The photo shoot.
Six words: I should do this every day. I spent an hour an a half being LOVED by these people. Someone brought me water, someone picked out my wardrobe and STEAMED it for me, someone fussed over my hair and makeup and lighting, someone fussed over my clothes every time I shifted my body in front of the camera, the photographers kept telling me how hot I looked and cracked jokes and acted like they were having the best time of their lives taking my pictures ... and now I officially want to be a full-time model. It really IS the high-glamour lifestyle we'd all suspected it was! I also now have two names to drop:
1. Hunter Hillenmeyer, a Chicago Bears linebacker, had his pictures taken after mine. The man has amazing eyes and a pretty decent body. But he's all of 23 years old, and I'm guessing he could buy and sell me. And I learned that while most of us anonymous Top 20 Singles were nominated and picked based on our personalities/profiles/looks, people like Hunter were ringers specifically recruited by Chicago magazine to add star power and increase sales. So I can't decide if I should be insulted that I'm not a big enough name to sell magazines (as if) or extremely flattered that I was picked to appear among some certifiably famous locals.
2. Nate Berkus, who is apparently Oprah's favorite designer and quite an accomplished young business man to boot, is now a potential blind date for me. One of the photographers today is friends with him, and she insisted that he and I would make a great couple. I told her to fix us up and she seemed genuinely excited at the prospect, but I'll believe it when I see it.
Because I'm gay, I also feel obligated to mention that I got in a pretty killer chest workout yesterday and a major killer arm workout today so my guns would look their buffest in all the tight short-sleeved shirts I packed for the photo shoot. Of course, of all the 20 shirts I brought along, the stylist picked one of the two long-sleeved ones for the pic. I just thought I should mention that.
One more piece of news: After all my fretting about having to bring "something special to me" to the shoot, they decided not to use any of the crap we lugged to the studio for our photos. Whew.
I got home from the shoot at 5:30 -- which gave me plenty of time to get in a nice long run before my dream date with Steve. And what a gorgeous day for it! The weather was perfect, the trees were in bloom, the lilacs were flowering and deliciously fragrant, the sky was a gorgeous blue rivaled only by the shimmering blues of the lake, and I just kept drinking in the sheer fabulousness of it all and pounding away until I'd gotten in a good six miles. And now my thighs are screaming.
Ah, the date. Steve picked me up promptly at 7:30 in his sexy black SUV, and he took me to Hopleaf, a nearby tavern/restaurant that serves delicious Belgian food and offers an endless menu of Belgian beers. He looked amazing -- even more amazing than I'd remembered. Better still, he had interesting things to talk about, he's traveled all over the world, he was unfailingly polite, he was absolutely fascinated by me and our conversation was effortless -- until we got to the topic of the gay cruise I took two years ago. Which got us to circuit parties in general and then drugs in specific. And it turns out he's an unapologetic (and rather proud, actually) drug user. AAAAARRRRRGGGHHHHH! (I was profoundly disappointed by this revelation, but it sure took the pressure off as far as me trying to make a longstanding romantic impression -- and I spent the rest of the night just enjoying our date.) Anyway, it didn't spell the end of our evening, which also took us to an obscure little bar where he wanted to hear a friend of his give (of all things) an accordion concert -- but he had the wrong night and the place was deserted when we got there -- and eventually Pause, a cute little coffee shop just around the corner from my place.
Then we got to the sitting-in-his-car-in-front-of-my-place conversation, where our undeniable physical spark was dampened by his out-of-left-field declaration that he didn't see us ever dating, specifically citing our divergent attitudes toward recreational drug use (well, DUH), but he'd love to be friends. Which is fine by me. Our goodbye lasted a good half hour, too, which was also fine by me.
And now I have the memories of a pretty spectacular first date (all things considered) with none of the concerns about compromising my singlehood before the big Top 20 Singles launch party on June 25. Mark your calendars!