Thursday, February 26, 2004

Stop, or You'll Go Blind!

My friends mean well. Really, they do. I think. But sometimes you just gotta take the truth by the horns and accept reality, know what I mean?

One night recently Maria invited a bunch of us to happy hour at Dragonfly. Sounds like fun, and I do so enjoy hanging out with my friends over a cocktail, or two, or five, so I make my way over. Eventually, another one of Maria's friends approaches the table. I can't for the life of me recall his name, so I'll call him "Joe." Anyway, Joe is this Asian guy who, thankfully, is NOT a lawyer and is, instead, an architect, which is kinda cool, because far too many of my friends are lawyers already.

Almost immediately, Bert kicks in. "Joe's gay," he decides. Observing him for a bit longer (and now joined in by Debra and Lora), a concensus is reached: "Yep, he's gay." And so it begins: "You should talk to him," I'm told. Of course, "talk to him," is thinly veiled code for "go down a path that will eventually lead to long-term dating," and in fact doesn't mean "talk."

First of all, I'm a shy guy by nature. Talking to strangers, even if they're friends of friends, can take some effort on my part. Second of all, I'm at a point in my life with my disenchantment with the gay dating prospects in this city have turned me off completely to the prospect of even putting myself out there anymore. Indeed, I voluntarily removed myself from "The Market" a loooong time ago.

But my friends don't stop. Bert starts pointing his observations that the guy has a hairstyle similar to mine (not really -- his is more coiffed and mine is simply messy); that our sleeves are rolled up almost identically (who doesn't roll up the sleeves on their dress shirts? If all the guys in the room hadn't been wearing rugby shirts, I'm sure some of them would have had their sleeves rolled too); that our pants are the same (uh, dress slacks, hello?); and even (Bert's self-anointed coup de grace) the same shoes (I didn't have the wherewithal to double-check this particular assertion). We have apparently come to the conclusion that there is, in fact, a Gay Asian shoe on the market that Joe and I are trendsetters for.

As I say, my friends mean well, but come on. Thankfully, Maria never told Joe that she invited us all to hang out for the purpose of possibly introducing us, so any perceived rudeness on my part was not necessarily viewed as a clear snub on my part. But the bigger problem with well-meaning straight friends who set up their gay friends is that all too often, their mental processes go no further than, "Hey, you're both gay. You guys should date."

This mindset is incredibly simplistic. It evidences a deeply flawed understanding of gay male interaction in Washington, DC. In gay male Washington, DC, the proper analysis is: "Hey, we're both gay. Are you hot enough to get naked in bed with me?"


My friend Jessica tried to set me up once too. Stupidly enough, I let her. Against my better judgment, I agreed to have dinner with the friend of one of her co-workers. What follows is the funny story that I have told no one except Jessica.

First of all, Frank showed up late. Now, seeing as I'm already nervous as it is (even though I'm not sure why, because I have no real high hopes for successful results from this dinner), I'm starting to call Jessica. "Uh, aren't you, like, supposed to be somewhere now?" she asks me. Seeing as I never told her the arrangements of this "date," she clearly has heard of it from Frank. "He's... uh, not here," I tell her.

I think at that point what I feared most was not so much resigning myself to going home and having cold pizza for dinner, but the thought of being dissed sight unseen. More times than I can count, I've been in bars where guys won't look twice once they've made their split-second determination that I'm not worthy of the bedspace next to them, but I think that the prospect of such an evaluation being made before even looking at me was placing me dangerously close to a complete tailspin.

Luckily for my mental health, Frank showed up, and we had a very pleasant dinner. We had talked throughout, and it was, to my shock and utter surprise, quite nice. I was leaving for a work-related conference a few days later, but I promised I would call him upon my return and we would get together again.

Can you see where this is headed?

After I returned to the city, I called him on Monday evening. It was exactly one week since we had met. He answered the phone; appeared to recognize who I was, and did not appear actively hostile toward my call. Well, turns out I caught him on the way out the door, so he said, "I'll call you later tonight, or if it's too late, I'll call you tomorrow."

Neither of those two calls came.

Not being a stickler for "The Rules," I gave him a second call on Wednesday. Left him a message on his voicemail: "Hey, just calling to touch base, see if you wanted to get together again. Call me."

No return call. Ever.

I can't even decide what the right adjective is for this particular circumstance. Annoyed? Upset? Angry? Hurt? Insulted? I think it's odious and horrible that gay men in this city pre-judge people based purely on their looks without ever exchanging a word with them. But this guy I actually talked to for an entire dinner. We got along, and got along well, and we said we wanted to get together again. Did something happen?

About a week later, Jessica emailed me, delicately and politely asking me, "So, uh, how come things didn't work out with Frank?" I had to lay into the fact that I never received any phone call returning mine. "Sorry, he clearly wasn't interested," I told her. "No!" she protested. "She told Doug [her co-worker friend] that you guys hit it off and were seeing each other again!" I can't help thinking that a telephone call -- returning the ones I had made -- would have facilitated that.

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