"Wild Wild West"
When you’re single, sometimes you find yourself looking for greener dating pastures. My friend "Gavin" did just that recently when he went on a date with a gay cowboy, a concept which may sound odd at first but seemed to me fitting since wearing tight jeans, shoes with a slightly raised heels, and having this all coordinated with a fashionable hat felt like a natural two-step progression for gay culture. They ended up, appropriately enough, going out to Y’All Come Back Saloon, a trendy gay club in the Cities. Dinner, dancing, watching the sunset together, it was the stuff of sappy country ballads. But even after Gavin told me the details of the date, I was still left with one unavoidable question.
"Did you save a horse and ride a hung cowboy?" I asked.
"Yes," he said giddily.
"Well aren’t you the Little Ho on the Prairie," I replied.
After Gavin logged off, I started thinking about cowboys and the Wild West and all that mythology. If you think about it, dating and bull riding, two unrelated activities, still have some similarities. In both situations, the person has to hold on for dear life, have faith that things will out for the best, and in the end won't be too injured from the experience.
Judging by the packed bars one recent Saturday, there were plenty of people willing to give the dating rodeo a go. The Library was crowded with real cowboys, dressed in their denim jeans and cowboy hats, and fake cowboys, metrosexuals with orange-tinted skin from fake baking and cowboy hats they bought at the Buckle. Both sets of cowboys were making like horses, promenading around the club and neighing sexual come-ons to any interested young, perky-chested cowgirl interested in riding them sidesaddle.
"I'm totally screwing that girl," I heard one guy say to another. "I mean, she may be a virgin now but that’ll change."
Apparently, the young cowboy had skills other than roping and wrangling; he was a not-yet-a-whore whisperer.
Two hours later, I hit the dusty trail back to my dorm room and decided to log on to the Internet to pose a question to my friend/potential love interest Ridley.
"Not to sound too Paula Cole circa when she had a career," I typed to him, "but what happened to all the good guys?"
"They don’t exist," Ridley wrote to me.
I paused for a moment, thrown.
"Maybe we're too fast to look for the person to be the villain that we find it whether or not it's really there," I said.
I paused. Now I was really thrown. It was the kind, oh-what-a-beautiful-morning optimism that almost never came from me.
"Good point," he wrote back. "You know I was a gay cowboy before I did rugby."
"Please tell me you had a cowboy hat," I said.
"I did and still do," he replied with a smiley face.
We talked for a few hours more. I don't know if he'll be the one I'll ride off into the sunset with but at least I'm now seeing the horizon.
"Dress You Up In My Love"
When you’re gay and dating, there is the love that is often temporary, the love for a boyfriend, and then there is the love that springs eternal, the love of fashion. My friend Gavin was finding a way to bridge those two loves together when he took his cowboy shopping at the Mall of America.
And while browsing through labels like Ralph Lauren and Abercrombie and Fitch, the cowboy decided he wanted Gavin to try on the most precious label of all: boyfriend.
“I don’t know what to think about it,” Gavin confided to me.
“I say make like Madonna and dress him up in your love,” I offered.
“You want to know something horrible?” he asked me.
“You’re not really gay, you’re just terrified of vagina?” I smirked.
“I’ve got country songs in my head all the time because that’s all that he listens to,” he sighed. “God, I must really like him.”
While Gavin was trying his best not to discount his feelings for the cowboy, I was trying to figure out the label for my relationship with Ridley the rugby player. After years of being interested in ill-fitting men, Ridley seemed to suit me like a pink polo shirt. But like any good shopper, I knew that some things, like horizontal stripes or a new man, may sound good in theory but in action may not be right. So, I decided to ask Ridley what he thought about us.
“I knew you were going to ask this,” he wrote back to me.
“There’s a saying, ‘Just because you love, don’t expect love in return.’”
And just like that, my pink polo shirt started to unravel.
“I still want to be good friends,” he said, trying to stitch together the tatters of my good feelings.
“I told you I was going to label you a love interest in my column and you had the chance to tell me that you just thought of us as friends but didn’t,” I said to him.
“Then it wouldn’t have been true to your opinion,” he told me. “I just want to let you know that you’ve touched me in ways that you’ll never know.”
“Well I know one distinct way I haven’t,” I said rather tersely before logging off.
“Well I’ve gotten that one before,” The Russian said to me the following evening.
The Russian was an ex of mine, that like my old damaged pair of black Converse, I was slow to toss out because despite the pain he and they caused me every once in a while they both fit me more comfortably than anything else.
“Life’s so short I keep thinking I won’t find somebody,” I sighed.
“Life isn’t that short,” he replied. “You’ve lived 22 years. Was it short?”
“It hasn’t felt short,” I groaned.
“Well you’ve got three or four periods of life like that,” The Russian remarked. “Plenty of time.”
It was the advice equivalent of a big, fuzzy sweater.
“Every once and awhile you know the perfect thing to say,” I smiled.
“Always!” he retorted. “Not once in awhile.”
Later that night, I went browsing for a new polo shirt online because of all the men in my life, Ralph Lauren has yet to disappoint. And as I looked at all the shirts, with their different designs and colors, I realized that love, like clothes, is all about the fit. Eventually, I would find the man that would be tailored to my emotional needs and mine to his. But, in the meantime, as I clicked over to the personals on Gay.com, there was no hurt in window-shopping.
When you’re in a relationship, you often times develop habits that are almost impossible to break. Some couples always eat dinner together while others have to watch certain television programs together.
My friend Gavin had been dating the gay cowboy for three weeks and had developed not only a habit, but an addiction of sorts.
“The cowboy has turned me into a sex addict,” Gavin told me. “One time we even had sex six times in one day.”
"How could you even walk after that?" I asked him.
"Good question,” he replied. “Anyway, now it’s weird since he’s back in the Cities. It’s hard to go without it and it’s just been two days.”
“You might get a more sympathetic response from a person who hadn’t just been recently told just because you love, don’t expect love in return,” I interjected.
A week had past since my fallout with Ridley, and I had decided to have an emotional detox by heading to La Crosse.
“You going to see the Russian?” Gavin asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “It’d fit a pattern though. We met each other on July Fourth, messed around on Thanksgiving, and I had my heart broken by him on New Year’s Eve. It’s Oktoberfest and special occasions are our thing.”
That Saturday night, my friends Agatha and Duran came with me to hit up the bars in an effort to rehabilitate my heart.
“You know,” Agatha said as we walked past all the overflowing bars, “there should be an emo bar. That way you can always get drinks because most of the people would be in a corner, crying their eyes out and fixing their off-centered parts.”
“That’s brilliant,” I said as we walked into Player’s.
The bar was packed with hordes of message t-shirt wearing hotties and the girls that buy them fruity drinks. As we sat at the bar, I sipped my Washington Apple and thought how nice it was to just relax. But out of the corner of my eye, I spotted him, my bad habit: The Russian.
In a less club-oriented setting, Gavin and the cowboy were enjoying an evening of dinner and mystery theater. As they exchanged looks and chatted during the evening, there was no mystery that the cowboy and Gavin had chemistry. It was also no mystery that the cowboy was going to sleep over and that night Gavin had a hit of the cowboy and that left the best side effect: afterglow.
Back at Player’s, I stared at the Russian as he made his way through the crowd, like a queer Moses parting the rainbow seas. As Agatha and Duran stood on either side of me, I was fully prepared for the iciness, the cockiness, the Russian of it all.
We locked eyes and I smiled a bit. I was about to extend my hand when he reached in for a hug and a tug. I guess I wasn’t the only one trying to break with former habits.
As we talked, playfully teasing one another, I realized that if the Russian, a man addicted to being an asshole, could change that there was hope for not just me, but all of humanity.
The next day, I returned to River Falls from my rugby player rehab and felt totally refreshed. But as I sat down at my computer and logged onto Gay.com and an IM window popped up, little did I know that I was going to have a relapse.