Monday, April 25, 2011


Things haven't been so good lately.

One of my dogs died a month ago after a period of declining health. No amount of preparing myself for the final decision actually prepared me. I realized in the days after his death that, aside from my other dog, I was completely alone. It took eight days before I could get the simple token of comfort I desperately neeed: a hug.

While I have struggled to connect in Vancouver, I know that much of the isolation comes from my own way of being. I don't think I ever completely broke from my secretive teen identity when I tried so hard to conceal certain mannerisms and "sinful" longings. Since that awkward time, I have never fully let my family back into my life and my reserved nature veered toward hermit status when I moved to a more rural setting.

Grief mixed with anger that I directed at myself. I have always cherished alone time, but loneliness has crept in. In becoming the boss at work, the isolation grew. While everyone needs to see me, the conversations are respectful and collegial, but I learned early on that friendship is out of the question. Nobody wants to be seen as being too chummy with management. I contribute to the separation by being an asexual entity. I'm single and have no children, but my sexuality is never discussed. I assume everyone knows.

I never liked the drama that came with coming out talks. In particular, I never liked the fact that, with one exception, I always had to initiate these conversations. Fifteen years ago, I decided I was done with outing myself. If anyone wanted to know, the person could ask me. And in the last fifteen years, no one has.

Asexual. Lump me in with aphids and rotifers. Not the greatest company. Heck, even the dung beetle is sexual.

A few days ago, when a colleague asked me, "How are you?", I was tired of the rote responses ("Fine. "Good." "I'm okay."). I allowed myself to be human.

The conversation evolved from "Not so well" to a discussion of my connection to my dogs and the depth of the sense of loss I was experiencing on my own. LeeAnn did not back away. Instead, she pulled me into my office and shut the door.

"Would you be open to me trying to set you up?" she asked.

Open?! How about relieved, flattered, appreciative? Hey, aphids, I may be ditching you.

And then there was an awkward moment. She paused before vaguely asking, "So,...what type of person are you looking for?"

Okay, so I finished the outing process. At least it wasn't another solo performance. "Well, know I'm gay, right?"

Yep. She knew. With that hurdle knocked down, she proceeded to tell me there are a number of gay men in her neighborhood. She's close with this lovely gay couple and they have a friend in the area who seems to be single. Attractive. Really nice. Single! She'd talk to him in the next week. He's always gardening in his yard. (Yippee! Surely, he could help with my aphid problem.)

I thanked her and smiled. When she left, I padded the layer of sweat from my face. Even a shared outing is painful.

Today, LeeAnn popped back into my office and plopped into a seat. "Okay, I saw him yesterday..." she began. I could tell the news wasn't good. He was seeing someone or, worse, he was repulsed from the mere description of me. (What did she say about my nose?) I feebly attempted to look chipper. I hate when that bottom-of-the-barrel self-esteem from adolescence resurfaces.

She leaned forward before continuing. "It turns out he's not gay."

She had wrongfully outed the guy. Thankfully, he wasn't offended. (But why would he be?) Still, she was highly embarrassed, profusely apologetic. She hoped to see him again very soon so that she could have a different conversation and move beyond the uncomfortable moment.

Is it warm enough to plant zucchini?

"Sorry," she said. And with that, she flitted off.

No need to apologize. The thought, combined with the follow-up, went far beyond the hug that I needed. I was pleased to be considered, happy that a barrier showed signs of erosion and momentarily amused. Right now, I am grateful for such moments more than ever. As I continue to adjust to a life with one less beloved buddy, I am trying to figure out how to live more.

I'm an old dog, but maybe change is possible.


I am now connected. At least, that's the message I get when I go wireless at the local Starbucks. But how did being connected become such a distant feeling?

Am I the only one who, despite the marvel of reading a tweet from a heretofore unknown Australian writer mom about successfully putting her kids to bed, feels that online connections are shallow, mundane, even time sucking? (Hold on now, dear reader. I do appreciate the meaningful comments to my blog postings. Still, typical Internet contributions rarely go beyond American Idol rants and retweets of other people's material. The whole point of this blog has been to attempt to present an authentic perspective on what it feels like to be single, gay and, yes, unconnected.)

Yes, I try. I blog, I tweet, I surf. To be honest though, I don't feel the impact. I get emails informing me of new followers to my Rural Gay account on Twitter. Mostly, they are gay porn sites and scantily clad women. Seems "gay" is synonymous with "sex" to many who use the Internet as a marketing tool.

Time for me to state the obvious: I'm frustrated. It's not that I obsess over being single (or, at least, that's what I tell myself), but dating in my forties is an even greater struggle than it was when I was in my twenties and thirties. And, to be clear, I was significantly dating challenged back then.

Bars are no longer an option. Not that they were ever the fountain of long-term possibilities. (Still, my longest relationship lasted seven years after a mutual friend introduced us at Odyssey, a gay club now closed.)

I've been meaning to join a gay running group, but I can't seem to get home from work early enough for the 6:30 p.m. start time. I've signed up for a gay tennis league, but it stands to reason that, if I can't be somewhere by 6:30, a half hour earlier isn't going to work either. Let my membership fee be a donation to people who actually have a life (and a decent backhand).

Back in the last century, I tried personal ads. Remember them, snuggled in the classifieds after the used car ads? (Fitting, no?) There were some strange, even scary responses. (One I distinctly recall came with the message "The word of the day is passion" scrawled on the back of the envelope. I deleted the i, making the phrase of the day "pass on".) A relationship arose when I replied to a man who sought someone who nurtured the mind, body and soul. Took me eighteen months to realize he was all about the body. His body. I couldn't convert to hailing the gym as my shrine or to making tank tops my closet staple. (My biceps have always been overly modest.)

So now the personals are virtual. Bland profiles portray every single gay man as an outdoor beast who craves kayaking/mountain-climbing/rollerblading/ice-cave-camping. My, we are an active crowd. And we all value honesty/integrity/commitment/humor/intelligence in ourselves and in others. Cripes, how is it that we are all single? We are all so well-versed on Virtues 101. Original thoughts? Not so much. The personals ought to be renamed the impersonals. Am I the only one who mistakenly reads the URL for Plenty of Fish as "plenty offish"? Makes me chuckle every time I log in.

Jaded? Maybe. (Okay, sure. I do profess to valuing honesty/integrity.)

I am feeling defeated by the Sears catalogue approach to finding a companion. Where have all the articulate people gone? The most recent message I received went like this: "love ur piccs! love ur dogs too!" I must suppress the urge to take a red pen to the computer screen. Of course, that message was far deeper than the one last week which consisted of "Hello" in the header and a blank message. Is this the SPAM method of online dating?

When messages do go back and forth, it seems that many guys are content to leave it at that. Is there an ego boost to carrrying on trivial text exchanges? "How you doing? Good bunny day wkd?" This message came after six weeks of sporadic online conversation. Good bunny day wkd?! That's it?!

I try to gear things to a face-to-face meeting, but often the other person ceases all contact at the mere suggestion of coffee. E-z there, dude.

These people aren't otherwise attached, are they? (Surely their partner or a friend of their partner could/would discover the public profile online.) Are their profiles false? What?! You haven't climbed Mount Everest but you read about it on Wikipedia?!

My gut tells me that these dating sites aren't filled with unfaithful liars. In an age where people yank out their iPhones and iPads while meeting friends in public, in a time when free porn proliferates the Net and people poke as many people as possible on Facebook--seriously, who has 758 friends?--, has genuine person-to-person contact become unnecessary? And if I dare not think so, have I become, gasp, old-fashioned?

I always thought wisdom and perspective came as we matured. Why is it that I am more perplexed than ever?