Thursday, December 29, 2011

(NOT) SO FAR AWAY



I get the sense that a lot of older single gay men fail to go the distance.

Sure, you can read that as not being fully committed, but I am referring to something more fundamental. They fail to consider that Mr. Right might exist beyond the gay ghetto of their chosen city. In Vancouver, that rather scenic ghetto (save for litter-strewn Davie Street) is the West End.

I realize I am not objective here. I am fortysomething and single. I do not live in the West End. In fact, I am more than an hour (and a ferry) away. I’ve only had a date cross the waters twice in six years...and each occasion only came after we’d had a few promising outings in town. Still, I have had many coffees in recent years with online single guys. I’ve heard the stories. Vancouver is a city of bridges and, if a gay has to traverse a bridge to date you, it rarely happens. Guys in Kitsilano, off Commercial and near Main Street have all shared their frustration that West Enders won’t travel.

Many West End dwellers pride themselves in walking to work, to the gym and to restaurants. They boast about not having to buy a car or pay the insurance, gas and maintenance. Indeed, their lifestyle is environmentally sound and, with all the walking, rather healthy.

There are, of course, drawbacks. There are 44,000 people who live in this downtown area. For better or worse, it only takes a few years to recognize and/or become acquainted with the gay neighbors. If you are going to online dating sites like Plenty of Fish, then chances are the dating pool has dried up. If you are over thirty and single, I believe who have to toss out a larger net if you want to reel in fresh fish. But West Enders are not that adventuresome. At best, they will meet for coffee...in the West End, of course. Many times, my coffee companion has shot me a puzzled gaze and asked, “Why don’t I recognize you?” Sigh. There may be plenty of fish, but they’re all swimming in the same fish bowl. I’m reminded of an old Roseanne Roseannadanna—I miss you, Gilda Radner!—quip: “Jacques Cousteau is swimming in a fish’s toilet.”

This post does not arise from my own dateless existence. Yesterday I received a message from a 59-year-old man on Plenty of Fish. He begged people to overlook the fact he lived beyond the ghetto. His three-sentence message to me included the following: ”I live in the burbs -for the last 2 years - but am considering moving into the city to broaden my social life.” Read: It takes a little extra effort to see me, but don’t hold that against me. The profile explained that he’d retired and moved to White Rock (which is a beautiful beachside community south of Vancouver). He stated he needed to establish a social life and then made his pitch: “I travel into downtown Vancouver fairly regularly by car or public transit. The public transit is actually pretty good out here - I can be in downtown in 50 minutes by bus and Canada Line.” Don’t dismiss me. I’ll come to you.

Less than an hour. Come on, people. This does not constitute a long-distance relationship!

I felt sad after reading this. We did not have anything in common, but that had nothing to do with location. (At this point, I’d date a guy in Portland. Or Pittsburgh.) Here was a guy who settled in a lovely place where he thought he’d live out a happy retirement only to realize that being single in the burbs was not practical.

Okay, here’s the interesting thing about writing. As I wrote the preceding paragraph, I realized I was the same as WhiteRockTim. I too live in a peaceful, scenic area and I feel the isolation. I am desperately waiting for my house to sell. Am I returning to ghetto life? Maybe. If immigration matters work out, I’ll be back in L.A. where I thought nothing of battling freeway traffic and dating a guy in Reseda or Silver Lake. I even fell in love with these guys! But then maybe it was just me. Maybe I am a gas guzzling gay.

Am single. Will travel.

Is that an anomaly?

3 comments:

David on Moose Island said...

Since my mid 20s, i have lived outside of urban gay centers. It has always amazed me that urban gay men will meet me if I travel to them, but are horrified at my suggestion that they come where I am to meet. I know live in a small island village 2-4 hours from urban centers and have pretty much let go of dating. I love where I live. Maybe some day, another compatible gay man will wander into town!

Rural Gay said...

I really appreciate your comment. When I moved to my home, I was told the lesbians will travel; the gays, not so much. Sure enough, there are women in happy relationships all around. It has taken until midlife for me to realize I should have been a lesbian!

You are obviously living in a place that brings you joy. Why are so many gay men averse to being amongst quiet beauty? Alas. I hope you stumble upon love with a guy that sees your home as retreat rather than a travel annoyance.

Regardless, enjoy your invigorating world!

Rick Modien said...

When I moved to Vancouver in the late '80s, RG, I moved to Burnaby. One, I didn't know Vancouver well; two, I wanted to be close to where I worked so my commute wasn't long; and three, I had no clue there was a gay village downtown.

Well, did I ever hear about my decision. When I met a few gay men, they thought there was something wrong with me because I lived on Willingdon in Burnaby. They as much as said if I ever expected to meet someone, I'd have to move downtown. How discouraging was that?

They may have been right. I didn't meet Chris until I'd lived in the West End several years. But we met at a downtown gay club. Despite living in the 'burbs, I used to make the weekly trek to the clubs. I could have just as easily met Chris on one of those nights as the one I actually did.

The point is, I think gay men believe there's only one place to be gay, and that's in the area of the city where a large number of gay men live, and where, as a result, they can all be more themselves. But the point you make is a good one--dating someone from elsewhere in Metro Vancouver isn't a long distance relationship.

I hear your frustration and can imagine how much more difficult it must be for you living a ferry ride away. Still, I have to believe, if it's worth it, two men living some distance away from each other will find any way they can to be together. Such an arrangement also tests them, too, proving just how much they mean to each other.