Dateline: At the intersection of cupcakes and puppy love.
My problem is that I think I understand people. And maybe I understand Americans of a certain class and background and age, but that may be the extent of it. Or maybe Mexicans really are just as confusing and unpredictable as their country. But I can’t really get my mind around that one either because all of my genuine friends who are Mexican, including my ex BF “F,” are understandable within my established mental framework. And I also have perfectly–understandable friends who are British, one girlfriend who’s Italian (sort of; her mother is my neighbor in Boston), and I’ve had plenty of Asian friends in San Francisco. Sure, these folks aren’t open books, but they seem understandable and predictable. More or less.
Maybe my problem here is a generational thing layered on top of the cultural thing. The fact of the matter is that I’ve been dating younger guys. In fact, I’ve been dating guys who are ridiculously younger. So much younger that I’m a little uncomfortable writing about them here. But before you decide that I’m some kind of child molester who’s operating just over the line, as it were, consider a few factors.
First, my ideal guy would be close to my own age. Sadly, most of the guys my own age are overweight and out of shape and that’s a complete “buzz kill” for me. I can still fit into clothes I had in high school, and while staying trim requires some effort, it seems to be worth it. Two I’ve gotten to an age where my contemporaries are slowing down. They get tired. They want to take the elevator. They aren’t interested in walking four kilometers across town because the bus is full. But if I can find a 50-something guy with my energy level and fitness, he’d be ideal. Now, in all fairness, such men exist, but I’m sure a lot of them are already taken. I certainly was for a long time.
So the next best thing would be to meet a guy in his latest possible thirties or mid-40s. Alas, those guys are a pretty rare find, often already have boyfriends, or are too tied up in their careers or whatever to have time to date.
So enter the twinks, the twenty-somethings, the young fellows who want to explore the world and have new experiences. Here in Mexico in general, there’s a lot less age segregation than there is in the USA. Go to any Mexican party, and you’ll likely find people ranging in ages from teens to grandparents, all hanging out together, and all pretty much acting like they’re at the same party, e.g., not being totally clustered into age-specific groups. That’s one of the things I really like about Mexico since I think the USA is way too age-segregated and way too age-fixated. In fact, if you are a gay guy trying to meet someone online in the USA, the first question almost always is “how old are you?” It’s not, “are you cute?” “Are you in shape?” “Are you bald,” or whatever. It’s about age.
But here in Mexico, it’s positively shocking how many really young guys (mid-20’s ish) not only have no problem with the idea of dating an older guy, but a lot of them seem to prefer it. And I’ve discussed this at length with at least one very good Mexican friend who sees the same thing in his city. And this is part of what makes dating in Mexico City feel like such an “Alternate Universe,” at least to me. I’m being hit up by really young, super-cute guys all the time. Oh, and demographically, there just are a lot more of them here too. (And no, Felipe, the vast majority are NOT looking for money, as you’ll come to appreciate.)
So I joined an online service to meet guys. No, it’s not exactly a “find-your-forever-soulmate” kind of service. It’s really more of a hook-up service, but in one’s profile, one can indicate that one is looking for something besides random sex. And it’s popular, so you’ll have some folks to choose from. And besides, I don’t really know of any other service here with much currency. So be it.
Last Thursday, a very handsome young man hit me up. “Hi, Handsome” he wrote me in English. “How are you? I like your profile. I’d love to go out with you. What do you say? 😊”
I looked up his profile. It didn’t say much, but what it did say, it said in English: “White Latino twink with daddy issues.” And he’s 23 years old. Yikes!
“Thank you. You’re really handsome,” I replied (in Spanish now). “But why would you want to go out with an old man like me?”
“Old man? I see a cool guy who’s understanding, interesting and handsome,” he replied.
“Thank you,” I said. “Did you read my profile? I’m 54 years old.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“OK, fine. Where do you live?” I asked.
“Aragón [just north of the airport]. But right now I’m in Condesa [very near to me] and on my way to UNAM.” (quite a ways south of here.)
“What’s your name? My name is Kim.”
“So are you a student?”
“Yes, French language and literature. Today I’m going to school, but I’ll be free after five. What are you doing today?”
We chatted a bit in French. I used to be fairly fluent, but frankly have forgotten most of it. Worse, I now tend to throw Spanish into it, but with a French accent. Fatal.
“So can we see each other in the afternoon?” he asked.
“Where are you thinking?” I said, “You’re super-cute, but your age is frightening me a bit.”
“We could go to a café,” he suggested, “We can just chat today so I don’t scare you. ;-)”
We chatted some more and then he suggested we meet at six at Metrobús Amores, which is right across the street from “Tacos Joven.” Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?
Metrobús Amores. Next stop heartbreak hotel.
Frankly, I’m not sure what possessed me. Normally if I’ve met a guy online, I like to chat with him for a few days just to make sure that he’s not a total flake, that he’s still interested, that I’m actually interested in him, etc. But for some reason, I decided to meet up with Alfredo right away. Maybe because it was Friday and I didn’t have any plans for the weekend and felt at loose ends. Maybe because he really was extraordinarily cute. Maybe because he speaks French. Who knows? In any case, I fell for it and agreed to meet him.
This being Mexico, the meet-up didn’t go totally flawlessly, and I deserve part of the blame for giving him a vague answer about where and when we’d meet. But we finally met up, and he was just as cute, perhaps cuter in person than in his photos. For those of you who’ve done online dating, you know how rare this is. So when we met, I felt rather nervous, and I think he did too. Since it was later than we had originally intended, we ended up going for some quesadillas at a place near my house.
And we chatted and chatted and chatted. It turns out he’s interested in a lot of stuff, and had originally wanted to be an architect and did 3 years of architecture at UNAM before deciding to switch to French language and literature. He reminded me a LOT of myself and the guys I ran with at that age, most of them Stanford students, all of us fancying ourselves witty, urbane raconteurs, with a dash of dandy thrown in for good measure.
After we ate, we decided to do a bit of an architectural tour of my neighborhood, so we walked around and around, still the conversation flowing like water. After an hour of this, I was getting a little tired of walking, so I suggested we go back to my house for a glass of wine. He was amenable.
But still, I was feeling determined that I wasn’t going to let this go any farther than a platonic date, conversation and then a nice goodbye. But once we settled into my sofa, he just kept edging toward me, and I edged away. But he kept coming closer and closer, and finally, I ran out of sofa and just kind of gave up. Or gave in. Or whatever it is you do when you totally lose your resolve to be a good boy and just let yourself go.
We spent the night together locked in a warm embrace. Every time I would edge away, he crept closer and hugged me again. And surprisingly, I even slept reasonably well. The next morning I made him scrambled eggs and fruit, while he showered, and then he went off to work at the cupcake bakery near my house.
The following week passed fairly uneventfully. We swapped a few texts, but not many as he’s very busy with school and doesn’t seem to have a data plan. We arranged to have dinner on Thursday night, and I said I’d cook something for him. He said he’d be at my house around eight. “What kind of food do you like?” I asked.
“Something vegetarian?” he suggested.
“Sure,” I said thinking I’d make him my own variant of ratatouille, which also has green olives and capers. And I’d serve it alongside the basmati rice a friend had managed to score for me at Costco.
Thursday arrived. I decided to give the apartment a thorough cleaning. As the afternoon drew to a close, I set the table the best I could. (The apartment isn’t really furnished with much in the way of tableware, though there are a couple of decent placemats.) Then I cooked the ratatouille and the rice. Eight o’clock rolled around. Nothing. Eight fifteen. Still nothing. Eight thirty. “Ay! Where is this boy?” I thought. In my book, standing up someone who’s cooking you dinner is about the single rudest thing I can think of. I texted my Dear American Friend, who lives in town. “This is why I don’t want to date 20-somethings!!! I thought I left all this nonsense behind years ago. I’ve sent him WhatsApp messages, SMS messages, and even called his phone, but he’s incommunicado. I hate this!” DAF was comforting, but really couldn’t do much.
By eight forty-five, I was heartbroken and starving. I poured myself a glass of red wine and started to eat. Not three minutes into my meal, the phone jingled, and there was a WhatsApp from Alfredo, “I’m so sorry. I’ve had a horrible day. Remind me of your address. I’ll be right over.”
I half considered ignoring his text and nipping the bud of this little affair. But in the end, I really wanted to see him again, and decided to give him a chance. Especially as we had only set the time as “around eight.” Ten minutes later he showed up, beading from having walked as fast as he could from where he texted me to my apartment. And I was delighted to see him and he was forgiven.
Over dinner we discussed his day, my day, French existentialism and the absurdist playwrights of the era. I’m a big fan of Ionesco, and it turns out he is too. He praised my cooking, and loved the wine. We laughed and had a lot of fun. And again he ended up spending the night, and it was just as sweet as the first, maybe sweeter.
Friday morning after he left, I was on cloud nine. Yeah, he’s certainly young, but goodness! So well read and conversationally capable. I started to fantasize. Maybe we really could bridge the age gap. Maybe he really does want a daddy, and maybe I can play that role. I sent him a smushy text, “Hey handsome, it was a pleasure waking up at your side, hugging you with the memories of last night fresh in my mind. And now that you’ve gone, your presence lingers in the apartment lightly reminding me of how much I want to see you again. I send you a hug and kisses. Saludos.”
No answer. Well, ok, he’s busy with school and doesn’t have a data plan. And he told me that the wifi at school basically had too many people on it to work properly. No matter. I don’t want to rush anything either. And it was Friday and I had work to do, so that was that. Still, I could hardly stop thinking about him. I had gone to see a penthouse for sale the afternoon of his first visit. Now I was fantasizing about the two of us living there together on the 11th floor in a totally chic style with a marvelous vista of the twinkling lights of the city. I fantasized about bringing my convertible down from Boston and driving him around with the top down, the wind tousling our hair. In fact, there was virtually no ridiculous fantasy I didn’t have.
The next day, Saturday, he still hadn’t answered my text and I began to wonder. Surely he had gone home and been able to use his own wifi, no? Or he’d have gone to work and connected there? Why hadn’t he answered me? Was something wrong? I started to feel a little bit anxious. But I occupied myself with stuff around the house. By the afternoon, I thought, “I have to see him. I’m dying to see him.” He had mentioned that he worked at a cupcake bakery near my house and I think he said I could stop by any time and see him. So I set out to do just that.
I walked past the cupcake bakery, and there was Alfredo. But he wasn’t working, he was sitting at a table chatting with some other young guy. “Oh, God!” I thought. “Kim, you really shouldn’t be doing this. If he wants to communicate with you, he will. Just go home and pretend you never had this idea.” I kept walking and passed the bakery. Alfredo hadn’t seen me.
Just as I was continuing down the block, a dear old gay friend from business school with close ties to Mexico City texted me. I explained my predicament. “And he describes himself as a “white Latino twink with daddy issues.”
My friend urged me to go back to the bakery and “take control.”
“If he’s into daddies, he wants you to be a take-charge kind of guy,” my friend said.
“Well, I suppose wimping out isn’t exactly being a take-charge kind of daddy, is it?” I texted.
“No. Go in there and be a man.”
“Ok, wish me luck,” I texted back with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t feel like a take-charge daddy. In fact, I felt like I was back in high school, a nervous seventeen year-old trying to figure out how this dating thing really worked.
But against my better judgment, and seeking what was probably inappropriate resolution to the situation, I went back to the bakery anyway. As I crossed the threshold, there was Alfredo. “Hola, qué tal?” I said. Instantly I knew I had done the wrong thing.
He said “Hola” back, but he did so as if I were a stranger that had just casually said “hi.” So I totally played it cool. I went to the counter and ordered a cupcake and a cup of ginger tea. Since the place was small, I had little choice of seat, and I still held out the ridiculous hope that maybe this was going to work. So I sat at the next table across from Alfredo. But I whipped out my cell phone and texted my gay friend from business school and explained the situation. Alfredo and his friend continued talking. Was this his boyfriend? (I never think to ask, but I should.) Why else wouldn’t Alfredo introduce me? Or at least act like he kind of knew me? My business school friend and I discussed the situation, but no obvious solution to the problem came to mind. Save for a time machine that might carry me back fifteen minutes in time so I could just avoid the whole ridiculous situation. And with every passing minute I was feeling more and more like a high-school boy and less and less like some kind of “take-charge daddy.”
After about ten minutes, Alfredo and his friend got up to leave. The friend left first, and Alfredo hung back to talk to me. “Did you get my message?” I asked. A look of confusion passed over his face. “What message?”
“The message I sent you Thursday after you left my apartment.” I said, thinking, “Oh god, this is just getting worse and worse.” All daddy-like thoughts vanished from my mind, and I started to feel like maybe I had regressed to junior high instead of merely to the age of 17.
“Oh, right, yeah. I got it. Thanks! Have a nice day. I’ll see you around.” Alfredo left.
Besides humiliated, I was totally confused. My mind raced, and I said to myself, “This guy spent two nights with you. He looked at you with passion in his eyes. He hugged you all night long. What just happened? Have I really become so completely incapable of reading people?” I finished my tea, left, and walked home slowly. Dejected. Depressed.
I didn’t want to care about this. After all, I had just known Alfredo for a week. He was too young for me. I was fully aware of that. And he had just demonstrated exactly why he was too young for me. But I couldn’t help myself. I was crushed, and despite all of the emotional work I’ve done in the past year or two, I spent the rest of the afternoon in a funk. I called friends and whined. I texted my Dear American Friend here who has some experience dating younger Mexican guys.
He chided me. “You shouldn’t have gone there. You shouldn’t be spying on him. You really brought this on yourself. I’m not trying to be mean. I want to support you, but that’s the truth.”
“I know, you’re right.” I messaged back. “But it still hurts.”
But foolish hope never dies, right? “Surely he’ll text me when he gets home,” I thought. Sunday arrived. No text. Monday arrived. No text. Nothing. Radio silence. Monday afternoon arrived. Still nothing. But fortunately, Dear American Friend was scheduled to come to dinner at my place Monday night so I could whine to him in person. When he got to my place, DAF said I should never get my hopes up about such a boy, they always flake out in the end, even the seemingly smart, educated ones. And besides, the city was literally full of such fellows. “We are the rare birds here. Just keep that in mind. There’s tens of thousands of them and only a couple dozen of us.”
I knew he was right. And I knew that in any case, Alfredo was really too young, would always be so, and besides, I really barely knew him. After a lovely dinner, Dear American Friend left, and I washed up.
Just before I went to bed, the following message arrived from Alfredo: “Hi beautiful. I’m sorry I didn’t respond to your message sooner. I really liked your message from Thursday. And I felt like I missed you more after seeing you. And I also really want to apologize for not talking more to you that day in the bakery, but I didn’t feel very good because that day I quit that job. I hope you’re well and I hope to see you soon. I’m sending you a kiss, handsome.” 😘
So that message arrived last night. I’ve read and reread it a dozen times today. And I still don’t know what to do. I’m sure you can see the holes in the story. And yet, he said he wants to see me.
I’m in the Twilight Zone. And I’m not sure there’s any escape.