Gay on a Budget >> No One Takes Pictures of Me Gay on a Budget >> No One Takes Pictures of Me Gay on a Budget >> No One Takes Pictures of Me

Life has been difficult lately, for lack of a better phrase. Between work, creativity, family, friends, and general survival, I’ve been pushed to my farthest ends, a test which is simultaneously soul-crushing and exhilarating. On one hand, I’m totally impressed by the sheer magnitude of problems I can face at once all while still keeping on my beauty routine and not breaking down in public. On the other hand, I would really appreciate a few minutes to just get to exist without the crippling responsibility of being a good worker, friend, ex, son, and human being. I’d just like to be.

Gay on a Budget >> No One Takes Pictures of Me Gay on a Budget >> No One Takes Pictures of Me

I find that my biggest struggle in just existing as myself is being around the right kind of people. Who are the right kind of people, you might ask. If you did, I’m glad. If you didn’t, well… I asked for you, so there. The right kind of people are those with whom time moves too fast. People who make you feel like so much more than a decomposing sack of flesh and organs. You can be completely silent in a room with them and be wholly happy and at peace because you know you’re safe in the spaces you’ve created together. With the right kind of people, you’re yourself because the guards which we’re trained as human beings to hold up fall down. They make it possible to trust without fear.

Gay on a Budget >> No One Takes Pictures of Me Gay on a Budget >> No One Takes Pictures of Me Gay on a Budget >> No One Takes Pictures of Me

I have some of the right kind of people in my life. They know who they are. They love me when I’m Jayson writing for national publications, and when I’m emotionally-needy Jayson calling to talk about the boys I swear I don’t care about but totally do because who talks about someone that often if they don’t care?

They embrace my humanity as I embrace theirs. And with humanity comes not just the great capacity to do good and the beautiful vulnerability that classic romantics love, but also all the bad parts we deny about ourselves and those we consider as “greater than” because they’ve caught the attention of our eyes, heart, or loins.

Gay on a Budget >> No One Takes Pictures of Me Gay on a Budget >> No One Takes Pictures of Me Gay on a Budget >> No One Takes Pictures of Me Gay on a Budget >> No One Takes Pictures of Me Gay on a Budget >> No One Takes Pictures of Me Gay on a Budget >> No One Takes Pictures of Me

What this means is that there are going to be people who masquerade as the right kind of people, under the guise of imperfect humanity. Sometimes they intentionally ruin your life and other times you just happened to fit whatever bill they were looking for. If it hadn’t been you, maybe it would’ve been someone else. I’m really good at finding these people.

Or they’re really good at finding me.

These are the kind of people who never take my picture. They’re always ready to be shot and posed all over our world, to have memories which many of us in this digital age crave to prove that we actually live. They never care if I remember, or if I’m remembered. I’m just another giver to their taker. They crave validation and I’m a validation machine because I was taught to treat people the way I want to be treated.

Gay on a Budget >> No One Takes Pictures of Me

Gay on a Budget >> No One Takes Pictures of Me Gay on a Budget >> No One Takes Pictures of Me Gay on a Budget >> No One Takes Pictures of Me Gay on a Budget >> No One Takes Pictures of Me Gay on a Budget >> No One Takes Pictures of Me

I get to see all these beautiful places, but the photos sometimes mean nothing to me. What’s art anyways? I don’t care about photography or composition. I just want to be able to look back when I’m old and tell my friends and grandkids that I used to live in the world, that I wasn’t always alone. It won’t matter where I travelled or where I went, but that there was someone on the other side of the lens who was there with me.

(I’m aware that maybe I’m just too dependent.)

I’m tired of taking photos of other people, hoping that maybe someone will take pity on me and get the hint that I’d also like someone to take pictures of me. Really I’m just a human seeking validation, who gives away more than they ever get back. I don’t validate people with lies–it’s all true–so can’t someone share some validating truth with me? Or am I really just not the person I think I am?

Gay on a Budget >> No One Takes Pictures of Me Gay on a Budget >> No One Takes Pictures of Me Gay on a Budget >> No One Takes Pictures of Me Gay on a Budget >> No One Takes Pictures of Me

I might not have great balance in validation, but I’d rather give too much than give too little. I might not be in a lot of pictures with people, but maybe the pictures I take mean something. I don’t know. Maybe this is all dumb, but it sure doesn’t feel like it.

After a long day in the city, wandering with giggles and passing glances through Philadelphia’s Coming Out Day Celebration, Outfest, I insisted that clubbing be the next item on the non-existent agenda. I’m almost always that person, the one who wants to go “dancing.” I don’t drink or do one-night stands or anything really, so people are generally confused by my enthusiasm for clubs. “What do you do?” They ask.

I’m not really good at answering the question itself, but I took notes in first-person present on my experience last night. It was a truly spectacular and terrible night, which I think most club-goers can understand. I hope that my narrative connects with you, because I feel like many of us (by which maybe I mean young gays, or young people, or lonely people) sort of go to clubs for similar reasons…

But please enjoy these daytime pictures first, before things get all serious.

Gay on a Budget >> Why We Go Clubbing

Gay on a Budget >> Why We Go Clubbing

Gay on a Budget >> Why We Go Clubbing

Gay on a Budget >> Why We Go Clubbing
Gay on a Budget >> Why We Go Clubbing Gay on a Budget >> Why We Go Clubbing Gay on a Budget >> Why We Go Clubbing

Gay on a Budget >> Why We Go Clubbing Gay on a Budget >> Why We Go Clubbing Gay on a Budget >> Why We Go Clubbing Gay on a Budget >> Why We Go Clubbing

Gay on a Budget >> Why We Go Clubbing Gay on a Budget >> Why We Go Clubbing Gay on a Budget >> Why We Go Clubbing Gay on a Budget >> Why We Go Clubbing

The bouncer looks at my ID then back at me then back at my ID and then back at me. I wonder if it’s because of my hair, which is bleached now and dark brown on my identification card, or because of my young face. Either way I get in, so I don’t spend any more time thinking about it.

The first level of ICandy is emptier than I anticipated, particularly following the mob that had descended on Philly earlier in the afternoon for Outfest. I remind myself that the second and third level are usually more crowded. Also, the dance floor is on the second floor so I wouldn’t be staying down here anyways.

I keep my jacket hanging off one shoulder, going for the disheveled, street twink look. After losing two of my friends outside, and losing two more inside who decide to go home, I head upstairs with the one person who wanted to dance for a bit. We dance, but ultimately she leaves with her ride after a few minutes and I find myself alone. Normally, I would leave, feeling too self-conscious to dance alone in such a male-dominated space. But for some reason I feel like I have to stay. I have something to prove to myself.

I head back upstairs and begin dancing around. I’m a bubble of contradictions, moving my head from side to side and moving my hands daintily all over the place. Half of me just wants to dance and be seen by people. No interaction, no touching, no nothing. And the other half of me wants people to approach, to show interest, to tell me I’m cute.

A stranger passes by me and grazes his hand across my clothed stomach. I feel uncomfortable but don’t say anything. I’m thankful he keeps walking.

My friends tell me I’m cute all the time, but what I really want is to feel young and hot in a way that my friends can’t ever give me. I know, even as I’m dancing alone in the club, that my need is stupid and indicative of deeper validation issues, but I continue on wanting.

Suddenly, I stop, although not physically. There he is. He is an ex of mine from college. He was gorgeous and interesting, but not much more to me. He is the one I see at every single Outfest and Pride in Philly since he dumped me. The first time it happened I ran and cried to a friend. The second time I saw him from far away and went in a different direction. This time, my eyes are on the floor and I’m dancing. We don’t talk or acknowledge each other’s existence.

But I want him to see me. I want him to see me living. I want him to see my new hair and how beautiful I’ve become. I don’t want to date or have him back. I know what I want. Power.

He reminds me how easily I can be cast aside. I feel like I’m in the club and in his bed at the same time. I remember getting dumped in the middle of the night and having nowhere to go, how he fell asleep so peacefully that night and how I laid awake, away from him on the edge of the bed, holding back the tears that I was no longer privileged enough to share with him.

I see him dancing with his friends and whispering in their ears. Maybe he saw me? Maybe he’s talking about me. I don’t know for sure. He passes me as I’m dancing near a wall. I don’t look up and he doesn’t say anything. I don’t know what to feel. I keep dancing. He doesn’t come back.

The songs keep playing, but they all start to sound the same. Sassy build-up. A pause. Then a drop. I wonder why I’m so critical as I remind myself that I know next to nothing about music. I’m pulled out of my head by an approaching stranger. He tells me his friend wants to dance with me. I ask him who his friend is. He points across the crowded room. I don’t have my glasses because they didn’t go with my outfit so I can’t see who he’s pointing at. I tell him to tell his friend to come over here. He says his friend is too scared. I don’t want to be an asshole, so I follow him across the room.

The guy is sweet, but not my particular type, which is not to say he isn’t cute. I’m immediately ashamed for being disappointed and for suddenly feeling like this gesture wasn’t as nice. I know I’m a beauty privilege asshole. I dance for a little and make little conversation. I’m mostly focused on how sticky the floor is. I don’t touch my new friend as we dance, which would’ve been the same for anyone. I’ve never actually grind-danced before.

After a few songs, I shuffle off the dance floor. I need to get home and remember that my trip takes a little more than two hours at this time of night when public transportation is slow. I say goodbye to my new friend and leave, feeling bad and good. I know I’m not where I need to be, I know that I need too much, and I know that I’ll keep coming back to clubs as long as I feel shitty about myself.

Gay on a Budget >> How Your Imagination Is Real

You ever have a bad dream about someone you really care about and then wake up feeling some type of way about them? You logically know they’re not to blame, but you still feel bad anyway because you saw what you saw, heard what you heard, and experienced what you experienced. It doesn’t make sense and you know it, but you’re only human.

That might feel like a silly example as I get to the deeper point I’m trying to make, but a silly example is still an example. In many ways, our dreams are a branch of our expansive imaginations. I say expansive, but lots of other words come to mind. Dark. Dangerous. Terrifying. Soul crushing. I say this because for many people–I won’t say specific numbers or amounts, I’ll just hope this applies to you deep down somewhere so I don’t feel like such a freak–imagination has more control than reality. In the simplest terms, our imaginations control our feelings.

It’s somewhere between sad and tragic how powerful imagination can be. It’s ludicrous how something like a dream can, even if only for a moment, affect real-life relationships that technically experienced no change. This idea that something imaginary finds form in solid things is humorous, beautiful, and destructive.

The situations are always different, but the act is very much the same. Every time we project our fears and insecurities on someone, it’s our imagination pulling the strings. You were treated poorly in the past, and because this new person in your life did something that may have remotely been similar to something someone did to you once, you’ve red-flagged this new person. What once may have been a promising relationship is now a trapeze walk, one which you are unlikely to complete as you teeter from side-to-side with the weight of past pains and scars, over a net which won’t offer you the support you seek. On the other end is a person that may or may not have loved you, but you’ll never know because you never gave them the chance. Fear hijacked your imagination and made that person like everyone else who did you wrong, and because you felt it, it became true. In your eyes, they were bad, and because you only experience life from your eyes they became bad. It didn’t matter what they really were.

If a guy smiles at you, and you think it’s because he likes you, it becomes true. If you think that guy across the room keeps looking at you, it becomes true. No talk in the history of friendship has ever convinced someone that the subject of their love and affections wasn’t really into them. We rarely give up without blunt and solid rejection because our imaginations shape our reality in such extraordinary ways.

I’ve been there before, many times. I can’t even count how many times I’ve truly believed a straight guy was into me. They’d treat me well, treat me like a human being in a world that tells boys to hate and avoid sissies like me. These gestures, which are components of simple human kindness, always felt like more to me because my imagination had cast me in the role of the unlovable loser who finally had someone crushing on them. I could never imagine why people, particularly those I’m attracted to, would ever want to be around me. And where logic can’t fill in the spaces, imagination steps in.

My imagination has taken me to the sky and back to the ground. It’s told me that the people who have treated me poorly were complicated. I didn’t want to and still don’t want to accept that sometimes people you love aren’t worth loving, that sometimes people are just shitty, and that sometimes you have to let people go. Life isn’t a TV show where every abuser, bully, and villain has a tragic back story that enlightens all of their actions. People are selfish and cruel, and sometimes you’re just not a person they care about, even if at one point you believed they did. If you go looking for and creating explanations for everything, you’ll lose your mind.

It’s a lot easier said than done, of course. Our imaginations run wild off a fuel of longing and loneliness. We’re human beings that are doomed to die and rot in the ground, so dammit we want lives with best friendships and grand romances. We don’t want to accept that maybe our lives will never be like what we read and see around us, that maybe some lives are less exciting than others. It only makes sense to lose yourselves in dreams, because who wants to live life accepting that?

It becomes hard to commit to logic, like I said, because imagination can mix with and overpower logic, whereas logic rarely, if ever, beats imagination. Maybe it’s just a young people thing, but I doubt it. I’ve seen plenty of imaginative adults.

I know, at least for me, that my imagination is what keeps me going. I’m not really all that happy with my life right now. I’m not unhappy, per say, I just wish some things were different. I cope by coating my past relationships with layers and layers of sugar and spice. I tell myself that my exes still care about me because it makes me feel like maybe I wasn’t discarded and that maybe there is hope for me. I tell myself that these small friendships I’ve been forming are monumental, that I’m important to these people, that I matter, and that we’ll have late night conversations about life and things and change each other’s world. Really though, I’m just an emotional person longing for love and validation, who has no more than two long-term friends and no love interests to speak of.

I may hide behind imagination in daylight, but believe me, when I’m alone at night I know what my life is and what’s really going on. Imagination isn’t that powerful.

(I listened to this while I was writing.)