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    Are you hiding somewhere behind those eyes?

    You know how there are pop culture artifacts that jolt you so forcefully back into the past that you physically catch your breath? Last week, for what must have been the first time in at least fifteen years, I heard “Electric Blue” by Icehouse. Not the greatest song in the world, but there are worse things to rip off than late-phase Roxy Music, and I’d liked it as a high school sophomore when it was out. I was listening to it on the train last week after work, on my way to Azabu Juban to meet a guy I know. In the sense that it reminded me of adolescent ways of thinking, it turned out to be a fitting soundtrack.

    A woman S. is in grad school with studies the coffee industry, of all things, and was having a party of some kind at a coffee house there; he’d asked whether I’d go. The place was full of grad students in their mid-twenties, many of them flirting in their characteristic don’t-forget-I’m-brainy way. Being a non-flirting guy ten years older than many of them and still dressed for the office, I kind of stood out.

    Friends greeted him. One of them duly asked S. where we’d met. It was a perfectly natural question, but the response came several very noticeable beats later. “Hmmmmm. It was a while ago. I really don’t remember.” A complete lie. Also an unconvincing one. He looked over at me, pretending to want me to jog his memory. I tried hard not to look amused. This happened once or twice more before the party was over, and as we were walking back toward the station, S. said, “I hate that question. Why should people ask something like that?”

    It was right around that point that I let myself show some unfiltered indignation. “Where did you meet?” I pointed out a little astringently, is probably the very least intrusive question it’s possible to ask when first meeting the friend of a friend. You can’t introduce someone to people without providing context; society and sociability simply don’t work that way.

    Either you bring a gay American guy in his thirties–who very clearly has no connection whatever to any world you’re known to frequent–to a gathering of your friends and expect to have to account for your acquaintance, or you navigate social life with your school friends (including the attendant secrecy) without any help from other gay guys. I cannot for the life of me understand the temerity of people who want to play both ends against the middle–drawing on gay organizations while remaining officially straight to their friends in “real life”–and then complain that they feel isolated or put on the spot.

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