“He’s never heard of tapas,” I explained to my Uber driver as he escorted me to Tapas Papa Frita to meet my date. Yes, I wanted to get this stranger’s opinion on whether or not it was weird that my date had never enjoyed small, shared Spanish dishes. I’m far from cultured, and have never traveled to Spain, but I figured most people had experienced tapas, if for no other reason than an excuse to binge on Sangria.
However, as I entered the restaurant and found my date waiting at the bar, I suddenly didn’t care if he hadn’t heard of grilled cheese. “I hope I look as good as my Tinder pics” I thought as he rose to greet me with the customary side hug. He was the type my father would love: Tall, blonde hair, side part, blue eyes that matched his plaid button-down and a big smile. Cue the nervous rambling.
“I want to sit outside. The sunset’s insane. I look like a child. I’m wearing glitter jellies!” I caught myself nervously confessing on our way to the patio. He was laughing, seemingly unfazed, but I still needed some Sangria and requested a pitcher A-SAP.
“Isn’t it the best you’ve had in Arizona?” I asked after my first delicious sip.
“I’ve actually never had it before,” he responded. Hang on, what? It was another first that I forgave thanks to good food, easy conversation and his sweet, unwavering smile. Dinner even went well enough for me to jeopardize my morning workout and agree to more drinks at Kazimierz across the street afterward.
“I’m not a big wine drinker,” he nearly shouted over the high top table seated near the jazz band in the noisy, dimly lit wine bar and handed me the menu to choose. When I ordered Malbec for both of us, he confessed that it was his first glass. I officially felt like I was taking his virginity.As a wannabe wino, it was teetering on the verge of deal breaker, but coincidentally, the more wine I consumed, the cuter he looked so I was willing to deal. But I had to know: what else had he not done?
“Have you ever lived with a girl as a roommate?” I asked after explaining my living situation fondly referred to as “the brothel.”
“Well, I was going to once but then…” he leaned closer and whispered, “She came out.”
“What?” Between the wine buzz and booming jazz band I must not have heard him right.
“She came out.”
“Like, she’s a lesbian?” I had to make sure.
“Ya!” he exclaimed with raised eyebrows, as if it were some shocking discovery like a new breed of four-boobed girls.
“Well, wouldn’t that be… perfect?” My brain couldn’t comprehend it. Why wouldn’t a guy want to live with a lesbian and more importantly, why would he be whispering about it? Did he find it unusual, shameful or offensive? And as he went on to tell me about a friend of his who moved out after his roommate told him he was gay, my brain finally woke up and my blood started to boil. He was about to get a first date sex ed speech over his first glass of Malbec.
To me, coming out is courageous. And it’s people’s whispers about it that makes it an even braver act.
From my straight male friends who confidently rock glitter pedicured toenails to a herd of my favorite Hollywood gays, I’m what you would call a full-fledged Fruit Fly. I appreciate people who defend their own happiness, and I don’t judge based on one’s hookups as long as they’re not assholes. Because let’s be honest, sexuality is a tricky thing. The last time I was obsessed with a guy, I was initially devastated to discover that my friends unanimously believed he was gay based on first impression. A part of me worried that it meant I was masculine (“Maybe he likes me because of my man arms”) while a part of me found the ambiguity pretty hot.
But I don’t expect everyone to be a Fruit Fly like me. I understand the discomfort people experience in unchartered territory, but since he handled the new food and drinks pretty well I decided to enlighten him on human sexuality, starting with the Kinsey scale. Using my left hand to illustrate heterosexuality and my right hand to represent homosexuality, I explained that there was an entire spectrum in-between. Maybe he was completely heterosexual, but many people fall somewhere right of him whether it’s due to nature or nurture… so that’s a heck of a lot of people to be whispering about. And a few handfuls of those people are my friends.
So, despite it simply being a first date, I felt the need to inform him that homosexuality isn’t strange. It’s been around for ages. And what’s actually weird is thinking it’s weird.
However, it also made me realize that I’m guilty of similar first date blunders and everyday judgments. Maybe I embrace the gay community, but I sure as heck am guilty of wrongful judgments, e.g. even people in line at Starbucks who order Venti Frappuccinos (“I hope they know that’s actually a meal.”) His ill-fated confession was a great reminder that if you’re talking about someone, and you need to whisper, it probably shouldn’t be said… especially on a date.
While I don’t expect him to be gaycationing in Palm Springs anytime soon, I hope our date was the first of many experiences for him that will shape his perception of gays and lesbians and coming out. Because when I say that he was too straight, I don’t mean too heterosexual. He was too straight in respect to how he hasn’t strayed far from the norm or taken the time to understand the unconventional. At the end of the day, the reason why I kindly declined a second date was because I felt like he was too many life experiences behind for me to grab his hand and guide him through. At this point in my life, I seek friends and dates who either walk with me side-by-side or are one step, Sangria glass and/or sex ed lesson ahead.
Let’s whisper less and live out loud more.