The Dating Game

The Stavros Chronicles: Shirley Valentine The Sequel

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012 | Friends, Stavros, The Dating Game, Travel | 2 Comments

Well, here I am, back in Greece. I don’t know why the tourist season ends exactly when it’s the most pleasant time to be here, but I’m enjoying the empty beaches and not sweating. Stavros and I have been alternately at each other’s throats or adhered in liplocked bliss. Thankfully, mostly liplocked bliss.

A lot of our confrontation stems from his notion that a long-distance relationship, including this one that seems to be going so well, is impossible. I’ve told him that he doesn’t have to decide that it’s impossible and then so actively pursue not making it possible. If it’s impossible, it just won’t work out, he doesn’t have to do anything. But if something is possible, stop resisting and let it happen. I feel him holding back—words that aren’t spoken, thoughts not articulated—and I know it’s not because of some stupid macho cultural thing, or that he doesn’t care about me, it’s because of his fears and anxiety. He’s dealing with what all Greeks are dealing with, how to survive in the current economic climate, and let me tell you, the Greek people are being asked to sacrifice so much, you can almost see how some of them could be brainwashed by the right-wing extremist Golden Dawn fascists and their anti-austerity proposals, the closest they’ll get to “read my lips.” One United Nations official has already warned that the current austerity measures could represent a violation of human rights. Against this dire economic backdrop, he asks, how could romance be possible? Well, it is, and it’s blossoming, so sit back and let it flower. To paraphrase Auntie Mame, “Love! love! love!!”

We spent last weekend with two of his friends, Giorgos and Filios, guests in their home in Methana. They were delightful hosts, very well-read, each actively pursuing artistic endeavors, truly a pleasure to while away a weekend with. Methana is a sub-peninsula of the Peloponnesus, attached by a tiny sliver of land. It’s almost an island, entirely of volcanic origin, the smell of sulphur still in the air. The area is only sparsely populated, but with lush vegetation and dense forests, boulders everywhere, like the volcano just erupted. Giorgos and I hiked up to the peak of the highest volcano, enjoying beautiful views of the mainland and the islands of the Saronic Gulf.

Swimming in the sea, it felt like we were the only people in the entire Gulf. For a moment I thought of the housekeeper’s warning in the original The Haunting (not the stupid remake) “No one can hear you scream… in the dark… in the night…” but the water is so inviting, and so comforting. It doesn’t seem like you’re going to be sucked under by a giant sleeper wave or frozen to death like when swimming in the Pacific. Even when there’s a volcano above you and teetering boulders on the hillside ready to tumble down.

The Dating Game: Series Finale or Cliff Hanger?

Thursday, July 12th, 2012 | Stavros, The Dating Game, Travel | No Comments

I was beginning to think that perhaps this post would never come, but this season of the Dating Game—it seems, and I hope—is, okay, very well could be the last. The season finale in Greece found Stavros taking my heart and everything else that’s attached to it. Actually, to be on the safe side, let’s say that the season ends with a cliff-hanger, the two of us taking tentative steps towards bridging the distance between us. Meanwhile, I secretly pray for the continued collapse of his country’s economy and a future together somewhere beyond 60% pay cuts and 23% value-added-tax on food.

I’m writing this on the airplane from Athens to Philadelphia. Since leaving him at the airport I’ve been crying, for a few hours now, my already red face even redder, my glasses fogged, face puffy, like a big puppy, the door clicking shut as my master goes off to work, for the day, maybe forever, will he ever return, who’s going to fill my bowl, pat my head…

Stavros is beyond anything I’ve fantasized about, a contemporary and breathing incarnation of the statues of Hercules, Apollo, Silenus, Hadrian, Poseidon, italian river gods—representations of idealized male beauty and virility that have spurred my erotic yearning and artistic production for years. But physical perfection isn’t all that is contained in this magnificent vessel, he’s charming, witty, smart, honest, good teeth, a vibrant presence so thrilling to be around. There’s nothing else I can learn about him, nothing more needed to confirm or validate the overwhelming desire I have for him.

He’s a little more practical. Even though we’ve already talked about marriage, and he brought it up, not me, when I told him I loved him, he didn’t reciprocate. I started strangling him and said, “Say it! Say it! Say you love me! I know you do!” He responded that love takes time, that he would tell me in 2 years. 2 years?? Not content to wait that long, and fully aware that his reticence had only to do with his lack of experience (he’s never told anyone that before. As you all know, I fall in love pretty swiftly and decisively. Sometimes, well, often, it’s the guy that’s not right, but never my feelings, they’re always authentic and deeply felt. This time, though, my feelings finally landed on the right guy), I took his head in my hands and, stroking his beard, said for him, “Chris, I love you so much, I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” He didn’t protest. He just slapped me and said “Snap out of it!” in his Greek-Cher Brooklyn accent. I am Ronny Cammareri.

Last week we took a few day trips, a beautiful boat ride out to Agistri island, where we kept missing the bus to the other, potentially more interesting section of the island with the isolated nude beaches, walking back and forth on the hot road between our tiny little sliver of desolate beach and the bus stop. Another day we drove to Sounio, and the lovely ruins of the temple of Poseidon. Byron was there and carved his initials on the temple and wrote a poem. Everybody else started carving his initials, too, so now it’s roped off. Supposedly this was the spot where the distraught Aegeus leapt to his death after his stupid son Thesseus sailed into port under a black sail, rather than the agreed upon white one, which would have sent the message that he had slain the minotaur and was alive. Like how do you forget something like that? The Aegean is named after him, this loving father of our stupid hero.

We went to several open-air cinemas in Athens, one with the lighted Acropolis as dramatic backdrop, another with comfy couches, all serving beer and food, the stars twinkling above.

We spent a few more days swimming in the sea off the rocks near Vouliagmeni. Stavros has a special spot on a stretch of secluded rockiness peopled with naked sunworshippers, segregated into groups of young gay, young straight, old straight, and our group, the sagging graying daddies. These guys must go out there every day, for their skin is the color of rich Corinthian leather, and of course no tan lines, just dark honey skin dramatically setting off their gray pubes. There’s no beach, no sand, just rock and blue crystal clear water and the occasional voyeur.

One night we met up with some friends and stood around and drank beers in a bar called “Big” where everybody is big and nearly everybody smokes. Stavros spends hours and hours doing this. Except for the smoke, I was in heaven.

Six more hours to go on this flight, not even half way. Ugh.

So my dear readers, thanks for tuning into my dating adventures all these years. My narrative trajectory will now be called The Stavros Chronicles and will concern my new interest in furthering positive Greek relations. When will we see each other again? When will he tell me he loves me? Will I ever learn Greek? Will we indeed get married and live happily ever after? And where, exactly, is this happy-ever-aftering to take place?

I expect everyone of my crowd to make fun
Of my proud protestations of faith in romance,
And they’ll say I’m naïve as a babe to believe
Every fable I hear from a person in pants.

Fearlessly I’ll face them and argue their doubts away,
Loudly I’ll sing about flowers in spring,
Flatly I’ll stand on my little flat feet and say
Love is a grand and a beautiful thing!
I’m not ashamed to reveal
The world famous feelin’ I feel…

The Stavros Chronicles: Hydra

Thursday, June 28th, 2012 | Stavros, The Dating Game, Travel | No Comments

This weekend we (I’m already using the proprietary “we”) went to this perfectly picturesque little island in the Saronic Gulf, Hydra. It’s a film set of an island, formerly an important ship-building center, a tiny port village with 18-19th Century buildings. Jules Dassin’s Phaedra and Jean Negulesco’s Boy on a Dolphin (with Sophia Loren, her character also named “Phaedra”) were filmed here. There are no cars, or even bikes, although they do have mules for hire. Actually, if they allowed bicycles they’d probably have to put up guardrails, of which now there are nearly none, just sheer drop offs to that beautiful blue sea.

We swam in that amazing crystal clear water, ate delicious local seafood, took long walks around the island punctuated by our occasional dips into the sea. Stavros is the ideal flotation device, bobbing around without even having to tread water. The village was celebrating their involvement in the war of independence from Ottoman rule, which culminated in the burning of a boat in the harbor, fireworks spewing out from the boat and into the sky, histrionic music blaring, everyone in period costumes. There was dancing and much merriment.

The Stavros Chronicles: On the Plane to Athens, then Landing & Finally, Waking

Thursday, June 21st, 2012 | Stavros, The Dating Game, Travel | No Comments

So Stavros and I have continued our virtual romance, spending hours a day chatting via Skype, exchanging teasing imagery and extreme longing across the world-wide web. And now I’m on a plane to Athens, about a month and a half after our initial online encounter. The love of my life, or of the next 3 weeks? We’ll see. In either case, I’m hoping to find expression of this desire that has consumed the better part of the last nine years, my quest for Mr. Right. I say things like, “Oh we’ll see how it goes,” while thinking that the only way I want this to go is for us to be together forever. But how in the heck is that going to work? And how do they expect us to sleep on these planes when they pack us in here like sardines? I’m sitting next to a Greek American woman, a 63 year old ballerina, who is so charming and beautiful and hasn’t stopped talking since take-off 4 hours ago, so at least the not-able-to-sleep portion of the trip is filled with her delightful commentary.

So I’m here, finally, since yesterday morning. Stavros had, until yesterday morning, existed as a 320 x 480 pixel representation of the man of my dreams. Now he’s the living, breathing embodiment of the man of my dreams. I will never forget seeing him at the airport for the first time, in his flip-flops and extended arms, a big grinning bear lumbering towards me. I still can’t believe he’s real, that someone could so perfectly conform to everything that I find desirable and attractive in a mate. He’s beautiful, sexy, attentive, silly, protective—he’s every favorable adjective I can think of.

Last night we went to the Acropolis Museum, which was celebrating its third anniversary by offering discounted admission and a public concert. The museum houses the decorative elements from the current Parthenon (frieze, metopes, sculptures, etc…), as well as the remnants of previous versions and archeological finds from the Acropolis. It’s an amazing museum, with glass floors providing visual access to the layers of archeological digs on the museum site. The experience of walking through the museum is to experience how this stuff was discovered and assembled, a walk through history, time and physical space.


Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 | Stavros, The Dating Game | No Comments

I’m not one to take astrology too seriously, if at all, but a few days after writing my previous post about Stavros, my friend AstroJane sent me this, which so eerily sums up my current romantic circumstances I’m wondering if the entire cosmos hash’t organized itself just for me:

Pluto transits conjunct Venus

Your romantic life, social life, and value system are undergoing complete transformations with Pluto transiting conjunct natal Venus. You are seeking depth of experience in your social and love relationships, or this kind of experience comes into your life now. Someone may enter your life, or circumstances arise that completely change your outlook, alter your value system, or consume much of your time, thoughts, and energy. Intimacy, passion, and intensity are what you seek (or these find you!). Anything less will not satisfy. Your relationships can have a compulsive quality to them, and you are unlikely to listen to reason or rationality. Irrational fears about your lovability and love in general come up for inspection now.

Your relationships in general will become more intense, but especially those involving love and sex. You will experience emotional extremes and, if a relationship is in a rut, you are likely to decide to break it off. “All or nothing” may become your motto, and the “all” includes a depth and intensity of emotional response. You want to feel your love to the very core of your being, and you want to play an important part in someone else’s life. Obviously, any relationship which only stirs lukewarm responses won’t be able to stand up under the demands that you make of it now. Keep your eyes open; someone you meet now may teach you some important lessons about love. You may have a love relationship with this person, or he/she could be someone who plays the role of teacher or guru. Your sex drive is strong and may find an outlet in either a new or existing relationship or through a creative medium such as writing or painting.

The Dating Game: I’m Hard to Get, Stavros, All You Have to Do is Ask Me

Saturday, May 12th, 2012 | Stavros, The Dating Game | No Comments

It’s only been a week since I met this guy, and already, yes already, I can think of and see absolutely nothing but him. All day I think of him. I dream of him at night. I think in clichés. He’s the first person I talk to in the morning, the last before going to bed. If we don’t talk, I look at his pictures and smile myself to sleep. I say his name all day, out loud, trying to get that slight trill in my “r.” In the past, I’ve used pseudonyms in my blog for the guys that I’ve been interested in, perhaps a subconscious acknowledgment of participating in a kind of fiction. But this man’s name is Stavros, and he’s the realest thing I’ve ever known.

Except that he lives in Greece, and I actually haven’t met him in person yet.

I can see you all rolling your eyes. “Again??” Someone even asked me if perhaps I’m the one afraid of intimacy, and this is why I’m attracting these guys who live in other time zones and on different continents. Ma che dice! I am like an intimacy sponge! I’m so open to and craving intimacy that I’ll look for it everywhere, as the feeling that I want to experience isn’t tied so much to specific things like mutual interests or a common language or convenient transportation, but to a kind of emotional exchange that I’ve experienced a few times and just can’t get into a relationship without. It’s what you see between Bogie and Bacall in To Have and Have Not.

It’s there with Stavros. Just his voice pierces something deep in me, some emotional G-spot. I have nothing to lose in being my effusive self with him, he actually welcomes it, and returns it as fervently. There seems to be only one gear to shift into, and, damn the potential torpedoes to come, that’s full-steam-ahead.

The Dating Game: GROWLr and the Foot Guy

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012 | The Dating Game | 3 Comments

So I’ve placed an ad on GROWLr. It’s this dating app for the iPhone that’s tailor-made for the homoesexualist looking for love, and without having to wander too far from home: it’s GPS based.

I, of course, am looking for significantly more complicated entanglements than most guys on the site, but I seem to have worked my way through all the other dating sites without finding my Mr. Right, and thought, what the heck, maybe Mr. Right is hidden somewhere among the Mr. Right Nows.

Following the lead of most guys on the site, I posted a picture of me with my shirt off, during the buffest moment of my life, which mercifully wasn’t too long ago. I said simply that I was looking for love… short and to the point. Immediately the incoming message tone started blinging, woof after woof, grr after grr. I heard from several guys who had completely ignored me on other sites where I had my shirt on and all serious about looking for a relationship. I tell ya, take your shirt off, don’t say much, and they will come. My next door neighbor even hit me up with a woof, not recognizing my chest. Men are this shallow and this predictable.

So this morning I got a very heated request from this one guy in New York who wanted pictures of my feet. Just my feet. I don’t have or share the kinds of pictures most guys on those sites are after, but I was waiting for my oatmeal to cook and had finished the paper, so I thought, what the heck. After the first photo, he texted back excitedly, asking for more pictures. I took another, and another. His requests became more and more specific, of the soles of my feet, just the soles. But not cropped, he wanted the entire foot in the image. And the other one, too. He even texted me sample pictures. It was not easy, with my oatmeal boiling on the stove, but I endeavored to oblige. I had never met a textbook fetishist before, just the weekend ones at street fairs and such. This one was so demanding, more more more. One picture was not enough, please just one more, and then one more. And only one angle of view seemed to satisfy his insatiable craving. I sent him a final picture, exhausted, and sat down with my oatmeal.

Fear and Self-Loathing in Southern California, or Only Love Can Break Your Heart

Saturday, April 28th, 2012 | The Dating Game | 3 Comments

He hides his head inside a dream
Someone should call him and see if he can come out.
Try to lose the down that he’s found.
Only love can break your heart
Try to be sure right from the start
Yes only love can break your heart

And thus, my dear readers, ends another thrilling chapter of my Dating Game. Señor Grant gave me the boot, a few days ago, about 3 months after our initial flirtation, although actually I think I scored the technical KO by telling him first that I didn’t think it was a good idea to be seeing him anymore. After his swift affirmative response, I quickly tried to jump back into the ring, painfully aware of my impulsivity, but it was too late, he had already moved on, perhaps just waiting for me to do the dumping all along.

So how did I blow this thing? Well, it all started when I told him I cared about him. As soon as I shared my feelings he suddenly ceased any kind of affectionate or romantic exchange. Remember he lives in another town, so we didn’t get to see each other that much. When not in physical contact, we had only language, our courting conducted via phone and text. He was romantic, attentive, responsive, excited… until the moment I told him I cared. I was so completely discombobulated, like waking up in Backwards Land. I tried talking about it, which only frustrated him. For the last month we’ve been tussling over this, while simultaneously feeling more and more physically connected. I couldn’t make any sense of what was going on.

Finally, he confessed that he just wasn’t ready to open himself up, that he was drawn to me initially because I represented something that he’d always wanted, the potential for a mature relationship. Somehow his plan didn’t include me feeling anything and certainly not expressing it, my enthusiasm welcomed like the swine flu.

He related my behavior to his own personal experience—pining after someone not interested in him, and still carrying around the shame of his actions and ultimate rejection. It unnerved me to be compared to this version of himself that he described as being “emotionally crippled,” and I feel wrongly rejected because he closed his eyes to who I am and where my actions were coming from. I made no demands and had no expectations of him other than welcoming my feelings in whatever way he was ready for, and treating me in a way that was appropriate to what our bodies were doing.

But, alas, he just wasn’t ready to feel or express anything beyond fear, and steadily and unwaveringly turned from my advances, Daphne fleeing from Apollo, Eros’ golden arrow having pierced my heart, the lead one his. I went from A Date With Judy to feeling like Liam Neeson in that movie where he wakes from a coma and his wife (was it January Jones?) denies even knowing him, his identity erased.

I’m really disappointed that I couldn’t have been more respectful or even aware of his boundaries, and that I screwed this up because of feeling something and not knowing how to contain or express it appropriately. I’m deeply confounded by the notion that I pushed him away by loving him.

But what can I do? I have to accept that I can’t make him feel anything he’s not ready for, or just not feeling. Whatever the reason, I don’t have to understand why, just to accept it, and henceforth to navigate more carefully through the treacherous waters surrounding Emotionally Crippled Island. Arr…

The Dating Game: Herb Ritts & The Cult of Celebrity

Thursday, April 19th, 2012 | Art, The Dating Game, Travel | No Comments

On Sunday, Señor Grant took me to the Getty to lunch with his cute girl buddies, Liza and Kim. They’re sisters, almost identical, smartly dressed with glowing white teeth. They finish each other’s sentences, refer to each other as “my sister” and are just a delight to observe. We walked through the Herb Ritts show, which left me with nothing. Unless you call emptiness something. He was a great technician, or the people who printed his pictures were, who masterfully appropriated the visions of countless other photographers—Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Edward Weston—to create beautiful images of beautiful people that are completely without depth, all about surface. But oh those surfaces. Black skin in particular is rendered as a sumptuous textile.

Luckily, there was another teeny little show nearby, Portraits of Renown, consisting of celebrity portraits from nearly the dawn of photography to contemporary times. Each portrait conveyed an essence of the individual, the spark responsible for their fame. A portrait of John Barrymore as Hamlet by Edward Steichen had Barrymore in profile, slightly blurred, but his body sharp and in focus, the fiery energy in his head not to be contained. Lewis Morley’s iconic portrait of Profumo Affair strumpet Christine Keeler was shot in 1963—but printed around the time that the film Scandal was released—a publicity shot for a proposed film project, of her naked, confident, straddling a chair, her nudity hidden by her arms and the back of the chair. The show lusciously demonstrates how the photographic image has shaped our perception and experience of celebrity.

The Dating Game: Mickey, Señor Grant and Me

Thursday, April 19th, 2012 | The Dating Game, Travel | No Comments

Last weekend I flew down to southern California to spend some time with Señor Grant. On Saturday, he took me to Disneyland, after prohibiting me from participating in any planning. Always content to submit to the agenda of others, I happily surrendered. This guy knows his way around Disneyland like I know my way around a pint of Häagen Dazs Dulce de Leche. We spent about 12 hours running from attraction to attraction, with hardly a moment of rest, except for the brief corn dog respite.

Now, my experience with corn dogs has pretty much been limited to Trader Joe’s Meatless Corn Dogs, which are more like a medium for the delivery of ketchup. The Disney ones were like the Trader Joe’s ones plus about 1500 calories, a lot of grease, and seemingly real meat products. I wolfed down two and then was rushed off to the next ride.

I think that my favorite ride was Soaring over California. You sit in a ski lift-like buggy in front of a massive screen which effectively fills your entire field of vision. On the screen a film is projected from the point of view of Superman, or some gravity-defying Disney character, flying over the Golden Gate Bridge, through Yosemite, and various other parts of California, except I think Sacramento, our capital, which didn’t seem to make the cut. They raise the seats and blow air at you, and even pine scent as you pass over the timber line, so that the effect is like you’re really soaring over the state. It was simultaneously completely convincing and completely artificial, like being tossed into a giant movie.

I also loved the Hollywood Tower of Terror. You get in an elevator in this old hotel and suddenly you’re dropped 14 stories. And then the elevator goes up again and you’re dropped again. And again. I screamed and screamed. Aaaaaaaah! I nearly lost my corn dogs.

We dined in Ariel’s Grotto, outside by the water, romantic, in the only table with no heat overhead. So I shivered through my meal, warmed visually by Señor Grant’s fiery countenance. After dinner we made our way through several heated indoor attractions and then, suitably warmed, hopped over to the other side of the lake to see the World of Color show, “the WOOON-derful world of COOOOOO-loooooooor!” in which scenes from recent Disney films are projected on eruptions and sprays of water. Despite the signs everywhere warning that the area we were in was a “wet” zone, Señor Grant insisted that it was “only a mist.” When our neighbors expressed concern about getting wet, he calmed them with “it’s only a light mist.” The show was dazzling, the colored jets of water zigging and zagging, the fountains growing higher and higher… and then came the deluge. Which didn’t stop. Everyone around started screaming, I ducked behind Señor Grant but to no avail. We were soaked. I tried to avoid the angry stares of my wet neighbors, glaring at Señor Grant.

Actually I loved all the rides—the roller coasters, the singing animatronic critters, the Haunted Mansion—except for the Finding Nemo submarine ride, which was pretty lame. But to be fair to the Disney designers, by the time we got there, it was close to midnight, the corn dogs were wreaking havoc with my GI tract, we were wet, tired, kids were crying, everybody stank. It was time to go home.

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