Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Keeping Up Appearances

"Solutions for Divided Bisexual Married Men" is still under construction. Thanks for your patience.

***

2010 was an incredibly chaotic year for my 20 year marriage.

Most of the drama was captured in posts on this blog. Long-term readers might recall that my wife Gabbie was sexually assaulted by her boyfriend Charlie; that Charlie was a hard-core alcoholic who, when drunk and angry, was a seriously lethal threat (years ago he killed a man during a bar fight); that Gabbie was seldom home and thereby abdicated her role as mother and wife; that she was regularly drunk; and that she and Charlie constantly fought, which more than once prompted police intervention.

Although Gabbie first began seeing Charlie in 2006, last year's events were extreme. Clearly, the situation was out of control, and other than kicking her out of the house and further into his arms, there was nothing I was willing to do to take control of the mess. Besides, he was such a disaster, I KNEW it was only a matter of time before she'd be finished with him.

My willingness to be patient was criticized by many readers: "why do you tolerate their behavior? And what about the kids?!" Looking back, I think I made the right decision. Had I kicked her out, that might have made for a clean break between us, but it also would have had dire consequences for her and for her relationship with the kids. They were largely unaware of the drama; all they complained about was that she was gone too often. Kicking her out would have made for a better outcome for me but I think it would have been permanently harmful to everyone else. For that reason I don't regret being patient.

I can't remember when the last crazy, drunken episode happened. It might have been in November of 2010. There has been only one incident this year, in March, and that was pretty minor - a fight between the two of them where he was very drunk and she was somewhat buzzed. Overall, 2011 has been completely different than 2010, especially the latter three-quarters of the year.

Although Charlie is and always will be an alcoholic, his drinking has been much more moderate this year. It's been many months since I've seen him drunk. Gabbie has morphed from being a 24/7 bar hag to a home-body who likes to bake. She and Charlie still go out, but far less often and for much shorter times. Last Friday, for example, she was home by 9pm.

Charlie's relatively good behavior has been a major frustration for me. Whereas in the Spring I had big hopes of getting him deported (with Gabbie's blessing) now she wants him to stay. Also, a recovering alcoholic/countrymate/friend of Charlie's has kept him employed for most of this year. Charlie gets to keep the job as long as he's sober at work. Having a steady job is a major accomplishment for Charlie and the fear of losing it has done a lot to curb his drinking. While it is inevitable that he will screw up and get himself fired, the path he's on is literally paying off for him. Therefore I don't expect any surprises soon. This means that whether I like him or not, Charlie is here to stay.

Recently Gabbie's mother convinced Gabbie to accept a truckload of garage sale items from a friend of hers. I didn't even know about this arrangement until Charlie started unloading a bunch of crap into our family room. My reaction was, "What the hell? We don't need any of this!" But even more surprising than the junk was my 12 year-old daughter's reaction to it - she wanted to know if Charlie was moving in.

Given that she saw Charlie moving several pieces of unfamiliar furniture into the house, her question was entirely logical. And once I explained the truth, she didn't give it another thought. Still, I believe her question indicates that she is increasingly suspicious of her mother's "friendship" with Charlie. And while she is not yet mature enough to put the pieces together, she is far more aware than either of her brothers who are two and six years older; they are clueless.

My daughter's question made me realize something important, something that I've taken for granted and shouldn't have: although we told the kids nearly a year ago that we were separated, and although I sleep in my own bed in my own room, and although I stopped wearing my wedding ring in October, we still haven't told the kids that mommy has a boyfriend. Why not??!!!!

Given our awkward situation, my homosexuality and her long affair, I've left it to Gabbie to spread the word to friends and family that we are separated. It's been important to her to contain the embarrassment of our lives; she doesn't want to be "a joke." I get that. What I don't understand is her end-game. Her "keep-the-secrets-hidden" approach is certain to fail eventually. Then what? It's like she wants us to be characters in a '50s housewife novel where everything is normal and dignified on the surface but in reality that's all a phony charade.

I haven't objected to Gabbie's whitewash philosophy because it serves an important short-term purpose: it keeps the kids' lives normal. It also keeps the two of us on the same page, which means as much as I despise Charlie, we don't fight about him. Also, Gabbie's approach is every closeted man's dream. It's an open marriage where we each can (supposedly) have our own boyfriend, yet we retain social acceptability, all without affecting the kids. The problem is, it's all lies - a huge stinking pile of manure.

As good as some of the short-term benefits might be, continuing to tell lies for the indefinite future is not an acceptable solution for me. Lies are what got us into this mess. It's only by putting an end to the them that we'll have any chance to find true happiness.

Speaking of finding happiness, I've had a few hang-ups when it comes to dating men and I've been trying to work through them. My biggest problem has been figuring out how to date with integrity yet stay within the boundaries of the 1950s whitewash Gabbie wants the world to see. My gut says the two are incompatible.

For nearly a year I've been wrestling with this question and only now have I realized how simple the answer is: stop the lies! If Charlie is such a great catch and our marriage is over then Gabbie has no legitimate reason to continue to hide him.

The more I've thought about it, the more I've realized that exposing their relationship is essential. It will prove to the kids, and to anyone else who cares, that our marriage is permanently broken. Further, by acknowledging that we are broken, we will both be free to establish genuine and independent lives.

Just thinking about ending this charade makes me feel so much more optimistic about dating.

I have allowed Gabbie to make poor decision after poor decision. I've had enough. Tomorrow I will be giving her the chance to decide when, where and how she'll come clean. If she wants to drag her feet, which is what I expect, then I will have to tell the kids myself. I don't want to make that sound like an ultimatum but, well, it is.

I don't want to start a fight nor do I want to hurt or embarrass her. She can tell the kids they've only been dating for a week, I really don't care. But I am putting an end to the fantasy of our bond. I have found living this way for the past year to be much worse than simply hiding in the closet.

Keeping up appearances is absolutely no way to live happily ever after.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Temptation

I hadn't plan to write this post. On the whole I think issues related to the marriages of bisexual men are much more interesting than my spectacularly pathetic dating life. But because I have a reputation for being negative about my future I thought I'd better post something positive before my usual cynicism returns.

Last Thursday I added a face picture to an otherwise empty profile on Grindr. The response I've received since then has given me a much needed boost.

In my typical over-thinking way (I'll take too much thought over too little any day), I have logged the number of hours that I've spent on Grindr and how many different guys have initiated chats with me in that time.

In the face picture I chose I'm expressionless. It's intended to give me a baseline indication of how attractive other men think I am. In roughly 26 hours of idle Grindr time, I was messaged by 7 different guys. I have no idea if that is good, bad or average for a 45 year old, but, hell, it's way better than zero, and that is good enough for me.

A few days ago I changed the picture (but kept the empty profile) to a face and torso shot. I'm wearing sunglasses so the picture mostly emphasizes my body. In 23 hours of idle Grindr time thus far, I have been messaged by 17 different guys.

If I compare the response rate for each photo I can safely conclude that if I put a bag over my face and show just my body, I'm 2.5-3x as likely to be approached compared to having only a face picture. Do I care that a body shot makes me much more popular? NO. At this point, I'm just glad that anyone finds me attractivel.

Having never interacted on Grindr before, I didn't know what to expect. I had (and have) no intention of hooking-up with anyone so I honestly expected to be immediately blocked as soon as I said as much. And that did happen, once. Rather shockingly everyone else has at least been polite and a number of guys have been chatty. Only one guy of the 24 total said he's more interested in finding a relationship than a hook-up, but hey, it's Grindr.

In addition to receiving a number of unsolicited compliments, my ego was further buoyed by the fact that 70% of the guys who messaged me were younger. This is a case of the tail wagging the dog, to some extent, because roughly 70% of the guys on Grindr are younger, BUT, I am not complaining. In fact (and maybe I'm delusional here) I think, if I had been willing to hook-up, I could have gotten naked with a (supposed) 18yo, a (hot) 24yo, a 27yo, a 31yo and a 32yo. Not that I'm keeping track, of course.

The most interesting conversation I had was with a married guy who looked to be very near my age. He had no picture in his profile but he sent me one. He was good looking and just my type. Best of all (at least to him) he was less than a mile away. He made it clear that he wanted to get down to business right away. Oh wow, was I tempted. But I didn't tell him so. Instead I politely said I couldn't meet. Then I asked if he lived in the area. No, he was passing through. He then told me the location of the three houses where he does live. All of them were in very expensive locations. I'm not sure why he told me that, probably because it's fun to brag, and yes he could totally be lying, but I don't think so. Anyway, it doesn't really matter. What does matter is that I found myself thinking, "Goodlooking, my type, my age, AND a member of the 0.5%? Yes, I WILL be your fuck buddy."

I'm not sure if I'm glad to know that I can be tempted by sex and money, but apparently it's a fact.

On the other hand, I haven't been pouting about that missed opportunity so that says something. Still thinking about it makes me smile.

Anyway, as I said in my last post, all I've needed was SOME kind of validation that someone finds me attractive. Well that's happened and it's given me the confidence I needed. Now I know, in a worst case scenario, that no matter how many times I get ignored or rejected on a "real" dating site, I can always hop on Grindr. And once there for an hour or so, I can find a local guy who wants to make me his cheap whore. Thank God for Grindr.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dating, Masculinity and Pigs with Tattoos

I began "dating" again seven weeks ago. Here's an update:

After taking a break from on-line dating, I decided to give it another try. I'm skeptical about its effectiveness (if it works so well, why are the same hot guys still looking month after month and year after year?), so my plan has been to spend no more than 60 days on any one site. The idea is to jump around and always be new somewhere.

I decided to start with Compatible Partners, E-Harmony's gay website. I chose them because about 18 months ago I answered their 12,000 matching questions (slight exaggeration) and posted an empty profile. The matches they sent at the time looked promising. My experience this time has been entirely different. Whereas Compatible Partners was relatively new and flush with customers a year and a half ago, now hardly anyone uses it.

Over the past seven weeks CP has sent me a total of 33 matches. That's nothing compared to the 1000+ local users who are on Match, Adam4Adam, Manhunt or OKCupid. At first I thought I wasn't getting many matches because my criteria were too tight. Well, I have continuously broadened them and I'm still not getting many matches. I'm at the point where I can't be any more open than I already am. All I'm getting are occasional "flex matches" for any guy, 18-100, who can fog a mirror.

The volume of matches wouldn't be a problem if just a few of them were promising. Well, they've been horrible. I mean really horrible. I seriously wonder if some of them are homeless. They look like they might be.

It took me about two weeks to figure out that Compatible Partners is a waste of time and money. Around that same time, a new guy showed up on Match who really caught my interest. Honestly, it was the first time I had ever read a profile and felt like the guy was talking about ME. I was pretty excited about him. Even better was the fact that he lived and worked in a rural area about 45 minutes outside of the City - no homo competition. And best of all, at least in terms of securing a first date, he was slightly older than me (everyone wants to date someone younger than they are) and he was pretty plain looking. Not unattractive, just average.

Because he was new on Match, I knew he was going to get some hits the first week. So I waited two weeks. Then, after debating whether I should commit to Match for 6 months or go for a one week trial, I took the trial. I loaded my pictures, completed a short profile and sent the guy a short, friendly email. Then I waited. And waited. And waited. The fucker ignored me.

Apparently I'm not even worth a polite rejection from a plain, bald, older "nice guy" who lives in Backwater, USA? Damn that hurts. Of all the outcomes I anticipated, that was not one of them.

After that disappointment, I scraped what was left of my ego from the floor and winked at (how gay, I know) two other guys. Ignored x 2. You might think I was trying to lure some Taylor Lautner lookalikes into my bed, but trust me, that was not the case. I don't bother reaching. In fact, I'm now so insecure about my desirability that I'd much prefer to be the better looking guy.

My Match profile was never marked as "new" so that sucked but in the week that it was up I got four winks and two emails. The best of the lot (and I'm not talking about looks, I'm talking about the overall quality of the match) was a 52yo who lived an hour away. He seemed like a nice enough guy, and I thought about responding positively to his wink, but I didn't. I just wasn't that attracted to him and he lived too far away. Instead I replied to him, and the five others who contacted me, and said that I was pulling my profile because I wasn't ready to date.

Off the 'net Chet has been trying to help me. He really wanted me to meet this fitness coach, a friend-of-a-friend, who "might" be bi. The guy is 47 and has a girlfriend but he's "curious about exploring" with men for the first time. "Plus he's a super nice guy!" I told Chet that I wasn't up for being someone's training wheels, no matter how hot he might be.

Chet also told me about a suburban dad he had met at an LGBT business mixer a few months back. He's divorced, nice looking, two teenage girls, lives less than two miles from me. I assume the guy has a boyfriend, fuck buddy or whatever, but I thought he would be someone good to meet. Who knows who he might know? So I sent him an email, with two pictures, and I told him the basics of my situation. I also told him that I was looking to network for gay friends. Guess what happened with him? The fucker ignored me.

Is anyone else detecting a pattern here?

A good friend has advised me not take my serial rejections personally. He says he gets ignored all the time (yet, let me tell you, he is getting SOME!!!) and that on-line dating is a numbers game. Instead of focusing on one or two guys, he says I need to hit on 10-15 guys a week and not care whether I hear back from any of them. I think his advice is sound, and I might eventually be able to do that, but right now, I can't risk mass rejection. I need to gain some confidence first.

If I count the month or so I tried to date in the Spring and add that to my current seven week total, I've been "dating" for 11 weeks and in all that time I've been on ONE date, nine months ago. And that wasn't even a real date. He was a teacher and all we talked about was education reform and how much he hates Michelle Rhee (former DC School Superintendent). Seriously, it was like I was at a school conference for one of my kids. It was about as undatelike as anything I could have imagined.

A few weeks ago, on this blog, I posted a picture of myself wearing a pair of mid-thigh swim trunks. I asked for your opinions about how they looked because my 17yo called them "kind of gay." Not one person who commented agreed with what my kid said. Somewhat reassured, I used that same picture on CP and Match. It was also one of the two pictures I sent the divorced guy with kids. Given that I've been 100% ignored, I'm wondering if using that picture was a mistake. I think my kid was right, the trunks are gay.

The importance of appearing as masculine as possible in every profile picture never really occurred to me. But now that I am paying attention, I've realized how essential it is.

I will be moving to a new dating site soon, but because the first week that you're "new" on any site is crucial, I'm going to wait until January to do so. In the meantime, I've been thinking about fooling around with Grindr. I'm absolutely, positively not looking for hook-ups so choosing Grindr might seem pointless, but I'm thinking of using it to experiment with marketing myself. Mostly I'd like to know, based solely on different pictures, what kind of men I attract. If any.

It's true that blaming my poor results on one picture could be a case of wishful thinking, and maybe using different pictures would be no better than putting different tattoos on a pig's bicep (he's still a pig) but, at this point, I'd prefer to be delusional and positive than realistic and negative.

On that happy note, wish me luck. I need it.