June 7, 2022

Mike Iamele's life threatening illness brought him passion, purpose, and the love of his life

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Mike Iamele shares an incredible story of how a life-threatening illness brought him to, not only the love of his life, but also, his true purpose in life.  His story telling abilities are remarkable and I found myself covered in goosebumps and totally speechless multiple times.  Mike's story clearly demonstrates how our greatest challenge in life can end up being our biggest gift.  If you want to experience a feel-good story, this is it!

Mike works with gay men using a methodology he created called, "Sensitivity Mapping".

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Coach Maddox  0:03  
Hello, Mike, Iamele. I knew I was gonna screw that up. Mike. Iamele. Welcome to The Authentic Gay Man Podcast.

Mike Iamele  0:13  
Yeah. Thank you for having me. It's great to be here.

Coach Maddox  0:15  
Yeah, it's great to have you. So the tell the audience a little bit about how we know each other. We don't. This is our first time to ever speak. Yes. Mike was referred to me by a man that had guested on my podcast a few weeks ago. And I reached out to him, and we had some back and forth exchange in, I think it was messenger. And he agreed to come on and be a guest on the podcast. So here he is, and I'm going to get to know him today, just like you guys are, as he shares a little bit about his life. Anything you want to add to that, Mike?

Mike Iamele  0:53  
No, that pretty much sums it up, we are just meeting. So I'm going to meet everybody live here, same time.

Coach Maddox  0:59  
Well, and I've had had the value of listening to one episode of a podcast that Mike was a guest in. And then I've also seen some of his Instagram work, which gave me a little bit of an overview. I am very intrigued. And I would say, I can already tell he's a very interesting character.

Mike Iamele  1:21  
We'll see hopefully.

Coach Maddox  1:23  
So Mike works mostly with gay men. And he has a methodology that he has created called sensitivity mapping. Tell us a little bit about that, Mike?

Mike Iamele  1:36  
Yeah, it's a lot here. So you know, basically, it's my understanding of the world. But each of us is sensitive to something we're really sensitive something right. Some people are sensitive to connection, and they really crave deep connection. But that means they're also prone to feeling isolated or lonely more than other people. And these are the people who crave eye contact during sex. These are the people who are great at building communities, their greatest trauma is going to be around connection, their greatest gifts are going to be around that. And so what we're really looking at is what do you subconsciously do every time you're successful? What's the thing that you feel deeper than anyone that explains every fetish, every desire every turn on? That explains why this relationship worked out, but that one didn't. That explains why sex over here felt good, but not there. Why you have shame over this, but not here. And so what I do is in two and a half hours, when I work one on one with people, I also want groups. But basically, I just map their lives. And I help them in their own language describe their own experiences in just five or six words that I know that sounds crazy, but explains every moment of their lives.

Coach Maddox  2:41  
Well, I just gotta say, I got cold chills running up and down my spine, because you just, like, nailed me. You just described to me. I am the connection person. It's my biggest sensitivity. And I mean, like, wow, how did you do that? Like, we don't know each other at all. And you really just nailed me.

Mike Iamele  3:06  
You know, it's interesting. People will tell you, we all tell ourselves and tell each other who we are. If we listen. And so my job is really to just understand, why does the person do what they're doing? What's going on? And the biggest thing that I'm most passionate about is fetishes. I can't tell you how many people come to me and say, Mike, I'm fucked up. I'm broken. I'm wrong. And what's wrong with me why I'm into this thing? And actually, it's incredibly logical. One of my favorite things to do is explain fetishes because everything we could ever possibly desire is incredibly logical, according to what we're sensitive to.

Coach Maddox  3:38  
Yeah, that sounds like that would be totally interesting. I we're gonna have to have an offline conversation. Okay, that sounds good. I'm already kind of being drawn in. I hope the audience is too. All right. Well, let's get on with what we are here to do. Thank you so much for sharing that. And I know, I hope that the everybody else is intrigued as I am, because that was that just sounded amazing. So, first, I'd like to ask you, what does it mean to you to be an authentic gay man?

Mike Iamele  4:13  
Yeah, you know, I think for a lot of my life, I was attached to labels, you know, so much of my story was, you know, I was not with a man, I had never been with a man until my mid 20s. I had only ever dated women into my conscious knowledge, only been interested in women. And so sexual fluidity was something that kind of came up for me, I was known as being very successful in public relations. And so that was an identity or label I had. And what authentic means to me now is understanding these fluid modes of expression, who I am in any given moment is outside of any box, any label, it's about these core sensitivities, as I call it, it's about who I am. In any moment. I'll tell you who I am. I'm vulnerable. I'm zany. I'm free. I'm honest. mistakable I'm successful and I'm aligned. And there's not a moment of my life, light or shadow that isn't that. And what's really come up for me is understanding, how do I explore vulnerability and even the most challenging moments of my life? How do I explore successful even when I'm a big failure? You know, what outside of labels outside of content is my context or my subjectivity? And that's what authenticity is to me.

Coach Maddox  5:25  
Wow. Okay. I just got to say, that was not scripted. That was not rehearsed. Guys know that? I don't know. My yes, that question beforehand. So wow, you know, that was amazing. Thank you for that I, you know, I'm learning so much from other men sharing their definition of it, because everyone's different. And yet, they're all good. And they're all right. It's been totally amazing. So now for the big question. That is what has been your biggest challenge in life that you have gone through or are continuing to go through?

Mike Iamele  6:10  
Yeah, I think, you know, many challenges. But the one that really feels alive from present today is really my own journey with my sexuality and exploring it in a pretty public way. So for those who don't know me very well, and you may not know me as either Malik. So I'm telling you this here, I had a pretty public coming out story. And so what happened was, I mentioned just a moment ago, that I had never been with a man, my conscious knowledge, never been interested in the man. And I was about mid 20s. And I had started a public relations agency when I was 22. And this agency was very successful. So we worked with billionaires, we worked with some politicians. I specialized in health care reform. And I was out partying every night, working nine hours, I don't know how 20 Somethings have that kind of energy. But I did. And I woke up one day, and I started vomiting blood. And that didn't stop for about two months straight. Every day, I vomited blood. It was incredibly terrifying. I thought that I was going to die. I was in and out of emergency rooms. I got so bad that one day, I actually had an accident at work, I shut my pants at work. I had to be rushed out. It was a really horrific time in my life. And while this was going on, I had two roommates, one of them was in a relationship. And so she was not around very often. And the other one was the guy I knew from college that I was friendly with. And he was in pharmacy residency. And so just by the nature of it, he was home during the day, and he knew the medical system. And he became my de facto caretaker. And so he would bring me to appointments because often I couldn't drive myself, I would be in crippling pain during the day, I stopped being able to cook for myself. And he really kind of cared for me. And about two months into this process, I realized I was developing feelings for him. And these didn't feel sexual, necessarily or even romantic. But it felt different from a friendship. And I didn't have the language vocabulary to talk about it. And I think if this were any other time in my life, I would have thought, you know, let me just brush this away. It's not a big deal. But I you know, to give you some context to what I was feeling at the time, I thought I was gonna die. And so I was doing radical therapies. I mean, I was writing handwritten letters to every member of my family saying everything I've never said out loud. And so I thought, you know, I don't know what this is, I don't know if it's just because I'm afraid I'm gonna die and this like a human within proximity. But I can't possibly hold this in no bloods coming up, things can't be suppressed anymore. And so I decided that I was going to tell him that I felt something. And you know, here it's glamorized in retrospect. But of course, it's freaking out in the moment. And you know, a little bit longer than the story I'm sharing today. And I didn't know if he was gonna want to punch me. I didn't know what was going to happen with this situation. I don't even know what I felt. And he was just over a six year relationship with a woman. So I knew what we thought he was interested in men. And I just decided I'm gonna share this. And so I got the nerve one day and they said, I don't know how to talk about this Garrett. But as his name's Garrett, but I feel something and I don't know, it could just be friendship. It could be because you're caring for me, but I want to be really honest. And fortunately, he's the most thoughtful person I've ever met. And so he said, Okay, this is a lot, but let me sit with us. And he went back and wrote me an email. I wrote him an email, long story short, you know, a few months went by that we kind of went back and forth. And we decided to explore relationship, one that we were still You know, not exclusive, we dated women. But we explored something and we explored, could they be something that we're interested in physically. And so it was a lot of, you know, two steps forward one step back, we were watching porn together to see if there's something we're interested in, we were looking at our desires and peeling them back beyond the layer of desire to what's that sensitivity underneath. And that's so much of what has informed my work is understanding that desires are just strategies to get needs met. But there's an underlying, like, if I could really understand my sexuality to such a degree, I can explore this with him. And so I, anyway, I knew I needed to leave my job, because vomiting, blood probably shouldn't stay in that job. And so I gave what I never recommend anyone listening to, which is I gave a year's notice at work. And the reason I gave a year's notice is I was an owner of this company. And I thought I have to kind of do right by them. And so I had about a year to figure out some plan with my life. And I was also navigating this relationship. And we weren't telling anybody because Garrett's very private person. And there was a part of us that both thought, What if I get better? And this isn't anything, but what if it was just a fluke. And so we decided, which was really hard for me, because vulnerable, I like to share myself and I couldn't talk about this with my family, I couldn't talk about it with close friends. Eventually, I told a few friends. But while we were navigating for this year, we were exploring this relationship in private, and I ended up going to a bunch of nutrition school, herbalism school, psychic school, just trying anything I could, during this year to figure out what's a job I can do, that's not going to burn me out. And so it was a hard year of my life. And then that year ended up, it came to a close, I was leaving my job. And we set a deadline when I left my job to tell our parents about this. And so we decided to tell them and most people took it well, I won't name names, not everybody, but they got there eventually. And I decided I'm just going to do this new job. And I'm going to figure things out. So we moved into the apartment, just the two of us, for the first time, not with this roommate. And

I was kind of an herbalist and health coach to Boston's tech entrepreneurs because I thought, I know what it's like to burn out. I know all these people, let me help them. But honestly, I didn't like that job a lot. And so I decided, I don't know what to do. But I've got a little bit my niece and selling my shares, I'm gonna write about my experiences, because I have all these experiences, not about my relationship. I wasn't ready to talk about that yet. But about, you know, I was successful at a young age, it wasn't always cracked up to be, I'm gonna write about that. And so I started this blog, and it got a little bit popular. And an editor reached out to me and said, can I just give you a book deal? That's like, what does that happen? Yeah. Okay, if you're just gonna pay me to do what I'm doing? Yes. So I have this book deal. I was writing about, you know, defining success for yourself. And the publisher, the editor herself was square. And she said, your relationship is such an important part of this book. Can you talk about in the book? And so I did. And I turned in the manuscript. And then I thought, Oh, shit, like, I have to tell people about this. I mean, they can't find out on the shelves of Barnes Noble. Yeah, my family knows, close friends. No. But a lot of people don't know that when this relationship a lot of people don't know about our sexuality, or fluidity. And so I got the brilliant idea that I was gonna write a blog post about this, because I thought it sounds excruciating to one on one to every person in my life about this relationship. Rather, I'll write a blog post, they can all talk shit behind my back. And then they can come to me once I process, I don't have to deal with emotional labor. And so I wrote this blog post. And it got picked up by a publication and I went to bed that night, when I woke up the next morning, 100,000 people had shared it. And, you know, I get goosebumps saying this now. It's, I can't quite describe the feeling to wake up to millions of people talking about your sex life, especially on this topic. It was not something I'd ever want to do that I definitely didn't want in this moment. You know, there was a lot on our side. So there's a lot of love. There was loss of support. Obviously, it resonated deeply with some people. And you know, this was eight years ago, so not for the conversations on bisexuality. pansexuality, or sexual fluidity great today, but back then it was a little bit different. You know, this was Facebook, people weren't even on Instagram that much back then. And so I remember, I, you know, people were asking me to defend a sexuality that I didn't quite understand. And people were telling me that I wasn't accepted or involved in the queer community, or people would tell me I'm lying, or people would tell me I'm going to hell with people. Like there was so many difference. I mean, I would get hundreds of emails a day. And there's so many different perspectives on this. And NPR wanted to talk to me and Huffington Post wanted to talk to me. And I was invited to headline at Pride. And I said, I, like no, I am not the I didn't ask for this. And I also don't feel credibly, that I can stand up there and speak about this, like, I just tell him, my story is nuts. I'm not trying to speak for other people.

And so I ended up, you know, I stopped taking interviews, I stopped talking about this, because the only thing people wanted to talk to me about with Garrett, I was making $0, even though millions of people were talking about me, and I had a book deal. And I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. And I felt like such a failure. And I remember, you know, I got really obsessed with this idea of life purpose, because I think I just wanted to contextualize my own life, like, what do these things have in common, you know, public relations and branding over here, and same sex relationship, and sexual fluidity over here, and vomiting, blood and herbalism. And writing like, these things don't make sense to me. I always find myself by labels. And I was at this moment where I didn't know what labels to use, and people were throwing and naming the ally labels, but I didn't know what I identified with. And so I kind of spent a day you know, studying and researching and you you do enough life purpose books, you hear the same things, right? Figure out what your passions are, figure out your skills, figure out what the world needs, find that middle point, say, Okay, what do these things have in common. And I, oh, my God is so obvious. I'm so stupid. I meant to create a blogging course, I'm gonna help people get book deals, that's gonna be more than that, to me about knowing who you are finding your voice, it's gonna be deep, it's gonna be spiritual. That's how these things go together. And so this is the end of a year now of my advance and make much money that year. And so I'm running out of money. And so I just said, Screw it, I'm going to put everything into this thing. I got the fancy lighting kit, the microphone, the business partner, the Facebook ads, the web designer, whatever. I put this thing out into the world. I think five people bought it. It was a colossal failure. And I just thought, I'm done. I'm done. Fuck this, I can't do this anymore. You know, I made a real go of it, I put myself out there, I really was vulnerable with the world and the world. So clearly is telling me they don't want what I have to offer. And so I decided that I was going to quit. And that's going to go back to public relations with my tail between my legs and beg my partners, you know, and my own company, I don't know, if I have a job, beg them take me back. And I did something that changed my life. And I didn't know at the time, but we can see my sensitivity is why this was so impactful, is I decided to host a failure celebration. And I thinking wasn't actually that enlightened about this, it was more so like, Hey, I don't want this year to be a waste of my life. I want to see like, Yes, I failed, but I did things like want me to fail, I took risks, that's gonna be worth something. And so I decided I'm gonna take the one thing I'm still confident in, which is public relations and branding. And I'll just offer free branding sessions to all of these entrepreneurs who I had met that year. So I kind of was in a Facebook group and said, Hey, whoever wants them, I'll do it for free. So I'm going to quit and leave tomorrow. And so I did nine hours that day of branding sessions. And it was just a simple system of kind of mapping a person's business, their offerings and condensing it down to basically core feelings. That's all that it was. I didn't think it was that special. I had done in public relations for a long time. So I get this thing. And all of them because I'm used to working with, you know, tech people and politicians. These were life coaches and artists and psychics. All of them said to me some variation of that's not just my brand, this is my life purpose. So you explain why I experienced what I do.

I thought the hell out that's bullshit. Okay, if it helps you that much. That's fantastic. And one of the I got an email later that day, one of the women I worked with told her friend and she wanted to hire me. And she asked me what I called it, I made up a name. I said, Oh, sacred branding. It's branding, but sacred, we'll call it sacred branding. And I charged a little bit money, I decided, every day I make money, I won't leave because I'm still making money here. Maybe there's something here. And that story was eight years ago. And so I've still been doing this work. I've come to understand it a lot deeper in many ways. But, you know, it was incredibly traumatic to go through that experience. And it's something that I wasn't doing podcasts for sure. I wasn't on social media for most of those seven or eight years because I didn't I didn't want to be defined by this one moment of my life, and I didn't even know what to call it and then that so probably a year and a half ago now. A friend of mine from public relations, said, Mike, I got laid off my job. I would love to pitch you to some podcasts like you've been underground for long enough just doing your work. I'd love to get you out there more. So okay, all right, fine, we'll see. And we took it slowly. And we ended up getting on dozens and dozens of podcasts pretty quickly. And because of that podcast host said, You've got to get on Instagram, because that's where people are today. And so I started getting on there. And then strangely, I had signed rights to my story years ago, to producers for musical. And that musical is coming out this spring. In New York, it's premiering at the New York Theatre Festival. So it feels like the strange full circle moment right now, where I couldn't really talk about process this for about seven years or so. And now it's all kind of coming back. And today while I'm talking about it. Wow.

Coach Maddox  20:55  
I'm rendered speechless. I've never heard a story even remotely like that. I don't even know what to say. I would, I would love to unpack a little bit more of the emotional aspects of it as you went through that. What it felt like when you were going through those challenges, what it was like, when you felt feelings for another man for the first time and didn't know what that was? What it was, or? Yeah, can we can we go just dive a little bit?

Mike Iamele  21:38  
Of course, you know, I think it's, you know, I have to give you some frame of mind where I was at, because I was a person at a very early age kind of, for, you know, a millennial, quote, unquote, for somebody who had, you know, lived through the Great Recession, I was seen as really successful, right. And so I was seen as this big success story, like, not only did I have a job, and a lot of people didn't, but I have this amazing job flying to gala benefits in San Francisco and home, you know, like, I work with a lot of these amazing people. And I was good at my job. And I made good money. And you know, I was dating around, I was happily dating women. So I think that when I got sick the way that I was, and especially because I worked in health care reform, he kind of shattered my foundation a little bit, it kind of like I had been living this life. That was fine. But there was a part of me that realized, like, there's, I wanted more growth, I wanted more than just this. And Garrett was a person I had always known. And he'd always had a girlfriend, the same girlfriend. You know, interestingly, Garrett was probably like, beloved by every, that's why we were tangentially friends because I thought he was kind of boring. But he was like, he's kind of this golden boy, right? He was in prom Corps, and he's all in a capitalist swim team. And I always thought he was a little bit boring because of it. And so we weren't very close friends, we just happen to have lived together. And I think when I was really sick, something interesting happened where my veil of kind of success fell. And his caring ability, I got to see this other side of him that wasn't so objectified. And that wasn't just like him being the perfect person. And it was really interesting. So I think we both saw each other in a different light. And I had never, ever ever and still today can say this. We are married today, never felt that safe to be vulnerable with anyone like it was like I could say I could literally have murdered somebody and Garrett would be okay with it was so weird to me. So surreal to me.

Coach Maddox  23:47  
Well, that makes sense. In a way, though. I mean, if he was watching you vomit blood, and he was cleaning you up and cleaning the blood up and driving you to appointments and cooking for you when you couldn't cook for yourself. That makes sense to me.

Mike Iamele  24:05  
Yeah, and it was just, you know, I felt like I in those months of healing and being sick, I found myself in a deeper way and was able to be a more authentic version of myself because of the level of vulnerability because I could be weird and zany. And I mean, he, you know, was on residency very, very busy. And he would stay in and watch movies with me every night and like, really, you know, be there. And of course, we were weird and goofy. I mean, I was cooped up all day, and play cards with me. And so I remember this moment, when I knew I was in love with him because I told him about feelings. And we had, you know, at the time, it felt like I was living on reality as well because nothing I knew was the way it was before so nothing felt real. And so because we were always home, I couldn't really leave the house. I was working from home, but I sort of felt like there was a level of safety in telling him how I felt because I didn't know if this was real or not. And so that was something that like we almost lived in this fantasy temporarily. And that was a cocoon, I think that let us really explore things. I remember the first time that we ever kissed. Well, first of all, we weren't interested in kissing. But the first time we kissed I remember really disliking it because I had never felt facial hair before when kissing somebody. And so it was this really strange feeling where I don't know I felt very uncomfortable, very hard for my skin. And I remember thinking, like, that's not something I want to do. And we had to take a step back, and maybe that wasn't a way we were in the physical eyes. And, you know, there was definitely this long trajectory of exploring physicality and porn was a huge part of it, being able to watch straight porn and kind of explore things and feel turned on maybe separately or masturbate separately, but not together. Like, there was kind of a slow trajectory. And then I mentioned this I, the moment I knew I was in love with him, because we had the kind of exploring something and this was, I want to say about six months after we were I was sick. And so I was just standing up better. And it was the first time I had gone out to a party. And I went to Christmas party. And it was a very snowy night in Boston. Garrett was working on residency, he was at the hospital until midnight. And this is a section of Boston that is notoriously bad for parking. So I'll cobblestone streets, so it's a snowstorm. Not a great night to be driving. As that this pirate he was working till midnight. And so this party was a say is 1230 There was about to take public transportation, the subway, we call it the T the T home. And I looked over in the corner, and there's Garrett sitting in his scrubs. And I thought this is so strange. So I went over there. So why would you be here? Like, I don't understand why you're at this party right now you work 12 hours today, you know, it's midnight, you must be exhausted. And he said, Yeah, I was exhausted. And I got into my car, I was about to drive home. And I realized I just want one thing for me today. And so I thought you know, I'm gonna fight traffic and you know, the snow and find parking here. Because if I don't, you're going to take the train home, you're going to be home. 30 minutes later, and I'll probably be asleep. Because I'm so tired. I won't get to see you. So the one thing I wanted for me today is to drive across the city, have one beer, sit in the corner and watch you tell stories because I could watch you tell stories all night, and I get to drive you home and we go to bed. And I thought, shit, I have to marry this man. I mean, it was just so clear to me that I had never ever experienced love to that degree and probably never would by anyone else.

Coach Maddox  27:43  
Your story is, man, I'm having a hard time containing my emotions right now as I hear your story. Not only is it just unique, unique, unique, but it's just incredibly beautiful. I mean, he saw you at your worst when you were so sick. And I guess you had to assume that if he could still hang with you, then it was safe to let him see whatever else there was to see. You know, but that I guess the moral of the story though, is authenticity and vulnerability is our the only way we ever get to that level of intimacy.

Mike Iamele  28:39  
Yeah, you know, I think he because I had done a good job in my life of keeping up shields, you know, I could be successful. I couldn't be smart. It could be this. I don't think I ever let anybody into that level. And then there was literally on the bathroom floor of vomiting blood. And he's cleaning up blood environment next to me like it was. I can't quite describe it. But it was so freeing to be the messiest, the grossest, so whatever, and feel loved by somebody. Because if he could see me like you said at that level, though, what what can I say to him? And also I think because our relationship, it wasn't traditional relationships. So one we live together. So it was hyper intense from beginning we're always together. So we're forming this deep emotional connection, but to is because we were exploring sexuality and physicality and not being as physical at first. It really forced us to communicate better than I think most couples have to communicate at that stage. And so we were really brutally honest about things we like things we didn't like, and there's been a huge evolution in our sexuality and the way we relate to one another and the way We've had to like bring up any latent desire because we were kind of looking for ways to connect. And so today I'm grateful for it because everything is fair game to bring up in bed. Everything is fair game to bring up in our relationship. And I think it's allowed me to feel safe being completely transparent.

Coach Maddox  30:20  
Wow, I can't even fathom it. Yeah, I'm once again, I'm kind of, I'm speechless. So how long? Have you been married?

Mike Iamele  30:38  
So we've been together for about 10 years married for four.

Coach Maddox  30:43  
And did you ever find out what was wrong with you that was causing you to vomit blood?

Mike Iamele  30:48  
Great question. Yes. So there's a few different theories and a few different diagnoses. How I was diagnosed with severe pancreatitis, I was also diagnosed with, you know, ulcerative colitis, and infections and some of my organs. Basically, it was chalked up to something autoimmune. And today still today, you know, I am conscious with my diet, I don't do gluten or dairy because it makes me sick. And that's been an evolving process. I still speed conscious My stress levels, because there have been periods where I've had flare ups, not vomiting blood, like I used to, but been pretty sick. And so this kind of was the impetus to not just change my relationship and my career, but a lot of my health and my lifestyle to knock that sec.

Coach Maddox  31:36  
So you had something come into your life that changed you on every cell of your being it sounds like yeah, you from career to dietary and lifestyle to romance and relationships and sex. It just, you think that's any coincidence, our mistake, or No,

Mike Iamele  32:02  
I don't, you know, I think everything's a little bit better in retrospect. And I think that looking back now, I'm grateful it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. In the moment, that's not how it felt, I'll be honest, and, you know, I think it's also I'm distance from it. Now, that was 10 years ago, so that I got sick. So I'm distance enough, that I can see things was a little bit more perspective, but it's definitely been a journey. And it continued to be a journey, you know, even melding our families together, you know, there were, you know, like I said, Derek had this girlfriend, they were very serious, they were broken up when we got together, but they were very serious, they had been off and on for a while. And it was always expected that he would marry you know, the, I think she was the Christmas queen of their dance. And she was also a doctor, like she was a super successful, beautiful woman like, so it was really, I think, earth shattering for his mom, when we were together. And, you know, I still think today, it can be challenging for some people like, you know, Garrett from a very, very small town in northeastern Pennsylvania. And they're, you know, we I actually feel I'm feel so fortunate to be in a same sex relationship, because there aren't the prescribed gender roles we have in our relationships, like chores are what we like in a good app and not related to what was expected of us. But one year, his mom got me a stainless steel cleaner rag for the fridge. It was kind of like, okay, I don't know what to do with this Garret, take it like so this idea that, you know, somehow in her mind Yoky is the more masculine presence quote unquote, so Hassan and I'm therefore cleaning the kitchen when actually the room that Garrett dominates in the house is the kitchen that's entirely his fate. I don't cook i i Don't do dishes. I know, I know people but I don't get it really enjoys that I do all the other stuff in the house. And so it's been interesting to watch. You know, some of the most subtle challenges that were like I proposed to Garrett and that was,

I think, not hard for his mom. But I have a great proposal story. So first of all, if you ever want to hear or you want me to tell it today, we had a magical proposal, which was a complete shit show that turned into a magical day. Tell it right now it's so so I knew I told you the story of when I knew I was in love with Garrett. And I knew that I wanted to propose to him one place because I had lived in Italy for two summers. And one summer I lived in Salerno. It's on the Amalfi Coast. And Garrett had never been to Europe. And I just decided that the first time he saw the Mediterranean was why I wanted to propose to him. Now, I was fumbling around just starting a business. I didn't make so much money that I could I buy all these tickets and not seem stressed about money and surprise them. So it took me a few years to get this together. And I went down to his hometown to actually with the ex girlfriend, I went to her place first I want to include her, and then ask for his parents blessing. And I pretended I was at a yoga retreat in Syracuse. So that was a whole mess for weekend, but it was beautiful, and everyone gave their blessing. And then I kept telling him, we're gonna go away somewhere, ask them take off work somewhere local, not a big deal. I told him to pack you know, like, we were local, because that week in Italy actually wasn't that well, um, can I kept saying to him, I'm not going to tell you for flying or driving. So I wouldn't put a knife in your carry on. But otherwise, you know, whatever you got to do. And the day of came that we were going to go to Italy. And so in normal life, nobody ever needs their passport on average day, right? Well, Garrett, was starting teaching at a college near us that day, he needed his passport for tax reasons. Oh, my God, he's gonna have his passport on him. How am I going to get this thing out of his hands? And so we came home. And he said, All right, you guys tell me one thing? Do I need my passport? I don't want to bring it and then lose it. And I just thought, Mike, you got to make a commitment. You just got to decide one way or the other. I said, No, no, you don't need it. I don't want you to lose that. Go put it away. So okay, so why don't you go pack the car. And I sprinted into that bedroom. So fast, found the passport and zipped it up in my bag as he was coming up the stairs. So Oh, not that car. I mean, the Uber I just ordered. So oh, that's an Uber. And you know, you can enter the address. So you don't have to say where you're going. So he didn't know we were going to the airport, they had entered into the app. And I knew if we got dropped off at Terminal e in Boston that's International. So he would know we're going international I couldn't have that has been more of a surprise. So I got dropped off at terminal C because as psychotic as I am. I'm studying the blueprint of the airport, and there's a passageway from C to E. So it's okay, so we get dropped off. JetBlue which we fly sometimes. I go over the kiosk I'm like, Oh, fuck. So what is it? What do you forget? So, can you hold this? I gave him his passport. So what is this? Wait, why would you bring your passport? Wait, it's mine. So yeah, can you hold this? I gave him three books around. And he said, what's going on? And I said, when you get up tomorrow morning, you'll be in Rome, getting on a plane to Rome tonight. And so he's really stunned. And I knew so Garrett's mom is God love her probably the worst liar out there. And so I said to her, okay, Cheryl, you're gonna work with me here. He's gonna call you and tell you I'm surprised. I'm going to Italy, you pretend you know that, but not about the proposal. So there's like a multi layer lie here. She did fine with it. So he got on the plane. And I said, Garrett, you know, I've lived there. So we can use a local thing. We can do the touristy thing. Whatever you want. This is your trip. My only rule is that we fly it around, we go down to the Amalfi Coast halfway through the trip, and then we fly back around. Otherwise, it's your week, you do what you want. And so he planned a little trip for himself on the plane, and we got there. And it was supposed to rain every single day that we were there. So we brought our raincoat and Umbrella everywhere we went. But it didn't. It was beautiful. So lugging these things around. But it didn't matter. We were so happy. It was so beautiful. And then the Saturday comes and we're supposed to go to the Malfi Coast halfway through the trip. And this is where I want to propose the first time he sees the Mediterranean. And so I said, we've got to catch this two o'clock train, because it's the last train of the day. You know, we've got a non refundable place down there. We've got nowhere to stay up here. Like we cannot miss this train, because that would be $1,000. We can't miss us. And so he said, okay, okay, we're going to get the train. I said, So what do you want to do with the last day that you enrolled when he said, I could not forgive myself if we left Rome without seeing the Sistine Chapel, though, okay, over the Vatican Saturday, it's going to be crazy, but we'll try this. We'll see if we can make this work. Because he's an art history buff. And so he really wants to see some of these paintings. So we go over to Vatican City. And it was the first day it wasn't supposed to rain. So we were so happy to finally leave a raincoat our umbrellas. Were just getting over there. And I went into line, and they told me it was gonna be about two hour wait together. Is it oh, they're always dramatic. That's ridiculous. It's gonna be like 30 minutes, they just stare away the tourists. So we get into line. It starts downpouring now is raining so hard on us, we can't get out of line because we don't want miss the spot. And I have to pee so badly. And he is getting hungry. And we have to pay 10 euro for a poncho just to wrap around this camera so it doesn't break. We are soaked as can be. And we're waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting some more. Anyway, it was about two and a half hours. We were three people from the front of this line. And Garita is not worth paying for euro to go in. Let's get out of line. We don't have enough time to be in there. And so we walk out this line after two and a half hours of standing in the rain. So okay, we We can get this back together. This could still be proposal day. So I said, let's go find a restaurant you'll eat. I'll pee we'll get out of here. Well, in Vatican City, sometimes, you know, restaurant tours can be a little bit particular. It was 1245. Nobody's opening until one. Nobody will let me come in to pee until one employee oh my god, Gary, let's just get home then. We might as well for rushing for time. Let's just get home. And so it's still raining. We went over to the metro, take Metro home. There are people outside the rain. I asked them what's going on here. And they said there was a delay between these three stops the only stops me so we could not take Metro home anymore. Okay, we are speed walking home now. And so it's still downpouring we've got a map in our hands that is disintegrating in the rain. I can't read the street signs because they're etched into buildings and Roman weathers. Long story short, the bridge we wanted one one way, which we took went another way. We are now further away from our hotel. I have to pee so badly. And this is the middle of Rome. There's no alley, I can pee and and I am just fidgeting and I am like I can't sit still I'm getting annoyed. How do we get lost? Garrett's hungry has turned to hangry. So he is now even more irritable. We're really trying to find our way and a pasta story to tell you this before I left, a Hindu friend of mine sent me a prayer to the Hindu god Ganesha, the elephant like God. She said that this is a really she just felt like call to share it with me as like a blessing to get engaged. So So Okay, thank you. And I did the prayer that she said, I forgot about it. Well, we're in the middle of Rome, we are fighting. I look up and there's a giant mural of Ganesha in the middle of Rome. So okay, thresholds, obstacles here for a reason, pay attention there, you know, it's not just random. And so I remember this Piazza guy remembers that Piazza we find our way back to the hotel, we go up, he grab a power bar, because we thought maybe we'll have time to eat at the train station. And we go over to the metro. I go through the turnstile, because weekly passes, Garrett goes to go through the turnstile, and says, Oh, shit, my ticket was in my front pocket is now disintegrated, I can't get there. So I can't get back over to you. And it's a busy Roman train station, or metro station on a Saturday, no one's helping an American. So I said, Let me yell to you how to get the machine into English to buy yourself a ticket. So it goes down. So he finally figures it out puts it in, doesn't work. So Garrett, we have like one more shot at this. We don't have time. He goes, he puts that finally works. So we take the metro over general mme money, which is busiest train station in Italy, you know, maybe 3040 trains going at any given time. And we've five minutes until the train leaves. So great Garrett, here's where the board's gonna say exactly what platform. You look at that I'm going to run around and find out what I've printed offline isn't off if I have to exchange it for a physical ticket. So I come back for two minutes and cloud train leaves, nothing has posted everything before. And after. It's as if it's delayed, but ours, it's like, it almost looked like the lights were broken on our so you could not see the platform. And so I'm frantic. So I said, Garrett, let's just go through security, rapid down all 40 trains and find our train. We went through rapid that all 40 trains, you could not find our train. We are freaking out beyond belief at this point. I ran over to attendance. I said, please call this and he said I think you're confused. I'm not confused. Please call the center. He called it and said, your train is leaving in less than a minute run. So this is like a scene from a movie, right? We've got all of our bags, I'm sweaty, I'm wet. I'm disgusting. And we're sprinting down this platform. I wish I was making some of this up, we get onto the train. And within about 10 or 20 seconds the train leads. So we've just made it. So my heart is pounding. I am disgusting and sweaty. And my only thought is fuck this. I'm not proposing today. Like I've spent years of my life playing the perfect proposal. And this day is a disaster. I'm just not proposing say. And then Garrett turned to me and said, You know, it's so weird. For everything that went wrong today, you would have thought we would have turned on each other. But we didn't we work together as a team. It's not weird. I thought Well, shit. Now I have to propose today. So we took this three hour train ride down there. We still to walk a mile from train station. So the hotel God knows it's still raining. So we're walking in the rain. But at this point, I am just determined. You know, I've got his watch and my raincoat and determined because you know what this is happening. I've just got to do it at this point. And so can we check into the hotel? We I said hey, Garrett, you want to check out the rooftop? Who in their right mind won't check out the rooftop this moment. You know it's still raining but nonetheless Garrett's Okay, so we get up there and said, Hey, go check out that castle that he obviously couldn't see in the desk. sense. And he goes turn around through the fog. And I get down on one knee. And I will be honest with you, I've kind of lost any plan I had, like I had so many times going over my head where I was gonna say, and I had to throw all that way, because this was not the day for that. So I'm just gonna wing it. So he turns back around, I was on one day, he knew what was happening. And I said, Garrett, I'm not gonna lie to you. I woke up this morning, and I plan on proposing to you. And then everything went to shit. Literally everything that could have went wrong went wrong, everything went to shit. I thought, fuck this, I'm not proposing today. I've spent 1000s of dollars. I've spent years of planning like this. I've one shot at this, I'm not wasting it on this bullshit day. I've one shot this. And then everything did go wrong. And we started working together as a team. And I realized I don't just have one shot at this, I have a million shots of this. Because every day for the rest of my life, I just wake up. I asked myself if I'm still game to do this. And I asked you to love me. It's just one of those days. So I brought you to beautiful place that I know that could potentially rival your beauty to ask you, will you marry me? He said maybe now he said yes. And then I showed him a picture date stamped of me and his mom, it said Cheryl approved to say I went down there and asked for that blessing.

Coach Maddox  46:21  
Wow. You're first of all, you are an amazing storyteller.

Mike Iamele  46:26  
I have I'll be honest, hold that story a few times before so I you know, but thank you.

Coach Maddox  46:33  
Yeah, what a what a great story. I mean, I just I feel like I'm every part of my being is smiling right now. And feeling like no one has ever made any kind of gesture like that for me in my life. So I'm feeling cloud right now and how how fortunate you are to have somebody that cares about you so deeply, you know, from the from the first blood vomit to you know, present moment, he sounds like really an amazing man, which is I'm I'm quite sure is just a reflection of what amazing man you are. Because like attracts like.

Mike Iamele  47:17  
I feel very, very, very fortunate. And you know, I think one of the things I say a lot about Garrett is on paper. I think a lot of times like close friends in our lives. It's always interesting when I'm, you know, speaking my relationship or a podcast, or, you know, I remember when I first saw that article, a friend of mine was like, saw on this Facebook feed and said, the person who posted How do you know Mike, and so who's Mike. And so it's always weird to me when people I know hear about me, not through me like they've like, like, Oh, someone was posting an article. And what's interesting is a good friend of mine says, You know what, like, knowing you and hearing, you know, some of these stories, you don't make sense on paper, like you don't, I would never put you together. But somehow when I see you two together, it just makes sense. And I think that, unfortunately, I've never been on a dating app because this you know, we were together before dating apps were ubiquitous at the time. I don't know that I would have quote unquote, swipe right or whatever, you know, on Garrett. I don't think that algorithmically we make a lot of sense. He's very slow. And I'm very fast. He's very quiet. I remember, you know, growing up, I always thought that I was gonna marry someone who was like, you know, very adventurous and very public. And why did push me and challenged me. And I remember one time my mom said to me, Michael, because she calls me Michael. She said, Michael, you're always looking for this person who's gonna challenge you. And you'll never find that person. Because you are that person. You want the person who makes you want to slow down and be in the moment, he can see. Exactly. And I think I you know, had if I hadn't had these situations, I don't know that we've seen that. And I remember this one moment. I was going into the office, so I was still very sick. But I must have been trying to have the office. And I had an anxiety attack about going to the office. Because what if I shut my pants again? Where's the bathroom? What like there was so afraid of all these things. They remember, he grabbed me and he was lying down. You're still asleep. He grabbed me. And he held me as closely as he could like really, really tightly. And he said, Try to feel my heart. Just keep trying to feel my heart. And eventually, my heart slowed down to the rhythm of his heart. And he let me go and I just remember. I always thought that great love for me was going to be something that makes my heart race, but that's never been the case for me. He's the only person who makes it slow down.

Coach Maddox  49:46  
Wow. What a beautiful story. I feel just truly blessed to to be audience and hear your story. I hope that the listeners are enjoying As much as I am, you know, I think that you do a really brilliant job of demonstrating that oftentimes, our, our most painful situation in life turns out to be our greatest gift. You know, I look back in my own life. And it took me many, many years to see this sport to come, you said the word full circle earlier, it came only full circle and maybe just the last few years that my my greatest pain that I endured, in my early part of my life, I now realize was the biggest gift that I received, I would never want to relive that pain, I would not even wish that pain on my greatest enemy. And I can look back on it and see that I would not be the man that I am today, if it had not been those experiences that forged me into the man that I am today. And I really hear that in your story. From, from every aspect from from the work, all the changes that you made, and the way you you know, participate in professionally in the world, but also the dramatic shift in your love life and sex life and relationships. And you're, you're very fortunate to have it come full circle as young as you are. How old? Are you now? Mike?

Mike Iamele  51:32  

Coach Maddox  51:34  
Yeah, yeah, it was much, much later in life that it came full circle for me, it took me a lot longer to make that make that circle around back to and see the gifts. And, you know, not not to compare, necessarily, because there's a lot of people that live their entire life out and never make that full circle. Never ever realize that their greatest pain was their, their greatest gift. And that truly is is a sad thing. And yet maybe that was what their experience in this time lifetime was meant to be about. So you definitely have an absolutely beautiful story on so many different levels, you know, because it changed so many different levels of your of your life. What would what words of wisdom would you have to drop on the listeners based on all of this amazing experience? The the biggest challenge the biggest shit show the hardest part of your life to come to what it is now. What? What words of wisdom? Can you drop?

Mike Iamele  52:54  
Yeah, I think you know, for me, it's you never have to try to be yourself. If you're trying it means you being somebody else. And I think, you know, I want every moment of my life, including this interview, to feel like coffee with a best friend, you know, those moments where you just forget to try and you're being yourself and that mask of perfection just drops a little bit. And wisdom comes out of you you don't even expect and you forget to perform you forget to be technical. I thank you know so much my interest. And that's why I do the sensitivity work is to figure out what is that thing that makes you you what do you do when you're successful without even trying? And how do we get back there? Because I think there's so much pressure that makes us feel like we have to be somebody other than who we are to be successful in life. And that's just simply not true.

Coach Maddox  53:43  
We do get lots and lots of messages that really enhance that and magnify that it's it's a real thing. You spoke earlier about capitalism and I think that we could layer the patriarchy on top of that. You know, the odds are stacked against us by the way we're socialized from the time where we come into the world. Yeah, beautiful. Anything else you'd like to add? No, I'm

Mike Iamele  54:12  
just grateful for gaming the opportunity to share here I'm really grateful for everybody who listened to this conversation.

Coach Maddox  54:20  
Well, I hope that it has impacted the listeners is as in the manner that it has me because it's it's i to story I won't ever forget. Thank you so much for sharing this. And, and with that, let's um, are you ready for some rapid fire? Do it? Let's do it. All right. So what are you afraid of?

Mike Iamele  54:46  
Spiders came up, but that's not true. So let me say something more accurate. I'm failing.

Coach Maddox  54:54  
Yeah. What is the one thing that you most wish you could change? About the gay male community

Mike Iamele  55:05  
judgement and shaming of one another. I think that there's so much desire for connection and fear of intimacy. So we end up shaming and judging one another about things that we just want to embrace and connect. I mean, there's more in common with us than is different. And I'd love to see that connection and community happen.

Coach Maddox  55:24  
I think you're spot on. I think that we do that. That judgment thing as a means to push people away, because we are petrified we want. I've said for some time now, our greatest desire is intimacy. And it is also our greatest fear. And oftentimes, our fear wins. Yeah. And so we sabotage our opportunities for intimacy. And I'm not talking romantic relationships, necessarily. I'm talking about friendships as well. Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Great answer. When was the last time you sat in a group of gay men and engaged in a deeper, more heartfelt conversation that included authenticity and vulnerability.

Mike Iamele  56:11  
So I'm very fortunate because I lead groups that do this. So I'm not so long ago. Last time I ran was in February.

Coach Maddox  56:20  
Beautiful love that love the contribution that you're making. Our community and our world needs more of what you're doing, Mike. Thank you. What a what a beautiful contribution. And I definitely am interested in knowing more about what you're doing. I something's drawing me in here. So it has been an absolute pleasure to have you as a guest on the podcast today. Your story was, so it was amazing. And thank you so much for sharing some of your time with me and my audience.

Mike Iamele  56:56  
Thank you so much for having me. It's been an honor.

Coach Maddox  57:00  
I want to leave you with one thing. And that is tell you that in my eyes, you are indeed an authentic gay man.

Mike IameleProfile Photo

Mike Iamele

Author + GBTQ+ Men's Coach

Mike Iamele thought he was straight his entire life. But a life-changing illness forced him to challenge that notion head-on when he fell in love with his male caretaker. And the two of them went on a years-long journey to explore sexuality and fluidity to figure out if the relationship could work.

When he chose to blog about his relationship in 2014, he had no idea that 100,000 people would share the post overnight, and he’d wake up to millions of people talking about his sex life.

For most of the past decade, Mike has helped hundreds of GBTQ+ men to understand their desires, drop shame, and feel more confident by exploring their subconscious patterns -- a process he calls 'mapping sensitivities.' You can explore your own sensitivities in a free training at mikeiamele.com/map.