Monday, October 31, 2016

A Glass of Red

I went on a date the other night.

It was nothing special; in fact, I almost didn't go.

I took myself out with a gift card I discovered some time ago when cleaning out a drawer. I'd actually been planning on using the card for a while but hemmed and hawed every night as I came home exhausted from a long day teaching. But, I also knew I needed to treat myself to something and soon. So, I finally made up my mind and forcibly pushed myself out of my house.

I admit I did have a bit of trepidation as I approached the host stand requesting a table for one. Not that I felt awkward dining alone, but it was a Friday night and the dinner rush was beginning. Maybe they'd ask me to sit at the counter instead of taking up a whole table. But, plenty of tables were still available. The hostess smiled and graciously led me to a table in a corner of the main room where I had a commanding view of the restaurant. 

As I scanned the menu, I noticed a touch of vertigo; perhaps it was my horrible vision having to adjust to the varying levels of darkness in the room, while trying to read the minuscule font on the menu. Or, perhaps my social anxiety was kicking in; after all, this was the first time in a long time I wasn't just picking something up for dinner, or throwing something together. I was actually out of my sanctuary and seated in a nice restaurant rather than a fast food place. And no, I hadn't had any wine. Yet.

Or, maybe it was a touch of both.

The waiter came over with complimentary bread and butter, introduced himself, and asked about my drink preference. As I was undecided on which wine I wanted, he offered to bring me a sample of their house red blend. He was very pleasant and friendly. He left the small glass of wine and went to attend other guests.

He soon returned and I placed my order; Lasagna Bolognese, side salad and a glass of merlot, as the house red blend didn't knock my socks off. 

While waiting for my order, I scanned the room and noticed several senior couples were out for the evening. They sat at their tables, adjacent to their partners with some couples being a little more cozy than others, but all seemed to be enjoying their time together. A few families were also out enjoying a meal together. The party of four in front of me was comprised of two adult women and one adult man, all seemingly in their mid-forties, plus one sullen teenage girl. Only one of the members of this party was not engrossed in a phone. 

The vertigo hung around for a while, but did not become serious enough to make me need to leave and eventually it did subside. But, I began to wonder what it might be like to be on a real date. With another man, not just myself. How badly would my anxiety kick in?

I could not get that far. The whole idea of a date became such a foreign concept, it felt so wrong. I could not picture myself sitting at a restaurant with a guy making small talk while eating. I could not even project myself farther into the future into an established relationship talking over our respective days with my boyfriend/partner/husband or wherever we were on that particular path.

This was all reinforced even more when the bill came. I mean, the bill wasn't outrageous for one, less than $40.00. But I've lived the last few years a bit frugally out of necessity, and this night I even had a gift card, but still did not order the most expensive item on the menu. (The ribeye steak wasn't even tempting.) But, I did say yes to dessert. (Can't turn down tiramisu!) Anyway, as I am needing to tighten the belt a bit, the financial aspect of dating reared its giant head again. As did the social anxiety and the trust factors, and...and...the list goes on...

As does life...

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Best Policy

I try to treat everyone with honesty and respect. I'm not always successful, but I try.

The other day, a letter arrived here at my home for my ex-husband. He left over six years ago, and there hadn't been anything for him in almost as many years. After all, it takes a while for mail and address changes to catch up. This letter carried first-class postage, so I knew it was not junk but what it was, I did not know. Nor did I care. 

But, the return address, as well as the first class postage, seemed to suggest it was important. The return address contained the word "Settlement" suggesting a court case, or some other type of a finalization of something-or-other. Coupled with the fact I received a "settlement" check a week or two before from a class action lawsuit, I figured that was what it might be and that he had been living here at the time the case was filed several years ago which was why the letter came to my house.

I checked off my options. I could:
  • Trash it-but interfering with someone else's mail is a felony and even though it's not likely I'd get caught, I wouldn't want to risk it, or;
  • Contact him for an address to forward it-but was this a can of worms I really wanted to open?, or;
  • Mark it "Return to Sender"-perhaps the easiest option.

I felt an urgency to make sure he got what he was due. Because I'm nice like that.

In the end, I called a mutual friend who knows knew my ex well and asked her opinion. She thought he'd get back to me in a few days once he had borrowed an address from a friend so I wouldn't end up stalking him (like I'd want to!!) or possibly track him down for the money he owes me (I could hire a private investigator if I truly wanted to).  She was both surprised, yet not surprised that I even entertained the idea of contacting him. She suggested trashing or shredding it, as she would do, but I reminded her of the potential felony.

"Who'd find out?" she asked.

"I just want to do what's honorable," I answered.

"You're too kind."

I hung my head is sheepish acquiescence. 

In the end I followed my heart, emailed him and told him I had what seemed like an important piece of mail for him (I did not let on I suspected what it was-maybe I should have?) and asked what he wanted me to do: 1) forward it-in which case I'd need an address, or 2) mark it 'return to sender' and let the chips fall where they may. He opted for option 2 and that's what I did. 

Maybe I am too nice.

But, sometimes it pays off.

I recently had solar panels installed on my house. Part of the process involved an upgrading of my electrical panel to accommodate the new solar system. The team showed up on time on the appointed day, which also happened to be one of the hottest days of the year so far, and proceeded to make the upgrade. Once finished, they asked me to check every light switch and outlet in every room through the house to make sure there was power to them. Their policy is they don't want to have to come back. Unless it's for a new job. A good policy to have. 

I did have one outlet that didn't work and hadn't worked for a few months. In fact, it hadn't worked for a couple of years. But, as I had no need for it I never followed through on fixing it. Plus the idea of hiring an electrician and the expense all seemed daunting. But, here was my chance to at least get an estimate. So, I took a deep breath and told one of the workers about the outlet and asked if he would just take a look at it and advise me where I should begin and/or what he might charge on a return trip or if it was something I could tackle myself. And I made sure he knew it hadn't worked before they changed the panels.

He ended up doing the repair job for me. On the hottest afternoon in my backyard, with little shade.

At the end of the job, I thanked him profusely and he explained to me why he helped me with the outlet, "Because you were honest with me and didn't try to get me to fix it for free by telling me it stopped working because of the panel upgrade."

I ended up tipping him $60.00 which was all the cash I had at the time.

A few months later, a similar situation happened with my dryer door. My dryer sits to the left of the washer and the door opens from the left side, meaning I pull it toward the washer to load. I then have to lean over the door to add clothes to the dryer and that sometimes aggravates my back. I thought about changing it myself, but the manual suggested I not do that. My washer had been acting up and when the repairperson arrived with the parts I asked if the warranty on my dryer would cover switching the door from left-side open to right-side open, then I'd call and schedule another appointment. He offered to change it while waiting for the washer to finish the test cycle. I tipped him $40.00.

I believe in honesty.

And maybe sometimes I am too nice to people who might not deserve it.

Maybe it's just who I am.

And that's the way I'm going to stay.

Monday, October 10, 2016

A Fish Out Of Water

It seems the more I venture back into the gay male community, I find I have so little in common with it.

So, I'm beginning to wonder if I'm even gay anymore. Or even want to be. 

Yes, an attractive man will still catch my eye, but that's about it.

With all the emotional battering and bruising I've been through recently, I know I'm not ready for a relationship, and it will be quite a while before I may be ready due to my lack of trust in gay men and, to a lesser extent, in people in general. To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure I even want anyone underfoot.

I did not go to Pride this year. Not that I wasn't feeling prideful, but because I was still nursing a broken heart and soul, and my introversion has been in overdrive lately. Just the idea of the thought of being alone in a crowd was overwhelmingly crippling; coupled with the idea of being in a sensory overload situation-hundreds of scantily clad men, innumerable references to love and sex, and people in various states of substance overload-all seemed terrifyingly paralyzing. No, I was not going.

I was recently talking with my straight neighbor who has been helpful with some home repairs now that I'm managing my home by myself. He asked me if I was seeing someone. I replied that I wasn't and didn't want to because I find myself moving far slower than most gay men. I mean faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar slower, a snail's pace.

Men are physical- and physically oriented. They are attracted to the wrapping, the external. It's a guy thing, I'm told. Really? I find that's merely an excuse or a result of socialization. I'm a guy, yet I prefer the gift itself, the internal. I prefer to wait before taking any more intimate steps. And I mean wait a looong time. That doesn't mean to say I don't appreciate a good looking man, but it is not the only reason to get to know someone. Or to simply be a piece of meat. Unless both are consenting to it. Then please enjoy, just don't expect me to be as casual as you are simply because I'm gay, too.

I also don't get the throwing shade so common in the community. Because we've been hurt by so many people throughout our lives, I understand it can be a pre-emptive defense mechanism; "I'll get you first before you get me!" But, being mean is just plain ugly. And bad karma. And the thrower usually ends up looking worse than the throwee.

Or the judgments: "Did you get a load of what she was wearing? Looks like someone threw up!" But, if she's happy, then STFU. Unless she asks for your opinion.

The ageism: "He was, like, ancient. At least forty." My young friend, you'll be forty some day. Plus, you wouldn't have many of the rights you have today if it wasn't for the generations before you. Or the reverse, the older men who will only date men under a certain age.

The shallowness: No fats, no fems, no Asians, no blacks, no Latinos, no whites, no blonds, no gingers, no brunets, no twinks, no fur. I understand we all have our preferences, and certain types will catch our eye more than others, but a great relationship just might be with someone not necessarily your 'type.'

The substances? I was chatting with a guy at a concert who said he always takes a ride service, so he can stay drunk all night. How charming. I played on a gay kickball team and every social event involved several gallons of alcohol. To be fair, I do enjoy a glass of wine or a beer with dinner; maybe a cocktail once in a while.

And pop culture: What’s a Sia? And I’m always confusing the House of Thrones with the Game of Cards, or hearing something about a real housewife somewhere near Pomona, I think. I have no idea about the new television programs. Or movies. So, I'm at a loss at awards parties.

(Disclaimer: To be fair, shortly after my divorce, I had to make severe budgetary cutbacks, and my television provider went. The only things I could watch were on my DVDs or on an app that didn't require a cable account. Nor could I afford to go to movies at that time. So, I got used to not watching current programming or current movies. And I'm still not that motivated to.)
And all the hoopla over certain actors and whether or not they'll do a full-frontal shot in their latest film! Or whether it really was him in that full frontal shot. Does the man not have a mind and a heart?

And you simply can't be gay if you believe in monogamy, or you are a whore if you don't.  

I accept the fact I might be coming off as judgmental here. I don't mean to. I appreciate the differences in the community. I'm merely trying to find myself in a community where I feel like a fish out of water. So, how do you fit into a community that encourages you to express your individuality, but decries you when your individuality goes against the grain of the very nature of the group?

Recent events have also shown me that I NEED a relationship to develop organically from a friendship first. Many gay men don't like going slow. I have often heard the phrase, "It was love at first sex on the first date." Relationships based solely on sexual compatibility or attractiveness never last long.

And it seems like everyone is relationship-oriented, or maybe just hook-up oriented. Except me.

I knew I needed to step out more; so, I decided to join an LGBT social group on that advertises itself as a "fun group of lesbians and gay men who will go hiking, have picnics, and just hang out." Sounds cool and very social. I clicked on the "Join Us" button and was directed to the questionnaire, as all new members needed to be approved by the administrator of the group. It seems to be a standard procedure for many groups on MeetUp, not just LGBT groups, so it didn't surprise me.

I answered the first question, "What part of the SFV (San Fernando Valley) do you live in?"

Okay, no problem. I answered easily enough.

Second question: "Single or taken?"

There I froze, my hands hovering over the keyboard.

WTF? This appears to be a social group, right? Then WTF difference does it make if I'm single or taken? I believe that particular conversation would be better off building organically between the parties concerned.

I skipped the question and answered the next one: “Favorite restaurant in the area?”

My favorite closed down, so I thought of another one.

I clicked on 'next' and some red words flashed, "Please answer all questions." The single or taken? box was highlighted. Evidently, I had to answer that question.

I realize that being part of a social group can lead to the formation of new friendships that could turn towards something romantic but shouldn't you get to decide when and who you want to know your status? What if I don't want it plastered on my group profile? Even on Facebook, you have the opportunity to not declare a relationship status. But, evidently, I had to put something in the box. And yes, this might not be a big deal to some but for me right now it is. Single implies I'm looking or at least available for a relationship, which I am not and I don’t like giving the wrong impression. Taken would be lying which could invite questions as to why my boyfriend never accompanies me, and there's too much to remember when you begin lying or inventing boyfriends. Plus, to me, the word taken implies being kidnapped or the relationship is against your will. I thought of some clever reparté like neither, or unavailable, or I respectfully decline to answer this inane and judgmental question which suggests this group is more about matchmaking than just socializing. But, I decided against it.

But I was still curious as to why this relationship status question was even mandatory for joining a social group. I thought I'd email the organizer and ask. But, I was so put off by the idea of the question that as I re-read my email, I realized I came off as antagonistic and bitchy, so I deleted it. Perhaps I should forget it.

Or at least calm down, because the curiosity was still getting to me. 

Later, I tried again, a little less antagonistic and bitchy, but still couldn't send the email. I hit 'delete.'

Then it hit me. If I'm having such trouble with this question, then maybe this group is not for me. I'm not ready to venture out after my recent misadventures. Perhaps in time.

I guess I'm in my own space right now.

And that's okay with me.

Which is all that matters.