Sunday, May 27, 2012

DOG OF A DATE


It started out well.  Sunny Friday evening, trendy coffee spot in Vancouver’s über trendy Yaletown, even an open patio table with prominent No Smoking signs.  I ordered my iced coffee and checked a few emails while waiting for Vijay. 

The incessant barks of someone’s frantic dog provided the only annoyance.  Okay, my dog.  I decided to rescue my disgruntled pooch from the nearby car and let the neighborhood have some peace.  He circled a couple of times before parking himself by my chair.  Nap time after a hectic day of doggy daycare (and the aforementioned five minutes of abandonment).

Vijay arrived, we shook hands and he sat down for a good chat.  Well, one is always hopeful it will be a good chat. 

I led things off, asking about his work and, more specifically, his commute.  Figured we had something in common as I travel five hours each day for work and he flies to Saskatchewan each week for his job.  He shared the facts, nothing else.  No “Which one of us is crazier?”, no “I do it because Saskatoon is on the cutting edge in the computer tech industry”, no “There’s nothing better than the prairie sky.”

Next topic, please.  Family.  All in Ohio.  My relatives are in Texas.  Wow.  Connection.  American states!  Not particularly close to one another.  Not linked in any obvious way. 

And there, at ten minutes into the conversation, came the first awkward moment of silence.  I reached down to pat my dog.  Vijay forced a smile and said he was allergic to most pets.  (Rest assured, he said.  “I took my allergy meds before coming over.”)  My overly friendly dog didn’t so much as sniff Vijay’s way.  His senses are truly extraordinary, able to detect early a Person We’ll Never See Again .

Somehow I got us on track for more chatter about...gosh, I can’t recall and, trust me, it wouldn’t make for gripping blog reading.  At some point, I began to pat the dog more, grateful for his company.  Maybe his sensory prowess extends to ESP.  Maybe is auto tantrum had been a thoughtful act.  Maybe he knew this would be a dud of a date.  Maybe he just knows how to play the odds.  (Things to do this afternoon:  Google Vegas.  “Hotels casinos that allow pets”.)

Once again, a parking meter enforced the Bad Date Mercy Rule.  Call it a night after forty-five minutes of polite, forgettable probes, pats and pauses.  As a formality, I told Vijay that the dog and I head for the ferry terminal or fit in a dog walk.  Vijay opted for the walk.  I did my best to muster up my Faint Hope clause.  Maybe the movement would spark something on what we’d both noted several times was “a beautiful night”. 

Nope.  We waited in silence at a stoplight.  It was another sign.  Red means stop.  The DON’T WALK made things even clearer.    

We moved on. 

I spoke a few more times, saying “Excuse me” to passersby as my dog spotted the next tree on our route.  Vijay and I even shared a little more conversation.  The search for something in common proved fruitless. 

In the end, I took the lead—even over my alpha-minded pooch—and we stopped at an off-leash dog park.  No need to try to entertain.  I let the dog free, laughed at his own clumsy first encounters with a teensy Speed Demon, a gangly, timid mutt and a scruffy, bouncy schnauzer.  Ever the wiser one, my dog gave up after ten minutes, spending the final moments of his excursion circling me and chewing on grass.  I may be hopelessly challenged when it comes to human interaction, but there’s no mistaking the bond between the dog and me.  Cat ladies, I judge you not!

The dog park was closer to Vijay’s condo than where I’d parked.  I suggested that the dog and I could make it back on our own, but Vijay stuck with his good manners and escorted us back, bookending our time with another handshake, colder, more formal than the first. 

From the passenger seat of the car, my dog barked at a homeless man who leaned toward the window.  Sometimes I want an instant stop to the yapping, but I welcomed the din as I pulled away.  My dog was just happy to be back in a known environment, protective when faced with a stranger, already looking forward to the next phase of our driving adventures.  At the first red light, he hopped up and licked my ear.  Love, relief, maybe just a desire to get that grassy residue off his tongue.  Whatever the purpose, it was clearer than anything that happened on the latest dud of a date.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

My Prima DONNA

So saddened by the news that Donna Summer died today at the age of 63.  Here is the link to a 2009 post I wrote about my memories growing up to her music. 

I may not be religious but Heaven Knows I will miss her.  Thank you, Donna.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

THE MEANING OF “MAYBE”

Call me a glass-half-empty guy, but I always thought “maybe” meant “no”. 

When I’d have to spend hours shoe shopping, grocery shopping and random shopping with my mother, I’d ask, “Can we get a milkshake at McDonald’s on the way home?”  It was the pre-Happy Meal Era, but I’d still been successfully brainwashed by lovable Ronald McDonald and the Hamburglar while watching Saturday cartoons.

Mom’s answer to my query was always the same:  “Maybe.”  Yep, that’s a “no”,...laced with just a tinge of hope to get us out of the public eye before one of my full-scale tantrums.  Clever survival tactic, also a life lesson.  Maybe =  No.

Others reinforced my learning.  To Mrs. Martindale, my fifth grade teacher:  “Can we go outside after the math test?”  Maybe.  If you’re good.  (Jimmy Hardy always did something to turn maybe to no.)  To my best friend Michael during freshman year in university:  “Do you wanna catch a movie Friday night?”  Maybe.  How was I to know his roommate had a bong, deemed more alluring than Jessica Lange?  (Sacrilege, I know.)  To myself, most weekday mornings:  “How ‘bout a jog tonight after work?”  Maybe.  (Unless it’s raining, too hot, too cold, too sunny, too dark, too late or too close to dinnertime...or snack time...or random time-wasting Twitter time.)  I’ll repeat,...maybe means no.

Apparently the makers of the Plenty of Fish online dating site got a lot more milkshakes when they were kids.  How else can I explain the unexpected consequence of my trying out a new feature on the website?

Recently, I’ve been getting a fair share of emails, notifying me that NapLover72  or BicepsOverBrains or ChewsWithMouthClosed  “wants to meet you.”  Oh, it’s all quite exciting, until I click the profile to discover a multitude of reasons why I’d never given more than a dismissive glimpse to NapLover’s thumbnail photo before. 

Still, I decided to click the Meet Me link at the top of the POF web page.  Up pops a guy’s photo, along with his age and location.  Choose YES, MAYBE or NO and a new photo appears.  Repeat until thoroughly bored. 

Given that I was procrastinating mowing the lawn, I clicked responses to a great many photos.  In all, I chose YES twice and selected NO dozens of times.  My inner voice chastised me for being too picky so I selected MAYBE 10-15 times as well.  Perhaps there’d be a file of all my maybes that I could go back to when desperation and/or the reality of my general unworthiness kicked in.

But no!  Much to my horror, I discovered last night that an email message stating “RuralGay Wants to Meet You” gets sent to not only my YES choices but also to every single MAYBE.  I’m sure most people would shrug.  So be it.  But I am a shy, easily mortified soul.  I’d thought I was so bold, giving an online wink/poke to two guys when, in fact, I’d announced my ogling to more than a dozen men.

Lo and behold, I received a new Plenty of Fish message.  It was a Maybe Man, thanking me for my message.  Egad!  I’d hardly call a poke a message.  Then, he politely rejected me.  What?!  In what world does a Maybe get to turn you down?  Maybe means no!  The gentleman went on to explain that he is good friends with my ex—AAAACK!—and did not want to compromise that friendship.  Honorable, yes, but this little anecdote will filter back to my ex, a guy whom I want to know absolutely nothing about my life.

Yeah, it is not that big of a deal and yet I now realize that many (or all!) of those guys who supposedly wanted to meet me might have been pressing the MAYBE button, too.  If maybe does not, in fact, mean no, it is at the very least noncommittal.  I do not want to give or receive alerts that in essence mean, NapLover saw your photo and thought, Meh.  Not a promising start to a relationship.   

Okay, deep breath.  I am relaxed.  I am over it.

I don’t care. 

But when I say I don’t care, everyone knows that I don’t care means  I really do.  Isn’t that universally understood?  What’s that you say...“Maybe not”?!  Sigh.  When did communication become so complicated?

Monday, May 14, 2012

AN EMBARRASSMENT OF STITCHES

I always get stuck when some schmuck suggests that everyone share their most embarrassing moment as a meeting icebreaker.  It’s not that I have something to hide; I have too much to share.  One moment?  How can I possibly narrow it down?  I am naturally awkward, a klutz.  I blame it on left-handedness but that only disparages the southpaw collective.  Today’s doctor’s office visit must be in the Top Ten of my most embarrassment moments.  Well, Top Twenty at least.

I had to see a specialist to remove a couple of cysts on my back.  They’d been growing larger to the point where I’d named them.  Mash and Spud.  (Yeah, I make ‘em lumpy.)  My family doctor had suggested I have them removed in the past, but he didn’t push.  I stress just from having my blood pressure checked.

My skin cancer specialist referred me a month ago.  Many times, I thought about cancelling.  Spare me, spare the medical staff.  When a receptionist called to remind me of the appointment, I confirmed that I would be there.  It was a rare moment of bravery.  I knew it wouldn’t last.

I woke twice in the night.  I wouldn’t say I had a panic attack, but visions of a knife slashing my buds proved disturbing.  I gave my groggy dog a tummy rub for my benefit, not his. 

The commute to the doctor’s office was two hours.  Plenty of time for me to back out.  I thought about it, particularly when I started blurting out staccato screams in the car as I sat idly at traffic lights.  Whatcha lookin’ at, BMW driver?  That was my Steven Tyler impression. 

I passed on my morning cup of coffee, knowing the hot beverage would only make me sweat profusely as I filled out the one-page consent form.  I dutifully checked the No box for allergies, HIV and medication.  I’ve never understood why these forms fail to ask, Are you hopelessly squeamish?  A little heads up would seem helpful. 

Dr. Congenial ushered me in and I impersonated a normal person, commenting on the breathtaking view of Vancouver’s False Creek.  Maybe this visit would be different, a moment of personal growth when I’d be miraculously cured of my medical panic reflex.

“Don’t tell me anything,” I told him as I lay on the crepe paper covered examining table.  “Don’t let me see anything.”  And with that, I shut out the harbor image, turned my head and stared at the oddly textured white wall.  My overactive imagination kicked in, wondering how easy it would be to wipe blood off the wall. 

Sensing my unease, the good doctor advised, “Think good things.”  But instead of ice cream, my schnauzer and Hugh Jackman, I thought of blood, knives and how much this torture would further wound my VISA.  Yep, this procedure wasn’t covered.  I was paying for the pain.

Each “tiny prick” sensation from the freezing process made me kick back one or both legs.  Dr. Congenial gamely tried to distract me, asking about the population of my rural community while I probed him about his recent enrolment in water skiing school during a Florida vacation.  Can’t tell you what I asked or what he answered.  We both knew I didn’t care.

The knife made its first slash.  I grimaced and convulsed.  “The back is a tricky area to freeze,” he said.  More tiny pricks followed.  Freeze, please! 

Midway through removing Mash, I blurted, “I’m not feeling well.”  Based on his response, I’d say I was disturbingly pale.  He ordered me to flip over and anxiously shouted for the receptionist.  “I need an oxygen mask,” he ordered.  Maybe they only say “stat” on TV shows; regardless, the “stat” was implied.

Hooked up with a mask, I apologized profusely as the sixty-year-old physician elevated my legs.  “I’ve got them,” he said.  “You can relax your body.” 

Um, no I can’t. 

After the sideshow subsided, Dr. Les Congenial cleaned off my back.  He swabbed all over, including places far beyond the frozen potatoes.  I visualized the liquids that had oozed all over.  Blood and other cyst guts. 

Mercifully, Mash departed and he stitched me up, but Spud proved more challenging.  The freezing was wearing off.  I thrashed after each of the doctor’s movements.  That fainting feeling returned.  Another body flip, more oxygen, more ooze to sponge up.  He stopped acknowledging my “I’m-so-sorry-I’m-so-stupid-I’m-okay” mantra. 

I bucked up for the final sutures, clearly feeling more than I should.  My hands gripped the sides of the table, my knees remained bent with the feet dangling midair.  Embarrassing?  Pathetic.

When he finally transferred me from the table to the floor in the next room, I pulled off crepe bits that stuck to my face and right arm as a result of my profuse sweating.  I slipped out to the receptionist area, paid my fee and declined booking a follow-up to remove the stitches.  “Oh, he won’t want to see me again,” I said. 

I’ll stop in at a clinic a few more hours from home.  Maybe the staff way off yonder will have recycled the fax with my photo and the bold “WARNING” title.  I took some solace in hearing the next patient yelp loudly as I waited for my VISA charge to clear.  Maybe I’d stumbled upon a mad doctor!  Or, more likely, maybe not. 

At night, I called my mother, a former nurse, to confess my misconduct.  She was too busy watching “Dancing with the Stars” so I related the incident to my father, a retired doctor.  He’s getting hard of hearing and was watching a hockey game so he may have hung up thinking I bought a bad melon or won a trip to Omaha.  Didn’t matter.  I’ll have another embarrassing moment in a week or two.

If anything good comes from this episode, it’s my immense gratitude for my good health.  I am truly lucky that I’ve never had an overnight stay at a hospital, I’ve never had friends scrawl colorful doodles on a cast and I’ve never stared obsessively at an IV drip bag, wondering if a bubble or fold within warranted another call for the nurse.  My coming out occurred at the peak of the AIDS crisis, but my pathological fear of all things medical, combined with my reserved nature and my model-free looks, kept me from one-night stands and unsafe transgressions.  How would I have handled regular probes and the slew of side effects from experimental treatments?  How would the medical community have coped?  Doctors had enough to deal with.

With age, I’ve always hoped that I will gain the courage to get through unpleasant medical appointments without incident.  Unfortunately, I have yet to outgrow a fear that began without any clear triggering event during childhood.  To all in the medical profession, you have my unwavering admiration and appreciation.  You also have my heartfelt, red-faced apologies.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

THE MISSING LINK

We came close.

If I had a list of what I hoped for in a partner, Jim would meet most of the criteria.  Unfortunately, lists are for grocery shopping, not a boyfriend search.  Although Jim is highly educated, politically active (in admirable causes), stylish, an arts supporter and a vegetarian, I am just not feeling it.  It is SO frustrating.  I am tempted to criticize myself, saying I am too picky, I am avoiding intimacy or I am a dating pretender who would rather live as a hermit.  What’s wrong with me?! 

In my heart, I know there is nothing wrong with me...at least not with regard to rejecting Jim.  And, truly, I cannot say there is anything wrong with Jim.  He’s a nice guy.  Still, after a month of dating and wishing for a spark to surface, I know it isn’t going to happen.  Poor Jim is utterly perplexed.  I know he is smitten with me.  He dares to call me “sexy” and “handsome”.  (By contrast, a work colleague today said I look haggard and stressed.)  Yes, love lust mild infatuation is blind.

Despite Jim’s amazing dating résumé, something is missing.  Too often, we engage in parallel rather than intersecting lines of conversation.  I feel that I follow up on things he mentions, but my own words seem to evaporate before they reach his ears.  When he does respond, it is to say something about himself.  I feel my teeth clenching.  That’s surely not a sign of attraction.

As I’ve mentioned before, Jim was born and raised in Los Angeles, a city I am hoping to return to if U.S. immigration would be a little more cooperative.  While I miss much about L.A., Jim’s way of speaking reminds of something that did annoy me.  He is big on name dropping and one-upping every story.  It is intended to impress.  I, however, am not looking to be impressed.  I seek to connect in an honest, authentic way. 

Tonight we met for the last supper.  I am going through a traumatic work situation that has left me feeling vulnerable and questioning my career options.  I dared to share.  He listened and nodded appropriately.  No comments, no questions.  And so we moved on to his training plans for a half marathon coming up in August.  More teeth clenching.  A heaping plate of nachos arrived just on time to give my jaw a suitable outlet.

If anything, the meal affirmed that I was making the right decision.  I walked him to his car and said I wasn’t feeling any chemistry even though I wished it existed.  For a moment, there was a look of shock on his face, but we parted with a quick hug and I strolled back to my vehicle feeling no sense of regret, no pang of despair over being single again. 

It doesn’t mean I’m destined to be a hermit though that wouldn’t be so bad if I could keep all my teeth and avoid wearing flannel.  I have plenty of other things to think about for now.  I can ask and answer my own questions.  Dating is not a priority.