“A gentleman is simply a patient wolf.” -Lana Turner
Mr. Wolf texts me most of the next day. I insist that I’m not going to see him because it’s Sunday night, and I have work early tomorrow. But he is persistent. (If persistence is a virtue, the men of L.A.’s gay scene are more virtuous than nuns.) At work on Monday, Mr. Wolf sends me a message to inform me that he’s made reservations for dinner at nine, and I (admittedly nervously) agree to meet. “You should come to this short film screening before dinner. I’m an editor on one of the films.” I again somewhat reluctantly agree, so after work I hurry home and try to make up my mind whether or not I’m going to spend the night with him. When I argue with myself, it’s not pretty. These types of situations make me extremely anxious, so I have a tendency to need to be in control of how things are going to go even though they usually don’t go the way I plan, so I end up driving myself crazy. After 35 minutes of back and forth (and packing and unpacking an overnight bag), I come to an inconclusive “maybe” and decide to take half of my anti-anxiety pill.
It’s my first time in downtown L.A., which compounds my nerves even more, and I arrive just minutes before showtime. Mr. Wolf greets me with a hug and introduces me to a couple of his friends before we find out seats. I’m unusually quiet but calm thanks to the pill, and Mr. Wolf is on his best behavior in front of his peers. The short films are hilarious, and I give him an exaggerated pat on the back when his name rolls in the credits. Afterward, we make our way to the rooftop for the after party where Mr. Wolf buys me a beer. (Even though the restaurant is within walking distance, he doesn’t drink because he’s driving home after dinner–he’s extremely strict about this.) As it turns out, the beer compounds the medicine’s effects and makes me something of a zombie, so as my date introduces me to more of his friends, I make a rather poor impression. One guy in particular stares at me while Mr. Wolf chats up his girlfriend. “Chill out, buddy,” he says, patting me on the back. I try to defend myself by telling him I’m kind of cold, but my face (much like my mind) betrays me.
Mr. Wolf and I depart for the restaurant and although it’s only about four blocks away, I can think of almost nothing to say. I’m choking in the worst way–something I usually reserve for second dates. I guess a guy sticking his arm down your pants sort of replaces date numero uno. As we sit down, Mr. Wolf charmingly shares that this is one of his favorite restaurants and explains the menu. It’s family style, so I sign away food choices to his liking and when the waiter arrives for our drink orders, I abruptly plead for water. I fumble my way through some conversation when the Wolf asks some rather personal questions.
As you might have learned from reading, very few of the normal rules of sex and dating really apply to gayworld, but first dates have a tendency to be extremely intimate. And not just because there’s usually sex immediately afterward. You know those pride parades and protective gay camaraderie you see or hear about? That’s not for shits and giggle. Well, a little bit, but pretty much every gay man in America has gone through the same excruciating coming out process. Regardless of the details, almost every single gay man can relate to the hyper-emotional undertaking of handling self-loathing or rejection from family and friends and any related discriminatory shit that’s been thrown at us along the way. We are survivors at our core. Or at least I am.
My answer to Mr. Wolf is fairly vague and impersonal, which surprises me. I tell him about my religious upbringing and conservative family, but I find myself saying very little that’s actually interesting. However, thanks to the medicine, I’m fine with sounding stupid. Besides, he probably finds it charming. I doubt it’s any kind of accident that when I was in diapers he was in flares. That’s when Mr. Wolf takes it upon himself to give me his adolescent biography in full unabashed detail but with a quiet solemness. He tells me about boarding school and how his father left his family. He tells me about his pubescent fears and his first boyfriend and his current lack of familial structure. I get stuck on this last one. I can’t image being alone like that fifteen years from now. Which probably explains why he goes on to casually mention his ex, who he recently got out of a long, long relationship with and how he’s very recently gotten into great shape and gained a new perspective on life. This changes everything. I’m suspicious at first, but whatever angle he’s trying to play works, and I let myself become a little vulnerable. Just not so he can see.
Mr. Wolf pays the bill, and we leave. “Thanks for dinner,” I say as he walks me to my car. “It was my pleasure,” he assures. “And it was nice getting to know you without the…” “Fondling?” I interject. He laughs slightly and grins. So do I. “What are you doing the rest of the night?” He asks. “Just going home,” I answer blankly before realizing…”oh, was that an invitation?” He laughs again. “If it were, would it change your mind?” He asks with a mock sheepishness. “I’m tempted…but I do have work very early tomorrow.” “Ah,” he says as I look him right in the eye. He hugs me then asks, “was that supposed to be a kiss?” “I think it might have been.” He kisses me gently but with great precision, and all I can do is smile. He calls the next day, and we agree to get together this weekend.