Tuesday, March 27, 2012

SAME TIME, DIFFERENT SPEEDS

“How did that hour go so fast?” he exclaimed. Just seconds earlier, my thought was, Thank God for parking meters.

Yeah, you know it’s bad when you see a coin-sucking parking meter as your friend. It was my Get Out of Coffee For a Small Fee card. Why monopolize this guy’s evening?

I should back up. There’s a fine line between Faint Hope and Realistically Negative. When Benny sent me a message a week and a half ago, I had reservations. Sure, I’d recognized the photo. I’d even clicked it to skim his profile. But I did not linger and I did not contemplate ever initiating an online message. Benny’s main photo was a beach shot of his buff body in a swimsuit. It was a fine body, to be sure. But my guard goes up when a fifty-two-year-old man picks a Sports Illustrated cover shot that to say, “This is me!” (My own selection is dubious as well. It’s a windblown image of me riding the Mad Hatter tea cup ride at Disneyland. I blame my own poor choice on the fact I don’t collect photos of myself. Delete is a wonderful option on digital cameras.)

Back to Beach Boy Benny, he did have several other photos online. He wore gym gear in each shot, one even taken mid dumbbell curl.

Benny is proud of his body. As he should be. He has successfully repelled the middle age beer belly. Kudos. I just prefer a little subtlety. Let the muscle show in a nicely fitted (not tightly fitted) shirt.

His listed interests consisted solely of physical activities: weightlifting, going to the gym, rollerblading, skiing. Each item seemed redundant. (See aforementioned photos.)

But Benny messaged me, referring to my thoughtful profile. Faint Hope beat out Realistically Negative. You have to put yourself out there. You just need one match. There’s no harm in a quick reply. If it leads to coffee, your dog will appreciate the downtime.

So I replied. Short exchanges went back and forth. We were in the same profession. He grew up in Atlantic Canada. (That is almost always a positive.) I even pushed for depth in my third message:
“It’s great that you treat fitness seriously. What other interests do you have?” He replied with a vague beauty pageant answer: “I also enjoy travel and reading.” I was a little disappointed he left off world peace and finding a cure for athlete’s foot.

I overlooked the fact that each successive message from him contained more spelling and grammatical errors. Are we really in the same profession? I cut to the chase. Let’s do coffee before your inability to distinguish between your and you’re completely repulses me.

As soon as he sat down, Realistically Negative showed up. I needn’t get into specifics. I just knew this was not a match. For an hour, I politely conversed. I followed up on his remarks and went through the motions. When I asked how he’d spent his day, he said he started out as he always does—wait for it—going to the gym...until noon. That must impress someone.

For his part, he asked nothing about my dog or my writing, key topics I raised. His most animated response to anything I mentioned came five minutes in, after I said I’d lived in Los Angeles. He practically screamed, “How did you ever live there?! I’ve traveled all over the world and it is without a doubt the most hideous place!” I could have been mean and embarrassed him by saying I hoped to move back there, but I sat quietly, satisfied that Realistically Negative got it right.

It’s all okay. Sixty incredibly slow minutes, but it is over. I have another date on Friday with a guy who kept his shirt on in all six of his photos. He has a variety of interests, most of which complement mine. I plan on bringing Faint Hope along for dinner. Fingers crossed. After all, the restaurant is in a Vancouver neighborhood not yet adorned by friendly parking meters.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

SWISS AMISS

Nothing against Switzerland. It’s beautiful in pictures. Someday I hope to visit. But, beyond its alpine imagery, the country sticks out in my mind as being a peaceful nation that maintained its neutrality in time of war.

Yes, that is a good thing. I think I came out of the womb as a pacifist. Not that I was angelic. Didn’t see the point of a water pistol when a bucket of water had a greater impact. Never found the slightest fascination in any kind of weaponry, any movies with violence or drab military uniforms.

While being peaceful is a noble ideal, being neutral sometimes isn’t. Okay, here’s where I need to leave Switzerland alone and focus in on gay and lesbian subject matter. I attended a wonderful conference a few weeks ago and a counselor spoke to a group of thirty of us for two extended sessions. Her talk had many important insights that I have used at work, but what lingers more is the way she spoke of her family. There were wonderful stories about her aging, pie-baking mother in Nova Scotia and a few relatable anecdotes about her Twitter/text-obsessed teen stepson and stepdaughter.

And then there was her “partner”. Always referred to as such. Never he or she, never husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend. The only pronoun used was “we”. It was masterful maneuvering, the kind of gender neutrality that takes constant self-monitoring. I’ve done it before, though not nearly as smoothly. As effortless as she made it seem, it became a distraction for me.

This lovely, self-effacing, empathic woman who spoke passionately about accepting and embracing people neutered the most important person in her life. On my gaydar checklist, she had all the stereotypical lesbian traits. It wasn’t as though she was desperately trying to be straight-acting, yet she adopted a stance I have taken many times in my life: You can figure it out for yourself. Why should I have to make a proclamation?

As the day went on, I kept waiting for her to get comfortable for the big reveal. Yes, she relaxed enough to throw out a couple of expletives that had proper context and made her stories more realistic. She made multiple references to her golf game. She shared many of her own flaws, some deeply personal. But The Partner remained a genderless enigma.

Being single and chronically dating-challenged, I tell myself there isn’t much harm in my closed/closeted stance. No one suffers. I do not have a “partner” who has been slighted/neutered/erased. I am an introvert. I do not need to share that I am gay, just like I do not need to share that I am a vegetarian or a lover of old episodes of “The Mary Tyler Moore” show (and, particularly, its oh so empowering theme song, the lyrics markedly more positive after Season One). I do not like calling attention to myself. No need when others crave the stage.

Despite the fact I could relate to Neuter Syndrome, I remain bothered by the countless references to The Partner over the course of the day. I may not have gone with any family references and stuck to stories about my dog. Heck, I can connect everything in life to my dog. Or “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”. But this respected speaker who spoke so eloquently about creating genuine relationships could not be fully honest with us.

We have made progress over the past four decades since Stonewall, but we have a long way to go in terms of self-acceptance and societal acceptance. Locking ourselves in a gondola in Switzerland is safe, sometimes even restorative, but neutrality that amounts to neutering can be harmful.

Friday, March 23, 2012

DON’T PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM

WARNING: Ghastly hair appears in all but one link within this post.

Writing distractions come in many forms...my dog resting his head on my lap and staring up with those manipulative “Pet me” eyes, a hangnail that requires immediate attention, a sudden realization that I haven’t checked Aunt Clara’s Facebook updates (Oh, what birds feasted in the feeder today?). Being so distractible, I find I am more productive working in any of the five town stops on my Café Circuit. Sure, there are patrons who come and go, but they don’t notice me so I pretend not to notice them.

Having frequented all five of my coffee-ing holes this week, I returned to Destination Number 1 this morning. The big news here is they are out of large mugs and to-go lids. (That should make page three of the weekly paper, along with some angry letters to the editor. (I deleted mine.)) With a teensy cup in hand—the kind you’d use at a tea party with dolls (not that I ever have,...really!)—I sat down, opened my laptop and began to address the list of “fix-its” I assembled for my screenplay.

But, of course, I became distracted. The adult contemporary soundtrack playing a little too loudly in the “background” segued from a Richard Marx song I pretend not to like anymore to Natalie Cole’s lovelier-than-it-should-be duet with her dead dad, “Unforgettable”. Instant writing break.

My first “date” only came a month before my twenty-fifth birthday and first love hit when I was twenty-six. “Unforgettable” became my first official “our song”. By then, I’d heard many candidates for “our song”—a sappy Michael Jackson hit, Teri DeSario with K.C.’s “Yes, I’m Ready”, Elton John’s “Little Jeannie” (more of a novelty from his period of confusion)—but without an “our” they were just songs.

I’d only known John for six weeks when he drove me to the LAX to drop me off for a two-week trip to the family cottage near Ottawa. He played “Unforgettable” on repeat in his cassette player the whole way to the terminal. Anyone who has driven the 405 through Los Angeles in rush hour knows that Nat and Natalie went through the motions ad nauseam on that trip, but I was too almost-in-love to press EJECT and hope for something fresh from New Kids on the Block. Every time the song started up again, I squeezed his sweaty hand anew. Ah, yes. Nothing like love in bloom.

While we spent fourteen days in different countries, I sent him a daily postcard (beginning with one I deposited at the airport). These were pre-email, pre-Skype times. I paddled the canoe and imagined John taking the empty seat the next summer. I envisioned us picnicking on Big Island (a lovelier image than reality as it’s a favorite haunt for seagulls to go to die). I flirted with the idea of sharing my joy with my parents. But then why break from routine? They weren’t used to seeing me flash any sign of joy. When I drove to Ottawa to look for Canadian souvenirs for my sweaty stud at The Bay, “Unforgettable” played on the sound system. A sign, no doubt. We were truly meant to be!

John and I lasted a grand total of nine months. Yes, I returned to the cottage the next summer alone again (naturally). The breakup crushed me. I remember showing up at his place at 3 a.m. a week after being dumped. My tearful “WHY?! WHY?!” episode would make any limo exit on “The Bachelor” seem positively subdued and rational. Five months later, I’d moved on to something so much better with a chain-smoking, alcoholic and former coke head. (It was an authentic L.A. relationship.) John became a thing of the past.

He only comes to mind now when I need to draw an emotion or memory for a writing endeavor. Or when that bleeping “Unforgettable” resurfaces on someone’s oldies playlist. The tune still evokes memories...some good, some just embarrassing. Thankfully though, I can take the lyrics and set them to a future scenario. Maybe another love will come. Maybe Future Guy and I will actually be a good match. Regardless, despite the baggage, I’m still not tired of “Unforgettable”. That’s the power of a classic song.W

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

RIGHT TIME, WRITE PLACE

I am halfway through a week’s staycation. (It tickles me that someone coined a term to compensate for the fact I don’t have the cash to fly to Hawaii. Or drive to Seattle. Or fill my tank of gas. Yep, I’m sticking close to home just because I love it. Disregard the fact that I’m desperately hoping to sell it.)

Instead of lounging by the ocean at a tropical resort, I decided to focus on writing. While I am proud of the fact that I continue to write at least an hour and a half a day five days a week, this week allows extended creative sessions and the chance to get one, perhaps two, projects shipshape for submission.

But three days before the start of my personalized writing retreat, my spark disappeared. I could blame it on the time change or the left-field dramatics at work or a preoccupation with the welfare of Bobbi Kristina Houston Brown, spurred on by top-notch reporting from “Entertainment Tonight”. Whatever the cause, I felt panic which gave way to despair.

I am a fraud.

Not even up to “hack” standards.

Consider the publication of my first novel a fluke.

“As good as it gets” passed four years ago.

The revised staycation itinerary involved wrestling invasive blackberry bushes, finding a remedy for my dog’s bad breath (“Parsley, poochie?”) and renting free DVDs from the town library (Why is “Dumb and Dumber” in the Classics section?!).

Just in time, my luck changed. Maybe it was the fortune cookie forecast that fell from my wallet while I fueled up on another venti at Starbucks: THERE IS NEW HOPE FOR PROJECTS YOU HAD ALMOST GIVEN UP ON. Funny, but I don’t recall receiving that prophecy. I don’t even remember the last time I ate Chinese food.

After my two and a half hour commute home from work including a soggy uphill walk from the ferry, I checked my emails and read a vaguely familiar subject header, preceded by “RE.” After a few seconds, I realized it was a response to an article I’d submitted to Writer’s Digest last summer [July 27, 2011, to be exact.].

I tried to temper excitement with caution while opening the message. Seems my emailed submission got “a bit lost”, only to be recently rediscovered. (Fitting, really. That quote could be my motto!) The more important remarks: “We love it, and would like to run it in our next issue”. The payment? A pittance, but enough to cover a month of lattés.

The 300-word back page article isn’t likely to have New York editors suddenly following me on Twitter, but the email came at the right time, an affirmation that my original staycation agenda is worth pursuing. It’s great when I can work through my own self-doubt, but I can put that pep talk on hold. And the blackberry bushes can continue to overtake my backyard. I’ve got a query letter to write.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

NEW MOON ON SUNDAY

There are times when I don’t want to be associated with basic parts of my identity.

On the night of Game 7 of the Stanley Park finals, I felt embarrassed to be a Canuck fan. Is there really supposed to be a link between hockey fans and cop-car-burning, business-looting hooligans? Sure, many of the rioters weren’t fans at all, but they infiltrated Downtown Vancouver in Canuck jerseys, leaving the rest of the world with plenty of video evidence to show that Canuck fans are poor sports and, worse, mindless thugs.

When California Attorney General Dan Lungren used my law school graduation ceremony to speak boastfully about the successful implementation of the death penalty on a convicted criminal earlier that week, I was ashamed of the school’s name on my diploma. I would forever be an alumnus of this university, the same law school that subsequently named Kenneth Starr as dean, the man who zealously investigated President Bill Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky. (No, I have never donated a penny to the university and I take comfort in the fact I was on full scholarship throughout the course of my studies.)

To be sure, I embarrass easily. It consider myself a discriminating music fan but—GASP!—I own a Bobby Brown album. Worse, I used to think a certain someone on “Growing Pains” was kinda cute. (Yes, Alan Thicke, but the other one, too.) And this Donald Trump commercial should have made me seriously consider giving up Oreo cookie ice cream. Oh, the shame that I continue to reward myself with this flavor of DQ Blizzard!

Oops. How did this post devolve into a Donald Trump reference? The egomaniac will only gloat that another serf is pimping his name.

The topic again? Guilt by association. How can I identify as something when others who make the same claim seem so unlike me,…so, uh, icky. To be specific, there are a lot of gays out there in the Twitterverse who utterly embarrass me.

Today, as I scrolled down to read Tweets from other gay men, I noticed many references to Naked Sunday. Huh? And then there were several “twit pics” attached to tweets. Seems it is the day when gays unabashedly post photos of their bare butts.

Oh, where is my Pride flag when I need to wave it about? Why do I no longer have a pink triangle slapped on my car bumper?

Forget gay adoption, marriage equality, non-discrimination legislation and anti-bullying initiatives. Apparently, the true gay cause centers on Naked Sundays.

A common response would be for a gay twentysomething with a perfect bubble butt to accuse me of being a homophobe or, worse, an old guy with a saggy ass. Call me a prude. Say I’m bitter because I’m single and someone walked off with my camera during a showing of my house over the past three months. You’re entitled to your beliefs and judgments just as I am.

Funny, I just now recalled a happy story about an online butt shot. A dear friend of mine in California has been with the same partner for sixteen years now. They officially married before Prop 8 took away their status. A few years ago, while visiting, I asked how they met. “Online,” my friend replied. “I posted a pic of my ass, he liked it and the rest is history!”

Okay, so maybe Naked Sunday is harmless fun. So long as employers don’t track one’s Twitter account. We’ve come a long way since Stonewall, since Anita Bryant’s rants and since the dark days of the AIDS crisis. (The global crisis continues, but the media and even most gays seem to have tired of it.)

This is an era of greater freedom for gay men. Freedom to marry in some places. Freedom to hold hands without fear (in some places).

And freedom to moon the world.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

JOCK TWITCH

Jocks aren’t gay. Been that way since the beginning of time. Everyone knows that.

Don’t mistake the manly hugs and affectionate locker room nicknames for anything but team spirit, that extra oomph that might mean The Cup, The Ring, The Title will finally come this year. Yes, we all love Kesler (“Kes”, because Kesler really is a mouthful), but in the manliest of ways. It’s about body checks, dekes and goals and certainly has nothing to do with this.

There has never been an openly gay, active player in the NHL, the NFL, the NBA or Major League Baseball. Never. Like I said, jocks aren’t gay.

Oh, there was an injured minor league rugby or soccer or hacky sack player from England or Belgium or Brazil who came out last year. It generated a lot of buzz on the internet for about ten minutes. Even when I view the world with fuchsia-colored glasses, I know that’s not much. It doesn’t set the precedent that prompts elite athletes to blow kisses in the stands at ever-loyal best buds named Chaz or Stewart.

Australian Matthew Mitcham won gold at the 2008 Olympics. That should have amounted to something. But, of course, it didn’t. Divers shave their bodies, strut about in teensy Speedos and spend too much of their day practicing pointing their toes. Diving isn’t much of a sport. Everyone knows cannonballs make a bigger splash.

Even Johnny Weir, donning a flamboyant getup at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver played coy over his sexuality. Why should he admit to anything? Save it for the income-generating book when he’s relegated to being the warmup act at the ice capades.

After retirement, jocks can stray. Every so often a retiree will hold a press conference, announcing he is gay. (Yes, it’s usually a brief public statement. “I talk about it in depth in my forthcoming memoir.” Only retirees say things like forthcoming.) How do current jocks handle the coming out party of a retired jock? Not sure but I wonder if it can be attributed to a side effect from frequent concussions. I mean, something’s gotta be messed up according to jock logic.

Okay, so let’s review: jocks are not gay.

But wait, you say, what if they are? A few, at least. If not ten percent, then maybe one or two. Gosh golly, it must be pretty uncomfortable for them in the locker room. Maybe even more uncomfortable than it would be for the straight jocks, unknowingly showering alongside closeted gay jocks.

Hooboy, someone insert a dropping-the-soap joke. (That never gets old.)

Yes, I have no doubt that locker rooms are among the last bastions of sanctioned homophobia. Behind closed doors, I am sure many coaches resort to references about “playing like girls” and “queer/fag/gay” references to the opposing team. All that after-the-whistle trash talk on the field/rink/court? If the guys had mikes attached to their jerseys, I am certain we’d hear all sorts of gay putdowns.

That is why I find the newly launched You Can Play campaign a small, yet significant step forward. Regardless of what you think of Toronto Maple Leafs’ Brian Burke as a general manager or an ex-coach, I give him kudos for stepping up with his son Patrick to honor Brendan Burke, Brian’s gay son who died in a car accident on February 5, 2010. Burke made headlines by appearing in Toronto’s Gay Pride parade in 2009 with Brendan and in 2010 and 2011 in Brendan’s honor. For many, that might have been enough. But the Burkes have continued their public advocacy of accepting homosexuality. Their first commercial featuring a number of NHL players sends a simple message. Hockey is about skills. Sexuality is irrelevant. Gay or straight, just play.

The initiative supposedly finds some of its inspiration from the It Gets Better project, but I admit that “If you can play, you can play” message feels watered down, similar to the Don’t ask, don’t tell “breakthrough” that Clinton negotiated with the U.S. military twenty years ago. (Yes, back then, it was real progress.) The reality is that professional sports are significantly behind the times. Yet this is a starting point.

The website explains that the initiative aims to end “casual homophobia” that occurs on sports teams. By “casual”, the message is that most athletes are not blatantly homophobic; rather, the gay taunts are part of institutionalized trash talk banter, comparable to “That’s so gay” references heard in hallways in many high schools. While I do not find any homophobic remark to be casual, I acknowledge that this campaign first attempts to raise a consciousness about what players and coaches say. In time, the rhetoric may be eliminated. Looking forward, there may come a time when active athletes, revered by many, may step forward and come out. Imagine the positive impact this will have.

I see that as a long way away. But progress often begins with a single step, however small. If and when more athletes from a range of sports join in the campaign, more small steps will be made toward ending sports-sanctioned homophobia. In time, a series of small steps may amount to a considerable distance moving forward.

Thank you to the Burke family for taking the lead.

Monday, March 5, 2012

COASTAL CONNECTION

I’ve regularly expressed frustration over being stuck in my rural community, a ferry ride away from civilization. To reiterate, I love my mountain and ocean view and the town that is three miles away has many postcard images, particularly in the quaint harbour; however, I feel very much alone. The FOR SALE sign has blurred into the landscape, much like all the Post-its bordering my computer at work. Seems the term of my stay remains excruciatingly indefinite.

And yet there are swells of contentment, one of which came this weekend. On Saturday night, I picked up a friend and we drove thirty miles down the coast to a former colleague’s house. Fifty of us gathered for a private house concert performed by Juno-winning Canadian recording artist Barney Bentall. Now, at first mention, that might be a sad statement about Canadian music. A nationally known musician with a string of hit records in the 1980s and 1990s is strumming his guitar in someone’s living room?! Better than a casino, I say. And much better than rehab or reality show apprenticeship.

This is the second concert I’ve attended in this intimate venue, the first featuring an accomplished blues singer/guitarist in January. It’s a wonderful setup. Folks mingle over wine and appies, first set, more socializing, second set, then linger or leave. The performance is in a spacious living room where rows of chairs replace cleared out furniture. As the room has cathedral ceilings, a row of chairs also lines the balcony.

Although I’d YouTubed Barney Bentall the night before and pulled out my Gin Palace CD, I did not recognize the man as he stepped up to begin the concert. The big hair days were lost to a receding hairline and he’d wisely gone for an appealing close-shaven look. Perhaps Barney is not the photogenic sort, as he looked taller, fitter and more attractive than any of his old publicity shots. (It seems that he’d gone for a Bob Dylan/Tom Cochrane/Bruce Springsteen image in the past—clear musical influences, but never legitimate style setters.) I’ll admit to a flash of groupie lust which immediately subsided as he mentioned his wife and seven grandchildren. Seven?! While many aging rockers look worn and leathery (hello, Steven Tyler), Barney ascribed to the Sting way of life.

This was not the dreary performance of a musician wearily singing tired songs of yore. No, even the oldies sounded fresh. Stripped down, his unplugged performance allowed more focus on the lyrics and highlighted the in sync musicianship between Barney and multi-talented instrumentalist Eric Reid. Barney played many new songs he planned to record in pending studio sessions and, with all the new music plus other projects he has going on, he’d sometimes consult with Eric on keys and opening bars. He explained that his head was bursting with new musical ideas and, based on the songs played, Barney still has the creative spark to truly matter to listeners.

Barney chatted freely between songs. The connections to our coastal community quickly became apparent. Much of his music was recorded on an island I can see from my living room window, a location accessed by water taxi from the town harbour. He even met his wife on that island. He talked of bike rides on roads we travel regularly, mentioned a hotel in town and one of his newer songs gave a shout out to one of the bays in the area. Seems I was meant to attend this event. While the music entertained, the connections to the land and water reaffirmed that I live in a setting that can be a creative spark.

After the concert, I bought a greatest hits CD, dropping my money in an envelope left on a table in the hallway. Why have someone handling transactions when we could adhere to the honor system? Holding my CD, I caught up with some acquaintances and Barney Bentall approached. “Can I sign that for you?” he offered. How often does the artist approach the fan? He autographed and stuck around for some small talk before I headed out. Turns out he now lives on another island I can see from my home. The signing and quick chat capped off a perfect evening. If the paint begins to fade on the sign in my front yard and frustration rises, I have a soundtrack to ground me again while I wait out the interlude before the next stage in my life.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

JUST WATCH

Not my words today, other than to ask you to set two hours aside to watch a performance of “8”, a play created by Dustin Lance Black, featuring court transcripts from Perry v. Schwarzenegger, a case challenging Proposition 8, the referendum which took away the right for gays to marry in the state of California. Directed by Rob Reiner, actors performed a reading on March 3, 2012 as a benefit for the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), featuring an impressive cast:

Brad Pitt
George Clooney
Martin Sheen
Kevin Bacon
Jamie Lee Curtis
Christine Lahti
Matthew Morrison
Matt Bomer
Bridger Zadina
Jansen Panettiere
Rory O’Malley
Chris Colfer
Jane Lynch
Jesse Tyler Ferguson
Yeardley Smith
James Pickens, Jr.
John C. Reilly
George Takei
Larry Kramer
Campbell Brown
Vanessa Garcia

Please click this link.

Friday, March 2, 2012

LITTLE THINGS, BIG THINGS

I didn’t notice him when I walked in. Me first? How had I beaten him after I’d dizzied myself, circling multiple times in search of a parking spot? I was three minutes late, but from our emails, I sensed Philip was a punctual guy. Cold feet? It happens.

Just after 6 p.m., an awkward time for coffee. Would it be weird if I grazed on a small salad? Being a guy who probably needs glasses but still doesn’t have a pair, I crouched over the display case and squinted at the labels of the different deli creations. Undoubtedly not a great pose and a flagrant violation of First Date Wait whereby I should have a smile Vaselined on my face, keep the stomach sucked in and look cool and confident standing in a public eatery alone. Mid-crouch/squint, I realized someone was suddenly standing beside me. Philip.

“I bought you a coffee,” he said and I followed him to a table at the far end of the bakery. “Decaf,” he explained. Perfect! Beside my latté was a small plate with biscotti.

I’d bought coffee for some guys on first dates, but I can’t recall another man treating me. Little things—what should be a basic in being a gentleman—make strong first impressions. I sat down and noticed Philip wore a perfectly pressed button down shirt. He’d given this meeting some thought, something that should have been evident when he texted me fifteen minutes ahead of time: “Looking forward to meeting you.”

A class act. A refreshing change.

I became somewhat alarmed when he started talking: rapid pace, too much dwelling on a single topic, not enough back and forth. Please no déjà-vu. I’ve endured enough self-absorbed blowhards. Thankfully, it was just nervous energy. Toward the end of the date, as he joined me while I walked my dog along the seawall, I learned that I was his first date since he’d ended a ten-year relationship in December. Okay, that triggers a different déjà-vu. Dating freshly dumped guys doesn’t work out.

But I can ignore the warning signs. Heck, I’d ignored the nuts—which I hate—in the biscotti and graciously eaten the whole thing. I can ignore a lot when a guy leads with a latté-in-waiting.

Not a perfect first date, but there is definitely potential. On paper, we’re a good match. He’s 46, I’m 47. He has three degrees, I have three degrees. He’s incredibly fit and a marathon runner and, well, I try and I’m fitter than 95% of the men my age. Philip is worth a second date at least.

But then, as my dog tangled himself in a scraggly bush and I went back to my sexy crouching/sprinting pose, Philip revealed his own snag. “I got a job offer two days ago. In Edmonton.”

Of course he did. This was the business trip he’d mentioned in our exchange of messages. I’d made a series of lightly disparaging comments about the city—it’s so easy—in an attempt at humor. “I have to decide by Monday,” he said, sounding apologetic and genuinely conflicted.

Potential, yes. But I’m not the kind of guy you consider passing up a chance to move to Edmonton for. I mean, really, it’s Edmonton! If I’d known ninety minutes earlier, I’d have left the biscotti untouched, lied and mumbled something about anaphylaxis. And yet I’m glad I didn’t know. After dozens of go-nowhere coffee dates, that wonderful first impression proved restorative. There are genuinely nice single men out there still. Surely they don’t all move to Edmonton.