So I have a cool woman therapist: straight, married, but someone who gets me on a level that few people do. Which is good, since I pay her. But occasionally there are certain cultural obstacles to hurdle. Like trying to describe my conflicted attraction to bear culture.

“Bears?” she said.

“Yeah. They’re, well…they’re kind of like hairy guy’s guys.”

“I see. And you said you have a date with a bear tonight?”

“I have a date with a bear tonight.”

“Are you excited about the date with the bear?”

Well, yeah, I kinda was. Hadn’t been on more than four or five dates in the last four years. And that was getting kind of lonely. I’d been worried that I was going to end up a dirty old man. By, like, next spring. A well-read dirty old man. In grad school. But still dirty, and old.

I’m 34, I live in Manhattan, and I shower regularly. It seemed too early to give up hope. I started checking out Big Muscle Bear, swallowing my usual revulsion against constricting labels. And a bear asked me out. Last night we set up the date by phone.

“Wait,” he said. “Are you the one who doesn’t drink?”

“Am I the one?”

“Yeah.”

“Um. Yeah, I’m the one.”

“Well we can grab coffee. How about Starbucks? Wait, are you the guy that doesn’t like Starbucks?”

“No. Must be that other guy.”

“Okay, cool.”

Sure, I said, I could come down to Chelsea, where he lived. We picked one of the three on Eighth Avenue.

“And what is the source of your conflicted attraction to bears?” my therapist asked today.

“Bears like to drink beer. It’s sort of a fetish for them,” I said.

“I see. And you’re worried that might be a problem?”

“Well last night he told me that he had two beers after work instead of having dinner.”

“I see.”

“Beer is kind of a prerequisite for being a bear. It may even be more important than having hair.”

“That sounds serious.”

“Yeah.”

We agreed that I should go with an open mind. And I did, or at least I tried. I showed up at 6:30 pm. By 6:45 the date was a bust. He probably thought so, too, as he admitted that his favorite pastime was getting together with his buddies and drinking beer.

By 7:00 pm he was looking over my shoulder every time the door opened. There was a moment when I thought we might connect, when he told me that his Mom died five years ago.

“So did mine,” I said. “In 2002.”

Silence as he stared over my shoulder. For fun I let it stretch on, just to see what he would do. Three minutes later he remembered I was there.

“So what are you studying again?” he said.

By 7:30 I was headed back to the subway. Good ol’ Morrissey on the iPod.

and though I walk home alone
and I might walk home alone
but my faith in love is still devout

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