Monday, February 28, 2011

#10-Lordy, Lordy, Look Who's Forty

Throughout the past few weeks I have met literally hundreds of people through social networking events, going out to bars and clubs, hanging out with friends (and their friends), and doing business for my father’s company. As I’ve previously talked about, I love meeting people and hearing their stories, understanding their passions and desires and what they want to make of their life. Most often I am around people that are in their 20s and have the world at their fingertips (even if they don’t see it like that). For the most part the people who form my peer group are single, recently graduated from college or currently enrolled in college, full of energy and vitality, and ready to change the world with their ideas and projects. It’s very seldom that I have the chance to sit down with a friend who does as much “looking back” as they do “looking forward” in terms of where they are in life and where they want to be.

When I set out on this social experiment I put three minimum requirements that guys would have to fulfill in order to go on a date with me. First, they have to be between 21 and 35 years old. Second, they have to either have a college degree (or be working towards one) or a compelling explanation of why they didn’t go to school. And lastly, they have to be passionate about SOMETHING and be able to hold a conversation about it. #10 didn’t fulfill the first or second requirement. He went into the banking industry without finishing school (and has become quite successful within the industry). And he’s…40. Yep, the big 4-0. Recently my family and I just celebrated my dad’s girlfriend’s fortieth birthday party. My mother is only a year older at 41 and my father will turn 45 this June. Needless to say, I usually consider people in their forties as parental figures, not possible soul mates. But, #10 had asked me on a date and I had been attempting to institute a “Never say no” policy, inspired by Maria Dahvana Headley’s memoir “The Year of Yes”, so I said yes. I was also attending #10’s fortieth birthday when this occurred and, being without a gift to offer the birthday boy, I gave him the only thing I can honestly afford at this point, which is my time.

I was attending his birthday party with the Polys (#2 and partner) as a stop on our way to Blow Pony, the monthly queer dance that is thrown in Portland at Club Rotture, and I really didn’t know anyone at the birthday party. After a rousing, harmonized rendition of “Happy Birthday” the cake was cut and passed out amongst the guests and I decided to finally introduce myself to the birthday boy and thank him for letting me crash his party. As I extended my hand to him I could tell instantly that he was interested in me. While we conversed he kept his hand on my lower back and when I mentioned that I was trying to go on 100 dates this year his eyes lit up and he asked, “Can I be number ten?” I thought about it for a split second and decided “to hell with the rules” and said, “Of course!” We exchanged numbers and I told him I’d let him know when I hit date number nine so that we could set up our date.

At this point I’m sure you’ve all conjured up in your minds an image of #10 that is more similar to my would-be date #9; that is, an old creeper. But #10 is the youngest looking 40 year old that I’ve ever met. He’s a little bit shorter than me, in wonderful shape, perfect smile, short hair, and a wardrobe straight from Nordstrom. His personal appearance is noticeably important to him and he does a lot to make sure that he looks good, both qualities that I appreciate.

Over the next two weeks I ran into #10 a number of times and on each occasion he would ask me when our date would be. I assured him that I was working on getting to #10 and that when it was time for our date I would give him a call. He was obviously excited about the idea of going on a date with me and at first that turned me off. “Why is someone my parent’s age so interested in going on a date with me?” I thought. Maybe I should have agreed to go on a date with him. I had set the age limit at 35 because I thought I could never imagine myself with a man over that age. I felt bad having agreed to the date and then going back on my acceptance. What would it hurt me to go on a date with him?

I began to ask myself why age was such an issue for me. If Ashton could fall for Demi, why couldn’t I go for an older man? Was it really #10’s age that was keeping me from getting excited about the date or was it something else? What really is age anyways? Is it just a number as many of my friends have preached to me? Or is it actually unimaginable that I could end up with a man that graduated the same year as my mother? Isn’t that what I keep telling people I’m looking for? Someone mature who knows what he wants and likes?

The questions began to pile up in my mind until finally I stopped thinking. I realized that all of the energy I was putting into thinking about going on a date with #10 was preventing me from hearing what my heart was saying which was, “You’ve got nothing lose, and everything to gain.” So I sent a text over to #10 and asked him when he wanted to go out the next week. And I didn’t get a response. I waited a few hours and still didn’t hear anything. I told myself that some times older people don’t text at the same fast paced rate that I do. That night I went out dancing with some friends and while we were out we ran into #10. Having had a few drinks I was completely uninhibited and asked him why he didn’t text me back. He looked embarrassed and didn’t really say anything, instead laughing and giving me a hug. “You are having second thoughts about going on a date with me because you think I don’t like you because you’re 40, right?” He smiled sheepishly and nodded his head. “You’re right” I replied. “I was having problems with your age but I still want to go out with you. I want to get over the weirdness I have with age and just get to know you. Nothing to lose. Will you go out with me to dinner this week?” He said yes and we decided to go out the next Thursday after my dance class.

Dinner was wonderful. We ate great Mexican food at Cha Taqueria in NW Portland, drank really inventive margaritas, and conversed for almost two hours. We talked about past relationships (he’s had a number of serious boyfriends over the years), dreams for businesses we want to start, mutual friends, Mexico (he has vacationed there twice this year already and I’m going on an annual trip in three weeks), our insecurities (we both get attached easily to guys and worry too much about what others think of us), our families, and where we see ourselves in ten years (he wants to own a bar and I want to be in New York producing theater). The conversation was easy going and entertaining, and I had a great time. But by the end of the night I realized I still wasn’t interested in him. However, it wasn’t because of his age. He just simply wasn’t the type of person that I’m attracted to in terms of a relationship. There’s nothing scientific or logical about it. Nor can I explain in words why I’m not attracted to him. But my heart wasn’t feeling it and that’s what I have to listen to.

I recently read the following on the blog of a man who traveled the country for thirty days going on thirty dates in thirty different cities: “I’m looking for the spark. The almost instantaneous subconscious assurance that the man/woman in question fits that special place in your heart. It’s nothing you can earn, adapt to, gain, or work towards. It’s either there or it isn’t…it is an amazing feeling: intoxicating, hopeful, insane, and magical.” The spark wasn’t there with #10 (although a long lasting friendship is definitely in the future for the two of us). I’ve only felt the spark with one person in my life so far, but I’m confident that it will happen again with someone. And that’s what I’m looking for in this whole experiment. It’s not only about meeting 100 guys or eating at 100 different restaurants or having 100 conversations. I’m looking to have the spark with someone.

I know this goes somewhat against what I originally put as my goal for this experiment. I said I wasn’t looking for love but that’s a falsity. We’re all looking for love. We’re all looking to find someone that makes our life more fulfilling and I’m looking for it too. And even though I’m going about it in a very roundabout manner, I’m enthusiastically optimistic that I’m going to find it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

#9- The Blindest of Blind Dates

Since I started dating I’ve always sort of been a fan of blind dates. There’s something exhilarating about going on a date with someone that you really don’t know much about and whose physical appearance is a complete mystery. For some people blind dates can be the cause of great anxiety and fear and horror stories abound about blind dates that have gone terribly wrong. Even I have had my share of awkward blind dates. But for the most part, I like them. I like the nervousness and the first few questions that are asked. I like waiting for the person to arrive and trying to figure out which they are in a crowd. But mostly there’s a romantic anticipation that the person could be “the one”. Each time I go on a date (be it blind or not) I always think, “Maybe this will be the last first date I’ll ever go on in my life.” So far I haven’t been on my last first date, but there remains a youthful optimism with me that keeps me going out.

When I started my blog I put a little box in the corner that invited people to go on dates with me if they felt inclined. I honestly didn’t expect to get any responses but after a few weeks I had an abundance of guys asking me out. There were Harvard law grads, a Stanford med student, and even a guy from Ireland. I was overwhelmed that so many people wanted to take me out on a date. However, out of the 30 or so guys that had asked me out via the blog, only one of them lived in Portland. I wrote back to every guy and said that I would love to go on a date with them, if I ever happened to be in the same city as them. To my Portlander, however, I told him we should try to set up a time within a few weeks to meet. He agreed and we set a date to go to lunch the following week.

The night before the date #9 emailed me to confirm lunch the following day. In my reply I asked how I would know what he looked like when I got to the restaurant. All I knew about him was that he was a 24 year old PSU student who lived somewhere in Portland. He told me that he would be wearing a blue hat the next day and asked how he would recognize me. I directed him to my Facebook page and asked him to add me so that we could see one another’s pictures. He told me he didn’t have a Facebook. “What?! No Facebook?” I thought to myself. What kind of modern day college student didn’t have a Facebook. I immediately became more grateful that we were meeting in a public location. I began plotting an escape plan for the next day just in case he ended up being a 50 year old pervert who wanted to kidnap me and make me his next victim. What was I getting myself into? A blind date that is set up by one of your friends is one thing. A blind date without a single reference from a friend or at least a Facebook page to do some verification is a completely different story.

The next day I texted a few friends on my way to the lunch date and told them my plans for the date and instructed them that if they hadn’t heard from me within two hours to go onto MobileMe and use the “Find my iPhone” feature to locate my body. After spending twenty minutes finding parking in the Pearl district I exited my car and began walking towards the restaurant. I scanned the people streaming past me on their lunch breaks, looking for anyone wearing a blue hat. Unfortunately it was “Wear Your Blue Hat to Work Day” in the Pearl, as everyone seemed to be wearing a blue hat. There were navy blue fedoras, light blue North Carolina ball caps, and an overabundance of blue knit caps. I got closer to the restaurant that we had chosen and then I saw him standing outside the restaurant door, sitting on bench smoking a cigarette and scanning the crowd. My worst nightmare had become true. He was about 52 years old, dressed in pajama pants and a black pea coat, wearing a blue beanie on top of his balding head, at least 100 pounds overweight and carrying a tiny Chihuahua in his non-smoking arm. I took a deep breath and weighed my options. I could leave, go back to my car, and send him an email later in the day that said I had an emergency come up and then avoid rescheduling. Or I could go through with the date and have on of the most interesting blog entries to date since I started the experiment. My curiosity to hear this man’s story (especially why he told me he was 24 when he was clearly not in his twenties) outweighed my concern for the tiny dog accompanying us on the date. I turned back towards the restaurant and prepared to introduce myself to the man.

Right as I turned the corner onto the street I felt my phone vibrate and saw that I had received a text from the man. “Hey, I forgot to tell you I’m not wearing my blue hat today. I put my grey one on instead. See you in a few minutes!” My anxiety melted away as I realized that the Chihuahua toting man wasn’t my date at all! I began to walk towards the restaurant and after about 3 minutes he spotted me and called for me from across the street. He was indeed 24 years old, about 5’7”, normal weight, also wearing a pea coat but not pajama pants, a grey beanie, and cute little hipster black rimmed glasses. We headed to the restaurant and enjoyed a great lunch and conversation.

One of the reasons I wanted to go on a date with #9 was to understand what someone completely removed and unfamiliar with my personal life thought about the whole dating experiment and why he would even be interested in going on a date with me. I recently had met a guy (not on a date) who had compared my dating experiment to cheap art, frivolous and solely for the sake of the audience. I had been hurt by his comments and was reconsidering the whole dating experiment. Maybe I was doing all of this for attention? Was I hurting the feelings of my dates by going on 100 dates? Was I being insensitive? I ran all of these questions by date #9. I needed a third party opinion.

#9 said that the only problem he really saw with the experiment was the stigma associated with the word “date”.

“A “date” means that there are feelings attached to the occasion. Can there then be a second date if the two people liked one another? How is that possible if you are going on 100 dates this year?”

He suggested that maybe I change the title of the whole experiment to “100 Conversations with 100 Gay Men”. He explained, “The whole purpose of the experiment isn’t to find love, right? It’s to find out what you like and dislike about others. By attaching the word date to each of these conversations you immediately impose a different purpose to the meeting. However, if you say you’re just having a conversation with another gay man then you avoid any type of false expectations or hurt feelings.”

He had a point. The word “date” carried with it a lot of expectations and feelings, not only for the guys I was going on dates with but also for me. I had recently felt slighted when I found out that #7, a guy who I had definitely liked, had gotten back together with his ex-boyfriend, effectively making the possibility of a second date with me out of the question. My feelings had been hurt, not only because I thought he had liked me the same way as I liked him, but also because I had to find out about his reunion with his ex through a friend and not from him directly. It was both frustrating and sad to me.

But isn’t that the point of all of this? It’s not supposed to be clinical and scientific. It’s supposed to be about emotion and love and interaction. Whenever there are two humans involved there is going to be an inevitable risk of pain and loss, denial and sting. But the potential reward outweighs the risk to me. If I were to change the premise of the experiment from dates to conversations then I would end up with the characteristics I’m looking for in a friend, not a lover. And so, I’m pressing on with everything, resolved to be hurt 100 times or more if needed, so that I can find out what it is I’m looking for.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

#8- High School Crush

If you would have told me in high school that I would have the chance to go on a date with the boyfriend of one of my best girl friends I would have thrown my head back and laughed out loud at the prospect. Firstly because I was “straight” and he was “straight”. Secondly because he was handsome and lean, a model for the Puma brand, and I was a slightly overweight, unconfident young man trying to just get girls to look at me. And lastly, he never really seemed to show any interest in me (romantically or otherwise) in any way when we were acquaintances in high school. My, how things can change! I indeed did get the chance to go on that date with that guy. We both aren’t straight anymore and while he’s still quite attractive, I’ve grown into my own and become beautiful in my own way. #8 and I reconnected through his ex-girlfriend (or whatever they want to call it since she insists they never officially dated), who is still very close to both of us, and the three of us began hanging out a few weeks ago. The topic of my experiment got brought up on the first occasion that we all hung out. He seemed interested and intrigued by the concept, but I didn’t really think he’d want to go on a date with me. It wasn’t until after we hung out that our friend (his “ex”) said, “He says you’re not his type at all, but he definitely thinks you’re cute.” The next day I decided I had nothing to lose and asked him if I could take him out on a date. He enthusiastically (at least it felt enthusiastic) said yes and we set up a time.

The evening of the date arrived and I started feeling genuinely nervous about going out with him. I started asking myself why I felt that way and why I couldn’t relax. I had been on dates with seven different people before him, so why was I nervous? What could possibly go wrong? Even though #8 and I had spent time together in groups, we had never been out alone together and the prospect of going to dinner and spending two to three hours together brought to mind a few concerns. What if we didn’t have anything to talk about for that long? What if he was bad at conversations? What if he didn’t have any interest in me and was going on the date for mere curiosity’s sake? I felt so young and childish as the questions overwhelmed me and decided to put them all aside. “I’m a successful, interesting, attractive, confident, and motivated individual,” I reassured myself, “and this is going to be a wonderful time no matter the outcome.” My concerns were quickly resolved as the date began and we walked towards our dinner destination. Not only were we able to hold a great conversation, but there seemed to be no end to the topics available to discuss between us.

There are a few subjects that I’ve found are generally better to avoid on a first date. These typically include exes, religious beliefs, political affiliations, and anything involving bodily functions. Choosing to broach one of these topics often leads to awkward silences and some times even being offended, and so, as a general rule, I try to steer clear of these and talk about ambitions, drives, dreams, and goals. However, with #8 we hit each of these “off limits” topics head on.

We began with relationships. #8 recently got out of a long-term relationship. Like, a long, long-term relationship. Like, a four year long relationship that just ended in December. I knew all of this going into the date but didn’t want to force him to talk about it, although I thought it’d be an interesting story to say the least. He brought up the subject on his own and asked if I wanted to know. Since I had heard bits and pieces of the story from other people I told him that I thought it’d be good to hear it from his point of view. The details of the relationship are unimportant, but something became clear: #8 is still working through the process of breaking up and healing from the pain that goes along with that. He seemed tired and hurt as he talked about the deterioration of the relationship that he had put so much effort into, but also hopeful as he considered aloud the future of his love life.

After finishing up the topic of former boyfriends we decided to hit up religion. He was rightly curious about why I had joined the Mormon Church in high school and what my journey had been through the Church leading up to the present. I told him my “coming out” story and recounted my philosophy about God’s love being unconditional. #8 was raised in a Southern Baptist Church and had similar experiences to mine about coming out and reconsidering his spiritual background. Like me he had attended a private religious university and explored the “gay underworld” that so often accompanies those wonderful institutes of learning. We found that even though we had been members of churches that are doctrinally distinct and different, we had both experienced the social stigma within those organizations of being gay men.

At one point in the conversation #8 brought up the blog and asked me a question I had been asking myself for a few days. He said, “What happens if you start liking a guy? What will you do then?” It was a valid question and required an honest answer. I told him that although the purpose of the experiment is not to find a relationship (and in some ways it’s to keep me from jumping into a relationship), I can’t say that if someone comes along that I’m generally interested in that I won’t go on a 2nd or 3rd or 10th date, while still trying to fulfill my goal of meeting new people. If there comes a point when I feel like the experiment needs to end though because I want to get involved with a guy then I’ll end it. Then I said, “For example [Insert his name], I have a crush on you. And as much as I don’t want to, I do. I’ve probably had it since we were 17 years old. If something were to develop between us, and it felt right, then why would I give that up just for the sake of going on 100 dates, as much as I want to accomplish my goal?” I was shocked that I had been so forward but didn’t have any regrets about what I said. I had been honest with how I felt and put it out in the universe. #8 would choose how he wanted to feel or react to it.

By then we had been at dinner for nearly two hours (served by one of the most unique and interesting waitresses either of us had ever met. If you’re ever on NW 21st go to Bastas and ask for Shelby. She’s a real trip.) and it was time to pay for the bill. When the check came we both pulled out our wallets and grabbed our cards. He placed his in the holder first and as I handed him my card he said, “Both people pay on a date?” I replied that I had asked him out on the date so I should be the one to pay. He handed me back my card and said, “How about you pay for our second date?”

I probably blushed as I realized that I wasn’t the only one feeling like we had had a great conversation. In fact, we were able to really talk about anything with one another in a really open and free manner that is often hard to find in another individual. After the date was finished I got a text from him that read: “Hey! Had fun tonight :) I loved talking with you! So refreshing!” I took it as a good sign that the date had gone well for him too. I’m trying not to analyze or think too much about anything that happened. What I know is that I had a great time talking and conversing, and I learned (or relearned) that if I’m not able to have deep, meaningful conversations with someone, then there’s probably not going to be much of a relationship of any kind formed. So, I don’t care what the future holds in terms of a second or third or fourth date with #8, but I hope that we can just continue to talk and grow closer through communication and just be ourselves. And that feels right.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

#7- Strikes and Spares

It was the rumbling I heard first. The sound of stomachs digesting dinners and drinks from the night before, trying to make sense of it all, keeping the good and passing on the bad. I opened my eyes and saw #7 lying next to me asleep, his stomach growling and gurgling. On the floor his dog, a beautiful brown hound, rested on top of a pile of his clothes, his stomach also rumbling and moaning. I took a deep breath and exhaled, listening to the duet of stomach sounds reverberating throughout the room. Then my own stomach joined the mix, processing the greasy fries and tangy hefeweizen, creating a harmonious trio of early morning digestion. I smiled as I took it all in and reconstructed in my mind the entertaining time I had had the night before.

#7 and I met nearly a month ago now at a game and movie night thrown by #2 and his partner. I was sitting at one end of the table taking in a new group of friends when #7 walked in. He had a six-pack of beer in one hand and the classic board game Jenga in the other. The room seemed lighter and happier with him in it. He was gregarious and energetic and seemed to be good friends with everyone in the room. I could tell I liked his personality immediately.

As the night progressed we all moved from the dining table where we were playing games and into the living room to start a movie that #7 had brought (“Sordid Lives” if you’re looking for a hilarious film). We were all chit chatting and #7 and I started to talk about having lived in Utah. He grew up in a small town about two hours away from where I lived while attending BYU. He mentioned, however, that he had spent a lot of time in Provo and Orem because he had dated a guy for two years who was from there. I’m always curious to see how small the gay world is (and the Utah County gay world is pretty damn small) so I asked the name of his ex-boyfriend. He said his first name and I finished it with the last name of a guy I had dated for a few weeks last spring. #7 freaked out! “You dated my ex-boyfriend!” We laughed and bonded over stories of our mutual ex and by the end of the night made our friendship official by adding one another on Facebook.

Throughout the next week #7 and I texted back and forth and got to know one another. #7 recently started a web business and since I am in the process of starting one myself we set up some time to get together and talk about what’s involved in starting a business. When he found out that I was trying to go on 100 dates though he asked me if that changed the nature of our meeting. I told him if he wanted to make it a date we could make it a date, so we did. After a week of delays because of our schedules (although we did see each other twice during that time at events with friends) we finally went on our date: bowling together at Hollywood Bowl.

I already knew I liked him. One of my biggest soft spots for a guy is when they make me feel special and cared about and let me know that they’re thinking about me, and he had consistently done that since we started texting back and forth. He was flirty and kind and cute all at once. And in person, amongst our mutual friends, he was just as kind and endearing. I was glad that I wouldn’t have to wonder if I liked his personality and could just see if there was any chemistry. There are a lot of pluses about going on a date with someone that you already know a bit. You get to skip all of the nervous interactions involved with the “getting to know you” questions and move to just focusing on having a good time and really interacting with one another.

When we got to the bowling alley we were told that it would be an hour wait to get on a lane so we went into the bar and decided to play Connect 4 to pass the time. Board games have this amazing way to reveal some of the true characteristics of another person, both positive and negative. Unfortunately, Connect 4 showed how competitive I am. I lost all five rounds and my frustration clearly showed. He was calm and peaceful as he used logic and strategy to consistently kick my trash at the game. Luckily, before my frustration turned into outrage we were called over the intercom and sent to lane 22 to begin our games.

I was concerned going into bowling that I would have a hard time really enjoying myself because, in all honesty and in most circumstances, I suck at bowling. Never in my life had I scored more than 100 points and most of the time I bowl in the 50s. After losing at Connect 4 five times I worried that my competitiveness would bleed over into bowling. Luckily I had drunk a few beers by that point and really didn’t care too much about the bowling. Believing it a miracle to bowl a spare or strike I flirtingly suggested that for every strike that we got we would kiss on the lips, and for each spare we would kiss on the cheek. I thought that maybe there’d be three or four kisses in total. Well, here were the results:

Total Spares: 17
Total Strikes: 17

Apparently neither of us is too bad at bowling. Or kissing. In all honesty it was the most fun I had on a date in a long, long time. Everything felt so natural and free. It also helped that I bowled better than I ever had before in my life! At one point one of our bowling neighbors came up and asked us how long we had been together. We replied that it was actually our first official date, although we had known each other for a few weeks. She said she thought we had been together for a really long time just based on her observations of us. We both kind of beamed and said that things just felt really good between us.

After our fifth game of bowling was finished we headed back to his house. I knew that there was no way I could drive home responsibly so I went inside to drink some water, but after a while realized I wasn’t getting any more capable of driving so I crashed. The stomach serenade began in the morning. And here I am now a while later trying to understand it all.

It was a great date. That’s all I can really say about it. I don’t know where things are headed between us. I don’t want to really decide or over think any of it. But I know I like someone and it has kind of thrown me for a loop. This week a really great friend said the following to me: “Love is an expression of being. To be able to love, you have to be.” So that’s what I’m trying to do…stop using my brain so much and start using my heart to figure all of this out.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

#6- The Date with an (Almost) Catholic Priest

I had known that this day would come since the moment I decided to move back to the Northwest. One afternoon I got a call from a number I didn’t have saved in my phone and, thinking it might be an old friend trying to reconnect, I decided to answer and see who was calling. “Hello?” I answered cheerfully. “Is this Michael?” replied the young male voice on the other line. “Yes it is.” I said, anticipating that someone from high school would reveal his identity to me. “Oh hey!” said the young man, “We’re the missionaries in the ward and we were wondering if we could stop by to teach you sometime?”

It’s been nearly eight months since I last went to church so I knew it was inevitable that I would eventually be visited by missionaries trying to get me to come back. Having been a missionary myself in Paraguay and remembering the day-to-day struggle to fill up your schedule with appointments, I agreed to let the missionaries come and teach me.

The two missionaries arrived and we spent the first ten minutes or so getting to know one another and establishing a good rapport. After the “getting to know you” section of the lesson the missionaries began to teach. It was a simple lesson about the importance of attending church and taking the sacrament and keeping covenants, after which they concluded with the invitation to come to church on Sunday.

“So Michael,” said the older missionary, “will you come to church with us this Sunday?”

I chuckled a little bit and replied, “No, probably not.”

The missionaries looked stunned. I don’t know if they were used to someone being so straight forward with them.

“Can we ask why not?”

I quickly realized they knew nothing about my situation. They probably thought I had just not wanted to go to Young Single Adult ward, or at worst I had committed some little “sin” that made me feel uncomfortable attending church. I quickly debated with myself about whether it was important to even tell them the real reason why I didn’t go to church anymore, or if I should just tell them I would go and then not show up. The first response made me nervous to say, but the latter lacked integrity, so I took a deep breath and decided to just be honest.

“Elders, I’m gay. And that makes going to church and being an active member quite difficult, if not impossible to me.” Their eyes widened and they again seemed shocked by my straightforward reasoning. One of the missionaries began to ask me questions about how that kept me from coming to church, while the other began to search through his scriptures for something to teach to me. I could tell that they both hadn’t dealt with a gay church member before because they looked dumbstruck as they struggled to both understand my point of view while teaching me why I was wrong. After a while I told the missionaries that they didn’t need to try to teach me anything because I already knew every argument and scripture they could share.

“Believe me Elders, I didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to be gay. Nor did I just stop believing. This has been a process of self discovery that has gone on for years and will probably continue to go on for a while. But here’s what it comes down to: I didn’t choose to be gay, because I would never want to make myself a minority or leave the society of the Church that I had grown to love so much. So if I didn’t choose to be this way, then I must be born like this. And if God made me like this, then I can’t possibly believe that he would say that being how he made me is inherently wrong. And if he did do that then I can’t believe he’s the embodiment of perfect love. However, I choose to believe that God loves me just the way I am. And that’s about as much as I need to believe at this point in my life.”

The missionaries tried to encourage me to do a few more things before saying they needed to head to their next appointment. They were respectful as they left and said that I was always invited to come back to church. I told them I appreciated their efforts and wished them the best of luck. I shut the door behind them as they left and took a deep breath. I felt calm and content.

You may be asking yourself, “Isn’t this blog supposed to be about dating and meeting guys and kissing and hand holding and Michael’s big adventure as he goes on 100 dates?” Well, yes, yes it is. The anecdote above acts simply as the backdrop for my sixth date. So let’s get onto the date with the (almost) Catholic Priest.

#6 and I actually have quite a few mutual friends. He’s dated a few people that I knew from high school, and he and I had hung out on one occasion prior to our date. When he found out I was trying to go on a 100 dates this year he asked if he could be one of them. He seemed like a really cute, as well as nice and normal guy, and he came with high recommendations from my friends, so I told him that I’d be completely willing to go on a date. We settled on lunch in Northwest Portland at the Thai restaurant “Typhoon” and met on a pleasant Friday afternoon.

Before our food came we did the usual bantering about schooling, work, plans, hobbies, and the like. However, as we were talking about mutual friends he mentioned that I knew the person who had done the tattoo on his back. I asked him what the tattoo said and he replied, “Solus Deus Me Judicet” (“Only God Will Judge Me” in latin). I was immediately intrigued by his choice of words and, even though I try to steer clear of religion on a first date, I decided to ask him the story behind his tattoo.

#6 explained that growing up in Boise, Idaho he had always been religious and attended a protestant church with his family, but, after they had a falling out with their church, he found himself drawn to the Catholic Church. While attending college he became heavily involved in the church and completely devoted himself to learning the doctrines and participating in the local parish. After a while he decided that he wanted to become a Catholic Priest and started the process to enter the seminary, where he would work to become a Priest. However, after some heavy soul searching he decided that what he actually needed to do was not become a Priest, but to come out as a gay man. He did come out, but still identifies himself as Catholic, a notion that confused me, since it is hard for me to identify myself as both Mormon and gay.

“How do you resolve those two largely influential aspects of your life?” I asked him. “Doesn’t one trump the other, especially since you are living as an out gay man? Do you feel completely content with God?”

After explaining a bit about the official Catholic doctrine on homosexuality he started to explain that he didn’t believe that we completely understand what God thinks or who he is or what his intentions are. “The minute we try to put God in a box and speak for him, is the minute we being to lose what the entire point of spirituality is.”

He then asked me how I felt about God and where I was with my spirituality, given my background in the Mormon Church. I told him that I had been very indifferent towards all religion in general as of late, although I still felt that there is some sort of higher power that guides us and created us. I recounted my experience with the missionaries and how it had been a very pivotal moment for me to stand up and say that I didn’t believe that there was only one truth. “Overall,” I explained, “I think that people need to find truth in what works for them and just try to be good people to one another. At the end of our lives I think that’s what going to matter the most. Did we help others? Did we try to make life easier for others? Did we leave the world a better place than when we entered it?”

#6 then recounted something he had read by the Dalai Lama. Apparently the Dalai Lama was asked what his opinion of Western religions often stating that they are the only true faith on earth. The Dalai Lama said, “I view it as this. We’re all climbing up a mountain towards enlightenment. I might be rock climbing to the top. Others may be switchbacking. And still others might be taking a helicopter to land on top. But we’re all headed towards enlightenment. Why does it matter how we get there?” His story resonated a lot with me and really helped me to process a lot of what I had been feeling since my meeting with the missionaries.

#6 and I finished our lunch and left the restaurant and said goodbye. As he left he mentioned that we should get together again sometime, to which I replied affirmatively. I think what attracts me to him more than anything is his dedication to being faithful. It’s easy to say that you don’t believe in anything and use that as a blanket to allow yourself to do whatever you desire (and I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, just that it’s easier) but it’s quite difficult to say, “This is what I believe in. It works for me. And I stand by it.” There’s nothing about that statement that is absolute or purports to be the “truth”. Being confident in what one believes, or even just being able to say what one believes, guides you in your decisions and moves you forward towards your goals. And that’s attractive indeed.