When I moved to Florida in 2001, I quickly discovered that the age restrictions of West Hollywood and New York were gone. I was in my early 40s, but regularly got asked out by everyone from 18-year old college water polo players to Bermuda-shorts-wearing retirees in their 70s.
The bars were age-segregated, but that didn't stop cross-cruising.
Bill's Filling Station was usually crowded with leathermen, cowboys, and miscellaneous bears, but the occasional Cute Young Thing who came in was an immediate hit.
The Manor, a multi-level bar, restaurant, and nightclub with flashing lights, throbbing music, and minor celebrities semi-naked, was too big and brash for me. But when Yuri dragged me there, the Cute Young Things pushed and shoved to be the one who asked me to dance first.
So I was surprised to see the Ugly Guy standing by himself, propping up a wall by the bar. Completely ignored by the Cute Young Things.
"What? There are a million hot guys here. Why do you want the nerd? He's not even your type."
True, he didn't have any of characteristics I find attractive -- he wasn't short, husky, muscular, or dark skinned. But then, he didn't have any of my Top 10 Turn-Off, either. He wasn't too tall or too skinny; he wasn't wearing jewelry or sashaying around the room.
"He's lonely. I like lost souls. Like you, for instance. When we met, you were going around saying 'I'm straight.'"
"Huh, huh! I was not ever lost! Just stupid!"
We inched forward to get a better look. Then we discovered why he was getting Attitude. He was ugly.
His head was slightly asymmetrical, his eyes were slightly askew, and he had acne scars. Not attractive.
If he had a prominent bulge, a fabulous wardrobe, or a bubbly personality, the lack of handsomeness would not have been an issue. I knew a perfectly hideous guy in West Hollywood who dated a different guy every week, simply because he was knew how to work a room.
But the Ugly Guy was wearing a plaid shirt with a white undershirt, he hadn't bothered to wear tight jeans or stuff a sock down there, and he didn't make eye contact with anyone.
He was leery about going home with us -- "Oh, I'm nothing special. You'll be disappointed." But around last call he finally consented.
It was fun leaving with him, watching the jaws of the Cute Young Things drop in surprise as they scrambled to figure out what Bob had that they didn't.
In the morning, over breakfast, Bob confessed, "I've been coming to Wilton Manors every Saturday night for two years, and no one ever talks to me. I think most gay guys are jerks."
"It's just a highly specialized environment, with its own rules. You have to learn to play the game, accentuate your best features."
"It's like a job interview," Yuri told him. "There are lots of guys applying, so you have to find some way to stand out."
"With what? Nearly everybody there has more muscles than me, and better clothes. And I'm Princess Tiny..."
"So work out, go shopping, and..."
"And pretend," Yuri said. "You act like you're a horse, and they will be so horny, when they find out, they don't even care. Did Boomer care, last night?"
"Yuri is an expert on male endowments," I said. "If he doesn't know, it's not worth knowing."
We spent the next week giving the Ugly Guy a makeover -- everything from his name - it was now Robert -- to his haircut and outfits. On Saturday we went back to the Manor. Robert was wearing a black t-shirt emblazoned with a rainbow flag, tight jeans enhanced with a balled-up sock, and a gold chain. Yuri led him by the hand onto the dance floor, and then sent him out to cruise, with the advice "Act like you're a horse!"
It worked. Within ten minutes, Robert was chatting up a Cute Young Thing, and within an hour he was invited home.
It worked on Sunday at Bill's Filling Station, too.
And Tuesday at the Boardwalk.
And Thursday at the Depot.
Before I knew what was happening, Robert had a full social calendar. Too full. First he was too busy to have dinner. Then he stopped responding to my emails.
A few weeks later, Yuri and I ran into him at the Manor. He gave us Attitude.