Monday, October 26, 2009

STILL?!

I wasn’t always single. My longest relationship lasted seven years and ended five and a half years ago. There’s a clichéd response I’ve heard from some: Seven years, eh? So who got the seven-year itch? No one. Had I been stronger, it would have ended after nine months. I know the moment when the relationship jumped the shark.

While I don’t live with regret, I’m not proud of prolonging that partnership. At the time, I didn’t want to be the flake. There was that phrase, “for better or for worse”, that kept nagging at me—not that we were married or even could have been married back then. (At any rate, I should have distinguished that language from “for better or for worst”, but didn’t.) More than anything, I didn’t want to be single again.

It came with tremendous relief when I finally and firmly announced I’d had enough. No need for specifics here. We’ve moved on. Any belatedly bashing would be tacky.

So a couple of text messages I received last night baffled and frustrated me. Both from The Ex, of course. I’d just picked up the dogs after he’d looked after them for the weekend and I was shorter and colder with him than usual. I could blame it on standing out in the rain waiting for the doggy changeover or a lack of sleep after spending two nights on my best friend’s too-short sofa or the fact that my ex tried yet again to pass off the dogs early yet again despite the fact I was at a conference. Who am I kidding? The faint sound of a siren twenty blocks away can make me cranky in front of The Ex.

When I realized I had a couple of messages—I’d shut off my cell as it was running out of power—I knew whom they were from and didn’t bother to read them until this afternoon. First message, sent right after the drop off: “I still love you!” Okay that could be read any number of ways—as an in-your-face way to rile me, as an apology for throwing off my schedule, as, um, well okay, I’m searching here.

The second message came an hour and a half later, after opportunity for reflection, clearly not an impulsive statement: “You need to know that I still miss being with you, you have to know that.”

What?! Five and a half years later?! Got me an Urban Cowboy, looking for love in all the wrong places. What am I supposed to do with that? I’ve always hoped he’d find someone new sooner than I. Why hasn’t that happened? Okay, I can think of lots of reasons, but he’s supposed to be A Catch to all those window shopping single gay men. Damn.

I’m tired of things being awry in my life. Where’s the kismet?

I really have to stop watching romantic comedies.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

HELLO, GOODBYE

I have a greater chance of spotting a bear than a gay man where I live. And I haven’t seen a bear since early August. Actually, it wasn’t dissimilar from seeing a gay man. I was on my bike, cycling back from an evening ride to the local mill and I braked as I spotted a bear crossing the road ahead of me. He heard me, stopped briefly to check me out and then ambled away, completely disinterested.

I’m sure the gays pass through from time to time. I just don’t seem to be in the right place at the right time. Of course, I can’t really explain why a gay sighting matters. It just does. As weeks go by without seeing another gay man, I begin to feel like that lone hippo that was at the Vancouver Zoo. (Note to self: comparisons to hippos are probably a sign of low self-esteem. Check into it.) When I go about doing errands in the small town near home, I vaguely recall a childhood jingle, “One of These Things Is Not Like the Others.”

When I do spy a gay guy, it’s not like I have any intention of attempting to pick up the guy. Ha, just writing that amuses me. It could be raining gays and I’d have no such luck. I’d be the guy standing under an eaves, hooded raincoat zipped up, revealing only my eyes with the dark rings under them, too oblivious to notice the queer change in precipitation. Rain, rain, go away…

I did spot what I believe was a young gay man at the local Tim Horton’s this morning. (I must make the disclaimer that my gaydar may be faulty from lack of use.) I was reading by myself at a booth and when I looked up he seemed to be coming from the washroom area. He quickly made his way to the exit, never looking my way. He left without even buying a donut. (No donut?! Maybe the gaydar still worked. It’s a stereotype, but the gays do like to watch their figure. Heck, I’d ordered the coffee and skipped the carbs myself. They looked at me funny when I asked for a single Timbit.) From my vantage point I couldn’t see the parking lot, but I’m sure he got in his car, got back on the highway and headed to Ottawa, Montreal or Toronto. Places where gays aren’t an endangered species.

I guess all I would have wanted was a brief moment of eye contact wherein we each conveyed that knowing look: Hey! You’re gay! That’s all, a little public acknowledgment of our gayness. I am not alone. It just seems that way.

Maybe next time.

As it’s autumn, the bears are out more often, presumably to fatten up before hibernation. Maybe this is the onset of a few more gay sightings. Of course, I don’t want to carry the bear comparison too far. Not with hibernation season to follow!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

TOO MUCH GINGER?

There was a time when I was a gay bar regular. Not knowing any other place where gays met, my first steps in coming out involved walking in on my own, ordering a drink and nervously studying the ice cubes in my glass. As you might surmise, it wasn’t a very effective tactic.

Somehow a few people did approach and struck up a conversation. Hell, in your twenties, you could be digging deep for a massive booger and still drum up a little interest! Over time, my gay bar trips would include friends. I always had my sights on a pretty hunk who’d finally make eye contact and dismiss me in a split second, turning to renew his gaze on a go-go boy or the bartender with biceps bigger than my waist. In that moment, I could always seek consolation in my friends and belatedly dismiss the guy who dismissed me, pointing out his uneven ear lobes or a freaky fingernail.

The online scene has replaced the bar scene. It’s back to going through the process alone. And the dismissals are just as quick., typically without explanation. I’ve had many messages initiated by gay guys in the Ottawa area, but they typically end abruptly. Things start with a short note with a vague reference to my “nice profile” and my photos. After one or two emails, the exchange dies. What happened? Did a virtual go-go boy make contact in the interim? Or is the initial message dating Spam sent indiscriminately to a herd of gays? Moo!

This week I had four guys sending me messages. I politely replied to each, but all conversations dead ended. The guy I was most interested in had a master’s degree and interests in hockey, cottaging, running and tennis—all things in common. His profile also mentioned barbecuing so I noted with honesty in my first reply that, as a vegetarian, tofu on the grill did nothing for me. Undeterred, he continued the conversation. My next message was the end of the line. Somewhere in four innocuous sentences I revealed the equivalent to asymmetrical ear lobes. I’m guessing it was my comment about enjoying a ginger cookie at a quaint bakery. Should have known. Ginger was the death of the Spice Girls after all. I’m figuring I should have stuck more to the Sporty Spice path. What’s with the Canucks’ bad start? How ’bout dem Sens?!

Ah, the things I can learn online! The bar scene may be far in my past, but that doesn’t mean I can’t find new ways to be summarily dismissed and for my self-esteem to get messed up.

Monday, October 19, 2009

CAFFEINE WITHDRAWAL

You know that spherical plastic toy for preschool children with the holes of different shapes and the pieces that fit through them? I think I’ve always identified with it. Only my version of the toy has slots for circles and squares and I’m a triangle. There is no clear match. No matter which way I turn or how hard I push, I don’t seem to fit in any of the damn holes!

The image flashed back again as I walked away from my coffee date with Luc. Yes, I managed to find the right café this time so I’m grateful we had a chance to meet. (You don’t want to think the one that got away was the one you never met.)

With the date still fresh in my mind, the question that lingers is “What just happened?!” I’ll say that Luc was definitely cute. Although twenty-seven, he looked younger. I still don’t know why he messaged a forty-four year old. I may be a young forty-four but it’s a stretch to twist into a twentysomething. I would need some sort of Transformer power, a time machine or a magical therapist like on “Being Erica”.

The meeting lasted forty-five minutes, probably the shortest coffee date I’ve ever had. Even the bad ones last an hour. The encounter felt like an exchange of biographical information without any anecdote leading to the telling of a similar experience from the other. Common things surfaced like a dabbling in triathlons, but a connection never surfaced.

We talked about an art exhibit he went to last week and agreed that art should evoke emotion, good or bad. An artist has failed if the work generates no feeling whatsoever. While we sat together, I could not get a read for how Luc felt—if, that is, he felt at all. True, he used a napkin to pat his face early on, a possible sign of nervousness that he attributed to a hot room temperature in the café (that I never felt) and lingering body heat from a midday run. I’m inclined to accept one of his explanations since his demeanor seemed aloof or indifferent.

We walked a couple of blocks from the café before going in different directions. While I continued to try to find something in the conversation, I suspect he would have been content to put on a pair of headphones—no need to hook them up to anything; just a visual to show that I’d been officially tuned out. When we arrived at the parting corner, neither of us said, “I really enjoyed meeting you” or “We should get together again.” Instead, he said, “Have a nice drive home.” Isn’t that the equivalent to “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out”?

It’s only been a half hour since the cool goodbye, but obviously I’m still trying to figure out what happened (and what didn’t happen). I knew going in that the chances of a strong connection with a much younger guy were remote. Yet I know I was open to it, even hopeful. Not like in Please let me score with a young guy, but more like I’d love to find someone who fits, age be damned. I replay things, searching for a spark that I never felt and I’m sure he never felt. As I bargain to retain some hope, I wonder if his coolness was tied to his French culture and not a reflection of a lack of interest. Unfortunately, I know the answer.

It’s easier when I can dismiss someone for a lack of physical attraction. When that’s not the case, the rejection comes down to who you are a person. Ouch. I’ll go home and continue to hope for a message from Luc in the next day or two. I may send him one. Just in case I missed something.

I’m still doing it, trying to cram that triangle into the circle slot. One day I may finally meet another triangle. Then I can toss that stupid toy in the trash. No passing it on to someone else to play with. Let the next nascent triangle proceed with fewer molds to try to fit into.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

THE URBAN ITCH

From October 4:

It’s the weekend and my morning starts couldn’t be more different. On Saturday, I drove into the city to tour some neighborhoods I’d been told were hip and affordable. Turned out to be an urban myth, of course. The first area had four businesses on a single block and that was it. Not even a convenience store to pick up the morning paper or a café to get the heart pumping. I’m learning that the word like can be cruelly deceiving. The Glebe is a vibrant part of Ottawa. Other neighborhoods like the Glebe don’t measure up. As much as I’ve taken myself out of the mix by living full-time in a rural setting, I know that I can’t settle for a quasi happening area in the city if I should decide to return to civilization.

I had a couple of other neighborhoods to check out, but when I got back in the car I ended up back in the Glebe. And happy. I picked up a bagel at Kettleman’s to fortify myself and wandered Bank Street, browsing at the storefronts before stopping in a magazine shop and going bonkers on picking out a stack of specialty magazines along with the newspaper. (Urban deprivation takes its toll on the credit card.)

A bagel, plenty of reading material…next stop coffee. My favorite café was so packed, there wasn’t a seat to be found. I heard two mug toting patrons who were searching for a place to settle say, “It’s so loud, I can’t even think.” She said it like it was a bad thing. I soaked in some hip immersion just walking through and moved on to the next possibility only half a block away. Choices! Yes, Dorothy, we’re not in The Sticks anymore. It wasn’t ideal as the only table was beside two screaming preschoolers and their parents who desperately took in the adult hustle and bustle while ignoring the muffin tossing that accompanied their two adorable toddlers, both up and coming Ultimate Fighters. I took my chances, thinking the public spectacle would send the young family on its way in ten minutes or less. (I bet right! Wish I had more luck on the lottery. I’d gladly trade in another half hour of kiddie mayhem for a cool mil. Alas. I’ll take my winnings where I can find them.)

Forty-five minutes later and I was off to Westboro, another happening zone in Ottawa, one that requires a bit more walking than the Glebe. After parking the car, I had to walk down two blocks of seedy folks frequenting a bowling alley and a thrift store and spilling out onto the street for cigs and a lover’s quarrel, with the dueling couple keeping a half block between them as they shouted unpleasantries. Yikes. Not the kind of urban action I wanted to stumble across.

Fortunately, the walk improved as I strolled by chic boutiques for the young mom crowd, bistros, coffeehouses and a magnificent Jewish deli that reminded me of an old hangout, Mort’s in Pacific Palisades, California.

At one time, city life stressed me out—battles for parking, traffic lights (always red, no?!) on every corner and lines in every store. I’ll never idealize the traffic issues, but the rest of the urban busyness on this day calmed and excited me at the same time.

Now it’s Sunday morning and I’m writing this while in a small town Laundromat fifteen minutes away from the family cottage. It’s a happening spot on this particular day, but the Laundromat is one place I don’t want to find a crowd. Sorry, but I have a bit of a hangup folding my underwear in public. I don’t have Kermit the Frog on my boxers or, worse, a flaming red thong, but still, we’re talkin’ undies. And small town. Those scenes of encountering some dreamy dude at the adjacent dryer and having him hand you a renegade sock you dropped don’t happen here. It’s all dowdily dressed moms who keep darting out for another cig break. Nothing like a fresh scent of second hand smoke seeping into my stack of clean clothes. The husbands that come along remain in their pickup trucks listening to Classic Rock, waiting for the women to finish their work. (The one man who ventured in, bragged about how good his three-year-old daughter was a sweeping the kitchen. Nothing like a proud father.)

Saturday, an urban rush; Sunday, pickups in the sticks. There is no comparison.

My rural days may be numbered.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

PARDON ME

Saint Luc replied to my apology the same evening. “You’re forgiven.” He called the mix-up a “funny situation”, which it really was once I could get past feeling like a complete jerk/ditz. He’s out of town for a few days, but is willing to try again next week. We’ll see; maybe his was simply being polite to an obviously stressed out old guy. Who wants to have a stroke hanging over you? Still, I am looking forward to the chance to meet him more than ever.

I suggest we meet at a café that isn’t part of a franchise.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

TWO TABLES FOR ONE

I got stood up. He did, too.

People have different standards as to what is comfortable to do as a party of one. I’ll eat dinner at a fine restaurant on my own as long as I bring a book along. I’ll go solo to see a movie at a matinee or on a weeknight but not on a Friday or Saturday night. I don’t think twice about sitting in a café by myself. Nothing uncomfortable about that.

Except when I’m actually supposed to be with someone. Being stood up changes everything. The environment shifts from perfectly natural to utterly pathetic.

I showed up at the Bridgehead Café in downtown Ottawa ten minutes before the time I’d agreed to meet Luc. It’s always good to do a quick check in the restroom mirror. First impressions are crucial. I ordered my coffee and selected a prime table, a two-seater that seemed to have a bit of distance from other patrons, allowing more privacy during our conversation. It was also a perfect spot for glimpsing people as they entered the café.

I sipped slowly as I sat and waited. I occupied the time reading a section of an abandoned newspaper and then switched to jotting down some ideas in my writing notebook. As coolly as I could, I glanced up as people filed in and out. Lots of women, some guys clearly shorter than Luc’s stated 6’0” frame and some men far older than 27. Luc? No. Not yet.

I didn’t have a watch or a cell phone with me, but I knew a good chunk of time had ticked by. Hope faded and then completely extinguished. I tried to bargain with myself, wondering if my sense of time was out of whack. Maybe my nervousness made my internal clock race ahead of real time. Alternately, I tried to account for Luc’s delay. Maybe there’d been an accident. Nothing severe, but just enough to detain him. A minor flood in his kitchen perhaps.

Slow sipping switched to gulping. I needed to get out of there. I’d like to think the barristas had plenty to distract them, but somehow it felt like they knew I’d been stood up. Maybe they saw this kind of thing once a day. And today’s sad sack is…moi. It’s hard to stave off that feeling of despair after so much anticipation. Coffee time was a bust.

I got up and took one last glimpse around the café. I knew I hadn’t overlooked a possible Luc sighting, but I scanned the room just in case. I headed for the exit. I can’t remember when a cup of coffee tasted as bitter.

I got on the freeway in rush hour traffic and began the crawl home. And then it hit me. I’d gone to the Bridgehead on Elgin. It was the one I was familiar with. Hadn’t his message referred to the one on Bank Street? Oh, my god! I wasn’t the stood-up-ee. I was the stood-up-or. All the feeling of rejection I’d felt was brought on by my error. And over on Bank Street at the same time, Luc had been feeling the same kind of isolation!

Seventy minutes after our agreed upon meeting time, I desperately tried to swing over to Bank and locate another Bridgehead coffeehouse. Being Ottawa, the next freeway exits were closed due to construction. When I finally was able to get off, I tried racing back to the downtown area. Problem is street racing is impossible in the heavy traffic of late afternoon. Red lights, more construction and one way streets caused further delay as my stomach knotted and I felt more and more like a heel. Eventually—more than ninety minutes late—I found the Bridgehead on Bank. I knew Luc would be gone, but I tried to park to go in to see for myself. Problem is there is no street parking (or stopping) anywhere in the area between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m.

I had no choice but to turn back home feeling completely distraught. It was a struggle to keep any composure when all I wanted to do was berate myself over missing a rare opportunity. Yeah, I know the age difference could have been a big issue, but I never even allowed the chance for it to be up for discussion. Physical attraction, chemistry, common interests, sense of humor, intelligence,…none of it had an opportunity to be explored.

I completely blew it.

I drove considerably faster than the speed limit once I got out of the Ottawa metro area. I needed to get to the small town library ASAP to get on the Internet and send off an apology message to Luc. As I well knew, it sucks to feel like you’ve been blown off, to wonder if your coffee date took a peek in the window and kept on walking, to think that a rerun of “Judge Judy” might have suddenly become more interesting than a meeting with a guy from an online dating site. My apology was profuse and sincere. I mentioned hoping for a second chance to erase a terrible first impression. Of course, I’m well aware that first impressions usually stick. And I have only myself to blame.

Monday, October 12, 2009

ACTING MY AGE?

I still get hyper on days when I am meeting someone new for a coffee date. Sometimes it doesn’t happen and that’s not a good sign—I’m merely going through the motions, agreeing to get together with a guy who hasn’t really piqued my interest online. Sad to say, the photos make all the difference. Physical attraction still matters. Sadder to say, not once in the past five years has that feeling been mutual.

So I’m legitimately hyper today. The online dating site I use produces hot and dry spells. I hadn’t heard from anyone in a couple of weeks so I figured the well had run dry in Ottawa. I hadn’t expected much in the first place since I indicated I was seeking Friendship (not Dating, not Longterm Relationship, not Intimate Encounter) and noted that I was only in the area for a couple of months.

I received three messages yesterday, two of which included attractive photos. (Yes, I know photos can be fakes, but I’ve yet to experience that.) I’m going for coffee today with a French Canadian named Luc today. I see no point in following some rule of playing coy and waiting a week. The online messaging doesn’t compare to face-to-face conversation and, if I seem desperate in wanting to meet right away, so be it. Everyone’s a judge.

To work through my extra energy, I’ve got a CD playing. It’s one of those compilations, a collection of songs from 1977, my favorite year in music. That’s the year I started to tune in to pop music. Most of the songs I already have in various formats, but I bought the CD because of two songs I never hear anymore: “Strawberry Letter 23” by The Brothers Johnson and “(Every Time I Turn Around) Back in Love Again” by L.T.D. I realize these details are tangential, but here’s the point: my favorite year of music occurred before Luc was even born.

Let me restate that he initiated contact with me. I don’t go below age 38 when I search the dating site. Luc is, gasp, 27. I have a couple of friends whom I’ve teased over the years for being cradle robbers. They’d say there was no one their own age that was fit and had his shit together. All the same-age peers were discards for a reason. My friends and I were the exceptions to the over the hill misfits. A little bad luck, a few poor choices, a cheating bastard partner.

I’ll be forty-five in two weeks. You can compute the age difference. I’m trying to block it. Am I the latest cradle robber? Why would a very good looking 27 year old contact me? Does something about me scream Sugar Daddy? Is Ottawa that dry? Oh, Luc, c’est dommage.

I’m trying to stay calm. I have no idea how the conversation will go. I’m not up on “Gossip Girl” or any “Real World” season since Pedro. I shall take heart in the fact that the entire Beatles collection has just been re-released and the premise of Courteney Cox’s new show, “Cougar Town”, is about fortysomethings browsing the New Releases rack.

Coffee is still hours away. Good thing I’ve brought along my favorite CDs for the road trip from B.C. Andy Gibb, Fleetwood Mac and sweet sweet Olivia can keep me company in the meantime.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

GOING FOR ANOTHER SERVING

If at first you don’t succeed, try try try try try try again. My fingers didn’t get stuck on the t, r and and y keys; that’s what I meant to write. Actually, try should take up several lines, but you get the point.

For those of us who are single, what choice do we have? I’ve done the don’t try approach. And it worked! I didn’t try and I got nothing. Sure, no disappointment, no rejection, no mortifyingly embarrassing situations, but that only made me prone to sitting at home watching third rate television fare like Emeril’s cooking show. (Still yelling “Bam!” to the delight of his impressionable core following. And now I’m pouring milk on my bowl of Trix. Bam!)

After a miserable experience with Ottawa’s gay running group, I was prepared to block out dating for awhile and play Jann Arden’s “The Sound Of” on repeat to convince myself that the lines “I am not lonely, swear to God, I’m just alone” reflect my situation. Only two days after the running incident, however, I tried again. I went to a gay volleyball recreational night.

The fact that I’ll go anywhere near a volleyball net is remarkable. Back in fifth grade, I learned that volleys jam your fingers and bumps sting and make your arms red. Serves were the worst. They represent your moment in the spotlight when everyone gets to watch you fist the ball with such force that it doesn’t even reach the net. The only thing I liked about the sport was rotating. I’d get to the bench and then stay there, letting everyone rotate past me. Worked for me, worked for my teammates, worked for my teacher.

Fifteen years ago when I moved to Vancouver, a friend conned me into signing up for Novice Night. That friend lasted a single session before bumping up to a better quality play night. I struggled to show up Friday nights, watching my teammates go into Emergency mode every time I made contact with the ball. Someone would have to run wildly to keep the errant ball in play. I was tolerated at best. For some reason, I continued showing up and got (a little) better over time. Everyone I got to know eventually moved up to Intermediate Night. I stayed Novice.

Haven’t played in years so showing up to play with strangers was a risk. I gave myself a worst-case scenario pep talk. “If it’s a disaster, you’ll never see these people again.” And on that positive note, I was ready to play.

I don’t know how many times I said sorry over the two hours of playing time. The ball hit the floor when I thought someone else would give it a try. “Sorry.” The ball hit the ceiling after my forceful—butch?—bump. “Sorry.” The serve went out. “Sor—” Yeah, you get the picture. (Note that the serve always made it at least to the net. Mrs. Martindale, my fifth grade teacher, would be so proud.)

Of course, I wasn’t there because I had a yearning to play volleyball. I needed to know that Ottawa gays are friendlier than the ones who showed up for a particular running group session. A spark with someone else? That would be a nice bonus, but I really needed to erase a bad impression and in the process remind myself that I am not a social pariah.

Mission accomplished. Yes, there were still odd situations like playing on the same team for an hour with certain players who never introduced themselves or said a thing to me. I couldn’t even establish eye contact to introduce myself. When it doesn’t happen in the first ten minutes, it feels too awkward to bother. Apparently you don’t care so neither do it. (A childish derivative of “I know you are but what am I?”)

The person I talked to the most was a very young, nervous straight girl who showed up with a friend. We didn’t get into a conversation about the role of Canadian troops in Afghanistan, or the healthcare debate in the U.S. or whether the new season of “So You Think You Can Dance” is too soon after the summer session, but I said semi-poignant things like “Good serve” and “How’s your wrist?” (which she seemed to be nursing).

I forced myself to go along to a nearby gay bar after the volleyball session. It was awkward and there were quiet times when I had the opportunity to study my Corona label. I did get into a conversation with a retired teacher and a government worker so that confirmed that, unlike the Emperor’s New Clothes, I do exist. (Nothing happened on the lust front. I was attracted to two of the forty-five men who were at volleyball night. Both showed up at the bar and each sat as far away from me as possible. The one turned out to be a smoker and the other remained hot and unapproachable all night.)

Was it a great evening? No. But was it enough for me to keep trying, maybe even show up for a second night of volleyball? Thankfully, yes. And that’s what I needed.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

COMING OUT FOR THE NEXT GENERATION

I had coffee with Donna this morning. She is a neighbor of my aunt and uncle in a rural community outside of a town of 7,500. Her son Carter is seventeen and gay. She had cried on my aunt’s shoulder and, after meeting me last week, desperately needed to talk to an older gay man to gain some perspective on what might be best for Carter. (Bless Donna. She thought I was approaching thirty, not forty-five. How could I not want to bond with this woman?)

We chatted for almost two hours and both went away feeling nourished. As she explained Tyler’s coming out process, I was reminded how much things have changed in the past thirty years. When I was Carter’s age, Elton John had declared himself bisexual, but had a wife. A guy named Jack on “Three’s Company” pretended to be gay to get closer to Suzanne Somers’ breasts. That was it. I had no other gay reference points. Oh, there was a song by Rod Stewart, “The Killing of Georgie”, a stunningly accepting testimonial about a friend’s gayness. Unfortunately, as the title reveals, poor Georgie was beaten to death by a less accepting swarm.

Carter had found a gay confidant online in a distant Canadian city. He’d also found some of the more risqué sites, satisfying his curiosity and graphically revealing what gay sex is all about. He also lives in a country where gay marriage and gay adoption are legal. Protection against discrimination is embedded in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Carter has grown up with far more gay influences. Ellen Degeneres is one of the most beloved TV personalities out there. Adam Lambert overshadowed all contestants on this season of “American Idol” and made the cover of Rolling Stone. Television is filled with gay characters on past and present shows like “Will and Grace”, “Brothers and Sisters”, “Desperate Housewives”, “Ugly Betty” and “Glee”.

Coming out is still a challenge, a burden even. So much drama. So much to carry on your shoulders. Despite all the recognition in pop culture, the personal resources remain hard to come by, especially when you don’t live in a big city. Donna had never heard of PFLAG and had only talked about Carter’s sexual orientation with my aunt and myself. She grew up in Toronto and could recall gay acquaintances there. Her husband grew up in this rural area and still can’t even say the word gay despite knowing for over a year that his son is gay.

While I believe most high schools still have too much machismo, too much gay taunting, Carter’s school in town is particularly brutal. He suppresses his love of writing and photography and plays up his fascination for fast cars. He has not come out to a single peer. He is as lonely and isolated in his personal world as I was.

Still, Donna and Carter are ahead of where I was in my teens. Carter accepted his identity at least five years before me. He didn’t have to make a Grand Declaration of Gayness to Donna; instead, she stumbled upon a letter he’d written on the Internet, hugged him and told him she loved him. (I had to fly from L.A. to Alabama for my official Coming Out Weekend to my parents when I was twenty-eight.)

Donna began our talk saying she felt uncomfortable. By the end, she was smiling and hugging me and hoping I would move closer—to Ottawa, not the local town. I felt like I was giving back in a way to another family, maybe making their growth a little easier, their bonding a little stronger. At the same time, I feel a little less isolated and a little more encouraged.

Friday, October 2, 2009

HAVING NUN OF IT

I have a gay friend in Vancouver who is perfectly content being single for life. He says it and I think he means it. He claims that nothing matches the sex from the first hookup (or two). Basically, he doesn’t want to be stuck with the baggage when he’s done with the balls.

Maybe that would be okay. Trouble is, I’m getting nothing. If you’d ask me when I was eight years old what I wanted to be when I grow up, I’m sure nun wouldn’t have been on the list. Not in the top ten anyway. And yet, if it lives like a nun,…

I’m not just drawing the nun link based on my involuntary celibacy. I worked with nuns for three years when I was a teacher in Texas. It used to bother me when they would handle problems by sitting back, praying and waiting for divine guidance. Am I doing the same thing—just without the religion?

Last Saturday, I drove into Ottawa to do a few errands and then I went to a Bridgehead café which I’m told is a lesbian-owned chain in the city. I went to the one on Elgin Street, figuring it would have the best chance for gay traffic. As I walked in, a dreamy guy in his late thirties was heading out. We did that “After you” door dance thing, my heart went pitter and that was that. I was so taken by surprise, I think I managed to smile instead of putting my head down.

I took my massive mug of joe out to the shaded patio area and there he was, sitting at a table with a thin pretty boy who bounced an infant in a sling against his chest. Were they poster boys for Hot Gay Dads? Despite that nice little thought, my pitter went plunk. Taken. I sat, read the paper and waited passively. Here I am, single gay men of Ottawa. Sitting having a coffee in a public place. Waiting. It was the typical movie moment when a hunky guy is supposed to ask if he can read the Style section or sit at the empty table beside me and make smart conversation about the bushy-tailed squirrel mounting the tree on the other side of me. Or spill scalding hot coffee on me. Something to start a budding romance.

Divine intervention? It wasn’t to be. I waited. Sipped, read about Matt Damon at the Toronto Film Festival, and that was that. I’d dumped a load of quarters in my parking meter, giving me sixty minutes for love to bloom. I think my odds would have been better on the slot machines in Vegas.

Next time I head to the city for a solo coffee, I may even wear black. Sure, it’s slimming. It’s also my next step in emulating a nun’s life. I pray that I won’t take things beyond that.