Mystery Date


My therapist leaned forward and asked, “What are you looking for, physically, in a man?” I could have said, “Someone who looks like you.” It would have been truthful, though awkward. After forty-three years in the closet, the physical details regarding my ideal man were basic: someone over twenty-one and under fifty. Even then, I was willing to grant some leeway. If I had an angel and a devil on either shoulder, one was a gyrating go-go boy in a red G-string and the other was a gay Pat Boone.

“Tall, maybe six-two, one hundred ninety-ish pounds,” I said narrowing my eyes to visualize him and then continued, “brown tousled hair with highlights, blue, no, green eyes. He works out, but not too much, you know?”

“That’s fairly specific,” Adam remarked.

I was describing a guy I had just seen on the subway.

“Also, a good sense of humor and caring,” I attempted to round it out.  Although these were not technically physical attributes, I hoped this made me seem less superficial.

“You’re a good person, you’ll attract a good man, but it’s important that you understand what you’re looking for,” He replied.

There was a warning of sorts, couched in that compliment, but like most people would, I focused on the compliment and ignored the warning.

After creating an online dating profile I showed it to my friends, Hans and Dennis. Hans had been in the closet for forty-six years and if Dennis ever was in, it was only to color coordinate his clothes. They lived together in a small condo on the top floor of a 1920’s building in Harvard Square. I would visit them often and dream of living in the city with the man I loved. Their home was like a photograph from the pages of House Beautiful. Although in House Beautiful, I doubt there was a charcoal drawing of an ejaculating penis on the refrigerator.  

“Oh my God, so many of these men are the same ones who were on here before I met Hans. These poor men--Not you honey-- you’re fresh meat,” Dennis said patting me on the shoulder.

How long would it be before my meat began to spoil?

“Oh honey, let’s go through them all. I’ll tell you which ones to avoid with a ten foot pole,” Dennis said, then he raised one eyebrow and added “or the ones with a ten inch pole.”

Hans rolled his eyes.

It felt incestuous knowing that I could potentially date some man that Hans or Dennis might have had a relationship with. While I appreciated their insight, I didn’t want to end up with sloppy seconds.

“What does DDF mean?” I asked Hans.

“Disease and drug free,” he said.

“Honey, did I tell you about the time I did LSD with my friend Angie from high school?” Dennis said. “Her mother opened the door to her bedroom and Angie shouted, ‘Shit, it’s my mother!’ I said that’s not your mother, it’s a big crow!  We started screaming and throwing pillows at her, trying to shoo her away.” 

Hans gave me an upside down smile, pushed himself up from the table, walked over to Dennis and kissed him. They put their arms around each other and started swaying back and forth, laughing. I watched them dance to music that only the two of them could hear. They were in madly in love with each other. When I looked at them, I could almost hear the music playing and if I narrowed my eyes just a bit?

I could almost see my future.


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Public Displays


We are strolling along the Charles as Paul’s hand falls behind my back and taps me on the rear end. I swat at the air as if an angry swarm of bees has descended upon us.

“See that? Ninja like reflexes,” he says and performs a karate chop.  “Nobody would have seen me touch you if you hadn't made such a public display.”

He begins to sing. “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy, when you act gay.” He then slides his sunglasses down his nose with one finger, glances sideways at me while raising an eyebrow and says “You need modesty panels beneath that shirt. I can see your breasteses.” The thumb and index finger of his right hand come towards my chest like a snapping turtle, which I block with the back of my hand, hi-yah!   

Taking a walk with Paul is no walk in the park. My discomfort with performing public displays of affection is, perhaps, rivaled only by his delight in delivering them. The more I squirm, the more he fondles.

“You’re adorable,” he’ll say, while my hands dart to shield parts of my body as if my clothes have evaporated.

It is this reaction that fuels his glee.  You think I would learn.

When Paul is driving and I am sitting in the passenger seat, the slightest anomaly startles me, a car changing lanes, a bus suddenly stopping or the shadow cast by a passing bird.  All of these things will cause me to shout “Look out!” and stomp on the imaginary brake.

“Sweetie, look at me. What if I were to pass out right now,” Paul will say, his neck becoming slack and his hands flopping to his side.  The car will veer slightly towards the shoulder. “We would end up sinking to our watery death in the marsh,” Paul will say and my hands will fly up as if I’m swatting away bees again.

“Don’t do that!”

I can’t remember the exact moment I became so fearful, though I know it is entwined with when I became fearless. When you make the decision to become courageous and get what you want, you become afraid of losing it. We have never crashed through the guard rail.  No one has ever threatened us over a kiss, still I am like the dog getting his back scratched; too concerned that it will end to completely enjoy it.

But today it is a warm September afternoon and summer is flirting with fall. The leaves are glowing yellow. Rowers skim the river’s glossy surface like water bugs. Crickets are chirping love songs to one another and if gravity failed, we could sail forever together through the endless blue sky. I make the decision to enjoy the moment and then like a driverless car my thoughts veer towards the dark water.

“What are you thinking about, right now?” Paul asks, while pointing a finger at me.

“That I am afraid the literary magazine will not publish my piece, or worse, that they will. Maybe I shouldn’t have sent anything out.”

Paul screws up his face and says “They’re going to hate it. You will probably never write again.”

I throw up my hands to block the insult.

You think I would learn.




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The Best Medicine


Paul saunters into the hospital room, glances at me lying in the bed and throws the back of his hand to his forehead saying, “Pull the plug!  I can’t stand to see him suffering.” I shoot him a look. I am babysitting my pain, which is an alien living inside of my gut, clawing at my intestines, consuming all of my faculties. After four hours of suffering at home and an alarming text message from my friend Sam, Not to scare u but u have to act on abdominal pain bec the lining of ur intestines can rip and cause all types of poisoning in ur body!  I decided to make my inaugural visit to the Emergency Room.

“Let’s go before my stomach explodes,” I said wide-eyed, as Paul grabbed the car keys. 

He bent his head down like he was looking at a baby and attempted to rub my belly, but I swatted at him as if he was a gnat.

“The equipment is aging,” my physician told me during my last physical.  He is a thin man with hair on his face, to make up for the lack of it on his head and prone to making unvarnished and ill-timed statements. “How was your Valentine’s day?” he asked me once, while inspecting my prostate.

It is this aging equipment that concerns me now as I look at Paul, who is inspecting the tube taped to my arm. I mutter “Sweetie, get used to it. This is your future.”

I am a languishing Mimi to his Rodolfo. I am dramatized.

“Maybe we can fill this thing with a Cosmo,” Paul says, squeezing the IV bag.

“Don’t touch that!” I shout.    

It is a given that one of us will go first. When Paul travels for work, I take a vacation to his side of the bed.  Not because it is closer to the bathroom or because long ago, it used to be mine, but because I want to experience the world from his point of view. When you love someone, really love him, you want to become him.  I think that if my head falls asleep on his pillow, I will be able to peek into his dreams and wake up in the morning to see the world through his eyes. I want to understand what he sees in the man with the aging face he chose to wake up to for the rest of his life. And now, I wonder what he will feel when my side of the bed is empty.

I open one eye and examine the equipment in the room.

“Is one of these things a lipo machine?  Maybe my pain is coming from a thin layer of fat,” I say.

“You made a little joke,” Paul says cocking his head and smiling.

It is then, that I realize my pain has vanished.

When the resident, a young stoic, Indian woman enters, I am taking a selfie in my hospital gown. I apologize profusely for the lack of pain as she presses down on my abdomen.

“It was an eight or nine on the pain scale,” I promise.

She nods her head.

“Heart burn,” she says as she hands me my discharge papers.

“Lack of attention,” Paul will later change the diagnosis, when I recount the harrowing experience, ad nauseum, to friends.

Paul reminds me that I came into this world with a slap and a wail and I’ll leave it with a slap and a tickle if he has anything to do with it. If that’s my future, I can accept the prognosis.


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Spinning Bottles


The first time I kissed a girl, I was twelve years old, which was also the first time I sampled my first taste of alcohol.  The two were, rather surprisingly, unrelated.  The former involved a gaggle of eighth graders in Carolyn Clancy’s backyard, spinning an empty green bottle and the latter a bubbling champagne fountain at my step-grandmother’s second or third wedding in Danville, Virginia.  Both of them left me feeling slightly nauseated.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why my father thought it was A-OK to let his twelve year old son drink four glasses of champagne.  Perhaps, he thought it might put some hair on my chest or maybe he found it charming the way, when loosened up, I performed my Cary Grant impersonation for the crowd.

“Judy, Judy, Judy.”

My step-grandmother wore a smart, ivory, lace jacket and skirt suit, smiled widely and her lilting southern accent curled up at the ends like her Mary Tyler Moore hair-doo. She wore bright red lipstick and from a distance she could have been a beauty queen, but when you got up close you could see how the lipstick bled into the tiny cracks around her mouth from years of smoking Virginia Slim cigarettes. The effect was slightly horrifying.

I suppose that’s the way I felt about Karen Enright too.  From an emotional distance, she looked appealing, but when the mouth of the bottle stopped spinning and pointed at her like a gulping fish I scanned the expectant crowd and wondered if they might settle for my Cary Grant impersonation instead.

“Kiss her!” The boys shouted at me.

“Judy”—I muttered.

“Just do it Dameron!”

The crowd wanted a lurid display of sex.  Sister Mary Claire had just that year, attempted to teach a classroom of hormonal boys the facts of life.  The girls were sent to another room to learn about their monthly gift. But, when Alex Brethette asked Sister Mary Claire if a blowjob was considered pre-marital sex, she became red-faced and was replaced by our hunky physical education teacher with the porno-mustache.  I was thrilled, however sorely disappointed that Alex never broached the blowjob question with him.

I finally mustered up the courage, stepped across the divide of the circle, closed my eyes, and planted a kiss squarely on Karen’s nose. My aim was a little off.  She jumped up, holding her hand to her nose and inexplicably, started crying.

“I’ll hate you for the rest of my life!” She bawled.

Her hatred lasted for one week, maybe two. My embarrassment lasted a little longer.

The first time I kissed a boy, I was nineteen years old and unsurprisingly, it involved alcohol, gobs of it. There was no spinning bottle, but the stars above us were twirling and they all seemed to point at a guy I met in a bar on the edge of town, beneath the moonlit shadows of the Colorado Rockies. My aim was much better this time and despite being a little more than tipsy, I don’t remember feeling nauseated in the least, quite the opposite.

I first kissed my husband in the cold Burlington Mall parking lot. There wasn't any alcohol involved, but the effect was no less intoxicating.   If I could go back, I’d tell my twelve year old self a few things. Ignore most of what nuns teach you about sex, alternate glasses of water with the champagne and have faith, it will take forty-four spins of the Earth around the sun to find your own charming Cary Grant. It’s worth the wait.



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Memoir of a Gay Date


Kyle reaches across the table, gingerly plucks one French fry from my plate and coos “Oh, I really shouldn't eat this; a girl has to watch her figure.” He bats his eyelashes, which I suppose he thinks is adorable and then asks “Am I just horrible?” A mudslide that destroys an entire neighborhood is horrible.  A plane that crashes in a terrific fireball is horrible.  Stealing a single French fry from your date’s plate is not horrible. Unless you are a forty something year old man who calls himself a girl, while attempting to feign an adorable devil-may-care face. Then yes, this is horrible.

“Why don’t you take the rest?” I offer. My appetite has vanished.

“I couldn’t,” he smiles and then glances sideways at me, “Well, maybe just a few.”

In his profile picture he looked blonde, complex and devilishly impish.  On the phone, his personality was a mixture of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Katharine Hepburn.  There was a certain “je-ne-sais-quois” quality about him. 

“I just arranged a birthday brunch for my friend,” he says rolling his eyes at the word brunch, as if to say it has come to this, then continues “I simply cannot stay out all night like I used to. My friends tell me I’m a bitch. I am!”

In person, he is not a mixture of anything, he IS Katharine Hepburn. In short, he is simply not my type. He is Spencer Tracy’s type. I wish that I could just go ahead and tell him this.  But, I am new to the dating scene and have not learned how to be ruthless.

“You know, you should change your profile picture,” he says.  Kyle has learned how to be ruthless.

“Oh, what’s wrong with my picture?” I ask

“Well, there is nothing wrong with it per se. It’s just that you’re not smiling.  You look so serious in it, well like now,” he says.

That is when it strikes me how deceptive the thumbnail profile photographs are.  From a distance many men look really attractive, but when you expand them, you see all of their flaws.  The eyes are too close, or the teeth require work, or there is something just not quite right about the way all of the parts are put together. And then there are the photographs that look too good.  The lighting is soft and reminiscent of a Parisian sunset in autumn, the skin flawless and the features chiseled like Roman Gods.  These men are too beautiful to be in love with anyone other than themselves, or else they have become extremely proficient in Photoshop, in which case they are still in love with the image of themselves.  

I chose a photograph of myself that was truthful, yet flattering.  It was one that my daughter had taken of me.  In it, I am standing in a church parking lot, wearing a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a pensive look on my face. In the background, you could see the steeple surrounded by blue skies and billowing clouds. But, the photograph was less about what was behind me and more about what was in front of me. From her angle, my daughter captured someone who appeared solid, tall and ready to move forward.

We finish dinner and Kyle insists on walking me to my car. He pops a breath-mint in his mouth, puts his hand on my waist and offers “Mint?” I am in danger of becoming a human French fry. I do not mask my horror.

“You know Kyle, I just want you to know that I think I'm becoming serious with another guy,” I ruthlessly lie. Time to move forward.

Am I just horrible?


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How to Become a Blogger For The Huffington Post


As a Huffington Post blogger, I get paid in exposure, which is to say I am about one more post away from being over-exposed on the Internet. While exposure does not pay the bills, it does build an audience, and anyone who is familiar with Kim Kardashian's rise to fame will tell you, there is no such thing as bad publicity. I'd like to share my insights on how to become a Huffington Post blogger. No sex tape is needed.

Read the Huffington Post:
 This sounds so basic and simple but many people who have asked me how to become a Huffpo blogger have never done this. You need to understand the style of writing that works on the website and get to know what type of subject garners the most attention. Look for posts that have many comments, shares and likes in your specific area of interest.

Get to know the verticals:
 The Huffington Post is comprised of a multitude of special interest sections called verticals. Each of these verticals publishes content that is targeted to a specific demographic or interest. You'll find these verticals listed under the masthead. Examples include Religion, Gay Voices, Post50, Politics, Comedy and Sports. The list goes on and on. On one occasion I had a blog post published in Gay Voices, Religion, Comedy and Politics all at the same time. This may be more of a statement about our current state of affairs than it is about how The Huffington Post is organized. The key here is that you have a voice that will resonate in a specific vertical. Find it.

Get to know the editor of the vertical:
 Once you find the vertical that you would like to write for (You can write for any vertical, once the first post has been published), find out who the editor is. You can do this several ways. Many times the editor will have a blog post published on the vertical, or you can search for the vertical name and the word "editor" in the search the bar. Or you can click on this link: Editors

Write your post
: Once you have the previous steps complete, craft a post that falls somewhere between 500-700 words. Make it current, crisp and unique. While the Huffington Post employs editors, they do not have much time to perform significant editing on a piece. It should be free of spelling errors and grammatically correct. My first piece published was a post about my father, and it was submitted three days before Father's Day. Tie your piece to current events.

Email a link to the editor
: Remember the step "Get to know the editor?" You are going to submit a link to him/her and not to the general submission box. I'm pretty sure that is just a waste basket. The email address for the editor will not be listed in plain sight. This is where you will need to perform some sleuthing. Maybe it is in a post the editor wrote, or on another site, maybe on Twitter. You have the name; you can find the email address. If you have a personal blog, post your piece there and then email a link of your post to the editor with a quick message, something like:
"I am a big fan of Huffpost vertical name and have been enjoying the articles and posts. The following link is a post I wrote on my personal website that I think might be a good fit for vertical name. Thank you for any consideration. I hope you enjoy reading it."
If you don't have a personal blog, just include the post in plain text in the email. Make sure the first sentence grabs your audience.
Once your post is accepted, be ready with a quick two to three sentence bio and a headshot. When your post is published, make certain that your personal website, blog, Twitter handle, etc. are included at the bottom of the post. The whole reason for publishing here is to build your brand.

You may have noticed that I did not tell you how to write your piece. That is because there is no formula for this. You have a unique and authentic voice that no one else can match. Find a subject matter that you are passionate about. One of my proudest accomplishments was receiving a personal email from a reader of one of my posts. The writer told me I had helped him evolve on a subject matter that is very important to me. Write clearly, concisely and draw a conclusion. This worked for me and has generated a great amount of exposure -- and I never had to take off my shirt.

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Sheila's Secret Sauce


I was an unseasoned nineteen year old, when my Aunt Sheila and her psychic girlfriend deposited me like a sack of flour on her friends’ front porch in Central City, Colorado.  They were a couple of “old gay rednecks from the hill country,” Barrel chested Harry would say while running Texas-sized fingers through his mop of brown hair.

“Speak for yourself, you old queen,” his partner Bob would reply, tittering about, while Harry swatted at him like a June bug.

They operated Saddle Bag Bakery, in the center of the old mining town on Eureka Road nestled in a crevice along the ridge of the Rockies. The only remaining gold came from the pockets of super-sized tourists gasping in the rarified air, who would shell out a few bucks for a cream cheese and strawberry jelly pastry and tromp through a tour of The Lost Gold Mine, following a skinny teenager with a battery powered lamp (yours truly).

Sheila and I had been turned out of her tidy Denver home by my aunt’s partner, who in a fit of jealous rage lobbed a pot over the fence at Sheila, barely missing my head. “Cook your fucking fetuccine alfredo for your new truck driver girlfriend,” she shouted, insulting both my aunt’s signature dish and her saucy new girlfriend.

Sheila cupped her hands around a lighter, picked up the pot and then calmly said with cigarette perched in the corner of her mouth, “I paid a lot of money for this.” You could talk smack about any number of things, but when it came to her cooking, the buck stopped here.

“I suppose I should have seen that coming,” Sheila said.

Or maybe? Her psychic, truck driver girlfriend, Stella, should have.

And so I found myself living with two gay bakers while my aunt searched for a new place to live, until 
one night I was awakened by the rustling of sheets and the scrape of a toenail desperately in need of a pedicure against my leg.

“Bob?” I stuttered, “You’re in the wrong bedroom. Where’s Harry?”  I was woefully innocent. 

“He’s down at the shop baking,” he said, snaking an arm around my waist.

And then it dawned on me that Bob had not made a logistical mistake.  I was like a Hostess Twinkie that he could not resist.

“You should join him,” I said and watched him sulk out of the bedroom like an old dog denied a table scrap.

After wedging a chair beneath the doorknob for the rest of the night, I placed a call to my aunt the next morning and that afternoon we moved into an unfurnished apartment with a couple of mattresses on the floor and a brand new set of expensive baking dishes in the kitchen.

“Where’s Stella?” I inquired.

“Didn’t last,” Sheila said while pulling out a pot. “Besides, now I’ll get to spend more time with you.”

“Honey, why don’t you make us a couple of vodka tonics, while I prepare my secret sauce,” she motioned towards the freezer door.  When I turned around with glasses in hand, Sheila was unscrewing the top of store bought alfredo.

“This’ll be our little secret,” she said.

That evening we dined on paper plates under the shadows of the Rockies, sharing stories and getting sauced.  If food truly is a metaphor for love, that summer, I got my fill.

         
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