Thursday, July 28, 2016

CAN YOU SHAKE A FIRST IMPRESSION?


Not actually me. I don't do drag.
On occasion, a reader will suggest that I am too picky. How could I possibly go on so many coffee dates—Is it beyond a hundred yet?—and come up empty? I ask that of myself, too. Am I brushing people off too quickly? Should I settle for something less?

I think I give people a chance. It’s rare, however, that an initial meh turns into anything better. There are stories of people being repulsed at first sight and somehow finding love. I don’t find that unreasonable. There’s some truth to that expression about a thin line between love and hate. These are people who at least get our attention. But it’s hard to move anywhere from meh. It’s a relationship gutter. Nothing grows there.

Recently I met up with a handsome man who grew up in Venezuela and Spain. He’s traveled the world and speaks many languages. Seems to have a lot going for him. I typically get along extremely well with people from different backgrounds. The differences in culture and perspective fascinate me as well as the commonalities reflected in good people regardless of where they were raised. And, while I contend I don’t have a type, I am easily enchanted with Latin men.

On our first meeting, it was a warm Vancouver day and the bakery was not air conditioned so we grabbed our drinks and sat on a shady bench in a nearby park. We talked for a couple of hours. Mostly, he talked. Much of the talk was ranting. For instance, when I said I worked in education, he immediately went on for ten minutes about how unmotivated teachers can be. Sure, he had some good points based on personal experience, but it’s generally not a good idea to attack your date’s profession right after “Hello.”

The opinions continued to fly over a range of subjects and I realized I had shifted my body into the arm of the bench, as if trying to get away from him. Not a good sign. But it was clear that he was attracted to me and I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he was talking too much because he was nervous. Maybe he was trying to impress me with his thinking. Maybe he didn’t normally drink coffee.

And so when he called and left a message a few hours later about how much he enjoyed our time and how he’d like to get together again, I shrugged and said sure. With the introductions out of the way, maybe things would get better.

But they didn’t. As he rambled on, I felt awful for extending things. He clearly dressed up for our lunch and, yes, he continued to give off signs of being attracted to me. I buckled down and tried to get invested. This is a guy that actually likes you. Give him a chance. Even when we talked about things we had in common—writing; running—I simply couldn’t connect.

We walked and Ralph suggested a drink after lunch—no caffeine whatsoever. Sure. Could he see me shrug? It got to the point where I was biding my time until the alarm on my phone would go off, reminding me that I’d reached the two-hour limit on my parking meter. My escape. But even then, I didn’t bolt. We ambled sloooowly toward my car. Was he trying to prolong things? With a hug, we parted ways and, as I started the ignition, I felt relieved to be alone once more. (The loneliness seeps in later.)

An hour afterward, I received a text. “Hi, James! Just wanted to tell you that I enjoyed my time with you today. Hopefully you did too. It would be great to meet again. Enjoy the rest of the day!”

Two exclamation marks. (I don’t take punctuation lightly.) I felt a sickening feeling in my stomach, the same kind I felt whenever a professor would pass back assignments and I had a sudden fear of a big red “F”. This was a worse kind of failure because now I had to be the messenger. I fretted. I mopped my floors. I ate a bag of popcorn. I even returned my mother’s phone call.

And then I texted: “Hi Ralph. Nice to see you again. You’re an attractive man with a fascinating background. Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite feel a connection. Wanted to, but sometimes it’s not there. Good luck with your work application. Really seems like a great path for you.”

No exclamation marks.

I pressed “Send” and sighed. The deed was done. Hopefully he didn’t feel as badly as I did. But I know how rejection stings. I am all too aware how it butt-kicks already fragile self-esteem. Ralph is in his forties. I know how another polite “No thank you” disheartens. What if “meant to be” refers to alone rather than with Mr. Right or with Mr. Tolerable or with Mr. Who Happens to Be Breathing?

So I listened to the “too picky” accusation. I gave a guy another chance. And now I only feel worse. Like a heel. I hurt someone, however temporarily. I feel no closer to finding a soul mate. Just farther off-course. The pickings get smaller.
  
 

Monday, July 25, 2016

NEVER AFTER (Part 2)


No family friction over refusing to invite my brother. No tiffs over chocolate cake versus a lemon vanilla triple berry cake (my choice). And no agonizing as I scratched up the twenty-third incarnation of my vows. I’m a writer. They have to be heartfelt, original and memorable. No wedding. Whew.

Everything was fine until July 20, 2005. I’d come to accept the realities that came with living outside the institution.  Without the ceremony or the formal commitment, I could rationalize that my relationships were more inclined to end when things got tricky. No obligation, no incentive. We were free to be fickle.

But then Canada enacted the Civil Marriage Act, the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. I could propose or be proposed to, I could elope or have a big wedding, I could get a fancy certificate, shop for a ring, plan a honeymoon. But ever since that remarkable enactment, I’ve had a pronoun problem. Always I, never We.

The possibility of marriage remains nothing more than a vague hypothetical. And I’m okay with that. As much as I’ve whined and pined, wanting to fall in love again over the past dozen years, marriage is not a goal. Once I stopped imagining marrying Karen Carpenter, there wasn’t a wedding equation in which I fit as a variable during my years growing up. In my mind, the best I could hope for when I came out in the late 1980s was to fall and love with a guy and have neither of us die of AIDS. Gloomy, but such were the times.

Of course, I have neither blond nor brown hair.    
The first time I heard a gay man lobby for the right to marry, I thought he was a shit disturber, a mere agitator who created a distraction from legitimate, viable issues such as increased funding for AIDS research, legislation to make gay bashing a hate crime and protection from employment and housing discrimination. Two grooms on a wedding cake? Don’t be silly.

I remember the possibility of same-sex marriage being readily repudiated by gays and lesbians as the marriage “joke” started to grow legs. Why would we copy the heteros? Look at the divorce rate…why push to be part of a failing institution? Why be conventional? Shouldn’t we create our own culture and traditions? 

But enough of our “community” kept pushing. Maybe “No” served as a motivating force. Maybe gay and lesbian couples that were deeply in love actually wanted a wedding. Heaven knows we’ve bought enough waffle irons and gravy boats for straight couples. We’ve attended plenty of receptions where we’ve watched dance-challenged masses pantomime “Y.M.C.A.”

So the definition of marriage has changed. I’ve had the right to marry for eleven years now and Americans just marked the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision recognizing gay marriage. That’s great in terms of a step toward equality, understanding and acceptance. If I were to fall in love again with a guy in his fifties like me, I doubt my partner would have dreamed of marriage during his adolescence and after coming out. Idle time was better spent imagining living on Mars. (Is that still in the works? I don’t get it.)

So, yes, I have the right to marry. I do. I also have the right to raise chickens in my backyard, assuming I could ever afford a home with a yard in Vancouver and assuming I develop a constant yearning for “farm-fresh” eggs. Both rights remain the flimsiest of hypotheticals. Truth be told, they are also beyond my control.  

But I think I should work on getting that lemon vanilla triple berry cake. All mine.   

Friday, July 22, 2016

NEVER AFTER (Part 1)


I wasn’t the type of little boy who, given a box of crayons, madly drew scenes with superheroes and fire trucks. I didn’t get in trouble with my teacher for adding bombs and guns and gushing blood to what would have been a happy family picnic picture. At school, I drew the typical house with a typical road out front and colored in a typical grassy area, a typical apple tree and a typical yellow ball of sun—always in the left corner—floating on a blanket of blue sky. Same picture. Over and over. Even at five, I knew I sucked at art so I played it safe. I stuck with the conventional.

At home, I dared to draw something different. Instead of an ordinary house, I drew castles. Big boxy gray structures with gapped teeth running along the top. It never dawned on me to add a portcullis or defenders peeking above the parapet. My castle would never be attacked. I didn’t have that kind of mindset. The moat had goldfish that peacefully coexisted with alligators that never craved human flesh (or goldfish). The alligators always unseen, stuck to the bottom of the moat, not because they wanted to wage a surprise attack; I just couldn’t draw them.

In the top window of the castle tower, I always drew a smiling princess. She had blonde hair spilling out from under her cone-shaped blue hat that matched her long blue dress. She smiled but she was lonely and sad. (I was taught that everyone had to have a happy face.) This was the woman I would marry. This is where I’d live. Poor thing would be sad ever after!)

Along with my Karen crushes—Ms. Valentine from “Room 222” and Ms. Carpenter from the “Close to You” album cover—the Princess in the Blue Dress was as close as I got to thinking about marrying.

After that, I sometimes imagined having kids—six, of course, like “The Brady Bunch”—but I could never picture their mother. It didn’t concern me. I suppose I figured I could hire a kooky housekeeper. Maybe even Ann B. Davis if she wasn’t doing anything.

I don’t know why I gave up on the concept of marriage when I was so young. It’s not like I got distracted with marathon, recurring games of Cops & Robbers. (I played alone underneath the sycamore tree in my backyard with little animal figurines that came with Red Rose Tea.) First-Grade Me just had a vague yet unmistakable sense I was not the marrying kind. I assumed the reason was because I was too ugly, with all my freckles and untamed curly red hair. That or I was too dull—after all, I played with animal figurines—and too fearful of any human interaction. Funny how the brain accepts things before the reasons are apparent. So no marriage. It was utterly inconceivable.

And that was that.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

HOOKUP HOOKY


Safe to say, neither of us is this hot.
Maybe I deserved it. That’s what that prudish inner voice tells me. (Why can’t I find its mute button?) But maybe I even wanted it to happen. I got stood up for a hookup. At his place. When does that ever happen?

I felt especially nervous as I got ready to head over. Didn’t help that I read a chapter last night about Jeffrey Dahmer and a London serial killer of gay men. Also didn’t help that my last hookup had been lackluster. The guy I was meeting looked more like the sweet guy-next-door type I wouldn’t mind dating. Could something more come from this?

At the last minute, I realized I’d forgotten to shave. I didn’t want my whiskers to scratch up his face in the event of a passionate kissing session so I quickly ran the electric shaver back and forth across my face, leaving my skin burning from the wrong kind of touch. By the time I’d waited for the elevator and gotten in my car, it was clear I’d be late. 2:57 and we were supposed to meet at 3. And then came red light after red light, an elderly woman taking baby steps to cross with her walker at a stop sign and an out-of-the-blue parade of dozens of cyclists who continued to cross at an intersection after I had the green to go. It’s not meant to be, that dang inner voice taunted.

But I knew I had to reach my destination. Had to show I tried. And so I drove on as perspiration painted my underarms. A bad first impression. Hopefully I wouldn’t have the shirt on for long. I parked the car and searched for the street address. #1288. Not there! There was townhouse #1280, an alley and then a twenty-floor condominium marked as #1290. I walked through the alley, searching for a hidden door, a yurt or a rickety shed. Anything would have been welcoming. But no. Had the asshole given me the wrong address on purpose?

But then I checked the address I’d entered on my phone: #1228. Putz. Late-onset dyslexia sucks. And so, finally, thirteen minutes late, I pressed the doorbell. I heard it chime. I waited, fanning my shirt and running my tongue across my teeth in case there was a food particle lodged between molars or canines or whatever the other ones are called. After a minute, I knocked on the door…just in case that doorbell chime I heard was something I’d imagined. Alas, there was no a peep to be heard from within.

It’s rude to be late, my Prudish Inner Voice reminded me. Even for a booty call. (In truth, I’m stunned my P.I.V. knew the term “booty call” and more embarrassed that I don’t know if it fit in this context.) Maybe this guy was making a statement. Maybe he headed to the gym or the grocery store after waiting five minutes. Or what if he was making a different statement. Had he peeked from his second floor window as I locked my car and noted the five extra pounds since my profile pic? Had he spotted the sweat stains on my too tight t-shirt? Had he simply realized he could do better and turned out the lights, waiting for me to go away?

If I felt bad about the prospect of hooking up, I felt worse walking back to my car. And, yes, a little relieved. I have to keep reminding myself, it’s just sex. This despite the fact I’ve always wanted sex to be something more.

Back home, I went online and there was a message. “Running half an hour late. Sorry. Can we make it 3:30?” I suppose if I’d been spiteful, I’d have not replied. Let him wonder who flaked on whom.  But, no, that’s not in me. I only thought of that now as I write this. Instead, I let the guy know I’d shown up, that my work phone doesn’t let me check messages on hookup sites and that maybe we’d meet some other time. Maybe meaning never. The whole experience had done enough to fracture my fragile self-esteem. Next time someone else could have a crack at it.
   

Thursday, June 30, 2016

ENDING & BEGINNING


Last day. Forgot to set the alarm but I woke up on my own, only one minute later than intended. Drove to the ferry terminal to catch the first ferry. It was full. I wasn’t even close.

A decade ago, I’d have been despondent. I’m not a tourist; I take the ferry for work. This is a two and a half hour setback. After eleven years of being connected to the Sunshine Coast and six and a half commuting daily one way or the other, this is a final first. First time I’ve been delayed getting to work because the first ferry was full. Maybe it’s fitting. Seems I’ve experienced it all in terms of ferry aggravations. (Okay, no sinking. I’ll happily take a pass on that.)

On October 1, 2005, I loaded up my Honda Civic with two miniature schnauzers and way too many green t-shirts and boarded the ferry en route to my new home. I was excited and relieved. It had been a prolonged breakup—the ex and I were stuck living together for a year after I ended it, as we needed to get through renovation hell on the dream home we shared. I found a house I could afford on my own, with a fenced backyard for the dogs. Vancouver and the suburbs were unaffordable on my school administrator salary; living with a ferry as part of my commute seemed like the perfect quirky element to my recovery. After all, I loved water. I’d moved from L.A. to Vancouver on account of a dream about some unknown city by the ocean, with bridges aplenty traversing inlets and rivers. I’d grown up in and by the water—a pool in our backyard, summers on the beach at our cottage, high school swim team, lifeguarding in university. All my life, I’d regular used my family’s motorboats, canoes, rowboats, sailboats and kayaks. The ferry simply upped the scale of my aquatic life.

In this new home, I’d find Me again after eight turbulent, eventually abusive years of We. I don’t know if it was the city or I who turned its back first, but Vancouver no longer felt welcoming. I couldn’t see a future there. It felt like a blessing that I was priced out of the city. My ex had become more erratic and I didn’t feel safe. A stretch of ocean water between us offered a buffer for greater safety. (Never mind that he found my house and staked it out. Never mind that, for the next eight years, he continued to plead for a second chance in out-of-the-blue emails that always pulled me back to memories of our darkest times.)

My new home had an ocean view and the cul-de-sac was surrounded by forest. There was far more wildlife than people—deer, raccoons, bears, coyotes and the always-rumored-but-never-seen resident cougar. While I was always alert for an unwelcome encounter, my dogs had more freedom than ever before. The leash stayed hanging on a hook in the hallway closet. Our walks through local trails offered exciting sniffs for them and cleared my head before I sat down for productive writing sessions.

My mother recalls me saying, “I’m never moving. I’ll die here.”

For the first year, I was very content. I’d found my paradise. It didn’t matter that I had a five-hour commute each day (two and a half hours each way). It didn’t matter that I left and arrived home in darkness for six months of the year. This was destination living.

Things got even better when I landed a job on the Coast after nine months. The job was twenty-five miles up the coast but ferries were no longer a factor. I didn’t have to schedule my life based on ferry departures that were two hours apart at the best of times. I was fully in control of my life.

But loneliness crept in. The novelty wore off for friends to come visit. The ferry made my home seem farther away than it actually was. Closer to Timbuktu than Vancouver. As a school administrator, I was now the boss and teachers were always respectful, even friendly, but never friends. No one wanted to be seen as too chummy. And, while the deer were lovely, they never had anything to say. Worse, they were terrible listeners, darting off every time I tried to initiate a conversation. While my first year had necessarily been All About Me—part of a recovery process—I began to think about dating again.

But single gay men were as rare as cougar sightings. In the first five years, I discovered two of them. No chemistry. Both of them came to their senses and moved back to Vancouver. I decided to do the same. I put my house up for sale, quit my job and accepted a position in a Vancouver suburb. The dream was dead.

And so began the nightmare. The house wouldn’t sell. I’d listed it ten months before starting the new job, but the once hot—okay, warm—market had gone cold. Frigid, in fact. For Sale signs became obscured by ever-invasive blackberry bushes. I’d list the house, take it off the market after months without a showing, and then list it again. I tried three different realtors over the course of three years. Nothing. I kept hearing an Eagles line from “Hotel California”: You can check out any time you like, But you can never leave.

I gave up. After three years of dreadful commuting, I took another job back on the Coast. The suffering would continue but at least I’d have more sleep. I tried online dating, venturing into the city for go-nowhere coffee dates that took up six hours of my Saturdays, factoring in ferry time. I tried to be keen. I downplayed the ferry thing. But guys weren’t that desperate for a boyfriend.

Eventually, one dog died, then the other. I was in a three-bedroom house all by myself. I spiraled downward, slinking into what I later learned was deep depression. Within a week of the second dog’s death, I was admitted to hospital in Vancouver. I’d begged my doctor, “Don’t let them send my home.” I knew, he knew and every psychiatrist I encountered at St. Paul’s knew I posed too much of a risk to myself. I had no reason to live. I’d grown devoid of emotion. I’d completely given in. That Eagles lyric took on new meaning—yes, I’d checked out. I stayed in hospital for nine days of what was supposed to be five or six weeks. I couldn't handle being in a psych ward so I lied aplenty to get them to let me out.

That was two years ago. I’m surprised I’m still here. I endured months of pain that I can’t describe. I don’t even think the psychiatrists understood. They called me an enigma. One wondered aloud how I’d ever made it this long. If I’d had any guts, I’d have been dead thirty years ago. Somehow I held on.

And a little luck finally came. My team of doctors implored me to leave the Sunshine Coast. Another line, this time my own, had a new connotation: “I’ll die here.” In January 2015, I listed my house for the fourth time. Miraculously, I had two offers within five days. Sure, I had to take a loss, but I finally had a healthier Exit ticket. I meant to only rent an apartment back in Vancouver, but on an impulse, I bought a teensy one-bedroom condo and moved on April 1, 2015. (Never mind April Fool’s; I’d played that part for a decade.) Of course, I still had bills to pay. I had to keep my job. For the past fifteen months I’ve done what is known as the “reverse commute”, sucking up five hours a day going from the city to the Land of Nowhere.
Officially, I’ve been living in Vancouver, but I haven’t actually been living there.

Until tomorrow. Today I’ve got a long list of things to do to wrap up work. I’ve taken a new job back in the school district I left ten years ago. I’ll have bridges to cross but no boats to board. The commute will be almost two hours a day if I travel during rush hour. That’s nothing. And I can linger if I want. I don’t have to rush to a terminal. As of July 1, I’ll be free and clear from paradise.

Life can begin again.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

SO WHAT IF HE WAS

In the New York Times today, there’s the headline: “In Hunt for Answers, F.B.I. Follows Claims That Orlando Gunman Was Gay”. The possibility first surfaced as a Pulse patron was interviewed by a CNN reporter. He’d seen the killer at the club before. Said hello. The interviewee’s partner had talked further with the future murderer.

Please, no, I thought. Don’t let someone so savage be one of us. If any good can come from this nightmare, it is that there will be more open discussion about acceptance of LGBT people and the harm that comes from continued anti-gay religious dogma and political rhetoric. The haters look for anything to deny culpability. I shudder to hear them shoot back with, “He was one of you.” They’re not saying it yet. Even the haters—at least those not affiliated with a certain heinous Kansas church—have the sense to shut up for a while. But they’ll twist and distort anew once the next scary bathroom ordinance comes up for a vote or another baker bemoans a message two grooms want scrawled on a cake.

One of us.

We’ve all heard for ages how he who doth protest too much may be fighting something internal. The fag haters may very well be gay. The thinking is that the vial they spew deflects any shadow of suspicion. It’s an interesting argument and, yes, I’m sure that on occasion it is true. But I doubt that is true of the majority of anti-gay men. And I cringe that gay men hold onto this belief. It smacks of self-hate—I know you are, but what am I.

Thus far, according to The Times, FBI investigators “have not found any independent corroboration—through his web searches, emails or other electronic data—to establish that he was, in fact, gay.” Whew.

But what if they do? How could a man so conflicted about his sexual orientation take out his wrath on a group he may have been raised to shun? How could gay men have become the enemy? Wouldn’t it make more sense to turn one’s back on intolerant religious views? It’s futile to ruefully wish for logic regarding a cold-blooded killer.

There’s also the possibility that he had faced rejection by gay men. Repeatedly. After the massacre, there was much talk of gay clubs as being a refuge, a spot where one can stop checking one’s mannerisms and a place for celebration, maybe even connection. Sure, on any given night, all that is possible, but let’s not get too fanciful. I can recall many a walk back to the car feeling overlooked or flat-out rejected. I loathed the go-go boys, gyrating on a podium in well-packaged thongs and taking away any chance I could establish eye contact with spellbound above-average Joes. The go-go boys were merely scapegoats with six packs. Sometimes it can feel devastatingly lonely in a gay bar. Could negative experiences, combined with an upbringing of gay intolerance, have triggered the killer to snap? Again, too often we try to search for rational factors to explain irrational acts. We’ve already spent more than enough time thinking about and for the killer.     

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is quoted as saying, “People often act out of more than one motivation.” To be sure, the killer espoused radicalized views of terrorists. He wanted maximum carnage. But Pulse nightclub was a conscious choice. Gay, Latino men were targeted.  Lynch went on to say what has been said over and over since the massacre: “This was clearly an act of terror and an act of hate.” Whether he was or wasn’t gay, a range of influences—familial, religious, cultural, social, political—contributed to the fact that he hated gays. At this point, who he was is immaterial. It’s the contributing factors that bear scrutiny. These are the areas that must continue to evolve. They require our continued focus. Any further focus on the killer is a fruitless distraction.    

Thursday, June 23, 2016

THE NEAREST EXIT

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I took the cowardly route. But then again, so did he.

It began with that extended weekend when he couldn't get enough of me. Really, that should have been a sign.

And, in fact, there was a sign. On the Monday evening as we walked to dinner, Alfonso bemoaned the Vancouver labor market for someone like him in the higher echelon of the service industry. I listened as he went on what sounded like a rant. I’d mentioned a company a friend of mine works for and Alfonso felt compelled to be dismissive of that business organization. “They have the view that the customer is their greatest asset. How utterly plebeian.”

Alfonso felt that the employees were a company’s greatest asset. Fair enough. But it was the tone and the use of the word plebeian that seemed over the top. A company has a right to establish its own business philosophy. Get hired before you try to change it. That’s what I would have said. But he only looked to me for affirmation. He was right, wasn’t he? That’s what he wanted me to say. When he asked, “What do you think?” I said, “I don’t think you really want to know.” The intention was to avoid a first conflict but the avoidance itself created tension. I’d been in relationships with guys who expected me to affirm everything. That’s how some people feel supported. My problem is I have a tendency to consider another point of view. It benefits me in the employment sector but is a serious handicap on the dating front.

We continued our walk in silence. My mind raced to find a new subject, my eyes searched for a distraction. Alas, there’s never a Kermode bear on a pogo stick when you need one. I could have at least whistled, but that’s a skill I never perfected. Comes out more like a dying budgie.

Dying. Yes, that seemed to be the status of Alfonso and me. But then people do panic over a first fight. This didn’t amount to a fight though. Not a spat, not even a tiff. The word plebeian stuck in my mind. Who says that? I recalled other conversations over the weekend and I got the clear sense that Alfonso would never be wrong. He’d repeated a few affirmations about the universe looking out for him and his talents always finding an audience in due time. I hadn’t known how to respond to them. A slight nod? “Amen”? I pushed aside images of Stuart Smalley and his SNL bits. Affirmations are foreign to a guy like me who specializes in self-deprecation.

What I finally heard in Alfonso was conceit and false state of superiority. Three days into our courtship, I flashed forward to three months and even three years. This guy would be a difficult partner. There would be no compromising, not when he would always be right. I wondered what adjectives he’d have to belittle my perspective. Derivative? Nescient? Picayune? My gut said, Get out.

We passed over the pizza joint I’d suggested. “I can’t tolerate lines,” he said. Instead, we opted for a tapas restaurant across the street. “Do you mind if I have the view seat?” Oh, of course not. Was there an air of hostility or was I just noticing an unappealing egocentricity? Either way, not good.

The following weekend, we met on Friday and Sunday. I tried to put concerns behind me. This guy still liked me. I could ill afford to be picky. To borrow a Barry Manilow song title, I was Trying to Get the Feeling Again.

Not a good mindset after only one weekend. Sizzle turned to fizzle. It didn’t help that Alfonso immediately went into a ten-minute play-by-play on Friday of how he reamed out an employer after he quit an hour into the second day of his new job. The account smacked of a superiority complex and mean-spiritedness.

But I let another week go by. I was busy with work week. No time for contact. I texted near dinnertime the following Friday. I needed to see him to end things. He said he’d already made plans. I felt relieved. And Saturday ticked by. Can’t this whole thing just fade away? He phoned at 6 p.m. when I was running an errand. He took that as me being unavailable and I did nothing to change that perception.

Five minutes later, I received a text. I don’t see “us” happening. Your world is too rigid and I don’t think I am your prince.

I fist-pumped, something I’ve never done in my life, not even on the tennis court. It was a tacky gesture for no one to use, but it was a spontaneous release of angst. I’d avoided what I was certain would have been a prickly conversation. I guess he did, too. And Alfonso could tell others that he made the decision. He’d want that. A perfect ending.

I realized I am not as desperate to be dating as I sometimes think. Things shouldn’t feel uncomfortable on a third day together. The prospect of growing old alone isn’t nearly as scary as being in a wrong relationship again. I’ve been too dismissive of gut instincts in the past. I will still succumb to pity parties in the future, but for now I can embrace my passive stance toward self-preservation. Spineless? Sure. I’m okay with that.