I get to see the drag queens perfecting their tuck game in the back of the club and watch drunken one night stands spring to life on the dance floor. Some friends make fun of my new side gig, saying my nurse-slash-exotic dancer existence is like the plot line of a low budget indie film. To my Southern Baptist family back home, I tell them that God blessed me with a bountiful butt, and shaking it is my ministry. To my medical colleagues, I tell them that with the stress of literally holding someone’s life in my hands all day, it’s comforting to think some people fantasize about holding parts of me in their hands all night.
Girls in Madrid never leave the house on a night out unless they’re wearing bright stilettos. They don’t enter the club unless they can flirt with the bouncer. They know which heavy metal black doors lead to the hidden dens of delight and which lead to a dead end, or worse—a tourist trap.
And girls in Madrid don’t go to the gay quarter of Chueca unless they don’t have anywhere else to be the next day, because they know that going out with they gays means going out with a bang. They feel free to expose more of their inner slut without the straight males drooling at their feet, waiting to catch another glimpse of their lingerie. It means drinking cocktails all night, stomping on broken glass, climbing on table tops, bugging the DJ to play their favorite song, bumming cigarettes galore, finding out why this dance is what they love and of course, playing the innocent game of matchmaker with all the shy, cute boys standing all alone.
I’m the boy standing all alone. My classmates are off to London for the weekend, and I haven’t seen or heard Chico Rock in weeks, but I’ve decided not to spoil tonight. I’m an undercover club connoisseur at heart and a just because my partners in crime are M.I.A. will not deter me from infiltrating after dark.
So a shot of vodka gives me that last minute boost to go out and try to find the low-key, local gay hangout spot, Why Not? After discreetly circling a few times around the block, I see some guys knocking on a wooden door and a big guy dressed in a black tee letting them inside.
Gays in Madrid must have some sort of fascination with old Hollywood glamour. Why Not? is way smaller than I envisioned, more of a lounge really, and starting to get really crowded. A dim glass chandelier is the only source of lighting. Along the walls hang sepia-toned photographs of classic Hollywood stars.
Alone and increasing self-conscious of my state in the small space, I scan around for new, potential friends. I notice a group of adorable young guys, wearing graphic tees and jeans, laughing and drinking, teasing each other with light punches and head grabs. But then, as I’m about to approach, I look up and see two navy stilettos coming down, stomping down the stairs. They belong to a tipsy girl with bangs. She makes her way down, waving, winking and throwing kisses to several different guys to her left and right.
Her, I make a mental note and slowly walk over to try to intercept her as she heads towards the bar.
Navy Stilettos used to work as a bartender at Why Not? and knows the entire staff. She’s in school and wants to work in magazines. She belts out whenever she dances and thinks the DJ here is the best in town. She drinks vodka tonics and her ex-boyfriend was Mexican.
We have so much in common that our interaction gets less forced as the minutes go by (and as we down our vodka tonics). She invites me to her table, and I meet the rest of her girl friends and this well-built, dark-skinned Puerto Rican boy with a buzz cut, wearing a tight button-up shirt and designer jeans. He’s Navy Stiletto’s current boyfriend’s younger brother.
“Es su cumpleaños!” (It’s his birthday!) Navy Stilettos shouts as she hands him another drink. I congratulate him with a smile and think, “an 18-year-old with those arms?” We flirt for a while, but I tend to go for older guys, so he’s just eye candy at this point.
As the night progresses, Navy Stilettos convinces her bar friends to let the Birthday Boy get on top of the bar for a much deserved celebratory dance. They clear the empty glasses and Birthday Boy climbs on without much hesitation and starts dancing to Paulina Rubio’s latest hit, “Ni Una Sola Palabra” as the crowd cheers on. Then Navy Stiletto, jealous that her friend is hogging the spotlight, extends her arm and Birthday Boy brings her up to the bar. Then, he looks down at me, comes forward and extends his arm towards me, encouraging me to join them. My first instinct is to reject his spontaneous invitation, but then I look around, estimate the possibility of an embarrassing disaster and decide… why not?
I’m just as much of an attention whore as the next guy, but it’s intimidating dancing on top of the bar, in prime position to be gawked at and judged. And I’m wearing all my clothes. Just imagine what it’s like for those guys that do it all in briefs. Hence, I have the outmost respect for go-go boys, strippers and other exhibitionists.
We get off after a few minutes but my heart is still pounding. I definitely need another drink and a cigarette to calm down the adrenaline rush. I borrow a lighter from Navy Stilettos, and she congratulates me on my bold move to get up on the bar.
“Oye, las chicas y yo hemos estado pensando,” (Hey, the girls and I have been thinking) Navy Stilettos says with a flirtatious look. The look of a girl in the midst of plotting. “Queremos darle su regalo de cumpleaños,” (We want to give him his birthday present) she says nodding towards Birthday Boy.
I pretend to be clueless even though I know something’s up. Birthday Boy looks delicious despite his age, so I ask, “Que es su regalo?” (What is his gift?)
Hours later as the sun is rising, I find myself in Birthday Boy’s room. He shares a flat with his older brother, whom Navy Stilettos is spending the night with.
Birthday Boy and I have already made out on the dancefloor of the second club we went to. In the single stall restroom of the third club, I unbuttoned his shirt and felt up his toned torso. Now, alone in his room, the only thing left to do is continue the make out session but with far fewer articles of clothing and in more comfortable positions on his bed.
He pins me down with both arms and sticks his tongue in my mouth. He is a sloppy kisser, but I don’t mind. The best way to deal with it, I’ve learned, is to be sloppy back. He has full lips and likes it whenever I bite down gently on his lower one. Birthday Boy straddles me and sits up to unbutton his shirt. He does it slowly, one button at a time, while I play with his thighs resting close to my ribs. As soon as he takes it off all the way, I lift forward and begin licking his caramel-colored chest, firmly stroking his nipples with my tongue.
He pushes me back down and starts taking off my shoes and socks while looking up at me and smiling, almost innocently. It’s endearing. He’s like a puppy eager to play.
Then he unbuckles my belt and unzips my pants, digs down through my boxers and starts going down on me. I caress his head with one hand and use the other to lift my tee-shirt all the way up closer to my chest so I can caress my nipples while he sucks me off. The fact that he’s a sloppy kisser is not such a bad thing after all.
The morning after, Navy Stiletto flashes a huge smile as soon as I walk out of the room, hung over and wearing last night’s clothes. She hands me a cup of coffee, and with glee, mentions that she heard us last night. We both smile and gently chuckle, but for some reason, I get the impression that she got more satisfaction out of this situation than I did.
It’s a well-known rule in my code of conduct that I will never make the first move. Not because I’m afraid of rejection; not because I don’t have anything to say; not because I get easily intimidated.
Maybe it has to do with the fact that, believe it or not, I’m a pretty shy guy, especially around a very particular breed of guys, whom I refer to as “beat skippers.”
Yes, I can usually muster up enough bravado to strike up a lively conversation with a bunch of strangers. But with those certain boys that make my heart skip a beat, it’s a completely different story. When it comes to interacting with potential bedmates, I tend to freeze rather than flirt.
Besides, I’m not the type of guy who walks up to you at the club with the sole intention of taking you home. Transparent is the one color that you won’t find in my stylebook. If anything, for me, the giant dance dens of New York are platonic spaces where most of the time is spent bumping into old friends and making new ones, with a few scattered breaks to savor the eye candy, of course. Not to mention that nothing screams desperate like scanning the floor for unsuspecting victims, and nothing whispers great catch like dancing like you just don’t care.
So here I am, at Sugarland in Brooklyn, on a Saturday night, standing by the bar, swirling the ice in my drink with my straw and looking at this guy that just walked by. Dark complexion, scruffy beard, a hard jaw, and my heart just skipped a beat. He seems like a cocky fellow, someone difficult to impress. I know that if I go up to him now, like a missile zooming in straight towards its target, the only thing that will go up in flames will be my ego. So I consider taking a more subtle approach.
He’s talking to some friends by the stage, so I grab a few of mine and suggest we relocate from the bar to the dancefloor, not far from Skipper. I don’t subscribe to the whole fixating-gaze-leads-to-sex mating ritual, mostly because I feel like it’s fucking creepy and would be just as subtle as shooting a wide-eyed Bambi with a rifle and carrying the body back to my lair. I know that place has a reputation for being kind of lax when it comes to getting crazy, but I’m pretty sure that the Sugarland management and staff would not stand for that shit.
“Do you guys want a shot for a dollar? It’s bright, bright purple and comes in a test tube—OH MY GOD, YOU’VE KILLED BAMBI!”
So just think about it: every time you give the stare down treatment to an innocent cutie at the club… it’s like you’re shooting Bambi all over again. Most importantly, the cutie immediately files you in the Dahmer/Dead Disney/Date Rape drawer. A very difficult drawer to get out of, I’d say.
What is this post even about? Oh yeah… so the Ting Tings come on, and I’m dancing in front of Skipper, trying to get him to notice me. We’re so close, I could take a step back and we’d be grinding. Once in a while, I make sure to unceremoniously brush my arm up against his torso. Did he? Didn’t he? Yes, I did. I get pure satisfaction out of causing a commotion and drawing the attention of the crowd, so this doesn’t seem particularly shameless.
What comes next does. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Skipper head upstairs to the outdoor patio to smoke a cigarette. Of course! I have been trying to quit smoking but… fuck it! I follow him by myself this time, and realize that, no I have not quit smoking cigarettes; I’ve just quit buying them.
I linger on the outskirts of Skipper’s conversation for a minute and then randomly bust in to the half circle of friends to ask if anyone’s got an extra cigarette. Their apologetic expressions break the bad news. It’s ok; I wouldn’t give me a cigarette either. Besides, I’m not really out there for a smoke break. I figure that if I’m not going to make the first move, my best bet is to carefully situate myself within Skipper’s frame at various moments throughout the night, and making it seem like I’m not stalking him by playing it all up to be just mere coincidence. Like it’s meant to happen, caught in each other’s radars.
All right… yeah, basically, I’m throwing myself at him.
Out on the Sugarland patio, he looks at me, and I’m not sure if he’s intrigued or disgusted. Either way, I feel unbearably transparent. Then he reaches deep inside his messenger bag, probably trying to dig up the last remains of my dignity? No… a pack of Parliaments!
“Oh, do you have a light too?” I say delighted but interrupting the conversation yet again.
“What? Do you want me to smoke it for you too?” He says with a childish sneer and reaching into his pocket for a lighter. The teasing gives my hopes one last thrust. But right after I finish lighting the cigarette, I notice that their smoke break is over and he’s making his way back inside.
“We’ll be down by the dancefloor,” he says, taking my hand in his when taking back his lighter. I stay out there and finish the entire cigarette, giving him just enough time to take my file out of the stalker drawer.
After I’m finally done, I step back inside still adamant about not breaking the first move rule, but at this point, I’m more than ready to make the second, third, fourth and fifth.
Skipper is standing by the door with his friends, looking around. Is he looking for me? I look around. Where did my friends go? Is he going to make a move? Or is he just going to go?
As I walk down the stairs back to the foggy dancefloor, I start to think: What if Skipper has a first move rule too? What if he’s just waiting for that great guy to notice him on the dancefloor and come say hello? What if we’re all like that? Waiting for that touch, that gaze, that cigarette that will break the silence and form a lasting bridge.
It’s last call. I shouldn’t keep focusing on who approaches whom, who is the predator and who is the prey, who is worthy of the attention and who deserves better. There’s something surprisingly empowering about wearing our hearts on our sleeves and hoping for safe landing.
Maybe I should just start walking in his direction. Not think about what I’m going to say. Not worry about coming off transparent, silly, desperate or drunk (or all of the above). Because I can assume all night long, but I’ll never really know his side unless I ask.
Sometimes, we forget that going out should be about having a good time, not about proving you can find a tipsy guy that will let you shove your tongue down his throat—making the first move as meaningless as casting a net and settling for whatever you catch.
But if we genuinely feel the sparks and believe that the scruffy guy to our right is right, right now, then what’s stopping us from going for it, not like a mindless missile but like on a mission? The worse that can happen is old and rusted rejection. But we’re all big boys here. We can deal.
Any given code of conduct is pointless if it’s rigid, final and fixed, without exceptions and footnotes, especially if sticking by the rules leaves us standing alone, in a closing club, frozen yet reluctant to make a move.
Right after last call, if you still can’t come up with the clever words that will impress… then just kiss him. Anything’s better than watching a guy that makes your heart skip a beat walk out at the end of the night, leaving you regurgitating empty “what if’s” and regretting all your subtle, indirect, absurd moves and thinking: “I should’ve said hello.”
Every first move we make might very well be our last.