Meet my friend Andrew Nichols, the subject of our very first photo shoot exclusively for Hunk du Jour! Matthew Browning caught these exclusive photos of Andrew as we wandered around West Seattle.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: So tell me a little about yourself - where'd you grow up?
Andrew Nichols: I was born in Portland, OR, spent my first 10 years in Vancouver, WA and then lived on Whidbey Island until I was 18.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: So your tween and teen years were all on Whidbey Island -- what was growing up there like?
Andrew Nichols: I grew up in the small town of Freeland, WA and although my large extended family was well known on the south end of the Island I often felt like a loner. Possibly because my extended family was very religious and their religion never set well with me.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: So I imagine coming to the realization that you were gay didn't help with that isolation from the family!
Andrew Nichols: hmmm... I didn't realize that I was attracted to men sexually until I joined the Army. There was one time at 16, when I was sitting at home, and I thought "I may be gay." then I immediately countered this thought with "NO, there's no way... if I'm gay then I'll be no one. I will have a terrible life. I will be even more of an outcast." So... I didn't think about it more until I was stationed in Germany and away from my family. Oddly enough the Army allowed me to come out. With the diversity in the Army I felt it was more welcoming than my extended family.
Andrew Nichols: However, you have to understand that this is family that laughed at gay people who wanted to worship God saying, "what is their church doing, ripping out certain pages in the bible?" My cousins and I even went gay bashing when I was younger... although... (thankfully) we never actually acted on it... we just were more talk at 10-13 years old than anything else.
Andrew Nichols: I knew one thing growing up, that if I "allowed" myself to be attracted to another man then I wouldn't 1) go anywhere in life and 2) would go to hell when I died.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: When I hear that the Army was actually the place that made you feel more free it surprises me, but then again when you join up and train/serve with other soldiers 24/7 I can see how it can be almost another family...
Andrew Nichols: Definitely. When you're stationed in another country that is all you have... they are family.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: What kind of people did you meet / experiences did you have that let you allow yourself to open up to those feelings?
Andrew Nichols: I was very fortunate to be in the unit I was in. Probably half of the soldiers were female. I befriended someone who ended up being my best friend (and still is) and I first told her.
Andrew Nichols: However, it didn't stop there. I told my supervisors, my First Sergeant, and on. I typically told people individually, on a one to one basis, so we could discuss it privately. I was never discharged under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and was able to serve my full four year commitment
Andrew Nichols: It wasn't all perfect. I had one soldier who referred to me as a "faggot" in front of the company formation when I wasn't there. My friends told me about this later and I complained to my Sergeants. They took the issue to his Sergeants and he was almost given an Article 15. They took it seriously and I was proud of them for doing so.
Andrew Nichols: This soldier, who called me a "faggot," came to my barracks room and was crying when he apologized to me. I accepted his apology. I could tell that he grew up in a similar family environment that I did.
Andrew Nichols: I also experienced two individual situations where soldiers tried to get me kicked out for being gay.
Andrew Nichols: One time it was another Specialist, when I was also of the rank of Specialist, and this female soldier was upset because her and her husband tried to have a threesome with me. It's a long story, but the short of it is that I did go to their house and have drinks with them... I wanted to go forward with the threesome (because he was really attractive) however, I just couldn't and he got pissed and tried to kick my ass. She held him back and I ran out of their apartment on base and walked back to my barracks barefoot.
Andrew Nichols: The next day this soldier told me she was going to get me kicked out by going to our mutual Sergeant. So, I decided to go to our Sergeant first. I sat down with my Sergeant and told her, "I need to tell you something and I'm not going to leave anything out."
Andrew Nichols: I proceeded to tell her everything that happened. I mean everything. From when I first saw this soldier's husband and thought he was attractive to that night of him giving me drinks and feeling me up as I was getting drunk. My Sergeant just listened to my story and didn't say much. I was worried after. However, the soldier and her husband went to talk to her later and as I heard it from another source my Sergeant chose not to bring "the issue" up to the chain of command.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: The Army hasn't been your only job in civil service, though, right?
Andrew Nichols: I briefly worked for the King County Sheriff's Office as a Deputy.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: You also applied to be an FBI agent, and your current position at MOMS Pharmacy isn't too far from public service either!
Andrew Nichols: That is true. I love being of service. It goes to the idea of one of my favorite quotes:
What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone? --Winston Churchill
Andrew Nichols: I really ask myself that question... what is the use of living if not to be of service?
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: What sort of things do you like to do in your spare time?
Andrew Nichols: I don't have a TV (haven't had one in about 3 years) so I spend a lot of time reading. I also like going to tea with friends, doing jigsaw puzzles, and hiking. I also spend a lot of time with my family.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: What brought on the decision to ditch the television set?
Andrew Nichols: When I first moved back to Seattle, around May of 2006, I was living in this small studio and I had a large TV. I decided I didn't want to waste the money on paying for cable so I tried using rabbit ears with the tin foil at the end (I know, ghetto) but then I realized "what's the point of having this large TV taking up a great deal of space in my small living area." It just didn't make sense for me.
Andrew Nichols: Some people tell me they are "anti-TV" I'm not anti-TV myself... I just don't have one right now. If I get one in the future I want it to be in an area which is separate from my livingroom area.
Andrew Nichols: However, there is no rush to get one because I can download my news from iTunes and watch some TV shows I enjoy from hulu.com and watch movies (which I get from the library) on my laptop...
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Yeah - I think more and more people have your outlook... especially with the new ways to get media.
Andrew Nichols: Yeah, but I'm saving every bit I can to pay off student loans so I'm only going through the library for DVD's, CD's and books now... It's so easy and great to go on the website spl.org and "order" your items there. They even email you when things are ready to pick up... I love it!
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Definitely! You mentioned jigsaw puzzles... how serious of puzzles are you into? How many pieces?
Andrew Nichols: Hmmmm... pretty serious. One puzzle was of the NYC skyline. it was 5000 pieces. It's about 5 feet long by 3 1/2 wide.
Andrew Nichols: When I was in the Army, stationed in Germany, I did another 5000 piece puzzle and it was all over my barracks room floor. During one inspection my First Sergeant walked right on it. I was just a Private at the time but I looked up to him and said, "First Sergeant, you're on my puzzle." He didn't know and jumped off... it was funny.
Andrew Nichols: When I was a teenager I started to bring my old puzzles (one's done several times) to the Goodwill and they would let me exchange my puzzles for theirs. I was an addict.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Well, there are worse vices! For those that don't know, Washington is an amazing place for hiking. How often do you hike? Where do you like to go?
Andrew Nichols: I haven't been hiking as much as I want to. However, I do love the Mount Si hike. I bought this book called "60 hikes within 60 miles of Seattle" and have done several of those and want to continue doing them.
Andrew Nichols: One of my favorites is Lake Serene.... probably because when my friends and I got to the top I sunbathed naked on this huge rock that spurted out over the lake.
Andrew Nichols: One hike was Johnson Ridge (near Skykomish, WA) with a group of guys and it was 12 miles... we thought we were hiking to this beautiful lake but when we arrived it wasn't so nice... we didn't even stay there long. But it wasn't so much the final destination as it was the beautiful hike along the way.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: For a while I took a yearly trek to Olympic Hot Springs with a few friends of mine, it was so great to just be out in the woods... peaceful, quiet... And luckily we knew of a secluded pool where we'd be relaxing a ways off the beaten trail (fewer lookie-loos.)
Andrew Nichols: I just like to be free... I tell a lot of people that I'm cool with being naked. I've even done naked yoga... which is an topic, but I'll let you ask the questions ;-)
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: That seems like a segue if I ever heard one! What is naked yoga like?
Andrew Nichols: Well, I'm just getting into it so I've only done it once so far. I plan on doing more with this new yoga studio - The Yoga Den - here in Seattle. But I was scared that first time. Honestly, I was scared that I would get sexually aroused by being around other naked men. That did not happen. Also, it was just "weird" to me at first... being naked around other people was definitely not a common practice when I grew up.
Andrew Nichols: What I liked about it though was how I felt free... I actually felt like I was able to move into the yoga positions deeper. I don't know if it was my mind just believing I was or if I actually did. It's similar to how I feel when I open up about some personal feelings in my blog... I feel free.
Andrew Nichols: I feel like when I put things out there and have no barriers (either clothes or barriers to who I am and how I feel through my writing) then I feel more powerful. I feel as if no one... nothing... can hurt me. Afterall, I'm bearing all... and there is nothing left to use against me. ;-)
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Yes - your blog is another place where you don't keep anything under wraps... have you ever had any negative reactions to that openness?
Andrew Nichols: I haven't had any negative reactions. I rec'd the most emails, phone calls and comments from my more recent blog entry titled "Loser."
Andrew Nichols: The only thing is, is that my mom said she has read one or two and she couldn't read the entire thing. I also sent one entry to my father, about our life growing up, and he said he couldn't read it all. It was too much for him.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: I can say as a reader, too, that reading your entries feels like I'm walking into an intensely personal space...
Andrew Nichols: Thank you, that's a great compliment.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Do you re-read your entries?
Andrew Nichols: I do re-read them. I like to print them out sometimes (especially the long ones) and edit them. Sometimes I write so much... getting so much out there that I don't go back and edit because I have other things that I feel like I need to say and put "out there." Writing has definitely become a passion for me.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Is anything off-limits?
Andrew Nichols: There is one thing I haven't wrote about yet. It's not that it's off limits... I just haven't wrote about it yet. I've wrote about it in my personal journal and just started to share with people close to me. I read the entry to my ex, when we were together.
Andrew Nichols: It's deeply personal and something I'm figuring out... however, I imagine one day I will write about it and make it public. Mainly because I know others will be able to relate. But also because I feel like when I make my deep thoughts/feelings public I learn a lot more about myself. I love that, I love learning about myself and growing.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: So what else thrills and excites you right now?
Andrew Nichols: Hmmmm... that's an interesting question. I'm recently single, so my right hand. *laughs*
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: *laughs*
Andrew Nichols: Well, since I am recently single I'm taking more time out of life for ME time. I meditate more now, do yoga, run, cook for myself...
Andrew Nichols: Before my last boyfriend I was finally finding a point in my life where I was happy with Andrew. Where I was happy and didn't need to be with someone to be happy. Then my ex and I met and we dated and we had a great relationship (I learned a ton from this one) and now I'm just getting back to being happy and loving the life of Andrew.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Are you jumping back into the dating pool?
Andrew Nichols: Well, I wasn't in the dating pool when I met my last boyfriend. I believe the best time to meet someone is when I'm in a healthy place in my life. Right now I want to work on me a bit... learn more about Andrew and therefore at this time I'm not interested in dating. I want to also take the time to build stronger bonds with my friends here in Seattle.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Once the time is right, how does the perfect gentlemen get Andrew's attention?
Andrew Nichols: Oh... that's a loaded question. It's a good question too though... something i just haven't thought about much.
Andrew Nichols: One thing is respect. For example... if we are out eating a meal together I will observe how someone treats others at the restaurant. There's just something annoying about someone who is rude to a waiter/waitress
Andrew Nichols: Someone also who doesn't feel like he needs to fill silence with words.
Andrew Nichols: I love great communication... this is one thing I found with Austin (my last boyfriend) and I. We developed some great communication skills together
Andrew Nichols: I also have been complimented on holding the door open for others when going into a building. I think the "perfect gentleman" would do the same for me.
Andrew Nichols: I love going on a date with someone... even if it's the 100th date... and holding the door open for him.
Andrew Nichols: Also, look into my eyes when we are talking... I love a good listener.
Andrew Nichols: Also, a man who is affectionate when and where he wants to be affectionate. Often when I am on a date and I come back from using the restaurant's bathroom I will come back and lightly touch the man I am with or maybe surprise him with a quick shoulder rub... it's great when someone does the same.
Andrew Nichols: I'm not interested in making a public scene and being overly affectionate in public, but if a man feels the desire to touch me he should touch me when and where ever
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Aww, that's sweet. :) Ok -- finally some quickfire questions.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Answer these quickly... Not too much thinking!
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Favorite food?
Andrew Nichols: Ice cream.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Favorie movie?
Andrew Nichols: American Beauty
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Favorite book?
Andrew Nichols: Sophie's World
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Favorite jigsaw puzzle?
Andrew Nichols: NYC Skyline
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Favorite vacation destination?
Andrew Nichols: Hawaii
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Favorite place to be on a Saturday morning?
Andrew Nichols: Brunch - King Fish Cafe ;-)
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Biggest guilty pleasure?
Andrew Nichols: ice cream
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Finally, what are you wearing right now?
Andrew Nichols: ripped boxers
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Busted! Laundry day?
Andrew Nichols: no... just ripped them this morning.
Andrew Nichols: but I typically only wear boxers around the house (if I wear anything) so its' okay if they are ripped.
Chris M, Hunk du Jour: Andrew, thanks so much for talking with us!