(Photo: Um, can I have a table for one?)
Men. You can’t live with them, and the police always find the bodies. When you’re a gay man in your late thirties like me, you find yourself musing on such things. Gone are the days of bashful flirting, banshee sex, and breathless waits for him to call.
In their place, the gnawing feeling that if you meet one more loser you might give up that messy courtship phase altogether and resort to calling men at random out of the phone book, yelling into the receiver, “You suck!” One by one by one.
I, myself, am up to the G’s at this point.
“That’s why I don’t date,” said Mikey Stickler. After a month of invites, Pastry Chef Chris and I had finally gotten him to join our weekly Oak Park coffee kvetch. He arrived bitchy.
“You and I are a lot alike,” he told me. “That’s why I read your blog. I ain’t got no patience for no one anymore, either. Why bother? It always ends up the same way.”
“How’s that?” I asked.
“In shambles,” he answered. “I drive them crazy or they drive me crazy. Well, I usually drive them crazy. One of my exes hasn’t dated in nine years. Another one went into therapy.”
Chris looked directly at me. “Now who does that remind me of?” he dead-panned. Our relationship last year was certainly tumultuous, and I’m the first person to acknowledge that ADDers like me should come with a warning label regarding the perils of dating and interpersonal relationships with someone whose brain is hard-wired to kitchen-sink you in an argument.
I reigned Chris in with a carefully aimed look of death while Mikey continued.
“You know I’m on the fish oil now just like you, right?” Mikey said. I had forgotten he was a fellow ADDer. “It helps, I don’t feel so distractable. It’s much easier to concentrate on X Tube. Thank God for that, now I don’t need to leave my house at all.”
“We’ve been wondering why you never come out with us,” said Chris.
“Because I can’t stand anybody anymore,” Mikey said. “Well, you guys I like, but everyone else I can’t stand. Kids especially. There ought to be a curfew on kids. Every night after eight o’clock they should be at home, out of public view. Evenings should be adult time for the rest of the world.”
“But you never go out,” Chris and I said in unison.
“I go out,” Mikey protested. “I just don’t like going out alone. I don’t go out to bars and clubs alone. I don’t go out to eat alone.”
“But you hate people so who would you go out with anyway?” I asked.
A look of Duh came over Mikey’s face. “See? That’s why I stay home! I like my house. I love my house. I never leave it. I don’t like people coming over. Sometimes not even delivery people.”
“He does have a nice house,” Chris offered. “I wish my house was half as nice as his.”
“Yeah,” said Mikey. “But I don’t like anyone in it. You guys should come over sometime.”
* * *
Mikey’s wasn’t the only muffled cry for companionship I heard this week. Mister Garrett, an online friend and almost client, seemed keen to collaborate when we first met in person. Keener than I expected as it turned out, when he kissed me on an elevator after I proposed a new website for his magazine.
“I want to be a lifestyle household name,” he told me. “Weddings, design, decor, cuisine. Pretty much Marty Stewart when you get right down to it.”
I didn’t doubt he had it in him. With all the projects and side projects he had going on, I wondered how he found the time to accomplish it all. As he described them, his days sounded like one headlong rush from client to client, with barely a moment to pause in between. That’s probably why he canceled four dates in ten days on short notice.
“I really do apologize, but I’m always going, always thinking. One thing to the next. Can’t stop. Gotta move.”
Not exactly an apology, but at my age, single guys take what they can get.
“No time to think about the past and feel sorry for myself.”
“I shouldn’t have let that slip,” he said. Then he told me those six familiar words. “This is not for your blog.”
I answered him back with two more. “Trust me.”
Mister Garrett went on. “My breakup was in October, but I’m over it now, I promise. We lived across the country from each other but we were together for four years. We were going to have a commitment ceremony––I planned the whole thing. I just had to push it back by one day because a client meeting came up. One day. I swear I had never put him second to my clients before then, not ever.”
I fought the urge to picture a Joe Isuzu scroll running slightly below Mister Garrett’s chin.
“When my flight landed for the rescheduled ceremony, he picked me up at arrivals. Before I could reach into my pocket for the ring, he told me that was the last straw and to get my wallet out instead because he was driving me around to departures to get on the next flight home.”
The clarity of never having stood a chance in the first place hit me so hard, I made an immediate mental note to pick up a hairless cat, a window pillow, and a Harlequin romance novel on my way home. That was a mistake in itself. That bitch heroine in the romance novel has way more fun than I ever seem to.
* * *
Lately, even the parents of my potential suitors get more action than me. The most recent Mr. Potential: one Kenneth Sondheim, a curious combination of tall, dark, and brooding masculinity on the outside, hiding one raging theater queen within. Altogether, the holy grail of boyfriends for many a gay man.
“I was only seven. I had no idea that what I was reading to the class wasn’t normal until I saw my teacher’s eyes bug out in the back of the room.” Kenneth was describing to me the day he brought his mother’s orgasm to second-grade show-and-tell.
“I asked her at the breakfast table why she was yelling the night before. She was a very open-minded mother. She said to me, ‘Kenneth, your mother was having an orgasm.’ She taught me how to pronounce it then told me what it was. Not exactly what it was, but enough for me to have an idea.”
How Progressive. My mother once flipped over the dining table I was hiding under and beat me with a piece of yellow matchbox racing track for knocking over her ashtray.
“I can’t remember exactly what I wrote. But I stood there before this room full of other seven-year-olds, unfolded my report paper, and read to them how orgasms happen when two people really like each other, that they feel really good, that being in love makes them better, and that multiple ones are a woman’s best friend.”
“Your teacher actually let you finish?” I asked.
“I think she was too shocked to stop me,” Kenneth answered. “She did end up calling my mother in for a meeting, though. Poor her. She had never met anyone like my mother––and my mother really didn’t see anything wrong with teaching kids about the facts of life.”
Those I learned at a similar age from finding my sister one humid summer evening drunk, naked, and spread-eagled on her bed with a box fan on ‘high’ pointing directly up her wahoo. I did my best to drive the Jean-Naté and Marlboro Lights-infused image from my mind as Kenneth concluded his story.
“After the meeting ended, as we were leaving the teacher’s office, my mother turned to me and said, ‘Well, that didn’t go so well.’ I asked her why. She whispered in my ear:
“‘You know those orgasms you wrote about? I doubt your teacher is the kind of person who’s ever had one.’”