Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Two Lives

On August 30th 1986 I woke up at around 7:30am. I was tired and anxious. It was the very first time I had slept over in a man's house.

The man, a very distinguished Englishman in his early 50s, was extremely gracious. Although I had repeatedly refused his advances the night before, he let me lounge, undisturbed, in his bathtub for the better part of an hour. Then he served me a delicious, traditional English breakfast.

We had met the previous night at a small club in London. He took quite an interest in me after I told him it was my final night "out" before reporting to school the next day in Oxford. He wanted me to have a grand time and to experience what being out and gay in London was like. Much of the night was a blur, even then, because of too many drinks, too my clubs, and too many wild taxi rides.

Today is the 25th anniversary of that day. It's a day I remember quite vividly - like the day I got married and the days when my children were born.

What was most remarkable about the ten hours that I spent with that man was what he said as I stood up to leave after breakfast. He said, "Please don't go. Stay with me. Don't go back to college. Stay with me and I will take care of you. We can spend the rest of our lives together, you and I, and you'll never have to worry about a thing."

He was quite serious about his offer and that made it all the more stunning.

I couldn't believe how serious he was; the idea was preposterous! An Englishman more than twice my age? Whose name I couldn't remember? Ridiculous! Besides, tuition had been paid and a commitment had been made. Could he seriously believe that a 20 year old American kid would instantly change his life in order to become a kept boy in a foreign country?

I politely refused his offer, several times, and eventually made my escape from his flat. As I left, he pushed a small piece of paper into my hand and asked that I please call him when I got to Oxford.

A half-block later, I was still tightly gripping the note in my hand. I wanted to read it but I also didn't want the man to see me do so.

I walked a little further, then turned back to see if I was being watched. I wasn't. I scanned the neighborhood, and for the first time, noticed how strikingly handsome all the houses were. Without a doubt, the man was very wealthy. I opened the note and stared at the phone number for a few seconds. What would happen if I stayed? I wondered.

Then, realizing how dangerous the temptation was, I crushed the paper into a tiny ball and flung it as far away from me as I could.

That was at around 9:30am. Less than three hours later I was in my new dormitory room in Oxford.

I was one of the first students to arrive; the hall was empty. With no one around to talk with, I spent the next two hours unpacking my things and setting up my room. I was pretty much settled when I heard the doorbell ring at the hall's entrance. The Headmaster had let me in and I expected he would do the same for other students as they arrived. But the bell rang a second time, then a third. I decided I'd better answer the door myself.

When I opened the door, a very cheerful girl excitedly greeted me. She was struggling with two large bags and a very large wooden chest, so I grabbed the chest and one of the bags and hauled them up the stairs to the main floor. We talked for a minute and were both amazed to discover that we came from the same part of California but there we were meeting in the center of Oxford.

Because the Headmaster wasn't around, we decided to leave her things near the entrance and search the hall for her room. We found it another floor up; her name "Gabbie" was on the door.

I gave her a tour of the building, then we went back down to the entrance just in time to be greeted by the Headmaster's wife. Gabbie was welcomed and received her keys. I brought the large wooden chest and her two bags up to her room.

Gabbie later told me that she liked me from the moment we met. I don't know why.

More than a few times I have wondered what would have happened if the Headmaster's wife had opened the door for Gabbie instead of me. We still would have met but I would have been one of 50 other students in the program. Instead, I was 'special' from minute one, simply because I was there to welcome her and carry her luggage up a few flights of stairs.

The ironic juxtaposition of meeting my future wife on exactly the same day that I was offered a lifetime of financial security by a man continues to amaze me. It makes me think of a game show with Door #1 and Door #2. Except that I had no clue at the time of the momentousness of my decision.

Meeting Gabbie that day completely changed the direction of my life. Had we merely been friends or even just classmates, I would have stayed closeted for the remaining two years of college, but not much longer after that. My best friend from college, who was a year behind me, came out during his senior year. Chances are that we would have hooked up as lovers, probably for a short time, but his support would have undoubtedly given me the courage to come out as well - in 1989.

I sometimes think about that timeline - that alternate universe - that other life. I'd have no kids. I'd have an entirely different career. I'd live in an entirely different place. And hopefully, I'd have a partner with whom I'd be sharing the rest of my life.

That thought always freaks me out. Somewhere out there, right now, there's a man who would have been the center of my life. But I've never met him. Nor will I ever.

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the day everything changed, the day my one life split into two.

Commemorating this day has become a big deal for me. Gabbie always liked to make a big deal about our wedding anniversary but this year we both tried our best to pretend it was just another day. I told her then that we should choose August 30th as a new date to celebrate, as it marked the day our friendship began. Now that the day has arrived, I can tell that she has completely forgotten.

I'll be surprising her at work with roses, chocolates and a small, personal gift. Her days at work are very gloomy right now and I know I'll be able to cheer her up. At least for a few minutes.

"Are you freaking nuts?" You might ask. "Why do you continue to carry a torch for a woman who clearly wants to be done with you?"

I'm not carrying a torch, I'm drawing a circle. Or at least trying to. I hope that by marking this day, I can draw a neat circle around 25 years of our lives. We had our separate lives before we met; we've had our time together; now we're starting a new phase. I hope that by doing this, it will give both of us, and especially me, an appropriate sense of closure.

So although I am giving my wife chocolates and roses today, and I won't be dating men tomorrow, I will be dating them very soon. And that makes me wonder - what will happen in the next 25 years?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Internet Dating Undead

Although millions of people use on-line dating sites like Match.com, I'm skeptical about their effectiveness.

For one thing, if they work so well, why is it that the SAME guys are looking for love month after month and year after year? Many of them are not hideously ugly. They say they want a long-term relationship. Their profiles are reasonably interesting. So why are they still single after four and five years???

I have this theory...

I suspect that the ease and convenience of on-line dating lulls users into believing that finding someone for the long-term is far easier than it actually is.

I also suspect that successfully using on-line dating sites requires strategic thinking. The 'luck', 'fate' and 'hope' that many users rely on just don't get results.

Convenience is THE reason to look for love on-line. In the 'old' days you'd have to get dressed up and hit the bars on Friday and Saturday nights to meet someone. Now you can look like a total slob and go on-line anytime and peruse thousands of ads. Simple and easy, right?

What's also convenient is how much information you get to know about a guy. In a bar you know what he looks like, but unless you actually speak to him you don't know anything about him. In a bar, you have to resort to cheesy pick-up lines like "What's your sign?" In the Internet era you're 'empowered' with information. If a guy says he likes to hike in his profile, boom, you have a customized pick-up line for him - "Where are the best hiking spots around here?" See? It's easy.

Deceptively easy, I say. The truth is that too much ease, and especially, too much information, make on-line dating sites far less successful than they appear to be.

A recently published study showed that too many dating choices is a bad thing. They found that too many choices causes information overload and a tendency to get distracted by irrelevant information. Ultimately people react by NOT reacting, like deer mesmerized by headlights. I know that I have felt overwhelmed by too many choices.

The thing is, yes, there is an initial information overload that happens when you first log-in and see 30 or 50 or even 1000 hits from a search request. But you adapt - and so does everyone else.

We adapt by becoming selective. We only look at the "top" matches. Or, we look at pictures. Or, we set height, weight, income and age requirements. Thankfully dating sites provide a multitude of ways to search and sort. That way we can find EXACTLY the guy we're looking for. And shouldn't the ease of being selective make finding the right guy happen that much faster?? Maybe it should, but it doesn't.

Information overload has forced us to become too selective and not just about who we message. Selectivity extends to who we'll meet, who we'll have sex with, who we'll ever see a second time. On-line dating sites prove that it's a great big ocean out there, so finding exactly the RIGHT FISH is not unreasonable. And until Mr. Right Fish comes along, you can pass the time, and have some fun with, the few decent guys you do meet.

Another way we cope with information overload is by becoming selective observers. For example, once I've spent a few weeks on a site I've memorized the pictures of "everyone" who might be a match. From that pool I've carefully narrowed the choices down to "the best matches". Once I'm focused on those few, I pretty much ignore everyone else. I might notice a new picture but not a new headline or new text. And I don't think I'm different from everyone else. Within two months time I think most users only pay attention to who's new. After that, "it's always the same old guys."

Breaking out from the crowd and getting noticed pretty much REQUIRES strategic thinking. There are exceptions, especially if you're young and hot. Other than that, you have to think outside the box and most people don't. And that's why they spend years and years looking. They're too selective, they ignore 98% of the population and they've never realized that fate and luck have nothing to do with success. I call these guys the Internet Dating Undead - guys who stumble along in a mindless, endless quest for romantic salvation.

I haven't been playing the Internet Dating Game yet. I'm an observer. So my lack of practical experience could easily mean that my ideas are pure nonsense. But until I gain experience and test my theories, I feel like I don't any choice but to set some rules for myself that will, hopefully, keep me from becoming a member of the Internet Dating Undead. Here they are:

1. Never keep an active profile up on a site for more than two months.

This may turn out to be folly, but I'm determined to give it a try. The reason is that after two months you're stale. You're ignored. You're undead. You haven't found someone yet? You're not worth messaging. Changing your picture or your profile might extend your shelf-life a little, but those aren't likely to work for long. The only solution is to bow out gracefully.

After you delete your profile, then what? There are two options: either you switch to a different dating site or you think again about ways to meet men off-line. Either way, switching keeps YOU fresh. It's a burst of oxygen that keeps you from turning into a corpse.

2. Provide a very modest amount of information about yourself in your profile

When you post a profile, you're advertising yourself. As such, an effective profile shares the same qualities as an effective ad: it's attractive, interesting, maybe a little funny, definitely memorable, and, it's not overwhelming. Less is more.

When people read profiles they must contend with information overload. They do this to some degree by selectively reading, aka skimming. But even if they carefully read every word, they're still being selective, mostly negatively selective. "Negatively selective" means they're reading to find your flaws so that they can cross you off their list and forever-after ignore you. I think many guys post detailed profiles because they want "a good match" or at least, to screen out the bad matches. My belief is that long profiles DO screen out the bad matches - and many potentially good matches too.

Even simple lists of likes and dislikes, interests and hobbies can get you rejected. "You like to snowboard? I like to ski. That's relationship could never work!" It's stupid for people to think like that, but they do. You do it too, you just don't realize it. You are so trained to be negatively selective that you don't even realize you're doing it. And it's all because too many profiles make you WANT to eliminate prospects.

As with too much information, too many pictures are more likely to work against you than for you. If someone thinks you 'look too X' in just one picture, boom, you're out, even if you look good in the other five.

Although most of the Internet Dating Undead are zombies, there's also a contingent of vampires out there. I think of these guys as the 'experienced' or 'professional' on-line daters. These are the guys who have "been there, done that" and have decided that they need to eliminate the dating riff-raff by posting extremely detailed, explicit and often very opinionated profiles. I think of them as vampires because they want to sample a lot of blood, but they're never satisfied. They just want to stick their teeth in you and then move on. Their profiles are often highly amusing because they are inevitably amazed by their lack of romantic success. All they want to do is "find Mr. Right! Why is that so difficult???" Because they're too damn picky! Most likely because they don't have the looks, personality and/or intelligence to get the kind of guy they think they should have. Vampires - they can't see themselves in the mirror.

3. Be assertive

As this blog has proven, I can be a real doormat. Being too passive is definitely part of who I am. How fortunate for me because when it comes to on-line dating, I'll fit right in. My theory is that most people who prefer reading profiles vs. meeting people in person already have a tendency to be introverted and passive. Therefore, it shouldn't be surprising that the majority of dating site users are far more passive than they should be - assuming that they want to be successful.

Too many choices and too much information lead to inertia. It's the nature of the on-line beast. To combat this tendency, you have to be proactive.

OMG this will be difficult for me!

My plan is to use my two months time on a site wisely. I am committing to myself to proactively contact a certain number of guys each week. I'm not sure what the right number should be. Three? Four? Something like that. When I contact them I'll be mindful that less is more. So I'll try "lines" that are simple and somewhat flirty. "You're a teacher? I had a few crushes on teachers when I was growing up. I still have a real weakness for them! Your profile caught my eye. Let me know if you'd like to meet for coffee sometime." Yes, it's a bit cheesy but the point is that if the guy is even remotely interested, he'll answer.

4. No Internet Courtships

I have a number of Internet friendships. I value them just as much as real-life friendships, even though we've never met. Relationships are not the same. Meeting is required!!! So, when playing the Internet Dating Game, the goal is to meet as soon as is reasonable. Flirty messages can be fun, but only to a point. Overall I plan to be assertive about meeting quickly. If I get resistance, there must be a reason. Either the guy is hiding something, will only meet Mr. Perfect, or just isn't into me. Fine. Then there's no reason to engage in protracted electronic mating rituals.

So there you have it. My rules for avoiding both Vampires and the Undead - based on zero years of real life Internet dating experience. It will be interesting to see how my opinions evolve over the coming months...

Do you have any Internet dating advice you would like to share? Or comments about the above ideas? Don't be shy, use the form below.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Another Big On-Line Lie: "I'm bisexual"

My last post began with a reference to an OkTrends article from a year ago entitled, "The Big Lies People Tell in Online Dating." The article uses data from more than 3 million OkCupid users to show that a significant minority of men lie about their height and income on their dating profiles.

I also wrote about other lies that I expect to encounter, including penis size, age and relationship status, but I made no mention of the real "shocker" of the same OkTrends article. That "lie" deserves a post of its own.

Here's what OkTrends says about on-line dating claims of bisexuality:
OkCupid is a gay- and bi-friendly place and it's not our intention here to call into question anyone's sexual identity. But when we looked into messaging trends by sexuality, we were very surprised at what we found. People who describe themselves as bisexual overwhelmingly message either one sex or the other, not both as you might expect. Site-wide, here's how it breaks out:

+ 41% of bisexuals ONLY send messages to men
+ 36% of bisexuals ONLY send messages to women
+ 23% of bisexuals send messages to both men and women

This suggests that bisexuality is often either a hedge for gay people or a label adopted by straights to appear more sexually adventurous to their (straight) matches.
To document their assertion that "bisexuality is often a hedge for gay people" OkTrends shares this graph and text:
In this chart, throughout the teens and twenties, the male bisexual population is mostly observably gay men. By the mid-thirties, it seems, most of these men are more comfortable self-identifying as gay and have left the bi population. By the end of our chart, 3 of every 4 bi males on OkCupid are observably straight. Meanwhile, the proportion of men who message both women and other men holds fairly steady.

Please note, everybody, that we don’t assume that bis should be “into both genders equally.” We only assume that they should be into both genders at all. The swaths of red and blue that you see in these sexuality charts represent people who message only one gender. The purple areas are people who send any messages, in whatever proportion, to both men and women.

Female bisexuals, it turns out, are more consistent. There's a slight uptrend in the late teens and early 20s to message both men and women, but after that, roughly one-third of bisexual women message only men, one-third message only women and the remaining third message both.

The OkTrends blog where this article appeared has a comment section - and wow! - did they get comments about this bisexuality data. Many wanted to explain why the above analysis is wrong. The most convincing argument I saw was that many bisexuals already had a connection with one gender and THAT'S why the data is skewed. That makes sense to me. But it's still impossible to know if that is the major reason "bisexual" appears to mean "I want a man" for such a large portion of male OkCupid users.

Had this article been more widely read, I expect many non-bisexuals would have trumpeted the results as proof that "bisexual" is nothing more than "a stop on the road to Gaytown" as the TV character Carrie Bradshaw so famously said. You poor bisexuals...not many straights or gays believe you're genuinely into both genders.

So what does this post have to do with the super sexy hero of this blog (aka me)? Absolutely nothing.

I guess I'm like everyone else and I can't resist the opportunity to have a little fun at the expense of you fence-sitting bisexuals.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Are lies expected in on-line dating profiles?

Shocking news: people lie about themselves in their on-line dating profiles!

The dating site OKCupid has a fascinating blog called OKTrends. OKTrends describes itself as "original research and insights from OkCupid. We've compiled our observations and statistics from hundreds of millions of OkCupid user interactions, all to explore the data side of the online dating world."

An OKTrends article first published in July of 2010 details "The Big Lies People Tell in OnLine Dating." Care to guess what the big lies are? Or how often they're told?

Lie #1: Men are two inches shorter in real life. Starting at around 5'8" a significant number of men round up their height. The closer to 6' they are, the more likely it is that they will round up to that number.

Lie #2: Men say their income is 20% higher than it actually is. That's on average. Apparently, the older a man is, the more he exaggerates. Once he's over forty, he's likely to exaggerate his income by more than 35%. Not surprisingly, OKTrends reports that the more a man says he makes, the more often he gets messaged. Lying pays off!

Lie #3: Better pictures are likely to be old pictures. OKTrends says that 1/3 of the hottest pictures are more than a year old and that a hot picture is 3x as likely to be at least three years old compared to an average picture. And big surprise, the older the person is, the more likely their picture is old too. By age 50, the average picture is more than a year and a half old.

OKTrends can prove that some people lie but they really don't offer any evidence about how widespread the lying is. Looking at their graphs, it appears that roughly one-third of men lie about their height, half of the guys who make more than $50k lie about their income, and almost everyone with a 'hot' picture hasn't kept it updated.

None of that is especially surprising, is it? Probably the biggest surprise is that the 'big lies' are about height, income and old pictures. What about penis size, age and relationship status??

I expect that OKTrends couldn't write about those because they don't have "real" data to compare with user-reported information. That's a shame. I'd really like to know if an on-line eight inch dick is statistically most likely to be five, six or seven inches.

Notice that I didn't even consider eight as an option. That's because I expect anyone who says eight to be lying.

And that brings me to the 'big question' about on-line dating profiles: is lying so common that it's expected?

If it is, that has big implications. Take the average looking, 5'7" guy who makes $55k a year. If he tells the truth, he's in the minority. Most other guys would say they're 5'9", or that they make $75k, or they'll use an older, better looking profile picture. So isn't the honest guy somewhat screwed by being honest? And by the time a potential match sifts through the BS of all the liars, won't he be a year older and that much less attractive?? But then...he's honest. So maybe the match finds him much more appealing than he otherwise would simply because he's honest?

It's a real puzzle isn't it, whether it's better to "fib" or not?

As I contemplate posting my own online profile I have to decide how important being honest is to me. On the one hand, decades of largely living in the closet have worn on me. I'm tired of telling lies and half-truths. I'm also conscious of the fact that I lied so much and for so long that lying had become second nature. I want those days to be over.

On the other hand, I wonder: what if everyone else thinks 45 means 50+? Or what if Mr. Right can accept 5'9" but 5'8" is too short? Also, a profile is nothing more than an advertisement. Its purpose is to attract potential 'buyers' - you know, guys to come down to the showroom to kick the tires and go for a test drive. No one gets married based on a profile so does it really matter if you lie? You're going to meet and click - or not - regardless. So you might as well play the online game, right?

Grrr! I can't decide. I really, really, really want to be 100% authentic. But the truth is, I also really, really, really wish I was younger and taller.

So, dear readers, what do you think? Do you lie? Do you believe that most others lie? Do you think it's a mistake NOT to lie? Or, do you think truth and honesty are so uncommon that when you encounter them, the honest guy is THAT much more appealing?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Next Step

Ya'll are awesome.

Eighteen comments plus several more emails about my last post...and each one very thoughtful.

I wish I had some interesting news to report (Wouldn't "I'm having my second gay adolescence!" be great?), but I don't. Inertia and I are still holding hands. Maybe in a few weeks we'll work our way up to making out, but given who we are, a few weeks might be too optimistic.

I'm hit or miss when it comes to replying to comments. Often I feel a bit overwhelmed. Good answers to difficult questions require thought and space. The comment box often feels too limited. So this post is mostly about the issues and comments from the last post.

I like to be challenged and several of you were nice enough to challenge me. But one reader, "D" challenged other readers:
Gabbie, while not entirely blameless in this relationship, is not the villain some of you are inclined to paint her.

Lest you forget, Cameron KNEW he was gay when he married her. Was she given a choice? Cameron left her shortly after their marriage and before they had kids only to return to her because he missed and loved her. But that didn't stop him from taking a series of male lovers. Did he ask her permission? But you would condemn her for taking a lover now. As a middle aged woman who's never had sex with a straight man.... Gabbie was a virgin when she married. She remained a technical virgin years into her marriage.With all the excuses I've heard you men use to justify your behavior, your sappy need to be "fulfilled" and every other romantic and self absorbed drivel, have you ever considered what life must have been like for Gabbie? How she reconciled HER needs with her desire to remain with a man she loved? You have a hell of a lot of nerve castigating her for "flaunting" her affair. I guess deceit and blogging about your sexcapades is preferable to being honest.

She's not perfect but neither was her husband. He's a good man, don't get me wrong, but he is not a perfect man and to a large extent the bed he finds himself in is of his own making. Is Gabbie blameless? No, but she is entitled to a small measure of the compassion you are so willing to show for each others "weaknesses".

I believe that "D" felt compelled to wrote this comment in response to what Jayson said, specifically: "Isn't your current marriage totally awkward and unfulfilling and on top of that totally disrespectful and one sided? If you met your wife right now and went on a date, wouldn't she be about the worst date you could imagine compared to all the other prospects?"

To be clear, D is 100% correct. My wife is not the villain. No, she's not perfect, but I don't blame her for her affair, nor am I angry about it. After being rejected by her I could be very bitter and blame her for failing me and the kids, but I don't feel that way. She hasn't failed in any way. My sexuality is the fundamental flaw. I chose to lie to her when she asked me if I was gay. She married me believing that I was straight. Therefore I am 100% responsible for where we are today. Period.

As to the quality of our relationship, I undoubtedly have not been clear. Last year was rough. She was out 5 or 6 nights a week and she was usually drunk when she was out. But this year hasn't been like that. She goes out most Fridays and she'll plan something with various friends on another night of the week, but other than that, she's home. Our marriage is not, nor has it ever been, awkward. And it has been quite fulfilling. So fulfilling in fact that the most difficult times for me are when she's out. I miss her.

On the other hand, yes, the marriage is very one-sided. It would be better if it wasn't, but I don't mind so much. I understand her and her needs and the things that bother her don't bother me nearly as much so I don't mind being a doormat.

As for my wife being the worst date I could have right now...most definitely not. She'd probably be the best date. She's fun and engaging - always the center of every party. You'd think she was awesome, Jayson, if you saw her in action. She's full of life with a strong, outgoing, charismatic personality.

It's my fault that she seems so awful. I know all her good points, I don't need to write about them. The stuff that's fresh to me is the bad stuff, so I tend to write about that. This has undoubtedly created an unfairly negative image of her. Given Jayson and D's comments I thought I should try to clear up MY one-sided characterization of her. Hopefully I've done that.

A related point of clarification I should make is about my happiness. Austin, Will, Jayson, New Leaf, Biki and BuddyBear essentially had the same opinion: my happiness is essential to my kids' happiness. If I want to do the best by them then I need to do the best by me. "Kink" completely disagreed. He said, "Your kids are not supposed to know that you are miserable. You are not supposed to lean on your kids emotionally. They are not supposed to be 'there for you', but you are supposed to 'be there for them'." Kink's point is really interesting.

If I thought the question of my happiness applied to the kids, I'd spend a lot more time writing about it. But the fact is, I'm not unhappy. I'm disappointed that the person I would most like to be with doesn't want to be with me. Still, I can't blame her for feeling that way, even if that leaves me very unmotivated. If I was unhappy or mad or hurt or greatly unfulfilled, I'd have powerful reasons to make changes. But on a daily basis I'm content. It's my long-term future that I know I need to address. My age really weighs on me. My parents, who are only 20 years older than me, have aged very poorly. I feel that if I wait until my youngest kid graduates from high school in 7 years, my prospects will be poor. Too bad that it's turning out that beating that clock is not much of an incentive to come out of the closet now.

Multiple readers gave some strong advice on another issue: divorce. Austin, Will and Biki all feel that it would be wise to move quickly. Biki said, "Often when we're not looking for love, it seems to pop out at us. And if you find someone, I think the divorce could quickly become WW3. Divorce while everyone is still talking to each other." And Austin said almost exactly the same thing but added, "Since she seems to have a bit of a temper, there's a non-zero chance she'll snap and rake you over the coals in a divorce suit, especially since most of the laws favor women even without infidelity coming into the picture. If you think a friendly divorce is bad, you really don't want to see a hostile one."

Biki and Austin's divorce advice seems sound. But I (perhaps foolishly) don't think it applies to my situation. Why? First - because money doesn't matter much to me. It probably should matter more. And second - when I came out to my wife 18 years ago I had financial control in our relationship. When we got back together, it was very important for her to feel in control of her own financial future; she was afraid I might leave again at any moment. As proof of my trustworthiness, I ceded all control of my finances to her. Subsequently, and in a sincere effort to make a 'nice home' for me and the kids, Gabbie lost every penny we've ever earned in real estate. There are no assets to be divided. And although my income is significantly higher than hers, I don't worry about child or spousal support. Why? Because right now I have no money AND I take of the kids. I'd be perfectly willing to trade the money I don't have for more independence, but I don't think Gabbie will take that deal.

The majority of comments pertained to dating. That's especially helpful because that's the area where I have serious concerns. Anonymous essentially said, "If you're negative, all you'll see is the negative." Will, Jayson and RB said, "Be proactive." Hmmmph. Easier said than done, on both counts.

Maggie's dating advice might be the easiest to follow. She suggested that I not date for a year. I'm not sure when the clock starts ticking for that year, but by one measure it's already been 7 months. We told the kids we were separated in early January. But that's turned into such a non-event it probably doesn't count.

Mike D. and Ron were nicely inspirational. They found love - I will too.

Mike, Cecil and New Leaf all said that dating requires patience. I know this to be true...and that's one of the reasons for my bad attitude. I know I will be impatient because I lack the motivation to keep trying. Patience requires motivation and my motivation is lacking.

Jack, fortunately, might have the cure. He says I still haven't accepted that my marriage is over. I think he's mostly right. Intellectually, I have accepted that fact. But on the other hand, absolutely nothing in my life has changed to make it "feel" over. One of my biggest hopes is that WHEN something tangible changes, it'll feel like a big kick in the ass and my attitude will change for the better. So Jack, I hope you're right.

Are there any tangible changes coming? No big ones, that's certain. I won't be filing for divorce nor will I be getting my own place any time soon. One possible change is that maybe, possibly, sooner rather than later, I'll start sleeping in a bed of my own.

The other change, and this is the ONLY ACTION I can muster any enthusiasm about taking, has to do with advice from D, Kink and two other readers who emailed me directly. They all suggested that I meet new people by exploring my own interests. Some of them also emphasized taking dating out of the equation - to focus on friendships and to let things develop naturally from there.

Well, yee-ha, finally something Mr. Cameron Do-Nothing can get excited about: find platonic gay friends. That will work for me.

The big question is...how to do that? I feel like my schedule and suburban location are oppressive. I've looked extensively on-line for all sorts of gay-related activities. But nothing 'clicks' and works with my schedule.

My failure to find something suitable is very frustrating - I have a solution but I can't implement it!!

I'm not really sure what to do at this point. I know I have to keep looking. But I'm wondering if there are any friends-first gay social networking sites out there. Probably not.

Regardless, I'll keeping looking for opportunities. If ya'll have any ideas or suggestions, I'd love to hear them.