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28 January 2009, 2:00 pm 22 Comments

Commentary: The Single Guy

Warning: Sexual Content

It’s Wednesday night, and from an anonymous corner of a crowded bar your emptiness signals an awakening. How long has it been? A year? Two years? Marriage? You’re definitely not recovering from a fling.

The terror around your edges that says “too broke to fix” is evident as you hide behind a rediscovered artifact—a friend–the only one you have left from a life you barely remember, the one you had before “him.” You never left your cave when the big chunks of hurt were evident, but the men in this bar still see you wince from unextracted slivers of his memory. You lost your identity in the process of building a new creation, but all that’s just wreckage now. Heavy with the dizziness of recent hibernation you move cautiously back into pink wilderness.

Now, you’re a domesticated predator relearning the hunt, or maybe an awkward gazelle searching sense memory for the dynamics of the chase. Either way, you’re gamed out. At the edge of your psyche you recognize the excitement of your new life, but there’s too much danger to revel in it. Others sense the danger. You don’t want them to run. You don’t want to tell them that you recently broke from an LTR, but you can’t help it. It was who you were for so long. So much unreserved space to fill, what can you say that fills it? You never expected to be like those people who lose themselves in their dyads only to spin apart into the unknown, but here you are. Single. Didn’t you play this game before? You were good at it. So why do you feel like a teenager again? So clumsy. All the rules seem foreign. A bad relationship brought you to your knees, and ragged self esteem dragged bloody down years of bad road calls into question the most basic assumptions about your identity. Who are you without him? Who can you be? All you know for sure is that the savannah is brutal, and you’ve got to find a pack to run with. You’ve got to keep moving.


The gym is now a transformed setting where diffused eyes now become specific. You’ve worked out there for years, but now when men stare you hold their gaze. That cute bartender from TOWN is doing squats, and he notices your attention. You’ve seen him do squats for two years, but today you watch him finish his set. He grabbed your cock in a seedy South East strip bar eight years ago, but you spurned him because of your ideals. You cycle between weight stations, and every time you see him he’s looking at you with a wry, hopeful smile. How long has he waited for you to notice him? His ideals haven’t changed, but you suspect yours have. While you shower he walks by your stall and stares through the curtain. You tell yourself that if he walks by again and shows his ass, it’s on. He does walk by, and through the crack in the shower curtain you see him drop his towel. Your mind breaks through twisted thoughts of doubt, leaving single minded clarity. As water rolls down your body, you know you have walked through a door, and it leads you into the locker room where you meet the smile he has waiting for you.

He waits for you outside the gym, and you walk him home. After 15 minutes of small talk you’re in his bed demanding to fuck his ass, but he resists. Frustrated by the tease, you ask again. He resists, but gladly offers you his face. He doesn’t say much, but you don’t really give him the opportunity, so when you leave he surprises you by offering his card. He wants you to call him again. Dinner, maybe a movie. He suddenly seems much less like a hot slut and more like someone you understand, but you’re euphoric from the release of being free, spontaneous, and once more recipient of a man’s touch. It’s the best you’ve felt in months, and you want more. A lot more. You don’t mean to lose his card, but you do.


You’ve spent more time at the gym during the last few months than you have in the last year. You’re a rocket in refuel and you finally feel ready to launch. You wear the tightest shirt you can find and hit the club feeling bold. Thumping waves of sound and disaffected poses saturate your experience, creating a humid layer between you and the lust that holds the room together. You’re the center of attention yet completely alienated, like the corpse at a well attended funeral. Despite the out of body experience of the dance floor you make contact with a cute guy with curly black locks, and through the plumage of boy feathers you weave your way toward him. You ask him immediately to leave with you, and he obliges.

Your conversation during the walk is light and entertaining, made easy by vodka and soda. You like him, and at his place you listen to Czech rap music, drink apple juice, and talk about his life as a teacher. You really like him. You go to bed, where he’s excited by your body but you’re dissapointed in his. After uneventful sex he asks you to leave, but you’re tired and ask to stay. He’s weird in the morning, and you wonder if you did something wrong, but as you leave he asks to see you again and you know he’s being genuine. It isn’t until the next day that you realize that asking to stay was a promise that you liked him for more than a place to crash for the night. It was an insinuation that required him to temporarily drop his guard. You kick yourself for the lack of consideration, but you don’t return his call.


You’re waiting for the metro at L’Enfant Plaza when you see a dream guy standing near you who looks like a cross between Chris O’Donnell and your favorite mistake. You exchange quick glances as the yellow line train arrives, and again as he takes his seat. The doors close, and as the train pulls away dream guy smiles and holds your gaze from behind several inches of plexiglass, leaving you behind on the platform to wait for the green line. Six hours later you’re at Blowoff, the Bob Mould party at the 9:30 Club. You’re being hit on by a 40 year-old “boi” who fell off an Abercrombie catalog fifteen years ago and never recovered, when you see the guy from the metro staring at you from 10 feet away. You beeline toward him and without exchanging a word, you kiss passionately. It’s a perfect moment ruined minutes later when dream guy begins to talk. His mind is dull and his speech is cliche’ riddled and bombastic: Mr. Magoo with an angel’s face and a coke habit. It’s all wrong, and you need to get away, fast.

You exchange numbers and bolt for the door. As you’re walking out you recognize a guy who contacted you online earlier in the day, minutes after creating your first Manhunt profile. He looks better than his photos, so you go back to his place almost drunk enough to deal with white party club remixes and a dozen clone friends who just walked off a Robert Palmer music video. During your six thousandth conversation about real estate you manage to slip away to your host’s bathroom for a clandestine blowjob from one of his friends, partly because you’re drunk but mostly so you can shut him up about Mariah Carey. Despite lots of weed and cheap white wine, you magically wake up in your own bed. Alone.


You meet a guy at one of the many weekly DC house parties that spring up in conjunction with the fashion and modeling shows that appear on the Bravo! television network. You can’t remember the name of the show, but the hot blonde with the easy charm is following you around the room with his eyes, so you don’t care. You trade names and boilerplate dat
e talk, but surprisingly you manage to connect based on the commonality of shared roots and interests. He’s also fun.

An hour later you’re surveying the wreckage of his bachelor pad. His bathroom is a CDC cleanup site and his clothing decorated bedroom is a cave drawing of whore history since the birth of poppers. On your way from his bedroom to his couch you step on a business card for a lawyer who tried to pick you up two years ago, when the guy was still a stripper.

Blonde guy has a massive television in his living room, so you both agree to watch an episode of the nature program “Planet Earth.” Blonde guy also has a nice mouth, and as he starts to deep throat your cock, the narrarator of the episode explains that you’re watching dramatic footage of a mountain lion chasing its prey down a deadly steep cliff. He explains that the breathtaking moment you are watching was not even thought possible, and as the two animals hurl themselves down from rock to rock at great speed, you climax at the very moment the lion snaps its jaws through the throat of its prey. At this precise moment, blonde guy’s face in your crotch and your eyes fixated on the screen for this consumation of animal instincts and the natural world, you thrust your fists into the air above your head and release an inward scream through every hallway of your mind. For the night, you’re satisfied.


You’re at HALO on P Street hanging out with the whitest people on the planet, all compelled to the upstairs lounge by either the chocolate masses beneath them on the first floor or by the reflexive habit to climb, social or otherwise. A looker in designer clothes who works as a personal shopper for wealthy women approaches you and tells you that you look exotic and out of place here. He’s gorgeous, and you remember him from years earlier, an adonis with a taste for twinks. He’s never noticed you before, but you’ve got his attention now. He’s surprised by your age and you’re stunned by the impossibility of his. You go back to his perfect apartment and strip him naked. His flawless body offers you an apple and a list of demands, including getting fucked. Hard.

You never finish the apple. You’re on his couch enjoying each other’s bodies, but you can’t get fully hard despite his amazement of your physique. You caress and kiss his perfect skin and eight-pack abs, trying to immerse yourself in him, to make your minds match your bodies and make the moment something more than slapping flesh, but his continuous questions interrupt your concentration:

“What’s your workout routine?”
“What’s your diet like?”
“What do you lift?”
“Do you run?”
“Want to get high?”

The situation isn’t moving fast enough for him, so he asks to take a break. You quickly find out that he hates his job, has few real friends, has a creative hobby that he talks about but doesn’t do, and lives a life based on artifice second only to Dorian Gray. In the span of 10 minutes, your God is reduced to a fallen angel clinging to immortality. He asks if you want to smoke a bowl, and with your refusal you know you have been cast from the garden. He says he wants to see you again and asks you to leave your card by the door. You dress quickly, and as you walk out you see a small bowl by the door with a few cards sitting in it. The card on top is from the blonde guy you saw the previous night. You smile on the inside, impressed by the efficiency and impudence of his operation. You drop your card, and with a kiss, you go. He never calls.


You meet a politico at a young gay professionals mixer. He wants to be an elected official, but you’re not familiar enough with politics to know that most politcos have the same dream. He’s smart, hot, charming, funny, and ambitious. Very ambitious. When he’s not debating everything you say he’s networking, which to you looks like trying to seduce everything that moves. You could fall for this guy, but you know love would be term limited. You will never be able to offer him enough to satisfy him. You share a violent fuck, partisan in a way that makes you feel like a Republican, if only due to the submissive way he lets you advance your agenda. Afterwards you swear there was something different about this one….the dynamics. He puts your number in his blackberry and you put his near your heart, but when your head clears you realize that like politics, it was all just a game. You call him once, a week later, but only to ask him about the crabs he gave you.


TNG Readers: I don’t know what happens on Wednesday, so I need your help. Does the single guy have more good experiences or bad? Revelatory moments or more of the same? Is there a happy ending?

Please submit your single guy story (1-2 paragraphs) below in the comments section. I’m curious to find out what happens next.

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  • Philip said:

    This post is hilarious. Is this really what you think being gay and single is like?

  • jmoletress said:

    Then comes the day when you wake up and begin to recover from it all. You begin to question whether you regret all of the time you spent looking for cocaine. Maybe you ran the future love of your life over on the way to the stall without ever having made the connection? You wonder if you regret all of the money you spent on circuit parties with DJ Victor Calderone and if you may have missed the preverbial train of life when you went into your fourth K-hole. You wonder if you regret scraping the remains of another night of strange-r love from your duvet, or if perhaps you should just buy a new one. You begin to imagine if picking up that guy from the bar was in fact a connection or an anti-connection, stealing another precious moment of humility. You wake up and ask yourself if in the long line of guys you shared at least a coffee, one of them was the one you would’ve been good with. You watch reality shows about college life and cry over your Diet Pepsi as you wish for only a brief moment, you could regain the reckless abandonment and precious naivety you once held so close to your t-shirt. You wonder if you spent too much time having anonymous sex that you’ve broken your sex machine just when the warranty ran out. You wake up and find Sarah McLachlan’s Mirrorball CD, covered with dust and scratched to hell, and play it, having an emotional reaction to it, and just when your about to pass into your final stretch of what most would consider pathetic, it begins to skip right on “I Will Remember You-you-you-you-you-you-you….” But above all, you wake up and learn to live with yourself, the hardest person to live with at times. You understand that those rings that exist on your tree of life are each important in making you the person who you are. You understand that even though you’ve spent more hours on being silly than on the phone with Comcast, you can’t waste anymore with regrets. Regrets are for fools and those with their eyes closed to world of possibilities. You understand that for all of the time you’ve spent separating your mind and your soul from your body and then trying to piece them back together with house music and ecstasy, you finally can walk into that gay bar and sprout a smirk at how silly it all is, without the desperate hunger you once felt. But most of all, you can throw up your hands in the air on love, and laugh your head off, and not give a shit, until he takes your face by both of his hands, looks you in the eyes, calms your reckless laughter, and gets all of your attention.

  • Anonymous said:

    Philip, exactly what rock have you been living under? Are you alone under there? If not, invite me over to meet you and your friends.

  • Ben64 said:

    Very well written. I like the anthropological references very much: “the savannah is brutal”.

    Although a good read it seems like Single Guy has the same sexual/bar experiences every day. Does he ever drive, go on job interviews, shop at Ikea, visit a museum, go to a Caps game? I enjoy reading his bar/club/gym exploits but there are also plenty of observations to made about the superficiality of Gay life outside a sexualized context. For many reasons not all intelligent, politically progessive, out Gay men live an urban identified life. It would be interesting to find SG exposed to Gay men living in some worlds he didn’t know existed. I think you could do a great job writing satirical yet revealing experiences in those different milieus.

    Either way please continue. Looking forward to the next adventures of SG.

  • Philip said:

    Hey, Anonymous — would you believe you’re not the first person to suggest that I’m living under a rock? (Sure ya would!)

    I don’t know, maybe I am living under a rock, but if so, I’m pretty happy here and sure, others are welcome to join!

    I just don’t believe that being gay and single means you have to be engaged in a miserable-feeling and neverending hunt for sex. I mean, whether you’re coupled or single, sex should be bringing you pleasure. I might be accused of being Pollyanna, but I’d go so far as to say that sex should be bringing you joy.

    If it’s not, stop. Just stop. Whether it’s a one-night stand or a relationship, wait for a person and a situation that are going to bring you pleasure, and to whom you can give pleasure.

    It’s really not worth it otherwise.

  • BlueSeqPerl said:

    This post reminds me of Queer As Folk or Brett Ellis’s Rules of Attraction. The emotions and drama tied into sex even detached, one-night-stand sex.

  • Hans N. said:

    Reading this is like looking into hell with the lid off.

    I don’t mean it isn’t well written, just that my life has never been like that, and I hope it never is.

  • Kirk said:

    You’re sitting at a booth in a coffee shop in front of Venti cup of coffee swimming in cream and sugar, and an Issue of the Blade. The work day took its toll again, and you never really recovered from the weekend. The headache is slowly finishing its course as you wish away the rings under your eyes. Your last cigarette cleared out the memories and feelings you dare not wrestle with. At least for now. Hits of whiskey will do the job later.
    You always enjoy the idea of a social coffee shop, but somehow you always end up at Starbucks, complete with its aroma of burnt coffee. Conversation with a stranger is an impossibility due to the narrow room devoted to an endless processional from the entrance to the exit. The only words spoken are what the person wants. Reminds you of your love life.
    In need of immediate gratification, you skip to the Bitch Session. You’re careful to fold the paper in half to disguise the escort and erotic masseur ads in juxtaposition. You’d rather a homophobe catch you reading a gay newspaper than mistaken for being desperate. You find the page you want. Cubicle queer! A much needed chuckle.
    When the humor runs dry, you turn to your next crutch for entertainment: people watching. Your attention goes back to line at the counter. You listen to people making their coffee order and wonder if their choices reflect their personality. “. . . with soy milk and Splenda” Picky and needy. “A Venti Caramel Frappuccino.” Depressed and consuming their feelings. “An extra shot of espresso.” Whore.
    You notice a group of girls gathered at a table. The girl on the left appears out of place in conversation with her bewildered eyes, nervous laughter, and frequent use of the phrase “Oh my God you guys!” Sort of like a Charlotte talking to three Samanthas.
    You can’t help but shake your head as you scan her appearance. No makeup, poorly kept hair, and dressed like someone’s grandmother. You wonder if she ever gets laid.
    After thoughts of judgment rush through your head, you wonder why you’re being so harsh. You realize you’re jealous. Here she is not fitting any standard and perfectly happy. Her aura reminds you of innocence, and you wonder if you would have better enjoyed that part of your life if you spent less time wondering when you’d finally get laid.
    You catch her remove herself from conversation and scan a text in her phone. Her cheeks blush and small smile adorns her face. She subtly gathers her things and hugs her friends goodbye.
    She catches your glance, and you immediately flip a page in the newspaper and bury yourself into it. Right back into the escort ads. Great cover . . .
    As she walks past your window, you catch her glance again with what appears like a look of concern before she disappears back into the urban forest.
    You take the last sip of your coffee, and start on your way. For once, going home alone feels like a comforting idea.

  • jimbo said:

    I agree with Philip’s outlook, but it’s a worldview that’s not always easy to achieve. Singlehood is most often a brutal savannah, but it depends on what you’re looking for and how much you want it.

    But whatever your view, will paired guys and gals stop saying “Oh, but you’ll find it when you just stop _looking_ so hard!”

    Single people hate it when you say that.

  • Anonymous said:

    To Ben64: Just want to point out that, while perhaps ethnographic, that reference is not anthropological. In fact, anthropologists (like myself) often take offense at the exoticism stamped onto culture in words like “the savanna.”

  • Ben64 said:

    re: Anonymous

    The imposition of “exoticism” you perceive and ascribe to me was neither intended nor offered.

    I was not referring to the “savannah” as exotic. The implied anthropological reference was in Ben’s complete phrase (which I quoted fully in my comment) “the savannah is brutal”. This phrase, to me, is clearly a metaphorical reference to natural selection, social Darwinism, genetic drift, to the idea that even educated, attractive, urbane men with over-developed parietal lobes and opposable thumbs may not actually be evolutionarily adaptive at all but, instead, a impediment to our moving forward (or evolving emotionally and psychologically) in our own lives. Hardly “exotic”, just facts of modern life.

    Full disclosure: I embraced anthropology as my college major, eschewing the graduate level for reasons best summed up by another of Ben’s posts (see “Bad Education”, Monday, January 26, 2009). I admire your commitment to anthropology as a profession but please do not underestimate the knowledge of and love for anthropology that others share with you.

  • Mike said:

    You’re at JR’s because it’s too cold to go anywhere else. After a couple of weak cocktails your teeth are reasonably numb but you’re still in possession of your superego. Your feet have been planted in place through a half-dozen ebbs and flows of the man-river surging in the narrow space between the wall and bar. That conversation you started with a small group of revelers over where they bought their designer eyewear has actually turned out rather sweet and charming, even though you entered into it in order to show that ex of your’s from years ago who hovers nearby that you’re not bothered by his presence. A handsome dark-haired guy with really nice arms meets your gaze and you meet back, but he’s clearly conflicted between the conversation he’s having in his closed circle and taking the long walk over to talk to you in your’s. It goes like that for five minutes but feels like 15. Then you see that ex of your’s is talking to him. And they’re both looking at you. You have an aversion to playing to an audience, and turn to place your empty cup on the bar. You think that if you wait a few minutes, the ex will clear out and you can go and talk to the dark haired guy. But you know how it will all play out – the verbal parrying, the hand on the back of the neck, the guesswork over who will pop the question to who. And suddenly you flash on what you read in the Wikipedia that afternoon when your brain needed a break from salaried work. Not about sex, or dating, of gay politics, but about astronomy, cosmology, the frontier edges in those disciplines that you’re drawn to. You’re reminded that there are vast unknowns. Quantum entanglement. The Bootes Void. Omega Point. Things greater than this moment. Will you ever see this guy again? You decide it isn’t worth it for once, for now. You take advantage of another wave of guys to hastily bid goodbye to your acquaintances, slip your arms into your coat, and pass that ex and the cute guy (your back to them) and pass through the doors and out into the street, off to home and bed.

  • Anonymous said:

    man, i don’t remember being single as being so much work. or so bleak. i’m with philip on this one.

  • Anonymous said:

    also: glad to see you were watching the original bbc planet earth with the incomparable david attenborough, not this discover sigourney weaver monstrosity.

  • copp3rred said:

    Wednesday: You’re one of 3 people who actually make it into work (because it’s an ZOMG ZOE I TOTALLY CAN’T DRIVE IN SNOWZ!!! and spend all day listening to people who think you can read their minds but really you have just heard it so many times before it comes like that. You then skip the gym and read all the way home because you’re “people exhausted”. You plonk yourself down on the couch to watch NCIS and Bones, the latter infused with that ever so dangerous sexual tension between coworkers and make some chicken tikka masala, realize you have no rice and sigh.

    If you didn’t have a slut phase post-LTR you’d be some frightening freak of nature, the desperate clingy, co-dependent “without a man I am nothing” emotional vampires who need branding and tagging. The first few choices are more ground beef and mystery meat, but your vision and taste will improve.

    Mike – You must be the only one who gets a weak cocktail in DC, or you’ve offended the bartender something fierce, or much more likely that I’m a lightweight.

  • Philip said:

    Well, whatever we believe, however many differences we may have, I think we can all rally around Jimbo’s suggestion that coupled people give the “it will happen when you just stop looking!” line a rest.

  • landoftrolls said:

    Sometimes I think our community makes the mistake of conflating the categories of “single” and “looking”. As if people cannot be happily alone. Some of us want to be coupled eventually, but realize it isn’t quite the right time to be actively looking.

  • Anonymous said:

    re: landoftrolls

    agreed. i’m not in a relationship, i’m not dating and i’m not necessarily looking. translation: i approach the few men who interest me. unfortunately most are already partnered or lack maturity.

    i like myself, i like my time alone. given the number of men out there who aren’t yet capable of having a healthy relationship, no matter how wonderful they look, i don’t feel compelled to get a boyfriend.

    i think having a partner is great and i’m open to the next relationship…just not at my own expense.

  • Anonymous said:

    I’d be happy to live with Philip under his rock any day.

  • Anonymous said:

    I could not stop reading this “journal,” and I have to confess I sort of hoped he would find love by the end of it. HA!

    I hope our hero can spend some more time with true friends doing things he enjoys that don’t necessarily have anything to do with the hunt for sex and love. Oh, and some of those friends can be straight–living entirely in the gay bubble distorts one’s sense of reality.

  • jeffrey said:

    Ouch Ben…I hate to be presumptuous, but I’m not sure if any other gay guys have Czech rap besides me. I agree the sex was uneventful, but would hate to think my body was “disappointing”. And for the record, the ask to hang out again was not genuine…hence the “weird” morning.

  • Ben said:

    Busted. That’s what I get for conflating truth with fiction. You’re body’s fine, guy. I just added that to maintain a narrative for the character. Nice to know that old tricks on the other side of the country are reading my crap.

    Good comments on this one, folks. I’ve enjoyed reading the judgments as well as the additions to the story.