World AIDS Day 2012: Brian Maugh

When I first saw him at the dance auditions for our high school musical, I thought, he’s the one! I have to have him as my boyfriend! His name was Brian Maugh He was just 15 years old, two years younger than I, and was the cutest boy I had ever seen. I had only recently realized that I was gay, and I had no idea if Brian was also. It didn’t matter to me. He was the one.

Over the next six months we grew closer and closer, and eventually became lovers, despite the fact that gay sex was illegal in 1971 Missouri. We were so happy that summer, although no one around us knew the real reason. I often slept over at his house, together with him in the basement, two floors below the family’s bedrooms. Then one night Brian’s father came home unexpectedly. Though he didn’t actually see us in the act, the sexual tension must have been obvious, as Brian told me a few days later that his parents said I was no longer welcome in their house.

At the end of summer, the dream was over. I had to go away to college, but Brian still had two more years of high school to finish. I was able to come home for one weekend each month, and Brian was the first person I would call. I would drive by his house and he would be waiting for me beside the road so that his parents wouldn’t see us together. We had no place to go, so would sit for hours at Denny’s Restaurant, surreptitiously holding hands under the table sometimes whenever we could.

As is often the case with first loves, ours didn’t work out. The lying, pretending and hiding eventually wore us both down, and there was nothing and no one supporting us. Brian and I stopped being boyfriends at the end of 1972.

I received a postcard from Brian a few years later. He wrote that he wanted me to know he was at long last a “happily adjusted homosexual” (his quotes).

Then in early October 1991 I found myself living in Europe, and realized that Brian was the one person from my past I wanted to contact. I called home to get his current address, only to be told a few days later that he had just died. The newspaper said it was brain cancer.

It was only this year during a visit to my father that I learned the truth. Brian died from brain lesions caused by an oppportunistic infection brought on by AIDS. He had had a short career as an architect in Seattle, before he became too ill and returned to his family. They informed none of Brian’s friends that he was there dying of AIDS. At his funeral his father and brothers stood with their backs turned, despite the cries of his mother. After hearing the story, I went to his grave the next day, and let myself sob with grief for my so cute boyfriend from so long ago.

I believe truth matters. Lies kept Brian and me apart at a time when our love should have been joyful. Lies contributed to Brian’s death from AIDS. Lies made Brian die horribly, surrounded by people who could not accept the truth about him, even after his death.

The truth is this: Brian Maugh was my first love, and I was his, and Brian died of AIDS. I remember him today and always with love and joy along with pain and regret.

First pop-culture reference?

In the Season 1 finale of “Girls”, Hannah’s gay ex-boyfriend Elijah appears with his new rich boyfriend. Hannah tells her current boyfriend Adam that Elijah is about to be “certified in the Alexander Technique”! Is this the first pop culture reference to the Alexander Technique? More to the point, is it the gayest thing you’ve ever heard?

Update: I’ve been informed that there was an earlier reference in an episode of “Ugly Betty”. If I find a clip of that, I’ll post it.

Alexander Technique shown to improve surgeons’ skills

""Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center reports that the Alexander Technique improved the surgical posture and technical performance of urological surgeons:

For their study with urological surgeons, the researchers studied four urology fellows and three urology residents from the medical center. After training in the Alexander Technique, the subjects demonstrated improved abilities to complete laparoscopic skills in a shorter time. The subjects showed improvements in posture, trunk and shoulder stability and the ability to perform the series of laparoscopic skills tests.

“The Alexander Technique training program resulted in significant improvement in posture and trunk and shoulder endurance,” the researchers state in their presentation. “Improved endurance and posture during surgery reduces the occurrence of surgical fatigue. Intra-operative fatigue has been shown to be associated with surgical errors. AT training has the potential to reduce the occurrence of fatigue-related surgical errors.”

Running barefoot is better

Researchers have confirmed what many Alexander Technique teachers have taught for many years. The human foot runs just fine without shoes. In fact, it runs better!

From Scientific American:

They found that when runners lace up their shmancy sneakers and take off, about 75 to 80 percent land heel-first. Barefoot runners—as Homo sapiens had evolved to be—usually land toward the middle or front of the food. “People who don’t wear shoes when they run have an astonishingly different strike,” Lieberman said.

Without shoes, landing on the heel is painful and can translate into a collision force some 1.5 to 3 times body weight. “Barefoot runners point their toes more at landing,” which helps to lessen the impact by “decreasing the effective mass of the foot that comes to a sudden stop when you land,” Madhusudhan Venkadesan, an applied mathematics and human evolutionary biology postdoctoral researcher at Harvard who also worked on the study, said in a prepared statement. But as cushioned kicks have hit the streets and treadmills, that initial pain has disappeared, and runners have changed their stride, leading to a way of high-impact running that human physiology wasn’t evolved for—one that the researchers posit can lead to a host of foot and leg injuries.

Careful what you think – your body takes it literally

The NY Times has an article summarizing the latest research in how our bodies and thoughts interact in some very surprising ways. Surprising to the scientists perhaps, but these ideas are nothing new to Alexander students. We experience them in just about every lesson!

The article mentions how people leaned forward when thinking about the future, and backward while remembering the past. I am curious if these same results would be found in native Australians. In their culture, the future is behind you, since you cannot see it, while the past is in front of you, because you can see it.

New study shows Alexander Technique preferred over exercise

From the December issue of Family Practice, an international journal aimed at practitioners, teachers, and researchers in the fields of family medicine, general practice, and primary care:

Patients’ views of receiving lessons in the Alexander Technique and an exercise prescription for managing back pain in the ATEAM trial

Background. Lessons in the Alexander Technique and exercise prescription proved effective for managing low back pain in primary care in a clinical trial.

Objectives. To understand trial participants’ expectations and experiences of the Alexander Technique and exercise prescription.

Methods. A questionnaire assessing attitudes to the intervention, based on the Theory of Planned Behaviour, was completed at baseline and 3-month follow-up by 183 people assigned to lessons in the Alexander Technique and 176 people assigned to exercise prescription. Semi-structured interviews to assess the beliefs contributing to attitudes to the intervention were carried out at baseline with14 people assigned to the lessons in the Alexander Technique and 16 to exercise prescription, and at follow-up with 15 members of the baseline sample.

Results. Questionnaire responses indicated that attitudes to both interventions were positive at baseline but became more positive at follow-up only in those assigned to lessons in the Alexander Technique. Thematic analysis of the interviews suggested that at follow-up many patients who had learned the Alexander Technique felt they could manage back pain better. Whereas many obstacles to exercising were reported, few barriers to learning the Alexander Technique were described, since it ‘made sense’, could be practiced while carrying out everyday activities or relaxing, and the teachers provided personal advice and support.

Conclusion. Using the Alexander Technique was viewed as effective by most patients. Acceptability may have been superior to exercise because of a convincing rationale and social support and a better perceived fit with the patient’s particular symptoms and lifestyle.