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• 3500~ words •10-18 min •
I originally clicked on Axe Throwing Guy’s profile because in his picture, he was cuddling a sugar glider.
If you have no idea what that is, it’s like a type of flying squirrel? it’s fuzzy, it’s small, it has big eyes. It’s adorable.
Basically I wanted to date the sugar glider. Or at least date the boy long enough to get into close enough proximity to the sugar glider, that I could cuddle it and love it forever and maaaaybe squirrel it away in my pocket (pun!) and flee into the night.
But then we actually started talking. Axe Throwing Guy (Axes for short) and I sent long messages back and forth about books, our favorite characters in tv shows, our adorable pets. We hit it off really quickly with endless things to talk about.
He’s also a demisexual and pansexual cis man – what! Pansexual? Guy? In real life?? – and he completely did everything right regarding my identity. He asked the right questions, was REALLY good about my pronouns – even though they’re weird – and never slipped up once. His husband/wife is bigender, and prefers to switch back and forth between pronouns and presentations. In this story, I’m going to also switch back and forth, depending on how this person was presenting in that instance. They also had a really cool name that could be read as male or female depending on an extra syllable, so we’ll go with James to Jamie.
So talking to Axes was extremely gender affirming. At the time I started messaging him, I had only really been “out” as nonbinary online, and with a really select group of friends who were either also queer or just super queer-friendly and weren’t phased by this at all. I hadn’t really been my full nonbinary self around anyone new, or in public, and especially not in talking to anyone on a dating site. It was listed on my profile, but… reading comprehension on dating sites is abysmal at best, and I wasn’t ready to push the issue when I still wasn’t on solid footing with it myself.
And so here’s this guy, who isn’t a straight guy into girls who is “okay with the whole nonbinary thing.” He was pansexual and into all of my nonbinary-ness. He wasn’t an allosexual person who “wants to respect my boundaries so will wait to have sex if I have to,” he was demisexual as well and understood it without needing to Have Talks about when I was going to do the sex.
Before meeting me, he understood what it meant to be bigender, and what it was to be in a relationship with someone whose gender changed daily. It was like I had stumbled into queer paradise or something. Like, our first date. He asked me out, fully equipped with this elaborate plan. We were going to go to dinner downtown, walk to a bookstore, then go to a drag show that his husband performed in every week. Before the show, Axes was going to ask his husband to help me with male contouring makeup, since I’d told him I was new to trying it and frankly sucked at it. Like, he took every thing I had been telling him about my sort of flailing around in my gender identity, plus my love of books, and created this night that was tailored just for me.
Like, I was so excited. He and I had this great banter going, and we were both writers and book nerds, and he was really into fantasy stuff and sent me endless pictures of his sugar gliders, and it was just. So many good and amazing things. And I was just… really, really excited.
So. First date. I seemed to have completely forgot that I am fully drenched in suburbia and am not in any way, shape, or form, a “downtown person.” I can’t parallel park. One-way streets confuse me. What do you even do with a parking meter?? I don’t carry change?? Who carries change anymore?
Downtown people. That’s who. People who are Not Me.
So I parked in someone’s neighborhood (literally like, in front of their lawn) and walked forever aimlessly until Axes called me and talked me through how to get to where he was.
We got dinner and things were… okayish? He was familiar with the concept of spoons, and said he “comes equipped with a fully-stocked flatware drawer” should I need it. He did silly accents and monitored my choices about pickles on burgers. I was nervous and feeling weirdly shy, so I was happy to have him fill in most of the conversation. And so he did.
We discussed his deep and abiding love of bread, and he performed an academic lecture on pivotal battles in Chinese history. We did awkward small talk about our jobs and partners. I told him about my first girlfriend, how we were both so excited to HAVE A GIRLFRIEND!! that neither of us really stopped to think about whether we should be together as individuals, and he agreed that there was a very similar dynamic between he and his first boyfriend. We wondered if it’s the same for every queer person FINALLY KISSING ANOTHER QUEER PERSON and if that “omg same!” is often overpowering of other relationship common sense… or whether we just make poor life choices.
Then we walked to the bookstore. His definition of a “couple of blocks” and my definition are very, very different. And I am badly out of shape. But we get there, and I have stripped off most of my clothes even though it’s late October, because I was sweating to death.
He follows my lead, which means I beeline straight for the young adult fiction section and go around the store from there. I am a huge fan of young adult (YA), and used to run a book review blog for books only in this genre. There was a time when I had read nearly every relevant YA novel published in the last two years. I’ve changed my focus to other things, but YA still holds a big, beautiful place in my heart.
The minute we step into the little alcove in half priced books where the YA books live, Axes starts telling me why he doesn’t read the genre. Namely, he thinks it’s lesser quality than other books.
Ladies, gentleman, and variations thereupon, if this had been a movie, there would’ve been a damn record scratch right here.
I would have slowly turned to him, eyes lit up with cartoonish anime gleam as my nails sharpen into claws and my teeth grow fangs. And he completely didn’t notice, as I sweetly said, “What do you mean?”
Yes, do go on, sir. I am dying to hear more.
“Well, I just think that certain popular media recently, you know, the stuff getting big book and movie deals, has had a negative impact. Everyone is trying to churn out the next Twilight and isn’t so focused on quality. So if you pick up a book from this section, there’s a good chance it won’t be very good.”
“That’s true of any genre,” I tell him, and I think maybe he’s stopped speaking long enough to realize he is dangling above a river of alligators. “What was the last young adult book you actually read?”
So he starts pointing to books on the shelves.
Him: Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series.
Me: That came out in the 80’s.
Him: The Artemis Fowl series is good.
Me: Came out 15 years ago and is also children’s, not young adult, but go on.
Him: Oh! The Redwall series!
Me: With the talking mice?
Him: Yes! That was great!
Me: Another 80’s book. Also – for children. Not young adult.
At this point I think I pointed out we were arguing and he insisted we were not arguing and just. Listen. If someone in the conversation says “this is an argument” it’s an argument. Two people don’t have to agree it’s an argument for it to be one. Just one person has to be upset. Not both. Or else you’re gonna end up arguing about whether or not it’s an argument, and *that’s* just silly.
Luckily he didn’t take that track. He got a bit exasperated in a “What do you want from me” kind of way, and told me to point out books he’d be interested. “I’ll try anything once,” he says, issuing it like a challenge. So I start telling him the plots of like five books, one after another, and of course, Half-Priced Books was not carrying any of them, because they’re so good people likely buy them up immediately.
Instead, we start to wander around the book store, and he starts picking up books and telling me how good and amazing each of them are, and the whole plot. I’m still pissed as hell, honestly. He basically quoted the kind of ignorant bullshit people are constantly using to discredit one of my favorite genres, and other ignorant people, who have never read anything in the genre – at all – smile and nod and use that as their very educated, pretentious excuse as to why they don’t know anything about the genre when they’re on dates with people.
But anyway. He’s telling me all the plots to books, and I’m smiling and nodding and trying to calm down, but honestly. I just am all out of fucks. So each time he gets done praising some amazing sci-fi or fantasy book, I tell him, “That’s interesting, but I really don’t read books without female characters in them, or at least by female authors.” This is just personal preference – I find stories about dudes doing dude things to be kind of boring. But he didn’t hear me, and he kept picking up more books and sharing the entire plot with me, telling me how much I’d like it. I said the same thing, again. Sorry, I don’t read books without female characters in them.
And he’s not. hearing. me. It’s not like he heard me, acknowledged it, but wanted to share his favorites. He’s actively trying to sell me on these books, explaining how I’d love them because of my favorite tastes in other books and movies. But he isn’t actually hearing a word I said.
So I just start being obnoxious about it. He holds up a book and before he even starts, I’m just. “Are there any female characters in it?” And he’s “Ehhh, well, not really but-” … Next one. Same question. “There’s a love interest!” Next. “I think there’s one but I can’t remember what she does.” Doesn’t count. She must not be important if you can’t even remember her. Next. “This one! The female character in it is actually my favorite heroine in all-” … “*The* Female character? So there’s just one.”
Bookstore was clearly not working for us, so I basically just wandered out without really stating it was time to go.
And it’s raining.
It’s not like we walked five billion miles to get here or anything.
So we walked back. In the rain. Which honestly just completely turned all my anger and frustration off. Because it was hilarious. We were scurrying back down these downtown streets, and I think I had like, a scarf to cover my head, and that’s it. And the whole time I am just like, completely chill, like yeah, weather happens, it’s alright. This’ll make a hilarious story later. “He made me walk 10 miles back to our car IN THE RAIN!” (as he goes “It’s not ten miles omg it was barely a few blocks”) But he kept apologizing, over and over. The boy had absolutely no idea how to read people. Like, comically bad. So, it’s October, and I am thoroughly soaked and shivering, and we’re standing in a dollar general parking lot as he tells me the plan – “We’ll get to my car, and I have a cloak you can dry off with” … a cloak? “yes. an actual cloak. I have a full suit of armor in the back seat, too, but I don’t think it would do anything to warm you. And if you’re comfortable, you can sit in my car with the heater on. I promise I won’t actually drive you anywhere. But if you don’t feel safe, I totally understand.”
A dude just, immediately understanding that I might not want to be alone in a car with him, giving me an option to back out, and just. Acknowledging that situation, made me feel immediately safer with him.
Then he pulls this cloak out of the car. And I’m huddled into myself shivering and wet and cold and he drapes this over my shoulders, pulls the hood around my face, and buttons the clasp at my neck, all warm and close and being gentle and I felt so tiny in this huge cloak that literally dragged the ground, and he said, again, that I could nope out of being in a car with him if I was uncomfortable, and like. It was the sweetest little romcom moment ever. I probably would’ve kissed him right there, bad taste in books or no, if he had tried, it was just such the cutest little moment for it.
But he didn’t try, and we got in his car to warm up, and hung out in there for like two hours as he talked. And talked. Annndd talkedddd.
He was filling a lot of air time with his voice, and it gave me a lot of time to think. About how much he wasn’t asking questions. And how he didn’t really seem interested in anything I said. And how he was *very* interested in everything *he* had to say. And how he kept explaining things to me that I already knew.
Him: Like there’s this girl with pink hair in the anime, and she’s yana-du-dairy, which is like. A specific trope.
Me: I know.
Him: Well it’s like when a character is really-
Me: I know what it is.
Him: Oh? Really?
Me: Yeah, and it’s pronounced Yandere.
I took two semesters of Japanese and learned absolutely nothing except how to pronounce words and make mansplainers look dumb on dates. Apparently.
If you are wondering why I didn’t come up with a reason to leave at this point… there’s two reasons. First, I wasn’t really sure it was his fault. I knew I got snippy at the bookstore, and he had already done a few really sweet things, that I had really conflicting, mixed feelings. And secondly, I was really excited for this drag show. I’d never been to one, and don’t actually have much connection to any local queer community. All of my queer friends live on the internet or in my phone. I was really excited about this.
So… drag show. It’s in a bar. I have a lot of anxieties about alcohol and about being around drunk people in particular, which I told Axes about before we got in there, and he was amazing. He told specific people who were very flirty and touchy that I was off-limits, and he acted as a personal body-blocking security guard preventing me from being near drunks at all. Later, during the show, one or two of the performers had been drunk and come over to get into my personal space, and he put am arm out, hand on their shoulder, so that they physically could not come closer to me.
Like, I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone handle my alcohol anxieties *for me* like that. To have someone understand them and watch out for them and think ahead to what I might need or how a situation might be threatening to me. Usually I have to keep my guard up the whole time, because I have to manage all of these situations on my own, and make up my own excuses and find a way to put distance between them and myself on my own. But I felt really, genuinely safe with Axes. I could relax and enjoy what was going on because there was another pair of eyes watching out for me. It was a very amazing, very weird experience for me.
But the show. I got to hang out in the dressing area as everyone arrived. It was very informal and everyone there knew each other, and were immediately welcoming of me. I was introduced as Axes’ “date for the evening,” and everyone knew he’s married to James, and no one blinked or made anything weird about my being there. No one even flinched at his using strange pronouns for me. I got hugged by so many people. James showed me how he does male contouring makeup, and their one and only drag queen came into the room and made “ugh boys” jokes with me about everyone else there.
Here I was, the new person in the group. When I walked in, I felt completely anxious and awkward and weird and out of place, standing in the corner in my floor-length renfest cloak, dripping wet still, but then… all these random strangers completely welcomed me and included me in everything. Like, I don’t think I’ve felt that immediate sense of welcome since going to church as a teenager.
The show itself was really interesting and fun. I had no idea what to expect, and yet it still somehow wasn’t what I expected. It was largely drag kings, with only one queen? So I think in that, it was a lot different than most? The entire bar was full of queer people and because I was there with a regular member of their social circle, I was welcomed without hesitation. For a few hours, I was one of His People. I walked out of there thinking I don’t know how I feel about him, but I would love to be one of His People. Like, that immediate ticket into a warm and welcoming queer family was really… heady, and fulfilled something that I didn’t know I was actually missing until right then.
We didn’t kiss goodnight. We barely hugged. I realized during some of the downtime in the show, that he hadn’t asked me a single question the entire time I had been there. Nothing beyond “Do you want to go get your car?” or “When do you need to head back?” Nothing personal, about me, expressing interest in me. And as much as I enjoyed being in his community, and how he went out of his way to make me feel safe, I had never spent an evening with someone who also made me feel so *unseen.* Ignored, almost. He and I had been talking the entire night, but I felt like you could have replaced me with any person, or even one of his sugar gliders, and he would have had the exact same conversation.
It actually brought up a lot of feelings and memories from high school, ending up at parties and social outings with people who didn’t really want you there, who you followed around like a puppy dog while they ignored you. Of being completely skipped over when it was your turn to talk. I spent the next day in a really depressive funk, about to cry at my desk, wondering how I could have had fun last night and feel so *terrible* today. It was so bad that my boyfriend, Cute Boy*, actually drove over on his lunch break to sit in the car and hold me and pet my hair and tell me how great I was. Because he is a precious sweetie and makes a lot of things better.
*Cute Boy is *the cutest.* He knows things about science and music and can go on a rant at the drop of a hat. He’s got big blue eyes and the cutest nose in the entire universe (fight me). We are snarky sarcastic assholes together and I love him.
Axes texts me, all “hey so last night was really great, when do you wanna hang out again.” Ugh. It took a while to craft my response, but basically what I told him was the truth. I felt like he didn’t see or hear me the entire night, that I actually had a lot of fun, that the content of the date was amazing, but the company and conversation wasn’t. He didn’t ask me a single question, didn’t seem interested in me at all.
His response was that he knew something was wrong on the date. He had gone home, and he’d freaked out about it to Jamie, who asked for a recount of the night. Axes started “Well, I was really nervous…” and Jamie finished, “Oh no, you word vomited on er didn’t you. You didn’t let er speak!!” Which is apparently something he *does.* He apologized profusely, and insisted that he was, in fact, interested, and I’m allowed to shut him up at any time.
So I made a proposal. We could have a second date on the condition that we would not chat as normal. Instead, we would play the question game. Which is basically truth or dare without the dare. I will ask a question, then he will answer. He will then ask me a question, and I’ll answer. We will go back and forth like that for the entirety of the date and any deviation from his will result in my going home, and no more further dates.
Oddly enough, because I was just *so charming* nitpicking his books and lecturing him about YA lit and how to pronounce Japanese trope names…. he agreed.
Axes, Part Two will be released April 19th! Make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the second date.