Friday, December 26, 2014

A CHRISTMAS CRUSH

I can be particularly vulnerable over the holidays. Maybe then it should come as no surprise that I started to fall for him.

I first met Jonah about two weeks ago. They say this sort of thing happens when you’re not expecting it, when you’re no longer looking, and that seems to have been the case. I’d popped into the library after work to pick up one of those broadly written inspirational books for the professional work environment. I never get past the first chapter of any of them—somehow in striving to reach the masses these authors fail to convey even an ounce of relatability. But there it was, on the shelf just as my online search had said it would be. And as I rushed to head to the checkout—I looked pretty silly in my shorts in mid-December as the next stop was the gym—I bumped into Jonah. Only at that time we did not introduce ourselves. Still, I felt a clear pang of interest though I could not get a clear read of him in that fleeting moment.

I stumbled into Jonah the following night, this time as he played a guitar and sang—An artist!—to a small audience that included a core group of friends that would welcome me: Jules, Ash, Ethan, Cathy and Goodman. In the days that followed, Cathy and Goodman would make their exits as happens during the holidays while Dennis and Robert would enter the fold. They clicked in an odd way, just as I’d imagine the characters of “The Breakfast Club” or “St. Elmo’s Fire” would continue to connect because of, or in spite of, their surface differences. As much as I enjoyed their company, my eye was always drawn to Jonah. Alas, as is so brutally common in life, Jonah’s eye was clearly on Robert.

There you go, I told myself. Not meant to be. They seem happy, a poster gay couple even. Let it go. It was never ever meant to be.

But each time I got together with this group, I seemed consumed in wanting to know more about Jonah, the quiet one. Sometimes he’d be a no-show and that only magnified the mystery and the allure. We want what we can’t have. It’s safer that way, I suppose. Nothing grounded in reality. No real risk.

Right before Christmas, Robert dumped Jonah. Right before Christmas! The cad! (Hooray!) That’s not a whiff of gingerbread, that’s the smell of opportunity. Still, Jonah didn’t seem to notice me. He just broke up. Give him time, you putz.

I’d planned to spend Christmas Day alone. To cope, I’d decided to head to Whistler for the day, a chance to test my ski legs after a decade away. At the last minute—really, 3:30 Christmas morning—I decided to forego the mountains and spend the day with Jonah. Well, Jonah and Jules and Dennis and Ash and Ethan. I knew that Jules and Ethan would dominate, but I’d take whatever glimpses of Jonah I could get.

From my longing observations and from the snippets I got from the others, it was clear to me that Jonah was my kind of guy. Handsome—the kind of man for whom “beautiful” is a better descriptor. Soft spoken. Vulnerable. He was raised to be sensitive and apparently never rebelled against it. His mother had made a career out of being a well-regarded folksinger. There was something about Jonah getting caught up in a cult for a brief period in his twenties, but that was long ago and, really, it only underscored his vulnerability. Wounded yet healed. In my quirky mind, that made this musical engineer—An engineer!--even sexier.

The day turned out to be a pleasure. I felt fully accepted and entertained amongst this company. It was the perfect way to spend a day I’d been dreading. Sadly, it all ended at 7:30 Christmas evening with me being no closer to the sweet Jonah Bay.

It’s not the kind of book that lends itself to a sequel.

Yes, that’s what it’s come to. I am now apparently lusting after fictional characters, this Jonah dude the most promising man I’ve come across in months. Thanks a lot, Meg Wolitzer. You and your hefty tome, The Interestings, proved to be, well, too interesting.

Ah, but these things happen. We lonely readers may indeed be the most vulnerable. Think of all the women who have fallen for Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy. And then there’s that more recent kinky wooer, Christian Grey. Thankfully, my next read is Nora Ephron’s screenplay for “When Harry Met Sally”. No doubt, I will become great friends with these beloved characters, but I can say with complete certainty that Sally Albright and I—and Harry Burns and I—will never become anything more than friends. Yes, Nora, that’s entirely possible. That comes as a great relief as I still need time to get over my feelings for Jonah.

 

 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

SEARCHING FOR ANYTHING

NOTE: This is a follow-up Post-Date blog entry after I'd put up a Pre-Date entry earlier in the day.

Not Naughty. Not even close.

Just wrapped my second date with Wade, one that followed a six-week break from the first and, well, if it didn’t fizzle, it didn’t crackle either.

People have insinuated that, since I’ve been single for a decade, I must be too picky. That comment heckles me as I feel a date going absolutely nowhere. And in response, I prod myself. Give him a chance. Tim Gunn even makes a cameo appearance in my head: Make it work.

And so, despite having a sense five minutes in that this would be a flat date, I gave him four hours of chances. The conversation remained polite the entire time. To be sure, Wade is handsome, fit and intelligent. But there just wasn’t a connection. As much as we talked, it never seemed like we found common ground, building on each other’s thoughts. Neither of us playfully touched the other’s arm and I felt no urge to hug him or kiss him. Not once did either one of us laugh.

It could be that he’s too formal. And it could also be that so am I. But I’d felt a breakthrough on a recent date when I’d reached across the table and touched the guy’s arm. I could have done the same at dinner tonight. The thought crossed my mind, but the desire wasn’t there.

At the end of the date, Wade stated that he was interested in seeing me again. He wanted to see how things might evolve. “We’re both adults though,” he said. “If either of us isn’t feeling it, we should be able to say it or take it.” That’s the familiar out that we give the other person in the early stages. I’ve said the same thing. Here’s your opening to run for your life.

And I failed to speak up. Maybe another chance. Maybe he’s even more reserved than I am. Maybe there is a fun person in there somewhere.

For this date, I’d done something I’d never done before. I stuffed a toothbrush and deodorant in my backpack. Just in case. But, alas. It ended with a hug and a quick lip peck. Physically, there was no chance it could have been anything more.

At least I can have fresh breath and spinach-free teeth for the ferry ride home. For tonight, that’s as good as it gets.

A SECOND FIRST?

It’s almost over. The holidays. At least the Christmas end of it. I’m blocking out the whole “What are you doing for New Year’s” thing. Need to break the holidays down into manageable chunks.

I’m on the ferry, heading in for another coffee date. A rare second date! (Maybe Bigfoot exists, too. And Santa.) This midday Sunday sailing is full, loaded with people coming and going from visits with the relatives. No doubt, there are more than a few last-minute shoppers, too. I never know how I am going to respond inside to being immersed as a spectator in social hoopla. For now, it is fine. The date helps. I have a purpose. We’ll see how I handle the return trip if it turns out to be a fizzler.

The first date happened sometime around a different holiday: Halloween. Our schedules just haven’t meshed since then. Consider that a bad sign—not meant to be—or think of it as a good sign: persistence against all odds. I’m not viewing it as any sign at all. I am more concerned that I don’t remember an awful lot from our previous coffee encounter, a pleasant exchange at a café outlet just outside Vancouver’s central library branch. I’d spent the afternoon researching and writing for a current project. I don’t remember much about that either. So, technically, it is a second date but it feels like a first all over again.

What does he look like again?

I knew at the end of our first meeting that he’d wanted to meet again. I was game, too. But there is no momentum. He’d initially suggested a day of skiing which I kiboshed. I don’t know him well enough to embarrass myself on such a grand scale. And a full day on the hills seemed like a big step for a first-ish second date. So it’s coffee to go and an exploration on foot of Vancouver’s West End until things naturally play themselves out. Smaller steps. I just hope I’m not left with half a cup of still-hot coffee when we bid adieu!

The ferry buzz has quieted down. Not as many teens loudly chatting—Notice me!—as they do laps around the boat’s interior. No children running around playing tag as their parents play Let’s Pretend They’re Not Ours. The biggest distraction is a grandma sitting across the aisle from me. She is playing some sort of game on her phone and she’s got the volume at max. DING! DING! I feel like a Skinner rat or a Pavlovian dog. Where’s my treat?

Maybe it will come on the date. There’s still time to add me to the Naughty list. It’s as much as I can wish for this Christmas.

 

Friday, December 19, 2014

SURVIVING CHRISTMAS

“What are you doing for Christmas?” Oh, how I hate the question. No matter the answer, I evoke pity. Most are skilled enough to keep a poker face. Maybe they weren’t even listening. The question can be a seasonal variant to “How are you?” It’s a formality. Perhaps I should answer with, “It sure feels cold out today.” They’ll hardly notice. If that turns out to be the case, I may push things further, the next response coming in the form of a deflection question: “Who do you like better, Grover or the Cookie Monster? (Personally, it’s almost too close to call, but I have to give Grover the edge.)

We’re off topic now, aren’t we? If only I could do that in real life. Unfortunately, I tend to answer honestly. Call it a character flaw. The most succinct response I’ve used is “Nothing. How about you?” The person is then only too relieved to have the opportunity to fill the awkward moment with as long a ramble as possible about Aunt Claire flying in from Edmonton, a new plum pudding recipe that calls for double the liquor and some sort of snorkel exchange on a dock that’s a five-mile trek through a swamp and up a mountain. Or down a crevasse. It’s my turn to tune out.

I used to adore Christmas. In fact, there was a time I wanted to make Christmas my life. As a youngster, I knew there was no more noble purpose than making toys for kids. Yes, I decided I’d become an elf. Seriously. (This was the start of my lifelong path of career confusion.) The plan was to stay awake on Christmas Eve and wait until my parents turned off the living room lights. Then I’d sneak out of bed, curl up by the fireplace and wait for Big Red. “Take me with you, Santa. I’m ready to serve.” Sadly, back then I wasn’t the light sleeper I am now. To this day, I look back and wonder what could have been. I’d have been happy at The Pole. Hermey the dentist and I would have fallen in love. We’d have brought marriage equality to the Far North.

But, alas, Christmas lost its luster. My last memorable Yuletide was in 1998 when my grandfather and I agreed to meet at my parents’ place in Texas. He flew from Ottawa while I made the trip from Vancouver. As he was an avid sports fan whose bald head showed an increasing number of scars from skin cancer treatments, I bought him a whole series of baseball caps representing his favorite teams. He gamely “modeled” each one as I snapped pictures of his own fashion show. It turned out to be his last Christmas.

The talk about a “merry” Christmas can feel overwhelming. Suffocating. It’s the expectation. Feel it or fake it. (That’s what egg nog is for. And that double-liquored plum pudding.) But I’m authentic. Call it another character flaw. I don’t feel it, I don’t fake it. This has been the darkest year of my life and a batch of shortbread is not the cure.

A couple of weeks ago, I got the notion to put on my own Christmas celebration. It took me two days to put up a single string of lights along the front of the house and then the Yule yearning faded. In the ‘90s, I built up a nice collection of treasured ornaments for the tree. They’ve remained boxed up at least since 2007. Unfortunately, all the trees disappeared at my supermarket after the weekend and I balked at spending seventy bucks at the local nursery. For just me? Not worth it. There was a time when I’d sent out eighty holiday cards for Hanukkah and Christmas. This year I’ve written two. Now if I can only get myself to slap a couple of stamps on them. Instead of feeling merrier, I feel worse. From eighty to two. It’s a starkly representative piece of evidence of how my life took a wrong turn and still hasn't gotten back on course.

My parents invited me to Texas. This time, it wasn’t a last-minute gesture. For the first time, my aunt and uncle invited me to Ontario as well. These things happen after you’ve had a stint of being committed. The relatives feel a twinge of guilt and morbidity. This could be his last. I don’t want to go to Texas and fake merry alongside my homophobic brother and sister-in-law. And because, I’ve turned down that invite, I cannot go to Ontario. Family politics. A friend in Vancouver is going with his curling buddies to a Christmas Day buffet at a casino. I think that would only make me more depressed.

The reality is I’m not going anywhere. And the house is chillingly empty. This is the first time in fifteen years that I don’t have a schnauzer to keep me company. It’s down to surviving Christmas. There are those who gleefully make it a six-week spectacle. For me, I have to do everything I can to make it just a day. Come Boxing Day, things will be better again. I’ll get a temporary boost dropping a few hundred dollars at a conservatively hip clothing store in the stodgy Kerrisdale area of Vancouver. I’ll order the Challah French Toast at my favorite Jewish bakery and see if my casino friend feels like a walk to work off the two trips too many at the buffet. I’ll yank down that strand of lights and get back to trying to navigate the ordinary days. At this point, that’s plenty for me.

And so there it is. This season, I’m counting the days to Boxing Day.

 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

THE SPACE BETWEEN

If there’s been a theme in my befuddled dating life this year, it’s been that distance does not make the heart grow fonder. Not in the early stages, at least. And if there’s been a theme for the past decade it’s been that it’s always early stages.

I do hear of couples retelling their “When Harry Met Sally” beginnings who speak of first dates that never ended. “He invited me up and, basically, I never went home.” Lovely. That’s just not me. Guys don’t invite me up on the first date. I seem to convey a solid sense of fuddy-duddy-ness. And generally I’m okay with that. An awkward, yet affectionate wave is endearing. A warm hug even, well, warmer. Add to that quick peck and it is all the more alluring—even if, in that startled moment, our lips are askew. Lip to upper chin. That’s as on target as I get in that nervous overture.

When that first date ends with that gawky promise of what’s to come, it is exciting to think about just that. Something to come.

If only.

And that’s where my rural nest becomes all the more the curse. I am certain I have had many decent dates, particularly this year. (I can easily distinguish these from the dead ends. “Keep in touch,” for example, means “Let’s pretend this never happened.” That’s when you walk away and do whatever it takes to salvage the day. Start with ice cream.) Often the promise is punctuated with a thoughtful text—“Did you make your ferry?” Yes, sometimes that blasted boat isn’t such an omen; instead, it provides an excuse for a clear sign—let’s keep the conversation going.

But then there’s the prolonged pause, the buzz killer. If I lived nearby, a second date might come in a few days, a week later at most. We’ve passed the coffee test. The logical next step is dinner. But that gets glitchy. There’s no chance for a leisurely meal and a conversation that flows with the wine amidst a candlelit ambience. If I go to Vancouver, I have to head back to the ferry terminal by 8:15 to catch the last ferry. If it’s dinner, it’s a rushed affair that artificially ends too soon. There’s always lunch. No wine, no candles, no sexual tension.

There just isn’t such an eagerness to schedule lunch. It’s the throwaway meal of the day. Meaningless. There’s a reason “Let’s do lunch” became the equivalent to “See you around.”  No intention whatsoever.

There is no spontaneity in setting up that second date. Weekdays are out. And weekends can get crammed with obligations and social routines—not mine, theirs. It becomes an effort to schedule the follow-up. There’s no natural flow of yearning making things fall into place. For various reasons, a week becomes two, then three. In the meantime, other online prospects wedge their way in. The chance for seconds passes.

I can make a good impression; just not that good of a first impression. I’m not a love-at-first-sight beacon. My exes would attest to that. It takes time for me to shift from polite and reserved to funny, affectionate and open. I’m working on it, but it doesn’t help to have added pressure on a first date. Good isn’t good enough.

Currently, I’ve got a couple of decent first dates that haven’t been completely snuffed out. But as time ticks by, it feels like an uneventful fade-out will be the logical conclusion. I’ve traveled on weekends and so have they. Two weeks now approaches three. Opportunity mocks. Despite a good start with Saul, I expect nothing more to come of it. The occasional message becomes more detached. I’m not as interested and, no doubt, neither is he.

There is one persistent fellow: Wade. Date Number 1 was six weeks ago, maybe longer. We couldn’t fit in a second date before he left for a trip to Lebanon and Israel. Since he’s been back, I spent a weekend in Seattle and he spent the next in Victoria. Let it go, my inner voice says. But he keeps texting. And it looks like we’re on for next Sunday. Maybe. Unless something else gets in the way.

It’s a hell of a long way between first and second.  

Saturday, December 6, 2014

THE HANGOVER HANGOVER

              He looked this good. And this bad.
Don’t get down. Don’t get down.

That’s what I told myself five minutes after my date with Gerry ended. The whole date, I’d looked for a spark but there was absolutely nothing behind those amazing blue eyes. And, really, I knew from the moment we introduced ourselves.

He had that look. Disappointment. From then on, it was simply an exercise in polite conversation. But even that seemed like a stretch. Within the first three minutes, he’d mentioned having a hard week at work, topped off by staying out until 3 a.m. with friends last night. “I had a massage this morning,” he said. “That just makes me sleepier.” Maybe it wasn’t That Look. Maybe he couldn’t engage at all. He added, “I’m a little hung over.”

Yes, this is not a reason to get down. Dud dates happen.

But as he droned on in a deep, monotone voice about his five years in Russia—how did he make that sound boring?—I couldn’t repress the self-criticism. You drove to Seattle for this?!

After an hour ticked by—during which he checked his phone three times—he hugged me goodbye and said, “I’ve got to go have a nap.” Clearly, I did nothing to stir him. It shouldn’t warrant more than a shrug. Never. Meant. To. Be.

Every date is a gamble. And it’s getting to the point where lottery tickets seem more hopeful. But a lottery ticket costs a couple bucks. This date, with travel time and two nights’ hotel,…well, I am here to enjoy other things. It’s fortunate that the date was early Saturday afternoon. Over and done. Plenty of time to salvage the weekend.

And I’ll do just that. Don’t get down. I was supposed to meet an architect tomorrow but he bowed out Thursday night, sounding sincerely apologetic. “I really am not a flake,” he said. Clearly, he’s been in the game a while, too. Major work deadlines for Monday and Tuesday. No time for any weekend fun. Just as well. I’d like to be with a guy who has some balance in life.

I’d already decided I was done with looking across the border for other dates. The grass is not greener. But there’s always the shopping. My little Macy’s shopping spree proved to be a quick pick-me-up. A false high, for sure, but it doesn’t come with a hangover. I’d say that puts me one step ahead of dear Gerry.

Hardly a consolation.

Monday, December 1, 2014

CAUTION: COOKIE

Sometimes when you’re too excited about a fresh cookie, one that is still piping hot from the oven, you burn your tongue. One must exercise a little willpower. Let things cool.

The same goes for dates.

I had another very good first date. (This is becoming very familiar. Why aren’t they asking for seconds?!) Saul has only been in Vancouver four days, having just moved from Victoria. He messaged me on Plenty of Fish. He’s eight years older, but in his profile pics, he appeared fit, younger than his age and endearingly smiley. Yeah, yeah. Photos can be so deceptive. I decided to hop on a ferry and meet him in Gastown. I needed to take a bunch of photos of older Vancouver buildings to give me a feel for a historical piece I’m writing so I figured now would be a good time to do that groundwork and cross off another online possibility. And I set my favorite bakery as our meeting place so, even if the date fizzled, I’d still have a sweet aftertaste.

Saul walked in and looked as young and smiley in person as in his pics. Well, hurrah. At first, I wasn’t terribly invested in the conversation. He talked too fast, too long and with too much detail about technical things. (He had listed science as an interest on his profile. Not my forte at all.) I figured, okay, this will be a pleasant coffee and that will be the end of it.

But there was a geeky charm to him as he caught a breath and said, “I’m talking too fast, aren’t I? I had caffeine already. Normally I only drink decaf.” Blame it on the joe. He then opened up about already having a bad coffee date only hours earlier. It comes with being the New Kid in Town. Fresh cookies always draw that initial surge of salivating suitors. That date lasted ten minutes with the other guy declaring, “Everything you would ever want is right here in me. But you’re not making enough eye contact. You’re obviously not interested.” Exit tightly wound single guy.

Somehow the story made me warm to Saul. Most men don’t open up about a same-day date, particularly one that ends so badly.

I knew Saul was interested in me. Maybe any guy would look good after that morning date. Maybe Saul spent the time in between practicing his eye contact. But he also showed interest in the way he’d touch me as we talked—naturally leaning into me as he joked and holding my hands to see if they were cold from this sudden spell of winter weather.

When the bakery closed, I still wanted to take some more photos so he walked his bike and strolled with me as we sauntered along Hastings, the worst blocks in Canada. As we casually meandered through a mixed crowd of mentally ill/homeless/addicted people, I realized that this was neither a romantic walk nor a proper “Welcome to Vancouver” excursion. I should have taken us on a less direct route to Chinatown. But I’m not used to thinking about travel for more than one. Saul gamely acted nonchalant. Even better, he went on a political tangent about the rights of the least fortunate and the failings of the Harper government. “Please tell me you’re not Conservative,” he said. “I’d have to end it right here.” I’m not. But he wouldn’t have.

He was clearly freezing—visibly shivering—but he waited patiently as I snapped pictures of historical buildings that were on my list. As the skies darkened, we ambled along the seawall, heading back towards his place. “Can I make you dinner?” he asked. I politely declined. I’m too finicky an eater. Can’t divulge all my quirks on the first date. “Can we go out for dinner?” Sure. Persistence, when it’s the right guy, can be sexy.

All this time, we’d sat and walked side by side. Now at dinner we faced each other. And the connection seemed stronger. I reached my hand across the table and held his. “I like this,” I said. Simple, yet significant.

“Me, too.”

I had to walk fifteen minutes from the restaurant to catch a bus to make the last ferry home. “I’ll walk you there,” he insisted. “And it wouldn’t be so bad if you missed it.”

Maybe not. But the evening ended at the bus stop with several hugs and a quick kiss. Fresh cook out of the oven. I’ve got a tongue to protect. Everything feels comfortable and I hope a second date does happen. I’ve learned that there’s a vast unknown between first date and what may or may not come next. He is a fresh cookie and I still have a couple other first dates pending. It’s a promising beginning. We’ll see if there’s a next.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A HOUSE IS NOT A HOME

Got some unexpected inspiration at the gym yesterday evening. A vague notion swirled in my head but it became absolutely clear at some point after the owner switched the music from a heavy metal scream-all-the-lyrics soundtrack to a country song called “Drunk on a Plane”. Actually, I think it was mere seconds after some mill workers had to break a fight between two of the “ladies” who were vying for the same dumbbells.

I have to move.

Yes, I’ve had that notion many times before. Let me clarify. I HAVE TO MOVE!

It was bound to get to this point. Two days ago, I received an invitation to a child’s birthday party. It’s being held at a beer farm. (This is the first time I’ve ever felt compelled to rally for a Chuck E. Cheese’s.)

During my second session with Dr. 7, he mentioned that he has two other gay clients from my area—a two-hour trek to his office. Both feel a similar debilitating isolation, both sense that life is passing them by. I didn’t ask for names and, of course, due to patient privacy, he wouldn’t give them. I have no interest in commiserating with other sad-sacks. I just want to leave it all behind.

And so this weekend I’m grounding myself. No running away to saner settings for surface-level satisfaction. I’ve got to scrub, mop and thoroughly de-clutter. Time for my fourth attempt at selling the house. It has to happen this time. Or, well, I may have to spend thousands of dollars on a basement gym. And then get my helicopter pilot’s license. And a helicopter.

Whatever it takes to get me out of here.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A NEW ERA OF NAME-CALLING

I always hated that Sticks and Stones saying. Names hurt. I’ve shaken off many as illogical: Carrot, Peepee Head, Fartface (What does that actually look like?!). I’ve shrugged off others with the merciful passage of time: Loser, Useless, Sissy. Others I’ve come to embrace: Brain, Faggot, Geek. For the most part, name-calling loses its sting as we weather the dents and dings of life.

But some names can still be jarring.

This week, I had two medical appointments on consecutive days. The first was my annual checkup with a skin cancer specialist. She went through my file and reminded me that my first melanoma was identified fifteen years ago. I remember how crushed I was to first hear my family doctor say that dreaded word on the phone: “cancer”. He sounded grave. I’d questioned the marking on my back two years prior and he’d dismissed any concern. It was only at my partner’s insistence that I went back and demanded another look. I had a series of surgeries and lesser cuttings over the next five years and I’ve kept Cancer at a healthy distance for the last decade. Most of the scars are on my back, out of sight. Fortunately, the streak is extended for the next year. No worries, no biopsies. Glad to keep Cancer at bay.

Yesterday, I had my first appointment with a gay psychiatrist, a referral that took six months to become something. Back in April, I spent nine days in psychiatric wards at St. Paul’s Hospital and, in some pathetic game of Patient Hot Potato, got passed along to five psychiatrists. After my release, I met with Number Six for a few utterly unhelpful twenty-minute sessions.

With the passage of time, I questioned whether I needed to even go through with this session. I’d reached out a little more. I’d stopped losing weight. I’d successfully avoided the darkest moments by keeping myself distracted. Mostly, I’d kept myself in a state of constant motion.

I practiced an adult form of running away—summer in L.A., trips to Ontario and San Francisco and repeated weekends in Seattle, Victoria and Whistler. In the past five months, I’ve stayed home three weekends. Even then, I could not spend much time at home; instead, I took off on a long hike, I biked 50K and I ran a half marathon—not as part of an organized event; just because.

As the appointment neared, I figured I’d just let Dr. Seven know I’m fine. Rough patch, that’s all. I’m active. I’m having fun. He’d give me a clean bill of health just like the skin cancer doctor. I’d celebrate with a double scoop waffle cone. And yet I started to get anxious. I didn’t handle the typical Sky Is Falling dramas at work with my characteristic calmness. While my sleep wasn’t any worse than usual, I was physically exhausted. I knew I wouldn’t be able Put on a Happy Face and fake him out.

The session proved to be brutal. For months, friends and family have marvelled at how well I am doing. At first, I continued to be open about my struggles, but they could not understand. It became all about them or it evolved into surface level attempts to get me to cheer up. I learned to tell them what they wanted to hear; it was easier than getting into an argument, going through another futile attempt to offer some education or experiencing another bizarre episode in which someone would “catch” me laughing, proof that I was fixed and I should snap out of it.

On the run, I’d managed to cover up my wounds. Out of sight, sometimes even out of mind. But it’s a dirty process in coming clean. Dr. Seven savagely poked and probed. I had to articulate what I felt—or, more accurately, didn’t feel. I had to explain myself. My carefully built wall shattered. He asked me if I received a diagnosis while in hospital. It sounds silly, but I didn’t recall anything. He stared quizzically with an air of impatience. By the end of our session, he declared I had all signs of MDD. He repeated MDD a half dozen times. Just so I wouldn’t forget. Couldn’t forget.

Major Depressive Disorder.

I tried to make light of things. “Is there such a thing as Minor Depressive Disorder?”

“Yes.”

“I guess that’s something to shoot for.”

Another quizzical stare.

And so I left with all the wounds scratched open and a fancy new label from the DSM-5 catalogue. It’s a condition, but it feels harsher than any name from my past. Those sticks and stones, those physical wounds, they have clear treatment protocols. The names, the mental situations, well, I’m not so sure. Apparently repression and distraction don’t solve much.

Sensing the appointment might not go so well, I frantically booked this weekend in Whistler. It’s still a lovely place, but I’m not feeling as soothed by the environment. Major Depressive Disorder. It’s a clunky name that weighs heavy.

It’s taken me aback. For the moment, I’ve become the label. Just like I shamefully identified as the loser, the farthead, the faggot so many years ago. Only this time the term doesn’t come from a bully or an agitated sibling. It comes from a professional. It’s not intended to taunt and yet I still feel just as defeated.

Major Depressive Disorder. I’m the same person I was twenty-four hours ago, but now I’ve been seared with a red-hot branding iron. Major Depressive Disorder. A new wound to go with the others. A new name to process.

Next week, I’m back with Dr. Seven. It’s a midday appointment, the only one available. I have to miss the whole day of work. But he was insistent. No delays. This name thing is serious business.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

SHAKING OFF THE FLAKES

It’s getting cold out there and apparently the forecast calls for flakes.

A good friend of mine in Vancouver asserts that gay men are flaky. I’d love to refute the claim, but it’s challenging, at least with regard to single gay men. He says it’s universal and retells a story of being in Prague and hearing a gay man on a rant about wanting to move from Transylvania. “Why?” his café companion asked.

“The gay men there. They’re all flakes.”

Gay friends in L.A. say the same thing. (Okay, some of my L.A. friends don’t say it; instead, they show clear signs of flakiness.) Same with my friend in Boise and a fellow my cousin connected me with in Ottawa.

If it’s not universal, it seems to be common enough.

Or maybe the reality is that single gay men become increasingly bitter and fail to recognize their own contribution to being chronically single, deflecting any accountability with a convenient everyone else is flaky shrug.

As for myself, I think I do a commendable job of pointing out my flaws. There are plenty of reasons for men to reject me. Even so, it does get bewildering how so many promising starts fizzle so fast. (Last weekend’s disappearing act by the guy in Seattle is the latest case in point.) The Flaky Hypothesis does seem to have some merit.

And I have to admit that it is somewhat satisfying—even vindicating—when a flake resurfaces, suddenly expressing renewed interest. In the past week, a couple of them have made their presence known. Both are guys with whom I had decent first dates. I expressed interest in another date with each of them. One shot me down—something along the “no chemistry” (aka no attraction) line of thought. The other sent me some flattering texts before he became a lovely but doomed assistant for a Houdini wannabe—vanished and never reappeared.

Michael started viewing my profile multiple times on Plenty of Fish and OkCupid. He upped his passive expression of interest on one site by starring my profile, which officially means “He Likes You.” On the other site, he clicked a “Yes” button for “Wants to Meet You.” I knew this meant one of two things: (A) I was so utterly forgettable that he fails to recall our first date from a few years ago; or (B) The fool has reconsidered after seeing a shirtless shot on my profile. When I failed to Like him back, he viewed my profile several more times before finally sending a message.

Turns out he does remember me…and my dogs..and my career…and where I live. So he doesn’t have a flaky memory. But to tell me he wasn’t interested and now change his mind? Forget it. Apparently I carry a grudge. Call it self-preservation. Call it dignity. I’ve sworn I don’t need to convince someone I’m worth it.

The second guy has been less assertive. He has just tried to Friend me on Facebook. This is a guy who was very sexy, very charming before and during our date a couple of years ago. I clearly remember the long, warm bear hug from when we said goodbye. I thought for sure there was a mutual attraction. He confirmed as much, texting about how kind, intelligent and sexy I was. And then absolutely nothing. A big tease? Maybe. A flake? Certainly. It’s easy for me to ignore Friend requests. I keep my Facebook group to family and friends with whom I go way back.

It seems I’ve weathered the flakes just fine. Now bring on the real winter weather. I’ve got my new ski outfit and I’m anxious to look forward instead of backward.

 

  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

FEELIN' STUPID


Feelin’ stupid. I followed up a decent date a few weeks ago in Seattle with a return trip to the city. The intention had been to connect with Evan and see where things go. Trouble is, they were already gone.

After our leisurely, perfectly comfortable first date in quirky Fremont, we exchanged a series of messages. Everything was fine, playful even. He told me to get some ski gear as he planned to head to Whistler for winter fun and I tried to arrange a time to see him back in Seattle. The prior weekend wouldn’t work but he said this would be a good one. Not wanting to be presumptuous, I booked a hotel and let him know I was coming.

Never heard from him again.

How does that saying go? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me eighty-seven times, give up. Yes, this kind of thing keeps happening. I keep getting a sense that a guy is interested and then—BAM!—he pulls a Lucy move and yanks away the football.

I am gay Charlie Brown. And it’s like every date is on Halloween. Treat? Hardly. “I got a rock.”

Feelin’ stupid and feelin’ sorry for myself. Hell, it’s not even that. Self-pity passed. Feelin’ frustrated. Feelin’ bewildered. Wish I’d just stop feelin’ altogether.

So what happened this time? Heck if I know.

As happens so often in my life, this is a moment when I think of Pee-wee Herman. (Yes, you know I’m messed up when Pee-wee is my mentor.) There is a scene in that cinematic classic, “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure”, when our beloved protagonist happily rides his bike and epically wipes out. Naturally, this is witnessed and it is potential fodder for Pee-wee to be relentlessly ridiculed. However, he gets up, wipes off his pants and boldly says, “I meant to do that.”

Great save.

And so I was faced with recovering from a similar, costlier fumble. (My two-night hotel reservation was non-refundable. Naturally.) I had two things in my favor. First, I love Seattle. Second, I have become habituated to traveling solo.

I more than made the most of it. As soon as I got to Seattle, I made a pit stop in Wallingford. I figured I deserved an ice cream treat and the honey lavender flavor at Molly Moon’s is my It-taste du fall. It was cold and dark by the time I checked in at the Marqueen, an historic hotel in Queen Anne—a new neighborhood to explore (which, yes, just so happened to be Evan’s neighborhood). But cold and dark are just fine when there is no rain in the Seattle forecast. I dumped my luggage in my room and set out on a two-hour walk. As seems to be so easy in this city, I stumbled on public art piece after public art piece. It became an invigorating self-guided walking tour. Great fun.

Come morning, I jogged a couple of times around Green Lake. It used to be that I ran out of obligation, no “happy” in these feet, filling the time by counting cars. Shockingly, morning jogs on weekends are becoming something I actually look forward to. (If I’d arrived half an hour earlier, I could have jogged with Seattle Frontrunners, but I genuinely wanted to do my own thing. Like I said, habituated.)

After the run, I finally got to see the Pop Art exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum, a destination I couldn’t slot in during my last two stays in the city. As I gazed at the museum’s lone painting by one of my favorite painters, Arshile Gorky, I actually jumped in excitement. Yes, full transformation to happy feet! I love art. Love love love it! Seeing works by Gorky, Pollock, Monet, Matisse, Pissarro, Lichtenstein and Warhol infused me with the culture that I so miss in my rural environs.

After that, I went for a writing session at the Seattle Public Library although I was admittedly distracted and awed by the funky architecture within. I remember lining up excitedly to go in when it first opened. The library remains just as vibrant. While I walked a couple of miles back to the hotel, I shopped for clothes and stopped in a used bookstore to pick up a copy of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City which I have been longing to reread. I’ll treasure the read all the more, remembering where and when I discovered this copy.

I dined at my favorite vegetarian restaurant, Café Flora, on Saturday night. As I walked in, the place was packed and there was an hour wait. Times like this, eating alone can be an unexpected pleasure without any of the self-consciousness. I passed all the parties of two and eight and sat right down at the bar, almost immediately sipping a glass of Pinot Grigio while perusing a menu in which every item was a dining possibility.

Before heading back today, I jogged along the waters at Centennial Park and then did the tourist thing, riding up to the top of the Space Needle for the first time in twenty-two years. I snapped away at all sorts of other public artworks before making my final stop, the unexpected highlight of the entire trip, at Chihuly Garden and Glass at the foot of the Needle at Seattle Center. I have never taken notice of glass art. Ho hum. Not my thing. But Dale Chihuly’s work is of such scale and splendor that I found myself gasping in complete awe each time I stepped into another exhibit area. I took hundreds of photos from every possible angle. Yes, I lay on the floor, looking straight up at some of the pieces that were suspended from above. Normally I wouldn’t have dared but I’d overcome the spectacle of traveling alone; why not conquer another domain? I am thrilled with the shots I got.

I left Seattle without any sense of despair. Evan schmevan. My weekend was exactly what I’d hoped it would be: amazing! To quote Pee-wee, “I meant to do that!” (The exclamation is all mine.)

Monday, November 17, 2014

TOP OF THE NOGGIN

Okay, I saved the hairiest issue for last. And, no, I’m not speaking of backs and what sprouts from the back of your shirt collar. I urge you to tame that, but I can’t devote an entire post to another gross-out area. I might scare off every reader with the accompanying Google Images. No, I’m writing today about what’s on top of the head—and, yes, what’s not.

I think we can all be too sensitive about this subject. Rogaine thrives on our insecurities and someone swindled a whole lot of men by hawking spray-can cover-ups. Fortunately, the shame over baldness has receded. Where once Yul Brynner was the only celebrity with a shiny noggin, we’ve now got smooth-shaven hunks like Tyrese Gibson, Patrick Stewart, Mr. Clean and my personal drool inducer, Taye Diggs. Baldness is hip. It’s cool. It’s downright studly.

Thank goodness. We no longer have to be subjected to men in toupees (although I find Dr. Oz’s “hair” incredibly distracting). My poor Great Uncle Frank was an impeccably stylish English gentleman, a perennial bachelor—yes, I suspect as much, but that was a different era. He prided himself in always looking dapper, but his hair failed him. While he had generous tufts above the ears and on the back of the head, there was nothing front and center. To cope, he stuck with the comb over, a style perhaps more egregious than the toupee. The poor man would arrive for a summer’s day at our family cottage, bestowing thoughtful gifts to all, reciting witticisms he had no doubt rehearsed on the drive from the city and then sitting on the deck to sip a scotch (or three). Unfortunately, he never conducted a mirror check and his hair stood up like a patchy Einstein imitation, the “hidden” spot naked to all. That’s what happens when you continue to drive a fancy convertible sports car into your eighties.

I love the fact that men in their early twenties choose to shave their heads—and not as an alternative to a pie in the face or kissing a pig after a charitable fundraising goal is met. But for many there remains some sensitivity over losing our hair when it’s completely beyond our control.

Well, maybe it’s just me. I grew up with terribly low self-esteem. I was geeky, gawky and greasy. Acne hit me hard. I attracted no one. But as I coated my face five times a day with Clearasil and Retin-A cream, I held on to the one physical feature that drew praise from my grandmother’s friends. Yes, they loved my hair. And as my face eventually cleared, a few other people noticed my curly locks, too. Best asset, only asset.

Since then—well, maybe for the past year or so—I feel better about my overall appearance, but my hair has always been my fall-back feature. So you can imagine how going bald would send me into a full-on freak-out fit.

At 50, my hair still seems to be fully accounted for. But three weeks ago, I began to panic. One day a week, I teach a class of six- and seven-year-olds. Children that age have no tact. They say and ask whatever is on their minds. Some of the answers I am forced to offer: “dark circles from lack of sleep”, “some people just have bigger noses” and “My knuckles have always been excessively wrinkly. I don’t know why.” It’s all so humbling. Perhaps this is why I considered going as a mummy for Halloween. (I opted for a yellow crayon instead, even if the color far from flattered my pasty complexion.)

But back to that horrid Monday three weeks ago. As the students bounced out of the classroom for recess, one little girl asked me to tie her shoes. I bent down and grabbed the laces and made a double bow. (Shoe tying is a too frequent demand on first grade teachers.) As I stood back up, the girl said, “Wait. You’ve got bubble gum in your hair.”

My face reddened. (It’s all the more noticeable against the backdrop of that naturally pasty complexion.) “No. I don’t have gum in my hair.”

But the girl looked concerned, even worried. “Yes. Yes, you do. It’s bubble gum”—and then her face contorted into a look of absolute disgust—“or something.”

Yes, it was something. And I had to disclose another flaw. “It’s a big pink mole. It’s harmless.”

“Oh,” she said, the look of disgust remaining and at risk of permanently freezing on her face should a sudden gust of wind whoosh through the classroom.

And then she bounced off. On to thinking about chasing the boys, being a puppy dog and/or finding the reddest leaf to take home to Mom. (When they’re not pointing out adults’ flaws, six-year-olds are truly precious.)

I, on the other hand, was shattered. I couldn’t go in the staffroom. This little girl had pointed out something that none of my friends or colleagues had dared to mention. At the top of my head, toward the back, entirely out of my view, my hideous pink mole was fully exposed. And the only way that was possible was if…I had a massive bald spot.

I got through the rest of the work day. I raced home and crawled into bed. But first I hand patted my entire head. Hair seemed to be in all the right places. Then I dared to feel the mole. Yes, it seemed bigger, squishier. Nonetheless, I couldn’t bring myself to hold up a hand mirror and try to position it so that the mole and the dreaded bald spot came into full view.

I wasn’t ready. I didn’t have a coping plan.

For the next two weeks I tried not to think about it. Indeed, at least five times an hour, I tried not to think about it. Alas, just like Lady Macbeth, I was obsessed with a damn’d spot. Fie!

I put off discovering the truth until I could be with an expert who could console me: Kathy, my hairstylist.

“Tell me the truth, Kathy,” I begged as I sat in the spinny therapy chair. With the New Age soundtrack and a cup of dandelion tea, I was in the right frame of mind. (The harpsichord is underappreciated.) “Do I have a bald spot?”

“Not at all.” This is a woman who knows how to earn a generous tip.

“Right here,” I pointed. “Where the mole is.” She’s always nicking that thing with her comb.

“Not at all.”

“Is the mole exposed?”

“Not at all.”

“It doesn’t look like bubble gum?”

“Not at all.” The equivalent of “no comment.” Yes, unlike six-year-olds, adults can be oh so tactful. And, in my case, conveniently gullible. I tipped Kathy well.

I’m taking Kathy’s word for it. I am back to being a functional member of society. Perhaps baldness remains at bay. I’m not going to investigate further until later this week when I see my skin cancer doctor. I’ve got time to devise my coping plan. Something beyond ice cream and a spray can. The specialist, after all, doesn’t work for tips. And maybe, while I’m there, I’ll get that bubble gum removed.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

SPLITTING HAIRS

Let’s continue on the subject of hair. When I wrote about my dislike of ear and nose hair, I feared I might offend someone. Shuddup, man. Ear hair is my best asset. But, no. The response on Twitter has been an expression of universal disgust regarding such growth (although one fellow alarmingly added that hairy feet are sexy).

The pressure is on, guys. Check your ears and nose as part of your daily grooming routine. (Dear god, you do have a grooming routine, don’t you?)

But let’s move on to body hair. (Easy, foot fetishists, I’m not going that low. Ever.) For this post, I’ll focus on the chest and abdominal area. Is a hairy chest sexy?

I don’t think most straight men give this any thought. Hairy. Smooth. Whatever. You are what you are. It’s one of those rare occasions when I’m envious of them. For gay men, there seem to be clear preferences. Not just preferences—I get the sense this is a polarizing, make-or-break subject.

My earliest memories of an other-world, one beyond my immediate family and friends, arise from the ‘70s. Based on my aunt’s People magazine subscription, it seemed clear that men with hairy chests had the clear sexy edge. The more hair, the more manly. Lee Majors. Robert Redford. Andy and Barry Gibb (but not Robin or Maurice). And somehow I knew about Burt Reynolds posing for Playgirl, lying there in all his hirsute glory. Hairy guys were hunky. Hairless men then were as appealing as hairless cats today—an acquired taste at best. Smoothies like Sean Cassidy and Leif Garrett were for Tiger Beat, for silly girls making the transition from hair- and genital-free Ken dolls.

Later, carrying the hairy banner into the ‘80s was Tom Selleck. But then something changed. It was probably long before Marky Mark, but I’m going to blame him anyway, posing in just his Calvins on glorious, accident-inducing billboards and dancing around in black and white videos that played in heavy rotation on MTV and in gay bars. Gay men lusted over Mr. Mark, all the while failing to notice my feeble cruising efforts. Even if there were predecessors, he made smooth chests—and redonkulously defined abs—the gay standard.

Suddenly, the Freddie Mercury look was très passé. (Miss you, man.) Smooth ruled. Greg Louganis. Antonio Sabato, Jr. Rob Lowe. Brad Pitt. Ricky Martin. Hairy men lost status. But they defiantly took on the name “bears” and, yes, they continue(d) to thrive as some sort of gay subculture.

I am naturally hairy. I get it from my father. Even pre-Marky Mark, I questioned whether all that hair was a good thing. My grandfather and my mother would coax me to eat whatever I ping-ponged around my dinner plate—peas, acorn squash, liver—with the curious incentive, “Eat it. It’ll put hair on your chest.” I remember thinking I could do without the liver…and the hair. And I distinctly remember a day at the beach when my friend Jean-Paul saw my father in a swimsuit and said, “Whoa. Is your dad part gorilla or what?” (Hairy gay men wisely chose not to compare themselves to other primates. Who hasn’t cuddled with a teddy bear? Orangutans? Not so much.)

For my personal tastes, I’d say I’m on the less hairy middling ground. I like men with smooth chests and midriffs. Their muscles are better defined without anything in the way. But some hair is sexy, too. And by “some”, it’s got to be more than a few strands around the nipple. That’s as appealing as a hairy mole.

There does come a point where a hairy front is too much. Maybe Jean-Paul’s comment still swirls in my head. For the hairier guys, if you’re not shaving, you may need to do some pruning. It becomes too much of a good thing.

Admittedly, I think too much about hair matters. As a gay man, I’m already part of a minority. I cringe at the “bear” label. I don’t want to be further marginalized, even if, based on my own Pride parade observations, the bear set seem to know how to have a good time. For me, to shave or not to shave is an ongoing question. I continue to shave. (I tried waxing once and I am convinced I went into shock. Seriously. I am a wuss to the core. Body hair in no way makes me a manly man.) Even though I shave, I no longer freak when whiskers surface. I don’t rush to the bathroom to go through the shaving ritual. I can let them grow out a tad before I plow ‘em down once more.

So where are you on this issue? Is it an issue at all or a figment of my imagination?

 

Monday, November 10, 2014

UNNECESSARY SPROUTING

Maybe we get an extra blind spot as we grow older. Maybe we get a few of them. Maybe men just hate seeing themselves in the mirror.

I don’t know how else to explain the untamed hair sprouting from certain facial appendages on certain men. How can they not see it? Or, if they see it, why do they shrug and leave it the rest of us to just deal with it?

Yes, this is another one of my shallower blog posts, but I need to get this off my (waxed) chest. Put it out there. If just one reader plucks a couple of nose hairs, it will have been worth it.

There’s a fellow on an online dating site who seems to boldly embrace his wayward hair. Love me, love my ear hair. When I stumbled on his profile and looked at the first photo, I honestly thought he was in costume as Mr. Tumnus, the faun from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. An odd main photo, but I figured this guy wanted to show off his quirkiness while also expressing an affinity for classic children’s literature. But then I clicked on the next photo. Ear hair while having a beer at the beach. And the next—ear hair while sitting on a motorcycle. And the final shot—ear hair while feasting on lobster. Never mind the fact that I’m not a fan of beer, motorcycles or lobster. I was completely turned off by furry ears. Cute on a Labrador Retriever; not so much on a man.

This, of course, is an aural extreme.

Recently, I went on a coffee date with a charming, attractive man. The conversation went smoothly and I just might have been smitten. But then he turned his head and I caught a glimpse of his right ear. Nothing wrong with the ear itself—relatively symmetrical with the left, not too small, not too big. But there were about a dozen grey hairs sprouting from the outer rim. Each hair was about two centimeters in length. This guy was otherwise well groomed with a seemingly clean shirt, decent shoes, fashionable hair and sexy/intellectual glasses. So how could he have missed this ear mane? I tried to focus on our conversation and I did a commendable job, but each time he did a head pivot, I peeked. Like a rubbernecker gawking at the scene of an accident. Only this could not have been an accident. While I’m all for letting a lawn go natural, I can’t say the same for ears. Check them and trim them. Please!

I won’t even ramble on about eyebrows. I’ll just say that mine have gotten unruly with age. Some hairs just won’t go with the flow. I check the brows each morning and conduct a couple of precision trims every other day. There’s a hairstylist in West Hollywood that I go to whenever I’m in L.A. specifically because he’s the only one who has ever done a brow trim as part of the cut. And he’s a master. I’m in awe of how swiftly and skillfully he restores order there.

I shouldn’t have to talk about hair extending from the nose. If you’ve got grey hair or black hair, let me just say what you should already know. A rogue nasal hair stands out. A cluster of them draws undue attention to your nose. Don’t kid yourself in thinking no one will notice. Don’t expect your social and work companions to cope. Check yourself in the mirror. The nose is a pesky organ that likes to catch us off guard with sudden extensions. Don’t wait until you get home and have a chance to insert one of those handy electric trimmers. Yank ‘em when you see ‘em.

Maybe ear hair and nasal hair have some worthwhile function. But we’ve evolved into a society where manscaping is expected (even if my Word document continues to put a squiggly red line under manscaping). Sometimes looks are more important than some questionable anti-senility benefit. (Steam some bok choy or do an extra Sudoku for every trim if you must.)

I will admit that there are times when I discover my own temporary blind spot. I’ve spotted more than a few nasal hairs while gazing in the rear-view mirror while idling at a traffic light. No doubt the lady in the car next to me thinks I am fishing for boogers, but I seize the opportunity to try to get a firm hold on the elusive hair. Yank, fail, yank again. Inevitably, I sneeze after achieving success and I have to do another check the next time I hit a red. I recover and feel better—even when I’m in a small town and the lady who was idling beside me probably knows who I am. There are worse things than being misidentified as a nose picker. Like swearing off any form of manscaping.

A belated ear hair discovery addles me even more. Once every six weeks, I’ll run a finger along the ear’s edge and feel a whisker. I dash to the bathroom mirror only to realize it’s far beyond whisker stage. It could warrant its own shampoo and conditioner treatment. Aghast, I nip it with a razor and wonder how many people it distracted. Why did no one say anything? Will someone see me the next day and smugly remark, “Nice haircut”? Oh, the shame! (That’s when I start to look at job ads online.)

Yes, guys, we seem to have less control over the hair that grows—or doesn’t grow—on top of our heads as we get older. But that is no excuse for abandoning all hair matters. Don’t turn a blind eye to unsightly hair any longer. Deal with what is firmly in your grasp. Take your razor for a spin. We won’t notice your efforts—and that’s the whole point.

 

 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

FIFTY? FIFTY!

As a vegetarian, it’s a rare occasion when I think of Meat Loaf, but he’s provided the perfect entry (if not entrée) here: Two out of Three Ain’t Bad.

I confess that I had concerns about turning fifty. Could that be the turning point? Would all dating dry up? I’m well aware of online dating search engines. The searcher can input an age range—some lower number (possibly ridiculously lower) and an upper limit of, say, 49. The 50s? Ancient times. Aren’t they the guys that sit at home in vintage “Cosby Show” sweater, waiting for the latest issue of AARP and repeatedly listening to cover songs by Bette Midler. (Okay, I confess to pining for the Divine one. Click on the link and tell me you’re not hooked.)

Maybe my fretting over fifty comes from my own search habits. I cannot recall specifically—a sign of aging?!—but I believe there may have been a time not long ago when I didn’t look beyond fortysomething. A half century just sounds so plaque-worthy. And nobody wants to see you pull a plaque from your backpack on a first date.

Well, the good news is that, almost a full month into fiftysomething, I am still dating. Three dates. Yes, each man is in his fifties as well. (I don’t fantasize about helping some young thing cram for a Psychology 101 midterm.) These men have been 51, 54 and—gasp!—58. By golly, each man remains dating-relevant. Each one is fit, attractive and interesting. Two are avid paddleboarders, two ski regularly, one runs and swims and all of them continue to go to the gym. Each one is well settled in a career. Each has varied experiences and each proved he can participate in that ever elusive two-way conversation.

Refreshing!

Coffee with the 54 year-old from South America was pleasant, but the connection wasn’t there. That happens. Glad to have met him.

Coffees with the other two may actually lead to second dates. (One never really knows until that actually happens.) I head to Seattle in two weeks to see Evan again. He’s taking care of friends’ kids next weekend. Uncle Evan. That’s way sexier than a boy toy flitting around in Lycra undies with a glow stick necklace and a plastic water bottle. Evan is genuine and responds promptly to messages. No game playing, no early signs of flakiness. Lovely.

I am perfectly content to see how far things may go with Evan. But, there was unfinished business with Wyatt. He’d messaged me back in September and we just couldn’t seem to find the right time to meet in Vancouver. I sensed he was eager to meet and disappointed that our schedules couldn’t mesh. I headed over today to do some errands and thought I’d message him one last time just to tie up loose ends. If we didn’t meet today, I felt it would never happen. And that would be fine. (In my book, one out of three ain’t bad either!)

Wyatt messaged back. He was busy with plans to go hiking in the woods near Whistler. Ooh, so outdoorsy. On a rainy day, no less. (I’m a fair-weather hiker. I’m not fond of mud. Not even for facials.) But Wyatt planned to head back mid-afternoon. Coffee was on.

Turns out he’s a government lobbyist who advocates for policy and programming that specifically promotes men’s health and physical fitness. Clearly, he lives his life consistent with his beliefs. We chatted freely about the idiosyncrasies of local politics, the differences between Canadian and American federal governments, healthy and unhealthy components of long-term relationships and the continuing importance of libraries in supporting the social and intellectual wellness of a community. The conversation was engaging and still relaxed. As we parted, he was the one to say he wanted to meet with me again. Definitely interested. And, yes, I shared the sentiment. But that next date will have to wait until his return from a holiday in Israel and Lebanon.

Yes, these men are more than pretty packages. They have depth. By golly, it’s early, but as first impressions go, I thinking I’m liking my fifties!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

DANGLING DELIGHTFULLY

There's a temptation to Google everything. Why let a question go unanswered? Used to be that a random wondering could die in the middle of a conversation.  No lingering harm in not knowing what Karen Valentine is doing these days...or if she's even still alive. And the day could proceed just fine without confirmation about whether Phil and Marlo got divorced. In fact, I'm happy not knowing. Let the talk move on. Googling takes time. It interrupts the flow. Sometimes knowledge is overrated.

I cringe when a date pulls out his iPhone. It breaks the intimacy and serves as a reminder of waiting text messages, tweets to read, Facebook posts to "Like". Pressing personal business.

But I may have actually been turned on when he fished in his pocket and pulled out his device. (Yes, I’m still talking about a cellphone.) With his eyes focused on the teeny screen, I snuck a better look at his arms, his hair and, yes, his body as he typed, "What is a dangling participle?"

This was not your average first date conversation. I’d repressed my odder conversational openers like “I’ve noticed a commendable absence of gum on Seattle sidewalks” and “Don’t you feel sorry for that troll sculpture under the bridge? Doesn’t he deserve a companion?”

It was Evan who brought up annoying spelling errors. He sought a refresher on its versus it’s. I provided a succinct explanation. He then he asked the question du Google. I answered but blanked on an example. And so he searched: What is a dangling participle?

And right then and there, I was his.

If he wanted me, that is.

And maybe he did. We moved beyond grammar—right after I provided a mini-lesson on prepositions. (Yes, he asked. I swear.)

Our first coffee date lasted three hours. Eventually, we spilled out of the café and strolled through parts of Seattle’s peculiar Fremont neighborhood. By the water, he pointed out the house he thought Tom Hanks’ character lived in “Sleepless in Seattle”.

Seriously?! Just the day before, I’d snapped pics of a Seattle beach that I’d thought might have been the place where Meg’s character spied Tom’s character playing with his son. And, yes, elsewhere I’d photographed a couple of seaside homes I surmised could have been where Tom’s character lived. For someone else to bring up a Meg Ryan romantic comedy, well, maybe there is such a thing as fate. And maybe I don’t have to lurk atop the Empire State Building.

He described the peaks of a nearby mountain range as looking like they’d been created by Dr. Seuss. Again, I’d had Seuss on my mind the day before as I snapped shots of colorful churnwazzits and crankbangoozles at Gas Works Park. Elsewhere, I’d spotted a part of a train trestle that had to be the cousin of the infamous Snort from Are You My Mother?

Nobody—NOBODY!—connects with me on these terms.

Smitten, indeed!

What will come of this? Who knows? He’s in Seattle, I’m kinda sorta Vancouver-adjacent. But then Meg’s Annie pined for more in Baltimore and Tom’s Sam suffered insomnia in Seattle. I’d like to believe they found lasting love. Maybe this could turn into something. We’ve got a quirky beginning. Oh, the places we might go!