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Tricks and Treats, Pt. I

Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Halloween

Less Than Butterflies, No. 2

It’s no secret that Halloween is gay Christmas. It’s not as though we’ve ever needed an excuse to dress up in costume or drag and attend some hedonistic party in Montrose where someone will certainly be distributing ecstasy in the bathroom while remixes of every song by every pop icon are blared in the dark, trembling background. But Halloween poses a different sort of spectacle than every other party in Montrose. Inhibitions are lost; time seems to slow; and there’s an affection for our friends that provides a kind of high not brought on by bathroom ecstasy or specialty shots.

Plus, we get a little bit sluttier. At least I do. I being the person who puts the ‘trick’ in ‘trick or treat.’

There’s no logic or rule that dictates why Halloween puts us in such good spirits. Maybe it’s something psychological. Maybe it’s all hype. Or maybe, just maybe, there is something truly magical about Halloween.

Even in my exhaustion after two long weeks with work-related affairs, I couldn’t move myself to peel away from the idea of attending my friend Stephen’s boyfriend’s Halloween party. It was an annual event—or it was at least becoming one—that had the year before proven to be like any other gay Halloween party: a genus of twinks in brightly colored underwear donning body glitter and angel wings. This, mind you, was at an American Horror Story-themed party. Stephen’s apartment was small and the air conditioning was hardly working. An hour in, everyone was sweating and trying to escape into the 90-degree outdoors just to catch a breath.

This year, however, Leo (Stephen’s boyfriend) had relocated the party to a friend and co-host’s townhome off Washington. The theme? Netflix’s GLOW—appropriately retitled as the Gays and Lesbians of Wrestling.

As per the usual, I was dateless. I’d invited Ezra to accompany me, but he was to visit friends in San Antonio for the weekend. Luckily, my friend Carter tagged along with me. Carter and I hadn’t been friends for long. Like most of my friends at the time, we’d met through Pride. Carter was 30, single, and sweet, and not at all my type. Still, he was a good friend and an intent listener and the kind of person who would do anything for anyone.

We drank a bottle of wine at Barnaby’s before heading toward Washington for the party. Upon arrival, it was clear that Stephen had already been drinking well before our arrival. My friend Courtney and her girlfriend, Jennifer were also there, dressed from neck-to-ankles in incandescent Lycra. Just as the year before, a large portion of the attendees had taken it upon themselves to ignore the theme of the party—myself included, as I was not sure I had the body type to be wearing fabrics with such elasticity.

That’s not true. I was sure. I was certain that I did not. I did, however, dress nice enough and put on some black lipstick just for the hell of it.

Stephen grabbed me by the wrist just after I’d made a drink and dragged me to a wet bar in the living room of the townhome. “Let’s do a shot!” he suggested with all the charisma of a Beyonce drag impersonator. But like with all things when it came to Stephen—shots, bottles of wine, valid points in a heated debate—one shot turned into several shots.

My background with Stephen was relatively short, but fast-paced in some rights. He was one of the very first people I’d met at Pride Houston when I was a first-year volunteer. To be completely honest, when we first met, I thought Stephen was cute. True, he was gross and sweaty from working all evening in the sun and was about 15-pounds underweight. But in his glasses and seemingly-nerdy disposition, I was initially attracted to him. For a while, my friend Alice and I couldn’t figure out his last name and took to referring to him as just Hot Stephen.

But much like books, a boy should never be judged by his cover. As I transitioned into my role as the volunteer chair for Pride, Stephen and I encountered each other more frequently. Real Stephen was vastly different from first-impression Stephen. He wasn’t as tightly wound and I don’t think I ever saw those glasses again. True, Stephen was a pretty boy, but he was also a boy who was spoken for and whose personality—regardless of whether or not he’d ever admit it—was too much like mine. Opinionated, mildly neurotic, a little slutty, and often drunk.

As my first year as a chair dragged on, Stephen and I saw a lot more of each other. Pride events and workdays eventually turned into drinks at the Eagle or numerous bottles of wine at Barnaby’s or birthday and dinner parties. The conversations that had once just revolved around our work with Pride grew inclusive of similar interests. Soon we’d become friends.

After a few more shots, I found myself standing outside on the balcony smoking a cigarette with some strangers from Mexico. One of the two was in medical school and in Houston for her internship. The other was presumably her boyfriend. A moment later, Stephen found his way outside to the patio.

“I knew you’d be out here smoking. I’m gonna lock you out,” Stephen said before engaging with the medical student and her boyfriend. When their own cigarettes were finished, they made a quick exit and Stephen and I had changed the topic to the busy week we’d had with Pride work, the party, and our friends inside. It wasn’t until the tail-end of the conversation that Stephen asked, “So, how’s Ezra?”

“I think he’s fine. He’s in San Antonio right now, if I’m not mistaken.”

He took a sip from his straw while gulping down some vodka as he goes, “Mhm. Mhm.” Once he’d swallowed and removed the straw from his mouth, he asked, “And what’s the deal with that?”

I paused just long enough to roll my eyes. “Nothing . . . ? We’re just friends.”

More, “Mhm. Mhm,” until he was slurping what remained of his vodka out of bottom of his Solo cup. “I’m gonna go get another drink. Have fun, though!” he told me as he slipped back inside. However, before he’d closed the door, Stephen poked his head back through the threshold and said, “You know, I’m really glad we became friends.”

I couldn’t help but smile a bit. Formerly Hot Stephen I knew nothing about had graduated into Close Friend Stephen, which turned out to be a good fit for him.

“God. You’re so gay,” I told him as I rolled my eyes, relatively unable to ever reciprocate kindness. He stepped back onto the balcony for a second and pointed to his cheek. I laughed, then gave him a kiss there, leaving a large, black lipstick stain under his cheekbone.

“You’re my favorite person in Pride,” he told me as he slid through the door and closed it behind him.

That was gay Halloween magic at its finest—bringing two very unlikely people together to be friends . . . even if both were extremely drunk.

Oddly enough, however, Stephen’s momentary mention of Ezra made me wonder what he was up to. I nearly pulled my phone from my pocket to text him, but realized it was late and that I shouldn’t bug him while he was out of town with his friends. I could gather, however, that Ezra probably wasn’t at some rager in San Antonio like I was in Houston. A part of me missed him. 

Regardless, I resolved to wander back inside and drink through it like a grown-up.

Although, as I turned to open the door back into the townhome, I made an attempt to turn the knob, rattling and shaking it until it became increasingly clear that Stephen had, in fact, locked me out on the balcony.

“Bastard.”

Read Part II here.

Love Me Tinder, Pt. I

Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Grindr

Less Than Butterflies, No. 1

“Some people are settling down; some people are settling; and some people refuse to settle for anything less than butterflies.”

–Candace Bushnell

Generally speaking, dating can be fun. Dating in Houston, on the other hand, can often feel . . . obligatory. In a city of over five million people, one might think that the options available are vast and perennial. After all, all our friends are doing it. Right? If they aren’t, they’ve probably already settled down or have at least settled for someone because they were tired of mining through the endless herds of undatable people.

For gay men in Houston, it’s usually always the same sort. There’s lives-with-his-parents guy, has-too-many-roommates guy, just-wants-to-hook-up guy, wants-to-fall-in-love-immediately guy, and often even gay-republican guy—the worst of them all. And the dates? Well, they all seem repetitive, too. Dinner at Cyclone Anaya’s in Midtown; $10 bottles of wine at Barnaby’s (an option I don’t particularly hate); ice skating at Discovery Green in the wintertime; dancing and doing coke at South Beach (FYI: not a date, gentlemen).

Inevitably, there comes the postcoital wave of regretlooking over at a stranger who is just as ready for you to leave as you are to leave; sneaking out of some shitty Montrose hellhole apartment in the wee hours of the morning, just as the sprinklers of the neighborswhose luxurious townhome you’d hoped to be hooking up inpower on; forgetting you Ubered to your hook-up.

For we Millennials, a subtle escape from this trap has been air-dropped into our phones. Several, actually. Tinder, Scruff, J-Date, Farmer’s Only, GrindrI’m still waiting on the lesbian hookup app called Lickr. Still, there’s a certain conceit behind dating in queer culture—especially so following the introduction of these dating apps. They’ve stepped in and started minimizing the once boastful, giddy romance of meeting the right person. There are no meet-cutes anymore. There are no accidental run-ins at the bookshop or a coffee house. Romance has left the building, now replaced by right swipes and recognizable pings coming from cell phones when someone attractive is nearby.

I, personally, have never taken Tinder seriously. Still, every now and again a conversation might spark between me and no one in particular that would ultimately lead down a rabbit hole of realizations that we had nothing in common and that the person on the opposite side was only looking for sex. Neither suited my fancy; and I never even entertained the idea of meeting any of these men.

There was, however, one occasion in which I was able to hold a decent conversation with a man, and we kept it going sporadically for a couple months to follow. Our interests were quite similar: musicals, books, etc. Once or twice I even thought maybe I should ask this boy—we’ll call him Ezra Rochester—for a date. Still, I found myself at a loss of nerves and never made the leap to do so. I knew little about him, other than the fact that he loved musicals as much as I did and that he had an adorable dog I was probably more interested in meeting than I was him.

As the time passed, I found myself in a relationship with a boy I’d met at The Room Bar in North Houston. We dated briefly before I realized he was dumber than a hot bag of stones, but it was just long enough for me to have rid myself of my Tinder app. When the guy from the bar and I broke up, I didn’t think about Ezra. He was just a picture and a conversation in an app I’d deleted. It never occurred to me that in a city of over five million people, chance might bring us together.


Ezra turned out to be much cuter in person than he was in photos. Not to say that he wasn’t attractive in his pictures. After all, I’d swiped right for some reason. He was shorter than me, but not terribly so. He had forsaken his glasses in the name of Lasik. He was clean-shaven; and he didn’t have terrible teeth. It was enough for me.

We met like any other two people who had once upon a time matched on Tinder. I, the volunteer chair for Pride Houston, was hosting an orientation a few weeks out from the parade and festival. He was there to learn the ins-and-outs of being a volunteer. I didn’t recognize him at first. If I had to remember the face of every man I’ve ever seen on Tinder, I’d be in a great deal of trouble. It wasn’t until he was gone and I had already been doing a great deal of flirting (as pointed out by my friend Alice) that I took it upon myself to Facebook-stalk him.

“Omigod,” I muttered to Alice. “We matched on Tinder like in the fall of last year. Christ. I was just shamelessly flirting with him.”

“You really were,” Alice muttered.

“Was he flirting back?” I asked.

Alice looked thoughtful for a moment—a common look that crosses her face but often remains stuck to it once the thought has passed or imploded. “I don’t know. I think maybe a little. It’s hard to tell.”

I made up my mind then. I had for the first time met someone from Tinder—even if unintentionally. I wasn’t sure whether or not I believed in coincidence, but I knew that in a city as large, as spread-out, and as heavily populated as Houston, two people didn’t just happen upon each other in this way very often. It could have meant nothing. In fact, it probably didn’t mean a thing at all. Still, I wasn’t going to find out if I didn’t see it through.

The day of the Houston LGBT Pride Celebration 2017, Ezra spent nearly the entire day volunteering and was even the last of my volunteers to leave. To say things wouldn’t have gotten done without him—at least not as quickly as they did—would be an understatement. And at the end of it all, as he, Alice, and I watched the last U-Haul drive off carrying supplies, looking back up at Houston’s City Hall, Ezra turned his attention back us both, gave an awkward smile, and said, “Well . . . see you next year.”

“Next year?!” I shrieked as soon as he was out of earshot. “I don’t even know if I like him yet or not and I have to wait until next year to find out?”

“You could just go over there and ask him out,” Alice suggested.

Not an option.

I didn’t then nor do I feel it’s fair to ask someone out after a 12-hour volunteer shift in the splintering sun. No rational decisions could be made. Still, there was something compelling about him that I didn’t quite understand at the time. He was cute, and completely awkward and nerdy (my default type). It could have been the way that he had a playfully combative response to each and every witty thing that I said. It could have even been the dryness of his humor. Or maybe, just maybe, it was the fact that a boy put a smile on my face while I was altogether sober that I hadn’t met in a bar like so many before him.

Continue to Part II