How to Find a Boyfriend

The usual disclaimers apply. I still smell like an ignorant bitch, because I am an ignorant bitch (and it’s not time for the monthly bath yet).

It seems that few in my loyal readership appreciate the dating apps either. What can we do? Here is a foolproof way to find a boyfriend. I have never known it to fail. I have never known it to succeed, either, but let’s not focus on that part.

  1. Make a list of all your straight women friends.
  2. Tell each and every one of them that you are single and in the market for a boyfriend.
  3. Ask them to get you in touch with any eligible bachelors in their social circles who are nice and might be compatible.
  4. Meet the people they suggest and see whether you click.

That’s it.

Why should we expect that this would work any better than the Internet sites and dating apps?

  • Any results you get will be pre-screened. You may still need to kiss some frogs (what your straight women friends think make good matches might differ from what you think, and also some people who seem like good guys are actually jerks) but presumably your straight women friends will not actively recommend bad candidates.
  • This is a stereotype, but many women think it is romantic to play matchmaker, and often think gay couples are “cute”.
  • The candidates that you get are more likely to share your values and cultural values, because you and they are in adjacent social circles.
  • Your women friends know something about you and your personality, and will likely take that into consideration when suggesting matches.
  • Your women friends will not be focused on looks as the sole determining factor when finding a candidate. That makes it pretty different from photo-centric Internet dating.
  • The candidates you get are more likely to be close to you geographically.
  • You are unlikely to be overwhelmed with hundreds of candidates. That makes each match you are recommended a little more precious, because your women friends do not have dozens of more candidates lined up for you to meet.
  • Word will get out that you are looking for a boyfriend, and that word might reach your potential partner. For that matter, word might reach that guy who has had a crush on you for a long time but has been too shy to say anything.
  • There will be fewer dick pics.
  • This breaks the idea that the burden of finding a boyfriend rests solely on your shoulders. It seems to me that matchmaking used to be more of a community affair, and it seems to me that our modern individualized world misses some of that.
  • Just like you, some of your connections might be wary of internet dating, and they might not be on the dating apps at all. This can expand your pool of candidates even if you use this as a complement to finding troo wuv on Grindr.
  • This is the same strategy of “networking” that every job counsellor in the world recommends in order to find a job. Furthermore, in the world of job searching this strategy works much better than answering job ads.
  • By letting all your straight women friends know, you are engaging in a parallel search, as opposed to a linear one.
  • The candidates your friends match you with will feel some pressure to get to know you, as opposed to meeting just for sex.

Is it important to tell all your straight female friends? I think so. You don’t know which of them enjoy playing matchmaker and which ones don’t. I also feel it is important to open and upfront about what you want. Not to get too woo on you, but you are telling the universe that you are ready for a boyfriend. That sets something important in your psychology and it lets your community know that you are not cowering in a closet.

Why limit your matchmakers to only straight women friends? This is a tough one. Your lesbian friends might have better connections in the LGBTQ+ community, but they might also resent the idea of playing matchmaker. I would play this by ear.

I would avoid turning to either straight or gay male friends to find you a boyfriend. Both straight and gay men have big egos. The straight men might be grossed out by gay sex, and also they will presume that you are making passes at them. The gay men will be offended that you are passing them over, regardless of their own relationship status. Again, this is a matter of judgement, but I would be wary.

Should you sketch out the requirements you have for your next boyfriend? I don’t think so. If there are real dealbreakers maybe you mention them, but once you start getting picky with your requirements (no peeing on the floor, not a serial killer, etc) then matchmaking seems like more like a job than something fun. It is probably better to filter the candidates yourself when you get connected with them.

Is it important to give every candidate they suggest a chance? I think your bias should be towards meeting everybody, unless it is absolutely obvious this is a terrible match. Don’t be too picky. Nothing says your first meeting needs to be a formal date. Even if you are not particularly attracted to the candidate, you might meet somebody you can be friends with, and you can recommend potential boyfriends to each other.

Could this blow up and be a disaster? Boy howdy yes. But it seems to me to be a sounder approach than internet dating. How is internet dating working out for you?


How to Not Find a Boyfriend

I realize that I am retreading old ground with this post, and I should not be writing about this given that I don’t actually have profiles on any dating apps. Furthermore I come across as an old fuddy-duddy who happens to smell like an ignorant bitch. So be it. It is time to stop hiding my true nature.

In light of my New Years resolutions, I have been spending too much time contemplating the subject of boyfriends, and in particular how one goes about obtaining one. The more I reflect on the dating apps and websites the more I despair. They might be okay for hookups, but it seems that they are structured incorrectly for finding boyfriends.

I think of a hookup as a person with whom one has a few sexual encounters, and with whom the connection is primarily sexual. There is usually a sexual component to boyfriendship as well, but also boyfriends form longer-term emotional connections and (I hope!) enjoy each other’s company outside the bedroom.

The problem is that we conflate sexual attraction with other forms of compatibility. Internet dating seems to optimize for the wrong thing.


Most dating sites are photo-centric. When browsing through profiles photos feature prominently. Those with nice photos get more attention and those who have poor photos (or worse, no photos) lose out. Tinder seems to be the natural evolution of this.

I understand how we got here, but it is messed up. Because photos matter so much some people game the system. People post photos that are years old, when they were younger and/or fitter. People take photos at particular angles using particular lighting to make themselves look better.

Photos are a surprisingly low-bandwidth medium. Most of us are not just attracted to a static picture of how somebody looks. We also are drawn to the way people move, the way they interact with us, the way they speak. Photos don’t convey any of that. Even videos lose a lot of information.

Let’s say that somebody looks gorgeous on their dating profile, and furthermore that they are that gorgeous in real life. So what? If they have beautiful outsides but ugly insides then they are not good boyfriend material, and a proper dating app would filter that out. If their looks were to fade then there needs to be some other connection that keeps you together.

But if somebody does not look good then we swipe left and are done with them. Do we actually bother to read their profiles or initiate chat?

Too many fish

Maybe the paradox of choice is not a real phenomenon, but I still believe in it, and it seems to be a big problem on dating sites. I don’t want to be matched with 100 different people. It is actively harmful to have that many matches, because if I find somebody who is fairly compatible with me but has some flaws, then it is easy to discard that person and keep looking for Mr. Perfect (who, incidentally, does not exist). Everybody comes with irritations. In successful long-term relationships, people work through those irritations and live together. But if there are plenty of fish in the sea, then why not keep fishing?

In addition to fish, there is the problem of frogs. All of the dating sites claim to have algorithms that will find your dream boyfriend quickly. Do any of these algorithms really work? If so, why are you bombarded with dozens of possible candidates? Why do you get messaged by so many poor candidates immediately? These systems reward those who blast out messages and come-ons to as many people as possible, which lower the overall quality of the results.

For what it is worth, I believe that we are headed straight towards a psychological profiling dystopia, and that it may well become possible to algorithmically find Mr. Right. But I do not think we are there yet, and I am not sure I want to live in a world where such a thing is possible.

I think dating sites fool us into thinking that we can optimize for an ideal boyfriend in ways that are unrealistic. We are granted all these options and think we need to filter for an optimal candidate in that group. Finding the fifth-best candidate or the tenth-best candidate means we lose out somehow.

I think dating sites promote this perception, but that it is pretty dangerous. Let’s switch contexts to see why. Consider coworkers. Unless we are in hiring positions, we usually do not have much say in selecting our coworkers. Some coworkers we like, some coworkers irritate us, and some coworkers we hate. But unless our workplaces are toxic, we tend to get along with many of our coworkers “well enough”, in the sense that we would rather keep our jobs with these coworkers rather than leave. Our coworkers have foibles; we adjust to them or we discover we can’t.

I claim that we do not need ideal, top-of-the-line coworkers in order to feel comfortable in our work environments. If our coworkers are mostly good and mostly easy to get along with, then we do okay. Better coworkers can definitely make a difference over worse ones, but as long as our coworkers are above a certain threshold then we are fine.

We don’t apply the same standards to finding boyfriends. Why? I can understand that our thresholds for boyfriendship are higher than our thresholds for coworkership, but so long as the threshold is met then it seems entirely reasonable that we can be happy. There are a lot of arranged marriages in the world. I am sure a bunch of them are terrible, but I think a lot of them aren’t, and it is worth asking why that might be the case. Maybe low expectations are a factor. Maybe shared cultural and class values are a factor. Maybe there are other factors that could apply to our culture.

Dating doesn’t scale

I feel that trying to evaluate and match strangers algorithmically is much less efficient than what humans do naturally. Think about it: people are very efficient at sizing each other up in person. If you put 100 potential dating partners in a room and structure activities so that they naturally mingle, these people will quickly filter out people who do not interest them and will quickly gravitate towards people they like. Some of the criteria by which people will filter others will be as dumb as the ones dating sites use (namely, looks) but it will happen a lot faster.

Instead of promoting these group meetups, dating sites want us to evaluate candidates one by one. Furthermore, they expect us to meet strangers on the Internet (!) and then jump to boyfriend status with only a few dates in between. That’s insane. No matter so many of us are sick of kissing frogs. First we swipe left on good candidates who might not give a good first impression, and then we are expected to spend time evaluating the remaining candidates one by one. That’s terrible! Nobody wants to spend an hour drinking coffee with somebody whom they can tell will not work out within minutes. And if you find somebody who is promising early, then there is some temptation to keep looking just in case the overall dating pool is good and you will quickly find somebody better.

Frankly, I feel that we focus on meeting strangers too much. I understand that we have taboos that prohibit us from hooking up with people who are too close to us, because maybe we will mix our genes and have babies with genetic problems. But as far as I can tell, we did not stray that far outside our social circles when finding marriage partners in the past. Even if we did not know our future boyfriends beforehand, we often had known of them, or members of our own social circles knew them.

I think we are poisoned by the idea that somewhere in the world is Mr Right, and surely he is a handsome stranger in shining armor, and without some third party service catering to desperate singles we would have no chance of finding him. That is a narrative that serves the interests of the dating sites, not the interests of those seeking boyfriends.

I also think we are poisoned because technology turns us into lonely introverts staring at screens. We get most of our other entertainment sitting alone by ourselves, so why would we not organize our love lives in the same way? (The answer is: because this does not work well.)


The dating sites are not stupid. They understand my banal criticisms and go out of their way to claim that they match on more than photos. They claim to limit your options to the very best matches for you. They say the right things, but I have my doubts about whether they follow through.

There are some dating sites that cater to niches. They hope that by appealing to Christians, or Jews, or environmentalists, or hairy men, they will make it easier for like-minded people to find each other. Maybe this is the case if the aspects they filter on happen to be the aspects that are most relevant to you finding a successful boyfriend.

Unfortunately, the most popular websites for men to find boyfriends tend to skew heavily towards hookups. I am sure there are some marriage-minded gay dating sites out there, but they may face the opposite problem of having too many fish: without a critical mass of users it may be very difficult to find anybody who is an appropriate match.

There are high-end dating services that advertise themselves as “exclusive”. They charge lots of money and (in addition to their algorithms) claim to screen out inappropriate people (namely: people without money). I guess this is a good filter for social class, but these companies have a clear incentive to keep you on the hook as long as you will keep paying their fees. I wish I knew whether they were more successful than average dating sites at leading to actual boyfriends.

I had a lot of hope for OK Cupid. I liked its statistical approach to matching people, and I had hopes that it was not as photo-centric as other sites. My enthusiasm has waned since the site was bought out by, however.

There are some dating sites that offer interactions other than one on one messaging. Some dating sites have forums. That might be a good way to evaluate others in group settings.

But the biggest counterexample to my argument is that everybody uses online dating now, and somehow it works. People really do find boyfriends online. So clearly I am missing something. What am I missing? Is it just a numbers game? Or do these dating sites work for some reason I am overlooking?

Personally I think there must be a better approach. Furthermore I think I have a sense of what one better approach might be.

Gay Dance

Even as I harangue poor Steven to stay on his farm (*), I exploit the advantages of city living. The Lurkville LBGTQ+ community centre put on a 70s themed dance, and I decided to go.

I bought the ticket last week, but that was as much for financial support (a whopping $3) as anything else. I was not sure I wanted to attend. First of all, a wise doctor once advised me to beware loose women and social dancing, and by attending this function I would put that in jeopardy. Also, the music at dances is too loud and hurts my ears. Also, I never went to dances as a youngster. I avoided going on certain field trips because I knew dances would be involved. I worried about proximity to alcohol and I worried about how dancing is linked to mating rituals and sex. Also, I don’t know how to dance and I have no sense of rhythm and the best I can do is the white-guy two-step.

I think the first time I tried dancing was at a workplace party five years ago. I did not want to go up, but my co-workers encouraged me to try. I tried, and it was not awful, but I felt very self-conscious.

Thus I have always felt awkward about dances, and about dancing. On the other hand I unironically love 70s disco, and have been deeply ashamed of my own self-consciousness around dance. I have been at outdoor events where others were dancing. I admired those people. I especially admired when people who were not typical dancers got up and moved their bodies. But I would always feel self-consicous, and would not join in.

So the afternoon of the dance I asked myself a question. Did I really want to go? I decided that I did. But even as I said it I knew my motives were not pure. I had read enough literature about the 1970s and 1980s party scene to know that others went to dances in order to hook up. I knew that this dance was put on as a throwback to dances held in the 1970s and 1980s in Lurkville, before there were gay bars in the area. I knew some of my motivations were predatory, and that I was hoping I would spy some luscious manflesh to be my prey.

As it turns out there was some luscious manflesh on display, and some luscious womanflesh too. But — surprise, surprise — none of it had any interest in me. The crowd definitely skewed older; I may be old but I was probably in the youngest quintile there. As it turns out this wasn’t really a dance but more of a dinner — the organizers had catered a LOT of food: sandwiches and pulled pork and salads and desserts. When I arrived, people were eating and not dancing, even though the DJ was spinning tunes. Naturally I ate too, because I am a gluttonous pig who has no self-control.

I did not know many people there. But one of the people I did know is quite the free spirit. He said he wanted to dance, but that he would wait until some others were out dancing already. I pointed out that if everybody thought the way he did nobody would dance all night, and I challenged him to get on the dance floor. Then he challenged me to get on the dance floor. So I did. The free spirit started waving his arms and legs around, and I kept my arms to my sides and did the white-guy two-step, bobbing my head occasionally. And like magic, other people followed the free spirit’s lead. The dance floor began to fill up.

I felt self-conscious but this was stupid. I eat out of garbage cans; what right do I have to feel self-conscious about anything? So I closed my eyes. I let the banal lyrics and grooving basslines wash over me. I tried to let go and let the music move my body. And my body started to move.

There was no dramatic transformation. Mostly I stuck to the white-guy two-step, with a few side-steps for flair. I tried to use my arms more during choruses, which sort of worked. The important part was that I was letting the music tell my body what to do.

Meanwhile, other people were dancing and enjoying themselves. That was magic. Oddly, it was mostly the older people who got up, and mostly for the classics everybody recognised. Gloria Gaynor’s “I Am What I Am” brought the crowds, with many people mouthing the lyrics as they danced. A group of bluehairs (literally — one of them had a blue hair rinse) shook their heads no no no, and then got up to shake their septuagenerian booties for a couple of numbers. There was a man in his eighties wearing a suit and tie, whom (I think) was there with his wife. They sat and watched for a long time, and eventually they came up for a dance as well.

Most of the youngsters stayed glued to their chairs. There was one young woman whose head was bobbing. I sensed that she wanted to dance, but also didn’t want to. That could have been me. That was me at all those other events where I felt too self-conscious to move my body. I felt so bad for her. But by the end of the evening she had gotten up too, dancing in a circle with a trio of youngsters who had arrived in amazing 70s vintagewear.

I kept moving my body. I probably danced (or should I say, “danced”) for three out of the four hours the dance floor was active. For some unfathomable reason, the dance floor cleared when Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” was spinning, but as a wannabe rationalist I love that song (and its amazing video) so I kept going. I could sense that I looked like an idiot, and that people were staring, and I didn’t care.

The wise doctor was not wrong. Social dancing is strong magic. I have read many accounts of the 70s pre-AIDS nightlife, of people going to dance clubs and dancing and dancing. I thought all those metaphors of freedom and energy were proxies for lust. But no. Independent of the mating rituals and the sex, dancing itself feels like a form of freedom. It feels like the essence of embodiment. As I moved my body I tried to appreciate that despite my increasing aches and pains, my joints still work and my body is still capable of movement. I thought of the ticket collector at the dance, who was barely able to walk today because her hip was giving her too much trouble, and I gave thanks (to whom?) that I am not yet dealing with chronic pain.

Like other strong magic, I can sense how dangerous social dancing is. I can easily see how it could lead to loose women or worse. I got lucky. Although alcohol was consumed at the event it did not seem to be the focus. Similarly, there was little danger of sex at the event (at least not for me). If I had been braver a few decades earlier, I could be in real trouble now. But I got lucky.

Would it be wise for me to go to future dances? Am I going to become a circuit party devotee? I don’t know. I could see this becoming an expensive habit, and I could also see myself being a coward the next time I am faced with the challenge of dancing in front of others. There is talk about this dance becoming a regular event; that could be very bad for me.

I think part of the reason I was able to overcome my inhibitions was because this was an LBGTQ+ dance. I don’t know how I feel about that.

There were other disconcerting aspects to the event. One thought is quite off-topic, but as it is heavy on my mind I will write it down. Earlier in the day I ran into a former co-worker who was really struggling. He was dealing with a lot of wrist pain and despite this was recently kicked off of disability (yay bureaucracy). He was broke, and talked me into giving him $10 so he could buy meat. Meanwhile, during the event I was horrified to see many of the catering leftovers go into the trash. Forget starving children in Africa; the disparities between those who have too much and those who have too little are readily apparent right here in Lurkville. (Of course, who am I to talk? I am a gluttonous pig who has no self-control around food.)

(*) I am pretty sure that everybody who follows my blog also follows his, but if not then read this:

New Years Resolutions

I guess I should get around to making some New Year’s resolutions, huh? Maybe some unrealistically ambitious goals will cleanse our collective palates.

No doubt this set of resolutions is not very comprehensive. I hope I do not cause too much harm by missing some.

Probably I will forget these resolutions by February, and I will go back to my miserable ways.


This past year has been a bad one for health concerns. These resolutions address a few of them:

  • That Shawn and his symbiote Fearsome get some relief from their shoulder troubles. They try to put on an optimistic face on it, but I get the sense that they are in bad chronic pain.

  • That Blobby heals well from screwing up his thumb.

  • That RTG get some relief from his arthritis (and the other medical ailments he faces).

  • That the new medications work, and Dr. Spo gets his blood pressure under control.


The heart is a lonely hunter. Here are some of my resolutions around relationships:

  • That people who are looking for nice boyfriends find them. Steven from sooo-this-is-me, RJ, Walter and CB come to mind, but I am sure there are others as well.

  • That Michael54 settle into his new life post-divorce and discover himself.

Other things

  • That JP and Guido get through their renovations of the new cafe, and that Guido manages to juggle both cafes well.

Mr. S and the Unreliable Narrator

Surprise! This series has been a work of fiction. Any resemblence to persons living or dead are purely coincidental. Names, characters, places and incidents are product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously.

Oh, who am I trying to kid? This series has been a work of fiction, or at least a series of untruths and half-memories, but it had nothing to do with imagination. I spent an uncomfortable time trying to piece together the basics of the timeline, and even then I got things wrong. For example, I implied that Ms. R had been off work since I met her, but in fact she was working until Mr. S’s concert/conference fiasco. The narrative is littered with such mistakes. It is frightening that something that seemed so clear in my head is a jumbled mess.

This was, of course, my side of the story, which is hardly reliable. Mr. S would have his own version to tell, as would Ms. R. Among other things I conveniently whitewashed just how much of a controlling, abusive, manipulative jerk I was throughout this process. I found a cache of emails I had composed to Mr. S and Ms. R during this time, and I could not bear to look at them. They were too painful and cringewFinds a Homeorthy. I was (and am) such a fucking asshole. I honestly thought I could bully others into doing the right thing.

I also discovered that I have written out this story at least twice before, although I believe this is the first time I have published it publicly. I hope it will be the last.

I worry that I made Ms. R come across as the villain of this piece. That is very much not the case. Ms. R had a lot of her own issues to deal with, including chronic pain, and she was one of the most open-hearted people I have ever known. No, she did not want to stay married. No, she did not follow through with immigration. All of these decisions were wholly understandable.

I worry that I made Mr. S come across as the villain of this piece. Maybe that is not surprising; I still bear some resentments about how he behaved and how he treated people. But he also had many gifts to offer, and I have grown to understand that some of these events had to do more with his bipolar disorder as much as it had to do with Finds a Homehim.

Writing this brought up a lot of stuff for me. It reminded me that the experience had lasting effects.

I learned way more about mental illness than I ever wanted to. I learned about how terrifying it is to have a perception disorder. One can behave entirely rationally, but when one’s perceptions are messed up then from the outside it seems that you are acting crazy. As somebody who has been messed up in the head for a long time this should have come as no surprise, but mania really drove the point home for me.

I learned that caring for people hurts, so I have done my best not to repeat that mistake. This has consequences of its own, but overall it is for the best.

I learned that I will never stop being an abusive and controlling person.

I learned that I don’t deal with cigarette smoking that well. I had not known too many people who smoked before meeting Mr. S and Ms. R (hello class bubble) and I am not willing to tolerate it again.

I learned that I am both a stingy miser and that I don’t care about money once it is spent. I gave away a significant amount of money during those years, and even though I am poor now I don’t resent that spending.

I learned that the mental health industrial complex makes people sick. Being in hospital is like being in jail. I no longer trust that a professional would be any help in healing me. Professionals are not allowed to care for people; they are only allowed to service them.

Maybe that is all I have learned. Here are some epilogues.

Mr. S is still in Cleveburgh. We exchange emails occasionally. His health is not great but he is kicking along. It turns out that from his list of city requirements, access to the Catholic Worker was important, and maybe health care is too. On the other hand, he lives a fifteen minute walk away from the beach and has never been there, as far as I know.

I went to visit him once, several years ago. It was a bad visit. Mr. S did not really want me there. He spent most of the time obsessing over his cat. I think that cat keeps him alive. For the most part he ignored me, although he did take me to visit his Catholic Worker friends. He had warned me that if I made a pass at him I would be immediately asked to leave, so I guess he was worried about the intentions of my visit. He did not touch me once during the visit. He did not offer so much as a handshake.

I also discovered that Cleveburgh is pretty awful (sorry, Blobby). The city seems to seethe with racial tension. Everybody seems to be upset there. The signs on storefronts about not bringing in your guns were scary. Mind you, I visited in February, but I am not planning to go back.

I lost touch with Ms. R. Her email address stopped working and I never found a way to re-establish a connection. I hope she is well, and I hope she has somebody who loves her and treats her right.

Mr. S reads my real blog from time to time. I hope he never finds this one, and I hope Ms. R doesn’t either. They would recognise themselves quickly. I do not think they would appreciate me recounting their adventures here, but I do not know how angry they would be.

Believe you me: this series was no more fun for me to write than it was for you to read.

Mr. S Finds a Home

Time was growing short. Mr. S’s options for staying in Lurkistan were diminishing. He would either have to secure sponsorship by that point, or he would have to leave.

Mr. S and Ms. R were in contact during this time. Once they invited me and another of their friends to attend a marriage counselling session. That did not go well. Mr. S threatened to leave and I accused him of using Ms. R solely for his immigration status. (In fairness, the other reason I remember this event is because Ms. R introduced me to the therapist as one of the people most invested in their marriage. I am not sure that was a compliment, but it felt like a compliment at the time.)

Mr. S started researching places to live. Going back to NYC was a possibility, but it was not a good one. NYC was expensive, he had no money, and he had burned out many of his supports. On the other hand, most of his remaining social connections were there.

After a few weeks Mr. S decided that if he had to leave he would settle down in Cleveburgh. Why Cleveburgh? He listed a bunch of reasons, which uncharacteristically he wrote down. He admired the transit system and the bicycle paths. He cited access to health care resources, and the local Catholic Worker movement. He wrote about libraries and proximity to water (which is one thing he missed a lot from New York). But his primary hope remained for Lurkistani citizenship.

What was my role in all of this? Would I continue supporting Mr. S financially? If so I would have to get a job. My ties to Lurkville were weakening; I had completed my schooling and my volunteering was falling apart, so maybe it was time for a change. I started looking around for a full-time job either in Lurkistan or in the United States. My plan was to get RJ’s favourite visa (an H1B permit), find a job, and possibly move Mr. S with me so I could be his emotional support. Once Mr. S decided that Cleveburgh was his preferred option I started looking for positions there.

I continued to delude myself that my motives were altruistic, and that even though I was planning to rent a place for Mr. S and I to live, somehow I would respect Mr. S’s sexuality and leave him well enough alone. Why was I so obsessed with being his support? Who did I think I was fooling?

It got so bad that I thought maybe I had found my purpose in this life. Why was I such damaged goods? Why was I attracted to men, and furthermore why was I not attracted to the kinds of men all the other gays liked? The boyish smooth models prominently featured in gay newspapers did nothing for me. Why did I fall for older, overweight straight-acting men with lots of body hair? Maybe that was for a reason. Maybe my role was to care for this man, and to support him financially and emotionally. Being agnostic bordering on atheist, I was not willing to give credit to God or even the universe for setting up these circumstances. But if this was my role then at least I would not have to face the utter purposelessness of living, so I clung to this explanation. What a maroon. In my defence I had been reading A Prayer for Owen Meany, but that was hardly an excuse.

I may have been fooling myself but I wasn’t fooling anybody else. At long last Mr. S finally confronted me directly. He asked whether I had sexual feelings for him, and I admitted I did. He said that he did not reciprocate these feelings, and recommend that I go see his therapist, because his therapist was gay too. He said that Ms. R had told him that I probably had feelings for him, and then I realized that Ms. R had probably known for years. She was very astute about these things. Yet she trusted me in Mr. S’s presence even when they were married.

Then Ms. R reached a decision. She and Mr. S and I met to decide whether to move forward with the paperwork or not. She said she was not willing to sponsor Mr. S. The marriage was over. Sponsorship would have meant being financially responsible for Mr. S for several years, and she could not handle that stress. I held her hand briefly and thanked her, and told her that I did not bear any ill will.

I was shocked and numb on the way out of that meeting. Mr. S invited me to his place. He said we could share a bed. It would be nothing sexual, of course. The offer made me shocked and a little angry. Was Mr. S now trying to manipulate me the way he had tried to manipulate Ms. R? I refused his offer.

I doubled down on trying to find work. I got to a second phone interview with a company in Ohio, before I leaked too much information about my mental health and was rejected for the position. I did not get as far as a first phone interview anywhere else. My hopes for getting a job near Mr. S, renting a second apartment and supporting him there were dashed.

I briefly considered marrying Mr. S and sponsoring him myself. Lurkistan had legalized gay marriage, so maybe I could use this marriage token to get Mr. S his citizenship. Once again, who was I trying to fool? Fortunately I let the idea go quickly.

Mr. S made plans to leave for Cleveburgh. I do not remember his exact plans. I suspect he intended to stay with the Catholic Worker people before finding a place of his own. In some ways he was worse off than he would have been moving back to New York. He would not qualify for social assistance. I decided that I would continue to offer him financial support to the extent I was able.

A few days before he left Mr. S and I were saying our goodbyes. I told him I would miss him. I hugged him and lay my head against his chest. He gave me some story about how this was okay because men need to be touched. I did not care. I let my head rest against his chest, and I listened to his heartbeat.

And that was that. Mr. S got an apartment, which I helper pay for. As usual I was controlling and abusive, getting angry when Mr. S used the money I gave him on cigarettes or his car. Probably he was getting some financial support from a rich uncle as well. After several months he qualified for disability supports, so he no longer needed my money. He has been on disability ever since.

Ms. R moved on as well. As her marriage was breaking up she started corresponding with another fellow in a nearby city. She eventually moved in with him. Once I saw her as I was preparing to board a train. She got off the train I was planning to board. Her new fellow was there as well. She looked happier, and I was happy for her.

Left to my own devices I crashed. The trigger was a terrible job interview. I fell into a cycle of sleeping, reading books from the library, and then sleeping again. When I couldn’t sleep I would hit myself on the head with an iron saucepan, which would usually be enough for me for me to curl up and fall back into unconsciousness. So everything worked out in the end.

Seducing Mr. S

Mr. S held out hope that Ms. R would sponsor him for citizenship, so we were working through the paperwork. One day he needed some papers scanned into electronic form. We were not far from my residence, and I had a scanner, so I offered to do the scanning at my place. It was a relatively new residence for me; I had moved out of the six foot by eight foot room and into a spacious carpeted attic with more space than I knew what to do with.

Against all better judgement I invited Mr. S inside. This was unusual for me. Being poor and disgusting, I am too ashamed of my living conditions to have guests over. But for some reason he followed me upstairs, papers in hand.

While I did the scanning Mr. S decided he was tired, so he lay down on his back. I finished the scanning and sat down beside him. We talked for a while. My thoughts veered in inappropriate directions. I thought about how easy it would be to reach over and fondle his genitals, or to yank down his sweatpants and see the goods myself. I knew to do so would be wrong. Mr. S was straight and still technically married to Ms. R. I did not want to be a homewrecker. My arm started shaking. It was not trembling; it was shaking back and forth.

Mr. S noticed my shaking arm. He asked me what was going on. I did not give him a straight answer. (How could I have given him a straight answer?)

The moment passed. Maybe I got a goodbye hug from him when he left. That was the extent of the seduction.

Of course I should not have acted on my impulses. I had not disclosed my sexuality to Mr. S, never mind my feelings for him. I knew he had no interest in me. Once he and Ms. R and Ms. R’s daughter were watching Mambo Italiano while I was visiting, and he made it perfectly clear he was not interested in kissing any pickles then. Leaving him alone was the right thing to do. But I have replayed that moment in my head again and again and again. When I am feeling sorry for myself and moping about being celibate for two decades, I think “what if”. I know full well what if, but that does not stop my mind from wandering towards sin.

Mr. S Goes to the Hospital

I agreed to accompany Mr. S and Ms. R to the hospital. They were not ready to go when I arrived. Mr. S was walking around in his underwear putting his things together. Here was a man who was depressed to the point of suicidal ideation, and my thoughts were turning sexual. It was embarrassing and upsetting. But those images stick in my mind still.

Eventually the others got dressed and packed, and we went to the emergency department. Mr. S was not being hospitalized against his will, exactly, but we did not have a better way to get him admitted. We waited for seven or eight hours in total. First we waited in the triage area. Then we were taken to a small room for another two or three hours. The three of us did not talk much. I had a pack of cards, so we played a few games to pass the time. I can only imagine how difficult it would have been for Mr. S if he had been by himself. Emergency rooms are stressful and hospitals are stressful.

We had left for hospital in the morning. It was evening before he finally was admitted to the psychiatric ward. I had never been to the psych ward before. I guess it did not look much different than any other hospital ward, but I found it depressing. How did people heal here?

I visited Mr. S every second or third day while he was in hospital. He would go outside to smoke and we would talk. A couple of times we played ping-pong on the ping-pong table. Apparently the doctors were administering surveys and tests to give him a diagnosis. In addition he was held to a schedule of attending therapy group sessions. To me it sounded terrible. Patients shuffled around without much to look forward to. Many passed their time in the smoking area.

After a week the diagnosis came in. Mr. S was diagnosed with perception difficulties and prescribed an antipsychotic. The diagnosis explicitly stated that they felt he did not suffer from bipolar disorder. This sent shock waves through his support network. We had lived through multiple manic episodes. Many of us, from both Lurkville and New York, started calling into the hospital to protest and ask for a second opinion. The hospital staff was sick of us. In retrospect, the diagnosis was probably not incorrect. It does seem as if Mr. S has problems with perception. But to this day I feel it is incomplete. Mr. S, on the other hand, would probably disagree.

The next issue had to do with housing. Mr. S had been in hospital for two weeks and was about to be discharged, but he had no place to go. Ms. R was not prepared to take him in again. We pleaded with the hospital to keep Mr. S hospitalized until we could make arrangements, but they reminded us that they were a short-term treatment facility, not a long-term residential one. They agreed to keep him enrolled for another week.

Somehow somebody (not me) managed to find Mr. S an apartment. He was also admitted to a non-residential, medium-term treatment program. He still had no income. I ended up stepping in to cover his rent and living expenses. That sounds noble, but of course it wasn’t. Whether I was willing to admit it or not, I was just trying to get into his pants.

The treatment program did not work out. Mr. S still had his work permit, but it was temporary, and he was not seriously looking for work. I did not have work at the time either. From time to time I would pick up contracts which paid enough to meet my living expenses, but not expenses for two people with two sets of rent.

Mr. S wanted his Lurkistani citizenship. His plan (maybe his plan all along) was to become a Lurkistani citizen via spousal sponsorship. On paper Mr. S and Ms. R were still married, but in practice they were separated. Would Ms. R be willing to go through with the sponsorship? Or would Mr. S face deportation?

Mr. S and His Cats

Mr. S dealt with his impending exile the way he dealt with many other problems in his life; with a lot of talk and not much action. The three month deadline for him leaving his apartment was quickly approaching. Mr. S assured me that it would be fine, and that he was making plans.

Being a worrywart, I was worried, for both him and his three cats. No matter how he treated people, he loved his animals and pampered them. The cats were not his, exactly; he owned them jointly with Ms. R, and one of the cats had originally belonged to Ms. R’s daughter. Ms. R tolerated the cats but did not adore them, and if I remember correctly she had mild allergies to them. If Mr. S left then the cats would have to go as well. I ought to have worried for each of the cats individually, but I was particularly concerned for L, my favourite. She was the gray longhair with the enchanting purr, who liked being petted to a certain point, at which point she would indicate that she was done by swatting you. L had short little legs which made her appear as if she was stiffly marching through life. She was not an easy cat, but she was a good cat. Spending time petting L had been a highlight of my visits to Mr. S and Ms. R’s house when I had first met them. The other two cats were fine as well, but they had little to do with me. Mr. S cared for them all, though, no matter what his moods.

But landlords don’t like pets, and the cats were a barrier to Mr. S finding new housing, especially given his dire financial situation. Things were looking grim, and then Mr. S decided (or “decided”) he was moving in with his brother in Florida. Mr. S and his brother seemed like very different people to me; his brother being stable and married and significantly more conservative than Mr. S. Nonetheless he packed his bags and went, and Ms. R decided to move back into her apartment rather than giving it up, which meant the cats still had a home.

It was a difficult time. Unsurprisingly, Mr. S and his brother did not get along well. His sister-in-law did not particularly like him, and he was not doing much to get a job in Florida or pay his own way. The Lurkville situation was difficult as well. Ms. R had a difficult time living alone. I went through a stretch of calling her daily to make sure she was okay. From time to time I would visit. Once I got really scared; she was on some new medications and was having trouble remembering even simple things. I felt helpless. She had been a good support to me and the only thing I could do was to keep checking in.

From time to time Ms. R would suggest that I adopt L, since I was so fond of the cat’s company. I refused every time. I did not want the responsibility of a cat. Also I am an abusive and controlling person, and I knew that sooner or later I would take out my rage on this poor animal. Also I was living in a sketchy (and in retrospect illegal) basement apartment with two other people. My room was 6 feet by 8 feet. I did not have the space to accommodate a cat.

After a few months relations between Mr. S and his brother deteriorated to the point where he was asked to leave. So Mr. S packed his bags again and headed back to New York, where he had lived before running off to Lurkistan. He had some family and supports there, but they were tired of his patterns too and did not have a lot of patience with him. He was in some contact with his ex-wife but they were not getting back together. He was in less contact with his adopted son, who was doing poorly himself. Mr. S was sinking deeper and deeper into depression.

Then Ms. R made a big decision. She decided to take Mr. S back in. She said she could not stand to watch his deterioration. But she attached some strings to the deal; Mr. S had to go on meds to stabilize his moods. He had to address the deep depressions. The destructive periods of intense energy and planning were not okay either. Ms. R believed that Mr. S suffered from bipolar disorder (which she termed “manic depression”). I did not know what she meant or whether to believe her until I started reading up on the topic. I read a book called The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide and a lot of things clicked. I started learning far more than I wanted to about lithium and Depakote. Being damaged goods myself, I had been firmly anti-psychiatry and anti-medication for my entire life. But given the damage I had seen firsthand via the housing episode and the conference/concert episode, my resolve was starting to crack.

Mr. S did not want to be on meds, but he was running out of options. So he agreed to come back to Lurkistan, and he agreed with the conditions Ms. R set. In his heart I do not think he felt anything was wrong with him, but he wanted housing, so he played along. He felt resentful that others did not support his dream of the conference and concert, but he was too depressed to act on those dreams.

The next time I saw him, it was clear that Mr. S had not thrived in his adventures abroad. His mood was down. He had lost a lot of weight, which under ordinary circumstances might have been cause for celebration, but in his circumstances made him seem even more unhealthy. He sat on a mattress in his living room, and did not say much or do much.

Mr. S and Ms. R were back together, but they did not enjoy wedded bliss. Neither of them were in great shape emotionally or mentally, and it showed. My own patience with them waxed and waned. They would run into money problems and I would give them “loans”, and then they would run into money problems again, sometimes because they ran into a vet bill or a car repair issue, and sometimes because they splurged on something not in the budget. They made noises about getting on with the immigration process so that Mr. S could get a worker’s permit, but they did not make much progress on their own. Eventually I forced my will upon them, meeting with them and getting them to go through the paperwork in my presence. The process moved forward, and eventually Mr. S got a temporary work permit. Then the struggle was to get him looking for work.

My own relationship with them was tumultuous. I would try to support them for a while, but then get angry and vow to keep my distance. Then I would get lonely and get sucked back into their dramas.

At one point I stayed away for several months. During this time Mr. S and Ms. R’s relationship deteriorated to the point where they decided they could not live together. Mr. S lived out of their car for several weeks. It was at this time that Ms. R decided she could not deal with the cats on her own. By this time one of the cats had died; he had killed some baby rabbits and eaten them, and died a few days later. That left L and her “brother” W. Ms. R was not willing to care for them any more, and Mr. S was living out of his car, so Mr S. found the cats a new home. He gave them to a local cat lady, who agreed to adopt them along with the dozens of other cats living in her house. Both cats died soon thereafter. My understanding is that L contracted a disease from one of her new housemates, and that was the end of her life. It is utterly unrealistic to think I could have adopted her and given her a good life. I will never overcome the guilt for letting her down.

That episode was not the end of Ms. R’s and Mr. S’s tumultuous relationship. Mr. S moved out of his car and lived in some pretty sketchy places, couch-surfing with some pretty sketchy friends. He made some half-hearted attempts to look for work, but gave up and got disillusioned when somebody slashed the tires of his car the day of a job interview. He was on an antidepressant (?!), but his mood was crashing. Maybe he went back to live with Ms. R from time to time. That period was kind of a blur, and I was dipping in and out of their lives as my temper allowed. I guess they must have been living together when Mr. S started threatening to kill himself, because Ms. R told me she was planning to have him hospitalized, and wanted me to help.

Mr. S Faces the Music

It started with a phone call. Mr. S called me while I was volunteering. In itself that was not so unusual, but he called while the area where I volunteered was open to members of the public, which was strange and not very appropriate. He had big news. The housing project Mr. S had been so excited about earlier was alive. He told me he was close to securing a $2.5 million deal between a soil remediation company and a developer. This was a bombshell. I had not heard anything about it.

But that was not all. Mr. S also wanted to organize a conference on homelessness, inviting some innovators from Scotland to be keynote speakers (apparently they were instrumental in getting Scotland to “outlaw homelessess”. Researching the matter now I think Mr. S was referring to the charismatically-named Homelessness, etc. (Scotland) Act 2003 which supposedly legislated entitlements to services for all people who were unintentionally homeless. But I digress).

Mr. S and Ms. R had been married for about a year. I had kept in contact with them, and although Mr. S was out in the community more he had lost the enthusiasm that had first drawn me to him. Now that enthusiasm was back, with a vengeance.

Over the next few weeks his enthusiasm grew and grew. Every day brought a new development, but oddly enough they were all about Mr. S’s proposed conference, and not about the development deal. Mr. S decided that to support the costs of the conference he would simultaneously hold a concert. He started talking to hotels and the Lurkville arena to arrange bookings. His initial thinking was that the concert would highlight local talent, but before long Mr. S was talking about inviting bigger and bigger stars. A few weeks in he was talking about getting Bono to perform (pro bono, of course).

Once again, Mr. S started obsessing about his concert and conference day and night. He would be up at all hours of the morning doing research. Once again, he started getting upset with anybody who talked about scaling things back, or questioned whether he could pull the concert and conference off. The local Lurkville newspaper wrote a brief article about Mr. S’s conference. The article was mostly positive, but Mr. S found a misstatement (hello Gell-Mann Amnesia) and it infuriated him. He started talking about taking the newspaper to court over the slight.┬áTo raise publicity, he challenged local (and then national) leaders to live homeless on the street for a week so they would understand homelessness better. He held press conferences for these publicity stunts. A few people came to the first one.

Once again, Mr. S was on an emotional rollercoaster: super-excited about the concert/conference one minute, and angry about some interpersonal friction the next. Once again, people who initially supported him in this new venture were dropping away, which did not stop him of calling people dream crushers.

And once again, very little was in writing. I did not see any evidence of the development deal. I did not see any evidence about how the conference was being organized, or what acts had confirmed themselves for the concert, or whether the people from Scotland were planning to come over, or even a concrete timeline for putting this on. I was worried, but Ms. R was distraught. I tried to comfort her by saying that at least this time things were happening, but she shut me right down. She said that this time things were much worse, because Mr. S really was phoning up arenas and hotels, and that meant her finances could be on the line if (she said “when”) things fell through. She said this was not more productive than Mr. S’s last burst of energy; it was much much worse.

And it was a pattern. Around this time I started learning about Mr. S’s support network back in New York: his aunt and uncle, several childhood friends, and his ex-wife. They were familiar with this pattern. It probably had something to do with how Mr. S had ended up in Lurkistan in the first place. He left his ex-wife (abandoning the son he and his ex-wife had adopted), met Ms. R on the Internet, and left his New York life to move to Lurkistan on an impulse and a dream. You didn’t need to be a handsome Arizona psychiatrist to figure out what was going on, but you needed to be more perceptive than I was. I didn’t get it until Ms. R laid the situation out plainly, in terms even I could understand.

About a month after the initial phone call, Ms. R had had enough. She left their shared apartment and moved in with her daughter from a previous marriage. She gave Mr. S three months to leave the apartment, because then the lease would be up. Mr. S had no money and no work permit. It was clear he would not be able to pay rent. Despite his marital troubles he was still determined to put together his concert an conference, ignoring the impending issue of his own homelessness. What was he to do?