When I spent a few days in Dublin last week, I went out with a friend of mine to a gay bar in town. We were having fun sitting at the bar, drinking cider, when we noticed a boy at the end of the bar.
He was young, good-looking and was wearing a sporty top. He was trying to look nonchalant, and, as a result, was looking as awkward as only people who are trying not to look awkward can look. He was drinking a Coke, and trying to make it last. He was stirring the straw in his glass round and round. He was taking teeny tiny sips. He was looking at his phone. He was putting his hands in his pockets and taking them out of his pockets. He was looking around, but trying to make it look as if he wasn’t looking around, moving his eyes and not his head. He would look up occasionally as if looking to see if someone he knew had arrived, but I knew his game. He wasn’t waiting for someone he knew. He had come to a gay bar alone. He didn’t know anyone. He was being brave and awkward and it was beautiful and heartbreaking to watch.
I knew what he was doing, because I’d done it myself many times. When I was in university in Cork, I came out to a lot of my friends, but I only went to gay venues about twice. I never had the courage to join the LGBT society in the college. I had one gay friend, a girl in my class, and she was so much better than me at being gay. She went to lesbian events and met lesbians from the internet and had actual girlfriends and came out publicly and it was amazing. I wasn’t brave enough for that, and no one really showed me how. I signed up for a Gaydar account, but was too scared to check it on college computers, and could only check it on my home computer on the evenings when my parents were at their religious meetings (usually Tuesdays and Saturdays) and at the time I certainly didn’t have the wherewithal to upload a digital photograph or anything like that. This was long before laptops and smartphones and the internet was a very different place back then.
When I finished my degree, I moved to Poland for three years. While I was living in Gdansk, there was a gay bar I used to go to occasionally, when I could work up the courage. I would go in and sit at the bar, and try to make a drink last for an hour and look at my phone and try to look like I was comfortable and was expecting to see someone I knew. Sometimes I lasted for half an hour, and sometimes for two hours, but I always went home alone, having spoken to no one.
When I came home from Poland, and moved to Dublin, everything was going to be different. Instead I found that everything was the same. I would go to the Dragon or the George, alone, would hang around trying not to look alone and then would go home alone. Eventually, I had a gang of friends in Dublin, mainly straight, who would go to gay bars and clubs, but part of me hates going to gay clubs with straight people. The straight people look at you with this expectation that you’re going to perform for them, that you’re going to magically transform into a sexually confident, devastatingly attractive, irrepressibly gay lothario, but try as you might you can’t help continuing to be a Connor. It’s not as if I don’t have gay friends. I have many lovely individual gay friends, but I’ve never had a group of gays and I’ve only had very isolated occasions of luck with men at gay pubs and clubs.
So I was sitting in the bar the other night, looking wistfully at this young man, thinking about where I have come from. He had eventually given up on his Coke, and he asked the barman for a cocktail. The barman asked him for ID and he didn’t have any. The barman said he would serve him this once because he was good-looking. The boy looked so happy. I presumed he was a gay teenager who had grown up exclusively with straight-identified peers. This was probably the first time in his life that another human had acknowledged him as a sexual being. That’s an exciting moment.
He drank his cocktail as slowly as he’d drunk his Coke. After a while, another young man came up to the bar and ordered two drinks, for himself and a friend who was waiting back at his table. While he was waiting for his drinks he greeted the young guy, who must have been sitting alone for over an hour and a half at this stage. They started talking. Within two minutes, the boy at the end of the bar was joining this guy and his friend at their table. He had made a gay friend.
I should have thought this was sweet. I didn’t. Instead I was jealous. No one has ever approached me and invited me to their table when I was drinking alone in a gay bar. In that moment, I stopped thinking of him as Boy at the End of the Bar, and started thinking of him as That Skinny Bitch.
Obviously, keeping an eye on this guy was only a sideline to the night. I had lovely chats with my friend. He is considerably more attractive than me and had two men proposition him, which he was disappointed by. Apparently, it’s usually a lot more. I can’t even imagine what that would be like, though one of the men who was trying to get into my friend’s pants, an awkward and kind of creepy German, also groped my back, so that’s something.
I went to bed with a want in me, a need. Not a want for a relationship. My urges were baser than that. I felt a deep need to be skanky. I wished I could give chlamydia to the entire Offaly senior hurling team. That was the kind of mood I was in.
I went online and started making arrangements with strangers on a social network for men who look like me. Drunk neediness is not good.
I woke up to a text message from a man in a tiny village in West Cork, a man in his forties, who was apparently “an ordinary lad looking for similar”. In my drunken hour of want, we had arranged to meet in a hotel on Wednesday night in Cork city. He had my phone number. I had a few photos of his willy, which was grand, but none of his face, and I didn’t know his name. I wasn’t feeling as skanky any more now that I was hungover. I sent him a polite “How are you?” text. This was his answer: “After getting chilly out rained here earlier did u get up to much hope im not annoying u sending text.” Oh God.
I don’t have the money for a hotel. I would have to make up an excuse to tell my parents for why I was going away for the night.(I don’t think I’m brave enough to say I’m going to meet a middle-aged man I don’t know in a hotel for sex.) And he may only be ten years older than me, but his messages all read like he’s 70 years old and watches Nationwide and Ear to the Ground.
I cancelled our night of fumbling passion in the hotel. I’m not going to meet him. I’ll find another route for my needs. Does anyone have any contacts in Offaly GAA?