2015-01-29 / Sandy Days, Salty Nights

Green means go for it at Valentine’s Day Stoplight 5K

I recently made a new friend, a handsome young man named Sergio. We met at a bar over drinks, though Sergio seemed way too young for me. He had a handsome face and a buff body, and he was dressed in a tough-looking leather jacket that I liked. In fact, his entire image looked tough — very New York with hints of an Italian ancestry — the kind that suggests his relatives own a pizzeria. Or work for the mob. Maybe both.

Sergio and I hit it off, and I felt flattered that this very cute, very young man seemed to be chatting me up.

When I told him what I do, he said, “Maybe you can give me some dating advice.”

Feeling bold, I tucked a loose strand of hair behind my ear and leaned forward. “I’d be happy to,” I said.

He looked at me earnestly, and I held my breath as I waited to hear what he would say.

“I’m having trouble meeting men.”

Do what?

I started to stutter a response then realized I didn’t know what to say. I sat up straight, all trace of coyness gone. “Wait. So you mean . . . ?”

“Oh, yeah,” Sergio said, nodding. “I’m gay.”

“But – ”

But what?

Did the fact that he wore a leather jacket mean he couldn’t be gay? Or that he looked tough and Italian? Or that he was having a conversation with me? No, of course not. None of those things. I had just let my own hopes get in the way.

“Here’s my advice,” I told him. “Buy a lapel pin.”

Sergio looked confused. “A lapel pin?”

“Something to let people know exactly what you’re searching for.”

He shook his head doubtfully, and I knew he was right. If only it were that easy.

One of the trickiest parts about dating is that we never know what we’re coming up against. In bars, in nightclubs, in the places where people meet and mingle, it’s impossible to sum up someone without talking to him or her, without first diving in and exposing our interest. And that leads to a lot of blunders. Wouldn’t it be easier if everyone wore labels, a shortcut to figuring out who’s on the market?

This Valentine’s Day, the inaugural Stoplight Run at JetBlue Park just might help ease us in that direction. True, the event doesn’t designate who’s gay and who’s straight — you’ll still have to wade into those fraught waters on your own — but it’s designed to at least let you know who’s available.

Described as a “fun run and party that promotes healthiness while allowing you to search for that special someone,” the 5K sets out at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14, from the ballpark in South Fort Myers and finishes back at home plate, where the fun lasts until 7 p.m., with live bands, craft beer from six local breweries (including a free sampling bar) and more. There’s even an after-party at House of Brewz at Gulf Coast Town Center nearby.

Everyone arrives dressed in a signal color: red for coupled, green for single and yellow for those who call themselves somewhere in the middle (personally, I’d steer clear of them). Participants will have a chance to stretch, warm up, warm down, hydrate, refuel — all those things sporty people do — while flirting with those you know are free to flirt back. The run benefits the American Heart Association, so it’s also for a good cause. Come out, and perhaps we can all make one less romantic mistake. Visit stoplight5K. - com for registration - and moree details. ¦

— Artis Henderson is the author of “Unremarried Widow” published by Simon and Schuster.

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