Meet Mr. Russ Allen, the most interesting man in the world! When I read Russ's bio that beer commercial came to mind. lol I met Russ when he contacted me about being a reviewer for The Pagan & The Pen Book Reviews. I've had occasion to chat a little with Russ from time to time and he always has a wonderful tale to tell, so I have invited him to be Mr. May. So please help me welcome him to Men In The Spotlight.
1-First off, Russ, tell me a little about yourself.
I am a New England Yankee, retired after years as a religious professional in Connecticut, West Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania, and now live on Cape Cod. I am married and have two children and five grandchildren. My academic background includes a BA and two Master’s Degrees. I am currently involved in writing short stories and reviews, gardening, and volunteering in a program that rescues marine mammals.
2-In order for people to understand how truly remarkable you are, do you mind revealing your age? I am 67.
3-That is amazing. And I think it's so great you work to save marine mammals. You are also a cross-country skier. How long have you been doing this? That is a very physical activity, I admire the fact you are still so active.
My wife and I began cross-country skiing in the mid-1970's while living near Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as a way of surviving the long winters, and have continued off and on, depending on where we lived. Nowadays we usually take a week in mid-winter to ski in New Hampshire.
4-What other activities do you enjoy?
Walking on the beach, swimming, reading and researching, my part-time job, some traveling [we went to Alaska last September], and being with our kids and grandkids.
5-How long have you and your wife been married? Since June 1968, coming up on 43 years.
6-Wow! That's a rarity these days. What is your secret to a long happy marriage?
First, love and a sense of friendship – long-term spouses are often best friends. Second, a commitment both to each other and to being married. Third, flexibility and adaptability, even more so once retired, coupled with the ability to respond to whatever life throws at you. Fourth, avoiding temptation and rejecting it when it comes along. Fifth, understanding, patience, a sense of humor, mutual-supportiveness, and a willingness not to take oneself too seriously. Finally, but perhaps first as well, always putting the other before oneself.
7-Definitely wise words to live by. You have an extensive educational background. What would you say to a young person about the importance of college in today's world?
First, the obvious – better educated usually means better employed and more money, and the things money can buy. Second, an educated electorate is essential to a democracy; without it, stupidity rules. Third, God gave us brains so we can use them, rather than letting others decide what is true for us. But maybe most of all, at least for me, having the ability to explore, question, research, learn, and apply my knowledge is one of the real joys of my life.
8-Great answer. I absolutely agree. You've been reviewing for P&P for quite a while now, and choose to review GLBT. You are obviously heterosexual, what is the draw to this particular genre?
My interest in sexuality is rooted in my interest in humanity. Sexuality is an essential component in the human condition, thus it is something I have and continue to explore, study, and experience. That is another value I see in marriage: It supplies a safe context within which two people can be intimate and grow closer physically, as well as emotionally and spiritually.
However, sexuality is too big a topic to be considered in and of itself, so we artificially break it up into manageable quantities. “Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Transgender,” as well as Heterosexual and sub-groups like transsexuals, are categories within the larger entity of Sexuality. Actually, it is unfortunate that these have been grouped together, and then separated from Heterosexual or Straight, for such divisions are both unnecessary and prejudicial. Think of it this way: Gay and straight men both engage in similar sexual activities, yet one is often considered non-normal and the other normal.
But back to the question you ask: My interest is in sexuality, has been in personal and professional contexts [e.g. pre-marital counseling], which in turn has required a categorization of the topic to make its consideration manageable. I have chosen to review GLBT stories and books for you in part because you asked me to, in part because others are not, and because at this moment it is a topic of interest to me. My goal is to explore how writers deal with these expressions of Sexuality; in time my focus will change and I will move on to another facet of this genre, or to another and very different topic.
9-I recently read a short erotica piece you wrote and I have to tell you, I was disturbed by the subject matter, and that's unusual for me. I've always said nothing bothers me anymore. Ha! Your story did. Would you mind sharing what led you to write this?
You are referring to a story I wrote for a web group about incest, exploring the development of a sexual relationship between a father and his teenage son. Incest is a taboo subject, as is gay or lesbian sex for some, bestiality for others. Yet few who condemn it, or are discomforted by it, have any real certainty as to whether a loving and healthy sexual relationship can and should exist within the members of a family, especially when the participants are otherwise considered sexually and emotionally mature. That is why I wrote that piece, not to promote or condone such a relationship, but to explore in the context of a fictional story the nature of such a physical connection.
Granted, the story is also about a young man’s struggle with his sexual orientation, and his father’s own latent homosexuality. Would it have been different had that not been a factor? What if the two were mother and son, father and daughter, or even mother and daughter? Would a story about incest have been more acceptable had the sex been hetero-, bi- or lesbian, and not gay?
To be clear, I do not believe that a physical sexual relationship should exist where there is no love, where its purpose is abuse or domination, or one partner is exploiting the other. Wherever a physical sexual relationship is emotionally, physically, mentally, or developmentally destructive, it should be avoided, and if necessary, socially and legally banned.
However, reality and history clearly states that moral, social, and legal prohibitions and punishments have been inappropriately applied at times, as for instance to gay, lesbian, or bi-sexual activity, pre-marital or consensual sex, prostitution, adultery, and incest, while marital rape, virtual sexual slavery, child abuse, non-consensual intercourse, and other morally reprehensible forms of sexual activity are often ignored or even approved by society.
My story was an effort to lift incest out of the taboo category, not to promote that form of sex, but in an effort to see if incest can fit the definition for an appropriate expression of human sexuality. If it does, then it is unjust to rule it illegal, unethical, or wrong, in cases where its participants are expressing their mature loving and committed relationship. Such sexual activity should have no onus attached to it, whether the partners are blood relatives, of different races, or of the same sexual orientation.
10-Now a few fun questions:
Red or black? Red.
Day or night? Day.
Leather or lace? Leather.
Kissing or holding hands? Holding Hands.
Coffee or tea? Tea.
Chocolate bunnies or marshmallow Peeps? Chocolate bunnies.
Thank you for being Mister May, Russ. I appreciate your candor and the reviews you write for The Pagan & The Pen Book Reviews.