (:

Keep on posting!

I send him a quick reply to tell him that I'll probably get round to posting his email within a few weeks, and the next day, I find the following email from him in my inbox:

Hi GB,

I wasn't expecting such a swift reply from you! I only started going through your blog a few days ago so have yet to go through everything, there's an insane amount of posts, but they're brilliant though. (:

I have to say you do have a lot of experience with gay Asian guys! I do think my situation is rather similar with ex-boyfriend P, although I was raised in Indonesia. I have spent my life living abroad since I was 16. I studied in Singapore for 4 years, so the mention of Boat Quay does bring back some old memories (:

I have also accidentally stumbled on your writings about ex-boyfriend T and I guess I do identify myself with him quite a bit as well, with the familial situations, him not opening up to his straight friends that he's gay, trying to get a job abroad to escape from the so-called straight facade, and many others.

And your posts about infidelity is definitely interesting, a view that I myself hold to be honest, but again this has given rise to a lot of conflicts with me and my bf, as he doesn't hold the same views and all.

I do have a feeling that I will be reading so much more of your blog in the coming weeks! (A good break from studying for my final exams haha).

Thank you so much for your reply and apologies for this rambly email. Just wanted to tell you how great your blog is, and I do hope maybe we can be friends and talk more in the future. I feel like I have so much to learn!

Best regards,

If the reader has a good relationship with his boyfriend, then there are a lot of reasons to try and keep it going. In the gay world it's easy to find opportunities for activities with other guys, but genuine love is hard to find. Also, it's true that the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence, so ending the relationship might well be something that the reader regrets a few months down the road if he discovers that life as a single gay man in London isn't what he expected.

Whenever a reader writes to me about his boyfriend, whatever the subject, I always think that the reader should be finding a way to talk to his boyfriend instead of emailing me. It seems that the main issue is the reader's curiosity, and by that I assume he means a curiosity about activities with other guys, rather than e.g. whether there any gay footballers playing in the world cup next month. Curiosity to experience activities with other guys might be satisfied by making the relationship more open, which is certainly a discussion that the reader could have with his boyfriend. If the reader's boyfriend does indeed love the reader, then given their age difference the boyfriend should be able to understand everything that the reader put in the emails to me.

The reader mentions that since he got together with his boyfriend two years ago, they've had a few major fights and almost break-ups. My experience dating ex-boyfriend T and boyfriend K (who're originally from different countries in Asia) is that the period at the start of both relationships was quite difficult. Misunderstandings can arise relating to the Western-Asian cultural differences, and other misunderstandings can arise relating to language problems, assuming that communication occurs in English which is not the native language of the Asian guy. In my case, other misunderstandings related to what it means to be in a relationship. On my side, with memories of how previous relationships worked, I was expecting too much too soon. On the other side, relationships do involve some loss if independence because one has to take some account of one's boyfriend, and it took both ex-boyfriend T and boyfriend K a while to get used to that. However, over time all these difficulties should disappear.

Finally, I'm wondering whether the reader and his boyfriend have discussed what kind of long term future they might have together? Is the reader planning to stay in the UK? If not, then unless the boyfriend is willing to relocate to be with the reader, it might be best to end the relationship so that the boyfriend can start looking for a relationship that does have a long term future.

Do any other readers have any thoughts on this situation?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Email from a guy with internalised homophobia

There's a pending "Dear GB" listed in my right-hand side-bar with the title "Email from a guy with internalised homophobia". At present, I'm planning to do the posting next month. However, it would be useful if the guy who sent me the email could get in touch again. GB xxx

Update 21-May-2014: the guy who sent me the email never got in touch with me :-(. It seemed to me that the attitude of his family to gay people had left a terrible impression on him, which he's been struggling with (often unsuccessfully) for over ten years. I don't want to responsible for making his mental health any worse, so I've decided not to post his email after all.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The difficulties of living with a Thai boyfriend

An English guy I know called M started dating a Thai guy called J last summer, and within a few months, they had moved in to live together. I don't see M very often, but last week the two of us went out for dinner on our own to catch up with each other. I arrive at the restaurant first, so I install myself at the bar and start looking at their wine list while I wait for M to arrive.

"Hi GB," says M suddenly, "good to see you :-)."

"Hey M :-), " I answer, "good to see you too! I was just perusing their wine list, so I didn't see you come in."

"Find anything good?" asks M.

"Well, look at this. A 2007 Latricières-Chambertin for £155 a bottle. But Grand Cru red Burgundy should generally be much older than that before it's sensible to drink them, don't you think?"

"I don't know, GB," replies M smirking, "I think you're a bit of a wine snob sometimes! It's probably a very nice bottle :-)."

We decide to sit at the bar for G+T aperitifs, and once we've ordered our drinks we start chatting.

"How's it going with J?" I ask.

"Mostly fine," answers M with a slightly hesitant voice.

"Hmmm," I say, sensing a slight reluctance in M to open up, "*mostly* fine doesn't sound too good :-|. What does the *mostly* mean?"

"Well, sometimes J can be absolutely impossible!" replies M, "so I can't help thinking that it's not going to last. But I can't bring myself to break up with him. A lot of the time he's absolutely adorable. When he's being difficult, I just think of his gorgeous pert naked male body and that always makes me feel better :-)."

Without doubt M's boyfriend J is quite cute, so for a second or two I enjoy imagining what J must look like when he's lying naked on a bed prior to activities.

"Perhaps, M, it's you who's the difficult one?" I ask, playing devil's advocate. "In any case, you don't seem to have a very good track record recently of finding suitable boyfriends."

"That's last comment certainly has some truth in it, GB!"

I decide to try and get a bit more alcohol into M before asking any more about his relationship with J, so I start talking about some of our mutual friends while we finish our G+T's.

A little later, the restaurant staff invite us to sit down at a table and order some food. As usual, I'm more interested in the wine list!

"So do you fancy that young Burgundy then?" I ask M.

"If you think it's too young, what about a decent claret instead?" suggests M.

"Well they've got Talbot 2000 for £125, that should be OK. I've got a few bottles of that in my wine cellar at home, and I reckon it's drinking quite well at the moment :-)."

"Then Talbot 2000 it is!" replies M, seeming anxious not to make too much fuss about the wine.

We place orders for food and the wine, and a bit later, I start asking about J again.

"Do you think there's a bit of a culture clash between you and J?" I ask at a suitable point in the conversation.

"Well like you GB, I like having Asian boyfriends :-). I think it's fascinating learning about their culture, and of course all the Asian countries are different. Most Thais are Buddhists, and that does give them a different outlook on life to guys like us who were brought up in the UK."

"I know some Thai guys and their mostly pretty chilled :-)," I say. "I always remember the Buddhist saying 'Today is better than two tomorrows'".

"Yeah, that saying is perfect because it explains why they're all so spontaneous. They do often focus on Now, i.e. Today rather than Tomorrow, which in many ways is a great way to live. It is a potential source of conflict between me and J, because I think a bit of forward planning doesn't hurt. But I'm happy to be more spontaneous so I don't think that that aspect has ever been a problem."

"The problem," continues M, opening up a bit now, "is that his spontaneous nature means that when J is upset, his memory is very short. If I accidently upset him, he'll focus on the Now which is being upset, and forget all the positive things about our relationship and all the good things that I've done for him. Since we got back from Thailand a few months ago, we seem to have a serious mis-understanding about once a week. So once a week we go through an episode where he'll want to split up with me :-(. But then he calms down, the J that I love reappears, and everything settles down. The highs and lows in terms of the way he feels about me are much more extreme than anything that I've experienced before."

"But what causes the mis-understandings?" I ask.

"Sometimes there is a communication problem," replies M. "J's English is reasonable, but he's not native. Sometimes he'll be a bit lazy when talking to me and won't be sufficiently explicit. I'll then try and guess what he meant, and if I get it wrong, that can cause a problem."

"But sometimes," continues M, "I'm at a complete loss as to what's going on in his mind. The most ridiculous incident occurred a couple of weeks ago when our rubbish bin in the kitchen needed repairing because the lid wouldn’t stay closed. The spare part that was needed arrived and I asked J not to try and sort it out, because I'd already asked someone else to do it and I didn't want J to waste his time. That simple request caused a lot of problems. Two days later when he'd calmed down, I had a chat with him and I *think* he became upset because he thought that I thought he wasn't competent to do the repair. But to be honest, I'm still not sure! I've never ever suggested that he's incompetent about anything so why on earth would he ever think such a thing?"

"He's quite young isn't he?" I ask.

"Yes I know about your N/2+7 rule, GB," answers M, "and it's true that on that basis he is too young for me! But only just. Anyway, in a couple of years' time we'll be in compliance with that rule :-)."

"I'm not sure future compliance is relevant," I laugh.

"What about other stuff?" I continue, "For example, do you get on OK with each other's friends?"

"Yeah, I think we do actually," answers M. "One good thing is that all his Thai friends seem to like me :-). A few weeks ago, I went out for a drink with one of his closest friends when J was out working. The friend asked me nervously how solid me and J were. I said something like 'mostly OK', and I'm sure he understood the kind of problems that we were having because he went on to confide in me that he thinks J is sometimes a bit childish. Although I think I'd worked that out for myself!"

"Well that's a good sign," I say, "if you can have that kind of conversation with J's friends."

"In any case," says M, "I've very much fallen in love with J, so even though my logical brain sometimes tells me that I should split up with him, my heart won't let me! I fall in love far too easily, don't I?"

"Perhaps," I say, "but I don’t think there's anything wrong with that! Too many gay men won't commit to a relationship because they keep thinking that the next guy they get into bed with will be better than their current favourite. At least you don't have that problem :-)."

"Anyway," says M changing the subject, "how are you and boyfriend K?"

"Just like you, 'mostly OK' :-)," I answer cryptically, grinning at M.

I pour us both another glass of claret and tell M a bit about what's been going on with boyfriend K, but soon we're tired talking about our boyfriends and the conversation drifts on to other subjects.

"Well next time, let's not leave it so long before catching up!" I say to M at the end of the evening.

"Absolutely :-)," replies M. "It's been really good to see you GB!"

I'm not sure how long M and J will last. However, if any readers have any experience of gay relationships between English and Thai guys and you have any ideas that might make M and J's relationship work better, then please leave a comment and I'll pass it on :-).