Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Finding Mr. Right - Part 1

My Outlook Express icon starts blinking, indicating I've got mail. I switch applications to see whom it's from. Delivered from "Finding Mr. Right," the subject line states, "Match Report."

A mixture of excitement and dread creeps over me. A month before I'd skeptically signed up with a new matchmaking service, advertised in the local gay community newspaper. I was tired of trying to meet other gay men through the usual options: for the last five years I'd tried a variety of services including the low-tech option of gay bars; and the recent high-tech offerings of phone-based cruise-lines; and on-line personals and instant chats.

Initially the phone lines were rather exciting. I had the option of leaving a voice personal, to which interested men could reply. Or I could connect to the live room for one-on-one male contact - which I discovered was designed for immediate hook-ups for impersonal sex. I became adept at correlating vocal characteristics with psychological and physical profiles, and analyzing the content and syntax of a few seconds of verbiage.

I met several men through both methods: none of whom ended up being long term relationships, or even friendships, for that matter.

I did have some hot sex though.

On-line personals seemed to have more potential; at first. I could post my profile and reply to other men's profiles, and when the time was right, could send or receive a picture, thereby pre-screening the applicant for compatibility based on physical attractiveness. But I discovered that words and photographs mislead. Adjectives such as "attractive, athletic and mature" have very subjective interpretations. If someone states, "I'm a nice guy," they generally weren't, from my viewpoint. (After all, if you're a nice guy, you assume that about yourself - you don't need to state it.)

Photographs, too, are as illusory as mirages. With a good photographer, the right lighting and angle, proper cropping and Photoshop airbrushing, anyone can look desirable. I know, because I indulged in this cosmetic practice myself. And, it must be stated here that attractiveness is in the eye of the beholder; it's not an objective quality shared by all gay men.

Even for myself, what I find attractive is difficult to pinpoint. Each of my four ex-boyfriends looked entirely unalike. I can't define what makes me attracted to them, physically: one is smooth, another hairy; one tall, another short; one blond, the other brunette; one has a full head of hair, the other is receding; one has a less than average sized cock, the other enormous beyond plausibility. What they do have in common is kindness and gentleness, which are a greater aphrodisiac to me than any physical characteristic. Shyness, too, makes me blush with infatuation (and think Cool Relax).

Instant Internet chats are the equivalent of telephone "one-on-one connections," except less certain of action. The problem with pvt's: I sign on in a horny mood in the middle of the night; chat up a storm with a sexy guy; by the time we're ready to connect I'm tired or too drunk; I don't want to spend the cab fare to get to his place; we exchange phone numbers or e-mail addresses and promise to connect again. In the morning I could care less. It's a little too instant. It's the fantasy in the moment I desire: not the reality. Sometimes the talk is as fulfilling as the action. Even though I have several naked, erect pictures of "him" in my hotmail account the next day, it's not as compelling at seven a.m.

What I really want is to meet someone I care about, with whom I share common values and interests, a man I can respect and makes me laugh and feel good inside. Simple, right? So I believe that paying $1500 for a matchmaking service is cheap in comparison to the expense I paid through the other methods. All those low and high tech methods have their price. And they're not as inexpensive as money spent from your wallet. They're paid by your soul.

The man behind "Finding Mr. Right" is a psychologist with 25 years experience, retired now, but has a passion for playing matchmaker. A modern yentl, because he's Jewish. Someone I can trust my soul to, I think.

Last fall, after failing relations with BC, I nervously gave the psychologist a call.

"Tell me about yourself," he asks.

"I'm a 37 year old man, looking to meet someone. I find it's difficult to meet other gay men in this city. I'm not sure what dance club to go to, or what club to join. I'm tired of using the phone lines and internet - they haven't worked for me," I state, as though reading from a cue card.

"You're just the kind of guy we're looking for," he says, cleverly. "We're looking for men who want a committed, long-term relationship and are exasperated by the local dating scene. Men who are ready for a loving relationship."

He pressed all the right buttons. "Can I arrange an appointment with you?" I say, hopefully.

to be continued

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