Category Archives: The College Years

The Real Wedding Singer

Jeff and I were watching TV this weekend and happened to surf past The Wedding Singer, starring Adam Sandler (Robbie Hart) and Drew Barrymore (Julia Sullivan). Oh, that takes me back. You remember the movie, right? You know…Adam Sandler plays a washed up wedding singer whose fiancé walks out on him at the altar. Drew Barrymore plays a catering server who ends up falling for Adam’s character, and dumps her fiancé (whose last name is Gulia, which would have made her name Julia Gulia).

Needless to say, unless you like hearing Adam Sandler doing 80’s covers, this movie itself is washed up. So, we kept on surfing. But, of course, that movie always reminds me of my college days. Not because it was set in the 80’s, but because I was a real wedding singer back in the 90s.

I never did it for a living, though. I was kind of like the girl who is always the bridesmaid and never the bride. I have sang in more weddings than I care to remember. And, I have to admit it straight away…I hate weddings! Here’s why…

I think they are ridiculous. Not in a “oh, bless her heart…can you believe she wants that in her wedding…” type of way, but in a “these people ain’t right” type of way. Seriously, I know what I’m talking about here–these people ain’t right. One of the bonuses of being the wedding singer/musician (sometimes I just had to play the piano) was that I got an up close view of how horrible everything really was, but I didn’t have to actually stand up with the wedding party and pretend to like it. You have to know what I am talking about here–think bridesmaid dresses, gaudy flowers, etc. etc. I got to sit over in the corner and crack jokes or just shake my head in disbelief.

The number one reason that I hate weddings is clear. I can’t deal with the entitlement that goes along with it. It’s this attitude that says, “This is my day! I deserve to get whatever I want!” Ugh. I totally grossed myself out just typing it. I’ve actually seen brides throw temper-tantrums.

The second reason is that because they are entitled, they will put anything that they want in their wedding. And this is where I was always personally affected. If I ever sing at another wedding, there are several things that I swear on my severely sprained ankle that I won’t sing…The Wedding Song (There is Love). No way. No more Peter, Paul and Mary songs! Also, no more Everything I Do (I Do It for You). And, definitely, positively no more Chicago songs. You know…You’re the Inspiration. I just have to put my foot down. Ouch!

Most of the people’s weddings that I sang in were friends, so, I have probably just offended them all. Oh well, they need to know these things for their second or third weddings. Which brings me to the third reason I hate weddings. Freebies. Now, keep in mind, most of these weddings happened prior to my career as a flight attendant. I had to pay to fly everywhere. And, people just love to have their special day at locations that could not be possibly more inconvenient. I actually “opted” out of going to my sister’s and my brother’s weddings because they were too far removed–i.e. waaaaay too expensive to fly to.

But, as for my “friends,” I cannot tell you all of the outrageous things that were expected of me pro bono. I actually had one “friend” in college get mad at me because I told him I couldn’t afford to pay the $600 for the airfare to come and sing at his wedding (for free). The most common thing that people would ask me to do for free is what I call “filler.” Basically it went like this: they would discover at the last minute that their poorly planned wedding had gaps in it. Oh yeah, why don’t we just have the pianist play something there. “Oh, pianist, can you just play a little something while we wait for the bride to get ready?” That’s why I always came to weddings with loads of piano books. Better to be prepared.

Weddings bring out people’s true character. In mothers who may normally appear to be sweet and harmless you see the inner control freak. In fathers who may normally appear to be dominant and controlling you see that they really just don’t give a shit. And, in brides who may normally appear to be totally in love with the groom, you see that they are much more in love with the wedding than with him.

Wow, I just let out some seriously pent-up feelings about this subject. I feel much better now.

I can’t end a blog post about weddings without at least telling my funniest wedding experience. First, I fully support gay marriage. I fully believe that we should have the right to marry whomever and however we want. That doesn’t mean that I actually want to have a wedding ceremony. Especially, after I went to my first gay wedding.

It was several years ago. The grooms decided to incorporate a plethora of cultural practices into their ceremony, in order to honor the diversity of their beliefs, I guess. So, it started with both of the grooms being carried in by the wedding party while the entire congregation repeatedly sang a song entitled He Carried Me. Subtle, I know. At another point the grooms sprinkled rose petals over the entire congregation. This was followed by one of the grooms playing You Are My Sunshine on his violin. And, the highlight was when the grooms got dressed up as pink bunny rabbits for the congregation. I shit you not.

Some people just ain’t right.

Boys Will Be Boys

In retrospect, living in an all-male dormitory while I was in Bible College was not altogether a bad experience. In fact, as most of you are aware, when you get a group of guys together alone, odd behavior usually erupts. My college days were no different. I would even go a step further…homoerotic behavior usually erupts.

Take your typical male locker room. Although many will deny it, you have to agree that it is a little “gay” to snap another naked man with a towel. I mean…come on. That is just one example of a multitude of flirtatious, gay locker room activities. Wrestling naked. Pinching one another in the privates. Comparing/commenting on penis sizes. I could go on…maybe I will. If you are shocked or appalled, now may be a good time to stop reading, if you can.

I realize that this topic may be a little uncomfortable for some guys. And my theory is that the more a person protests, the more closeted they are. Those that have no problem talking about these activities usually have nothing to hide. They are either totally out and gay, or are straight with no hidden issues. The latter have no problem talking about it because they have nothing to hide. It is what it is…guys messing around. I always get this feeling that those who balk at this subject are hiding something…

I remember several instances in the dorm involving a group guys and entire family-sized containers of lotion. What ensued was a gay man’s dream. A little man on man lotion wrestling. Participants wearing only a greasy pair of underwear. I mean…come on. There also was a group of guys that called themselves the sock posse. They would run throughout the dorm wearing only one strategically placed sock. (wink wink) For some reason, some guys love to show what they have. My first roommate in college spent more time naked than clothed. He slept naked; walked all the way down the hall to the community shower naked; studied naked. I have my theories about what this was about, but, I’ll just save that for myself. 😉

My point is this, I don’t think that all this behavior is actually that strange. I think it is playful and natural to be curious. We spend so much of our lives repressing certain thoughts and actions that we start to think they are wrong. I also really don’t think that checking out another guy’s penis makes a person totally gay. In reality, I don’t think sexuality is that black and white. I really appreciate the Kinsey Scale of Sexuality. It places everyone on a spectrum. One end being totally gay, the other totally straight. Most people fit somewhere in the middle.

So once again, I should thank Ozark Christian College for giving a closeted gay boy a little male on male entertain to help him through an otherwise rough time in his life.

The Long Road to Where I Am–Part 2

It’s been over a week since my last post. I have been working way too much. I am finding that these posts in my “The Long Road to Where I Am” series are both difficult and important for me to create. Meaning, they take a lot out of me, but I need to say these things. These “things” have been brewing for a long time and need to be expressed. I appreciate the response that I have received following my first post…keep those comments coming.

I want to clarify a few things, however. The last post dealt a lot with my journey through college. I would like to clarify where I am…now. First, I am no longer trying to de-gayify myself. It’s not possible. And, more importantly–even if it were possible–I have no desire to do that. I would even take it as far as saying that I was wrong for even trying to do that to myself in college. However, I do still believe the whole process of going through that made me stronger and more sure of myself. So, maybe I did need to go through it. Who knows…

Although I still consider my college days a struggle, I no longer consider being gay a sin. In fact, I no longer even think of my actions in those terms–sin vs. not a sin. My morality is not based on the Bible or any particular religious group. It is based on proven human experience. For example, murder is wrong because it has consistently been proven harmful to society (not to mention the individual being murdered). This is just one example. To avoid getting too philosophical, which may be too late at this point, I am going to move on. Which is where I am right now. The whole purpose of writing about my experiences is about moving on. I am mostly choosing to view that time of my life through humor. Because in life you have several choices: you can laugh, you can cry, or you can kick someone. And, right now, I am choosing to laugh.

My mantra has become “be honest, be honest, be honest.” And so, when I reflect on certain things in college, I have to say that I was a flaming queen. Very effeminate. At least that is what I was told my freshman year. And, when I watch the videos, I think I have to agree. You see, I was part of a touring music group called Impact Brass & Singers. We performed multi-media programs that consisted of a mixture of songs, skits, and slides (set to the music). Kind of like “Up With People.” It was during a rehearsal my first year, that one of the directors pulled me aside and said, “Brother, you are doing a good job, but can you tone it down a little. You are being a little too effeminate.” Whaaaaaat? (for the appropriate effect read that with a rising screech, a hand to your chest, a hand on your hip…get the picture??)

I worked really hard from that moment until the moment I began to come out at being masculine. (i.e.-lowering my voice, watching my hand gestures, trying not to purse my lips…) I am happy to say that I no longer edit myself like that. It does make for a much happier me. But, anyway, while we’re on the topic, I would like to discuss this a little further. It is interesting to me that although I hate the f-word, (no…not “fuck”… you dirty birdies. ;-)) there is a reason I was called the f-word a lot in high school. To those misguided homophobes, I was a fag. The interesting part is the denial of this on both sides of the fence. First, there was the my self-denial. Me trying not to be gay, “I can’t be gay,” etc. etc. And, then, there was the denial from my friends and family. Oh, Tyler….he’s just a special, sensitive, creative type…he couldn’t be a homosexual. Oh, but he could…and he is

This all supports my theory that people will believe what they want to believe. Despite all evidence to the contrary. And, you can’t really change that. They have to change it. Just like I had to change my beliefs about being gay. The perfect example of this is my family. When I came out to them, I told myself that it took me 24 years to come to terms with being gay; so, I would have to give them some time as well. And after almost ten years, they are in a much better place with it. I think most importantly, they actually believe it is true, finally.

Although, I am sensitive and creative, that’s not the only reason that I enjoy to watch Lifetime, television for women (and gay men), and I have a special affinity for musical theater…

The Long Road to Where I Am–Part 1

I have purposefully avoided blogging too much about my days at bible college. Or, about the process of my coming out. I know that a lot of people I went to school with read my blog. So, I’ve tried to avoid those subjects in order to make most everyone happy. But, I have to be honest, my college days not only were rife with personal strife; but also, they were rife with some seriously funny shit. Well, at least, it’s funny nowto me…anyway. And, I will get to that funny shit in future posts. I’m sorry to offend anyone. But, I’m writing these blogs more for myself than anyone else. 😉 I’m happy if you enjoy them, but this is therapeutic for me. And, I’ve got to tell ya that I love therapy. Sometimes…anyway.

Therapy for me is all about growth and self-improvement. And, I’ve always been a bit obsessed about self-improvement. I love the “idea” of becoming a “better me.” Despite all of my best intentions, though, I haven’t always been that good at actually seeing certain things through. For example, my bookshelves are full of self-help books. I especially love the “…for Dummies” series. I have “Nutrition for Dummies;” “Bartending for Dummies;” “MySpace for Dummies,” etc. etc. Most of them, as you might suspect, have been only partially read. I have ordered “life-changing” products from numerous infomercials. All of which, either have been thrown away, or are still in a corner waiting for that special day, when I will finally discover with great confidence that they do not solve my issues with working out. I haven’t truly succeeded in most of these attempts at improving myself–except for one. And, I feel like it’s the one that matters the most to me. I, with great effort, have come to terms with myself. Meaning…I love me for who I am.

It was several trips to a therapist during my fourth year of college that changed everything for me. I decided to go to a local pastor who was also a licensed therapist. You see, this was when I still believed that a person could change their sexual orientation. Let me clarify–I never have believed that being gay is a choice. Even while I was trying to change it, I didn’t believe that I chose it. Put the “nature vs. nurture” argument aside. Either way, I did not choose my sexual orientation. But, I used to believe that with enough prayer and counseling, it could be changed. Which is why I went to this particular therapist. I can’t say that I regret going; because, my few sessions with him really were a turning point for me. Obviously, this is not what he intended to do.

I don’t need to rehash my short stint in homosexual recovery. It should suffice to say that I have never felt worse about myself or about those around me than while I was with that therapist. Although, it did take me a little longer to officially come out, that was the last straw. It was after my second session with this pastor that I realized I wanted and needed to love myself. And, in order to do that, I had to be true to all of myself–which included being gay.

It’s also taken me a long time to admit it, but, I don’t regret going to bible college. I did for a long time, though. I’ve always thought that I would have been so much better off at a regular school–not having to “go through” all of that personal turmoil. I now believe that the experience of being a closeted gay man in that environment, although being tumultuous and painful, eventually made me stronger and more sure of myself. And, I should thank Ozark Christian College for that.

I’m done with it.

I like how my friend “Juan” puts it. There’s a reason you get sick. Some negative energy or stress in your life is rearing its ugly head. This makes you sick. Or, better, when you are stressed, your body is busy dealing with that. Your defenses are down. And, you get sick. And believe me I am sick. I’ll spare you the gory details of my sinus and ear infection…it’s not pretty. But, it got me thinking about how I have always done this. I always get sick when I get stressed.

Normally, I have this natural tension valve that automatically shuts off at the first sign of too much stress. I just quit. Stop working. My college roommate Chris knows exactly what I am talking about. He loves to tell stories about how we would both be working on “important” papers; and, at about 11:00 pm the night before it was due I would be in bed with the paper done…or not. Actually, as he puts it, I would start to yawn and stretch and whine and end up asleep in bed while he stayed up until 5:00 am finishing his paper. I cannot tell you how many papers never were finished because of this tension shut-off valve. It’s a miracle I ever graduated from college. And, I’m not sure who’s more amazed…me or Chris.

I’ve already told the story of how, when I was in 1st grade, I just froze and “shut off” when the stress of writing my letter to Santa got to be too much. (read “I’m Special”) But, another time comes to mind. When I was a kid, I was dragged to every sporting event in Pleasantville, Iowa. And, believe it or not there was a time when I actually “played” in sports. In third grade, I was signed up for little league baseball. It lasted… until the stress of playing got to be too much. I think somewhere in the Clark family photo archives there is probably a picture of me sitting in the outfield picking dandelions right below a sign that read “Winners Never Quit and Quitters Never Win!!!” Obviously, the sign had no affect on me whatsoever. Clearly, baseball was just too stressful.

Two years later I walked off the court in the middle of a little league basketball game because the coaches wanted to play “shirts vs. skins.” This meant I would have to take off my shirt. And, this definitely qualified as a too much stress moment. That was it, no more little league basketball for Tyler. (An interesting side note: one of my few other encounters with basketball occurred in junior high. I was asked to video tape the high school girls varsity team’s games. This lasted only because it meant I could travel–my first step into the travel industry–to other sprawling cites like Prairie City, Eddyville…you get the idea. Also, it was an opportunity to be artistic, which I know was appreciated by the basketball girls.)

When I am done…I am done. Finished. I couldn’t go any further if I tried. Unfortunately, in my adulthood I have learned to bypass my stress threshold. And, when I do that, I get sick. This whole decision process pushed me beyond what my body could handle. (read “It’s hot as hell up in here“) The biggest reason I didn’t decide to take the job was that it was going to be too stressful. I really believe I made the right decision. And, now I am done.