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Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Grindr

Less Than Butterflies, No. 9

What the fuck have I done?

It was after nine. I was wide awake. My friend Gwen was Marco Polo-ing me and had just read my open letter to Ezra.

My very open letter.

My letter that was supposed to be a catharsis—and was!—but that I also publicly published for him to read.

My letter that basically said, “Hey, brah. Umm … so not to be weird or anything, but I have these like feelings for you. And I don’t want to make things awkward, but I felt like you should know. And it’s not like I wanna date you or anything, but I do like being honest. Soooo, anyway, we’re gonna still be amazing friends, but you need to know this and you make me a better person and I think you’re special. K thanks bye.”

Yeah … that letter.

“So he hasn’t said anything to you?” Gwen asked me via video message.

“It’s only been an hour, Gwen. He may not say anything at all. He doesn’t have to. It’s not like he comments on all my other columns. Besides, it’s not a grand gesture.”

“Oh, it’s a grand gesture.”

“No, it’s not. Grand gestures are what you do when you want to be with someone. I do not need to be with Ezra.”

“That’s not what you said,” Gwen told me.

“What are you talking about? Yes, it is.”

“No,” she went on. “You said first that grand gestures are what you do when you want to be with someone. Then, you proceeded to say you don’t need to be with Ezra. Those are two different things.”

I sighed and rolled my eyes. “It’s applicable to both.”

“So, you don’t want to be with him?”

“I’m very happy being single,” I told her. “I do like him, obviously. But we have  a great relationship as it is, and I really adore that friendship. And he’s not relationship-y anyway. Plus there’s the whole asexual thing.”

“Asexual thing?” she asked me.

“Yeah. He’s asexual. And I’m kind of a nymphomaniac.” I looked out the window. It was dark out, though my room was lit up like a soundstage. I stood and closed the blinds.

“How did that conversation come up?” Gwen asked me.

It was the first time we’d ever done anything together. Our first not-date. We were driving back from the bar … what was it called? That terrible hipster bar with the expensive food and nearly liquor-free drinks?

La Grange. Yeah, that’s it. It feels like much longer ago than it was.

We were driving back to take Ezra and Lauren to their cars, neither drunk. It had been such a weird night, when I think about it now. The conversation was so effortless when it was just Ezra and I at that mildly dangerous Mexican restaurant. Granted, we were drinking. But the moment we were out and around our other friends, it felt different. At least, it did to me. It was almost like everyone else—Lauren, Courtney, and Jennifer—was watching us under a microscope waiting for something to happen, wondering what we were going to say, how we would engage with each other. Like bringing home a puppy to the dog you’ve had for years for the first time and seeing how they’ll interact.

But then, when the crowds were gone, when it was just us talking in the car—sans Lauren, who was in the backseat in her own little world—the conversation was easy again.

“I’m so tired of having sex,” I joked as we drove down West Alabama. “It’s exhausting and it takes so long. Plus, the men are rarely even good at it.”

Yeahh …” Ezra agreed. “I’m pretty sure that I’m asexual.”

I nearly wrecked the car.

When WHAT?! didn’t seem like an appropriate response, I instead said, “That’s sort of how I’ve been feeling lately.” But I knew for him, even then, that this wasn’t just a passing thought the way it had been for me. He was serious. It was a thought that he’d been sitting on for a minute.

“Yeah. I just don’t like sex. And when I have the urge, I have a hand for that,” he said with a laugh, though it wasn’t meant to be funny.

I tried not to bring it back up again until he did.

Sooo … I have tickets to this Idina Menzel concert in a few weeks, and I was wondering if you wanted to go with me. But I was thinking maybe we could go like … on a date?”

It was the very first time I’d ever asked anyone on a date in my life. The second would follow shortly after, though.

All day at work I waited for Ezra to reply. Courtney had been talking me up in an effort to get me to ask him on a date proper.

“C’mon! You guys looked so cute together the other night. Plus, you’re awesome. How could he not like you?”

Because Courtney’s a jaded liar, that’s how.

I was terrified. Why I was terrified is lost on me even today. After all, Ezra is literally the most harmless person I think I’ve ever met. Then again, aren’t those the ones who always turn out to be serial murderers? Not that I think Ezra is a serial murder. He’s too noncommittal.

Alas, the day turned to night and my anxiety got the better of me. The darkness fell, and with it my hopes as I quickly turned to a bottle 2002 Chardonnay someone had given me as a gift that I was saving for a special occasion.

… rejection kind of felt like a special occasion. Or maybe the special occasion was asking someone out on a date for the first time. I’m usually the one who gets asked out. Or I just sleep with men until they start buying me things, and then I assume we’re a couple or they’ve assumed I’m a prostitute.

When the wine was gone, however, I was worse off. Now, it was after midnight and I knew if the response hadn’t come by then, it wasn’t coming. So, doing what I was best at, I drunkenly called an Uber to come and take me to the bar.

It was a drag show night, and the bar was busier than I’d have liked. I wanted to just talk to my friend, Hope, not play games with Blackberri and Estella Blow—both of whom I do love—for prizes. I just wanted to take shots with my friend and bartender, while simultaneously crying about something that may not have even warranted any tears. But at least by Estella and Blackberri being there, I was able to enjoy myself, get drunk, and even win a prize (two concert tickets I think I ended up giving away).

When I finally Ubered home—blacked out and ready to sleep—I sat down to pee, as I knew there was no way I could aim for the toilet being that drunk.

“Well, if Ezra won’t go out with me, I’m sure someone will …”

I opened my phone and grazed through my contacts, stopping at Matt Kersey’s name.

Matt Kersey (God, I love that name) was a very cute boy I’d met all of twice at the bar on karaoke nights who once made me feel really good about my body when my ex-boyfriend was being a dick. I’d always found him attractive and assumed one day we’d probably end up sleeping together, anyway. There felt like no time but the present.

I don’t even remember how I asked him. I remember waking up the next morning hungover and ashamed to have done it in a message and while I was that drunk. I immediately deleted the entire thread and didn’t speak to Matt Kersey again for months. And thank God we did speak again. I kind of want that to be my married name, just because it’s such a great name. Anthony Ramirez-Kersey? Anthony Kersey?

It doesn’t sound so hot with my Anthony. Meh.

At work, though, I was surprised to find that Ezra had texted me back.

And while he was sweet about it, not to mention apologetic for taking so long to reply, he said no. If I still had the message, I’d quote it here. But again, I was ashamed that I’d been presumptuous with him, so I deleted the thread. Not that anyone could blame me. We did come to know each other because we matched on Tinder, after all. Still, I was embarrassed for a while following that, unsure of how we could manage a friendship if I was feeling anything for him.

But we did. And we did see Idina together … just … platonically.

I should probably stop buying him things (mind you, he did just buy our Hamilton tickets) …

Alcohol might be a good place to start tightening the purse strings.

Austin, TX – Austin Pride Parade – October

I believe the bar was called Rain. It was on 4th Street, but the details aren’t important. Out that night were Alice, Lauren, Ezra, and myself. We were staying at the Westin on the other side of downtown, and we’d all been drinking. A lot, actually. I know we’d been drinking a lot because according to my credit card statement, I spent roughly $200 on drinks that night.

I’m an alcoholic through-and-through, but even I can’t drink that much alone in a few hours.

The details are unimportant, but the rest of the night happened in a flash.

Lauren and I got into an argument—a screaming match, really. I went outside to smoke a cigarette while they were in the bar. I went back into the bar to find them, and they were all gone. Just like that. I’d been outside the bar for all of seven minutes and they’d abandoned me in a city I was unfamiliar with and a hotel all the way across town on a cold, October night.

Fuck ‘em, I thought as I took off, pad-and-foot, down 4th Street toward Congress. As I walked, my fury grew so quick, I swore that when it began to pour down rain on top of me that I had made it happen. These were supposed to be my friends, not just people I did volunteer work with. It shouldn’t have mattered that Lauren and I had a work-related argument. It was a classic mean girls move, and not one of them had even bothered to text me and ask where I was. When I finally did get a text, I was crossing Congress in the pouring rain and Alice had only said, “We’re going to Courtney and Jennifer’s room.”

Thoughtless fucks, was the last thing I thought before my foot fell into a pothole in the intersection and I went crashing down to the ground and slammed my face against the curb.

Maybe it was just my drunkenness, but I’m pretty sure I laid there for a moment before I got up to move. People passed by me—more than a few—but not one offered me help. When I did stand, my nose was bleeding and my glasses were a bit bent at the hinges. But I stood up, drunk, and tall, and too proud for this bullshit, waltzed my ass in the pharmacy where I could see the clerk staring at me out the window, and bought a pack of Marlboros.

The rain stopped before I reached the hotel. I went to our room and cleaned my face, then went down and joined them at Courtney and Jennifer’s room as if nothing had happened.

There, I walked in on the brunt end of Ezra telling Jennifer he thought he might be asexual. I tried not to intrude on their conversation. Besides, I’d heard this information before. Lauren sat on the floor, puffy-eyed and quiet, when Courtney told me she wanted to talk to me. Lauren left a moment later, but since Alice and Jennifer were still drinking and talking with Ezra, I told her we should talk about it in the hall.

I’m not sure why Ezra accompanied us there, or into the stairwell where the next fight ensued. Maybe I’d asked him to come, too. All I remember is spilling my wine on the floor, in which I sat down, and Ezra sitting next to me. What followed was Courtney, standing four feet above me scolding me for making Lauren cry. Her words were sort of lost on me at that point. Everyone’s were. And for a while after she left, I cried, and Ezra let me, not asking questions, not making me get up and go back to the room. We just sat there, barely saying anything, and I cried, not just because my friends had abandoned me and most of them had turned against me, but also because I was literally at my worst—the screaming, drunk, broken-faced, crying lunatic version of myself that only surfaces once in a while.

Ezra and I barely knew one another, but he let me be at my worst and never judged me—at least not to my face.

When I awoke on the pull out where Ezra and I were sleeping in the hotel suite the morning after next, the covers were mostly pulled off of me. Lauren had kept the room at a crisp 65 degrees. Ezra was facing me, but asleep still. So, I did my best to pull them back on me without waking him.

His eyes flew open and met mine, and for a moment I stared into them, taking note of what exactly they looked like. But in a motion as quick as a bolt of lightning, Ezra closed his eyes and rolled over onto his other side to face the wall before going back to sleep.

I still laugh when I think about that.

After Hurricane Harvey, a bunch of us from Pride were trying to get out in the city and volunteer where we could. The trouble was that so many people had come to the aid of others, that when Ezra and I met at the Pride office to go out and volunteer, everywhere we called turned us away for having too many volunteers. No one would take us. We spent time calling shelters, animal hospitals, retirement homes, churches, dog pounds—nothing. It seemed they had so many volunteers that they didn’t know what to do with them all.

An acquaintance, Gabriel, had joined us there on breaks while he volunteered with another organization in the building. They apparently needed no extra hands either. Instead, I poured vodka-cranberries for the three of us and we drank as we watched Practical Magic and played card games.

“I had sex with a guy that peed on me once,” I told them during a game of Ring of Fire.

“What?!” Gabe asked.

“He did,” Ezra answered.

“How do you know that?” I asked him as I stared him up and down.

“I read your column,” he told me. A part of me felt embarrassed. Certainly it was no secret at this time that I was a bit of a slut, but I didn’t really know how I felt then about Ezra having such a detailed knowledge of my sexual endeavors, which were anything but sparse.

“Interesting,” I said as I put my card down on the table.

“I’m mostly just waiting for the story about me to come out,” he teased as he drew a card of his own.

“How do you know I’m writing one about you, you narcissist?” I asked him, my mouth so wide open it could have sent birds flying out of it.

“Are you two like … best friends?” Gabe asked a moment later. “Like … how long have y’all known each other? Cause you talk to each other like sisters.”

“We actually just met right before Pride,” I told Gabriel.

“Yeah, but I mean, you kind of are my best friend in Houston. I mean, you’re the only person I ever spend any time with,” Ezra told me as he sipped from his drink. “Actually, you’re the first friend I’ve made in the years since I’ve moved here.”

My eyes cut up to him. Was he being serious? He’d been in Houston for three, almost four, years. Had he not made any other friends in the city before me?

I cut my eyes away and shut my mouth.

“There’s one more coming out next week, and yours is after it,” I told him. “My editors are working on it, now.”

I wasn’t panicking or anything. In fact, the moment that I published the letter, it was like there was this knot in my stomach that instantaneously untangled. I hadn’t even realized that I was still having these feelings for him, until he started being all cute and stuff in front of me when he was at my house. Granted, we’d both been drinking. And, in typical Anthony ‘I-can’t-deal-with-this-shit’ form, I waited until I couldn’t see his headlights as he was leaving, went upstairs and got dressed, and went out an alcohol and drug-induced spree through the city until I literally could not stand up any longer and passed out in my friends’ guest room.

And why? Because I’m not good at dealing with things. Sure, I can write about my feelings all day long. But don’t ask me to talk about them or try to sort them out or—worse—deal with them. Instead I’ll drink through them and maybe take a pill or smoke something that takes the worry out of my mind.

So, that’s what I did. And when it was over, when I was sober again and the world suddenly materialized around me, so did those feelings. I mean, they were never really gone. It’s just that they’re easier to ignore when you’re drunk off your ass and your nostrils hurt and a cute boy are playing with your hair while you pretend you’re ignoring him. When really you’re wondering whether or not he lives inside the loop so that you don’t have to go far to get home after you join him at his place to engage in what will probably be some rather mediocre sex with him. You do bumps in the bathroom while your friends pee right in front of you and you take the shots that everyone is buying you and pretend that one more drink won’t hurt. You do whatever you have to do not to feel anything, even if the feeling your feeling isn’t sadness or hurt … just an affection you aren’t ready to feel.

And if doing another bump means that you aren’t going to sleep, that’s okay. Because what does being awake mean but not having to face the darkness? After all, you forget that you’re afraid of the dark until it’s there with you, lying beside you in the bed that you felt was so lonely before. Only, when the darkness is lying there, still and unbreathing, you don’t wish for the light. You don’t wish the darkness away. You wish for company—someone to suffer through it with. And when you know that going home and to bed means greeting darkness alone, you do everything in your power not to do that. You, instead, do a line of coke, or pop an Adderall, or dance with your friends. Sometimes you even accompany strangers home. And it’s not because you expect anything to come of some mediocre sex in their dirty Montrose-adjacent apartment. But sucking their dick and lying lifelessly underneath them as they insist on calling you filthy names before they ejaculate on your face and chest and expect you to smile about it sometimes seems somehow more appealing than being home alone with the darkness and feelings you aren’t ready to face.

And the next day, you wake after falling asleep when the sun was coming up, and you look into your own tired eyes sometime between washing your face and brushing your teeth. And for a long, lonely moment, you realize that those feelings are exhausting … at least the way in which you go about not dealing with them is exhausting. You realize that you look five years older than you are because all you do is work and try to fit in so that you don’t have to feel. But that’s the real irony. Isn’t it? As you stare into your own cold, soulless eyes, staring at the shell of a person you used to know, you realize how much it would mean to you if you could just feel again.

It was nearly midnight, at that point. And Gwen and I were still talking. Then, as I was just about to fall asleep—with the lights on—my laptop pinged.

There, in the top right corner, was an email from Ezra. The subject line just said, “Ezra’s Response.”

Boy, was I about to feel again.

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.


Read Part II here.

Tricks and Treats, Pt. II

Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Halloween

Less Than Butterflies, No. 2

At a certain point, I was undoubtedly drunk. Between Stephen’s specialty Nerds-flavored shots and the shots of Fireball in conjunction with all the vodka, I was just moments away from trying to play Someone Like You on the piano in the living room over whatever Bebe Rexha was shouting about. I refrained.

The party was fun and very much alive, but I was tiring quickly and wanted to see what was going on in Montrose before I retired for the evening. Courtney and Jennifer had already made their way to Pearl for the costume contest. Carter was flitting around the party, coming back every now and then to get a little handsy as the night progressed. The drunker I became, the less I fought it off. After all, I may not have been interested in Carter, but I was alone at a party and somewhat sadder than I had been before I was this drunk. The attention wasn’t killing me.

After goodbyes with Stephen and Leo and a few other people I’d met at the party, Carter and I dashed down the stairs to our cars to meet a couple of other friends at JR’s. Montrose, however, proved to be impossible to navigate thanks to street closures for Halloween and the perennial road work always taking place throughout the neighborhood. I must have parked six blocks from JR’s (and probably illegally, at that) before I was able to make my way to the bar.

The temperature had dropped significantly in a very short time, but it hadn’t prevented anyone from wandering the streets. Even the patio of JR’s was packed with people, as was every room of the bar. Finding Carter, as well as my friends Casey and Nick, proved to be much more difficult as I squeezed my way through the unnecessarily sweaty patrons.

When I did finally find them, I had trouble keeping my attention zeroed in on the conversation. This could partly be chalked up to drunkenness, but my distraction was due to everyone else in the bar. From Casey and Nick to every other pair, it became depressingly obvious that nearly everyone in the bar was coupled off.

Where had gay Christmas gone? Where had the twinks in wings and colorful underwear tottered off to? Even the bears in leather were partnered-up. Long gone seemed the days of going out on Halloween with the intention of hooking up or meeting someone interesting who may only seem attractive at the time due to their costume. Looking around, I obsessed over the fact that out of 5 million people in the city of Houston—granted only a minority of them gay—everyone out for Halloween was already spoken for. Where were all the single people? Was there some sort of single, gay, Halloween party I hadn’t been invited to where everyone drank wine and watched Practical Magic until they’d become so drunk and suicidal that they decided to join hands and jump off the roof like Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman at the end of the movie?

Why hadn’t I been invited?

The clock struck 2 AM sooner than I’d have guessed, and Carter and I made our way through busy Montrose hand-in-hand toward our cars.

Unfortunately, like on so many occasions before, I couldn’t find my car anywhere.

Fuck,” I swore, irritated with myself for not thinking to pay more attention when I’d parked.

“It’s fine,” Carter told me as he led me to his car. “I’ll drive you around until we find it.”

If ever there came a day when I didn’t have to rely on a man to help me find my car, I might actually wake up a different person. Sadly, that was becoming more and more a trademark of who I’d become.

Finding the car didn’t take long. Once we’d passed by JR’s, I began to remember how I’d walked to the bar from my car. Carter pulled up right behind it to let me out on the corner like a hooker who’d lost her way. He leaned in to hug me, lingering a bit before he kissed me on the cheek. Once he had, I kissed his back.

What happened next I could blame on the alcohol, but I’d be lying. Being drunk had never made me do anything. I knew better than that. Still, as I moved just a little bit to the right and kissed Carter on his lips, I couldn’t compose a justifiable reason why I’d done it. He kissed me back, and we did so a little more before my senses returned to me and I pulled away.

This was not the magic of Halloween. This was a drunk, lonely gay who’d been thinking of another gay all night while taking advantage of his friend. And though Carter didn’t object and reciprocated the kiss, I was taking advantage of his kindness, and for that I felt like shit.

I bid him goodnight, then sped off in my own car. I was embarrassed. Not because Carter wasn’t cute, he certainly was. But because I’d escalated to a new level of sluttiness—the kind that involves and can harm your friendships.

I guess I really had put the ‘trick’ in trick-or-treat, even if only by way of innocently kissing a friend in whom I had no romantic interest. Worst of all, though, I felt unfulfilled. This kiss hadn’t meant anything, though maybe part of me was hoping that it would have coming from a boy who at least paid attention to me and made me feel attractive. But the magic—Halloween or otherwise—simply hadn’t been there.

Even on a night when witches were supposed to fly their broomsticks across the night sky, and spirits were said to creep from one side of the veil to the other, and twinks paraded around in their underwear and angel wings, maybe the magic of gay Halloween wasn’t resting in how much we had to drink or how slutty we became thereafter. It laid in our friendships—the unexpected ones that started off as silly crushes, and the ones that we kissed by accident that we’d never crushed on before and probably never would. Those were the people who made Halloween—a night of needless celebration—fun. They were the ones we could count on no matter what.

Return to Part I 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