romance is alive and well in New York City
a dinner date in Dimes Square
I’m on a date.
Casino is bustling — the table to my left has a high-pitched gay hawking skin cream products to a woman who has yet to get in a word edgewise, and to my right an absolutely gorgeous Black straight couple who must know someone at the restaurant or Aisa Shelley himself because there’s a nonstop parade of free items from the kitchen arriving. Dimes Square has been in need of a new “work it and be seen” restaurant, but my dinner companion Rafael (Rafa for short) claims Casino is “already ran thru, it’s a scene.”
Rafa, who has matter-of-fact cunty opinions about most everything, is also a prominent theatre critic whose opinion I quite respect. “Em Rata was here the other week.” Which actually, is the marker of a hot new restaurant seeing as Emily Ratajkowski was in attendance at buzzy new spot Holiday Bar when I first visited during its soft open. “It’s only a matter of time before Tik Tokers discover this place and then it’s over. That’s what it’s designed for,” Rafa continues, before looking over at the straight couple not with derision, but with a joy in his eyes I haven’t ever seen before. Rafa is in love. Not with me, no. This is a date, but a dinner date between close friends. In New York these days, most of the dates that homosexual men go on are with their friends.
Romance is alive and well in New York, but it’s friends who wine and dine one another. Go on trips together. Care for each other in a way that our community has always cared for one another. Or at least, I thought that was the current state of gay dating in New York. But then Rafa had to go and fall in love. My perennial bachelor friend who favored bathroom hookups at Playhouse or shirtless makeouts at Wrecked and had fucked nearly every mutual friend of ours had finally found love. They met on a dance floor months ago and have been inseparable ever since and now Rafa is even going to introduce this man to his parents. “I told my mom we’re both Cancers, she said good luck.”
As Valentine’s Day looms in New York City, I was already prepared for an onslaught of heterosexual couples making out on subway cars and taking up all the reservations at every one of my favorite West Village restaurants. Yes, we all have our married gay friends but for the most part they’re on the prowl for a new man more than my single friends are. And when they discuss their relationships, it’s usually about how much the new home they want in Brooklyn costs or their Fire Island share or whether or not we’re vacationing in the South of France this year. Love? That’s not a thing I imagined having to deal with this year, the first real post-pandemic year as I consider it. Last year, everyone went through a collective depression. This year, I was prepared to have the best year of my life.
But I didn’t expect Rafa to fall in love. Because that comes with the most horrific of consequences — I’m no longer his plus one to Broadway shows. I’ll have to buy tickets to them myself. In this fucking economy? That’s worse than trying to date in New York. “Don’t worry, by the time I take him to some shitty three hour off-Broadway show, he’ll be sick of being my date to everything.”
We split the bill when we finish at Casino, where the best thing was the oysters and the pasta, but I still end up paying more. My orchestra seat to see the Broadway revival of Parade is $298.
Frank is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Justice for that Parade ticket cost!