Sunday, October 27, 2013

CURSED...FROM HOPEFUL TO HOPELESS

Me on the ferry
Nobody died. My leg isn’t filled with shrapnel from a pipe bomb. It’s not even raining.

That puts things in perspective.

My losing streak continues. Status quo. Ho hum. Still, it doesn’t feel so good.

I am cursed with bad luck when it comes to dating. I keep thinking it has to turn around, but that damned bad luck bucket is bottomless. I kick it and it keeps rolling right back.

I barely slept last night. I’d like to think it was from too much pasta but, yeah, I was looking forward to today’s date. This one felt different. I was truly interested, fully invested. I wanted it to work. My alarm went off at 6:45, I got up, fed the dog and then headed out while it was still dark to fit in a jog. I hate any form of morning exercise, but with the date set for the middle of the day, an early run was the only option.

Back home, I decided to forego the electric shave for a smoother, bloodier process. I spritzed on my new Hermès cologne—can’t wear it in the workplace; everything is scent sensitive. I tried on a half dozen shirts multiple times and went through equally indecisive rounds for pants, socks and shoes.  Sometimes that dang ferry is a blessing. It’s the only thing that got me out the door.

The sailing was beautiful: sunshine, a hot cup of Starbucks, a little table to do some writing. Then, the text came.

Ahh crap James. I have to take a rain check today. Some of my staff called in sick and I have to go in to work. So sorry. Really wanted to see you.

Clive runs his own business. Work happens. I get it.

Of course, it would have been nice to know before I spent fifty bucks on the ferry. And now I’d have at least two hours to kill before catching the next ferry.

We texted back and forth. There was a possibility he could leave at some point in the afternoon. Fine. It was a rare occasion to linger in Vancouver. I could call some friends, shop, find a café to write. There are many ways to make lemonade.

But first I got a cinnamon bun. I deserved some comfort food.

I couldn’t reach anyone so I passed the day shopping. Yes, I contributed $1,300 to the Vancouver economy. It wasn’t all clothes. Bought a chair, too. I can’t attribute the spree to Clive. I’ve been finding great joy in shopping of late. With all I’m saving on commuting costs, the money has to go somewhere. Paying down the mortgage is the responsible thing to do, but it doesn’t have the wow factor of a new purple jogging jacket and green jeans. (How is it I’ve waited this long for a pair?!)

My credit card still had plenty of room, but I’d reached my limit. No word from Clive. I headed back to the ferry terminal.

No date for today. My dog deserves a little weekend time. And frankly, I’m not feeling so excited anymore.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

ON EDGE

You’d think after all these years being single and striking out, I’d be completely disheartened. I should be grumpier than Donald Trump. I should have taken to cooking with butter...gobs of it. Should be alternating between a gray and a black sweats ensemble. I should have five cats, two closets full of jigsaw puzzles and an online alter ego account to challenge myself to marathon Scrabble sessions.

Sometimes I come close. I do like a good jigsaw puzzle. I even have one with cats.

But despite the string of bad and boring first (and last) dates, that schoolgirl rush of anticipation still surfaces on occasion. I have hope. Not always, of course. Rejections and dead ends do take their toll, even on someone as foolishly naive as I am at the core. I can wallow with the best (worst) of them. Let’s just put that all aside again.

I have a date tomorrow. I didn’t want to blog about it. Maybe that jinxes things. Maybe I’m trivializing these encounters, whittling them down to one-sided online entries in an effort to fortify Team Woe Is Me. But writing is my outlet. And I’m so jittery right now I have to let my thoughts out. (My Scrabble partner is currently offline.)

Hope springs eternal. Thank god the expression has some truth! I eyed Clive’s profile a couple of weeks ago. He included many photos, each one revealing a truly handsome man. Parts of his message attracted me as well. Some of it also came off as Too Much Information, but then I can be too reserved. I was interested.

Later that evening, he sent a message. Three words. (Not everyone shares my propensity to ramble.) “Hey there, handsome.” Was he interested?

I truly hate the online messaging. It is rare that I ever get any sense of the person behind the pics. Oh, but let me repeat, Clive has some damn good pics. So ruggedly handsome. Such piercing blue eyes. And what a lovely name. Please, let him be a good man. Let there finally be mutual interest.

Yes, I don’t have much more to go on. Each time I receive a message as we work out the details on where to meet tomorrow, I feel a flutter of excitement. I curse the fact I still have to wait twenty-four whole hours.

All the eagerness could be zapped away within a split second of face-to-face contact tomorrow. That’s familiar territory. For now, however, I shall relish my inner schoolgirl and cling to the possibility that something good awaits.

It’s a wondrous feeling!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

LABEL QUEENS

Admittedly, gay is a broad word. When people talk of the “gay community”, I imagine a tidy neighborhood with picket fences and immaculate gardens somewhere between Chinatown and Little Italy. Aside from a few enclaves like West Hollywood and the Castro, the gays have dispersed. Who are we? Where are we? (And, yes, I’ve firmly established that, in gay terms, there is no “we” in my environs. It’s all about me. And that’s a bad thing.)

Fag. Queer. These are other words to define us. Or some of us. We took the slurs and embraced them. Names will never hurt me. (If only that were true.  It takes more than repurposing a taunt.) To some, however, these terms remain abrasive. Let us all be gay. It’s a synonym for happy, after all, and we are the “community” that co-opted the rainbow. Yes, everything sunshine. No matter how much rain may fall.

In a society where labels mean so much, we created a few more. To define us. But also to compartmentalize us; essentially, break down that sense of community. Bear. Pup. Daddy. Twink. Rice Queen.

Some terms even become slurs against our own. Remember the personal ads before Manhunt/Gay.com/Gaydar/PlentyOfFish/CraigsList/eHarmoney? “Butch”, “masculine” men sought one-night or long-term partners, often tagging on a qualifier: “no femmes.”

I see less of that now. I suppose political correctness has reshaped our ways. People haven’t changed, just the names. There are clear preferences and, under the auspices of not wanting to waste anyone’s time, gays continue to attach qualifiers that marginalize some of our community. Looking on Twitter, the “masculine” gays continue to separate themselves from the “femmes.” These butch men who presumably crack beer bottles with their teeth while watching “Ice Road Truckers” and taxidermying the moose they shot in the wilds of Montana last weekend have taken to calling themselves “bromos”. Yes, another label. Urbandictionary.com defines bromo as:

                           Dudes that happen to be gay, but aren't flamboyant at all. Prefer to go
drink beer at a buddy's place, rather than go to the gay bar and pay for
overpriced cocktails and listen to bouncy, campy club songs.
A bromo is not conceited in his looks, but is still put together decently,
groomed but not over plucked.

Many of us struggled socially in junior high and high school. We didn’t fit the cliques. We longed to be accepted for who we were, but realized it wouldn’t happen until we graduated or dropped out. (Thankfully, with gay-straight alliances and a gradual cultural shift, high school is not as isolating for some LGBTQ youth.)

How freeing it was to find others like us! Community. How unfortunate then that we should create our own groupings that shut out gay men who have effeminate mannerisms. These are the regular Joes (sometimes called Nelly or Nancy) who have heroically carried the rainbow flag before the rest of us were ever ready to do so. They didn’t have the choice to hide and pass as straight until they’d sorted things out in their own minds. These are the men who, as boys, were prematurely outed, sometimes even before they’d defined themselves. These are the ones who have always borne the brunt of the taunts and the bullying. Easy targets.

Adopting the term bromo has the effect of saying, I’m not one of them. I’m gay but not like THAT. Embrace your gayness, however it manifests for you. I just don’t understand why anyone needs to label himself as a masculine gay, aka, a bromo. If being a guy’s guy is so important, live it through your actions.

We don’t need another label.

Monday, October 14, 2013

FOR A ONE-NIGHT STAND

Sometimes a weekend in L.A. feels like a whirlwind. Especially when popping in from British Columbia, Canada. But I’d committed to this night back in August. When the proposal came, I hesitated. “I don’t usually do this sort of thing.” Still, this was my chance to see a tall, dark , handsome man and, well, L.A. seemed convenient. I’d have traveled to Australia.

It was a very special occasion—his birthday. We’d agreed to meet at an intimate setting, just him, me and 4,500 other people. I learned long ago that I’d have to share Hugh Jackman.

My friend Sue bought the tickets and invited me. Her husband wasn’t too keen on going. “You’ll appreciate him more,” she said. Indeed.

In the lobby of the Dolby Theater, Sue contemplated buying a t-shirt with Hugh’s comely face silkscreened white against the black background. As we’re both 49, I didn’t think she was serious. Wasn’t that more of a teen fangirl purchase? Ah, perhaps I’m still feeling the burn from the day of mocking I endured twenty-two years ago when I proudly/stupidly sported my Air Supply t-shirt. It was yet another high school popularity violation. The curse of “All Out of Love” stays with me to this day.

“Should I buy it?” she asked. Oh, that irresistible face. Who says no to Hugh? I focused on the words instead. Emblazoned across the shirt: “ONE NIGHT ONLY”. I opined that sales would be greater if it said ONE-NIGHT STAND.

“True,” Sue said. But she joined the line of other middle-aged and senior women, eager to take Hugh to bed every night. During the wait, Sue showed pictures on her iPhone from when she’d sat in the third row in New York to see Hugh’s Back on Broadway act a year ago. Women crowded in to see Hugh in a gold getup, part of a tribute to Peter Allen. Hugh can get away with wearing anything. (Even, I’d venture to say, an old Air Supply t-shirt.)

We all had Wolverine claws for the after-the-show auction,
benefitting MPTF (the Motion Picture Television Fund).
Isn't he lovely?
Although she’s married, Sue out-stalks me. I chose the bar line instead of the merchandise line. I’m the type who needs a little something to relax before the promise of a single night of something special.

Waiting for the concert to start, I glanced around. Women outnumbered men three to one. There were some devoted husbands, dragged along as some sort of deal to get uninterrupted Sunday football time flopped in a recliner in front of an oversized television, but my most of the many triggered my gaydar. They drifted in two-by-two. Apparently the singles still prefer Saturday nights watching go-go boys in West Hollywood.

Like Bette Midler, Hugh is an honorary gay. I’m not a Wolverine devotee—too much facial hair obscuring his beautiful features—but the guy’s a doll in rom-coms and when doing a little song and dance. “He’s got a twinkle,” Sue said during intermission. I figure when you are that good looking, that talented and that successful, you can be a confident charmer.

Hugh & his wife on his 45th birthday. She's the
envy of so many middle-aged women...and me!
I have a lot of stereotypically gay tendencies, but Hugh out-gays me. Early in the show, he joked that his action hero movie producers were fretting over this kind of night and segued into a vocal of “I won’t dance” which surrendered to “Gotta dance”.  He sang show tunes in a medley of songs from “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Guys and Dolls”. He honored Peter Allen. He even did a little can-can.

Whenever Hugh began to shake, Sue grabbed her binoculars to allow more focused ogling. I used them sparingly. To be honest, his dazzling smile, his gorgeous face and his pronounced pecs completely distracted me from assessing his talent. I am no better than the go-go boy gazers. I suspect Hugh was good, not excellent, but I left smiling. Surveying the crowd, so did everyone else. (Yes, you tag-along hubbies, start your countdown to game time!)

The trip home will feel longer. A one-nighter can leave a guy groggy. But, Dear Hugh, we’ll always have Los Angeles. I have no regrets.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A SONG FOR COMING OUT

October 11 is National Coming Out Day. It's an occasion that means far more to me than Monday's Canadian Thanksgiving/American Columbus Day. Whether you are all out or not out at all, it is a day to think positively about your LGBT identity and express yourself with a greater freedom and confidence.

I do not see the day as any kind of mandate to out yourself. Coming out is a long process. For me, there have been many plateaus in between the strides and setbacks. At 49, I am still not out to everyone. I do nothing to filter my mannerisms, but I could stand to be more open. Will that suddenly happen on October 11? No. The day, however, allows me to reflect on my next steps and reminds me that there are formal and informal networks which can offer support when the people closest to us seem to reject us.

While there are many negative posts on comment boards on the internet, YouTube has many inspiring "It Gets Better" videos. I bought the book as well and will read a couple of entries to mark the occasion. As well, Twitter is an amazing place to connect and receive support. I have carefully selected my followers, building a strong gay network while also avoiding the accounts of the multitude of self-professed gay porn stars. (You can be anything when hiding behind the a keyboard.) On my RuralGay Twitter account, I have participated in plenty of positive exchanges; not once, has someone directed hate at me. (I discount Twitter Spam, alerting me that "someone is saying nasty things" about me and posting embarrassing photos. I don't have that kind of legacy. Bad profile shots? Sure. It doesn't get worse.)

If you need more inspiration, let me suggest the song "Brave" by Sara Bareilles. Co-written by Jack Antonoff of the band fun., the song's lyric's are tailor-made for coming out. In fact, Sara acknowledges here that the song was written for a friend who was struggling with coming out. The lyrics follow:

You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up

Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
And they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside, no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you

Say what you want to say
And let the words fall out honestly
I want to see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out honestly
I want to see you be brave

I just want to see you (x3)
I want to see you be brave

Everybody’s been there, everybody’s been stared down by the enemy
Fallen for the fear and done some disappearing
Bowed down to the mighty
Don’t run and stop holding your tongue
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
And show me how big your brave is

Say what you want to say
And let the words fall out honestly
I want to see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out honestly
I want to see you be brave

And since your history of silence
Won’t do you any good.
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?

If you say what you want to say
And let the words fall out honestly
I want to see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out honestly
I want to see you be brave

I just want to see you (x3)
I want to see you be brave


Let me just add that Sara's CD, "The Blessed Unrest", is a winning collection. I bought it at my local Starbucks two weeks ago and the songs have steadily grown on me. I just can't eject it from the player in my car.

So, there you go. Get inspired. Be yourself. And, yes, be brave.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

THE EXIT STRATEGY

Going into a date with no expectations can be a good thing. Show up, see what happens. But going into a date with “No” expectations, may be a complete waste of time. I say I am open to meeting a guy, but maybe I’ve given up. Maybe I am just going through the motions...and driving away each time with clear signs of motion sickness.

Tonight’s date took six weeks to happen. Tim’s first message came while he was visiting his parents in Nova Scotia. I have a soft spot for people from the Maritimes. Generally speaking, they come across as genuine, honest, this-is-me-take-it-or-leave-it people. No bullshit.

In the messages that followed, my reservations increased. Often, Tim would write rambling accounts of a fishing trip or a bathroom tiling project. “Hee hee hee” and “LOL” took the place of punctuation, a writing atrocity in and of itself, but all the more egregious when nothing came off as remotely funny. Maritimer or not, I got a clear sense that this would lead to nowhere. Just like his anecdotes.

There was no way I was making a special trip to Vancouver for another no-go coffee date. However, I had booked two nights at a downtown hotel to attend a conference. Why not meet? Get it over with.

But, really, why bother? I had the wrong attitude going in, like a five-year-old cringing over an incoming forkful of canned peas. Yes, this is what it’s come to. I’m comparing my dating life to mushy, flavor-challenged peas.
 

I’d intended to change clothes after the conference, but then decided even that wasn’t worth the effort. I opted to spend the extra time with my dog who seemed needier than usual due to the hotel surroundings. A comfy robe and ginger-lemon aromatherapy shampoo mean nothing to him.

Tim showed up at the café and I knew in an instant it was a no. Again. Not my type. Again. Still, he apologized profusely for being a tad late and I anticipated an interesting conversation. As he stood in the coffee queue, it dawned on me that he might be approaching this encounter with low expectations, too. While I had not bothered with a costume change, his sloppy t-shirt, baggy shorts and baseball cap showed even less effort. Is this the state of fortysomething dating? Mow the lawn, engage in conversation with a stranger over coffee, scrub the oil stains in the garage.

The conversation wasn’t bad. It may seem an oxymoron, but Tim came off as an intense surfer dude. He’d relate a family story and start tripping on his own account. Whoa, man. He processed things in the moment, seeming to make new discoveries about a brother challenging him to a fight or his mother refusing to replace sixty-year-old pots and pans.

There were no filters. In the first two minutes of our conversation, he mentioned being lonely. Over the course of an hour, he talked of struggles with alcoholism, becoming HIV+, a recent satisfying sexual encounter and how he lived a comfortable, yet frugal life. Still, he kept coming back to the topic of loneliness. I empathized, noting that I’ve lost touch with many and could count my remaining Vancouver friends on one hand.

I glanced at my phone, not to check for messages but to glace at the time. I could tell from Tim’s facial reaction this was a no-no, but I no longer own a watch that I could subtly eye. I’d fed the meter for eighty minutes and, just as I’d suspected, time had ticked away. I had three minutes to race back before a zealous traffic cop slapped a ticket on my windshield.

When I explained that I had to leave and that I was having dinner with a friend, Tim pounced. “If you’d wanted this to work, you wouldn’t have set up a dinner. You’d have kept things open so we could see a movie or go for a walk or go eat.” I felt my face heat up and mumbled that my friend had pushed up the dinner time. (This was entirely true. My friend, younger in chronological age only, goes to sleep at 9.)

Tim then stated the obvious: “And now you’re embarrassed.” I tried to say it was all right, but felt myself reddening more as sweat flooded my forehead. “Text me later if you want to go for a walk,” he said as we hugged at the street corner. But all I wanted to do was get back to my car...and not just to beat the meter maid.

In truth, Tim was right. It hadn’t been my intention to piggyback the dinner right after the coffee date, but if I’d had any hope that something might come of it, I would not scheduled dinner at all. In my twenties, I was filled with optimism before each date. Maybe this is the one. It was optimism in the extreme. If he smiled upon meeting me, my mind would race ahead to Our First Christmas and thinking about where to round up boxes to move my stuff to his place.

Crazy optimism evolved to a more sane sense of hope—cautious but open. But that has faded with age, with failed relationships and with dozens and dozens of dead-end dates. Technically, I’d allotted plenty of time for my coffee date with Tim, but maybe it’s a bad sign that I no longer hope for a date to stretch out into a spontaneous occasion where neither of us wants to say goodbye. Am I preparing for disappointment before we ever meet? Am I sabotaging dating prospects by expecting so little?

What will it take to turn this dating mindset around?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

OFF THE MARKET

Titles can be deceiving, can’t they? For those of you who check the blog from time to time, you might have glimpsed the heading and thought a miracle happened.

No, I’m still single. (Nine and a half years. It’s a streak I’d love to end.)

The title refers to my house. After three realtors and three years of putting up For Sale signs and taking them down when each listing became stale, I don’t expect to have the house on the market for the foreseeable future—five years, maybe more.

What changed? I gave up workday ferry rides and the five hours of daily commuting I endured just to collect a paycheck. With a week and a half remaining in the school year last June, I was offered a job at a new site. Get this—it’s four blocks from home.

Yes, that still makes me giggle. I smile the entire walk to work—not that I’ll add any smile lines to my face; commercial breaks last longer.

Five weeks in, all is wonderful at work. How could there be anything for my inner Eeyore to mope about? Ah, but there is. Sometimes enticing promises of immediate pleasure/relief come with lingering side effects—the apple in the garden of Eden, the one-night stand that begets an STD (or worse), the refreshing rise of Lindsay Lohan only to be followed with a decade of media burnout.

For now, I have gained free time and I have reinstated weekday workouts. I have even reduced the dark rings under my eyes. It all warrants a robust WOO HOO! But the reason I first listed the house wasn’t because of a job. At the time, I was on a writing sabbatical. The deadly quiet of my environment proved perfect for slogging through a couple of manuscripts, but my social needs went unfulfilled. As fresh-faced as I may be, I remain in a hamlet on the outskirts of a sleepy town, separated by mountains and water from the rest of civilization.

How dead are things? The big events today in town are Teatime in the Preschool, Okie Doki Karaoke and a workshop called Build a Willow Tunnel. This is why I lock my doors.

The lead story in the local weekly paper is about scaring sea gulls off the library roof. In next week’s issue, there will be a half dozen letters to the editor, passionately squawking on either side of this bird brouhaha. Shoot the birds. Feed the birds. This could be the talk of the town, stretching into November. I am not kidding.


A year ago, the town’s McDonald’s shut down. That’s no loss to me as a vegetarian, but it’s a sign of a stagnant economy and dormant social network. More telling, I drove to the single-screen cinema tonight, daring to appear solo at a movie on a Saturday night. Two months after its premiere in metropolitan areas, Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” finally arrived for a weeklong run. I was the only one to show up so they cancelled the show. Folks around here love the woods. Woody? Not so much. We’re a long way from Manhattan.

It’s not just that I am the only single gay man in these parts; I have nothing in common with the locals. I would posit that Okie Doki Karaoke drew quite a crowd.

As gleeful as I was when I accepted my new job over the phone, I felt a rush of angst the moment I hung up. Oh, god, what have I done?

For the moment, I am content. I know, however, that the same question will haunt me more menacingly in the years to come. What have I done?!