Toronto
3 min

Looking in all the wrong places

Better to catch them in transition

Recently I sat beside a man on a College streetcar. He was gay but I was busy scribbling some notes for an assignment and I didn’t pay much attention. In fact, we barely looked at each other.

A couple of hours later as I was leaving the Church St bars and heading home, the same man came up behind me and said that he had been watching me make notes and he was intrigued by my handwriting. He thoughtit might be Arabic, Syriac or another script he was interested in. I was flattered. Few people describe my illegible hand-writing in such exotic terms. Most people think it’s shorthand.

And there you have it. End of story. A relationship that lasted five minutes tops. But it occurred to me later that this brief street-side rendezvous was far more interesting than most of the encounters I’ve had recently in bars or other official gay meeting places.

Every couple of years I step back from my life and do a review of where I’ve met the important people in my life. Not tricks because they’re like manna from the sky, falling wherever the wind blows. But boyfriends, lovers, that kind of thing. What I’m looking for, of course, is a consistent pattern. Is there one place where I’ve had better luck than anywhere else? I know this is a little self-helpish but you want to invest your time wisely. Problem is, I’ve never been able to find a predictable hotspot.

I met one guy at a Body Politic party and another at an NDP fundraiser I didn’t want to attend and a third at the baths, although the latter relationship didn’t really blossom until we met again several years later in different, rather more polite, circumstances.

One relationship stemmed from a long-distance glance on a beach and another from a chance encounter on the street on a night when I was fleeing a really annoying party at the Guvernment and was in a thoroughly bad mood and wasn’t expecting to meet anyone. A couple of minutes either way and we’d never have met. He doesn’t go to any of the usual gay spots.

You’d expect (and hope for) a correlation between the amount of time spent in a place and the number of people you meet, but as far as I can see there isn’t one. Over the past 15 or so years, I’ve spent a lot of time at both the downtown Y and Woody’s, and I’ve had a lot of fun at both places, but I’ve only managed to extract one important relationship from each place. One in 15 years — that’s not exactly a great return on investment.

When it comes to dating, the Ann Landers-style experts always give you sensible maternal advice: follow your interests and you’ll naturally meet people with whom you have things in common. This, of course, is pure, unadulterated crap. Leaving aside the merits of meeting other like-minded people (why would I want to meet another me?), it just doesn’t work. I’ve never met a single person at a concert, a book reading or a film festival. The only time I got any action out of the art gallery was when I took a current boyfriend.

I met one hottie at a film festival but only because I’d already slept with his former boyfriend in a different city. I guess I came recommended.

My own special theory is that the best place to meet people is in transitional spaces, both temporal and material. Any time or place where people are on the move or out of their usual routine works well. So, for instance, the beginning and end of the school year, the weeks leading up to Christmas, and the week leading up to Pride are all good, because people are moving around, visiting town, just generally not doing what they usually do. They’re out of their rut and up for a bit of (sorry) rutting.

Any time that destabilizes people and opens them up for something new is good. This is why you invariably meet someone significant just as you’re about to move to a new city.

Knowing this is one thing; taking advantage of it is another. To get good sex, you’ve got to be prepared to drop everything to get it. What you need, in other words, is time, flexibility and, most important, motivation.

One American woman spent a year going out with every guy who asked her — 150 of them, everyone from the rich to a homeless guy. She eventually found a mate. (Her story can be found in The Year Of Yes.) Big surprise, I say. You put that much effort into something and you’re bound to end up with some kind of reward.

Me, I’m not so motivated. And that, and not the site of my social interactions, is probably the real reason for my insipid social life. One night a couple of weeks agoI got cruised on my way home by a cute Latino. But after a couple of seconds of indecision I decided it just wasn’t worth the effort. It’s Monday, I thought, 24 is on. I’d rather go home and watch TV.