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Eric Nam Wants “Before We Begin,” His First All-English Album, To Be A Catch-All For His Music Career

Charlotte Gomez / BuzzFeed / CJ ENM Before we begin with this interview (see what I did there!), let’s start with an intro:Well, kind of an intro. At this point in his career, almost seven years in (if we’re going by his official debut date), Eric Nam is a multi-hyphenate and well-known name in the…

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Eric Nam Wants “Before We Begin,” His First All-English Album, To Be A Catch-All For His Music Career


Charlotte Gomez / BuzzFeed / CJ ENM

Before we begin with this interview (see what I did there!), let’s start with an intro:

Well, kind of an intro. At this point in his career, almost seven years in (if we’re going by his official debut date), Eric Nam is a multi-hyphenate and well-known name in the K-pop industry. Besides being a prolific singer-songwriter (who finished in the top five of MBC’s audition competition show Birth of a Great Star 2), he has found major success in hosting and participating in a lineup of TV shows and web series (notably After School Club and Yang and Nam Show), interviewing a boatload of international celebrities, and even starting his own podcast called K-pop Daebak With Eric Nam. Soon, he’ll hopefully pass on the torch for that podcast to start another called I Think You’re Dope, where he plans on interviewing cool people who he admires. Between all of his activities and jobs, he flies between the US, Korea, Africa, Budapest, and a host of other countries so often that it’s truly second nature to him.

Hi and hello! Ok, how do you balance it all? Are you still inspired by the constant movement, or is it a little too much sometimes?

“I’m at a point where I’ve done this so long that it’s actually started to take a toll on my health, unfortunately. But I also have this passion and energy to really try it. Like, everything. It’s always been my personality. But I do know it’s not always a sustainable thing. Part of the reason why this album is so timely and why I really wanted to put it out now is that ideally in the next year or two, I can start to really transition things back to the States, so I can spend more time here. In Korea, there’s also a horrible work-life balance, which is why I feel like I have to physically remove myself from that environment.”

Congrats on the album! You made it very clear from the get-go that you didn’t want this release to be seen as “Eric Nam’s English album” or “Eric’s US debut,” but rather a warm-up of what’s to come — hence the name, Before We Begin.

People are like, ‘Why did you go to Korea?’ And I’m like, ‘I didn’t have a choice.’ I’d say in the past year now, we have Joji, Rich Brian, and Jackson and those types of people finally coming up — but there still isn’t enough. And then it’s like, ‘Where are the Asian-Americans [specifically]?’ We’ve had to reverse-engineer people [like me] who have made it in Asia to push them here. Now we’re at the point where we have Crazy Rich Asians, Fresh Off the Boat, and 88rising and we’re finally getting representation, but it’s not enough. I also look at the people who are doing it, and they are very much in the hip-hop and R&B lane. When it comes to [Asians doing] pop, I still don’t think we’re there. That’s also what I feel most comfortable with musically, so if there’s a way for me to build that out and find a place [in US pop], that’s probably the goal and ideal.

But when it comes to this album, again, I didn’t want this to be ‘Eric Nam’s US debut’ — I wanted to leave it open-ended and for this to be a very catchall for me in terms of music. We’ve moved beyond the space where an artist has to stick to one genre. I think everything is so fluid and constantly changing, and I wanted the album to reflect that.”

“When it comes to [Asians doing] pop, I still don’t think we’re there. That’s also what I feel most comfortable with musically, so if there’s a way for me to build that out and find a place [in US pop], that’s probably the goal and ideal.”

What do you think needs to happen in the industry to address mental health and burnout?

“I’ll take it to a personal place because I don’t want to make blanket statements for an entire industry, but when I first started as an artist, I distinctly remember being like, ‘Hi. I need to go on vacation. I need a break. I want to go see my family who I haven’t seen in two years.’ And my manager said ‘No.’ When I asked, he said, ‘Because people in Korea aren’t allowed to take vacations.’ When I asked him to explain it, he said, ‘Well, people don’t like the idea that somebody’s taking a break, because they get upset or jealous about it.’ I don’t think I ever got to take that vacation.

And in 2016, I booked my first vacation since my debut. I hadn’t stopped for five years. And without telling me, my team booked me for a TV show called Law of the Jungle, where I had to go to Mongolia for 10 days and live in a forest. I was so mad and so exhausted, because in May of that year alone, I had done probably like 50 events. I did three to four events a day. That’s not normal.”

“It’s this mentality that you win or lose. It’s 100 or nothing. When you’re building your career, you have to build it every day, otherwise you’re never going to make it. And then once you’re up there, you never know when this is going to go away, so you have to [keep going] and do everything now. And then after that, because you’re ‘coming down,’ if you don’t make your money now, you’re never going to make money in the future. At a certain point I was like, ‘I don’t care. I don’t need or want to make money right now. I just really need to take care of my health.’

What needs to happen is for management companies and artists to understand that it’s normal for people to have breaks. It’s normal for people to go on vacations. People should have weekends. And to really accept that and embrace that. But nobody is out there saying that. That’s the other problem. Even when you think of BTS taking their first vacation in August of this year, it was global news. But that’s how serious it is when it comes to…we don’t stop. It’s unfortunate and I really hope it changes. For me, that’s also something I’m constantly, internally struggling with — like, ‘Can I take a vacation? Can I take a break?'”

“What needs to happen is for management companies and artists to understand that it’s normal for people to have breaks…and to really accept that and embrace that.”

“The first episode of Cheers To What’s Next out of Dive Studios is Jamie (Jimin) Park, and she talked about how depressed she got and how she wanted to hurt herself. First of all, I was shocked but very proud of her for being willing and able to say that on such a public platform. Secondly, this is such a necessary thing for people to hear. It should be a dialogue that we should be having, so I’m glad she did it — in Korean too, so people there can really dive into that message.”

Going back to the album, even now as an experienced artist, what is the toughest part about making an album?

“Lyrics are always tough for me. I’m like, ‘I could say that, but nobody could give a shit,’ so that’s why it’s hard for me to sit down and be like, ‘This is the big picture.’ The hardest part is to be very open and vulnerable with all of my cowriters. Like, we may have met today, but I’m going to tell you something really deep about myself — hopefully we can write a cool song from it.

I wrote ‘Love Die Young’ because I was so burnt out and exhausted from my tour, but I wanted to put it in a way that could represent love and relationships, because I think that’s what most people can relate to. I think once we got into that mode, the lyrics and melody just really flowed out. We wrote the song in five hours. We got very visual with it, like the line ‘Flowers in your hair now on our grave.'”

Besides love, what are other universal themes you want to touch upon in your music?

“The one thing that’s constantly in the back of my head and is very true to me is mental health, and being very open, honest, and vulnerable about it. That’s why I love ‘Love Die Young’ so much, because on the surface it’s just a simple love song, but if you really go into it, ‘love’ can also mean your passion or whatever you’re pursuing in life and excited about. So for me, the lyric ‘Please don’t let this love die young’ means I don’t want my passion, my health, and me to burn out.”

“It’ll take time, but those themes of being very frank and honest about how I’m feeling about random shit in life — things that suck and things that are great — will make it into my music.”

“There are a bunch of songs that didn’t make it onto this album, including one literally called ‘Burnout’ and another called ‘Bad For Me.’ It’s [a theme] I’m still starting to experiment with because up until now, everything has been traditional love songs — but now that I’ve matured more as a musician and lyricist, it comes a little more easily to me. It’ll take time, but those themes of being very frank and honest about how I’m feeling about random shit in life — things that suck and things that are great — will make it into my music. At the end of the day, your relationship with yourself is as important as your relationship with anybody else, and it’s about being able to appreciate and love yourself, your health, and your whole being.”

Which song took the longest to put together?

“Typically in a session, I’d say four hours and we’re usually done, but most of the songs on this album took anywhere from six to eight hours. It took a lot of choice words, intention, and being present. Some people go days working on certain songs, but since I’m in and out of Korea — when I’m in, we have a day to do this one song. If it works out, great. If it doesn’t, trash it and move onto the next session. So it’s a very bam-bam-bam structure.

“For ‘Congratulations,’ it was like four of us literally lying on the ground and being like, ‘Ohmygod, this song will not end,’ but we got it done. And ‘Come Through’ took a full day, six to eight hours, as well. I took vlogs of me writing a lot of these songs and I remember us just being very picky, like, ‘Where are we going to take this? Where is this message going?’ and it took a lot of hours to hone it down.”

With both English and Korean versions of your songs, like “Miss You,” and now “Runaway” and “No Shame” on this album, how do you decide what to change in terms of languages, title changes, and messages?

“Whenever I write my music, it’s always been in English first and then I take it into Korean. With ‘Runaway,’ the funny story is that I got this song as a demo 1.5 to 2 years ago as a demo written by Loote (Eric’s opener for last year’s Honestly tour), Ari, who is Lauv, and Michael Pollack, a great producer. I heard the demo and loved it, and said we should try to do it in Korean. But when you mix Korean and English together, it’s hard to give a definition that is not a traditional, ideal definition to Koreans.

When you think of ‘runaway’ you’re either going to think, ‘This kid is running away’ or ‘Let’s run away together’ as a love-dovey thing. However, if you say, ‘if you run away, don’t you ever come back’ in Korean, that’s such a convoluted way of going about it — so we just made it into a love song. But those original lyrics is what we’re putting out on this English album, and I thought it made a very witty breakup song. And then Steve James went in, remixed it, put his touch/spin on it, and gave it an EDM-like dance sound.”

For ‘No Shame,’ it’s the same thing with lyrically going back and forth. In Korean, the title ‘Honestly‘ was obviously the definition and content of the song, so it made sense to keep it that way. For ‘No Shame,’ I just felt the title was the key point of the song, and there aren’t a lot of songs called ‘No Shame’ to begin with — and we wanted to do something different. I also kinda wanted people to be like, ‘Wait, what? This is the same song [as ‘Honestly’], but it’s different and it works.’ A little bit of rewriting lyrics went into it as well. I had forgotten how much I loved this song when it was in English, so I hope people love this version too.”

When you picture your fans (aka Nam Nation), what do you see?

“My fans are so diverse. If you come to a show, it literally ranges from a 7-year-old to 60-year-old. I’m not even exaggerating. Men, women, all religions, and all colors. We share this common experience of life and that’s what really binds us. I think there are points where I’m like, ‘Am I not cool enough? Am I not young enough?’ because when it comes to musicians, age is a very real thing that people worry about. But what my fans appreciate and what I appreciate about them is that it’s about content, reliability, and being able to bond over common experiences. I may not have as many fans as BTS or the biggest or youngest idol groups, but what we do have is a very particular relationship when it comes to understanding each other — and that’s what I really value.”

Since K-pop is such a broad term, where do you personally see yourself fitting in all that?

“Even though I’m here now, there’s always going to be the next big group or thing — a taller, more handsome, and younger version of whoever. You can fight or compete against that or you can say, ‘That’s cool. I hope you do well, but I’m going to focus on what I’m doing well and what feels true to me.’ It’s about feeling secure and confident about my identity and place in the world of entertainment. But every once in a while I’ll still have an insecure freakout like, ‘Am I irrelevant? Does anyone even care?’

The other day I met a K-pop idol kid who said, ‘When my team and I look at you, we’re like, you’re A-list, the top. People revere you.’ And I was like, ‘Me? Me?! I don’t know, bro. That seems like a lot.’ I’ve never, ever thought of myself in that light. People around me tell me that I need a bigger persona and to act a little more A-listy because ‘that’s where you are but you don’t act that way, so people undervalue you.’ But that’s not me. I’m a very blunt person. Even at the peak of my career in Korea — in a year, I did 30 endorsements, did all of the events, and got all of the awards — even then, I knew all of that could be gone in an instant.”

“I’ll scan Twitter once in a while and I find it hilarious that people view me as very old. Because if you look at K-pop, the general trend is for the age to go younger, so you have 10-year-olds who are like, ‘Can I be a fan of Eric Nam?’ I mean, I get it. I’m older and more mature, so you probably can’t relate to me. But because K-pop has become this generational thing — you have your first, second, third, and fourth — and I’m weirdly between second and fourth, everyone knows of me, but [younger fans] are like, ‘Am I allowed to like this person who’s older than my oppa (older brother), who’s like 17?’ That’s the weird thing a lot of people deal with. But whatever — if you like it, you like it.”

Cheers to that! As long as they put out good music, that’s what it’s important.

“I appreciate you saying that. I feel like a lot of people nowadays focus more on the visual packaging, and less on the music. Do they dance well, and are they good-looking or hot? As a musician, it can be very frustrating. Certain songs are just unlistenable and I’m like, ‘Am I outdated?’ But objectively, this is just a horrible song. But then people are like, ‘I love this,’ and I’m like, ‘No, you like them and the image and idea of this persona that you can be a fan of‘ — which is completely fine. But for me, I’ve had to literally split it off. I view myself as a musician and I focus on music — other people may try to focus on the music, but the emphasis is heavily on visuals and performance. They’re both equally valid, but different. It’s just difficult because we’re all in K-pop, and that’s why we’re compared to each other.”

“I view myself as a musician and I focus on music — other people may try to focus on the music, but the emphasis is heavily on visuals and performance. They’re both equally valid, but different.”

And finally, I couldn’t help but include a few ~rapid fire questions~ to put a bow on this interview:

First text you sent this morning?

“It was to my team about the album, that I want everything lowercase. We’re still going through edits for the physical album, printing, and mixing the songs. I got up and that’s literally what I did for the first two hours.”

Name one alive and one dead person you’d love to meet.

“Obama. Jesus.”

What is a song you WISH you had written?

“’Slow Dancing in a Burning Room.’ I love that song. I would also love to meet John [Mayer] and write with him.”

Go-to comfort food?

“Tteokbokki.”

What’s one song you will never get sick of hearing?

“’Someone Like You‘ by Adele.”

Your Hogwarts house?

“I have no idea. I wanna say Gryffindor. But my friends in college were like, ‘You’re definitely a Slytherin. ‘Cause you’re a savvy business guy.’”

Favorite movie?

Midnight in Paris. I just like to keep it on in the background even if I’m not focused on it.”

Favorite TV show?

“Homeland and Billions.

If you had to dye your hair, what color would you choose?

I’d be down to bleach it and put a tint of blue in it. Just to say I did it.”

Ultimate K-pop bias?

“Honestly, I should probably just say BTS. I just appreciate how differently they’ve approached everything. Watching them grow from these little kids to become these global mega superstars, and the fact that they’ve been able to stay normal and humble throughout all this time, is enough for me to stan. Maybe not even just in terms of music, but as people. It’s been a pleasure knowing them and being able to cheer for them.”

Check out Eric Nam’s latest album, Before We Begin, and the music video for his lead single, “Congratulations,” both out now!

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.



















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The Hidden Mental Health Costs of Climate Change

“People don’t really understand—until you actually see it coming at you in a wall of flame,” says a woman in the Rural Fire Service of New South Wales, in startling footage of fighting Australia’s raging bushfires last month. Extreme weather events like these are becoming more frequent and more severe: in the U.S. just this…

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The Hidden Mental Health Costs of Climate Change

“People don’t really understand—until you actually see it coming at you in a wall of flame,” says a woman in the Rural Fire Service of New South Wales, in startling footage of fighting Australia’s raging bushfires last month. Extreme weather events like these are becoming more frequent and more severe: in the U.S. just this year, five states have set wildfire records. But it’s not just unlucky homeowners who are affected—fine particulate matter is an increasing concern for epidemiologists, who’ve found that public exposure can cause both acute and chronic disease.

Though these types of environmental catastrophes are often still talked about in terms of future consequences, climate change is already having a massive impact on public health. The World Health Organization (WHO) just released a report, which draws on data from 101 countries, highlighting these climate-related health risks—and the world’s lack of preparedness.

Impacts include increased risk of childhood diarrheal disease caused by a food supply that’s potentially more vulnerable to pathogens, heatwaves creating dangerous labor conditions, and increased disease risk from chronic exposures to things like air pollution later in life.

Mental health can be affected by climate change too, and depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues are identified in the report as climate-sensitive conditions. But only six countries emphasized that it was a priority for them. Katie Hayes, a climate change and mental health researcher, has recently published on the current and projected mental health consequences of the climate crisis in the International Journal of Mental Health Systems. She said that while attributing direct causes in the mental-health sphere can be challenging, it’s clear that the impacts of climate change are accelerating.

“Extreme weather events, like flooding, hurricanes, and wildfires have been linked to depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicidal ideation,” Hayes wrote in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Further, “Vector-borne diseases like West Nile Virus and Lyme disease may compound mental health issues for people with pre-existing mental health illness.” Which is why, she said, “It’s important to link [mental health issues] to climate change,” because “these events, they’re no longer one-off—it’s not a one-in-100-year flood anymore.” Though it was only raised as a significant concern by six countries, Tara Neville, a lead author on the WHO report, said it’s important that “we are now seeing countries specifically identifying mental health issues as a health risk of climate change.”

Hayes notes that existing social injustices are amplified by climate change, and that it’s the most marginalized who are especially vulnerable, including people who have had to flee their homes because of climate change, or groups like indigenous communities who already struggle with access to healthcare. “Our physical health, our mental health, and our community health are all connected,” said Hayes.

The conclusions of the WHO report are buoyed by a litany of other recent research. In November, the Lancet Countdown, a project dedicated to monitoring health and climate change, released its 2019 report. “We’re able to say that for a child born today, their life is going to be affected by climate change at every single point,” said Nick Watts, executive director at the Lancet Countdown .

Nearly half of the countries WHO surveyed had conducted “a vulnerability and adaptation assessment for health,” but only 20 of the 48 countries said their findings led directly to funding policies to address public health impacts of climate change. Although there’s increasing concern and awareness of climate-related risks associated with extreme weather—like food- and water-borne diseases, or diseases carried by insects like mosquitoes—few countries have implemented significant policy changes.

“The concern is that governments simply aren’t moving fast enough,” Watts said.

It’s difficult to overstate the broad-reaching impacts. When we talk about disease, as emerging viruses like Zika demonstrate, “It’s important to say that no country, no population is immune,” Watts said. “The world’s very, very connected.”

As healthcare professionals scramble to deal with the fallout from a warming planet, they will have to deal with a new level of uncertainty. Whether in Australia, the U.S., or the U.K., healthcare systems have been built on an “assumption that the climate was going to be stable,” Watts said. “That’s no longer a safe assumption—whether we’re talking about the floods in Venice or the wildfires in California.”

Sean McDermott is a freelance journalist and photographer.

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I’m HIV-Positive. My Partner Is Negative. This Is How We Have Sex

For many, HIV is the ultimate boogeyman of the modern sex-scape. Years of horror stories have led some to fear contracting the virus so much that it becomes a constant phobia. It has also led to the stigmatization of HIV-positive individuals as toxic or wicked—and desexualized. Who, this line of thought goes, once struck with…

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I’m HIV-Positive. My Partner Is Negative. This Is How We Have Sex

For many, HIV is the ultimate boogeyman of the modern sex-scape. Years of horror stories have led some to fear contracting the virus so much that it becomes a constant phobia. It has also led to the stigmatization of HIV-positive individuals as toxic or wicked—and desexualized. Who, this line of thought goes, once struck with HIV could think of themself as a viable sexual object ever again? And who would view them as viable partners for any form of physical intimacy?

It is absurd that this even needs to be said, but people living with HIV are humans living full, long lives with a chronic but manageable condition, like so many others. They desire, and are deserving of, love and intimacy like anyone. Being in a relationship can actually be a vital motivator for some people to seek and keep up with treatment.

One might assume that HIV-positive people choose to date those who share their status, so as not to worry about transmitting the virus. And sure, this happens. But many HIV-positive and -negative people still pursue sex and intimacy together, in what are known as “serodiscordant” or mixed-status relationships. In the U.S. alone, there are at least 140,000 mixed-status couples, possibly many more, as that estimate was extrapolated from 23-year-old data. In countries where HIV is especially prevalent, more than 3 percent of all relationships are serodiscordant, and up to two-thirds of HIV-positive individuals are in such relationships.

Not all these couples know from the start that they are serodiscordant, thanks to a positive partner not knowing their status or contracting the virus while already in an established relationship. But many partners know they are mixed status when they get together and make it work.

There is no single strategy for HIV-positive and -negative people to pursue sex and intimacy. Some agree to pursue only emotional intimacy, perhaps consenting to forms of non-monogamy as well. Some only engage in non-penetrative sex. Some use condoms at all times. Increasingly, though, there’s recognition that effective treatment can lower one’s viral load to untransmissible levels. This makes the risk of an HIV-negative partner contracting the virus functionally nonexistent during unprotected sex with a HIV-positive partner who has had such a low load for at least six months and is maintaining their treatment regimen. The spread of PrEP—a preventive drug regimen used by an HIV-negative partner that reduces the risk of transmission by up to 99 percent—in recent years has also opened up new possibilities for a sense of security and less restrained intimacy. Some couples mix and match strategies as needed.

VICE recently caught up with Vasilios Papapitsios and Elijah McKinnon, a queer, non-monogamous, serodiscordant couple, to hear about how they manage sex and intimacy.

Vasilios Papapitsios: I became positive when I was 19. I’m 28 now. I’d just come out of the closet. I was living in a very hateful state [North Carolina] that had just defunded the AIDS drug assistance program, and I was going to school at UNC-Chapel Hill. As much as it thinks it is a progressive community, I was already feeling outed by a lot of my community members.

At that time, it was definitely easier to conceive of a relationship—or just casual sex—with another HIV-positive person because of the stigma I’d internalized and the fear of passing it along.

Elijah McKinnon: I’m from the San Francisco Bay area. I grew up in a pretty liberal household. I talked about sex and various STIs, including HIV, with my parents, who were in an open relationship and very open sexually. I had various relatives die from AIDS.

I had a lot of friends who were young and positive, but not out. It was more hidden than I think a lot of people are now about their status. So the first thing I learned is that I need to take ownership of my own status. What are the ways I can best protect myself? I mean not only from STIs, but a more holistic approach—like my mental sanity, my emotional sanity.

I never thought about serodiscordant relationships from this taboo perspective. One of my first…let’s just call him a boyfriend, was HIV positive. That’s when I discovered PrEP. I had to be 19, 20. This is right when the FDA approved it. I was super skeptical like, you want me to take what? Then after being involved with the study that changed the entire landscape of PrEP a couple years ago by testing a lot of people [using it] and seeing the significant decrease in [transmission of HIV], it was sort of a no-brainer for me. Leading into this relationship, I don’t think I had any barriers.

Vasilios: [Just before I met Eli in late 2016,] I’d been in New York for about half a year. It was suddenly an environment where people just didn’t care about my status. It was: That’s okay, the same way it’s okay for you to be gay. I felt more liberated and free to just be myself.

[Then I moved to Chicago.] It was the first time I was very open about my status to the public. I witnessed communities of people who were all on PrEP, or they know about it. I had been undetectable for a year or two. That was a major factor in terms of my internal stigma and fear.

My world blossomed. I was allowing myself to have intimacy and love and sex in ways that I couldn’t before…I realized I just deserved that and wasn’t this scourge of society.


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Elijah: I met Vas during a performance where they were doing a blood ritual [that involved taking a bath in fake blood] that centers on queer people living with chronic illnesses. So I was very much aware of their status.

Vasilios: I knew she was the PrEP girl. [Eli helped develop PrEP4Love, a campaign raising awareness of PrEP among black gay men, straight black women, and black trans women, and was a model in campaign ads all over Chicago.] She knew I was the poz artist and advocate.

Elijah: I’m black and queer and non-binary. We live on opposite ends of the country. We have different interests and passions. We’re constantly approaching things from the perspectives of our past traumas. There are constantly tensions between our other identities that we are processing. Our status is, I don’t want to say low on the totem pole, but there are other things we are processing.

Vasilios: We have an open relationship. Usually it’s separate. Sometimes it’s not.

I have to be aware that there are other STIs when you do not use a prophylactic. Even if people I’m having sex with are on PrEP, that doesn’t mean other things are thrown out the window. For me, PrEP is like a mental prophylactic. It gives us the opportunity to get into it and not have to think, oh my goodness, this little act of intimacy or sex is so wonderful but there’s still a lingering fear. That doesn’t really exist for me anymore. And that is an amazing gift. But any sex interaction, I have to think about, huh, I don’t know this person or whatever, I’m taking a risk.

How do I put this… We use condoms [together] if we need to. But we don’t really want to.

Elijah: There are a lot of tools that people don’t know about when navigating sex. Like the number of partners, or knowing how to have communicative conversations with those partners as just number one. That allows you to navigate sexually through an experience however you want to.

There are obviously condoms and PrEP, but also positioning [in terms of who is the recipient of penetrative sex; the receiving partner is at more risk]. There are ways of being intimate that are non-penetrative. There’re so many different things we discuss. Everything on our relationship is on the table. When it’s not, things begin to spiral because we’re not being communicative.

One thing that really has been intimate about our respective statuses is that I feel, versus a lot of other relationships, we’re more actively involved with each other’s holistic health. Not just okay, what’s your CD4 count? But how’s your mind doing? Let’s check in. How are you eating?

Vasilios: I think we have learned from our past experiences. And we complement each other in our different healing journeys.

Elijah: Up until about a year ago, I got a lot of questions, like: Aren’t you scared? Don’t you just think it would be easier with a negative person? I don’t even know what any of those questions mean!

There are still a lot of people who are very unaware due to fear and stigma around how to not only be in a serodiscordant relationship but be in a gay, queer, alternative relationship in general. Because they don’t have any models and the models that we do have are very monolithic. If it weren’t status, it’d be something else, like: How is it being in a mixed-race relationship?

That is just one facet of our multi-faceted relationship. It’s a topic that’s up for discussion, not so much negotiation. And it isn’t a barrier to accessing our most intimate depths of pleasure and joy.

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More People Than Ever Are Trying to Lose Weight, to No Avail

Despite reportedly trying lots of different weight loss methods, adults in the United States have seen overall increases in weight and actual measured BMI, according to a new study published this week in JAMA Network Open. The research basically paints a picture of people spinning their diet and activity wheels, reportedly restricting their food intake,…

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More People Than Ever Are Trying to Lose Weight, to No Avail

Despite reportedly trying lots of different weight loss methods, adults in the United States have seen overall increases in weight and actual measured BMI, according to a new study published this week in JAMA Network Open. The research basically paints a picture of people spinning their diet and activity wheels, reportedly restricting their food intake, increasing exercise, and drinking a ton of water, all to no avail.

The most interesting data within the study is the table of things people say they’ve done to try and lose weight, and how those tactics have changed over the 17 years of the research period. The number of people who say they “ate less food,” for instance, increased by 11 percent, and there was a more than 26 percent increase in “drinking more water” as a weight-management strategy (a questionable method); while only seven people say they drank water as a weight loss tactic in 1999–2000, 1,370 said the same in 2015–2016. Steady increases can be seen each year, which is a nice way to trace the celebrity diet cliché to just “drink a lot of water!!!” through time.

Researchers don’t offer much in the line of why this is happening (or maybe more fair to say, not happening). The study hypothesizes people are over-reporting the efforts they’re making to lose weight (the study data comes from a nationally representative survey). Or the gap in weight loss efforts and weight gained could come from a previously observed trend that people who perceive themselves to be overweight are more likely to increase their weight over time. This would also make sense, given that the number of people who think of themselves as overweight also increased in the study’s timeframe.

Researchers ultimately conclude that even though more people say they were trying to lose weight, across the board, weights and BMI increased. Of course, higher weights and higher BMI doesn’t necessarily speak to poor health: It’s extremely possible to gain mass in a healthy way; having more weight doesn’t necessarily mean being less healthy. But the overall picture of how healthy the country is isn’t what’s on display in this study. If anything, this study shows that people are certainly more stressed out about their weight, which can have a loose connection to health. But they’re not getting the tools they need to feel equipped to live healthily, or accept their healthy bodies.

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