Monday, April 26, 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010


I had seen an excellent concert (Bill Callahan) at The Hideout last time I was in Chicago. I also stayed at Marina Towers, as in the Wilco album cover. There are lots of hipsters at The Hideout, which seems to be the new generation and style, and lots of people our age. You don't know if the people who are our age are living at home with Mommy or are prominent brain surgeons at Northwestern Hospital. It's a laid-back place. There was a waitress who could have performed on the stage of Lincoln Center: the tray of beer glasses she carried defied gravity. It is also off the beaten path. I like it. I had been to Bin Wine Cafe in March, a restaurant that I now realize is down the street from where a nice sandwich shop called Birchwood Kitchen is. I went with some girlfriends of mine who are marketing professors in Chicago. They are married, but the husbands were not with us. Over dinner, we talked about a research project on GenX and gender. We went out later to a bar (Salud) and casually talked to some young men. They asked us what we did, we told them, and we told them about our research project. They acted knowing, as if they had heard this "business school professor" story all the time, the way a group of women will sometimes compose a fake identity to make going out even more of a group event and a game: “tonight, let’s pretend we are all marketing professors in business schools.” And we are really, I don’t know, friends from high school, and we work in PR, as a yoga instructor, and a lawyer, and we couldn’t get people to believe our professor story, not even by talking about our research.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

After 9 months in SB (or, gay men)

David Sedaris last night at the Morris Center with OGF (office girlfriend) and TGF (tennis girlfriend). David Sedaris performed quite well, he was ebullient. The crowd: admiring.

OGF mentioned that the quote of the night was "If God didn't like gay people, then he wouldn't have made them so cute." There were lots of laughs, and a la Sedaris, emotions, and many times one can see one's life in his larger-than-life stories. One story of family argued that we can't know who we are or measure success or understand ourselves without family. We can, it is just really, really hard.

Back to cute gay people and my life...that is, my new life here in SB...Recently, a woman I know from work, whom the readers of this blog don't know. We talked about life in SB, and she, after coming here for the PhD ten years back, marrying someone who is now a prof here, and committing to stay here, had the observation that it can seem like a place with people who are not from many walks of life, mostly married people with large families. She mentioned to me all of the activities in SB this spring/summer, framing them as good opportunities to meet a boyfriend. I said, well, those sound like nice activities, and I would probably enjoy going to them if I had a friend to go to them with. She replied that, oh, when she gets home from work, that's it, she doesn't really like to go out. I said, well, um, and I can't relax at home because I'm single? I can't do what I like because I am single and should devote my time and energy to changing this? I like men, I'm saying that relationships with men aren't something you get because you participate in "Bike the Bend" or other such activities.

On the way back to work, in the car, she told me a story about a single woman who came to SB for work, and how it didn't work out. The story is outlandish, perhaps an urban myth, the woman is a professor, wants a child, isn't married, doesn't see any men on the horizon, is artificially inseminated, etc, finds another job, with tenure, at a less prestigious University. I think I was supposed to reply that, indeed, this place is stacked against me, this career, or this place is just for married men with wives dedicated to supporting them and their work. Instead, I replied that the woman is brilliant, playing the academic system for tenure, and still getting a child she wanted.

I realized that I need to find other company, company that is open-minded, not negative, capable of carving out their own path. That night, I took myself to a Chinese restaurant nearby for some take-away. I liked the atmosphere, especially the table of three handsome men slightly older than I, just by the cashier where I ordered my take-away. They set the relaxed, conversational atmosphere of the place. I took a table nearby them so that I could ease drop, and I changed my order to dine-in.

As I ate, I debated how to approach them. I wanted to do it at the meal, I wanted to eat with them. I discretely observed them. I tended to my pretend other friends, to whom I sent and received pretend text messages about our pretend plans for later on. Their table is clear except for drinks, cell phones, and keys. I watched them linger and talk.

I watched them at the cashier, paying. I realized this is a good time to approach them as they still feel like a group of gay men at dinner, but they are coming back to individual status, so I can approach them one-on-one. I identified the Alpha in the group. He's in the middle, he's moderating their group action, there is a group conversation about his clothes.

I approach Alpha Gay (who is now Alpha Gay Friend, AGF), and I say, "I'm new in town, and when I see your group at dinner, I know that I live in a civilized place." He replies, thank you, I'm AGF, and these are my friends, RGF and GDF. Where are you from? We talk and then I am very happy when I return to my table and they walk out.

I wait about 10 minutes to walk out. I need to give them time to exit. In the parking lot, AGF and RGF are there, talking at AGF's car, a black Beatle. They approach me and mention that their group dines together every Thursday at 7pm, and would I like to join them. We agree to meet the next week and exchange numbers. A nice get-to-know you evening. I don't mention any of the drama about the lunch.

AGF is receiving his certification in American Sign Language and hopes to become a court interpreter. He grew up in two cultures as his parents are deaf and he and his sister are hearing. I grew up in two cultures, I am bi-lingual. NGF has been sober for 15 years, is now very established in commercial real estate in SB. He lives three blocks north of my house (Northneighbor Gay Friend). We talk about decorating, relationships, etc. AGF has ten sets of plates, including a set of Christmas Eve dinner. That's right, AFG has a Christmas set and a Christmas Eve set.

The next week, we eat at a restaurant on the river. It reminds me of The Star in P-town. Here they ask me, what motivated you to approach us that night at the Chinese restaurant? After hearing the story of my strategy of approaching them out of the blue, RGF sums it up: one thing you have in common with us is balls.

He also said, asking you about your single status is like asking married people, well, you've had your kids, now when are you getting the divorce? Ooh, that is true, isn't it. I came home and changed my fb status from nothing to single. I'm single, that is a state, it isn't something in-between, it is its own state. It isn't a task to fix it.

I really tried in the typical ways to build a life here, joining the racket club, for example, or making nice with colleagues. The racket club worked in that I met TGF. I've also learned that I can't tolerate anything I don't enjoy, that feels like a waste of time, even if it feels like I should be doing it. I quit playing there, it isn't athletic enough for me. I joined another group, very competitive and relaxing, and I'll tell you about that group later. Making nice with colleagues worked in that I met OGF and others, and I learned the difference between me and other women in my situation, and how I like to keep on my side of that difference.

I like sitting by the river with a group of gay men, laughing. I like competitive tennis and I like going to see David Sedaris with F (friends).

Monday, April 19, 2010


New tennis group. The name of the coach in this group is R. The group competes against other groups. The group is level 3.5-4. I and another woman, C., practice with the men, Sunday and Tuesday. Last night, at the start of practice, R. says:

"Bring it in at the net" (translate=we meet at the net and I instruct you)

"The men in this group try to hit kill shots. This isn't smart because the shots often go out. Also, in doubles, the opponent's net person will take that power and kill you back with it, or the baseliner will hit a lob...

The women in this group are much smarter. They do not hit the kill shots. They place shots, and they use their opponent's vulnerabilities against them"

Me, to myself, oh, I like this.

R. "Today, we will play men against women and you will see what I mean"

Later in practice, we play a set, with mixed men and women.

R. "We will use this strategy, S (male) you stay at the net, and use your backspin, and poach. K., you use your brains, you are the brains on the court, you place the ball, and you set up S. at the net."

Me, to myself, great.

And we played great tennis, and after, I played some games with C., and that was fun.

Other: I don't like the local farmer's market. It's kitsch. And there is a good vegetable stand, but otherwise, kitsch. And the restaurant there isn't that good. I liked the one in Urbana better, and of course, dolac.

The weather is great and my garden in blooming. I'm having the garden beds tended to this week and some lilies planted.