When I was a scrawny little pup, I dreamed of the day I would be older, bigger and free to come and go as I pleased. The world seemed to be waiting for me to claim it as my own. I would be able to drive wherever I wanted, eat cake for dinner, have a body like that of my beloved comic book heroes and live in my own apartment where I could blast my Duran Duran music as loud as I wanted.
Then as the years flipped past and I grew up and out, I found myself longing for the sweet simplicity of childhood. No responsibilities, no bills, no dramatic relationships, dinner on the table every night and summers off. It's the eternal conflict that all of us face in every aspect of our lives: wanting what we cannot have.
It's human nature to desire the things that we don't have and if we are told we can't have them, we want them even more. When we see someone leading a seemingly perfect life, we feel a twinge of envy at the things they have that we do not. The hard truth is, however, that we don't know the true nature of their lives and what they have done to get these things which seem so fantastic. A person with many amazing material possessions may be thousands of dollars in debt. Someone with a perfect body may have sacrificed their deeper health to achieve that physical ideal. Not only that, but the odds are pretty good the person you envy is missing something that you have taken for granted, such as a family that loves you, the comfort of anonymity or even a clean bill of health.
Every day we are bombarded with images of people who are seemingly better than we are, have more than we do and live their lives in a manner we can only dream of. This country has become so adept at making any entitled moron or screeching hillbilly into an overnight celebrity that it leaves many of us wondering: "Where's my television show? I'm much more interesting and easier on the eyes, so why am I not getting paid six figures to have people watch me complain about my love life and throw drinks in people's faces?"
The culture of celebrity is a fertile ground for breeding the "grass is always greener" mentality. We see these talentless nobodies rise to fame, fortune and People Magazine covers and we resent them for having the fame and wealth they obviously don't deserve.
It should be you, right? But when you realize they can't even go to the grocery store without being followed by paparazzi who love taking unflattering snapshots of them how will you feel then?
Speaking of snapshots, it seems that everywhere you turn there are images of perfect bodies splashed across billboards and in magazine layouts. We secretly think: "I wish I looked like that", but there are many factors that are part of those carved abs and pumped-up biceps.
Let's start with how these bodies are created. Take it from me, it's not easy. Even without whatever hand you've been dealt on the genetic level, there are the grueling workouts, the strict diets and the sweat-soaked cardio — and that's all before the Photoshop is brought in. Contrary to what the media will have you believe, it's not just Hydroxy- cut and Skechers Shape-Ups.
Being unbelievably good-looking and carrying around a warrior's physique is a double- edged sword. Sure, everyone thinks you're beautiful and can't wait to get you between the sheets, but that's all you have to offer right? When you've got a face like Will Grant who cares about your views on all the facets of life? Who needs a brain when you've got a 44-inch chest and a 30-inch waist? So once again: would it be worth it?
Would you trade brains for brawn? Don't get me wrong, I know for a fact you can have both, but the way beauty in all its forms is perceived is that you must be a one-trick pony. And this feeling is prevalent in the gay community more than anywhere else.
In our culture there is always a race to have a prettier face, a better body, a sleek new car or dazzling home and the impossible ability to hold on to the fragile gossamer of youth. Maybe it's because in a dark comer of our mind we believe if we have all of these things plus the material touchstones of perfection, then we will finally be loved. Sure, not everyone feels this way, but when you have grown up in an environment where who you are is deemed unacceptable, it also seems to mean that you are unlovable as well. This leads to overcompensation and the desire for things that may be out of reach: A beautiful body, a beautiful boyfriend, barrels of cash, an expensive home and all things that are newer, better and shinier.
The desire for the things we can't have is a familiar monster that rears its ugly head in our sexual and romantic lives and can consume you if left unchecked.
Remember all those girls who had crushes on you in high school and college? Remember all the straight boys you had crushes on in high school and college? These are two peerless examples of wanting what you can never have. As far as wanting to be in a stable loving relationship when you're a singleton in a world of men, that is something that is not out of reach — unless of course the object of your affection is connected to someone else.
When you desire a person you can't have, whether they are already in a relationship or simply not interested, it may be because you see in them qualities that attract you. Maybe it's their smile or their body or their sense of humor or even their commitment to their current boyfriend.
But just because you have a fondness for someone's mate or someone who has no romantic interest in you doesn't mean you can't find someone equally amazing with many of the same qualities if you just put forth a little effort. The truth is that even if you do find that someone, they won't have the delicious danger of the forbidden, and if that is what really turns you on, you're in for a world of hurt. Not only could you cause the demise of a relationship when you pursue one of its pair, but once you chase something down and finally get it, the thrill is gone and your gaze will shift elsewhere.
On the flip side, you have the people who are in relationships but who see the freedom and variety of the single life as something to be missed. Instead of appreciating the emotion, sanctity and security of their relationship, they see the world as missed opportunities and a constant parade of temptations.
Many people deal with this by deciding an open relationship is better than a traditional one-on-one relationship, thereby reducing the importance of the emotion that falls into monogamy. Why not have your cake and eat it too? That isn't happiness. That's greed. And if you are in a monogamous relationship and give in to the seductive power of forbidden fruit or you are the one that seduces someone away from their partner, will either of you be able to move any further with your union? Or will you merely turn to the next seemingly unattainable conquest now that the excitement has peaked?
There is nothing wrong with ambition, confidence and having high hopes for yourself in this life. When you look at something you want that is seemingly out of reach, you need to take a step back and ask yourself if it's truly something that is unattainable or if it is even worth aiming for.
None of us can go back in time to our youth or fly like Superman, so those are merely fantasies and dreams of things we will never have. To have fame and fortune may be attainable for some, but is that truly something that you can handle? Living comfortably is one thing, but having more money than you know what to do with opens up a Pandora's box of woes, as does having a camera crew follow your every move.
What about your appearance? If you want to have a great body, you have to be willing to work for it, and if there is something about your looks that you want to change, the science is out there. But before you do something drastic, you have to realize that everyone in the world sees beauty differently. The very thing you want to change may be the one thing your true love finds most desirable.
Speaking of true love, if you're in the habit of coveting other people's boyfriends maybe it's better to find someone who is unattached to set your sights on. The room for heartbreak is a lot less on all fronts. And if you're lying next to your partner at night thinking about all the fun you used to have when you were single, I can guarantee you that when you were flying solo you day dreamed about having someone to come home to every night.
Our culture saturates us with stories and images of people who have more than we do. It tells us that we need a beautiful mate, more money, better clothes, sharper abs, faster cars and all the trappings that will finally, truly make us happy and loved by all.
If you look closer you will see that more often than not, you have many, many things that already make you happy and to want for trivial things merely because you are made to believe they are important or because they are forbidden is a road to disappointment.
So the next time you see something or someone you feel may greatly improve your life ask yourself this: Are these things really better than the things I already have? Or am I just trained to be dissatisfied with what I have now?