Tuesday, October 25, 2016

LOOKING LONGINGLY

Sometimes it’s agonizing,…not being noticed. There’s a Janet Jackson song off her “Control” album; it serves as the soundtrack of the moment: “He Doesn’t Know I’m Alive”. I stare at him, one second, three seconds, thirty. Doesn’t matter. His head is buried in the financial pages of The National Post.

There’s no ring on the long fingers of his left hand. How is that possible? Maybe it’s nothing personal. Maybe his head is always down. He’s thin, his shoulders are slight. But he exudes a kind of sex appeal that comes from not knowing. The wavy salt-and-pepper hair adds to the ooh-la-la. (My chronic state of singlehood is not helped by the fact my brain thinks in terms like ooh-la-la but, golly gee, he’s all that and some extra la-las to boot.)

He’s got that Mediterranean olive complexion. I imagine he’s Portuguese. Accent or not, it doesn’t matter. His face is long, unblemished and...perfect. Delicate. Pretty. This was my ideal kind of man before being an out gay man led to years of overexposure to masses of muscle packed tightly into white tank tops.

He wears simple casual clothes, stylish, new. The blue sneakers still have that new-shoe gleam. The dark blue jeans shoe no sign of fading. The black hooded jacket remains zipped up, sagging a bit too much but it looks great on him anyway.

I’m this smitten.

Once or twice a week he comes into the cafĂ© where I write each weekday morning. When he’s not consumed by the newspaper he stares at the screen of his laptop, gazing at stock market graphs. He’s never even glanced my way. That makes me feel more desperate, like a sixteen-year-old in high school, yearning to be noticed, befuddled by what makes others the center of attention while I am forever enshrouded by an invisibility cloak. Magic? No. A freakin’ curse.

I tell myself there’s nothing to be gained from continuing to look. The ooh-la-las don’t lift me as high as they should. The sense of oblivious rejection—not even worth a glimpse—carries a stronger, downward pull. Ah, but so beautiful. My very own Siren.

Perhaps it’s just as well that I don’t register. I know nothing about stocks. I don’t even like The National Post. I can’t make chitchat in the best of times. I doubt I could dazzle him with “Nice that it’s not raining, eh?” (“Tell me all about Portugal” seems too risky.)

He neatly folds his paper and places it in a pocket of his satchel. I don’t know how it’s even possible to fail to see anything around you, but he’s completely in his own world. Maybe it’s a skill you learn when you’re so regularly and aggressively ogled. He gets up, turns and exits. I watch him cross the street as his stride turns to a dash. Off to catch a bus? Or maybe he noticed me after all.

Perhaps it’s better for both of us if I switch to writing at the Starbucks down the street.



  

Monday, October 10, 2016

THEY DO, THEY DO, THEY DO, THEY DO, THEY DO


I know I’m supposed to look away. It does no good to gawk. Certainly doesn’t help the situation. May even make me cringe. But I get sucked in every Sunday. I take a glance. I tell myself it breeds hope, but what I immediately feel is a wee sting and a pang of jealousy.

Another couple getting married and posting the announcement in the New York Times. Two men. A few years ago, when I first spotted one, I felt pride. Sound the wedding bells and a certain ABBA song! Another step forward for the LGBT movement. Affirmation in my favorite newspaper. I was truly happy for the (presumably) happy couple.

But somewhere over time, resentment nudged its way in. These smiling men with Harvard law degrees and PhDs from Berkeley were marrying other guys. Not only were they smartypants, they looked decent and served on boards of noble-sounding charities. Their smiling faces served as a slap across my own, refuting all my whining that there aren’t any good guys out there. (Maybe I just have to move to The Big Apple.)

I always compose myself enough to wish them well. Surely they’re not trying to rub it in that they are Haves and I’m a Have Not. Surely weddings have nothing to do with flaunting. (It’s about new dishes, isn’t it?) How could the rest of us feel anything other than pure joy? Congrats, guys!

And then a few months ago I felt more of a comeuppance when I read the final sentence of Stewart and Paul’s wedding announcement: “The couple met on OkCupid in 2015.” Two weeks later, the last sentence regarding Gregg and Jonathan stated, “The couple met through OkCupid in 2011, and learned that they lived around the corner from each other in Brooklyn.” And just yesterday, regarding Johathan and Matthew (who happen to look an awful lot like Gregg and Jonathan): “The couple met through OkCupid in 2015.”

Hmm. I could draw one of several conclusions. Perhaps OkCupid has found an inventive way to advertise in the oh-so-reputable New York Times. Could Gregg have changed his name to Jonathan and is Jonathan going by Matthew now that he’s shaved his beard? After all, Americans love their conspiracy theories. (Even the backgrounds in the pictures look similar. Same photographer? …Or…same poseurs?!) Perhaps I could be the one to uncover the scam. Maybe it’s incumbent upon me to do so. No other reader would have saved these clippings, ostensibly for some future blog post.

Egad. Is this what happens after a dozen years of being steadfastly single? How jaded and cynical can I be? Will it get worse?!

Even if I were to dismiss these “Ok” success stories, I came across another stop-yer-whining notation in a September blurb regarding Daniel and David: “The couple met in 2012 as members of Front Runners New York, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender running club, and started dating in 2013.”

Perhaps there is an undercurrent of hope in all of this. Finding love may still be possible. Dating sites just might work. By golly, I’m still on OkCupid and, as of today, 210 men apparently “Like” me…though not enough to send a message. (Weirdly, it only takes sixty seconds to scroll through the thumbnail photos before the site tells me, “That’s everyone we could find.”

This morning I messaged the guy with the second highest percentage match—a 92%er! A glance at his profile reveals he’s a bisexual who “might” have sex with his best friend’s partner if he knew the tryst would never be discovered and who would consider cutting a partner if requested during sex. Yes, folks, this is 92%. And suddenly hope feels like false hope…

But there’s Front Runners, too. I officially joined in August. I rarely make Wednesday night runs because I can’t get out of work on time for the 6:30 run, but it’s a new week and I’ll try again. If my future husband isn’t there, at least my belly can get some toning. That’s something. Or maybe that’s false hope, too!








Wednesday, October 5, 2016

...BIRTHDAY TO ME


There are people in cancer remission for whom each birthday is an extra celebration, each Christmas all the more cherished. I’m not sure I’ll ever get the point where Christmas will be pleasant again, but birthdays do have new meaning now. I still don’t celebrate. I don’t answer my phone, I don’t tell people and I cringe over the well wishes that spring from an automated Facebook notification. But I do mark the day—quietly—as an achievement.

One of the reasons I grew to hate my birthday is that it felt so arbitrary. Twelve months pass…so what? (I feel the same about New Year’s.) Maybe there are moments during any given year that are deserving of a special dinner or at least an ice cream cone based on something good I actually did. Those are the times when recognition would be authentic. Going another 365 days? Not so much.

Except now. 365 is an achievement. When I was forty-nine and a half, I was committed to a psych ward. I was suicidal. If I hadn’t been locked up, I’d have totaled my car and, if it went well enough, totaled my body. Game over.

I managed to fake my way out. The immediate crisis was over but living to see another birthday seemed utterly implausible. I tried to be gentle, coaxing myself to hang on for two more years to see if I could turn my life around but I wasn’t invested. I was stunned that I made it to fifty. Life remained bleak, recovery impossible. The only way I survived was through running away on weekends to Seattle, Whistler, Victoria…anywhere that helped distract me from a stagnant, failed existence. It was an expensive coping mechanism but at least it wasn’t destructive like turning to drugs or alcohol. I’m fortunate that I’m not wired that way.

Lo and behold, fifty-one came, too. By then I’d switched psychiatrists after sessions with Dr. 7 became combative. I acquiesced to meds. First one, then a second as well. The lows weren’t quite as long or, well, low. I went off the meds, had a setback, went back on. And now I’m fifty-two. I’ve surpassed my two-year goal. I can’t say I’m happy…that was too lofty an aspiration. But I’m not depressed. I’m stable.

Sessions with Dr. 8 have gone from weekly to monthly, in part because work is too busy at the moment, but the urgency is gone, too. My family doctor no longer insists on regular check-ins. (Has it really been nine months?) And I’ve gone off my meds again. “I’m concerned,” Dr. 8 said during my last session. But it’s Day 27 without and so far so good. I’ve come to accept that I will feel sadness more than others. I no longer fear that I may be hospitalized again. If it happens, I just hope to have the wherewithal to drag myself to a different facility.

So…another birthday. Fifty-fuckin’-two. It’ll come and go without fanfare. I have a thirteen-hour work day and then I’ll hit the gym. Maybe I’ll have ice cream on the weekend. But this birthday seems like an achievement. Each one is a milestone. While I’m far from thriving and as alone (and sometimes lonely) as ever, I get teary realizing how much I’ve fought to last this long. I still don’t feel I’ve made any social inroads and I’m still relying on travel as a way of coping. (I have three weekend escapes planned for this month.) It continues to zero out my bank account but I can go longer without furniture. It’s not like I ever have anyone over. There is a lot of work for me to do to reach a point of being invested again. But I’ve given myself the gift of time. Seems I’m sticking around. It’s not exactly “happy birthday”, but it’s a birthday. And that’s something.