Tuesday, August 14, 2018

SECOND THOUGHTS

I’m nervous. I suppose that’s a good thing. It means it matters. 

I have a second date with someone tomorrow night. And, for all the coffee meet-and-greets I’ve gone on, the number that have led to a callback is sadly small. Something happens after a for-all-appearances decent first date. Anything decent quickly evaporates. Maybe it’s fresh air on the walk home that makes the other guy think he can clearly do better. Maybe it’s the Grindr app. Whatever it is, decent—or, yes, even better than decent—rarely warrants a followup.

I get ghosted. And it isn’t any more comforting to know that “ghosted” is a thing. It’s a term, defined by dictionary.com as “to suddenly end all contact with (a person) without explanation, especially in a romantic relationship”. True, a coffee date hardly constitutes a romance, but there’s a related definition: “to leave suddenly without saying goodbye” as in My friend ghosted my birthday party. My experience with ghosts falls somewhere in between.

But not this time. Travis and I met for drinks three and a half weeks ago. A great start, as I mentioned here. What was supposed to be a two-week gap stretched out as Travis’ commitments in Bermuda kept him away longer. As remote as second dates seem, one after this kind of gap is practically miraculous. And perhaps a little more awkward. There’s no momentum. What exactly did we talk about last time? Will I repeat questions or anecdotes? Will he? Will it seem like a second first date? If Drew Barrymore can have “50 First Dates”, I suppose I can have a couple.

Full disclosure: Travis and I met by messaging on a hookup site. Not a promising place for something that leads to anything but a one-off. I am on a couple of the more reputable dating sites too, but Plenty of Fish seems out of stock and any arrows fired from Okcupid hit my feet, not my heart. Even before we went out, I made it clear to Travis I wasn’t interested in a hookup and if he’d thought, “Yeah, yeah,...they all say that,” the hug goodbye would’ve felt like the cold shoulder. Definitely no seconds in that case.

This time it’s dinner. Reservations required. I want to do this right. I feel something might be there with Travis. My gut’s been wrong so many times before that I should have reservations of my own. But that’s not how I function. I go in, earnest and honest. Mr. Nice Guy. We’ll see...I’m rusty with encores. Third dates are practically uncharted territory.

One step at a time.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

PLAYING DADDY

“I think when I’m a father I’m going to be the cool dad.” And then ten seconds later, he passes his phone to his coworker: “This is the guy I was talking to you about!” Oh, to have a crush! But the bigger reaction comes from merging the two utterances. Same person, almost in the same breath. A young barista with dreams.

Yes, how far we’ve come. There have always been gay boys pining for love. (How many truly want it, I’ve always questioned.) But it’s the casual mention of being a dad that I find remarkable. Like it’s in the cards if he wants it to be. And why shouldn’t it?

At least once a day, I marvel at the progress. At 53, I’ve become one of the old-timers, someone who can remember when what so many younger gay men take for granted was unimaginable.

I wanted to be a dad. But I knew marrying a woman so I could have kids was both dishonest and selfish. Even when I was closeted, I wasn’t so delusional to think maybe, with a little effort and a lot of denial, I could live a straight life—wife, two kids, a dog and one of those dreaded Disney family cruises. (All those little girls running around as Belle and Mulan would just make me Grumpy.) I was messed up and I didn’t want to mess up anyone else.

Had I had the chance, I wouldn’t have always been the cool dad. I’d have been positively fuddy-duddy at times. No princess costume till you put away your Tonka trucks. No Pokemon anything—I don’t ever want to understand that world. (“Dad! No! That’s Digimon.” Ugh.) And no becoming a teenager. Ever.

Fuddy-duddiness notwithstanding, I’d have been a decent dad. A great one even. I’ve worked with kids my whole life. We connect. I can easily get in the head of a child—or even an adolescent—and understand and appreciate what he or she is thinking even if it is expressed in a problematic manner. Kids relax with me because they learn quickly that I get them. I listen, I commiserate, I do my best to help coach them to their own way out of a problem. It’s a process that takes more time than spouting directives and a string of should’ves, but I see it as a wise investment in someone’s future. I’m proud of the fact that, even in the most difficult and shocking situations, I’ve made sure the younger person’s dignity has remained intact.

To be sure, as a dad, I would have had to grow thicker skin. No matter how hard I’d try, I’d still get my share—and then some—of eye rolls, moody mumbles and all-out shutdowns. Because, despite how hard I’d work to understand, my child(ren) would find it easier at times to pretend I just don’t get it. Yep, the teenage years would come against my orders. Dang it.

But being a dad would have still been worth it.

Alas. It wasn’t to be. Wrong time. It’s a missing piece I’ve done a respectable job pretending I don’t miss.

I’ve made it through the Facebook posting years whereby my old college friends share photos and videos of piano recitals, horseback riding lessons and soccer trophies. I’ve duly pressed the Like button and acknowledged their proud parenting while cynically wondering about the moments that would never be Facebooked.

I’d like to think I’d have shielded my child(ren)’s images from Facebook. Sure, emailing the grandparents and aunts and uncles may be practically prehistoric, but I know I wouldn’t have wanted my parents posting photos of me to their high school buddies now living in Iowa. I hope I’d have been more selective in channeling my pride instead of using my kids for Likes. But, who knows, it’s easy to speculate when I’ve never been on that hamster treadmill known as parenthood. Maybe I’d have needed that external validation of my carefully curated family life.

Before I was twenty, I thought of adopting. There were a couple of teenagers with developmental disabilities who’d been given up by or taken away from their parents. Two or three years younger than me. Impractical. The heart was there, but I knew my noble intentions would have led to failure.

In my thirties, my partner at the time would often raise the issue of parenting and I would skilfully bat the idea away or change the subject. Thank god, he had a short attention span. In truth, I was stuck in an abusive relationship. It was too much for me, even as I couldn’t seem to find the emergency exit. Still, I had enough sense and inner strength to know that I would never bring a child into that dynamic.

Free again in my forties, I felt the clock ticking and stalled nonetheless. Technically, where I lived, it was possible to adopt as a single gay man, but I think all those years of society screaming no had seeped into my psyche. How could I be good enough? What if my desire to be a dad shortchanged my child of a second parent? What if parenting was still a selfish act?

And so the time ticked on. I hit fifty and had enough sense to know that the age gap was too great. I didn’t want my son to be asked about his “grandfather” holding the handmade, purple painted “Seth #1!” sign at the high school swim meet. (The fact that I wanted a child named Seth—or Timothy—may have abruptly ended adoption proceedings anyway.)

How cool or uncool would I have been as a dad? I’ll never know.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

MIND THE GAP

Riding The Tube in London, I love the familiar recording, advising riders to “mind the gap” between the platform and the train. It’s as if the automated voice knows how much of a klutz I am, never mind that the message is repeated even when I’m back home on another continent. A gap can cause a stumble.

And so it goes with dating. This “mind the gap” message plays in my head whenever I have a decent first coffee with a guy and my travel or his travel creates a delay in a follow-up dinner—a real full-fledged date. It’s just as stumble-prone.

I recently had a wonderful introductory coffee with Chris, a soft-spoken, family-oriented gentleman. He showed up in a tank top—hey, it was a warm evening—and it took sustained effort on my part to maintain eye contact. His biceps could have been separately named entities: Hulk and Bulk. I managed. Barely.

I’d like to think that if he’d shown up in an extremely loose fitting turtleneck, I’d have left with the same sense—Let’s get together again. Let’s see where this goes. Yes, a fine man who just happened to have great arms. 

He liked me, too. I could hear it in the nervousness of his voice. I could see it as he was fully invested in the conversation. I could feel it as he apologized for unknowingly choosing a café far closer to his place than mine. Chris, at last, represented promise.

I’m so reserved that I had to push myself to hug him on the sidewalk as we parted. No hand wave or handshake this time. I made it clear that I’d love to see him again and he echoed the sentiment. But then I was leaving the next day for a getaway on Vancouver Island. Dinner would have to wait.

The dreaded gap.

The next day, we exchanged messages, each of us reaffirming how nice the coffee chat had been and expressing an interest in getting together again. I’d email him once I returned from Victoria and then we’d figure out what came next.

Email sent.

Silence.

Chris, like so many men, vanished. Fell through the gap. Ouch.

Of course, I’m the one who felt like he’d fallen. I brushed off the superficial wounds—okay, maybe there was some internal bleeding, too—and did what I tend to do as part of my recovery: I messaged someone new online.

Travis and I met for a drink at a trendy bar in my neighborhood that I’d been wanting to try for a couple of years. It’s always coffee on the first meeting, but I felt I needed to shake up the routine. We each ordered a fancy cocktail, a “cardigan daiquiri” for me, a “cucumber twist” for him. Tasty!

Travis is 40 while I’m 53 so I’d prepared myself for the fact this would be a go-nowhere meet-and-greet. Still wounded from Chris, I made sure my expectations barely registered. And yet Travis and I really seemed to connect. Smiles, laughter, common interests. He commented a few times on my apparent fitness and at one point I totally let my guard down and said, “I’m sorry,…I find you so attractive I’m getting a little distracted.” Truth. I figured he’d either flee instantly or he’d be flattered and not have to second-guess what I thought.

He stayed. A lot longer. When we left the bar, I walked him to his car and the sustained hug he gave me was one of the best I’ve ever had. Text message exchanges that night made it clear that both of us wanted to see each other again. 

Alas, though, another gap. Travis left the next day for Bermuda where he grew up and where much of his business is based. It’s a week. But then I’m away for almost a week thereafter. It’s likely that the gap will be more than two weeks. Despite how great I felt after our bar date, I’m all too aware that a couple of pricey cocktails and one (really, really nice) goodnight hug might be all we ever share.

Damn gap. Sorry, I can’t sound as polite as that lovely London Tube recording. If only the gap could be as inconsequential as the one in transit. For once, let this time be stumble-free!

Monday, July 16, 2018

THE DEVOLUTION OF THE TELEPHONE

I have love-hate relationships with my phone and social media. I’m a Luddite at heart who begrudgingly attempts to keep up with the times, albeit forty paces back.

To be sure, I don’t miss the old landline phone. Gave that up back in 2005. Nice not to have to untangle myself from that coiled cord anymore. But I could have stuck with my old cell phone. No camera for all those selfies people post online. Hangover selfie. Underwear selfie. No underwear selfie. It’s become an exhibitionist’s world.

The thing I liked best about my first cell phones is that they made texting inconvenient. I don’t fully recall the process, but the numbers each represented three or four letters. Press 7 three times to get a “P”, 2 once for “A”, 4 thrice for “I”, 6 twice for “N”, 3 thrice for “F”, 8 twice for “U”, 5 thrice for “L”. Yep, PAINFUL. It was the perfect excuse to actually call people and have a live, spontaneous conversation with normal pauses and real laughs instead of LOLs.

The phone as just a phone. Damn, I miss that. Nowadays, when my phone buzzes, it’s a telemarketer. Or someone calling for Irene, the person who apparently had this number before me. Or my mother. Whichever scenario, I let it go to voicemail. We don’t use phones to talk anymore.

I don’t like it. I still think a quick phone conversation is more efficient than an entire string of drawn out texts when planning when and where to meet for dinner, but I’ve accepted the fact that phones are for texting, Googling and posting all those redundant selfies on Instagram and Twitter.

Sigh.

Occasionally, I FaceTime with a friend. Back when I was seeing a guy in Portland, we FaceTimed nightly. I’m still uncomfortable with my little image in a corner of the screen, but it’s nice to see a real person as we talk, even through all the shaky Blair Witch moments as he moves incessantly in the kitchen, mushroom-spinach frittata in progress. I’ve Skyped a few times too, but I’ve conveniently forgotten how. Yep, more Luddite than your grandma.

I miss the ol’ days when I’d call friends long distance, often waiting until after 5 p.m. or for the weekend to get a cheaper rate. I know, it’s all free with FaceTime, but those monthly phone bills made a statement. I had a souvenir to prove I chatted with my friend in Boston or Boise.

Ah, memories.

Oh, Boise. Richard’s home. We met in 1991, back when we both lived in Los Angeles. One of my closest friends. We’d hit the gay bars to dance and be thoroughly ignored by the other patrons. We’d regularly go out for dinner or catch a movie. While I studied for the bar exam, the jewelry story where he worked was only a block away. I needed lots of breaks and popped in often.

Everyone has a friend like Richard. Dependable. Loyal. Someone you take for granted, someone you should expressly appreciate more. Sometimes you take advantage of all that loyalty.

I moved first, in 1994. I was burned out from some of the harsher elements of L.A. I was tired of being ignored in the gay bars. I wanted out of my nascent law career. Fleeing seemed like the easiest way to start over.

Richard and I kept in touch. Monthly phone calls and a couple of nights at his place in Venice whenever I’d go back for a visit. But then Richard moved to Boise, of all places. His family moved there first and he followed. Boise of all places! Middle of nowhere! On my one visit, I freaked out over the gun stores. The strong presence of Mormons made me feel uncomfortable even when I felt no overt hostility. I suppose it was more me than them.

Eventually the phone calls became less frequent. And then Facebook took over.

Never the selfie sort, Richard’s profile pic was a rotating selection of stylized Rs, presumably since his initials were RR. While updated photos of him were hard to come by, those Rs may have made a greater impact. I’d be out walking, see an R on a sign or a baseball cap and snap a pic—with my handy phone. Sometimes I’d send them, sometimes I’d forget. Sometimes he’d use them, sometimes he wouldn’t. Still, any capital R would remind me of Richard. Trust me, there are a lot of capital Rs out there!

Our main direct communication became the Like button on Facebook. So easy to click, so meaningless compared to our phone calls of yesteryear. We’d exchange birthday wishes—thanks to an assist from Facebook notifications—and every so often I’d add a comment to one of his posts or send a “just checking in” private message. Brief exchanges.

A couple of months ago, Richard posted a distressing message on Facebook: “Cancer’s back, had a heart attack, lost my job.” A kitchen sink of horrors. A decade ago, I’d have picked up the phone and we’d have had a chat to make sense of each part of that triple whammy. Instead, I hesitated. I questioned the post. He’d had brain cancer a year ago and posted a few things with regard to that. I’d messaged, but he seemed tight-lipped about it. One of those Facebook mysteries. Share to the whole group, but don’t get specific. I figured he was busy recovering or trying to not dwell on the bad. I respected his privacy, even if it came after a public post. The trifecta of tragedy seemed too much. I’m embarrassed to admit that, without any elaboration, I questioned the veracity and the motive. That’s what happens when communication gets whittled down to next to nothing.

After a few hours, I kicked myself for doubting things and sent a heartfelt message, wishing him well and some good luck. He responded simply with the Facebook “Love” heart. Message received but presumably too much on his plate to say anything more.

And then nothing. Six weeks went by without another post. I’d wonder and worry, but always at a time when it wasn’t conducive to reaching out—on a bike ride, in the middle of the night, in a support group. At last, I finally held onto the notion long enough to actually message him when I got home. “Hey, Richard. I haven’t seen anything from you on Facebook. Getting a little worried. How are you?”

A week passed. No Like, no heart, just more nothing.

And then I Googled his name and Boise. The first thing to pop up was another damn social media creation, a closed Go Fund Me account created by his brother-in-law. The family had sought money to cover the costs for Richard’s cremation.

Absolute shock. A death learned by Google. The devastation was instant, but my fingers would not leave my laptop. I needed to know more. There was no obituary. Instead, I went back to his Facebook page and clicked on his niece’s account. The immediate posts were about a concert she’d attended. I scrolled back. And back.

Pictures from a Celebration of Life on June 8th. Shit. If I’d have known, I’d have driving to Boise. No question about it. I’m not working; it would have been easy. It would have been what my heart needed and wanted. But I didn’t know.

I scrolled back further. Back and back. My god, when did he die? Turns out he went into a coma three days after he sent the Facebook Love heart in response to my first thinking-of-you message. Two days later, he died. Fifty-eight years old.

It’s been a week and a half now. I’ve gone through denial, anger and depression. Acceptance is creeping in. What else am I to do? It’s been a lonely process. He’s from my L.A. days. Without a service, I have no one to commiserate with apart from another Facebook contact. We exchanged messages after I learned the news. It was news to her as well.

A great deal of time has been spent projecting my anger at this new texting/Facebooking world. We’ve become less personal, even with our best and longest friends. Or, at least, I have. I resisted texting and then finally caved to it. I acquiesced to phones not being for phone calls. I let the quality of a dear friendship slip away and succumb to today’s social conventions.

So now I’m using another device, the blog, to continue my well-meaning advice that may come off as a rant. Think about those close friends of yours who live afar, the ones with whom it seems like only a day has passed whenever you finally get together in person. They’re the ones you take comfort in knowing that the silences between visits diminish nothing. But, please, don’t take a Next Visit for granted. Book it. Or, at the very least, pick up that phone, not to text or Like some post of your friend’s dinner last night. Call him or her. Have a real conversation. And feel fortunate that you still can.

Thank you for reading this and, if you do reach out to a friend, it would warm me to know you did. Maybe that will be part of Richard’s legacy.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

THE SHAKY FOUNDATION

I’ve gone on so many coffee dates. 

You’d think by now I’d switch to tea. Or vodka. 

But I still like my coffee. The dates? Not so much.

Many guys don’t call them dates. In the past, I’ve referred to them as “go-sees”, like the models who make the rounds on “America’s Next Top Model”. Show up, even though most of them aren’t going anywhere. It’s what you gotta do.

So, yeah, another coffee interaction a few days ago. For some reason, I woke up feeling exhausted and especially anxious. Part of it, no doubt, had to do with the fact my mouth throbbed for hours in the night. My dentist did some work recently and noted that I might have nerve damage that might require a root canal. I don’t like the sound of that. Particularly because, when he did the most recent dental procedure, the freezing didn’t work. Well, it froze my lip but not much else. I squirmed and flopped about like a fish on the deck of a boat. I’m pretending my teeth are fine, eating on one side of my mouth, hoping the pain will get bored and go away. Because that’s how dentistry works, right?

Okay, I’ve meandered from the main topic. The coffee date. It’s sad when a possible root canal is more exciting. As I was saying, I woke up with high anxiety. Possible root canal and coffee go-see notwithstanding, I’ve been experiencing lots of anxiety in recent months. It ambushes me and sweeps over me every time. 

I still had three hours before meeting Mick. I tried to fall back asleep. Not a chance. I got up, showered and walked to the store to get The New York Times. Figured a few articles about how messed up things are with U.S. politics would settle me. (Ha! And I think I’ve got it bad!)Alas, I mainly read headlines and flipped pages. I could have just done that with USA Today

I scrubbed the tub. And the toilet. Swept, mopped, checked the expiry dates on the items in the back of my refrigerator. (Sorry, red pepper hummus.) 

Still anxious. I thought of canceling, but I didn’t want to be a flake. I checked online, hoping he’d flake first. Nothing. I mindlessly surfed the web. (Yes, sometimes Facebook has a purpose.) I changed clothes three times. Anxiety produces pit stains.

Now let me clarify, there was nothing about Mick’s profile that had me in some state of heightened expectations. There was no he-could-be-The-One spark toying with my brain. A guy. A coffee. Go. See. Go home. Nothing to be anxious about. But still anxious.

I arrived a little early, with The New York Times in hand. Figured I could give reading another try. I had already browsed any and every possible site and app on my phone. As I read about Wimbledon, a body slid into the seat across from me. I looked up.

“Mick?”

Yep. The nod said so, even if the face and body didn’t. Dammit. I blogged about this last month. The mathematical deceivers. He was at least a dozen years older than what he stated on his profile. The photos? Well, I don’t even know if they were of him. Not from this decade, maybe not from this century.

Normally on these coffee “dates”—yeah, now I really need to throw quotes around the word—I can have a pleasant enough conversation with a guy, even if it’s clear from the start that we’re not a match. Be civil, maybe even enjoy meeting someone before we wish one another a pleasant life. It often goes on for forty-five minutes to an hour and before the best wishes, take care and all that.

I couldn’t do it this time. I was peeved. I’d gotten all anxious for this?! He’d misrepresented himself. Lied! Pinocchio! Pants on fire! When he said he needed to re-park the car in a free parking lot instead of at a meter, I stuttered and lowered my head, unable to be frank. But it worked. “I think I’m going to go now,” he said, and he slipped away as stealthily as he’d arrived. 

Phew!

I forced myself to sip my coffee and finish reading the article. Yes, I can have my own experience at this café. I’m fine with the empty seat across from me.

But still, as I walked home, I felt like the bad guy. He was the one with the dishonest dating profile and yet I felt shallow to dismiss him so quickly. 

My anxiety skyrocketed anew and rattled me for the rest of the day to the point where my heart seemed to race, I developed a fever and got chills. Summertime and I was wrapped in a blanket whenever I wasn’t flopped out on my bed, wishing to sleep off the agitation. I tried crosswords, TV and more cleaning (there’s always more!). I cooked (but didn’t eat). I bargained with myself to go exercise, but I couldn’t leave my condo. It took almost eleven hours to calm down. (Thank you, Amy Schumer’s “Trainwreck”. You had me at, well,…the title.)

This morning, I went back on the dating site. I clicked on a few profiles. Two out of three had photos that seemed to span two decades of the guy’s life, the amount of hair decreasing as the body weight increased. What’s going on, guys? Save your “Throwback Thursday” pics for Facebook. Please, oh please, just show your current photos. From the last year or two. Keep it updated. It’ll make coffee so much more palatable.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

STATE OF MIND

I’m a huge Sara Bareilles fan. One of my favorite songs is “Manhattan” which has the singer relinquishing the New York hub to an ex.

You can have Manhattan,
I know it's what you want.
The bustle and the buildings,
The weather in the fall.
And I'll bow out of place
To save you some space
For somebody new.
You can have Manhattan
'Cause I can't have you.

It’s a beautiful, melancholy song. A place with millions of people just isn’t big enough for the both of them.

For me, I’ve flirted with giving up an entire state. Oregon. After two and a half years of online contact and dating, my relationship with a Portland guy ended seven months ago. No more quick weekend flights. No more meeting halfway in Seattle. Just no more.

It doesn’t matter that I’m the one who ended things. The sting of failure still lingers. I suppose there’s a good chance that will last until a new relationship comes along to offer renewed hope and to show that maybe I am capable of negotiating through the good and the bad.

Why couldn’t it have been another state? I’m sure I could live the rest of my life with no effort at all in avoiding Boise or, god forbid, a smaller outpost. Yeah, you can have Idaho.

The thing is, I really like Oregon. I’ve been going to Portland and the Oregon Coast for years. I’ve gone to the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland a number of times. I’ve long felt that the state is a gem overshadowed by its neighbor to the south. I have no intention of surrendering the state to an ex.

But what I think doesn’t always jive with what I feel. This past weekend, I booked an impromptu trip to Newport on the Coast. I emailed me ex to say I’d be swinging through Portland, offering a chance to grab a meal or ice cream. I figured it would be a nice way to reconnect as friends—or something—, a way to move past failure. I like keeping people I’ve valued in my life.

He never responded.

It doesn’t come as a complete surprise, but it’s disappointing. In hindsight, it would have been better not to reach out at all. The silence did not surprise me, but still it came as a jolt and stuck with me during the entire trip. Suddenly Portland felt more like his town. When I went to my favorite spots—places I went to with him but had discovered before him—I struggled in my mind to take them back as my spots. Same with the hotel I stayed at in Newport. It’s my favorite spot. Yes, we stayed there together once, but I’ve been there many times. The visit was tainted. It wasn’t a full-on grieving; it just felt uncomfortable.

I don’t want to avoid Oregon. I don’t want to avoid the places I like. If we can’t meet to redefine our connection, then I am left to redefine my relationship with these places. I need to take them back. I need to create new memories. To be sure, I made progress. My time of the Coast was highlighted by a bike ride that allowed me to get better glimpses of the views. I kept stopping to take in the gorgeous shoreline and to stare out at the endless Pacific. Remarkably, I spotted whales at each and every stop. Absolutely glorious! I felt utter serenity. For three hours, it was just the sea and me.

I’m headed back in a month, visiting Portland for five days with a friend. He’s got a conference so I’ll have plenty of time to revisit my favorite jogging routes, to get lost at Powell’s Books, to overindulge at Blue Star Donuts and to find new cafés for writing. I’ll also have the opportunity to find a balance between memories of us and memories of my own.

As much as I love Sara Bareilles, I have no intention of surrendering a place to an ex. 


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

Marvin.

Parents don't do that to their kids anymore.

It’s not in the Top 100 list of boys’ names; probably wouldn’t make the Top 1000.* It’s on the verge of extinction along with Thaddeus, Engelbert and Floyd. If you’re named any of these, take comfort in having a moniker that’s now “unique” in a world of Bens and Liams.

I had a coffee date with a Marvin last week. And that created a hurdle from the outset. You see, my longest relationship was with a guy named Marvin. It started off blissful, but after nine months, it became abusive…and I stuck with it—and the abuse—for another seven years. So Marvin is a name that gets my back up.

Poor Marvin II. I really wanted to wipe the slate clean and give him a chance. But two days before our coffee, I had a nightmare about Marvin I. Extremely disturbing. And it’s too much of a coincidence that it should occur so close to our meeting. I’m super skilled at repressing so Marvin I hadn’t popped up in years, not even in therapy.

I suppose I could have asked Marvin II his middle name. Or said, “How do you feel about ‘Howard’? It really suits you.” But that would require a whole lot more explanation than a normal, well-adjusted person shares over an introductory coffee.
I’d like to think I could have eventually gotten past the whole thing, dropped the “II” from my mind and accepted The New Improved, Entirely Different Marvin. That would make me evolved. That would have me laugh it off as friends and family (who don’t know about the past abuse) say, “Gosh, you’ve really got a thing for Marvins.”

Perhaps fortunately, Marvin II and I didn’t click. Perhaps I’d subconsciously held back. But then he texted me the next day with a string of compliments. (Did he really think we clicked?!)

Alas, I had to let the text exchange die. If I’m not supposed to dismiss someone because of a name, I’m also not supposed to drag something out because that same name, with some sort of guilt and determination trying to fix what can’t be fixed.


So it’s back to checking for (no) messages on online dating sites and hoping a Ben or a Liam or even a Thaddeus—all safe names—to express an interest. Anyone really. Except maybe Marvin III.




---
     *Okay, I did find Marvin, ranked a lofty #559 on this Top 1000 list, but still… 
       (And, sorry, Thaddeus, Engelbert and Floyd, you didn't make the cut.)