Posted in Books, LGBT, romance, Young Adult

Book Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Remember your first crush?

Remember walking down the corridors of your high school and blushing whenever you catch a glimpse of that one cute guy who seems to shine just a little bit brighter than everyone else?

Remember the late night conversations with your friends trying to decipher and construe every conversation and gesture, looking for any hidden meaning or indication that he feels the same way?

Remember your first heartbreak, like when you find out he likes someone else and you comfort yourself with a tub of rocky road ice cream and listen to emo music (Jann Arden in my case)?

These are the kind of memories that this book evokes. It takes you back to a time in your life when every feeling and emotion is magnified (probably because of teenage hormones). It recalls the innocence of first love and I think it captures it perfectly, with just the right amount of self-deprecating humour, sweetness and angst. 

But you know what the most beautiful thing about this book is?

Its about two teenage boys falling in love for the first time. I am really happy to be living in a time where books like this can be published and widely read, not just by the lgbt community but by mainstream readers as well. I think that ten years ago, a kid growing up confused about his sexuality would have felt alone and depressed whereas I fervently hope that now, with all the support and books like Simon, they would know that there are other people going through the same thing and that it DOES get better.

I love Simon’s internal monologue, I really like getting into his head and seeing his take on things. I love that he is a huge fan of Harry Potter and I love that he does theatre. I love the fact that he thinks “coming out” shouldn’t be exclusive to gay people and that straight people should come out as straight too. I love that he thinks straight shouldn’t be the default setting and I love that he was able to bring a sense of humour to his own eventual coming out. 

I know that coming out is a really serious issue for teens, and I’ve read several books where this hasn’t turned out well. But, spoiler alert, its great to read a book for once where family and friends really rally around the character in order to give him support. It gives you hope that that kind of tolerance will eventually be the norm. Love is love people, get with the program.

There’s a mystery to be solved here and if you guys are anything like me, you’ll be tempted to just read through the end to find out who “Blue” is but trust me, you don’t want to spoil the experience. I honestly guessed it early on but I kept getting thrown by the red herrings. However, just like when I’m reading crime and mystery, I know that its rarely the obvious suspect whodunit because where’s the fun in that? And also if you’re really observant, Blue gives himself away in one of his emails to Simon. 

Anyway, if it was possible to die from sweetness overload, I would have keeled over last night. I finished the book and just went “awwwww“. It kinda makes me miss high school, although I wouldn’t go so far as to wish to go through adolescence again. If you’re looking for a nice and easy read, add this to your to-read list! I guarantee you won’t regret it. 

Posted in LGBT, Lifestyle, relationships

The Things You Find Yourself Doing When You’re Under The Weather

Dear Readers,

I apologise for being a little remiss on my blogging this past week as I have been battling the flu since last weekend. There were times when I was literally up all night coughing away and trying to find a comfortable position that best accommodates breathing. It sucked not being able to go out to enjoy the last remaining days of good weather but I somehow found ways to distract myself while I was stuck at home. I indulged my inner homebody and somehow managed to have a good time even while I was sick. That’s me, finding the silver lining in even the dreariest of situations.

So, what have I been up to this past week apart from applying liberal amounts of Vicks Vaporub. I’m glad you asked because I’m in the mood to tell you. This won’t be the most coherent of blogs. I’m going to have an existential ramble about things that have been weighing on my mind so be warned.

Netflix

Ah, good old Netflix. Where would we be without this streaming behemoth? For the discounted value of 9.99 a month, you’ll have hundreds of movies and tv series at the tip of your fingers. I’ve been looking for a good series to watch now that Game of Thrones has dropped the bomb that it won’t be showing the 8th season until 2019 (argh). Failing that, I’d settle for some good reruns.

So what to watch on Netflix? My sister was watching The Defenders one night and I tried that but only lasted an episode. I’ve never really been a fan of superheroes apart from the ones from the Marvel Universe. So I somehow found myself watching a show called Shadow Hunters and I got hooked.

This series is based on The Mortal Instruments book series by Cassandra Clare, the first three books of which I read a year ago. Its not groundbreakingly original and a few of my Goodreads friends have slammed the author for being a hack and capitalising on current YA trends to make cash and even plagiarising a few storylines. I guess I can see where they’re coming from but, come on, I don’t think she should be singled out when most of these YA fantasy novels feature the irritating commonalities of a love triangle or the perfect heroine whom everyone around her feels the need to protect, or the hero on a journey to self-discovery who somehow finds himself having special powers that make him different even among people who are different. These formulaic plot lines can be found in The Twilight Series, The Hunger Games Trilogy, The Divergent Series. If Cassandra Clare was able to make a name for herself by using the same formula, guys, just live and let live. No one’s forcing you to read the books.

Anyway, I quite liked the books and I liked the series even more. I like that an LGBT couple is one of the main focus of the storylines, its further proof of how far we’ve come as a society. The so-called ‘Malec’ tandem is one my favourite parts of the show and it didn’t even occur to me be weirded out by the fact that this was a romance between a guy and another guy. That wedding scene gave me the feels. Harry Shum Jr. and Matthew Daddario do such a great job handling these characters. It doesn’t hurt that Matt is outrageously good-looking. Its hard to appreciate the scene below without context  and without knowing the backstory but I think its still one of the best scenes of the series.

Also? Props on the background song. I’ve been playing ‘War of Hearts’ by Ruelle on repeat this past week because of this.

Another show that’s awesome but has sadly been cancelled is Sense8. Its about 8 people who are telepathically linked to each other and can read each other’s thoughts and feel each other’s emotions and share in each other’s experiences. I read somewhere that this series is really groundbreaking because of its message of equality. I feel like this is a recurring theme right now in most movies and tv series, the message that love is  love regardless of gender, sexuality, age, race or background. I really really like this show, especially during light-hearted moments like the one below:

I’ve forgotten how good this song is, and surprisingly relevant. Its also an awesome song to sing along to when you’re feeling frustrated with life, and I have to say I found myself singing this song a lot this past week.

Figuring Out The Future

I’m a creature of habit and I struggle with change. Paradoxically though, I also hate being stuck. I have to feel like I’m driving towards something in order to feel satisfied. I know this is a cliche but the journey really is the destination in my case. I like having a goal in sight and I enjoy working towards that goal. Lately it seems like I’m not setting any goals for myself and I’m just coasting along, letting life happen to me instead of taking the bull by its horns and making things happen.

It doesn’t help that people close to me who I really care about have been moving on to new things and I can’t help but feel like I’m being left behind. I’m really happy for them but I hate being the person who stays. I think I would rather be the person who leaves. I feel like I’ve lost an entire support system that I didn’t even know I need. I know they’ll always be my friends and we’ll still see each other and catch up. I believe in the kind of friendship that I have with these people and its the kind that will withstand distances and busy schedules. Still, I will miss being able to have that shared experience and having them get exactly what I’m going through. I guess it all boils down to the fact that there have been far too many goodbyes in my life this year.

I think about moving on sometimes, so I made a list of the good things I’ve got going for me to find reasons to stay. There’s not a lot but the few that made it to the list are major ones. I still enjoy what I do, and I like my team. I feel appreciated by most of the people I work with and I no longer give a damn about the people who don’t appreciate me. I still feel like I’m making a difference, and that’s really important to me. Professionally speaking, its never been just about the money for me. I’ve turned down high-paying jobs before because I feel like I wouldn’t make a difference in that organisation. I need to know that what I do matters. I don’t want to be just another nameless employee. I guess that more than ever is why I stay where I am. I feel valued, and my contribution to the department and the organisation has always been acknowledged by the people who matter. I guess I should remember that the next time I feel the urge to look for greener pastures. I’m really really lucky to be where I am and to do what I do.

Personal Woes

My personal life has ben stagnant for the last year or so. I’m one of those people who are just really unlucky when it comes to dating. Its a combination of not being able to meet the right people and my lack of belief in the whole online dating system. I know a lot of people have had success with it and I have now taken to banning myself from Facebook because every time I look at relationship photos of people who I know met their partners on online dating, I think to myself, why the hell can’t I just do what they do?

It just feels so wrong. And believe me, I’ve had ample time to think about this this past week while I was coughing away in bed. I do not want my relationship narrative to include swiping right on Tinder. Its just really frustrating to think about the fact that London has the highest number of single people in the world and I struggle to meet even one. And the ones I do meet are just not my type.

I’ve been accused of being picky before. I prefer to think of it as having standards. I would really like to have a stable relationship. At this point, I am so sick of the dating game. The endless miscommunication, the not-knowing, the uncertainty, the construing of signals and analysing little things down to the minute details – its fun for a while but sometimes you just really want to start building a life with someone.

I found the answer in church of all places. Now my faith in religion is not at its strongest, I think I’ve lost my way a little bit there. But I go to church partly out of obligation to my mother but also because I can’t force myself to relinquish my belief in a higher power. So I was sitting in church last Sunday and the priest was talking about love. He said that love isn’t what the movies make it out to be, but rather its a decision. That really stuck with me. Maybe its time to make the decision that I want to settle down with someone and all my actions should align with that decision. Its really given me something to think about.

I’m sorry this blog has been a bit of a ramble. I usually post to entertain but this one is really more like a catharsis for me. My next posts will be back to their normal length, I promise.

Its good to be back.

Posted in LGBT, Lifestyle, relationships, romance

Love Wins Part 2: The Wedding Ceremony

I was and always will be a sucker for weddings.

There is something about it that fills me with so much hope. In this world where you can barely get a decent date, it seems like a miracle to me that someone could actually find a partner to share their life with. And in a way, Daim and Tom’s marriage is nothing short of a miracle. 

I’ve already talked about how happy I am that we have become so enlightened as a society such that two men getting married is now almost as commonplace as a wedding between a man and a woman. And I also think its fantastic that through sheer chance, Daim and Tom’s wedding happened to fall on Pride Weekend in the UK. Everytime I see them as a couple, I always think #lovewins. I’m sure it could not have been easy for them to get to this point, and while their story is not mine to tell, I know that they’ve made a lot of compromises along the way to become the partners that they are now. I have no words to describe how happy I am for them.

There were two things that struck me about this wedding. Two things other than the fact that everything was so gorgeous and meticulously planned. First was how accepting everyone was of the fact that this was an occasion of two men getting married. No one remarked upon it, it wasn’t an issue throughout the day, and we’re talking about two cultures (British and Filipino) who are quite conservative and strict about sexuality. But today, it wasn’t about any political correctness or equality, it was simply that everyone was there because they loved them both and they would love whoever it was that either decided to marry.

The second thing was how much the two cultures were equally represented and celebrated. I’ve always thought there was a great divide between the two cultures that no amount of love could ever span and the most you can hope for in an interracial marriage was that one partner would tolerate the other. But today, not only were those two cultures accepted, they were also celebrated. I could not stop a tear from falling when Tom was given the traditional Filipino blessing by Damier’s mum. Or when the person officiating the ceremony told everyone to stand up to greet the bride and groom because this was a Filipino culture. There was a wedding breakfast which is traditionally British (and confusing to me because this was at 4 in the afternoon) and a hog roast during the ball which is the closest thing to the traditional Filipino lechon that you can get in England. 

Their families all tried to get on and interact. The naturally reticent and shy Filipinos were welcomed by the more sociable British. The children were fast friends and playing together by the end of the weekend.  They both had a mixture of British and Filipino friends. It was absolutely beautiful. And I think this really parallels the relationship between these two men. You could not find two people who are more different, but rather than loving each other despite their differences, they love each other becaue of it. Damier’s certainly never voluntarily set foot in a musueum before Tom. And before Damier, I’m sure Tom had rice with his meals about once a month. 

At the end of the day, its not about all the ways in which they are different, but about how they grow together to merge those differences and achieve the kind of partnership that will last. I know this wedding is visually and aesthetically stunning, but I think it would still have been beautiful even if it were in a barn full of hay and horse manure simply because of the joy and love that filled the occasion. 

I love coming to weddings because they fill me with hope. There are things that will last, that will stand the end of time. There is still room for the kind of love that makes you a better person because of it. The kind of love that breaks barriers of race and gender, this is the kind celebrated here today because as Maya Angelou said:

Love recognises no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to its destination full of hope.

There is so much happiness going around the room today that I have not stopped crying since the wedding started. I am so so happy for these two men. They deserve every happiness and every good thing that’s coming their way. Congratulations Tom and Daim! 

Posted in friendship, LGBT, relationships

Love Wins: A Love Letter to Damier

Dear Damier,

Here  we are, one week before you finally marry the love of your life. 5 years ago when we first met, you seemed so sure that you would never get to this stage. You never thought you’d find the person that you’d plan a future with, that you’d share the rest of your life with. I’m so happy that this is one of those times when I can prove you wrong, because you have found HIM.

I remember when same-sex marriage was approved in the States last year; I immediately thought of you, although its been legal in the UK for a while. I always say that I can’t imagine a world where you don’t get to be your fabulous self. I can’t imagine a world where someone gets to decide who you can or can’t have feelings for. I can’t imagine that someone would think you’re somehow less of a man just because you happen to be in love with another man. They don’t know your courage, your generosity, everything that you’ve sacrificed, how hard you’ve worked to provide for your family. You are more than a man than most of the men I know. You just also happen to be good at shopping and putting on make-up for me. :p

You’ve always been my number one fan, and you know I’ve always been yours. Without you, I wouldn’t be the confident and empowered person that I am. You’ve always encouraged me to avoid setting limits for myself when it comes to my physical attributes, because that’s always been one of my biggest insecurities. But you’ve taught me to break through those barriers. In return, I am telling you now that I will fight to the death to make sure no one ever sets barriers for you. You can do anything daim, and we’ll be there to cheer you on all the way. I cannot wait for you to reach this milestone in your life, I just know that you are going to make the best husband. Tom is a lucky guy and he knows it. 🙂

I’m not going to get too sappy; I’ll save that for the wedding. I just didn’t want to end the night and not say how happy I am for you, and how much I think you deserve every happiness that comes your way. Happy Hen-Tag buang! I hope you enjoyed your Butler in The Buff. I’ll see you at the wedding. Xx