Monday, August 10, 2015


Chris and I live at the far end of Metro Vancouver.  So, about every six weeks or so, we make a point of going into the city, visiting some of our favorites areas (South Granville, Kitsilano, downtown), favorite shops (Pottery Barn, Chapters, Chintz & Co.), and favorite restaurants (Stephos, Cactus Club Cafe, Milestones).

One of our other favorite shops is The Cross Decor & Design.  Located in Yaletown, on the corner of Homer and Davie, The Cross is unique among home decorating stores.  It's stylish, for sure, but also relaxed and cozy.  It's also playful and whimsical.  The Cross is a fun place to visit any time we're on an adventure in the city.     

A gay man works at The Cross.  He's short, a little overweight, and bald.  If I had to guess, I'd say he's in his mid- to late-30s.  His salt-and-pepper beard is attractive, as is his warm and easy smile. 

What really sets him apart from many places where gay men work is his friendliness.  Not fake friendliness.  Not the kind of friendly he has to be, because he's the employee, and we're the customers.  No, genuine friendliness.  He makes me feel like I'm a long, lost friend.  He makes me feel like he cares about us.  He makes me feel good being in The Cross. 

Some time ago, this man introduced himself to me.  Chris was off doing his thing elsewhere in the store, and this man and I came into contact with each other.  He told me his name, but I'm ashamed to admit I'm not good with names, and I've since forgotten it.  Let's call him Brian–as good a name as any.

I happened to be talking with Brian while Chris walked up.  I introduced Chris to him.  Brian was equally friendly with Chris.  He had to have known Chris and I were a couple; he's seen us in there together before.  The three of us talked for a few minutes, minor stuff, connecting.  None of our conversation felt forced.  Brian's warmth came through.  He's a nice man.

Weeks later, when Chris and I returned to The Cross, I saw Brian again.  He made a point of talking to me.  Again, conversation was easy.  He was warm and friendly, like he'd been before.  When I told him I had to go, he said it was good to see me again.  I believed him.  It was good to see him again too.

Whenever I go into The Cross, I hope Brian will be there.  I hope I'll have the chance to talk to him.  He's one of the reasons why I like to go in to The Cross.   

Lately, I've found different places to work on my novel.  There's the Silent Study room at the local public library (where an old Asian gentleman peers at his computer screen through a tiny magnifying glass and slurps on his own saliva, which is very distracting).  There's the lobby at The ACT (Arts Club Theatre).  Sometimes, there's a local coffee shop.  And, about once a week, where I indulge in a grande Mocha Frappuccino nonfat no-whip, there's the Starbucks location closest to where Chris and I live.

A gay young man works at Starbucks.  He's short, sports a thick head of neatly-styled hair, and a thin beard.  If I had to guess, I'd say he's in his early-twenties.  He dresses in the latest fashion, wears glasses, and smiles quickly.  Then it's gone.  I'll call him Paul. 

Everything Paul does is quick.  He's like a whirling top around that coffee shop.  He's here, he's there, looking after this, then that, and that.  He's not shy.  He knows a lot of people, and he interacts with them without holding back.  In years past, he'd have been called a "going concern."  He makes things happen.  People seem to like him.

The first time he saw me, I was sitting at the table closest to the door.  He was just coming on to his shift.  He gave me a lingering look, the one gay men know as an acknowledgement of each other's sexual orientation.  No smile, no nothing.  Then he was gone.  He's avoided looking at me since.

One day, after I'd ordered my mocha frap, I stood in the area where people wait for their drinks.  Paul happened to be making the drinks then.  

In the past, when my drink's been handed to me, I've always gotten a smile from the Starbucks employee, and they've always made sure I had a straw to enjoy my drink with.  In other words, they've been friendly.  They've made an effort to be pleasant.  They've made me feel appreciated, like they were happy I came in that day.  

When Paul realized he was making my drink, he seemed to move even faster than usual.  Mocha frap in hand, he whipped it across the counter at me and blurted what it was.  No smile, no straw–no appreciation for coming in that day.  He couldn't have turned away from me fast enough to return to whatever else he had to do.

These past two weeks, Paul hasn't been working in that Starbucks location when I've been there.  The other employees, mostly young women, have been so nice to talk to, so friendly.  Especially the one usually taking the orders.  She's opened up to me, and we've chatted a bit.   

For me, at least, the atmosphere without Paul has been easier, more relaxed.  I feel comfortable when he's not around.  Maybe he's moved on to something else.  I hope.

Update as of August 12, 2015:

Nope.  Paul hasn't moved on to something else.  He was at work today, just as indifferent to me as before.  Oh, well…


  1. The experience you have with Paul is akin to similar experiences that other gay men have when they encounter other gay men in the wild.

    1. Interesting comment, oskyldig. I don't know what you mean by "wild." Perhaps if you could elaborate. Thanks.

    2. Simply in the sense as "out in the wild" in other words in real life, out of gay-specific places, etc. etc. etc.

    3. Thanks for the explanation.
      What I think is important here is that, to use your terminology, both Brian and Paul are "out in the wild," and one treats me very differently from the other.
      Also, we don't have to be "out in the wild" to be treated badly by other gay men. I remember feeling very much like other gay men, particularly when I first moved to Vancouver decades ago, didn't have the time of day for me–and this was in the gay clubs.
      That's really the contrast I wanted to highlight with this post.

  2. Hi Rick. I think there are many reasons why Paul might be ignoring you...or seem to be so. He may be attracted to you, and is afraid of being inappropriate. He may recognize you're gay, and has avoided connection of any sort so he doesn't get outer. He may think that you are attracted to him, and doesn't want to lead you on. Many more reasons come to mind. This has happened to me just as much as the opposite has happened, whereby I get standard friendliness, knowing friendliness, or even flirting...He probably deals with hundreds of people a day, and maybe has a short list of people who he makes no eye contact with, and for a variety of reasons in his own little head.

    1. Of course, you are right in everything you said, Simon, and I appreciate your comment.

      I tried to keep my purpose for writing this post somewhat ambiguous; hopefully, that came across. I wanted to see what reaction I'd get from readers, how they would interpret the differences between Brian and Paul.

      What strikes me as often the case, which you confirm, is the negative reaction one gay man gives another, in a variety of situations. I suppose in my idealized world, all gay men, particularly of my generation or older, have been through enough that you'd think we could be more accepting of each other, that we could go out of our way to be a little nicer.

      Then I see what I've written (as I just have) and realize how ridiculous it is. Should all African-American people necessarily be nicer to each other because of their shared experience of being black in the United States? All Asian people because of what they've been through? All Jewish people.

      I've received the cold shoulder from more than one gay man over the decades, who saw how I looked at him with admiration because he was so attractive, and, yes, because I wanted to meet him, and it seems to me that, rather than be rude or however you want to describe it, all they had to do was take it as a compliment. I was no more likely to throw myself at them than I was to throw myself in front of a train. So what if someone is attracted to you, would like to be around and talk to you, and you're not interested, or you're already involved? In my books, that's no reason to be cold, rude, cruel, or cynical.

      Be kind. There. That's the message I want to get across. We have been through enough. In general, we should support each other more. Kindness really doesn't hurt. And it doesn't take a lot of effort. If kindness is misinterpreted, well, the person doing the misinterpreting can be kindly but firmly set straight (so to speak, of course). That doesn't take a lot of effort either.

      Make sense?