Mating Season

OR THE EFFECTS OF TEMPERATURE ON MALE MATING RITUALS OF THE RED MASON BEE | By Dave Kendrick, Fitness SF

I’m writing this from my hospital bed so forgive me if I geek out a little bit. I’ve had a lot of time to think about things – like the look of complete, rapturous desire on my lover’s face at exactly this time one week ago. Ahh, but life can change in the flutter of a butterfly’s wings.

Let flash back to those warm, happier times for a moment, shall we? Humor me. For God’s sake, I’m sick and I’m stuck here in this cold, lonely hospital bed.

It was his birthday and it was our first official ‘date’, a very momentous night. We were taking it public and I was excited to show off the new boy-candy on my arm. We had enjoyed a lot of private time, but we were ready to finally go public with our relationship. This was, I thought, a big step for us.

I had planned it all week. It was to be a surprise. He knew we would be going out to celebrate his milestone, but he had no idea how or where. All week long I texted him, building the anticipation. “Saturday you’re king for a day!” I said. I sent him silly e-cards, like the one with his face on a cartoon man doing a bedroom striptease in fluffy slippers for his mate (my face on another cartoon body), who waited excitedly in bed. I reminded him over and over of how the day would be all about him. Should I get him a plastic crown? Make him wear it throughout the Castro? He’d hate that. He loves the attention but not if it’s as the butt of a joke.

honeybee

So frail is the tragic ego of the modern gay man. It’s the same in the animal kingdom. Slight fluctuations in temperature can have dramatic effects on an animal’s sex life. Did you know this? Studies have been done. It’s actually the poor male Red Mason Bee that suffers the most from these fluctuations. The Osmia bicornis, as he’s known, appears very early in the spring, and so is subjected to a wide range of temperature changes. The male is chosen to mate based on his odor and, um, ‘thorax vibrations’ as it were. Changes in temperature can throw off the vibrations, and what might have sounded seductive at one temperature can sound complete unsexy at another. This is the rotten luck of the poor male Red Mason Bee.

But hey, I get it. Nothing sexier than the musky smell of a sweaty male who knows how to use his thorax, I must say. And this being spring and all, the mating ritual had begun for my new beau and I in earnest.

Many nights, hour after hour, we devoured each other like prey, taking a moment to rest and then resuming the ritual over and over. And over. It really is chemical when you click like that with someone, isn’t it? Ravaging each other like beasts, inflicting pleasure and pain in alternating doses. It’s carnal. It’s animalistic, this really connected sex. It’s intoxicating.

Such is the life of the female American firefly, or Photinus pyralis. She’s one cum-hungry little bugger, and especially devious. Male fireflies attempt to attract the female for copulation by sending out a kind of Morse code with their taillights. The tricky female, after a successful breeding with one male, will sometimes mimic this Morse code, attracting another male to her not to copulate, but because the male’s semen is especially tasty to her. She lures him in and devours him for his yummy cumload.

What attracts you to someone? Sometimes it’s as fleeting and indescribable as the way he cocks his head, the sideways grin, and the swagger. Perhaps it’s the flick of his mighty tail. Yes he had all these things and more — and I was drunk on it.

The best part was, it was felt mutually. He showered me with attention and kisses and compliments. “You’re so out of my league!” he would often say and I honestly loved hearing it. “I can’t wait to feel your big arms around me,” he’d text. I’d throw him the occasional red meat too but kept the compliments more one-sided. Not this cowboy’s first time at the rodeo. As my paternal grandfather used to tell me, “Dave! Ain’t nobody gonna buy the cow if they’re getting the milk for free!” He really did say that all the time. Consequently, I held back a little. I made him work for it.

But I digress. Let’s just say the big night was something we were both very determined would be quite memorable. And since I was the event’s cruise director, I had better make it special. On more than one occasion he’d dropped the name of a San Franciscan icon, or a few RuPaul’s Drag Race alum whom he called his friends.

So I searched the Internet for tickets to the sold-out Saturday evening performance of the show that Peaches Christ and company were throwing at the Castro Theater: Boom! One set of tickets left on Craigslist. VIP only, but, well, how many first dates do you get with a hot man on his birthday?

I know what you’re thinking now. It’s about time in this story for the boy-loses-boy moment. Well, not so fast.

The birthday night went off without a hitch. We held hands and kissed throughout our romantic dinner. We walked down Castro street arm in arm. We even missed some of the funniest lines of the performance because we couldn’t stop kissing each other. And touching. And kissing. And he did something I found completely endearing and remarkable. At 440 Castro after the show, two different guys hit on him and both times he quite clearly told them “I’m here with Dave.” – Swoon!

Finally he asked if I had rimmed any ass lately? Oh my, yes doctor, and you should see this ass! Perfectly round and furry and… Oh, sorry doc.

We stayed up until the sun began to rise the next morning. Mating ritual indeed.

Did you know that many species of octopus kill and eat their mate after sex? We all know that the female preying mantis, or Mantodea religiosa, bites the heads of their male partners after fucking. Certain types of spiders do too. Once the female is impregnated, the male spider offers himself up as a meal to the newly expecting mom. I guess, as the top in this mating ritual, what happened next shouldn’t be too surprising. The weekend ended and the workweek began. We both continued to fawn over each other and anticipate when we might see one aother next, reliving in our heads that very special night. It all so felt life changing.

However, like the sex life of the male Red Mason Bee, it’s not just fluctuations in temperature he has to watch out for. It’s wholesale climate change as well.

That can kill a bee’s sex life, not to mention the bee himself. I began to feel ill mid-week. Something wasn’t right with my body. Chills, fever, body aches — and then horrible, excruciating stomach issues. Coming out of you at both ends [Trip-to-a-remote-back-country bowel disease type stuff.]

The emergency room doctor asked that very question. Nope, sorry doc, no recent trips to Borneo. Finally he asked if I had rimmed any ass lately? Oh my, yes doctor, and you should see this ass! Perfectly round and furry and… Oh, sorry doc.

The boy-candy didn’t take the news well. He felt awful and maybe even a bit guilty. I was careful to tell him it could have been from elsewhere and that no one was to blame. But then a funny thing happened. Just like that, my mate was gone — took sudden flight, post-copulation. He stopped answering my texts. I sit here alone in my hospital bed not understanding why he went away. Maybe the boy wanted a daddy to take care of him and the sudden (albeit temporary) role reversal spooked him. Maybe the fantasy became too real. Perhaps when you’re accustomed to only swimming in the shallow end of the pool, the deeper waters are just too scary.

Perhaps when you’re accustomed to only swimming in the shallow end of the pool, the deeper waters are just too scary.

Sex that good doesn’t come along every day. Did he get too close to the fire and get burned by the intensity of the flame? Did he spiral back to the safety of terra firma? Perhaps he had worshipped me as some kind of god and ran away at the realization I was merely mortal. Things look different when you come back down to earth from up on your perch, as they say. It’s all part of the mating ritual, nature tells us. Spread your seed and move on to the next conquest.

But not every animal is like that. Not every creature wants to mate indiscriminately forever. Did you know that the Pacific Striped Octopus, or Ocythoe tuberculata, stay with their mate for life? Mating and eating together, beak-to-beak and sucker-to-sucker for the rest the their lives. (By chance, does anyone know any single male Pacific Striped Octopus?)

I wondered, can this mating dance we all do ever really last? I’m sad that I may never know the answer to that. But for one brief, shining moment, we were two immaculate and brilliant fireflies lighting up the night sky. I guess sometimes flames burn out; sometimes they are extinguished.


Dave Kendrick is a trainer and fitness professional at Fitness SF in SoMa.

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