Insecure Freak

God, I can be such an insecure freak sometimes. This isn’t helped by my occasional inability to make sense of a situation when I like a guy. Usually, it’s no problem for me to figure out the who-likes-who dynamics of a situation, but with this one I’m just lost. It’s happened before: I know I have an interest in things working out, so I just can’t make heads or tails out of the situation if it doesn’t all happen easily. Good grief. Just when I was convinced that he was trying to butter me up for the brush off (the infamous “You’re the nicest guy ever” remark was my tip-off), he calls all happy to talk to me and asks me to dinner.

Now, the big question is: How much of this is a reflection of my own fears about the risks of sleeping with him some more? Is it pathetically passive-aggressive of me to assume he’s being a jerk so I don’t have to figure out how comfortable I can be dating someone who’s positive?

Speaking of which, it’s high time I get tested again. It’s been a long time since my last test, and I’ve been a bigger slut during that time than ever before. As fastidious as I am, I know I’ve slipped a couple of times out of those dozens and dozens. Between this one (who still hasn’t actually mentioned anything about it to me) and my sister’s bout with a brain tumor, you can imagine how thoughts of mortality are darting around in my head.


I’m not participating in A Day Without Weblogs. This is not because I don’t think AIDS awareness is important, or because I think it’s a hollow gesture to remove your weblog for a day. On the contrary, I think any effort to shock people out of any complacency is vitally important. I think, though, that I would rather participate in World AIDS Day by taking a moment in this forum to make a call for continued dialogue and continued openness about the issue.

People I love have been deeply affected by AIDS and HIV. It’s touched my family and my friends, and it’s been the cause of grief, anger, and fear. The fear is the worst part, I fear, in terms of how our society on the whole deals with the presence of AIDS in our lives. When people react, ond overreact with fear, it breeds a climate that punishes the sufferers rather than battles the disease itself. I don’t want to live in a world where peope are ostracized and feared because of a health condition, especially one which is preventable and containable. I don’t want to live in a world where compassion and understanding and lucidity are shoved aside by hysteria, suspicion, intolerance, and moral indignation. screw that.

I have friends with HIV, and it doesn’t freak me out. I have a brother with HIV, and it doesn’t freak me out. I’ve even dated guys with HIV, also: sometimes I’ve known about it, and sometimes I haven’t at the time. Either way, I’ve discovered that it doesn’t freak me out as much as I once thought it would. I’m grateful to know so that I have a chance to be a voice of reason rather than fear. What I’ve discovered each time I’ve learned about it is that it doesn’t change who that person may be, or how I feel about that person. The presence of HIV in their lives and mine may sadden me or make me angry sometimes, but it’s not the carrier I mind, it’s the virus. And it’s the way people react to it.

Don’t fear HIV. Don’t fear AIDS. Learn about them. Be smart and compassionate and careful. Prevent the spread of the virus. Don’t make martyrs or victims or pariahs or villains out of the people who have it. It’s not a judgement, it’s a disease. People get it, and that’s a tragedy, but pretending the tragedy doesn’t exist in your world will never ensure that it won’t.

Smack Is Wack

My brain is racing today. I started freelancing again, beginning with a three-week consulting project that’s going to involve lots of research and writing. Aren’t I supposed to be a designer? Actually, I like changes of pace: that’s what keeps my brain going. Each new problem sets me off on a whole new fixation for a little while.

And aside from renewed enthusiasm for work, I also wanted to talk about how happy I am that spring/summer has arrived in New York again. It’s nice to get out on my bike again and race around and see the teeming masses of cute boys that overrun this city. Especially once it’s tank-top season. Of course, 75% of them still look like they were recently shit out of a Banana Republic or an Abercrombie & Fitch, which detracts from the appeal of the nice calves and biceps.

There’s also the excellent debates about boring weblogs and American English versus British English going on at Barbelith. I think I agree with Tom on most of his points, but they’re big meaty issues that may have to wait for another day.

David at Planet SOMA is complaining about one of my favorite gripes: a propensity for strep throat that makes life hell, especially when you don’t have good enough insurance to get antiobiotics as easily as you’d like to. Just like David is complaining about, I also was sick for about a year straight with some degree of strep, which was a real bitch considering how annoying my large, testicle-sized tonsils are even when they’re healthy. I was weak constantly, and I felt like I would never see the year 2000. David also points out that those little flare-ups tend to happen soon after getting a little action, which only adds another level of paranoia to the problem. Oh yes, especially when you’re supposed to be the good son with his act together.

Which brings me to the topic that’s really on my mind today.

Patric King wrote today about discovering that two of his closest friends were using heroin, and not being sure how to react. It really struck a chord with me, since I had been recently mulling over my relationship to my oldest brother, who’s been battling a heroin and coke problem for a good chunk of my life, and carrying around the ol’ HIV for the last ten years or so.

There are so many effects of that for me to deal with over the years. The overpowering feeling that the youngest of the family (me) ought to make up for all the mistakes of the oldest. The panic about not living up to that self-imposed ideal every time I feel like I’ve screwed up at something. The ambivalence about whether to feel sympathy or resentment, since I don’t actually know my brother very well, but I see all the effects of his actions on the rest of my family. Watching some of these same patterns start to form among his kids, and wondering if anyone’s taking time to worry about my niece the “good girl” as well as my niece the “bad girl.”

My brother is a lot older than me, so I’ve never gotten to know him very well. I never got to know him as the first son, or the protective older brother, or the loving father like others in my family did. He’s been more of a stranger, an abstraction, a bad example. At the same time, he’s my brother and I can see so much in him that’s not very different from me. This too is pretty damn scary.

Most people who know me realize that I’m basically a tea-totaller: I don’t smoke or drink or anything. I’m not on a crusade about it — I like to go to bars with friends, I don’t see any reason to get all prissy about what other people to do. When I was a lot younger, I was a do-gooder nerd, so I didn’t start. A little later, after one brother had died and another was already starting to have trouble — I began feeling the pressure not to follow those examples. Now, I can see that’s it’s good that I never started, not because I think liquor or drugs are intrinsically bad, but because it’s really obvious to me that if I drank I’d probably be a drunk, and if I took drugs I might be as big a train wreck as either of them. I can see patterns of compulsion and self-indulgence in things I do already.

During one particularly long spell in rehab my brother wrote me a long, very confessional letter about himself and his life. It was so painful to read. Not only was the story itself heartbreaking, but because it was so clearly a view of what my life could have been. And also because it was so like me, but from someone I considered pretty much a total stranger. someone I’ve only seen once in about eight years. It was as if he chose a different path than me at every point along the way. I’ve made my share of bad choices, too, and they weigh on me even more heavily when I see how they mirror things my brother did.

But he did some stuff that’s hurt him, and hurt the people around him — people who I know better than I know him — and that’s always pissed me off. I don’t think my parents need anything else to worry about — they’ve had enough to last them for a while. I don’t think my sister-in-law and her kids should have to worry about when he’s going to let them down next, or sell all the electronics in the house next. And I don’t think that I should worry about whether or not any of my failings will only make things worse, but yet I do.

I would like to get to know my brother, or at least the side of him that’s around when he’s clean. He’s actually great — helpful, good-natured, and a lot smarter than he gives himself credit for. But whenever I talk to him during the standard holiday phone call, I think that we’ll never cross the gap. The worst part is that I can see that the problem is actually mine — he keeps trying to reach out. But unfortunately, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. I keep waiting for the next time I hear that he’s swiped something to sell and gone on a bender, and it’s hard for me to forgive that and get past it the way the rest of my family can.

Because deep down, I think I could have been just like him. And it scares the crap out of me. And I’m damn grateful for whatever anyone ever did to help me avoid it.