Saturday, February 27, 2016

MACHINE MALFUNCTION

Way back in the answering machine era, I'd get home from work, throw my keys on the table and stare at the device. The more the little red dot blinked, the better. Dinner? A friend calling long distance? Sometimes it was a telemarketer for the Dallas Morning News or, worse, my mother, but Red Blinky meant possibilities. I hated when my machine had nothing to say. No messages left me wondering what I was doing wrong socially. Clearly, I needed better friends.

That same sense of hope used to come whenever I logged in on an online dating site. Oh, please let there be something in my inbox. Mr. Right begins with Mr. Write.

But the newness of online dating faded long ago. The hope has gone. Indeed, as I went through my daily formality of logging in this morning, I saw a message on Plenty of Fish. Immediately, I got that sinking feeling. It is still hypothetically possible that an attractive, intelligent, intriguing man could hit me up with a thoughtfully worded "Hey! Wazzup, dude?" but experience tells me how remote that dream is.

With dread, I clicked on the message and mentally mustered up my new internal message of hope: Please, oh please, don't let this bring me down.


I glanced at the four photos of the smiling individual. One pic was from back in second-grade (“hahaha…just for fun!”) while the others portrayed a fellow purportedly a year older than me who looked like he belonged in my father’s golfing cohort.

Oh, no. Not good. Instead of butterflies, I felt bricks in my belly.

I scrolled back up. Oh, please be a smoker. Easy elimination. It’s him, not me. I’m not shallow; just principled. And health conscious.

Non-smoker. Damn.

In a nod to my supposed openness, I read the full profile. The English teacher in me noted the lack of writing errors—a rare occurrence! RedheadCam sounded swell. Just what I’d expect from a guy raised in Newfoundland. Nothing to connect with but gosh-golly nice. The verdict was clear.

Another pass.

Another fail.

Another reminder of how futile online dating is. I don’t think I’m too picky. I’ve gone on dozens and dozens of coffee dates with online candidates. As I’ve concluded so many times before, Plenty of Fish is not so plentiful. The stock has been picked over. The same goes for the other dating sites. The next coffee seems to be a cup full of grounds.
 
If this is all a game of chance, I’m playing poker with an Old Maid deck.


And so, yes, it's come to this. I'm relieved when I have no messages. Craving Red Blinky is most definitely a thing of the past. Now it is the messages that make me wonder what I’m doing wrong socially. The whole online dating thing is an empty exercise. I'm putting myself out there. Kind of. Sort of. Not really.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

EAR-ILY FAMILIAR

I’ve always been weirdly concerned over my body. It’s not just the weight issue. As a kid, I wondered why I was the only one in my family with red hair. (My mind shifted from the horror of Adopted?  to the soothing sense of Adopted! Alas, it was only wishful thinking.) When I was a teen, I asked my parents if I could have plastic surgery. On my elbows. They had the nerve to say no.

Over time, I’ve come to accept my hair and elbows. (I still have a preference for long sleeves.) But there’s always something new to obsess about. And getting older offers new fodder for body self-consciousness.

As I sat on the ferry this morning, I had the misfortune of being behind a man of about seventy who shuffled into his seat and set his ski-pole walking aids to the side. He continuously stared out the window, gazing at the low fog draping the nearby islands. Lovely sight, but from my perspective, the sight wasn’t so. Ear hair. A clump of it.

I get that hair changes with age. It parts from the head and legs while sprouting with renewed vigor in the eyebrows, nose and ears. Forty years ago, maybe people were fine with that. Maybe “grow old gracefully” included let hair grow where it may. But now every hairy sprout comes under scrutiny. What is the purpose of ear hair?

According to Wikipedia, “[m]edical research on the function of ear hair is currently very scarce.” No surprise, really. No doctor wants to be a cocktail party pariah. (“Medical researcher, eh? What are you studying?”) One internet site which seems to be linked to the all-knowing cardiologist Dr. Oz of TV fame recognizes that ear hair growth comes with age and then asserts that “this hair protects you from insects that find the ear canal interesting.” Really? So this is a mutation resulting from bugs’ preference for exploring the ear canals of older men?! Does this mean everyone else is defenseless against ear bugs? Why don’t I feel grateful?

This is the manscaping era. (My word processor still underlines “manscaping” with a squiggly red line, but I think most of us are familiar with the term.) Some of us even take on our own manscaping seriously, perhaps obsessively. I get that there are varying degrees of action/inaction in terms of chest hair and even back hair. I just wonder if we could reach a universal accord related to ear hair. If you see it, trim it.

Perhaps I am the only one who frets over being seen in public with untamed ear hair. The elevator in my condominium happens to have harsh lighting. It’s a good thing though in terms of ear scanning. As the side walls of the elevator are mirrored, it only takes an up close and personal scan for me to spot ear sprouts (and a few missed whiskers from the morning shave). Last week I was stunned to see a 12-millimeter strand of hair poking up from the top of my right ear. Egad! Somehow the thing went from stubble to a full 12 millimeters! That couldn’t have occurred overnight. I’d been walking around, interacting with people in a range of setting for days—weeks!—all the while sporting a defiant ear sprout! Why had no one told me? Can we come up with a rule of etiquette about this? Maybe this is why second dates are hard to come by for me. Maybe this was the source of Van Gogh’s ear issue. The poor man was ahead of his time in terms of art and manscaping. And, well, he overreacted. (It doesn’t help to know that 12 millimeters is nothing on the world stage. As there is a record for everything—and, yes, this very fact proves that—the longest ear hair ever recorded was 13.2 centimeters though it had later grown to 25 centimeters. Apparently Guinness did not bother with an update. Perhaps ear hair growers aren’t all that competitive.)

To be honest, I cannot see the center part of the ear. I let my razor graze over the area once every week or two, but I can’t tell if it’s trimming anything. Will I even know when I have a full clump of ear hair? Do older mean see it and actually choose to ignore it? Do some people actually like ear hair?

Perhaps the more appropriate question is, Am I the only one who dislikes tufts of ear hair, also known as auricular hypertrichosis? Why can’t “ear wax” have a new connotation? I’d pay to have it done. And I think my fellow ferry passengers would be grateful.

Monday, February 15, 2016

A FRIEND OF A FRIEND

I’ll confess: I did it. Desperate times.

Every so often, a Facebook friend shares something from another of his/her friends and, rather than scrolling on, I stop to take notice. Maybe it’s a panda making snow angels. Or it can be a one-minute video for making cinnamon apple rings. But sometimes it is the Friend of a Friend himself. A hottie who updated his profile photo. (Good choice!) On one memorable occasion, it was a shirtless artist, posing beside his latest work. I’m big on art. I had to study the shot. I still have a vague recollection of a tanned six-pack. The art? Well, uh, it was an abstract oil painting with bold use of color. Or, actually, it could have been a bronze bust of a clown. Or macaroni art…seagulls and a sun with a happy face. Oh, but that six-pack!

So there you have it. I’m a Facebook Peeping Tom. It happens. But it’s rare. I don’t have many Friends with chiseled, shirtless macaroni-art Friends.

This morning, it wasn’t a photo that caught my eye. Instead, a Friend shared a Friend’s written post: “So…, glad to have a weekend but I got dumped last night. I knew it coming it was coming [sic]. But I’m still hurting.”

Well, I’m not stupid. I’m single and I can smell opportunity. I clicked on the poor sap’s name and searched for a photo of Mr. Available. More post-dump posts. “I need to dispose of some anger…” “Fuck this…I have experienced a very painful weekend.”

Okay,…so Mr. Almost Available.

We seem to share a love of ellipses. It could be the start of something great.

I peeped on. Finally, photos. Okay,…not my type. Oh, that makes me sound shallow. Let’s just say I realized the error of my gaze.

This is what it’s come to. I’m searching for treasure in a dump-ster.   

Thursday, February 11, 2016

REJECTION READJUSTMENT

Something to add to my reading list?
I’m teetering. It could just be ordinary sadness and frustration. And lack of sleep. So what if those things are signs of depression. This time I know the triggers.

Please, let this pass.

Two months ago, I started dating a guy. Two guys, actually. Concurrently, not together. First date, first date. Lo and behold, second date, second date! Seconds seem so hard to come by. Times two?! I started to worry. Too much of a good thing.

Third date, third date. It was almost a relief when one of them said he didn’t feel a spark. Almost.

So I was down to one. I’d shaken off that cheating feeling. More dates. I’m guessing seven. (It’s a good sign when I stop counting. I suppose my math has gotten rusty.) But then the dating stopped. He got busy, I got busy. He got sick, I got sick. And four weeks passed. You can’t call it dating when there are no dates. I’m guessing it’s done.

And so what was momentarily an embarrassment of riches is now a barren landscape once more. Square one. It’s back to the dating sites. Keep smiling. Keep hoping. Oh, god. It gets harder each time.

Don’t think about it. Hard not to when the only TV show I watch is “The Bachelor”. I get refueled off watching impossibly beautiful but nonetheless rejected contestants tear up as they part in the rejection limo.

I don’t know what I did wrong!

It seems I’ll never be loved!

I’m ready but no one seems to want me!

Only they usually add in some bleeped-out expletives. These are reality show contestants, after all. I recommend they find Linda Ronstadt’s “When Will I Be Loved” on YouTube and play it ‘til they laugh. Or break their iPhone.  

Yes, I’m solo again. No limo. I have my monthly bus pass.

This has got to be at least part of the reason I booked a trip to London. A trip I can’t afford. It’ll take some budget shuffling. I guess I can go another year without furniture in my living room. I do live alone. I seem to get by with a stool.

So, yes, I’m down. This is a normal reaction. As long as it doesn’t stay. If it goes away in a couple of days, I’m good. I’ve got a trip to focus on. What’s the best time of day to see Big Ben?

Please, don’t let it have anything to do with going off my meds a week ago. I want to be in control on my own. I don’t want to take pills, even if there are no apparent side effects. I want to be okay. I want to handle life’s downturns.

The fact that I’ve only had three hours of sleep compounds the foggy, gloomy brain. The night before the first day of the work week is often a miserable bed-tossing-and-turning exercise. And that slice of Baileys Irish Cream cheesecake before bed didn’t help. Too rich despite going with nonfat ingredients. I nursed my belly with a pillow, rotating it regularly to keep the coolness. Still can’t even think of eating this morning. Maybe it’s the start of the flu.

That would be a good thing. It beat the return of my personal dark cloud.

Hands down. And head up.  

Monday, February 8, 2016

SQUEEZED OUT

There’s a point in a budding relationship when you realize that, well, it’s not budding at all. It’s wilting. And watering won’t do any good. The soil has hardened.

I was never a green thumb.

I’d spared this man from blog posts. He’s a big part of the reason I haven’t had much to say lately. I thought there was promise. And I’ve never wanted a true relationship to be tainted by raw, early posts about red flags and what not.

You had red flags?!

Yeah, why go there.

I’m guessing our first date was late November or early December. Coffee at a café gallery. Not just an espresso joint that happened to hang the latest works of a starving artist but an establishment that aimed for legitimacy amongst both art buyers and caffeine addicts. (I’d give it middling reviews on both fronts.) I took a seat on the loft-like second floor and wrote on my laptop while waiting.

It had been a five-year wait.

Back then we exchanged a series of messages on Plenty of Fish and settled on a day to meet. But then Matt called on the morning of our date to postpone things. The stress was clear in an otherwise enticing deep voice. His dog was in pain. It sounded like Matt was facing a tough decision. As one of my dogs had just died, I understood. Maybe in a week or so. But Matt alluded to other matters. He sounded overwhelmed. “It’s just not the right time…” The conversation drifted off and Matt vanished from the dating site. A Plenty-of-Fish-ing moratorium.

I hadn’t been waiting at all. There were plenty of other guys to go on bad coffee dates with. Oh, yes, and good ones, too. I should really read the Plenty of Fish fine print. They must have a catch-and-release policy. But like a dedicated fisherman, I fished on, ever hopeful of that one big catch.

When I saw what looked like Matt’s face on a thumbnail, I clicked it. Hunch verified, I moved on. But the next day, he sent a message. No reference to a cancelled coffee from long ago; just hello. And I messaged back. “Matt, is that you?” He was surprised—not freaked out—that I remembered what little history we had. Heck, I majored in history in university. (More evidence that my life’s journey has been poorly planned!)

When Matt finally showed up at the café/gallery, he had an hour before catching a ferry to Victoria. He had me smiling and laughing the whole time. It’s special when a guy has me relaxed and playful from the start. So nice to stray from the dating interview script.

As we lingered outside in the gentle rain, both of us suddenly awkward, Matt sighed. “I’ve got a lot going on in the coming weeks.” Seattle. Ski adventures. Calgary. I nodded and smiled, bracing for goodbye. “I’ll find a way to squeeze you in.” Whew. We hugged and I walked home, still smiling, even giggling.

A great start. I tried to temper things. Okay, a good start. He texted me from the ferry and we met for dinner two days later.

That was the easy date. All the others have been scheduling challenges. I’d say we’ve gone out seven or eight times. All good, but some have felt rushed. And now it’s been four weeks. He had a week of heli-skiing, I had Portland, we both had colds. He’d warned me. Still, whatever the reasons, we’ve lost momentum.

I’m shrugging instead of smiling. It looks like he is, too. Another weekend went by without getting together. No travel or sickness this time. Just…, well, I don’t know. He texted for me to join him at the last minute while he walked his dog but I’d just gotten in from running 17K and the prospect of a walk didn’t get me feeling waggy. When I declined, he replied with, “Tomorrow is busy but will call if something opens up!” I’m big on punctuation, but I couldn’t feel the exclamation mark. Being squeezed in doesn’t feel acceptable anymore.

Guess I’m done with all that waiting. I don’t get the sense that there is a right time with Matt. I saw potential, but I’d like to feel more of a priority. Time to turn my back. It’s tough to witness a lovely flower’s demise. Neglect is a quiet creeper. I should just buy a plastic plant and be done with it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

TIPPING THE SCALES

From time to time, I post about my struggles with eating. While the roots of my problem preceded my coming out, the obsession with body beautiful in gay culture didn’t help matters. I share this story knowing that male experiences with anorexia continue to be underreported.

I’m at it again. Feeling fat. Obsessing over it. Annoyed that I’m bothered once more.

I’m aware enough to know my weight issues are highly exaggerated. I’d be laughed out of Weight Watchers. Pummeled with fat-free cookies. Banned for life.

I’m not talking about a hundred pounds or fifty or twenty. It’s four. That’s enough for me to see a belly bubble. My ribs don’t show. And that terrifies me.

If you’re still reading—spitting on your laptop may cause damage—let me explain. I have battled to control my weight as a means of controlling my life for forty years. At eighteen, I was anorexic but it was never diagnosed. I also have a lifelong phobia of doctors so I never sought help. I was under a great deal of stress in university and my only sense of control came in the way I deprived myself of food, relying on sating myself with Tab cola until my one binge-meal of the day. My weight loss frightened my friends and they held an intervention. My face was too gaunt. My baggy clothes which weirdly made me feel larger failed to hide my dwindling body. I still thought I was fat but they said enough to scare me. Something about doctors.

I’ve only had two other periods of extreme weight loss since then but calories, fat grams, carbs and sugar are on my mind with every sip and bite I take. Every. Single. Day. I read every label of every item that goes in my grocery basket and I can recite the fat content of each food item in my home. If I stray from my regimented diet—and I do a couple of times a month—I commit myself to more exercise. More abs, a longer jog, extra laps in the pool. I already work out six days a week and I’m relentless with my routines. I wish I could stop. I’d love to lighten up. I can’t. My weight is healthier but I’m still a mess.

I haven’t weighed myself in years. If I gain half a pound, a sense of panic grows. I can’t confirm I’ve gained four pounds. I just know it. I’m frustrated that I let it get to this point. Work in January impacted both diet and exercise. I try not to freak out when I look down and see a loose ripple in my shirt. It’s the fabric, not my stomach. Still, I don’t like it.
 

It’s hard for a normal person to relate to my so-called problem. It’s hard to put in perspective. They say each year of a dog’s life is like seven human years. Well, each pound I gain is like 5-10 pounds on a regular person. How horrified I feel depends on the day or even the time of day. So, yes, it feels like I’m forty pounds overweight.

I know enough not to allow myself to go to extremes. I could lose the weight by the end of the week by going into major calorie deprivation. The problem is I gain satisfaction over this rapid loss and then I want to extend it. I don’t trust myself to know when to stop. I hate being this way but I’ve lived like this for forty years. It’s all I know. I don’t understand how my best friend (who appears to have a normal weight) can talk rhapsodically over pecan pie or how he can go to a buffet for Christmas. (He always invites me; I always decline.) I feel that letting go will result in letting myself go. I see my brother’s pics on Facebook. I know what comes with our genes.

It feels great that my stomach is growling as I type. Dinner times nears and I’m losing energy. I’ve gotten by on two bananas today. The drain from my 3K swim is setting in. (It should have be 4-5K, but I had a dental appointment.) If I’m tempted to eat, I’ll force myself to nap to extend the mini fast. I’m giving myself a month to be sufficiently slim again. I can do this in 2-3 weeks tops. It’s good to set goals; even better knowing they can be beaten. When I feel my ribs again as I try to sleep, I know I’m where I need to be.

Hopefully then I’ll feel more settled. Normal. Or normal as defined by my warped mind. That’s as good as it gets.