"I am soooo sick of hanging out with couples," Tara whined, referencing spending her Friday night at my house playing Cranium 'til 2a.m. with four couples. Tara is currently single while most of her friends aren't (currently).
Going out and having a good time is characterized as much by where you go and what you do as it is by who you're with and what relationship you are to them.
But it's no good getting too caught up in it. Neither state is permanent. They haven't made couples- or singles-only bars yet, and God help us they better never. I cherish all my friends lone or in pairs.
However, to write a column about being out on the town without writing about who you were with would be futile.
This week our writers are paired up, people-watching and pissed off.
No Singles Allowed
My friend Tracy leaves a message on my machine: "I want you to meet this guy. He's 29, single, never been married, no kids." He's also best friends with Tracy's new boyfriend Jake. I accept.
Friday comes, and I head to Tracy's apartment to meet Mike. Oh, I look nice, 'cause who knows what this guy is like. Maybe he's the one and I'm about to begin the rest of my life tonight. Let's just say I remain open-minded.
Mike is so sharply dressed I wonder if he isn't gay -- perfectly pressed jeans, black turtleneck, black rimmed glasses and black shoes ... with buckles. Oh, and to top it off, he's a doctor!
We head to El Coyote, where I order entirely too much. I've convinced myself this isn't a date -- you don't have Mexican food on a first date -- but I'm saddened that I'm not taking the left-overs home. This, of course, isn't proper etiquette.
After dinner, we go to a little neighborhood bar on Beechmont Avenue. Adis is a sports bar I've driven past a couple hundred times without ever stopping. After ordering drinks we head to the shuffleboard. Dr. Mike and I are on one team, and Tracy and Jake are on the other. If you've ever played shuffleboard, you know that the people on the same team actually play on opposite ends of the board. This wasn't a smart move. It could have been a perfect opportunity for us to engage in conversation without Tracy and Jake nearby.
Around this time I realize this evening isn't about two people meeting, It's about the couple who needs others to join them.
They didn't want us to hook up, not primarily -- they just wanted a pair of people to hang out with.
Yeah, that's what it is, and I don't think I can be subject to it any longer.
I'm not saying the date was a disaster. It was nice actually, but the reality is we were both victims. Anyone who's married or has a boyfriend wants everyone around them to be attached. No singles allowed!
So, Tracy wants to set something up with Dr. Mike again. I'm in the book he can call me.
-- Paige Peterson
Brawny Lad with a Side of Onion Rings
I hadn't been to The Dock, Cincinnati's best-known gay-boy playground, since October 2000. Focusing on a boyfriend curbed my desire to be out on the town for the last few months, but now a dose of good people-watching with dance music was well overdue. Plus I was dying to break out my leather cargo pants and see if my tight shirts still fit.
Primarily, two groups of people go to the Dock -- and I've been both types. First is the person on a mission. He walks around and around and around and around, looking every which way to find the guy he thinks will make him happy -- at least until noon on Sunday. He takes himself very seriously, though in the process of all that walking he might burn several hundred calories.
Second is the person who goes simply for the fun of being there, watching people and figuring out everyone else's game. For this person, going to the Dock is kind of like going to Frisch's: You always know what to expect, no surprises, no disappointment.
The Dock was much as I remembered it. At 9:45 the place was deserted, because gay guys rarely hit the pavement before 11. The advantage to going early was getting a seat at the bar, where I could perch all night and watch things happen.
As the place filled up, I recognized a few "regulars." To my surprise, the only checkers from my past were a friendly lunch date, a lunch-then-dinner-then-coffee-then-let-me-show-you-my-place date who ended up never calling me back again (did I miss something here?) and a few casual flirtations.
Overall, I enjoyed myself, but the experience (not to mention the smoke smell on my clothes) was enough to last me a while. I guess I really just wanted a reality check, to remind myself that I'm glad to go there and not take myself seriously like I used to. As one guy said, "There are a lot of lost puppies in here tonight."
Still, I'm content to see a night at The Dock from the "Frisch's" point of view instead of through beer goggles.
The Relationship Bin Laden
I stopped in at Factory 33 to visit Shannon for a little girl-chat. While there, I paged my "boyfriend" to discuss plans for the evening. When he called back, Shannon answered the phone. I remembered from playing Trivial Pursuit that the jawbone is the strongest bone in the human body. Shannon was proving that true, and I was growing impatient.
"Can I please speak to my boyfriend now?" I whined. She handed me the phone.
"Your boyfriend? I ain't your boyfriend," he said.
My heart rate slowed. My body temperature took a nosedive. "If you're not my boyfriend, what are you?" I asked.
"I'm your man-friend," he replied.
He was doing his typical verbal gymnastics. Since we started dating, he's been the relationship Bin Laden. He's there, you're just not sure the exact location.
Rather than freak out and send him running for the nearest cave, I pondered this. Shannon offered me a book on relationships. It stated that relationship problems are really personal "addictions" we need to resolve and that instead we should consider them "requirements." Apparently, I have a "requirement" for clarification.
The book was interesting, but something nagged me. Why do guys have such a problem with labels? It's no big deal to get a conjugal visit, but ask what the status is and you'll need a sensitive watch to count the milliseconds in which they disappear.
Later that day, my "man-friend" called back to tell me the caravan was heading to Top Cats. I decided not to go but still needed to clear the rubble of our conversation.
"I ain't a boy. I'm a man," he explained.
Oh, I get it. Hahaha. It was a joke, a play on words. But once again, he managed to avoid the "where we stand" discussion. This reminded me of a talk we had earlier in the week:
"So, are we dating or what?" I'd asked.
"That sounds so high school," he said.
That's funny, I thought. It kinda feels like high school.
-- Ilsa Venturini