Saturday, April 18, 2015

That Bathhouse in West Hollywood



Last night I dreamed about that bathhouse in West Hollywood again.









We used to go there every Sunday afternoon, after church and the French Quarter.  It was on a street lined with bright, glittering shops and restaurants, always crowded with people.

You entered through a huge glass storefront and paid a squinting, suspicious elderly woman or drag queen.


After depositing your clothes in a locker, you took an elevator upstairs to a vast series of pools, some warm, some cool, all bathed in semi-twilight.  There were hundreds of men, maybe thousands, all naked or wearing towels.

There was never much sex going on, but it was warm, and safe, and I felt an amazing sense of belonging,  This was home.

Sometimes in my dreams I'm back there, at the bathhouse or gym or whatever it was, feeling that warmth and safety and belonging.



But more often I'm trying to find it.

I drive around, but the streets are unfamiliar and confusing.

I cross a vast night-dark field, knowing that it's just at the bottom of that hill, but it's too late, there's not enough time.

It's not open yet, I must come back later.

It's gone, turned into artist studios or a boys' school, and the new proprietor gets all flushed and nervous when I ask about what was there before.

The problem is: That bathhouse never existed.

There were no bathhouses in West Hollywood when I lived there.  The only such place that I have ever gone to regularly was The Club in Fort Lauderdale, which looked nothing the place in my dreams.

So what am I dreaming about?

Death and rebirth?
A screen memory for an alien abduction?
A desire to find that elemental belonging again, to go home?

See also: 15 Reasons You Should Go to a Bathhouse; The Late for Class Dream and Oral Sex 101

Friday, April 17, 2015

How to Cruise Straight Guys

In West Hollywood many people believed that there was no such thing as a straight man.  Exclusive same-sex desire was a universal of human experience. Men who called themselves straight were just too weak or cowardly to resist the heterosexist chant of "what girl do you like?  what girl do you like? what girl do you like?"

Today we know that some men are, in fact, heterosexual, with no conscious same-sex attraction.

But others, a much larger proportion of the male population, are heterosexual with occasional glimmers of same-sex attraction, strong enough for them to want a man in their bed, but only occasionally amid their endless pursuits of the feminine.

And still others are heterosexual, but willing to "settle" for a man if no woman is available.

See 15 Rules for Hooking Up with Straight Guys

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

15 Simple Rules of Gay Dating

Dating is not cruising, and a date is not a hook-up.

Both activities are interesting and pleasurable, but cruising has one goal: to find a physically-attractive partner for immediate erotic intimacy.

Dating has several goals -- to engage in entertaining activities, to have interesting conversations, to be seen with someone attractive, and ultimately to find a long-term romantic partner.

But it's not as simple as sending a text to an attractive guy asking him to dinner next Friday night.  Gay dating has its own rules, procedures, and protocols that differ considerably from cruising.

And, for that matter, from heterosexual dating.

Here are 15 simple rules of gay dating.



(I am assuming that you are the one who suggested the date, and that it has the traditional five segments: Meeting, Entertainment, Dinner, Dancing, and Return.)

The Meeting
How and where do you meet for the events?

1. If you suggested the date, you must call for him at his home.  It is uncommon and in rather bad taste to meet at the Entertainment Venue, so only suggest it if there is an excellent reason, like you live right next door and he lives 50 miles away.

2. You must also pay for the activities, although it is polite for him to offer to pay his share. If the activities are very expensive, you can ask in advance if he would mind chipping in, but, again, that is in bad taste.

3. Sometimes gay men aren't clear on whether you expect friendship or romance, so a kiss before leaving his home will alleviate his concerns.




The Entertainment Venue
Traditionally a movie, but live theater or a sporting event work as well, anything which allows you to be together for a couple of hours without having to make conversation.

4. Heterosexual couples have no qualms about holding hands, hugging, or kissing in the midst of any entertainment venue, but gay couples must be careful.  If he rejects your physical gestures, it doesn't mean that he is not interested -- he may just be being cautious.

5. Even without physical contact, you will get stared at, as most heterosexual buddies who attend entertainment venues together try to sit with a seat between them, lest they accidentally brush knees.


The Dinner
Dinner occurs after the entertainment, to give you something to talk about.

6. If the restaurant is not in a gay neighborhood, you will be asked "How many in your party?" and "are you together or separate?" repeatedly.  The host and servers are unaware of the existence of gay people, and assume that you are two buddies hanging out together.

7. If the restaurant contains a bar, half-drunk ladies will also assume that you are two buddies hanging out together, and thus up for grabs.  They will send you drinks or ask to join you.  Reject them tactfully.

8. Dinner conversation should not include coming out stories, analyses of the faults of ex-boyfriends, or discussions of favored sexual positions.


Dancing
The fourth segment of the date is dancing or some other physical activity, such as ice skating, to work off the stupor of dinner and prepare you for an energetic good-night kiss.

9. Only dance in a gay club.  If you try it in an establishment that is for heterosexuals, you will get stared at and joked about, and you may be assaulted in the parking lot.  

10. When you are not on the dance floor, both you and your date will be hit on.  You can lessen the number of interlopers by physically touching him at all times, signaling "This one is off limits."  But that won't deter the most oblivious.






The Return
The date is not over until you escort him back to his home and say "Goodnight."

11. For heterosexuals, the invitation to come inside is optional, but for gay couples, it is mandatory, primarily because it is too risky to attempt a kiss on the doorstep.  If he does not invite you into his home, or if you do not accept, there will be no second date.

12. Once you are inside, a kiss followed by physical intimacy is expected, but not mandatory.  If you are not in the mood, just say "I want to take things slow," and you can postpone the bedroom to the second or third date, no questions asked.

13. If you decide not to "take things slow," you must spend the night.  If you get dressed and go home when the bedroom activities are over, the evening has become a hook-up, not a date.

14. And bring condoms, in case he doesn't have any of his own.

15. Serial dating is frowned upon in gay communities: if the first and second dates were satisfactory, then you date only that person until the relationship ends or becomes a friendship.  Therefore, you should call or email him within 24 hours, either to plan your next date or to explain that you are no longer interested.

See also: My Top 15 Dates

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Sikh Sausage Sighting at Barney's Gym

Wilton Manors, March 2003

I've always been attracted to religious guys.  There's something erotic about the juxtaposition of the physical and the spiritual, muscles and Bibles, penises and prayer shawls.

I've dated or had other experiences with religious guys (not necessarily clergy) from several Christian traditions, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and paganism.

But not guys from some of the lesser-known religions, like Druze, Jains, Zoroastrians, Baha'is, and Sikhs.

The Sikhs, followers of a monotheistic religion founded by Guru Nanak (1469-1538) in northern India, are particularly interesting.  They have uncut hair, beards, turbans, white cotton underclothes, iron bracelets, and kirpans (ceremonial swords).

The men all have the middle or last name Singh ("lion").  They often choose macho careers like police officer, soldier, or bodyguard.  Physical fitness is very important; quite a large number are bodybuilders.


Are you getting the idea?

Unfortunately, their religion tends to be highly conservative, obsessively heterosexual-marriage oriented, and homophobic.  I've never met any out-and-proud gay Sikhs, or even Sikh guys on the downlow.

There was a Sikh gurdwara (worship center) near my first apartment in Los Angeles, so I often saw them walking down the street or shopping at the 7-11.  They gave us cool, disdainful Attitude, refusing to acknowledge our existence.

Once I was talking to a group of friends when a curious Sikh child started walking slowly toward us, staring as if mesmerized.  But his mother screamed "Katala!  Katala!  Get away!"

Katala doesn't mean gay in Punjabi.  It means murderer. 

So much for my goal of hooking up with a Sikh!

Fast forward to 2003: I'm living in Florida, working at Barney's gym, and a Sikh named Narveer Singh comes in and asks for a tour.

Doesn't he realize that the gym caters mostly to gay men?   I don't want him screaming katala!

So I ease into the subject: "As you can see, we draw a diverse crowd.  Old, young, different races and religions.  Mostly men, though we get a few women."

"Good, good.  I wanted a gym with mostly men, to avoid the temptation, you know.  Where is your free weight room?"

"A very diverse crowd," I emphasized.  "A lot of young, single guys come here....um, a lot of gay men."

"Good, good.  Could I try out the treadmill?"

"We..um..don't discriminate.  Black, white, gay, straight, everyone is welcome."

"Good, good. What hours are you open?"

"We offer family memberships, so your wife or partner can work out with you.  A lot of gay couples get them."

"Oh, my wife goes to Curves [a female-only gym].  Could I do a trial workout?"

Narveer must be completely oblivious!  He buys a membership and begins working out every morning, just as we open, wearing a tight blue sweatsuit that accentuates his beneath-the-belt gifts.

So even if I can't hook up with a Sikh guy, I can at least get a Sausage Sighting!


Easier said than done.  Sausage Sightings in the gym have to be very discrete.  No open gawking -- you have to arrange to "accidentally" be in front of him while he's naked in the locker room.

But Narveer comes to the gym in his workout suit and leaves immediately afterwards. He never uses the lockers, shower, or sauna.

I wander around the gym, sometimes offering him instructions on stance and reps, sometimes just watching from a distance at his lean, muscular frame and blatant bulge.

Come on, God, give me a break -- don't I even rate a Sausage Sighting?  

Then one day Narveer comes in wearing a business suit, carrying a gym bag.

"You're looking chipper today," I tell him.

"Oh, I have a job interview nearby, so I thought it would be easier to go directly from the gym rather than driving all the way home again."



Today he's going to use the locker room!  Certainly the shower, maybe the sauna.

I wait until he's finished with his workout, give him a few minutes, then grab a clipboard and head back to the locker room.  I hear the shower running, so I "decide" to check the temperature and water pressure.

I walk past Narveen's stall.  His back is turned to me!

"How's the water pressure?" I ask.  "We've had a couple of complaints...."

"It's fine, it's fine."

I go out to the bathroom to "check" something else.

Narveen comes in while my back is turned.  I wait for him to finish urinating, and then turn back.  He's already at the sink, washing his hands, his penis hidden from view.

Darn!  So close!

I go out to the locker room to make sure all of the locks work.  Narveen stands on the scale to weigh himself, dropping his towel to the side.

Now's my chance!  "Um...that scale is running low.  Let me check the calibration."

"Or I could just let you see it."   Narveer steps off the scale and faces me.  His Bratwurst+ hangs down in full view.

He knew what I was up to all along!  "Oh..um...." I stammer, blushing.  "You..."

"Well, what do you think?  Am I big enough to attract gay guys?

"I would date you," I admit.

"Thanks!  My wife didn't believe me -- she said 'You're crazy -- none of the gay guys at your gym are into you -- you're not big enough!'  She owes me five dollars!"

He turned and headed back to his locker.

See also: Cruising Priests, Preachers, Monks, and Rabbis; The Naked Gods of Southern India; The College Kid's Kovbasa

The Dayton Chub and His Two Secrets






















Dayton, May 2008

For many gay men, the ideal is on the left: thick biceps, shoulders like epaulets, xylophone-abs, minimal or no chest hair, with the icy perfection of a Greek god.

For others, he is on the right: soft and warm, with liberal body hair, and a belly so big it feels like a pillow beneath your head.

I like them both.  As long as he has some mass, I don't care if the guy is a marble statue or a plush teddy bear.

So when I saw Carlos' profile on gay.com stating that he was shorter than me, Hispanic, with  "a few extra pounds" and extra beneath-the-belt gifts, I thought "Just my type!"

Everyone on the internet misrepresents themselves, so he probably had 20-30 extra pounds.  A cute bear!  Great.

I didn't even mind when he wanted to meet at the Iron Chef, the worst Chinese buffet in Dayton, housed in a transient hotel next to a pool room.


Carlos was waiting for me on a bench outside the restaurant.




Guess what "a few extra pounds" meant:






You got it.  He was a superchub.

Easily 400 pounds, as wide as he was tall, with hanging breasts, sagging arms, and multiple bellies.


A lot of guys like their men massive, the heftier, the better.  They even practice forced-feeding to increase the heft of their objects d'amour to room-size.

But I do not.  Aside from the lack of masculine body contours, superchubs probably don't share my interest in physical fitness, and they're beset-upon by major health issues.

Besides, their penises get lost in the folds of flesh.

But I couldn't just walk away from this poor guy grinning sheepishly at me.

And I couldn't call him on his "a few extra pounds" misrepresentation -- who hasn't dropped pounds or years, or added inches in personal ads?

The least I could do was have lunch with him.

As Carlos ate a remarkably petite plate consisting of a dab of kung pao chicken, a single fried chicken wing, one egg roll, and a lot of cucumber slices, grapes, and pineapple chunks, we talked about his attempts to lose weight, Weight Watchers and fad diets and liposuction.  He was down to a svelte 250 at one point, but it all came back.

We talked about his weight-related health problems, from hypertension to diabetes to a broken ankle that still wasn't healed (he walked with a cane).

We talked about the everyday hassles of being a superchub -- having to buy two seats on an airplane, the look of horror when he sat down next to someone at the movies, the stares and whispers.

I was feeling more and more guilty about my plans to dump him after lunch.

And especially in gay communities: Carlos was refused entry to bath houses and back-rooms.  He was ignored in twink bars and even in bear bars. Guys he met online usually rejected him outright, without taking the time to get to know him.

I couldn't dump him -- I would feel guilty forever.

"Gay men can be so shallow.  There's a lot more to me than being big!  I speak two languages, I write poetry, I go to church, I have a niece and nephew who love me."


Ok, enough is enough.  I was going through with this date to its logical conclusion -- Carlos's apartment!

The bedroom activities were actually quite nice. Carlos was very passionate, and so creative that I hardly missed the lack of access to his frontside and backside.

Afterwards we watched a movie, he read me some of his poetry, he invited me to a pro-gay Methodist church where he worked as a deacon, and I found myself asking him for a second date.

"That sounds great," he said, "Do you mind if I share you with my partner?"

"Partner?" I repeated in shock.  What happened to the constant rejections?  I had been congratulating myself for taking pity on this guy, and he had a partner?

"Jerry -- we've been together for 8 years now.  He has his own place in Columbus, but he drives out to Dayton on the weekends.  And during the week, we can hook up or date other guys -- but only once.  The second time, we have to share."

"Does that happen a lot?" I asked weakly.

"Not often -- once is usually plenty," Carlos  said.  "I get tons of action -- you'd be surprised how many guys are hot for superchubs, and the rest get guilted into it.  But most of them are just plain lousy in bed.  They don't know how to handle a real man."

"Well...um...I'm flattered that I meet your standards."

He laughed.  "What can I say?  I'm picky."

Jerry turned out to be a Hispanic muscle god with gigantic arms, a hairy chest, and a bratwust+.

So much for a waif who can't get a date.


What is Gym Class For?


Rock Island, Fall 1970

When I was a kid in the 1960s and 1970s, I hated gym class.
1. Trying to catch a projectile aimed at your head.
2. Not catching it, and being jeered by your classmates.
3. Or catching it, not knowing what in the world to do with it, and being jeered by your classmates.

Ok, I liked one thing about it (see left).

Why was gym even a class?  What were we expected to learn?

Gym class derives from the 19th century "muscular Christianity," which tried to remedy the increasing "feminization" of Western culture through hard physical labor.




But it got a kick start in 1956, when President Eisenhower decided that American youth were too sedentary, not able to compete with the Russkies, so he established the President's Council on Physical Fitness.

By the 1960s, an hour of "vigorous physical activity" every day was mandated for middle school and high school kids (grade schoolers made do with recess).

There were regular "Fitness Tests" to see if we were adequately muscular. The one I hated the most: push-ups, sit-ups, and chin-ups.  The number you could do at one time was your grade:
Less than 60, F
60 to 69, D
And so on

I have never in my life been able to do 100 push-ups in one set.

The Canadian Council on Physical Fitness says that, for a 20-year old, 36 push-ups is "excellent."

But I liked the public-service announcements that the President's Council broadcast during the 1960s, lots of smiling, muscular, semi-nude all-American boys exercise.











The one I remember most clearly -- is a President's Council on Physical Fitness PSA.

 It depicts a muscular teenager named Eddie Lewis, naked except for skimpy gym shorts, doing push-ups, the camera lingering on the interplay of muscles, while the narrator says that for each push-up, he's "a little bit hotter, a little bit healthier, and a little bit happier" than before.

Just watching made me a little bit hotter.  And a little bit happier.

See also: How to Survive Gym Class.

A Memory of Two Men Hugging

Northeastern Indiana, Spring 1964

In an old science fiction story by Robert Heinlein,  a man discovers that the world is a lie.  Every building in every city is a movie-set fake, constructed for his benefit and disassembled when he passes on.

His friends, family, and even passersby are actors, staging scenes for his benefit and then going home to memorize tomorrow’s script.

He uncovers the lie only after years of living in what he thinks is the real world.

One day he is scheduled to go away for the weekend.  It is raining outside, so he opens his umbrella.  Suddenly he realizes that he has forgotten something upstairs, and rushes up to get it.  But it is not raining upstairs!  “They” neglected to produce sufficient rain to cover the entire house, and in that small detail their entire deception was revealed.



I spent my childhood in the 1960s and 1970s  in a lie of my own, told over and over again that I, like every boy on Earth, would spend my life yearning for feminine curves and smiles, that same-sex desire did not exist.

But I kept noticing momentary lapses, tiny mistakes, unguarded moments that revealed that it was not raining upstairs.

Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Green Jeans living together in the Treasure House.
Rich and Sean smiling at each other in The Secret of Boyne Castle.
Robbie Douglas singing about boys holding hands among the candles.

The first unguarded moment came very early in my life, when I was still a toddler.  Probably in the summer of 1964, when I was 3 1/2 years old.  We were living in Garrett, Indiana.

I woke up late at night, but I thought it was morning because it was light out, so I walked into the living room, where my parents were watching our old black and white tv.  On the small, flickering screen, I saw two men.  They looked like a cowboy and Indian, but in modern clothes.  They were hugging.

My mother noticed a moment later and rushed me off to bed, but it was too late.  I had seen two men who weren't swooning over women.  They wanted men.



I never saw that "cowboy and Indian" again, and over the years I concluded that I had dreamed it.   But recently I did some detective work with wikipedia and a phone call to my mother:

It was an episode of of The Real McCoys (1957-63, but rerun through 1964): a hayseed comedy about a farm family in rural California. The hugging "cowboy and Indian" were eldest son Luke  (Richard Crenna) and farm hand Pepino (Tony Martinez).

Luke was married, and Pepino had girlfriends.  They weren't "really" gay in the series.





But it doesn't matter.  As I grew, and the what girl do you like interrogations began, and the you'll find the right girl someday pronouncements, the constant hysterical insistence that no boy has ever liked boys, not once in the history of the world, I thought of the hugging men.

A glimpse through the machinations and dissimulations and lies.

It wasn't raining upstairs. 

See also: My Book of Cute Boys