Sociability & gay bars (a preamble of sorts)
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Some of grow up with our social gears and switches greased and ready for quick response (say, drood). Others have more complicated responses (say, me). Most of the human race lives somewhere in-between.
Since this is my weblog I'm more interested in the more hesitant creatures. My own case may be a little atypical (or perhaps typical of my generation and, for want of a useful word, class). In my weblog confessions I think I can honestly say I'm not given to the usual inhibitions. But I've never been gifted at casual sociability. The simplest question from a stranger will leave me blank. A response may not occur to me until a day or week later. No talent for improvisation. I'll look politely blank maybe shrug my shoulders.(works wonders with garrulous egomaniacs). Silence is a great social vice. You can probably measure your friendships by the silences they tolerate.
An elaborate way of saying that I was never good at the bar scene. Banter is everything with a stranger in a bar.
When I was first out I slept with friends of acquaintances. The way most straight people do it I'd guess. The connecting person provided context.
This entry is in danger of abending, there are too many sidebands of contradictory recollections.
When I moved away from home I fell in with heroin addicts, petty crooks, male prostitutes. They were alien to me and my lower middleclass straight-laced background. I was excited to be away from home, the accretions of a suppressed childhood in Savannah readily fell away. Fake priest, junkie, hooker, drag queen, I never felt a barrier. (I would now.) I was enraptured by the uncomplicated enjoyment of a new world.
Those of us given to quadruple-guessing ourselves always feel either superior or envious of the simpler people given to seemingly unmediated instant responses. The imagined superiority ignored that the most considered path my lead to damnation. The envy fails to consider that unless their perceptions and behavior includes forethought they'll regret most of their lives.
So there's no neat summary of how I dealt with new people back as a young gay guy in Atlanta.
The first time I entered Sweet Gum Head, Atlanta's main gay bar when I left Savannah I would think I was thrilled. All I remember is the go-go boy, darkness and awful music (years would pass before I came to enjoy dance music).
My subsequent visits to gay bars almost always included a boyfriend or Bill Smith, the The Atlanta Barb's editor whose aggressive personality kept people away.
The Barb itself would prove a handy way of meeting available gay boys.
End Part I.
* "The preeminent showplace in the South was the Sweet Gum Head on Cheshire Bridge Road" notes a history of Southern drag bars.