As an officer and a gentleman, I try to avoid being churlish. That said, I had an experience recently, on Halloween, that made me wonder if I was exhibiting churlish behavior.
I don't know about you, but when I am struggling to make social connections (new friends, go on dates, etc.) I always tend to think, "wouldn't it be nice if one of my friends had someone cute with whom to fix me up." Or, "wouldn't it be nice if someone would invite me to a party, or to church, or to a rugby match, so that I can perhaps meet some new people." If your experience has been like mine, you know these things rarely happen.
Well, for me, it did finally. A fellow I'd never met, but had chatted with occasionally on line sent me the following email, "We've talked before. Always have struck me as a cool guy. I'm not your type but I wanted to invite you to a Halloween party on Saturday at my house. Should be 50-75 people. Gay and straight, some with costumes and some without. Let me know if you wanna come and ill (sic) send you the address. "
At first I was a little nervous. I mean, I asked myself, "what if this is some sort of religious thing?" Or, "what if this is a joke?" Or, "What if it is a sales thing, like some soft of pyramid scheme?" After these fleeting thoughts, I decided I was going to look on the bright side. I was going to assume it was an authentic invitation sent by a kindly soul. I am glad I decided to go the positive route. Because, that my friends, is exactly how it turned out. It was a huge costume party over flowing with food, booze, and guys.
Well here is where the question of churlishness appears: it turned out to be a bears only party. As I've oft mentioned, I am an opposites attract kind of guy. Bears are not, I mean NOT my thing at all. In other places I've lived or to where I've traveled, bears and their admirers mix. My friend Ryan (a major admirer, trust me) goes to bear events all up and down the coast of sunny California and he, and his posse of other admirers are always the bells of the ball. In Seattle, though, this rarely if ever happens.
First, as I mentioned above, Seattle is a bear town. So even the younger guys tend to be stocky, balding, hairy, sporting goatees and beards. Second, in Seattle bears are only 'allowed' to socialize with other bears. The bear community here is only open to bears, bearish cubs, or chubs. I hear constantly from the few younger non-bearish guys here that they like bears, they like them a lot, but none of the local bears will pay them any attention. If you've read other pieces I've written, you also heard of my experiences at receiving flaming IM's and emails from guys insisting that since I am stocky and hairy, I am 'expected' to be attracted to that kind of guy and that is the only kind of guy I deserve to date. Sorry, flamers, but ick! Not my thing at all. Let me also repeat, as I've written before, I don't think I am all that. I don't think I should only date 10's. I do believe, however, that at nearly 50, I know what makes Mr. Happy smile and what doesn't. I am not saying bearish guys are not attractive, nice, smart, funny, etc. I am only saying that I don't find the appealing. As we say in the Navy, "I wouldn't fuck a bear with your dick." I will say that of the 200+ people that were there during the hour I was there, there were 4 cute guys (i.e. my kind of cute: non-bearish). One, a former semi-regular fuckbuddy. One a muscle boy. One attending with his boyfriend and another waiting for his boyfriend to arrive. How do I know these things? Well the former fuck buddy stopped by to say, "hello" than ran off to get a drink. The other guys, I happened to over hear enough of their conversations to learn these things. When you spend an hour standing by yourself in a corner, it is sort of hard not to over hear stuff. I mean, what else are you gonna do?
So, am I being churlish for being disappointed it was a bear party? Perhaps. It was very sweet and thoughtful of the host to invite me, sight unseen. That sort of kindness should happen more often. I am both glad and thankful to have been invited. I am also proud of myself that I made myself take a social risk and go to a party about which I knew little. I was completely uncomfortable and totally out of my social depth. I made myself promise no matter what, I'd stay for at least an hour and I did.
So what do I mean by being 'proud' of myself. For someone who has a very powerful persona (as a professional actor I have 'stage presence. I am also a military officer. Additionally, I've been told repeatedly that I intimidate people with my loud and distinctive voice and my blunt talk), I am actually quite shy and socially awkward. I just don't have the social 'gene'. Give me command of a watch team, where I am large and in charge and I am inspiring. Put me up on a stage, and I will charm the pants off of you. Sit me down at a church, social event, etc. where I am surrounded by a bunch of strangers, and I am a total disaster. My lack of a social gene is something I work to overcome; ergo, being invited to the party was a step towards improving this social anxiety. Of course, it is also true that the whole hour I was there only 3 people spoke to me: the host; the former fuck buddy; and the muscle boy, who commented on my T-shirt.
I've also written of late about getting thinking about trying to date again. An acquaintance asked me the other day, "why are you thinking about dating, when you are clearly still hung up on your ex-boyfriend?" An interesting question. My response, "I've deserve to have some kind of social life, don't I? I know it is too soon for anything 'serious', that isn't what I seek anyway. But I can't spend all of my time hanging out with my dog at the little house down by the big lake, now can I?" Disclaimer: I am still hung up on Sam, the big dork. I'd be lying to you and to myself if I didn't admit that. The spoiled, ill-mannered, and quite insane mongrel with whom I share the little house near the big lake miss Uncle Sam terribly. So between my social awkwardness and still being hung up on Sam, I appear to be stuck.
I think we all deserve a social life. I'd like to think that I do as much as anybody else. Yet, it (a bear party) was clearly not my 'thing.' I have to admit, lately I've been pondering if I truly know what is my 'thing'. Can I really be nearly 50 year old (I turned 49 in October) and still be this shy and awkward? I guess I can. My therapist and I talked about this the other day. He commented that perhaps my 'thing' just isn't like that of others, and I shouldn't expect it to be. He asserted that by expecting to a more social creature, and not being so, I just end up making myself be disappointed? Maybe he is right. Still, it gets kind of boring being in bed alone every Saturday night by 2130. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy time alone and I love both the little house near the big lake and my crazy dog. It would, however, be nice if my time alone was more something I chose, rather than something foisted upon me by circumstance.
Sometimes dealing with the 'monster' we know, as evil as it might be, seems safer than the monster we don't. Sometimes we allow ourselves to be stuck in old, ineffective patterns which, while comfortable, are not conducive to the healthiest or happiest of experiences. Can I miss Sam (and secretly wish he'd come home) and still go on the occasional date? Yes! Of course that would have to find someone with whom I wanted to go on a date and who wanted to go a date with me. Anyway. Should I continue to accept the occasional social invitation, even if it isn't my thing? Yes! Should I try and not have churlish thoughts and find away to enjoy such experiences, even they are not my 'thing?" Yes!
At least, that is what THIS DADDY thinks.