Thursday, July 22, 2010

THE BROCCOLI FACTOR





I wasn't alarmed when, as president, George H.W. Bush publicly disclosed his dislike for broccoli. In fact, the news—it was a slow day, I suppose—came as a relief. After all, this was the world leader who selected Dan Quayle as his VP. Passing on the broccoli was just another poor choice that spoke to his character. (I lived in Texas for eleven years. I was SUPPOSED to be a Bush-man. There was no point arguing about the economy with the neighbours; broccoli was so much easier.)




Do veggies have the power to separate and divide? I still have a profile on a gay dating site, one of the blander ones, with penis and butt shots prohibited. This week I received a message from a newbie who actually lives reasonably close: in Vancouver, instead of Halifax and Toronto like other recent messengers. We've only exchanged a couple of brief emails so far, but he did pose an interesting question. My profile states that I am a vegetarian; his indicates he's a vegan. He asked if my being a vegetarian created problems in dating and if I thought people passed over profiles that dared include a V word.




And all this time I thought people were clicking past me because of the purple shirt. (My Barry Manilow reference in the title of my profile also seemed more problematic. But I felt "Ready to Take a Chance Again" summed up my stance far better than "I Want Your Sex".)




Does my choice to be a vegetarian deter people? (When I lived in Texas, the answer would have been obvious. I can still hear the waitress saying, "So what are you...a veg?!" In her regional dictionary, veg was synonymous with freak. This is the place where cattle ranchers sued our beloved Oprah, people.) In a way, it would be easy to conclude that the entire reason I'm single has to do with my diet. ("You're a really swell guy. It seems like you've got it all. But that tofu thing..." Come on! I buy tofu three times a year and usually end up throwing it out a month after the expiration date. Maybe I'll get to that stir-fry or that approximation of cheesecake next year.)




In my profile, I'm clear. Being a vegetarian is my choice. It's not a deal breaker. The only things I can't handle are watching people gnaw on ribs, tear apart a lobster or feast on a fish with the eyes intact. Even then, I cope. I keep the menus at the table and set up a little fort around me, blocking my downward vision. Or I find a spot on the wall just to the right of my eating companion's ear (which, I'd never noticed before, is sprouting an untamed thicket of hair).




So it's not a deal breaker for me, but is it for the carnivores/omnivores out there? In the real world, I don't think so. My best friend and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum with food choices. He refuses to step foot in a vegetarian restaurant. Indian restaurants, where I also have many choices, are not an option. There have been times when we've traveled together when we get tables for one at different restaurants. (This is especially true in Calgary where I've found many places without a single food option for me on the menu.) When we get together in Vancouver, it's for coffee or tennis. Once the percussive tummy symphony begins in either of us, we wave goodbye until next time.




Dietary differences are navigable. I've even managed to peacefully coexist on a week's vacation with a guy on the Atkins Diet. I once flirted for six months with a guy at the gym before we finally went on a date. His severe food allergies restricted him from garlic, onions and anything with gluten. He ordered a steak and asked to forgo the vegetables (cooked in garlic). Hey, I thought. Opposites attract. Even Paula Abdul and the dancing cat say so. Food didn't get in our way. No, I'm told it was that darned circuit party and some guy from Chicago with a dainty water bottle and tight undies who killed what would have blossomed into something blissful.




Ah, who am I kidding? What's love without a little gluten?




Internet dating sites aren't like the real world. They are speed dating mechanisms with two dozen "matches" coming at you twice a week. I always feel like I'm part of the cast of "Seinfeld" when I search online. (Remember? No reason was too petty for Jerry or George or Elaine to dismiss someone.) Vegetarian? VEGETARIAN?! Alien! Wacko!




Freak!




I suppose I could delete the vegetarian tidbit. Save it for that first dinner, assuming we even clear the coffee date screen. But I figure if it's that big of an issue for someone else, why go through a couple of weeks of emails and a promising conversation over biscotti? The reason I mention it in the profile is in the off-chance that there actually is a single gay vegetarian out there in BC. Wouldn't that be a bonus?! Shared meals! A barbecue grill without fleshy remnants!




I just hope he doesn't love tofu. Or like AC/DC. Or have a thing for "Garfield" comics. Some differences really are insurmountable.




Tuesday, July 13, 2010

GAYDAR SAYS...

I attended an art exhibit on the weekend at a painter’s idyllic estate in town last weekend. It’s the kind of place featured in home and garden magazines. No surprise, it has been in a national publication though I never saw the issue. I imagine there was a picture of the easy-on-the-eyes artist sitting barefoot on the porch of character home along with his stylish wife, each of them holding a cup of coffee while their cat, named after Rembrandt or Beethoven or Socrates, nudges up against his leg. (These aren’t Whiskers or Felix people.)

The gala was scheduled to run from 5-8 p.m. and I worried about looking like I didn’t have a life, arriving at 5:10. Turns out there were a lot of other life-less folks. Cars lined the rustic lane and at least fifty people were already milling about in the pristine gardens, chatting amiably, gazing at the emu and alpaca and, yes, studying the pieces in the industrial studio with the open glass garage doors letting a gentle breeze stream through both levels.

The exhibition is held each year in July and I’m usually out of town at the time. This is an abstract artist whose work I have admired since I first moved to the area five years ago. If and when I finally get back to civilization, I would like to take one of his larger works with me to adorn a wall in my cramped city condo. Unfortunately, the selection seemed smaller than when I’d last attended an exhibit four years ago. Moreover, the colour and composition failed to dazzle me. I had my chequebook ready, but I had no inkling to sign my name and reduce my bank account by another couple of thousand dollars in support of the arts. My art collector days must wait at least another year.

On my last visit, I hadn’t been able to make the opening and instead showed up during an afternoon showing later in the week. At that time, red dots indicated that almost every painting had been purchased. Still, the artist was charming—and attractive—and he offered me a tour of the inside of his home and the meandering gardens. But for the dots, I would have gladly bought one of his works, not sure if due to genuine art appreciation or pure lust.

Given the crowd, there were no personal tours this time. It’s just as well since I would have only felt more frustrated and confused. This man appears to be living an existence that I can only fantasize about. Gorgeous home, gorgeous studio, gorgeous grounds and, well, gorgeous artist. The whole package! The assortment of animals only adds to the ambience. I drove away thinking If only...

How is it this man has a wife? I know my gaydar gets little use here in the boonies, but this man isn’t on the Is He/Isn’t He fringe of the monitor. He’s comes up smack in the middle of the gaydar screen right where you’d find Chris Colfer, Adam Lambert and, yes, Anderson Cooper. (Don’t worry, Andy...no one reads my little blog. Especially not the Baptists in the Bible Belt.) With so few gay men in the area, his lovely wife has taken one of the good ones—okay, maybe the only one—in my age bracket. Doesn’t she know? Doesn’t HE know?! Here we are forty-one years after Stonewall, twelve years after George Michael’s public toilet bust, and months after Justin’s coming out on “Ugly Betty” and being gay still isn’t an option in some rural areas of the least religious province in relatively tolerant Canada. That successful, sexy artist could be mine. What competition is there in these parts?! Alas, he’s crossed over to the hetero life.

In his dreamlike setting, I wonder if he is indeed happy.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Just One Look

I've forgotten what it's like. Oh, I have an image, but it's from all those romantic comedies that I'm a sucker for watching on The Women's Network. What's it like to have someone look at you, as if you matter, as if in that moment, you're everything?

I saw it today. But I was a mere observer. There, in line to get coffee, a woman pointed to a particular muffin behind the glass and touched the man's arm. He gave her that look of longing. The look that says How did I get so lucky? and What would I do if you ever left me? And then she left. For the bathroom. The man stood dazed for a moment, part of his identity snapped out from under him. He seemed to give himself an invisible shake, like a dog coming out of the lake, and then smiled while gazing at the menu board. She'll be back.

Of course, there's a good chance I could have gotten the scene all wrong. I'm rusty. Like a 1988 Buick that's gone through too many winters in Kapuskasing. What do I know anymore? The woman may have pointed to the muffin, insistent that he order the one with the biggest chocolate chunks and DEFINITELY not another low-fat pastry as he'd foolishly done last time. You do remember what happened, don't you? And just to make sure he did, when she touched him, she pulled a few arm hairs. He looked into her eyes, thinking When will you ever let it go? and Why don't you just leave me...again? This time I won't beg you to take me back.

And she was gone. A short bathroom break. A reprieve. He stood in a stupor for a few seconds, as if adjusting to the light peeking through a sky of ominous dark clouds. He smiled as he took in the other patrons, the activity behind the counter. She's gone...at least for now.

But having watched all those Meg Ryan movies and having shaken that nagging inner voice that told me I wasn't supposed to watch The Women's Network, I always see the former scenario. True love...meant to be...perfect match...our Kraft Dinner looks so good on the wedding china...blah, blah, blah. (Only not so blah at all.)

Even in my days frequenting coffeehouses and bars in West Hollywood, that kind of look directed at me was a rarity. In the movies—heck, even on TV commercials—, it's so easy. Grab a grocery cart, linger in the frozen pizza aisle and he sees you. There's that melting moment. Eyes lock. We can't see it, but two hearts simultaneously experience a stronger thump-thump. Goosebumps spread across at least one person's arms—and it's not on account of opening the freezer window to grab a pint of Häagen-Dazs. And then it's over. As he rolls his cart by, the oversized package of Pampers says it all. But that moment—oh, what a moment! I know it's not real, but maybe that's the reason I have to dash to the store every day. Needing more soy milk or a bunch of bananas is a façade for what I really need.

It doesn't even have to be a romantic, eyes-sparkling exchange. I'd take a look of lust, even an unwanted ogle at this point. Something to affirm that I exist, not as a dog owner or a customer with a wallet, but as a gay man. Coming out took years—in many respects, it continues to be a work in progress. And now I'm not sure what it was all for. I no longer exist as a sexual being. Aside from a couple of twenty-year-old baristas, I haven't noticed a gay man in my community in months. My gaydar isn't broken; it's just in storage along with my peach band-collar Girbaud shirt and my baggy jeans, waiting to come back in style. Single gay men in rural areas should get some sort of protected status. It feels like I'm that last Dodo—clumsy, flightless, stunned to find myself alone.

In order to survive, species must gauge their habitat and move on if survival in one environment comes into doubt. Yet I'm still here. House unsold despite radical slashes to the asking price. I've given up on the online dating sites. No point really. You're from where?! So many gay men in Vancouver won't leave their own neighbourhood, be it the West End or Commercial, to venture across town. To think of a potential life partner being a ferry ride away is too great a stretch of the word potential. Not gonna happen.

And so I trim the hedges and get new windows installed. The ocean view is that much greater with the broken seal removed. I had dreamed of someone standing beside me, taking in the natural beauty, someone laughing at me after I step onto the deck and jerk to the left to avoid the kamikaze hummingbird intent on taking my eyes out. (Yes, that happened last night. But the sole witness can only bark.)

I wait. Life is on hold.

It's a bad TV night. Must stop watching "The Bachelorette". Must stop thinking how sweet (and perfectly natural) it is that five guys say they're falling for Ali. Must stop admiring a woman who gave up her job and her apartment to find love—she reminds of this every week, no? Must realize that kissing five different guys and carrying on speed dating conversations is not the path to love at all. Just a chance for eye candy in swimsuits.

I'll probably pop in my copy of "When Harry Met Sally", feel Meg's pain when she realizes Joe was never going to be the one, feel her joy when Sally and Harry find each other again on New Year's Eve and then experience my own hangover while walking the dogs, keeping an eye out for coyotes...and rogue birds. What's it like to be wanted, to be desired…even if for a moment?