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Chasing "the scene" or making time for me?

Since about March, when my fellow gays began preparing their bodies for the summer, I declared that I would not tan this year. I was going to be comfortable in my skin, no matter how pasty or uneven the coloring on it might be.

I realized that I have done a pretty good job keeping a youthful appearance and don’t want to speed up the weathering of my skin just so I can have a few moments of “looking good” at a pool party (I also don’t look forward to the possibility of skin cancer).

But then I went to my first pool party of the season this past weekend and my skin care declaration went out the window. I suddenly felt incredibly self-conscious and found myself making a dozen or so different excuses as friends and others encouraged me to take off my shirt.

I have never been ashamed of my body and I work out pretty regularly, so I’m fairly confident in that area. At this particular party there were all sorts of topless men, with all sorts of body types and degrees of tan. There were quite a few men that should absolutely not have had their shirts off in my opinion (but then again, it is those opinions that make us all so body-image conscious).

So what was I afraid of?

I then started wondering why I was even at this party. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great time, and the organizers threw one heck of a party that I thoroughly enjoyed (in fact, I think I may have enjoyed it a little too much). The point is, prior to heading over to this Memorial Day Sunday party - after having brunch with Ricky and dropping him off at an event with some of his football friends (I am still wrapping my head around saying things like "Ricky's football buddies," it is just way too butch for me) - I had told myself I was just going to go home, relax and catch-up on “life.”

So why did I go?

I did not particularly want to go to anywhere and wanted some “me” time, but as I was driving over, I found myself saying, “it is Memorial Day weekend and I HAVE to go to a pool party."

Why did I have to go to a pool party? There are plenty of weekends to come and certainly plenty more Memorial Days. This led me to question what exactly it is that I am chasing on my weekends.

I remember being 21-years old and feeling like I had to be “out” every night of the week except Monday (which was sort of a club-goer’s sacred night of rest or something).

One particular Friday night back then, I remember my family asked me to have dinner at my mom’s house and then stay the night so we could all go hiking the next morning. I almost had a breakdown at the thought of missing an evening at Rich’s nightclub. I felt like the whole world revolved around Rich’s and I would be missing out on “everything” if I wasn’t there (and no offense to Rich’s – it’s an amazing venue that I still enjoy visiting).

Clearly, I no longer have a need or desire to be “out on the scene” six, or even two nights a week, but there is still a little desire to be around the scene from time to time. It is fun to be around the parties and nightlife, but there is nothing wrong with skipping out every so often. My first responsibility is to take care of myself and if I want to stay home eating ice cream by myself, then so be it!

As I sat there at this pool party, debating how much ghost-white skin I should bare, I realized that I was exactly where I wanted to be, just not necessarily at the right time. I loved the people I was with, the place I was at, and of course, the drinks, but I needed me time.

I have some great memories from Sunday, but I realize there are plenty of other opportunities to make memories and have fun time with friends. I need to take care of me first.

Ben Cartwright is SDGLN's Higher Education & Nonprofit Liaison and has been a campus and community activist in San Diego for over 10-years. His community involvement began as a student at SDSU and from there he launched into a number of other community activities. He has written for a number of local publications including Update, Hillquest, and GLT. Cartwright won the Lambda Archive's 2007 "Community Hero Award"; 2008 Nicky Award for "Outstanding Community Activist"; and a 2009 Nicky Award for "Outstanding Writer/Columnist".