Friday, June 18, 2010

Unified Dating Theory

I accidentally ended up on a date a couple of weeks ago. It turned out pretty well, but I feel like inadvertent dating is the sort of rookie error that I should have learned to avoid ten years ago. Still, nobody's perfect, I reckon.

As ever, it is important to define one's terms. There are, as I'm sure many of you are aware, a nearly limitless number of ways in which two men can interact, but for our present purposes, let's consider two broad categories: the social and the sexual. Under the social column (hereinafter column A), we have things like extended conversation, meeting for coffee, catching a movie, and going out for dinner -- all of which are perfectly respectable, and fun, activities. Under the sexual column (aka column B), we have things like holding hands, making out, and, well, this is not the particular venue in which I want to get too graphic, so just use your filthy, filthy minds imaginations. All of these activities are (or at least can and should be) perfectly fun, though they may not all be perfectly respectable. Some people, indeed, have posited an inverse relationship between fun and respectability, but I offer no opinion on that supposition except to say that if it is true, then it is almost certainly also an oversimplification.

Anyway, it's pretty easy to determine which activities go within each group, and in cases where an activity might be considered theoretically ambiguous (you might, for example, give a shoulder massage to someone with either sort of motivation), in practice, you always know what's what. If your activities with a particular person on a particular occasion are purely social, then you're hanging out with a friend. If your activities are purely sexual, then you're hooking up. If your activities are something from column A and something from column B (I believe the column A/column B meme is still reasonably common, but I was unable to find any current examples of the menus from which it springs. Back in the day, if you went to many Chinese restaurants, there was a group dining option where, depending on the number of diners, you chose a certain number of dishes from each column to get a communal meal. It must have made splitting the check easier.), then you're on a date.

And your activities have to be intentionally mixed, which is to say that you can't hook up with someone and then turn it into a date by having a conversation, of whatever length, in the afterglow. Or even in the glow, for that matter. If you invite someone over for horizontal quality time, and you somehow discover a common interest in Dickens, discussing Our Mutual Friend while you're making out doesn't transform the hook-up into anything else.1 Though I suppose you could always go on a date later, and, in fact, you probably should if you happen to run into a fellow Dickens lover, though you might want to keep a close eye on your facsimile edition of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby.

Anyway, I traded some messages with a guy whom I found on a gay social networking application that is popular with iPhone users. This particular app is dedicated to the pursuit of column B activities, but it mostly manages to annoy me because most of the people who are on there pretend that they're there for column A. I tend to think this posturing exists because a lot of gay men are stupid enough to think that if they post a shirtless picture showing off their flawless torsos but say "Partnered and just looking for friends" in their profile, then their partners are stupid enough to believe them. This is not the case, but whatever: I should really not get started (and I really don't judge on moral grounds; aesthetic considerations are another matter, however). This particular guy claimed to be looking for both columns, not necessarily in the same guy, and while that would normally have made me roll my eyes, he had a sense of humor and a Ph.D., so I was willing to make some allowances. More to the point, he likes to cook, and he lives within walking distance of my house, so -- when he gave no indication whatsoever of any sort of column B interest -- I invited him to my place for dinner. These days, I'm doing my best to keep the columns separated, and while I haven't been entirely successful, I couldn't help figuring that having a food-friendly friend within walking distance would be better than having a random hook-up, it being the sad but undeniable fact that worthwhile -- albeit transitory -- column B companions are in much greater supply than their column A counterparts.

I hate dating, and I'm really bad at it. (These two facts may not be altogether unrelated.) I believe I have said before, only partly in jest, that the best reason to stay in a relationship is that if you become single, you might find yourself dating again at some point. But if I don't know I'm on a date, then I'm fine, so the evening went just swimmingly. I took the guy at his word when he said that he liked to eat, so I made some pickled Szechuan cucumbers as a pre-dinner snack, then for the main course, I cooked some very thick pork chops with mushrooms, rosemary, and red wine; some green beans boiled, shocked in ice water, and sauteed in butter; and a salad of chick peas, black beans, corn, tomatoes, and avocados in a cilantro-lime vinaigrette. Everything was delicious, though, uncharacteristically, the lemon pound cake that I made for dessert would have been borderline dry if it had not been well soaked in lemon syrup.

Anyway, the food was good, wine was consumed, and the conversation was funny and fluid and went into all sorts of subjects that I would never discuss on a date, but, hey, this guy wasn't interested in column B, so why not, right? But at some point, it's getting pretty late, and I'm surprised that he hasn't made noises about it being time to go home, and I'm feeling very content but also very tired and stuffed, and I look up from my plate, and he's giving me this look, and it suddenly occurs to me that a) he wants column B, and b) it's my responsibility to make the first move. At this point, I may have uttered an internal expletive, simply because this was not a situation I was looking to be in. I did realize, however, that in the universe of all possible situations, this was well above the median, and as I am not the sort of person to refuse a tasty bon bon when it is placed before me, I did my duty as a good host. I would say more, but I have always thought that detailed explanations of column B activities on the Internet are horrifically tacky.

I've been pretty good in the past at avoiding inadvertent dating, so I'm thinking this was an isolated incident. Nonetheless, I'm currently undertaking a thorough review of my policies and procedures to avoid this sort of columnar commingling in the future. I understand that a full report is due out in the fall.

1Not that I would know anything about such matters, of course, but if you're going to discuss Our Mutual Friend, shouldn't you do so in the context of a threeway?


  1. Hem, I wonder where on the Internet I could find horrifically tacky detailed explanations of column B activities...
    Well HE was on a date not you... or maybe not at the beginning. Was the all (A+B) anyway good/enjoyable/agreable or just "duty"?

  2. I wonder about that, too, Jérôme. I bet you could find some using one of the common search engines.

    As for the other matter, both columns were fully enjoyable and enjoyed.

  3. TED, you are such a special suburban gay with unabashedly anachronistic taste.