What Does It Mean to Start Over Again in the Midwest, After Life as a ‘Coastal Elite’?

Dating in a new city is always hard—but coming from L.A. to Springfield always brings with it a lot of surprising baggage.

I just sat down to have a taco on a Tuesday and write this column. There’s a handsome man at the table across from me. And our eyes keep meeting. 

There was something that I never considered when I moved to the Midwest: That I was single. I had been in a long-term, long-distance relationship for about seven years, during which I went back and forth between NYC and L.A., where we’d go to amazing restaurants or on winery day trips or to upstate New York where I’d pretend I was into hiking and picking apples. 

After the break up, single and living in Los Angeles, I had my gay friends and I went out to gay bars. And sometimes I even met the occasional gentleman and went home with him. Those were the days.

But I never found myself in a relationship again while I lived in Los Angeles. For the first time I was living alone, and I enjoyed it. If I’m being truly honest, I also felt a certain amount of embarrassment and vulnerability. I had been with someone who actually lived in LA, and then right before I moved to be with him we broke up. I felt like this whole move to California was me starting over, but I didn’t want to acknowledge it. And I didn’t want to put in the work with him or anyone else, to have it all fall apart again.

So yes, I’d never really thought about being single, either in L.A. or when I moved to Missouri, not knowing anyone but my father. I didn’t have any friends in this place. I definitely didn’t know anyone gay. I didn’t even know the thoughts and opinions and facts about gays in this place. It had been years since I’d done the work it takes to date or even consider being a good boyfriend to someone. Was I ready? Ready for what? I didn’t even have a dating app on my phone.

We don’t necessarily think about the fact that our past or the stories we tell as transplants may not always translate. I never realized, going on my first date in this foreign place with a guy who had never been on a plane, that my lifestyle may be called into question. “So why would you go from Chicago to Alabama to New York City to Los Angeles to Missouri? You were a theatre major? Oh…so you can’t have dinner next week because your friends are getting married in Aspen? All of this sounds a little made up.” 

Looking back, of course it does. It’s also my life. But I realized that other people have lives too. And maybe they’re not as extravagant (not that I ever thought my life was). But I suppose the lives we live are sometimes in the eye of the beholder. I do believe all of our experiences are valid. 

The truth is. I’m still single. And I will own my part in that. I don’t make the time. Or the effort. And I’m not quite there on sacrifice. But I’m working on it. On a phone call with a friend last night, he told me that having a partner and a family takes drastic action. I hadn’t even realized how hard it can be to make new friends, especially when you have close friendships that are decades old. And as for dating, that’s even harder when you had a great relationship that just didn’t work out because of timing.

I don’t know if Missouri is where I will fall in love. I’m open to it. But I’ve learned that it can’t be forced or rushed, that my experience so far in life may be more unique than I thought it was, and that wherever we find ourselves, there are special people that we get to encounter. 

It’s whether we are ready and available to get on the inevitable diving board…and perhaps jump. 

Who knows? I might start by saying hello to this fetching gentleman I keep locking eyes with. 

The Gay Goods is dedicated to engaging with a range of opinions and viewpoints. To share yours, email editor@thegaygoods.com.

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