Nov 162011

Friend or “friendlie?” Marketing guru Seth Godin says friends are those people who we have a real relationships, while “friendlies” are those we share a digital link but no real connection.

I heard a story the other day that made me laugh. A man who is active in a social network was in a chat room with his favorite online community when his spouse walked in, looked over his shoulder, and teased, “You’re must be talking to your imaginary friends again.”

While imaginary friends are okay (I had one growing up named “Johnny Angel.”), they aren’t the same as real friends. At this point in my life, I want connection. I want friends.

Do you consider yourself my friend or friendly? If I am a friendlie, how can I earn your friendship? E-mail me. I want to know.

Nov 132011

After ninety minutes of “This planet is lining up with that planet in that house,” all I could remember was one sentence: “This stage of your life is about slaying dragons.” My friend Jim, a brilliant astrologer, was reviewing my natal chart.

Jim explained that I was being challenged to face my biggest fear, and it wasn’t going to be easy. As Bette Davis said in the classic movie All About Eve: “Fasten your seatbelts; it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Career was easy for me, Jim said, but relationships were not. My emotions could be somewhat frozen. No shit, Sherlock, I said silently to myself.

Since my marriage fourteen years ago, I haven’t been in a relationship that’s lasted more than three years. Looking back on these relationships, I realize that almost every one of my ex-partners complained about my lack of feeling.

Several years ago after I broke up with the first man I had lived with since my divorce, I plunged into a dark space. I turned to a therapist for help.

The therapist helped me see that I had a fear of being present. I was also afraid to face intense emotion, especially sadness. In order to defend my heart, I covered it in a hard shell. I learned that in order to free it, I would have to go to the place I fear most: my sorrow.

For the past year, I’ve tried a wide range of modalities to help open my heart including ecstatic dancing, craniosacral therapy, acupuncture, talk therapy, and psychic healing, but it wasn’t until I met with my ex-partner two years after our breakup that something in me broke open. There’s a rabbinical saying that the only true open heart is a broken heart.

In that meeting, I became the man I longed for: I was present, vulnerable, and open- hearted. The anger and hurt dissipated, and the love I felt for this man flowed through me.

For months, my therapist has been telling me to welcome the sorrow. While I understood what he was suggesting, I couldn’t imagine actually welcoming anything as painful as sorrow.

I know sorrow has been my muse. Sorrow has helped me create some of my best paintings and write some of my most poignant pieces, but it’s still tough for me to welcome it. Yet when my ex-partner and I talked I allowed my pain to penetrate me—if only for a minute. By becoming vulnerable and undefended, I rediscovered the love that had been there all along.

While I’m a long way from slaying the dragon, I got a glimpse of what life would be like without this dragon in my life. I now have a felt-sense of the man I want to be. I know what it feels like to allow love to freely flow through me.

Sorrow still scares me—any intense emotions do—but a tiny crack has appeared in the wall of my resistance. If I can keep chiseling away, I have to believe it’s just a matter of time before the wall crumbles. The dragon will be slayed.

Nov 092011

A Confession. When I feel stressed, I become hyper-focused to the exclusion of much around me. When I first opened the Atlanta office of Fleishman-Hillard, one of my staff came into my office with an ear-to-ear grin. He was so proud of himself. He had scheduled an appointment for me with a new business prospect with a particularly large budget. The potential client was on her way to our office to check us out. When she arrived, I briefly noted that she wasn’t dressed in typical business attire (I am not sure when I last saw fish-net hose in an office.), but my attention was on winning her business rather than her apparel. We settled in the conference room, and after some small talk I asked her about her organization. A portable stereo appeared from nowhere, and before I knew it, she was taking off her blouse. I was so focused on the potential new account, I did not realize that I had been had. My staff had hired a “strip-o-gram” for my birthday.

Nov 062011

It’s Saturday night, and I’m seated at one of Greensboro, North Carolina’s finest restaurants. My dinner is a treat; I’ve been in an all-day workshop, and the day has been intense.

The small bistro sits proudly in Greensboro’s historic district. The exterior is brick-clad, and the interior is bathed in candle light. My dinner is magnificent: Triggerfish in a delicate tomato sauce, complimented by a fine Rose.

My journal is my dinner companion. Normally, I’d delight in her company, but not tonight. I am lonely. I am longing for “the one”.

I laugh. I am eating Triggerfish, and I’m triggered. The old fears return. Will I always be alone? At fifty-six, am I too old for a long-term relationship or worse, am I too flawed? I take a deep breath. I am sad.

Sadness isn’t so bad, I tell myself. Sadness often inspires inspiration. Some of my best paintings, writing, and business plans have been birthed out of sadness, but not tonight. Tonight, the muse’s breasts are dry.

I hear my therapist’s voice telling me to welcome sadness; offer her the empty chair. I think why bother; she’s already taken a seat.


Oct 312011

Our date is at 7:00. As usual I am on time, and as usual I’m the first to arrive spoiling any chance of making a grand entrance. I take a seat at the bar. The bartender asks what I’d like to order. I order water. I don’t want to order a drink, just in case he doesn’t show up.

At 7:10, a man who looks somewhat like my date walks into the room. I’ve never seen him in person, only his pictures on the dating website. The photographs appear to belong to the same man only this man is a good bit heavier.

He has a warm smile, firm handshake, and he smells good. As he takes a seat, I steal a glance at his belly; it protrudes over his belt. Didn’t he write on his profile that he had an athletic build?

Don’t be so superficial, I chide myself. Give this guy a chance. I actually like stocky men. Stocky, maybe. But this guy has a belly, and his face is bloated.

Put looks aside. You two appear to have a lot in common.

We talk about our work, past relationships, and spirituality. I like him. Taking another glance at his belly I know I’ve lost the battle. The fantasy I’d built around our life together quickly dissolves like an Alka Seltzer hitting cold water. Chemistry is a funny thing. You either feel it, or you don’t. I don’t feel it.

I take a deep breath. At the very least, this guy could be a friend. I like that thought. Still, I am sad, and I’m disappointed. As much as I don’t want to admit it, I had really thought this man could be “the one.”


Oct 252011

My back was killing me. I had been standing for what seemed like hours. Roy, one my best friends, was celebrating his fifty-fifth birthday with a cocktail party in Manhattan, his hometown. One of his dear friends had loaned his chi-chi Columbus Circle apartment for the celebration.

I plopped down on what appeared to be a fifteen thousand dollar sofa to give my aching back a rest. An acquaintance, Richard, joined me; his back hurt too.

Within minutes, Richard and I were comparing notes on dating. In addition to having bad backs, we are both fifty-something single gay men. Richard lives in New York, though, and I live in Asheville, North Carolina.

“I could be dating a twenty-five-year-old right now,” he said, “but it’s impossible to find someone who’s close to my own age.”

I was shocked. To me, Manhattan seems like Mecca for gay men.

“Get out of here,” I challenged. “You’re attractive, successful, and you live in New York City. I would think you would have lots of options.”

“Not so,” he said. “For some reason, there aren’t many options in here, and most gay men my age want a younger man.”

Not me, I thought. I have no desire to be anyone’s daddy.

I remembered when I lived in Atlanta. Atlanta is considered the “Gateway to Gay” in the South.  Yet I had a similar problem; finding a date was tough. On the other hand, finding someone to have sex with was a walk in the park. (Sometimes literally—if you happened to be walking in Piedmont Park.)

Many singles—gay or straight, male or female—blame geography for their lack of dates. If I had a dime for every person in Asheville who complains about the tiny dating pool, I’d be a rich man.

If geography doesn’t dictate dates, what does? Could the self-help books be right? When you’re ready the right person shows up?

It happened that way for my Asheville friend Charles. After a particularly nasty breakup, he took a year off from dating. Four months ago, Charles met a great guy who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. Recently his boyfriend landed a job in Asheville and is moving here. Charles is elated.

“You found the needle in a haystack,” I commented to Charles recently over cocktails.

“Or attracted it,” he offered.

Maybe we’re like magnets; we attract “the one” when we’re ready. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s more like playing the lottery.

Oct 192011

I can’t wait for this day to be over. Tonight, I have a special date.

“This man could be ‘the one,’” I half-jokingly told a girlfriend. He meets many of the qualifications on my ideal partner profile. He is handsome, successful, and adventuresome. We share similar values and backgrounds. He is close to my age.

I know what I’m doing; I am totally immersed in an imagined future with this man. So what, I reason, the fantasy is fun. Here’s how it goes:

We entertain his friends in New York. His crowd includes famous actors, highly successful entrepreneurs, and Wall Street types, as well as several socialites. In Asheville, we entertain mine. When not in Manhattan or Asheville, we travel extensively. We are active in community; both of us feel it is important to give something back. At night, I curl up in his arms and feel safe. With him, I feel complete. With him, I feel loved.

I know better. No one can complete me. Wish as I might, no man can make me feel loved. These things I must do for myself, and until I do I won’t be ready to be in a real relationship. Real relationships start with a strong relationship with self.

A while back, my therapist, Chip, suggested that longing for “the one” is linked to the longing to be loved. His words helped me find a compassion for myself I’d never experienced before.

At fifty-six, I’m still a little boy wanting to be loved by his mother and approved of and affirmed by his dad. Both my mother and father are gone now, but even if they were still here, they couldn’t do it for me. I know it’s an inside job.

Relationships mirror many of our issues and the work we have yet to do. Still, I’m looking forward to my date tonight.



Oct 172011

This wonderful clip is on the power of vulnerability. It features a researcher with a great sense of humor Brene Brown.

My friend Greg McVoy sent me it to me. His timing was impeccable; I’ve been thinking a lot about vulnerability lately.

One of the things I’m beginning to understand is that vulnerability and authenticity are first cousins, and together they create connection. To connect, we have to allow ourselves to be seen.

In this clip, Brown also addresses shame, love, and belonging. Do yourself a favor and watch it.


Oct 152011

David Steele, MA, has identified twelve dating traps. Trap one is the marketing trap. Caught in the marketing trap, you feel you need to make yourself more appealing to attract a partner. You’re all about packaging, presenting, and promoting your best self. This trap can lead to disappointment once your partner discovers that the sizzle doesn’t match the quality of the steak.


Oct 062011

A while back I wrote a blog on the decline of men; it generated quite a response. One reader wrote this about her ex-husband, “I was the bread-winner, housekeeper, child organizer (he was a good dad, but I definitely was the one on top of things), etc. He wasn’t even interested much in sex!”

She continued, “As much as I love men (and sex with men!!!) and as much as I love the idea of finding a great mate with whom to grow old, the actual idea of day to day marriage or cohabitation is pretty unappealing….” Her story is a common one.

Here’s a CNN article that gives one theory on why men are failing.  Do you agree?