*Disclaimer: All important names and identifying details have been changed to protect the innocent. Namely, myself.
I turned 26 this August and couldn’t help but feel like this was my year.
The first half of my twenties was wrapping up in a most pleasing way. I had cultivated a wonderful group of friends in my adult life. My career was finally taking shape in a way that excited and challenged me. AND for the first time ever I felt confident wearing cut offs and tank tops that summer. After finishing the Insanity Workout and the added acro and parkour training for a show I was in, my body was right.
It was like the world finally saw me as I saw myself. My inner life was always a Janet Jackson video but up until this point I seemed to be broadcasting Tracy Chapman. Finally, I was serving Velvet Rope Realness on a silver platter.
Ugh, Tom can’t stop talking about me!
No one was ready for me at 26.
On the eve of my birthday, I invited some of my closest friends over to bid farewell to a year of great struggle and transition. My plan was simple: drinks at my place (for the last time before I moved), my traditional Funfetti Birthday cake and then out for dancing and general mayhem.
We were all enjoying cocktails and conversation until some one (me) started playing Miley Cyrus on Spotify. “We Can’t Stop” was just released that summer and I was feeling it in a big way. I announced to the room that it would henceforth be my personal anthem for 26 and that I, too, could not be stopped.
One party guest was a man with whom I was having steamy affair. He was in an open relationship and, like so many “other women” before me, I thought that we were starting something real. (Spoiler alert: we weren’t.) In my new, unstoppable mindset, he and I escaped the party for some canoodling in the hallway.
So let’s put all of this together: an engorged feeling of confidence and sexiness, lots of booze, some of the people I loved most in the world, my current and former gentleman callers, and a soundtrack provided by Miley Cyrus. Oh there’s my recipe for Disaster.
You may be reading this thinking, “Tim, this sounds more like a psychotic breakdown and less like personal liberation,” but you’re wrong. If TV and movies have taught us anything, you’re not having a real breakdown unless there is a shot of you cutting your hair in a mirror. And I’ve been rocking the same haircut since then. I was fine.
The truth was, I wasn’t concerned with how I was behaving or what the reaction might have been. I was getting my life in a way I had never done before. I never really had that (stereo)typical reckless youthful queer experience like so many other men I know. I went to college with a limited gay population (I loved my school but it was like being gay in a vacuum where you dated (read: ate at the dining hall) the 15 other gay boys in one semester and then spent the rest of your time playing Mario Party with your best friends.) And shortly after graduating I moved to Philly where the first few months were spent pining over a man from Michigan and then dating the Ex.
So I decided that it was my time to have a little fun on my terms. Thankfully my friends understood.
The party ended and so did 25. The next night, on my actual birthday, the Ex and I went out for birthday drinks with another couple. They missed my party for what looked like the most beautiful lesbian wedding ever. I wasn’t invited but I probably shed as many tears as the guests did looking at Facebook pictures. Again, disaster. But controlled.
We sat outside at the classy (older) gay bar and ordered more martinis than was appropriate for a Sunday. As the liquor kicked in and the laughter erupted, I noticed a cute boy sitting at the table behind me. I didn’t say anything at first. I just kept making excuses to turn around and get a better look.
He had an inviting face and wore boat shoes, that classic J. Crew Summer Catalogue look but maybe in a smaller less sculpted body. He sat across from a femme man with swooping bangs and guy liner (though I may be embellishing that part.) It was a surprising duo. Our chairs were back to back but eventually he turned his chair so that the back was up against the window of the bar. We were sitting perpendicular rendering my glances utterly obvious.
At some point, the memory is fuzzy, we got to talking. He told me his name was Rolf (fake names, remember) and had some career that I found especially desirable. Let’s say he was a world famous Nacho Chef. I invited him to accompany me to the next bar and since it was my birthday he couldn’t possibly resist. He did. Unfortunately, he had to pick up a friend at the airport or something convenient like that. We did however exchange numbers. So maybe all wasn’t lost.
A few weeks went by. I was more or less settled in my new place and that birthday was a fond bleary memory But that ineffable feeling of confidence was ever present, if untapped.
I was sitting at my desk one day and I received a text from some one named “Rolf the German.” Something about this name seemed familiar but I couldn’t quite place it.
“Hey. I hope you’re doing well. How was the rest of your birthday?”
Ah there it was! The cute boy from the next table.
“Hey. It was a great night. Please excuse my silly behavior… it was my birthday after all.”
We chatted via text for a few exchanges.
“By the way, I have you saved as Rolf the German. What’s your last name? This is ruining my contact filing system.”
“Frankenfurter.” Rolf Frankenfurter. German indeed.
There’s something very intoxicating about a text message relationship. It starts innocently enough. You meet some guy at a bar or party and there is at least a mutual attraction. The conversation pleases so you ask for the number in hopes of capturing this moment again later and for longer. (Or better yet, he asks YOU for the number.) From then on, every buzz, every beep from your phone catapults you into a full on frenzy of excitement and nerves that it could be from this once interesting guy. Pins and damn needles.
A day or so went by and I heard from Rolf Frankenfurter again. More flirtatious chit chat. The conversation ended with this:
“I’m going away for a few days. Family emergency. Let’s get together when I get back.”
Finally, my new attitude was reaping fruit! A date with what I sort-of remember as a charming, smart, world famous Nacho Maker was nigh!
Key word: sort-of. Admittedly, my birthday weekend was… well, it was what it was. So I had a picture in my head of Rolf Frankenfurter but was it necessarily accurate?
Only one way to find out!
A few days until our potential date meant plenty of time to find him on Facebook and create a more thorough sketch. We weren’t Facebook friends at that point but I’ve found a lot more on a guy with a lot less.
Perhaps one of my greatest skills is stalking a person using only the Internet and social media. I once had only a guy’s first name and that he “liked comic books” and tracked him down. (Just saying, if you have or will ever date me, a full investigation is in the works.)
That evening, I curled up in my bed with my computer and began the hunt. Surprisingly, little was coming up. He didn’t even seem to have one of those profiles with super high privacy settings. According to FB, Rolf Frankenfurter didn’t exist. This can’t be!
This would require the big guns. Enter, Google. It’s a dangerous game. We don’t necessarily control what comes up about us from a Google search in the way we curate our Facebook persona. I wouldn’t usually search a guy with this vigor but given the circumstances he could have been a giant space spider for all I know. My search would give me a visual thus confirming his attractiveness/non-spacespiderness. (I’ve Googled more than one guy before… not a euphemism.)
Google has this handy function where it starts completing your thought while you’re typing into the search bar. It’s a real time saver when you’re trying to search “Best recipes for… “ and you don’t really have any idea about what you want to make/order for dinner.
So I start typing “Rolf Frankenfurter” into my search bar and below it appeared some suggested search options in this order:
“Rolf Frankenfurter world famous Nacho Maker”
“Rolf Frankenfurter German philosopher”
“Rolf Frankenfurter sex offender”
Oh I’ll just search… wait, come again? The operation shut down. Sex offender? That can’t be him. Not even remotely possible.
He’s a Nacho Maker so let’s search that. OK, some wonderful reviews of his food and even a picture or two. Yes, this was him and he was as cute as I remembered. A bit more frail perhaps. Does he look creepier than I remembered? No, no, Tim, that’s just the “Sex offender” suggestion that’s messing with your head.
But “sex offender” was the third most relevant search option on that list. Now I know Rolf Frankenfurter, handsome J. Crew Model and world famous Nacho Maker who won my heart, was not a sex offender. He couldn’t be. That has to be a coincidence. But I should check….
Rolf Frankenfurter, sex offender. Full case report complete with a mug shot.
I didn’t know what the hell to do. I was lying in bed with my laptop clutching literally all of the pearls. I sprang forth and ran to my new roommate’s bedroom. If any one could make sense of this she could.
My roommate, Stacey, is one of my oldest and dearest friends. She and I have been pals since the first grade when we realized we were the smartest kids in class (we were the best Challenge 24 players.) She has always been a calm collected person with a good head on her shoulders, a perfect foil for some one who tends to let his imagination get the better of him.
Actual page from the biography she wrote about me in 2nd Grade. (My bio of her is lost)
At first, she laughed hysterically because obviously. After we wiped away the tears and composed ourselves she asked all of the right questions. Does it explain the charges? Maybe it’s something understandable. A person caught peeing in public becomes a registered sex offender and I’m sure we have ALL done that before. That doesn’t make one a pervert.
Fortunately (I suppose), all information about sex offenders is made public and with a simple Google search you can find the exact offense, location and date of the transgression and sentence.
I won’t get into the detail but the offense in question was severe. And even though it happened almost a decade ago, I could never justify inviting some one like that into my life.
This made me feel terrible. Was I really going to draw a firm line in the sand and cut off communication because of something a man did almost a decade ago? Hasn’t he payed back his debt to society? What if he’s changed and is better for it? Girl, you must have lost your mind! These aren’t the compromises you need to make before the first date!
Most fitting use of this GIF ever.
The debate went on into the wee hours of the morning.
I decided never to contact him again and for reasons unknown I never heard from him either. I felt uneasy about this whole thing. Partly because on some level I felt guilty holding some one accountable for a mistake they made when they were much younger. But mostly because I came so close to inviting real disaster into my life.
I started 26 feeling absolutely untouchable which was decidedly unlike me. The whirlwind of change and excitement was seductive. I was finally going to live that Queer as Folk lifestyle. But QAF is fiction and the real world can be a scary place with real consequences.
I’ve always kept a good head on my shoulders, allowing myself to take big risks but remaining ever aware of my surroundings. At the end of the day, I have to be me. I’m not that party boy wild child and for my own good reasons. No shade or judgment for those of us who do like to have that kind of fun. I love you and support you.
But maybe Rolf Frankenfurter was an angel sent to me by the universe to say “Hey, girl, you look real cute in those cut offs and tanks and I’m glad you’re feeling good about you, but keep it together. Being a wild child is not the way to Future Husband’s heart.”
I still feel like 26 is my year. But feeling confident and sexy does not mean I need to come in like a Wrecking Ball (SHADE, Miley.) Anyway, I’d much rather be a living depiction of Beyonce’s “Rocket.”