Sunday, May 24, 2015

My problem with ELLE Australia's breastfeeding cover

Nicole Trunfio was one of the first Aussie celebs whose name I was introduced to when I started working in Sydney seven months ago. Somebody told me she was the model who once pissed off Naomi Campbell enough to get quite the humiliating tongue-lashing from the notoriously hot-tempered diva.

One of the first stories I wrote was about her: She was expecting a baby with her husband, a black American blues musician named Gary Clark Jr. Once her face and name were familiar to me, I noticed that she was one of social media's most gorgeous exhibitionists. A colleague of mine said she knows Nicole's body better than she knows her own.

Now with one magazine cover Nicole has all but ensured that she'll no longer be the relative international celebrity nobody that Naomi Campbell dismissed her as. She appears on the cover of ELLE Australia's June issue breastfeeding her four-month-old son Zion.

ELLE editor-in-chief Justine Cullen explained how the photo came about:

"This wasn't a contrived situation. Zion needed a feed. Nicole gave it to him, and when we saw how beautiful they looked we simply moved her onto the set. It was a completely natural moment that resulted in a powerful picture."

Fair enough. Then Nicole had to go and add her two cents when posting the shot on Instagram. #Groan

"There is nothing more powerful and beautiful than motherhood. The last thing I want to do is be controversial, so please take this for what it is, let us #normalizebreastfeeding there is nothing worse than a mother that is judged for feeding her hungry child in public. #weareonlyhuman I'm so proud of this cover and for what it stands for. I obviously don't look like this while I am breastfeeding but this stands for all women out there, whether you breastfeed or not, we gave birth, we are women, we are mothers. Thank you ELLE for being so bold and making such an encouraging, positive and healthy statement. #womenunite

So let me get this straight: There is nothing worse than a mother that is judged for feeding her hungry child in public? Nothing worse?

I realize that women are put-upon and undervalued. Patricia Arquette made that very clear at the Oscars. Women should be paid the same as men, and they shouldn't be punished for having the nerve to turn 30. (In unrelated news, Maggie Gyllenhaal, 37, was recently turned down for a film role because she was deemed too old for the 55-year-old male lead.)

But did I blink and miss the moment when motherhood fell under attack? We now have to "normalize" breastfeeding because the masses think it's abnormal and want hungry babies to starve?

There will always be some assholes who object to everything, including young children on airplanes and in restaurants. Is that not their prerogative, though? Will seeing a beautiful model breastfeeding her baby on the cover of ELLE change their minds about public breastfeeding? Will "normalizing" it make those detractors OK with it?

Frankly, I'm sick of everything being turned into a front-page issue. I'm over celebrities telling me how to feel about everything. Most of all, I'm tired of seeing Nicole's body parts. Here is a model who is constantly posting sexy shots on Instagram trying to turn an appearance on the cover of a glossy fashion magazine into a moment of utmost sociopolitical importance.

Why is it up to her and to ELLE to "normalize" breastfeeding? I don't think anyone thinks it's abnormal. But in a society where we are constantly touting freedom of speech and thought, whether it's Dolce & Gabbana's or caterers who refuse to serve at gay weddings, do people not have the right to not want to see women breastfeeding in public, too?

Almost exactly three years ago, Time magazine ran a cover of a woman breastfeeding a toddler. A similar pro-breastfeeding argument was made then, but as far as I can recall, without the "normalizing" twist. Though there was nothing "natural" about the Time cover, I wonder if Nicole and ELLE realized that the general concept had already been done...and by a magazine that's far more likely to influence social and political thought.

Personally, watching female celebrities parade around the red carpet in various states of undress for years has numbed me to the visual effects of the female anatomy, with or without a kid's mouth attached. I think if a woman wants to breastfeed in public, it's OK. But what's wrong with a bit of discretion? The baby can still get fed and everyone can enjoy their meal in peace. I don't need Nicole Trunfio and ELLE magazine trying to enlighten me.

Just to be on the safe side, ELLE shot two versions of the cover. There's a safe glamour shot of Nicole and Zion on the one that will be sold on newsstands. Subscribers will get the breastfeeding one. If ELLE was all about making a statement rather than money (and in the magazine's defense, the editor didn't say that they are), they would have gone for the gusto and just sold the breastfeeding cover, potential lost newsstand sales be damned. But we all know what it's really all about in the end.

I wonder if Nicole has thought about how Zion will feel when he grows up about seeing himself sucking his mother's breast while his baby bum is exposed. Maybe she's hoping that breastfeeding will be "normalized" enough by then that he won't care.

As far as cover vs. cover, I prefer the non-breastfeeding one because Nicole looks lovely and you can see the baby's adorable face. I have a feeling that in 10 to 20 years, Zion will prefer it too.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Being gay isn't just about get our minds out of the gutter!

Better than sex!
Newsflash! There's more to life than sex. 

Shocker, right? What kind of gay man am I to say such a thing? I generally prefer to speak for myself only, but I'm pretty sure multi-dimensionality is something I have in common with a number of other gay men. 

The naked truth is this: There are several things I'd rather be doing right now than getting naked and having sex, like writing this blog post. A friend of mine once asked me when I'm happiest. Without hesitating, I said after a long-distance run, and when an article I'm writing starts to really come together, like right now.

Maybe I've just been having bad-to-mediocre sex all of my life, but that feeling of progress and accomplishment beats almost every orgasm I can remember...and that I can recall the specifics of so few of them speaks volumes.

It never occurred to me to consider when I'm between the sheets (not sleeping and not alone) or rolling around awkwardly on a couch as my happiest times. That didn't even enter my mind. I know I'm probably in the minority here -- not just among gay men, among men in general -- but my life isn't all about sex...not even a quarter about sex. I think about so many other things.

So do a lot of gay men, despite what Grindr might lead one to believe. (And I suspect that for many, Grindr is less about sex and more about validation and ego-massaging then most are willing to admit.) Yet perhaps because we are assigned the "gay" label largely due to our sexual activity, that becomes, for many of us and to others, the crux of our identities.

Yes, sexual preference is the major factor in determining whether someone is gay or straight, but I'm not gay solely because I have sex with men. I also connect with men emotionally in a way that I don't with women. A guy I once dated said he can tell I'm not gay just for the sex. It was one of the most astute observations anyone has ever made about me.

If heterosexuals aren't defined by sex, why are homosexuals in the eyes of so many? If I decide to stop having sex, which I did for the bulk of 2014, am I not still gay?

I know our predilection towards horniness, our portrayal in the media, and Grindr don't do the perception of gay men any favors, but the sex slant is more about being male than about being gay. Straight men are no less hung up on sex and would be doing it just as often as gay men if women would indulge them.

Some women do. That's what makes the oldest profession still such a potentially lucrative one. Straight men really keep prostitutes in business. Yet nobody thinks all straight men sleep with hookers. Nor do they think they're all potential child molesters or rapists, though we can probably safely assume that the majority of sex offenders are straight.

I recently read a headline in which someone claimed gay men all should be kept away from children? Huh? So we're all potential pedophiles because of the actions of a few Catholic priests? Do all of the straight male pedophiles in prison mean that we must be extra vigilant when straight men are with kids? 

Of course not. As with white people, straight people only have to answer for their individual actions. The increasing number of exhibitionist female celebs on Instagram and on magazine covers doesn't say anything about women in general, nor do the occasionally "leaked" sex tapes starring straight D-listers angling for a spot on the A-list. Meanwhile, gays, like blacks and other minorities, always seem to be judged cumulatively. The actions of a few determine the perception of all. It's collectivism at its most maddening.

Last week when I told the story about my encounters with the 12-year-old boy named Jeffrey, I was surprised by how strongly some people reacted to it. I actually thought it was more funny and odd than disturbing. Sure, it was somewhat disconcerting because, well, 12-year-old boys generally aren't interested in grown men who aren't their fathers or celebrities. Still, I couldn't help but think that most people assigned a sexual element to it that had more to do with me than with the kid, though he drove the entire story.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I've been attracting intrigued male and female kids for decades, ever since a six year old named Frederick approached me at Astor Hair in New York City, struck up a conversation and asked if he could sit on my lap. I told him his dad, who was getting a haircut nearby, might not appreciate that.)

If I were straight, or a woman, or if the child had been a girl, I wonder if it would have seemed as creepy and disturbing to those who know I'm gay. I'm almost certain that a young girl approaching a woman, gay or straight, in the same way, wouldn't have given anyone pause. It would be unusual but likely still deemed perfectly harmless and innocent.

The one person I told the story to who wasn't at all shocked by it had an interesting take. "He probably just wanted to be friends," she said. "He wanted to be friends because you looked different and cool." She also suggested that he might have been acting on a dare (which is actually the explanation I find most plausible, having considered it myself), or because he wants to visit the U.S. and was excited to meet an American.

She said that after reading my blog post about Jeffrey, she Googled "Jeremy cool black guy in Sydney," and I was No. 6 on the list, and No. 2 the next day. I was surprised I hadn't been No. 1 both times (Is there another black Jeremy in Sydney?) but impressed that although she'd included "black," she'd left out "gay." 

Knowing her -- and this is one of the things I love most about her -- it probably never even entered her mind.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The thrill is gone: A year of musical loss

The last year has been tough on music lovers. I can't remember a previous span of time during which we've had to say goodbye to so many greats, particularly during the last few weeks.

The latest musical icon lost: B.B. King. It shouldn't have come as such a huge surprise that he passed away on Thursday. The man was 89 years old, and he was blessed with a long and rich life. Yet when I read the news on Facebook, it knocked the wind out of me.

I always thought B.B. King would live forever. I took his existence for granted, like the sun, the moon and the oceans. He was just a natural part of the world. I can't remember a time when B.B. King wasn't a part of my world.

The funny thing is this: "The Thrill Is Gone" aside, I couldn't even name the title of a single B.B. King song. Oh, yes, there's also "When Love Comes to Town," his Rattle and Hum duet with U2, but that was really U2's thing. "The Thrill Is Gone" was 100 percent B.B. King with Lucille (his beloved guitar) on the side. Ironically, the first time I heard his signature song and biggest hit was via a cover version by Barbara Mandrell on her 1982 album ...In Black and White.

Though I'm no expert on his discography, I definitely know B.B. King's voice, for how can you forget such a singular sound. It was yearning, pleading, foreboding, the epitome of the blues. B.B. King was the blues. The thrill is most definitely gone.

Goodbye to B.B. King and to Joe Cocker, Lesley Gore, Percy Sledge, Ben E. King, Errol Brown, and all the others who contributed so much to the soundtrack of our lives.

B.B. King 1925-2015

Joe Cocker 1944-2014

Lesley Gore 1946-2015

Percy Sledge 1941-2015

Ben E. King 1938-2015

Errol Brown 1943-2015

Friday, May 15, 2015

The generation gap: Why is this 12-year-old boy talking to me?

If you're only as young as you feel, I'm about ready to close up shop. If you're only as young as you look to people who are terrible at guessing ages, well, I might still be in business. According to a lot of the men who have approached me in recent years, I'm not a day over twentysomething, early thirties tops.

It's good to be young…or at least to appear that way to suitors, even if you see Methuselah every time you look in the mirror. The optical illusion that is my twenties-to-35 face must be the reason why the men I attract seem to get younger every year.

The other day while I was watching myself do arm curls in the mirror at the gym, I could have sworn I saw my dad's face staring back at me. I have no idea what Methuselah looked like, but I'd know dad's face anywhere. When those guys who are half my age see me, though, they see one of their peers. Sure, they're blind as bats, but who am I to argue?

Then along came Jeffrey. He couldn't have been older than a tween, 12 tops. The first time I saw him, he was running toward me as I was walking by a group of boys playing sports on The Domain, a wide open green space bordering downtown Sydney. Jeffrey was dressed in a dark blue school uniform, complete with a blazer and necktie. Had he been 20 years older and a couple of feet taller, I might have mistaken him for an insurance salesman. All he was missing was the briefcase.

"Hi, sir."

I was less disarmed by the formality of his greeting (Who are you calling sir?) than I was by his voice and appearance. He sounded American but looked Italian. I searched the faces of his friends and classmates to make sure I was still in Sydney. Oh, good. I was.

"I'm Jeffrey," he continued, holding out his hand for me to shake. I clasped it reluctantly, disappointed that such a bold approach was accompanied by a limp handshake.

"I'm Jeremy. It's nice to meet you, Jeffrey." Normally I wouldn't have paid attention to his name, and I certainly wouldn't have repeated it, but my brother's name is Jeffrey, so I made a mental note of it. In fact, I considered mentioning my brother but reconsidered. His friends weren't paying us any mind, but what if an adult was looking and getting the wrong idea?

"Where are you going?"

"Oh, I'm just walking home."

There was an uncomfortable silence. Had we been on Grindr, this would have been the part where he asked "What are you looking for?"

"Well, Jeffrey, you have a nice day, OK."

"OK, you, too. Bye."

I walked away without looking back, wondering what that had been all about. It was the strangest encounter I'd had with someone who wasn't old enough to drive since two years ago when that nine-year-old Arab boy took me on an afternoon tour of his neighborhood in Jerusalem. He had been angling for a tip. What had been Jeffrey's end game?

By the time I told my colleague Yasmin about it the next day, I had already filed it away as one of those the-strangest-things-happen-to-me-that-won't-happen-again-until-the-next-time memories. After all, it's not like Jeffrey and I frequent the same watering holes. What was the likelihood of my seeing him again?

Yasmin reasoned that the reason he approached me in the first place was because I have one of those smiles that invites strangers to approach me…even ones who should be mindful of "stranger danger." So the next day when I was walking past The Domain en route home, I put on my bitchiest resting face lest any other tweens get the not-so-bright idea to chat me up.

Just when I started to think it was working, I saw Jeffrey running up to me.

"Hi, Jeremy," he said, smiling widely. He looked like a kid who'd just gotten straight As on his report card and scored the winning home run in a game of baseball all in the same day. How could I not politely stop and greet him back?

"Hi, Jeffrey. How's it going?"

"I'm good. Where are you going?"

"I'm going home."

"Cool...Hey, can I have your phone number?"

"Um, huh? My phone number? Why do you want my phone number?"

"Because you're a really cool guy."

"I am? But you don't even know me."

"No, but you seem really cool."

He was probably the most persistent guy I've met in Sydney yet. And he seemed like the type to call, not text. What in the hell would we talk about? I'm not a phone person as it is, and what could be more awkward than trying to make conversation with a 12 year old who picked you out of the crowd just because you seemed really cool? Before I could think of an excuse to make a hasty exit, Jeffrey was handing me his iPhone.

Now being a conspiracy theorist and lifelong hypochondriac, my mind went to all of the worst-case-possible scenarios. Were we being watched? Was Jeffrey part of a sting operation to catch potential pedophiles?

I started to think of my defense. Well, he had approached me…both times. But I had engaged him. And now my fingerprints were all over Jeffrey's cell phone. What was I going to do?

I thought about denying his request and going about my way, but my paternal instincts got the best of me. He seemed like a good kid, and I didn't want to hurt his feelings. Also, one of his friends had dropped to his knees and was bowing at us in awe. Was that considered the ultimate badge of tween honor, to get the old guy walking by to talk to you? Why else would a little kid be the least bit interested in some random grown-up?

I decided it probably wasn't a sting operation, since his buddy was clearly in on it. So I plugged in my phone number…well, most of it. I mangled the last few digits, just to be on the safe side. Sure, he'd probably still be hurt, but I wouldn't have to be around to watch it. And best of all, I wouldn't be receiving any unwanted calls from the authorities.

As I walked away, I knew I wouldn't be taking that route home again. It was nothing personal against Jeffrey. He seemed like excellent BFF material…for someone closer to his own age. But it's probably time for me to start actively courting an older fan base.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

10 reasons why modern technology is more likely to get us killed

1. Texting while walking or driving can lead to disaster. The other day I almost fell forward, head first onto the concrete while walking and texting at the same time. I managed to stay upright, but the next time I might not be so lucky…and we all know there'll be a next time.

2. We now have so many vital electronic gadgets that we're unlikely to leave them behind on a downed plane. They always tell us to leave our personal belongings behind when exiting an airplane during an emergency. Like, who would actually do that? I, for one, probably wouldn't be able to resist the urge to grab my laptop from the overhead bin on the way out, screaming and scrambling fellow passengers be damned. After all, so much of my life is on that thing, surviving the crash would be pretty rough without it.

3. Nobody memorizes phone numbers anymore. Right now there's the most ridiculous storyline on The Young and the Restless that has cosmetics billionaire Jack Abbott being held captive in some far-flung mystery country by his crazy ex Kelly Andrews. Meanwhile, a doppelganger has taken over his life with his new wife Phyllis back in Genoa City, Wisconsin. Despite being handcuffed to a bed, Jack somehow managed to get ahold of a small knife the other day, stab Kelly in the neck and steal her phone, which he then used to call his son Kyle.

Huh? Clearly he had to know Kyle's number by heart in order to call him from Kelly's phone, and really, who knows anyone's number by heart these days? We all program them into our phones without giving the individual digits a second thought. When people call us or we call them, we generally don't even see numbers, just the caller's name or pic. So if someone were being held captive by a madwoman far from home and somehow accessed a random phone, he'd probably get no further than an area code when trying to call his son to the rescue.

In Jack's case, someone other than Kyle answered. (Yes, the doppelganger!) Following a few unfathomable plot twists, Jack called the police. Wait, is it 911 everywhere in the world?

4. It's easier for our every movement to be tracked by the enemy. How can we lose ourselves in the crowd while on the run from international terrorists when we're constantly checking in on Facebook. Ah ha! Gotcha!

5. Predictive text can cause fatal mistakes. What if you're a private eye trying to catch a suspected cheating husband and you text your honey trap "kill him" instead of "kiss him." Oops! Ooh, and if Margeaux had accidentally sent a "kiss him" text to Courtney Love on the penultimate episode of Revenge instead of ordering that hit by phone, Jennifer Love Hewitt's husband would have lived to see Sunday's series finale.

6. Do cell phones still cause brain tumors? If so, we're all pretty much screwed.

7. We're more likely to self-diagnose rather than going to see a doctor. If you're even a fraction of the hypochondriac that I am, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

8. We're more likely to spend convalescing time updating our health status rather than resting. Frankly, I've never really understood why people post Facebook status updates about their health and the health of their loved ones, but I suppose it's probably to create a sense of community in difficult times. Still, they'd probably be better off offline and in bed.

9. You're more likely to be physically isolated due to social media. Since you can create an alternate reality that's full of friends, you might not even notice that you spend most of your time alone. Those likely aren't the best of conditions for anyone who's depressed and possibly suicidal. At some point, the reality of a hopeless loner's or lonesome loser's true isolation is bound to sink in.

10. We're now all amateur videographers. Remember when Jo on Melrose Place took those pictures of a cop brutalizing a criminal? She almost lost her life as a result when the dirty cop came after her. She was a photographer, so her having a camera at the scene of the crime wasn't so far-fetched. In 2015, she probably would capture it on smart phone video, and in 2015, it could possibly happen to anyone. Imagine how much different the coverage of September 11 would have been if phone cameras had been in such prevalent use back then.

As we've all become amateur photojournalists, the possibility of shooting the wrong thing (like someone shooting someone else dead) has increased exponentially. Alas, modern life is nothing like Melrose Place…If it were, all of those sexcapades probably would have ended up on video! Had we been in Jo's Doc Martens, smart phone in hand, we probably wouldn't have lived to see another storyline.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Is this the movie that will finally win Johnny Depp an Oscar?

I love a good comeback. It's right up there with the underdog on the list of things I can't help but root for. I especially loves it when one (the underdog) pulls off the other (a good comeback).

Which brings us to Johnny Depp, a recent underdog who could use a good old-fashioned comeback.

Considering Johnny's current string of critical and commercial misfires, one would be forgiven for forgetting that it wasn't too long ago (a decade or so, to be not so exact) that he was considered the actor most overdue for an Oscar. Flashback, for a moment, to 2011, when Eddie Redmayne was drooling over Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn. Who would have thought that kid would end up beating Johnny to the podium to accept the Best Actor grand prize?

During Johnny's lost years, his What's Eating Gilbert Grape co-star Leonardo DiCaprio has assumed the title of Actor Most Overdue for an Oscar. The tide might not be about to change for Leo (not yet), but I'm expecting a turnaround for 51-year-old Johnny. A career boost would be most welcome, considering all the reports of trouble on the Australian set of the next Pirates of the Caribbean sequel (from which Johnny went missing last week) and in his marriage to the much-younger model-turned-actress Amber Heard, 29.

The source of my optimism: The trailer for Johnny's upcoming film Black Mass (due September 18), which was released today. It's two minutes and 10 seconds of scary, and that's not because it's a horror film. It's a gangster movie with Johnny apparently playing a very bad guy. I'm not a big fan of the mobster genre (I get my fill five days a week with General Hospital anyway), but this one has piqued my curiosity in a way that no Johnny Depp film has since before he became a 2003-to-2007 Oscar darling.

I've long said that Johnny would finally win an Oscar when he stops playing cartoons and assumes the role of a real person. I meant a normal person, like the one Julianne Moore played to perfection (and Oscar glory -- at last!) in Still Alice. Whitey Bulger, described by Wikipedia as "the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston," is hardly normal, but I'll take real as in a real person who actually lived, rather than a cartoonish character. Oscar loves stars playing real-life people.

The only thing Oscar loves more than that is a stunning transformation, and Johnny is unrecognizable in the trailer. I'm not talking Johnny-under-a-pound-of-make-up-Willy-Wonka-Mad-Hatter unrecognizable, but Johnny as a balding middle-aged old blue eyes. He doesn't look like Johnny Depp playing dress-up (again) but like a different actor entirely. He could almost pass for Ed Harris's creepy kid brother.

As for Johnny's performance, it's the main reason I want to see the film. He does most of the talking in the trailer, and his delivery is steady and even throughout, yet it's loaded with nuance. He's menacing without raising his voice or getting up from the dinner table and, dare I say it, dangerous-sexy. I'm truly terrified for what he's going to do to Julianne Nicholson!

Then there's the movie's Oscar pedigree. Like the 2006 Best Picture The Departed, it's set in Boston, which has long been a city favored by the Academy. (Get it, Black Mass as in Massachusetts?) It spans a period of 30 years, which increases its Oscar friendliness, and the trailer includes a very brief apparent Civil Rights-era sequence with a bunch of black kids on a school bus, which would cover the Oscar-bait racial-strife angle.

As for the talent behind Black Mass, it was directed by Scott Cooper, the guy who helped Jeff Bridges finally win the Best Actor Oscar for Crazy Heart. Meanwhile, Johnny's co-stars include 2014 Best Actor nominee Benedict Cumberbatch as well Joel Edgarton, a key player in the recent Best Picture contender Zero Dark Thirty. Peter Sarsgaard, Oscar winner Cate Blanchett's love interest in Blue Jasmine, puts in an appearance, too.

Black Mass is not all testosterone, which might help it appeal to women in the Academy. Among the female cast list is the aforementioned Julianne Nicholson, new It Girl Dakota Johnson and 2014 Oscar MVP Sienna Miller, who costarred with three 2014 male acting nominees (American Sniper's Bradley Cooper and Foxcatcher's Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo). The only thing missing is Eddie Redmayne!

He's busy prepping to be Johnny's main Best Actor competition. Eddie poses a serious threat to take the gold a second consecutive time for playing a transgender woman in The Danish Girl, a film which, incidentally, costars Johnny's wife. If Johnny, Eddie and their movies all end up being next-Oscar-season favorites, there'll be some awkward red-carpet nights ahead for Amber, even if her marriage to Johnny doesn't last that long.

Would Eddie triumph with Amber in his corner? When I went to bed last night, I thought he was the one to beat, and frankly, after what he pulled with Michael Keaton in February, I wasn't too thrilled about by the prospect of a repeat win. Now I have brand new hope, for the 2015 Oscars and for Johnny.

You read it here first.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Cringeworthy relationship cliches, from the start of a romance to its bitter end

"Love is fair...It breaks everybody's heart." Thank you, Miss Barbara Mandrell, for offering some of the truest words ever spoken, or sung, about love on your 1981 country single. (Sorry, Sade, but "Nothing can come between us" is purely wishful thinking.)

It was a unique assessment with a surprise twist -- and considerably more resonant and dead accurate than all those love, romance and relationship cliches that we generally spout. 

Despite my cynicism, I do believe in love...forever love even. What I don't buy is the florid and hackneyed prose it often inspires. For example...

1. "I've never felt this way about anyone." The current cut is always the deepest...until the next one.

2. "He/she knows me better than I know myself." Deeper understanding on one lover's part or just a complete lack of self-awareness on the other's? While I concede that those closest to me might have special insight into why I do the things I do, no one on earth is more of an expert on me than the guy who has been stuck with me 24/7 for my entire life. 

3. "We're like the same person." So falling in love with myself should be a romantic aspiration? Well, I suppose opposites don't always attract and self-love is indeed a good thing, but falling for myself would make for some painfully superfluous conversations. I'd rather share my life with someone different from me because even if it's not as critical as self-love, variety is the spice of life.

4. "I love you more." While it's preferable to the "Thank you" response to "I love you," if love is already a battlefield, must we make it a contest, too? Can one measure something so intangible that most people can't even define it? "I love you, too" will always suffice.

5. "My other half." A person can inspire me, enhance my life and rock my world, but nobody completes me but me.

6. "My better half." Really? Better? What happened to equal partners?

7. "You can tell me anything." Famous last words...spoken right before the devastating ones that rip a couple apart forever.

8. "Relationships are hard." No, love doesn't have to be a battlefield. Sure, if it's worth having, it's worth fighting for, but I wouldn't kick easy loving out of bed.

9. "You can do better." The precursor to "Their loss" post-split. Has such shameless ego massaging ever actually made anyone feel better?

10. There's plenty of other fish in the sea." Yeah, but a crowded and polluted sea of love makes the perfect filet that much harder to find. Vegetarians might be on to something.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Why do people do that?: 20 everyday head scratchers

Today's subject: mind-boggling behaviour. To each his (or her) own, but still, why do people do the darndest things, like...

Press the button at intersections to get the "Walk" signal -- aren't they automatic?

Press the up/down elevator button more than once?

Walk on the wrong side of the sidewalk?

Walk so closely behind you that they step on the back of your Havaianas?

Stand in the middle of escalator steps so that nobody can pass?

Go "aaah" after downing a glass of water?

Drink coffee after dinner?

Smoke at any time of day?

Eat plain yogurt?

Stand on moving walkways?

Not have any idea what they want to order after waiting in line for five minutes or more?

Still use shower curtains?

Still have fax numbers?

Eat pizza with pineapple chunks on it?

Grab the seat in front of them when getting up on airplanes?

Sell bran and chocolate chip muffins when nobody seems to buy them?

Cite the First Amendment (freedom of speech) as defense against criticism for saying stupid things -- hypocritical much?

Call when texting will do?

Drink carbonated water...or non-alcoholic beer?

Build bathrooms without bidets?

"Like" sad posts on Facebook?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Don't say that!: 12 random words and phrases that make me shudder

The things we talk about during downtime at work.

And no, that list doesn't include Game of Thrones, which is still on my to-watch-for-the-first-time list and will likely spend years there before I do. (I never got around to Weeds until a few seasons after it was off the air!) And no, our on-the-clock conversations don't happen around the watercooler. Those are so Melrose Place '90s. Our purified water at work comes from a tap beside the sink, and I've yet to see a crowd there.

My colleagues and I recently had a fun chat (at our desks, in front of our computers) about things people say that sound like fingernails on a chalkboard...which, truth be told, has never really bothered me at all. I'd much less prefer to hear the sound of high heels clomping behind me, the banging of pots and pans, and slamming doors. (Incidentally, "truth be told," which I never say but often write, was on someone's list.)

One of my best friends used to cringe at the sound of "package," "supper," "meal" and "moist," the latter of which makes my boss want to scratch someone's eyes out. Another colleague mentioned "at the end of the day," which I secretly love because it sounds like something I would say before making one of my casual pronouncements.

While I completely understand why all of the words and phrases that offend my co-workers offend, I'm far more annoyed by the ones below. The next time you see me, feel free not to utter any of them.

1. "cocktail" It sounds like something that comes in a too-tiny glass that you shake so that the ice makes that infuriating tinkling sound. Let's go out for "drinks" instead.

2. "at this point in time" The time is now to start saying "now."

3. "ya" for "you" So forced casual but really, "you" is not exactly wearing a bowtie.

4. "baby daddy"/"baby mama" It makes parenthood sound like something dirty.

5. "bitch" I feel kind of silly every time I say "witch" in lieu of the B word. But when a guy says "bitch," it always sounds to me like he's smacking a woman around.

6. "party" as a verb Do people even "party" anymore? If they do, I'd like to party with J. Cole (the ridiculously cute rapper in the Beyoncé video below).

7. "make love" I have no problem with the idea behind it (more personal than sex), and I'd rather "make love" than "fuck," but the phrase sounds straight out of the bedroom script of a '70s soap heroine. I love this song, though...

8. "Congrats!" If you're going to take the time to comment on someone's good fortune, can't you take the time to say "Congratulations" while you're at it?

9. "Morning" instead of "Good morning" Ever since an ex suggested hidden meaning behind my "Morning," it's taken on a particularly terse tone for me. If it's not actually a "good" morning, I wouldn't hold it against anyone for giving in to the urge not to say anything at all.

10. "whilst" It must be an Australian/British thing because I don't think anyone in the U.S. has ever used "whilst" if "while" will do. Thankfully, I've yet to have to be tempted to edit it out of anyone's copy at work. Keep it up, colleagues!

11. "copy" The journalism equivalent of calling the music that an artist has spent months, or years, slaving over "product."

12. "brunch" A favorite meal of people who live in condos instead of apartments and flats and drink -- ugh -- cocktails. I'll have a feta, spinach and mushroom omelette and just call it "breakfast" no matter what time of day it is.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Why I won't be tossing out this Dolce & Gabbana shirt

"We oppose gay adoptions. The only family is the traditional one. No chemical offsprings and rented uterus: life has a natural flow, there are things that should not be changed." -- Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana in Italy's Panorama magazine

First of all, a disclaimer is in order…two of them. The statements above were translated (and poorly punctuated) from Italian to English by The UK's The Telegraph. Having seen ideas get mangled in translation from Spanish to English and vice versa, I would consider this more in the spirit of what the Italian designers said than what they actually said. (If any native Italian speakers are reading this, please help me out here.)

Second, since when are quotes attributed to more than one person? Are Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana two simultaneously talking heads?

All that aside, the part of D&G's interpretation of family that I object to most is the part that rejects gay parents. If the only family is the "traditional" one, then they must oppose single mothers, single fathers, single foster parents, single legal guardians, widowed parents and anything else that doesn't reflect the picture-perfect Norman Rockwell version of family.

It's misguided thinking for sure, but it warrants understanding and communication more than knee-jerk moral outrage. When I first came out and my mother was taking a minute to adjust to having not one but two gay sons, my friends cautioned me to be patient with her and consider where she was coming from. She was a woman born in the 1940s in an ultra-religious society. Should I really have expected her to immediately start waving the rainbow flag?

One could make a similar case for Dolce and Gabbana and some of their more antiquated ideas. Dolce said that procreation "must be an act of love…You are born to a mother and a father -- or at least that's how it should be." Gabbana added, "A child needs a mother and a father. I could not imagine my childhood without my mother. I also believe that it is cruel to take a baby away from its mother."

Italy is devoutly Catholic, so Dolce's archaic view of procreation should surprise no one. And considering the matriarchal bent of the classic Italian family, it makes sense that two staunch Italians would deem a maternal presence necessary to that unit. However, that makes me wonder what they think about lesbian adoption and adoption by straight single men. Note to interviewer: Don't forget to ask the obvious follow-up questions!

I could spend hours poking holes in their views on gay adoption and "traditional" families, but everyone else seems to be focused on their comments about in-vitro fertilization, which are pretty over the top. "I call children of chemistry, synthetic children. Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalog," Dolce declared, spurring Sir Elton John to blast him on Instagram for calling his children "synthetic" and vow never to wear their designs again.

Elsewhere people wondered how two gay men could say such things. I asked myself the same question, not because of their stance on gay adoption or IVF but because of the lazy implied link between the two. Who died and made IVF a gay issue? Nicole Kidman, Angela Bassett and Sarah Jessica Parker have had babies via IVF and surrogacy, 51-year-old supermodel Elle Macpherson is expecting thanks to it, and Kim Kardashian's doctor supposedly just told her it's the only way she can have more children. I suspect that half of straight Hollywood uses IVF to become pregnant.

I have several straight female friends who have turned to IVF to become mothers, so I don't see how it's possibly a gay thing. Now that it seems to have become one, however, do I follow Elton John's lead and boycott Dolce & Gabbana? I considered it for a hot second, but what would be the point?

I have gay friends who oppose gay marriage and nobody has ever suggested I boycott them. There are likely plenty of people with whom I do business on a regular basis, gay and straight, who oppose gay marriage, and possibly gay adoption, for whatever reason. It's definitely misguided, but I'm not sure I can automatically equate it with outright homophobia. Do I banish them from my life anyway?

It's interesting that some gay people are quick to defend sexual prejudice within their ranks ("No Asians," "No Blacks," "No whites") as "preference," yet they're unwilling to tolerate ideology that differs from theirs. That's the height of hypocrisy.

As for IVF, I'd be lying if I said I haven't had my issues with it. We take people to task for buying expensive dogs instead of getting a homeless one from the shelter or pound, and one can make a similar case with babies when adoption is an option.

I remember cringing a little when a gay friend of mine described the process he went through to find a suitable egg donor and a surrogate. It sounded a lot like the process of choosing a 15-minute stand on Grindr. But how many people who become parents through traditional means would turn down the option to pre-determine certain baby qualities before conception if it were possible and free of charge? It may not be, for me, the ideal commencement of life, but it's certainly not an invalid one.

So who am I to judge anymore? But just because I've put aside most of my reservations and fully accept pre-natal technology doesn't mean the rest of the world has to do the same.

I considered tossing the one Dolce & Gabbana item in my wardrobe, but I'll be hanging on to it, after all. If I can be friends with Republicans (and I am) and people who'd never date anyone of my color, enjoy entertainment created by artists and performers who embrace different political and religious points of view and live in a country where gay marriage is still illegal (Get with the program, Australia!), I can wear a shirt by designers who are ill-informed enough to call children of IVF "synthetic."

The supposedly "synthetic" ones I've seen look pretty authentic to me. However, looking at them through Dolce and Gabbana's eyes, does being "synthetic" also make one soulless and less than human? That sounds like the basis for future prejudice and discrimination, and two gay men should know better than to stir that particular can of worms. But they're designers, not philosophers.

It's important to call people on their stupidity without dismissing them. As long as they don't express outright racism or homophobia -- the kind that leads to name-calling, rejection and violence, or denying service to gays or certain ethnic groups (Shame on Indiana!) -- I can deal with the unenlightened and any ideas they might be trying to sell.

But one Dolce & Gabbana shirt is probably enough.