Friday, May 30, 2008

An awkward moment...

Want to know what awkward feels like?

Awkward feels like walking through a crowded mall, with you Mom, and wondering if you'll run into someone you really don't want to see. So far you've been lucky; every time before, when you walk past the store that he works in, he hasn't been there. That's been on at least four separate occasions, so maybe he's moved on from that job.

As you walk, with her talking about something, the little flutter of terror murmurs in your stomach. It would be one thing to see him alone, or with friends. It's another thing to run into him with your mother in tow.

You shake your head. This is silly! It was one date, one not-so-great date, that you just forgot to return a phone call from. Never mind that he waited outside your building after the date, hoping you would call him to come upstairs (even after he told you he wouldn't think of such a thing. In retrospect it could have been a little fun, but c'est la vie.) OK, so you fucked it up, and feel a little guilty about not coming clean and saying the "it's not you it's me" line.

But now you wonder what's going to happen when he sees you. Will he even recognize you? Will he wave, say hi? Should you be the bigger man and say hey?

A few feet to go, and you nervously check your phone. No messages...but of course there aren't any, you would have felt it vibrate. Abandoning that, you go to slide it back into your pocket when you look up.

Like a scene from a movie, the crowd parts for the briefest moment, and there he is, standing having coffee with a couple people in front of his store. You look straight ahead, but the expression on his face betrays him. He's seen you, but looks quizzically at you. In a nanosecond the crowd envelops them again.

Panicking, you start to talk about the smallest detail to your mother, distracting yourself and her from the situation. Your phone is your shield, still clutched in your hand, and you wave it wildly in front of you in an overly exaggerated way, as if you're really, really involved in a serious conversation.

And just like that you're past him. A few stores later, your Mom steps inside one. You follow, then watch the door to see if he followed you.

For a moment you wonder why you are so pathetic, why you couldn't just go back and say hi to him. Make a bit of small talk, or see if he even wants to speak to you again. In your minds eye, after that brief glance, he looked better than you remembered... but no, you walk out of the store, back into the mall, as if this little drama has never occurred.

And that's what awkward feels like.

'Socially old man'...

Apparently, to the outside world, I am 27 years old.

I've been told I can't pull 27 off...but 25 or 26 is fine.

Let me remind you all, I'm 21. Therein lies my frustration.

For the past few months, everyone I ever meet immediately thinks I look well beyond my age. I'm not really sure what causes it; even after asking, people just say I 'look like I could be 27'. Every time it happens (well, happened...I can see it coming now so I'm more prepared) it surprises me a little and makes me question not only how people view me, but I how I present myself.

I got into a big discussion with a friend over coffee on Tuesday. She's the third person I've seen socially back home since I moved back out (how sad is that?) and I relished the chance to have adult conversations...with someone my own age.

Somewhere along the line, I brought up the funny fact that everyone new I meet believes me to be a lot older. We batted it around for a while, trying to understand why people add six years to my life when some people look so young that those years are removed instead.

"Well, you don't really 'act your age', do you?" she said. I shot her a puzzled look as she continued. "You're a lot more mature, even for 21, so people pick up on that."

"Great, now I'm fucked because I'm the mature, responsible one," I said. "Oh, wait, fucked again...high school would have been the first instance where not being the mature, responsible one would have been a lot more fun."

It seems that across the board, people just fall over themselves to label me 27. Guys I've dated thought I was 'older', people on the street, friends from school...

Once I was going out with this cute guy, around 23. On our first 'date' (it wasn't really date-ish at that point) we were walking outside, the sun shining in our faces, doing the whole get-to-know-your-basics conversation. I love learning about people, but I didn't want to hear what he had to say about me.

"So, how old are you again?" he asked, innocently enough.

"21," I said, nonchalantly. After all, it's true.

"Oh," he said. "Really. Because you look 27."

Behind my sunglasses, my eyes rolled and I tried not to purse my lips too visibly.

I've even got into words with a guy or two who I was organizing some recreational time with. "You're not 21," one of them shot at me, "come on, you're way older than that. Don't be such a fake." No matter how much you promise and try to convince them, it really just adds doubt and makes you look even more desperate. Needless to say, we didn't spend any recreational time together.

I thought I'd hit a bit of a reprieve on Wednesday when I went to an electronics store to buy a can of that compressed air stuff. My Mac is on the fritz and one of the suggestions was to blow out some dust from the thing, which called for me to buy a $10 can of air-with-a-straw.

As I was rung through the cash, the teenage girl behind the counter looked me up and down. "You're over 17, right?" she asked seriously.

My jaw dropped. True, I was wearing a hoodie, jeans and a t-shirt, but come on, I don't 'look' 17. Do I?

"Are you serious," I asked her. "I just bought some bottles of wine and nobody carded me there!"

She paused. "Well, anythings possible," she said, "you could be under 17."

"Oh, thank you. Oh, God! Thank you!" I said, as she laughed and nodded. "This never happens anymore!"

She smiled. "I know how you feel, I love to get carded these days."

OK, so count her for one that doesn't think I'm 27. One out of a thousand.

I just don't know what all of this means for me. In a society where youth is appreciated, but age is supposedly 'just a number', do we 'socially old men' have a shot at meeting someone our own age?

Fundamentally, it doesn't matter at all what our age is. We all get along based on personality and compatibility, friends and lovers included. But why does it irk me so that people refuse to acknowledge my actual age, instead tacking on a few too many years for my preference?

And, since it always comes back to boys, what does it mean when someone who looks 27 but is actually 21? How ridiculous will I look trying to pick up guys in the 18-22 bracket when they all think I'm an old man of 27? And, dear God, how will I feel when they pick me up hoping that I'm actually the older man? I just don't need another strike against me in the dating world.

It does make me wonder, though, if I would have better luck dating someone who really is 27. Since I'm supposedly so much older, mature, etc. then maybe my perfect match is someone who really is that much older. Having never done it before, I don't really know how it would work out. I just hope I don't look too old for the youngins, but too young for the guys who actually are 27.

Do I really mind looking that much older? Yes, I guess I do, because it's not what I find attractive. I like guys who are my age, who look like it; the only thing I can hope for now is that opposites really do attract. And it's not that I really am bothered by looking a little's when I'm told I look a lot older that things get a little scary. 23 or 24 I could handle...27, not so much.

The one thing I always joke about is my hope that this is how I'll look until I actually am 27. If I can just keep from starting to look any older, I can (sort of) live with looking past my age. When you do the math, if I still look markedly older than I am, I'll look like I'm in my 30's when I'm 24.

Now that's enough to put lines on your face.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Good morning...

As a society, we try to look our best most of the time.

Even when we're not decked out in the latest wares, there is the sense that we should be trying to look as together as possible. Our ears should be washed thoroughly, underwear changed daily, teeth scrubbed pearly white and hair kept to appropriate angles. After all, what would the neighbors think if we were hit by a bus? Sloppiness, even in today's modern world, is still looked down upon with the heavy suspicion of a cantankerous Grandmother.

We always try to look good when we're seeing someone. Weather it's the night of the first date, the afternoon coffee or the midnight rendezvous, the aim is to look sexy and civilized. And quite often this can lead to looking sexy and a lot less dressed.

But when you've been rolling around in bed all night with product in your hair, slept on a strange pillow that left crease marks in your face and wound up developing a slightly, uh, 'used' scent, not unlike being ridden hard and put away wet, the appearance the morning after can be remarkably different from the well-kept gent you were the night before.

So how do you not look like shit when you wake up the next morning with a boy in your bed? I mean, with product gunking up your hair, sticking it out at all sorts of crazy angles after a night of sleep, you have the capacity to look like you just broke out of a mental institution. Just hope that you haven't drooled on yourself or your pillow, because that certainly will take your credibility down a peg or three.

Add to that the 24 hours of stubble, the bad breath, the eye crusts...there is no limit to the changes that occur in appearance after a few hours under the covers.

It says a bit about ourselves if we're concerned about such things. Logically, everyone understands that you don't roll out of bed looking the the edible human being you were rolling in. It's impossible, and it's shallow to think otherwise. But at the same time, I'm always concerned about making myself look at least semi-presentable; it's not that I mind if the guy looks a little worse for wear, but I want him to still recall that flicker of cuteness that existed the night before.

In some ways, it's not really an issue. If the boy was just there on a one-time visit, then who really cares if he looks at your uninvited fauxhawk and thinks you look insane? His opinion really shouldn't matter, since you may not even know his last name to begin with. And the ones that are staying in bed with you, cuddling and talking about nothing, are probably going to look past the ridiculousness of your appearance, because after all, they're interested in the whole 'you'. They're going to give you the benefit of a caring eye. Hell, they might even think it's 'cute'.

I'll freely admit I look 100% better after a shower, and 110% better after a cup of coffee. And so far, nobody has run from my bedroom screaming when the shades are pulled open and sunlight "tears off the shadows on the strange new flesh you've found" (to borrow a phrase). Maybe it really is part of the whole experience of 'being' with someone.

Just like all other parts of life, you see them at their best, and at their worst.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hold your breath...

Well, not much has happened since I posted last.

It's sort of anticlimactic, really. Not that I was hoping for major drama or big scenes, but the entire matter seems to have dropped entirely. Dad's never said a word to me, never acted differently or tried an awkward segue into the 'is there something you want to tell me' speech.

That night, after he'd gone out to cut grass and my Mom had returned home, I made small talk with her until I could rehash the story. As I started talking, I said how upset I was getting with the way he was referring to gays in general, and that was why I asked him what his problem was.

"Well, it's not like he knows, I mean he's not being mean to you intentionally..." she said.

"Oh, ok, so if he calls a black person a nigger, but not to their face, that's OK too?" I shot back. I was astounded at how she was taking his side, and basically saying that he wouldn't say such things if he knew I was gay. That still, in my mind, does not excuse a word of the slanderous bullshit he said.

After I finished telling her everything, she asked, "So, does that mean you 'told him', that you'd came out to him?"

"Far from it," I said, then asked if she though he'd have picked up on the implications and my not answering his 'are you telling me you're gay' question.

She seems to think he's 'intuitive' and that the notion is now planted in his mind, that he'll think about it for a few days and then ask her something about it. "That's the way he is," she said, "he'll think to himself for a while first."

"Well, that's why I'm telling you all this now," I said, "in case he turns around and asks you. I didn't want you to be caught off guard about it."

We then talked for the better part of an hour. She's decided that she's good with talking about it with him and that should he ask, she's not going to hide anything. "I think it would be best, and besides, I can't lie to him about it," she said. I agreed, thinking that if she knew him like she should, then he would probably come asking her about it.

Discussion turned to how he might react, how the family at large might find out, how we can't tell the grandparents or fear excommunication, and how the 'small town community' might talk. "But we're pretty independent anyway," she said, "so that part shouldn't really matter."

At the end, I was still shaken by the whole thing, but at the same time I felt a little positive. This might be it, I thought, finally I'll be out to those most important to me. I fantasized about the weight being lifted from my shoulders, of not having to endure the subtle questions from family and from Dad about 'having a girlfriend'.

But after that night, nothing else happened. He's never asked her anything, and never made any attempt to talk to me about it.

It's a little awkward for me, because I can feel myself pushing away from him, trying to put distance between us. For the first few days afterward, the pink elephant in the room loomed larger than ever. I could barely stand in the same room with him and not feel uncomfortable and worried.

And so life has gone for the past week, with me wondering when he's going to ask, or if he even clued in at all.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Do you have a problem...

My hands are still shaking, and I'm trying hard to control my legs from doing the same.

We were standing in the kitchen, washing the dishes, just me and my dad. Mom's out for the evening, and I'd just made some pork chops for dinner. He was talking about somebody who had told him their family seemed not to be the marrying type.

"Maybe they're all queers," he said.

Later, he was talking about how he heard the Provincial government was going to start pay for sex change operations again. "Like we need to be paying for turd-pushers," he said.

I could barely contain myself. I stared into the water held in the sink, aimlessly washing the same plate over and over. Finally, I asked, "Do you have a problem with gays?"

He thought for a moment. "Not really, I guess," he said. "But they seem to think they're better than everyone else, they have more rights or something."

I shook my head. "What do you mean by that?"

"Well, the whole pride parade bullshit. You don't see a straight parade, why do they need to have a parade to show people they're gay?"

I didn't really answer that, but kept on washing the dishes. My heart started to sink to my feet, and my chest felt tight. I wanted to cry and vomit at the same time, but stood there idly washing what was left in the sink.

A few moments went by in silence, then he said, "Why, are you telling me you're gay?"

I froze for a moment. This is not how I wanted it to happen, with me angry and hurt and him spouting homophobic crap.

"Would you have a problem if I was?" I asked, not really answering his question but testing his waters.

He mumbled for a moment, then said something along the lines of him "preferring that I'm not."

"Yeah, I guess I'd have a problem," he said, and I felt my heart sink even further. "I might even have to suicide myself."

I stopped breathing. A moment later, I choked out, "That's a bit dramatic."

We finished the dishes and he resumed normal conversation.


I've always imagined how my coming out will be to my father. Mostly, I've tried to stay on the positive bent, thinking things will go alright, hoping that after the initial surprise he'll realize I'm not a different person than I was. But as each day goes by, I find myself more and more angry with his closemindness, his intolerance and his ignorance. I wonder if he even realizes how deeply he hurt me just a few moments ago.

The situation has come up before, and I hope it will not be the way it happens, but I've had to stop myself lately from blurting out that yes, I am one of those horrible people he refers to. I'm one of the fags that he seems to have such a problem with, that his son is one of the people he's running down.

Tonight was the closest it's ever come to me actually saying the words to him, and it would be out of anger and hurt, not out of hopeful confidence. I stood there, in the moments after he had said his piece, and fought with myself. Blurt it out now, and get it over with? Wait until a 'better time'?

Whatever the case may be, I was surprised to feel a bit of indignation towards him. Within myself, I felt the sense of strength, that if he's going to hate me for me, so be it. If I'm going to come out to him, I'm going to tell it like it is, and as much as I want him to

I guess the bottom line is, he will love me less when I tell him. But I'm surprised to discover that I would rather be true and honest than continue to lie and be belittled. If he's not going to love his son for being his son, than I don't need that in my life.

I'm not saying I'm going to cut him out when I come out, but I'm not going to be dragged into shame or denial because he can't accept me. I hope that when I do utter the three magic words, he'll be able to get used to it, but who knows.


I'm surprised even right now about how I feel. I want to get up, walk up to him and say, "You know what, yes, I am gay." I just want it off my chest, out there, in the open.

I know that as soon as I got face to face with him, I would loose my steam, fall back from my plan. But sitting here, writing this now, I am almost overcome with the urge to just have it over with, to tell him how much he's hurt me, and to try and explain that I'm not some sort of mutant being. It's so hard to control myself not to confront him, yet it's so hard to just go and confront him period.


I wonder what he's thinking now, after our conversation. I didn't answer his question about if I'm gay. I wonder if he picked up on that point, realized that I was really trying to pave the way. He's gone outside to cut some grass...but I wonder if it's now on his mind. So tempting to just walk up to him now and tell him. But I know it would be so hard to.

I've been trying to come up with a plan, some way that would minimize his reaction. Should it be morning, so he has a day to digest it? Evening, after he's relaxed a bit and happy? Weekday, so work can distract him, or weekend so he has time to work through it in private?

Do I stay home when I tell him, or run back to Toronto as soon as I say the words, to give him space? Would leaving a letter behind, explaining everything, be better for me, easier on both of us? Will I have the strength to tell him, in the end, that I am gay?

Another night, I'm left feeling scared and cold and alone.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hot headed...

The more I learn about what is perceived to be the 'norms' of the gay community, the more it puzzles and perplexes me.

I was sitting in Gay Starbucks (the Church Street Starbucks that is populated almost exclusively by gays) last Thursday, minding my own business and devouring the paper. The layout of the shop is sort of interesting, since it has a second floor that accomodates couches, armchairs and the usual wooden chairs and tables.

The crowd was no different than what I normally run into there. Some older guys, maybe on their days off, dressed casually and reading a book. Younger guys typing frantically on laptops and sipping from overlarge plastic cups. Business guys having their afternoon break. A lesbian scratching on a pad of paper. And me, trying to find a comfy nook in the deflated armchair that I occupied.

I had gotten about halfway through the paper, lazily reading and enjoying the fresh coffee, when I noticed the guy across from me doing pretty much the same thing. He was a good looking guy, dressed in surprisingly fashionable office garb, and what I would peg to be mid-30's. He laughed aloud, quietly, at the occasional piece he read, something that I do on a daily basis and always wonder how crazy it makes me look. To some, I suppose, it stands next to such horrors as talking to ones self out loud and maniacally petting a cat on your lap that happens not to exist.

But, since I knew exactly what his laughter was geared towards, I found it a bit of an intellectual turn on.

That is, until I heard him open his mouth.

A few moments later, two younger guys sat at the table next to me and Laughing Boy. There we were, a triangle of tables and chairs, with the relative silence of the shop broken with the conversation of the new arrivals.

It was hard not to hear their chatting, since nobody else was really talking, and the music was faint enough to avoid all hope of drowning them out. As they talked, I learned of their mutual friend, who had held a dinner party the night before, and how he hated so-and-so who happened to be the boyfriend of one of the guests...and on and on...

As I flipped the pages, a new voice joined the conversation. It was Laughing Boy, who had injected himself in their little coffee break chat, happily discussing the merits of Montreal over Toronto.

My interest wained, and I had pretty much finished up the paper. So too had the guys and Laughing Boy almost finished up their conversation. They were discussing shopping in Yorkville, and (though I don't really recall how they got there), one of the guys said, "Oh, there's this guy who works there you should meet. I think you'd like him."

Laughing Boy paused briefly, then said, "Well, is he as good looking as we are?"

I almost fell out of my chair, not that they noticed. Their conversation ended, the boys got up and Laughing Boy left on their heels.

I couldn't believe the tone, the delivery, the matter-of-factness that Laughing Boy had mustered in the statement. He said it with such conviction; it wasn't a really flirty gesture towards the guys, but merely an affirmation that they were all, indeed, fabulous.

As I walked home, I couldn't get it out of my mind. I would never say something like that to complete strangers. Let me rephrase that, I would never insinuate that I was good looking, or preface my interest in someone with a verbal affirmation that he was as 'good looking as me'.

I wouldn't mind telling a guy, "Wow, you're really good looking!" But to be so damn self-glorifying to say, "Is he as good looking as we are," blows my mind.

The question is, does he really believe it? Is this some ploy to project a sense of superiority and protect him from his innermost fears? Or is he really so caught up with himself to say it that he really, actually, believes in his great looks?

As we all know, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. While I think Zac Efron is gorgeous, a recent poll of my friends seems to indicate that many don't see the super-attraction. To imagine that you're just naturally a guy's type is crazy to me; we all see couples that have differences in appearance.

On Friday I brought up the incident at dinner with a friend. "Can you believe the pig-handedness?" I asked. "It's worse than straight guys!"

She looked at me, and nodded slowly. "Yeah...well, that's sort of the norm for you people," she said.

"But...but how is that attractive? Being full of yourself is hot these days?"

"Well, not that," she said. "But gay guys just naturally pump themselves up in public. It's like a survival thing, it projects an image."

Afterwards, I kept thinking back to her point, that it's 'normal' for gay guys to be so outwardly overconfident in themselves. It scared me a little, thinking that I one day might wind up as abrasive as this guy, to 'survive'. And it sends a twofold message: the overconfidence in one's self also implies that other guys won't be 'good enough' for you, that the unsaid words were, "...because if he's not, I probably won't be interested."

I'm not ever one to play up my appearance. In fact, I more use more self-deprecating humour about the whole thing as a way to cover my genuine insecurities, which stem mostly from never feeling noticed or deemed attractive like so many other people I knew growing up. I don't get uncomfortable talking amongst friends about people's looks, but I don't think I could ever declare to a complete stranger (or even my friends, for that matter) that I was an attractive creature. It seems in damn poor, ungentlemanly taste.

And what does it say about me, then? I got the, "Unless you really love yourself nobody will really love you," speech recently from a friend. Does it mean that I have a healthy attitude about my looks, or am I beating myself down far too much, so much that people see the insecurities and look away in distaste? Should I be adopting a more 'fuck you' confidence, telling people that I'm for sure 'hot stuff'?

I wonder how the mysterious 'blind date' candidate really did look...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Oh, hey!...

So, what exactly is the etiquette when you bump into someone you know on gay websites?

No, I'm not talking about bumping into someone you know's porn photo shoot (though that would be ridiculously hot, albeit awkward, depending on the person...) I'm talking about running into someone you're acquainted with on gay 'dating' sites.

I hate the term 'online dating' and the biases that stem from it. At this point in my life, I haven't become so superior (or cynical, I'm not sure which yet) that I look down on the things. And recently, while devouring some insightful (read: fluffy) gay media, I was stunned at the number of couples who had met online.

This flies in the face of a conversation I had just the other day, with a friend who tried to convince me that I would never meet anyone worthwhile by looking for dates online. "Look, how did we meet?" she asked.

"Friend of a friend," I said, "but we're not dating."

"But my point is," she said emphatically, "you think you're going to meet a quality person online by simply clicking a profile? You think a relationship will actually go somewhere that started without you even knowing something about the person, not even meeting them through someone?"

I understand her point, that it's much easier to have a feel for someone, and be drawn together 'naturally' by meeting people in a physical interaction. But as for the argument that you'll know they are a more compatible partner based on your conversation with them, what about the thousands of people that go out on dates with someone they just met? How about those people who just casually exchange numbers, and actually use them? Are they all damned to failed relationships too, simply because they didn't fraternize with their other half before starting the dating process?

The appeal of meeting people online is understandable, to me (at this point anyway). You get a bit of a sales pitch, compare interests and sneak a glimpse into the image they portray of themselves. Hell, people even post their statistics for all to see.

Then come the initial small talk. From the comfort of your home, you can engage with someone in a chat to see if you have anything in common, to test the potential for good conversation. It's pretty much like a real coffee date, in a way; you get the initial "Hi" out of the way and see if there's really anything going on behind that (presumably) pretty face.

It seems that the book is constantly being written on the 'online' experience, but at the moment the prevailing mood is an acceptance of it as part of gay society. During my reading I was amused by the profile of a couple that were (from what I recall) 22 and 23 respectively. According to what I read, "Like any closeted gay teens, the two met online and finally decided to take their relationship into the physical realm." It seems the rubber stamp has been given to trying to connect to people via 0's and 1's, even if only at the early stages of your gay life.

But back to my this magical world of gay websites, what does one do when he runs head first into someone he knows?

Let me preface my relationship to this particular boy. He's the type that I wave to when I pass on the street, or occasionally say hi to if he's chatting to someone I know. Not the most warm and cuddly contact between us, but no loathing (as far as I know).

Actually, he's the last person I'd have expected to see grace the gay internet's stage. Sociable, connected, easy on the eyes...actually, pretty much what I would identify as a well-adjusted gay 20-something. Seeing him online does two things: reinforce that I'm (while maybe not completely in the right) at least not completely wrong for trying to meet guys online, but also terrifies me that this presumably well-to-do-mo has to be searching for dates online.

And like I said before, what does this say about online dating itself? The approval of the method for 'closeted gay teens' is understandable, but this boy is not what I would call innocent new blood.

Short of being genuinely intrigued by him, I don't really expect to strike up a genuine friendship between us. But as acquaintances, and as a polite sort of guy, I pained over the question of acknowledging his presence or not.

So is the gay site the same as the gay street? Am I supposed to wave in passing, or gracefully ignore his presence? Is it embarrassing to admit to the world that you're trying to meet people online, or is it just the next step in the natural social evolution of gays, a people that usually tend to need to meet people through means other than 'mainstream'? And is he himself having this same discussion, trying to decide if he should send me a friendly "Hey there!" message or not?

And does it say something if he himself never acknowledges my online presence?

Or is he a bad cyber-citizen too?