Saturday, November 22, 2014

A NEW ERA OF NAME-CALLING

I always hated that Sticks and Stones saying. Names hurt. I’ve shaken off many as illogical: Carrot, Peepee Head, Fartface (What does that actually look like?!). I’ve shrugged off others with the merciful passage of time: Loser, Useless, Sissy. Others I’ve come to embrace: Brain, Faggot, Geek. For the most part, name-calling loses its sting as we weather the dents and dings of life.

But some names can still be jarring.

This week, I had two medical appointments on consecutive days. The first was my annual checkup with a skin cancer specialist. She went through my file and reminded me that my first melanoma was identified fifteen years ago. I remember how crushed I was to first hear my family doctor say that dreaded word on the phone: “cancer”. He sounded grave. I’d questioned the marking on my back two years prior and he’d dismissed any concern. It was only at my partner’s insistence that I went back and demanded another look. I had a series of surgeries and lesser cuttings over the next five years and I’ve kept Cancer at a healthy distance for the last decade. Most of the scars are on my back, out of sight. Fortunately, the streak is extended for the next year. No worries, no biopsies. Glad to keep Cancer at bay.

Yesterday, I had my first appointment with a gay psychiatrist, a referral that took six months to become something. Back in April, I spent nine days in psychiatric wards at St. Paul’s Hospital and, in some pathetic game of Patient Hot Potato, got passed along to five psychiatrists. After my release, I met with Number Six for a few utterly unhelpful twenty-minute sessions.

With the passage of time, I questioned whether I needed to even go through with this session. I’d reached out a little more. I’d stopped losing weight. I’d successfully avoided the darkest moments by keeping myself distracted. Mostly, I’d kept myself in a state of constant motion.

I practiced an adult form of running away—summer in L.A., trips to Ontario and San Francisco and repeated weekends in Seattle, Victoria and Whistler. In the past five months, I’ve stayed home three weekends. Even then, I could not spend much time at home; instead, I took off on a long hike, I biked 50K and I ran a half marathon—not as part of an organized event; just because.

As the appointment neared, I figured I’d just let Dr. Seven know I’m fine. Rough patch, that’s all. I’m active. I’m having fun. He’d give me a clean bill of health just like the skin cancer doctor. I’d celebrate with a double scoop waffle cone. And yet I started to get anxious. I didn’t handle the typical Sky Is Falling dramas at work with my characteristic calmness. While my sleep wasn’t any worse than usual, I was physically exhausted. I knew I wouldn’t be able Put on a Happy Face and fake him out.

The session proved to be brutal. For months, friends and family have marvelled at how well I am doing. At first, I continued to be open about my struggles, but they could not understand. It became all about them or it evolved into surface level attempts to get me to cheer up. I learned to tell them what they wanted to hear; it was easier than getting into an argument, going through another futile attempt to offer some education or experiencing another bizarre episode in which someone would “catch” me laughing, proof that I was fixed and I should snap out of it.

On the run, I’d managed to cover up my wounds. Out of sight, sometimes even out of mind. But it’s a dirty process in coming clean. Dr. Seven savagely poked and probed. I had to articulate what I felt—or, more accurately, didn’t feel. I had to explain myself. My carefully built wall shattered. He asked me if I received a diagnosis while in hospital. It sounds silly, but I didn’t recall anything. He stared quizzically with an air of impatience. By the end of our session, he declared I had all signs of MDD. He repeated MDD a half dozen times. Just so I wouldn’t forget. Couldn’t forget.

Major Depressive Disorder.

I tried to make light of things. “Is there such a thing as Minor Depressive Disorder?”

“Yes.”

“I guess that’s something to shoot for.”

Another quizzical stare.

And so I left with all the wounds scratched open and a fancy new label from the DSM-5 catalogue. It’s a condition, but it feels harsher than any name from my past. Those sticks and stones, those physical wounds, they have clear treatment protocols. The names, the mental situations, well, I’m not so sure. Apparently repression and distraction don’t solve much.

Sensing the appointment might not go so well, I frantically booked this weekend in Whistler. It’s still a lovely place, but I’m not feeling as soothed by the environment. Major Depressive Disorder. It’s a clunky name that weighs heavy.

It’s taken me aback. For the moment, I’ve become the label. Just like I shamefully identified as the loser, the farthead, the faggot so many years ago. Only this time the term doesn’t come from a bully or an agitated sibling. It comes from a professional. It’s not intended to taunt and yet I still feel just as defeated.

Major Depressive Disorder. I’m the same person I was twenty-four hours ago, but now I’ve been seared with a red-hot branding iron. Major Depressive Disorder. A new wound to go with the others. A new name to process.

Next week, I’m back with Dr. Seven. It’s a midday appointment, the only one available. I have to miss the whole day of work. But he was insistent. No delays. This name thing is serious business.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

SHAKING OFF THE FLAKES

It’s getting cold out there and apparently the forecast calls for flakes.

A good friend of mine in Vancouver asserts that gay men are flaky. I’d love to refute the claim, but it’s challenging, at least with regard to single gay men. He says it’s universal and retells a story of being in Prague and hearing a gay man on a rant about wanting to move from Transylvania. “Why?” his café companion asked.

“The gay men there. They’re all flakes.”

Gay friends in L.A. say the same thing. (Okay, some of my L.A. friends don’t say it; instead, they show clear signs of flakiness.) Same with my friend in Boise and a fellow my cousin connected me with in Ottawa.

If it’s not universal, it seems to be common enough.

Or maybe the reality is that single gay men become increasingly bitter and fail to recognize their own contribution to being chronically single, deflecting any accountability with a convenient everyone else is flaky shrug.

As for myself, I think I do a commendable job of pointing out my flaws. There are plenty of reasons for men to reject me. Even so, it does get bewildering how so many promising starts fizzle so fast. (Last weekend’s disappearing act by the guy in Seattle is the latest case in point.) The Flaky Hypothesis does seem to have some merit.

And I have to admit that it is somewhat satisfying—even vindicating—when a flake resurfaces, suddenly expressing renewed interest. In the past week, a couple of them have made their presence known. Both are guys with whom I had decent first dates. I expressed interest in another date with each of them. One shot me down—something along the “no chemistry” (aka no attraction) line of thought. The other sent me some flattering texts before he became a lovely but doomed assistant for a Houdini wannabe—vanished and never reappeared.

Michael started viewing my profile multiple times on Plenty of Fish and OkCupid. He upped his passive expression of interest on one site by starring my profile, which officially means “He Likes You.” On the other site, he clicked a “Yes” button for “Wants to Meet You.” I knew this meant one of two things: (A) I was so utterly forgettable that he fails to recall our first date from a few years ago; or (B) The fool has reconsidered after seeing a shirtless shot on my profile. When I failed to Like him back, he viewed my profile several more times before finally sending a message.

Turns out he does remember me…and my dogs..and my career…and where I live. So he doesn’t have a flaky memory. But to tell me he wasn’t interested and now change his mind? Forget it. Apparently I carry a grudge. Call it self-preservation. Call it dignity. I’ve sworn I don’t need to convince someone I’m worth it.

The second guy has been less assertive. He has just tried to Friend me on Facebook. This is a guy who was very sexy, very charming before and during our date a couple of years ago. I clearly remember the long, warm bear hug from when we said goodbye. I thought for sure there was a mutual attraction. He confirmed as much, texting about how kind, intelligent and sexy I was. And then absolutely nothing. A big tease? Maybe. A flake? Certainly. It’s easy for me to ignore Friend requests. I keep my Facebook group to family and friends with whom I go way back.

It seems I’ve weathered the flakes just fine. Now bring on the real winter weather. I’ve got my new ski outfit and I’m anxious to look forward instead of backward.

 

  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

FEELIN' STUPID


Feelin’ stupid. I followed up a decent date a few weeks ago in Seattle with a return trip to the city. The intention had been to connect with Evan and see where things go. Trouble is, they were already gone.

After our leisurely, perfectly comfortable first date in quirky Fremont, we exchanged a series of messages. Everything was fine, playful even. He told me to get some ski gear as he planned to head to Whistler for winter fun and I tried to arrange a time to see him back in Seattle. The prior weekend wouldn’t work but he said this would be a good one. Not wanting to be presumptuous, I booked a hotel and let him know I was coming.

Never heard from him again.

How does that saying go? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me eighty-seven times, give up. Yes, this kind of thing keeps happening. I keep getting a sense that a guy is interested and then—BAM!—he pulls a Lucy move and yanks away the football.

I am gay Charlie Brown. And it’s like every date is on Halloween. Treat? Hardly. “I got a rock.”

Feelin’ stupid and feelin’ sorry for myself. Hell, it’s not even that. Self-pity passed. Feelin’ frustrated. Feelin’ bewildered. Wish I’d just stop feelin’ altogether.

So what happened this time? Heck if I know.

As happens so often in my life, this is a moment when I think of Pee-wee Herman. (Yes, you know I’m messed up when Pee-wee is my mentor.) There is a scene in that cinematic classic, “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure”, when our beloved protagonist happily rides his bike and epically wipes out. Naturally, this is witnessed and it is potential fodder for Pee-wee to be relentlessly ridiculed. However, he gets up, wipes off his pants and boldly says, “I meant to do that.”

Great save.

And so I was faced with recovering from a similar, costlier fumble. (My two-night hotel reservation was non-refundable. Naturally.) I had two things in my favor. First, I love Seattle. Second, I have become habituated to traveling solo.

I more than made the most of it. As soon as I got to Seattle, I made a pit stop in Wallingford. I figured I deserved an ice cream treat and the honey lavender flavor at Molly Moon’s is my It-taste du fall. It was cold and dark by the time I checked in at the Marqueen, an historic hotel in Queen Anne—a new neighborhood to explore (which, yes, just so happened to be Evan’s neighborhood). But cold and dark are just fine when there is no rain in the Seattle forecast. I dumped my luggage in my room and set out on a two-hour walk. As seems to be so easy in this city, I stumbled on public art piece after public art piece. It became an invigorating self-guided walking tour. Great fun.

Come morning, I jogged a couple of times around Green Lake. It used to be that I ran out of obligation, no “happy” in these feet, filling the time by counting cars. Shockingly, morning jogs on weekends are becoming something I actually look forward to. (If I’d arrived half an hour earlier, I could have jogged with Seattle Frontrunners, but I genuinely wanted to do my own thing. Like I said, habituated.)

After the run, I finally got to see the Pop Art exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum, a destination I couldn’t slot in during my last two stays in the city. As I gazed at the museum’s lone painting by one of my favorite painters, Arshile Gorky, I actually jumped in excitement. Yes, full transformation to happy feet! I love art. Love love love it! Seeing works by Gorky, Pollock, Monet, Matisse, Pissarro, Lichtenstein and Warhol infused me with the culture that I so miss in my rural environs.

After that, I went for a writing session at the Seattle Public Library although I was admittedly distracted and awed by the funky architecture within. I remember lining up excitedly to go in when it first opened. The library remains just as vibrant. While I walked a couple of miles back to the hotel, I shopped for clothes and stopped in a used bookstore to pick up a copy of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City which I have been longing to reread. I’ll treasure the read all the more, remembering where and when I discovered this copy.

I dined at my favorite vegetarian restaurant, Café Flora, on Saturday night. As I walked in, the place was packed and there was an hour wait. Times like this, eating alone can be an unexpected pleasure without any of the self-consciousness. I passed all the parties of two and eight and sat right down at the bar, almost immediately sipping a glass of Pinot Grigio while perusing a menu in which every item was a dining possibility.

Before heading back today, I jogged along the waters at Centennial Park and then did the tourist thing, riding up to the top of the Space Needle for the first time in twenty-two years. I snapped away at all sorts of other public artworks before making my final stop, the unexpected highlight of the entire trip, at Chihuly Garden and Glass at the foot of the Needle at Seattle Center. I have never taken notice of glass art. Ho hum. Not my thing. But Dale Chihuly’s work is of such scale and splendor that I found myself gasping in complete awe each time I stepped into another exhibit area. I took hundreds of photos from every possible angle. Yes, I lay on the floor, looking straight up at some of the pieces that were suspended from above. Normally I wouldn’t have dared but I’d overcome the spectacle of traveling alone; why not conquer another domain? I am thrilled with the shots I got.

I left Seattle without any sense of despair. Evan schmevan. My weekend was exactly what I’d hoped it would be: amazing! To quote Pee-wee, “I meant to do that!” (The exclamation is all mine.)

Monday, November 17, 2014

TOP OF THE NOGGIN

Okay, I saved the hairiest issue for last. And, no, I’m not speaking of backs and what sprouts from the back of your shirt collar. I urge you to tame that, but I can’t devote an entire post to another gross-out area. I might scare off every reader with the accompanying Google Images. No, I’m writing today about what’s on top of the head—and, yes, what’s not.

I think we can all be too sensitive about this subject. Rogaine thrives on our insecurities and someone swindled a whole lot of men by hawking spray-can cover-ups. Fortunately, the shame over baldness has receded. Where once Yul Brynner was the only celebrity with a shiny noggin, we’ve now got smooth-shaven hunks like Tyrese Gibson, Patrick Stewart, Mr. Clean and my personal drool inducer, Taye Diggs. Baldness is hip. It’s cool. It’s downright studly.

Thank goodness. We no longer have to be subjected to men in toupees (although I find Dr. Oz’s “hair” incredibly distracting). My poor Great Uncle Frank was an impeccably stylish English gentleman, a perennial bachelor—yes, I suspect as much, but that was a different era. He prided himself in always looking dapper, but his hair failed him. While he had generous tufts above the ears and on the back of the head, there was nothing front and center. To cope, he stuck with the comb over, a style perhaps more egregious than the toupee. The poor man would arrive for a summer’s day at our family cottage, bestowing thoughtful gifts to all, reciting witticisms he had no doubt rehearsed on the drive from the city and then sitting on the deck to sip a scotch (or three). Unfortunately, he never conducted a mirror check and his hair stood up like a patchy Einstein imitation, the “hidden” spot naked to all. That’s what happens when you continue to drive a fancy convertible sports car into your eighties.

I love the fact that men in their early twenties choose to shave their heads—and not as an alternative to a pie in the face or kissing a pig after a charitable fundraising goal is met. But for many there remains some sensitivity over losing our hair when it’s completely beyond our control.

Well, maybe it’s just me. I grew up with terribly low self-esteem. I was geeky, gawky and greasy. Acne hit me hard. I attracted no one. But as I coated my face five times a day with Clearasil and Retin-A cream, I held on to the one physical feature that drew praise from my grandmother’s friends. Yes, they loved my hair. And as my face eventually cleared, a few other people noticed my curly locks, too. Best asset, only asset.

Since then—well, maybe for the past year or so—I feel better about my overall appearance, but my hair has always been my fall-back feature. So you can imagine how going bald would send me into a full-on freak-out fit.

At 50, my hair still seems to be fully accounted for. But three weeks ago, I began to panic. One day a week, I teach a class of six- and seven-year-olds. Children that age have no tact. They say and ask whatever is on their minds. Some of the answers I am forced to offer: “dark circles from lack of sleep”, “some people just have bigger noses” and “My knuckles have always been excessively wrinkly. I don’t know why.” It’s all so humbling. Perhaps this is why I considered going as a mummy for Halloween. (I opted for a yellow crayon instead, even if the color far from flattered my pasty complexion.)

But back to that horrid Monday three weeks ago. As the students bounced out of the classroom for recess, one little girl asked me to tie her shoes. I bent down and grabbed the laces and made a double bow. (Shoe tying is a too frequent demand on first grade teachers.) As I stood back up, the girl said, “Wait. You’ve got bubble gum in your hair.”

My face reddened. (It’s all the more noticeable against the backdrop of that naturally pasty complexion.) “No. I don’t have gum in my hair.”

But the girl looked concerned, even worried. “Yes. Yes, you do. It’s bubble gum”—and then her face contorted into a look of absolute disgust—“or something.”

Yes, it was something. And I had to disclose another flaw. “It’s a big pink mole. It’s harmless.”

“Oh,” she said, the look of disgust remaining and at risk of permanently freezing on her face should a sudden gust of wind whoosh through the classroom.

And then she bounced off. On to thinking about chasing the boys, being a puppy dog and/or finding the reddest leaf to take home to Mom. (When they’re not pointing out adults’ flaws, six-year-olds are truly precious.)

I, on the other hand, was shattered. I couldn’t go in the staffroom. This little girl had pointed out something that none of my friends or colleagues had dared to mention. At the top of my head, toward the back, entirely out of my view, my hideous pink mole was fully exposed. And the only way that was possible was if…I had a massive bald spot.

I got through the rest of the work day. I raced home and crawled into bed. But first I hand patted my entire head. Hair seemed to be in all the right places. Then I dared to feel the mole. Yes, it seemed bigger, squishier. Nonetheless, I couldn’t bring myself to hold up a hand mirror and try to position it so that the mole and the dreaded bald spot came into full view.

I wasn’t ready. I didn’t have a coping plan.

For the next two weeks I tried not to think about it. Indeed, at least five times an hour, I tried not to think about it. Alas, just like Lady Macbeth, I was obsessed with a damn’d spot. Fie!

I put off discovering the truth until I could be with an expert who could console me: Kathy, my hairstylist.

“Tell me the truth, Kathy,” I begged as I sat in the spinny therapy chair. With the New Age soundtrack and a cup of dandelion tea, I was in the right frame of mind. (The harpsichord is underappreciated.) “Do I have a bald spot?”

“Not at all.” This is a woman who knows how to earn a generous tip.

“Right here,” I pointed. “Where the mole is.” She’s always nicking that thing with her comb.

“Not at all.”

“Is the mole exposed?”

“Not at all.”

“It doesn’t look like bubble gum?”

“Not at all.” The equivalent of “no comment.” Yes, unlike six-year-olds, adults can be oh so tactful. And, in my case, conveniently gullible. I tipped Kathy well.

I’m taking Kathy’s word for it. I am back to being a functional member of society. Perhaps baldness remains at bay. I’m not going to investigate further until later this week when I see my skin cancer doctor. I’ve got time to devise my coping plan. Something beyond ice cream and a spray can. The specialist, after all, doesn’t work for tips. And maybe, while I’m there, I’ll get that bubble gum removed.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

SPLITTING HAIRS

Let’s continue on the subject of hair. When I wrote about my dislike of ear and nose hair, I feared I might offend someone. Shuddup, man. Ear hair is my best asset. But, no. The response on Twitter has been an expression of universal disgust regarding such growth (although one fellow alarmingly added that hairy feet are sexy).

The pressure is on, guys. Check your ears and nose as part of your daily grooming routine. (Dear god, you do have a grooming routine, don’t you?)

But let’s move on to body hair. (Easy, foot fetishists, I’m not going that low. Ever.) For this post, I’ll focus on the chest and abdominal area. Is a hairy chest sexy?

I don’t think most straight men give this any thought. Hairy. Smooth. Whatever. You are what you are. It’s one of those rare occasions when I’m envious of them. For gay men, there seem to be clear preferences. Not just preferences—I get the sense this is a polarizing, make-or-break subject.

My earliest memories of an other-world, one beyond my immediate family and friends, arise from the ‘70s. Based on my aunt’s People magazine subscription, it seemed clear that men with hairy chests had the clear sexy edge. The more hair, the more manly. Lee Majors. Robert Redford. Andy and Barry Gibb (but not Robin or Maurice). And somehow I knew about Burt Reynolds posing for Playgirl, lying there in all his hirsute glory. Hairy guys were hunky. Hairless men then were as appealing as hairless cats today—an acquired taste at best. Smoothies like Sean Cassidy and Leif Garrett were for Tiger Beat, for silly girls making the transition from hair- and genital-free Ken dolls.

Later, carrying the hairy banner into the ‘80s was Tom Selleck. But then something changed. It was probably long before Marky Mark, but I’m going to blame him anyway, posing in just his Calvins on glorious, accident-inducing billboards and dancing around in black and white videos that played in heavy rotation on MTV and in gay bars. Gay men lusted over Mr. Mark, all the while failing to notice my feeble cruising efforts. Even if there were predecessors, he made smooth chests—and redonkulously defined abs—the gay standard.

Suddenly, the Freddie Mercury look was très passé. (Miss you, man.) Smooth ruled. Greg Louganis. Antonio Sabato, Jr. Rob Lowe. Brad Pitt. Ricky Martin. Hairy men lost status. But they defiantly took on the name “bears” and, yes, they continue(d) to thrive as some sort of gay subculture.

I am naturally hairy. I get it from my father. Even pre-Marky Mark, I questioned whether all that hair was a good thing. My grandfather and my mother would coax me to eat whatever I ping-ponged around my dinner plate—peas, acorn squash, liver—with the curious incentive, “Eat it. It’ll put hair on your chest.” I remember thinking I could do without the liver…and the hair. And I distinctly remember a day at the beach when my friend Jean-Paul saw my father in a swimsuit and said, “Whoa. Is your dad part gorilla or what?” (Hairy gay men wisely chose not to compare themselves to other primates. Who hasn’t cuddled with a teddy bear? Orangutans? Not so much.)

For my personal tastes, I’d say I’m on the less hairy middling ground. I like men with smooth chests and midriffs. Their muscles are better defined without anything in the way. But some hair is sexy, too. And by “some”, it’s got to be more than a few strands around the nipple. That’s as appealing as a hairy mole.

There does come a point where a hairy front is too much. Maybe Jean-Paul’s comment still swirls in my head. For the hairier guys, if you’re not shaving, you may need to do some pruning. It becomes too much of a good thing.

Admittedly, I think too much about hair matters. As a gay man, I’m already part of a minority. I cringe at the “bear” label. I don’t want to be further marginalized, even if, based on my own Pride parade observations, the bear set seem to know how to have a good time. For me, to shave or not to shave is an ongoing question. I continue to shave. (I tried waxing once and I am convinced I went into shock. Seriously. I am a wuss to the core. Body hair in no way makes me a manly man.) Even though I shave, I no longer freak when whiskers surface. I don’t rush to the bathroom to go through the shaving ritual. I can let them grow out a tad before I plow ‘em down once more.

So where are you on this issue? Is it an issue at all or a figment of my imagination?

 

Monday, November 10, 2014

UNNECESSARY SPROUTING

Maybe we get an extra blind spot as we grow older. Maybe we get a few of them. Maybe men just hate seeing themselves in the mirror.

I don’t know how else to explain the untamed hair sprouting from certain facial appendages on certain men. How can they not see it? Or, if they see it, why do they shrug and leave it the rest of us to just deal with it?

Yes, this is another one of my shallower blog posts, but I need to get this off my (waxed) chest. Put it out there. If just one reader plucks a couple of nose hairs, it will have been worth it.

There’s a fellow on an online dating site who seems to boldly embrace his wayward hair. Love me, love my ear hair. When I stumbled on his profile and looked at the first photo, I honestly thought he was in costume as Mr. Tumnus, the faun from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. An odd main photo, but I figured this guy wanted to show off his quirkiness while also expressing an affinity for classic children’s literature. But then I clicked on the next photo. Ear hair while having a beer at the beach. And the next—ear hair while sitting on a motorcycle. And the final shot—ear hair while feasting on lobster. Never mind the fact that I’m not a fan of beer, motorcycles or lobster. I was completely turned off by furry ears. Cute on a Labrador Retriever; not so much on a man.

This, of course, is an aural extreme.

Recently, I went on a coffee date with a charming, attractive man. The conversation went smoothly and I just might have been smitten. But then he turned his head and I caught a glimpse of his right ear. Nothing wrong with the ear itself—relatively symmetrical with the left, not too small, not too big. But there were about a dozen grey hairs sprouting from the outer rim. Each hair was about two centimeters in length. This guy was otherwise well groomed with a seemingly clean shirt, decent shoes, fashionable hair and sexy/intellectual glasses. So how could he have missed this ear mane? I tried to focus on our conversation and I did a commendable job, but each time he did a head pivot, I peeked. Like a rubbernecker gawking at the scene of an accident. Only this could not have been an accident. While I’m all for letting a lawn go natural, I can’t say the same for ears. Check them and trim them. Please!

I won’t even ramble on about eyebrows. I’ll just say that mine have gotten unruly with age. Some hairs just won’t go with the flow. I check the brows each morning and conduct a couple of precision trims every other day. There’s a hairstylist in West Hollywood that I go to whenever I’m in L.A. specifically because he’s the only one who has ever done a brow trim as part of the cut. And he’s a master. I’m in awe of how swiftly and skillfully he restores order there.

I shouldn’t have to talk about hair extending from the nose. If you’ve got grey hair or black hair, let me just say what you should already know. A rogue nasal hair stands out. A cluster of them draws undue attention to your nose. Don’t kid yourself in thinking no one will notice. Don’t expect your social and work companions to cope. Check yourself in the mirror. The nose is a pesky organ that likes to catch us off guard with sudden extensions. Don’t wait until you get home and have a chance to insert one of those handy electric trimmers. Yank ‘em when you see ‘em.

Maybe ear hair and nasal hair have some worthwhile function. But we’ve evolved into a society where manscaping is expected (even if my Word document continues to put a squiggly red line under manscaping). Sometimes looks are more important than some questionable anti-senility benefit. (Steam some bok choy or do an extra Sudoku for every trim if you must.)

I will admit that there are times when I discover my own temporary blind spot. I’ve spotted more than a few nasal hairs while gazing in the rear-view mirror while idling at a traffic light. No doubt the lady in the car next to me thinks I am fishing for boogers, but I seize the opportunity to try to get a firm hold on the elusive hair. Yank, fail, yank again. Inevitably, I sneeze after achieving success and I have to do another check the next time I hit a red. I recover and feel better—even when I’m in a small town and the lady who was idling beside me probably knows who I am. There are worse things than being misidentified as a nose picker. Like swearing off any form of manscaping.

A belated ear hair discovery addles me even more. Once every six weeks, I’ll run a finger along the ear’s edge and feel a whisker. I dash to the bathroom mirror only to realize it’s far beyond whisker stage. It could warrant its own shampoo and conditioner treatment. Aghast, I nip it with a razor and wonder how many people it distracted. Why did no one say anything? Will someone see me the next day and smugly remark, “Nice haircut”? Oh, the shame! (That’s when I start to look at job ads online.)

Yes, guys, we seem to have less control over the hair that grows—or doesn’t grow—on top of our heads as we get older. But that is no excuse for abandoning all hair matters. Don’t turn a blind eye to unsightly hair any longer. Deal with what is firmly in your grasp. Take your razor for a spin. We won’t notice your efforts—and that’s the whole point.

 

 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

FIFTY? FIFTY!

As a vegetarian, it’s a rare occasion when I think of Meat Loaf, but he’s provided the perfect entry (if not entrée) here: Two out of Three Ain’t Bad.

I confess that I had concerns about turning fifty. Could that be the turning point? Would all dating dry up? I’m well aware of online dating search engines. The searcher can input an age range—some lower number (possibly ridiculously lower) and an upper limit of, say, 49. The 50s? Ancient times. Aren’t they the guys that sit at home in vintage “Cosby Show” sweater, waiting for the latest issue of AARP and repeatedly listening to cover songs by Bette Midler. (Okay, I confess to pining for the Divine one. Click on the link and tell me you’re not hooked.)

Maybe my fretting over fifty comes from my own search habits. I cannot recall specifically—a sign of aging?!—but I believe there may have been a time not long ago when I didn’t look beyond fortysomething. A half century just sounds so plaque-worthy. And nobody wants to see you pull a plaque from your backpack on a first date.

Well, the good news is that, almost a full month into fiftysomething, I am still dating. Three dates. Yes, each man is in his fifties as well. (I don’t fantasize about helping some young thing cram for a Psychology 101 midterm.) These men have been 51, 54 and—gasp!—58. By golly, each man remains dating-relevant. Each one is fit, attractive and interesting. Two are avid paddleboarders, two ski regularly, one runs and swims and all of them continue to go to the gym. Each one is well settled in a career. Each has varied experiences and each proved he can participate in that ever elusive two-way conversation.

Refreshing!

Coffee with the 54 year-old from South America was pleasant, but the connection wasn’t there. That happens. Glad to have met him.

Coffees with the other two may actually lead to second dates. (One never really knows until that actually happens.) I head to Seattle in two weeks to see Evan again. He’s taking care of friends’ kids next weekend. Uncle Evan. That’s way sexier than a boy toy flitting around in Lycra undies with a glow stick necklace and a plastic water bottle. Evan is genuine and responds promptly to messages. No game playing, no early signs of flakiness. Lovely.

I am perfectly content to see how far things may go with Evan. But, there was unfinished business with Wyatt. He’d messaged me back in September and we just couldn’t seem to find the right time to meet in Vancouver. I sensed he was eager to meet and disappointed that our schedules couldn’t mesh. I headed over today to do some errands and thought I’d message him one last time just to tie up loose ends. If we didn’t meet today, I felt it would never happen. And that would be fine. (In my book, one out of three ain’t bad either!)

Wyatt messaged back. He was busy with plans to go hiking in the woods near Whistler. Ooh, so outdoorsy. On a rainy day, no less. (I’m a fair-weather hiker. I’m not fond of mud. Not even for facials.) But Wyatt planned to head back mid-afternoon. Coffee was on.

Turns out he’s a government lobbyist who advocates for policy and programming that specifically promotes men’s health and physical fitness. Clearly, he lives his life consistent with his beliefs. We chatted freely about the idiosyncrasies of local politics, the differences between Canadian and American federal governments, healthy and unhealthy components of long-term relationships and the continuing importance of libraries in supporting the social and intellectual wellness of a community. The conversation was engaging and still relaxed. As we parted, he was the one to say he wanted to meet with me again. Definitely interested. And, yes, I shared the sentiment. But that next date will have to wait until his return from a holiday in Israel and Lebanon.

Yes, these men are more than pretty packages. They have depth. By golly, it’s early, but as first impressions go, I thinking I’m liking my fifties!