This is an actual picture from the bar where I spent last Saturday night.
Two weeks ago I got a phone call from my BFF Sabba, who was in the process of planning her birthday:
“Truman!” She exclaimed as soon as I picked up. “I found the perfect bar for my birthday on Saturday!”
“I thought we were going to that classy English pub in Hollywood,” I said.
“No! Change of plans! I’m having my birthday at a gay bar now!”
“It’s called Oil Can Harry’s! They have karaoke, and my birthday is on disco night!”
I sighed and hung my head. “Okay… But what if, instead of doing that, we did something, y’know… Enjoyable?”
“No! This is going to be so fun!”
“I respectfully disagree.”
And that’s the story of how I went to a gay bar last weekend.
I’ve actually been to a number of gay bars before – just not intentionally. When I was visiting Edinburgh one of my male friends and I inadvertently barhopped between several gay pubs because we were unaware that our hostel was in the middle of Edinburgh’s gay district. Until we realized our mistake I just assumed that the Scottish were much, much friendlier than the English, as well as more fond of really tight shirts.
I don’t have a problem with gay bars, or gay people for that matter – which is lucky, because if I did I would be living in the worst possible place and working in the worst possible industry. I am 100% supportive of the existence of gay bars. That said, I’m about 85 to 90% against me personally patronizing a gay bar.
For one thing, gay bars tend to be dark, crowded, hot places with loud music and hundreds of sweaty people dancing, and that’s just not an environment where I do very well. My claustrophobia and crowd anxiety don’t care if you’re gay or straight – they want you to maintain a respectful distance no matter who you have sex with.
Mainly, though, I think me going to a gay bar is just sort of dishonest.
In middle school there were a bunch of helpful eighth graders who made sure to remind me every time they saw me in the locker room that I looked and acted exactly like a homosexual. If that’s still the case, I don’t want to go to a gay bar and give people the wrong idea. It’s not that I assume that all gay people are horny sex fiends who won’t take no for an answer – my roommate is gay and he seems about as interested in fucking me as most of the women I’ve ever met – but because I don’t want to be a tease.
Ohmygosh, you’re so sweet, but actually I’m exclusively sexually attracted to women. I just happen to be hanging out in a gay bar tonight, even though there are a myriad of other bars that I could be in that are more reflective of my sexual preferences. Anyway, thanks for the drink!
On the night of the party I arrived at Oil Can Harry’s at 8:30 and immediately realized two things:
1) This particular gay bar had a pretty strong cowboy theme – not that you’d know it to look at it from the outside. (From the outside the bar’s theme appeared to be either “Abandoned building” or “Fire code violation”)
2) Sabba was nowhere to be seen and the bar was nearly empty, save for an extremely buff middle aged guy in a mesh shirt casually dancing to the song “Car Wash” on the stage in front of a deserted dancefloor.
Checking the event invitation on Facebook, I saw that Sabba had surreptitiously changed the start time from 8:00 to 9:00. This left me – as well as the out-of-town friends I’d brought along – to sit on old vinyl chairs at the edge of the room and watch the mesh shirt guy dance to disco hits for half an hour before the other guests arrived.
Things started to improve once Sabba showed up, thanks to a combination of her bringing a bunch of friends, the bar getting busier, me starting to drink heavily, and the fact that Sabba’s presence generally improves most things. The lights got dimmer and the dance floor got fuller, and while I don’t want to engage in any ugly stereotypes, gay people take their dancing very seriously.
The bar’s patrons were so busy dancing, in fact, that none of them paid any attention to me. Which is probably just indicative of their commitment to dancing, because I think I looked pretty good that night. I mean, who knows, right? They were probably just too intimidated to talk to me. That has to be it. Flamboyantly gay men are, after all, known for being extremely self-conscious and shy.
As the night wore on the crowd clamoring around the bar for new drinks grew larger. At first I hadn’t wanted to lead anybody on, but I also really didn’t want to wait 20 minutes for more alcohol. I figured that as a 25-year-old twinkish guy with great hair I was the gay bar equivalent of a girl with big boobs in a tube top, and it would be a shame if I didn’t use my masculine wiles to get expedited service from the bartender.
I wormed my way to the front of the pack of men at the bar and made a point of playing with my hair whenever I was in the bartender’s line of sight. But the asshole just ignored me and continued quite unfairly serving drinks to the guys who had been at the bar longer than me. It was probably because he could tell I was straight – and I don’t know what straight people ever did to this guy to earn this sort of discrimination, but the heterophobia was seriously not appreciated.
Shortly after midnight, as everyone in the bar launched into a chorus of “I Will Survive”, I decided it was time to leave. I’d enjoyed myself far more than I would have expected – even the gayest of gay bars is still a place where you can drink and hang out with your friends, after all – but I was getting tired, not to mention demoralized by the total absence of catcalls or pickup lines. Just because I’m not gay doesn’t mean I wouldn’t appreciate being objectified a little bit every now and then, you know!
On my way out the door and into the street the rotund, bespectacled bouncer smiled warmly and said, “Come back soon, sweetheart.” I probably won’t, but the very fact that he seemed to want me to kind of made my night.
Truman Capps was born this way.