I’m visiting with Alex and Geoff in Greensboro, NC. One of the many reasons I love visiting them is that they’re always down to go to a local gay bar with me.
Since coming out I’ve become more and more comfortable with the concept of gay bars. They’re important institutions for us homosexuals and they come in all shapes and sizes (which is something I wouldn’t have anticipated before coming out).
Any hooters - we went to a gay bar last night in Greensboro, NC (one of two in the area).
It was small and divey. A bit frantic in terms of layout for such a small space. There was a cramped bar area, one pool table, a series of chairs against a mirrored wall, a patio area that I could only assume as heated and mainly for smoking… things. There was a DJ up above. The bathrooms were in the back and, as par for gay bathrooms, kinda awkwardly small. There was no real dance floor - but people were making due with dancing in the open spaces between these elements.
The crowd was mainly black. Which surprised me. And mainly lesbian. Which also surprised me. The “game” of flirting was oddly different as well. A lot more shyness. A lot more sideways glances and quick look aways. A lot of older people and regulars.
A straight guy told me in the bathroom (after I started a conversation with him at the bar) that I was the “most interesting guy he’d met in a while.” I found this slightly odd for a lot of reasons - mainly I’d spoken 3 minutes with him prior to this and he told me this while he was pissing next to me.
It’s unlike anything I ever experience in Chicago. And it gave me an appreciation for coming out so late and for being in a big city when I did.
These places - these small town gay bars. They’re oasises for a lot of folks who don’t really have an outlet otherwise. And that includes straight folks as well. The straight dudes who were there were just having a blast being dancey or more openly sexual in an environment that didn’t judge that behavior from a “masculine” guy - also maybe the cheap drinks and the lipstick lesbians helped.
Small towns are funny for races who aren’t black or white. I got called Troy Palumalo and my friend hispanics female friend Alex got called Jordan Sparks. We had never gotten either of those before and - well - the folks that were saying it were convinced we looked exactly like ‘em.
I felt like a city slicker and also like maybe a bit “rich.” When we told some folks where my friends were fun (a delightful community that feels middle to upper middle class) everyone in the group went “whooaa, big money ballers!” It’s a reminder that most of us probably are compared to the residents of Thomasville, NC.
I flirted with an adorable small town guy who inhereted his grandfathers car repair business and “hated it.” He was exceedingly shy. Like middle school at your first dance shy.
When I called him adorable (as I am inclined to do after a bit of tequila) he got even shyer than he was already and said “Well, I’m not used to get flirted with openly like this.” His crew of confident, lesbian friends seemed to like that he was talking to someone - but also seemed like big sisters overbearing on a little brother. I felt for his predicament. Alex thought he was maybe slow. I said he was more simple. It was SWEET!
I’d be oh so curious to go to these places across the country and see what the people are like. There’s a helluva blog in that idea. 50 states. 50 small town gay bars. See how the game is played in these smaller, more familiar spaces. As a gay man in a big city, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that for many folks - there are only one or two options and they are very different from what we take for granted everyday.
Oh. And I ended up giving the adorable small town mechanic a peck on the lips as I was leaving. Kinda grabbed his face and just smooched him sweetly. He seemed a little stunned. But hey - someone’s gotta give him a little confidence!