I submitted an essay on dating in a wired world to the L.A. Times

I did. It needed to be 800-900 words. Check. It needed to be place specific. Check. It needed to be edited. Um…  It needed to be centered around difficulties/successes as it related to the online component of dating. check. It needed to be aphorism free. Check. It needed to not be breezy. Check.

Here it is:

 

I keep asking myself: How much older will I need to become until I can finally push dating into irrelevance?

I’m 67. I’m a gay man. I have HIV. I’m in recovery. I was involved with a man for 21 years once, but that ended. We lived in West Hollywood and Los Feliz. We looked happy, but never were. We’re still friends.

I now live with my dog Duffy in an elegant Long Beach building that stands quietly, majestically as an Art Deco barricade against the incessant urban cacophony of emergency vehicles on their way to emergencies. There are oceans of distressed people on the street below who’re barking particularly loudly this morning. The building is full of mostly interesting and involved people, like rocket scientists from SpaceX, cops, young acid freaks and online celebrities; a fairly even distribution of young and old. I’m a Democrat. My new neighbor is a Republican. He seems like a nice guy, but he’s treacly. No other word to describe him. My apartment is quite small. I figure it’s kind of like living on a boat, especially the kitchen, which is actually just a repurposed narrow hallway. I’m lucky to be living here.

I check online hookup sites dutifully, much like reading the news every morning. This rarely exceeds the bounds of admiration though, because honestly, I like looking at pictures and profiles of younger guys – you know, forty something. This has created an unkind truth about aging: even though it seems that objections to dating an older man would begin to vanish the closer to your age the prospect finds himself, the inverse is actually true, at least after the age of 39. Once that threshold is crossed, the 40s become the last stronghold of youth, jealously – maniacally – staking claims to those in their 20s or 30s while resisting the irresistible invitation to move forward toward…moi.

I work out at a gym very regularly. I use the adverb “very” because I’m currently enjoying a rare six-month spurt of religious commitment to exercise. I look pretty good for a guy my age. But I’m still 67, which I’m learning pretty much guarantees that my belly will prove to be monumentally difficult to disappear because, apparently, metabolisms slow way down at a certain point. That and I like bread.

Being HIV positive creates an added level of complication when looking for a date. Happily, though, most hookup sites have disclosure sections that allow you to just check a box so that prospects will be able to see your status, and you theirs.

I don’t insist that other guys be sober, as I am. It doesn’t freak me out that some guys insist on being high during sex (mostly meth, but sometimes other stuff too), it’s just something that not only makes sex uninteresting, but pretty much the rest of life too. I’ve tried to date sober guys in “the program,” but that’s often like dating somebody in the Taliban: every facet of existence is tinged with dogma.

Then there was Dave (not his real name) whose Adam4Adam profile seemed just right: close proximity, similar age, really great shape, HIV positive, and injunctions against using meth. I took the plunge and pitched him a “smile.” He responded with actual words, my reaction to which was: We’re going to be happy for the rest of our lives! We decided to meet in person before the dreaded flesh-market assessment preceding any prospective “activity.”

The hour arrived. He looked great as he approached. I was kind of giddy.

We headed inside a restaurant on First Street and each ordered a Poké. We sat. We commenced communication.

Dave had an awareness of carbs and diet in general. He worked as a phlebotomist in a local hospital…and god, what a body! He inquired about me. Disclosure: My debut novel was published earlier this year, something I’m quite proud of, so I quietly brought it up. This apparently was a mistake. Dave’s not a reader, which only became apparent after I’d explained that it was difficult to find part of the book that wasn’t too salacious to read in public. I didn’t care that he didn’t know the meaning of salacious. But it created a dissonance. I was still hopeful, though, and I tried to draw him out. “Phlebotomy sounds interesting and challenging.” Bingo. The floodgates of discourse had been flung open. I learned a lot about drawing blood from reluctant veins inside difficult people.

I also learned a few things about Dave, including this: He has debilitating back pain and he fears his prescriptions for Oxycodon from various doctors will be discontinued because his health insurance is in flux. He freely admitted to being strung out on the stuff.

If there’d been cartoon evaluation gauges above our heads, the needles would have been diving toward zero.

I got up to refill my glass of water. When I turned to return to the table, Dave was on his feet, heading in my direction where the trash can is, empty plate in hand.

Apparently the coda had just been performed, and I missed it.

Before shaking hands good-bye, Dave patted my Poké-filled belly. “Nice meeting you.”

This episode would have been much harder had I not had my dog Duffy at home. He will dutifully wait at my feet while I boot up Adam4Adam once again.

 

 

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