The Step-Homo

This gift of life we got given is somewhat of a mixed box of chocolates. Some parts are genuinely amazing and bring you endless joy. These are the strawberry creams and the mint creams, and represent puppy breath and freshly brewed coffee. Others, well others get stuck in your teeth. These are the hard toffees that no one even bothered to coat in chocolate, why is it there? For instance, the dentist – not fabulous, standing in line at home affairs, even less so.

Then there are those middle-of-the-fence chocolates that could be either, depending on the day. The ginger jelly, the orange cream and that damn green triangle that everyone fights over but no one really loves. These represent things like being LGBTQI+, dating, being a parent, any one of these could be fab or crap depending on the day.

But what happens when life decides to combine those last three scenarios? While I’m a proud queer individual, there are times in our society that it feels like being a wet toffee apple in a tumble dryer with a feather pillow. I was a teacher for 5 years, so I don’t wish parenting on anyone, but I can see why it would be rewarding for some. Quite frankly, dating is an adult-sized game of whack-a-mole where you repeatedly beat back for just popping up and being who you are. So why would you want to combine three of the iffiest qualities possible in life?

Well, Celine Dion said it best, “Love doesn’t ask why”. When you meet someone and the universe aligns, the heart wants what it wants. And if what your heart wants comes with children from a previous relationship, you have some decisions to make.

Being the (gay) stepfather is a bit of a minefield on many levels, and you will need to tread carefully. There are children involved. You might end up facing some backlash from a conservative ex-spouse. Regardless of the reason for their original break up you have to anticipate some mixed feelings from the other parent. They are trying to protect their little ones the way they know how – their methods might be twisted, but I need to believe they want only the best. I was in a relationship with a man for two years who had no access to his children because he was gay. While I wanted nothing more than to meet them, it never happened before things fizzled out. Incidentally, now I live 5 streets away from the mother and kids – still haven’t met them.

The kids come first
You are an A-type personality and everybody loves you, right? Wrong. These children might not. And this is not down to the requisite stepmother hairy mole on your chin, sometimes it just happens. As evolved as we are in modern society, we should be teaching our children to be evolved too. Little Johnny might (still) not understand why Daddy and Uncle Brian are holding hands because they have only ever seen mommy and daddy together. It’s up to the parents to bridge that gap. Take your cue from your partner. He will know how he wants to handle this part of his children’s development. When I was a child of divorced parents, I would plot ways to get my parents split from their partners and back together. It’s natural. It doesn’t make them a nasty little crotch-goblin. Your job is to treat children with kindness. That’s it. Give them time. They either will come around or they won’t, and at that point, you and your partner need to have a conversation.

To the single parent out there reading this and looking for Prince Charming – please don’t think I’m advising you indulge your child being a brat. You are the parent and you make the rules. But you can also see if your child is miserable. And if a man cannot deal with you and your kids as a package, it doesn’t make him a jerk, and it doesn’t make your kids vile, it just means that was not the one. Keep looking. Your fairy tale is out there.

These are the writer’s views, which may or may not reflect those of Engage Men’s Health and its affiliates. Engage Men’s Health offers free and confidential sexual health services to gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM). Services include free HIV and other STI testing and treatment and free PrEP, which prevents HIV.
To book an appointment at EMH in Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay or Buffalo City metros, WhatsApp message/call 082 607 1686.
To book an appointment at EMH in Pretoria, call 012 430 3272 or WhatsApp message/call 066 190 5812.

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My big fat gay problem

“All of the men in L.A. are a bunch of 10’s looking for an 11. On a good night, and if the other guy’s drunk enough…
I’m a 6.” – The Broken Hearts Club

There are many sayings in this life that we learn to live with as part of everyday living. For instance, “You are what you eat”, “It’s not the size of the boat, it’s the motion of the ocean” or “Life begins at 40”. We say these things to make ourselves feel better. I know and accept that they are not true because I am not a box of KFC dunked wings, I’m hung like a Jack Russel and in my late 30’s I’m ready for a retirement home, but we still say them because it’s polite. Clichés are sometimes a necessary part of survival in modern society.

These are all good and well for a regular-sized person, but when you are plus-sized you get a few bonus sayings thrown in for good measure. “You’re beautiful as you are”, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”, “Don’t eat that cupcake, you’re sweet enough” or my personal favorite, “Let’s just be friends”.

Dating life is a meat grinder that will chew you up and spit you out if you don’t have your wits about you. Everyone has a story of disaster or heartbreak and unrequited love. Now, double your weight and re-imagine the story. The likelihood is, the bad break up would never have happened because the other person would not have agreed to a first date in the first place. Devastating right?

Not really. While it seems vile that someone could judge you or dismiss you based solely on your appearance, physical attraction is not something we choose. You like what you like. Let me put it in food terms for you, I’m good with food — pineapple on pizza. You’re either going to love it or despise it. And nothing that anyone says is likely to change your mind if you think the idea is not your taste. Back on the same page? Good.

If someone doesn’t feel attracted to you, it sucks, but it’s ok and it’s certainly not the end of the world. Should you go to pieces? Absolutely not. It may hurt but honestly, do you want someone as your significant other if they are only trying to love you as you are? Didn’t think so. As the old saying goes, love is like a fart. If you have to force it, it’s probably a turd.

The big deal comes with how the situation is dealt with. Now, there are good guys out there. Some of my best friends I’ve made along the way were initially matches made on Tinder or Grindr. When the spark wasn’t there, we became close in other ways. And I’m grateful for those.

There have also been some dark places. I’ve waited at a restaurant for a date and saw the guy walk in, notice me, and make a U-turn. I’ve been told on Grindr “sorry I’m not into group sex or farm animals”. I’ve even had one gentleman, bless him, tell me “Sorry, my sister was playing with my Grindr because I would definitely not have messaged you.”

Now, to my fellow people ranging between 0-6 on the “hotness” scale, listen carefully: your value is not determined by someone else’s opinion of you. Let that sink in. Reread it. You are also not a charity case or a victim. Not everyone has to like you, you’re not chocolate. Him not liking you doesn’t automatically make him an ass.

To the 7-10 range folks out there: If you have ranked yourself, you might be a douche – get that checked out. If a ranking system depends on who you will date or not, we probably won’t get along anyway. If you read nothing else read this: that big guy that you called fat last week or blocked without thanking them for the compliment, they know they’re big. They are painfully aware of that. They don’t need you to tell them that.

Life is short. Don’t be a dick. Your bliss should never come at the cost of someone else’s.

Craig Stadler is a contributing writer for Engage Men’s Health. These are his views, which may or may not reflect those of Engage Men’s Health and its affiliates. Engage Men’s Health offers free and confidential sexual health services to gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM). EMH is in Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City. Our services include free HIV and other STI testing, treatment, PrEP and also PEP. WhatsApp message or call us on 082 607 1686.

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