A few days ago, I started to cry on my daily jog while listening to “Feel Special” by Twice. I had been thinking about someone I know facing a ton of racism in their life, obstacles that no one should have to go through. The lack of control this person experienced in relation to racism made me think about unfair situations in my own life, in particular growing up with my abusive mom as well as my attraction to men. I didn’t choose either of these things, I thought to myself while jogging in circles around the big lake near my apartment, tears falling as dance pop flowed from my earpods. Running around in nature while processing my feelings felt healthy and cathartic.
Sometimes I think other people feel more uncomfortable talking about my abusive mom than I do. From a young age, I recognized my mother’s behaviors as harmful and unchangeable, so I asked myself, what can I do about this situation? Yes, I cried a lot and starved myself to cope with her abuse back then because I did not know healthier ways to handle my emotions. At the same time, I focused on what I could control: working hard so I could get into a good school and escape my homelife, as well as pursuing a life where I could help other people who have also experienced trauma and suffering. Now, even though my PTSD flares up every now and then, I feel pretty much at peace all the time about what went down with my mother.
Living with my mom reminds me of my attraction to men. Just like I did not choose to be born into my bio family, I also did not choose to feel attracted to men. My attraction to men feels sucky because of the sheer number of men I have met who buy into femmephobic and/or racist standards of appearance, who do not know how to engage in basic active listening, and who have treated me and my friends like bastions of free emotional labor with no effort made in return.
I think in my earlier 20’s, I fought my attraction to men more. I wrote several blog posts and ranted to my friends and my therapist: I wish I could just stop being attracted to men, why can’t I just turn off my attraction to men, if someone could give me a pill that would turn me aromantic I would swallow that pill faster than I would swallow an emotionally self-aware queer man of color’s [REDACTED]. My attraction to men felt like the sole obstacle blocking me from a more ideal, still imperfect yet overall serene life.
Now, though, I feel much more at peace with my attraction to men. I radically accept that I cannot change my attraction to men. I accept that a lot of men do suck at active listening and basic emotional labor, even though I wish the patriarchy did not exist and perpetuate those deficits. If I could modify my romantic orientation into aromanticism, I would.
However, I cannot. So I focus instead on what I can control: never settling for or pursuing mediocre men even when I see other people doing so or when people label my standards as too high. As a gender-flexible/loosely nonbinary man myself, I strive to treat others with compassion and active listening. I try to fight patriarchy and white supremacy through my clinical work, research and teaching, and actions in everyday life.
Yesterday morning, I woke up and played tennis with an acquaintance who lives close by for an hour and a half. We ended our match about half an hour before my research meeting about an upcoming project about queer men of color’s mental health. I spent that half hour jogging outside to Itzy’s incredible new song “Loco.” With the temperature in the low 60’s and the sun just peeking out from behind the clouds, I felt so happy running around my neighborhood and appreciating the song’s amazing qualities. Its pronounced club-ready beat, ascending electric guitar in the chorus, and propulsive dance break and anthemic middle eight all reminded me of the confident and self-possessed energy my best friends and I emanate in our daily lives. The best part: I didn’t choose this song’s production or release. Just like with my mother and attraction to men, I had no control over it at all. Still, “Loco” helped me create one of my most joyous memories, right at the beginning of fall.
What’s a new lesson or coping strategy that’s brought you some peace or joy in your life? Any music that has elevated your mood as of late? General reactions to this post? Thanks to one of my frequent blog readers and commenters for writing a comment awhile ago about how I don’t control the release of my favorite music, a point I reflected on and then incorporated in this post. Hope folks are well and until next time!