Sunday, August 23, 2009

Girl Cooties

I've not been to a Mormon singles event in years. Until last night …

I live in Salt Lake City and I'm of a certain age. Which means I have great LDS friends — wonderful, well-intentioned folk — who are actively seeking to get married. And because they're Mormon, they can't help but evangelize. So I've been asked on numerous occasions to attend this or that mixer. It's all innocent, of course. They know I'm gay, and just want to include me. They're having a blast, and they think I will, too.

Heck, maybe they think that the right girl'll get me to switch teams.

But I say "no" — consistently — and I always get the puppy dog look and the "but why".

Here's why: no matter how often they insist that everyone's just getting together to meet new people and to make new friends, it's just not true. Friendships are the sloppy seconds. Facebook adds, phone numbers, and first dates — thems're the holy grail. So going to one of these events — where the girls are on the prowl for a husband and the men are on the hunt for a kiss (and maybe a wife) — well, it's just asking for trouble. So what do I do? Do I jump in the closet and risk getting propositioned up the wazzoo by the girl in the corner. Or do I stay out of the closet? The guys'll squirm and the girls will act betrayed.

But my friends are persistent.

It's called "7 Guys for 7 Others" (they mean girls — read into it what you will) or, at times, "7 Hunks for 7 Hotties". It's a Facebook-facilitated LDS dinner club run by some friends of mine. It's a great idea … and here's how it works: about 300 people (!) are divided among 20 restaurants in groups of 14 (seven guys, seven girls). We eat and chat, and get to know folks we've never met before. Maybe some phone numbers are exchanged. Then we meet back at a suburban stake center where all the rooms have activities going on. Didn't click with the folks at dinner? No problem! There'll be 150 new prospects at the after party. Of course, there's more interest than available seating, so the after party is where folks who didn't make the cut for dinner come.

It's wildly successful.

Last night's event elicited 500+ responses for ≈300 seats. We even had people flying in from out of state.

My group landed at The Cheesecake Factory. I'd never eaten there, before. And while I avoid chain food, I was looking forward to the evening. We arrived piece-meal. Single 30-somethings scouting the (enormous) crowd outside of TCF for folks who might be 30, single, Mormon, and part of the dinner club. It took about 30 minutes, but by the time our table was ready, 11 of us had found each other. One showed up with some flourish a little late. Two were no-shows.

The table was long and the restaurant was loud … so we naturally broke into two smaller groups. Eight folks at the other end fell under the spell of the late-comer, whom I dubbed "Clark Kent". Soon, our group broke into twosomes. I felt sorry for the girl who got me … she came to meet 7 great guys and got stuck with the affable one with no chemistry.

"I bet he's gay", she was thinking. "Our server is cute", I was thinking.

We chatted … a little bit about my job, a little bit about a gloriously failed blind date she recently went on. We listened in on the two next to us, adding the occasional bon mot. It was nice. And not nearly as bad as I'd imagined.

We then decamped to the chapel in the suburbs for the after party. Dance music in a darkened Relief Society meeting room, light refreshments in the kitchen, one of those weird BYU touching games in another, a rousing game of volleyball in the gym … and 300–400 of the hippest 30-something Mormon singles I've ever met.

I saw my friend who'd goaded me into coming (and helped organize the event) out in the foyer … we chatted for a second, but he was busy doing the meet-n-greet. I got guilted into the touching game, but escaped unscathed after a couple rounds. I skipped the refreshments (always a good idea) … and then stepped into the gym to watch the volleyball game. It was a lot of fun to watch — and everyone was really into it. Surprising, given that everyone was in their dinner clothes.

And then Babs walking into the room.

I'd known Babs back at BYU. We were in the same ward for a few years … bright, bubbly, and unlucky in love. Her eyes sparkled as she scanned the room. I stopped talking-up the cute guy and jumped over to see her and give her a big hug. It's been more than 10 years, and she was still the same amazing woman I remembered. And still single.

She played a bit of volleyball, then we went out and set-up court in the foyer. We sat and caught-up … she's teaching down at BYU, her brother who was in the ward with us just married — at 39. And me? Well, this and that and I'm still gay. So she grilled me — so many questions, so much to say — all things gay and Mormon. It was absolutely delightful, stepping out of the closet. We talked for almost an hour.

It was late, and the smarter folk were peeling away to head home. We hugged goodbye and promised to talk again soon …

On my way out, I ran into Clark Kent. I chatted him up to the girl he was wooing and took their picture with her camera phone. He blushed at the attention and said his head was swelling at the compliments (gays make the best wing men).

Before I left, I asked if he was on Facebook.

NB: This post is cross-posted from Girl Cooties, at Nine Moons. Please join us over there to comment!