Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Social Circles

When one of his siblings says or does something my 13 year old thinks is stupid, he'll berate them with, "That's an EPIC FAIL!!"

My last post can be called an EPIC FAIL - at least according to the (supportive) trouncing I took from both friends' and newcomers' comments. I must have done a very poor job of making my point.

Should I try again? Or should I simply say "thank you" and move on to a different topic?

I've decided to try again. Maybe I'll get beaten to a pulp again (with good intentions by all - I understand) but, for whatever reason, I'm finding it difficult to let this go.

------

Given my situation, figuring out how to meet the right kind of men is a tricky issue.

Although I'm convinced that OKCupid is the best dating site out there, I no longer think it's the best site for me. It's time that I pursue other options.

Turning away from OKCupid is disappointing. It's like switching from a new Apple computer to an eight year old PC. Why would I want to do that??!

I've realized that OKCupid mostly attracts a demographic that is not my own. As much as I would like to be a part of that demographic, I really don't think I can do it properly. I feel like I'm trying to shoe-horn again. That is, trying to get my foot into a shoe that almost fits, but doesn't quite.

What I'm talking about comes down to social circles.

Whether we're aware of it, or like to admit it, it's human nature to want to hang out with people who are similar to ourselves. Being with our own people makes us feel comfortable. It makes us feel safe and at ease with ourselves. There's a reason why different ethnicities tend to segregate themselves. We're all most comfortable among the people most like us.

When it comes to social circles, economic status and educational backgrounds can be more powerful than race. I have friends of many ethnic backgrounds but they're all college educated and they're all professionals. I have much more in common with them than I do with most white high school educated tradesmen.

Lifestyle and age often dictate social circles. Most people have friends in their own age group and most people have friends that live a similar lifestyle.

The intensity of friendships change as we move through the stages of life. As some friendships heat up and others cool down that signifies that the focus of our life is changing. We always make our closest friends the center of our social circle. As the circle changes, we change friends. That's why single people often complain that they need new friends after all of their old ones get married.

The gay community is its own social circle. This is evidenced by the fact that many large cities have gay neighborhoods. Gays and lesbians want a place where they are comfortable and are among their own kind, the same way people of different ethnicities want the same sense of community.

Like ethnic neighborhoods, gay neighborhoods have their own personality. Although individual personalities can be very different than neighborhood personalities the fact that a person chooses to live in a certain neighborhood indicates that they feel most comfortable with that neighborhood's personality. If they weren't comfortable, they'd live somewhere else.

I live near San Francisco, one of the gayest cities on Earth. Most gays in San Francisco live within a two mile radius of Castro and Market Streets, the center of "The Castro." The urban lifestyle they live is very different from the one I do. If I wasn't gay I wouldn't venture down to the Castro any more often than I do Japantown. Also, if I wasn't gay and I wanted to live in the City I wouldn't live in the Castro. Why? Because the center of my social circle would not be there.

It might sound like I'm implying that I don't want to date a guy who lives in an urban, gay neighborhood. That's not true. At this point, I'd be happy to date anyone who can fog a mirror.

What I'm saying is I have my social circle. I'm a suburban dad raising three bratty kids in a location filled other bratty, spoiled white kids and their often obnoxious parents. I have a routine that is centered on my kids and whether I like that routine or not, it doesn't matter. I'm committed, they are my responsibility and no one else, including my someday-ex-wife is willing and able to be their primary parent.

Urban gay men have their social circle. Mostly, it is dominated by other urban gay men. They have routines too. My guess is that their routines are more fun than mine.

Now, just because two people have very different social circles doesn't mean that they can't be friends. Of course not. It happens all the time. And it certainly doesn't mean two people can't be lovers. But here's the problem: in order for a relationship to grow, social circles have to adjust. If two people stay locked in different social circles then it creates conflict and, unless someone adjusts, almost certainly the relationship will end. Normally I would be happy to adjust. But with my responsibilities, I'm largely locked in. That means my potential partner would need to accommodate me. Why should a gay San Franciscan do that when there is an endless supply of other gay men within two miles of his home? He won't. And it's not just about supply. It's also about being comfortable and melding similar social circles.

The reason I think I'd stand a better chance for accommodation in a place like Kansas City or in suburban parts of San Francisco is because the lifestyle differences are less and the choices are fewer.

To have the best chance for dating success, I need to interact with people who are most similar to me. OKCupid is not the best venue for that.

I'm always going to have the same hurdles but cursory explorations of Match, Manhunt and Adam4Adam seem to indicate that they all have more divorced men, and, a greater portion of their users live in the suburbs than OKCupid. I think OKCupid is wicked cool but when it comes to online sites for middle aged, divorced men who are raising kids, it's not the best choice.

I should say that, although I'm somewhat obsessed with OKCupid, I'm not obsessed with on-line dating. In fact, more and more I'm feeling like finding a boyfriend is a lot like finding a job. You can send a resume into a generic job website, or, you can network with real people who have a similar social circle. Chances are, it's real people who are going to help you find success, not the on-line job site.

As for my 41yo teacher...my shoulder-bag wielding urban hipster...I have no intention of emailing him any time soon. He's my top-choice on OKCupid. But, as I'm learning, I need to expand my options. I suspect that if I make an effort with other sites, I'll find quite a few other guys who would make a better match than my geeky friend.

Am I going to get scolded again? Or am I making more sense now?

------

Many thanks to the guys who take the time to read my posts and make thoughtful comments. I'm not always good about replying but I do savor every word you guys say. I really wanted to respond individually to everyone this time, but since you all mostly hit a different note in the same song, I decided to go with a full post.

Big thanks to Mark, Jason_M, Jim, Amtop, Austin, Jack, Biki and Jayson.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kansas City > San Francisco?

So far, my one venue for finding men has been the dating site OKCupid. I've had my profile up for about five weeks which means that I'm no longer 'new'. I've reached the point where, if I want to meet anyone, I need to take the initiative.

The other day I narrowed the field to a few possibilities and started to email one of them. I had this idea that I would begin the conversation by complimenting him on something in one of his profile pictures.

As I was reviewing his pictures, I realized that two of them made me feel uncomfortable, as in, out of place. In one, he had a shoulder bag slung across his chest. The caption said, "Standing on Castro Street." In the other, he had his arm over the shoulder of a girl, his head turned toward her and his lips pursed. The caption read, "Trying to kiss Amanda at the Castro St. Fair."

When I had previously looked at the pictures I had focused on him. Now that I was looking again, I noticed his very urban surroundings and his comfort in them. He's a 41 year old school teacher - that appeals to me - but, he's also an urbanite. That got me thinking...

I live about 10 miles from San Francisco, one of the gayest cities on Earth. Yet as close as I am to Gay Mecca, my proximity disguises the fact that all the homos who reside there live VERY differently than I do. Many of them seldom travel farther than 5 miles from their home. Many of them don't have cars. Most of them DO have a strong network of friends that keeps them busy on a daily basis. Few of them have a realistic idea of what it's like to raise three kids. They're single and free. Outside of their work obligations they're free to do whatever they like, whenever they like. Without the need to be responsible for tedious things like homework and sport practices and packing school lunches and cooking dinner for a family every night, they have the freedom to pamper themselves. Who needs a big house when you're single? You don't. You can rent a small apartment and sock away a ton of money to use to travel the world.

As I sat there looking at pictures of my urban hipster school teacher I realized that, not only do we come from very different worlds, we will continue to inhabit those different worlds. And, because I'm the one with the dull obligations, what about my life would appeal to an urban, single guy?

Absolutely nothing. Why would a single guy who has spent his entire adult life catering to his own desires have any reason to accommodate a sort-of-divorced guy with three kids who lives and works in the suburbs? He wouldn't.

I canceled the email.

The fact is, people can come from different worlds and form a bond, but the chances of forming a bond when you continue to inhabit two different worlds is very low.

If I want to date single gay men in San Francisco then I pretty much have to live as a single gay man in San Francisco. There's plenty of them all over the City, there's no reason why any one of them should ever consider a guy with kids in the suburbs.

Because I don't plan to live as a single gay man in San Francisco any time soon, I've realized that I should forget about urbanites and focus on guys who live in the suburbs. If I do that, I wonder, how big is my prospect pool?

Not big! In fact, the number of total prospects, at least on OKCupid, drops by 90%.

90%!!

After carefully sorting through the 10% who remain, I don't see anyone who instinctively feels like they might be a good match. In fact, when I eliminate the guys who will never, under any circumstances, ever appeal to me, my prospect pool is shockingly tiny - considering I live only a few miles away from one of the gayest cities on Earth.

I haven't done any research but I wonder if I had the same situation and lived in a place like Kansas City, whether I'd have better options than I do in the San Francisco Bay Area? That possibility is extremely jarring.

Because I am unwilling to dump my kids on Gabbie (and she doesn't want them anyway) it's clear that I have to work within the constraints I have accepted. OKCupid might be part of the problem. Maybe it's not mainstream enough to appeal to suburbanites. Whether that's true or not, it's clear that I need to pursue other methods of meeting the right kind of men.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Charlie Drama

Charlie has been my wife's boyfriend for about four years. I hate him.

He's English, upbeat, and eager to be 'mates' with everyone. He can be quite charming - until you get to know him and realize that he's a hard-core alcoholic and a complete loser.

Charlie and I could not be more opposite. We're so completely different that I long ago stopped trying to understand why my sort-of-ex-wife finds him irresistible. It's just a phenomenon that IS.

Charlie's alcoholism is only one of his many problems. His next biggest problem is that he never has a nickel. I can't say that he's broke because he's lazy; that's not true. If he says he'll do a job he will, although his work tends to be very sloppy. He's the type who would use a wad of chewing gum if he thought it would fix a leaky pipe. Cheap, creative - and completely wrong.

The reason Charlie is so poor is because he's in the US illegally and he has no identification of any kind. No passport, no driver's license, no state ID - nothing. Because he has no ID he can't get a regular job. Instead he survives one day to the next by doing odd jobs. If you need a room painted he can do it quickly for $100. But he'll slap the paint on, not use a drop cloth and get paint flecks everywhere.

In the more than four years that I have had the displeasure of knowing Charlie he has bounced through about eight different living situations. He's been evicted twice for not paying rent. Other times he's been roommates with other alcoholics. Because his friends are all losers with no jobs, it's only a matter of time before they get evicted and Charlie is forced to find a new couch.

In November, for the first time ever, Charlie stopped drinking. While he was sober his ex-wife let him sleep on her couch. I loved that situation because Charlie doesn't have a car and his ex-wife lives about 7 miles away. I never had to see him! But then the inevitable happened in February and Charlie fell off the wagon. After a few weeks of on-and-off drinking, his ex finally gave him the boot about ten days ago. That literally left him homeless.

For the first five days he bounced from friend to friend. One night here, one night there. Last Thursday night my sort-of-ex Gabbie spent a solid hour begging me to let him sleep in our house. Normally I give in to her about everything, but when it comes to Charlie I have my limits. "No, no, no. Absolutely, positively NO WAY," I told her.

I suggested that he find an overpass somewhere. Gabbie was not amused.

Somehow Charlie eeked out a few more nights on various couches. Then on Sunday night, a solid two hours after Gabbie had crawled into bed to watch TV for the remainder of the night, her cell phone rang. Charlie. After some vague back and forth between them, Gabbie hung up and jumped out of bed. Then she started searching the house for something. "What's going on?" I asked her.

"Charlie is going to sleep in my car tonight. I'm getting him some blankets."

Well, fuck!

I grumbled to myself for a while. Then I decided that keeping him in the car was better than fighting about him sleeping in the house.

Oh, how short-sighted I was. Sure, he can sleep in the car but what happens when he's hungry, dirty or needs to use the bathroom? Into the house he comes.

The big question is: how long is this sleeping-in-the-car bullshit going to last?

I don't know the answer. Gabbie is working feverishly to find him a room to rent. She's already told me that she's going to use me as his reference. That will enable me to experience the finer points of 'survival of the fittest' as I try to foist Charlie out of my life and into someone else's.

At a minimum Charlie won't have a home until April first. He needs to work for the rest of March to save enough money to pay one month's rent and a security deposit. This means that I can look forward to dealing with him on a close, personal basis for at least the next 17 days. What a fucking nightmare.

Now with Charlie hanging around, I have to wonder why I thought a co-parenting, co-habitational break-up was a good idea...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gays, Dating, Sex & Attitude

Men!

I'd like to meet some.

Finding men can be as easy as ordering a pizza to be delivered. Sign in to Grindr, Manhunt or Adam4Adam and, boom, within 30 minutes or less you can have a man delivered to your doorstep.

Ah, the efficiency of gay hook-up culture!

I've been there and done that. But now hook-ups seem empty and pointless. It's a pity I feel that way. I could undoubtedly meet many more men if I would just change my attitude.

As with life in general, attitude makes all the difference.

The more I've thought about it, the more I've realized just how important one's attitude about sex is when it comes to meeting men. Generally speaking, it seems that gay men can be divided into three groups according to their 'sex and dating' attitude:

One attitude is that sex is recreational. 'Strings' are to be avoided because they inevitably ruin the fun. Although gay men of all ages can feel this way, my perception is that this attitude is most common among guys in their 20s and early 30s.

When a guy feels ready to jump off the NSA merry-go-round and settle down, he often adopts the second attitude. He's ready for commitment but he's not particularly looking for it either. He may hook-up less frequently than he did when he was younger but the whole idea of sex leading to a relationship makes sense to him. Basically, guys with this attitude are open to all possibilities, including recreational sex. These are guys who would agree with Single Guy, that "sex is the gay handshake" - casual sex is a way to determine if a guy might be relationship-worthy. It's my belief that the majority of single gay men have this attitude.

Guys with the third attitude tend to be somewhat prudish about sex. They are that certain segment of gay men who, regardless of their age, are keenly focused on finding a relationship. For them, sex is secondary to finding an emotional connection. Casual sex does not appeal to them and many of them would turn down a hook-up even if they found the guy attractive.

For whatever reasons, I have the third attitude. And I'm realizing that my attitude significantly narrows the pool of potential men I might meet. Bars? No. A coffee house as Austin has suggested? Maybe. That would be a crap-shoot. In a best-case scenario eye contact turns into a flirty conversation. Then what? A date? Maybe. Or an offer to come home?

Wouldn't it be much simpler if I just changed my attitude?

I've asked myself that question and it's something I could consider. But then I hear stories like this:

A friend I met from blogging has the second attitude. He would like to have a relationship but he's willing to hook-up for fun or to see if a hook-up might lead to something more permanent. Recently he met a guy through Grindr. They clicked well enough on-line that they arranged a coffee date. The date went extremely well. Afterward my friend told me, "the date was good. Really good. I'm sure this is premature - but I actually felt a connection with this guy. Sparks? Not quite yet. We had to stop by his house and drop off his leftover cheesecake - and while there he kissed me (which was nice) - and I could tell he was willing to go farther. I hit the brakes and said 'I want to go slow - I've been in these situations where I jump ahead of myself, and it never goes well.' He agreed."

Two days later I asked my friend if he'd had any more contact with his Grindr guy. He said, "I sent the guy a message a little while ago. He responded with something like 'I've been thinking a lot about it - and I'm having a problem with you being married. Sorry.' So that's that. I mean it's kind of funny. He was trying to get my pants off - and he knew I was married at the time. So I'm good enough to fuck - but not good enough to date."

I should mention that my friend's marriage is over but not legally so. Kind of like mine. Actually, my situation is worse. My wife and I are 'best friends' who sleep in the same bed.

So yes, I could change my attitude and I'd meet more men. But how many of them would say, "You're good enough to fuck, but you're not good enough to date."

"Wait a minute!!" you're thinking. "What do you think all those no-hook-up-I-want-a-connection guys are going to say?!"

Probably something like, "Are fucking kidding me? You're married?? See ya!"

***

When I was navigating through all the chaos of last year - did I have a marriage or not? - I was pleased and thrilled to follow Jim through his journey at Conflicting Clarity. He and his wife have maintained their family home and co-parent their kids together. They each have their own boyfriend and both boyfriends have found the situation acceptable, at least for a while. Theirs is a slow and gentle break-up that has sheltered the kids from having their lives turned upside down.

How ideal! I thought. Isn't everyone a winner in a slow and gentle break-up? Why have separate homes if everyone gets along?

Nothing about that scenario has changed. It's still ideal - from my point of view as a parent. But I think the reality is that Jim's boyfriend T is an exception. Most single gay men who are interested in a relationship would have no time for a man who is still legally married and lives under the same roof as his wife.

I find it ironic that I'm gay and my wife is straight, our romantic relationship is over and neither of us sees an upside to getting a divorce right now, YET most single gay men would REQUIRE a divorce. Now I have outsiders telling me how to live?

The fact is, no one can tell me how to live. But my choices do have consequences. If I want to stay legally married and live in the same house with my sort-of ex-wife, I'll be damn lucky to find a guy who wants to date me. Or, I can get a divorce, move out (kids with me, of course) and HOPE that my divorced marital status will be acceptable to more single gay men.

Gee, it seems to me, I'm fucked either way. And my attitude doesn't have a lot to do with it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Gay Dating Week Two

"I met someone! We're deliriously happy! He's THE ONE!!!!"

Anyone believe that?

Sucker!

Ok, ok. So my last post was pretty negative. I was disappointed that I was easily discouraged. I was worried that I wasn't excited about the possibilities that lay ahead. I lamented the fact that I should be HUNGRY to find the right guy.

Here I am a week later. I wish I could say that I suddenly feel much better. I don't. Now I just have a sense of humor about it.

I guess that is some improvement.

I didn't bother totalling up any stats for this week. There isn't much of a point. As expected, all activity slowed significantly.

The bottom line is that I am having ZERO conversations and I have ZERO prospects. Yay me!

The most fun I had all week was fooling around with OKCupid to see how their rating system worked. You can give a guy from 1 to 5 stars. If you give him four or five, he gets an email that says something like, "A random dude just gave you five stars!!!!! Click here and you might be able to figure out who it was!" You click through and you're brought to a page with three profile pictures that you're supposed to rate. Only one of them matches one of the random pictures from the email. It doesn't take a genius to figure out who 4-starred you.

This week I did have a few guys 4-star me. Sadly, not one of them was even slightly interesting. Seriously. I'm not being too picky.

The dark side of the OKCupid star rating system is the 1 or 2 star. Actually, 1-stars are not always dark. Handing them out can be sadistically fun. They're perfect for those guys who absolutely, positively, if they were the last man on Earth, under no circumstances, would you EVER, like, ewww, touch them.

One star. Boom. Gone. You never have to be see them again.

Two stars is a kinder, gentler way of permanently saying goodbye. The result, however, is the same as one star.

One positive aspect of the 1 or 2 star rating is that you DON'T get an email telling you that "HOTGUY69" thinks you look like dog shit and gave you a pity rating of two stars. Nope. If someone gives you 1 or 2 stars you never really know. Unless you notice that they have quietly disappeared.

Wait a minute? Disappearing men? I've had that happen! I thought it was some kind of glitch.

Nope. It's not a glitch. When someone disappears and you didn't one star them, they one-starred you.

Ouch.

I had no idea that disappearing men had anything to do with star ratings. No one tells you that. But with the help of another blogger, we figured it out.

The one stat I did calculate is the percentage of guys who viewed me and then gave me a one or two star rating: 15%. More than half of those I would have one-starred myself, for various reasons. Of the remainder I was indifferent to all but 5 guys. What is most sad is that of those 5, the two guys I had the biggest OKCupid crushes on BOTH 1-starred me. Brutal.

Oh pain, oh misery.

Basically I have decided that spending any emotional energy on dating is a bad investment. I'm not giving up but I'm going to do my best to check out.

At some point I'll feel like being more aggressive but for now I don't have the necessary confidence or enthusiasm. With my current passive approach I'd guess I'd average one date every-other month. Based on what other formerly-married bloggers in their 40s are doing, that seems to be typical.

Some of you may (correctly) say that it's time I try alternatives. Why stick to one dating site? Jason nicely suggested on my last post that I try FrontRunners. I'd definitely be happy to focus on real-life interactions and forget the Internet but it's not easy to find an outlet. FrontRunners would be an option if I enjoyed running. I have looked into a variety of MeetUp groups. I've done numerous searches for activities and groups and I periodically check the strictly platonic section of Craigslist. I won't say there are no opportunities but there's nothing that seems easy or ideal. I will keep checking.

I had an offer on an old Compatible Partners account for $15 per month for 3 months. It expired on February 28th. On that day I decided to sign up and I was prompted to update all of their four million questions. Then, after I finished, I got the E-Harmony Green Screen of Death: "Compatible Partners is for singles, check back with us when your relationship status changes." Well, fuck them! Separated isn't good enough for them, apparently. Of course I tried to access my account and change my marital status but the assholes kept bouncing me out. I took that as a sign and gave up. For now.

I've also been wondering if homos looking for LTRs in their 40s are generally selfish bastards. What I mean is, they feel like there are enough fish in the sea that they don't need to bother with separated suburban fathers. I can see the logic. I've wondered if maybe I need to consider a less uptight group of prospects. Guys who frequently think about dads they'd like to fuck. If I had any enthusiasm for the NSA mentality I'd try Adam4Adam. Some day I probably will. But for now I can't even be bothered to sign in.

I think this entry is going to be the last one about dating, at least for a while. I don't expect anything to happen in the near future that would be worth writing about.

For the next few entries I'd like to write about mixed orientation marriages and coming out to wives. People complain when I write about general topics and not my personal story so I've opted to write about nothing but my drama for the last five months. Once again I'm bored writing about myself so I think it's time to change my focus, at least for a little while.

BTW, if any of you think you know the perfect match for me, please email me and I'll send you my address. All you'll need to do is stuff him a box (with a little lettuce and a water bottle, of course) and mail him off to me.

Oh, one more BTW. For anyone who gives a shit about OKCupid: don't 3 star anyone. It's a complete waste, nothing happens, and if you rate them first you won't get an email if they later 4-star you.