Dates 10-30

Death trivializes everything. In fact that’s the genesis of this blog, isn’t it? The death of my grandmother even trivialized my own life, well-being, and happiness. It gutted me so intensely that I was hell-bent on my own destruction. Death trivializes everything. And death has done it again.

A good friend recently and suddenly passed away—no warning, no chance to prepare. And here is where I oddly and strangely and so incredibly sadly begin the process of switching to past tense when describing how wonderful he is—how wonderful he was.  He was my age. He was talented. He was beloved. He had much and many to live for. More than anyone I know, he followed his own path, his own bliss, with a fearlessness and intensity that many could never muster. And it makes no sense. And it makes everything trivial.

I think like most people, I carry around a fairly constant low-grade anxiety, always ready for a catastrophe. Driving down the freeway, I can sometimes imagine what it will feel like if I get in an accident and go through the windshield. If someone raises their voice on the street, my first worry is that they’re going to shoot. But it’s easy to laugh these extreme reactions off because bad stuff like that rarely happens; it’s just a trick of the mind. But that’s not entirely true, is it? Terrible things do happen. And it can happen so suddenly, without expectation, without even time to quickly panic about it. Over a fun dinner with a friend the night before a trip to Disneyland, someone can go to the restroom and never come back.

I can no longer continue to blog about dates. In the shadow of what has happened, writing about my romantic life feels wrong—narcissistic, shallow, and potentially unkind. Many people I love are hurting with his passing, and it’s shaken me.

So I want to return to writing about the thing I started with. I used to call it a search for happiness. But I’m not sure that’s what it really is anymore. “Searching for happiness” all of a sudden seems trivial, too—almost like an avoidance of the dark times in our lives. Those dark times have to mean something. They have to mean something so that we can survive them. So more than happiness, it’s really more about creating that meaning in everything and how to continue to create it in a world that is hard, that is scary, that is terrible, that is beautiful, that is good.

So in honor of Rene, in honor of his unique ability to find the beauty and the sparkle in everything, I rededicate this blog to the search for more than just happiness, but to meaning and purpose and all those lofty things that we’ll never find the answer to, but have to keep on searching. Thank you, Rene—thank you for your art, thank you for the beautiful family you made, thank you for the lessons you taught and are still teaching about how to live well and live fully—it was a short life, but it was beautifully done.

Date 10

Date 9

Mr. F and I can’t really seem to get our communication styles to be all that matchy-matchy. It’s like we keep trying to shake hands blindfolded. Here’s an example:

date 9

It had been a couple of weeks since our first date, so I pushed to get something on the books with him. We both have difficult calendars, and Mr. F takes a while to respond, so it was tough but we managed to put together a weekend brunch date.

I was early, and when he walked in, I realized that I’d forgotten how handsome Mr. F is, as well as the air of calmness he carries around with him. So calm, in fact, that it was hard to tell what he gets excited about as we made small talk over breakfast margaritas. The small talk wasn’t easy; it felt forced, and it was too early in the day for me to pretend at it very well (despite the tequila), so there were multiple “Oh, I already asked that, didn’t I”s on both our parts, and as pleasant as he was I started watching the clock and panicked a little when he ordered another margarita.

Mr. F works from home and hasn’t been in the city for very long, so he struggles to build friendships here. This where I decided to pivot and get a little deeper than “what’s your favorite movie.” I asked if he struggled with depression from the constant isolation, and then everything opened up. Conversation got way better, and we both felt more comfortable.

So two more realizations: 1) Mr. F and I can’t do small talk together. 2) Mr. F is also an introvert. In the beginning, I got excited about our similarities, someone who could understand the resulting neuroses from a really chaotic and orphaned childhood, a contemplative approach to life, yada yada. But as I thought about all the extroverts I’ve dated, all the guys with good family relationships, comfortable with small talk, a ton of friends, it occurred to me that I’ve never felt a romantic spark with similarity. It’s always been different that’s caused a rumble in my heart, someone that can take me outside myself, provide a lifejacket when I’m drowning in the sea of my own introspective anxieties.

I suspect Mr. F felt the same because as we said goodbye, though things were nice and pleasant, I knew this was our last date. And since we haven’t spoken since then, I’m pretty sure he did, too. Good luck to you, Mr. F. Maybe we can be friends one day.

Date 8 (say that fast and it sounds funny)

So I’m on this crazy diet where you don’t eat carbs. I’m basically just eating meat, dairy, and greens. Before you make fun of me or shake your head in a judgy-fucking-Californians way, know that I’ve lost quite a few pounds while eating bacon and cheese and putting butter in my coffee, so really it’s just delicious science. In my OCD nature, I’ve gotten pretty obsessed with it evidenced by the fact that I annoy everyone I’m around by talking about it all the time, and I keep dreaming that the only thing to eat at parties is quesadillas and I don’t know the carb count of tortillas. I don’t really miss bread all that much except for a lingering desire to lick the free bread at restaurant tables. Yes, I said lick. Beats me…

Mr. D is a vegetarian. One of those vegetarians that sobs at the thought of eating chicken but also actually hates vegetables. So his diet is all bean burritos and cheese pizza. He is a walking carb. And I invited him over for dinner.

And I did the thing that every chick lit book tells you not to do. I gave up my meat eating principles for a dude. I made him Stromboli, and I ate it. I ate it a lot.

Mr. D is funny and has a brazen, brassy charm that makes you forget that he lives a little like a college student. But he’s smart. So maybe he’s more like Eric Stolz’s character in “Kicking and Screaming”—the perpetual student with more knowledge than polish. And I’m enjoying his company.

He was recently in Korea (he travels a lot for work) and brought me back a pen that had a replica of a large piece of jade famous for looking like meat. It was sweet, and it mocked me from the table as I ate that vegetabe-less vegetarian mound of carb-filled, fat making dough. That pen knew my shame.

At one point in the evening, he was feeling a little tipsy, so we took a walk to the park down the street that has an amazing view of the city at night, and we sat in the grass looking at it while homeless people bedded down for the evening and rats frolicked on the sidewalk, and it occurred to me that I would probably definitely have another date with Mr. D. And that he knew my last name so could find things out about me. So I came clean. I told him about this blog. “You’re a writer, so I’m sure you understand,” was my argument. And he asked, “So am I project for you?” It was a good question. “No,” I replied. “The mission of this blog is sincere. I’m looking for someone, and this blog keeps me kind, open and honest.”

I had never really considered the idea that I would actually have to ‘fess up, so I wasn’t really prepared to answer questions; I didn’t have a script down. So we looked at the skyline, and I waited for his response. “Good,” he said. “Because I’m starting to like you a little.” And my heart kind of melted as those carbs gurgled in my agonized stomach.

date 8

Date 7

Mr. F has his own theme song. And Mr. F was another surprise. There was good chitchat in the beginning but it got few and far between, and I actually dumped Mr. F before anything even got started. It just kind of seemed like he wasn’t into it, so instead of dragging it on, I got bold and brought it up. It went something like this:

Date 7

OK, so I’d give it another shot, but I didn’t have high hopes. Because if his interest was looking to me like lack-of-interest, there might be some interest expectations that were interestingly not so matchy-matchy—which would be uninteresting; in the long run. But interestingly enough, that was not the case.

We met for a drink in our neighborhood (yes, we’re in the same neighborhood which was is both convenient and potentially problematic). I was early, as always, but when he walked in I was thrilled to find that he was as handsome as his pictures. There were no lying photos or tricks of good lighting; it was honestly him. He had a very cheery smile, and I immediately thought, “this is not going to be terrible.” I know, my expectations need some work.

So he sits down and I start doing my interviewing thing again. I’m sorry, I can’t help it. But this guy was really, really interesting. We had similar chaotic childhoods (that alone gave us much to discuss), he’s also a writer, he had a ton of interesting and varied careers from horse race photography to chef. I was feeling this already, and then my pupils turned to hearts when he said, “I keep talking about myself; I want to hear about you!” Date 7 is the first date that someone has said this. And even better, when I shied away from it, he insisted. So I let ‘er rip. I just kept talking. And talking. And talking. Then he talked, then I talked, and then we just got in this really talky flow that was so nice and welcome and refreshing. Really good job, Mr. F.

There wasn’t really any flirting, though. So I started suspecting we might be entering friend zone, especially when Mr. F said, “No matter how this goes, I really want us to be friends.” It’s a sweet gesture, and I whole-heartedly agree, but that phrase can be the sexless kiss of sexy death. But it was a nice time, and I’m interested to see where this goes. And I also have got to stop being so damn Judgy Jump-The-Gun.

Date 6

Even though the date with Mr. D went pretty well, I already had a couple of other dates lined up, and my rule with this stuff is that I never cancel unless absolutely necessary. And eggs in one basket and all that.

Mr. E had contacted me a few weeks before. His profile was one of a very solid, Midwestern boy—sturdy stock, good manners, and a hard worker from the sound of it. There wasn’t much of an email/text spark (and by not much, I mean none), but he was nice and I kept hearing the voices of all the people I’ve ever talked to about this stuff, “Some people just aren’t good writers.” I find it absurd that I can’t use that to judge good date potentials, but fine, I’ll give it a chance. There was a little back and forth with Mr. E, but nothing that really lit a conversational fire between us. Not even anything that slightly raised the temperature. Until…

I mentioned that we should meet for a drink. Stick your hand in that dating pool and see what kind of fish ya grab, right? I’m sure that’s a saying. But Mr. E seemed nervous, and he replied that we should talk on the phone first. Now anyone who knows me knows that I hate the phone. Hate it so hard, that I will lie, cheat, steal, and kill a man to avoid even a 2-minute conversation. You hear me, world? I do not want to talk on the phone to you. I love you, but no. Just no. Stop making me do that. So, I didn’t want to start off a new relationship having to do something I hate, so I said that I wasn’t so into the phone, but if it was important to him, I’d make it happen.

Mr. E writes back and said that text was fine, and that “his main deal is that he’s not a fitness model.” “Who is?” I replied, “Except of course for actual fitness models. But I’ve seen your pictures, and if those are accurate I know what you look like, and I think you are handsome.” Mr. E had body shame, and I know his pain. “I’m just saying that I’m a big boy,” he texted. That’s when Mr. E got me because, as we’ve established, I am highly attracted to people’s pain.

So Mr. E and I decided to meet for a drink at a bar near our offices. He looked exactly like his pictures. He was indeed a pretty thick and stocky guy, but he was handsome—pretty eyes and a kind smile. We sat down and he seemed nervous, so I ordered first—a Manhattan. Then he ordered water—tap water, no ice. I shouldn’t have, but I felt weird.   “You don’t drink?” I asked. “No.” OK fine, no need to explain. “Well we could have met for tea or something.” “No, it’s fine.” Um.

This was strange to me, but maybe it’s my problem. So I nursed my cocktail and soon realized that it wasn’t his body or his looks that Mr. E should have been worried about, it should have been his conversation skills. Because those were abysmal. I tried so hard. So very, very hard, but the only topics he would light up about were earthquake disasters, the San Francisco rental crisis, and our shortage of water. Frankly, it was depressing me, and my efforts to talk about lighter things did not do much good. I sucked down my drink and suggested we leave, and as we parted, the lie came out of my mouth, “We should do this again,” I said. No! Bad, Randy! But it was already out there.

He texted me the next day wanting to plan another date. I let him down gently and made sure to say that he was indeed a very handsome guy because I wanted him to know that he should be proud of his looks. I’d want to hear the same thing. But my attempt to be kind was useless. There’s no kind way to tell someone you’re not interested, that you don’t want them. There’s no way to say it isn’t personal because it is personal. It’s about them, a person, hence personal. This is why dating is hard because unless both parties win, someone’s going to get hurt. To be honest, I’d rather it be me. I know I can deal with my own feelings; rejection and I know each other pretty well, and I’ve got a thick skin for the stuff (mostly). But hurting others is far more difficult, even if you know it’s the best for both of you. And this is reason #3 why I hate dating. The other reasons will soon be explored.

Date 5

Oh, Mr. D. Mr. D was a surprise. Though I’ve been on OKCupid for a while, Mr. D never showed up in my list of matches, so I’m not sure where he was hiding, but his profile was witty and quirky, and the more I got to know Mr. D, the more I liked him. We had good textual chemistry. The banter was fast and funny, he’s a writer with all the neuroses and word play that comes with that. I was excited about this one.

We met at a bar of his choosing, and he even bought me a drink. I’m the one who usually pays (more from nervous instinct than anything), but he was so effortless in it that from that single gesture I felt like I was being properly bourboned-and-dined. It took a little while, but the text chemistry successfully transferred over to talking pretty well. He laughed, I laughed, I interviewed, he answered. Yeah, that thing is still happening, but I was actually enjoying what he had to say. And it occurred to me…I was actually having a good time. The fun-ness of it was greater than the nervous-ness of it.

And it seemed like I wasn’t alone in this. Mr. D was flirting a little with delicate touches of the shoulder when I said something funny and even a “Yeah, I’m into this.” Things were going well as the drinks kept coming.

It was getting late, and I wasn’t ready for it to end, and I didn’t want to end up vomiting on his shoes, so I asked him if he wanted to get some dinner. But it was not dinner that Mr. D was ready for next. No, he was ready for things to take a sexier turn. To be honest, I was a little disappointed at this turn. Not because I wasn’t attracted to him and not because I didn’t want to get physical with him, but it was going against this insane, unrealistic, teenage first date dream I have where we talk and giggle ‘til dawn and the sexual tension is so thick and unresolved that you can cut it with the corner of a condom wrapper.  I only have that fantasy with people I really enjoy talking to.  With those I’m not so engaged in, all it takes is a shot and a tickle (and the shot is negotiable).

But I didn’t say no. One, because I know this is just a fantasy and nothing has to fit this prescribed notion of how dates go; two, because I have a hard time telling new people no; and three, you don’t look a sexy gift horse in the mouth. Unless you’re going to have sex with its mouth. Then you should probably look it in the mouth to make sure it’s not actually a horse.

So we went back to his place and had very awkward and rushed fooling around. He had a constant smile on his face and kept saying “Oh yeah” which sounded a lot to me like the Kool Aid man, and things just generally felt un-right. Maybe I drank too much, maybe I was just nervous, maybe we’re sexually incompatible, maybe I felt weird being in the house of someone I just met, maybe I was a little disappointed thinking this was going to be just a sexual relationship.   And I liked Mr. D. And I’d like to get to know him. And I’d see him again. So I’m going to make that happen.

Date 4

Date 4

It’s been pointed out to me from a couple of people whose opinions I very much respect that these posts are sounding more like I’m checking off a task. That I’m not really digging deep enough. This might be true for many reasons (e.g. being hesitant about hurting anyone’s feelings, not wanting the posts to be too long, etc.)   So when I accepted a date with Mr. C, a guy almost 30 years older than me, I thought, “Well here’s a chance to explore your father issues, of which there must be many.” But my date with Mr. C did not open up a can of daddy worms. No, these worms were far different.

I met Mr. C through some volunteer work I do. He’s a very smart guy, and I felt like we hit it off right away, though I was unsure what kind of hit it was. But super nice guy, so when he asked me out for a drink, I didn’t hesitate. I’ve never been one to shy away from guys older than me (so I’m sure there’s some father issues lurking in there somewhere), and I’m trying to stay open to possibilities here, so I went in with little expectation and a healthy sense of adventure.

But something I do on dates was harshly lit up over drinks with Mr. C. I interviewed him. I was so uncomfortable with any pause or silence and so desperate to avoid talking about myself, that I unleashed a torrent of constant and endless questions that drowned us both. At one point, Mr. C even commented on what a good interviewer I was, but neither of us changed the pattern, so I walked away feeling like he didn’t get to know me at all. This was my fault. And I do this a lot. And then I blame them for talking about themselves too much.

Date 5

So where does this come from? Social anxiety, sure, and a learned technique for battling it, one that’s been cultivated even further by my chosen profession where it’s vital for me to learn things about people. But it’s more than that. And this is what I noticed on my date with Mr. C. It’s first and foremost a fear that if I’m honest about myself and who and what I am, I won’t be able to control their opinion of me. I will leave myself vulnerable to being judged, possibly ridiculed, and even worse—abandoned (there you are, Father Issues—I knew you were here somewhere).

So yeah, I haven’t been digging deep in these posts. Because I haven’t been digging deep on these dates, and what they are, and how I behave in them, and why I’m writing about this stuff anyway. I can come to the written page with all kinds of truth and vulnerability, but I can’t bring that same courage to these dates, to possible relationships, possible friendships.   Yes, there’s a certain bit of marketing that happens on the first few dates, so I know it’s not exactly the same thing, but I think I owe it to both of us to cut the panicking and let them get to know me a little. So now I’ve found the work and what this blog is really about. We’ll see what happens next.

Date 3

Sex among gay men is different from the heterosexual world (though I can’t speak to heterosexual sex, but I’ve sure seen it played out in nearly ever story since the beginning of time). Not just where the parts are meant to go, but how it’s used and where intimacy plays a part. I’ve often seen it used as a “hello.” Or like a vitamin to fill some deficiency. Or quite often as a “I’d like to know more about you.” For the most part, intimacy connected with sex comes later. So I was not surprised that after dinner with Mr. B, my second date with him, things turned physical.

Date 3

Dinner was nice, but the days leading up to dinner started making me a little nervous. There were a lot of eager text messages that made me slightly uncomfortable. I never want to be the game-playing guy, but this seemed excessive. Still, very nice guy, and I was excited to see him but my guard was slightly up (though I was convinced it was my problem, not his). Conversation was awkward again except when it came to his life story. So when the sexy started to happen, I was grateful for the opportunity to take the pressure off the talking. It was very nice, and afterward we played around on the piano and I started to get very sleepy and worried about an early day the next day.

So this is where things get intimate for me. Sleeping over. Listening to my snoring, me completely vulnerable in the night, fears of hidden knives or stolen property, and the warmth and comfort of hanging on to someone—and getting used to that too quickly. So that was where I put on the breaks. On a second date, I’m not ready for sleepovers. And Mr. B was none too pleased—and almost a little belligerent about it. But there had been wine and it was late, so no big deal.

The next day I woke up with a terrible flu—fever, sore throat, body aches—the whole, comprehensive inventory of horribleness. I quite literally slept for two days straight. And when I awoke, I had a series of panicked messages from Mr. B. “What did he do wrong?” “Why was I ignoring him?” This, accompanied with the previous red-ish (we’ll call them pink) flags, led me to the executive decision to let Mr. B know that I didn’t think we were a match.

Again, Mr. B was not happy. I then received a series of text messages accusing me of using him for sex, even though there was no coaxing on either side, no discussion about its meaning. In addition to being a user, I walk away from relationships (um, two dates). I tried to reason with Mr. B and apologized profusely, wishing him the best, reminding him that dating was hard, that he was a catch, that he’d find someone who could maintain his pace. But he wasn’t having it. In his mind, I am quite clearly the villain in this situation, which leads me to question my opening statement. Maybe my approach with this sex thing has been too cavalier. I am always open for new life lessons and maybe Mr. B has a point. But I doubt it…

Date 2

Having never heard back from Mr. A, I moved on to Mr. B. In an effort for some self-growth in this process, I’m trying hard not to hold to my old conventions and consider guys that I normally wouldn’t. Mr. B is not the type I usually go out with – for one (and two), he’s gentle and eager (at least over email), but most importantly English is his second language. That’s a stupid thing to get hung up on, I know, but I always worry about language barriers with potential mates since the source of my humor is really bad word play. I mean who am I if not for my bad puns? “Ridiculous,” said the wiser internal Randy, “God please do us all a favor and rely on something else.” So Mr. B and I set some time up for a glass of wine.

I was early to the wine bar (I’m early even when I try to be mysteriously late). I settled in with a glass of wine, trying to be all casual. “I don’t need to wait for you,” says this approach, even though I glanced nervously up every time someone walked past the door. But finally he arrived. And I don’t know why, but the first thing I thought was “Oh, this isn’t a match; not gonna happen.” Absolutely nothing wrong with him at first glance, but that’s the immediate place my mind went. I got problems.

Date 2

Conversation was a little awkward at first, as it always is. His accent was thick, but I soon realized that the language barrier wasn’t all that real, so I’m scratching that off the future list of worries. But he started telling me about his life, about leaving communist Vietnam with his father in the dead of night, leaving his mother and siblings behind, the struggles of American assimilation, taking care of family he rarely sees. The challenges this guy has had to confront were incredible, and to come out the other side as a successful professional and a kind person prove him to be a pretty special human being. I went from “not gonna happen” to “I might be crazy attracted to your pain.” Told you I got problems.

As we continued to talk, though, I found conversation became harder instead of easier, so that’s something to pay attention to, I guess, but I think I have my first second date coming up.

Date 1

I’ve been trying to meet people through the dating site OKCupid—you write up a profile, you check out other people’s profiles, and if you both see something you like, you strike up a chat. My rules for evaluating whether or not I should pursue something with someone were seemingly pretty simple: 1) they should show some politeness and 2) exhibit a modicum of wit. This has been surprisingly difficult to find.

But after weeks of sifting through uninspired chats, Mr. A showed up out of nowhere. He had wit in spades and whenever he told me about himself he would ask “What about you?” That simple, underused question that shows so much interest in another person. I was sold. Within two days of chatting, he asked if I wanted to meet for a drink, and I enthusiastically accepted (probably scarily enthusiastic—kind of like how I imagine the desert people scream and cry when the rains show up).

Date 1

We met at a hipster bar in the Mission. There wasn’t instant physical fire, which is ok since some attractions grow through getting to know each other, but he was handsome, on time, and not dressed in a pimp suit or woodland creature furry costume—so a win. We huddled in a booth and sipped bourbon and tried to get to know each other. It’s been part of my job to get people to talk about themselves, and I’m really good at that, so I tried to balance that with accepting the awkward pauses to give him a chance to ask about me. It worked well and it was a good flow of conversation.

Mr. A was funny and intelligent and witty and had done interesting things. But I kept thinking, “What are reasonable expectations for a first date?” I kept thinking about movie first dates where crazy, unexpected things happen and you end up on some adventure and waking up naked on the streets of Morocco the next day with an opium hangover and covered in new tattoos. Or some inexplicable fire is created and you can’t bear to part and you talk through the night until they kick you out of the bar so you find some other place to go and kick yourself the next day because you’re so tired but you don’t care because it was amazing. None of that happened. It was just two guys sipping bourbon in a booth and chatting. And like two grownups with early mornings, we stopped at 9:30 and walked home.

So I’m left thinking, was that a good date? I think it was. Is this what dating in your 40s is like–all grownup and slow?  What are appropriate expectations for a first date? I have no idea. I’d certainly see him again, and he wrote me the next day to say he enjoyed our conversation. I replied that I did, too, and asked if he had big plans for the weekend as a precursor to asking him out again. But he never responded. So I start my search for Mr. B and work to reset my expectations. Fingers crossed.