It was a complete accident when, a couple of weeks ago, I sat at the bar right next to the man I went on my first ever gay date with. In fact, grabbing a gin and cucumber cocktail at The Holy Oak for the packed and sweaty all-Kate Bush edition of Live Piano Karaoke was basically taking myself out on a gay date, and I parked myself in the only seat left.
It took a while for the recognition to set in. The first song of the night was “Babooshka,” sung by a woman who immediately regretted the decision. And there he was, joining her for back-up! Still, I didn’t clue-in. After, they returned to their seats and the woman struck up a conversation with me in which she mentioned her friend’s nickname. Suddenly, I knew exactly who he was. When she asked if we’d met before, he seemed nervous and muttered something unintelligible, so I answered: “We went on a date ten years ago.”
I didn’t start gay dating ‘til I was 21, which even by 2006 standards made me a late-ish bloomer. My closety teen years were bereft of dates—unless you count the time in grade eight I went to my girlfriend’s house during lunch break to watch the first half of Mulan. She dumped me the next day, so I never even got to find out whether Mulan gets the guy or decides to just live as a man forever. But now, in my early 20s, I was finally out and on a desperate mission to find a boyfriend. I decided that this meant getting a profile on a dating site—at the time, a somewhat controversial choice. One of the first dudes I started talking to was a tall, blond visual artist with a very specific nickname, but let’s just call him George. We’d stay up late messaging each other and we had the same favourite X-Man, so obviously I had pretty high hopes.
I invited George to come to an erotic puppet show I had tickets to, and let’s just pretend that was totally normal in 2006. I sat in a crepe restaurant waiting to meet him before the show. And waiting. And waiting. George stood me up! But then a thought crept into my head: had I maybe just never told him where to meet me? I had planned our date so meticulously that surely I must have communicated those plans to him… right? Since I did not have a cellphone in 2006, I had to rush home and turn on my laptop to be able to verify that, as I had feared, I had invited George to the show, but never firmed up the details.
George got my frantic messages in just enough time to meet me at the theatre. He looked like he hadn’t slept and reeked of yesterday’s booze. But I chose to overlook the less-than-ideal elements of my first gay date and focus on the fact that I had successfully tricked someone into spending time with me. After we finished watching bee and sheep puppets take their clothes off, we decided to get food. We talked about art and the weather and friends and coming out to our parents and the whole thing somehow took 6 hours and culminated in that trademark of the lukewarm date: a goodbye hug.
My second date with George featured brunch at The Beaver, an unbearably cold walk through a midwinter Trinity Bellwoods, a standup show at The Rivoli, and a bit where I managed to orchestrate walking arm-in-arm in front of the Lush store where my friend worked so that she could get an eyeful of my dating prowess. That date lasted for an absolutely absurd 12 hours, although it was capped off, once again, with a bullshit goodbye hug.
Where was my goddamn goodnight kiss? Surely I would get it by the third date. George had invited me to come dancing with him and his friends at The Boat. We met at my apartment, and I gave him a tour that ended with my bedroom. He chose not to take the “hint.” At The Boat, he and his friends drew Xs on their hands to sneak in without paying cover. There was one brief moment on the dance floor where George and I were almost sorta dancing together and it was almost sorta sexy… until some drunk chick grabbed us both by the shoulders:
“I just wanted to let you guys know that I think you’re soooo cute. Are you boyfriends? You’re soooo cute.”
Later that night, I stood in the street while George’s friends entered someone’s house and stole their laundry hamper. I decided to go home and was downgraded from goodbye hug to goodbye wave. The next day, George sent me a message saying he really hoped we could be friends, so, obviously, we never saw each other again for an entire decade.
George’s friend thought it was funny we’d been on a date and joked that it was “our anniversary.” I was polite and friendly to George, who spoke entirely in mutters and mumbles and then sneezed on my bare leg about 50 times in a row (this is not an exaggeration). It was strange to think of a time when I thought the only thing that would make me happy was if this person kissed me. That night, I was much happier when the pianist called my name to come sing “Hounds of Love.”
When I was a child: running in the night,
Afraid of what might be
Hiding in the dark, hiding in the street,
And of what was following me…
Now hounds of love are hunting.
I’ve always been a coward
And I don’t know what’s good for me.
Here I go…!