Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hola from Mexico!

That's what I do yoga in front of every day at sun down. It's amazing.

I went on a date last night, so you can all expect to hear about it soon. Don't think I've forgotten about you all.

In other news, I just found out that I got into here:

So I'll be moving to Manhattan to begin studying Performing Arts Administration at NYU Steinhardt. 100gaydates will continue in the big city!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dry Spell

Tonight marks two weeks since my last date with a new guy. Two weeks! By this point I should have gone on a total of 20 dates, and I've been on 14. These past two weeks alone I should have gone on 4 dates, but they haven't happened. It's not that I've become some sort of recluse, hiding myself away in my bedroom watching reruns of Jersey Shore all day long (although I've seriously considered it). I've actually spent a lot of the past two weeks going out with some of the guys I've already gone on dates with and trying to figure out where I am with them. It's also been a busy past two weeks trying to plan out my life for the next 6-18 months, as I wait to hear back from grad schools, as well as some potential employers. 

But enough excuses already. Let's just be honest...I'm having troubles meeting people. Now, for most singles, going two weeks without a date wouldn't be considered a dry spell. Hell, there have been times where I've gone 6 months without a date. But I've spent the past two weeks trying to get a date and have been unable to do so. I have a few theories as to why: 

1) I gave up Internet dating. As explained here, I decided two week ago to stop using the Internet as a source to find dates. Although it wasn't my sole source previously, it was always a handy resource to meet a guy and find a quick date. In all honesty, I can easily jump online and find someone for coffee or dinner within an hour or so. (Sadly enough I could find a hookup even faster than that if I wanted. One time my friends and I logged on an application called grindr and raced to see who could get someone's address for a hookup the fastest. I found someone within 3 minutes.) So by taking away this large pool of men online, I've effectively made finding a date a much more involved process. Hopefully it will yield better quality dates. But so far it's yielded zero dates, which begs the question: is no date better than a crappy date? 

2) Most guys within my social circle that I could date have either already done so, or are completely uninterested in doing so. My blog is a somewhat polarizing topic when it comes to someone being interested in me. While most people compliment me for the endeavor, they also fall into two camps generally: intrigued or cautious. Those who are intrigued are willing to go out, comfortable with the fact that they are one of 100 guys that I'm going to date this year, and glad to be a part of it. The cautious group usually asks themselves why they would want to take time to go on a date with me if they're just going to be one of 100 dates. It's a legitimate question to ask oneself. In fact, I'm not sure that I would want to go out with a guy who is doing what I'm doing because when I go on a date with someone I really try to open up to them and be genuine. It'd be easy to see a date with me as futile. The only answer I can really give to those who are cautious is to repeat what I said at the beginning:

"I’m not looking for love…[but] if I find love in the process, then so be it."

For me, a date is a harmless chance to get to know someone new. If you're cautious about going on a date with me because you think it won't go anywhere, then you're missing out on an opportunity to (at a bare minimum) get to know someone new, and at most, to
find love (no guarantees). 

3) Lastly, I attribute the "dry spell" of dates to the natural ebb and flow of life. I don't want to get caught up in a strict adherence to a quota of two dates a week. Yes, that's the goal. And yes, I'm trying to fulfill it. But I think I might lose sight of the purpose of the whole experiment if all I'm focusing on is making sure that I'm hitting two dates a week or if I'm worried I won't have enough content for the blog. We all go through dry spells, and I have to just accept that I'm going through one right now. 

Whatever the reason is for the dry spell doesn't solve the problem I'm having with meeting people. And I think what I'm facing is something confronted by a lot of people, especially in the gay community. 

Now I don't want people inferring that I'm saying that being a single heterosexual is easier than being a single homosexual. When I was dating woman it was also difficult at times to find people to go on dates with. The difference is this: as a heterosexual man it's pretty easy to know who is available or not in your everyday life. That is, you can go to work or school or the gym or a bar and be fairly confident that most of the ladies (minus any lesbians) are available for you to meet and mingle with. Yes, you will run into those who already have boyfriends or husbands or who just aren't into you, but you can plainly see what is available for you. 

As a gay man your options are fairly reduced. People don't wear signs that say "I'm gay!" Well, some do and that's actually really helpful at times. For the most part, however, I have a hard time meeting people during my every day routine and knowing first of all, if they're gay or not, and second of all, if they're even interested in me. The added layer of uncertainty when it comes to figuring out the sexuality of those surrounding you complicates the process of meeting new people to potentially date.

It's for this reason that the queer community creates environments and situations to allow people to meet. Gay bars (or gay nights at a bar), queer networking events, gay skate, and gay outdoor groups all do one thing: they take the guessing out of the question of sexuality. When you go to a gay bar you can be pretty sure that the guys there are gonna be gay. And this is great! It's wonderful to not have to wonder if the person you're talking to is gay or not. It's the same reason that gay dating sites are so great. There's no guessing that the people you're meeting are gay or not. There's also no guessing as to their penis size, sexual position preference, height, weight, or circumcision status. Yes, Internet dating takes almost too much guessing away. 

But in my personal experience I've found that at a lot of these gay events I meet a lot of superficial people. I feel judged so quickly for outward appearances, rather than my personality. And while I am 97% confident in the way I look on the outside, I'm 100% confident that I'm a good-hearted, kind and caring individual. I'm sure the majority of the guys that are the clubs and bars and networking events and online are also kind and good men. It's just hard to figure that out in those settings.

Quite frankly, when I go out to a bar or club with friends, I'm not interested in meeting new people. I'm there to have a drink or two, dance, laugh, and have fun with my friends. Adding the task of finding people to date makes it almost feel like a job, especially since a large amount of guys are just at the bar or club looking to "put it in." (Thanks, Jersey Shore for yet another descriptive idiom) 

These past two weeks I've tried to meet people in the most genuine of ways. I started developing a bit of a crush on my yoga teachers so I tried getting to know them (until I found out they were both together. And expecting twins via a surrogate in June! Isn't that the best? Now I just want to be their friends because I think they're so cool!). Then I saw a guy in dance class that I thought was cute, until I noticed the ring on his finger. I contacted guys who I had met in the past through school and mutual friends, but there was nothing. As I head to Mexico for a 2.5 week trip starting Tuesday morning I wonder, "Will I go a month without a date?" I'm hoping not.  

So, here are my questions for you all...How did you meet your significant other? In what situation or environment? Was it a bar or club? Who approached who? What was the first conversation like? What do you think of online dating? What's the best way to meet someone? Do you want to set me up? (I have to ask.)

Like I said above, I'll be in Mexico for 2.5 weeks, through April 8th, so my Internet service will be a little less consistent. I'm hoping to meet people while I'm there, and if I do then I'll be sure to write about it and post as soon as I can. Until then, comment with answers to my questions! I'm excited to read some responses. 

¡Chau amigos! 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Soul Food

The picture above is lululemon's company manifesto; basically it's a list of things that they believe. And I love it. lululemon, if you didn't know, is a yoga attire company based out of Vancouver, B.C. (the other Vancouver) and simply makes the best stuff for yoga. I spent some time browsing their website the other night when I stumbled across the manifesto. If you want to read it in list format then click here.

It's Friday people! So go do something with your weekend! Do some yoga! Read a book! Connect with an old friend! Do something you're afraid of! But make the most of it!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

#14- Staying the Night on Vacation

Sometimes dates come from the most unlikely of sources.

A few days before I left to Utah my phone started ringing with the name of a friend from my LDS mission appearing on the caller ID. Most of the time when I get a phone call from a mission friend I just let it forward to voicemail. It isn’t that I don’t want to talk to my friends from my mission. The conversations just tend to last an exorbitant amount of time and I usually don’t have an hour to devote to them. So, sticking with consistency, I let the call go to voicemail and listened to it immediately.

“Hey, Michael! Call me back ASAP! I need to talk to you about something!” My friend’s voice sounded urgent and concerned. I began to worry that maybe something serious had happened, like a death or accident of a mutual friend. A few moments after listening to the voicemail he sent me a text that only compounded my fears. "Call me AS AP!" I immediately phoned my friend, trying to figure out what could possibly have been so urgent. 

"Hoooolt! What's up man?" My friend answered his phone, addressing me by my last name as we did when we were missionaries. It got old calling each other Elder This-or-That and we often just deferred to last names, no matter how much we were exhorted to do otherwise. 

"What's up Buddy? What's going on? Your message got me worried."

"You're coming to Utah next week right? I saw that on Facebook."

"Yeah I am. Why?" My anxiety over possible tragedy started to turn to mere curiosity. Why was my mission friend who I hadn't in over two years all of a sudden interested that I was traveling to Utah? 

"Well, I have a guy I want to set you up with. He and I work on a student council together at school and he's really cool. Dresses really well and always makes lots of sassy remarks. I think you'd like him. Would you want to go on a date with him?"

I was pleasantly amused by my friend. Besides a handful of close mission friends, I hadn't really heard from anyone since coming out in October. I try not to presume any of their opinions of my coming out (nor is it really important to me whether or not they agree with it), but I think the silence often speaks for itself. Needless to say, I was pleased that my friend not only was comfortable with being friends with me, but also was trying to set me up with a friend. 

"Sure! I've got time while I'm there to go out with someone. Give him my number and tell him to get in touch with me."

"Great!" My friend replied. "Hey Holt, I just wanted to tell you that in my mind you'll always be the missionary I knew in Paraguay. But I think you're great now too! I love reading your blog and hearing about all your dates. I'll always be a friend." 

Heartwarming, right? 

Anyways, I didn't think much of it. There was no guarantee that his friend would contact me, and I hadn't asked my friend for a way to get a hold of the guy, so I figured if it happened, then great, and if not, then no big deal.  

A few days later, on the night before I left for Utah, I was getting into my car after yoga and checked my phone for missed phone calls and texts. This sometimes causes great anxiety for me. Sometimes I'll get out of being in the gym for 2 hours and there will be 2-3 missed calls and a number of texts. Other times there'll be nothing. Isn't that the worst? In our minds it means that no one cared about us for the last two hours. In actuality it means that the world doesn't revolve around us, even if we want it to. 

Luckily for my self esteem there were a number of texts, most of them saying goodbye to me while I was in Utah. One of them was from a Utah number not saved in my phone: 

"Hey Michael. Apparently our friends think we should go out some time. What do you think about that?"

I replied to him that I was always interested in meeting new people and would carve out some time for us to hang out. We decided on a Sunday evening near the end of my trip to hang out and said we'd keep in contact throughout the week to solidify plans. 

I flew to SLC and had a blast throughout the week. I saw my friends perform (if you're in SLC go see "Tale of Two Cities" at the Hale Centre Theatre or if you're in Orem try to get tickets to "Hairspray"). I did yoga. Went dancing. Saw old friends. And just had fun. During the week I texted my potential date a few times to figure out our plan for Sunday. Given the fairly dull options that Salt Lake City provides for Sunday night entertainment, there wasn't really a lot to choose from. I was amused when he asked me, "Does your bishop let you drink coffee?". I informed him that I hadn't been to church in months and didn't even know who my bishop was. We decided to start our date at a coffee shop and play the rest of the night by ear. 

On the night of the date I found #14's townhouse on a quaint side street in the downtown area that I had never heard of before. I walked up to the door and peeked through the glass on the door to see inside. There was my date, sitting at his kitchen table,  finishing up dinner. I knocked and he answered the door. 

"Hi, I'm Michael" I said after stepping inside. 

He extended his hand to shake and introduced himself. After apologizing for not being completely ready yet he showed me to the living room to wait for him. As he brushed his teeth and got his shoes on I took in the media that surrounded me. On the coffee table in front of me was a book, some sort of self portrait mixing visual art and writing, of a Mormon convert and artist named Trever Southey. The art was beautiful and I was especially touched by a quote on the inside flap that said, "Growth does not generally mean the killing of any part of oneself but the embracing of all enriching parts." How true. 

My date emerged from his bedroom ready to leave and I was finally able to get a complete look at him. He was about my height (that is, around 5'8"), thin, with a nice defined jaw and piercing, light blue eyes. His hair was buzzed and his ears were stretched just slightly with some small plugs. He wore dark jeans and a plain white tee. I was completely attracted to him. 

We got into the car and drove a few minutes to a coffee shop on 100 South Street. On the way there I tried to initiate conversation with him but felt as if he was resistant to talking. Maybe he wasn't as excited about the date anymore? Or maybe he just wanted to be able to sit down and talk face to face, instead of in a car? I decided to not think too much about it and found parking for us. 

After ordering tea for both of us, we sat down and again I started to ask questions. And again I felt that he wasn't really opening up at all. It's not that he wasn't responding to my questions, he just seemed to be evading any type of meaningful response. 

Some examples:

Q: "So, what are you studying in school right now?"
A: "Man, what haven't I studied in school...(silence)"

Q: "How many siblings do you have?"
A: "Less than I used to..."

Q: "Do you like the tea?"
A: "I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts."

I jest. He said he liked his tea a lot. But the first two questions and answers were completely true! #14 seemed to have a thick shell to protect himself from...what? Being hurt? Vulnerable? Letting people in? Honesty? Any type of question that I asked about family, goals, or really anything of substance was met with distance and evasiveness. He didn't, however, seem to be having a bad time or be disinterested in me. In fact, there'd be times I'd catch him smiling a huge smile in my direction as I spoke, listening intensely on what I said. I was confused but still intrigued. 

I decided to lighten the conversation and talk about entertainment. 

"What tv shows do you like?" I asked him. 

"Nurse Betty is really good. As is Dexter. But Weeds is amazing. Like hands down the best show on television."

My heart leapt. I. Love. Weeds. After Lost ended Weeds became my obsession and I became completely entranced by the tragically comedic citizens of Agrestic, CA. For Christmas of 2009 I got seasons 1-5 on DVD and my friend Cory and I would watch episodes in between classes at school. We finished all five seasons in a little over a month. In December, after moving back to Portland, I spent the first few days watching all of season six on my family's DVR. I. Love. Weeds. 

"What did you think of the season six finale?" I asked #14, excited to find something that he might open up about. 

"I actually have only seen through season five." He confessed. "I wonder if season six is available to rent at Blockbuster."

Being the Weeds fanatic that I am I knew that it had come out on DVD the week beforehand and was onsale at both Target and Walmart. 

"I was planning on buying season six soon anyways." I said. "Why don't we go pick it up and watch a few episodes at your place?"

We picked up our still piping-hot tea, walked out of the coffee shop, got in the car, and went to purchase Weeds. The entire car ride to the store and back to his house was filled with character analysis, plot recaps, favorite characters and plot twists. We geeked out over Weeds. It was a spontaneous and fun direction to take the date. 

We got back to his place and got everything set up in the living room. He brought us out each a blanket saying that he couldn't watch tv without one. After he switched into sweats he sat down next to me on the couch. We only ended up using one blanket, but we were by no means cuddling as we watched the show. 

Late night television or movie watching with a date generally leads to one thing in my experience: about half the time is spent watching the movie and the other half is spent making out. It's like there is something chemical that is transmitted from the glow of this television that turns on a switch in people, causing them to lose interest in the entertainment and instead become captivated by the lips of the person you're with. From my research it's a pretty universal phenomena amongst all genders and orientations. 

I credit the genius writing of Jenji Kohan, creator of Weeds, for the blockage of the aforementioned phenomena. We didn't even snuggle as we watched because we were both leaning forward and focusing on the show. I had already seen the season so there wasn't as much shock by the plot twists and black comedy, mostly just reminders of how much I love the show. But as it was #14's first time watching, it was entirely new to him and seemed to fill him with joy. He laughed and guffawed out loud at every joke and twist, showing a softer side that I hadn't seen in the coffee shop. The more I watched him watch Weeds, the more I liked him. 

After our 6th episode it was nearly 2am and #14 announced that we could watch one more and then would have to stop. We took a bathroom break, refilled our water glasses, and sat back down on the couch. This time he sat a bit closer than before, and I decided to put my head on his chest. He responded by wrapping his arm around my shoulder and running his hand through my hair. We watched the entire seventh episode like this, cuddling and guffawing together. 

When the episode finished we got up and I started to get ready to leave, packing up the DVD while he put the blankets back in his room. I could see him making his bed as I looked for my keys and phone. Not a word had been exchanged by us since the tv was turned off, and I was unsure if the date had ended or not. #14 came back into the living room as I started to put my shoes on. 

"Well, I guess I should go home then?" I asked him. 

"Do you want to go home?" He responded, smiling coyly. 

I didn't know exactly what I wanted at that moment. The date had started in such a frustrating way but turned sweet near the end. I didn't know what would happen if I passed his bedroom door and stayed the night. I wasn't opposed to anything happening that felt right and came from an honest place. 

"No." I answered. "I don't want to go home."

"Then stay here." He smiled again and we walked towards his room. We stripped down to our underwear and got into bed together. Our lips found each other in the dark and we lightly kissed. I still had no idea where this was going, but instead of trying to think it out and plan what I thought was right, I tried to stay present in the moment and feel it out.

My date placed his cheek on my chest as I lay on my back, holding me closely. I traced his back with my hands, feeling the tautness of his muscles. We laid together for quite awhile, our inhales and exhales mirroring each other. It felt safe and innocent. 

I turned my face towards his and kissed him passionately. He kissed back and we embraced. We both pulled away at the same time and hugged one another. There was a mutual understanding that that was all that was going to happen that night. We turned to one side and I held him close to me as we drifted to sleep. 

I had to leave relatively early the next morning in order to get the car I had borrowed back to its owner but #14 woke up with me and walked me to the door. We hugged and gave each other a kiss goodbye, promising to keep in touch. 

The hardest part about a date on vacation is seeing the point of it. #14 and I had met and had a nice and close experience from my point of view. Was it a perfect date? No. Was there more I wanted to know about him? Absolutely. Would I go on another date? Definitely. But I don't have that option now. I'm back in Portland and he's in Salt Lake and there's only so much that Facebook and phones can do. But it was a good date. And if I'm ever back in SLC I wouldn't mind seeing him again at all. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Is love a drug?

"You meet thousands of people and they don't really touch you. Then you meet one person and your life changes forever."

It's no wonder I'm a romantic. I spend the majority of my free time watching films like "Love and Other Drugs" (which is where the quote comes from) or countless other romantic comedies and dramas. I seriously considered spending my Saturday night at home watching "The Notebook" just to watch a love story that I knew I'd like. I love love and romance, and there's not too much I can do to deny it. 

For me, romance isn't about gifts or presents. When an ex of mine told me he wanted to arrange for us to fly to the Netherlands to see a friend perform I thought it was an amazing prospect, but not romantic. I'm not one for gifts either because my tastes are so diverse and particular. Romanticism, in my eyes, is about the little things that let me know that the other person is thinking about me and cares. It usually isn't something the other person has to think about either. Rather, it happens spontaneously and almost by instinct. 

The first boyfriend I had was by far the most romantic with me. No matter how stressed I was with school or work, he would do something that would make me smile. It could be as simple as staying up next to me watching "Lost" on his computer until 5am while I wrote a research paper on mine just to be able motivate me and keep me awake. He wasn't really doing anything besides showing me his devotion and care. But that was enough to let me know he loved me. Everything that he did for me let me
know that he was thinking about me and that is my definition of romance. Letting the person you're with know you care. 

It's important to note though that it's only my definition of romance. We each speak our own "love language" (as Dr. Gary Chapman describes in his book "The Five Love Languages"). Often the disconnect or discord that happens in a relationship isn't because the two people aren't compatible, it's just that they aren't speaking the same love language. Like I said above, a trip to the Netherlands is cool, but doesn't speak to me as a token of love. The love language that I speak are words of affirmation, i.e. compliments, reassurance, and "I love you". This love language doesn't translate as love to everyone equally. In fact, it often is misinterpreted and can lead to the recipient feeling smothered (at least that's what a number of guys have told me). 

So, how to solve this problem then? Learn what the love language of your partner is and then learn to speak it. You can go to to learn more about the love languages. 

As for me, I'm going to continue to watch romantic movies because they speak to me. Maybe they've overly influenced my understanding of love or created unrealistic expectations of how love is supposed to be. But my optimistic heart refuses to believe that I'm the only romantic gay man in the world. So, even though it's late, I think I'll turn on the Notebook now. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

#13- Owning It

“You’re coming here today!!!! I better get to see you!”

I had just stepped off my short plane ride from Portland to Salt Lake City when I got his text message. We had dated during my last two weeks in Salt Lake City before moving away. It had been a somewhat whirlwind dating experience. He was young. Too young. 18 years young, which although legal is still too young. We had met through a mutual friend and our winter fling just sort of happened. I saw him nearly every day for two weeks. It was innocent and lovely because he was innocent and lovely. He was smitten with me and when I moved away from Utah I think I may have broken part of his heart. I, too, was pained by my planned departure.

Once I arrived in Portland he and I kept in close touch, calling each other daily and going through our days. We talked about finding a way to be in the same city again and building a relationship. It became apparent to me though that a relationship was out of the picture for us. I began meeting new people and dating, eventually getting serious with another guy. My young romance had safe and protective. But it was young. Genuine, but young. As I reflected more and more on the fling I realized that what I had liked most about him was that he was so enamored with me, which is neither healthy or sustainable. Beyond that there wasn’t much that interested me about him on a romantic or relationship level.

Our contact lessened over the months and he became a happy memory that I kept with me from my time in Utah. When I posted on Facebook that I would be spending a week in March in Salt Lake City to visit friends and see some of the musicals they were appearing in I got a phone call from him telling me how excited he was to see me. Hearing his voice after quite a while got me excited as well, but also nervous to see him. All of our conversations since I had moved away had created a fairly immature impression of him on me, and I was worried that we wouldn’t have very much to talk about besides how much we had missed each other. Indeed, when we had been together all we really talked about was how much it sucked that I was moving away. The lack of substance in our previous conversations concerned me, and I was sure it would be the same when I visited him after so long. It was with this hesitation that I agreed to hang out with him for a sunny afternoon in downtown Salt Lake City.

On the day of our date he texted me and asked what I wanted to do. I told him that we could do whatever and that he could decide. He said he’d think about it and get back to me later. We texted back and forth about our plans and he basically said that he didn’t have any idea of things to do in the downtown area, even though he works and go to school in the area. I started to get annoyed by his indecisiveness and told him I’d meet him at his work (he needed to pick up his paycheck) and we could walk around and talk.

I took the fifteen minute walk from the apartment where I was staying downtown to the Gateway, an outdoor mall that features some of my favorite stores including Urban Outfitters and the JMR (they sell Toms Shoes and that’s about it). I meandered through Urban Outfitters, tempted to try on a sweater they had on sale but then remembered that I was late to meet #13. I left the store and started walking towards his store, still hesitant about hanging out with him. As I walked past the huge window in the front of his work he saw me and ran out the door, pulling me into a tight hug. He looked so thrilled to see me and I was reminded of that youthful and innocent admiration that I had enjoyed from him before. It made me smile to see him so excited.

We walked around the mall for a while, stopping in a few stores and chatting about the various events in our lives. He talked about how his first year at school was wrapping up and how he was excited to start performing at an amusement park during the summer. I explained the work I had been doing for my father and the new plans I had to return to Utah for the summer to perform at a theater I had previously worked for. The conversation was fine, but he seemed nervous and awkward around me. I was getting frustrated as I had to push the conversation along, asking lots of questions and getting really basic answers from him. We finally reached the end of the mall and started walking towards Trax, Utah’s light rail system.

“So, now what?” I queried.

“Umm, I don’t know. What do you want to do?” He replied.

“I’m here for you. I just want to be able to talk with you and get up to speed with how you’re doing.” I was growing more agitated by the minute. Why was he so indecisive?

“Well, I don’t really know of anything to do down here. So, yeah.”

“You’re telling me you don’t know of anything in this area? You work here. You go to school around here. There has to be something you know of.” I was about to walk away and head back towards the apartment. There was a yoga class I was missing for this date that I wanted to take and at this point I was completely confident that it would be more fulfilling than what I was experiencing.

“I’m sorry. I don’t know what to do.” He looked away from me as we sat down at the Trax station.

“Ok, well then you get on Trax and take it to your car and go home. I’m gonna walk back to where I’m staying.” I was over the date and experience. He was too young for me and didn’t have a personality. It wasn’t his fault entirely. He’s 18 and still trying to figure out who he is himself. I stood up and he stopped me.

“No, let’s stay and keep talking. We can just walk around and talk and find something to do. I want to keep talking.” I considered being a complete jerk and telling him I needed to go to yoga, but his sincerity got the best of me. We took the Trax train two stops and started walking towards Jimmy Johns. I was hungry and a sandwich sounded appealing. We sat down in the back of the restaurant and I handed him half of my sandwich. He had mentioned that he was hungry earlier but hadn’t cashed his paycheck yet. I knew he wouldn’t ask for the sandwich so I just placed it in front of him.

“Thank you. You really don’t have to though.” He protested.

“I know I don’t have to. But you’re hungry. So eat.” He smiled at me and took a bite of the sandwich, some of the sprouts falling to the table.

“So,” I started, “Have you come out to your Mom yet?” I asked. #13 is an only child and has lived with his Mom for years. He doesn’t have a lot of contact with his Dad (actually there’s a lot of built up resentment towards his father) and because of this, he has a very special and close bond with his mother. Although his mother is not religious and not explicitly against homosexuality, #13 thinks she’d be more than disappointed if he came out because she always talks about him getting married and having kids.

“No, not yet.” #13 replied. “I want to wait until I move out of her house to tell her.”

“Why? If she is uncomfortable with you being gay then that’s her thing to deal with, not yours.”

He explained to me that he was worried about letting her down or not fulfilling her expectations of him. As he talked it became more and more apparent how young my friend is. However, the annoyance that I had felt earlier turned to sympathy. It was only a little over a year ago that I had been afraid of letting down my parents, friends, and leaders for not fulfilling their expectations of me. #13 explained the anxiety that he felt constantly and the almost neuroticism in which the anxiety displayed itself. He spoke of sleepless nights where he would think about nothing but somehow not be able to drift to sleep. So much of what he recounted resonated with me. After listening for ten minutes or so I finally spoke.

“You know you’re a good person, right? And that you deserve to be happy?” I asked him. His eyes started to water up as he stared at me. “You know that whoever you are, be it gay, straight, bisexual, whatever, that you’re a good, even a great person, right? You believe me when I say that?” He nodded his head as he tried to hold back a tear.

“Until you know for yourself who you are and come to terms with it, then you’re going to be floating. You’ll do things you don’t really want to do. You’ll be afraid and anxious. You’ll worry. But when you know who you are and what you’re passionate about, you’ll be amazing. You have infinite potential to do incredible things with your life, but first you have to own who you are. Own it.”

As we were talking I remembered a quote from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. I quickly looked it up on my phone and read it to #13.

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favour in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

He took the quote in, wiped his eyes and smiled. “Why do you always make me cry?” We laughed and I put my hand on his shoulder.

“I love you and will always be here for you, no matter what choices you make in your life. My love is unconditional, as is my friendship.”

Our date ended and we went our separate ways; him to the Trax station and me back to the apartment. As I walked I received a text from him thanking me for the talk. I was grateful that I hadn’t been a jerk and left him an hour before at the Trax station. Since coming out I have felt a duty to help other young men understand that they are loved and cared about, just as they are. And even though I have tried my best to help others learn that lesson, I still find myself struggling to accept it. We don’t have to be anyone that we’re not. We don’t have to try to impress or get the approval of others or apologize for being who we are. All we have to do is love ourselves and love others.

Recently I have been taking a lot of yoga classes and they are honestly some of the most fulfilling hours I spend during the week. At the end of class the teacher has us meditate for 5-10 minutes and he always finishes the meditation by instructing us to “breath in gratitude and love for yourself and for the world. Love yourself. Be grateful for this time that you have had.” While in class last night I finally let those words sink in and become true. And I felt complete.

Monday, March 7, 2011

New Rule

Recently I saw a commercial for that touted that 1 in 5 relationships now begin online and it was reassuring for me. Of the 12 dates that I’ve been on so far about 25% began in some online form. I’m currently registered on a number of different dating (or social networking) sites including:

Speed Date
LDS Singles (JK, they don’t let you look for other LDS gays)

For the most part I’ve had an ok experience with online dating. It’s definitely an easy way to meet guys and find dates. Hell, I could do it in my underwear from bed if I really wanted to. But like I wrote about in my last post, guys can be so different from who they appear to be online. A friend sent me a “someecards” this weekend that perfectly sums up my thoughts:

Like I said, I’m not against online dating. I have a number of friends that are in great relationships that started online. And I’ll be the first to admit that I love getting messages like this:

“Hey! How’s it going? I just had to tell you how beautiful your eyes are. They seem so sincere and kind. What’re you up to?”

It’s quite the ego boost. However, more often than not I get messages looking for a hookup or insinuating a hookup. The Internet has made finding a hookup just as convenient as finding a date. And it finally became too much this weekend when I received the following message. This is word for word. And I’ll warn you it’s pretty explicit, so skip it if you don’t wish to read it.

From: Surfn8
“Hey bro…Just watched this fu*%ing hot porn where this stud got f*#ked through a Glory Hole. TOTALLY ANONYMOUSLY! Looked so damn erotic and hot and got me all worked up and curious to set one up and get my sweet tight a$$ pumped through a glory hole as I wear a jock strap. Txt for directions whenever you need to relieve some pressure: 801-***-****”

I’m sure you’ll all as shocked as I was to get it. I literally laughed out loud when I read it. It was obviously copied and pasted and sent to multiple people. At the same time as I was amused by the straight-to-the-point nature of his message, I was also completely appalled. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with expressing one’s sexuality or being a sexual person. Consensual, safe sex between two adults is completely acceptable and I pass no judgment on Surfn8 for looking for someone to fulfill his fantasy. In fact, I respect him for being completely honest with what he was looking for. He could have asked me out on a date and then sprung his intentions on me at the end of the night. But that’s the frustrating part for me of online dating. It doesn’t require you to be nearly as genuine and honest as meeting in real life and cultivating a relationship in a more “traditional” way.

I’m not naïve enough to think that people are 100% honest with their intentions when you meet in real life. I’ve been burned plenty of times from dishonest people that I’ve met in real life and not online. But since online dating hasn’t lead to many quality relationships I’ve decided to cut myself off from it. For the rest of my dates I’m not going to go out with people from a dating website. I’m still willing to go on blind dates (if you know anyone let me know) and if someone contacts me through the blog to go on a date then that’s totally fine, but I’m disconnecting myself from the sites I’ve been on before. So, adios for now!

#11 and #12- Reality Check

No, I didn’t go on a date with two different people at the same time (what I would call a threesie), nor did I go on a date with a couple (which is polyamory). I went on two separate dates with two separate people, but the experience with both of them at the end was so similar that it warrants one post together. I have to prelude what I’m going to write by saying that although they are being written together this is no way diminishes their value as people or the gratitude I have for both of them taking some time to go out on a date with me. They’re both unique and wonderful individuals with a lot to offer the world. And they both have one thing in common for me…

There was no spark. No chemistry. No light. It just wasn’t there with either of them.

Date #11 was a coffee date (not an ambiguous coffee date either; we decided to go to coffee for our date) on a late Wednesday night. We met online on a new website I had found called Ok Cupid! and he had asked me out after we had messaged back and forth for a few days. It’s amazing the type of person we can create in our mind from a few pictures and a handful of three to four sentence messages. In his pictures #11 looked pensive and intellectual, gazing out over a pond in one, and smiling confidently towards the camera in another, wearing those trendy black rimmed glasses that I buy at Urban Outfitters that have no prescription but make me look smarter. He told me that he attends a small liberal arts in Portland and was a senior studying economics preparing to graduate in May. He hails from Southern California but had grown to love the Pacific Northwest in the four years he had gone to school here. His messages were sincere and kind, and he seemed eager to meet me in person from what I shared about my life.

I had begun to paint a picture of the guy in my mind and started to feel a connection to him as we chatted back and forth. I started to imagine how our date would go. We’d start out at coffee and chat about intellectual topics ranging from Dickens to the current struggles in the Middle East. He had mentioned that he was a political science major. I’d tell him about my dance classes and what I had learned that night before our date. We’d leave coffee and walk around the neighborhood, spending hours talking before ending the date with a hug, maybe a kiss. There’d be chemistry like no other. Maybe he’d be the one that ended this experiment. I had said recently that I was open to love coming in and taking me away, so it wasn’t out of the question.

Well, he wasn’t. It’s not that he had lied about anything or misrepresented himself in any way. He just wasn’t the guy that I had made him to be in mind. Although he was indeed smart, it was actually more nerdy and awkward than a smooth intellectual. While he looked confident in his pictures online, he acted nervous and anxious as he sat across from. He had a habit of picking at his fingers when asked a question and couldn’t keep eye contact with me for very long while we interacted. I could tell he was being earnest and sincere though, which was endearing. It’s possible that he was way out of his comfort zone as he confessed that he hadn’t dated very much in the past because he was so focused with school. It showed as I was forced to be the driving force of our conversation, asking the majority of questions (and follow up questions) to keep things moving.

After 45 minutes I got a call from my sister who said that my grandmother was out of surgery to remove her gall bladder and that I needed to get to the hospital to help with some things. I told #11 that I needed to excuse myself and he understood. Quite frankly I was ready for the date to be over. He was an extremely nice guy and I thought he was admirable for stepping out of his element. But any type of chemistry, even to try a second date, was absent at for me. Maybe I had been let down by my false expectations. Or perhaps he was nervous on the first date and would calm down more on the second. But it wasn’t happening for me.

The next day I got a text from him asking how my grandmother was doing and if I wanted to go out again. I was surprised by his request, but placed in an awkward situation. While I was flattered that he asked me, I knew that it would be futile since I didn’t see it leading to anything. I responded, “Hey! I’m really flattered that you asked me out again, but I would only want to do so as friends.” He texted a few hours later saying that he was grateful for my honesty and that I didn’t lead him on. However, I didn’t hear from him again about hanging out.

A few days later I went on date #12. We were set up by an acquaintance of mine who had read the blog and thought his friend might be interested. #12 called me (yes, called. Sometimes people call instead of text! It was refreshing!) to set up a date and we ended up talking for about 20 minutes getting to know one another. After we got off the phone I was pretty excited to meet #12 in person. He had called me (not texted), was attractive (his friend had shown me a picture), and had been so easy to talk to over the phone. The foundation was in place for a wonderful date.

Or so I thought.

On the morning of our lunch date I went to my dance class in NW Portland and decided to call to confirm the time and place for lunch. It was 9 or so when I called and I could tell from the way he answered that he was still asleep.

“We still on for today?” I queried.

“Umm…yeah.” He responded.

“Great!” I said.

“Actually, I’m really, really tired this morning and have to work tonight. Would you mind if we postponed until next week? I had a hard time getting to sleep last night and I just don’t see myself making it to lunch on time or even that alert.”

I was put off by his request. I knew that he was an ICU nurse and worked the graveyard shift, so it was understandable that he would be tired from a 12-hour shift. However, he also had told me that he hadn’t worked the night before and had stayed in Portland with some friends so that he could run some errands and then go on our date. I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and set up a different time for lunch. Although I was still put off by having sleep chosen over a date with me, I tried to look on the bright side. At least he hadn’t slept through the whole date or stood me up completely.

By the time our next date rolled around I was less enthused to meet #12. It wasn’t that I was bitter or annoyed about being cancelled on, but the initial excitement I had to meet him was reduced by what had happened. Perhaps he didn’t think I was nearly as interesting as I had thought him from our original phone conversation? As I walked into Petit Province on Alberta Street (a great little pastry shop and café) I put everything behind me and focused instead on the enthusiasm I had for #12 initially. I slapped on a smile and found him inside the café waiting for me.

All hopes I had for #12 redeeming himself faded away within the first ten minutes of conversation. He had a sarcastic and abrasive personality that turned me off almost immediately. When I told him that I was trying to reduce the amount of carbs I consume he started shooting questions at me, asking me a bunch of scientific questions about why reducing carbs would be a healthy choice. When I couldn’t answer his questions and said that I had read about it in a few magazines he smirked at me and said condescendingly, “Well, I would do some proper research before making a choice like that.”

I’m not a confrontational person by nature. I try to look at the positive sides of a situation, especially when I’m meeting people for the first time. You could call me a modern day Lucy Manette from Tale of Two Cities. But #12 was frustrating me more and more by the minute. Where was the sweet guy that had called me to ask me out? The one who had talked to me for twenty minutes without even meeting me? The one that seemed so kind? Just like #11, #12 turned out to be miles away from the man that I had created in my mind. Thankfully the date only lasted about an hour because I had to get to a class in a different neighborhood. I didn’t even hug #12 goodbye at the end. I just thanked him for meeting me and left the restaurant. It’s been over a week since our date and neither he nor I have contacted one another, which I’m completely fine with.

I’ve said before that I really do like blind dates. I enjoy being set up by friends or acquaintances and meeting new people, but it can be so hit and miss. More than anything I learned on dates #11 and #12 that people can be so different from what we create in our minds. We all have expectations when we go on a date about personality, looks, likeability, how fun the date will be, and myriad other factors. When our expectations are met then we feel satisfied. We might even go on another date with the person. When the person and/or the date exceed our expectations then it’s very likely that we’ll need to go on another date. “If the first date was so great, how much greater will the second date be?” we often think. But when the date and/or person don’t meet our expectations (or are completely off the mark from our expectations) then we usually don’t want to go out again. So, do we lower our expectations so that they can be easily met? After all, maybe my expectations were just too high for #11 and #12. I’m sure they actually are both really great guys. But, they just didn’t fulfill what I was looking for. They didn’t meet my expectations. That doesn’t change their inherent value as people, it just means they aren’t for me.

So, no, I’m not going to lower my expectations, the first expectation being that there has to be chemistry and spark. That’s a hard one to describe but an easy one to feel. And I definitely didn’t feel it with 11 and 12.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

10 Down, 90 to Go

Today I went to lunch with an ex and no, it did not count as a date. After breaking up two months ago we finally sat down and caught up. I’ll admit it, I didn’t really want to go at first. This was a guy who I was completely smitten with, who I saw myself with in the long term, and who hurt me deeply when he told me he wanted to downgrade our relationship and be able to see other people again. He said he had jumped into our relationship too quickly without thinking it through and had second thoughts about his capability to commit to one person. I was angry at his insensitivity and felt pretty worthless, leading to me listening of Jennifer Hudson’s Kennedy Center performance of “I’m Here” on repeat for two days:

After a few days of thought I decided that if my ex didn’t realize why I was important enough to commit to then he would just have to miss out. We met at the spot of our first date and I told him that I didn’t want to see him anymore. It was a growing moment for me as I learned to not allow myself to be unappreciated and that any guy that I date has to be committed to me at the same level that I’m committed to me. He has to need me as much as I need him.

Over the last two months he and I have kept in light contact but I tried to limit my communication with him to drive home my point, which is that he can’t take people for granted like a commodity or a stock option. We attempted to find a time that worked mutually to get together for tea or lunch but they all fell through. Finally, last night he asked if I wanted to get lunch today. Having nothing to do this afternoon I agreed.

At first our lunch was a little awkward as we caught up on school, work, family, and friends. I knew that he had been seeing a guy for a while and was curious how that was going. Since my dating life is so publically transmitted to the world, and knowing that he has read about most of my dates (I’m actually he has read about all of my dates since he knew little details about each one), I decided that asking him to tell me about his dating life wasn’t inappropriate.

“How’re things going with your guy?” I inquired.

“They’re…fizzling.” He replied.

When I asked what happened he explained that the guy he had been dating had started to try to get back together with his ex, leaving my ex in a weird state of uncertainty. While his new man didn’t end the relationship, he had become hot and cold, at times wanting to be with my ex, and other times being distant and quiet. “At this point, he’s got nothing to lose with me. He knows I like him a lot and want to be with him, even though he wants to be back with his ex. I know it’s only going to end badly for me.” I couldn’t help but smirk a bit as I pointed out to him that karma had come back to bit him.

“Do you understand now what I felt like at the end of our relationship?” I asked him. He said that’s why he was telling me what had happened, so I could see the irony of the situation. I laughed out loud and told him he was learning the lesson that I had to learn with him.
“So, you’ve been on ten dates now. What have you learned?” He asked me.

His question caused me to think. What have I learned in the past two months? How have I grown? What changes have I made? And where do I see it all going? As I reflected in the little café where we ate lunch and even more as I have gone throughout the day I narrowed it down to three things:

1) I love people. I am so appreciative of the ten individuals who have taken the chance to go out on a date with me and to give me a half hour, hour, twelve hours of their lives. In a world where our time is squeezed more and more it is a lot to ask someone to do. And I’m grateful for them. I have met ten fascinating individuals and have ninety to go and I love them all. Honestly, I feel love towards them all, even if it’s not a romantic love. In fact, I would go on a limb and say I’m trying to love all the people in my life even more these days. It’s a hard claim for me to make. It could easily be viewed that the guys I’m going on dates with are just a number to me, another date to go on and another guy to meet. But I value each person who comes into my life (through this dating experience or otherwise) and I’m just grateful to have them around.

2) Honest communication is key. There are so many different ways we communicate. We text. We call. We email. We wink. We poke. We smile. We touch. We laugh. We roll our eyes. We gaze. We kiss. We love. But even with all of the signals and words and imprints we send towards other people, we sometimes forget to be honest in what we’re communicating. Instead of saying “I actually can’t hang out with you because I’m dating my ex-boyfriend again”, we say “I have to work really early in the morning tomorrow so I can’t hang out with you tonight.” (Or the next two times we have planned to hang out.) Or we kiss passionately at the end of a date, even if we don’t plan on calling ever again. We live in a cultural climate where we are bombarded with communication on constant basis (my iPhone has buzzed with 12 notifications in the 45 minutes since I sat down to write this), let’s at least try to be honest in the communication that we are sending. As disappointed as I was when date #8 said, “I really am enjoying my time with you and getting to know you and having fun, I need you to know that we can only be friends and that’s all I can handle in my life right now.” I was also grateful that he was honest. And we remain friends now. I am trying to be more honest in my communication as well.

3) I’m young. I like to think of myself as a wise person and as someone who has lived through a lot. And in a lot of ways I have. I’ve lived outside the country for two years. Gone through a rigorous business education program at one of the best schools in the nation. Travelled throughout the United States. Performed in one of the most amazing theaters in the West (in my humble opinion). Joined the Mormon Church. Come out of the closet. Changed my spiritual views. I’ve done a lot of with my life so far and am proud of what I’ve accomplished. But I’m still young. Especially when it comes to dating and love, and even more especially when it comes to gay dating and love. I find myself realizing more and more each day how little I know about loving others, even though I feel like I try my best to do so honestly and genuinely. Reminding myself regularly that I don’t know everything there is to know about relationships and that I am still relatively new to the game helps me keep things in perspective. I’m allowed to make mistakes, as long as I try my best not to repeat them. That’s what being young is all about right?

So, here I am, 10% of the way through this experiment and ready to go on 90 more dates. The task still seems daunting at times, but it’s still very exciting and exhilarating. I’m excited to meet 90 more individuals and learn from them (If you know of anyone please send them my way. I’m always looking.) and to continue to share with you all what I’m learning along the way.