Sunday, July 02, 2006

Lonely in The Crowd

Our group stood close, although there was no need--my friend Jeff's animated voice carried through the noisy, crowded bar. Ken, his boyfriend of three weeks, stood quietly at the edges, an Amstel light sweating in his hand. Noticing my gaze, he shifted his weight, leaning into the group. He nodded at something Jeff said, forcing out a chuckle, his face wide.

I felt sorry for Ken. Hanging out with the new boyfriend's crowd can be very stressful. I've been that guy. Sometimes, I am still that guy. Whenever we go to a function with friends of my boyfriend who I am not familiar with, I am back to that first time I hung out with his friends, trying to fit in.

If you're lucky, there's a person in the group that you have a connection with, maybe someone who shares your interest in chemistry, small animals or taxidermy. Or maybe one of them is someone you've slept with before, but who's forgotten who you are. You quickly switch to a Chicago southside accent. Ya hope dis will trow him aff.

The good news is that by nature, gay people are gregarious and can talk about almost any subject under the sun, probably because until we were old enough to go to gay bars, we didn't go out much. We watched a lot of TV and read a lot of magazines.

For any gay kid growing up, developing this talent for witty conversation is like a defense mechanism of sorts, especially for me. In high school, I thought that if I can make interesting conversation, then maybe the other guys wouldn't notice that fact that I am a complete and total flamer. Maybe my knowledge of music, art and fashion can fool them into thinking I am straight.

However, the problem is that if your friend brings the guy he's gone out on two dates in, you don't know how much effort you should take. The guy may not be around next week. It would be a terrible waste of an amusing anecdote.

With a stranger, conversation goes in fits of starts and stops; you try on topics like a pile of clothes in a tiny store dressing room, quickly discarding those that make your ass look flat. Even if you find a topic that fits, you're limited to talking in the past and present tense; you can't really talk about going to see The Devil Wears Prada this weekend because you don't know if your friend's made other plans with some other trick. You don't want to mention the trip to Great America next month, because that's almost an invitation.

When I meet a guy, wanting to get to know him is like the most exciting thing. I want to know what makes him tick, what his friends are like, when I can move into his fabulous loft. And I want the guy to meet my friends, my family, my shrink. If the friends like me, then I'm in. But if they don't, a casual negative comment from them could mean that I'm back online, back to pretending to be twenty-three old with a swimmer's build.

I've learned the hard way that the friends (yours and his) can end things prematurely. Better to get to know your guy first, take things slowly, before trying to merge with the Borg. That way, at least your guy's not getting to know you at the same time as his friends; you're not trying to please everybody, be everything to everyone. That's hard.

Once, I was with a group where I alternately had to be a sports nut, a political activist and an art snob. That was at a bathhouse. By the way, can I say that we gay people are getting fucking out of control with our fetishes? Doesn't anybody get off without having it to be some fucking production? Just once, I would like to get a blowjob without having to pretend to be a cop.

Ken had finished his Amstel and was halfway into a Long Island Icea Tea. He was looser, louder, spit occasionally flying out, the alcohol talking. He was really trying hard to fit in. I can tell he really liked my friend Jeff. That makes it harder, right? You know what I mean.

You remember how it feels like to be the only gay person you know in high school. You remember being in a crowd of people all having fun, connecting.

You remember being lonely in the crowd.


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The Devil Wears Prada was an amusing frothy fun summer movie! Here's a song from the movie that I tweaked:

Mocean Worker - Très Très Chic (DJ Evil Twin Ecstacy Mix)

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