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Tricks and Treats, Pt. I

Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Halloween

Less Than Butterflies, No. 2

It’s no secret that Halloween is gay Christmas. It’s not as though we’ve ever needed an excuse to dress up in costume or drag and attend some hedonistic party in Montrose where someone will certainly be distributing ecstasy in the bathroom while remixes of every song by every pop icon are blared in the dark, trembling background. But Halloween poses a different sort of spectacle than every other party in Montrose. Inhibitions are lost; time seems to slow; and there’s an affection for our friends that provides a kind of high not brought on by bathroom ecstasy or specialty shots.

Plus, we get a little bit sluttier. At least I do. I being the person who puts the ‘trick’ in ‘trick or treat.’

There’s no logic or rule that dictates why Halloween puts us in such good spirits. Maybe it’s something psychological. Maybe it’s all hype. Or maybe, just maybe, there is something truly magical about Halloween.

Even in my exhaustion after two long weeks with work-related affairs, I couldn’t move myself to peel away from the idea of attending my friend Stephen’s boyfriend’s Halloween party. It was an annual event—or it was at least becoming one—that had the year before proven to be like any other gay Halloween party: a genus of twinks in brightly colored underwear donning body glitter and angel wings. This, mind you, was at an American Horror Story-themed party. Stephen’s apartment was small and the air conditioning was hardly working. An hour in, everyone was sweating and trying to escape into the 90-degree outdoors just to catch a breath.

This year, however, Leo (Stephen’s boyfriend) had relocated the party to a friend and co-host’s townhome off Washington. The theme? Netflix’s GLOW—appropriately retitled as the Gays and Lesbians of Wrestling.

As per the usual, I was dateless. I’d invited Ezra to accompany me, but he was to visit friends in San Antonio for the weekend. Luckily, my friend Carter tagged along with me. Carter and I hadn’t been friends for long. Like most of my friends at the time, we’d met through Pride. Carter was 30, single, and sweet, and not at all my type. Still, he was a good friend and an intent listener and the kind of person who would do anything for anyone.

We drank a bottle of wine at Barnaby’s before heading toward Washington for the party. Upon arrival, it was clear that Stephen had already been drinking well before our arrival. My friend Courtney and her girlfriend, Jennifer were also there, dressed from neck-to-ankles in incandescent Lycra. Just as the year before, a large portion of the attendees had taken it upon themselves to ignore the theme of the party—myself included, as I was not sure I had the body type to be wearing fabrics with such elasticity.

That’s not true. I was sure. I was certain that I did not. I did, however, dress nice enough and put on some black lipstick just for the hell of it.

Stephen grabbed me by the wrist just after I’d made a drink and dragged me to a wet bar in the living room of the townhome. “Let’s do a shot!” he suggested with all the charisma of a Beyonce drag impersonator. But like with all things when it came to Stephen—shots, bottles of wine, valid points in a heated debate—one shot turned into several shots.

My background with Stephen was relatively short, but fast-paced in some rights. He was one of the very first people I’d met at Pride Houston when I was a first-year volunteer. To be completely honest, when we first met, I thought Stephen was cute. True, he was gross and sweaty from working all evening in the sun and was about 15-pounds underweight. But in his glasses and seemingly-nerdy disposition, I was initially attracted to him. For a while, my friend Alice and I couldn’t figure out his last name and took to referring to him as just Hot Stephen.

But much like books, a boy should never be judged by his cover. As I transitioned into my role as the volunteer chair for Pride, Stephen and I encountered each other more frequently. Real Stephen was vastly different from first-impression Stephen. He wasn’t as tightly wound and I don’t think I ever saw those glasses again. True, Stephen was a pretty boy, but he was also a boy who was spoken for and whose personality—regardless of whether or not he’d ever admit it—was too much like mine. Opinionated, mildly neurotic, a little slutty, and often drunk.

As my first year as a chair dragged on, Stephen and I saw a lot more of each other. Pride events and workdays eventually turned into drinks at the Eagle or numerous bottles of wine at Barnaby’s or birthday and dinner parties. The conversations that had once just revolved around our work with Pride grew inclusive of similar interests. Soon we’d become friends.

After a few more shots, I found myself standing outside on the balcony smoking a cigarette with some strangers from Mexico. One of the two was in medical school and in Houston for her internship. The other was presumably her boyfriend. A moment later, Stephen found his way outside to the patio.

“I knew you’d be out here smoking. I’m gonna lock you out,” Stephen said before engaging with the medical student and her boyfriend. When their own cigarettes were finished, they made a quick exit and Stephen and I had changed the topic to the busy week we’d had with Pride work, the party, and our friends inside. It wasn’t until the tail-end of the conversation that Stephen asked, “So, how’s Ezra?”

“I think he’s fine. He’s in San Antonio right now, if I’m not mistaken.”

He took a sip from his straw while gulping down some vodka as he goes, “Mhm. Mhm.” Once he’d swallowed and removed the straw from his mouth, he asked, “And what’s the deal with that?”

I paused just long enough to roll my eyes. “Nothing . . . ? We’re just friends.”

More, “Mhm. Mhm,” until he was slurping what remained of his vodka out of bottom of his Solo cup. “I’m gonna go get another drink. Have fun, though!” he told me as he slipped back inside. However, before he’d closed the door, Stephen poked his head back through the threshold and said, “You know, I’m really glad we became friends.”

I couldn’t help but smile a bit. Formerly Hot Stephen I knew nothing about had graduated into Close Friend Stephen, which turned out to be a good fit for him.

“God. You’re so gay,” I told him as I rolled my eyes, relatively unable to ever reciprocate kindness. He stepped back onto the balcony for a second and pointed to his cheek. I laughed, then gave him a kiss there, leaving a large, black lipstick stain under his cheekbone.

“You’re my favorite person in Pride,” he told me as he slid through the door and closed it behind him.

That was gay Halloween magic at its finest—bringing two very unlikely people together to be friends . . . even if both were extremely drunk.

Oddly enough, however, Stephen’s momentary mention of Ezra made me wonder what he was up to. I nearly pulled my phone from my pocket to text him, but realized it was late and that I shouldn’t bug him while he was out of town with his friends. I could gather, however, that Ezra probably wasn’t at some rager in San Antonio like I was in Houston. A part of me missed him. 

Regardless, I resolved to wander back inside and drink through it like a grown-up.

Although, as I turned to open the door back into the townhome, I made an attempt to turn the knob, rattling and shaking it until it became increasingly clear that Stephen had, in fact, locked me out on the balcony.

“Bastard.”

Read Part II here.

When Boys Keep Secrets, Pt. II

Less Than Butterflies Anthony Ramirez See Ya’ Later Masturbator Masturbate Love

Less Than Butterflies, No. 18, Pt. II

These are my secrets.

They aren’t all necessarily good ones, and many of them may not be as secret as I’d like to think. But there they are.

I spent my life with most of these, and I spent most of that time in a closet. So, when I say that it would take an incredibly skilled liar to keep a secret from me, I mean it. What’s the old saying? You can’t bullshit a bullshitter?

Here’s one more:

For Christmas I bought Ezra and I two tickets to see Anastasia on Broadway, and thereafter purchased our plane tickets (he paid for his own), tickets to Mean Girls for his birthday, and Wicked because we both love it so much. I was so excited for the trip that was supposed to take place the first week of June, but when that rolled around I was so overwhelmed by Pride work, work work, and depression that I asked if we could move it back to July. The tickets were all exchangeable, and Ezra was a perfect, understanding friend about the entire thing. But that was the first time I saw one of those aforementioned signs — the day I asked him if we could delay the trip until after Pride.

In the time that followed, my work load grew much larger than ever, I was drugged and raped, and my suspicions only grew more and more. On several occasions we’ve gotten together to rework our plans, to pick out AirBNBs, but nothing has ever come to fruition. I still have two unused plane ticket credits that have to be used before the year’s end. From time-to-time, I’ll say to Ezra, “Let’s use this time to get our trip details in order” and he’ll always agree, but then we’ll get together and smoke weed or drink wine and forget all about it. And that makes me incredibly sad, because I really want to make it happen. I really need that vacation. And he was the person I wanted it with.

But when he sent me a message this week asking if we could make the trip happen Labor Day weekend, my insides cringed a bit. We’d just spent a weekend together in Dallas for a convention and all that time I had to remember that Ezra and I were only friends and would only ever be friends. Sure, Ezra did and said a few things that struck me as odd while we were away, but because I’m not sure what to make of them, I won’t analyze them here. Still, the time alone with him was nice. We were able to talk about the magazine, he pointed out to me that all I ever do is work, we drank some, we ate a lot, we caught up with some of my friends that live in the area, and we slept side-by-side in a king-sized bed at a Holiday Inn. He went to sleep much earlier than I, and as he laid there and I chatted on Marco Polo with my friends Gwen and Sam, I caught myself staring at him a few times, longing again just to hold his hand and be close to him.

I’d convinced myself up until that trip that a little space between us over the last few months — as opposed to the back-to-back weekends we were spending together for a very long time — had been good for me. I’d met someone new, I’d begun to get over him, and I felt confident that for the first time I really could just be his friend and enjoy our time together as such. But as I watched him check his phone, as I caught sight of the sheepish little grin that crossed his face when he didn’t know I was watching, when he’d say certain things that were deliberately glib, but that had to be said for one reason or another, all of those signs I’d been pretending I hadn’t been seeing were right there in front of me, screaming at me to get a clue.

Maybe it was just the paranoia of a boy who had had his heart broken by the man he is spending his weekend with and had grown suspicious of, but I could have sworn then and there and still could here and now that there’s someone in Ezra’s life that he isn’t telling me about. And for what it’s worth and if that is the case and I’m not just being a basketcase from the lack of sleep — hell it’s 5:30 AM now and I’ve been up writing this since three — I’m glad he isn’t telling me. Part of me hopes that he’s reading this right now so that he knows that if that is the case he should continue to not tell me. Because I’m not there yet. Just the thought of him maybe having a date with some pretentious twink from Grindr on my birthday spiraled me into a two-week depression. And just the thought of that now is still enough to strike me with silence. Max asked me about it just last evening and I was unable to communicate anything regarding it. But there as I watched him sleep in the bed while I drank a bottle of Cabernet that Sam had gifted me, I felt something was afoot.

I was no fool. I was familiar with that elated grin, the way he checked his phone again-and-again while awaiting a new message. I’d smiled like that because of him once upon a time, checked my messages with that exact same urgency. I knew he had a secret, that there was something he was keeping from me to protect my feelings. Or maybe it wasn’t me or my feelings at all. Maybe he just didn’t want to be made to feel like shit the way he had the last time he’d hurt me. Whatever the reason behind it may have been, I was positive there was someone else in his life. Someone I could never be to him.

And that last part particularly sucks. Because, when Ezra told me that he wasn’t in love with me after I publicly humiliated myself telling him in what I denied to be but actually turned out to be a grand gesture, he’d said this:

Here was this wonderfully intense and engaging guy who had brought change and self-enlightenment crashing down on my head in the only way either of us could have managed it. He was wildly successful, charming, witty, genuinely funny, and every other thing you’re normally forced to lie about in your Tinder bio to get people to swipe right before the inevitable non-conversation.

So where were my goddamn butterflies?!

I felt betrayed by every musical and romance I’d ever seen, betrayed to my very core – which both of those things had played a tremendous role in forming! What was wrong with me? I re-lived every phase of being young and not knowing why I felt (or didn’t feel) the things I was feeling (not feeling?) all over again in rapid succession.

Then, through an errant facebook post by a recent acquaintance, I was alerted to the full meaning of the A in LGBTQIA+: Asexual(/Aromantic). After doing some cursory research I realized this explained how I was feeling to a tee, then proceeded to experience the relief of being able to identify with a minority sexuality all over again as well. It was a roller coaster, to say the least, but one I’m always glad to ride again.

I know it’s probably no real solace to you and you’ll be catching crap for the rest of your life (mostly from yourself, probably) for somehow managing to turn someone away from sex completely, but it has opened the door for me to finally be able to explore and better understand myself as a person after 20+ years of being locked out of my own heart. And that really is incredible. You are incredible.

What sucks about it wouldn’t be finding out that there was someone else. And it’s not because I don’t want him to be happy. I do. I always have. I always will. What’s difficult about it would be knowing that I’m the person who allegedly brought him to this revelation of the fact that he isn’t capable of having romantic feelings for another person only for someone else to bring those about.

It takes me back to every single one of those secrets. From my mother who chased after men because her children weren’t enough, to my father who abandoned me over-and-over again and had a separate family because I wasn’t enough, to my first love being engaged to a woman because I wasn’t enough, to crying after my first sexual encounter with a man because I wasn’t enough and every other thing in between. All my life I’ve been spun out into disappointment because someone made me feel like I wasn’t good enough. And to think that there might be someone who is enough for Ezra, who gives him everything he needs and more after having heard all that above … it would be a heartbreak I can’t even fully wrap my head around.

It was one thing when Parker told me he wasn’t the type to commit. It was one thing when I had to stop sleeping with Dylan because he voted for Donald Trump. It was one thing when Blake got engaged because he wasn’t gay (or at least he wasn’t out). It was one thing when I broke up with Adam because I couldn’t be with someone just because they fetishized my body type.

Ezra was always different. So much about me changed over the course of knowing him — and not because I was making an effort to change it. It just happened. I lost a ton of weight; I started working harder; I stopped sleeping around; I became less obsessive and learned to relax and lean into things as they were.

I grew up. I grew up a lot. And while I didn’t do any of those things for him, they did happen because I knew him and because I accidentally fell in love with him.

Ezra — even at his worst and when he’s broken my spirit without meaning to — always seemed so right for me. He was the one thing in my life that didn’t put me under pressure and that I could just relax around and enjoy myself. So, now, even when I think about trips to New York, I get nervous thinking about it. Because as much as I want to go (and here’s the last secret finally), I’m afraid that my neurosis about whether or not he’s keeping something from me will prevent me from being in the moment and having a good time. And, yeah. We’ll still go. And I’ll still smile stupidly and pretend that I don’t know anything is going on. But I’m certain now that it won’t be quite the experience I had in mind. Still, like I said, if he is keeping something from me, it’s better to remain kept. At least for now.

Because after a year of being rejected, being raped, being overworked, being humiliated in front of my peers, peeing on myself by accident on a bad first date, falling in love and having my heart broken, and spiraling in and out of depression and then mania and then depression again — and maybe that’s it too … maybe I’m just in a manic phase — I’m not sure I can deal with one more thing right this second. Do I think I would do anything rash or irrational? No. I’m medicated so that I won’t do those things. But do I know how I’ll respond? Again, no. And I’m a little worried at how self-destructive those reactions might be internally.

I’m not perfect. And I’m obviously not the one for Ezra. But I’m pretty damn great. Sure, I lose keys, and have to rearrange plans, and I’m chronically late, and I spend money like an NFL player. But I’m also kind, and true, and loyal, and loving. And I would spin the world backward on its axis if it would make the person I loved happy.

God, I can’t wait to find the man who would do that for me. And God knows I can’t wait to have something different to write about. But for now, this is just another secret that I’ll keep. And I hope that if there is a secret being kept, or just information that’s being omitted for no reason in particular, that it’ll continue to be kept.

I’m just not ready. And I’m afraid that if I say these things to him — that if he were to really see how much these things eat up at me, at least when I allow them to — that it’d be more than he’d be willing to put up with. Not that I’d ever ask him to put up with them. I don’t bring them up when we’re together and I wouldn’t because I don’t like to talk about things with people. Writing is easier. It helps. But it’s not just that I worry that he wouldn’t be able to put up with these things. 

I worry that he might hate me.

And I don’t want him to hate me, because even if we’ll only ever just be friends, I still love him. And that’s the truly sick part: that I’ve already lost so many important people from my life because I loved them too much and they couldn’t deal. And that’s honestly one of the places in my life that I’ve been most different with Ezra unlike the other men and friends I’ve had is that, at least to his face, I’ve managed to remain relatively cool about my disappointment in the way things turned out. With other men, I’d get drunk and cry into voicemails or send hateful texts; I’d beg them to love me back or scorn them the moment they’d met someone else. But not with Ezra. The extent to which I’ve lost control of myself lies here within these columns. But it’s the only outlet I have for these feelings.

I can’t talk to him about them. Why should I? So that he can better explain to me what exactly is wrong with me? No, thank you. Knowing it is hard enough in the abstract; I don’t require the breakdown and thesis — and I certainly don’t need to know what someone else might have that I do not.

It hurts too much as it stands in my willfully ignorant bliss.

And I do realize how hypocritical it is of me to say, “I don’t want to know!” and to then publish my own thoughts on the matters for the world to read. But if ever there come a time when anyone I’m writing about doesn’t want to know, I would respect it if they asked me not to say anything further. I could always kill them off or change the arc of the story. But this really is just all that I have. It’s easier than talking to friends or family. As candid as I am here about everything from heartbreak to blowjobs, it may difficult to believe this, but I’m too easily embarrassed — too easily shut down. So, I really would understand if he wanted me to stop — if any of the men did — or if they couldn’t bear to read it themselves.

You know, it’s hard sometimes to remember that Ezra wasn’t around for most of those secrets. It’s not that I don’t know that he wasn’t there for them … it’s just weird to think that there was a time when he wasn’t a part of my life. Having known him even just this long, having grown close to him … it’s hard to recall what it felt like when he wasn’t a part of my life. So, I write it all here and I say nothing to him and we have fun and goof around and sing showtunes in the car and drink wine at Barnaby’s and sit silently next to one another through the symphony and giggle through movies and talk about any and everything other than our respective romantic love lives because I can’t handle it.

I’m a fucking mess. I know that. These are the ramblings of either an extremely intuitive individual or those of a paranoid schizophrenic.

Either way, they’re all I have.

And even though he’s not necessarily something that I have, I still can’t stand the thought of him hating me of not having him in my life.

God, I don’t want him to hate me. But I also know that this act of ignorance can only go on so long before I have to get to a place where I’m comfortable hearing all the things I don’t want to hear. So, for now, we just have to be two boys who keep secrets … even if I’ve just spilled all of mine right here onto the page. And maybe eventually the day will come that we can laugh and talk about our boyfriends or sex partners or husbands or loneliness.

I’m just not there yet, babe.

Finally … Butterflies (… Now What?)

Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Grindr

Less Than Butterflies, No. 8

Dear Friend,

You know who you are, and I know that you’re reading this, as you often make a point of telling me that you read this column. Actually, it’s less so a point that you’re keeping up with my sexual escapades and more so getting in your digs. But I appreciate it, regardless. Anyway, I’m going to tell you a story and explain something to you here that I would never have the nerve to explain to you in person. But before I do, let me just say one thing:

This is not in any way a grand gesture.

Please don’t mistake it for one. I just have things I need to say that I don’t think we could discuss in person. And truthfully … what’s the point? It’s not like any of it changes anything … not like it really matters. But I think at this point, you know me well enough to know that there are some things that stick with me until I say them aloud—or, until I put them in writing, in this case. It’s not about spinning an outcome. It’s not about needing or wanting anything. It’s just one of those things that I can’t fully process or make sense of (if there’s any sense to be made) until I can organize my thoughts in writing. 

I also want to say that I know this is extremely unfair and selfish of me to do right now. And, for that, I really am sorry. You have enough going on. But the real point I want to impress upon you is that this (again) isn’t about any normal crazy white girl shit. It’s not about expectation or anything like that.

I just believe that omission is as bad as being dishonest. So, instead of writing a story here the way that I normally do, I figured I’d just address you. Because, like I said, you’re going to read it anyway, and at least this way it doesn’t seem so much like just another story. But, for the sake of being friends, and having a friendship that I truly enjoy, it does need to be said. And I know that that’s literally the exact opposite of how you deal with things. So, as helpful as this may be for me personally, I am (again) sorry that it’s a selfish thing to do.

So, here’s the story. Don’t freak out. It’s literally just me needing a catharsis. And since you’re gonna read this anyway, I may as well just address you. 

Once upon a time, there was a young man named Anthony who dreamed of what his life what the man he was going to marry would be like, and what it would feel like to be so in love with someone that loved him back just as much. For years, he spent his time acquiring deep infatuation for men that would inevitably treat him like shit and leave him hanging out to dry. And all the while, through all the bad dates and late night booty calls, Anthony found that with each unwarranted dick pic or it’s-not-you-it’s-me, he died just a little bit on the inside. For you see, only one time in his life had he ever been with anyone who made him feel the thing he’d been imagining the feeling of his entire life:

Butterflies.

Each time the person who caused this would come near, or hold his hand, or kiss him atop the head, he could feel wings fluttering inside his tummy. Just that boy’s very smile could wake them up and set them bouncing about inside of him until it nearly tickled. And in his journey to recreate that feeling, Young Anthony found that this seemed less-and-less possible.

However, the days of longing stares and nervous smiles have ceased. It wasn’t all at once. Fast, yes; but like a quick decrescendo more than an abrupt slam on the brakes. In the place of those stares and smiles now were only filthy messages on Grindr and unwelcome hands grazing his body in bars he didn’t really want to be in. And while, for the purposes of getting off, he often welcomed these substitutions, it was never what he truly longed for.

But Young Anthony is a different person now.

I am a different person now. I’m cynical, at times; and I know that butterflies are just scientifically a symptom of the body’s fight-or-flight reaction; and I’m drunk a lot; and I am tired—no. Exhausted, really. I feel like Sex and the City’s Charlotte sitting at a cafe table as she kvetched to her friends, “I’ve been dating since I was fifteen! I’m exhausted. Where is he?” That’s how many men I’ve been through looking for one decent one who isn’t going to pee on me, or tie me up (that story is for next week), or fetishize my weight, or kiss me and then never speak to me, again. 

… and that’s just a few.

Still, I guess somewhere along the way, through all of the white noise that Tinder pings have faded into, I’ve lost sight of the butterflies. And it isn’t because I don’t want them. It isn’t because I don’t miss the feeling. It’s almost as though they just seem so far away that I’m not sure I quite remember what they felt like when I had them. It’s a bit like not being able to see the light at the end of a tunnel, but feeling the heat the entire trek through. Recognizing that feeling now would be hard … or, at least, that’s what I thought.

Then, when I least expected them—maybe even forgot about them—as I was lying there still as I could be while watching a movie with you—someone I’d long-since given up on—those tiny little butterfly feet began to dance around inside of me. From a long dormancy they woke and, as if no time had past since their last adventure, they began to flutter around inside of me.

And it wasn’t a special occasion. It was just us hanging out like we do. You needed a friend, and I was happy to be that friend for you.

It was shocking, at first. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be sick or if I’d eaten too much. But as the movie played over us, you, Ezra recited every last word in broken tandem with the cast. All the while, those butterflies flew around overzealously. It felt like the first day of school mixed with getting a birthday present sprinkled with the relief that follows a sneeze.

But I couldn’t help it. And I wanted to. I really fucking wanted to be in control of what was happening inside of me. Yet, it was endearing and cute and you seemed really comfortable. Which, for the record, I think is really saying something considering how uncomfortable you pretty much always are. And, if I’m being honest (after all, I’m already past the point of no return), all of that scared the living shit out of me.

Why? Well … you’re like one of my closest friends. I have a lot of friends, but not a lot of close ones. Certainly not ones that are easy to be around, that aren’t after something I have, that are almost completely free of drama and histrionics.

Ezra, you came into my life as a Tinder match-turned-friend that not only rejected me, but then had the nerve to be my friend afterward. Granted, that was my doing, which is why, for the first time in my life, I wasn’t mad about that. I embraced it, actually. Because for as long as I can remember, I’ve had a bad habit of catching feelings for my friends. My first love was my oldest friend in the world; and now I have to be the best man at his wedding … to a woman. But in order to settle the flames that burned when he inadvertently broke my heart, I had to put space between us. Hell. Most of my boyfriends have been people that started off as friends; and in each case, when the page has turned and that chapter has ended, I’ve never been enough of a grown-up to keep the friendship going after.

And that’s another reason I’m not totally uncomfortable saying all of this. It is a bit different with you. I like being your friend a lot, and I haven’t yet behaved that way in this situation. And trust me when I say that the timeline for that has come and gone. And maybe that’s because I barely knew you when you told me you weren’t ready to date anyone (the nicest of the rejections I’ve received in my life). Or maybe it was because you’re actually just a really good person who I think makes me a better person with your friendship. Maybe I’m just drunk too much and have a nasty habit of self-sabotaging. (Truthfully, I think we both know that it’s that last one). Whatever the case, I have somehow gotten really comfortable with just being your friend. And even that freaks me out.

I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop and for me to launch into hysterics. And, yet, that moment has not yet manifested. Granted, some might argue that I’m having a mental breakdown now, and that this column is me going is symptomatic of that. After all, how many sane people use their platform of 12,000 people to have a discussion with their best friend about their feelings? But the fact of the matter is that to be as freaked out as I am, I’m not actually freaking out. 

…do you see the difference? Does that make sense?

Yes, I’m insane. Like … the real kind. And for a while, I couldn’t figure out why I’ve been behaving so rationally to something I—even just a year ago—would normally be devastated over. But then I did figure it out. And it was that night, after eating lukewarm takeout and singing along to a musical we’ve both seen more times than we can remember.

It’s just that I actually think you’re a really special person.

I know, I know. That’s not exactly the most eloquent way to put it. But I’m not sure how else to put it. Because I realize that the things I seem to like most about you as my friend are all the opposite things of all the opposite people I’ve ever felt something for. Because as I sit here thinking about all those opposite people—exes and sex partners and unrequited emotions and best friends and even strangers in bars who tell me I have a beautiful voice and then don’t speak to me for nearly a year after (not bitter, Taylor Kyle)—I cannot even think of a single reason as to why I had feelings for them in the first place.

But, I do know what I like about you. You’re smart; and you don’t take my shit; and you are kind of wonderfully weird. But you also are a person who doesn’t do things they don’t want to do. And despite the fact that I, yes, forced my friendship on you (you’re welcome), you saw it through anyway. And even now you are taking the time to get to know me without my normal, habitual forcefulness playing much of a factor into it. And you don’t write me off as vapid or high-maintenance (although, I know that you do acknowledge the latter) or annoying and loud. You just let me be me. No pretense. No show. No facade. Just me.

That, too, frightens me. I’ve never been someone who waltzes around in their ‘eat me’ short shorts with their hair up and scarfs down chicken tenders and cookies and white wine in front of someone I like—or even my closest friends—and yet there I was the other day doing just that.

I’m comfortable. Probably too comfortable. Which, not to sound like a broken record here, is saying something for someone who—like you—is generally uncomfortable.

Because I live my life in front of people. With my job, with Pride, with my books, even with this column. And some of those people really like me, and some of them cannot stand me. And both of those things are okay, because I’m not playing a role in front of them. I am the person they see. I’m just not always up to being that volume of that person at all times. And you provide a very lovely respite from playing that part. No makeup. No watching how much I eat or drink. No worrying that I’m bitching too much about boys or my mother. And that level of comfort for me is very difficult to come by.

We’re different people in a lot of ways—like … vastly different. You are quiet and like to be alone and you don’t have the sort of highs and lows that I do. You’re walled up. And as much as I may not understand entirely why, that’s who you are. I wouldn’t change that or anything else about you (except your profile picture. It’s not your best. But I’m digressing). But it’s that part of you that somehow brings me down to ground zero (or, at least, my version of ground zero, which is still well above sea level). It’s that part of you that reminds me of how much joy there is to be had in just lying around in short shorts, scarfing down carbs, and talking through the entirety of a movie with someone who doesn’t expect anything of you—that just enjoys your company.

It’s that part of you that brought back my butterflies. So, thank you for that.

And here I am trying to tell you about why you’re great, and I’m simultaneously finding some way to tell you why I think you’re great. I don’t try to be this self-involved, but it always seems to be the case. I’d like to chalk that up to anxiety, honestly. Regardless, I’m sorry about that. And I’m sorry that you are having to get all this weird honesty seemingly out of nowhere and while you’re dealing with your own problems. But I promise I’m almost done. I just want to say a little more.

All the men I’d ever fallen into bed with shared one thing in common:

I’d never fallen for them.

On my quest to revive that feeling of butterflies in my tummy, I’d always come up short. It had always been just that: less than butterflies.

We never did that, thankfully and for lots of different reasons that don’t require reiteration here. And in not doing so, I came to yet another realization.

Maybe the secret to letting those beautiful creatures loose inside me was to not fall in bed with someone at all, but to let them get to know me well enough so that the butterflies felt comfortable enough to take flight.

So, thank you for taking the time to get to know me, in spite of how different we are and in spite of how much I can be at first glance. And thank you for the cookies and the laughter and, of course, the butterflies. And know that this isn’t me expecting anything of you or trying to change anything. I adore our friendship because you are one of the only people in my life who is pretty much down to do whatever I want to do because we have very similar interests (and then some that are not so similar).

But most importantly, thank you for helping me grow up some; and thank you for the lesson that continues to accompany that progress.

You’re going to make someone very happy someday—I don’t need tarot cards to tell me that. And I’ll be so happy for you then. I won’t be surprised, though. Because, it’s as I said before … I just think that you’re a really special person. And sometimes I think that you don’t know how extraordinary you are. Especially now. And a lot of this is coming from that place that I think you deserve the reminder. Granted, I probably won’t remind you that often, because that’s not who I am as a person, but I’m doing it now. You deserve to know. And you deserve to hear some nice things about yourself that maybe not enough people tell you (although that could just be me being presumptuous). Mind you, now I’m just kind of like, “Okay … soooo … now what? I gotta do this all over again with some other dude?” Like … that’s a lot of work. I may just become celibate. Or at least feelings-ibate. I’m too slutty to be celibate.

So, again: I’m sorry to drop all this on you. I don’t really need or want anything. I really didn’t mean to make you feel out of place or weird or put you in an uncomfortable position. I don’t want there to be any sort of rift in our friendship, and I certainly don’t want it to become cumbersome. All of this is coming from a really positive place, and I feel like if we’re going to maintain this wonderful friendship we have, you have a right to not just know (because we both know that you know), but to understand it. And also, it’s kind of just like Paulette says: I just felt like it had to be said.

So, don’t be fucking awkward about it. Jesus. Face value, babe. Face value. And, if you take anything away from this, I hope it’s the reminder that you are cared for, and that there are plenty of people in this world whom you make smile, and some (“for better or worse”) whom you give butterflies. 

Anyway, that’s it. Sorry this was so fucking long. I’ve never been able to say anything succinctly in my life. 

Love ya long time.

Anthony + the Butterflies (#dibsonbandname)

P.S. Please don’t hate me until after we see Hamilton, please.

… and the The Hungry Butthole

Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Grindr

Less Than Butterflies, No. 5

It was one of those fairy tale moments; a guy I’d been swooning over for a year or so and I had asked me for a date once he returned home from the holidays abroad. In my fairy tale, I was the princess (or maybe just the gay prince) who met another gay prince at the ball, fell for him, and was asked to dance with him before his entire court and all of his constituents. They watched in awe, knowing how wonderful a couple the two princes were, happy to see their separate kingdoms (his Cypress and mind Washington Heights) may someday become one. Only, in my fairy tale, I was also sleeping with another prince who hailed from the Kingdom of the Woodlands, but we weren’t exclusive, so it didn’t make me slutty.

But just like in every fairy tale, there arose a slight … complication.

Let us say that one of my many loyal subjects—in this case, my ex-boyfriend, Kevin—ran into me (still a prince in this scenario) at a local peasant pub, where I’d gone incognito to enjoy a drink with my lessers. There, Kevin stated he’d heard of my impending courtship and was happy I’d found someone new. He had but one question:

“What are y’all going to do about the sex?”

“Huh?” I asked Kevin, my kingdom suddenly under attack.

“Well … you’re both tops,” he explained, as though this were off-hand information I should have known. And just like that, my fairy tale was over. The dragon couldn’t be slayed. The land had been plagued by famine and locusts. Evil had triumphed over good; and, apparently, evil was a top.


Just like any athlete preparing for a big game, it felt necessary that I practice bottoming before the big night with Tyler, the aforementioned prince, which was still a week out. I figured that seven days was plenty of time to prepare myself not only physically, but also mentally for the pounding I was about to take.

I hadn’t the slightest idea as to what I was looking for when I entered the sex shop and was greeted by a wall of cocks in a variety of colors, sizes, shapes, and girths. The saleswoman was helpful, if not a bit intrusive, about what I was looking for and what I was hoping to do. I let her know immediately that I wasn’t there shopping for a new Bible. She responded to my cattiness the way most straight women react to gay men—with amory.

Soon, we’d settled on the Billy P-spot vibrator by Lelo, as it came in a lovely Bordeaux color in which I briefly considered painting an accent wall in my kitchen. I soon decided against it, unsure of how I’d sneak my new vibrator into Lowe’s to compare the color to paint swatches.

Next came the more technical and often confusing side of the shopping: lube, toy cleaning products, a little weed, and—for better or for worse—an enema. I knew before I’d even locked myself in my bedroom that this process was going to take time. I canceled plans; I poured myself a glass of wine; I lit enough candles to warm the inside of a frozen Hot Pocket;  I put my phone on airplane mode; I smoked a cigarette to calm my nerves, and then a bowl to actually calm my nerves. I was absolutely certain that I could not screw this up, but was almost just as certain that I was going to end up doing so anyway.

You have to keep in mind that my entire adult, gay life, I’ve only ever topped. Maybe it would have happened differently if I’d ever been in a situation where I wasn’t the only top. But in the years I’d been slutting it up from The Woodlands down to Galveston (not to mention a few times in DC, Indianpolis, Denver, San Diego, Orlando, and a few other major metropolitan areas), I’d always had the good fortune of falling into bed with bottoms. This was a new experience to me, yet not one to which I was vehemently opposed. In fact, I’d always told myself that I would someday do it if I were to fall for a guy that I liked enough to try.

But that was just the thing: it had to be the right guy. And in spite of how I’d opined over Prince Tyler for so very long, I wasn’t certain that he was anything more than just a frog in this fucked up fairy tale. Although, it was lucky that I now had Billy the Vibrating Wonder to use as a magic wand to find out.

So, stoned out of my mind, I laid down in bed after cleaning things out … you know … downtown. I sipped my wine through a straw, pulled off my clothing, and began to lube up.

There’s something bottoms don’t tell you about lube … it’s fucking messy. I briefly considered watching porn during this journey into my entertainment center, but it only took a few seconds before the lube was already getting everywhere, and I decided a laptop may not be the best thing to have nearby while that was the case. Instead, I let my mind wander, turning on the vibrator to its lowest setting and pressing it against my body. Obviously I didn’t go straight for home base. I worked my way around, actually enjoying the vibration against my neck, my chest, my penis, and my perineum (that’s science for “taint”).

And the truth of the matter was that I was really turned on. I mean, if my penis were a teapot, it would’ve been whistling like a lesbian gym teacher during volleyball season. And after a while—and I do mean a while, as I was still pretty freaked out at this point—I began inserting Billy into my end zone.

But it didn’t take long for me to realize that I was in way over my head … or at least … my legs were.

“It was awful,” I said after gulping down a glass of cabernet.

I was joined at Barnaby’s on Fairview by my friends Elaine (straight, married, ginger), Jackie (straight, married, not a ginger), and (oddly enough) Ezra.

“It’s not for everyone,” Ezra told me, a sore reminder that if he could have just fallen in love with me when he had the chance, I could have bypassed this entire situation for the rest of my life.

“I’ve always wondered, how do two men decide how this is going to go?” Jackie asked. “Do you have a discussion before hand? Is there like a sign?”

“A lot of times,” Ezra answered before I could, “when people meet on apps, it’s in their biography. Top, bottom, versatile. Or, yeah, there’s a discussion.”

“But if there’s not?” Jackie asked.

I looked around, trying to keep my volume down as not to disturb everyone that still had an appetite inside the restaurant. “It’s kind of like when you and I go to Olive Garden,” I told her. “You know, because we’re human garbage. But what happens when the waiter puts the breadsticks on the table? We shove them into our gaping mouths. And why? Because we’re—”

“Fat,” Jackie interrupted.

“Okay, well, I was going to say hungry, but that’s fair.”

“So … what you’re saying,” Elaine picked up, “is that there’s …”

“A hungry butthole,” I said. “It’s okay to say it. There are signs. They’re not the signs of real hunger, like your stomach growling or light headedness. They’re signs like a guy wrapping his legs around you when you get into bed to have sex. Or sometimes something a bit like …” I struggled with my verbiage, “… presenting.”

“As in a guy just flashes his anus to another guy like a mating chimp?” Elaine asked.

“As in his body language isn’t as phallocentric as a top’s might be. He dances and shows off his ass. He moves your hands down there when you have your arms around him. He sits on your lap. Those sorts of things.”

“I don’t know that there’s any fact in what you’re saying,” Ezra laughed.

“There is. It’s not like there’s a study on this somewhere. It’s just observation. You wouldn’t know because … well … you’re a bottom.”

“I’m glad you bring this up,” Elaine chimed in. “Because there are times when my husband gets a little fiesty and thinks that we’re going to go down there for that particular activity. And I’m not about it. For women, there isn’t any pleasure. We don’t have a prostate to stimulate. It’s just a lot of soreness and feeling like you’re shitting yourself the entire time.”

Everyone laughed as the other patrons of the restaurant darted glares at us.

I poured more wine. “The soreness is the worst. You’re lucky I could even come here tonight. I feel like a Mormon after a very long bike ride.”

Ezra nodded toward my wine glass, “Just drink your medicine. It’ll get better.”

“Listen, there’s not much I say no to in bed,” Elaine went on. “But I told Charlie,” (Elaine’s husband), “that it’s not that I don’t love him. But he’s very well endowed; and if he wants to do anal more often, he’s going to have to let me shove something up his ass and see how he likes it.”

“He might just,” Ezra pointed out.

“Yeah, straight people are apparently doing that now,” I said. “Pegging, they call it. All our lives straight people have wanted to point out all the things that are wrong with being gay, and yet they want us to decorate their houses like ours, and be their best friends like we are with each other, and help them pick out clothes like we do. And now they’re wanting to have sex like we do!” I knocked back the rest of my wine. “It’s appropriation, and it’s insulting.”


Screen-Shot-2018-01-09-at-3.25.21-PM ... and the The Hungry ButtholeA few nights later, once my not-so-hungry butthole had stopped aching, I received a text message from the other man I was sleeping with on the regular—the Prince of The Woodlands and, in spite of the fact that our relationship was mostly sexual and not exclusive, the man I had saved in my phone as this while drunk one night:

 

Most of our conversations started out that way. We’d hooked up a few weeks ago after chatting on Grindr, and he had turned out to be one of the sweetest and hottest guys I’d ever had sex with in my life. A part of me sort of felt I might be catching feelings, but I tried to scrub these away as often as I could. His name I hadn’t learned until well after our first sexual encounter, but turned out to be Dylan.

I grabbed a bottle of wine from Spec’s and headed from my house to the Woodlands—no short drive when you live in Downtown Houston. Still, I was horny and Dylan was hotter than a ghost pepper in the heat of a Texas July. I was still struggling with this aspect of our sexual relationship. Dylan was certainly way out of my league and I struggled to meander my mind away from my own self-deprecation to just appreciate his hotness when we were fucking around. Still, he kept coming back.

While having sex that night, I noticed that something was different about Dylan. He was not presenting as he had the last few times we’d hooked up. In fact, Dylan had taken on a much stronger dominance in the bedroom than he ever had before. Every time I reached my hand down for his ass, he’d push me down on my back and crawl on top of me to kiss me.

The sex was incredible, don’t get me wrong. In fact, his newfound assertive attitude was a great turn-on; and somewhere there in throes of passion, I found Dylan spreading my legs apart and crawling between them.

A part of me panicked, as I knew exactly was about to happen. Dylan was going to try to stick his dick inside of me and I was going to have to be that person who shut down a good thing because it took a turn I wasn’t there for. After all, Dylan’s penis was huge for a white dude four inches shorter than me, and I certainly didn’t want something even larger than Billy the Vibrating Nightmare inside of me after the other night.

But Dylan did something I wasn’t expecting, in spite of its commonplace nature for him. He took his hands and placed them on mine, palm-to-palm and fingers intertwined. Then he kissed me, and he whispered to me, and he nibbled on my neck and traced lines up and down my body with his tongue. And all the while that he performed these magical sex acts, my legs crawled and curled around his body like ivy up a trellis.

I was in an unexpected euphoria and an unwavering state of ecstasy. I was sweaty and writhing and my hair was likely knotted in the back from moving around so much on my back like an upside-down crab. But suddenly I found my legs not only wrapping around Dylan, but pulling him in closer to me, pushing his pelvis into me and wanting him more and more. It was in that moment that I realized it was me! I was the one who had the hungry butthole! I was suddenly back to my fairy tale in which my sage keepers—fairies or dwarves normally, but in this case, Billy the Vibrator—found me at my journey’s end to tell me that what I’d been looking for was inside of me all along.

Or at least … now it was.

The orgasm was insane. It was not like any other I’d had before. I screamed at one point, which is dangerous when you’re fucking against a wall against which neighbors sleep on the other side. I was clutching at Dylan’s skin like a cliff I had to take hold of as not to fall to my death. But when it was over, I didn’t hang around to chat like I normally would have. I didn’t drink any more wine and I barely kissed Dylan goodbye. I bolted. Right out the door, right down the stairs, right into my car, and right to the bar.

At some point when the endorphins had subsided, it had occurred to me as I lay there, soaked in sweat and semen, that my rule had always been that I would bottom if I ever met a guy that I liked enough to go through with it for.

And as I arrived at the bar, taking a shot and downing a drink, I couldn’t help but ask myself the same question over-and-over again: Was Dylan the right guy? Or, conversely, was it possible that every now and then, under the right circumstances and with a man who knows exactly what he’s doing, every gay man is capable of possessing a hungry butthole?