Every so often I have to remind myself about the story of a single gay man who moved to an idyllic setting only to suffer from years of isolation. True story. My story.
Maybe it’s a gay thing. We like pretty things. Why else do gay men continue to post daily shirtless selfies, always drawing hundreds, if not thousands, of likes? The abs haven’t changed overnight. And yet this is the gay version of feeding the needy while getting a little pick-me-up ourselves. Ooh! So pretty.
I know, I know. I should step away from Twitter more. If it’s not pec flaunting, it’s Trump taunting. It’s one of the reasons my all-day hikes—without connectivity—have been so restorative this summer. Which brings me back to my own version of pretty things: mountains and lakes. (A stunning pic I tweeted from yesterday’s hike got two only likes, one from a likely bot.)
I’m in Whistler again. My epicenter for pretty. And, like every time I come here, I’m fighting romanticized notions of moving here.
For some people, Disneyland is their happy place. For others, it’s Vegas. (Went last year. I don’t get it.)
Whistler is pristine perfection. I rarely visit in winter since I don’t have snow tires and accommodations are triple what they are the rest of the year, but I know I’d be thrilled to live here in the snowy season. Snow makes me giggle. Seriously. I’ve never let go of that seven-year-old inner child who relishes the crunching sound of boots marking a new path in a blanket of white. I love to make a snowball in my gloved hand, if only to drop it a few seconds later. (Never had a throwing arm.) I still delight in lying down and making a snow angel—it’s the limit to my ability to create art.
During the rest of the year, Whistler feeds my hunger for all kinds of outdoor activity. There are extraordinarily maintained trails for jogging and biking. The curvy up-and-down Sea-to-Sky Highway is great for road cycling. There are multiple lakes for swimming. Challenging hiking trails lead to soothing waterfalls, glacial lakes and views of snow-capped mountains. Tennis courts in mint condition are set against backdrops that make me feel like I’m at a resort. (Oh, yeah, I am.) On rainy days, there’s a great pool where I go to swim laps and, if I ever crave more variety, I suppose I could have a go at the local axe-throwing establishment. (Yes, axe-throwing is having a moment. I first discovered such a business in Provo, Utah last December. Mormon axe throwers. Maybe it’s good they have that commitment to no caffeine.)
I am well aware that the pedestrian-only core of Whistler Village isn’t really real. No graffiti, no trash, everything Instagrammable. Lots of shops cater to tourists with too much money to drop. (On the way down from yesterday’s hike, I came across a woman starting out too late to reach the summit but she looked content fitting in some forest time while donning a baseball cap with an all-caps CANADA and four or five hearty dips in a glitter bowl. It will wind up on the top shelf in her closet, next to her Mickey Mouse ears.) Still, there are enough quality clothing stores here that I wouldn’t have to make regular shopping trips to Vancouver.
I’m certain the locals have a love-hate sense of all the tourists. All the tourism fuels the economy, but I read reports each year of hard-core partiers causing havoc—The noise! The drunken shenanigans! If only there were a way of screening vehicles twenty miles up the highway.
“What is the purpose of your trip?”
“Drunken madness, sir.”
“Very sorry. You’ll have to turn back. But thank you for thinking of us.”
I like the idea of living in a place that other people visit and admire. Living in Whistler would be vastly different than my hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, a chronically economically depressed blue-collar steel factory city peppered with red-brick buildings long ago coated in soot. How novel to live in a place that instills a tinge of local pride.
I enjoy hearing so many different languages spoken in the Village and hearing someone take my coffee order in a thick Australian accent. (While Israelis are required to serve two years in the military, Aussies must spend at least two seasons snowboarding in Whistler.)
This is a place where I’ve spent plenty of time writing. I used to hang out in the local library when it was just a portable building, before it became a comfy, sleek building with an espresso machine next to the periodical section, amply stocked with an array of outdoor magazines. There’s an annual writing festival each October, one that includes a Friday night “literary cabaret” with jazz artists creating a score to author readings and a Sunday morning lake walk with more authors readings at various scenic stopping points. Yes, even writing is lauded here.
I tell myself I could live like a regular, not just like a frequent tourist. It’s possible. But then it’s also possible it would be déjà-vu all over again. The Sirens lure; tragedy ensues. (Here, the Sirens take the form of cute little whistling woodchuck critters, marmots, upon whom the town is named.)
That’s the curse of being single and gay. At the moment, I have zero urge to date. Gosh, that’s the same sentiment I had fifteen years ago when I moved to another gorgeous, relatively remote setting in British Columbia. (I was coming off a seven-year, abusive relationship. Of course I yearned for Me time.) Last night I did a quick online dating search for gay men within fifty miles of Whistler, no other filters to narrow things down. Two men. That was all. Grim.
The lesson from my last stint in Eden was to consider living in such a setting only if I was already firmly coupled...or firmly done with contemplating coupling. I’m single and satisfied as such. For now. If I could formally commit to a life of being single the way someone else ascribes to a wedding vow, I’d contact a Whistler real estate agent and see if there’s an off-the-grid garden shed in my price range. (Eden’s expensive.) Alas, I can’t risk ruining another happy place.
Turns out Whistler isn’t any better than those gay guys who barrage the internet with shirtless selfies. Pretty, but never mine. Never mind.