Call me a romantic, call me a sap, but I love to hear the stories of how couples met. This made me think that I should share how Spouse & I met. What follows is a portion of a larger story about my life, coming out, and personal growth. Here's the part about how we met, which takes place in May 1996. Later I'll tell you about a few of our early dates. Here goes.
As I prepared to move out of Wolf's house, one of the things I wanted to learn was how to date. Since I really hadn’t dated anyone before getting together with Wolf, I looked at this time in my life as one where I would go out on dates and learn how to be comfortable, have topical things to say, and hopefully not scare guys off with ‘filler conversation’ about my upbringing in the Jehovah's Witness (JW) religion. In fact, I remember going through all the personal ads in the weekly gay paper and circling the ones to which I might possibly respond. ‘I’m going to date and make single friends and go to parties and just have fun being a single gay man’ I thought to myself. But that just wasn’t meant to be.
My friend Billy agreed to go to Ziegfeld’s with me Saturday night to see the drag show and dance. Since we lived on opposite sides of the city it made sense to simply meet at the club. We had such a great time watching the fierce drag queens and dancing between the two shows that we decided to go back and do it again the next night. Sunday I met Billy again but he didn’t stay long. He said he felt like he was coming down with a cold and thought he should go home. I decided to stay, but I felt a little uneasy there by myself. I was used to being at clubs with friends, having someone to talk to. Rather than leave, I decided I’d try and meet some new friends.
I saw a small group of guys watching the drag show and commenting about the costumes. After 3 or 4 of the performers' frocks featured fringe, one of the guys said there must have been a clearance sale on fringe at the drag queen store, and the rest of the group laughed. They seemed harmless enough, so I inched over a little closer to their cluster and listened in. Eventually I was close enough for them to notice me laughing at their comments. I inched a little closer and thought of something witty to add, so I did. They laughed with me and I felt I’d infiltrated the group. They asked my name and then introduced themselves. It worked – I had someone to talk to and hang out with while the show continued.
When the drag show ended and the dancing began, my new group of friends was still talking and laughing. I learned that one of the guys named Jim was moving away and that they had all been at a going away party/cook-out prior to coming to Ziegfeld’s. I explained that I'd come with a friend who'd gone home sick but that I’d wanted to stay.
Then I noticed this very handsome, dark-haired man with a mustache/goatee walk up to my new group of friends. They introduced us and we shook hands and exchanged verbal greetings. I still remember the first thing I thought when I saw him: 'Wow, this is the most handsome man I’ve ever seen in my life!'
My new group of friends decided it was time to dance, so we all went out onto the dance floor together. I noticed one of my new friends pulled out a small, brown glass bottle from his pocket, unscrewed the cap and took a snuff from the bottle before passing it around to the others in the group. I smiled but shook my head ‘no’. I was pretty sure whatever they were snorting wasn’t legal, and I wasn’t going to get mixed up in that. I began to doubt my selection of this ‘harmless’ looking group of new friends. But I noticed that the Very Handsome Guy also declined the bottle of poppers, giving me additional reason to migrate towards him as I danced.
The DJ began playing a disco re-mix of the theme song from the TV show ‘The Love Boat’. I couldn’t help but smile and chuckle in appreciation of his good taste and humor. I was about to curtail my amusement and try to act more ‘cool’, but quickly decided against it. For too many years I had censored my behavior to try to please other people. So I just let myself go. I reveled in the great re-mix and danced liked no one was watching. When I saw that Very Handsome Guy was watching me, smiling and chuckling for no apparent reason, I confessed without remorse “This is a great song!” to which he replied “Yeah, I love disco music.”
Not only was he gorgeous, but he liked the same music I liked. Not long afterward the DJ played a special re-mix of “Dancing Queen” by Abba, probably because the movie “Muriel’s Wedding” was popular, and I looked at Very Handsome Guy and said “I love this song!” I thought this was a ‘make it or break it’ comment; either he’d think I was a total dork for admitting I loved “Dancing Queen”, or he’d blow me away by thinking it was funny or cute. But at that moment I was only concerned with honesty. If me liking "Dancing Queen" turned him off, so be it. His reply? “Me too!” I was pretty sure I’d met someone special.
When one of us suggested a break from dancing to cool down, we found out a little more about each other. He told me he was a therapist and social worker for a nearby county, and I told him I lived in that county. He was duly surprised, since most DC area gays are unfamiliar with anything outside the Beltway. I told him I liked ethnic food, and he said he liked living near DC because of all the different ethnic restaurants. I agreed and told him there were many I hadn't tried yet.
“So how do you know Jim?” he asked me.
“I don’t. I mean, I didn’t before tonight. I just met him and the other guys here, tonight." I answered. How about you? How do you know Jim?” I asked.
“I just met him, too. My friend Casey invited me to go with him to Jim’s going away party. I didn’t have anything else to do, so I went. Afterward we all ended up here. Since you were talking with them when I walked up I thought you were friends” he explained.
“When you walked up and they introduced us, I thought YOU were their friend!” I concluded.
We both laughed at the unusual way we’d met. Everything just seemed to be too good to be true. I felt like pinching myself to be sure it wasn’t a dream, but immediately dismissed the idea because it seemed so cliché.
Later on a portly guy with glasses and salt-n-pepper hair emerged from the back room where the go-go boys dance. He walked up to Very Handsome Guy so I figured he must be Casey. (We’d completely lost track of Jim and my other new friends.) Very Handsome Guy introduced me to Casey, who explained that the go-go boys were on break now, and that he was tired and ready to go. Since they’d ridden together Very Handsome Guy agreed to leave. But before they did, he had a question for me.
“Umm… do you want to… exchange numbers?” he asked with some difficulty.
“Sure” I said calmly, trying to contain my inner excitement. He grabbed a cocktail napkin and a pencil and wrote his name and number on it. For some reason, I clearly remember asking him if the ‘e’ at the end of his last name was pronounced or if it was silent. He said it was silent, and so I said his name out loud. It sounded like magic. I still have that cocktail napkin.
“What are you doing tomorrow?” he asked, since tomorrow was Memorial Day Monday.
“Well I just moved yesterday so I guess I’ll be unpacking boxes… unless I get a better offer” I said. I immediately regretted it, fearing it sounded too forward and flirty, but there was no way to take it back. I just hoped it didn’t cancel the offer he seemed about to make. Fortunately it didn’t.
“Well, why don’t you call me tomorrow morning. Maybe we can talk or go for coffee in the afternoon or something” he suggested. I knew right then and there I would call him the next morning.
“Okay, that sounds good. I’ll call you tomorrow.” I said with a smile. “Nice meeting you!” I said to Very Handsome Guy, and then repeated the salutation to Casey with far less enthusiasm.
Tomorrow: Our 1st date.Crush du Jour: Mike Ruiz