A Louisville Evening
My First Gay Dating Experience…
…was during a business trip to Louisville, not a place usually associated with gay culture. But for me,
it was the site of a complete change in my thinking about gay life.
The closest thing I had ever had to a date with a man was a quick visit to a hotel room or a nervous step into
somebody else’s apartment for a quick “wham, bam, thank you Dan.” (Now that I think about it, I’ve never been
with anyone named Dan. Put that on my who-to-do list!)
A lone stranger, I rode into town on a cloudy Thursday. Picture a young Clint Easwood in the spaghetti
westerns, six shooter in hand. Now erase that image and substitute a less imposing guy armed only with a
briefcase and his first Damron Guide.
I was leading the life of a bisexual man at that stage of my life. Straight as an arrow in my home
town; gay as I knew how to be whenever I had an excuse to leave alone. Unfortunately, I just didn’t know how
to be gay. What’s more, I didn’t even know that I didn’t know!
Looking back, it seems strange to admit that I had never been to a gay bar–not even in my frequent
travels. The hotels offered plenty of opportunities to find someone for that quickie in his room or
mine. Most were married.
But this time I had decided to get to one of those bars. Nothing was going to stop me.
My business ended early Friday, but I had one more meeting late in the day, so there was no time for me to
change out of my suit. Instead, I loosened my tie, kept my self-made promise, and headed to the first bar on
my rather short list.
I walked in with butterflies in my stomach. Eyes adjusting to the early afternoon contast between the
sunny day and the dimly, although not fashionably, lit interior. I was met by the same reaction that I later
became accustomed to in every gay bar (and every straight meat market bar, as well): I was the subject of every
gaze in the room the instant the door opened. I thought that was because my entry had flooded the room with
light and broken whatever passed as ambience in this place.
Feeling guilty for my intrusion, I grabbed the closest stool at the bar. The men at the other end of the
bar, one by one, stopped their stares and gradually resumed their conversations. The young guys in the very
back of the room resumed their pool game. (Were they old enough to be in a tavern?) I was so naive that
it took a while–a growingly awkward while–before I realized that this place was a hangout for rent boys, rough
I ordered an orange juice gathering the returned stares of everyone within earshot. Apparently nobody had
ever ordered anything other than beer in this dreary establishment. I chugged it and the juice seemed to
lodge in my upper chest for most of the rest of the afternoon. I squeakily pushed by stool back, left an
overly generous tip, and flooded that room with light again as I made my escape.
My first gay bar experience was almost enough to send me back to my hotel to exchange furtive glances with
whatever other males had finished their work early.
I had that commitment to myself to fulfill, though. I headed to the second bar on the list. I’d give
the Louisville bar scene one more chance. I’d give gay bars anywhere one more chance. I’d give my
fantasy of finally coming out one more chance.
On try two, after my eyes adjusted and the other eyes had turned away except for the occasional furtive glance,
I realized that I had found a place I could feel comfortable. A nicely appointed room, I thought. Young
business men who had extended their lunches a little. A few guys in clothes made to withstand real
labor. Probably had decided to start the weekend a bit early. And…the center of my attention…one
great looking bartender.
The bartender and I exchanged pleasantries. Nobody seemed to care that I ordered (another) orange
juice. I sipped this one slowly. The bartender returned…and lingered. We talked. I
flirted. He took it graciously, I thought. Then he became a little flirty himself, coming back after
filling each of his other orders. I ordered a second juice. Sip, chat, sip, flirt, sip….
Time to wrap up my official reason for being in Louisville, I explained my circumstance to the barman. He
asked if I’d be back later. I promised I would. I kept my promise.
[To Be Continued]
Keith, St. Louis
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