Very early in our relationship, my then 22-year-old self made a near-fatal error. You know that time in your budding romance where you shower each other with compliments, a weird sort of one-upsmanship of “Oooh, you’re so thoughtful!” and “How cute are you?” and so on.
Well, I can’t say that I was always the mature wordsmith that I am today. When we first started dating [Lance interjects here, screaming, “DATING?!?!”…long story.], relieved and somewhat perplexed that I had snared an extremely attractive fellow, I may have half-jokingly said the following…out loud…to Lance, with a smug look of satisfaction on my face:
“Yep, I scored myself a hot piece of ass.”
See, this was totally meant to be a compliment. I mean, look at the guy!
Adorable! You don’t just reel that into your boat and toss it back! You take that home and put it above your fireplace!
Well, as you can probably imagine, Lance was not too thrilled with this line. He didn’t take it as the obvious compliment it was and instead considered it “objectification”…whatever that is. I didn’t know how upset he was about it until much later; see, I’d said it during that early point in any relationship where nobody tries to rock the boat too much even if the other person has offended you, so Lance kept his distaste for my comment to himself for quite awhile.
Now how did I get to this point where I considered my future husband essentially a piece of meat?
See, Lance and I are super-shy and were both super-alone about five years ago. I had recently moved to Philadelphia rack up a lifetime of debt in grad school, not knowing anybody. When my university was holding a grad student LGBTQXYZ mixer one night, I struggled to overcome my shy awkwardness, eventually getting myself to the event to “mingle” (small talk is quite possibly my least fave thing ever).
Eventually, a group of guys decided to head to the bars; oblivious to the fact that nobody actually wanted me to tag along (yep, THAT guy right here, folks), I goofily followed. Now, most of these guys were, like, PhD students in religious studies or tax code or something like that, and I’d never seen an episode of Sex and the City in my life, so I was waaay out of my element, a dumb Midwestern hick with nothing to provide to the group conversation. The awkwardness was pervasive, and I was starting to look for a way to remove myself without looking totally lame. I figured I’d give it one more bar stop, just to see if things improved.
After a stop at the semi-legendary drag show at Bob & Barbara’s, we headed to Woody’s, because, honestly, why wouldn’t you name a gay bar Woody’s? Woody’s represents the kind of pathetic sadness of Philly’s gay scene: the place at that point was kind of a mess across multiple floors: if I remember correctly, lots of seedy industrial carpet, chunky bartenders, and themed nights like…country line-dancing.
That, and it must be said that Philly’s gay scene, like any other “scene” on the East Coast, is full of people that couldn’t cut it in New York City, so…there’s that.
Anyway, yes, it was country line-dancing night at Woody’s. I’d clearly not had enough to drink for this, and people were starting to peel away from the group with which I came. Time to start looking for my own exit, I thought to myself.
Then I saw him, sitting at the bar, quite possibly the most attractive boy I’d seen. Just look at him!
We made eye contact, but me being me, I freaked out and started playing with my phone, you know, because that’s smooth and obviously, so many people were texting me at 11:30 at night. I didn’t want to embarrass myself by playing eye footsie (eye-sie?) only to find out that the cute guy at the bar was just taking mental notes of how not to dress or something. There’s no way this guy’d want to talk to me, anyway (low self-esteem leftover from childhood obesity FTW!)
Then, a little pixie popped up next to me. No, not a gay, but a then-unknown Alix, with her cute little pixie-cut, showed up in my life just then and sprinkled a whole bunch of magic dust on me. Alix coming over and talking to me at that moment, in Woody’s, was one of the most important interactions I will ever have in my life.
“Heeey,” said Alix (we’re all a little drunk at this point). “My friend over there wants to talk to you.”
My brain was already fumbling. Uhh, what? So, I’m like 22 at this point and nobody has ever sent an emissary over to solicit my attention. Nobody has ever cold-call approached me before, so I really had no idea what to say.
Alix motioned over to the bar, in the direction of the cute guy that I’d made eye-contact with earlier. “The guy over there, he thinks you’re cute.”
Haha. She must be joking. When does it ever happen that the person you think is attractive is actually attracted to you as well? That’s, like, a thing that surely doesn’t happen, right?
“Uhh, well, I don’t really think…” I mumbled.
“Ohh, please.” Alix at this point was already over this act of goodwill. “Just go talk to him, ya goon.”
Okay. Okay okay. So, I had some “evidence” here, just by Alix’s presence, that I wasn’t going to totally embarrass myself by initiating a conversation with this Cute Guy at the Bar. Still, I needed to leave myself a little bit of an out in case it soured or in case this was just some giant prank.
I walked up to Cute Guy, and basically said in one unbroken word, “UmIhavetoleavesoonbutcanIgetyournumberKThxbyeeeee.”
Cute Guy turned to me, and said, “I’m Lance.” The rest is history. We ended up going to another bar, a piano bar, together, where we discussed the merits of “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid, as sung by a sixty-year-old chain smoker.
We were both good that night, and went out separate ways, with me writing my number on the cover of a J.Crew catalog that Alix had in her purse. Lance texted me the next day to ask if I wanted to have dinner, which, by the way, continues to be the only non-birthday meal where Lance has paid for me.
And, in a weird roundabout way as Lance slouches toward his mid-thirties (ooh, man, I’m gonna pay for that comment later…), he now embraces his “hot piece of ass”-ness, wearing it as a badge of honor as he watches many of his contemporaries fall into the sweatpants-in-the-grocery-store disrepair of adulthood.