By Stephen F. Milioti
Dozens of rainbow-hued Gay Pride celebrations are beginning to kick off – but rather than feel proud, you feel utterly single. Looking at all the couples who are stepping out to affirm the validity of their relationships and fight for their rights, you may wonder if, as a single person, you should be a part of the big parade. Of course you should, says Angelo Pezzote, a New York-based psychotherapist and author of syndicated advice column "Ask Angelo" (www.askangelo.com), which focuses on gay issues. "There's no reason to believe you can't enjoy Gay Pride as a single person – and not only have a good time, but to meet a bunch of great people--both for friendships and maybe even a relationship of your own," says Pezzote. Here are a few tips on how to navigate Pride Week as a single:
If you're going to the parade, go with a purpose
"Going to a gay pride parade? March with a group you feel excited about," says Pezzote. "This will give you a greater purpose." Your local gay and lesbian center will be able to give you a listing of groups that are marching in the parade – from GLAAD to LAMBDA Legal and way beyond. Says Pezzote: "Thinking about the issues you care about will make you remember why you're there in the first place."
Do what you want to do, not what you think you have to do
You might not be able to tell from all the flashy ads for events, but gay pride isn't all a disco inferno. "Gay pride is a communal celebration," says Pezzote, "and it's more than just a big dance. Sure, there are dances, but there are also plenty of other, lower-key activities that people can find fulfilling." The key to that, sometimes, is withstanding peer pressure – all your friends might be going to the big dance, but maybe that's not for you. The reason might even have to do with gender: "I'm the type of lesbian that hangs out with a lot of gay men," says Lana, a retail manager in San Francisco. "But, for Gay Pride, my gay male friends like to go to the big dances, and after a while I got tired of following them there and being in a room full of shirtless guys. I felt that I wasn't being true to what I really wanted – to meet some other women from all over the country. So in the last few years, I've ditched the dances, and gone to women-themed events. Most of my friends understood, I felt good with making my own choice - and I met some real live females!"
Besides just finding out who's going to be in the parade, also do a little research on all the options open to you on the day or week of celebration. "It's always useful to have a plan, especially when you're initially going alone to the celebration," says Pezzote. "It eliminates anxiety and uncertainty." Scroll down the list of things to do at Pride Week (or weekend), and write down the times and locations of the ones you want to do. It seems like busy-work, but it'll keep your mind organized and keep you from having that "what am I doing here?" feeling as you drift through the crowds.
But be flexible
Sometimes even the best-laid plans are meant to be changed. Even though Pezzote suggests you do your homework, he says, "Leave yourself open to a little excursion. Give yourself a chance to stray from your plans if you feel moved to do so."
Skip the substances
We don't want to sound like we're on a soapbox here, but it's fairly obvious that if you want to meet interesting people at Gay Pride, you want to stay off the drugs. "When you're high, it's an illusion," says Pezzote. "You're never going to have meaningful intimacy. It's a connection to the substance--not the people." Tim, a graphic designer who lives in New York, says, "For the past five or so years, I'd hung out with a group of friends that did drugs, and I got into it. I know it wasn't good for me, and it was especially bad on Gay Pride. Four out of those five years I was single and I wanted to meet someone; I felt like the drugs robbed me of any chance to see someone's true character – or show my own. So I've dropped those friends, and I stayed away from drugs during Gay Pride last year – I met some great people, and I attribute that to being clear-headed."
Lastly, don't put pressure on yourself
"Don't obsess and think, 'I have to find the perfect relationship this weekend,' if you're single at Gay Pride," says Pezzote. "Just focus on mixing, mingling, and meeting new people." In other words, make it your goal simply to connect with people. The rest is up to fate and the love gods – but you're in good stead if you aren't forcing Cupid's arrow too much. Just relax, and celebrate!
Stephen F. Milioti is a freelance writer and editor who contributes to New York and Salon.
Courtesy of Happen magazine, www.happenmag.com