Desperately Seeking Shlomo
by Toby Narrenschiff
A year ago, my OkCupid account at least attracted the local flotsam and jetsam of nerd-dom and social awkwardness.
I find myself now—alone—sitting on some urban seaside park in Tel Aviv. It is an appealing peace of littoral loveliness: I sit down on a small patch of well-kept crabgrass nestled between the concrete kingdom of hotel towers and a brief lip of sand that descends into the sea. As I stare through my emerald green Ray Ban glasses, purchased for the sake of looking somewhat young, the rainbow-colored Mediterranean horizon basks the self-declared homo-capital of the Middle East with smooth pink, purple, and sherbet orange light. Mother Nature is clearly a proud LGBTQ ally. Yet, the longer I stare into that boundless scene of sea, sun, and fun, reality creeps in. I ever so gingerly change positions to get more comfortable and, the ugly of all uglies happens: I accidentally break wind. I am no longer capable of controlling certain body functions at this age. 30 for queers is like breaking a hip at the age of 80. From here, it is a course that careens wildly down the road of rapid physical decay.
To make the scene all the more festive—or for the reader, revolting—my dandruff crop-dusts my shoulders with a thin layer of what could ostensibly be compared with Hungry Jack mashed potato flakes. You know, the kind your 1980s Reagan-rallying mother would prepare for you as a “delicious homemade American meal. Nothin’ like what the commies serve their children” (cue: wink, nod, clicking of high-heels). Hell, Anna Karenina could ride a sleigh through the dandruff-covered hills that are my shoulders.
The smell of what I have dealt is appalling. My eyes shift furtively beneath the tinted Ray Ban vizier. I pray under my breath (Shma’ Yisrael) that the hipster Israelis around me think that the subtle scent now wafting away with the pelagic breeze is the dirty deed of one of their dogs, a pigeon, or the homeless guy off to the right digging through the trash. Thus, I discretely feign as though I too smell something sour. Screwing on a face of disgust, I casually shake off the potato flakes and honorably slip away (though with a bit of a limp because my left leg has intermittently fallen asleep).
Yes, the reality is that the biological sun has definitely set on my potential appeal to the average gay man. A year ago, my OkCupid account at least attracted the local flotsam and jetsam of nerd-dom and social awkwardness. A congeries of semi-attractive young men in their mid-20s still occasionally “visited” my profile—thank you, OkCupid tracking device. Callow faces even responded—though only ever digitally—to my sex-deprived epistles every now and then. But now, the online dating world’s automatic age calculator has ticked me past the point of no temporal return: I am officially 30. The time is up. Like a fruity version of the 1976 film Logan’s Run, I now must undergo the Carrousel ritual; I must be vaporized for the sake of the international gay community. My life-rock no longer emits the rainbow rays of effete style and snarky panache (did it ever?). No, now the stone has gone red, red like a Republican Congressman caught on tape in a trucker bathroom stall. The time is up. And in this world of online dating, selfies, body shots, Grindr, Tindr, Scruff, Squirt, etc…, I will henceforth be counted among the long-lost, the wayward, the old. Toby’s Run begins now.
In my mind, I repeat the same comic set-up ad absurdum: the tinsel on the tree needs to be put back in the box because this year, and for all years to come, this fairy will receive no special Christmas packages carefully draped with Bel Ami Boys gift wrap. Instead, I partake in the cultic ritual of an endlessly absurd Mardi Gras pageant: long mornings, hard hangovers, and Jumba (there are no threatening masculine types in these courses; I pick my battles). I have also developed a sincere concern about carbs, I am convincing myself that I have an allergy to gluten, and when I eat cheese I begin to bloat, burp, and feel a warm tingle in my cheeks (the facial ones). With fundamentalist zeal, I apply a heavy layer of Burt’s Bees cream to moisturize the Saharan wasteland that is my face, I reprimand myself for staring forlornly at children with ice cream cones, and I occasionally stand in front of a mirror, full-frontal, just to contemplate how much my genitalia now resemble Hannah Arendt’s face (at least there is something intellectual about that). In addition, the residual rolls of pre-pubescent obesity haunt my midsection: they drape ever so much more prominently there, about my pelvis, like the upper lip of your run-of-the-mill bovine. In a certain lighting, I am reminded of the face a sad dog makes when left in the car during a hot summer day: the ears, eyes, and jowls collectively sink into a sack of canine depression as the mutt sticks his nose through the small crack in the window and whines. My body is a wonderland of decay. Fuck you, John Mayer.
The humiliation does not end here, however. After a month of actively trolling through OkCupid and Atraf.com, I change my sights, reconcile myself to the reality that this little pug ain't getting any doggy love in the Holy Land, and so I begin to accept my imminent return to Canada. This, I hoped, would at least put me in the somewhat intriguing, if not exotic, category of well-traveled 30-something gentlemen. The intellectual community in your average North American city cannot succumb to such superficial discrimination like ageism, right? 3-0 is not a number that evokes disgust or revulsion. It is not an “age” that makes one gag. After all, look at Justin Trudeau!
No, among the intellectual cabals of Montreal, Ontario, New York or San Francisco, a higher ideal is upheld. Intelligent men, I sing to myself, will accept a little wrinkle and realistic body image. How puerile could I really be, though, in my rationale?
The moment I changed my geographical setting in my Okcupid account to Anywhere, Canada, I was bombarded with visitors from the hinterlands of suburbia. These individuals were middle-aged mustachioed soccer dads, divorcees. They were all a cut above 40 and had usernames like:
Blueyed: a 40-year-old bald man wearing a navy blue bow tie who, based on the cocked eye, lazy eye, and screwed up left lip seems to be actually suffering a stroke while taking his selfie.
Cupidity2011: a 46-year-old baldie with a tweed jacket and penchant for barely legal boys with daddy complexes.
Drews4U4u: a 42-year-old overweight car salesman from the deep forests of inner Manitoba who evidently loves khaki-colored dress suits and Dodge pickups.
Twoonky: a 38-year-old who evidently believes that a fat man nearing the age of 40 can actually appropriate the term “Twinkie” and, with the magic of the alphabet, make himself into a cute overweight predator known as a Twoonky.
and 1Sean9: a 54-year-old public accountant from the backwaters of X.
This list of potential suitors is only the cream of the creeper crop. Though they may not be menacing, one can clearly hear the heavy breathing over the ether cables as they peruse passionately the endless landscape of online profiles in search of their milk-white skin twinky or, in my case, a pathetic, slightly tanned fag with low self-esteem and nowhere to run.
Perhaps, if I were to read my horoscope today, the stars will tell me that I was destined to be a gimp. Didn’t I always like to caress my mother’s leather purse when I was a child? Is this a sign? Should Twoonky and I tag-team it with 1Sean9 in the back seat of his wife’s soccer van? Alas, we will never know for I am, after all, still stuck in the land of buff Mediterranean homos, eternal youth, and perfect tan lines. Lawn chairs stretch out for miles along the azure coast of Tel Aviv. Sunlight radiates off the coconut-oiled skin of Go-go boys and Gucci models. Golden sand and sun frame a veritable all-men’s playground; they splash each other and toy with each other’s emotions in a way that rivals the tawdry tricks of an 18th century French sex novel.
Toby’s run continues as he desperately seeks a Shlomo to call his own.