I went to lunch earlier today and almost directly encountered my past. When I got to the fast food restaurant, I found a table for myself and began to eat. Then I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation from a few tables away. It was the type of conversation that is supposed to be held in hushed tones so the sound doesn’t carry, but in this case, either the acoustics or my own keen sense of hearing meant that I was inadvertently listening in.
There were 2 men, each around my age, conversing at a table at least 3 tables away from me. Within a minute, it was obvious that they were meeting each other in person for the first time. It also sounded as if they had met online, so this was the proverbial “gay first date”. I know the routine well from my own experiences years ago, before I met Hal.
They were feeling each other out as they spoke. Neither one wanted to give away too much information about themselves, and the conversation constantly floundered. It was inevitable that I would drift back to the gay scene around DC, and how both despised it so much because it was so shallow. I understand everything that they were saying to one another, although my own personal experiences happened in places other than DC. The sense of wanting to find someone was palpable in each of them, but they handled it in different ways. One of them was constantly talking, apparently afraid that if he stopped, the other man would vanish. The other man was not attempting to say a word, either from boredom or from fear of interrupting and saying exactly the wrong thing so he would just utter the occasional agreement with the first man as he rambled on and on.
Because of the layout of the tables, the man who wouldn’t shut up attempted eye contact with me several times. I suspect that he knew that I could hear them without being obvious. At one point, the other man turned around and glanced at me. It was at this point that I gave them both my most disapproving stare and they went back to their own attempt at getting to know each other.
I found myself thinking about the times I had been in their positions in the past. Wondering if I was ever going to find that special someone, or was I doomed to constant “first dates” that ended up with nothing. There was a part of me that wanted to go to their table and shake them both by the shoulders and scream that they were doing this all wrong. Luckily, that impulse faded quickly. No good ever came from anonymous matchmaking. I did find myself thinking how they might be able to salvage what was obviously not going very well for either of them.
The first guy needed to shut the hell up and let the other guy talk. He was coming across as desperate and needy and clingy. I would have told him that this is the worst approach to take unless he wanted to be taken advantage of repeatedly. He should have let the other guy talk, and if he wasn’t willing to talk then he should have gotten up and left without looking back.
The second guy should have taken the initiative to speak up during the conversation. His reluctance to do so gave me the impression that he was bored and not really interested unless he saw the opportunity for a quick fuck. If he had been serious, he would have attempted to get more than a word into the conversation. If I were him I would have been thinking that the first guy was a loser who wanted someone to listen to, and that he was hauling around far too much baggage from his past.
The strongest feeling that I left the restaurant with was relief. I have not had to play those games for nearly 18 years and I am thankful each day for that. I hope that both men find what they are looking for, once they take the time to really figure out what that is.