Every time I’m in a club, I find myself attracted to the guy dancing dorkishly on the dance floor with a half-empty bottle of Miller Lite. He sports a five o’ clock shadow and looks preppy enough to be intelligent, but his debaucherous interpretation of Fergielicious sheds light on his crazy side. I’ll like it. And I can’t help but think that if I made the right moves, he’ll like me too.

Unfortunately, I won’t do anything about it. I’m amazed by friends who can strike up conversations with random people in bars and clubs. I can’t do that. It’s not necessarily because I’m too socially inept to be friendly with people I don’t know; for me, the smoke, darkness, alcohol, and grinding just don’t cultivate the most appropriate environment to find someone with the brains, heart, and depth of a guy I’d ever consider dating. Sure, nights out with friends are fun; but when I’m searching for The One, those
ingredients of nightlife culture concoct a simple, well-worn stew of temporality, sexuality, and—some would argue—immorality.

I, for one, think that consensual one night stands are okay.
It’s fine to sneak in a little candy while waiting for a full meal to bake in the oven. But most of the time, the stew just doesn’t agree with me; that which may be comfort food for others is an improbable recipe for my view of success in the relationship world. I’m time-conscious, future-driven, and live in such a way that I want the majority of my decisions to be productive towards molding my ideal Yet-to-Come. And The One who I foresee in that Far, Far Away is not someone who I can pick off a dance floor, with whom I can have throw-away sex, and then from whom I might procure a phone number to set up a real conversation that will lead to Happily Ever After. It just doesn’t strike me as a likely chain of events.

I find it ironic that many of us attempt to build the foundation for these long-lasting, best-friend-for-life relationships with people with whom we have no basis for trust, no background except for the stereotypes we create when we see them for the first time—Actual. Total. Strangers. And while I certainly have my share of friends who have had successful dating experiences with these truly random people, I find that my long-sought path to mental and emotional intimacy might be paved easiest when I have something on which to build: the commonality of a mutual friend or employer, a previous conversation online, an exchange of emails—any minute insight into a personality is much more helpful to me than hoping that drunk-ass disco vibrations are going to get me into a fantastic relationship.

In an ideal world, it seems as though the best ingredient in a solid significant other is to have a strong friendship already prepared, aged, and ready for some extra spice. If you already share secrets, vibe with each other’s humor, and like being around one another, then why look elsewhere for anything better, let alone a complete stranger? The foundation’s been built; it’s just about building on top of that base.

It seems like such a no-nonsense, easy solution. But I have two problems:

(1) I don't have gay friends that I see with any regularity. After graduating college, I relocated to Texas, where most of my friends are straight. Don’t get me wrong; I love them… I just can’t fathom being the gay man in a straight relationship. My gay friends, on the other hand, have set roots on either coast, leaving me straddling the center-divide in Bush country, and well—I’m interested in neither
Bush nor bush.

(2) The friends that I do have are my rock and my family. And I don’t have a lot of gay friends or family, so I don’t want to risk losing them. I won’t lie: I’ve crushed on a best friend before. Who hasn’t? One time, I actually had the courage to confess my attraction to one of them, and—among other things—it resulted in awkward conversations, months of silence, and ultimately, missing out on someone’s friendship during an important time in my life. I can’t imagine going through that again, so I’d probably go the coward’s emotionally-wrought route if he didn’t seem like he would return similar feelings for me.

I’m a risk-taker at heart. I jump off planes and bridges, pine for the thrill of roller coasters and bounce around the country (and the world) from opportunity to opportunity, all to squeeze the most out of life and my future. And although I can push myself to do all these things, I can’t quite take the same risks when it comes to love: I shy away from meeting strangers at bars or clubs, and I can’t bear the thought of putting a friendship on the line. So where does this leave me? Is the answer to
grow more balls? To not be so dependent on current friendships? To learn to grow relationships in a dark, smoky, beer-damp funhouse of throbbing club music? Hopefully not. Flowers can’t grow that way; neither can I. There’s gotta be another way to my dorky, five o’ clock shadow-wearing prince with a groove—one without the unfortunate after-taste of smoke and booze stew.

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