A hundred coffee dates. Probably more. And I’m no closer to extending dating—can’t even call it a relationship—into a second month, let alone falling in love. Ninety percent of the encounters end after the last drop of the first latte. Probably before the barista has even finished making it.
I craft this blog. I have full control. So it’s easy for me find fault in the other guy. Too this, not enough that. Clearly there’s too much algae in the single gay pool.
But every so often, I look inward. I actually hear myself. Too this? Not enough that?! When did I get so selective?
There was a time when it would have taken next to nothing to stick with a guy. If he showed the slightest interest, I’d hang on until he finally shooed me away. I was a dating gnat.
|"Friend of Dorothy" added another layer of meaning in the '80s.|
It’s true. I had terribly low self-esteem. As I’d sip my first Tom Collins with a friend at Rage or Micky’s in West Hollywood, I’d rattle off my list of what I was looking for in a man. It was a two-pager, at least. But then some guy would glance at me a few times and, after bowing to glance at my shoelaces, I’d find the guts to glance back. Eye contact. And that basically meant it was a match.
If we actually talked and he said he liked “The Golden Girls”—or that he’d even heard of it—I was his for life. Or at least until the packed thong go-go boys came back from break and their come-hither gyrations refocused his attention.
He could have had me.
I’d have torn up my list and burned it for good measure. I was a low maintenance guy who thought he was high maintenance.
Now all that’s completely flipped. And I shouldn’t be at all surprised.
The brutal truth is that all relationships have become harder for me. I’m an acutely introverted guy who somehow managed to fake acceptable social mannerisms in my twenties. I laughed frequently and notoriously loudly. Within my group, I could even be outrageous. In my thirties, I took cover in an abusive relationship. Feeling trapped and utterly stupid, I pulled away from everyone. And then in my forties I found my way out and escaped to rural living where all my introverted ways came rushing back, exacerbated further by a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder.
Now in my fifties, I’m trying to start over. It’s like going back to junior year in high school, the time when I began to get a clue over How to Be Social. I once again remind myself to smile. I try to carry on the chitchat initiated by the barista or the bank teller or the store clerk. Invariably, I’m the one who shuts it down. The talk is trivial and I can’t sustain it.
I’ve been back in Vancouver for over a year and I’m not sure I’ve made any progress. Weekends come and go. I have no desire to phone anyone. A text takes at least an hour of contemplation or even the whole bloody weekend.
When I do meet with an old friend, it’s hard for me to stay interested after thirty minutes. In my mind, I get critical. I tire of this conversation too and my thoughts wander as I long to get back to the book I was reading or go on a three-hour bike ride. Solo, of course. I don’t want anyone else to slow me down.
It should come as no surprise then that date after date is a failure. As a concept, I’m keen to date. And yet when I actually sit down with another guy, I’m looking forward to getting away. As my psychiatrist noted, “Social interaction takes a lot of energy out of you.” The mysterious piece is that I’m skilled at the conversation. The other person cannot see that I’m drained. That’s why it is rare for a coffee date to end before an hour. Ninety minutes is typical. I continue to listen well enough and to encourage the other guy to talk about himself. I can’t recall ever being the one who says, “I have to go.”
So is every coffee doomed? Is dating pointless? Is it time for me to download solitaire apps on my phone? Or whatever happened to macramé? It was the only thing in sixth-grade art that I was moderately good at. Maybe the world needs more macramé. And I shall find fulfillment.
I know I have my own work to do, but I also know it is possible to find the right guy. All this reflection has helped me realize I still do have a type, only now the list is short. He’s sexy, gentle, flirty, affectionate and funny. These are the qualities that both make me invested and keep me relaxed. With this type of man, I easily shrug off the flaws and I don’t care what we do. It’s just about being together.
I know this because I’ve met this kind of man three, maybe four times, in the past two years. I’d have stuck with any of these men, but alas, I didn’t fit the other guy’s list or there were insurmountable obstacles. I can find encouragement in this. I’m not looking for something unattainable. My kind of mate does exist.
So I’ll continue to squint and skim through the algae. If I keep my eyes open, something surprising may rise to the surface.