Having lived all over the country in several metropolitan cities, I have experienced and learned a lot about queer culture and diversity within our community, but nothing has shocked me more than what I learned in San Francisco. I've lived in San Francisco for over a year now, and immediately upon arriving I realized that gay men here mostly play by different rules. I'm sure that what happens here goes on all over the country, but I don't believe it happens with such consistency as it does in this city.
Dating here has been one of the toughest activities I have experienced. I think I mastered the Muni transit system before I mastered how to distinguish between the different types of open relationships that this city has to offer. I was never curious about open relationships, as they never appealed to me.
When I first began to complain to my gay friends here in the city about my struggles with mostly meeting guys in open relationships, I was shocked to find out that a majority of my friends were also open with their partners. They all told me that I would eventually understand and join the ranks. Well, that never truly happened.
I recently met a guy and knew that he was in an open relationship. After a year of avoiding these fellows, I decided to just take a chance. I mean, I wasn't the one in a relationship; I was just going to hang with someone who was. Things were fine up until the moment I asked, "Do you live with your boyfriend?" He proceeded to explain to me that his boyfriend actually lived with his husband. It took me a minute to wrap my head around that idea. I respond, "OK." This open relationship was taken to a different level in my mind. I guess this was considered double open.
At what point has it gone too far? I think I finally understand some reasoning behind an open relationship, but when it's just a free-for-all, why even bother calling it a relationship? What is the benefit of having the title if there truly is nothing more than just the title? I am trying to express these legitimate questions in a way that won't upset half of San Francisco, but the reality is that I just don't understand. Having been married before, it's possible that my mind and heart are still set on a more traditional type of relationship. The jealousies alone that are involved with even the thought of an open relationship make my heart race. Or maybe it's because my marriage ended due to infidelity and now I'm a bit jaded.
My biggest fear with dating in San Francisco was that I would find the perfect man, and then, after some time had passed, he would then ask me if we could change our dynamic and open up what we had. It was always a thought in the back of my head when going out on dates. I tried so hard to read their minds and find out if they were open to being open, because if they were, I knew that was my red flag. But maybe I've been too prudish in resisting the temptation. I haven't been very successful thus far with all my avoidance tactics.
I'm not one to judge other people's lifestyles or relationships. In the end, whatever works for someone may not work for everyone else. In my case, I just don't think I am the open-relationships type of guy. As I leave San Francisco and embark for to New York City, I am hoping to learn even more about how different the gay dynamics are there vs. here. Maybe it's not just a San Francisco thing anymore.