From the well-lighted Argentine restaurant — my suggestion via Yelp — to the 70-degree night, all is well on this second date. As Dylan tactfully yanks shrimp from their shells, he tells me about his Japanese father, who strictly regulated all behavior in his mixed-race Kentucky home, from television viewing to bowel movements. How disturbing and interesting. Go on, I tell him with nods and eye contact.
"We couldn't swear — ever," he says. "Not even d-a-m-n."
He still tries not to curse. I laugh and tell him my mother and I talk like truck drivers.
"Yeah, my family life was very regimented," he says. "Maybe that's why I'm so conservative."
"How conservative?" I ask.
He smiles sheepishly. He begins speaking at a faster clip, getting more nervous. "My vote is pretty much thrown out here in California."
"That's true," I say, trying to conceal my disappointment.
He turns more serious. "A lot of gay people get angry when I tell them I don't necessarily believe in same-sex marriage."
I feel like a popped balloon.
As he tries to explain his position, I have a hard time looking at him, but I try.
"I've never voted against it. And I support equal rights. We should be allowed civil unions and domestic partnerships and such."
"That's separate but equal," I say, suddenly feeling silly and on guard, like I'm ticking off bullet points during a cable news interview. "Dylan, you know I do this for a living, right?"
Before our first date, I mentioned numerous times that I was an editor at the Advocate. Maybe he didn't know it was a gay news magazine, the oldest in the country? No, he knew.
"People can think different things," he says. "We don't all have to like purple."
The loud waiter glides up to the table. "Good shrimp?" Yes, yes, we both mumble. Make this moment end.
"Color preference is not the same thing, and you know that," I say. A woman across the mostly empty dining room looks up at me. I work to control the volume of my voice. "How can you not believe in gay marriage?"
"It's just that the gay relationships I see are not what I'd consider marriage. They're not monogamous."
I don't bring up that the last guy I met on this dating website asked me, after three months of seeing each other, if he could have sex with his ex-boyfriend. (No.) I don't mention that my last committed relationship was five years ago, and that all the guys I dated since then viewed exclusivity as punishment.
"Don't you think that by refusing to grant gay people the privilege of marriage," I say, "many believe they are not capable or worthy of a monogamous relationship?" It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.