I just want to say that one time when I was 18 years old I went on a date with a guy who was 51 years old because I thought that the universe was telling me that I had to. The guy didn’t turn me on at all. He was a filmmaker, and he appeared to be attempting to be the Seattle version of Woody Allen, which is to say he was a crappy version of something I would never want anyways. He was probably looking for a second rate Muriel Hemingway.
I met him at a party. I had a couple of older friends who were pretty bohemian and cool and lived in a cooperatively owned apartment building in downtown Seattle. My friends were awesome, but the dude, Alex, was kind of a successful loser. Dave who lived at the coop took me aside and told me so. He said that Alex made his living by canvassing for Greenpeace, and that he practiced something called the “Slash and Burn” technique, which is where you knock on someone’s door, worm your way into their house and try their patience to such an extreme degree that they are forced to give you money just to get you to leave. Supposedly he did pretty well.
Alex was short, and balding, and wore a newsboy cap. He picked me up at my parents’ house and I recall watching my dad do a double take as he answered the door. Alex was older than my dad by two years. I have a suspicion that if a tall and classically handsome 51 year old had picked me up for a date my dad probably wouldn’t have reacted with so much surprise. I think my dad just didn’t think this guy could possibly be good enough for me.
The truth is that I was totally in love with a Spanish girl, who was soft butch and extremely intelligent, and lived all the way over in Spain. I had fallen in love with her the year before, when we were both exchange students in Denmark. Before leaving for Denmark I had a secret hunch that I might be into girls, but I hadn’t expected the sort of girl that she was. She was, as I said, a soft butch, and didn’t think or care about her clothes. She would wear, like, a massive red t-shirt with a huge picture of the Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil on it. It occurs to me that she might have been wearing it with a sense of irony, but if so she was about a decade ahead of the curve. Until I got to know her, I didn’t realize how hot a soft butch in Looney Tunes gear could be. If she had come to the door to pick me up for a date, I’m sure my dad would have been equally doubtful of her quality as a suitor. But she truly turned out to be my equal and my heart was exploded wide open by the magic of how crazy it had felt to fall for someone I had never expected. So at this moment in my life I was operating with a sense that if the initial signs said, “gross,” maybe that meant you really should go for it. (I also frequently had the thought it might be valuable to eat dog poop off the street at some point, though I have still never done it.)
Anyways, this is how I ended up at Four Weddings and A Funeral with Alex Whats-his-name, and then at EspressoRoma afterwards, surrounded by freaky 90’s Seattle cafe types, listening to him try and peer pressure me into going on another date with him. It didn’t work, and I can’t tell whether this surprised him or whether it was what he had expected. I just remembering staring at him with a gross feeling, which, as the minutes went by, became more clearly the feeling of actual revulsion and not the magical disgust of opening the door into a terrifying new world that used to used to seem icky but is in fact way better than the old one.