Friday, June 24, 2016

You get busy. You know how it is. You make a snack, do the laundry, take out the trash, and suddenly the thought hits you: Wait. No. Really? I haven't had sex in eight years?

I try to come up with an actual date but can't do it. It's not like people send you Hallmark cards after you screw. You can't run to the file cabinet and sort through the greetings for written evidence: from Grandma for my birthday, from my sister for Christmas, from Keith for the spit-roasted three-way. I wrack my brain but can't come up with any holidays that usually point towards sex, like an anniversary with an old beau, or a Valentine's Day with a new one, and I can't recall boyfriends that would indicate I was screwing around at the time. Mentally I peer at my penis like a forensic examiner: there aren't any leeches or decomposition, but from its overall sadness I'd say it was clearly seven to ten years.

Emma acts like it's a positive thing. "You've got this zen calm to you," she declares. "Like you're post-hookup. Like sexual desire is a demon and after years of fighting you've finally wrestled it to the ground."

I'm pretty sure this isn't flattery. Fun, attractive people don't wrestle horniness to the ground: the ones I know give right in. Frequently, three or four times a week. But I've apparently dealt with it for so long I've become the first person in America to permanently win. I've looked into my pants and shouted, "BEGONE, SATAN!" so many times he's packed up his stuff and moved to some place where sin is still a vague possibility. He's probably hitchhiking to Betty White's place as we speak.

I decide to attack the problem logically, with a three-pronged approach. I answer an ad on Craigslist, I download Growlr, and I wander around the city acting friendly and trying to meet attractive people in the flesh.

Craigslist is the first option to crash and burn. I find a personals ad from a sixty-year-old man on the Upper West Side who likes the opera, the theatre, and travel, and wants to form a connection before taking it any farther. I email him expressing similar interests and his reply shoots back. "DO YOU HAVE A DICK PIC?" he asks. And thoughtfully he includes his.

I wrestle with it for a day or two. Times have changed, I say to myself. All the kids do it these days. Then I wake up one morning with one thought in my head: sixty-year-old men should NOT have dick pics. Nobody looks at a sixty-year-old man and thinks, "I'm on the fence about doing him, but I'm holding out until I get details on girth."

It takes me a week to dismiss Growlr. The hot dudes are all masseurs or personal trainers, which means there's a price tag attached. The regular folks confuse me. I'm expecting come-hither poses that recall Denzel Washington but get smiles and berets and tons of excess flesh. I just can't see them as sexual. They remind me of Rerun from "What's Happening?" While the rest of the cast is struggling with dating he's buying striped socks and asking, "Who's ready to Pop & Lock?"

I don't actually communicate with anyone on Growlr: the Shouts -- paid messages to all subscribers -- scare me off. Most include words like "420-friendly" (weed) or "PNP" (crystal meth). "Looking for PARTY FAVORS," reads one Shout. "Anybody else LIKE TO SKI?" asks another. Are these people serious? I wonder. Like cops will read these and think, "I'm stumped! Guess I'll have to look elsewhere for illegal drug use."

One man whose profile name is Happy Times gives me existential despair. "I'm bored," he says one day. "Anybody want a blowjob?" The next day it's, "I'm super bored. Who wants to get sucked?" That's followed by, "Really bored. My lips were made for oral service" and then "Just bored sick. Cum to my glory hole!" Mentally I compose a reply, but "Holy Christ, dude -- GET A FUCKIN' JOB!" probably isn't what he's looking for.

Meeting in person gets me the furthest. Stephen, a sales clerk at a local store, is getting off work and asks me if I want to go to his place for coffee. I get butterflies. Should I? Could I? He's short -- maybe 5'4" -- but he's handsome and outgoing so I agree. We're walking down 14th Street as Too Much Information pours out. He's a recovering addict who's gone to AA meetings every day for 27 years. He's currently addicted to diet soda, which explains the plastic cup he's carrying that's the size of carry-on luggage. He's 59 and likes age-appropriate men but his last two boyfriends were 35. Unprompted, he shows me pictures of them. When he sees my look of displeasure he offers an excuse: "I didn't want to go out with them," he says. "They talked me into it."

"Shoot," I say, slapping my forehead. "I forgot I have to be somewhere." I grab his hand and shake it to a confused look. "Nice meeting you!" I say, and I run.

Then on Sunday I go to the Folsom Street East Fair. I see a bondage demonstration, watch some Furries share a carrot, and twenty minutes later I'm with another handsome man, this one maybe 5'3", walking to another apartment for more drinks. Yaakov looked great with his shirt off, but it's back on now and with each step that memory fades. He gets a phone call and takes it. For five minutes he argues with somebody in Hebrew. It's pretty much the opposite of sexy, since it reminds me of renegotiating my lease.

We're four blocks away from his place when he tells me he's a rabbi. I feel like such an idiot; I thought it was just a bad haircut. Three blocks away he says his roommate stole his furniture so he has no place to sit down. Two blocks away he says he has no depth perception so he can't cross streets alone. "FASTER!" I implore. "LET'S WALK FASTER! I AM REALLY LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS!" One block away he tells me he was following me at the street fair. I finally realize that every time he opens his mouth I get a whiff of a really bad stink.

Which leaves Yaakov stranded at a crosswalk while I head home alone. I catch a glimpse of myself in a window and I start to understand Emma's comment. I've wrestled with the demon of desire so often it's like Godzilla fighting Rob Kardashian. Still, I add a mental note to my logical approach. "FIND A TALLER MAN," it reads. Not because he'll be closer to my height, but because the short ones can't walk fast enough.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Read the Wall Street Journal's editorial page just once and you'll come to an inescapable conclusion: either the rich white Republicans who read it are morons who reached their lofty positions in life by inheritance or these articles are actually jokes that nobody takes seriously.

The Journal printed an all-time head-scratcher Friday titled "How Millennials Can Live Bernie's Dream." It claims Bernie Sanders supporters should "feel like [they're] in socialist heaven" because of how progressive the U.S. government already is. "[A] long-running American experiment in socialism is still going strong," it reads. The participants, and their spouses and children, get free health care! Free education! Salaries and benefits! How stupid the millennials are to fight for socialism when it's already here!

There must be a catch, you say, and there's a small one. You have to join the Army to participate.

That's the last line in the article written by Jeremy Stern, a lieutenant in the Army. To my mind, they could have replaced it with a more succinct, "HA! YOU WERE AN IDIOT TO READ THIS!" Because it's not exactly a news flash to hear that America provides Scandinavian Socialist-style benefits to, ahem, PEOPLE WHO WORK. Serious newspaper. Opinion section article. Could have been headlined, "PEOPLE WHO WORK GET MONEY AND BENEFITS AND STUFF!"

But really, the guy is recommending the Army? I wouldn't work at Wal-Mart and they'd let me have Cheetos and fruit punch for lunch. I'd have to wear a blue polyester vest but my boss wouldn't make me clean toilets with a toothbrush if he couldn't bounce a quarter off my bed. And you can claim grade school for children of inductees is "free" but spending your days in Iraqi minefields might be slightly more annoying than paying $214 a month.

I'm not laboring under the delusion that Scandinavia is heaven. I'm not moving there because free health care isn't worth the high cost of bulky sweaters. I don't think it's a fair trade: sure, I'd like a hefty retirement pension, but I also like sandwiches made from two slices of bread. Adios pastrami, roast beef, country ham, grilled chicken or bacon; every day, everywhere it's open-faced whitefish with dill.

It's ridiculous, though, to pretend it's like being in the Army. Swedes don't have to shave their heads. They don't all sleep in one giant room, or shower together. They don't roust themselves out of bed when somebody plays a bugle. And when they're giving PowerPoint presentations about maintaining greenspace around the wetlands, their bosses don't repeatedly scream, "I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"

Needless to say, I don't think competent journalists can pretend being in the Army is close to Bernie's goal. He may be from Vermont but I don't think he'll make anybody move to Pakistan before he breaks up banks that are too big to fail. And he may look crazy but I don't think he intends to fight income inequality by sending poor people overseas. Still, I get how "Bernie's Dream" can be difficult for privileged white folk to grasp, because it doesn't help the rich get richer before the rest of us can go home with the flu.

(The article is behind a paywall here but is also reprinted here.)