—Wednesday, February 29, 2012—
Throughout the first seven months of One Hundred Dates, I had spoken to various friends and random gay men about how I should go about getting this date. People had various opinions and gave sometimes contradicting advice, but luckily for me, my Gay Date fell right into my lap.
One of the great things about dating so many new people over the course of the project was that I made dozens of new connections and connections were one of the best ways to get dates. It might be a little odd to have someone I dated set me up on a date, but this project was atypical to begin with and this date was one of the few that held little to no potential for romance. As such, Cecilia had no problem setting me up with her friend Andrew.
I had seen a lot of Cecilia since our Winery / Wine Tasting Date two months earlier and she was well aware of my various quests to find dates, of which Gay Date was among the more tricky ones. She realized one night, while we were talking, that her gay friend Andrew would make a perfect Gay Date for me. She had recently been out with him and knew that he would be a willing participant in the project.
She gave me Andrew’s number and he was immediately enthusiastic about the prospect of going on a date. We even figured out, within our first text message exchange, that we were from neighboring towns in Massachusetts. The world was so small. Andrew seemed very fun and flirtatious and I was excited to have landed such a great guy for my Gay Date.
Somewhere in my brain, I had stashed away this fantasy that Gay Date would be an eye-opening walk through NYC gay culture. As if, maybe I would stumble upon a gay man who would not only want to go on a date me with me, but he’d want to show me the world in which he commonly existed. Perhaps we’d have dinner in Hell’s Kitchen, then hit up a gay bar or club in Chelsea followed by some late night karaoke in the West Village?
I think that sort of date would have been totally fine had it come from the man I was to go out with, but I found myself bearing the responsibility of planning this date. As such, I acknowledged that any attempt to plan a date that would engage with gay culture would be uninformed, misguided and, above all, condescending, bordering on offensive. So, I set out to plan a perfectly standard date for Andrew and I and paid no concern to our differing sexual orientations.
The day before our date, I began looking for things we might be able to do and texted Andrew to see where in town he lived, because if I could split the difference between his neighborhood and mine, I wanted to do that. It seem like it wouldn’t matter where we went, so I chose a night out equally far away from us both.
Me: Hey! What part of the city do you live in?
Andrew: Hey babe! I live in the Bronx but would rather not go on a date in the Bronx hahaha
Me: haha. yeah. don’t worry, that’s not what I was thinking. I’m making plans now, so I’ll let you know soooon.
Andrew: Nice cant waiiiiit
Me: We have a 7:15 reservation at Robataya – 231 East 9th St. And I’m working on getting tickets to a show afterwards… 🙂
Andrew: You are a GOOD man
Me: hah. Thanks! So we’re all set. Japanese food and 2 tickets to Our Hit Parade at Joe’s Pub!
Andrew: !!!!! I have to go out with straight guys more
I had checked the Joe’s Pub calendar because my friend Danny worked for The Public Theater and was often telling the world how great their shows were. Joe’s Pub was a part of The Public and the show Our Hit Parade, which happened to be playing the night of our date, sounded very fun. It was billed as a monthly countdown of the top ten pop songs performed by various NYC artists. It was something I knew I would enjoy and, since he was a musical theater student, a show that Andrew would probably get a kick out of as well.
The whole thing was doubly great because Danny was immediately able to hook us up with a pair of tickets and also told me that he and some other friends would be attending as well. This whole date was already the perfect example of friends helping friends before it had even begun yet.
After work the next day, I made my way down to Astor Place about 15 minutes ahead of schedule and saw that I had a text message from Andrew telling me that he was running late. The trains from his part of The Bronx had played a trick on him and he had missed one. I asked him when he might be there, so that I could coordinate the dinner and our arrival at Joe’s Pub accordingly.
Me: Dinner reservation is for 7:15 but if it won’t be too late, I can just push it back. If it’ll be close [to showtime], we can grab something quick.
Andrew: Prob won’t get there till like 740? :/
Andrew: Gay guys suck!!!!!
I went over to Robataya NY and changed our reservation to 7:45 p.m. so that they’d hold seats for us. Everyone ran late occasionally and I wasn’t too worried about the fact that the start of our date had been pushed back a bit.
With a good chunk of time to kill, I went across the street to Solas, to closest bar I could find. Before entering though, I had to sign a waiver because Mob Wives was filming inside. [I’m probably not supposed to write that.] This was all funny to me and I got to enjoy the spectacle of a film crew, two very fake women talking to each other and a side conversation with a man from Jersey City while I drank my beer and waited for Andrew. Soon enough, he texted me to say that he was off the train, so I returned to across the street and waited for him outside the restaurant.
As Andrew approached, the first thing I noticed was that he was much shorter than me and objectively good looking. Cute points were immediately awarded. Next, I noticed his hair. He had some really cool designs shaved into the side of his head. I told him his hair looked cool. He told me I looked nice. It was a great way to start a date, regardless of sexual orientation.
We were seated at the counter, which was exactly what I had hoped for, as it provided us with the full robataya experience. For those unfamiliar with robatayaki, allow me explain, the same way I explained it to Andrew. Basically, it was similar to what we Americans knew as hibachi, in that the food was prepared in front of you by cooks while you sat at a counter surrounding them, but with some notable differences. The biggest differences, from my observations, were that the primary means of preparation was on a grill, rather than an iron griddle, and that robataya seemed far more authentic. The hibachi experience had been watered down over the years, but robatayaki hadn’t caught on enough to be driven very far from where it had begun. The cooks dressed traditionally, the menu was very similar to what I’d seen in Japan and the entire staff still yelled out orders to each other in Japanese as they were made.
Many of the ingredients were laid out on ice or in baskets all around the cooks, so you could not only order from the menu, but also visually choose things that seemed appealing, though perhaps you wouldn’t know of it by name. The cooks used long wooden paddles to deliver the grilled items to you at your seat while other items, like sushi and soups, were prepared in a rear kitchen and delivered by a traditional server. This was my third time at a robatayaki restaurant and I highly recommended it to everyone who didn’t hate Japanese food.
Andrew told me he had never been to a robatayaki restaurant before and I assured him that they were not super common. I was really only familiar with them (God, I sounded like a douchebag) because I had been to one in Japan a couple of times when visiting family there. In fact, the Tokyo restaurant I’d been too had a sister location in Times Square, but I had read that the one we were at was better, cheaper and we were almost guaranteed a seat at the counter, which I thought was essential for someone who’d never been before. Fortunately, Andrew didn’t think I sounded douchey at all and instead, responded to my explanation very kindly and asked more about my family.
Since I had experience with this kind of place, Andrew allowed me to order the food. This was a move from the out-dated and stereotypical male-female dating playbook which I had never attempted. Normally, ordering for a date would have felt weird, but we were going to be sharing everything and he told me to go for it. I tried to play up my knowledge a bit as I ordered, telling him what I had tried before, but I was more or less guessing as I ordered us a bunch of different dishes.
Andrew was, in short, an excellent conversationalist. As our meal commenced and our drinks arrived, followed by a variety of small dishes to taste, I realized that he had quickly done a bang up job of interviewing me without ever making it feel like an interrogation or audition. He was curious about what I did for work and fun in the city, and I asked the same of him. He was a performer and director in the city, and it was from that world that he knew Cecilia. They had both attended Circle In The Square Theatre School, which was located in the same building in which I worked.
Throughout dinner, we joked around a lot and I found myself having a great time. Much of what we were doing — joking around and being friendly — was flirtation, wasn’t it? We talked about how we were from neighboring towns (I was actually born in his hometown) and poked fun at stereotypical Boston area guys — meatheads, basically.
Understandably, Andrew wanted to know why I wanted to go out with a gay guy. He was such a good sport — Andrew had said yes to this date without ever even asking my why! I explained to him that dating amongst gay men seemed like a different world than the straight one and I desired to understand it to whatever degree that I could. Our talk about those differences was lengthy and insightful. He dismissed some of the things I’d heard from other gay men, but agreed with other points. It was an interesting conversation. I could have easily understood why a gay man might think that my desire to go out with one of them was foolish and insincere, but Andrew seemed to grasp why I was doing it and thought that it was cool. I was so pleased to have someone who would not only talk with me about the gay dating world, but also appreciated my curiosity.
He also made sure to ask me if I maybe I was into guys, or at least curious. No, I told him, I was pretty positive that I was not attracted to men. I could remember being young, 13 or 14, and switching over to male porn once or twice to see if that was something I might be into. I wanted to figure out whether or not I was gay as early as possible so that I could, I don’t know, prepare for it or something? I figured out then that I was pretty darn straight and I hadn’t strayed since.
However, I was open minded enough to tell him “never say never” and that maybe there was a dude out there I’d want to kiss, at the very least. I really didn’t think I could cross over to penis touching territory, but a kiss was worth something. The point was, my mind wasn’t entirely closed to the idea of finding a man attractive.
And with the occasional light touching going on between our arms and legs, Andrew was making a case for himself. It was funny to get this kind of flirtation from a man. I felt like a lady. At one point, I realized, Ohhh, did you feel that, Evan? He bumped his leg against yours while making eye contact. He’s coming on to you! Something about him being a man made it more intimidating that if it had been a woman. There was an uneasy feeling to it that women must get all the time. It was not necessarily bad, just…mildly threatening? It didn’t bother me, but I felt like I was seeing male flirtation through a different lens all of a sudden.
With showtime looming, we finished up dinner and split the bill, which seemed appropriate for two guys going out. The food was great and the entire experience had been very fun, but we were in a bit of a rush as we scurried over to Joe’s Pub to the main event of the night: Our Hit Parade.
Once inside, we were shown to our seats and I found that we were sitting right in front of my friends Danny and Dede, who had also brought her boyfriend. They had a few other friends there as well, including the very cute Holly. They knew that I was on a date for OHD, so they didn’t steal me away too much, aside from some friendly hellos and introductions.
Soon enough, we were seated with a pair of drinks and the three MC’s of the night — Bridget Everett, Neal Medlyn and Kenny Mellman — came out to introduce us to that month’s Our Hit Parade. The show was awesome. I had no idea what to expect, aside from pop music being sung live, but I soon discovered that OHP had a largely female and gay male crowd.
There was a part of me that couldn’t believe I had brought my gay date to a gay event, as I had previously determined that would be a poor decision, but the other part of me was a clueless straight dude who simply didn’t know any better. I had no idea that gay men of NYC seemed to love Bridget Everett nor that both Medlyn and Mellman were gay. Whatever I was worried about didn’t matter though because Andrew was having a great time.
Despite the somewhat flamboyant cabaret vibe of the show, not everything was punchlines and jock straps. After all, Whitney Houston had died that month, which meant that many of the Top 10 songs for February were hits of hers which had reentered the charts. The show also included a great version of Call Your Girlfriend, sung my comedian Eliot Glazer and beatboxed by Shockwave, which blew me away. Andrew and I were both shimmying in our chairs and applauding with enthusiasm for each act. It was incredibly fun and I found myself more exuberant than I would have been on most dates.
About two-thirds of the way through the show, Danny tapped my shoulder and told me to lean towards him. “You have a sticker on your back,” he said as he reached around my neck and removed it from the rear of my collar. As soon as he said it, I remembered the small circular sticker from when I had purchased the shirt only a few days earlier and I realized how stupid I was.
He looked at the sticker and said, “Extra small, huh? Congrats.” Danny was a sharp dresser, so he knew enough to help a brother out. I thanked him wholeheartedly.
After the show, we chatted with my friends a little bit and we thanked Danny for everything. Holly caught my eye again and I wondered if maybe I could score a date with her, but it wasn’t the time nor the place. I was on a date, after all.
Andrew and I both used the bathroom and then we took a picture to send to Cecilia, since she had demanded it of us earlier in the day. She was gonna flip out.
We rode the train uptown and the conversation never dulled. Andrew was such a good guy, incredibly friendly and so fun to be around. We both needed to transfer at 59th Street, to separate trains, but we jumped off together before making our split.
As we hugged goodnight, I very seriously considered kissing him. Among all the other factors such as how well we’d gotten along, the fun time we’d had and his generally good looks, the main thing I was thinking was, why the fuck not? I likely wouldn’t be in a position to kiss a gay man so innocently any time soon, so this was a prime opportunity.
I balked though. I over-thought it and I didn’t kiss him. I didn’t want him to think that I was just doing it for the novelty, so I didn’t pull the trigger. I was very close though. In retrospect, I am sure he’d have been totally cool with it.
Kisses aside, it was one of the most fun dates I had ever been on and I could only hope that he felt the same way.