A very brief recap: my wife and I separated in early January of this year. I waited a month to give myself time to adjust to our changed relationship, then I started "dating" men.
It turned out the dating was a joke. I met one guy and we didn't really connect.
As the days ticked by, I realized that I had a very bad attitude about dating which left me feeling completely unmotivated. If someone else wanted to do the work of hitting on me and piquing my interest, I was willing to show up and meet him. But that's as enthusiastic as I got.
It turned out that moving past a 24 year relationship was much more difficult than I expected.
Now things are different. I have successfully rearranged the deck chairs in my head and in my heart. I've reached the point where I am no longer holding on to my former wife or to our past. In that respect, I am motivated to date.
But, as I said at the time, I was afraid that I had another big issue holding me back. I was very worried that I didn't have the drive or fortitude to deal with the headaches of dating gay men.
I'm not certain yet, but I fear that I still have that problem.
My new friendship with Chet is going well. Somehow, miraculously, he's hit a sweet spot with me where he's gay and interesting and attentive, yet there's no sexual tension between us. It's still a new situation, but I'm very grateful to have a low-key, friendly, outgoing, established gay man who was the time and desire to show me the ropes.
Last Saturday we had planned to hang out for a few hours. I was on edge about even meeting because I was afraid to leave the kids home alone for too long or until too late. I told Chet I could meet up but I had to be home no later than 11:30. Always accommodating, he said, "No problem. We can just meet for a drink and talk." So we did.
After about an hour, we both were feeling bored. Not with each other, but with our surroundings. We live so close to San Francisco that there's never much going on nearby. Gay or straight, everyone knows the City is the place to go. So, on the spur of the moment, we decided to drive in to the Castro.
Because of my schedule, we had almost exactly two hours to spend, from 9pm - 11pm. Not exactly prime time on a Saturday night. Still, Chet was a trooper. He amazed me by instantly finding a prime parking spot on Castro Street, right in the center of the action.
First he took me to Cafe Flore, a coffee house and casual restaurant that's a popular pre-clubbing gathering spot. It was surprisingly quiet. Chet attributed that to the fact that the Folsom Street Fair was happening, thereby pulling people to the south of Market bars.
Next he took me to Qbar. He picked it because I told him that I was more attracted to twinks than any other 'type.' According to Chet, Qbar is the place to go if you're under 21 and you just happen to have an out-of-state paper ID with an older date of birth on it.
OMG, yes, the crowd was young. Not teens, thankfully, but predominately mid-20s. I'm really sensitive about my age as it is so standing around a bar with a bunch of kids made me feel extremely self-conscious.
As expected, no one talked to us, but we had fun talking about the bar and some of the guys in it. There were lots of girls there too. I haven't been in a gay bar in many years but I certainly don't remember seeing so many girls.
We each had a drink then we moved on to one of Chet's favorite "hang-outs", the Pilsner Inn. The Pilsner is a neighborhood bar that flies a rainbow flag outside. It's two blocks from the center of the Castro district, which is where Qbar is. Unlike Qbar, it is spacious, well-lit, and populated by men and women, not boys and girls. A number of Yelp write-ups compare it to Cheers. The bartenders and the regulars all know each other by name. And like Cheers, a tourist can stop by and, without much effort, find any number of friendly locals who are happy to chat.
We didn't have time for a drink at the Pilsner, and even if we did, I'm not sure whether we would have interacted with anyone. There was a group of slightly geekish 40-somethings there, and when I saw them, for the very first time that night, I didn't feel like a stranger in a strange land.
After the Pilsner, we walked back to the car, which was parked in the heart of the Castro. There were tons of men and boys around, including one beefy naked guy with a pierced foreskin attached to a chain. He was about 20 years past his prime, although still quite muscular. All I could think about was the pain of the piercing, so I could barely look at him. After I passed I silently prayed that hanging out on the street like that - older, naked, chained and impaled - would never seem like fun to me.
I'm not young. I've spent a lot of time in San Francisco. I've been to quite a few gay bars over the years. I have access to the Internet. "All that is gay" is not new to me.
But you know what? Walking around in the Castro and standing in the QBar made me really uncomfortable. Cafe Flore was a non-event, so that was fine, and I liked the Pilsner, but as I settled in to sleep that night, all I could think about was how THAT life is not for me.
For those of you have never been to the Castro, you might think it's an extreme place. While it's true that they don't let naked guys stand on the streets of Omaha, my perception is that the cutting-edge days of the Castro have long passed. It's not that the neighborhood feels old or tired, it's that the rest of the country has become more Castro-like. So, maybe I'm wrong, but it's my perception that if the Castro doesn't "feel like home" to me then there's no gay neighborhood in the world that would.
I'm trying to keep an open mind, and Chet is eager to push me ahead, but I am as concerned as ever that my lack of enthusiasm for mainstream gay means I'll have a very difficult time finding a gay guy who likes me for who I am - a traditional suburban dad who just happens to be gay.