We’re on our first date. When I woke up this morning I honestly thought she’d cancel, made myself believe it, leaving no room for surprise if that’d come to be the case. Maybe her cat died, either I or my roommate Roger would say.

However, she followed through, and her and I are having lunch. Her personal dietary restrictions keep her from enjoying much of which I generally prefer to have for lunch. Still, she says I made the right choice, took her to the right place, one she says she’s been fond of since she started frequenting Manhattan for work. Over lunch we relate thoroughly by coming to the conclusion that perhaps we’re both buffer people, guides of sorts, for those in our lives who’re meant to experience more idyllic romantic circumstances; we get them there, and often get nowhere for ourselves despite even our efforts that tilt towards objective selfishness, and that just seems to be the way it is. The word romance didn’t always correspond to the display of amorous or affectionate enthusiasm. I want to tell her this, and breakdown the etymological meaning of the word as I’d learned it out of a book, but above all I don’t think we should be talking like this; at least, I shouldn’t be. This isn’t traditionally healthy first date discussion material.

The majority of my first date performances have not been worthy of a blue ribbon or any sort of accolade save for perhaps one that is awarded for consistent failure. Then again, I’m not sure my presentation of self and the conversations I’ve engaged in are what’re solely responsible for the way my recent dating saga has unfolded.

I’m using the tips of my fingers on my left hand to rub on the tops of my colored nails on my right, color that I applied a week ago and is now beginning to chip and fade, and she starts looking at my hands as they work through their silly compulsions. She said before that she doesn’t care about my being gender fluid, before we even got together in person, when I first told her so in one of our early text message exchanges. I’ve been told this, been met with what appeared to be a mix of favorability and indifference on the matter plenty by the dearth of datable damsels who dared to let me take them out at least (and in most cases, at most) once and overwhelm them with my apparent romance-repellant charisma, clearly queer in nature.

Queer |kwi(ə)r| — verb [ with obj. ] informal

to spoil or ruin (an agreement, event or situation).1

My ex-girlfriend Elle was the first person to call me queer in an endearing fashion, yet it didn’t resonate well with me until she’d done it a few dozen times. The word sounded vulgar on account of the stigma that I’d applied to it way back in the trivial blur of my middle school days, when any extroverted schoolyard bully would make it a term to fear being called, embellishing the adjectival condescension their parents likely attached to the word towards the end of the 20th Century in conjunction with the fight to keep conservative values and heteronormativity as the social standard across America. But I think it’s becoming valuable right now to be up to date with the basic language of queer culture.

Queer |kwi(ə)r| — adjective

denoting or relating to a sexual or gender identity that does not correspond to established ideas of sexuality and gender, especially heterosexual norms: queer geek culture has featured gay themes since the 1980s | nightclubs have traditionally been a space where queer people, trans women in particular, can explore gender with relative safety.2

Elle was also the first person with whom I became intimate that I came out to about this component of my identity, one of the first overall, and as I was opening up to her, my audible concern about whether telling her something that seemed so tremendous and mystifying would queer the dynamic of emotional intimacy we’d been building off of for about six weeks prior was apparent in an involuntary subtle stutter I couldn’t get over in the moment, a push to get every predominantly deliberate word out. Her response was completely contrary to my expectations. She made me feel beautiful, desirable, something I rarely felt even under strictly heteronormative date-related circumstances.

Lately I’ve come to use the adjectival derivative of the term queer confidently, to describe my sense of self-expression if using that word would provide clarity for those who inquire about it. I tend to interchange the terminology to fit what I think the recipients of such would best understand: gender fluid, gender non-conforming, gender queer, whichever.

I have a feeling this girl is sincere in her nonchalance regarding that which is queer. She’s quick to tell me her legs and armpits are unshaven, not always but currently, and that her mother is perplexed as to why she keeps her body so. I tell her that’s awesome and mean it. She replies with a boyishly cute smile, a quality rather consistent with the rest of her features. I try to match it in response to her refreshing candor but I imagine she doesn’t find my smile to be as adorable as I find hers, and as always I’m self-conscious about a noticeable calcium spot on my tooth—the immaculateness of the white makes my otherwise fairly healthily white teeth look yellowish in comparison.

She tells me she got that sweet pair of roller-skates she was wearing in her Instagram photo at a thrift store.

I tell her I’d never really gone thrifting.

Over lunch we relate thoroughly by coming to the conclusion that perhaps we’re both buffer people, guides of sorts, for those in our lives who’re meant to experience more idyllic romantic circumstances.

She insists that’s what we’ll do next.

Technically I had been inside a thrift store one other time, in Seattle, with Elle, because she’d been there earlier in the week and saw a vintage band t-shirt she knew I’d appreciate, from a late-Eighties Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds tour. I didn’t buy it considering how expensive it was for an old t-shirt (or for any t-shirt for that matter), and she figured I wouldn’t, but she couldn’t help but assert the fact that I just had to see it.

Thinking about it now, I should’ve purchased it.

Thinking about it now, there’s a fair portion of that trip I should’ve lived through a bit differently.

She says she’s bringing me to Housing Works, a thrift store/secondhand book store. I consider that a perfect pair. She agrees. On the way, I ask if she’s ever seen Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. She tells me she hasn’t, and I’m thrilled either way because her response didn’t quite matter; I’d wanted to make this move for some time, and either hadn’t thought to or didn’t get a vibe that suggested I try on previous dates, and if she had seen it she’d know what I’m talking about but since she hadn’t, well, it’ll be fresh and she’ll soon know right where I’m going. I tell her that in it Woody’s character suggests to Diane Lane’s character, the titular one, Annie, on their first date, that they kiss in the middle of it to alleviate any awkward tension towards the end of the date, where they may contemplate when the right moment to attempt a kiss would be and whether their overthinking would botch the moment, and that to save ourselves from all that stress, we should do the same—kiss here, now, and get it all over with.

She tells me that’s interesting.

I ask if it’s the kind of interesting she’d wanna try.

And it is.

And she does.

We do.

Kiss.

And it’s really simple, and reassuring.

Thanks, Woody.


Screen Shot 2017-10-28 at 8.16.20 AM

How to Keep a Cat Alive, an original poem by Harrison Gorman ©Copyright 2017


Within a week, we’re together again. Exchanging text messages on the days between our first and second date was successful at keeping whatever momentum we developed out of the gate present and building. She suggests I come to her college dorm in Yonkers, says she’ll cook dinner for me, which, considering her vegetarian status and my being fairly picky and habitual with what I eat, concerns me; nevertheless, I accept. I want to be in her company, figuring it’d be the only thing to turn this day around. Earlier in the day I received news that a job offer that’d been extended my way was being rescinded for reasons I’d prefer not to get too much into. Long story short, the employer’s policy prevented them from being able to move forward with hiring me following a drawback that occurred during their standard on-boarding process. I couldn’t believe I’d been so incautious, imagining this transition would transpire without any such complications. The starting of this new job would’ve provided a lifestyle change I’d long been awaiting, involving the only means of conforming I figured I could get comfortable with—of the professional variety—the shift into a secure and lucrative nine-to-five career, with benefits, which would ultimately afford me the opportunity to see a therapist, which could lead to the alleviation of my debilitating anxiety. But these opportunities often founder for me, the ones that seem like they’d get me on the right track towards being successful in my own right, which means sustaining happiness as long as circumstances allow. I’m filled with hope that whatever will build between this girl and I doesn’t flop just the same. Actually, perhaps it’s worry that I’m filled with.

It’s nearing 6 PM and I’m on my way over with a bottle of red wine and an eighth of weed and mouthwash—I left my electronic toothbrush at home and even though it hadn’t been discussed previously, I had planned on spending the entirety of the evening in her company, sleeping together and all.

Nothing sexual will happen.

It’s not a matter of debate.

On the evening immediately following our first date, she had agreed to send me something original she’d written after she told me she finds leisure and therapy in writing and had already read some of my writing, particularly what I shared on my Instagram profile, which she admitted she stalked thoroughly. She told me she doesn’t share her writing with anyone other than her professors for the most part, which flattered me.

It was an essay she had written recently that focused on the internet, hip-hop musician/comedian/writer/actor Donald Glover, and—the big one—asexuality4. In it, she begins to come to the conclusion that asexuality is a congealed and settled part of her identity, that she’s a virgin and has never once felt sexual attraction towards another person, that she can’t comprehend even the idea of feeling such, citing her most recent experiences with her ex-boyfriend as indicators, experiences that seemed to stem from conditions that mirrored the origin of our coming together.

As soon as I had finished reading it, I began to contemplate my response. Apart from the occasional typo, I had sincerely thought it was well-written; however, there was a modicum of consternation formulating, stirring and intensifying within me as my thumbs began to formulate something to say in response:

You’re a talented writer, you know.

Very much so.

Have you ever seen Chasing Amy?

This is on the topic of the truth you

revealed to me in sharing that.

Wow thank you that means a lot.

I have not but I’ve heard of it.

Now you can probably see why

I don’t share my work with many

people… it’s often very personal.

I get it. I’m even more flattered

now that you let me in like that.

Your style of story telling there

was really captivating in

my opinion.

So in Chasing Amy, there’s

this classic dialogue about

“The Virginity Standard” and

what it means to have sex, and

Ben Affleck’s character is insisting

that virginity is lost through

penetrative sex, and Jo Adams

says: “Emotional penetration or

physical?”

Now, I’ve never told anyone this.

And I don’t plan to otherwise, But

one specific part of your experience

seemed a LITTLE bit parallel to mine,

so here goes:

 

I arrive only ten minutes late, which is out of character for my punctual self, and she comes outside and hops in my car and directs me to a parking lot just around the corner where I can leave my car without being subjected to the fitful rules of the street parking signs. We park and step out and I realize I hadn’t kissed her hello as soon as I saw her, so I do now, and she smiles as she sees my face coming in close to hers. I tell her about the job offer being rescinded. She asks what I’m going to do, and I tell her I’ll worry about that tomorrow, and that I’m happy to see her. She’s happy I made the trek over the bridge to come around to her.

I haven’t been inside a college dormitory building in at least six years. She tells me this used to be a residential apartment complex not too long ago, before her school purchased the property. She leads me upstairs and into her three-bedroom apartment. The common room is pretty tidy because it’s pretty bare—a couch and a coffee table, as colorless as the energy that occupied the remaining space. I don’t process it all on my way in; she takes me straight into her room, says her roommates are back with their families for spring break.

“Must be nice to have this space all to yourself,” I say, knowing what it’s like to enjoy the entirety of my apartment when my two roommates are out and about.

“I’m basically always by myself here.”

“What, you don’t interact with the other girls?”

“Not really.”

“Ever?”

She shrugs.

 

IMG_7398

Screenshot of text message exchanges between my (anonymous) date and I.

She was preparing a vegetarian stew she regards as her speciality just before I arrived. I’m concerned I won’t enjoy it. She reads the concern right off my face, tells me she’s not worried, that she’s confident in her ability to cook. I don’t doubt that she can cook well, and I hope if I don’t enjoy it that she doesn’t interpret that as detracting from the quality of her cooking, it’d just mean that I suck as a person.

“It’s a slow-cook kind of thing. Won’t be ready for a little while.”

“Wanna smoke now?” I ask.

“Yeah.”

“I can also read you the poem I wrote.”

Eventually I’d bring up in conversation with my local bartender therapist that I had gone on a second date with someone who identifies as asexual, which included spending the night in her bed.

“So you made out a whole bunch.”

“Yes,” I’d say.

“And cuddled and caressed each other.”

“Mhm.”

“And she was into all that, but not into having sex5.”

“Yup.”

“Is she—are they, like, a cyborg?” she’d ask, one’s lack of propensity for sexual fulfillment being incompatible with her mode of thinking. “I completely understand that asexuality is a thing, I’m not trying to sound insensitive, I just—”

Donna Haraway once wrote, “The cyborg is resolutely committed to partiality, irony, intimacy, and perversity6.” While this is no more than a fragment that hardly scratches the surface of all that Haraway was addressing in her essay, I immediately recalled—although not verbatim, as I was at a bar, drinking—this definition as a result of having a discussion on the topic of sexuality and one being referred to as a cyborg.

My date—for the sake of convenience, let’s finally give her a name—let’s call her Mona, fit, as far as my observations and experiences with her go, the criteria listed in that component statement from Haraway explaining the behavior of “the cyborg.” Working backwards through it, we begin with perversity, a trait present in perhaps everyone who identifies as queer to any degree.

Perversity |pərˈvərsədē| — noun (plural perversities)

2 the quality of being contrary to accepted standards or practice: the perversity of being able to carry a gun but not purchase a drink.7

Being queer means not conforming to the established social constructs pertaining to gender and sexuality. Now, as it happens, queer culture is also constantly evolving, establishing thickset roots in the whole of American culture—socially with its growing language and initialism, and politically with the Obama-era implementation of pro-queer legislation—to the point where many could argue that the very heteronormative constructs that are oppositional to queer identity are beginning to dissolve in the more progressive parts of the United States. Considering Haraway suggests the cyborg is a creature that exists in a post-gender world, considering that’s a world we could well be getting closer to living in, and considering Mona’s hairy legs and lack of sexual desire, well, I think I’ve made my point with perversity.

Next, we have intimacy. Interesting? Not really.

Intimacy |ˈin(t)əməsē| — noun (plural intimacies)

close familiarity or friendship; closeness: the intimacy between a husband and wife.8

It’s simple—intimacy does not immediately, at least by definition, give prominence to sexual expression. Asexual relationships are, for the most part, built on this textbook sense of intimacy, of closeness and friendship—because when you take sexual intimacy out of a traditional healthy relationship, it’s those fundamentally intimate ingredients you’re left with. And if it isn’t, well, as the saying goes, girl, you better leave his ass.

Then we have irony.

Irony |ˈīrənē| — noun (plural ironies)

a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result: [with clause] : the irony is that I thought he could help me.9

Is there something ironic about Mona’s existence, about her down to her core? I honestly don’t think I should dig into that; to me that seems a vulgar thing to do. But her dropping the Ace card on me was certainly an ironic bit of circumstance in the wake of our paths crossing. Mona was, after all, the first person I’d met that I felt I had a substantial, intimate connection with since Elle and I split, nearly a year before, and while I don’t fuck very often as it is—admittedly I enjoy sex, I’m just not some regular hungry hunter like most of my immediate peers—I was hoping to achieve a level of sexual intimacy with with someone I felt I could trust again.

Lastly, we have partiality.

Partiality |ˌpärSHēˈalədē| — noun

unfair bias in favor of one thing or person compared with another; favoritism: an attack on the partiality of judges.10

Now, partiality, generally speaking, is actually rather contrarian to the overall character of the LGBTQIA+ community—except, perhaps, for the strange acrimony towards bisexuals that still seems to exist. The community is otherwise comparatively inclusive. But I want to focus more on Mona’s sense of partiality, specifically in reference to her unfair bias regarding her being the more fit candidate to cook a meal for the two of us for our second date, as I have never cooked explicitly for a vegetarian before and she prides herself on her cooking ability, which, in congruence with her low self-esteem, was something to let shine. I couldn’t argue with the latter part of her logic, but admittedly I ended up disliking her stew (just as I figured I would) to such a degree that I couldn’t finish more than a third of it, and she got some joy out of watching me struggle before she started to feel bad and finished it for me. She told me not to worry, that she wasn’t offended, and accompanied her reassurance with an adorable giggle. Not for nothing, but I think that’d been insulting enough for her interest to wane, which it clearly did by the time we’d gotten together again.

Conclusion: She’s squishy and naturally (not unpleasantly) odorous, like an ol’ fashioned human being, but based on my breakdown of Haraway’s statement I can’t be sure she’s not a cyborg.

Next Episode: The Supposed Death of a Cat


1 The New Oxford American Dictionary, Apple.

2 Also The New Oxford American Dictionary, Apple.

3 When we were shopping at Housing Works, we’d come across a velvety letterman jacket for one Chad Wells. The jacket looked flattering on my date, and she was hard pressed to purchase it, but for reasons I don’t seem to recall she passed it up. Neither of us have ever known a Chad Wells.

4 I suppose it’s worth noting that Donald Glover does not identify as asexual. His place in her essay is in regards to his stance on the internet and how she reflects on aspects of her own identity through listening to his music, a reflection that’s a bit puzzling on the surface when considering the oversexed language present in much of his lyrics.

5 For those who aren’t too familiar with asexuality, it’s worth noting that there are asexuals who identify also as aromantic, meaning they feel little-to-no need to express or receive any sort romantic affection towards/from another individual. My date was not aromantic.

6 A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century (1984), Donna Haraway.

7 The New Oxford American Dictionary, Apple.

8 Once again, The New Oxford American Dictionary, Apple. (I’m going to be doing this quite a bit. Deal with it.)

9 Must I say it? The New Oxford American Dictionary, Apple.

10 One more time, lets hear it for The New Oxford American Dictionary, Apple.

©Copyright 2017 Harrison Gorman

All rights reserved.

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