V is for Vulnerability
Whenever we see or use the word, vulnerable, it is usually associated with negativity. Mainly because it is giving off a sense of weakness, like animals in the wild and the smaller, weaker ones usually getting attacked first. As they say, life is like a jungle where we are constantly having to protect and defend ourselves. However, once we let our guard down that is when our true vulnerability appears. We are exposed. Naked. Raw. For the entire world to see and judge. In a city like New York where diversity is something that it is known for, it is still mind boggling when innocent people are killed because of who they are and in a city like New York where most people come to be themselves, I couldn’t help but wonder if we are ever really safe or are we constantly in a state of vulnerability?
As the city experienced this past weekend, its third gay hate crime, it certainly raises a lot of issues ranging from politics to uncertainty. And along with all these issues comes many concerns and also the simple fact of how much we take for granted. Those that live here take for granted on a daily basis, myself included, that we can be who we want, walk how we want and not care what others think. We have seen and done everything and to shock us takes a lot. However, and I will speak for myself here, that when I either leave the city itself or go to a neighborhood that I am not too familiar with, that my own personal vulnerability is exposed. I feel lost and uncomfortable. That certainly was the case for me last week.
These days the only way to meet a potential date is through the internet. This might be the only case where a person doesn’t feel vulnerable because we all can hide behind our computer monitors, describe ourselves the way we want and only show the photos that best represent ourselves. However, I decided to try something different this past week and it certainly brought me in a territory that I am not too familiar with and that is…meeting someone at the gym.
Over the past several months since I started this new gym, I noticed a guy that always smiled at me and I would always smile back at him. In fact, I will smile at anyone, even if I am not interested, it is just polite. However, this guy is someone that is not, as we would say, “Not my type.” He is on the husky side, tall, bald and if we are going by looks alone…just someone that I would never see myself with. But stranger things have happened and so last Monday as I was working on this blog, I received an email from OKCupid with their matches for me. I scrolled the email and noticed that there was the guy from my gym. I took a deep breath and decided to message him. He responded back immediately saying that he sees so many people at the gym but that I was cute nonetheless. After several message back and forth, he gives me his number. I decided not to do anything with it right away and finished my day. That night he sent me a text message and the messages started out innocent and then toward the end it took a turn. I asked him what he likes to do for fun and he responded with, “Well, I like cartoons and I own a blindfold.” I wasn’t sure exactly how to respond so I just said, “You mean cartoons like Finding Nemo? And what does owning a blindfold have to do with what you like to do for fun?” His response was, “No. I like dark cartoons and owning the blindfold is to let you know that I like rough sex.” I didn’t respond for awhile because the entire thing turned me off and he must have realized he had gone too far and sent another message apologizing if he offended me and that he’d like to meet on a date. Once I said yes to the date, I got another message that said, “I am really broke. So whatever date we go on will need to be really cheap. Most guys don’t understand that but I live in Queens and have student loans.” Not that I care what I do on any date but between the blindfold and this, he was striking out before he even got to the plate. I told him that I have no problems with doing something on the cheaper side and told him to have a goodnight. I felt like anymore conversation with him and I was going to cancel.
The next day after work, I went to the gym and as I was doing my stretches before my run and there he was doing his own stretching right behind me. I had a choice. I could either walk away or just go up to him and introduce myself face to face. And so, I took my headphones out and walked over to him and said hello. His face gave a look of non-recognition and so I had to say that I was the guy from OKCupid that he was text messaging with the night before. He said, “Oh my God. It’s you?” I wasn’t sure if it was a compliment or that he was disappointed. He kept talking with me about how he got picked for jury duty and then said he was off to take a class. I was rather proud of myself that I put my anxiety aside and decided to talk with him. I continued on with my workout and when I finished I saw something that I never thought I would see. As I was exiting the gym, I looked inside the class and there he was taking a ballet/hip-hop class. This man is easily 6’4, a really big guy and he is in a classroom filled with woman and him being the only guy and he was twirling around with all his might. The only thing that was missing on this man was a tutu. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted to see but in hindsight, I am glad that I did. Since then, we have not seen each other at the gym again and his text messages have all been cryptic. Not sure if a date is in my future with the dancing bear but at least I put my vulnerability aside and talked to someone at the gym.
Another good thing about seeing him dance around like that made me think of how confident he must be to take a class like that knowing that he doesn’t necessarily look like the rest. That is the part that I admired as I left the gym. It also reminded me of a date I went on several years ago where being exposed and vulnerable was certainly not in question.
I was set-up by an old coworker and she did mention that the guy she was setting me up with was also husky side but extremely nice. I agreed to the date and to my surprise he was actually really nice. It was during the summertime and he arranged for our first date to be a lunch date in Bryant Park. As we sat in the grass and had our lunch, I put all my superficial views aside and had a great time. In fact, we had such a great time that day that he asked me out for later that night and I agreed.
We were meeting at a bar that is no longer called this but we were meeting at the bar, O.W. on the east side of town. He was already there waiting for me and it was on a Tuesday or Wednesday night and I noticed the bar had a poster hanging up promoting some strip contest. Not exactly ideal for a date but I was excited to get to know this guy. As we had our drinks, he began to tell me how cute he thought I was and that was very anxious. I asked why he was anxious but he kept avoiding the question. More and more drinks continued and I was finding myself laughing and having a ball with him. My date excused himself and said he had to go to the bathroom. I found myself sitting at the bar for like twenty minutes. I wasn’t sure if my date had ditched me or there was a long line for the bathroom but suddenly I noticed all the patrons moving toward this tiny stage and so I joined the crowd. A drag queen got on stage and started her speech on the strip contest that was happening that night. Somehow I found myself in front row of the stage and then this fog machine came on and the music changed and the song by Right Said Fred, I’m Too Sexy, came on and next thing I knew…my date was on the stage. Now, I knew why he was so anxious, he had entered the strip contest. I couldn’t believe my eyes and I didn’t even know how to respond to this. There he was, a husky man, up on stage and gyrating in front of everyone. He noticed me and when he took his shirt off he threw it at me. I caught the shirt and I was not into this entire scene because then his pants came off and once that happened I took the shirt that was thrown at me, folded it nicely and handed it to the bartender and ran out the bar. I called my friend that did the set-up and told her all about what had just happened. She had no idea he was going to strip and of course, laughed at my expense. I never saw or heard from him again and while it was probably a tad rude to leave someone like that, I knew there was no future with a future stripper.
Every single day we may experience a sense of vulnerability. I know that every single Monday when I post this blog that I feel exposed and just hope that all that read it, have a good time and enjoy it. Or every single time I go on a date, there is a sense of feeling like I’m having to expose myself in hopes that what I share someone will be interested. The fact is, the world we live is one big state of exposure, from our jobs, to our relationships and even to complete strangers. How we handle them is entirely up to us. Do we let senseless acts of violence stop us from living? No. Do we let a break-up or a bad date stop us from continuing our search for true love? No. Maybe we shouldn’t let V stand for Vulnerability but rather Victory.
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