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Bear With Me

Barry Church-Woods tries to find a silver lining in his progressional fatness.

1174646_10151834631395409_231237226_n-2I spent my whole life feeling different.

To many around me I was.

No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t seem to fit in.

True, for a while in college I developed a brash cocky bravado that seemed to make me attractive to some people with low self-esteem. But deep down, even in the midst of being the latest ride at the theme park, I knew that it was the wrong kind of person that was hopping on board.  Hell, there were dry spells when I even dropped my height restrictions.

Try as I might, I just couldn’t find my place in the balmy climes of my labido’s comfort. Fake it ‘til you make it was a mantra I lived by for a while, but a brass neck and the ability to vogue like a motherfucker in a club could only mask my 5 fathom’s deep insecurities for a short while.

Maybe that comes from being a performer?

Maybe, when you put yourself out there to be rejected time and time again it seeps into your personal life?

Maybe this is a first world problem and I should shut the fuck up?

Fast-forward 10 years.

I’m no longer a performer and I’m working in arts management. I sit at my desk for an average of 6 hours a day, and I’ve lost my hair. Only on my head though. The rest of me looks like a burst mattress. I’m also 3 stones heavier.

That’s 42 pounds.

Or 19 kilograms.

Or 95254 carats if you’re really fancy (which I think you are).

I’m standing in an ancient basement bar in the New Town of Edinburgh surrounded by what feels like hundreds of men.

And I feel like a supermodel.

Finally, after 20 years on the prowl, I have found my niche.

The New Town Bar in Edinburgh closed it’s doors for the last time a few nights ago. In it’s day, NTB was the prime location for men who loved chunky men, and I had inadvertently eaten my feelings into oblivion.

This Bears’ Bar offered a dimly lit space where people could come to drink beer and hook up with other burly gents. But it wasn’t limited to that. That bar and many others across the world like it welcomed ‘the worshippers’. People from all walks of life that for some reason or other get a tingle in their panties when they see hairy beefy or even chubby (THAT’S ME!) men.

The gay sub-culture of bears interests me. I’m not sure that I would actually be considered a bear now. I was for a while and then lost some weight. I think that made me one of those Russian circus bears you see in the WWF ads.

I’ve chatted about sub culture categorisations around this theme relentlessly with various people and there doesn’t seem to be much common agreement about definitions. Though there are definitely lots of sub-cultures within the bear community.  Here’s the ones I know of so far.

A black bear is a bear of African-American decent.

A brown bear is a bear of Latin descent.

A chubby bear is a really just a fat hairy guy.

A cub is a youngish bear though sometimes it’s an affectionate term for the passive partner of a bear (creepy).

A daddy bear is generally mature.

A grizzly is dominant, and often very tall.

A koala bear is Australian, and similarly a panda bear is Asian.

An otter isn’t even in the bear family. But looks like a tiny little bear. So really, someone who isn’t muscly and doesn’t eat too much pizza.

Pocket bears are small.

Wolves are outdoorsy.

Gummi bears are delicious.

And care bears work in nursing homes and travel by rainbow.

Did I miss anything?

Either way, I know a lot of gay men who hate to be categorised in any shape or form.  They feel it’s degrading and demeans them as a person.  They say they didn’t fight for equality to be herded into groups defined by their differences.  Well I say… FUCK THAT! Because I have equality.  And outside those Bear Bars, I’m just a bald guy that’s let himself go.



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