Queer Experience

On vulnerability…

I’ve been feeling vulnerable recently. I mean, we all have.  The recent gay bashing sent a shiver of fear down all of our spines. Violence towards a member of the LGBT community is not something new. Over the years, we’ve all received emails from the HRC or have seen posts on Facebook or the NYTimes about some one gay or trans being victimized by some ignorant straight person in one town or another.   But they have always felt removed to me. In the 5 years I’ve spent living in Philly, I can’t recall anything being so brutal, the reaction so public or hitting so literally close to home.

This attack, which rendered a couple battered and bruised at the mercy of a drunk group of 15, has been a cruel reminder that even though our beautiful gay community is so close knit and strong and this city seems to embrace us with open arms, still we are endangered.  Sometimes I forget that.

On top of all of this, my car was broken into on Wednesday.   I had a particularly rough day at work; one of those days wherein everything I did was wrong. Being the perfectionist I am, you might understand why I felt particularly frustrated with myself. After work, I forced myself to the gym despite my despondency.  30 minutes in, I was spent. I left deciding to treat myself to something lovely for dinner and a six-pack (because grocery stores sell beer now and it’s amazing.)

I got in my car, put on my seatbelt and that’s when I noticed the shattered glass on the seat next to me. I let out a “What the fuck!!” before noticing my backpack, which had in it my wallet, phone charger and various work materials, had been nabbed. Without screaming, crying, panicking or freezing, I got out my phone, dialed 911, reported the crime and my location, then called the bank, cancelled my credit cards. I, then, informed my coworkers of my situation alerting them that they must cancel my company card.

I did all of this while remaining steady and focused.

In the half hour I had to wait for the police, I congratulated myself for handling everything so calmly.  How adult of me. The cops arrived, I gave them the necessary information and waited (and waited) for them to fill out whatever paper work they needed.

Still calm. But eventually the breath gets heavy and the chest feels tight. The realization that I have been violated hits. I maintain my cool even though I start thinking about what needs to be replaced, how much a new window will cost, that the mechanics are closing and it’s going to rain tonight and these damn cops are chatting and smoking a cigar (no exaggeration) when they could be chasing this criminal!

But the thing is, I know the rules. Losing my temper and displacing my anger does not make the situation better. Suppressing keeps me safe, right?

I started thinking about the couple, those victims. So the story goes, the drunk assholes called the couple “dirty faggots” and other harassing terms. And they yelled back. My friends and I debated this action recently.

All of us had been there. Had been walking around holding the hand of a boyfriend or displaying our gay in some other way when a person of group gave us a look or shouted from a car or did something vile to let us know that they hate us for being who we are and either verbally or physically wanted to destroy us.

For the most part we all agreed on the appropriate response: You shut the hell up and move along. Don’t yell back. Don’t even make eye contact. Because if you engage then it’s going to escalate.  (For the record: I get why those boys defended themselves because no one needs to be harassed walking home.  They had every right to tell those assholes off and NO ONE should be attacked for that.)  But we all learn that the safest move is to ignore, ignore, ignore.

So there I was: standing next to my car, furious that my shit was stolen and outraged that the police were taking their sweet time to dismiss me and catch this perpetrator. (Didn’t they hear me when I said my boss was told by the credit card company the perp made a purchase at 7-11? Why weren’t the on the way immediately!?) But I kept it all in because yelling at the cops or chasing the perp myself would only make this worse.

IMG_3308Instead, I posted this picture of my car on Instagram and Facebook. I typically only use my social media to post funny non-sequiturs, news stories I feel passionate about or Beyonce. Shitty things that happen to me are kept away from the FacePlace because when I’m upset I tend to want to be left alone. But I figured the condolences or likes might lift my mood. They really did. Knowing I have a community of people who not only felt badly for me but are willing to help me out meant more to me than I even knew.

Like the “I’m sorry” comments left for my broken-into car, seeing so many friends, gay and straight alike, posting about the gay bashings was another warm reminder that people in the world do care. Not everyone is as despicable as the “La Viola 15” (a name I’ve now coined so please credit me, all media outlets.)

Sometimes pain and tragedy teach us valuable lessons or show us what we need to fix. We are all now fervent that Pennsylvania must include sexuality in its hate crime laws. I know now that I must hide my belongings in my trunk when I go to the gym. Change is in the works.

The day after the incident, I went back to the gym, admittedly, with some trepidation. After talking it over with my mom she reminded me that if a criminal can’t see anything worth stealing, they won’t break into my car again. So I went.

I stopped at the front counter just to tell the employees what happened. They apologized profusely, which was sweet since it wasn’t their fault. They also told me they noticed some guy suspiciously riding his bike around the parking lot, looking into car windows right around that time of the break-in… probably the criminal. Hopefully next time they see something suspicious they’ll deal with it before any one else is robbed.

I got on the elliptical, still feeling uneasy and eager to finish up quickly so I could return to my car before another incident or, worse, return home to ensure that that wasn’t burgled too now that the criminal had my license and address. But I breathed and was proud of myself for being there.

As I got my cardio on, I was listening to my gym playlist, sinking into fitness mode and glancing once in awhile at the various  TVs broadcasting the evening news. Eventually, I noticed one of the stations talking about Brian Sims and the rest of gay Philly at Thursday afternoon’s rally. It was a wonderful sight, seeing our community stand together to demonstrate that we deserve equal protection.

And just then, I caught the guy two ellipticals away from me scoff. I took my headphones out and tried to surreptitiously listen to his mumbled rant when I caught this:

 “We’re still talking about this? Who gives a fuck? Get over yourselves!”

It was like some one ripped the air right out of my lungs. My eyes began to water and I wanted to just stop moving and collapse into a lifeless puddle of tears and fear. Like the slight pinch of pain I felt when my finger caught the tiny shard of glass left behind on my passenger seat, I was brutally reminded that I am still not safe. We are not safe.

Hiding my bag will not totally prevent future burglaries just as including sexuality into hate crime laws will not stop violence. If laws could prevent this, then no one would ever be robbed and white men wouldn’t kill black children claiming self defense and no one would ever be raped or abused.

Our problem isn’t legal; it’s ideological. We can pass laws until we are buried in rules and regulations, but when we still live in a society that teaches us to celebrate certain traits in people (straightness, whiteness, maleness, wealth) and devalue and denigrate others (gayness, anything not white, womanhood, poverty, etc) maintaining dominance will always lead to violence. And we learn this from childhood. (I shudder when I think that Kathryn Knott, one of the attackers, was allegedly raise by a police officer, some one we entrust to uphold these laws.)

Sure, we cognitively know that racism and homophobia are wrong. But even in this “progressive” or “post-racial” society, I still hear of my own students sitting alone at lunch because they are bullied.  Somehow our knowledge is not guiding our actions.

I do not profess to know the answer to these large sweeping problems. But it seems to me that passing a law teaches us that we shouldn’t commit a crime because of the punishment NOT because it is inherently wrong and every life is valuable and should be cherished.

I know now that hiding my belongings might prevent future burglaries. And witnessing my beautiful community come together to fight for a common cause fills me with a love and pride I can’t seem to find the words to express. But I don’t feel safe.

And yet…

 

And yet, I’m going to continue to be out and open. I’m going to sashay when the music and spirit moves me. I’m going to hold the hand of a man who is lucky enough to be the object of my affection and kiss him hard on the street because I can’t help myself.

We all will. Because, no matter the act of violence, we won’t hide. We won’t disappear.

 

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

-Nelson Mandela

Let Freedom Ring

It’s been one year since the break up, since the Ex and I took a long hard look at one another and bravely admitted that our relationship no longer worked.  We spent an uncomfortable month living in the same apartment, sharing a bed and too many drinks in this weird nebulous state of obliged dYouve-Got-Mail-dont-cry-shopgirletached attachment. And then we were free.

I walked away bursting with a restored sense of romance and energy that months stuck in a failing relationship dampened.  As we all know by now, I fully expected that it was only a matter of time until I met Future Husband during a meet-cute scene that would make Meg Ryan herself wish she were lucky enough to experience love like that.

Well, I’m not any closer to that vineyard wedding and the matching set of his and his Subarus than I was a year ago.  I’m still as single as a slice of Kraft.  But the thing is, I kinda love it.  Like a lot.  Which is utterly shocking. This whole year of freedom has illuminated things about myself I never was able to see before, good and bad.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the person I was when I met the Ex. I moved to Philly shortly I graduating college having no job, no real plan and my friend group was basically my roommates.   I was utterly incomplete.  So in that emptiness, I was grasping at anything that would fill me.  (Insert dirty sex joke here.)

Enter the Ex.  He knew the city, had lovely friends, a killer job and for what it’s worth, always paid for dinner.  Those first few months were intoxicating because I finally found something that made me feel special.

And no it wasn’t just the emptiness that he filled.  All of my life, I had placed romantic love on top of my list of priorities even when I didn’t have it.  Maybe you’ve picked up on this by now, but I can be intense.  I bring a certain “all or nothing” energy that screams, “Because I’m interested, I will be single-mindedly focused on you.  Whatever you need, potential suitor, I’ll give.  Call me Effie White, because you’re gonna love me.”

The Ex was the first guy ever (and maybe ever again) to effortlessly pick up the intensity I was putting down. So our relationship took off quicker than it probably should have and we reached milestones a bit premature and we moved in before we were actually ready to. But damnit it was love and it was mine.

As time went on, I eventually found a job that was greater than anything I could have imagined and developed friendships that meant more to me than any relationship I’ve ever had. By the end, I didn’t need him any more and I’m not sure he ever needed me.

On Fourth of July weekend, 2013, I declared my independence.  (For the record: it was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done.)

titanicSince then I’ve maintained a healthy dating life. Much of which has been captured on this blog (and much of which will stay with me because if Titanic taught us anything, it’s that a woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets.)  Some guys were great, some god-awful.  Through it I’ve made new close friends and sworn enemies.  It’s all been like a wonderfully tawdry season of 90’s Melrose Place.  And like a smutty evening network drama, I was obsessed.

When I’m elderly and my grandchildren have gathered around and I force them to look through my old photo albums or whatever Facebook has created for the purposes of chronicling our every move, I’ll be amazed by what I have accomplished this year.  I’m not one to brag, but from July 2013- July 2014 I killed it all day every day. In this year, I have blossomed into the person I always hoped I would be.

But, and this pains me to admit, as a byproduct of my obsession, there was never a moment, even through all the successes and victories, that I wasn’t on some level lamenting some boy or lack thereof.  And that sucks a big bag of dicks.

I’ve treated Love this year like I was that same scared 22 year old with nothing else going for him.  I’d go on a few dates with a boy and suddenly I couldn’t think about anything else.  I’d check my phone incessantly, post on Facebook desperately hoping to score a like, and would be trying to schedule the next date before we even had the main course.  Love was distracting me from the abounding joy. Every time it invariably didn’t work out, it crushed me.

All of this led me to one shocking conclusion: Love, romantic love, has never made me happy.  The rare moments of happiness I have experienced were simply punctuation marks in an endless Dickens-esque run-on sentence of anxious misery.  It was the worst of times, it was the shittiest of times and once in awhile it was a’ight.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve not turned into not some cynic certain that Love is pile of rotten garbage.  Obviously not.  I’m still the same hopeful romantic who believes Love is the greatest thing humans can express and share.  I’m literally listening to my favorite Love Song playlist as I write this.

But I was explaining this to my dear friend the other day and he aptly pointed out that it’s an important moment when we realize we have all the love we need.  I’m very fortunate in that way.  I am surrounded by so many people whom I love and love me back that sometimes I don’t know what to do with all of the feelings.

My skewed priorities insisted though that in order to really feel whole I needed some man to fill this specific role. Despite all the truly wonderful things I had, I still felt like I was missing something important.  I consistently clawed  and scraped at any chance to find Love, focusing so much of my attention on it as if knowing one person loving me in a romantically inclined way proved unequivocally my worth or value or whatever thing I hoped it would do.

scandalI’m no longer at the point in my life where I’m a naïve lost little boy looking for some one to hold his hand and guide him through the world.  I’m a grown ass self possessed man with literally everything to offer (except riches#artistlife.)  I’ve learned only recently that I don’t need to surrender all of my goodies for the first pair of cute eyes who gives me a sweet look. Today I’m Scandal‘s Olivia Pope and Love is Fitz trying to get back with me whenever it’s convenient but I’m walking up to the White House looking incredible shouting back, “If you want me, earn me,” loud enough to ensure the secret service agent in the hall way heard it so I know it’s recorded forever on a formal government document.

A year later and I am making another declaration of personal independence.  For I see now that being single I am complete.  No longer will I bend my desires or compromise myself for the sake of any silly boy.  Farewell to the tyranny of romantic Love.  God Bless America.

And so I leave you with this:  When you’re ready for me Future Husband, when you think you’re worthy, I’ll be here having a wonderful time eager to see how you’re going to contribute and share in my joy.  You still have my number.

The (previously) unwritten rules of Online Dating.

I’m forever in an on-again, off-again relationship with Online Dating.  I’ll go from hopelessly relying on it to absolutely despising its presence in my life.  We’re like Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling in The Notebook: we fight, we do the dirty in an old home he wants to buy, I go away to college/be a nurse during WWII and my mother hides the letters he writes me and in the end I leave James Marsden for my OkCupid account.  Eventually I’ll be put in a home while I read old correspondences from past suitors.

A few weeks ago I was catching up with a friend over coffee so obviously my dating melancholy was brought up.  He gave me an inspiring little pep talk wherein he reminded me that I’m a  great guy and I don’t need those apps to find love.  Real love will show up when the timing is right and it will be amazing.

After I woke up from my romance coma, I marched home with a new found zeal and shut them all down.

sister act 2

I was home alone eating a peanut butter sandwich in my pajamas on a Friday night a few weeks later when it suddenly dawned on me: What the hell does he know?! He’s beautiful, kind, smart, artistic, bearded for the gods and always in relationships with outrageously attractive men.  His advice may have given me the vapors but this realization woke me up like an old peddler’s smelling salts (Yes, I did just take you to Oklahoma!)

So here we are. Online Dating 2: Back in the Habit.

For those of you who read this, you’ll recall I’ve been painfully unlucky with Online Dating (Revisit my worst encounter here.)  This time however, I’m changing the game.  During my first foray, I faced so much nonsense that I have taken it upon myself to lay down some ground rules.  No longer will OkCupid Dating (OCD) be the wretched affair of the past.  No more will I feel digitally molested by the predators on Grindr and Scruff. No more shall I face the tyranny of the Hot or Not rulings of Tinder!

If all of us abide, we’ll survive the Online Dating Battlegrounds with our faith in humanity in tact.

1) Make sure all photographs look like you.

lafou

I once met a guy for an OCD and when he arrived he was at least 6 inches shorter and 50 pounds heavier than his pictures lead me to believe.  Looking back on the photos, I was able to understand where I might have been lead astray. I’m pretty sure the camera was on the floor for each shot and his clothes were awfully baggy.

Everyone is entitled to present themselves in the best way they possible can.  However, honest representation will spare your potential suitors from politely trying to hide their shock and disappointment when LaFou arrives when you thought you were meeting Gaston.

2) Always begin with a greeting.

This goes for all dating applications.  Especially Grindr and Scruff.  I’m not opposed to receiving nudey pics but nothing makes me feel more repulsed or violated as when I see I have a message in my inbox only to find an unexpected picture of a dick.

Even if your penis is made of gold and sculpted by the Zeus himself, I will see all surprise dick pics as if it were a mushy brown banana resting on two overripe avocados.

Always start at least with a “Hello,” then you may follow up with, “Can I interest you in a picture of my penis?”  It’s called consent, people!

3) Do not shame yourself for being on any Online Dating sites.

“I don’t usually do these things,” or “I thought I would give this a try,” or “These are so cheesy” communicates one of two things.  1) You’re really embarrassed of being here and admitting you’re lonely.  Or 2) You think you’re too good for this website.

Let me help you out: Nope.  Both are wrong.  You’re just like the rest of us losers.  Embrace it.

4) Do not try to tease out personal details you might learn over the course of several dates before actually meeting in person.

Online dating accounts are simply devised to make a first impression.  If you find some one attractive and had a few witty or pleasing exchanges, be bold and ask them out for drinks or coffee.

Asking personal and invasive questions through Grindr chat or OkCupid messaging tells me you’re trying to figure out if I’m worthy of spending $2 on a cup of coffee and an hour getting to know me better.  It is not flattering.

Also, so much typing!

5) Take your opportunity to sing your own praises. 

How often do any of us get a platform upon which to stand and proclaim we are the best human beings on the planet and everyone should want to date you?  (Ok, so I do that often.)flawless

Being withholding may cause you to think you’re coming off as modest and demure (which is a persona I regularly use at the bars.)  But more often than not, I interpret it as a lack of confidence and pride.  And honey, I’m a Leo.

6) Do not transition your digital relationship to other social media platforms until given explicit permission.

I always try to find the guys I chat with on OkCupid on Facebook.  Tinder basically does it for you.  BUT you will always come off creepy if you try to friend them before you at least exchange last names.  There is no way to make “Well, you told me your first name and what you do for a living and where you went to school so it was easy to find you using Facebook search filters,” sound sexy.  Trust me.

Addendum: If you publicly link your dating page to any of your other social media accounts, you have thereby invited any one to stalk your life and revoked your rights to complain about consequent stalking.  And fellow stalkers, yes, go ahead, but be careful not to be that stranger liking your crushes every photo on Instagram.

7) Take responsibility for what you say.

blanch eyeI wrote a post a few weeks ago about a white gay man who tried to argue it’s not racist that his Grindr tag reads, “Whites for White only.”  (Read here.)  I also recently talked to some one who made a Nazi joke on our third exchange.  And neither of these boys seem to think what they said was a problem.

Possess a higher level of awareness that some jokes or statements might offend an absolute stranger.  If you catch yourself thinking, “I wonder if this is going too far,” then you probably shouldn’t say it.

8) Exercise fiscal responsibility.

Dating is super expensive.  Dinner at any moderately priced restaurant is probably going to run you $30 a person these days.  (This is assuming you have any amount of alcohol, which I highly recommend for all first dates.)

Those of us who work in the non-profit sector (me) or in the arts (also me) may not be able to budget 10 dinner dates a month (HA! Oh, that I had 10 offers a month… moving on.) A coffee shop will always be an ideal location for your first meet-up; low key, inexpensive, and, if you actually like the person, you’ll be revved up from the caffeine that maybe you’ll want to prolong the date into a meal or jaunty walk through the park.

Addendum:  I will go anywhere you want if you promise to pay for everything.

9) At least acknowledge that some one contacted you.

I’m typically all for returning the greeting in most cases.  I mean, what could it hurt?  And if the interest isn’t there then the conversation will fade organically.

However, if you do not wish to even start the conversation, please politely visit my profile so that I may know you at least saw it and have chosen to ignore me.  (This works in cases when the service allows you to see who has viewed your account.)

fassbender

Currently, I am waiting on a reply from a man who I’ve already convinced myself that I could fall in love with forever and ever.  I messaged him a week ago and he hasn’t so much as viewed my profile, which has caused me to obsess over how I may go about nudging him for a response.  And then I wonder if he selected that option where people can’t see you’ve looked at their profile, thus denying you the ability to see who checked you out.  And if that’s the case then I can read over his as many times as I want, right?

Heaven, help me.

10) Check your account daily.

I understand that an online dating profile may not be any one’s number one priority.  Reasonably speaking, it should probably be some where in the double digits on your daily list of things to do.

However, there is absolutely no reason you can’t open your account and see if any handsome Future Husbands have been trying to get a hold of you.  Lord knows, we all squeeze in a moment to check all the other social mediums.  Add this one to your list ESPECIALLY if you have already been in conversation with some one else.

11) The people you talk to are strangers.  Treat them accordingly.

I’m generally a friendly person and will strike up a conversation with any one who seems willing.  But I’m a reasonable human.  If some one isn’t interested in hearing about my relational woes in line at Starbucks, I can take a hint and move a long.

People can ignore you for any reason.  And you don’t know them or have any idea why.  Don’t assume anything.

12) When some one breaks any or all of these rules, LET. IT. GO.

I know how vulnerable we are exposing ourselves like this publically.  And I know the sting of one too many online rejections.  But it doesn’t do us any good to hold grudges or stamp or feet or verbally assault the men who hurt our feelings over the interweb.

And you will never come off as cool or empowered if you tell them off in the bar for not messaging you back.  Don’t take Julia Roberts advice to Jena Malone in Stepmom.  No one knows what snow blowing is.stepmom

If some one doesn’t see how wonderful you are (which how much can they really glean from a few pictures and paragraphs) then they aren’t worth your time any way.

At the end of the day, my friend’s advice is probably right.  You probably can’t find love browsing a website like you were looking for a copy of Homeward Bound on Amazon.  It will show up at some point.  Maybe even when you’re sipping coffee with an old friend.

But in the meantime, I’m going to at least give myself a shot here and with these new rules, I’m determined to succeed.

Because rules make everything way more fun, right?

And where is the body…

Spring is in the air… I think.  Ignore the snowstorm this week and the below freezing temperatures.  As we turn our calendars from February to March each year, I immediately shift into a spring frame of mind.  It’s as if everything is actually coming up roses even if they’re buried under snow and road salt.

But Spring is a double-edged sword.  With it comes the realization that Summer is nearby meaning tank tops and bathing suits and beach parties and the occasional skinny-dipping.  Thus initiating my usual guilt cycle as I notice the ways in which “winter weight” has turned my svelte summer self into a more insulated container.

honey boo boo

I’ll start to examine every angle, bouncing around checking to see which parts have become extra jiggly.  I will admonish myself for every wrong turn that led me here and swiftly devise an intense fitness routine that will get me back up to snuff in time for my first excursion to the beach.

Over my gay years, I’ve developed a healthy love-hate relationship with my body.   I first discovered going to the gym right around the time I came out.  But this was only a correlation, coincidental even.  The first time I actually set foot in a gym was after I was cast in a play my sophomore year of college that required I get naked on stage.  There is no greater motivation to get one to start pumping iron.

I stopped eating my daily pizza with a salad smothered in Ranch dressing (extra so I could dip my crust in it,) actually found my school’s fitness center and then by ShowTime, I felt really good about my body.

While this physical obsession was budding, I started accepting myself for the beautiful gay creature I am.  There was a lot of change happening for me.  A few years earlier, I was sitting in my childhood home thinking that it’s too bad I’ll never get to experience these things; kissing dudes and looking fabulousI believed having a hot body was for models and athletes, not for friendly theatre nerds, and coming out was for any one but me.  Sigh, pass the Doritos and turn on The OC.

But eventually I realized being happy and satisfied is something I could be as long as I was honest enough with myself to identify what I really wanted and brave enough to pursue it.

It’s six years since that transformative phase of my life.  Being open and working out have become habit.

Mostly.

I mean, I’m living out loud all day every day.  But I’ve been rather lax this winter when it comes to the body stuff.  It all stems from the break up.  You see, the Ex and I created a life that put everything one would need to be healthy right at our finger tips.  We had a Bowflex in the office plus all the P90X and Insanity videos.  We were even vegetarian thanks to too many Netflix anti-meat documentaries and his penchant for expensive organic foods (plus he had the income to back that up.)  My skin was great, I was BMing like a rockstar and I was fit as a fiddle.

I can have it allBut he was such a dick about it.  He some how turned our healthy lifestyle into an ugly power game (not atypical.)  So once I got out of that relationship, I went meat and cheese crazy, gobbling everything that once bled as fast as my grubby little paws could get a hold of it.

Eventually, I calmed down and stopped using gluttony to demonstrate my freedom.  But the damage was done.

I noticed subtle changes to my body.  I’m rounder around the haunches.  Bending in some ways produces ugly rolls where they had not before and suddenly I’m counting chins like you count rings on a tree. I’ve ripped the butt out of three pairs of jeans now.

If you know me, you might be thinking “Aw, Tim you look great.” Or more likely “Girl, enough. You look fine.  Stop mugging for attention.”  I know I’m not overweight by any stretch of the imagination. I know that.  But there are definitive changes that I have noticed, that you might not see unless you’re looking at me naked on a regular basis (which is only me right now), that remind me that I’m not at my best.

So here comes the question: Does it matter?

Short answer: hell yeah!

Long answer: Because I hold myself to a high standard, because I can check myself at any given moment of my life and compare it to how successful I’ve been in previous ones whether we’re talking professional accomplishments, friendships, love, money, body, etc, because I’m always striving to be better than I was yesterday, I reserve the right to acknowledge when I’m less than what I know is my best and feel some type of way about that.

Self-satisfaction ebbs and flows.   So the fact that my body isn’t at it’s peak right now isn’t doing any real psychological damage.  It only makes me work harder (ok and maybe fills me with a touch of anxiety.) But what I am making time for is understanding why the way my body looks is something I value this much.

I know I’ve thought one or twice before that if I want some one with a rocking body, then I have to look like that.  As if we’re making an equitable trade off with our physiques.  This weekend, I was hanging out with my dear friends, David and Brian.  We were talking boys and perusing one of those Instagram accounts that show hot guys in their underwear when David says, “I just want a man who when I take off their clothes I think, ‘Why are you with me?’”  Truer words ne’er spoken.

(Although after I emphatically agreed, David also followed up with the more empowered, “Eh, I’m just going to keep working on me so I’m the one they’re lucky to be with.”  He’s so fierce.)

You'll take off your shirt if I buy a shot? I'll take them ALL!

You’ll take off your shirt if I buy a shot? I’ll take them ALL!

But it’s not always tit for tat.  What attracts some men to others is an absolute mystery [to me.]  I mean sure, we all probably find ripped guys to be very sexy, blah blah blah.  We get it.  That’s why we put them in speedos and buy cheap shots with hardly any alcohol from them.

This summer, right after the Ex and I broke up, we were at one of the famous Gay Boat Parties.  It was the night before I moved out.  I reluctantly went because of the monstrous day ahead of me but there I was.  We were all about ready to head home when I caught the Ex hopping into a cab.  I rushed over and kindly reminded him he better be back to help me move in the morning and then I noticed the guy waiting for him in the backseat.

He was way too attractive.  Like super hunky, coifed, bearded, plastic, looked rich.  Way out of both  our leagues.  And yet, there the Ex was heading off for a late night canoodling session.

It was in that moment I realized nothing about attraction makes sense.  People want what they want.  Even if you’re obviously the cuter one, sometimes hot guys have weird taste.

I could never resist.

I could never resist.

I have weird taste.  I’ve gone on record saying my dream man would look something like Chubby Andy Dwyer from Parks and Rec or Jason Segel.  I mean, sure I wouldn’t kick Jake Gyllenhaal out of bed, but the heart wants what it wants.

So understanding that attraction is ultimately senseless takes a lot of the pressure off of me to think I have to look a certain way to attract the types of men I want.

I know that I can’t control how attractive some one finds me.  I can message them until my fingers bleed insisting we’d look great together and even OkCupid thinks we’re a great match, what with our 92% score.  But if they don’t want me then I gotta move it along.  I can’t control what some one else wants.

So my body hang-ups are not about how attractive my possible suitors may find me.  It’s really about how I see myself.  When I feel I’m at my best, when my hair looks the way I want it, I’m wearing an outfit I love, when I don’t feel bloated because I ate too much food, I trimmed all the unwanted hairs, my eye boogers are handled and there is nothing in my teeth, I feel free.  Because even if I seem ever present, if I don’t feel good about some part of my appearance, there’s always a portion of my attention that’s focused on it and it’s really distracting.

I don’t think it’s superficial.  I think it’s very human.

I’m never going to look like this.

hugh_jackman_lifting_weights_full

I understand that that body type comes with rigorous diet and exercise and boo, I love nachos and beer.  I also don’t really want to look like that.  I define my personal best based on my own standards.  We all should.  We all have that power.  Sure, we’re inundated with images from the media that tell us what is desirable and what’s not. And sure, they probably have subconsciously affected our own self-perception.

But my body is not built like those guys.  I’m cool with that.  Feeling satisfied with the way I look doesn’t mean I’m vain or shallow.  My version of satisfaction is a product of my own values and sense of self.  Just because I like to look a certain way, also does not mean I think everyone ought to look like that either.  We’re free to define for ourselves what our best is.  Future Husbands of the world, be damned!

I feel underwhelmed with myself body right now and I’m working on it.  That’s ok.  But it’s important to love ourselves all the time even when we’re not at out best.  Isn’t that what we’re looking for in a partner?

If I work out a bit harder for the next few weeks and abstain from too much booze or cheese, it’s because I’m trying to make me better for me.  To any one who says, “But you look good!”  I say, Thank you, really, that means a lot.  I do have to head to the gym now, but sure, I’ll eat one more scone with you before I leave.

And to my friends out there who are looking in the mirror right now feeling like I’m feeling, we’re fine.  Maybe we’ll go to the gym a bit more and maybe we’ll pretend we’ve stopped eating bread.  But we’re fine.  It’s ok to feel less than your best.  It means you actually possess advanced self-awareness.  But whatever you do, make sure you are improving yourself for your sake alone.

There is no greater love story than the one we share with ourselves.

Grill for me, Future Husband

Grill for me, Future Husband

With me, it’s all or nothing lately.

For the first time in a few months, Philadelphia wasn’t a frozen waste land this weekend. enchantedI couldn’t be happier.  I had a brunch date at a local doughnut and fried chicken joint (yes that is a thing, Non-Philly readers.)  I put on a light sweatshirt and sauntered out into the beautiful day where I would be greeted by an animated bird that rested upon my finger and joined me in a jaunty tune on my front stoop.

The Chicken/Doughnut shop was about a 30-minute walk from my place.  Four days prior, I would have been grumbling about it being too cold and too far from easily accessible public transit, but this weather had me head over heels in love with my city again.  I needed to strut.

So I’m whistling Dixie, on my way to a pile of deliciously unhealthy food and a guy I’ve been seeing with regularity when a few paces ahead I notice a man jogging towards me.  (Pfft, runners, am I right?)

As the runner got closer, I realized I knew his face.  I went on a date with him a few weeks ago.  He texted me a few times after that attempting to plan a second date but I never followed through.

This was the first I had seen him since that date.  I held my breath and felt a twinge of guilt in the back of my neck as I braced myself for what would be an undoubtedly awkward conversation.  I may have been a touch unclear about my lack of interest.  You see,  I did that thing I always do when I’m not feeling it; I politely explain I’m busy whenever they say they want to meet, promise I’ll get back in touch in a few days once I “get a better hold of my schedule,” and then never make contact again.

Somehow I’ve been able to convince myself that I do this because it preserves their feelings so they aren’t broken by the news that it’s not going to happen.  But really, I do it because I’m selfishly avoiding hard honest conversations.  And it’s making me feel like shit.

The runner passed me and without breaking his stride or smiling, greeted me with the coldest wave you ever saw.  I should have been wearing my winter coat.

In the past few months, I’ve dated a number of guys.   Very few of them have made it to the second date with me.  I keep taking an “All or Nothing” approach; either they are my Future Husband or I never need to see them again.  And their FH potential status is decided probably in the first ten minutes.

For some reason, I can’t seem to reconcile a place for them in my life if it doesn’t immediately involve a ring… wedding ring to be clear.  I started this post ready to argue that this is analogous to all gay men, but I don’t think that’s true.

mean girls walk

Over the past year, I’ve been developing a close knit group of friends, all of whom are gay men and the greatest people you will ever meet. (Yes, that is a Mean Girls reference.)  This clique has been together for a few years before I came into the picture.  I’m the new girl, the Cady Heron if you will.  (Don’t roll your eyes, Brian, I’m the Cady.)

In the early days of our friendship, I had a lot of catching up to do.  I adopted the group jargon easily enough and studied our herstory.  What I still find most surprising is that most of their friendship origin stories began with a date.  Their romantic encounters with each other turned into deep but (mostly) nonsexual friendships.

I don’t know that I’ve ever successfully made that transition.

Which causes me to realize that I am the anomaly.  I am the one with the issue.  I’m the asshole.

This is uncharted territory for me, this single, city life.  Seriously.  I moved to Philly in November ’09, fell in love the second weekend I was here.  Four months later it totally and utterly fell apart, I met the Ex maybe two months after that and was spoken for until this past July.

So maybe I’m doing it wrong.  Maybe I should be able to turn my luke-warm feelings into a friendship with my various gentleman callers.  Maybe it’s okay to keep a line of communication open even after I’ve firmly decided I don’t want to date.  I mean it couldn’t hurt.

I don’t know.

I don’t know if I want to.  I don’t know if I should have to.  I don’t know that I need to.

sad walk

I passed by the chilly runner and all of this was swirling in my head.  When I first moved here, I was 22, heart broken, wandering without direction, and working at a coffee shop.  I was every Taylor Swift song.  When I was overwhelmed by all the ambiguity of my early twenties, I would go on what I called my “Crisis Walks” where for hours I would roam the city streets reflecting on my choices.

The lush and unique landscapes of my city were always the perfect cure for the 22 blues.  Inevitably, I would applaud my bravery for taking this risk, moving here without a real plan, and enthusiastically dream of the possibilities that lay before me.  All of that terror and anxiety would wash away.

My walk to the Donut/Chicken Joint became a Crisis Walk.  (Sorry, fella! Though don’t worry, I got it together by the time we met.)

I started asking myself what is it that’s missing from my life right now.  What is this specific role I’m trying to fill that these duds aren’t satisfying? What do I want?  I have a job I love.  It fulfills me artistically, emotionally, intellectually often to the point of happy tears.  I freelance for another theater company on the side, which I totally dig.  I have a fantastic group of hilarious, ride or die friends.  My relationship with my family couldn’t be better (except, sure, I could visit more often!)  I have a great living situation with one of my oldest and dearest friends in a killer row home.

I’m pretty damn lucky.

But still, something is missing.  Something important.

This is a strange moment in my life.  Don’t get me wrong, I really love my life and to sit here and bitch and moan is not my point.  In fact, punch me in the face if I ever do that.  But I’m starting to  contemplate my independence.  I’m totally free.  As much as I love my family and friends, we don’t need each other in any measurable way.  And with the exception of my professional responsibilities, no one actually relies on me for anything significant.  The success or failure of my life will only have a direct causal effect on me.  Suddenly “independent” feels very lonely.

So the short answer is a boyfriend.  That’s what’s missing.  But you all knew that, that’s why I’ve called you here each week.  I don’t mean some one to go to dinner with, or sleep with or see my shows or hang with my friends.  That’s easy.  I can make a patchwork quilt out of these silly boy swatches for that stuff.  It’s deeper than that.

What I’m missing is my partner in crime.  Some one that I can build my life with.  Some one who cares if I succeed because when I do, we do.  Some one who, when I fuck it up, is there to help me make it right.  Some one who makes me feel as important and capable as my work does, who makes me laugh as much as my friends do, who supports me like my family does, who wants me even when I have eye boogers.  Some one who is there to share the often crushing weight of existence.

Each day, I’m going it alone.  And I’m handling it.  But like Olivia Pope: flawlessly empowered while hopelessly fragile hoping Fitz is going to get it right.  And I’m not looking to rush into something because it feels safe and cozy.  I’ve been there before and it ain’t cute.  I know this thing I’m looking for is rare and special and I’m picky.  I know it takes time.

RestlessnessAnxiety and Disappointment are all names of magazines in the waiting room of Dr. Love’s office.

I reserve that right to be disinterested for any reason at all.  Because at the same time that I think I know exactly what this man will be like, I also have no clue.  I’m a fickle pickle.  And these boys that I could give or take, I am not obligated to make space for them in my life because they bought me a beer.  I don’t need to turn boring conversation into a life long friendship.  Besides, you would have to be pretty damn amazing to join the pantheon of my loved ones.

But in the meantime, I could stop being such a scaredy cat, put on my big boy pants and tell these boys up front, thanks but I’m not interested right now.  And maybe they will become a friend instead of another person I’m trying to avoid at Woody’s.

Something Worth Melting For…

I saw Frozen this weekend.  This was the cinematic experience I had been waiting for all year.  August: Osage County? Pfft, more like August: No-sage… HuntyAmerican Hustle? I’d rather hustle past your theater to see Frozen.  (But actually, I want to see these two before the Oscars.)

This should surprise no one when I say I found the whole thing utterly enchanting.  It was whimsical, musical, and delightfully awkward.  It was as if some one captured my essence, removed all of the potty humor and turned it into an animated feature film.

I wasn’t surprised that I liked it so much.  After all, I’ve been singing “Let It Go” for months now. Idina took me all the way to synagogue and threw me a Bar Mitzvah what that one.  And basically every one with a heart and access to Facebook has been singing its praises.

But I never ever expected to be so taken with this story’s depiction of “True Love.”  It broke the Disney mold I had so come to expect.   I arrived ready for a love story and found the central narrative had nothing to do with romantic love.  Even in the moments where that typical trope would rear its ugly head, BAM.  Some one would show up and Shut. It. Down!

I grew up watching Disney classics like The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, stories of women on a journey to achieve that one great True Love.  They sacrifice everything; their homes, families, freedom, fins, voices for it.  And we rejoice when at last they share that perfect kiss on their wedding day!

I can’t help but wonder how much of my real adult expectations of love have been based on that narrative.  If I’m being honest, probably a whole lot.

Like Belle and Ariel, I’ve spent my life dreaming about that sweeping romantic experience wherein I spot Future Husband across the room and in an instant, I know unquestionably that he’s “The One.”  I’ve ended multiple relationships because I didn’t feel that “spark.”

Allow me to describe my vision of a perfect relationship: I meet a man and we instantly know we are “meant for each other.”  We forge that kind of relationship where there is nothing on earth more important to us than each other.  If need be, we’d sacrifice our dreams and other relationships for the sake of our True Love.  And in some mystical way, we always have the perfect thing to say no matter what the situation.

A few years ago, I fell head over heels in love with a man from Michigan the moment I met him.  And this Love had all the makings of that epic romance.  The circumstances of our meeting were beautifully serendipitous and he vaguely looked like a Disney Prince.  But like the poor grad student version.  I remember clearly, during our first kiss, before I knew he lived so far away, thinking, “Oh, this is it.”  I committed myself to him and our prospective future vigorously.

If he asked, I would have up and moved to be with him in a second.  (Instead, when I suggested I do this, he refused because I couldn’t possibly reach my full potential if I uprooted myself for him.  Ugh, whatever, he respected my goals and knew Michigan would be a dead end for me.  He’s perfect.  Moving on.)  Eventually the distance was too much and our wallets were far too tight.  Artist and Grad student, what are you gonna do?

This happened almost five years ago and I still I’m regularly visited by the nagging thought that he’s not only “The One” but now “The One that got away.”

In the past few months, partially due to this blog, I have scrutinized my concept of love and what it is I’m looking for.  Well, I’ve come up with the resounding conclusion that literally no one is good enough for me.  I told my mom this a few weeks while we were both complaining about men and she laughed and said, “Maybe we just demand too much. We expect everyone to be perfect.”

Duh.  Because I believe that my love story, my final ever-lasting love story, will be made of perfection and rainbows and I’ll sing songs with animals when it happens.

Why do I expect that? Have Disney movies and all the romantic comedies I’ve watched in my life informed my expectations of the kind of love I want?

I mean, YEAH.  I didn’t grow up witnessing that perfect true love at home.  My family is far from “traditional.” So I didn’t learn to value it by experiencing it.  (No, I don’t feel like I missed out on anything or I’m trying to compensate for it in my adulthood.  And if you or any one you know wants to talk to me about how children only thrive in a “nuclear family,” I’ll shout you the hell down.  But I’m not here for that today.)

Ok, so admittedly, growing up as a young boy, I was having alternative gendered experiences with Disney Animated Classics and Rom Coms by associating myself with the heroines.  As a gay man, I do allow my self the license to have a more fluid understanding of my gender.  That’s just me, not necessarily all gay men.  But still, the way I value love and, more importantly, the way I have come to expect Future Husband to value me have stemmed directly from these stories.

And in comes Frozen.  This film not only reinvents the rules of “True Love” for this genre (Animated Princess Musical Rom Coms) it blatantly criticizes them.

Early on, we meet Anna, the younger sister of the ice queen (really, guys?) who craves a life beyond her castle walls. (Ariel, much?)  Anna, eager to see the world, meets the charming albeit bumbling Hans, a young prince about five minutes after leaving the castle for the first time.   They declare their love for each other during a deliciously campy musical number ending in a sudden engagement.  And I believed it.

I sat and listened to their silly song and swooned thinking, “Aw, I wish my love life were like this.”  As she as she announces her pending nuptials, everyone is all like, “Anna, gurl, you just met this guy.  What’s his last name?  What side of the bed does he sleep on?  How much student loan debt does he have?  You’re really jumping the gun here.”  Her sister, Kristoff, and even the damn Snowman who has been alive for like 30 minutes calls her on it.

Like Anna, my first response was to cross my arms and fight back with a “You don’t even know him!”  And then, I calmed down, stopped shouting at the screen and realized that they’re probably right.  Maybe they should go on a few dates first or something.  I guess people shouldn’t jump into an engagement after only four hours.

Ok Hans and Anna aren’t the love story here.  I’m sure something will come up.

anna and kristoff

Enter Kristoff, the smelly reindeer guy who sells ice.  So every word I just used to describe him immediately would have sent me running.  And had Anna not actually needed his help she probably wouldn’t have given him the time of day. 

But because they had mutual objectives, they had to work together.  As they continued to overcome obstacles by supporting one another while also having friendly conversation, they started to notice an interest budding.  Ahh, here’s my romantic fairy tale couple.  It had all the tell tale signs; flirting, secret smiles, he caught her when she fell off the mountain.  Call me India.Arie because I am ready for love.

After all the build up and drama and other hilarious happenstances, Anna’s heart is frozen.  The cure: an “act of True Love.”  If every love story ever has taught me anything, a kiss solves all of the problems.  That’s the only way.  I was a little put off when Anna, Kristoff and Olaf conclude Hans has to deliver the kiss.  Didn’t we already establish that her relationship with Hans was stupid and Kristoff was her soul mate?  Whatever, she’s committed I guess.  So she finds Hans and, OH NO, he’s a secret villain! I knew it! She and Kristoff were the It-couple!

But once again, the movie totally obliterated my expectations.  Anna, on the brink of death (or ice death?), was faced with a choice: run to Kristoff for  20ccs of “True Love” by kiss injection or save her cold mopey sister.  The big dummy chose to save her sister, forever turning herself into ice.  When Anna froze because she chose Uteruses over Duderuses, I was really disappointed in her.  Doesn’t she get that True Love will break all spells and make life everything you dreamed of?  ISN’T THAT WHAT I’M SUPPOSED TO BE DOING WITH MY LIFE?

However, it turned out that the love Anna had for her sister ended up releasing her from a frozen death.  And I was floored.  Because really it should have been obvious that Anna’s love for her sister was the only thing that could be deemed “true.”  It’s literally the only significant relationship she’s ever had her whole life.   She may be crushing on Kristoff or even Hans but it’s unreasonable to expect that given the choice between these men she’s known for maybe a day or so and her life long (albeit cold and distant) sister, she would choose the Crush. 

And yet I never saw it coming.

Like most people, I’ve learned to expect certain outcomes from these narratives.  True love wins. A kiss breaks the spell. The hot couple winds up together at the expense of the heroines whole life.  And I love it. I dream about it happening in my own life.

!

The DREAM!

I grew up watching these movies and I base every romantic encounter on how much “magic” I feel.  And I won’t settle for less than Harry Potter.  Step aside Siegfried and Roy.  Get back in your box, Harry Houdini.  If it doesn’t feel “real” then I don’t want it.

The longer I live and the longer I’m single, I start wondering how realistic my ideals are.  Probably not very.  That’s why I find Frozen to be such a positive depiction of love.  Now that this story is part of the Disney cannon, it’s going to be as ubiquitous as The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast.  Frozen will be irrevocably tied to the childhood of so many young people (ugh, I feel old.)  Maybe they’ll see that love doesn’t come from magic and maybe you don’t have to give up your family or your power to find it.  Maybe two people who share similar goals will discover a mutual attraction while working together as equals and explore the possibility of a romantic and sexual relationship over time and through open communication.

Now for the record, I don’t think Frozen is a shining beacon of socially progressive children’s entertainment.  Actually, it’s quite problematic.  I mean, the central conflict of the whole thing is that a woman has too much power and is ruining everyone’s lives because of it.  The people of Arendelle only love Elsa once she learns to suppress her power.  (It’s cool as long as she used it for like fun stuff like ice skating or snowman preservation.)     Oh and every character is beautiful, white, able bodied, and straight.  So yeah, Disney has work to do.

But I imagine 5-year-old Tim growing up today watching a movie like Frozen.  First of all, I’d be belting “Let it Go” in the Disney Store at the mall instead of “Part of your World.”  The idea of a child me singing a song about accepting myself instead of giving up my identity for love already brings a tear to my eye.

I wonder if he would grow up into a person who has a healthy sense of romance but understands it shouldn’t come at the expense of his family, friends, or self worth.  It’s taken me a lot of years in my adulthood to figure that out.

That alternative-reality version of myself might still be single, sure.  But I bet he would be less hung up on it.  I bet he would scoff at the idea of having an online dating profile and writing this blog about desperately seeking love.

It may be too late to save myself.  Even now, I hear a not too quiet voice in my head screaming, “BUT LOVE IS REAL! Stop being a cynic!”

My heart, like Anna’s, is warmed imagining a future generation of little weirdos who understand that love isn’t a zero-sum game.

Frozen-Elsa-strut

Look out, I’m Fabulous!

14 Ways to Be Your Own Valentine

Happy Valentine’s Day lovers of all sorts!

Can I be honest with you all? I love Valentine’s Day.

Before you give your screen a side eye and close the tab on your browser, hear me out.  I totally get that Valentine’s Day is stupid.  It is.  Greedy executives who are interested in making a quick buck by propagating heteronormative mores created it.  I went to a liberal arts college.  I get it.

But that doesn’t stop me from swooning every February 14th.  There is something magic in the air.  Valentine’s Day generates a kind of energy that puts people in a better mood.  It’s probably because every one is excited about shamelessly eating chocolate. In my case, I’m secretly hoping a secret admirer will step forth and confess his undying devotion (hint hint.)

This is my first Single Valentine’s Day in a long time.  I don’t have any dates set up and I’m not really the type to ask some one to be my Valentine or anything as lame as that.  This doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy Valentine’s Day.  After all, how much can we really hate on a day that asks us to tell the people in our lives we love them?

But for some, today bares the ugly moniker of  “Single’s Awareness Day” or other debasing epithets.  And that bugs me.  Because being single isn’t something to feel bad about.  It’s taken me some time to realize that and you’ve all sort of been witness to part of that process.

So today I say, Single is great! Valentine’s Day is for all who love!

To those of you who, like me, don’t have any plans, I’ve come up with a wonderful list of ways to spend this day celebrating your one true love: Yourself.

Please enjoy my recommendations while listening to my collection of the Greatest Love Songs of all time:  (The Beatles aren’t on Spotify, so you may notice a significant emptiness.)

The Cupid Shuffle

Take all of the digits of your birth date and add them up to find your Love Number.

For example: If your birth date is 2/14/1987, then you do the following:  2+1+4+1+9+8+7=32

Then go to your OkCupid profile (any Dating site would work.)  Set your Matches to “Special Blend” and search.  This will provide a random assortment of people not based on your alleged match percent, location, or how recently they joined.

Count from the first profile of the results all the way to the one that lands on your Love Number.  Without hesitation or qualification send that person, whoever he or she may be, the following message:

“Happy Valentine’s Day!

romeo and julie

Let’s make the most of it.  Meet me at (INSERT YOUR FAVORITE SPOT) tonight at 8pm.  I’ll be the one wearing (INSERT YOUR BEST OUTFIT)

Here’s to the magic.”

Then brace yourself for an exciting new encounter.

What you will need:

  • An OkCupid account or other dating app/profile
  • An adventurous spirit
  • Back up plans if/when he doesn’t show up

The Show Stopper

Everyone loves a musical.  Everyone.  I don’t care who you are; you love them and know all the words to at least one.  Tonight is the night to let your inner Sutton Foster shine, girl!

There are two ways to do this:

1)   Pick your favorite movie musical (Netflix has some amazing choices right now.  West Side Story?! If you need more, please contact me.)  Lock the doors to your home, put on your best cut off T-shirt, Jazz pants, and Capezios.  Hit play and perform the shit out of every musical number.

2) Invite over your most talented friends and cast them in your favorite movie musical.  You’re the casting director, remember?  So no one gets to call dibs.  You are always Maria or Effie or Mimi.  Perform a concert version of that musical and maybe a second one to make sure everyone gets a featured part.

effie white

What you will need:

  • Beers or Wine (in bottles) as these are the best vessels for alcohol/microphones
  • Ample floor space
  • A solid warm up
  • Preferably a dance studio style room with a mirror on one wall and Ballet Barres.

*Costumes optional.  Nay, mandatory.

The Lady with a Past

In the grand tradition of every role Jessica Lange has ever played, put on your sexiest outfit and head to a dark, romantic spot.  Take a seat at the bar where you are sure to grab the attention of everyone in the room.

Jessica Lange

Flirt casually with the bartender (so every one looking on see’s how charismatic you are.)  Order only whiskey or scotch on the rocks, the world’s sexiest drink.  Sit and sip alone as if you’ve just gotten out of a terrible situation.  Appear vulnerable yet resilient.   Look off into the distance with an expression that tells everyone the weight of the past is heavy on your heart.

Drink the whole night and laugh with the bartender until some gentle yet commanding man comes and rescues you.  And don’t worry if you sit alone all night.  That just means you’re broadcasting an air of mystique so powerful, it’s intimidated everyone.

What you will need:

  • Your sexiest black dress (or whatever appropriately gendered equivalent you have)
  • Whiskey.  Lots of Whiskey.
  • Optional: Cigarettes to help the mystique but only if you have a cool cigarette case to store them and you find a bar that allows smoking.  Better though if it doesn’t.  You’ll seem infinitely more dangerous.

The Text Mess

A personal favorite.  Start by drinking a whole bottle of wine.  Then send the following text message to all of your Exes:

“That was a lot of fun.” 

Immediately reply with the following:

“Oh my! I’m so sorry this was meant for a different (INSERT THEIR NAME).  This is awkward.  Hope you’re well.”

Oops

I’m not suggesting you do this with the intention of rekindling any type of romance.  It’s just a way to stir the pot.  In my experience (because I have done this many many times) you may get to hash out some painful feelings, exchange some kind words with each other that might surprise you, or (in one particular case) offer one of the greatest loves of your life some relationship advice while also confessing that you will, in fact, always love him.

Somehow this will feel great.  It literally can not go wrong.

What you will need:

  • Wine.
  • Extra Wine.
  • Not a shred of dignity.

The Undercover The Bachelor

So I just love The Bachelor. Not because I think it’s compelling television or how I think love should work, but because it’s about a bunch of crazy people committing to strong feelings.  I’m here for that.   And I’m also certain that if I were to compete I would win the $250,000 grand prize. (Wait, that’s not what they get if they win? Nevermind.)

Any way, send a text to all of the people you’ve been sort of dating or flirting with over the past few months.  Tell them you’re meeting a few friends out at the bar and you’d love it if they would join.  When all of them show up at the same time, act as though this is a Bachelor group date.  Pull them a side one at a time and “get to know them better.”  If possible, create a group challenge or two. the bacherlor

At the end of the evening, tell the guys you’re going to another bar.  Bring them to a previously selected alley where you have already hidden a dozen roses.  Then reveal that they’ve been part of your Bachelor challenge and present a rose to the guys you’ve liked the most.

 What you will need:

  • A Camera Crew
  • No sense of decency
  • As many roses as you have guys you want to bang

The Cake War

This may be the best one.

First, decide what your favorite type of cake is.  Set aside plenty of time.  This is a decision not to be made lightly.  You may think, “Oh, I like chocolate cake, I guess” but what about cheesecake? Or Carrot Cake? Or Angel food?! There are too many options.  Don’t jump into this without considering all of them.

bruce cake

Once you take the appropriate amount of time to decide, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to visit every known bakery in your neighborhood and try a piece of their version of your favorite cake.  Once you finish, post your results on all social media.   You’re supporting local business or whatever!  Mostly, cake. Lots of cake.

What you will need:

  • A journal to record your deep spiritual thoughts about the cake experience
  • Loose pants.  You know what, just wear your pajama bottoms!
  • Any extra Weight Watchers Points you can save.  (Yes I did say Weigh Watchers, because if it’s good enough for J. Hud it’s good enough for me.)

The Yoko Oh-No You Better Don’t

Find a band that’s playing locally.  If possible, look them up online to find out if any of the performers are dreamy.  Or at least cute enough that with enough booze you’d make out with them without feeling bad about it tomorrow.

sexuality

Work your way back stage using your secret weapon… your sexuality.  Pay close attention to the group dynamics of the band.  Identify the leader and then flirt with whoever comes across as the weakest band mate.

Subtly convince the weakling that he is the true talent of the group and encourage him to confront his band mates in front of you.

If all goes well, the band should be broken up by morning.

What you will need:

  • Sexuality
  • Powers of Manipulation
  • Filthy Band T-Shirts

The Cultural Elite

For the fancy ladies,

Get your self some culture! Put on your finest tweed blazer complete with elbow pads and begin the night with a visit to your nearest art gallery.  Stare long and hard at paintings that make you think of sex and war.  As Future Husband comes up to look at the same painting, try this move:

Cross your arms and bring your left hand to your chin as if you’re stroking your beard (actual beard not required.)  Look the piece up and down with a furrowed brow.  Let your gaze land at a specific spot, stare at it for a moment, let out a “hmmm,” reach your left hand towards the work of art and before you touch it, stop, and then return it to your chin.  Turn and walk away.  As you leave, look back with a knowing smile and make sure he’s checking out your rear.

Grab a glass of wine and then let him come to you.

janet snakehole

If he doesn’t come to you, get yourself to a damn theater and experience more art! It’s good for you!

What you will need:

  • Maybe smart looking glasses
  • A sincere interest in art
  • Something to say 

The Gwyneth Paltrow in that movie about karaoke.  Duets, I think

Drag your best friends to a Karaoke Bar, even if they hate it.  With your BFF in tow, strike up a conversation with another group of people, making sure one of them could possibly be your Future Husband.

karaokeOnce you start talking with the new guys, demonstrate how fun and witty you are but make sure you seem a little demure.  Eventually, you are going to be called up to sing.  Create a rouse like your BFF signed you up without telling you and act so embarrassed.  In reality, you’ve had this song prepared for months.

Once you wow everyone and the ovation dies down, drop the mic and run right into Future Husbands arms

What you will need:

  • A Legendary song (Celine Dion or Salt-N-Pepa come to mind)
  • Three months of practice with a vocal coach
  • A BFF ready to go along with this whole charade

The Survivor

All the Single Ladies! All the Single Ladies!

Gather your best friends over to your place for a night of  trash talking the exes and celebrating being the Independent women you are.  It’s your Destiny, Child.  Build a quick trashcan fire to burn old pictures/items from your Ex and proclaim loudly, “I’m a Survivor, I’m not going to give up!”

Then head to the club with just your friends.  No Tops allowed! survivor

**For added authenticity: Invite your three best friends.  Just before you leave, kick two of them out of the party and meet a new, better third person at the bar.

What you will need:

  • The flawless sexuality of Beyoncé
  • The Horrible style of Tina Knowles (aka just buy, like, camo T-Shirts and cut them up)
  • A Fire extinguisher or some one ready to dial 911

The Mom-mom

Affectionately named for my grandmother.

michael

Movie tickets are expensive.  So plan accordingly.  Make a list of every movie you’d like to see.  Then based on all of the show times and running times, create a schedule for the day.  Buy a ticket for only the first one on your list and then sneak from theater to theater until, like Pokemon, you’ve caught them all.  The apathetic security guards at the movie theater are likely 1) not to notice and 2) not to care.

What you will need:

  • A large trench coat to hide all of your refreshments.
  • The organizational skills of a Type-A Gay (Eyes on you, Brian and David)
  • 3D glasses should any movie on your list require them.

The Barechest Contessa

Create a dinner party as elegant as Ina Garten.  Spend hours watching her show and choose the recipes you like best.  Once selected, invite your most fabulous gay friends over for a meal they’ll not soon forget.  Spare no expense.

barefoot contessaIf you aren’t a good cook, incept a friend who is a master chef into thinking it was his the whole time! He’ll be super excited to host a glamorous dinner party and you’ll get to gorge yourself! Every one wins.

For added fun: Invite that hot friend of yours.  You know, the one who is sort of part of your group and is very attractive and flirts with you once in while but it never really goes anywhere.  Tell him it’s an underwear party.  This is in no way related to food or the meal but if you ask me, sexy men are the only thing missing from The Barefoot Contessa.

What you will need:

  • A shopping spree at Williams Sonoma
  • Elegant table settings
  • A breath taking home in the Hamptons and an aloof husband who is always out of town

The Puppy Party

puppy kisses

Head to your nearest animal shelter, pet store, or neighbor’s house whose dog just gave birth.  Lie on the ground and allow yourself to be showered in unconditional love and slobber from no fewer than 5 puppies.  Their soft fur and energy is sure to pull even the most hardened of hearts out of a grump slump.

Note: Kittens, while adorable, will not work.  I have two cats and I love them (yes, I know, I’m single and own two cats.  Spare me the Cat Lady jokes.)  The only thing you will get from them is a cold sense of ambivalence and maybe a nuzzle when they want food or their litter box cleaned.  I get enough of that from my gentleman callers on a daily basis. 

What you will need:

  • Puppies
  • No animal allergies or tons of Claritin
  • A lint roller

The “Best Gift is the Gift You Give Yourself” Gift

Whatever it is you decide to do today, make sure you take a moment to love on yourself.  Being single can be hard especially on a day when the world wants to celebrate everyone who happens to be committed to some one else.

People in relationships are no better or happier than those of who are not.  Valentine’s Day may be a silly Fauxliday intended for people who lead a certain life style, but this year, let’s allow it to be a celebration of all kinds of love.

Remind yourself of how wonderful you are and don’t be defined by your relationship status.    Relationships come and go, but you’re stuck with you forever.  Make the time to love yourself.

Today, you are all my Valentine.

With love,

Tim

blow kiss

The Mysterious Case of Rolf Frankenfurter

*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.

sexy tom

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.

ron dancing

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.

 liz lemon haircut

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.

ariel sigh

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.”

“Sounds good”

praise him

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.

demon pheobe

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.

photo (3)

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!

you in danger girl

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.”

rocket

Cupid, draw back your bow. No, seriously.

Perhaps the most complicated relationship I’ve been in is with my OkCupid account.

It all began in February of 2010.  I moved to Philadelphia the November before that and very shortly after I met and fell madly in love with a man who lived in Michigan.  Suffice it to say it did not last.

During our brief courtship, Michigan Man off handedly mentioned that he had an OkCupid Account.  I, having remembered this detail, created mine solely with the purpose of remotely monitoring his love life in Michigan.  (Oh, yes, by the way, I’m a crazy person.)

After finally accepting the fact that Michigan Man’s trysts were beyond my reach, I started using OkCupid for its intended purpose.   I went on one date that ended with the guy saying, “Well, you were a lot nicer than I expected.  Let’s do this again.” And then I met the Ex.

Truth be told, the Ex and I never closed our accounts.  I did change my status to “Seeing Someone” and honestly, I never initiated a conversation with anyone while we were together.  But I guess deep down I knew I would need it again.  Ok, so it wasn’t buried that deeply.

The first Monday after the Ex and I called it quits, he went on a date with the man who ultimately was the catalyst for the break up (that’s another damn story for another damn time.)   He was beginning a new relationship while I was home rekindling an old flame.

link wink

The world of online dating is a strange one.  In theory it’s great: an open play ground for single people trying to find Mr. or Ms. or Mx or (ideally) Dr. Right.  More often than not, however, they’re mostly just a breeding ground for uncomfortable encounters and weird sex stories.

I kept things casual that first month.  Not only was I moving to a new place, a show I was performing in was opening.   I didn’t exactly have time for innocuous messaging.  Eventually, the show wrapped up and my boxes were unpacked.  I was ready for love.

We all know how these things go.  You browse around, see a profile you like, visit it one or nine times until you finally summon the courage to send a message, and then if you’re lucky, three days later you get a response.

One fateful night, the most miraculous thing happened.  I messaged a guy who not only was “online” BUT he responded right away.  He even asked me a question he sincerely wanted me to answer.  This cycle went on all night.  We had a full-blown conversation!

Our correspondence wasn’t limited to that one night, either, like so many of these fleeting cyber romances.  Over the next two days, things started getting digitally real.  We were learning about each other’s families, sharing deep dark secrets of our pasts, we even created an inside joke!  AN INSIDE JOKE! Something about opening a Pumpkin Beer Brewery and running ourselves out of business drinking the whole supply… swoon much?

This was getting serious, folks.  He convinced me to meditate! Like I was some rich lady or a bike messenger!  I fell asleep doing it but still this was big.  The Ex had tried many times over to get me to meditate with him only sort of succeeding twice in three years.  Even the silly X-Box mediation game he bought couldn’t fool me.

Kristen-Wiig-Aunt-Linda-Oh-brother

“Oh, brother indeed”

It was time to meet.  I don’t remember who initiated the plan but we set a date, time, and location.  At that point in the online dating process, I typically close communication until the real meet-up.  You know, so as not to exhaust all of the usual first date prattle.  And, still, he continued to message me! Some one was certainly gunning to be Future Husband.

The big day arrived.  It must be said, I don’t get nervous before a date.  I don’t.  Small talk is my jam.  But, this guy, he had me on edge.  And I’m not talking like a little extra nervous sweat.  In the frenzy that was my pre-date preparations, I actually locked myself out of the bathroom and had to remove the door from the hinges using only a butter knife.  (Did you know you can do that?)  I was a mess.

calm down woman

The text I sent myself

It was 45 minutes before the date and a message came through the Cupid App, POTENTIAL_FH says “Hey, I had a long day and need a drink STAT.” (he was a med student, bonus points!) “I’m heading over now.  I’ll see you when you get here. :)” Well, I put on my favorite blue plaid shirt, did my hair, and peddled my cute little buns over to the bar as fast as I could!

The bar was crowded as it was a Friday night during Happy Hour in Center City.  I did a lap and couldn’t find him.  This didn’t raise any alarms immediately because his pictures were sort of vague.  In one picture he was wearing sunglasses and the other had a grainy Instragram Filter.  He could have been any blurry sunglass wearing 20 something in the bar that night (which if you’ve been to Moriarty’s is half of the crowd.)  No matter.  I sent him a message telling him I was here.  He didn’t give me his number when I gave him mine so my communiqués had to come through the app.  Wait, is that weird?  No.  It’s fine.  I’ll just grab two seats at the bar.

Two pumpkin beers, please.  How lovely.  He’ll find me, sitting here; prepared with the drink that was so important to us.  (If you know me at all, you know I almost never offer to buy the first drink.  I was in it to win it.)  I started sipping my beer while waiting for a reply or for Future Husband himself to tap me on the shoulder and say something cliche like “Waiting for some one?” or “What’s a beautiful lady like you doing drinking alone?” Ugh, he’s so lame, I thought, blushing.

My beer was getting emptier until eventually I finished it.  No reply.  Ok, I’m a bit nervous so I guess I’ll start drinking his beer now.  Calm the nerves.  He won’t know I bought it for him any way.  A half hour passed and I was nearly two beers deep.  I checked my phone because, you know, sometimes it doesn’t send you an alert.  Nothing.

I suddenly started to notice the frustrated patrons around me.  I had been holding this seat for thirty minutes now while at least 5 people were standing behind me eyeing it up like we were a group of people stranded on a dessert island and I was holding the last Luna Bar. Didn’t they get I was saving this seat for my Future Husband?  Back up! BACK UP! And wipe that look off of your face! He’s coming, dammit! Won’t you look stupid when he gets here and you see what a great time we’ll be having!

But still…

I sent a text to my friend David.

“How long do you wait for a date to show up?”

“15 minutes.”

“I think I’m being stood up.”

“Girl, get out of there.  I’m going to a party.  You can come with me.”

I order one more beer because it’s happy hour for ten more minutes and beers are half priced… and I can wait ten more minutes, I guess.

I finished the third beer, paid my tab, offered my seat to the guy wearing a Phillies Hat and his lady friend with the high pony tail and headed directly to David’s.  This was my first time being stood up.  I sort of thought it was something TV writers made up so they could play the sad music before the commercial break.  Good thing there wasn’t a composer scoring my life right now…

Oh what’s that?  A homeless man playing “Memory” on a broken violin? Yes, that is PRECISELY what was awaiting me outside of David’s apartment.  (He lived on South Street so this probably wasn’t an uncommon occurrence.) You’re a sassy bitch, you know that, Universe?

David’s the perfect friend to have when a man wrongs you.  He gives you his version of the “You is smart” speech from The Help, plenty of alcohol, and when possible will walk up to that scumbag and read him to filth.  He is the perfect medicine for a broken heart.

help gif

After my treatment, we hopped in a cab and went to this party for his friend’s birthday.  Unfortunately, no one told me it was “Pink” themed for a group of gays my friends and I affectionately refer to as “The Plastics.”  (Can we gays go a day without a Mean Girls reference?)  So there I was, the only man in a sea of pink-clad, perfectly quaffed, ripped gays wearing blue and feeling blue.  (Also, I was the only one eating the enchiladas.  Did the caterer really think these boys would be caught dead eating?)

The next morning, it dawned on me!  Maybe something terrible happened! I didn’t want something bad to happen to him.  But if the last thing he said was “I’m on the way” then doesn’t it stand to reason that just maybe he was hit by a cab or something?  Was this my An Affair to Remember?  Now, that was of course this last thing I would wish for him or anyone.  But I have to admit, a cab accident would have really pulled me out of a funk.

an affair to remember

So I messaged him.  I told him if he didn’t want to see it me it would was OK, I can take it, but I’m genuinely worried now that maybe he was lying in a hospital room somewhere.  I asked that he please write back with an explanation post haste so I could at least put my worried mind at ease.  No reply that day.

It was Sunday night and I was tending to my usual post-Saturday hangover, which in light of recent events was particularly heinous.  My phone started buzzing.  “POTENTIAL_FH has sent you a message.  You better take this.  And, hey, whatever happens, you’re great,” alerted my OkCupid app.

I’ll give you the abridged version of his reply: “Hey, so listen.  I’m not dead or in a coma. The truth is these pictures are not mine.  The profile is fake.  I am recently single and just wanted to see what was out there.  I didn’t expect to find some one I would be so interested in so quickly.  I was at the bar but I was too afraid to come clean so I left.  I hope you understand.”

Wait, what?

what-the-what

I think my reaction was a mixture of utter shock, blind rage, and the gluttonous hunger.  Do you mean to tell me that you’ve been lying to me?  That you were at the bar?  That you may have been even sitting next to me?  You watched me order beers for the two of us, hold a seat for you, drink alone and said nothing!?!

Now usually when presented any type of fuckery, I am inclined to flick my wrist with a “Girl, bye” and go about my business with nary a hair out of place. But this was fuckery on a new level.  This was some Lifetime Original Movie starring Gina Gershon shit.  Some one better get my erasers and chalk because I’m about to school this child.

grumpy amy

I won’t make you read my whole long response but I will give you the most important part:

“You might see this [OkCupid] as a safe fun place to anonymously browse hot guys.  But there are real people here hoping that we’ll find the person we’re looking to potentially share the rest of our lives with.   You’re not responsible for the way I react to your bullshit, but you are responsible for treating ALL people with respect.  You’re not ready for this, little boy, and you don’t deserve to be here.”

He closed his account that evening and good riddance.  I sometimes wonder if I was too harsh.  After all, he was 22 and lord knows 22 year olds don’t have a good goddamn clue.  I don’t care what you say, Taylor Swift.  But some one needed to set the record straight for all of us out there.

tswift shock

There is no room for some one like that in the world of online dating.  While most people probably aren’t so irresponsible, I think we take for granted how difficult online dating is.  Simply by signing up for a profile we are all broadcasting to the world, “I’m utterly single and lonely and desperately want to find love.”  And yet most of us, myself included, seem to forget that behind the carefully selected album of pictures and diligently crafted personal essays beats a real heart riddled with insecurities and vulnerabilities just like ourselves.

We’ve all been there.  You send some one a thoughtful message; you see they visited your profile, implying they have read your greeting, and then nothing.  Something, a face you made, an answer to a question, a movie you like, your interests, your size, shape, race, penchant for cats convinced them you aren’t worth the courtesy  of a “hello.” We’ve all done that too.

I know I’m guilty of some online dating transgressions.  I’m not perfect.  And I’m not necessarily suggesting we develop LTRs with every guy who notices you.  I don’t have the time or money for that type of consideration.  But it’s important that we remind ourselves once in a while that we’re dealing with people who feel and hurt and are more than a few pictures and words.

That little boy was probably exceptionally offensive.  But I think this story is indicative of our growing lack of empathy that stems from these sterile online interactions.   When you can’t see some one’s face, it’s way easier to act like a total dick and think nothing of it.  If some one came up to one of us at a bar and said “Hello,” would we look them up and down and turn away as if nothing happened?

I hope not.  I hope our communication doesn’t regress to that.

But if you did, you’d be a real douche-toot.

Epilogue:

A few weeks later, my dear friend Brian updated his Grindr picture, which just so happened to have my face in the background.  We’re not posed together in the picture.  I’m just part of the mis-en-scene, like an extra bush or cloud.  Brian’s profile states he is in a relationship so every now and again some one would figure I was the boyfriend and suggest the three of us get together (obviously we’d make an adorable couple.)  One evening, Brian sent me a screen shot of a conversation he was having where the person said “Tell Tim I said hey.”  The guy also included a picture.  I wasn’t familiar with his face and asked Brian to find out how he knew me.  The guy replied “Tell him I’m sorry I missed him that night for our pumpkin beers.”

Girl, bye.

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