Wednesday, August 25, 2010

In which my gaydar is activated

At book club last night, we talked about Assisted Loving: Double Dating with My Dad, or something like that, a memoir by Bob Morris, who is a writer for the New York Times (a newspaper out of New York City).

A few of us knew right away at the beginning of the book that Bob was gay, but some of the other readers did not.

Why was this?

Because some of us have either dated gay men or had crushes on them or both, hence, our gaydar has become highly refined. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, etc.

And some of us had married our high-school boyfriends, so never had reason to be amazed years or weeks later that our boyfriend/crush was gay. Gaydar not such a factor in those cases. It must be developed and who needs gaydar if she is already involved?

In the defense of all women who have dated gay men and not known they were gay - if a guy is trying to pass, he can do it.* Or maybe he doesn't even know. But if you have dated a guy (as a college student or as an adult) for more than a few months and he hasn't tried to get into your pants, that is your first big clue.

Straight men want it with the women they date. They want it with their friends, even, because in most cases, a single, straight guy is not going to waste time being "just friends" with a woman unless he thinks that someday, they will be more than friends.

You don't believe me?

Ask your brother, your boyfriend, your husband how many good women friends they had - as in, spent a lot of time with - as single men where they did not have an ulterior motive.

That's not to say that men and women can't be friends, but unattached men have a keen sense of the ROI for sex/time.


My gaydar had been developed by

1. Learning that my short-term high school boyfriend who kissed me only once and told me I tasted like macaroni had come out, but only after he had become a pilot in the air force and gotten married (and divorced). So like I was supposed to figure it out when I was 16 and he was either unaware or fighting it tooth and nail? I barely knew what gay was. This was in the late '70s when high school students were not plugged in like they are now.

2. Having several very out gay friends in the Peace Corps. Nothing like talking to men about men. It's fun. You learn good stuff.

3. Having a major crush on Liam, my good friend from work who had a "girlfriend" so he would fit into the world of corporate finance. He came out to me, then to his parents (who were mean to him about it, I am sad to say), and then got a new job where he asked in the interview about how gay-friendly the company was because he didn't want to work any more in an environment where he could not be himself.

OK. Back to the gaydar incident. My friend Liz and I went to a returned Peace Corps volunteer party in Miami. Those parties were something else. People there really cared about who was on the RPCV board and who had power and what Good We Can Do In The Community.

In the RPCV group my friends Megan and Leigh and I started in Springfield, I was elected president because I made the mistake of going to the bathroom right before the nominations and voting. We didn't care about The Community; we started the group as a way to meet men and to have parties.

There was that one woman who insisted we Do Something for The Community. I had finally learned the management skill of bouncing back, which is when you say, "Fab idea, Melissa! Why don't you be in charge of that?"

Much to my (not) surprise, Melissa never did a thing. Indeed, four months later she called me to say that she was pregnant and couldn't be involved, tempting me to ask why she couldn't use her brain and her uterus at the same time, but I resisted.

Liz and I were at this party, talking to a cute, interesting guy, Tim, by the pool. Liz, who is pretty and athletic and trim and smart and interesting and fun, was not dating anyone, which just seemed inexplicable to me because I would have dated her if I were a guy. But we both worked really long hours and it's not like the guys we worked with were worth pursuing or if they were, they were gay. [See: Liam]

When were we supposed to meet men otherwise?

We left the party and started to deconstruct it in the car.

"Tim is cute!" she said. "He's fun!"

I agreed.

She said she would like to go out with him.

"But Liz!" I exclaimed. "He's gay!"

Her head jerked back. "What do you mean?" she asked.

"He's gay! You couldn't tell?"

"No. What makes you think he's gay?"

"Because when we were talking about what countries we wanted to visit, after he told us his top three, he turned to you and asked what you thought. Then he listened."


"When is the last time a straight man asked you what you thought about anything? Besides your dad, I mean?"

She thought about it. "That doesn't mean he's gay," she insisted.

"It's a good clue. And then there was this: remember when we were talking about Al Gore?"

"Yes. So?"

"He said that he wanted Gore to spank him."

Game. Set. Match.

* See "gay American" former governor McGreevey of New Jersey. His wife looked stunned at the announcement and why shouldn't she have? They have a daughter together! Maybe she was in on it all along, but McGreevey had a lot of motivation to keep things on the down low. BTW, McGreevey, most people probably didn't care that you are gay, but they did care that you hired your foreign lover for a high security level job with New Jersey taxpayer money.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

In which I slave to find the perfect gift for my French self-proclaimed millionaire but miserly boyfriend and get only an e-card for my birthday

Remember Yves, the French boyfriend who claimed to be a millionaire but lived in spartan, washing his clothes in the sink, miserliness? He also implied darkly that he had been a spy and had had some run-ins with the Russians when I asked him about what appeared to be cigarette burns on his arm. Then there was the hereditary English title of which his family had unjustly been dispossessed.

Whatever. I just rolled my eyes when he went on about this stuff. Like, I'm an American. I couldn't care less about hereditary titles. As in, England might want a queen but I would never bow to her because I AM AN AMERICAN and WE BOW TO NOBODY.

Plus if he was so rich, why didn't he have a washing machine? And a full-sized refrigerator? I know it's France and they are so superior and all, but my idea of superior leisurely living does not include washing my clothes by hand. I had enough of that when I was in the Peace Corps.

Still, he was interesting to talk to and there was a certain glamor (and convenience) to having an overseas boyfriend. Although I should have learned my lesson with him and not made the Gomez mistake. For dumb.

After meeting at work and dating for a few months, we had decided to be "just friends" after coming to the conclusion that this intercontinental dating wasn't really going to work. Then we decided that as "just friends," it might be fun to take a trip together to the south of France. We would split the expenses as "just friends" and he would do all the driving and hotel finding and speaking to the locals, as my French is abysmal. A French teacher once told me in exasperation that I spoke French "like a Spaniard," which is undoubtedly true, as Spanish is my first foreign language. I started learning it when I was six and my brain knows two accents: American and Spanish. Those are the accents I apply to every other language, including French, Italian and Portuguese.

I was to fly to Marseilles and meet Yves there. His birthday happened to fall during our trip. I wanted to get him something special. I knew he liked American bourbon - he had even toured Kentucky visiting distilleries.

I researched bourbon, about which I knew nothing. It's booze, right? You use it in Bourbon Balls at Christmas?

I learned that there are boutique bourbons, single malt bourbons, snob bourbons. I learned how they were rated.

I emailed one of Yves' colleagues, whom I had also met through work. What bourbons could one buy in France? I asked. I wanted to get something that Yves could not get through his regular liquor channels.

Only the big names were available overseas, so I was safe with the snob brands.

Then I went to four different liquor stores in Miami before I found one that carried any of the snob brands. Yes, I would have tried calling beforehand, but if you have ever lived in Miami, you will understand why that would have been a stupid idea.

I spent $50 for the bottle. That was a lot of money to me back then. It had taken me a year and a half after the Peace Corps to find work and I had been working only two years. Before the Peace Corps, I was in grad school and I had a year (of temp work) between grad school and the Peace Corps, so I had had five years of barely breaking even, if that.

$50 for booze is too much for me now, as well, but then I don't drink. I'd rather spend that money on shoes. Or a purse.

I couldn't pack the bottle in my checked luggage - I was afraid it would break. Apparently, nobody thought I would try to get the entire plane drunk (ha - as if I would share something so expensive) and I was able to take it in my carry-on bag.

A bottle of bourbon, even the fancy bourbon, is not light. But I carried it across an ocean so I could have a nice gift for Yves.

He picked me up in Marseilles and we had a great trip, even deciding - ahem - to be more than "just friends," at least for the duration of the vacation.

We stayed at a small hotel on the water in Marseilles and were confused by the signs informing us that it was interdit to take non-guests into the room, but then we realized it was a sailors' flophouse and they wanted to keep the hookers out.

Our room was decorated in a jaunty nautical theme that included bunk beds instead of a double bed, but I suppose that would have been no impediment to a lonely sailor on shore leave.

The only rough spot on the trip was when I ran out of the pain meds for my tooth that needed pulling. My dentist refused to pull the tooth right before I left for France, telling me that such a procedure two days before an international trip was not wise. He did give me drugs.

He also asked if I was interested in meeting his single, employed brother. His mother, who ran his practice, and he had discussed this over my two years of being a patient and had thought we would be a good match.

I suggested that waiting until a week before I was moving from Miami to Iowa was not the best timing. Did I mention that? That I was moving from Miami to Cedar Rapids? Well, I was.

Anyhow, I ran out of drugs and my tooth started to hurt so much that I demanded that Yves find a hardware store, buy a wrench, and pull the tooth himself. He refused, but did call his doctor and get me a new prescription. At the time, I did not know codeine was available over the counter in France (it is! stock up when you are there!), otherwise I would have just stayed stoned until I got back to the States.

Back to the bourbon.

Yves loved it. Thought I was so thoughtful to go through all that effort. Of course I told him how much work it was. Wouldn't you?

I went back home, moved to Iowa, and we carried on our emailing relationship along with an occasional phone call. He even visited me in Iowa on a work trip to the States. He did not, however, impress me by deciding to fly back to France out of Chicago instead of Cedar Rapids as we had originally planned.

"I thought you could drive me to Chicago to catch the plane," he explained.

I explained to him that Chicago was over 200 miles away - that just because something is only one inch away on the US map does not mean it is a quick drive. But he didn't care. He didn't want the more expensive ticket (that the company was paying for) - but he was OK with my putting 400 miles on my car and my paying for the gas.

What can I say? This is the same man who drove to Cedar Rapids from Memphis against my advice. "It's a boring, boring drive," I told him, "and a long drive."

He didn't believe me until he got to Cedar Rapids. "It was hours of nothing but corn fields!" he exclaimed in disbelief.

"Yeah. I told you so," I answered.

After we broke up, I emailed him and told him I wanted the gas money.

But that was later. Yves went back to France. I continued to work. As my birthday approached, Yves got excited. Oh, the special thing he had planned for me! It was tres cool! I would like it SOOOO much! He could hardly stand it!

I was intrigued. What could he be getting me that was the equivalent of $50 boutique bourbon? Did he really know me that well? I couldn't wait, either.

My birthday arrived.

Nothing in the mail. Nothing delivered to work. I waited. I waited.

I checked my email.

There it was.

An e-card.


That was the special birthday present he had arranged for me.

Two days later, he broke up with me.

Know what?

I didn't care.