6/26/2015 – A Fine Day

Do you hear that? The roar of celebration sweeping across the United States of America? The cries of joy – charged with emotion and tears? This is Marriage Equality. Finally, it has arrived.

Do you feel that? The swell of positive emotions from others reacting to this historic occassion? Vibrating and resonant deep within your chest as you reflect on what it means now that the law recognizes you as equal in terms of marrying someone you love.

Do you see that? The immense amount of work that is still left to do for the other members of the LGBT community who are in need of equality – specifically trans* people of color. Marriage Equality is a grand victory but it does not mean that the fight for equality is over. Things will not suddenly be peachy. Intolerance and hatred are, unfortunately, not so easily defeated.

Do you smell that? The celebratory dinners, barbecues and parties that are being held in honor of this momentous decision. Along with the gay wedding cakes and gay wedding pizzas too.

Do you taste that? The salty, bitter tears of frustration from those who have spent millions of dollars and countless hours attempting to curtail a segment of the population merely for being different. Merely because they did not agree with how another person lives their life. It’s okay, Opponents of Equality, this ruling has literally NO effect on your lives.

Today has been a fine day. Tonight will be filled with celebrations, laughter, smiles and tears. But tomorrow and beyond will need continued focus and dedication from those in the LGBTQ community (and allies) in order to fight for equality for ALL.

(Mis)Adventures in dating – Kona Grill.

At the behest of a few friends, I’ve recently decided to start chronicling my experiences involving dating and dudes.

Let me start by saying that, when it comes to dating and love and all that, I’m pretty weird about it all. I’m a hardcore a bit of a commitmaphobe and if someone tries to push something resembling commitment on me or talks about ‘us’ in the future before I feel ready or comfortable with it, I will disappear. This is perhaps why I don’t go on many dates. And if I do, there’s rarely ever a second one.

 

One of the first train-wreck dates I went on was with a boy named Oliver (not his real name). Oliver and I had met through Myspace, back in the day when everyone had Top Eights,  and posted vague bulletins about their feelings.

I had agreed to meet him at a restaurant named Kona Grill. I had never been there, but I liked sushi and all that well enough so I figured I’d give it a try. I arrived at the restaurant a bit early and found Oliver standing out front. He seemed pretty nervous and stood up awkwardly to give me a hug. I was nervous too, but I think I was just better at hiding it.

Oliver looked very different from his expertly angled, black and white Myspace photos. He jawline was not nearly as sharp, he was a bit shorter and rounder than I had imagined and it looked like he had squeezed himself into the tightest pair of jeans he could manage. The scarf around his neck also seemed incredibly out of place in the August heat of South Texas.

He gave a nervous laugh as we were seated. Our date began with stale conversation about pretty boring topics. He asked about my family and possibly if I had any pets. I responded and couldn’t think of anything to ask him. I remember him smiling constantly – as if the corners of his mouth were being held up by an invisible tape of sorts. It was a bit unnerving.

Our conversation, at one point, moved into the ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ territory. He began talking about something he liked – I forget what it was, let’s say…menudo.

“Oh man, I don’t like all the tripa that comes in menudo.” I said with a grimace.

“Yeah, I mean it’s kinda gross…” he said. “But it’s way better than barbacoa. I can’t stand barbacoa.”

“Oh, I love barbacoa!” I said. “It’s so good.”

“Yeah, it is actually pretty tasty…” he replied with a nod and a smile.

What was going on? His opinions were changing in real-time with our conversation. It was almost as if he were trying to impress me and make himself seem more likable? I was very confused by it all.

The date went on like this for another uncomfortable hour or so. If we agreed on something, it was nice but whenever there was anything that we had differing opinions about, Oliver would casually switch his to whatever he thought I wanted to hear.

Eventually, we finished our meal. I was mentally exhausted with constantly agreeing with him – whether or not I wanted to. The waitress came by and asked how we wanted to handle the check.

“Separate! Please.” I said, possibly a bit too eagerly.

We exited the restaurant and made our way to a good separating point. Luckily, I was parked in the opposite direction as he was. We stopped and stood for a few beats, doing that awkward thing that happens at the end of a date when neither person knows what to do.

 

 

A short distance away, fireworks from Six Flags exploded in the sky above us. Yellows and reds and greens burst through the darkness. I’m sure it would have been very romantic had I been with anyone else.

“I had a really good time…” he said, turning and giving me a look that I felt belonged in a Nicholas Sparks movie.

“Yeah, it was…cool.” I said, fumbling over my words. I wanted to be nice but I also didn’t want to give him any hope of another date. What was I to do, what was I to do?

“I’d love to see you again,” he said, his hand reached out and took mine. I threw a nervous glance around.

“Ummm well…” I began. “I….”

It was happening. I couldn’t hold it in. It was like verbal diarrhea. I had already taken the first step, said the first words, and the rest was now just tumbling out.

“…I really think we’d be better of as just friends, man. I don’t think I feel the same way about you. Maybe we just don’t click on that level.”

I gently but firmly tugged my hand out of his clammy grasp. His face was a mix of surprise and hurt – exactly what I had been trying to avoid.

“It’s not that you’re not cool or nice or anything – you are,” I couldn’t stop. I was trying so hard to let him down easily but it was spiraling out of control.

“Oh…” he said simply. “…I guess I thought you were into it.”

“I mean, you’re really nice,” I said, unconsciously wiping my hand on my jeans. “I enjoyed meeting you. And like, we can be friends and stuff.”

An awkward silence settled over us. The only sound was the deep BOOM! of the fireworks as they continued their show in the sky.

“And you know what,” I added. “ I really liked Kona Grill!”

This was my desperate attempt to find something positive in this – any glimmer of sunshine that could possibly help break through this gray cloud of angst that was so quickly billowing from the boy in front of me.

He looked at me, his eyes dark and brooding and heaved a dramatic sigh.

“I wish I was Kona Grill.”

I stared back at him for a bit, dumbfounded. I was unsure what to say or do. Part of me wanted to give him a pity hug because he was obviously not handling this well. But another part of me was suppressing the urge to laugh. I mean, how could I not? What a ridiculous thing to say.

 

Oh, how I WISH I was a restaurant.

 

 

“Well…” was all I could manage to say without cracking a smile. “…er….sorry.”

Against my better judgement, I pulled him into a brief pity hug. My hand patted his back a couple of times before I bid him goodbye and headed back to my car.

On the drive home, I reflected about what had just happened. Had I been an asshole? Had he been too dramatic about the whole thing? Had it been a little of both?

If it had been me in his position, I would have rather my date be upfront about his lack of interest. Better that, I thought, than to continue feeding my one-sided infatuation with hope.

No, I decided, I did the right thing by nipping it in the bud. There were probably a million better ways that I could have done it, but I was young and clueless. I think that had I done it any other way, I still would have gotten the same melodramatic reaction.

It’s been eight years and I haven’t seen Oliver since. I have, however, been to Kona Grill several times and I still quite enjoy it. So I suppose it wasn’t a complete bust.

 

What do you think? Have you been in this position before? How did you handle it? Is honesty the best policy or is it good to give someone another chance even if you’re not feeling it? Is there a way to break this kind of news to someone and NOT hurt their feelings?

 

Kiss me hard before I go.

“Will you do that for me?” I asked him.

His answer was a small laugh. It was a scoff, but not a derisive one. He leaned forward and kissed me squarely on the lips. In private, we had exchanged hundreds of kisses. Thousands. Tens of thousands, surely throughout the duration of our two-year relationship.

I watched as he turned his attention back to the black and white manga that he held open expertly. His long fingers had seemingly evolved into perfect bookmarks.

“You know what I mean,” I said with a sad smile. “So?”

“Uunn,” he responded.

Throughout the two years, I had gotten used to these kinds of responses. ‘Un,’ short and sweet, was an affirmation. ’Uun,’ on the other hand, slightly longer and drawn out, was negative.

Occasionally, when being intentionally vague, he would murmur the third option that was harder to to discern: ‘Uunn’.

“You don’t want to kiss me at the airport?”

“No, I want.” he said in his adorable English. He patted my cheek, breaking away from whatever story he had been lost in. “But is hard…”

With a sigh, I stretched out comfortably on my futon next to his. The interlocking wooden cover pressed coolly into my back. I stretched out my leg and entangled it in his own outstretched one. Closing my eyes, I listened to the rhythmic whir of the small fan positioned next to us – the welcome gust of air passed over me once.

On its second trip across my body, I opened my eyes. I sat for a spell, staring at the bright, fluorescent light of his bedroom ceiling. It looked like a glowing marshmallow.

“I know,” I said quietly in Japanese. “But nobody will care.”

Being gay in Japan is a strange experience. Any kind of LGBTQ lifestyle is not very well understood. The only real exposure comes from atrociously camp celebrities on TV who exploit whatever stereotype they can for coveted airtime. Apart from this, it’s rarely even discussed at all.

My boyfriend was by no means ashamed of me when we were in public together, but he was always cautious. He would give me a playful nudge or poke in the stomach every so often. If we were out of eyeshot of others, he would even occasionally intertwine one of his fingers with mine. But it was always tinged with the unspoken fear that someone might see.

A favorite activity of ours was to take couples purikura and then decorate them afterwards. We would scrawl sparkly words like ‘Scandalous!’ and ‘Handsome guys!’ across pictures of us kissing or holding hands.

But this kind of carefree, normal expression of affection for one another seemed to be best left in photo booths that made our eyes enormous and in the company of our friends. In the real world, it seemed, it was just too uncomfortable and dangerous for him.

My last day in Japan, we headed to the airport at around six in the morning. We sat sleepily in uncomfortable airport seats, partially isolated from the rest of the empty waiting area. I let myself slump over and rested my head on his bony shoulder. He didn’t shift away awkwardly as I had (ashamedly) expected him to. Instead, he tilted his head to rest against mine as well.

We sat that way for a while, perfectly secluded in our subtle embrace. No photo booths, no friends or familiar faces around us. It felt right. And natural. And I felt my brain and heart give a kind of sigh. A shudder. Why didn’t we do this earlier? Why couldn’t we do this earlier?

Eventually the time came for us to say goodbye. I stood up, my limbs heavy in protest and my heart filled with dread. I willed myself to move toward the security gate – the rabbit hole I would disappear into, leaving this strange, wonderful country behind.

I turned to him. My boy. My rock that I had been fortunate enough to cling to for two years. His face was contorted into the stoic expression that the Japanese have perfected for times when they don’t want to cry.

“I’ll…see you later.” I said in Japanese, almost casually. “It’s not sayonara, it’s mata ne.”

He nodded and I saw his bottom lip begin to quiver. Mine quivered in response. We both wanted nothing more than to use our lips like we had grown accustomed to doing for the past two years. But we couldn’t. Not here.

Instead, I pulled him in to the biggest, tightest embrace I could.

As I passed through the metal detector and collected my things at the end of the conveyor belt, I cast a look back to where he was still standing. He waved sadly. I returned his wave and suddenly the tears burst from my eyes unannounced. I hurriedly gathered my things, tucked my head down and forced myself onward.

I was able to make it all the way to my gate before I devolved into a quiet, sobbing mess.

It hit me all at once and I cried for it all. I cried for the friends and relationships I was leaving behind. I cried for the country that I had grown to love. And of course, I cried for my first love.

But mostly I cried because I knew that nobody would ask me if I was okay.

I wanted to shout to all the people staring awkwardly at me that they were all bearing witness to heartbreak firsthand. I wanted to tell them all that I just left the man that I loved behind. To tell them that all I wanted was to run back and kiss him one last time.

“But…” my brain answered me in Japanese. “…nobody will care.”