Monday, February 8, 2016


There’s a point in a budding relationship when you realize that, well, it’s not budding at all. It’s wilting. And watering won’t do any good. The soil has hardened.

I was never a green thumb.

I’d spared this man from blog posts. He’s a big part of the reason I haven’t had much to say lately. I thought there was promise. And I’ve never wanted a true relationship to be tainted by raw, early posts about red flags and what not.

You had red flags?!

Yeah, why go there.

I’m guessing our first date was late November or early December. Coffee at a café gallery. Not just an espresso joint that happened to hang the latest works of a starving artist but an establishment that aimed for legitimacy amongst both art buyers and caffeine addicts. (I’d give it middling reviews on both fronts.) I took a seat on the loft-like second floor and wrote on my laptop while waiting.

It had been a five-year wait.

Back then we exchanged a series of messages on Plenty of Fish and settled on a day to meet. But then Matt called on the morning of our date to postpone things. The stress was clear in an otherwise enticing deep voice. His dog was in pain. It sounded like Matt was facing a tough decision. As one of my dogs had just died, I understood. Maybe in a week or so. But Matt alluded to other matters. He sounded overwhelmed. “It’s just not the right time…” The conversation drifted off and Matt vanished from the dating site. A Plenty-of-Fish-ing moratorium.

I hadn’t been waiting at all. There were plenty of other guys to go on bad coffee dates with. Oh, yes, and good ones, too. I should really read the Plenty of Fish fine print. They must have a catch-and-release policy. But like a dedicated fisherman, I fished on, ever hopeful of that one big catch.

When I saw what looked like Matt’s face on a thumbnail, I clicked it. Hunch verified, I moved on. But the next day, he sent a message. No reference to a cancelled coffee from long ago; just hello. And I messaged back. “Matt, is that you?” He was surprised—not freaked out—that I remembered what little history we had. Heck, I majored in history in university. (More evidence that my life’s journey has been poorly planned!)

When Matt finally showed up at the café/gallery, he had an hour before catching a ferry to Victoria. He had me smiling and laughing the whole time. It’s special when a guy has me relaxed and playful from the start. So nice to stray from the dating interview script.

As we lingered outside in the gentle rain, both of us suddenly awkward, Matt sighed. “I’ve got a lot going on in the coming weeks.” Seattle. Ski adventures. Calgary. I nodded and smiled, bracing for goodbye. “I’ll find a way to squeeze you in.” Whew. We hugged and I walked home, still smiling, even giggling.

A great start. I tried to temper things. Okay, a good start. He texted me from the ferry and we met for dinner two days later.

That was the easy date. All the others have been scheduling challenges. I’d say we’ve gone out seven or eight times. All good, but some have felt rushed. And now it’s been four weeks. He had a week of heli-skiing, I had Portland, we both had colds. He’d warned me. Still, whatever the reasons, we’ve lost momentum.

I’m shrugging instead of smiling. It looks like he is, too. Another weekend went by without getting together. No travel or sickness this time. Just…, well, I don’t know. He texted for me to join him at the last minute while he walked his dog but I’d just gotten in from running 17K and the prospect of a walk didn’t get me feeling waggy. When I declined, he replied with, “Tomorrow is busy but will call if something opens up!” I’m big on punctuation, but I couldn’t feel the exclamation mark. Being squeezed in doesn’t feel acceptable anymore.

Guess I’m done with all that waiting. I don’t get the sense that there is a right time with Matt. I saw potential, but I’d like to feel more of a priority. Time to turn my back. It’s tough to witness a lovely flower’s demise. Neglect is a quiet creeper. I should just buy a plastic plant and be done with it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


From time to time, I post about my struggles with eating. While the roots of my problem preceded my coming out, the obsession with body beautiful in gay culture didn’t help matters. I share this story knowing that male experiences with anorexia continue to be underreported.

I’m at it again. Feeling fat. Obsessing over it. Annoyed that I’m bothered once more.

I’m aware enough to know my weight issues are highly exaggerated. I’d be laughed out of Weight Watchers. Pummeled with fat-free cookies. Banned for life.

I’m not talking about a hundred pounds or fifty or twenty. It’s four. That’s enough for me to see a belly bubble. My ribs don’t show. And that terrifies me.

If you’re still reading—spitting on your laptop may cause damage—let me explain. I have battled to control my weight as a means of controlling my life for forty years. At eighteen, I was anorexic but it was never diagnosed. I also have a lifelong phobia of doctors so I never sought help. I was under a great deal of stress in university and my only sense of control came in the way I deprived myself of food, relying on sating myself with Tab cola until my one binge-meal of the day. My weight loss frightened my friends and they held an intervention. My face was too gaunt. My baggy clothes which weirdly made me feel larger failed to hide my dwindling body. I still thought I was fat but they said enough to scare me. Something about doctors.

I’ve only had two other periods of extreme weight loss since then but calories, fat grams, carbs and sugar are on my mind with every sip and bite I take. Every. Single. Day. I read every label of every item that goes in my grocery basket and I can recite the fat content of each food item in my home. If I stray from my regimented diet—and I do a couple of times a month—I commit myself to more exercise. More abs, a longer jog, extra laps in the pool. I already work out six days a week and I’m relentless with my routines. I wish I could stop. I’d love to lighten up. I can’t. My weight is healthier but I’m still a mess.

I haven’t weighed myself in years. If I gain half a pound, a sense of panic grows. I can’t confirm I’ve gained four pounds. I just know it. I’m frustrated that I let it get to this point. Work in January impacted both diet and exercise. I try not to freak out when I look down and see a loose ripple in my shirt. It’s the fabric, not my stomach. Still, I don’t like it.

It’s hard for a normal person to relate to my so-called problem. It’s hard to put in perspective. They say each year of a dog’s life is like seven human years. Well, each pound I gain is like 5-10 pounds on a regular person. How horrified I feel depends on the day or even the time of day. So, yes, it feels like I’m forty pounds overweight.

I know enough not to allow myself to go to extremes. I could lose the weight by the end of the week by going into major calorie deprivation. The problem is I gain satisfaction over this rapid loss and then I want to extend it. I don’t trust myself to know when to stop. I hate being this way but I’ve lived like this for forty years. It’s all I know. I don’t understand how my best friend (who appears to have a normal weight) can talk rhapsodically over pecan pie or how he can go to a buffet for Christmas. (He always invites me; I always decline.) I feel that letting go will result in letting myself go. I see my brother’s pics on Facebook. I know what comes with our genes.

It feels great that my stomach is growling as I type. Dinner times nears and I’m losing energy. I’ve gotten by on two bananas today. The drain from my 3K swim is setting in. (It should have be 4-5K, but I had a dental appointment.) If I’m tempted to eat, I’ll force myself to nap to extend the mini fast. I’m giving myself a month to be sufficiently slim again. I can do this in 2-3 weeks tops. It’s good to set goals; even better knowing they can be beaten. When I feel my ribs again as I try to sleep, I know I’m where I need to be.

Hopefully then I’ll feel more settled. Normal. Or normal as defined by my warped mind. That’s as good as it gets.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016


I see myself as a ‘70s guy. Disco. Pet rocks. Doodle art. This was the decade defined by the Smiley Face. I’m decidedly old school and I still like my happy face as a button you wear instead of a colon plus a closed parenthesis on a keyboard. So that’s my full disclosure—I’m not an emoji kind of guy. If I had to take a position, I’m neither pro- nor anti-emoji. Call me emoji-indifferent.

But I have a stronger feeling about Bell Canada’s Let’s Talk Day which is January 27th or at least the way it is being promoted. According to its website, #BellLetsTalk seeks to generate conversation as “the best way to start breaking down the barriers associated with mental illness.” This campaign surely arises from good intentions. The corporation asserts: “Since 2010, Bell has committed $100 million to mental health initiatives in Canada.” Sadly, it seems that, more than ever, we’re in an era where nonprofits and public image-conscious businesses fill the gaps of essential services that have slashed or stagnant governmental budgets. I can be very cynical about Bell’s motives and about its financial commitment, but I’ll put that aside for now.

What offends me is a poster I see at two bus stops during my daily meanderings. The poster features Howie Mandel and uses two emojis to say, “On January 27 let’s turn [sad face] into [happy face].” The first time I saw the ad, I thought my tired morning eyes were mistaken. Where was the tacked-on “LOL”? How could a responsible, media-savvy corporate citizen publicize such a dangerous oversimplification? Bell has a clear intention of having its hashtag trend on Twitter. (“#BellLetsTalk was the #1 Twitter trend in Canada and worldwide on Bell Let’s Talk Day 2015.”) Is this about promoting itself—Look at us! Look at what good work we’re doing!—or is it about meaningful public awareness and education. When the chosen tool is 140-character Twitter, oversimplifications are bound to pop up. Still, I cannot get my head around the thinking that sad face/happy face symbols blatantly perpetuate misperceptions of mental health. I know the misperceptions firsthand. I have repeatedly experienced misunderstandings as I have struggled with depression during the past two years.

In April 2014, I spent nine days in a hospital after I demanded that I be “voluntarily” certified. I was a risk to myself and, despite the nightmare that the hospital stay became, it seemed my only option. I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. Since then, I have received various forms of support from my family doctor, a psychologist, several psychiatrists and medication. I’ve been referred to books on mindfulness and I’ve Googled websites in search of anything that might help be kick depression.

Please, anything!

At some point in October 2015, the heavy fog finally lifted. I’ve been well for three and a half months. I don’t know what “cured” me or at least helped me walk away from this bout. It would be wonderful to say it was due to Dr. So-and-So, the meds or another resource. Maybe a combination of interventions. Alas, I don’t think so. I just know the stark difference between depression and feeling normal. I don’t feel particularly happy—that takes more work—but I feel an appreciation for being able to walk through a grocery store without the urge to “go fetal”, dropping to the floor and curling up in a ball. It’s a relief to no longer be deluged with suicidal thoughts and to no longer go through day after day of total nothingness.

Any professional who worked with me would acknowledge the severity of my depression. It was one nasty son of a bitch. I am relieved it’s gone but I know that my chances of being hospitalized and/or experiencing another prolonged episode of depression are greater than for other people. This is a cyclical, persistent beast. I’d like to say I know what I’d do differently, and better, next time, but I don’t. The whole time I suffered depression I ate well and exercised obsessively. Aside from the time in hospital and all the medical appointments, I didn’t miss a day of work due to illness. I was the Walking Dead, a fierce pair of permanent baggy eyes being the main sign of my feeble attempt to jump on the zombie trend.

While I don’t have any answers or insights about overcoming depression, I do know how blatantly simplistic and offensive it is to encapsulate mood disorders and mental illness into a tweet with transformative emojis. When I suffered the most, I had family members say things like “Why can’t you just be happy?” and “You should smile more.” I also had people with whom I shared my experiences fail to follow-up with a genuine “How are you doing?” Either the topic is too hard for them to talk about or the assumption is that depression is extremely short-term. Like a bad mood.

Sad face, happy face.

I do hope helpful resources and meaningful insights and connections arise from this year’s #BellLetsTalk. And I hope that, in the future, Bell will promote and lead this day with greater awareness and sensitivity, leaving the cutesy emojis to Tweeps who want to comment on the latest misstep of Justin Bieber or offensive remarks by a Republican seeking its party’s nomination for president.

If we’re going to talk, let’s do it right.



Monday, December 28, 2015


My first reaction: I hate Facebook.

It is responsible for a culture that waters down the term Friend. How does someone have 842 Friends? Or 216? Or 167?

I have gone out of my way to limit who I invite or accept as a Friend on this beast. I have resisted the temptation to “recruit” more so drive up my Likes for my goofy and scenic photos. Whenever something I post has more than ten Likes, it’s a monster hit.

My world is small. And, sadly, through Facebook, I learned that it just became smaller.

Dear, sweet Cory has died.

I opened Facebook this morning, delaying the start to my writing, expecting to see photos from the weird weather my family and friends are experiencing in Texas. I got the update. Massive tumbleweeds blowing across highways, shared news links of tornado devastation, shots of the snow dump in the Panhandle. I also expected to see belated Christmas and Boxing Day posts of people in dreadful sweaters and poor dogs looking sheepish sporting felt reindeer antlers. Ho ho hum.

But then the shocker: “RIP my brother Cory.”

Please, no.

Another post and another. I felt a surge of pain, deep sorrow and regret. Truth is, I’d been a terrible Friend.

For years, I Googled Cory and followed his career from afar. Only a couple of years ago did I finally invite him as a Facebook Friend. He accepted and that was that. No personal messages. His posts rarely included him in the photos but I always looked, always read, always smiled. Dear, sweet Cory.

I met Cory in 1991 at a weekend training session for volunteers who wanted to be part of the Buddy Program at AIDS Project Los Angeles. Cory was going through the two-weekend training with his then-partner. At the time, I was a Pepperdine law student, looking for something more meaningful than the contrived stresses that came from studying and discussing already-adjudicated legal cases on a pristine Malibu campus. I often escaped with my textbooks to El Matador State Beach, a less frequented slice of heaven north of the popular Zuma Beach. Increasingly on weekends, I found myself driving from the Pacific Palisades along the winding Sunset Boulevard into West Hollywood, doing “laps” in gay bars, rarely getting noticed. Life was all fluff and yet I could see how AIDS was destroying so many men around me. I needed APLA more than the Buddy Program ever needed me.

After the training ended, the volunteers were split into two ongoing groups which were required to meet monthly with a facilitator. I was part of the West Side group. Cory was too. There were about fifteen of us in all. Eventually, our facilitator introduced me to a new Buddy Program coordinator who became my first love. I was too inexperienced and insecure for it to last. Members volunteered to host the monthly meetings which often included potluck feasts and lasted for hours. Supporting Persons with AIDS was intense and draining. We leaned on each other. We laughed and cried together. We formed a special bond, a motley group of over-our-heads do-gooders, attempting to help the terminally ill navigate the cruelties of AIDS, the agonizing side effects of the drugs of the time and the discrimination and dissociation from agencies and families.

Somewhere around the time when my first love crashed and burned, Cory and his partner broke up. There was always special between Cory and me. I was in awe of him. He was a gentle, loving soul with a master’s from Harvard, working as a top executive position in an entertainment network. In time, a small group from our group met more often socially. The hugs and warmth were something I’d never experienced. I knew that Cory liked me and I desperately wanted to like him in the same way. He invited me out to dinner, just the two of us without the others. I called another group member, fretting over whether it was a date, hoping it wasn’t. I didn’t want what we had to change.

As he drove me home and pulled up to my Palisades apartment, Cory leaned in and kissed me. I pulled back and awkwardly retreated to my place. I cried. I wanted so much to want him. And yet I knew it could never be. Cory would do everything to take care of me. I knew I would too easily let that happen and I still had too much growing to do. On my own.

Cory has always been the one I wish I could have loved. The shallow me of the time concluded I just wasn’t attracted to him. In reality, I knew I was not good enough.

I last saw Cory in November 1994. I took him to lunch the week before I left my L.A. dreams and moved to Vancouver. As so many people who find their way to Southern California, I had Hollywood dreams. Writer. Programmer. Agent. Cory had met with me on a few occasions as I talked excitedly about insights that I’m sure came off as naïve. He always acknowledged my ideas and offered encouragement. If you want it, you can have it. Even during that last lunch, the invitation was still there. He would be there in whatever capacity. As a mentor, a booster, a friend.

For so long, I liked to say I lived with no regrets. Regrets are rueful steps backward. Missteps are part of the journey. Keep moving forward. In time, I allowed myself to admit that leaving L.A. was a mistake. That last lunch with Cory provided one last opening that I walked away from.

Maybe things were better in the era before the internet and social media. I'd have always wondered about whatever became of Cory, the fond memories continuing to mix with the rueful what-ifs. I certainly wouldn't have to face this day of aching and further regret. How I should've reached out. Could've. Would've. Facebook continues to give us an open window to Friends who may best be left in those nostalgic chambers of the brain.

Aside from the Facebook invitation, I never contacted Cory again. He was too good, too important. He was an infinitely better man. Two months ago, his students at the university where he came to work as a professor started posting “Thinking of you” messages. I Googled and found a posting on the university website, indicating Cory was taking a medical leave of absence. I wanted to know more. I wanted to send Cory my love and support. But I didn’t. We were Facebook Friends based on a last contact from two decades ago. I didn’t want to insert myself at a time when he needed to focus on the love of those closest to him as he fought whatever the health issues were. More messages of support popped up over the past two months and each time I searched the internet for information. I wanted to know, but I knew not to insert myself in a clearly difficult time.

And now he is gone. The Facebook posts of love and memories continue to pour in.  “Numb.” “Devastated.” “Heartbroken.” Every post provides anecdotes of Cory’s love, laughter and unwavering support. Perhaps this is one of those rare individuals who can never have too many Friends. He was that giving. What was he…55, 56? Too soon, for sure. And yet I was too late.

Dear, sweet Cory. I miss you so.


Thursday, December 24, 2015


I make sure I watch my favorite TV show in the whole wide world at least once a year. Being as it's "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer", it makes sense to view it now rather than in July. But that doesn't mean it's off my mind in summer. Of course not. I'm not kidding about that Favorite-Show-In-The-Whole-Wide-World designation. (For the record, the runners up are "The Brady Bunch" episode where "something suddenly came up" after Marcia takes a football to the nose, the "Newhart" finale, the "Friends" show where Joey explains what is a "moo point" and the "Seinfeld"—oh, there are so many worthy candidates!—where Elaine hates on "The English Patient".)

I’ve extolled the virtues of my FSITWWW previously and it’s one of my most-read blog posts. (Interestingly, no one has ever left a comment. Perhaps I’ve disturbed my readers.) I’ve decided to add another post after one of the guys I’m dating made some disparaging comments about the show.

What?! Did I just write “one of the guys I’m dating”? As in more than one living and breathing man? Yes. The total is two. And there is a third date in the works with each of them. This would be the time for me to run out and buy a lottery ticket, too.

And a second What?! I’m still dating a guy who spoke negatively of my FSITWWW? Yes. Even with another man on deck, I know how rare encore dates are for me. Clearly, I’m cutting him a great deal of slack.

To be honest, his comments were on point. He is, after all,--oh, what’s the sophisticated term?—a smartypants. Ph.D and all that.

And let’s go on one more tangent, shall we? No, I did not bring up my FSITWWW. Not directly. We were simply sitting in the movie theatre, waiting for the onslaught of advertising to cease before seeing the achingly wonderful “Carol”, when I asked, “Do you have a favorite Christmas movie or TV show?”

“Interesting question,” he said while pensively scratching his chin as smartypants are prone to doing. “Well, not ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and not ‘Miracle on 34th Street’. Those Claymation TV shows are interesting…”

Ooh, I tried not to squirm in my seat.

“…Like Rudolph—”


“—although it’s so American.”

Saying something is so American is an easy way for a Canadian to toss out a putdown. As in Having a gun in every drawer of your house is so American or Treating the Kardashians as royalty is so American. (Never mind that we’re the country that gave the world Alan Thicke, Pamela Anderson and Justin Bieber. Sorry, sorry and Sorry. I have to admit the Biebs has some catchy tunes out now.)

But smartypants explained himself. “It’s the way the characters talk.” Uh,…okay. I just nodded. His Ph.D is in linguistics, after all. “And it’s all so heterosexist.”

I could not let that go with a nod. I piped up, “Sure Santa is. His chosen reindeer have to be of a certain caliber. And the adult bucks, Donner and Comet, are both intolerant of Rudolph. Furthermore, Donner refuses Mrs. Donner’s offer to help search for the runaway Rudolph with a curt, ‘No. This is man’s work.’”

If I’d had my wits about me, I would have paraphrased instead of offering the exact quote. There is such a thing as Too Much Information on a second date. And then I went on to explain how Santa and the adult male reindeer are subordinate characters, foils even, along with those you-can’t-join-in-any-reindeer-games young ’uns.

“Rudolph” is about the acceptance and triumph of the odd ducks. It’s that classic theme about being special just the way you are. Rudolph. Hermey. Yukon Cornelius. The Jack-in-the-box named Charlie. Even the woefully misunderstood and nightmare-inducing Abominable Snow Monster. (Well, he caused me many a bad sleep.)

The one character that confuses me is Burl Ives’ Sam the Snowman, a solitary figure, a dapper gent—a mature bachelor!—with a well-groomed mustache and goatee and a snazzy plaid vest that sports a chain from which dangles a stylish pocket watch. I had him pegged for gay, but maybe he’s still more closeted than the younger generation of misfits. Sam isn’t very sympathetic of Hermey the Elf and his aspirations of being a dentist. Hermey is ridiculed by the other elves and quits. Sam dismissively says, “Ah, well, such is the life of an elf.”

Donner may be the worst. From the beginning, he is insistent that his son Rudolph will be a normal reindeer, immediately deciding to hide the illicit red nose. Even Sam the Snowman refers to the Donners hiding “Rudolph’s, um…nonconformity.” If Donner is intolerant, Santa isn’t much better. Truth is, Santa comes off badly in the production. The elves seem to irritate him with their singing. When Rudolph outshines the other young bucks, flying through the air, Rudolph’s talent becomes irrelevant when his red nose is exposed. This glaring difference is unacceptable. Santa’s intolerance is clear when he admonishes Rudolph’s father: “Donner, you should be ashamed of yourself. What a pity. He had a nice takeoff, too.”

And, after my command viewing this year, the heterosexism is more evident. (I was always more drawn to all the misfits.) Why, it’s Comet, the adult buck, who takes the lead in excluding Rudolph! “From now on, gang,” he tells the young bucks, “we won’t let Rudolph join in any reindeer games.” And then there’s Sam’s flippant response as narrator after it seems that Yukon (and his dogs which never even get a mention) died going over a cliff: “Well, they are all very sad at the loss of their friend, but they realize that the best thing to do is to get the women back to Christmas Town.” Ugh. Yes, my smartypants date has reason for reticence over “Rudolph”.

1964. The show is a reflection of its time. (I love that it premiered the year I was born!) It’s not that Donner, Comet and Santa are admirable. They represent straight men from fifty-one years ago. Considering the times, it’s even more glorious that Rudolph, Hermey and Yukon stand out. They are special, even as regarded as misfits. These are the characters that outshine the all-too-conventional others. Their “nonconformities” are what help to save Christmas. And again, in an era before all that “It gets better”, gay marriage and magazine covers with Ellen and Caitlyn, these stop-motion misfits helped me through many of my darkest days, whenever they came in the year.

Favorite show, indeed!

Monday, December 21, 2015


Okay, so two months ago I mentioned a guy named Clive. Again. Back from the dead. We’d had a first date at a local Starbucks two years ago, ending in the best hug I’ve ever experienced followed by…nothing. Clive dropped the ball. Lesson learned. Not all promising beginnings go somewhere. And so I continued to drink coffee with strangers, most of the time feeling like I was going through the motions. Lots of smiling, lots of pleasant enough chitchat, a cordial hug and a goodbye. See you never again.

Clive, of course, resurfaced on a hookup website. I’d joined the site at the urging of a couple of friends who couldn’t understand how I’d gone sixteen years without sex. It’s out there for the taking, they said. Standards are overrated.

So, yes, Clive and I hooked up. Once. Twice. Neither occasion was the mindless wham-bam I’d imagined. I was determined to keep things light but Clive went beyond. He showed up when I went to Emergency for a minor mishap. Took me to dinner. Shared a long story about his readiness for commitment. Cooked a vegetarian dinner for me. Talked of taking me to Palm Springs for Christmas. Insisted I spend the night so he could wake up with me by his side.

And just like that, I could see myself falling for this guy. Again. The chemistry seemed explosive.

But then just like that, Clive performed another vanishing act. I’ve compared him to Carrie Bradshaw’s Mr. Big on “Sex in the City” but that’s not quite right. After all, Carrie gets Mr. Big in the end. Clive is more like Lucy with the football. And, good grief, I’m that gullible Charlie Brown, lured back into the game and falling flat on my face.

We’d had another tentative date set up but, without texting me, he wound up going to a gay bar with a friend. There was no apology the next day. Only this: “Ya kinda felt obligated to go out. Anyhow what are you doing today?” I had plans. And I kept them.  And that was that.

Clive did text again while he was on vacation in Hawaii last month. “Let’s connect up again when I get back!”

And, again, that was that. Nothing.

I’m done with being Charlie Brown and, quite frankly, I always sucked at football. I have no urge to play any more games with Lucy/Clive. That’s a good thing. There are those who tempt us. When it gets to the point that it feels like they’re taunting us, it’s time to walk away. Leave the ball. Take up fencing instead.

So there you go. Sorry I’d left that dangling. It can be hard to admit being played for a fool. I went out for coffee again today. On my own. No helmet required.


Saturday, December 12, 2015


I suppose it's because I've been doing it so long, this coffee dating thing, that I need to rebrand it. If I keep calling them coffee dates, the time will surely come when I will hate coffee. And I need my coffee. I love my coffee. Coffee cannot--shall not!--symbolize ambivalence, rejection and failure.

So I'm digging back to my days of watching "America's Next Top Model". No, I am not looking in front of a mirror and practicing smizing. And I am not silently sizing up my dates and thinking, "Congratulations. You are still in the running..." Instead, I am likening my dates to that episode in each season of ANTM when the models go on go-sees.

That's what these dates are. I go. I practice my strut into the café. (Really, the only thing I’m thinking is, Don’t slouch. The thought comes in my mother’s voice, not Miss J’s.) I share some of my portfolio. This is me, all happy in the job that I do. And this is me, even happier that I left Texas while my family stayed behind. And here I am, readjusting to beautiful but hard-to-connect Vancouver. I do my best to stay focused, even if lose the link between his monologue about someone named Luke’s flooded basement and the guy across the table from me losing a camera while getting in a gondola on the Grand Canal in Venice. Water! The link is water! (Though I still don’t understand why either monologue needed to be shared. Sometimes I can work through the small stuff; the bigger questions continue to confound.) I correct the frown I’m certain overtook my face. I’m rather certain I’m smiling. I second-guess myself about not practicing that smizing thing. (It’s too aggressive, I remind myself. Stick to the plan: cool and carefree.)

He stands and I realize he must’ve said something about leaving. So I stand, too. We exchange perfectly civil nice-to-meet-yous and then we’re on the sidewalk. He goes one way, I go the other, even if it means a more roundabout route home. Never prolong the dismissal. As I walk home, I’m thinking, “You are no longer in the running. You must immediately pack your bags and leave." This time it’s in Tyra’s voice. I’m just glad there are no cameras to capture the aftermath. I have no reality show rejection tears to shed, but I’m sure the camera would add ten pounds and ten years to my look.

I keep busy the rest of the day, only checking my phone and my emails a few times—a dozen at most—to see if I get a call back. Chances are slim. But it’s okay. There will be another go-see.

Maybe next time I’ll try to smize. Seems I’ve got to do something differently.