02.07.2019 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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Love is in the air and I’m a sap. In fact, I’m an Air Supply listening, rom-com loving, “This Is Us” crying sap. You have to be pretty close to me to see it, but it’s there. When 90 percent of your social life is work related, it’s easy to have work-mode walls up. What may seem like an all-business exterior is really just all mush inside.

I can’t say where this love of love stems from. My earliest memories are of growing up with little means in Houston, Texas. There were five kids, my parents and an uncle in the house. Making ends meet and raising a herd of kids didn’t leave a lot of room for romance. Although, my parents did go on a date to see Willie Nelson’s New Year’s Eve concert every year and I thought that was sweet.

Maybe my views of love were romanticized by my early choice in music. I was nine years old when I first saw Air Supply perform their greatest hits at AstroWorld. All they sing about is love: “Lost in Love,” “All Out of Love,” “The One That You Love,” “Making Love Out of Nothing At All.” I also inherited my parents’ fascination with the oldies, in this case the 50s and 60s, with songs like “Earth Angel,” “Love Me Tender,” “Unchained Melody” and “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.”

As I started to come to terms with being gay, around middle school, I would find myself listening to love songs and fantasizing about being in a relationship with another boy.

When I completely came to terms with being gay, music and fantasy was all I had. My date for Homecoming was Air Supply. I would sit on my bed, listen to their greatest hits and dream of what life would be like if it was okay for me to be in love with a boy. I told you I was a sap.

I was in love with what could be. All I wanted was to meet someone in high school, fall in love and spend the rest of our lives together. This was the movie in my mind, the perfect gay rom-com, and I was going to make it happen. When it didn’t work for me in high school, I made it my mission to meet someone in college—at a Southern Baptist school in the mountains of North Carolina.

Surprisingly, I fell for someone in nearby Asheville. He was about to leave for NYC to attend college. This didn’t deter me. Every great movie relationship has its obstacles and this was merely a challenge that was going to make us stronger. It didn’t and it was crushing, like the end of “Avengers: Infinity War” devastating.

What followed were a few decades of poor decisions. I had some wonderful, long-term relationships during this time, but my desire for the perfect relationship led me to many failed attempts. I was told by one ex that life was not a movie and no one could live up to my expectations. Another thought I was a robot because I never argued and wanted things to be happy and perfect. I spent a lot of time trying to force a perfect relationship instead of seeing the friendships that were in front of me. I often found myself at a literal crossroads between walking away from a bad situation or going all in. I always chose to walk into the fire, love conquers all. Except it doesn’t, or at least it can’t be forced.

It wasn’t until I stopped drinking and began to examine my life that I realized some of my exes were right. Life isn’t perfect, it doesn’t wrap up in a two-hour movie or a three-minute song. I began to value myself through my own eyes and realized happiness can’t be orchestrated. I decided to stop relationship hunting and just let life happen.

Three years later I met my boyfriend and I couldn’t be happier. He is a beautiful person, talented and smart. There is no pressure of what should be, just the joy of what is. There is no schedule to follow, just what happens. For the first time in my life, I’m going to let this movie write itself. Happy Valentine’s Day, baby.

In this issue of Watermark we celebrate some of the area’s most eligible singles. All 10 of our singles are extraordinary individuals with much to offer. In Tampa Bay news, a local judge has deemed parts of the conversion therapy ban unenforceable. In Central Florida news, Come Out With Pride announces its intent to host WorldPride at Pulse’s 10-year mark. Our entertainment section features “Cinderella” at Show Palace Dinner Theatre in Hudson and the Academy Award-nominated short film “‘Marguerite.”

We strive to bring you a variety of stories, your stories. I hope you enjoy this latest issue.

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