One Saturday night in November, I was out in East Village with Taylor Griggs (@tpg_), Carlos Alvarado (@closalvarado), and Eliot Glazer (@eliotglazer). Our sentiment was shared: None of us had made any effort in the last few months to “go out”—which, let’s be honest, involves standing around in a closed-off circle, sipping beers, and leering around the bar at people we A) almost dated, B) recognized from the apps, C) made out with once, or D) had never seen before (“He must be visiting town.”)—so there we were, “seeing and being seen”, and really just wanting to talk amongst ourselves. We noticed, though, that Eliot’s gaze kept drifting to a guy at the bar. “Who’s that—the guy you’re staring at?” I inquired. “This guy I’ve been chatting with on Tinder,” he replied. “He’s so cute. Should I go say something?” The rest of us looked at each other like “Wait, is THIS what we are supposed to do when we go to bars? Un-cross our arms? Introduce ourselves?” “YES. Go say hi!” We nudged him. Eliot went to the bar to order a drink, parking himself next to the guy. The three of us stared like we were watching a dramatic scene unfold. Eliot paid for his drink, turned toward the bearded guy, then kept turning and walked back to us. “What do I say?!” he asked anxiously as he returned. It was all so exciting. “Just say hi!” “Yeah, you already have equity with him!” (I hate that I use the word “equity” like that…) He went back to the bar and introduced himself. “I could tell he remembered me the whole time,” Eliot recalls. “But wanted me to be the one who said anything.” (This is how most of us “play it cool.”) The conversation ended soon after it started—Eliot felt like he was imposing on something—and we all departed shortly thereafter. In the cab home, Eliot sent the guy a friendly message on Facebook: “Sad we didn’t get to talk more.” He saw no harm in trying this method, especially since their flirtation started online. The guy replied a week later: “Yeah, sorry too. Also, I’ve been dating someone. Let’s be friends though?” Knowing better, Eliot never responded.
“There was this famous blog post about something called ‘The Fuck Yes Theory’,” Eliot says over lunch a couple weeks later. “It discusses all the grey area that exists in dating. The runaround. The waiting. The guessing. The pushing and pulling. The author’s theory is that if someone isn’t saying ‘fuck yes’ about you and you aren’t saying ‘fuck yes’ about them, then it’s not worth doing. If you have to convince someone to like you or have to be convinced, and it’s just not happening, then don’t waste your time.” I wait for Eliot—a comedian and television writer with a well-crafted and vulnerable point of view—to explain why he supports this theory, but he turns on it: “It’s an unrealistic concept because it says you have to have an instantaneous reaction to someone, and history has said you can fall in love with people slowly, especially given that you can grow toward one another, if you weren’t initially in a place to be together. Besides, I’ve had that ‘fuck yes’ feeling with plenty of people, and more often than not, it ends within a couple days or weeks. I can’t ever explain why; it just ends. And I’ve been on the receiving end of it, too.” This is actually how Eliot and I started: He messaged me on Scruff, and after one BBQ date and another gushy, Greek-seeking quest to Astoria, our excitement faded into friendship. Since then, our platonic dates involve us bitching rapturously about everything like two old senile old women; Eliot’s bicep tattoo of Bea Arthur always seems to be smiling back at me as we do. We’ve never spoken about why our romance ended, but we’ve bickered plenty about other people we’ve dated—Fuck Yeses, Fuck Nos, and fickle boys who change their hearts or minds.
“In 2008, I struggled to get over a breakup,” Eliot says as we wait at the vet to pick up his sick, 11-year-old dog, Atticus. “I tried putting myself back out there, and after a while found myself disgusted by the behavior of almost everyone I met—primarily online. Every guy seemed so entitled, and everything just felt like a dead end or a power play.” I reach my own threshold with this once or twice a year, and need to shut down any online presence and active pursuits; I have to starve myself of seeking attention just to spare myself the constant ego-checking. (I also make my fair share of excuses and ignore a handful of app messages, fearing I’ve probably checked a few egos, as we all have. I hate knowing that we all have that power, and on the other side, the vulnerability.) “Maybe it was because the pickings felt so slim, but it made me consider dating women,” Eliot adds. “Seriously.” He says ‘seriously’ as a skeptical look falls across my face. “Really, though, it was from a place of reason. Women are so much more emotionally available. They have foresight past a single fuck, and are emotionally intelligent enough to make considerations beyond ‘what does he look like with his shirt off?’ I had low self-esteem, clearly. I was thinking I could make it work, that I could train my dick to be interested in women. I say that in all seriousness—that’s what I thought I could do. My best friends were astonished since I kept up the idea for a while. I was so convinced that I would never find a requited, unconditional relationship.” Moments later, after Eliot pays a pretty penny to retrieve Atticus, the vet brings the Havanese-Schnauzer pup back to his owner. Despite his ailing tummy, Atticus climbs into Eliot’s arms, his tongue drooping low as he pants happily. Eliot hugs him close, and both are relieved to be reunited. “So did you ever date any women?” I ask. “No, of course not,” Eliot replies. “But that’s also right when someone very significant came along. A person that I was certain didn’t exist.”
After being set up with “Howie” in 2009, Eliot found himself on a date that felt kinetic. “At the end of it, I sort of gave him an ultimatum,” Eliot says. “I had been so beat down by dating in Gay New York that I outwardly told him how much I liked him. He said he liked me too, so I replied by saying ‘Please tell me right now if you want to see me again, because I’ve been burned a lot, and I want to know that I’m not going to be burned again.’ A lot of guys would have been freaked out, rightfully. And I was willing to risk that because if he didn’t like me enough, it’d be easier to just find out right away instead of wait on him to let me down later. Luckily, he responded with ‘I am into it, but calm down, ok?’ He was a good sport. I just needed that assurance.” That assurance turned into a three-year, finally-this-is-what-I’ve-needed relationship: “With him I felt deserving of something,” Eliot says. “How did it unravel, then?” I ask. “Well, to preface, he would always remind me that you have to love yourself more than anybody else,” Eliot begins. “I thought he had the right idea with that, and got the reality of it after those three years. We were talking about marriage by now, and living together. Then he just woke me up on a Saturday morning and ended things abruptly. And like, is that him loving himself more than other people? It was a level of selfishness that was so astounding. I never really got closure from him, because he didn’t want to talk about why things stopped working. He didn’t want to invest anything more into it. He just wanted to leave. I don’t know how you vet somebody to say ‘You’re not going to up and leave one day without warning, are you?’ And now…everything—any pursuit—it all feels like one big joke.” The irony in this, I think, is that Howie might have been right after all: You have to love yourself more than anyone else. Guard the heart, keep expectations low, and find the positive and security in being left alone.
“Howie and I met up a month later to get closure, but like I said, I still don’t have closure,” Eliot says. “He started crying and felt like a bad person. I told him that what he did was cruel—to just back out. He eventually moved to London, but I didn’t find out until I went to a friend’s apartment, and she had inherited his furniture—OUR furniture, the stuff we bought together and that made our home. That’s how I found out he left. He spent three years of his life with me, and not long after, he didn’t even tell me he was leaving the country. I think I at least deserved to hear that from him.” I never knew this side of Eliot—this spurned, broke-down, defeated side. He’s well past the breakup now, which is why this is the first time it’s been brought up, but it probably contributes to the fact that he hasn’t had as nearly a significant relationship since Howie: How could you trust anyone after the person you most love abandons you? I’ve seen him make a solid effort at dating in our two-year friendship, and before you mistake Eliot for a sad sap—humorously jaded, yes, but not a sad sap—I also speculate that this history with Howie makes him wiser by the sheer fact that he has to guard his heart more. The Eliot I first met—on our BBQ date in Prospect Heights—was upbeat, playful, confident. He still is those things, despite any characteristic skepticism. He’s the only Eliot I’ve really known, this post-Howie one. A delight I’ve had in aging toward 30 has been that I meet more people who have been brokenhearted, or whose wisdom and wit comes from a place of pain. Not just in love, but in any aspect of life. I don’t mean to imply that I want people to experience pain, but as we round the corner into having children, losing parents, running businesses, and getting divorces, I know these smaller, significant-at-the-time ego-checks play a big role in toughening our hides, in shaping our point of view. We can still grow angry with others, or get confused by the cards we’re dealt, but we can do so without feeling sad for ourselves, without having to stop and nurse wounds. It seems to me that we’re always healing, so it’s best to press onward.
Eliot and I meander to a cookie-baking contest in Gowanus, where we share a plate of 25 cookies—and go back for seconds—while pondering the dating game. (There’s no better time to question your single life than while eating 10,000 pure-sugar calories.) I had just reactivated my OKCupid account, something I routinely do once a year before deleting it a week later. He helps me edit my profile so it sounds less self-deprecating. “Don’t expose any vulnerabilities on here,” he advises. “It just gives them one thing to hold on to, so they have some stupid reason for rejecting you.” Together we compose a message to a self-loathing, recently-out, total-top, femme-hating New England Patriots fan. We laugh at the fact that I would even care to message this guy, but to be frank, he’s extremely handsome and I want the challenge; I want to know if he finds me attractive. “What’s my handicap for being a lifetime Packers fan?” I say in the message. (He logged in later, viewed my profile, and never responded.) We look in my old messages, from as far back as 2012. There, un-returned, is a message that Buckminster wrote me in 2013, half a year before we met on Scruff. It was so well-composed, so smart but short, so vulnerable but sincere, and…I never even wrote him back. I completely ignored a person I would meet six months later and who would form the mold of what I wanted in a partner. “That’s the game,” Eliot says. “More cookies?”