Thin lines, love and hate
Every few months, I develop this nagging itch — nothing caused by overt carousing or reckless forays into adult-oriented adventures. It’s more like a pressing need to escape the rougher realities that come with residing in our fair city. While there’s plenty to love, certainly, a notorious one-two punch provides me the impetus to occasionally briefly jump ship.
The first, obvious enough: the sky’s knack for everlasting dulls and grays. The other: the single degree of separation, our mixed blessing — although it’s more curse in terms of romance. Dating here feels like attending a dozen high school reunions simultaneously, all crammed together into regular (yes, wildly fun) queer nights or favorite dive bars. The coupled among us, who currently vastly outnumber their uncoupled counterparts, enjoy an orbit mostly outside this periphery, gobbling up the good parts of our mixed blessing, brushing aside the bulk of the curse.
I’m open about my ongoing love affair with San Francisco; she’s tantalizingly close, boasting what we lack: oceans of diversity — and choice. (A certain friend of mine, Craig, if given the opportunity, can quickly rattle off a hundred reasons why that’s not the case.) Now customary, thrice-yearly treks to California allow me to revel in the relative unknowns of a de facto metropolis. Participants in the conspicuous mass exodus that’s gone down the last half-year argue my routines serve as precursors to the inevitable: a permanent jump. I’m not so sure.
Even though my two closest friends in SF are both freshly wifed down, I manage to get my fixes by sauntering around town with them, exploring tried and true haunts, finding new ones. There, especially, it’s easy — and refreshing — being an unrecognizable face in very large crowds. And it’s a chance to showcase some measure of my social prowess, since Grindr and repetition here sometimes render me a four-worded zombie. “Hey, how’s your night?” “Hey man, what’s up?” Also: down south there’s no best friend to feign surprise that I have anyone on Grindr left to talk to.
If I’m ever for a moment forgetting my romantic station while home, I can count on certain family members to remind me — even if it’s at a funeral. There, one notoriously assertive aunt enjoyed making declarations around a very full table. “Did you ever think you’d be this old and single? It’s like we need to combine your approach with those kids who run away and get married at 18 and forge the perfect compromise.” It’s always nice to have such things pointed out. At a funeral.
Last month, in San Francisco, I observed my friends in their new circumstances. One is in his first ever live-in scenario; the other fell in love in Portland just before embarking on his adventure — and unintentional long distance relationship — down south. The former and I sat down and talked boys over dinner in SoMa. He picked my brain, grilling me about how couples work. Though I’m always happy to dole out advice, I do wonder why friends approach me. They do know my track record? Clearly I’m the shining beacon of relationship mettle; mining my past for romantic inspiration is like logging into adam4adam and actually expecting to find a new, interesting crowd.
At the funeral, the minister talked about predestination, about supernatural forces that have our days numbered ahead of time. While I find it inexplicably excruciating to sit and listen to the drivel I abandoned along with my childhood, I thought about the way I see some of my family, and how their innocuous commentary creeps around in my head. Do I think they, who’ve known me since before I can remember myself, have some sort of secret insight into my programming? Can I steal a glance?
On “30 Rock,” Liz Lemon, facing one of her many dating predicaments, opines on the longing to start a relationship years in, when “you don’t really have to try anymore.” Her point had more to do with finding comfort than letting herself go, of course. While a lady can certainly fantasize about such impossibilities, friends embarking on new romantic endeavors remind me how great the early stuff is, too.
Romantic cycles ebb and flow; and while living in the ebb, it’s nice to relish friends’ collective happiness. And even if you’re a dating train wreck, you should, if asked, let your advice flow freely. We’ve seen friends — de facto family — at their ugliest and best. I can say with certainty our special insight — call it supernatural — proves infinitely more important than any peripheral relative’s, as invaluable as intangible comforts involved with staying close to home.
For almost three years, Daniel wrote “Lady about Town” for Just Out. Email [email protected].