We’re so pleased to welcome author Rick R. Reed today with an exclusive excerpt from his novel M4M, just re-released by Dreamspinner Press.
Enjoy, and welcome, Rick!
About the Book
Finding and keeping love can be a challenge in the modern world of blogging, social media, and online dating, as one man will learn in this trilogy.
VGL Male Seeks Same
Poor Ethan Schwartz. At forty-two, he’s alone, his bed is empty, and his HDTV is overworked. He’s tried bars and other places where gay men are supposed to find each other, but it never works out. Maybe he should get a cat?
But his life is about to change…
Poor Ethan. He’s received the most shocking news a gay man can get—he’s HIV positive. Until today his life was perfect, with a job he loves and Brian, who could be “the one.” The one to complete him and fill his lonely life with laughter, hot sex, and romance.
But Ethan’s in for another shock. Could Brian have infected him?
Alone again, Ethan wonders if life is worth living, even with a cat. When an old nemesis sends a Facebook friend request, Ethan is suspicious but intrigued. It seems this old acquaintance has turned his life around, and the changes might hold the key to Ethan getting a new lease on life… and love.
A Note from Rick
NEG UB2. For those of you not familiar, this shorthand, meaning ‘negative; you be too’ has shown up in online personals for years…and it can be kind of hurtful. In the excerpt below, our underdog romantic hero, Ethan Schwartz, comes across the phrase for the first time.
One thing that will let you know I wasn’t online for naughty purposes was the dispassion I felt as paged through the site with its come-ons, its cries for help, its attempts at wit, and its leave-nothing-to-the-imagination photographs (or pics, I guess you would say…I really must get with the times one of these days!). Like the hopeful in A Chorus Line, I felt nothing. But this allowed me to view the site somewhat objectively and what stuck out to me and what really caught my eye—over and over again—was a little shorthand that many guys had chosen to include in their ads. This shorthand made this newly diagnosed HIV positive man feel excluded, hurt, and alone.
The term? NEG UB2.
So short, so to-the-point. So cutting. So cruel. It’s equally as bad as a few other key phrases designed to keep the “unworthy” at bay, phrases like “No fats” or “No fems”. But it’s NEG UB2 that really got to me.
Do the people who put that in their “what I’m looking for” realize how casually hurtful that phrase can be? Do they stop for a moment to consider that someone—or even many someones—out there reading this hateful little phrase may be newly diagnosed and struggling? Or maybe they’re not new to HIV or AIDS itself and came to this online community looking for a little love, a little companionship, and maybe a feeling of being included? Do they stop to think how very STUPID the phrase is? Not just in its cruelty, but also in the fact that if they think it’s some kind of magic phrase to screen out all potential suitors who are HIV positive, they’re using something that’s probably as effective as a condom full of holes? Just saying you’re negative and asking someone else to be the same way does not make it so.
Trust me, I know.
I also know that maybe, in their misguided, unthinking way, these guys are just looking to protect themselves from contracting a disease that may seriously impact the rest of their lives. Even though my doctor tells me that an HIV diagnosis no longer has to be viewed as a death sentence, it still is a life-changing illness, albeit one that’s not quite as life-threatening as it once was. If you don’t have it, you don’t want to get it.
Trust me, I know.
But even if you put that phrase in your profile as a means of self-protection, consider what you’re doing and how it might affect someone else online. Someone, like me, who already feels singled out and, in his worst moments, like damaged goods that no one will ever want again. That phrase makes my lowest moments plunge lower.
Whatever your intentions, ignorant, self-preservative, or just plain callous, consider this: you can make the same message without making someone feel so bad. By simply stating what you believe is your own status—healthy negative and would like to stay that way—is a gentler way of getting across the point: “I’d rather not get involved with someone who is HIV+ because of the risk.” And it’s certainly kinder than saying NEG UB2.
Or maybe—and here’s a radical notion—maybe you should just do away with phrases like NEG UB2 or a gentler variation and say nothing at all. Take your chances. Make your connections based on things other than someone’s medical history. There are ways to protect yourself. There are couples out there who are one half poz, one half neg…and they make it work.
And besides, if you’re looking for sex online, isn’t it wise to simply assume everyone is POZ? And then you can really protect yourself…rationally and thoughtfully.
About the Author
Real Men. True Love.
Rick R. Reed draws inspiration from the lives of gay men to craft stories that quicken the heartbeat, engage emotions, and keep the pages turning. Although he dabbles in horror, dark suspense, and comedy, his attention always returns to the power of love. He’s the award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction and is forever at work on yet another book. Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” You can find him at www.rickrreed.com or www.rickrreedreality.blogspot.com. Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA with his beloved husband and their Boston terrier.