Digital Dating 2.2 1/2

With much prodding, I have spent the last few months dating.  Actually dating, or what passes for it in 2014–meeting online.  When was it that all of a sudden, all of us began filing out online profiles, uploading photos, scanning other profiles and rating and judging other photos?

The last few months have honestly been the first time in my life I have properly dated.  Not pined or been played or gone home with some random guy for a random one night stand.  At the same time that it has been fun and inspiring, it has been frustrating and at times, degrading.  Like date number two, which also became date number six (being the second date with that guy, but the sixth date that week).  We initially hit it off.  Great chat, lots of laughter and what seemed to be chemistry.  He found my eyes enchanting.  He even kissed me at the end of that first date, after spending three hours in a sports bar talking about almost everything.  It was the first kiss I’ve had in at least five years, and I was not only into Mr Librarian, but into the idea of more kissing and hours of laughing with an attractive guy.  With our second date, my status as a 32 year old part-time server and writer with no degree turned out to be a real turn off.

Over the next few weeks I had several more experiences like this one, until hitting on what seemed to be the beginning of a real relationship.  For four weeks I had dinners, coffees, hikes and kisses.  It seemed that this guy, tall, professional, outdoorsy, was interested in me in the same way I was in him.  Every time we got together, there seemed to be only more opening of the doors to intimacy and spending more time together.  It appeared to all outside observers that a relationship was taking off.  And then one month to the day after our first date, when I thought we would be having the “let’s make it official, will you be my boyfriend” talk, we met for coffee and good-bye.  After four weeks of perfect getting together, he asked me to take a walk so he could tell me that he wasn’t ready for dating.  His last relationship ended abruptly and badly, and all the time we were spending together was bringing up a lot of emotional distress for him.

And that was that.

There have been a few other dates since then, including three weeks of dating a guy I’ve known for years, that I myself ended out of a lack of romantic interest.  I re-opened an OKCupid! account, which has been given three more days to pan out as having any sort of opportunity.  I am still at a complete loss as to how romance works in the 21st century, especially where queer people are concerned.  We are much less likely to meet at a party thrown by friends, or at work or the grocery store, especially if it’s a town as small as Albuquerque.  I am still encouraged to have some sort of faith that Mr Right is out there.

I don’t think the next three days on OKCupid are going to yield any dates, let alone any boyfriends, and I don’t anticipate any more dates this year.  But I do know that loneliness and boredom have not driven me to any desperate measures, which seem to be the driving motivation for online dating.  I’ve continued to stick to my guns, and own up to the whole of myself–whether in filling out profiles, or meeting guys in person I’ve met online.  My economic future (or present) are precarious, and there is no way in hell I will be returning to school for a degree in Business Administration.  Regardless of whether or not I ever write a best seller, the small, publishing credits I am earning I take pride in, and am encouraged to keep at this more than anything.  Even though the digital dating playground has not been working out for me, I can walk away from it knowing I gave it several tries, and always presenting myself, for better or worse, as myself.

Equal for a Day

Monday, as I wandered about the city running errands, I received a text message from my mother.  “New Mexico passed gay marriage!”  I erupted in laughter, unable to contain the waves of joy.  I lived in San Francisco during that short window before Prop 8 passed, and the experience was the same.  I was equal.  Monday, I was equal.  Yeah, I have no romantic prospects in this backwater, but I am equal.

It turns out that New Mexico did not pass gay marriage.  Three counties here have.  Still, it’s a start.  We are on a tidal wave that is not turning back.  Public opinion on the matter of gay rights has evolved more rapidly than any other issue in our nation’s history.  In the span of less than a decade, we have turned the corner, and forced the nation around us to turn that corner with us.  We have stepped out of the shadows and shame, and presented to our neighbors and families entirely human pictures of who we are.

Equal.  I live in a city where I am equal.  If Mister Right just so happens to be here, we can build a life together…and hopefully move to Santa Fe or Seattle.  Or Providence.  Or just about any other state with the same rights.

I was sitting with a friend who just returned from a year in Italy on Wednesday.  She was saying that right now she doesn’t want to do anything on the weekends except be with her husband.  She then confessed that she tries to mention him too often, because certain friends who are single and lonely become saddened at hearing about her joy.  It intensifies their loneliness.  “I like to hear about your joy, Hope.  It gives me hope that someday I can have that too.”

No Shame, No Guilt, All Courage

I am described by my friends as fearless.  I am glad to now have a Pema Chodron quote about that: We think the brave are fearless, when actually they are quite intimate with fear.  This is true, Pema.  Very true.

I’ve been having one of those strange are we flirting, are we not flirting situations going on for months now.  Yes, it is with the server at my little bistro, which is quickly becoming a den of love-doom.  Like the other five times this has happened, everyone who sees us interact of course encourages me because the attraction is obvious.  The other night I was there as I usually am, accompanied by two attractive young women.  “He hardly looks at us,  You’re the only person he ever sits down next to and chats up.  The only person he does that with ever.”

Buoyed by these revelations, I woke Friday with the pit of despair in my belly.  It was truth day.  This is the end of every one of these flirtatious scenarios.  I’m done with the wondering, it’s time to know.  After work I did my laundry, and when that delightful chore was done, I walked right in there and gave him my number.  This was greeted with a hand slapping, fist bump guy thing.  Is that to let me know he’s straight?  It’s Sunday, and my phone’s not ringing, so I think I can safely say, I have effectively ended my flirty friendship and need to find a new place to hang out.

This has left me with the inevitable inner dialogue to negotiate peace with.  What I have come up with, is I cannot feel shame for these instances any longer, especially since this is as close to a relationship as the universe seems compelled to offer me.  I know what attraction feels like, and I know what platonic friendship feels like, and I know when someone wants to be my friend.  I am lucky to have a charismatic personality, and have always been rich in friends, but this was not a straight man drawn to my charm.  Straight men just don’t do that; they just don’t spend time sitting down chatting up attractive, eligible gay men.  

Who knows where this will go.  Maybe he’s busy this weekend, and just couldn’t call, but he is actually gay or bi or curious, and he will call later in the week.  No matter what, I will carry no guilt or self-loathing over this.  I man up every time and make my feelings known, which not an easy thing to do.  It’s terrifying, but I can own my feelings and be honest about them.  It’s time for guys who are flirting with, attracted to and chatting up guys like us to grow some goddamn balls.  Own your feelings, men or forever be boys.

Maybe there is some thrill in these homoerotic attractions.  Maybe there’s an element of ego feeding, having this person you can string along and because of the same gender nature of the situation, you can do so without having the threat of being handed a number or asked out as quickly if it was happening with a lady.  Maybe it’s shame or fear of what that mean.  Would they have to come out?  Would they have to choose a label?  Would they now be subject to discrimination and fear and violence?  

Whatever the situation, I can always say that I have been intimate with the fear of how this will all turn out, and I always have the courage to find out.

No More Blind Dates, I Swear!

Every year I swear no more blind dates, and invariably find myself on one.  There’s something about being harangued and accused of being a coward that tends to wear me down.  This year, however, I have (so far) stuck to that resolve.  It’s not that I am shy about blind dates, it’s that experience has taught me to steer clear.

The last blind date I went on, I sat around for an hour before realizing I had been stood up (again).  The one the night before that was a disaster from the word go.  I showed up at our appointed meeting place, scanned the not too crowded bistro, and not seeing my date (we had been shown each other’s picture) went to the bar to order a drink.  After standing in line for two minutes someone calls my name.  He had been sitting and watching me for several minutes (creep factor).  Strike two: he looked nothing like his picture.  Somewhere between a walk in the woods and showing up on Harvard Street, he had put on thirty pounds.

For the next hour I had two conversations going; one with this guy and one with the crazy person who lives in my head.  “How are you getting out of this?  Just get up and walk out?  There are no windows in the bathroom and no back door in the kitchen.  You’re screwed!  Screwed, you hear me?  He’s never gonna shut up and you’re not doing a very good job at seeming interested in the conversation and you’re starting to get snarky.  Just because you don’t find a single word he’s saying interesting doesn’t mean you can forget your manners.”

The blind date before that was much the same.  We even met at the same place, though when this date showed up 20 minutes late, with a tank top tucked in sweat pants and dress casual shoes on, he informed me he didn’t drink.  This will be known as strike one.  Actually, two–no three.  Showing up late: strike one.  Wearing Wal Mart attire: strike two.  Not having a drink: strike three.  I know what a crash landing is, but what do you call it when you crash and burn on take off?

Over a grueling cup of coffee (the coffee was great, I love coffee) I had to restrain myself from getting up and walking off.  I am a person who makes eye contact in conversation, and when someone you’ve never met won’t take off sunglasses that completely conceal where their eyes are, it not only creeps me out, I have trouble staying focused on the conversation.  To remedy the dull topics being discussed and lack of eye contact, I spent much of the hour making eyes with a very cute guy sitting behind him, who had he not left before I did, I would have gone and spoken to following the end of my miserable coffee date.

In both cases, there was no follow up date.  I in fact at parting I just shook hands and walked off.  I may have said “nice to meet you” as I am habitually polite, but did not respond to the “let’s stay in touch” suggestions.

I know straight people have a hard time matching up us mo’s, but when your lesbian friends can’t be counted on, then there is simply no hope for the blind date.  None.

Signs of Change

Something strange has been happening recently.  Family members have begun asking me about my experiences growing up, coming out, and coming of age  I come from one of those “keep it to yourself” quiet Irish-Norwegian families.  You know, the family where you can laugh and whoop it up, but your tears and any pain you feel (other than when a limb is cut off) is to be dealt with when you’re alone.  That being said, you can see why it is a curious development that my sisters (not parents or brother) are asking these questions, and asking them with a sincere desire to understand.

My sisters are both younger than I; one by two and a half years, one by four and a half.  We are all now in our late twenties to early thirties, and are evolving within our relationships.  It has already been a thrill to develop our closeness in those early years of coming of age, after leaving home and establishing our independence.  Because we grew up in such a strict home, I think we did push a lot of envelopes, and made up for the rigidity with a lot beer pong and blunts.  Reaching a place where we are no longer in open rebellion, we are finally reflecting on childhood with the perspective that only retrospect can give.

Today I was listening to an interview with Dan Savage, and he said that the one thing that all queer people have in common is that we have to come out.  I believe he called it something like our hero’s challenge, or hero maker.  And that’s quite true.  It struck me in reflecting on his words that I have never told my coming out story to anyone (and I am not going to do it here).  Having never told this story, and having never had straight people inquire into my experience as a gay man, I am often put for words when trying to share some glimpse of what that experience has been.

It is only over the last two years that my mother has stopped insisting that I am in fact not gay, but bisexual, and  no longer refers to my sexual orientation as, “the gay thing”.  It is only in the last two years, over a decade since coming out not only as gay, but as a buddhist political leftist, that my parents are not afraid of my religion or sexual orientation (they are still terrified by my politics).  If you are from the Great Plains, you will realize how big a pill that was to swallow for a man and woman who still have their “Bush for President ’04” bumper-stickers on their cars…and these cars were bought in 2008.  How, in their very Christian, very conservative home did they produce a vegetarian-buddhist-gay-leftist?!  

Last week I spent the holiday weekend with my family in Nebraska.  My last night there, my sisters and I ended up doing some minor bar hopping in Lincoln, where these questions came up again.  One sister is still upset that I cannot call our step-father dad, and thinks that it is now, as it was in my childhood, my responsibility to nurture our relationship and allow him his prejudices and nasty temper.  I kindly, and very firmly explained that that ship has sailed, that we have come to a certain peace, but will never have understanding and I am fine in having that peace.  I shouldered the responsibility of being the adult for adults who wouldn’t take it for a long, long time.  I now take responsibility for no one’s actions but my own, and nurture my own happiness very carefully.  

I offer these small happenings in my life as part of the evidence of how rapidly things have changed in our culture.  Ten years ago, the country was solidly against marriage equality, and distinctly against hate crimes laws, and equal protection from discrimination.  In a decade we have seen the decriminalization of sodomy, the adoption of marriage equality in twelve states and Washington DC, the explosion of the Ellen Show, the wild popularity of It Gets Better, and a dramatic shift in public opinion.  If the majority of rank and file Republicans now say equality is inevitable, and must now debate within their party if homophobia has a continued place as a plank in the party platform, things have truly changed.  

We often don’t give ourselves credit for our achievements (by we, I mean activists on the progressive side of things).  It is our victories that give us the strength and enthusiasm to carry on when the going gets tough.  It is easy to burn out when your struggle takes decades instead of a few years or even months.  The length of our struggle goes back many decades, and it has lost a lot of battles, but the tides have turned, my friends.  From here, from this grand place we witness today cannot be taken away, it can only be augmented, made more solid, and with time, made as sacred as any other right earned the hard way.

Beating a Very Dead, Very Gay Horse

With the recent SCOTUS mini-steps (and they are mini) on marriage equality, the inevitable Republican response is…well…inevitable. I know we all have our hopes that the GOP will just let the issue drop, but that’s a pie in the sky that we will never witness.

Yesterday as the announcements were coming out, the backlash started with Justice Scalia. His dissent wasn’t even written in the language of law, it was written in the language of a bigot who’s discrimnatory dreams didn’t come true . Instead of talking about how this was actually not a just interpretation of Constitutional Law, he was railing against homosexuals, and our evil homosexuality. He actually whined (though his language is more in the vain of screaming) about how decriminalizing homosexual sodomy ten years ago was the beginning of equality, and he knew it, he just knew this terrible day would come, when fags would be making small steps towards full equality.

The very same day, some Republican douche bag in Congress (I am at a bistro with no wifi, so I can’t find his name…I believe it’s something like Gomert) vowed to introduce a Federal Marriage Amendment into Congress this week!! Rush Limbaugh is vowing to marry his chair or some nonsense, and Pat Robertson is looking for gay staffers in the offices of the Justice Kennedy to prove there is en evil gay bias afoot in the Supreme Court. And God bless Michelle Bachmann who’s just concerned for the children…and now that we have recognized gay marriage in the states where it’s legal, like her home state Minnesota, her husband may close his pray-away-the-gay clinic and marry one of his clients.

A number of neo-cons are calling this a victory for the anti-equality movement. They are comparing it to the passing of Roe v. Wade, saying, “look how energized we have been since that case. We still haven’t let the issue drop.” That’s true, they haven’t. However, even the rank and file Republicans, and many in the party have conceded that full marriage equality is going to happen, it’s just a matter of when.

I have no doubts these people won’t let the issue drop. It’s not because they are actually coming from a place of genuine moral outrage, they are just running out of internal enemies. The world is not scared of feminists any longer; we got through desegregation decades ago; they have lost the last two presidential elections, and with the most recent, a number of seats in Congress, and anti-marriage equality measures on every ballot on which they appeared. The outmoded fear of Socialists and all things foreign is just not a wedge issue any longer. Eighty percent of people under 30 believe marriage equality should be the law of the land.

To that I say, “HA!” Being of the millenial generation, I know that a lot of things are inevitable, marriage equality among them. I also know that real action on climate change is going to happen, one way or another, and that there will be a reclaiming of our country’s ailing democratic safe guards.

Yesterday was not as historic a step as is being bandied about–they only struck down one section of DOMA, and kicked Prop 8 out, they didn’t rule on it. So, we still have a long battle facing us. These crazies are not going to let the issue go; they have to hate someone, so gays, immigrants, arabs and muslims and women, we’re all lumped into one category: the enemy, which can be called: smoke-screen. There will be attacks on us personally, physically and against the legal victories we’ve scored. Let us just remember, my evil, hurricane causing, dog fucking, pedophilic brothers and sisters, they are victories and they are ours.

Revolutions Start at the Table

Last night was very much a repeat of the preceding Saturday night, except that it involved gin and tonics and champagne martinis instead of red wine.  There was more than booze and the great food we made ourselves: we end our evenings with writing exercises, and once we are too far gone for writing, conversations that last long after we should be tottering our drunk asses to bed.

The conversations ranged from the ridiculous to the profound.  At some point I relayed something I had read years ago, in the liner notes of an album put out by the band, the Butchies.  They were a queercore punk band out of Durham, North Carolina, and all three members were lesbian.  (Side note: their debut album is brilliantly entitled, “Are We Not Femme?”)  In the liner notes I’m referring to, they made the bold statement that every time we come out, every time we hold hands or kiss in public, it is tantamount to an act of rebellion.  I’ll say that again: coming out and being openly queer is an act of rebellion.

This came to mind last night, following a long day, indeed a year of revelations similar to this one.  I started, after my birthday in October to challenge myself to a different sort of relationship not only with myself, but my self in the world around me; I was redefining my acts of rebellion.

I am one of those people who, since birth, stands out.  I look different.  That’s the only way to describe it.  I just look different.  Over several decades of constantly being watched in public, stared at, gawked at, and assaulted, I had built myself a very large, very dense shell.  I have gone through my life trying to be as invisible as possible, to walk as fast as possible, and just get where I was going with few interruptions…and hopefully no catcalls or reminders from passersby that I am, quite obviously, a fag.  After this last birthday, that habit is on the chopping block.

I have always worn the clothes that make me comfortable and show off the goods nicely.  I am adding to that showing off the goods nicely habit, and not infringing on myself for wearing shirts the way I wore the one I did yesterday (which involved a buttons down, a a tying technique, and one button).   Thusly prepared, said button down catches on the breeze, floats out and reveals these abs I work so hard for.  In my opinion, there is a sad lack of fitness in America these days, and maybe people just need some first hand inspiration to get up, work out, and make a goddamn salad.  I am comfortable this way, and if a straight man with two spare tires can walk around shirtless, wearing athletic shorts, and white tube socks jammed into sandals, then I can safely say, this is much less offensive.

Second habit on the chopping block: self judgment.  There is no mirror any longer that can tell me the things mirrors have always told me.  Well, let’s face it, the mirror has never told me anything, I have spoken for the mirror with my own criticism.  I have looked myself over, saying things so terrible I wouldn’t say them George W. Bush.  I am finding, at least once a day, something beautiful to acknowledge.  I have detractors and assholes saying horrible things to me without seeking them out; I will not bring the ugliness of the outside world into my home, into my bathroom mirror, where I must confront the rest of my life already.  The medicine is now a shrine, not my vanity, but my appreciation for a great many blessings I am fortunate to have received.  Let the haters drag nasty names with them to the mirror in the morning.   This is my revolution: as we approach Independence Day, I renew these vows made between myself and I.  I acknowledge the grace to have been born of a good gene pool, and I will not wear armor down the streets any longer–it keeps my shirt from floating up in the wind.

I’ve heard it a million times, and I’ve said it more than that: if you can’t love yourself, how can anyone else?  That axiom is finally starting to sink in.

The Injustice of Being a Singleton

“I really don’t want to hear about happy gay couples right now.”  Yup, I said it.  More specifically, I said it to my sister over Memorial Day weekend.  She had come down to visit, her new husband and three month old son in tow.  She was talking to me about her best friend Jason, who  is getting married to his boyfriend in about a month.  It’s not that I can’t rejoice for them, it’s that I can’t rejoice for anyone enjoying romantic happiness at the moment.  This is a strange and new characteristic, and I am uncertain as to when it began happening, but it shows no signs of abating right now.

A certain amount of this ennui is the fact that I am constantly aiding straight people through messy breakups, hookups, rebounds, flings and affairs.  I am a bit exhausted with other people’s love lives, and would enjoy the opportunity to become lost in my own.  Last summer I had to tell a neighbor, “I can’t help you straight people out with this shit anymore.  You’ve hooked up and broken up with four men in the three months you’ve been my neighbor, while I can’t get a date in this town and my right to marry someday is under constant attack.  Take your goddamn love troubles elsewhere.”  No, not exactly tactful or thoughtful, but I have not been bothered by her love issues since.  It is only one less person not crying on my shoulder, but that makes a lot of room for the few people who I will never say that to.

Among this select group of friends, my status as a Singleton is a running punchline.  It only moderately stings sometimes to be that guy who has gone through most of his adult life hearing straight women say things like, “If you’re not married by 30 (now 40), we’re getting married”, or “I should just kick my dead beat boyfriend out and bring you home.  You could cook for me every night!”  It’s not that a lot of these dames aren’t fantastically fun, it’s only that I would like to hear people hoping for something better for me.  I would appreciate hearing more often how great a partner I will make someone some day soon, or how much the lucky man is going to love the way I cook.

Well, I don’t get those hopeful wishes for me, so I am trying to do it myself.  It’s not easy to be your own cheerleader through life, and I am a bit on the tired side and not really up to coming up with a whole new set of cheers, but dammit, I’m worth it!  Someday soon a very lucky guy is going to me very happy, and I am going to make him the most amazing poisson-provencal a man could get anywhere outside of Provence.  If the way to a man’s heart is his stomach, my curries will convince him that he has had his last first kiss, and this is the guy who will be his one and only from now on.