No anecdote from my gay life could prove that comedy is tragedy more than my encounter with the guy I will forever remember as “my Miracle Pastry Boy.” Understanding how Juan became my miracle pastry boy will definitely require some explanation.
Last August through October, during the period in which I was madly in love with Farid, I had an online profile. While I was hoping to perhaps find someone with whom I was more compatible than Farid, a good part of me thinks that I set up the account only to prove to Farid that other guys were interested in me in order to raise the stakes a little. My heart was clearly already spoken-for, even though I knew that my obsession with the depressed, unmotivated, unemployed, overnapped, oversexed 45-year-old Arab living in pseudo-coupledom with his ex could only lead to folly.
As such, I was pretty blithe with the guys I met at that time. I remained stand-offish and engaged them in long-winded conversations that were clearly never going anywhere. Even so, I’d often charm them with my sincerity and the depth of thought and self-revelation that went into my responses. And I did reply to everyone.
However, I would only check the website infrequently (being rather popular with, at times, 80 messages a day, and many of them long), and I wouldn’t commit to any particular person and withheld my e-mail to most of them. My “oath of humanity” in large part intact, I hoped to bore most of the new guys who were foaming at the mouth into losing their interest. Finally, it got so bad that I just refused to look at the website for over a month, putting off my responses to the 80 new messages that I had left to address. I promised responses, but I didn’t promise a timeline. With relief, all of the new messages I had received were flushed away because my profile had been inactive for too long.
Sadly shunned and ignored by me for over month, few of those dozens of men contacted me again, and I didn’t try to seek them out to explain what happened. The Miracle Pastry Boy, Juan, was one of the new people who approached me after I had reactivated my profile again in mid-September. I started back with my old games, putting my new contacts to the test by seeing how long they could continue the exchange online without getting bored and moving on to the next hot thing on the market. Juan managed to hold out through September and then into October. With time and lots of exchanges, I started to take Juan more seriously.
As it turned out, Juan and I had something very important in common, especially for a French-cultured person such as myself. He worked at my favourite boulangerie, a place that I had been going to on a frequent basis already for nearly a year, which was coincidentally recommended to me by another Frenchman. I would sometimes go on very long walks from downtown just for their croissants. I had always been very attracted to one guy who worked at that boulangerie, but when I described the guy I was thinking of to Juan, he said that it sounded like his boss. Too bad, but oh well.
At the same time, Juan was an uneducated immigrant who was back in school with aspirations to become a masseur. It was really hard for me to wrap my head around that or how I could, in the long run, relate to a part-time cook, part-time massage therapist with his hands all over other guys (and knowing gays, probably inappropriate places too). It was clear, as with other men from my past, that he was not an intellectual firestorm. I tackled the whole issue of intelligence in a previous article from November 2009: “What’s Smarts Got to Do with It?” My conclusion of that article was a lowering of my intellectual standards for the world of romance, although in the case presented for that particular article, nothing happened. Jean-Marc was the one of the offensive nappers who slept through his first date with me (see “Horny Cool Kids”), and I was hardly devastated that things didn’t work out.
So what about Juan? Well, we had more than an hour conversation on the phone once in mid-October, which involved me intellectualizing on my travels in Spain (where he had himself just been). He had absolutely nothing to say except that the places we both went are beautiful. It was a good conversation, but he didn’t call back (probably expecting me to call, and while I wrote him a message, I didn’t ever call him). He did phone me once when my best friend from high school had died, just as I was deleting my online profile in early November, to wish me his condolences. I made it abundantly clear that I was too emotionally stressed to put up with the sexual bluntness and lack of sincerity from the website and was closing my account. He responded by telling me that I have “beautiful values,” and he admired me for them.
His call of concern for me was a sweet gesture, but at that time I was hardly in a state to appreciate it. Things had finally come to a head with Farid (see articles from January 2011). The events that played out in “Dance Me to the End of Love” that spelled the end of my friendship with Farid and the devastating grief I felt in losing him, were in full motion. Farid being my best friend at the time and my first love, I was completely ravaged by his disinterest in me when I went to surprise him at his favourite Saturday hangout—the Stud.
On the weekend after my second (and last) visit to the Stud, I was still in shock from the blow of that disappointing experience. As discussed in “Dance Me to the End of Love,” I tried to maintain a sense of stability and normalcy, and part of that included going to all the places that I enjoyed on the weekend to fill my time. One such place, always a Sunday tradition for me, was the boulangerie where Juan works. When I entered, I saw the cute guy that I had always noticed and lusted over in the past. He approached the counter to place a quiche there, less than a meter away from me. Almost instinctually but still with uncertainty, I said "Salut!" and he said "CT!" with great enthusiasm and a gorgeous smile. "Mon dieu!", I thought, "It's him! Juan is the guy I've been attracted to all this time, not his boss!"
He seemed very pleased to see me, which at that time stood in massive contrast to Farid’s behaviour the week before at the bar. He asked me how I was doing. I said "I'm fine, just here for my usual croissant", and he said "not the specialty that I make?" So I smiled and said, “oh, ok, one of those too.” He then went to check on something and came back with another quiche. He asked me if I was staying to eat, and I said no (the small place was jam-packed as usual). So he went back, looked in the oven again, then came over to talk to me for a little while. In that brief conversation, I told him that I had noticed him in the past long before we met online but had never made the connection, and he smiled.
I was very direct, more so than usual. At the end of our conversation, he apologized for not responding to my recent facebook message. I said that I understood, knowing that he had to juggle work, school, and keeping in touch with family/friends. And still wide-eyed and sweating just a little, I said "but if you do find some free time, I'd like to see you again. I'm working in the neighbourhood right now." He kind-of smiled and nodded, and I wished him a good continuation with his work. When I got home, I also wrote him a little note saying that it had been very nice to finally meet him in person.
I was then determined to convince everyone that my brief, friendly, almost flirty encounter with Juan at his workplace was a miracle. It was my fantasy come reality. I saw someone in the real world, he intrigued me. But normally I just always assume that the men that cross me from my real-world environment are heterosexual and thus off limits. So, unlike ever before in my life, that same person that I was attracted to from my everyday real-world environment (and not just from a website or a bar) was attracted to me. He was so happy to see me, even proud to have me at his workplace, and he didn’t seem to want me to leave! There was just something about him, his gestures and orientation toward me, that made me feel like he liked me physically for who I am.
I must admit that I couldn’t help but compare and contrast to Farid, who was always telling me that I need to wear jeans and tight clothes, always giving me pointers on how to improve my physical appearances (even though I always thought he looked perfect), and who was apparently embarrassed to hang out with me in his favourite bar. I had sent him e-mails frequently (when he was at his lowest point and needed to know others were thinking about him), yet he was rarely motivated to read them, except once a week as a kind of chore. And enter Juan, not my best friend, but rather a complete stranger. He was interested in my well-being and had been remarkably patient with me given my blitheness and arrogant intellectual flexing in the past. And Juan’s smile and charm came exactly when I needed it—when I was feeling more depressed than ever thanks to Farid’s implicit rejection.
Given the timing and my sadness over Farid, my encounter with Juan could only be God-sent. The miracle: someone did notice me (a guy who I found attractive as well), and I felt comfortable with him. He wasn’t giving me those cold, ferocious stares that men from the Stud give each other as some kind of ugly form of seduction. Unlike every other gay man I’ve met, I didn’t feel like he was judging me critically (looking for what’s wrong), just appreciating what’s right, even though I was hardly at my most well-groomed that morning either. It’s a miracle! I couldn’t stop smiling all day.
The Take-Home Message: It’s Not Really a Miracle!
Every miracle has its limits. I called my mom that evening and told her the good news. With almost giddy enthusiasm: “I met Juan by accident today, and he is attracted to me; it’s a miracle!” followed a statement with equally bizarre directness: “I’m going to court him!” Flabbergasted, my mom tried to reason with me, and eventually she found the right way to sell the argument: “if I met a part-time pastry chef, aspiring massage therapist, 10 years older than me and told you that he was a miracle and I’m going to court him, you’d have me committed!” It was just what I needed to hear, because it was most certainly true. It was not a miracle that Juan was attracted to me. In retrospect, almost all of the guys I’ve gone out with, even Farid for a time, found me attractive.
That was the conclusion I reached that night with my mom, but my thoughts on the matter matured with time. My physical appearances are indeed not the problem—it’s who I am as a person that is not always easy to relate to, the slow-going, loyal-to-the-core, always-reading and rationalizing intellectual who crosses the world several times a year. Even more difficult for many of these men to conceive, the fact that I am a complete virgin to sexual and romantic contact of any kind, including kissing! Indeed, while I’m a relatively simple person all things considered, my individuality, diversity, confidence, adaptability, self-control, and exoticness is really quite pronounced, and indeed difficult to find a context for. I am an individual in the purest sense--there is absolutely no category in which I soundly fit.
Even more so, I’d go so far as to say that my friendly, innocent smile and asexual demeanour, which also forms a strong part of my personality, does not adequately demonstrate my physical interest in my dates. I want to keep things light-hearted and carefree when I meet people or go on dates, out of a certain respect for them and their independence. I’m always friendly but relatively stoic and never too forward. But the very fact that I am not giving the “big eye” and batting those lashes in the right way does seem to be turning people away. At the same time, I think I inspire good feelings for the most part. None of my former dates and gay friends particularly dislike me. But, despite being attractive enough, my behaviours and personality just don’t inspire sex! And that makes me romantically irrelevant in the gay world.
Plus, my enthusiasm in my written correspondences makes many guys think that I’m too easy of a target and not enough of a challenge. I'm always showing my appreciation in an e-mail, and that's a huge turn-off for some unknown reason. Furthermore, I’ve frequently politely stepped aside when my date moves on to another interest and leaves me in the dust. A prominent example: I always just left when Farid told me he was going to go have sex with one of his f-buddies now. He would watch me almost expecting some kind of reaction, as if testing me. However, nothing he ever said destroyed my stoic facade. I always just smiled, gave two kisses on the cheek, and bid him farewell. Love is a battlefield, and my lack of willingness to be exceptionally aggressive or outwardly express my inner passion, except through “boring” acts of generosity, does also seem to be a problem.
My conclusion is that guys want to do all the pursuing themselves, and if you do too much pursuing of them (esp. via e-mail), the challenge will be gone and they will lose interest. But at the same time they require you to be aggressive in the struggle to keep their interest—you have to display jealousy and anger and passion. But both sides are men, both sides thus need to do the pursuing but not feel too pursued from the other side. How is that even really possible? There’s really no way to win, no matter what personality you have. It all depends on perfect timing of key interactions, the perfect balancing of each other’s need to pursue, the perfect mix of mysterious stoicism with physically-expressive passion, the perfect content and temporal spacing of written and oral communications.
After years of trying to find some way of conforming to this “perfect formula,” my attitudes have shifted dramatically. I’d rather continue to be alone rather than make a half-hearted attempt at being conventional in this regard. I will always have a certain convivial, asexual, caring, and professional comportment in my interactions with people (gay or straight), and I will never be giving anyone the big eye on a first, second, or even fifth date. My own personality and needs deserve to be respected, even if they are not always easy to understand in a romantic context and even if they do not inspire sex. I will never be conventionally sexual, period.
The Fallout with Juan
Everything between Juan and I seemed to be going well immediately after our “miracle” encounter. He even said that, when he got time off for vacation soon, he’d like to invite me to his apartment and cook me dinner. I was starting to dream about potentially kissing him, keeping an open mind and an open heart, and seeing where it could go. I thought: “wow, he seems like a nice guy, and something could really happen this time!” Juan could sweep me off my feet and be the guy who could save me from my misery over losing all friendly reciprocation from Farid.
Nothing in life is ever that easy. Within a couple of weeks, Juan’s messages became more generic and colder, in contrast to my newfound enthusiasm for him. When I would try (on very rare occasions) to chat with him on instant messenger, he always just told me that he was heading off to bed. I had played my cards and shown my interest. Apparently, after two months of playing hard-to-get and keeping him on his toes, I had become too easy. By mid-November, I knew nothing was going to happen, and I was forced to confront all of the grief and pain over Farid head-on without any daydreams or distractions. Nothing and no one was going to save me from that—I had to work through it myself. Deep down inside, I knew that was the best way to overcome the heartbreak, and in late November and December it was worse than ever.
As for Juan and I, we casually kept in touch through brief messages on facebook into December. Having felt slighted and losing all interest myself, I encouraged Juan to get in contact with Farid. Farid and I had talked about Juan, and Farid seemed to think that having a masseur boyfriend would be his ideal, because he would always feel great physically. I knew Juan would be Farid’s type (physically), and so once Farid started his profile in December and had rejected me, I thought, why not put them together? I encouraged Juan to say hi to Farid through chat. Juan responded with a somewhat annoyed note that he was now on vacation and struggling to catch up with all of his long-term friends and didn’t have time to make any new friends in his life. Then why, I wonder, was he one of few paying subscribers on the gay chat website I joined? Clearly he took the experience seriously, more than most of us.
I’m guessing both friendships and relationships aren’t really what he was looking for. In any case, I felt like his message was directed as much at getting to know me better as it was at getting to know Farid. So I suggested in my next note that Farid could be more than a friend to Juan, thus demonstrating to him unequivocally that I had absolutely no interest left and wanted him to move on to someone else.
Then, as New Years day 2011 came, I wished him a very happy new year, and he responded with his usual (now, as I understand it, fake) sincerity. I waited a few days until it was absolutely clear he had no intention of meeting me at the end of his vacation time. Then, in early January, I effectuated a gay pogrom on facebook, something I have to do from time to time so that they don’t take over my list of friends. Deleting friends so assertively is in conflict with my small-town values; however, at the same time, most of my relatively few contacts on facebook are people I have a real history with and include colleagues from work to whom I’ve not come out of the closet. Needless to say, Juan and others that I had no real desire to be in contact with, with their long lists of hundreds of clearly gay friends, needed to go.
I still do see Juan from time to time at my favourite boulangerie, and he retains his former friendliness, all smiles and waves. For him, I’ve once again become a distant challenge. For me, he’s become my “Miracle Pastry Boy,” a nickname intended to poke fun at my brief post-Farid moment of insane delight in him more than anything else.