This past weekend my wife Gabbie went to a long-distance wedding with her bar friends. She was gone most of the weekend. I had a few things to do to keep me busy, like accompanying my daughter to a 5 year old's birthday party, but I also had a lot of spare time.
In the past when Gabbie hasn't been around and the kids have been into doing their own things, I've fantasized about driving into San Francisco and sitting in a "mixed" bar (Blackbird) or a mostly-gay cafe (Cafe Flore) for a few hours. I've never been to either but the descriptions on Yelp give me the feeling that both are places where a single guy could go to, maybe, strike up a conversation with a few 'normal' gays. If I ever was to go, I would go in the late afternoon to Cafe Flore and the early evening to Blackbird; off-peak times.
There are three reasons why I haven't gone. One is that I'm a big chicken. A bar? Alone? The second is that I represent stability for the kids. I'm very leery about being seen as similar to their mother. You know - the woman who goes stir crazy if she spends too much time at home. The third reason is related to the second reason. For many years I have successfully postponed being tied to a cell phone. (No, I don't have one.) This means that whenever my meddling mother-in-law calls to "check-in" and discovers that the kids are home alone (hello - they're 17, almost 14 and almost 12) she calls every police department and hospital within a 30 mile radius to see if I'm dead somewhere. Then, when I'm not dead, she calls Gabbie and bitches her out. What ultimately happens, if I'm out for two or three hours, is that I come home to face a 5 person firing squad - all wanting to know where I've been, what I've been doing and why I haven't called. You can see why I'd rather stay home and feel sorry for myself. It's the less painful option.
Yes, I need to give in and get a cell phone (so that I can be hunted down at any moment) and I will be doing that, soon. But for this past weekend I was in the "should I or shouldn't I?" debate about going out and the same three concerns hung over me. Then, pretty much out of nowhere, this stupid idea of posting for platonic gay friends on Craigslist popped into my head. Lame, I know.
As I was making fun of my own idea, I remembered that I made the same suggestion to a blogger friend on a number of occasions. He's another guy who will opt to slug around the house with the kids rather than go out alone. I realized that I couldn't mock the advice I had given him until I actually made the attempt myself. So I did.
The title for my ad was just as above: "Coming out - Seeking Friends" and it was posted in the strictly platonic m4m section. I included pictures, even a face picture (pretty brave of me, I'd say) and therefore expected replies - from freaks.
The first guy was a 20yo Hispanic. He seemed harmless enough...but 20? Um, no thanks. The second reply was a woman. She said, in effect, "My daughter and I support your decision. Anytime you'd like to drive 40 minutes north we can all hang out. We're very 420 friendly!" Now THAT'S the kind of reply I expected - proof that my idea was moronic.
The third reply was a 39yo Asian guy who lived a few miles away. He seemed potentially normal, so I replied. The fourth guy was a Vietnamese 40yo who lived in San Francisco. His reply was very Craigslist - short and generic. Generic Vietnamese in San Francisco? Way too cliche' for me. The fifth guy was also Asian. He was interesting, but no picture. I replied.
Well...long story short, I actually met the 39yo, Chet, and he was quite fascinating. Even better - he loves to talk. I'm happy to listen to other people's drama but when it comes to my own, I'd prefer to say as little as possible. My story needs a happy ending and until there is one, no one (except you suckers) wants to hear it.
Chet had a number of genuinely interesting stories to share. And for as much as he talked, I found him to be surprisingly grounded and modest. I was rather ambivalent about meeting him at first but now I'm glad I did. At a minimum I heard a few good stories.
After we met, we exchanged polite but genuine emails and we arranged to meet a second time for a hike. That was today. This time, I did a little more talking, but Chet still did more, and again, I found him and his stories to be very engaging.
Ya'll think you know where this going, don't you? Actually, there is no sexual tension. I genuinely like him and he seems to like me, but he has a boyfriend and as amazing as it seems, we're both happy to be just friends.
Of course it remains to be seen how a friendship with Chet will play out. His relationship with his boyfriend is, literally, life-and-death complicated but it's not an emotionally satisfying relationship for him. As near as I can tell, he has too much time on his hands and lacks the desire to ALWAYS have to drive an hour each way into San Francisco to see friends. For him I think I am a potential confidant and an activity buddy.
For me, Chet represents a completely non-threatening entry into the mind of the established gay world. Through his stories, experiences and friendships I get to see, first-hand, how the gay world works. This is something that I really want to understand. There are aspects of gay life that scare the piss out of me. Now I have a way to prepare myself for what might lie ahead.
The other thing is, Chet is sympathetic to my position. He understands that I have no local gay friends and that I'm at the point where I'd like to make more. We haven't talked about Internet dating yet but I'd be so happy if I could skip it and meet someone naturally. Knowing Chet is a way for me to do that - without having to hang out in a bar by myself.
Craigslist is full of flakes and Chet could turn out to be one. But for now he's someone I'm glad I've met and I look forward to getting to know better.