Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Rich Kid and the Crying Truck Driver

Upstate, September 2008

In 2008, my "visiting" position in Dayton was coming to an end, and I had to find a new job.  I only applied to colleges in Blue States.  First just in gay neighborhoods.

As January and February passed and the best jobs were taken, I expanded to an hour away from gay neighborhoods.

Then three hours.

Just as I was about to start searching in Red States, I was offered a job in New York!

Well, Upstate New York, about six hours by car from the gay neighborhoods of Manhattan, Boston, and Montreal.

I figured I would be driving to one or the other every weekend.  Maybe even renting a second apartment there.

But snow, car wear and tear, the expense, and being busy limited my weekend jaunts to once every couple of months.

So 98% of my life happened in the Straight World, in a small town Upstate with no gay bars, just one gay-friendly church, and no gay organizations except PFLAG.

Just like in Dayton, most adult gay men had fled to gay neighborhoods elsewhere,  Most of the others were living aggressively heterosexual public lives: they escorted women to events; they had no gay friends; they took their same-sex dates into the next town over to avoid being spotted at home.

But there was a coterie of gay men, a Gang of Twelve, who were out and open.

They were mostly in their 40s and 50s, one or two older or younger.  Most had lived their whole lives Upstate, so they knew the towns and the people: the restaurants where they could be served without a fuss, the stores where they could shop without rude stares, the clubs where no women would hit on them.

So, except for a few basic precautions like not holding hands on the street, they were not closeted.

The New Guy in Town is always popular, but Upstate, my social calendar filled up astonishingly fast.  All I had to do was meet one of the Twelve, and he told his friends, who told their friends. Phone calls were made, emails sent, meetings arranged.  By Christmas, I had been out on dates with five of the twelve.  By summer, nine (the others were involved or not interested).

Date #1: The Rich Kid (top photo) got "dibs": he was first in line for everything in the county.  He and his sister and parents owned most of the county, sat on every board of directors, donated to every charity.

I was impressed by his physique: short, compact, and quite buffed for someone in his 40s.

He took me to Alex and Ika's, a very expensive restaurant in Cooperstown, for sesame-encrusted wild salmon and a plantain and goat cheese salad.  Then back to his family's summer home -- a gigantic wood-lodge on Lake Otesaga, decorated in a weirdly incongruous Southwestern motif.

The Rich Kid was a bit on the domineering side, but he had two of the five traits I find attractive, and he was well-educated, articulate, and generous.  I would have gone on a second date, except before we got around to it, he ordered me to attend the Glimmerglass Opera Festival next Tuesday night  He was on the board of directors, and they needed ushers.

Drive 30 miles to be an usher at a production of Madame Butterfly? No, thanks.

One simple didn't say "no" to the Rich Kid.  He cancelled our second date, and sent out memos to the other 11 that I was "cute but stubborn."

Date #2: The Crying Truck Driver.  A tall, thin white guy with expressive hands and a cute British accent.  He invited me to his apartment for a "traditional Zambian dinner": a chicken breast, some kind of corn gruel, and mushrooms in peanut sauce.  I was still hungry afterwards.

Then he suggested that we watch a DVD from his collection of every British sitcom ever made.  I selected Are You Being Served.  But when I invited him to sit down next to me on the couch, Truck Driver hesitated and then yelled: "But I don't want to have sex with you!"

"Um...since when does sitting on the couch count as sex?  I've sat next to my brother lots of times!"

He ran into the bedroom, collapsed onto the bed, and started crying.

"I'm sorry," he sobbed.  'I just broke up with the Love of my Life.  My friends thought I should start dating again, but I'm not ready...I'm just not ready..."

He then told me all about the Love of His Life.  The relationship, from start to finish.  His faults, fetishes, faux-pas, and favorite foods.  What he should have said that time.  What happened at the Rich Kid's Christmas party.  Did I think there was any chance of them getting back together?

This turned out to be commonplace: most of the Gang of Twelve had dated most of the others, so on most dates, I got an earful of the others' problems with jobs and relatives, triumphs and defeats in cruising, and scandals from a decade ago.

And, since they all talked to each other, my size, shape, pecadillos, and preferences were soon common knowledge.

But this breakup was new, raw, and still painful.

I didn't realize at the time that the Truck Driver was describing the next guy on my social calendar!  Apparently the ex-boyfriend was also being advised to start dating again, and the Rich Kid gave him my email address.  We had a date tomorrow night!

See also: Picked Up by a Boy and His Dog.

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