Monday, September 28, 2009


It’s the morning after The Great Snub, aka The Grand Shunning. All is calm on the river. A band of cloud cover appears to rest on the water just behind the small island that I grew up calling Big Island. As I type this, the honking of a flock of Canada geese distracts me. They’ve been journeying overhead for a week or two now. This band seems to be flying in the wrong direction and makes a descent. I follow them with my binoculars. They skim the water for a minute before landing just to the left of the island. It’s a retreat to the familiar, I presume.

Last night I caught a television airing of “Last Chance Harvey” starring Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson. The actors play single characters, him divorced, her never married. For the first half hour, they experience rejection and isolation concurrently. His appearance as father of the bride at the rehearsal dinner and her encounter on a blind date are devastating. There was a moment when I could not help but utter “Brutal” aloud. Alone, each has to quietly suffer the indignity and somehow keep going.

The movie was brilliant, the actors as amazing as they’ve ever been. However, coming on the same day as The Great Snub, it was hard to take. After so many rounds of disappointment, how do you retain hope? Or do you simply expect to be let down? Isn’t that safer? Remaining positive in my twenties was enough of a struggle. How do I muster the feeling twenty years later after so many more defeats?

I know that resilience is key when facing any kind of struggle. Unfortunately, there are times when it feels hollow. And that’s when self-pity seeps in. I keep trying to put a new spin on things, looking for a new approach. Online dating. A gay running group. Looking in an entirely new city. A critic—likely someone well settled in a relationship (or my mother)—would say I’m not putting myself out there enough in each situation or I’m thinking about it too much. I don’t find much constructive in that kind of feedback. It’s ignorant and insensitive considering that I’ve gone so many years without affection.

As I walked the dogs this morning, I thought about hope and how to maintain or retain it. As soon as I turned on my laptop, I searched my blog entries for the word. It only appears twice and only once with respect to myself. Diminished by the word preceding it. Faint hope. Ouch.

I will rebound. Keep going to the gym and taking care of myself. Continue enjoying the quiet moments of my life. For the moment, I need to find my own retreat to something comforting and familiar. Music? Another walk with the dogs?

Maybe pancakes. With lots of syrup.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Okay, to be honest, there wasn’t even a hello.

Ever show up for something and realize in a split second you’ve made a mistake? Wonder how to get out of it ASAP?

I gave the Saturday morning session of Frontrunners a try, figuring it would be a larger group than the Tuesday night cluster. More social, too, with brunch following the run. I set my alarm for 6:40, only a half hour earlier than my usual awakening but still ungodly for a weekend. After walking the dogs in a chilly 45˚F, I shaved, showered and tried on a couple of warmer jogging outfits. Always important to make the best first impression. I made it into Ottawa in under an hour, slathered on some sunblock and strode over to the group of runners outside city hall.

My reception was the equivalent to a doggy snub: a quick sniff and turn. No need to smile unless one of these guys had eyes in the back of his head. Good thing I still needed to stretch. I needed something to do as filler after The Great Snub. Thinking about alternate breakfast plans also helped time crawl by. Coffee to go or should I have a seat and wait once more for that movie moment when Mr. Good Looking Sane and Single (and Too Fit to Bother with a Running Group) needs to share my table for some contrived, yet charming reason?

When it came time for announcements, I learned that today was going to be a 2K run. Two kilometers?! For a group of avid runners?! What was the point? I drove an hour to get an instant brush-off and to run a piddly 2K?! Apparently there was a marathon/half marathon the next day so no one wanted to overexert. Now I would never consider running either of the race distances so hats off to them, but, if you’re a marathoner—that’s 42K and some change—isn’t 2K just a warm-up? Wouldn’t sleeping in have been a better way to rest up?

Ah, what do I know?

When the group dispersed, I was on my own. I may sound snarky, but I think that’s warranted after schlepping to the city to run solo in a running group. I kept pace behind four men who were oblivious to my existence and I felt relieved after they all turned back, leaving me to officially run on my own along Ottawa’s picturesque Rideau Canal. Thank goodness for the gorgeous backdrop. In my forty plus years of visiting Ottawa almost annually, I’d never taken in the canal on foot. A silver lining, cool yet shimmering in the sun.

When I finally got to driving home—oh, I sipped that coffee in a cafĂ©, but Prince Charming must have gotten his to go—there was no way to block out the feeling of rejection. Why do I feel like I’m back in high school when I’m in a new gay scenario? That moment of instant ostracism was brutal. What happened to adults making new folks feel welcome? I’d like to think I haven’t done that to others, but I’m sure there were times when I didn’t care to make the effort to include an outsider. Sometimes I’ve shown up for a group just to mix with the few I’m most familiar with. There’s comfort and safety in that. Still, I know there have been many times I’ve spotted the loner and struck up a conversation. Not as a pickup, but as the decent thing to do. If I can do that as a painfully shy and self-conscious person, I should expect at least one of a gay pack to do the same when I’m the odd man out.

I won’t go back to the running group. If I want to run along the canal, I can do that once again on my own. I’ll just pick a time that works for me. The next round of rejection will have to come from another source.


My cousin has been talking about the new Jennifer Aniston-Aaron Eckhart movie, “Love Happens” for weeks. Like me, she’s a romantic dreamer, but she is ten years younger and hasn’t gotten jaded from years of disappointment. I used to be a sucker for every Meg Ryan romantic comedy that came out. I still like the genre, but now I view the movies as light entertainment, bearing little semblance to reality.

One of the promos for “Love Happens” caught my attention. Yes, it has a sexy shot of a shirtless Eckhart, but I might never have glanced up to see that had his character not said it had been three years since he’d had a date. Not exactly inspiration, but certainly a statement worth commiseration. And utterly refreshing for Hollywood where characters have little trouble getting it. Since it first aired, the title character on “Ugly Betty” has had a far greater dating record than I have. What does that make me, Far Uglier Gay Guy? I remember an episode of “Friends” where Ross rues going six months (or weeks?) without sex. He and the Central Perk gang regarded the drought as the equivalent to the apocalypse. As much as I loved “Sex and the City”, I never related to the women’s rapid Rolodex of sexual liaisons.

A line in last night’s episode of “Glee” was both funny and more realistic than the way sex is typically portrayed. As Terri desperately tried to make her false pregnancy become real, she stepped things up in the bedroom. Her husband, glee club sponsor Will, boasted that the couple was going at it once a week now. Ah, how refreshing from the two or three times a day we’re hit with in typical showbiz depictions of horny couples. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love a healthy, active sex life; I just don’t need Hollywood rubbing its fictionalized glory in my face.

I’m not sure if I’ll go see “Love Happens”. I don’t want the rest of the plot to dilute the potency of the line in the preview. Still, if an Aaron Eckhart character can go dateless in three years, I don’t feel quite as pathetic. Sometimes love doesn’t happen; at least, not for a long time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I’ve enjoyed my first month at the family cottage. For the most part, it’s just the dogs and me. And a chipmunk that loves to scamper across the deck and ruffle the dogs. My exercise regime has been excellent as I rotate my workouts through going to the gym in town, swimming, cycling and jogging.

As a jogger, I go for consistency. I’ve never tried interval training, speed drills or other structured sessions. When I go for a run, it’s always the same: ten kilometers—no more, no less.

Last night, I did something completely different. For starters, I picked a different venue. I drove into downtown Ottawa (about an hour’s drive), parked the car and met a group of Frontrunners, a gay running group, outside city hall. That’s a huge change. I’m not a social person when I exercise. While some may get hot and bothered over guys working up a sweat, I just think people in a sweaty, stinky state should be left alone. (Of course, there is an exception for shirtless hunks, but they’re the ones who think I should be left alone in any state.)

There were five people clustered near a side entrance when I arrived. The group leader immediately introduced himself and the woman by his side. I then said hello to a guy standing near them. He looked startled to be acknowledged, his eyes popping out like a deer in the headlights. (I’ve been told many times that I have a knack for portraying the same deer.) The other two guys, while aware of introductions, kept to themselves carrying on their own conversation. Even in a group of five a clique exists! Ten minutes went by and I awkwardly stretched and looked around while people chatted two by two. The deer stood on his own, our talk ending after about sixty seconds of in-depth dialogue.

My idea of getting “out there” to meet other gays was a bust. I was ready to bolt and do my own run. My complete lack of any sense of direction stopped me. Running along a country road is simple: run 5K one way and then turn around. In a city I don’t know very well, I would never be able to get back to “Go” on my own.

A few more people arrived, the leader facilitated introductions, shared some announcements and advised folks to look after the new people—myself and Bambi.

And then we were off. Immediately, I was on my own. Hello?! New person! Who’s looking out for me? People were running different distances and the route involved crossing over a series of bridges from Ottawa to Gatineau, Quebec. I followed a couple of guys in front of me as they ran and talked. I felt like I was eavesdropping or being an annoying shadow. Moreover, the pace was too slow.

I became bold. I ran ahead and joined Jean-Marc, a regular in the group who was running on his own. Perhaps I was intruding on his private workout, but I was desperate, already confused as to our starting point. Maybe Jean-Marc feared I was a stalker because in the first minute of our conversation, he threw out the “WE” twice, as in “We live near here”, as in I am taken so back off, horn dog!

Good to know. Not at all unexpected. If there is a group of gay guys, ninety-nine single and one taken, I always find Mr. Married. Call it an inner safety mechanism or a subconscious desire to flog myself. I didn’t expect to hook up with my future life partner based on one outing, but there’d been a faint hope. If it’s gonna happen, it has to start somewhere. Not here.

The run was terrific. It was a sunny evening and the temperature was comfortable for running. The pathways along waterways and the views from various bridges were spectacular. I absolutely loved it! As for exercise, things came up short. The pace was a tad slow and the course was only 7K. I put a positive spin on the fact that I want to go farther and faster. My fitness level is as good as it’s ever been.

The group met for coffee after the run. Normally, I’d zip home, shower and change first. Not an option when “home” is an hour away. So I sat there, sweaty and aware that my big hair was now frizzy, humongous hair. I tried to get into the conversation, but it’s tough when you don’t know anything about the group. Should be easy, shouldn’t it? A blank slate. Unfortunately, small talk has never been my thing.

Two guys talked about telephone technology for about five minutes. No point of entry there. The one guy’s phone tracked is distance and speed during the run and broke things down into intervals. I don’t even know how to initiate a text message. (I can reply; just can’t start it. Story of my life, really.) Then a guy started talking about sugar sculpting. What? Actually, it was interesting, but once again, I nothing to contribute. Posed a question or two at least.

When someone asked where I was staying and I named the local town, the reaction was typical. “Did you drive in just for the run?” Yes. Does that make me desperate? Somehow that’s how it felt. I see it as being pragmatic. A flock of gays isn’t going to land on my dock, ready for a tea party. I have to put myself out there, even if it requires a tank of gas.

I could feel myself getting antsy. Ready to return to my remote den with the dogs. Thankfully, conversation wound down and my exit coincided with the group’s full dispersal. It was dark on the drive home and I had no choice but to shift from any woe-is-me, forever-single thoughts to full attention to the road. I’ve seen too much roadkill since I’ve been here and the local skunks, raccoons and porcupines deserved my focus.

Will I drive in again for a short jog? Perhaps. I now know what to expect. And what not to expect.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


It’s been seven weeks since my last haircut. I usually get it trimmed every four to five weeks. I’ve reached the crisis stage.

This is what happens when I leave home for a couple of months. I’m completely out of my comfort zone. A haircut from a new stylist is a stressful thing. Right up there with moving, job loss and breaking up, isn’t it? The bond we form with our stylist is strong. It goes beyond the trust we put in them to snip away freely at our coifs. I talk more frequently to Kaley than I do to some of my closest friends who happen to live in other parts of the continent. She’s the only one who knows I watch “America’s Next Top Model” and “The Bachelor(ette)”. And she hasn’t once threatened blackmail.

Have you ever broken ties with a hairdresser? It’s a tough thing. For two years after moving to the nether-lands, I continued to take a ferry into Vancouver each month to get an appointment with Christina. I’d still be doing that but she moved to Vancouver Island. Two ferries and about seven hours round trip. I do have limits!

When I lived in Malibu, I went to this fortysomething volleyballer who lamented giving up beach time for more appointments since he knocked up his girlfriend and had to deal with new responsibilities. The cuts were perfectly acceptable until one day, for reasons still unknown, he took a shaver to the back of my head and gave me a half-bald buzz. Pre-Britney. I was horrified and hid for days. (If only I could pull off wearing a baseball cap.) Well I went back the next time, for reasons still unknown. I explicitly told him not to repeat the look from last time, he nodded and proceeded to give me the same shocking butcher job. It was more than a sign; it was a clear statement. I had no choice but to move on.

Salon chairs always remind me of the dentist’s chair. Not a good association. When I am forced to go to a new stylist, I sit nervously, sneaking peeks at that oh so deceptive mirror and tensely gripping the arms of the chair. He/She who wields a sharp pair of sheers holds all the power.

So why have I delayed? Is it fear or a longing for Big Hair of the ‘80s? I’ll admit I wanted my hair to grow out a little. And fear of the unknown resulted in my relying exclusively on a recommendation of a stylist who works out of her home. It’s mayhem, with kids and a dog running about and the occasional heated argument with her couch potato husband. Ten bucks, no tips. Yes, I know. There are some serious red flags. But my cousin drives an hour each way from Ottawa for an appointment. It’s not the money, but the cut. Better than any of the top stylists in the city. Or so I’m told.

She took last week off. Hence, part of the delay. Today was the day, but it’s not to be. Apparently the kids are ill.

And so I wait. And the hair grows on. When some kid in town shouts, “Hey! Ronald McDonald!”, I’ll be forced to take a shaver to myself. If that’s what comes to be, I can console myself in knowing I won’t need another trim until I’m back in Kaley territory.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Never make a decision about moving after major breakup. No one ever says that. I guess that’s because you have to make a decision when you’re living with the person. Maybe the rule should be, Never make a decision to relocate from the city where you live.

When I made my exodus from Vancouver, there were sound financial reasons for doing so. The city is the most expensive in Canada—or at least second to West Vancouver. And I stubbornly refused to downsize from house to condo. I put a ferry between me and civilization, telling myself I enjoyed my time alone and had no interest in getting involved in another relationship.

Idiot. That was my Avoid Period. Leave me alone, everyone! Nothing wrong with that when it’s a phase. I made it a lifestyle and it’s been going on for four years now. Somewhere along the way, the Avoid Period mutated into A Void Period. I go back and forth from feeling frustrated to bewildered. I have not felt attracted to a single gay man in years. I don’t even see gay men. I don’t think my gaydar is on the fritz. It just can’t pick up a signal in remote regions.

Friday, September 4, 2009


Okay, I know nothing about Ulimate Fighting. (Is it even a proper noun?) Well, I remember Courtney Cox’s Monica dating an ultimate fighter played by Jon Favreau on an episode of “Friends”. Yet it’s coffee with a gay ultimate fighter tomorrow. Way to shatter the stereotype, man! (Last guy I had coffee with was a hairstylist.)

Keeping an open mind…

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Apples for Apples

Well, I’ve struggled to retain and experience any gay part of my identity since moving to a rural area in British Columbia nearly four years ago. For unrelated reasons, I’ve taken a leave of absence from my regular job and I’ve traveled to a new place for a two-month sojourn to pursue creative projects. So where did I go? New York City? Chicago? Montreal? Tokyo? A rural area on the Ottawa River in Ontario. Ottawa is an hour’s drive away.

As with my home, the family cottage where I’m staying has a water view—only closer and better. The closest town is about ten minutes away. The services there are similar, sans the Starbucks (alas). A pulp and paper mill is one of the biggest employers in both areas. Things are remarkably similar. Why did I trade apples for apples? And why did I drive 4,600 kilometers to make the trade?

This cottage is what I retain from childhood. This is a place where I am able to think differently, possibly sparking new creativity. Here is where some of my most profound life decisions have gotten sorted out.

Will any part of my being gay further develop here? It’s unlikely. I have switched over my hometown from Vancouver to Ottawa on an online dating site and changed the “seeking” option from dating to friendship. I’m not looking for a long-term relationship or even a fling (though stumbling into either wouldn’t be so bad, would it?). Simply connecting with another gay person would be welcome. While I had many friends here as a child, it’s been almost thirty years since I’ve seen any of them. I’m a tag-along at social outings with my relatives and their friends.

I’ve been here four days and things are as quiet as they are at home. I am making progress with my writing so the primary purpose for being here is coming to fruition. I’ve had a couple of Ottawa guys indicate they’d like to meet for coffee. Neither would be a dating candidate and I’m not even sure that there will be anything on which to base a friendship. (One guy’s subject header read: “Yo!” Are there pirates in these parts or is this a middle-aged gay man who really thinks he can pull off an urban gangsta persona? His interest in Ultimate Fighting also baffles me. Random Michael Jackson quote: I’m a lover, not a fighter.) But I’m going to try to remain open, parenthetical thoughts notwithstanding.

I also have my aunt and cousin trying to play matchmaker. Super. I need the help. But I get the feeling their efforts are misplaced. It seems one of my childhood friends is single (though he has a child), attractive, in good shape, has a dog and likes running and biking. On paper, they’ve got checkmarks in each box for both of us. I’m trying to remain sensibly cautious (negative?). For a match, at least three things need to be: (1) He has to be gay; (2) He has to be single; and (3) He has to be interested in me (and I in him). Three big hurdles and I’ve never been much of a hurdler.

At this point, I remind myself that I’m here for my writing. Anything else is a nice distraction and a bonus. Of course, who doesn’t like a nice bonus?