By Daniel Borgen, PQ Monthly
It’s a balmy Portland evening (in the midst of that humid streak), and I’m sitting across from my date at North 45, an establishment whose macaroni and cheese was sent directly from the Almighty. It’s all I can do to not go face down in the giant bowl sitting in front of me — I have little self-control, even during romantic outings. (My unending singleness is really one of the great mysteries of the universe.) The sun is beginning to set, and the chatter from the packed patio is a divine, chant-like hum, an appeasement to the summer gods.
I sit cross-legged at the big wooden picnic table, leaning into my date so I can hear him (he’s a bit of a soft-talker), fending off the dull roar of the neighborhood masses who’ve gathered around us. He’s tall, dark-featured, fit, bears an uncanny resemblance to my ex-husband — something I find both comforting and unnerving. Right now he’s talking about his love affair with running; he can’t get enough, often runs twice or three times a week — he doesn’t believe in sleeping in. Despite these clear juxtapositions to the way I conduct my daily life, I haven’t sent hope packing just yet. Besides, we’d been talking on Scruff for over a week before we graduated to texting and phone calls — there must be something.
Even at my advanced age, with a list of romantic disappointments longer than “Moby Dick” laid out page-by-page, I can’t help but get excited about the prospect of even the tiniest something. There, in those moments, my heart overrides my brain; feelings trump experience and precedent; spring fever strikes at the end of summer. Part of me is wildly ashamed of this tendency; surely it’s some sort of personality flaw. Another slightly bigger part embraces it. I am who I am. And Therapist has taught me there’s no harm in hoping.
I manage to steer our conversation away from fitness and rising with the sun. Besides, I’ve already disclosed my long-term fitness goals. They read thusly: do enough weekly cardio to stave off morbid obesity brought on by late night taco cart binges; dabble in weight training enough to give my mostly soft body some semblance of shape. I have modest goals. (And motivation.) We covered most of this in our lengthy pre-interview. “What’s your favorite movie?” I couldn’t pick — if I had to, something by Wes Anderson or Christopher Guest. “What music do you like?” Neko Case and Arcade Fire sum it up. “What do you do for work?” I make coffee and gay words for the gay newspaper.
I usually try to get that doozy out of the way as early as possible, what with the gay man’s affinity for self-loathing and labeling himself as “post-gay.” I could spend 10 years in graduate school studying this phenomenon and never understand it. You hate gay culture, drag queens, and you act like contributing to the local gay newspaper is like publishing my diary on Gawker. But since I’d already broken the news to this particular date, I thought we’d cleared that hurdle.
“See, the thing is,” he starts, his eyes darting toward other tables, toward the brick walls behind me, anywhere but my eyes. “I don’t like gay things. Like, I don’t like gay bars or parties or events; they’re just not my style.” He tossed out the term “post-gay,” which was new to me. “And I really want to date someone like me.”
You want to date someone just like you? How extraordinarily interesting. He continues what turns into a rant, explaining in great detail how enlightened and current he is, how outdated I am for identifying with my people’s culture. I try to retrace the steps that brought us here, and I am lamenting the fact that I’m wasting precious face time with impossibility. I realize a date isn’t a marriage contract, but if someone disclosed a debilitating deal-breaker during your pre-screening process, would you go on that date anyway? “I’m deathly allergic to dogs.” I have five; let’s have dinner at my house. “Perfect.”
I suppose it wasn’t the lack of chemistry I found disappointing — the big, gaping chasm between Scruff spark and real-life compatibility is routinely daunting. I am not even certain it’s the anti-gay gay, with which I have plenty of experience in our fair city. They’re scattered throughout all our mobile dating apps. This summer I’ve realized — and I pray it isn’t a sign of dementia — I miss genuine, in-person courting and I worry it’s gone for good.
Some big news kicked my nostalgia into overdrive, and perhaps my poor date suffered as a result. Next summer Peacock in the Park returns — the perfect, much-missed Pride prelude. For anyone who’s grown up in or around this city, this news is everything. We grew up on those lawns (and in those bushes), sitting in the sun — cavorting, watching daytime drag, talking to foxy strangers sitting on the blanket next to ours. It’s where I met my first real boyfriend, Jacob — a sweet boy I proceeded to demolish emotionally because I was a post-Pentecostal, confused wreck.
Am I doomed because, like Neko, I’m holding out for that teenage feeling — simpler times that are gone for good?
Luckily, Jacob forgave me.Daniel@PQMonthly.com.