Tooji’s ‘Father': Bound or Freed?

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Tooji’s ‘Father': Bound or Freed?

I just watched the new Tooji Video, as it appeared from five different news outlets on my Facebook timeline with headlines like ‘Hot Pop Star Comes Out’ and ‘Tooji Upsets Church with New Video’.
Now, I like Tooji. I downloaded ‘Stay‘, his Eurovision entry, the moment I heard it, and have been following him ever since. I liked the message he was putting out through his music and really liked his Love Yourself (LYS) song and video.
I think I always took for granted that he was gay, in the same way that people sometimes assume that I am gay upon meeting me. It is the lack of trying to hide it, of acting naturally, and being oneself. So, for me, when he came out elicited a ‘oh, was he not out already?‘ response, same as when Mika did the same.
The reason why this specific video stuck out for me was that it is a big departure from his usual style. It is an all or nothing gesture – either I will be in the closet and adopt a super friendly, non hetero-threatening image, or I will go to the other extreme of in-your-face hypersexualisation. It appeared to me constructed to attract attention, with all the Madonna tried and tested ingredients of sex and Catholic Church mingling to grab headlines.

In no way do I mind the sex or am I prudish. I just think that in this case, it is a hit and miss. The imagery steals from the impactful lyrics, and in my opinion cheapens the song. Something is not artistic because of a black and white filter, and the scenes in which he gyrates topless made me think of how his younger fans will feel seeing this. Tooji has an active young fan base, and the departure from the happy Europop songs to quite graphically simulated sex is quite a leap; it makes me wonder what it conveys to the young gay male audience that is first introduced to a gay pop star by seeing him in an ultrasexualised depiction, with the message that ‘sex sells so when I was in the closet I had one look, but now I am straddling a priest in the middle of congregation cause that’s how I roll‘.
I can reference other black and white videos that explore the same themes: Woodkid‘s ‘I Love you‘ takes place in a church and talks about a forbidden love with painful panache; Hercules and the Love Affair featuring John GrantI Try To Talk to You‘ depict a heart wrenching gay romance without ever cheapening it; even more famously, Hosier‘s ‘Take Me to Church‘ is a mesh of the two, with a powerful criticism of organised religion’s intolerance coupled with an emotionally engaging storytelling that transcends gender.
I understand that the decision to make the video must have factored in a lot of different angles, so there is no judgement on my part. I am really looking forward to seeing his next video, and seeing how he decides to move his career forward. I really hope that by breaking free from one closet, he has not pushed himself in another.

For now I will leave you with these songs videos that are as magnificent as their videos.

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Happiness is: Cherry Blossoms

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Happiness is: Cherry Blossoms

I love cherry blossoms. I cannot pass under one and not take notice, not smile.
In spring, London is blooming, the white petals singing the passing of winter and inviting the warmer, longer days.
For me, cherry blossoms are a reminder of hope, a proof of beauty, and a sign that no matter how cold and grey the winter was, spring will bring white and pink flowers that will make you look up and get lost in them.
So, I look up, and I allow this mindful moment to sink in. Pure bliss.
Love,
G

  

The Athenian Grocery: a wormhole to Greece

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The Athenian Grocery: a wormhole to Greece

Even though my iPhone says I am still in London, I feel I just landed in Greece. I am in the Athenian Grocery near Qeensway, and I feel this surge of happiness colliding with a homesickness I did not even know I was harbouring.
I look around the shelves, and see all the products I love: Lacta chocolate, Ion Amigdalou, Loux lemonade, good feta cheese, Caprice Papadopoulou, and all the things I grew up with. Apparently the store stocks seasonal products as well, so if you are ever on the lookout for tsoureki in the Easter, this is the place!
I buy Greek honey, chocolate, and cheese, and walk out with the biggest grin. A slice of Greece, a taste of home, all in a small corner shop, on a counter top, items that are greater than the sum of their ingredients.

Love,

G

   
    

Taking Chances

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Taking Chances

I met someone. And I like him. And I am afraid I will mess it up, in my signature ‘screw it up‘ way.

It is so scary liking someone. It is terrifying knowing that if you are going to open up, you become vulnerable, and you are effectively giving permission to someone to break your heart.

I will admit that I don’t have a thick enough skin yet. I am not at that point yet. However, I am here, and this is happening now and I did not plan for this and it feels too scary to move on; however it feels even scarier not to.

So, I will give it a go. I will go out with him again. I will try to shush this part of myself that says that it will end up in heartache; that he will not be interested; that I am not good enough. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

This reminds me of John Green‘s quote from the Fault in our Stars: ‘You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world…but you do have some say in who hurts you. … It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you.

Lets do this.

Love,

G

  

How to make someone hate you in less than 10 dates (or what I learned I should not do)

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How to make someone hate you in less than 10 dates (or what I learned I should not do)

After B*, I tried to keep myself busy and not think about it, or him. I threw myself to work, listened to empowering songs, went through alternate moments of declaring pure strength and crying over a family sized tub of ice-cream (often within minutes), and generally got on a life treadmill so that I could run away from feelings, but as you and I know, it does not work like that.
So, on a Sunday, as I was listening to Rumer and drinking jasmine tea in my pyjamas, I decided to take a moment and introspect. I closed my eyes, breathed deeply, and exhaled. Tears started streaming down my cheeks, and what started as a weep turned into an uncontrollable sob that lasted for an eternity and a day. When I opened my eyes they were red and sore; I had let go. I was ready to move on.
During the time that things were going south with B, I met through S (my ex and best friend) a guy he was interested in, J*. We had gone out a few times all together, during which I spent the entire time worrying about B and oscillating between ‘why doesn’t he text‘ doom to ‘yeah aha, he texted, I can be happy‘ joy. Hey, I am not proud of it, but honesty is all I have.
So, I had never thought of J in that way, even when S told me that he is not interested in him anymore. One night, I wanted to go out, and as all my friends were busy, I asked J if he wanted to join me. He said yes, we met, and went to a club where we proceeded to dance all night, flirt a lot, and skip over many perfect kissing moments. As we were walking home, he asked me if I would consider dating, and I told him that after B, I felt that I needed some time. He said that the right person could wait. He then stopped, looked at me and said ‘I can wait‘. Another perfect kissing moment that I decided to pass.
We started talking. And then because of a misunderstanding, I got really annoyed with him, so he asked me to meet for a drink and discuss it. He said to me that he likes me, and I found myself liking him too. Annoyance turned to affection, and as we walked out of the pub into the rain, he turned and kissed me. The perfect kissing moment; not the perfect kiss.
When we kissed I did not feel anything, and admitting it now makes me feel like an asshole. However, I thought that probably it is the post B numbing effects, so I decided to give it a go. I went over to his, we watched a movie, and cuddled on the sofa (not a euphemism, there was no sex, just cuddles). He said he thought I was special; I liked being special for someone, and in that way he was becoming special to me.
We kept talking, however after another misunderstanding we decided that we would be best suited as friends. I kept seeing him, thinking that we were going out as mates; it was only after the third time we met that while discussing what had happened, he said to me: ‘do you think It is weird that I have feelings for you?‘ To which I responded puzzled, ‘you mean, had feelings for me‘. So, he looked at me and said, ‘why is it so difficult for you to understand that I have feelings for you and that I like you? A lot?‘ Now, you have to understand that when he said that, I was in the middle of taking a bite off a massive burger. So, I looked at him, trying to process what he was saying while I was choking on beef and onions, feeling that there was not enough oxygen in the room. However, this bought me some time to think. Do I feel the same? Do I have strong feelings for him? Do I declare my love when I can finally chew this monster of a beef patty? The answer deep in my heart was no. However, when my mouth opened, I heard myself saying: I like you too.
Now, that was not a lie; it was a truth with missing information. The full sentence should have been ‘I like you too just not as strongly and maybe not that way’.
As we were leaving the restaurant we kissed again. Again nothing. Crap. I turned to him and said, ‘I need to be honest with you. You know I recently broke up, and even more recently got broken hearted, so I want to take this slow; like super slow; we are talking glacial pace. Why don’t we say we are dating casually?‘. He agreed, said he understood, and we left.
Now, what he understood (I don’t know if it was on a conscious or subconscious level) was that my heart was not in it, so he progressively started seeking reassurance, which I unfortunately was not giving to him, and I say unfortunately as this is the point where I can say I was being a douche nozzle and was leading him on. He got closer and closer, so the day he said he wanted to introduce me to his friends, I had a mini freak out. I told him that I felt it was moving fast, and that I was not comfortable with the pace. In the back of my head I knew that someone else would have killed for that opportunity, as J was a really attractive, great guy; he was just not for me.
So, he said he understood, and that he was going to slow down. So, just as I started breathing a bit easier, he asked me if I was ok to go on a holiday with him the next weekend, and meet some of his friends there. My face smiled, my mouth said ‘of course‘, but my brain was doing a ‘Home Alone’ mirror scream.
I left, and for the next few days we started drifting apart. He asked me to go over and speak. He said he wanted a relationship. I said I didn’t. I cried, mostly because I felt like an ass for hurting him. So, I left.
He texted the next day, saying we should give it a go; and this is where I went awfully wrong: I said to him I needed time, and that maybe in the future things change. I thought that was the polite way of letting him down easy, but I now understand that I was leading him on and keeping him hooked. A couple of weeks later he texted me and I drunk texted back being super friendly (hello, my name is G and I am an expert in mindfucks), but a few days later I said to him that I am sorry for drunk texting, and needed more time.
A month later he texted again, and asked me how I was doing in what I am sure was meant as a cheeky way that ended up sounding insulting. So, I replied back in a snappy, sassy and ‘get off‘ way, thinking at I was being honest. However, I was being hurtful.
You see, in his eyes, I was taking time off. I was thinking issues over, and deciding things. A window was open for him to be part of my life, even as a friend. In my head, it was clear that this was not going to happen, but I had not communicated that to him. So, my response must have been a huge slap in the face.
He replied back really angrily. He said that we shall never speak again, and that he would not acknowledge me even if he saw me. I was ok with that; I mean, yes, it was unpleasant, but this was not about my need to be liked – or to not be hated, it was about giving him the right to feel however he wanted to feel without making it about me.
So, what I learned from this experience? Be honest. Don’t string people along. Don’t try to be nice by not telling things as it is. Let people you don’t want to keep in your life go, because then that frees a space you are taking for someone else.
Now I know that, and in will not repeat this behaviour again. I let go of someone that hurt me, and I accepted being let go of someone I hurt, and that is another brick on the single wall.

Love,

G

  

When the world stops

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When the world stops

I spent the morning in my pyjamas and socks, watching reruns of the Mindy Project and snacking on copious amounts of unhealthy treats. I hid my phone, took my old iPod out, and put on Birdy on repeat.

I got off the sofa, and after a quick shower, I put my blue jumper and purple jeans on, and made my way out of the house. I put my headphones on, and as I was wondering what song to put on, I remembered a song I shazamed a few weeks ago. I went back to the list, opened my YouTube app and found it.

The music started, and soon the music flow through me:

I want the world to stop (I want the world to stop)
Give me the morning (give me the understanding)
I want the world to stop (I want the world to stop)
Give me the morning, give me the afternoon
The night, the night
Let me step out of my shell
I’m wrapped in sheets of milky winter disorder
Let me feel the air again, the talk of friends

The words rest on my shoulders like a heavy jacket, and with every exhale I let go, with every step I come closer to a moving object, I come closer to myself, I chase him, with arms opening, eyes wet, I catch him, hug him tight, and tell him that it is ok to stop, it is okay to stand still for a second as the world spins, it is ok to feel tired, and exhausted, and angry, it is ok to hurt because you miss people that are important to you while you spend your energy towards people that are not, it is ok to feel overwhelmed when you realise that time is passing, and with every tic-toc, inhale-exhale, sunrise and sunset, you put you, your life, yourself, you on hold while you tend to other things that are deemed more important (by whom?), and then there you are, walking, listening, chasing yourself, too tired to stop, too exhausted to continue, too overwhelmed to take it all in, too weak to understand how strong you are, and you just wish, you just wish that the world would stop, when it is you that can stop instead.

And there, on the middle of a bridge full of people that are determined to walk from one side to the other, I slowed down, the moving object slowing down too, until we both stopped and took a breath in together.

Now, exhale.

Love,

G

  

Singledom: A Lesson on the ‘Under 5 Dates’ Heartbreak

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Singledom: A Lesson on the ‘Under 5 Dates’ Heartbreak

So I am single again after 10 years; there is something really exciting about this, something rejuvenating. It is also really scary.
The exciting part is the possibility. The fact that you get to meet new people, have fun discovering them, find pleasure discovering their bodies, create a connection, an experience, a memory of a moment in time you met someone and something could have happened.
The scary part is that I am not desensitised to the emotional connection that you form in each of these steps. I do not have the thick skin that dating requires. I have been blessed with having a long term relationship, but the down side is that it has given me a false sense of security with people. Of course I can trust someone new, as my experience so far shows that people will not hurt you. Well, live and learn.
Here is were B* enters. B was the second person I dated after S. To begin with I was completely hesitant to date seriously. I wanted to enjoy the single life and find the parts of myself that were consumed by the relationship.
I had seen B when we were both waiting at an osteopath’s waiting room*. He was with a male companion who I assumed was his boyfriend, however we kept making eye contact (until I decided that I will not be a home wrecker and buried my head in my book). I felt him looking at me again a few times, but I resisted looking back. He had a boyfriend, and that was that.
A couple of weeks later he approached me in a dating app. I reminded him of where we first met, and after an initial chat about the reasons we were seeing the osteopath (for me my tennis elbow’ for him a dodgy knee), we started talking. The male companion was his ex, current flat mate and best friend (identical situation to me really). We decided to meet for a coffee, and after a couple of hours of talking in a hip coffee house in South London, we shared a kiss and parted ways.
We started talking everyday. Good mornings, good nights, and everything in between. We saw each other a couple of days later. And then the day after that. Then the weekend.
I did not realise it at the time, but I was really vulnerable from my breakup. My friends warned me, but I would not listen. I was fine, I was ok, I knew what I was doing. Deep down I knew that I was going to get hurt, but fuck it, I wanted to experience how it was together hurt (spoiler alert: it sucks).
I ignored parts of his personality that were clashing with mine; his strong conservative views on current affairs, his total lack of empathy for vulnerable individuals, his disdain for people on benefits, homelessness or drug addiction. I looked past that, because I wanted to like him; and I started liking him. A lot. So, as the weeks kept passing, I started falling for him. On my birthday I went by his before going out with my friends, and he got me a card and baked a cake, and I was elated to see him. It was all going so well. I left feeling ecstatic. That was the last time I saw him.
After that day, our texts started getting sporadic. I would text, and even though he would be online (damn you WhatsApp with your last seen and two blue ticks), he would not respond until hours later, sometimes days later. He was on the dating apps all the time. I did not understand what was happening: how can we go from talking daily to ignoring messages from one day to the other?
During this time I kept blaming myself for this. I should have been more attentive, I should have asked him to meet, I should not have joked that time, could me mentioning that thing put him off, is it my fault? I felt sad. I felt as if I was going through a breakup all over again.
The truth is that I was not building this on new ground. I was constructing this on the ruins of my old relationship. I started building on top of it instead of finding a new ground and starting fresh.
So, I decided to protect myself. When he took two days to respond to my last text, I knew. I knew I deserved better. I deserve someone that does not play games, does not string me along, does not make me feel like it is my fault that he is being an asshole.
So, when he sent a vague ‘let’s meet sometime soon’, I did not respond. It was clearly over. He was not that into me, and I would not spend my time with someone that does not value me.
This really broke my heart. It took me time, tears and endless coffees with friends to move on and stop asking myself: why? What did I do wrong?
My skin got slightly thicker, but I have to say that I am making a conscious effort not to get desensitised. I don’t want to look at people as just another someone; I want together meet them, and if that requires a level of emotional investment, then so be it. If maintaining my humanity costs me a little heart ache every time, fine. Experience is what you get when things don’t go your way; the road will be long and I might meet a few Bs along it but I know that it will only make me stronger in the end.
One step at a time, one date at a time.

Love,

G

*The name and location has been changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty).

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