He wasn’t the marrying kind
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.
He does his best to placate me, telling me he voted against Proposition 8. The conversation moves to the healthcare law (he hates it) and Obama (he hates him too). When he knocks my beloved president, I fear we’ve crossed a line and there’s no going back. I’m mad and disappointed. When I dropped off my car at the park-and-ride to board the commuter bus to dinner, I was so high with bliss. “The Orange Line is a dream!” I texted Dylan as I barreled west. “You’re a dream!” he wrote back.
An hour later, I’m asking Dylan how he can dislike a president who has done so much for gay people — ending “don’t ask, don’t tell,” signing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Dylan says it was all political calculation, and Obama doesn’t care about us.
“But Republicans do?”
“None of them do,” he says.
Two years ago, it wouldn’t have gotten this far. I would have already stopped listening. But this time I hear him out, hoping he will redeem himself. He’s a nice guy, it seems. He appears to like me so much. On our first date I asked him if I looked like my profile pictures on the dating website. “Better,” he said.
We finish dinner and don’t talk much as we walk to see a movie in the park. We sit down on the lawn, with the children and couples of Woodland Hills paying us no mind. He sits next to me, close, boyfriend-style. I rearrange my legs so there is more of a buffer. I’m hoping he can turn this around. He’s trying.
During the movie, my mind wanders. How can someone like me even consider dating someone like him? What would people at the Advocate say? Who doesn’t understand how important it was that our president said we deserve the right to marry?
I stand up. “Let’s walk.”
We leave the park and head toward a mall to work off dinner. He points out the new apartment buildings and all the trees and tries to get me to like this neighborhood. I’m quiet.
“So do you hate me?” he asks as we wait for the walk sign at Oxnard Street.
“I’m sad,” I say. “I think it’s so sad that you think you don’t deserve to be married.”
“Will you come back to my place?” he asks. I look up, astonished. “Not like that,” he says. “We could talk more and go for a swim. Really. It’s such a beautiful night.”
His eyes are so hopeful and earnest.
A large articulated bus pulls up, headed for North Hollywood and my car.
He manages a smile. “Are you going to go home and throw darts at my picture?”
“No, no,” I say. I give him a peck on the lips and I’m gone.
Broverman is managing editor at the Advocate and an editor for Curbed LA.