I’ve got a bit of writer’s block when it comes to the next chronological installment of this blog. It’s so personal and heart wrenching that I decided to move on to a story that’s already ready for you, dear readers. This happened about a year and a half ago. Enjoy!
I met Rick while I was working for a company that puts on fake snow shows in shopping malls. One night in December, I was working at the Americana in Glendale and Rick worked there as a concierge. I had gone up to the desk to a different concierge, trying to flirt with him, but Rick usurped the conversation because I was wearing a Star Wars mash-up tshirt I got on Teefury that featured Han Solo and Princess Leia in an embrace resembling Gustav Klimt’s painting The Kiss.
I was pleased he got the references. He seemed to think I was pretty cool, so he asked for my info and said he wanted to hang out sometime. He was attractive, but I wasn’t particularly drawn to him. I had never had a crush on a black guy before nor had they been interested in me. It was somewhat new territory for me. I thought I might as well give him a chance, so I gave him my email. I don’t really like giving my phone number out to complete strangers. What I didn’t realize was that my email gives people the Googling power to find my costume design website and also find me on Facebook. I guess it’s back to phone numbers. Rick and I had one mutual friend on Facebook. I accepted the request he sent because the mutual friend was a close friend of mine, but I made sure to put him on my limited profile list. Rick would haphazardly contact me off and on over the next two months through Facebook messenger and we didn’t manage to actually ‘hang out’ until February, one week before Valentine’s.
We decided to meet at The Federal in Noho (a favorite of mine), but it was closed because there was a film shoot going on there. I was waiting on his arrival about five minutes, anxiously checking my phone and trying to figure out a good substitute as I didn’t know many of the other local watering holes. Once he arrived, I was at first a little disappointed that he was shorter than me. I misjudged his height when he stood behind the concierge desk at the Americana. At second, I was disappointed that he hadn’t dressed in anything nicer than a t-shirt and jeans. But I brushed these things aside. “You’re just being picky,” I told myself.
We opted for Republic of Pie over getting alcohol. We spent our time talking about our favorite pop culture things: film, theatre, music, swing dancing and our mutual love of England. He was an actor and seemed well-versed in these topics, so it was easy for us to really dig deep on the subjects. I had been skeptical that I would like him and it was a pleasant surprise that I did start to feel an attraction to him. He was almost a little too talkative (I chalked it up to nerves at the time), we actually had a lot in common and it was nice not to run out of things to talk about, unlike the bad OKCupid dates I had attempted in the past. I really can’t hide my love for the intellect and having deep conversations.
After about an hour at the coffee shop we moved onto The Brickyard, a bar right next door. It was weeknight and still a bit early, which left the bar pretty empty. We took two stools and I went ordered a cider. I don’t like beer much and bars that specialize in having 10+ beers on tap usually don’t have a decent selection of wine. He followed my lead on the cider and well before I finished mine, he ordered a beer for himself. I was low on money at the time, still wasn’t sure if we were splitting the bill or if he’d offer to pay, and I knew that I had to get up early the next day for a gig, so I stuck with just the one drink. But on we continued happily with our line of conversation, flirting more and more as time went on. You know, the subtle things when you sit side-by-side at a bar. Knees touching, a hand brush here or there, leaning in close to say something when the music’s too loud.
He was talking about a play he saw recently where the leading man was gay when he suddenly stopped mid-sentence with: “Wait, you know that I’m gay, right?”
I sat there very confused and with my mouth agape.
“Because I just want to make sure you’re cool with that,” he continued. “I know how people can be sort of conservative around Glendale and I don’t want that to be a problem.”
“No, it’s – it’s fine,” I said, “it’s completely okay,” still utterly confused. My gaydar has become rather well-developed since going to a wild art school for my graduate degree and he didn’t set it off. So many questions. What were the last two hours? Why only a few minutes ago did you call me ‘adorable’ and ‘beautiful?’ Why did you put your hand on my knee several times in the last half hour? Why are we even here, like this, in this situation, if you are – in fact – gay? I didn’t voice any of these thoughts, but my mind was racing with how to even respond.
“Nah, I’m just playing with you,” he says.
He then went on to explain that he likes to dupe people occasionally, just to see if he can. It’s the actor instinct in him of believably pretending in a role.
He just undercut any possible attraction I could have felt for him by deceiving me, however momentary it was, into thinking that he was off limits. It was disingenuous, to say the least, to assume that it would be funny or cute to lie about your sexuality on a first date to someone who doesn’t even know you well enough to tell if you’re joking.
Not only that, but I find it offensive on behalf of my LGBT friends out there who have had a difficult time coming out to their families, or who have dealt with public judgment and ridicule, or were simply snubbed by former friends. In general, I make it a practice to take people at their word for how they choose to define their sexuality, even if I can tell that they are still in the closet. Because who am I to say I know them better than they know themselves? I wasn’t ever surprised when my friends came out, but I am not interested in forcing anyone to live within certain categories. I am happy just being their friend. End rant.
Rick then went into a long diatribe about how he was in a play once where he played a soldier who was in love with a transgender woman and he was a big supporter of LGBT rights. I found this to be even more offensive that he would profess to be an ally, but lie about his sexuality. It only proved he didn’t seem to care that he was waving around his privilege as a cisgender heterosexual male as flippantly as a flasher’s dick in the wind. LGBT people of color often have it even worse. Horrible, it was all horrible. After that incident, I kept trying to find ways to leave. I was done and wanted to go home. I excused myself to the bathroom, saying I needed to leave soon and took my purse and jacket with me.
And this, dear readers, is where my polite manners got me in trouble. I should have just left out the back door/patio when I was done in the bathroom. I should have not cared about his potentially hurt feelings about being left alone at the bar with the bill (I only had one cider, it’s not like it was that much). I was too polite, too nice. I came back to where he was sitting to say goodbye for the night. In my absence, he had ordered himself a third drink. He begged me to stay while he finished it. Rude. In my mind, I was calculating how long it would take him to actually finish it and I was seething as I sat on that bar stool.
I was partially saved by noticing some friends walk into the bar at that very moment. I got up to talk to them and did so for about twenty minutes. I didn’t introduce him to my friends when he walked up. I was embarrassed to find myself having this man-child at arm’s length.
I shouldn’t have let him walk me to my car. I shouldn’t have let him talk about going swing dancing the next week. I should have pushed him away when he swooped in for surprise kiss on the lips.
Margaret Atwood is attributed the quote of “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” I feel like this dynamic was at play in this first date situation. I never once felt my life or my safety was threatened on that date, but I do know that my personal space was violated and that I was guilted into staying when I didn’t want to. I was trying to save this man’s ego out of some duty to be nice and polite to everyone, including him. Damn our patriarchal society and damn my Christian upbringing. My reaction that night was not actually Christian, it was soaked in the Christian culture that says women are to sooth over every conflict with timidity and should never, ever rock the boat. Even all these years after leaving my faith behind (Fully? Partially? Not sure yet), I still can’t shake such a destructive worldview. On the flip side, I feel like I can’t blame myself too harshly, because I think I was too confused by what was happening. It ended up being another incident where I should have listened and acted on my gut instincts instead some twisted understanding of propriety. My lesson was learned. I would never fain interest in a man again for the sake of being polite.
Oh, and by the way, he was younger than me, too. He was 25, I was 27. I can’t seem to get away from these younger, dumbass, immature boys.