Friday, September 12, 2014

DID I DO THAT?

Yep, timing is everything.

My two weeks as a newbie on the dating site OkCupid have come and gone. Lots of looks at my profile, a few messages and a prolonged never-going-anywhere date an island away.

Still single.

The profile looks and messages have dried up. I’ve already been too long on the scene. There are newer men to ogle. I’m just another of the hangers on, sticking around, creepily lurking after closing time.

But there aren’t any newer guys. I’ve checked. Same potential matches. Nothing—no one—stands out. I guess I am lying in wait, along with all the other sad-sacks.

And then it comes. A new photo. Dashing man. Looks terrific in all four photos. Demonstrates a great fashion sense. I read his profile. Noble profession. Extraordinarily thoughtful responses. He stands out.

Okay, he lives in Seattle and that’s four hours away (at least) when I factor in ferry times and the border wait. But I am intrigued.

Too far. Intrigued. Too far. Really intrigued.

I message him. Must act fast. It’s 10 p.m., prime feeding time for the lonely-hearted online. And it’s like the lottery:  you never know.

I sign in again early the next morning. My profile has had one visitor, one message.

It’s never the guy you want. Maybe a twenty-two-year-old from a foreign country, a scam profile that will eventually lead to a request to wire a few thousand dollars. Maybe a man a generation older than me, in “average” shape, if average means fifty pounds overweight. (That’s fine, really. Just not a dating match for me.) Maybe a guy with a photo from the ‘80s. The acid-washed jeans and Steve Perry hair are a dead giveaway.

But this time it’s Seattle Man. That Seattle man. He visited my profile. And, yes, he sent a message in reply.

I click to open it.

Thank you so much for taking the time to write me. I don't come on here often and should really take the profile down. I'm in a bit of life transition right now and might/hopefully be moving soon. Third job interview coming up in a couple of weeks. I don't have the capacity for romantic yearnings right now. I'm honored that a many like yourself found interest in me. There is hope!

I wish you love and joy. You sound like a lovely person.

Peace

It’s the loveliest of kiss-offs. But still it’s a kiss-off. Without the slightest of lip action. Drat.

Drat, drat, drat.

And then another message follows:

Okay, I decided. I'm taking the profile down for now.

You've provided the most thoughtful response of anyone on here.

Peace

Oh, he’s lovely, isn’t he?

But that gets me nowhere. Still single. Still no excuse to be Sleepless in Seattle.

There’s an amused, yet negative inner voice that says, Look what you did. You chased him away. Now no one can have him. Man, you’ve got power.

Ah, but I am still smiling. Job interview. A possible move. Other things on the mind. Bad timing again. That’s how it goes. I continue to wait for my charming How We Met to come to fruition.  

I have to believe that, eventually, I’ll get the timing right. Come on, kismet. You’re needed. Stop dragging your feet.

Please?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

AFTER YOU

Maybe it was inevitable.

Who you follow matters. Don’t schedule Bob Dylan to sing after Mariah Carey. Don’t allow Paul Rudd to be a presenter after Brad Pitt. Don’t let, well, anyone dance after Alex Freaking Wong. (Google the guy. Start typing Alex Frea- and the search engine completes your thought. He’s earned that middle name.)

Some acts are too hard to follow.

After the promising first dates with Tim, the next first date was destined to disappoint. I don’t mean to compare. And, no, I don’t pine for Tim. (When a guy says he’s not attracted to you, be it the truth or not, it’s so much easier to move on—from the guy, if not the damaging statement.) What does linger is a sense of true connection that can come when two people meet. Something beyond strained pleasantries and the exchange of biological factoids.

I should be glad that Griffin filled the unenviable deli counter role: Next!

Griffin was never going to be the one. Sadly, I knew it as soon as I stepped out of the café’s bathroom—a pre-date last minute check to ensure I had no foreign substances stuck between my teeth. Yes, he resembled his photos,…to a degree. But degrees matter. I felt no attraction. I ordered a latté instead of a regular coffee to delay joining him at the table he’d staked out. I needed to shift gears from hopeful to hospitable. Griffin is a painter and, if nothing else, we could have a good chat about pursuing a passion in the arts. That would be satisfactory.

Of course, I can be too hospitable. Coffee turned to dinner followed by a visit at his place. No, not for that. (It feels like I’ll never experience that again. Sigh. The more time that passes, the more pressure there seems to be.) We went back to his place to see his art and his dog. At least, those were my reasons. He may have expected something else. Maybe that. (How would I know anyway?)

I should have ended the meet and greet when we were looking at dinner menus and he said, “Not to sound racist, but—“ I mean, really. Anything anyone says after that is going to be blatantly racist. A qualifier does not absolve the speaker of saying something racist. And, yes, he did. Something to do with too many Asians in Vancouver as a reason he’d never move there.

So there I was,…hospitable and lacking a backbone.

In the end, we spent three and a half hours together. He’d said, “So what do you want to do now?” Finally—yes, FINALLY!—I found my voice and replied, “I want to go.”  And I’d known the ending after three and a half seconds.

I suppose I should work on my exits.

But at least The Date After is done. I am reminded of what a bad first date is like. I have a buffer between that promising start from June and the search for tomorrow. I can start from scratch once again.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

BUILDING A WEEKEND



I have a date. In Victoria. That’s not very practical. It’s a two-ferry trip plus a fair amount of driving. So is a coffee with a guy I don’t know worth it?

Who knows?

True enough, the coffee date was the beginning point. But the stakes are too high when you go through all that bother for a single purpose. How good can the latté be? The date is part of my new Go for It attitude. Just do things. If it gets to the point of working out the details, so be it. If not, so what?

I am always looking for an excuse to explore Vancouver Island and, especially, Victoria. Victoria and I have a love affair of sorts that is just waiting for the right circumstances to bloom into something bigger. I took the dating opportunity and made it something bigger. Time for another weekend in Victoria!

I am making it a grander experience this time around. Forget that ferry madness. I am taking a float plane to Nanaimo, then renting a car and driving south to the city. Given that I have a decades-old fear of flying, hopping in a teeny tiny aircraft is sheer craziness. But I’m doing it. And, at this point, a few minutes before takeoff, I am more excited than nervous. Adventure!

Who is this guy who has taken over my body?

I’ve Googled bakeries and ice cream shops to sample on the drive down and in Victoria. I plan to stop at my favourite furniture store on the highway. (I don’t need anything, but a browse seems safe. I don’t think they can fit in a sofa on the return flight.) I have a favorite running route along the water that I look forward to doing Sunday morning. And then there’s a café I discovered during my last visit that will be my breakfast stop. Pan-fried oatmeal with lemon curd and blueberries. Amazing! My backpack has some choice reads along with my beloved laptop. It’s going to be a glorious weekend!

So much more than coffee with a stranger. I’m ready to soar!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

MR. MESSY

I don't fit the gay stereotype, but at least the color is right.
Let’s start with the logical solution:  I’ll pay for the maid.

Maybe the only discussion is weekly versus live-in.

 
My mother used to warn me that my habits would destroy a relationship. “Your wife will never stand for this! She’ll blame me and all I’ll say is ‘I tried.’”

Of course, my mom was dead wrong. I’d never have a wife.

But admittedly my messes did create strain on my relationship with my ex. We lived together for five and a half years. Somehow I thought it might be romantic if we cleaned together. At the very least, misery loves company. But I, a lifelong challenged cleaner, had to do it all. “I have dust allergies,” he’d say. Oh, if only that’s all he had.

Match Mr. Messy with a guy with OCD. We were doomed. He’d do laundry. Once, often twice a day. And that was just for our very own towel service. Towels were only used once. After a shower, he dried off with one clean towel for the upper body, one for the lower. I had to do the same. After work, he took another shower. Couldn’t let outside clothes make contact with the inside. Toss them in the washer. Along with another round of towels. Again, I had to do the same.

I am certain he loved the washing machine more than he loved me.

He’d supervise how I cleaned. “Aren’t you standing too close?” I’d say. “I’m sure I’m stirring up dust.”

But he’d keep me on task with “What kind of person doesn’t wipe down all the tomato splatter after cooking?”

“A hungry one,” I’d mutter. If only I could discuss such things with, oh, say, a wife. Surely that would be easier.

I don’t think I’ll ever get that close to a certifiable neatnik like that again. I’ll watch for the warning signs and run the first time a guy fits “antibacterial” into the conversation during a romantic evening walk.

But I got to thinking again about how much of an issue my bad habits will be with Mr. Hypothetical. I’ve joined a new dating website—time to bang my head against a different wall!—and it purports to create matches based on comparing responses to a series of questions.

“Are you messy?”

Yikes. I skipped it. The stereotype is that gay men are neat. Maybe even fussy. My answer might eliminate every potential candidate on the planet. Much too revealing. Far more so than my religious beliefs, my political views or whether I’m a top or bottom. Some things he’ll just have to find out much later. After I’ve hooked him, made him cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs and all that.

I am Pig Pen with better hygiene. I generate debris. I don’t see it happening. I usually don’t see it when I re-enter the room. I have to trip over it. But even then I don’t act. I’m too busy nursing my wounded big toe.

I need to have guests over more. It’s only as I anticipate their arrival that I see the catastrophe all around me. In every room. At eye level, foot level and every other possible level.

Maybe we can just have a nice long chat in the driveway. After I sweep it. And power wash it. And mow the lawn and tame the hedges.

Let’s just meet at Starbucks. My treat!

Yeah. It’s a problem. It’s been my New Year’s resolution every single year since I was ten. I still have time to work on it, as long as Mr. Hypothetical remains just that. Maybe I should try out my vacuum again—it’s in the house somewhere—instead of answering more of that endless list of questions for my dating profile. I’ll get started tonight. As soon as I get home. Skip that extra shower. Keep the outside clothes on. I have more glaring issues in that overwhelming realm of cleanliness.

If not tonight, tomorrow. Or next week. What’s the rush, really?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

LEAGUE SUSPENSION

I think you’re out of my league.

Well, here’s a role reversal. A guy online thinking he’s not good enough for me.

My response: “Silly man. That whole ‘league’ thing is a dating myth.”

Even if there are leagues, I quit. I don’t need that kind of organization. None of us do. There is no caste system in gay dating.

Just be.

Chat. Meet. See for yourself.

That’s always made perfect sense to me, especially when someone else initiates the league talk. In this moment, I am living it. No fear. Put things out there, see what happens. Or doesn’t.

Gotta try. Gotta live.

It’s intimidating communicating with you. You’re a Greek god and so well-rounded. I’m just me.

Oh, I know that negative self-talk--lifting someone up while assuming one's place in quicksand. Who is he talking about anyway? Maybe he’s mixing up the online profiles. Silly man, indeed.

I’m tired of talking myself out of possibilities. Sure, Doubt still festers within me, but I’ve been catching him and cutting him off. It’s working so far. No doubt, he thinks I will lose my resolve. He’ll have my ear again and he’ll unleash all he’s been storing up. And another thing…!

But if I cling to profanity, I can hold him off. “Fuck it” sounds crass but it’s working for me. Doubt and Hesitation don’t know how to respond. As they take time to regroup, I move on. Let’s see who prevails after the next bad coffee date.

But I’m not anticipating a bad date. I plan to meet that silly man, referred to above. I’m confident that I will make my best possible impression. And I hope he’ll be ready to do the same.

No more league, no more rules. Time to navigate a wholly original course.

Ready.

Set.

Go.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

MY PRISON FANTASY

Until three weeks ago, I did not have a prison fantasy. I can’t get past the idea of an open toilet in a cell. There’s nothing sexual about that. Not for me, at least. I hold onto my soap. Tightly.

But then on one of my flights in August, I came across an airline magazine article about swim vacations. Not the bake-by-the-pool-and-drink-bottomless-margaritas sort. Can’t do that. I get antsy. And I burn. Sitting by the pool is not swimming. Neither is taking a quick dip—don’t mess the hair!—and reapplying baby oil. No, this article featured ocean swim tours. And, suddenly from 30,000 feet in the sky, I wanted to take the plunge. Well, in due time.

Alcatraz offers the prison element. There are monthly swims from Alcatraz to shore. 1.25 miles. Piece of cake, I thought. My regular swim exceeds that at 3K and I’ve been swimming 4-5K all summer. This is the kind of unique travel adventure that I must do. We don’t actually tour the prison, we might not even touch foot on the island. I think we just jump out of a boat and make our getaway. Good enough. I want to say, “I escaped from Alcatraz.” Yeah, I’d throw away thirty bucks on the silly t-shirt, maybe buy a license plate frame with that phrase just to put the Mounties on alert. (I may have a police officer fantasy. Oh, who am I kidding? My big fantasy involves the pizza boy. He delivers the pizza and leaves. I don’t like sharing. Not even the crust.)

The next Alcatraz swim is in two weeks. Just do it, my mind says. Otherwise, it may never happen. My brain knows how sidetracked I get. (E.g., See above paragraph.) And so, to increase the likelihood of going, I mentioned the idea to a colleague of mine, Nora.

Everyone needs a Nora. She’s a sixty-year-old go-getter. Mention something and she’ll see that it is done. “You must go!” she enthused. And that’s when I found myself backtracking. I’ve never done an ocean swim. Sure, a little body surfing in Malibu, but I stopped that after getting all that sand in my shorts. And I have a fear of sharks. I’ve never seen a certain movie. Just knowing it’s out there is enough. Forget the “no sharks in these waters” reassurances. Great white sharks can wander off course, can’t they? Heck, it’s not just sharks. I’m afraid of seaweed. That kelp can wrap around you and drown you, right?  Maybe I’m not an ocean swimmer at all. And didn’t a lot of people die trying to escape from Alcatraz?!

“I’m outrigging Saturday morning,” Nora said. “You come. We’ll paddle out and then you jump out and swim. We’ll be your escort. How long you want to be in the water?”

Uh, well, umm…

Nora was already texting her paddle mates. Done.

I tossed and turned the night before. (Incidentally, I sleep in freestyle formation, on my stomach, arms and legs shifting from side to side, stroke to stroke. Guess I was a born swimmer.) I was so excited about the inaugural ocean swim. But also worried. What if I freaked out? What if I’d overdone my Friday night exercise? (The 24K bike ride got cut in half when I turned around and the tires gave out. I’d had to hide the bicycle in the blackberry bushes, jog home and retrieve it with my car. So much for fresh legs.) If there weren’t any sharks, what about crocodiles? Piranhas? And that seaweed?!

The outrigging voyage was wonderful. This is enough, right? It’s unseasonably chilly. Why not stay in the boat? But I knew Nora would have told other colleagues what we were doing. Expectations were set. And no one would accept a bunch of gibberish about restless sleeps and piranhas.




Once we cleared the point of the nearest island, Nora, Inga and Diana stopped paddling. “Jump in.”

“Is this it?” Aloud, it sounded innocuous, but in my head it came off as ominous. Is this IT?

No answer. The only satisfactory response had to come through action. I took the plunge.

Wow. While the water had felt fine—even warm—each time I’d dipped my hand in while paddling, it proved far colder as a full-body experience. I’d thought I’d immediately start swimming, but my body was startled, if not shocked. I waded around, wondering if I should say, “I made a mistake.”

But they stared at me. Three hardy women, each with that look of anticipation and expectation. It was a good kind of pressure. What I needed. I swam under the boat, readjusted my goggles and swam. And swam. And swam. No freaky, prehistoric creatures approached my face. No sharks. No crocs or piranhas. No seaweed. Just one piece of flotsam, a teensy piece of bark.

The outrigger escort proved essential. Due to the currents, I apparently kept swimming out to sea. The boat presented a visual block to right my course. We reached the turn-around for my 1.5 mile swim in twenty-three minutes. But then Diana decided to jump out and take a dip. Apparently, she does this at least once every month of the year. Silly woman.

I had to wait.

I’m not good at stopping during any kind of workout. It throws my rhythm. It makes me think I’m done. And I don’t like the idea of my toes dangling in one place as fish food. “Your lips are blue,” Inga said. “Really blue.” I’d suspected as much. I was shivering, too. I grew colder waiting.

Finally, I spoke up. Must swim now. Too cold to wait. They summoned Diana back in the outrigger and I resumed the swim. I only got in another fifteen minutes, but due to the change in the current, I covered more distance. (Huge difference!) I stopped and, swallowing my pride along with a mouthful of salt water, declared an end to the day’s swim. I am no Diana Nyad.

The ocean swim was exhilarating, yet humbling. No fatigue, no cramps, just menacing chills. I raced home for a hot shower and a full pot of coffee. Once recovered, I wondered if open water swimming was for more foolhardy folks. Why did I need a prison fantasy anyway? Couldn’t I just order a pizza?

But I am undeterred. I must make my jailbreak. Today, I headed to Vancouver and bought a wetsuit. It looks like I may just do this.

Alcatraz awaits.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

MEANT TO BE

One final post-dump post. But this one isn’t about Tim at all. It’s bigger than that. And it’s all me.

When dating starts out so promising, it’s hard to contain the exhilaration. It’s that shout-from-the-rooftops feeling. Only if I climbed the ladder, I just know I’d slip and break my leg. And hobbling around on crutches again would have quickly lost its endearing quality. Even with a compassionate hot guy. So I stayed on the ground. I didn’t even strain my vocal cords. But I told people.

“It’s good,” I’d say. “Really good.” My face would redden. I’d beam while looking at the ground. (I can be Bashful even amongst friends. I’m not used to openly gushing.)

The closer friends know about April. That’s what we call it now. It’s so much softer than My Hospitalization or When I Was Suicidal. Yep, “April”. Showers, indeed. There was a direct chain of events from “April” to dating Tim. Immediately after being released from St. Paul’s, I went to the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library. And there I ran into my first Vancouver friend whom I met twenty-two years ago on my first visit to the city. We hadn’t had a falling out, but our lives hadn’t intersected much in the last decade. He asked the standard, “How are you?” and I skipped the “Fine.” I gave him the real answer. I’d been through hell. F*#k the façade.

We connected and reconnected over the next two months before he headed out to spend the next year seeing the world. We commiserated on being single and old(er). (He’s hitting sixty, me fifty.) I showed him Tim’s profile and mentioned wanting to send a message. “Do it. He’s single, too. I see him wandering around the West End on his own all the time.” I shook my head. Too risky. “Stop stopping yourself. F*#k that.”

Profanity has its place. And so I f*#cked that. Message sent. Cue exhilaration.

From “April” to Tim. So good to feel again. And not just anything—joy. Astonishing.

My friends gathered up their pompoms. “Wow! It’s meant to be!”

True enough. At the time, I was thinking—they were thinking—true love. A Destiny sort of thing.

But we know how that turned out. Meant to be turned out to be bigger than Tim. It was all about me. I am meant to be. And I didn’t feel an ounce of that back in April. I was done. I was desperately trying to hang on, trying to buy some time to find something. Anything.

Tim?

Nope.

I needed that temporary glee. It affirmed there were positive things out there. It filled that tenuous period between April and L.A. I always knew if I could last until Los Angeles (aka “July”), I’d be all right. At least for the summer. I’m not at the point where I can look too far ahead.

I reached out to friends. I had things to share—and not all doom and gloom. We smiled, we laughed. I thought I’d lost that mindset. The glee helped me bulldoze through the darkness. I allowed positive thought. And not just with safe, familiar long-established friends. I was a magnet of sorts in Los Angeles. People I’d just met wanted to hang with me. Again and again. They said, “You’re such a sweet man.” Again and again. I’d stopped containing myself. F*#k that.

Even the dumping seems to have been necessary. Once I’d pulled myself through, I needed a big test. Was it all just Tim? Would I crash? Would “April” return? That was certainly the fear. It reflected back to me in friends’ faces and in family emails. I wallowed, sure, but it was the garden variety going-to-the-garden-to-eat-worms sort. When someone you really really like rejects you, it stings. But it never got darker. And that is empowering. I felt it this week as I went for my counselling session—a remnant from April. I felt strong. I tried not to beam. (My employer-covered sessions are about to end again and I need more in order to work through some bigger issues. That only happens if my psychologist makes a case for an acute need. Goofy smiles and epiphanies negate the acuteness.)

We were not meant to be. Okay. Got it.

I am meant to be. For the next while, at least. Still can’t look too far ahead. That is as good as it gets—and far better than I’d have imagined.