Thursday, July 28, 2011

WALK ON THE WILD SIDE

A couple of weeks ago, there was a gay and lesbian potluck in my area.

I didn’t go.

For someone who feels isolated, it was a stupid (non)move. Brought me back to high school, with my mother coaxing me away from my MTV. Go on! Get out there and socialize! I’m sure they’re a very nice bunch. Futile words then and now.

Oh, I thought about it. Yes, I’ll go. No, I won’t.

There is an annual Pride Dance here each summer. This year’s got cancelled. Not enough people volunteered to plan the event. Based on postings on the gay and lesbian listserv, the summer potluck is the only other annual event. I went once. Five years ago. Trying to mix with people I don’t know is always a struggle, but I put on a snappy outfit, bought some sort of pre-made vegetarian munchies and, after moments of hesitation in my parked car, schlepped on in.

I may have lasted an hour. It was a strange scene. The women clustered in their staked out zones, the men flocked to other spaces. Everyone sat. I neglected to bring a lawn chair. I stood on the fringes. In time, I inched toward the safest looking male pack. Two, four, six, eight...I made nine. Odd man in so many ways. Everyone was partnered. They spoke in we’s. “Oh, we spend our winters in Florida.” “We moved here fifteen years ago.” “We take the ferry as little as possible.” As someone announced it was time to eat, people marched two-by-two toward the food tables. I made my exit.

In the years since, I have tried to get single friends to come over on the designated weekend. They politely decline.

It’s not just my single status that holds me back. Under any circumstance, I am not a potluck guy. I have a specific diet and I call unwanted attention to myself when the only food on my plate comes from my dish. In a restaurant, I have a quiet conversation with the waiter and, after a check with the kitchen, he returns to tell me what the chef can do for me. It attracts some attention, but I’m not turning my nose up at anyone else’s contribution.

Reading the online thank-yous after the potluck (from Josh and Kevin, Mary and Sara), I decided I needed to stop waiting for someone else to plan an event that suits me. I would rather hike, kayak, see the natural beauty of the area I have chosen to call home. The weather has been disappointing this summer so I waited until yesterday write an email to the listserv, inviting others to join me this Saturday on a forty-minute easy trail walk at a local park. One fellow emailed me, saying that he (and his partner) could not make it. He, however, liked the idea. There have been no other responses yet. I won’t take it personally. It’s short notice to walk with a stranger. And no bundt cake. Where’s the appeal?

I’ll do the walk regardless of whether anyone replies. With lots of shade, a few streams and a couple of waterfalls, it’s a favorite trail for my dog and me. He is my “we”. If nothing else, we’ll connect with nature. It’s all good.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

LET'S CHAT



This post focuses more on the "rural" part of the blog name. (But in honor of Pride Week in Vancouver this week, I'll throw in a rainbow flag pic for the heck of it. There's the gay content.)


I do like my time to myself. Always have except perhaps during adolescence when we seem to be wired differently, when alone equals unpopular and triggers despondent "What's wrong with me?" entries in spiral-bound journals. I am on vacation now and this is an opportunity to use all my alone time to focus on writing. While jogging earlier this week on a highway infrequently traveled by a mill worker in a souped up Dodge Ram or a camper hauling a boat, I thought, Oh, this is great. I need this jog. Gives me time to think. And then I checked myself. HELLO?! You have all day at home with uninterrupted thinking time.

Peace and quiet? That's a big reason I was enticed to buy a house a ferry ride away from the city. But often there is too much peace and quiet. When I walk my dog through this neighborhood at 10 p.m., almost all the lights are out. Takes "bedroom community" to the extreme.

Too much thinking time, too much peace and quiet....not a good thing. Interaction is valuable; quells the hermit tendencies. I drive into town once or twice a day. I engage in counter conversation. Hello/How are you/I'd like a large of the dark blend/Thank you/Have a good day/Yes, nice to finally see the sun. It's autopilot talk. (Yesterday, when I bought a newspaper, the gas station attendant said, "Have a good weekend." It was Tuesday!) Often the pleasantries are with the same people. Despite being a small town where everyone is supposed to know your name, we don't. They may even be wearing company name tags. Never noticed.

These are only interactions on a technical, dictionary-definition level. I say more to my dog. (And I like to imagine he says more to me. Wonderfully communicative eyes.)

Praise be to the Internet.

That's a sentence I never thought I'd write. Sixteen months ago, I recall asking a former coworker about Twitter. Why was he on it? What was the point? Why did he keep checking his account? His answers, like all of his answers, rambled on. (How could this man communicate in 140-character chunks?!) He mentioned two groups he'd "befriended": one a swarm of golfing enthusiasts and another a keen pack of techies. He was meeting up with many of the golfers in North Carolina in a month. No, they'd never met. He didn't seem to get the point of why I'd asked.

I set up a Twitter account, a couple in fact, but I remained a skeptic. Then I attended the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators' massive conference in Los Angeles last August. More Twitter talk. At one workshop, the Tweeters (Twits?) were rabid, every sentence beginning with "You must--". When I logged back on, I followed some of them and most followed in return.

I signed on to official chats, #kidlitchat and #yalitchat, at their weekly times. It was challenging to keep up with the stream of comments and to tweet a relevant reply before it became off topic three minutes later. At other points in the week, I tried to think in tweets. Ooh, that'll be clever. But then a driver would chirp something quite different when the light turned green and my witticism would be gone. Still, I think I started to get it.

A year later, I look forward to the chats. I recognize the names and tiny pics of many people Tweeters. Some of them stand out. I like what they say, I relate to them, we reply to one another during the conversation. Yes, conversation. Some of them even get when I'm trying to be funny. (I REFUSE to ever use that Internet laugh-track, LOL.)

This summer, I've also checked out #litchat and I belatedly stopped in at #bookmarket. The feel isn't the same though, likely because I'm still a guest. Last Sunday, I stopped by #TVwriterchat. Yes, I've been a closet sitcom writer, dating back to 1989. Never came out. Moving from L.A., it was hard to find anyone in Vancouver who would passionately dissect an episode of "Seinfeld" or discuss the quirky promise of the current "Raising Hope". In my rural environs, I can't even attempt to share my thoughts with the dog. He runs to another room if I laugh too loud when the TV is on. ("What is that noise breaking up our peace and quiet?!")

I had to get up and pace a couple of times during the chat. I was too excited to sit. I was outing myself as a TV writer wannabe. I found a connection. And I can't wait for next Sunday.

Things are moving beyond official chats. Early this morning, I tweeted that I was submitting something to a magazine today. (If I tweet it, I have to do it, right?) Three replies came back, wishing me luck. I recognized each of their profile names. Another person sent me a direct message, thanking me for acknowledging during last night's #kidlitchat that self-doubt is a normal part of the writing process. She felt she could slog on without abandoning her manuscript.

Yes, I am a Tweeter/Twit/Twitterer/Twirp.

Real time conversations about things I care about. I feel less isolated, less alone in the middle of nowhere. I feel inspired to write more. I'm not the only one spending his vacation in a home office, typing away, pondering, plotting, revising. It's exhilarating!

Friday, July 22, 2011

SMALL POND INDEED

Sometimes when fishing you reel in the unexpected.

I had an interesting new message on Plenty of Fish this morning. Nothing about the words stood out. You have a great profile. Have a good weekend. But the photo caught my eye. No, it wasn’t because the face staring at me was particularly attractive or unattractive. It’s just that I knew him.

Sure, it was fifteen years ago and the hair had receded, but it was still the same face. Ben was a fitness instructor at the first gym I belonged to in Vancouver. He was one of the most popular. You had to call to reserve your spot in the morning and still arrive early to stake your step spot. (Oh, he taught all kinds of aerobics, but step class moves were all I could handle.)

As a revered instructor, he always had his groupies at the gym. But I would see him at the gay coffee haven of the time, Delany’s on Denman. He’d nod, smile, move on. Always moving. What fat did he have left to burn?

On weekends, I’d occasionally run into him at a club. The smile seemed different. Sexy. He’d give me a quick hug as he brushed by. Always toying with me, it seemed. There was something there and yet something not there at the same time. Never gave it much thought. Fitness instructors were so far above me.

I glanced at the computer screen again. Maybe it was a Ben lookalike. I clicked on the profile. Interests: fitness, jogging, cycling, hiking.

Definitely Ben.

Awkward.

This isn’t the first time I’ve stumbled upon someone on Plenty of Fish. The site has a “Viewed Me” tab. Click on it and everyone who has clicked on your profile shows up. You look, they know. I have been mortified a few times when double clicking on a too-small-but-no-I-don’t-need-glasses thumbnail picture. Egad! It’s Michael, the lawyer who played a whole season on my gay volleyball team! Seriously not interested, but what would he think? And that’s Tad (or Ted?) whom I already met for coffee. Why did he change his photo to one with him in front of a fountain? Why get the whole fountain in the shot? Doesn’t he know how hard it is to identify him in that teeny-tiny thumbnail? He’ll think I’m a stalker.

Viewing is one thing; messaging is another. Then there was the time Allen went that step further and sent me a message. Really?! I hadn’t realized he’d returned from England. Six months goes so quickly. And apparently he’d brought the London fog back with him. How else to explain that he’d contacted me on a dating site? We’d played tennis together once or twice a week for almost a year. And his ex was a friend of mine! Oops. Sorry, came the reply after I wrote him back and set him straight. The dolt.

Back to Ben. Why was he sending me a message? Perhaps fitness instructors approaching fifty aren’t so far above me. I hesitated before I messaged back. Went for a lap around the dining room table. Jogged my memory if not my body. (Yes, my fitness status has changed, too.) But then I typed away. I filled him in. I playfully cursed him for upping the degree of difficulty in his step classes after I’d finally mastered the not-so-complex L-steps and U-turns, even the silly Grapevines. When I started taking water breaks to avoid the more intricate moves, I realized my fitness routine wasn’t getting me any fitter. Dammit, I had to abandon step classes and jog the seawall which I’d been trying to avoid from the outset.

No doubt Ben will be embarrassed. Or worse, he’ll read my message, look at my photos and say, “Still not ringing any bells.”

Whatever. The message had the unintended effect of reminding me of my first years in Vancouver and the close group of friends I had, four of us traveling to the East Coast one summer. (No Ben wasn’t one of them. Fitness instructor, remember?) John, Kim, Takeshi. Alas, we’ve lost touch. Hadn’t expected to feel nostalgic after logging in on Plenty of Fish. Amused, yet a tinge melancholy. And that’s not bad at all.

Thanks, Ben.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

EXPANDING THE ONLINE NET

As mentioned in a post last week, I've decided to look beyond the online world of Plenty of Fish. I am stretching my horizons, surfing with a Patti LaBelle-inspired new attitude. Eyes open, smile genuine, mind positive...

I opened a FREE account with the more popular, more lurid Gay.com. I left the profile blank since I didn't have a picture to run. Then, I browsed the listings for fortysomething Vancouverites, felt the positivity waning and decided to logout. Give it a fresh look in a week.

Logging back in today, lo and behold I had a message. Remember, I am the guy with the shell profile. Who would respond to nothing? The subject heading offered a clue: "Wassup. I'm just a simple guy..." (Honestly. I am not making this up.) Guess I didn't overwhelm him with heady profile reading. Whew. I knew this was an instant delete message but, for research sake once again, I opened it: "Hello cutie, damn horny here! I want to know some one who understand me. I am a person who is online most of the time and expects everyone to be friendly with him. If you want details, please feel free to ask." And I didn't. I could not bear to open the profile. Not even for research. Delete.

Still positive. SPAM is everywhere. I haven't terminated my Yahoo email account just because I keep being asked to help a Nigerian diplomat with a confidential investment opportunity. (I mean, really,...what would I do with all that money?)

I went to my profile and added a headshot after cropping out family members from a photo emailed to me during the winter. How narcissistic. How callous to blot out Aunt V and her bejewelled sweatshirt. To download the picture, I had to click a box that read, "I agree this photo is of me, or I have Permission to use it." (Italics added.) What?! I could have called up Brad Pitt and got permission to use that ab-fabulous snippet from "Thelma and Louise"?! Damn.

Okay, somewhat guarded, but still in the positive realm of conciousness. I began to whip together a blah-blah-blah about myself, only to be distracted by a gay.com ad in the right margin with a photo of a studly man gripping a tennis ball in his hand while posing in the kind of tight shorts McEnroe used to wear on court in the '70s. The pic deserved a fashion citation and a McEnroesque diatribe, beginning with "Are you serious?!" But it was still hot. It dawned on me that on this site I'd have not only have to compete with photos of hundreds of other Vancouver men (or photos they had Permission to use (capitalized in accordance with gay.com's style manual)), but there would also be these comely male models popping up on every page. Egad, how dismal!

Oops, ventured out of the positive zone. Let me rephrase that. Oh, hurrah, what a challenge! Wooers who message me must be truly crazy for me (or just simple guys).

I focused on writing my profile, submitted it and was aghast that my paragraph spacings were ignored. Horrors! One hodgepodge block of text! Hard to recover from that troublesome glitch.

I'll hold off and peruse profiles another day.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

GUILTY PLEASURE: THE BACHELORETTE

How is it that the American public broke up with reality show "Joe Millionaire", but "The Bachelor/Bachelorette" keeps cranking out seasons and hot tub spinoffs? The concept: a man or woman shops from a pool of twenty-five attractive, "successful" single candidates in search of someone who will propose or be proposed to after three or four one-on-one dates. Weird? Sure. But then there are the group dates. Creepy. The host gets paid something in the bygone-Joe range to say little more than "Ladies/Gentlemen,...the final rose" and "Minnie/Mickey, take a moment to say your goodbyes." And then there are the icky handwritten invitations from the host, encouraging the Bachelor(ette) and his/her final three to spend the night in the Fantasy Suite. Not all at once, but over consecutive nights. Still mighty sleazy.

I should hate this show. It's drivel. It's beneath me. Heck, it's beneath my dog.

And yet I love it. Well, maybe "love" is too strong. Sticking with the show's lingo, I'm starting to really have feelings for it.

Oh, how can I justify the time wastage? To be fair, I multitask to reality shows, especially during the frequent commercials and all the "Coming up..." clips that precede these commercials, the creation of producers who fear that viewers' attention spans will drift elsewhere. (Guess they've got a good take on the target audience.) As the show airs on Monday nights, I have the easiest-of-the-week versions of Sudoku and the The New York Times Crossword to trick my mind into thinking I'm a brainiac. I also sort through piles of papers that have mysteriously taken up floor space since the last "Bachelorette". And, if I am really restless, there's always dusting. (After they cure cancer and the common cold, I hope they get to work on extinguishing dust. By golly, give them a decade's worth of Nobel Prizes.)

Whoa. "The Bachelorette" and the Nobel Prize in the same post. Seems I've strayed.

The multitasking argument doesn't hold up. Why not clean while watching more highbrow fare such as--let me check the TV schedule--"Gossip Girl" or four consecutive episodes of "Cake Boss"?

The truth is I can relate to "The Bachelorette". There, I said it.

Years ago, I had plenty of single friends, gay or female. We would go for dinner, grab a coffee, walk the seawall and talk about our dating dilemmas. Or non-dating dilemmas. Each encounter, each brush-off had entertainment value, but the talks also allowed us to comfort and commiserate. And, to prevent each of us from hitting rock bottom, the other would add a timely, "What about so and so?" to keep hope alive.

Yep, good times.

But the single friends have gotten married or they live in far off exotic places like Boise or they've taken dating off the conversation menu. Now I go it alone.

And that explains my loyalty to "The Bachelor(ette)". People can speculate all they want about how real the show is. What I see is people getting excited about possibilities. This could be the one. Casting aside the over the top gimmicks (Anyone want to buy a mask on eBay?), there are relatable awkward dates and promising encounters between the dating world's walking wounded. And after each inane rose ceremony, there's the castoff's painful limo ride where an eager producer sits off camera with a box of Kleenex.

Watching any Reject Ride, I feel I am not alone in being alone. Turns out others feel the same--not just the unrequited wooer, but many a viewer. As I clicked over to ABC's website, I discovered you can watch past episodes or simply the ouster segments, entitled "The Diaries of the Departed".

There's Lucas, the cool, reserved Texan: "Rejection's never fun but...you always look for that better day."

And Ryan, the excitable, optimistic water heater expert : "I'm shocked. Um, uh,...hey, you know,...sometimes I guess people don't feel it. Now I want someone more than you have any i-- (choking up) I want to find that person....Someday."

Last night it was preppy, wordsmith Ames: (Covers eyes, hands shaking; recovers) "I feel pretty numb. I've fallen in love with somebody who clearly didn't fall in love with me back. And...I just wonder, you know, what it was. I was really excited to see what was gonna happen between the two of us next. And that's something I'm never going to get to know. I was just hoping to share a lifetime of adventures with this beautiful woman. Now I'm back to sharing a lifetime of adventures with myself...which is, uh...less enticing."

Oh, boys, I can relate. Ames, I'm choking up myself. Less enticing indeed.

There, I've done it. I think. I've justified my addiction to "The Bachelor(ette)".

Haven't I?

Monday, July 18, 2011

HAPPY SIXTH ANNIVERSARY TO GAY MARRIAGE IN CANADA

To Canadian gays and lesbians who walked down the aisle after gay marriage became law six years ago, the gift is candy. I am two days ahead of the gay marriage anniversary, but I've been told there are some partners who need some not so subtle reminders. Make reservations for the chocoholic buffet, share a Twizzler, Lady and the Tramp style, or just pop a handful of tic tacs before a celebratory smooch.

As the ugly rhetoric against gay marriage continues in the United States (and elsewhere) and reaches reprehensible status amongt some anonymous online comment posters, there remain sizable pockets of Canadians opposed to gay marriage and, well, gay anything. Still, marriage is an established right. Those against can refuse to buy the gravy boat and stay home from the ceremony (assuming they got an invite).

I moved here from California, that once hippy-infested, granola haven that bred left-leaning politicians like rock-star-dating Jerry Brown. (Hey! Jerry's back?! Alas, his "When Will I Be Loved" muse moved on.) I have gay friends who married there, pre-Prop 8, odd asterisks to the "man and a woman" state of marriage there today. They are a minority within a minority. Time will change--hello, New York!--but it baffles me that sunny California is shrouded in a veil of darkness.

I don't hear much from the LGBTs in Canada about gay marriage now. The naysayers from outside rant unchecked for the most part and the naysayers from within, who pooh-poohed the desire for recognition through a traditionally heterosexual instituation, have moved on to...what? Seems there's a complacency.

Anniversaries remind us to appreciate something substantial, something that took a common focus and partnership to achieve and sustain. Yes, happy anniversary to the sweet-toothed bride-bride, husband-husband, spouse-spouse couples. The aisles may remain clear for me, but I'm off to get a box of Smarties just for me to celebrate the occasion. Why not? Gay marriage is possible, even when only a hypothetical. This is Canada.

Friday, July 15, 2011

SOMETHING OFF ABOUT ONLINE DATING




Am I too picky or is it a case of slim pickings?

After almost two and a half years on Plenty of Fish, the well has run dry. Seems there really is a fish shortage. Maybe the site name was a bad omen for me. As a vegetarian, I can't even cope with catch-and-release.

I'd say I've gone for coffee with about thirty guys. It's a good thing I like coffee and even better that I have my own environmentally friendly mug. Otherwise, what a waste.

Any shot of dating is pretty much out for the summer. I'm back to living a ferry ride away from Vancouver and, while I have no qualms about zipping back and forth--a date is so much more (potentially) exciting than a trip to work--it seems my location is an instant turnoff. Right up there with bad breath, Crocs and an Ann Coulter Fan Club membership, a residence outside the West End or beyond walking distance to Commercial is an excuse to immediately move on. Other photos, other possibilities.

Even I have my location limits. Last week I received a new message in my inbox. Oh, hooray. The fellah didn't even have a photo. Yes, faceless man, let your words dazzle me. I clicked on the message, a quick, complimentary note about my looks and my profile. Gee, thanks, Cyrano. Still, I'd call it a woeful woo. The guy lived in Fredericton. For those of you with Canadian geography challenges, that's 5,343 kilometers away. I'm afraid the coffee would be cold by the time I got there. I did, however, follow perfect etiquette, replying with a thank you and wishing him the best of luck finding someone on his side of the Great Lakes.

Yep, the fish are that scarce these days. Plenty of Fish, your name deceives. Why not be honest with your moniker. Like Martin Short. Or Snooki. (Okay, I have no idea how to define a "snooki" but it fits, doesn't it?)

Purely for the sake of research, I just logged back in to POF and conducted my standard search: image only, within fifty miles of Vancouver, 40-49...Aside here: oh, how I hate the 46 year olds who indicate they are seeking someone from 18-35. (I'm talking to you, mister "Looking for the Guy Next Door".) My search came up with 343 guys.

Jackpot, right? 343 sure beats the zero in my community. For a newbie, that might result in a lot of clicking on profiles with safe titles like "It's in the chemistry" and "Excited for Life". (Poor "HARD-ON Friendly" seems to be on the wrong site.)

I hadn't done a search in a month so, again, purely for the sake of research, I perused the search results. Reminded me of trading hockey cards when I was a kid: seen him, seen him, seen him. It's a rapid browse. I stopped at 250 since the remaining guys hadn't been on the site in the past month. Either they had the wisdom to give up or they're too consumed with the latest iPhone app. By my count, I came across a dozen guys I'd previously messaged and either never received a response from or blew me off before any talk of coffee. Three past coffee companions popped up. I clicked on three new-to-me profiles and, as a research endeavor, went ahead an messaged two.

I'm not holding my breath. And I'm not deleting my account. Heck, no. The desperate must keep all options open! But maybe it's time to have a wandering eye on the World Wide Web. Where to next?

Next week, I'll share my first impressions in signing up again on one of the other dating sites, one that surely has a few guys like me but, from past recollection, is more populated with the likes of HARD-ON Friendly. It's difficult to keep an open mind when I'm already cringing. Gotta try. The alternative is static whining into the blogosphere. (Oh, yeah, sorry 'bout that.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

CRUSH OR CRUSHED?

A month ago, I read a post on This Gay Relationship about first crushes. An entertaining read. I moved on.

But something lingered. When was my last crush? Can't recall. I also don't remember the last time I had a case of the hiccups. Maybe some things disappear when you hit manopause.

The ex-gay movement would jump all over the fact that my first crushes were women. There was perky/cutesy/funny "That Girl" Marlo Thomas (with a deep, raspy voice), sweet-voiced Karen Carpenter and all-out sexy Daphne of Scooby Doo fame. (On second thought, I don't think that gives the ex-gays anything to go on.)

The way I blathered on, Olivia Newton-John and I could have been something. (Oh, Sandy, it was me, not Danny, you were hopelessly devoted to, right?)

But then I started to become a little too fixated on The Hardy Boys. Not the books (okay reads, but no need to read the whole series), but the TV show. And not Shaun "Hey Deanie" Cassidy, but Parker Stevenson. Oh, that hair! (Justin Bieber, this is how you work a brush and a dryer!) Around that time Andy Gibb just wanted to be my everything. Yep, more hair. Later, I later crushed on Billy Campbell, Timothy Daly and that guy from "The Nanny" You can see why I'm so excited that big hair is back.

Celebrity crushes are always amusing...and harmless. Sure, I'd suffered through too many half hours of listening to Fran Drescher's grating voice but it was surface irritation at best. Real life crushes can be more exhilarating and more, well, crushing.

One reason I may be single is that I cannot communicate with someone to whom I'm attracted. That may be chuckle-smile funny in the sitcom world, but it's rather stupid and completely nonproductive in life. Can I flirt? No. Can I make eye contact? Not a chance. To look and be spurned or entirely ignored,...I've rarely allowed myself to risk it. Apparently, a guy must read my telepathic messages.

In the last two weeks, I've glimpsed two crushes I had from when I moved to Vancouver in the mid-'90s. The first was a hairdresser--go figure--who worked at a trendy salon on Granville. I went to him for months, sweating in the swivel chair and pretending it was the cut I was sneaking glimpses of in the mirror. Finally, I called him at work one day, keeping a towel by my side to blot the outpouring of nervousness. I did it. I asked him out. And he sweetly shot me down. I was absolutely crushed. I had to switch hairstylists. The humiliation was too great.

As I passed him on the street on my way to IGA, I could tell he remembered me. Probably not my name, but recognition enough. His mouth dropped oh so slightly. Yes, he hasn't aged well and I still frequently get "you look the same" (big hair and all). It was a satisfying moment.

The second crush was a guy who worked out at Denman Fitness, my old gym. For six months, I dared to try making sneak peeks. While I had nothing to show for all my reps on the bicep curls, I managed to build up my glancing stamina, enough so to catch him smiling that gorgeous smile my way. I think my return smiles hit my shoes most of the time.

On the evening before I was to head off on an extended six-week vacation, a mutual friend, tired of all my drooling and pining, stopped the guy on the street and asked if he'd go out with me. Embarrassing, yes. But it worked! Too bad the date couldn't happen right away. I had more time to dream unrealistically about my potential soulmate.

We did go out upon my return on the Thursday before Labor Day. And the date went well. We agreed to meet up for tennis on Labor Day Monday. Alas, he never called. I checked that phone dozens of times. Yes, it was plugged in. Yes, there was a dial tone. I later learned that my Prince Charming went to a circuit party that weekend and fell in lust with a party boy from Chicago.

All that time. All that hoping. I could only take solace with the aid of an old crush.

I'd long forgotten my circuit-boy-tainted man, but then a guy on this season of "The Bachelorette" held an uncanny resemblance. I knew that smile, that hair, those eyes. And I gasped when a photo of my big gay crush appeared in the business section of The Vancouver Sun. He'd been promoted to vice president of something or other. Alas, he still looked fine. Another slap from a crush from the past.

No more crushes? Maybe that's a good thing. (Maybe I should've stuck with Daphne.)













Monday, July 11, 2011

HOW OUT IS OUT--PART 2

At various times, I've subscribed to Out magazine and The Advocate. I've read the columns imploring all of us to come out, come out, wherever you are. Easy for a writer at a liberal (gay) magazine to say.

In sports, very few men come out and, if they do, it's typically after retirement. Even gay figure skaters play coy until the lucrative dollars from ice shows dry up. Sure, there are exceptions, but let's remember they are just that: exceptions. There are many male-dominated businesses where being openly gay remains taboo, all "not that there's anything wrong with that" banter aside.

I'm successful in my career. I've climbed as high as I want (and, really, I never planned to get where I'm at now--flukes happen). But there are times when I feel I am suffocating from my job. At work, I can chat about my dog, the Canucks, my run-in with the crazed lady who lifted the cauliflower from my grocery cart (a case where, indeed, size matters). But the boss doesn't have a dating life. (Even if I did, the boss doesn't have a dating life.)

It's not solely brought on by others. I perpetuate the notion that I must be the asexual one. Right or wrong, I can't break the established standard. Again, I'm suffocating. A career that I once adored and spoke passionately about for endless hours now seems to drag me down.

Am I out? No. At least not enough.

A career change would be prudent, but also foolish. At thirty, it was easy to deep-six the law career. I moved out of state to resist any temptation to change my mind, but my way of life wasn't tied to my salary. Sure, I took a huge pay cut, but my car was paid for and I didn't mind sleeping on sheets of cardboard on the floor of a rented bedroom. (Friends eventually pitied me and purchased an inflatable camping mattress at Canadian Tire.) I could "afford" to be young and stupid. Yes, Mick Jagger, time was on my side.

I should try to get in with an arts organization, a charity or a publishing house. Of course, I'd be the middle-aged apprentice. I could take the coffee orders, stuff the envelopes, at least temporarily. I'd be out again. Free. But, alas, my mortgage isn't free. And my house won't sell. (It doesn't help that the flooring guy I had in last week spotted a leak in the ceiling. Curse him! Keep your eye on the ground, floor man.)

At thirty, I thought my career change and country change constituted a premature midlife crisis. But now I can see that this is that moment. It's about feeling stuck. Quicksand stuck. I still smile, I continue to be amused by my blunders, but even my laugh has begun to sound more throaty, more muffled in the past year. Being out matters. Despite the fact that I cannot identify much that is gay in my current existence, it is part of an identity that I struggled for a dozen years to realize.

For now, I have to restart the coming out process that I hated so much all those years ago. I swore in the mid-'90s that I was done with the drama. Let them ask. Why was it always on me? But they don't ask. Not my generation anyway. Never will. Despite how much I loved the message of "It Gets Better", I don't think it does when you remain passive. Happiness is about more than being away from the bullies.

So for now I am not going to come out at work. I don't see that happening. And I'm not quitting. Can't. But I do have friends from prior work settings who still meet me for coffee and still only chat with me about dogs, hockey and large vegetables. I know they know; it's just never spoken.

My next trip to Starbucks will be more substantial. It's a start...

Friday, July 8, 2011

HOW OUT IS OUT?

I thought I officially came out twenty-six years ago. In the living room of my unlit Dallas apartment, I told--er, "confessed" may be the better word since it felt like a crime in Texas--my best friend that I was, deep breath, a homosexual. (Homosexual was more dramatic than gay, less abrasive than the Larry Kramer-adopted faggot.) It went well. She listened and we continued talking for at least another hour.

Then I didn't hear from her for three weeks.

And we never really talked about it again over the next seven years. The friendship suffered to the point where I even missed her wedding.

Four years later, I felt compelled to come out to my sister when she asked me to be her daughter's godfather. Knowing there would be a ceremony in a Catholic church, I again confessed. She politely informed me a week later that she'd talked to a priest and made a decision to find a different person (rather than a "different" person) to fill the role. My parents, not knowing the reason for the switcheroo, assumed it was another case of me being difficult.

It took four more years before I flew to my parents' beachside condo on the Gulf of Mexico for a coming out weekend. By then, I was in love and I was tired of spending Sunday dinners with his family in L.A. while keeping mum about his existence to my mom and dad. My mother's reaction? "Can't you just abstain?" My father, a doctor, went into a clinical spiel about condom usage.

Coming out is awkward. It should be unnecessary. Friends and family should feel free to ask and the question shouldn't feel like a putdown. "Are you gay?" Just a point of clarification, not incrimination. Would have been so welcome two months before senior prom at my Texas high school. Back then, the cause wouldn't have been my right to go to the prom, but my right not to. Lori Baker would have had such a better time. (She wisely dumped me midway through prom night, sneaking off with uberbrain Jeff Hull. I'm guessing they snuggled while pondering the longterm impact of Reaganomics.)

Leaving Dallas and heading to Los Angeles was the smartest move I ever made, Northridge earthquake and getting shot at during the Rodney King riots notwithstanding. Sure, I made the mistake of attending one of the most conservative law schools in the United States, but I found my way into West Hollywood and discovered another world. My day and my night were radically different. It was like my own "Looking for Mr. Goodbar" but without the drugs and violence. Or the Richard Gere. (Sigh.)

When I worked as a research attorney for a couple of judges, my colleagues knew I was gay. The judges didn't officially know, but the earring gave it away. Both my partners in L.A. were openly gay. Their jobs made it easy: the first worked for AIDS Project Los Angeles, the second for a liberal Jewish charity. It was the latter guy who convinced me to pierce my ear; he also inspired me to slap a pink triangle on the bumper of my conservative Honda Accord.

I was out. Maybe not so loud, but proud. I volunteered for APLA, attended AIDS Walks and marched for days in protest of California Governor Pete Wilson's veto of AB101, a bill to outlaw workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians.

But things changed when I moved to British Columbia. I got a job working with kids and peeled off the bumper sticker. Insecurity? Sure. That gay=pedophile equation from my eleven years in Texas crept back in. Amongst colleagues, I remained openly gay. It was easy as all the other men were gay, too. Then I took a job transfer. No more gay work buds. I worked most closely with a devout Mennonite woman. I never pretended to be straight, but I was the asexual single guy (despite the fact I had a partner).

More transfers and promotions and my gayness washed away completely. I am now the asexual single guy with no parenthetical. Despite my exhilarating L.A. days, I am not a trailblazer. I am not in a profession where being an out gay man is common. There are some lesbians who are more open but, to my knowledge lesbian=pedophile never took, not even in the Bible Belt.

So now I'm out in pockets. Most of my family knows, except for my evangelical Baptist brother and his family. Friends scattered about North America know. At work, well, there's that one co-worker who figured it out and tried to set me up with a straight single guy in her neighborhood. That's it though. In my rural community, not a chance. There are well-settled lesbians, but the gays stick to the cities. The single ones, at least.

Given my current situation, am I out at all? Do I need to be?

I know the answers, but I don't know what to do anymore. More on that in my next blog posting.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

MAKING THE COFFEE ROUNDS

Twenty years ago when I was first trying to figure out the dating scene, I might have agonized all day waiting for a phone call that never came and then scrawled my desperaton and despair in a journal that I stored underneath a stack of t-shirts in the closet. God forbid anyone should read it.

Now I blog. That only makes it slightly more public--people have to want to read what you post--, but it's still odd. At least I'm not killing a tree.

I have been single now for seven years. It's my longest streak since I first walked into a Dallas gay bar at the age of twenty-four. That night, I abruptly left, frazzled and perplexed, after an inebriated guy skillfully spelled his name (D-A-R-R-E-L-L) and kissed me on the nose. My first thought at the time: "Huh?!"

Since then, I've fallen in and out of love three times. The first time, I was too closeted, too insecure. The second time, I got involved with someone I knew was wrong for me from the first date. The third guy seemed perfect for the first nine months before the cracks started to show. I stupidly remained committed for another six plus years. I was relieved, even exhilarated to finally regain my freedom.

Now I'm just bored, restless, impatient. And I continue to walk away from every dating episode with the same thought: "Huh?!"

I've had three coffee dates in the past month. Dud, dud and double-huh.

First came Ward, an earnest TV documentary producer. At 53, he was seven years my senior. Not a big deal, except I noticed age spots on his tanned hand as we introduced ourselves at his local Starbucks. I should recall more about his line of work, but what stands out from that meeting was him taking and explaining frequent pee breaks because he drinks eight liters--yes, liters, not glasses--of water a day. He texted me before I got home, eager to meet up again. My work and his work made the next two weeks an impossibility. He agreed to contact me after returning from a business trip in Banff. Never heard from him again. I'll assume he got maimed by a moose while refilling his water bottle at one of those pristine freshwater springs.

Next was Darius, a 25-year-old law student. I should never have responded to his first message, but curiosity got the better of me. No, it was not ego. I don't need to feel some sense of affirmation by having a guy twenty-one years younger than me by my side. I wanted to know why in the world he'd contacted me. Daddy issues? Looking for a financial supporter? It turned out that he desperately wanted to connect with someone he perceived as educated. My three degrees, including one in law, fit the bill.

I showed up at a downtown Blenz, thinking I'd at least have something to write about. Turns out Darius only gets two paragraphs. For an hour, he knocked the Canadian education system and everyone his age. They were all beneath him. I am guessing (and hoping) they surpass him in the area of social skills. He messaged me the next day and I didn't for a moment feel the urge or the social obligation to reply.

And then there's Ross. Of the three, he's the only one I initiated contact with online. Our date was only two days ago and I'm still feeling raw from the experience. He was the date that mattered. I felt uncharacteristically nervous driving to Delany's coffeehouse on Denman. As he'd included a "must love dogs" line in his profile, we'd agreed to grab a coffee and walk along the seawall with my dog in tow. At first glance, I thought it was another mismatch, but then he took off his sunglasses, smiled and I knew something was possible.

Beautiful day, fairly smooth conversation. It was a Fourth of July without fireworks, but something to build on. The only sticking point I could detect was the fact I had unexpectedly moved out of the West End a week ago. Yep, I'm a ferry ride away for the next two months. I didn't sense it was too big of a deal as Ross is from Victoria and is accustomed to ferry travel a couple of times a month. He did say that the last guy he dated was from Surrey and his friends questioned that distance. I know the type. Life beyond the West End? Unthinkable!

As we parted, Ross mentioned "next time" and said that he would program my number into his cell, a rather daring statement I thought. I keep numbers on Post-its since deleting a cell phone contact would require me to upgrade my tech skills. As I headed home, I felt relieved, even elated. At last I'd get another chance at the Holy Grail of gay online experiences: a second date. I sent him a message later that evening, indicating I'd enjoyed the walk and suggesting a bike ride or meal should he want to meet again.

No response. I don't know how many times I checked my email yesterday. Damn you, Air Canada! Don't tell me about your 10% off offer. Curses to string of emails from my writing group listserve! My inbox was filled with clutter. No new messages from Plenty of Fish.

So I'm right back where I started from. "Huh?!" At this point, maybe I'd even welcome a misguided kiss on the nose. Something is amiss. So far, I've coped by wondering What's wrong with online dating? and What's wrong with Vancouver guys? At some point, I may, however, have to regress to wallowing in What's wrong with me? Oh, don't make me go there!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

CATCHING UP...

One common piece of advice I read about attracting an audience to a blog is that you have to post regularly. I read it, but I don't follow it.

I could post more frequently. Perhaps you'd be amused over my (unsuccessful) attempt to tame the beastly hedges on my side yard. Maybe you'd join me in scorning my neighbors who allow their children to deposit their sun-faded Fisher Price toys for weeks on end in front of my house. I'm sure I could rant for several hundred words about that. (A Tweet won't do.)

But this is a blog about being a foolish single gay guy who moved to a rural area (not rural enough--see neighbor comment, above) and naively thought a soulmate would miraculously appear on a hiking trail. Alas, all I have to show for my wilderness walks are scratches on my legs from blackberry branches and an almost recovered twisted ankle. My gayness goes into hibernation for extended periods; hence, no posts.

I did rent a condo in Vancouver from my ex for the past ten months. (Troubling words in preceding sentence: from my ex. More on that in a moment.) With a foot in the city, I planned to reconnect with old friends, dine at the hip restaurants du jour and mingle during intermissions at the theater. Shine that spotlight on my naivite once more. Old talk with old friends proved stale, French bistros are all the rage (this vegetarian cannot live on a baguette and Chardonnay alone) and I passed on Carol Channing reading "The Vagina Monologues". Missed opportunity?

Truth is Gay in the City gave way to Slave to Work. At the end of a long day, I didn't feel like trekking to 4th Avenue to wait forty-five minutes for a table and a bland, twenty-dollar pasta primavera. It was easier to stay in and whip up my own mediocre meal, cutting down on dishwashing by eating from the pot. There, I admitted it. I have not grown much from my college slacker ways. At least the utensils aren't plastic anymore.

I have more time in the summer. My ex knows that. Why shouldn't he rain on the emerging sunshine? A minor "disagreement"--I was choosing to take my dog to work the next day instead of dropping him off at my ex's mother's--led to a flurry (and fury) of text messages demanding that I vacate the condo ASAP. Oh, he recanted the next day, but I'd already loaded the car and begun hauling my stuff back to the boonies. Exes don't change. Naive again? No. Plain stupid. Lesson learned.

So my big gay renaissance never materialized. Not much to blog about. Maybe later today I'll take the dog for a walk through the local trails and look on the bright side. In another month, the blackberries will be ripe. In the meantime, I can surf the internet and figure out how to make jam. No more leftover pasta in the pot for brekky. Progress.