Sunday, December 21, 2014

SEARCHING FOR ANYTHING

NOTE: This is a follow-up Post-Date blog entry after I'd put up a Pre-Date entry earlier in the day.

Not Naughty. Not even close.

Just wrapped my second date with Wade, one that followed a six-week break from the first and, well, if it didn’t fizzle, it didn’t crackle either.

People have insinuated that, since I’ve been single for a decade, I must be too picky. That comment heckles me as I feel a date going absolutely nowhere. And in response, I prod myself. Give him a chance. Tim Gunn even makes a cameo appearance in my head: Make it work.

And so, despite having a sense five minutes in that this would be a flat date, I gave him four hours of chances. The conversation remained polite the entire time. To be sure, Wade is handsome, fit and intelligent. But there just wasn’t a connection. As much as we talked, it never seemed like we found common ground, building on each other’s thoughts. Neither of us playfully touched the other’s arm and I felt no urge to hug him or kiss him. Not once did either one of us laugh.

It could be that he’s too formal. And it could also be that so am I. But I’d felt a breakthrough on a recent date when I’d reached across the table and touched the guy’s arm. I could have done the same at dinner tonight. The thought crossed my mind, but the desire wasn’t there.

At the end of the date, Wade stated that he was interested in seeing me again. He wanted to see how things might evolve. “We’re both adults though,” he said. “If either of us isn’t feeling it, we should be able to say it or take it.” That’s the familiar out that we give the other person in the early stages. I’ve said the same thing. Here’s your opening to run for your life.

And I failed to speak up. Maybe another chance. Maybe he’s even more reserved than I am. Maybe there is a fun person in there somewhere.

For this date, I’d done something I’d never done before. I stuffed a toothbrush and deodorant in my backpack. Just in case. But, alas. It ended with a hug and a quick lip peck. Physically, there was no chance it could have been anything more.

At least I can have fresh breath and spinach-free teeth for the ferry ride home. For tonight, that’s as good as it gets.

A SECOND FIRST?

It’s almost over. The holidays. At least the Christmas end of it. I’m blocking out the whole “What are you doing for New Year’s” thing. Need to break the holidays down into manageable chunks.

I’m on the ferry, heading in for another coffee date. A rare second date! (Maybe Bigfoot exists, too. And Santa.) This midday Sunday sailing is full, loaded with people coming and going from visits with the relatives. No doubt, there are more than a few last-minute shoppers, too. I never know how I am going to respond inside to being immersed as a spectator in social hoopla. For now, it is fine. The date helps. I have a purpose. We’ll see how I handle the return trip if it turns out to be a fizzler.

The first date happened sometime around a different holiday: Halloween. Our schedules just haven’t meshed since then. Consider that a bad sign—not meant to be—or think of it as a good sign: persistence against all odds. I’m not viewing it as any sign at all. I am more concerned that I don’t remember an awful lot from our previous coffee encounter, a pleasant exchange at a cafĂ© outlet just outside Vancouver’s central library branch. I’d spent the afternoon researching and writing for a current project. I don’t remember much about that either. So, technically, it is a second date but it feels like a first all over again.

What does he look like again?

I knew at the end of our first meeting that he’d wanted to meet again. I was game, too. But there is no momentum. He’d initially suggested a day of skiing which I kiboshed. I don’t know him well enough to embarrass myself on such a grand scale. And a full day on the hills seemed like a big step for a first-ish second date. So it’s coffee to go and an exploration on foot of Vancouver’s West End until things naturally play themselves out. Smaller steps. I just hope I’m not left with half a cup of still-hot coffee when we bid adieu!

The ferry buzz has quieted down. Not as many teens loudly chatting—Notice me!—as they do laps around the boat’s interior. No children running around playing tag as their parents play Let’s Pretend They’re Not Ours. The biggest distraction is a grandma sitting across the aisle from me. She is playing some sort of game on her phone and she’s got the volume at max. DING! DING! I feel like a Skinner rat or a Pavlovian dog. Where’s my treat?

Maybe it will come on the date. There’s still time to add me to the Naughty list. It’s as much as I can wish for this Christmas.

 

Friday, December 19, 2014

SURVIVING CHRISTMAS

“What are you doing for Christmas?” Oh, how I hate the question. No matter the answer, I evoke pity. Most are skilled enough to keep a poker face. Maybe they weren’t even listening. The question can be a seasonal variant to “How are you?” It’s a formality. Perhaps I should answer with, “It sure feels cold out today.” They’ll hardly notice. If that turns out to be the case, I may push things further, the next response coming in the form of a deflection question: “Who do you like better, Grover or the Cookie Monster? (Personally, it’s almost too close to call, but I have to give Grover the edge.)

We’re off topic now, aren’t we? If only I could do that in real life. Unfortunately, I tend to answer honestly. Call it a character flaw. The most succinct response I’ve used is “Nothing. How about you?” The person is then only too relieved to have the opportunity to fill the awkward moment with as long a ramble as possible about Aunt Claire flying in from Edmonton, a new plum pudding recipe that calls for double the liquor and some sort of snorkel exchange on a dock that’s a five-mile trek through a swamp and up a mountain. Or down a crevasse. It’s my turn to tune out.

I used to adore Christmas. In fact, there was a time I wanted to make Christmas my life. As a youngster, I knew there was no more noble purpose than making toys for kids. Yes, I decided I’d become an elf. Seriously. (This was the start of my lifelong path of career confusion.) The plan was to stay awake on Christmas Eve and wait until my parents turned off the living room lights. Then I’d sneak out of bed, curl up by the fireplace and wait for Big Red. “Take me with you, Santa. I’m ready to serve.” Sadly, back then I wasn’t the light sleeper I am now. To this day, I look back and wonder what could have been. I’d have been happy at The Pole. Hermey the dentist and I would have fallen in love. We’d have brought marriage equality to the Far North.

But, alas, Christmas lost its luster. My last memorable Yuletide was in 1998 when my grandfather and I agreed to meet at my parents’ place in Texas. He flew from Ottawa while I made the trip from Vancouver. As he was an avid sports fan whose bald head showed an increasing number of scars from skin cancer treatments, I bought him a whole series of baseball caps representing his favorite teams. He gamely “modeled” each one as I snapped pictures of his own fashion show. It turned out to be his last Christmas.

The talk about a “merry” Christmas can feel overwhelming. Suffocating. It’s the expectation. Feel it or fake it. (That’s what egg nog is for. And that double-liquored plum pudding.) But I’m authentic. Call it another character flaw. I don’t feel it, I don’t fake it. This has been the darkest year of my life and a batch of shortbread is not the cure.

A couple of weeks ago, I got the notion to put on my own Christmas celebration. It took me two days to put up a single string of lights along the front of the house and then the Yule yearning faded. In the ‘90s, I built up a nice collection of treasured ornaments for the tree. They’ve remained boxed up at least since 2007. Unfortunately, all the trees disappeared at my supermarket after the weekend and I balked at spending seventy bucks at the local nursery. For just me? Not worth it. There was a time when I’d sent out eighty holiday cards for Hanukkah and Christmas. This year I’ve written two. Now if I can only get myself to slap a couple of stamps on them. Instead of feeling merrier, I feel worse. From eighty to two. It’s a starkly representative piece of evidence of how my life took a wrong turn and still hasn't gotten back on course.

My parents invited me to Texas. This time, it wasn’t a last-minute gesture. For the first time, my aunt and uncle invited me to Ontario as well. These things happen after you’ve had a stint of being committed. The relative feel a twinge of guilt and morbidity. This could be his last. I don’t want to go to Texas and fake merry alongside my homophobic brother and sister-in-law. And because, I’ve turned down that invite, I cannot go to Ontario. Family politics. A friend in Vancouver is going with his curling buddies to a Christmas Day buffet at a casino. I think that would only make me more depressed.

The reality is I’m not going anywhere. And the house is chillingly empty. This is the first time in fifteen years that I don’t have a schnauzer to keep me company. It’s down to surviving Christmas. There are those who gleefully make it a six-week spectacle. For me, I have to do everything I can to make it just a day. Come Boxing Day, things will be better again. I’ll get a temporary boost dropping a few hundred dollars at a conservatively hip clothing store in the stodgy Kerrisdale area of Vancouver. I’ll order the Challah French Toast at my favorite Jewish bakery and see if my casino friend feels like a walk to work off the two trips too many at the buffet. I’ll yank down that strand of lights and get back to trying to navigate the ordinary days. At this point, that’s plenty for me.

And so there it is. This season, I’m counting the days to Boxing Day.

 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

THE SPACE BETWEEN

If there’s been a theme in my befuddled dating life this year, it’s been that distance does not make the heart grow fonder. Not in the early stages, at least. And if there’s been a theme for the past decade it’s been that it’s always early stages.

I do hear of couples retelling their “When Harry Met Sally” beginnings who speak of first dates that never ended. “He invited me up and, basically, I never went home.” Lovely. That’s just not me. Guys don’t invite me up on the first date. I seem to convey a solid sense of fuddy-duddy-ness. And generally I’m okay with that. An awkward, yet affectionate wave is endearing. A warm hug even, well, warmer. Add to that quick peck and it is all the more alluring—even if, in that startled moment, our lips are askew. Lip to upper chin. That’s as on target as I get in that nervous overture.

When that first date ends with that gawky promise of what’s to come, it is exciting to think about just that. Something to come.

If only.

And that’s where my rural nest becomes all the more the curse. I am certain I have had many decent dates, particularly this year. (I can easily distinguish these from the dead ends. “Keep in touch,” for example, means “Let’s pretend this never happened.” That’s when you walk away and do whatever it takes to salvage the day. Start with ice cream.) Often the promise is punctuated with a thoughtful text—“Did you make your ferry?” Yes, sometimes that blasted boat isn’t such an omen; instead, it provides an excuse for a clear sign—let’s keep the conversation going.

But then there’s the prolonged pause, the buzz killer. If I lived nearby, a second date might come in a few days, a week later at most. We’ve passed the coffee test. The logical next step is dinner. But that gets glitchy. There’s no chance for a leisurely meal and a conversation that flows with the wine amidst a candlelit ambience. If I go to Vancouver, I have to head back to the ferry terminal by 8:15 to catch the last ferry. If it’s dinner, it’s a rushed affair that artificially ends too soon. There’s always lunch. No wine, no candles, no sexual tension.

There just isn’t such an eagerness to schedule lunch. It’s the throwaway meal of the day. Meaningless. There’s a reason “Let’s do lunch” became the equivalent to “See you around.”  No intention whatsoever.

There is no spontaneity in setting up that second date. Weekdays are out. And weekends can get crammed with obligations and social routines—not mine, theirs. It becomes an effort to schedule the follow-up. There’s no natural flow of yearning making things fall into place. For various reasons, a week becomes two, then three. In the meantime, other online prospects wedge their way in. The chance for seconds passes.

I can make a good impression; just not that good of a first impression. I’m not a love-at-first-sight beacon. My exes would attest to that. It takes time for me to shift from polite and reserved to funny, affectionate and open. I’m working on it, but it doesn’t help to have added pressure on a first date. Good isn’t good enough.

Currently, I’ve got a couple of decent first dates that haven’t been completely snuffed out. But as time ticks by, it feels like an uneventful fade-out will be the logical conclusion. I’ve traveled on weekends and so have they. Two weeks now approaches three. Opportunity mocks. Despite a good start with Saul, I expect nothing more to come of it. The occasional message becomes more detached. I’m not as interested and, no doubt, neither is he.

There is one persistent fellow: Wade. Date Number 1 was six weeks ago, maybe longer. We couldn’t fit in a second date before he left for a trip to Lebanon and Israel. Since he’s been back, I spent a weekend in Seattle and he spent the next in Victoria. Let it go, my inner voice says. But he keeps texting. And it looks like we’re on for next Sunday. Maybe. Unless something else gets in the way.

It’s a hell of a long way between first and second.  

Saturday, December 6, 2014

THE HANGOVER HANGOVER

              He looked this good. And this bad.
Don’t get down. Don’t get down.

That’s what I told myself five minutes after my date with Gerry ended. The whole date, I’d looked for a spark but there was absolutely nothing behind those amazing blue eyes. And, really, I knew from the moment we introduced ourselves.

He had that look. Disappointment. From then on, it was simply an exercise in polite conversation. But even that seemed like a stretch. Within the first three minutes, he’d mentioned having a hard week at work, topped off by staying out until 3 a.m. with friends last night. “I had a massage this morning,” he said. “That just makes me sleepier.” Maybe it wasn’t That Look. Maybe he couldn’t engage at all. He added, “I’m a little hung over.”

Yes, this is not a reason to get down. Dud dates happen.

But as he droned on in a deep, monotone voice about his five years in Russia—how did he make that sound boring?—I couldn’t repress the self-criticism. You drove to Seattle for this?!

After an hour ticked by—during which he checked his phone three times—he hugged me goodbye and said, “I’ve got to go have a nap.” Clearly, I did nothing to stir him. It shouldn’t warrant more than a shrug. Never. Meant. To. Be.

Every date is a gamble. And it’s getting to the point where lottery tickets seem more hopeful. But a lottery ticket costs a couple bucks. This date, with travel time and two nights’ hotel,…well, I am here to enjoy other things. It’s fortunate that the date was early Saturday afternoon. Over and done. Plenty of time to salvage the weekend.

And I’ll do just that. Don’t get down. I was supposed to meet an architect tomorrow but he bowed out Thursday night, sounding sincerely apologetic. “I really am not a flake,” he said. Clearly, he’s been in the game a while, too. Major work deadlines for Monday and Tuesday. No time for any weekend fun. Just as well. I’d like to be with a guy who has some balance in life.

I’d already decided I was done with looking across the border for other dates. The grass is not greener. But there’s always the shopping. My little Macy’s shopping spree proved to be a quick pick-me-up. A false high, for sure, but it doesn’t come with a hangover. I’d say that puts me one step ahead of dear Gerry.

Hardly a consolation.

Monday, December 1, 2014

CAUTION: COOKIE

Sometimes when you’re too excited about a fresh cookie, one that is still piping hot from the oven, you burn your tongue. One must exercise a little willpower. Let things cool.

The same goes for dates.

I had another very good first date. (This is becoming very familiar. Why aren’t they asking for seconds?!) Saul has only been in Vancouver four days, having just moved from Victoria. He messaged me on Plenty of Fish. He’s eight years older, but in his profile pics, he appeared fit, younger than his age and endearingly smiley. Yeah, yeah. Photos can be so deceptive. I decided to hop on a ferry and meet him in Gastown. I needed to take a bunch of photos of older Vancouver buildings to give me a feel for a historical piece I’m writing so I figured now would be a good time to do that groundwork and cross off another online possibility. And I set my favorite bakery as our meeting place so, even if the date fizzled, I’d still have a sweet aftertaste.

Saul walked in and looked as young and smiley in person as in his pics. Well, hurrah. At first, I wasn’t terribly invested in the conversation. He talked too fast, too long and with too much detail about technical things. (He had listed science as an interest on his profile. Not my forte at all.) I figured, okay, this will be a pleasant coffee and that will be the end of it.

But there was a geeky charm to him as he caught a breath and said, “I’m talking too fast, aren’t I? I had caffeine already. Normally I only drink decaf.” Blame it on the joe. He then opened up about already having a bad coffee date only hours earlier. It comes with being the New Kid in Town. Fresh cookies always draw that initial surge of salivating suitors. That date lasted ten minutes with the other guy declaring, “Everything you would ever want is right here in me. But you’re not making enough eye contact. You’re obviously not interested.” Exit tightly wound single guy.

Somehow the story made me warm to Saul. Most men don’t open up about a same-day date, particularly one that ends so badly.

I knew Saul was interested in me. Maybe any guy would look good after that morning date. Maybe Saul spent the time in between practicing his eye contact. But he also showed interest in the way he’d touch me as we talked—naturally leaning into me as he joked and holding my hands to see if they were cold from this sudden spell of winter weather.

When the bakery closed, I still wanted to take some more photos so he walked his bike and strolled with me as we sauntered along Hastings, the worst blocks in Canada. As we casually meandered through a mixed crowd of mentally ill/homeless/addicted people, I realized that this was neither a romantic walk nor a proper “Welcome to Vancouver” excursion. I should have taken us on a less direct route to Chinatown. But I’m not used to thinking about travel for more than one. Saul gamely acted nonchalant. Even better, he went on a political tangent about the rights of the least fortunate and the failings of the Harper government. “Please tell me you’re not Conservative,” he said. “I’d have to end it right here.” I’m not. But he wouldn’t have.

He was clearly freezing—visibly shivering—but he waited patiently as I snapped pictures of historical buildings that were on my list. As the skies darkened, we ambled along the seawall, heading back towards his place. “Can I make you dinner?” he asked. I politely declined. I’m too finicky an eater. Can’t divulge all my quirks on the first date. “Can we go out for dinner?” Sure. Persistence, when it’s the right guy, can be sexy.

All this time, we’d sat and walked side by side. Now at dinner we faced each other. And the connection seemed stronger. I reached my hand across the table and held his. “I like this,” I said. Simple, yet significant.

“Me, too.”

I had to walk fifteen minutes from the restaurant to catch a bus to make the last ferry home. “I’ll walk you there,” he insisted. “And it wouldn’t be so bad if you missed it.”

Maybe not. But the evening ended at the bus stop with several hugs and a quick kiss. Fresh cook out of the oven. I’ve got a tongue to protect. Everything feels comfortable and I hope a second date does happen. I’ve learned that there’s a vast unknown between first date and what may or may not come next. He is a fresh cookie and I still have a couple other first dates pending. It’s a promising beginning. We’ll see if there’s a next.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A HOUSE IS NOT A HOME

Got some unexpected inspiration at the gym yesterday evening. A vague notion swirled in my head but it became absolutely clear at some point after the owner switched the music from a heavy metal scream-all-the-lyrics soundtrack to a country song called “Drunk on a Plane”. Actually, I think it was mere seconds after some mill workers had to break a fight between two of the “ladies” who were vying for the same dumbbells.

I have to move.

Yes, I’ve had that notion many times before. Let me clarify. I HAVE TO MOVE!

It was bound to get to this point. Two days ago, I received an invitation to a child’s birthday party. It’s being held at a beer farm. (This is the first time I’ve ever felt compelled to rally for a Chuck E. Cheese’s.)

During my second session with Dr. 7, he mentioned that he has two other gay clients from my area—a two-hour trek to his office. Both feel a similar debilitating isolation, both sense that life is passing them by. I didn’t ask for names and, of course, due to patient privacy, he wouldn’t give them. I have no interest in commiserating with other sad-sacks. I just want to leave it all behind.

And so this weekend I’m grounding myself. No running away to saner settings for surface-level satisfaction. I’ve got to scrub, mop and thoroughly de-clutter. Time for my fourth attempt at selling the house. It has to happen this time. Or, well, I may have to spend thousands of dollars on a basement gym. And then get my helicopter pilot’s license. And a helicopter.

Whatever it takes to get me out of here.