When I first moved to the Plains, faced with the absence of gay organizations, gay churches, gay bars, or gay anything within a hundred miles, except for a single gay-friendly coffee house, I started hosting bear parties every two weeks, alternating daytime and evening. I advertised on craigslist and various social media sites, and screened the invitation requests carefully to make sure there was a good mix of ages and sizes (thin, muscular, chubby).
Soon I realized that there were a finite number of guys who lived nearby and were interested in group activity, not enough to get a mix of ages and sizes at every party. So I started letting in anyone who submitted a name, age, and stats, and didn't describe their erotic fantasies in obnoxious detail.
Soon the parties were completely split. Different guests, different atmosphere, different activities.
A surprisingly young crowd, mostly college students and young adults who hadn't fled to a gay neighborhood far away, rarely anyone over 30, never anyone over 40.
Gay, out, open.
Discussions of career plans, being out at work, gay subtexts in the latest movies, and the latest streaming gadget.
Confident, relaxed, and versatile in the bedroom. They often met someone they liked and arranged dates for later.
Daytime parties: Bears and Daddies.
An older crowd, rarely anyone under 40, never anyone under 30. White-collar businessmen in suits, blue collar workers, retirees, married to women, sneaking out on their lunch break or while the wife was out shopping.
Bi, downlow, on the sly, requiring "discretion."
Discussions of income tax, health problems, the exploits of their children.
Strict rules about the bedroom: no kissing, no bottomming -- sometimes they even required a condom for oral.
The daytime guys were also painfully unaware of the Gay Rights Movement. Sometimes I felt like I was teaching a class in Gay Studies 101. "Yes, it's legal....no, it's not a psychiatric disorder...yes, there are books on gay topics...the first gay character on television was in 1977..."
I was tempted to cancel the daytime parties altogether, and stick to the evening, but educating these guys seemed like a public service. Besides, many of them were hairy, husky, and very big beneath the belt.
One week in March 2015, Joey, age 19, asked to join the guest list for the daytime party.
"It's mostly older guy," I warned him. "You might feel out of place."
"No, that's great!" Joey replied. "I love older guys! My first boyfriend was way old, almost 30."
Um...okay.... "What's your opinion of guys in their 40s, 50s, and 60s?"
"Sure, they're great, too. I love hot dads."
We were about half an hour into the party when Joey arrived. Everyone was naked except me (I had to answer the door.) . Most of the guests were still chatting and eating snacks in the living room, but an older guy -- even by daytime standards -- was going down on a husky bear, and two businessmen in their 40s were groping each other.
There was also an older guy lying on one of the mattresses in the bedroom, pretending to be asleep, hoping someone would go down on him.
No one was in the darkroom.
After I buzzed Joey in, it took him a long time to find the apartment -- as if he was very nervous and procrastinating. I would probably have to make him my "project," stick with him through the afternoon to make sure he was doing ok.
He appeared at the door -- short, slim, pale, in a t-shirt and short pants, a little light for March. Thick brown hair, baby face with blue eyes, cheeks ruddy from the cold -- had he been standing outside for a long time, trying to get the courage to come in?
He looked very young. I decided to card him. Yep, 19 years old. But painfully nervous.
"Come on, let me show you around," I said with a reassuring smile.
I took his arm and led him down the hall to the empty bedroom with the older guy pretending to be asleep, and then to the darkroom, and finally back to the kitchen, where I invited him to help himself to snacks. He grabbed a handful of chips.
Then the living room, with the ten naked older guys. Joey stared, pale.
"Take your time, get comfortable," I said softly. "You can just watch if..."
Too late. Ten naked older guys stared at him with hungry Nazarene-evangelism grins. There was a chorus of "Hi! Hi! Hi!" as the three closest loped over.
In gay communities, older men never approach twinks and Cute Young Things. You wait for them to approach you. If you break such an inviolable rule, you risk being labeled a Creepy Old Guy. Forever!
The bi/downlow guys didn't care. One caressed Joey's chest, the other grabbed his crotch. Three others stood, grinning, and made their way across the room.
A gay kid's worst nightmare, being mobbed by Creepy Old Guys! They were scaring poor Joey to death!
Thinking fast, I said, "Back off! As the host, I get dibs."
They grudgingly returned to their seats. I took Joey by the hand and led him back to the bedroom.
"Sorry they were a little aggressive. These downlow guys don't know the first thing about gay culture. Rule #1, play it cool."
Joey drew me close and fondled my chest. "Is that what you were doing? Saving me? I'm disappointed -- I thought you wanted first shot."
"Well, I..." He took my hand and moved it under his shorts. Thin Kielbasa, already aroused. "Aren't you...weren't you nervous?"
"Sure, a little, but who wouldn't be, in a roomful of hot daddies? But that's what I came here for. I want to go down on about a dozen guys today."
He kissed me. "Starting with you."