Sunday, July 31, 2016

IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S ME…REALLY

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It’s the copout line for dumping someone. There’s a reason—maybe a list of reasons—to reject the guy, but honesty can hurt or prolong things with denial and an argument. The easy way out is to say, It’s me.


I’m at a bad place in my 
              life right now.

I’m not a good enough person.

I’ve got to spend all my spare time   
cleaning the closet in the den.
(Something may have died there.)


In my last blog post, I turned down a guy after a second date that was no better than the first. Initally, I’d found his opinions too harsh. In his profile and on both dates, he’d acknowledged this as a common perception but dismissed the criticism with a Fuck that. Everyone is too intent on being politically correct. Maybe, maybe not. All I know is political correctness keeps my blood pressure on an even keel.

My gut had been to decline the second date. I’d had enough…heard enough. But occasionally—and, indeed, after the last post—a blog reader has the guts to raise an uncomfortable I Wonder.

I wonder if you’re being too picky.

Oh, how I brace at the comment. (It’s probably why only readers posit this while face-to-face friends and acquaintances keep mum.)

I’m not too picky. I’m not too picky. I’m not too picky.

As if repeating it makes it true. A three-year-old’s approach.

And then I hear Harry’s voice. Harry, aka Billy Crystal, talking to Sally, aka Meg Ryan in my favorite move, giftedly penned by the late great Nora Ephron:

                        HARRY:          There are two kinds of 
                                                 women: high maintenance
                                                 and low maintenance.
                        SALLY:            And Ingrid Bergman [in 
                                                 Casablanca] is low
                                                 maintenance?
                        HARRY:          …Definitely.
                        SALLY:            Which am I?
                        HARRY:          You’re the worst kind. 
                                                 You’re high maintenance,
                                                 but you think you’re low maintenance.

I would contend that I’m a low maintenance date. I have no list. All I ask is that a guy show up on time, dress in something slightly more fashion-forward than a favorite sports team jersey, put away his phone and engage in a genuine back-and-forth conversation. Okay, there’s a physical attraction piece, too, but that’s mostly out of our control. I’d say I’ve been passed over on looks just as many times as I’ve passed. Few of us are objectively, universally hot and by “us” I definitely, conclusively do not include myself.

It’s the conversation piece where things froth or fizzle. And based on all I’ve sat through, eighty percent of fizzled chats come from too much talking, not enough listening. A first date may feel like an interview but it’s not. You’re not trying to cram everything great about you—every trip, every detail of your last dinner party and every itty-bitty dimension of your job—into a roughly forty-minute sit-down.

Don’t forget there’s another guy who showed up, hoping to share an anecdote or a factoid about himself. If you don’t have Barbara Walters’ interviewing skills—for the record, I’d be an arbutus tree—then pause every two or three minutes and simply say, “And what about you?” Order a scone with your coffee so you have to stop and chew once in a while. (You don’t talk with your mouthful, do you? Maybe that’s another of my conditions.)

I should wrap up this post.

If I keep writing, I fear that more conditions will surface.

Too picky.

Am I more Sally than Ilsa? Does my blog leave a trail of damning evidence concerning my unrealistic expectations? Am I too quick to dismiss?

                        SALLY:            I don’t see that.
  
What if there are grounds for a class-action lawsuit against me, brought by the masses of single gay men in Vancouver who have been disparaged and dismissed in this blog without any counterpoint? Am I guilty of a pattern and practice of dating defamation?

Too picky? Me?! I have no reason to be, no right to be. But then I hear a certain movie character again.

SALLY:            Well, I just want it the way I want it.

And, as much as I could pick that apart, it sounds about right.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

CAN YOU SHAKE A FIRST IMPRESSION?

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Not actually me. I don't look this good in a dress.
On occasion, a reader will suggest that I am too picky. How could I possibly go on so many coffee dates—Is it beyond a hundred yet?—and come up empty? I ask that of myself, too. Am I brushing people off too quickly? Should I settle for something less?

I think I give people a chance. It’s rare, however, that an initial meh turns into anything better. There are stories of people being repulsed at first sight and somehow finding love. I don’t find that unreasonable. There’s some truth to that expression about a thin line between love and hate. These are people who at least get our attention. But it’s hard to move anywhere from meh. It’s a relationship gutter. Nothing grows there.

Recently I met up with a handsome man who grew up in Venezuela and Spain. He’s traveled the world and speaks many languages. Seems to have a lot going for him. I typically get along extremely well with people from different backgrounds. The differences in culture and perspective fascinate me as well as the commonalities reflected in good people regardless of where they were raised. And, while I contend I don’t have a type, I am easily enchanted with Latin men.

On our first meeting, it was a warm Vancouver day and the bakery was not air conditioned so we grabbed our drinks and sat on a shady bench in a nearby park. We talked for a couple of hours. Mostly, he talked. Much of the talk was ranting. For instance, when I said I worked in education, he immediately went on for ten minutes about how unmotivated teachers can be. Sure, he had some good points based on personal experience, but it’s generally not a good idea to attack your date’s profession right after “Hello.”

The opinions continued to fly over a range of subjects and I realized I had shifted my body into the arm of the bench, as if trying to get away from him. Not a good sign. But it was clear that he was attracted to me and I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he was talking too much because he was nervous. Maybe he was trying to impress me with his thinking. Maybe he didn’t normally drink coffee.

And so when he called and left a message a few hours later about how much he enjoyed our time and how he’d like to get together again, I shrugged and said sure. With the introductions out of the way, maybe things would get better.

But they didn’t. As he rambled on, I felt awful for extending things. He clearly dressed up for our lunch and, yes, he continued to give off signs of being attracted to me. I buckled down and tried to get invested. This is a guy that actually likes you. Give him a chance. Even when we talked about things we had in common—writing; running—I simply couldn’t connect.

We walked and Ralph suggested a drink after lunch—no caffeine whatsoever. Sure. Could he see me shrug? It got to the point where I was biding my time until the alarm on my phone would go off, reminding me that I’d reached the two-hour limit on my parking meter. My escape. But even then, I didn’t bolt. We ambled sloooowly toward my car. Was he trying to prolong things? With a hug, we parted ways and, as I started the ignition, I felt relieved to be alone once more. (The loneliness seeps in later.)

An hour afterward, I received a text. “Hi, James! Just wanted to tell you that I enjoyed my time with you today. Hopefully you did too. It would be great to meet again. Enjoy the rest of the day!”

Two exclamation marks. (I don’t take punctuation lightly.) I felt a sickening feeling in my stomach, the same kind I felt whenever a professor would pass back assignments and I had a sudden fear of a big red “F”. This was a worse kind of failure because now I had to be the messenger. I fretted. I mopped my floors. I ate a bag of popcorn. I even returned my mother’s phone call.

And then I texted: “Hi Ralph. Nice to see you again. You’re an attractive man with a fascinating background. Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite feel a connection. Wanted to, but sometimes it’s not there. Good luck with your work application. Really seems like a great path for you.”

No exclamation marks.

I pressed “Send” and sighed. The deed was done. Hopefully he didn’t feel as badly as I did. But I know how rejection stings. I am all too aware how it butt-kicks already fragile self-esteem. Ralph is in his forties. I know how another polite “No thank you” disheartens. What if “meant to be” refers to alone rather than with Mr. Right or with Mr. Tolerable or with Mr. Who Happens to Be Breathing?

So I listened to the “too picky” accusation. I gave a guy another chance. And now I only feel worse. Like a heel. I hurt someone, however temporarily. I feel no closer to finding a soul mate. Just farther off-course. The pickings get smaller.
  
 

Monday, July 25, 2016

NEVER AFTER (Part 2)


No family friction over refusing to invite my brother. No tiffs over chocolate cake versus a lemon vanilla triple berry cake (my choice). And no agonizing as I scratched up the twenty-third incarnation of my vows. I’m a writer. They have to be heartfelt, original and memorable. No wedding. Whew.

Everything was fine until July 20, 2005. I’d come to accept the realities that came with living outside the institution.  Without the ceremony or the formal commitment, I could rationalize that my relationships were more inclined to end when things got tricky. No obligation, no incentive. We were free to be fickle.

But then Canada enacted the Civil Marriage Act, the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. I could propose or be proposed to, I could elope or have a big wedding, I could get a fancy certificate, shop for a ring, plan a honeymoon. But ever since that remarkable enactment, I’ve had a pronoun problem. Always I, never We.

The possibility of marriage remains nothing more than a vague hypothetical. And I’m okay with that. As much as I’ve whined and pined, wanting to fall in love again over the past dozen years, marriage is not a goal. Once I stopped imagining marrying Karen Carpenter, there wasn’t a wedding equation in which I fit as a variable during my years growing up. In my mind, the best I could hope for when I came out in the late 1980s was to fall and love with a guy and have neither of us die of AIDS. Gloomy, but such were the times.

Of course, I have neither blond nor brown hair.    
The first time I heard a gay man lobby for the right to marry, I thought he was a shit disturber, a mere agitator who created a distraction from legitimate, viable issues such as increased funding for AIDS research, legislation to make gay bashing a hate crime and protection from employment and housing discrimination. Two grooms on a wedding cake? Don’t be silly.

I remember the possibility of same-sex marriage being readily repudiated by gays and lesbians as the marriage “joke” started to grow legs. Why would we copy the heteros? Look at the divorce rate…why push to be part of a failing institution? Why be conventional? Shouldn’t we create our own culture and traditions? 

But enough of our “community” kept pushing. Maybe “No” served as a motivating force. Maybe gay and lesbian couples that were deeply in love actually wanted a wedding. Heaven knows we’ve bought enough waffle irons and gravy boats for straight couples. We’ve attended plenty of receptions where we’ve watched dance-challenged masses pantomime “Y.M.C.A.”

So the definition of marriage has changed. I’ve had the right to marry for eleven years now and Americans just marked the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision recognizing gay marriage. That’s great in terms of a step toward equality, understanding and acceptance. If I were to fall in love again with a guy in his fifties like me, I doubt my partner would have dreamed of marriage during his adolescence and after coming out. Idle time was better spent imagining living on Mars. (Is that still in the works? I don’t get it.)

So, yes, I have the right to marry. I do. I also have the right to raise chickens in my backyard, assuming I could ever afford a home with a yard in Vancouver and assuming I develop a constant yearning for “farm-fresh” eggs. Both rights remain the flimsiest of hypotheticals. Truth be told, they are also beyond my control.  

But I think I should work on getting that lemon vanilla triple berry cake. All mine.   

Friday, July 22, 2016

NEVER AFTER (Part 1)


I wasn’t the type of little boy who, given a box of crayons, madly drew scenes with superheroes and fire trucks. I didn’t get in trouble with my teacher for adding bombs and guns and gushing blood to what would have been a happy family picnic picture. At school, I drew the typical house with a typical road out front and colored in a typical grassy area, a typical apple tree and a typical yellow ball of sun—always in the left corner—floating on a blanket of blue sky. Same picture. Over and over. Even at five, I knew I sucked at art so I played it safe. I stuck with the conventional.

At home, I dared to draw something different. Instead of an ordinary house, I drew castles. Big boxy gray structures with gapped teeth running along the top. It never dawned on me to add a portcullis or defenders peeking above the parapet. My castle would never be attacked. I didn’t have that kind of mindset. The moat had goldfish that peacefully coexisted with alligators that never craved human flesh (or goldfish). The alligators always unseen, stuck to the bottom of the moat, not because they wanted to wage a surprise attack; I just couldn’t draw them.

In the top window of the castle tower, I always drew a smiling princess. She had blonde hair spilling out from under her cone-shaped blue hat that matched her long blue dress. She smiled but she was lonely and sad. (I was taught that everyone had to have a happy face.) This was the woman I would marry. This is where I’d live. Poor thing would be sad ever after!)

Along with my Karen crushes—Ms. Valentine from “Room 222” and Ms. Carpenter from the “Close to You” album cover—the Princess in the Blue Dress was as close as I got to thinking about marrying.

After that, I sometimes imagined having kids—six, of course, like “The Brady Bunch”—but I could never picture their mother. It didn’t concern me. I suppose I figured I could hire a kooky housekeeper. Maybe even Ann B. Davis if she wasn’t doing anything.

I don’t know why I gave up on the concept of marriage when I was so young. It’s not like I got distracted with marathon, recurring games of Cops & Robbers. (I played alone underneath the sycamore tree in my backyard with little animal figurines that came with Red Rose Tea.) First-Grade Me just had a vague yet unmistakable sense I was not the marrying kind. I assumed the reason was because I was too ugly, with all my freckles and untamed curly red hair. That or I was too dull—after all, I played with animal figurines—and too fearful of any human interaction. Funny how the brain accepts things before the reasons are apparent. So no marriage. It was utterly inconceivable.

And that was that.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

HOOKUP HOOKY


Safe to say, neither of us is this hot.
Maybe I deserved it. That’s what that prudish inner voice tells me. (Why can’t I find its mute button?) But maybe I even wanted it to happen. I got stood up for a hookup. At his place. When does that ever happen?

I felt especially nervous as I got ready to head over. Didn’t help that I read a chapter last night about Jeffrey Dahmer and a London serial killer of gay men. Also didn’t help that my last hookup had been lackluster. The guy I was meeting looked more like the sweet guy-next-door type I wouldn’t mind dating. Could something more come from this?

At the last minute, I realized I’d forgotten to shave. I didn’t want my whiskers to scratch up his face in the event of a passionate kissing session so I quickly ran the electric shaver back and forth across my face, leaving my skin burning from the wrong kind of touch. By the time I’d waited for the elevator and gotten in my car, it was clear I’d be late. 2:57 and we were supposed to meet at 3. And then came red light after red light, an elderly woman taking baby steps to cross with her walker at a stop sign and an out-of-the-blue parade of dozens of cyclists who continued to cross at an intersection after I had the green to go. It’s not meant to be, that dang inner voice taunted.

But I knew I had to reach my destination. Had to show I tried. And so I drove on as perspiration painted my underarms. A bad first impression. Hopefully I wouldn’t have the shirt on for long. I parked the car and searched for the street address. #1288. Not there! There was townhouse #1280, an alley and then a twenty-floor condominium marked as #1290. I walked through the alley, searching for a hidden door, a yurt or a rickety shed. Anything would have been welcoming. But no. Had the asshole given me the wrong address on purpose?

But then I checked the address I’d entered on my phone: #1228. Putz. Late-onset dyslexia sucks. And so, finally, thirteen minutes late, I pressed the doorbell. I heard it chime. I waited, fanning my shirt and running my tongue across my teeth in case there was a food particle lodged between molars or canines or whatever the other ones are called. After a minute, I knocked on the door…just in case that doorbell chime I heard was something I’d imagined. Alas, there was no a peep to be heard from within.

It’s rude to be late, my Prudish Inner Voice reminded me. Even for a booty call. (In truth, I’m stunned my P.I.V. knew the term “booty call” and more embarrassed that I don’t know if it fit in this context.) Maybe this guy was making a statement. Maybe he headed to the gym or the grocery store after waiting five minutes. Or what if he was making a different statement. Had he peeked from his second floor window as I locked my car and noted the five extra pounds since my profile pic? Had he spotted the sweat stains on my too tight t-shirt? Had he simply realized he could do better and turned out the lights, waiting for me to go away?

If I felt bad about the prospect of hooking up, I felt worse walking back to my car. And, yes, a little relieved. I have to keep reminding myself, it’s just sex. This despite the fact I’ve always wanted sex to be something more.

Back home, I went online and there was a message. “Running half an hour late. Sorry. Can we make it 3:30?” I suppose if I’d been spiteful, I’d have not replied. Let him wonder who flaked on whom.  But, no, that’s not in me. I only thought of that now as I write this. Instead, I let the guy know I’d shown up, that my work phone doesn’t let me check messages on hookup sites and that maybe we’d meet some other time. Maybe meaning never. The whole experience had done enough to fracture my fragile self-esteem. Next time someone else could have a crack at it.