“And the stories only mine to live and die with
A couple of months ago I matched with a woman on a dating app whose job title was listed as “Casting” for FOX television. I found her attractive and her profile interesting so I messaged her--not thinking too much about her job.
We started talking and eventually she mentioned a new dating show FOX is creating titled, “Untitled Love Story” (the name is still in the works). She asked if I’d be interested in being one of the men on the show.
My initial reaction was “hell no”, and used some cheesy line like, “only if you won’t go out with me”. I took a shot, right?
After thinking about it, I decided to hear what they had to say. It was pitched to me as different from the bachelor--a smaller cast, folks in their 30s rather than 20s, the ability to work remotely during taping, etc.
I decided to consider it, confided in a few close friends and family for advice, and eventually agreed to go through the interview process.
I mean, why the hell not? It’s not like I’ve just been killing it in the dating world. It's more than that, though. I love saying yes to new adventures and new possibilities. Knowing I can always say no later if I start to feel uncomfortable.
So I taped a Skype interview, learned the producers were interested, and waited to hear more.
Then last week I received a call--FOX wanted to bring me out to LA to meet the producers so they could narrow it down to the final 10-12 men. But first I had to sign a contract...
They proceeded to send me a 27 PAGE CONTRACT. Removing all my rights to anything I say, write, or create as part of the show--and giving them the right to edit all of it as they see fit. All of which was to be expected. Then I got towards the end, and there they required I agree to: genetic testing, fertility testing, mental acuity testing, AND give them the right to talk about it all on the show.
Now, I’m a pretty open guy. I don’t mind being upfront with my struggles, with my successes, and with the processes of change I’m going through. But even I have a limit. Turns out it starts with my sperm count...
At the end of the day, it’s not so much about what they’re asking me to divulge publicly. It’s how--without any creative license of my own. With no input, opinion, or engagement.
They want to tell my story for me.
We don’t ever get to tell our entire story for ourselves. We don’t exist alone in the world, and as long as that is true others will help us tell our stories. For better or worse, it’s what being in relationship is all about.
But no one, and I mean no one, gets to tell our entire story. And that’s what FOX’s contract wanted: the right to tell my entire story to the world.
I believe I'm a good storyteller. Whether it’s helping an organization tell their story to the world or walking through life with friends and family discovering new ways to tell our stories, it’s what I’m most passionate.
As a therapist by education, I’ve seen what happens when our ability to tell our stories is taken away. I’ve seen the trauma, the pain, the impact of such a loss of control.
I’ll be damned if anyone other than me, Sam, and my friends and family get to tell the world who I am.
I have a deep desire to fall in love, but I want it to be with someone who wants to create a new story together, not at the hands of some Hollywood TV executives.
Because love deserves the right to tell its own story, too.
"I made a promise to myself that I would not consider enjoyment a sin. I take a pleasure in inquiring into things. I've never been content to pass a stone without looking under it. And it is a black disappointment to me that I can never see the far side of the moon."
Let me start by saying I hope someday when I am at death's door I will discover there is a god. I also hope I will find god to be far bigger, far more caring, and far more understanding then we often give god credit for in this world.
But I’m not a Christian anymore.
On some level I’m not sure I ever was. I went to church, Sunday school, and youth group at times, but my heart was never in it. I always sensed god and spirituality more in the outdoors--among mountains and beaches and green grass.
I can’t say the same about monuments built to our religion, sanctuaries where trauma and pain are covered over like a casket in the ground, and certainly not among broken theology.
As some of you know, in grad school I studied Christian theology as part of my counseling-psychology degree. I learned new words, theologies built on the hope of liberation, and an understanding of god that led me to question all I’d ever learned.
It changed me. In spite of what my Sitty wishes (she no doubt worries for my immortal soul) I am not, nor am I likely to ever be again, a Christian.
Here are a few of the reasons why:
The biggest change, however, came when I realized how much I love people. It happened during my time as an intern at Recovery Cafe in Seattle. I spent that year working with the most downtrodden--the addicts and murderers, abusers and abused, and those classified as “insane”.
I fell in love with those people. I came to feel at home among those our world seems to despise. I became, in my own way, one of them. That’s when I realized love was worth it just for the sake of love. Caring for others was good whether there is a god with some glorious holy land or not.
My grandfather used to tell me heaven was loving others. That it wasn't some far off place of perfection, but right here on earth among us. I thought he was crazy. I don't think so anymore.
It's not religion, not Christianity, and not a book we need. It's only love that will save us. For today and for always.
I'm asked a lot about why I’m not a practicing therapist. You would think after 3 years of grad school, a bunch of debt, and a deep belief in the power of therapy that I would jump at the chance to start a practice or join an agency.
There are three main reason why I don’t currently practice:
The point I’m getting at is our paths aren’t linear--they don’t always (or very often) look like a straight line. And the pressure to be able to show others a straight line is one of the most unfortunate parts of American culture. Life is messy, it includes a lot of twists and turns, and anyone who says different is either lying or confused about the reality of earthly existence.
Like anything else in life, the jobs we choose are all about what we value and why. For me, my values have led me toward autonomy and the opportunity to develop a message that can touch the hearts of many. A lot of this stems from spending much of my life feeling boxed in, and now wanted to feel free to shift and move as I walk through life--in addition to a desire to change the world in positive ways.
The question is, what do you value and why? What drives you in your professional life? And is this value something that feels healthy and makes you happier or does it only make life more difficult? Once those answers are clear, the next steps is the messy path of life will become more obvious.
Long before the #metoo movement and the social awakening we’ve seen take place in recent months, I received a long voicemail from a female friend. We’d been talking in the weeks before about consent. Specifically, what it means for a man to ask before making the first “move”.
At the time this was a pretty novel idea for me. I understood asking for permission in the course of a physical relationship, but never before a kiss (specifically the first kiss). That moment, as I understood it, was supposed to just happen, be natural, and make me look like I knew what I was doing. It was supposed to look like it did in the movies.
That, I think, is one of the great disservices we’ve done to our boys/men--we’ve allowed them to believe “being cool” should trump asking for permission.
The evening I received that voicemail my friend had gone on a first date. It had gone fine, but she sensed it wasn’t a love connection. She also sensed he was about to make a move--a move she didn’t want him to make.
In her voicemail my friend told me all that had happened. How she knew he was going to make a move. How she didn’t want to kiss him but felt powerless to stop it. How uncomfortable it had made her. How she didn’t like kissing him or being put in that position.
I remember listening to her voicemail and feeling sad--for her, but also for every woman I’d ever kissed without asking first. How many of them didn’t want to kiss me? Or wished I’d asked first?
I do my best these days to ask before I lean in (though I still mess up at times). It’s not super cool, but then, being super cool isn’t that high up on my list of values anymore.
That being said, my point today about consent is twofold:
We’ve got to talk about all of it. Sex and consent. Kissing and consent. What maybe does and doesn’t mean. What goes where, when, and how it feels.
We’ve got to talk about these things even when it’s embarrassing, and ESPECIALLY when it isn’t cool.
Screw being cool. Screw being smooth. Screw acting like you “know what you’re doing”. I’d rather have the respect of a woman who had the chance to say yes, no, or maybe without fear.
I was never all that cool, anyway.