Saturday, February 9, 2013

How Far Would You Go for Sex?

You can tell a lot about someone from the lengths he or she would go to in order to get laid. Cyndi Lauper drove all night, but at least her effort resulted in one of her best singles, her final Top 10 hit.

Marty wasn't so lucky.

A few days after my return to Melbourne five weeks ago, Marty, a 23-year-old guy from Estonia who is studying in Australia, entered my life. When he told me that he was about to go on a two-week holiday to California, I actually felt a twinge of envy. Although it was never my favorite state (I don't think I even have one, not having traveled to enough of them to choose wisely), I do love California, and it sounded a lot warmer than Melbourne -- even though it's winter there and summer here -- and I have great friends in all of its key cities.

My envy turned to horror, then disdain, today when Marty, just a few hours off the return flight and seriously jet lagged, met up with me for cider on a lazy, beautiful late Saturday afternoon in Melbourne. When I asked him how his trip was, he filled in all the blanks that I didn't even realize had been empty. He'd planned the trip to meet up with a "friend" in San Francisco, a "friend" who turned out to be a guy Marty had been talking to online for six months, a guy he'd never actually met.


I tried to downplay my horror, sharing stories of the times I'd taken trips to other cities (Amsterdam and Milan) in other countries on other continents to visit guys I didn't know too well (but never ones I hadn't met in person at least three times). Meanwhile, he tried to downplay the long-distance booty call as his primary motivation for going to Cali. The "hot" Melbourne summer has been murder on Marty, who is accustomed to Estonia's northern European chill, so escaping the heat seemed like the perfect excuse to go to the Northern Hemisphere. I wasn't really buying it.

Unfortunately for Marty, even the best-laid plans to get laid don't always go as planned. A few days before his departure, he and the guy had a huge online falling out. Though they broke up before they even got together, Marty went on the trip anyway. He decided to spend one week in Houston, where he visited a friend -- someone I assumed he'd also met online but not in real life, judging from his vagueness about him -- then a few days in L.A., then a few days in San Francisco, where he said he'd been the toast of the gay scene.

As I listened to Marty's holiday story, my mind wandered to the Golden Girls DVD in the player at home. I would have preferred to be watching the episode when Blanche pretended to be selling a new Mercedes in order to meet men. At least the lengths of subterfuge (Dorothy's word) she was willing to go to in order to get laid were amusing. And it was fiction. It's not like any sane woman was going to drive a Mercedes -- or even fly -- from Miami to Canada just to mount a Mountie.

But maybe, I thought (once my focus was back on Marty), I should have been commending him for being so gutsy. Most people can't even fathom traveling alone. Here was this 23-year-old who not only traveled from Australia  -- a country that was already so far from home -- to the United States. He  initially was going to do it to meet a guy he'd never actually seen in person, and it wasn't the first time he'd taken such a leap of faith in the name of lust, or love before first sight, or whatever.

He'd once planned a three-night getaway in Amsterdam with a Dutch guy he hadn't met yet. Though he was disappointed when they were face to face for the first time in their shared hotel room ("His photo must have been 10 years old," he said), Marty stuck it out for the entire allotted time. I couldn't decide whether Marty was incredibly nice or totally crazy.

While I was weighing both sides, he excused himself to go to the bathroom. Five minutes later, he hadn't returned. I began to wonder if perhaps he'd accidentally flushed himself down the toilet. Just as I was about to go and check on him, he approached me, phone attached to his ear, making the "I'm sorry, important phone call" gesture, and he went out onto the terrace.

About 10 minutes later, he was still here, chitchatting away. He'd given me just enough time to finish my cider and to decide that continent hopping to meet up with guys you've never met might not be the mark of a guy not worth wasting the rest of my Saturday night on, but expecting me to sit and wait patiently while you spent 15 minutes chatting away on your mobile phone with God knows who was.

Are early twentysomethings so accustomed to socializing with unseen strangers online that they don't know how to act to the people sitting across from them? I hadn't even really wanted to meet up with Marty, and only did so at his insistence and persistence. At least I'd only traveled two train stops. I finished my cider, got up and left. No explanations, no goodbye.

I'm pretty sure he wasn't too happy when he realized I was gone. I'll probably go down in his personal history as being just as bad as the guy (the guys) who made him book a flight to the other side of the world for nothing. I'm just as sure he was talking on the phone to someone he'd never actually met, planning his next holiday.

At least one good thing came out of our hour at Father's Office, the speakeasy bar and restaurant in Melbourne's CBD. All that talk about Estonia left me thoroughly fascinated. I'm already thinking about planning a trip there. And you can be sure of one thing: No total stranger will be waiting to greet me on the other side -- or dumping me before I get there.
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