So. Earlier this year it was time for my annual Craigslist ad.
No, I don’t have a particular day or season I place Craigslist personals. Theoretically, I could put up an ad a day if I cared to.
I just don’t care to.
I’m aware that the site works for other people in other areas. For me, where I live, Craigslist is pretty much the online cruising spot of last resort. The site where horny hopes go to die a slow and painful death. The dirty red light district of the internet where you’re pretty sure the digital equivalent of scabies lurk in every shadow.
What exasperates me about the site is that it’s a place where one can be scientifically precise about who one is and what one is looking for, and yet will be sure to receive emails offering nothing but the exact opposite. I’m willing to put down hard cash money that this afternoon, if you were to write an ad starting out with I’m a bottom with a small dick looking for tops only, the very first reply you would receive would begin with the words, Hi, I saw your ad just now and I am looking for a big-dicked top like you to fuck me.
I’ll only reply to profiles with photos will yield scores of emails from horny souls who don’t include pictures or who are curiously allergic to cameras. Say Please be local, and you’ll be fielding inquiries from Lincoln, Nebraska. (Unless you are actually from Lincoln, Nebraska, and then you’ll get responses from men in my neighborhood.) Include the restriction, I’m only free after five this afternoon, and I guarantee every reply you receive will include the words, LOOKING 4 NOW???
The sheer signal-to-noise ratio on Craigslist is so low that it takes roughly twelve months for me to stop my shuddering from my last experience to give it another try. On this particular afternoon in May, though, I found myself in Manhattan for a meeting. I had some time open in the evening after I was done, and was looking for a little mischief.
And J. Crew 101 . . . that’s my cue to welcome you to your tape.
I knew my meeting would take several hours and that during the time I’d be in the conference room, I wouldn’t be able to keep stabbing at the phone to keep track on the GPS apps I tend to like. I couldn’t easily open up a website to cruise. What I could do, without really being overly distracted or distracting to others, was to place a Craigslist ad for later on. I could check the emails I received discreetly and easily, without seeming to the others around the table like I’d rather be somewhere else.
The ad I placed was straightforward. I said I was a married dude looking for a mouth or ass to unload in. I gave all my stats. I stated the specific block or time I was available. I made clear I’d only consider responses with photos. I said that I could not host, but I would travel either to the guy’s place, or meet him somewhere like a bookstore. Then, my mind busily envisioning all the topsy-turvy replies I’d be sure to get, I attached a clear photo and posted the damned thing.
The meeting had barely gotten past the previous month’s minutes when my Yahoo! mail account started to blow up. With what I assumed was a surreptitious air, I held the fingers of my left hand up to my eyebrow, shielding my eyes in a pose that I was pretty sure connoted deep and philosophical thought, while with my right hand underneath the table, I browsed through the missives. Looking 4 now?? Top here to fuck you at your place, was the first promising response. Hi, do you have a car and can you come out to Passaic right now? was the second.
I suppose my general approach to Craigslist is fatalistic, really. I know that roughly all the responses I’m going to get are going to be utter nonsense. I know that every rare occasion I'm sent a hot email it’ll be from someone who is ‘too discreet’ to have any photographs of himself taken, and that every time I receive a scorching pic from a guy, it’ll be accompanied by a meth-fueled stream of consciousness so addled and incoherent that it will leave my boner limp for a week. I sat there in that meeting, fingers pushing up my left eyebrow, flipping through message after message and thinking, Nope. Nope. Nuh-uh. God no. Really, dude? Nope. Fuck no.
Then, toward the end of my meeting, I finally got a bite from a man named Jim—though I’m calling him J. Crew 101 for the purposes of this entry—that made me sit up and take notice. The guy sent a pic—of his butt, admittedly, but it was a good-looking butt. In his email he said he was a married guy (to a man) who was looking for downlow fuckings that he wasn't getting at home. He needed someone discreet with whom he could share some extramarital, stress-relieving sex from time to time.
Sounded perfect to me.
I went out to dinner by myself when the meeting was done. In a little sandwich shop I sat, exchanging some preliminary emails with the guy. J. Crew 101 lived in Chelsea, not far from where I was. The face photo he sent was quite attractive. Clean-cut, preppy, fair-haired, shy in appearance, wearing a Casual Fridays business shirt rather than a bare torso. I’m really looking for someone passionate, who’ll take his time with me, he wrote. I rarely get the sex that I need. I’m choosy.
Sounded right up my alley.
Even though the guy was only a handful of city blocks away, I was in no rush to pressure him into meeting. For one thing, I didn’t know if he was LOOKING 4 NOW. For another, he kept reiterating that he wanted a longer-term, unrushed, physical relationship. You don’t insist on closing the deal in four email exchanges or less for something like that.
Instead of the Craigslist forwarding service we’d been using, I gave him my real email address, and then my cell number, so that we communicate that way. For the better part of ninety minutes, I ate my dinner and read my book and got to know J. Crew 101.
J. Crew 101 started having sex later in life. He was one of those Catholic boys so terrified of hell that he didn’t even masturbate until he was in college. He got into a relationship young, without sowing any of his wild oats, he confided in me. His husband of fifteen years would probably be relieved to know he was getting sex elsewhere, because it would absolve his husband of the guilt and unfulfilled responsibility of keeping J. Crew 101 satisfied. Did I understand?
My life had been completely different, I told him. I was sexed young, and never really stopped. I made my confession, too: that in the last couple of years I’d been so discouraged by a couple of men that for a time—and this was perfectly true—I’d decided it was less soul-crushing to remain celibate than to get involved and broken again. It wasn’t that I was too easily disillusioned by the men I’d been seeing, I explained. It was that the men I’d been seeing seemed incredibly eager to disappoint me.
We exchanged several emails, and then texts, along that vein. It was nice to open up to a stranger; though I didn’t dwell on my recent sorrows so much that I sounded like an Eeyore, he gave me the space to state my recent disappointments and my hopes for a new beginning. And although he didn’t bad-mouth his husband, he let me know that something was lacking in his life, and that he was trying to rectify the situation . . . albeit by answering a Craigslist ad. Which we both agreed was not the most likely way for either of us to remedy our ills.
I liked J. Crew 101. As sunset began to fall, I took my phone and my backpack to a small park by the hospital and continued to chat with him. He told me that he felt confident to meet sometime soon, and floated a few possible dates. I told him my availability, and the times I’d most likely be back in his neighborhood. And then he had to go make dinner for his husband.
I spent another couple of hours in the city, having drinks with a friend, and was on my way back to the train when J. Crew 101 sent me an abrupt email. Hey, I think we want the same things, he said. But I think you're "too advanced" for me. Apologies. Good luck.
The fuck, I thought. What was this ‘too advanced’ shit, and where was it coming from? I’m sorry to hear that, I wrote back with a clenched jaw, but a determination to remain polite. It’s a shame you’ve talked yourself into this decision. I won’t attempt to convince you to change your mind, as you’ve apparently conjured up a number of imaginary reasons why we wouldn’t be good for each other. I wish you’d spared me hoping that I’d made a new friend.
I really was trying not to be rude to the guy. Quite the opposite—I was aiming to be as nonjudgmental as possible in my response. At the same time, though, my feelings were of utter dejection. I mean, I’d found a guy—on Craigslist, of all things—who had potential. We liked each other so far. In person, our chemistry may or may not have worked. But we both wanted similar things, and we’d gotten along.
His sudden rejection not only stung, but it reminded me that perhaps I should’ve expected it.
One of the philosophies in which I’ve believed, for large chunks of my life anyway, is in the innate generosity of the universe. For many years I’ve always said that the universe always offers us a rich banquet of opportunities, and that all we have to do to keep receiving them is to tell the universe yes.
Say yes to new people, and yes to new conversations and ideas, and yes to whatever weird, fun, and wonderful strokes of good fortune come our way. Telling the universe yes, I’ll try that, or yes, I will, or most importantly, yes, I’ll take this chance is what expands our horizons and makes our lives rich and worth living.
Saying no, I won’t, or no, not this time, or no, I’m fine where I am is what diminishes us as men and women, and makes our lives smaller. Say no often enough, and opportunity will vanish altogether.
That’s what I believed, I’d told J. Crew 101 (in an abbreviated version) earlier that evening. A few encounters with bum guys—and I meant everyone in this series of essays, and those I have yet to write about—had shaken that belief. I’d closed myself off, and was only this last spring considering starting to say yes once again.
And now, when I was saying yes, please, to J. Crew 101, J. Crew 101 was saying not a chance. Slamming the door in my face.
I was shaken. But I recognized, somehow, that it wasn’t me. It was him.
I didn’t expect a reply from him to my polite goodbye. I got one, though. I googled your email, he told me. (After my last two entries in this series, we all know how I feel about being stalked online.) I found your blog. I’ve been reading it for the last two hours. I jacked off three times reading it. But you’re too advanced for me.
At that point in May, I hadn’t written in my blog in ages. I’d been on my hiatus for seven months. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d ever be moved to write again. I’d contemplated several times deleting it entirely—but enough former fondness for the project lingered that I hadn’t yet given in to the impulse.
But there it sat, my blog. Ironic, that most of my resentments to the blog lay in the way I’d been treated by a handful of longtime readers—and now it was causing a first-time reader to reject me outright. For once there was something cruel in the accusation that I was at the postdoc level of sexual depravity, while J. Crew was content merely to take the 101-level seminar. Not even take the seminar. Audit it. He didn't have the courage to commit to completing anything—nor when he could walk out the moment it made him feel awkward.
I didn’t reply. What could I say to the guy that didn’t reek of recrimination? That he’d apparently found me and my blog enticing enough to jack off three loads in two hours, but that I was the sex fiend, here? What could I say that didn’t sound like an apology or a repudiation of what I am? Was I supposed to grovel I hadn’t written in the blog for months and months and would he pleeeeeease consider taking me back? That I’d reformed?
J. Crew 101’s decision was his; I didn’t intend to make him feel badly for making it. I’m always telling readers to know their own comfort levels, and to stick to them. That’s all J. Crew 101 did, essentially. I wasn’t going to apologize for my sexual being. I am what I am. (And he’d been the one to answer my ad for blatant and remorseless sex, after all.)
But most interesting of all, I didn’t want to renounce my blog. I wasn’t going to wave it away as a triviality, or claim it was just a passing phase, or diminish it in any way at all. I felt oddly defensive over the poor little neglected thing, all of a sudden. Even if I didn’t really want to add to it right then or there . . . at least J. Crew 101 lit a little spark of protectiveness in me.
These entries I’ve been writing out of sequence all along. Basically I’ve been trying to space out the more dire and difficult to write about with some of the more easy or comic annoyances. Maybe this should have been the first in the series, because it really gave rise to my desire to express all the grievances I’ve been bottling up over the last several years. My encounter with J. Crew 101 made me want to holler my anger aloud, to shout back, to catalog the wrongs that have fettered me, over and over again. Maybe it should be the series' last, since it kicked off these entries that followed.
So thanks for being an asshole, J. Crew 101—and you were indeed an asshole, even if you were the asshole who got me started on this path of airing my grievances. One of these days, before it’s too late, I hope you’ll open your eyes and realize that amazing opportunities are passing you by every day—even from something as grungy and unlikely as Craigslist, and even from 'too advanced' lowlifes like me. And I hope that you have the courage, some day, to say yes . . . before there’s nothing left to say yes to.
During my hiatus, I’ve received from readers a lot of very sweet emails wishing me well. Most of them have recognized the amount of work I’ve poured into my blog and have expressed their thanks. I’m so grateful for those sentiments.
Many people who’ve written, however, have made the assumption that the reason I have decided to take a break is because of the so-called haters—that is, the men who leave nasty comments on my blog, and those who go out of their way to make sure I understand how contemptible I am to them.
I’ve had plenty of haters over the years. They wear me down, yes. But more than anyone, the men who have sucked the joy out of my writing (and to a certain extent, my life) are those who meant well. They’re men who claimed to admire me, who wanted to meet me—and many of them did—and who then, whether out of clumsiness or fear or whatever, failed to recognize they’d gone too far. A man can only withstand so many successive blows to the ego (even an ego as Jericho-sturdy as mine) before it begins to tumble.
What’s more, every single one of these men read my blog. They’re men who subscribed to my point of view, who enjoyed my writing. Or read my writing, at least. Some of them wanted to be written about. Others never intended me to know they were blog fans.
Maybe one of these men is you.
If it is you? Although there’s a small and petty part of me that wants to flip a finger in your direction, I’m not going to. I’m moving on as I write this series. A friend of mine shared with me something his grandmother used to say that I truly believe: People do the best they can. If they could do better, they would.
My advice, if you think you recognize yourself . . . or even if you don’t: do better.
All of us could stand to do better.