I think the expected start to a piece like this is to say something to the effect of “Gay guys love me.” But that’s not right. Because in 27 years, I’ve only been approached by a handful of men.
I’d actually wager that the percentage of the gay population that finds me attractive is directly proportionate to that of straight women. (And as with straight women, I’m sure my attractiveness decreases the longer I speak.)
More accurately I’d say this: “Some gay guys think I’m handsome and have expressed as much publicly.”
The first time it happened, I was 14 years old. My friend, Sarah — an older girl who wore band t-shirts and had punky hair — brought me to a dirty café that was known for letting teenagers smoke as long as they paid for coffee. I had a crush on her and she knew it.
That’s why she made it a point to sit me down and tell me just how much she appreciated my friendship over cigarettes and coffee. All things considered, I digested the rejection well. And as a sign of good will, when two of Sarah’s male friends walked in I gave her the okay to invite them over.
It’s no big deal, right? Just one friend hanging out with another friend and a couple of her friends. Just a whooole mess of friends… Friendsss…
They were older — much older than Sarah (who was herself just 16) — and they wore dark pants, dark shirts and long black coats. At the time, The Matrix had just reached “cultural phenomenon” status, so their wardrobe didn’t seem all that weird.
The fact that they were in their 20s and hanging out with high schoolers was, however, a bit of a red flag. But hey, friends don’t hastily dismiss each other’s friends. That’s a saying, probably…
Sarah and I slid over to make room in the booth. The guy who sat next to her got a hug and a kiss on the cheek. The guy who sat next to me got a handshake. As I watched Sarah flirt and fumed, my new neighbor stretched his arm over the back of our seat and told me his name. I absentmindedly told him mine.
“Where do you go to school?” he asked, slipping his hand over my shoulder. Oblivious, I told him I went to school with Sarah. We’re on the newspaper together. When he leaned in to my ear and said “You’re cute,” I quickly became aware of the foreign digits moving over my collarbone.
So like many straight men before me, I uttered the first thing that popped into my head – that most awkward of declarations: “I’m not like that.” (Here, the word that means you, and you = gay. All together: “I’m not gay.”) With sudden humility, he pulled back his hand, revealing a sweaty palm stain on my Limp Bizkit t-shirt.
I apologized and so did he. Then for a moment we sat and wondered why either of us had felt the need to do so. “I didn’t know,” he assured me. At a loss for anything better, I told him not to worry. As sloppy kissing noises drifted over the table, we settled into a lackluster conversation about The Matrix.