Sex: Getting Picked Up at a Bar: A Beginner’s Guide.
I am not a passive person. I think 90% of the world is waiting around for good things to come to them, and doesn’t realize the gains of proactivity. If I saw a cute guy at a bar, I would talk to him. If I didn’t have the balls for that, I would put him in my “oh well” folder and move on. But Michael’s Cheetahs and Gazelles post, which divided the world into those who choose their sexual partners, and those who are chosen, got me thinking. What if I didn’t make the first move?
When I was in New York this past weekend, I went out to East Village gay bar The Phoenix by myself to see how the other half lived. I was armed only with a “flirt away” text from my boyfriend (with an implicit PS of “don’t actually do anything”) and a set of self-imposed rules: No eye contact. No smiles. Most importantly, no speaking to anyone who hadn’t spoken to me first.
So I took a spot against the bar and waited. Here’s what happened:
1:10 am: Having ordered my first beer, I’m standing with my back to the bar and encountering some unfamiliar challenges. How does one appear approachable without looking desperate? Confident, but not aloof? My self-imposed eye contact ban causes me to enact my least favorite gay behavior, which is to quickly look away when someone catches me looking at them. It’s an awkward feeling and I try to counteract it by looking as nonchalant as possible. This, of course, just makes me self-conscious and results in discomfort.
1:25 am: My first bite! A short, snaggly toothed man with an unkempt houseplant of curly hair approaches me. If memory serves, he is also wearing a hawaiian shirt. Small talk ensues. He is perfectly nice, but clearly drunker than I am. After a minute or two I excuse myself to the bathroom. It occurs to me to me while peeing that he looked like someone famous. Dudley Moore comes closest, but is not quite right.
1:50 am: I break my own rule by asking the bartender about his tattoos, and in shame I retreat to the jukebox. I end up putting 13 songs on because it is so damn good. Deerhoof. Hot Chip. LCD Soundsystem. I have never seen these artists anywhere near a gay bar before, and probably won’t as long as I stay in D.C. My curly-haired buddy from ten minutes ago rejoins me to say that a group of strangers just called him Phil Spector, and I get relieved. He totally looks like Phil Spector. He walks away, and I move four feet to my left and lean against the “Space Invaders” arcade game.
2:15 am: A cute guy has been standing next to me at the Space Invaders for close to ten minutes, but my rules forbid me from saying anything to him. Or looking at him. I had to glean his appearance through a painful series of glances out of the corner of my eye. Finally, he turns to me and says “We have been standing next to each other for way to long. I’m Keith.” It turns out Keith lives nearby and is also at the bar alone. My excitement at being spoken to is interrupted when Keith is recognized by a casual friend, and pulled into an already existing nucleus of fags.
2:19 am: A man saunters over to me and asks “Excuse me, are you normal?” He looks like Ted from Queer as Folk, and explains to me that everyone else at the bar seems pretty crazy so he is now trying his luck with me. I silently curse Keith for leaving me alone, and discover another complication of passivity: It is really easy to end conversations that you have started, but hard to end conversations that someone else has started for you. Ted goes on to tell me that he is there with another friend who is also unable to find sane men. He also points out that his friend has really thick eyebrows, which is true. They look like wolfen index fingers. I again excuse myself to the bathroom.
2:24: I try to reclaim my spot at the Space Invaders, but Ted is still there. He gives me a dirty look for walking by him without saying anything, so I take a new perch by the stairs. Conveniently, this new perch faces the hot, tattooed bartender. I lose myself for a couple minutes, until:
2:30: Success! A guy next to me, after a couple minutes of silence, asks me what my name is. He is dorky-cute (the best kind of cute,) and about 5’6”, with sneakers, a nylon windbreaker and big glasses. And he’s awesome. I have the same name as his brother, which prompts him to call his straight-and-married bro a “total faggot.” We talk for an hour, bolstered by the fact that we randomly have a couple friends in common. He always suspected one of those friends was gay, and I was able to confirm this… personally. We had a lot to talk about. Finally, the bar closes and we walk out together. I give him a big hug on the street, (feeling guilty for not mentioning my boyfriend) and take a cab home, alone.
Final Thoughts: One reason I am uncomfortable with being picked up is the lack of control that it implies. I usually think that being approached leads to me not actually choosing the people that I sleep with, and having it left up to circumstance. It was nice to learn that one can take the inactive role and still be approached by cute, interesting people who are presumably interested in sex. And if those people look like Phil Spector? Just be polite and walk away.
First time here? See what we're all about... Get involved... Send us a tip!...