“Two Degrees off Center” is a monthly blog by Rich Keys about the personal struggles, issues, and topics that speak to the LDS/LGBT experience. Sometimes it will be serious, sometimes humorous, but will always approach things from a slightly different perspective.
by Rich Keys
The following blog is rated M for Mature.
It contains discussion points and mental images of
nudity, sensuality, sexuality, and begatting…lots of begatting.
Reader discretion is advised.
Today is day 56 of the lockdown, entering week nine of California’s stay-at-home order, otherwise known as house arrest, solitary confinement, the ultimate time out. We were the first state to issue an order to stay at home to combat the coronavirus, and for people like me who live alone and are in a high-risk age group, I may be in the last group to be released, currently scheduled months from now. Ironically, I’m relying on the behavior of those released before me to keep the numbers down. Otherwise, my confinement could be repeatedly extended like a mirage that keeps disappearing as you get closer to it.
All of us have been seriously affected by this evil little microbe, from rationing our toilet paper to being out of a job to a sudden and painful death of a person close to us. Fortunately, I’m better off than many others. I have plenty of TP, I’m retired, and I don’t know anyone close who’s suffered from it. I’ve also tested negative, and I stay six feet away from others and wear a mask whenever I make a run for essentials. But my biggest loss during this stay-at-home order—the issue that hits me where it really hurts—is not having someone to cuddle.
I guess I’ve known all my life I’m a cuddler. Even when I was a little kid, I cuddled with my stuffed dog Snoozy at night, long before I knew what it was called. I didn’t see any other kids my age cuddling, at least they weren’t out about it, so I tried to resist it and deny it, but I’d always slip and feel “the urge” again. Later, I tried to pray away the cuddle, but it was no use. I finally accepted and embraced my cuddle critters, and I’ve never been happier. I even live for the day when cuddling will become an Olympic sport, that Israel and Syria can lie down and cuddle together in the Men’s Finals, and then go home and tell their leaders to put down their weapons because there’s a better way to solve problems than war.
But since the stay-at-home order, my cuddle critters are climbing the wall, feeling stress, depression, and separation anxiety from not being able to cuddle close with another guy, with the emotional nurturing, the touch and tactile connection with a special someone, the radiating warmth from his body to mine without six layers of clothing between us, the validation of holding and being held, of loving and being loved. Landmark studies have long shown that babies and children who are denied touch and holding and cuddling can be seriously affected physically, emotionally, socially, and intellectually throughout their lives—and in a documentary on AIDS that I saw many years ago, a male victim, with full-stage Kaposi’s sarcoma and its dark lesions covering most of his body, said, “My biggest fear isn’t that I’ll die of AIDS. My biggest fear is that no one will ever want to hold me again.”
One of the best ways I’ve found to cope with all the current stress and anxiety of this pandemic is nude sunbathing in my backyard every day. Suddenly I’m in my own Garden of Eden where the weather is a perfect 78 degrees with a 10 mph breeze, and I can feel the warm rays of the sun, the gentle breeze across my body, letting go of all the stress and burdens I didn’t even realize I was carrying around. It’s both therapeutic and sensual.
As I lie in my backyard, I can relate to Adam. He was all alone in the Garden, so he figured he didn’t need clothes or fig leaves and could walk around naked, lie on perfect grass, listening to the chirping birds, the smell of the flowers, the peace and calm in that environment. He didn’t even have to feed the animals or mow the lawn. It seemed everything was perfect for Adam, but as he lay there on that perfect grass, something kept gnawing at him. Something still wasn’t quite right—something was missing. Adam didn’t have anyone to cuddle with. The lion and the lamb could lie down together, but there was no one for Adam. Even God saw the problem and acknowledged “it is not good that man should be alone.” So he gave Adam someone to cuddle with. He gave him Eve.
Now I’ve heard all the lame jokes and comments about how it was Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, not Adam and Steve, but God was just being practical. He knew He had 20 billion of his kids who had to come down here to get a body (I did the math) and that takes a lot of begatting. If He sent Steve down to Adam, they couldn’t do any begatting. No begatting, no bodies. No bodies, no begatting. So He sent Eve to Adam so the begatting could get started. Then, as it says in Genesis, Adam begat Seth, Seth begat Enos, Enos begat Cainen, and so on, until there were enough straights to keep the begatting going on its own. Then the Steves started coming down.
But since I live alone, the stay-at-home orders and the social distancing have made it impossible for me to cuddle with a special Steve in my life, or any other Steve for that matter. I’ve tried all kinds of counterfeit cuddling during stay-at-home with no luck: Comfort food (mashed potatoes, mac n cheese, garlic bread), old movies I’ve seen a million times (Goldfinger, Casablanca, anything on TCM), Law & Order reruns, even a body pillow at night—all of them are great in their own way, but they’re no substitute for the real thing. Even worse, after the government finally says it’s okay to cuddle with each other again, my church says the social distancing rules still apply to gays: It’s okay to be gay as long as you’re six feet apart. So how do I navigate through the intersection of LDS and LGBT while the coronavirus has made things even worse?
As I lie in my backyard Garden of Eden, I think of Eve and the decision she had to make in hers. Most of the world sees Eve as a duped, ignorant female who was tricked into snacking on the forbidden fruit. Through modern revelation, we know otherwise. She was intelligent and had a full and complete picture of what she was doing and the consequences of the choice she had to make: Does she “obey, honor, and sustain the law,” avoid the forbidden fruit, give up any begatting, and stop the whole plan in its tracks? Or does she agree with God that “it is not good that man should be alone,” break the commandment, get Adam to eat the fruit with her, and start cuddling and begatting, knowing they could ultimately get much further in the long run?
On a much smaller and personal level, my choice is similar: Do I “obey, honor, and sustain the law” to stay at home alone, give up any cuddling, and suffer the consequences of numbing instead of nurturing, the loneliness of not even being held? Or do I agree with God that “it is not good that man should be alone” and find a way to protect myself in public so I can have someone special come over who lives the same standards? Now I’m sure that some of you think I’m being overdramatic and making waaaay too much of my problem in the middle of everyone else’s, and when I watch TV and see what so many other people are going through, I agree with you. But I’m also seeing a spike in hotline calls, thoughts of suicide, and hopelessness and depression on a grand scale. There’s no shortage of hurt and pain in this pandemic—there’s plenty to go around—and other people’s hurt and pain doesn’t make mine go away, it doesn’t make the emptiness inside me fill up. I can be filled with a divine intervention from God, but even He knows spiritual cuddling and nurturing from Him isn’t enough. When He set up the plan, He knew His kids would also need someone on this side of the veil, someone physical and tangible, to cuddle.
When AIDS first swept through the world, the key was to use protection and wear condoms. Now in the middle of the corona crisis, the key is to use protection and wear face masks. We’ve also been told in either case to stay away from strangers, and stick with people you really know well, people who’ve proven their trustworthiness, and who won’t do anything to change that.
So I’ve decided to proceed accordingly. I’ve asked a special guy in my life to also be tested, and to also wear a mask and stay six feet from others when in public, and otherwise stay at home. Whenever he comes over, we wash our hands to two choruses of Happy Birthday, catch some rays in the backyard, and then watch a movie while cuddling and sharing a pizza (mutual mastication isn’t a sin—I looked it up), and we do it all bareback—without wearing a mask.
In the middle of this pandemic, with so much social unrest, mass protests in the streets, and people complaining their constitutional rights are under attack, straights are finally having their “Stonewall” moment. They’re finally understanding and feeling down deep inside what it means to be kept in a closet, feeling bullied and controlled until you finally say, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Maybe we can finally find a little common ground in each other’s Stonewall moment, to empathize and see things through each other’s eyes a little more, and love our fellow man without feeling threatened by him. It’s not cuddling, but it’s still a pretty good place until we get to it.
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out all posts in the Two Degrees off Center blog series.