This actually happened a fortnight ago, but things have been rather busy lately so I have only been able to relate this story now.
To those of my readers with delicate sensibilities, I apologise in advance for the subject matter. To cut to the chase, this weekend was pretty gay. I always knew it was going to be quite busy for me, but it became unexpectedly so. Just so you know, there’s nothing that I would consider rude or sexual in this post, but you might see the word “gay” a lot. I have changed names to protect the mortally embarrassed.
It started on Friday afternoon, as all good weekends do. It had just gone 5:15pm. A colleague (let’s call him A) and I were walking to the Empire saloon in Auckland after a very successful week of work during which we succeeded in optimising some code. Optimisation is something I personally find fascinating but most of you will probably find tedious. Either way, A and I turn up at the bar and eventually find our way to where our other workmates were drinking.
It was a mixed bunch this afternoon: four guys (A, B, C & D), some from Texas and some from New Zealand. Some software and some whose role I still wasn’t quite clear on. I bought them all beers and settled into my first Smirnoff Ice of the night. B, sitting next to me, nursed his beer, while A settled on nothing but coke all evening. I have a great deal of admiration for someone who can stay sober like that while everyone around them slips into varying degrees of silliness.Â
I sent a few text messages and we bantered a little until it became my turn to get a round again. As I turned to bring them to the table I heard a voice at my shoulder “you really should be in hospitality, you know”.
I turned and smiled. X had found us at last. I had met X in Texas. He’s from Albuquerque, New Mexico and has come all the way over to New Zealand for 12 months to work and be with his partner (Y) who is a New Zealander. I have a bit of a soft spot for X, I will be the first to admit.
I brought the drinks to the table and introduced people. “So, he’s a member of your ‘club’, right?” B queried as tactfully as an inebriated man can. “Yes” I responded with a smile.
X listened on in mild amusement as my colleagues and I talked about work, about Texas, about relationships, about all manner of things. Eventually, inexorably, the conversation gravitated onto something that appeared to hold quite a great deal of fascination for my friend “B”: my sexuality. I think it’s only natural that people are interested in something that’s different, especially since I seem so normal, don’t I?
“So, if a girl came to you and offered, you know..”
“No” I responded firmly.
“But surely it’s the same…”
“Girls.. have bits missing” “X” assisted.
We then argued over who was the most attractive girl in the room (interestingly, no one could agree). The most attractive guy in the office (no one but I would offer an opinion), and suchlike.
“Well, look at X, he’s pretty young-looking”.
“He’s 23” I retorted a little hastily, turning to look X in the eyes. As I did so I somehow lost my grip on my drink, spilling it all over the table.
“Steve, I do believe that’s the fastest I have ever seen you blush.” B crowed in pleasure at my discomfort.
It turned out that X had just bought a Valentine’s gift for his partner, Y, who worked in a bar down by the viaduct, so we all decided (by drunken unanimous consent) to go down to his place of work and assist with presenting the gift. X, being the easy-going chap that he is, agreed.
We soon found ourselves standing rather unsteadily outside a bar on the viaduct, awaiting X’s return. In attendance were myself, B, C & D. A (sensible young man that he is) had called it a night pretty quickly. The boys started getting a little bored so we stopped off at another bar around the road for rather aptly named shots of baileys & butterscotch schnapps. D insisted he was having a “slippery nipple”, but we all know what they’re really called.
Y finished work and we were all getting a little hungry, so I led my growing group of miscreants to the Angus Steak House: one of my favourite restaurants in Auckland that just so happens to have moved closer to my street and is open till 11pm. I bought steaks for the 8 of us (well, D is vegetarian, but he made do) and we all sat around drinking and talking and generally basking in the glow of our own intoxication for an hour or so.
Now, for some reason some of myÂ friends and colleagues seem to assume I live a rather “interesting” lifestyle and so I have to keep correcting them. “â€¦I’ll have you know” I stated “I haven’t had any in about a year now.”
“Right, that’s it” B slapped the table emphatically, “we’re going to go get Steve laid tonight. Where’s the nearest gay bar?”
“Uh, no, that’s not a good idea” I maintained. I’m not sure exactly what people expect from bars like that, but I doubt it’s quite what you’d expect.
“No, no, we’re going to go and find you some, you lead the way!”
So, with B egging me on X & Y smirking knowingly and C & D following blindly, we made our way all the way up Queen street to the only gay bar in Auckland I know: Family.
Now Family is an ordinary enough bar. There’s music, alcohol and a dance floor. The toilets are horrible and at the best of times but the music is loud enough to drown out the smell of the other bodies pressing in against you. The only thing is, it is a gay bar, and you can tell. Or rather, most of us can tell. The big Maori guys in high heels should give you a clue.
I bought some more drinks and we hung around a little while like wallflowers. I rolled my eyes at the guys and went out to dance. I love to dance and don’t care much whether it’s with straights, gays or the undecided. I have to admit I wondered who would be brave enough to come and join me. B peered in my direction a few times to see what I was up to. To my utmost surprise, however, C hopped onto the dance floor and started dancing immediately. My heart swelled with pride. That takes guts.
After a few minutes, though, I had to stop him from dancing too intimately with one of the lesbians.
“Dude, leave the lesbian alone”
“What? Are you sure?”
“Yes. I am sure.”
It turns out that it took C at least an hour to figure out he was in a gay bar. This only slightly cheapens his bravery but meant he was quite sheepish the next Monday.
X & Y were the next out on the dance floor. They were soon up on stage, kissing (I tried not to notice). B, much to my gratification, joined them on the stage. He claimed it was “to avoid the hands” but I think he likes the limelight. D, though he hung around valiantly for a while, quickly ducked out and made for home. This was certainly not his cup of tea.
We finally left in the middle of the drag queen performances, which can get a little scary/inappropriate/boring pretty quickly. It had been a night to remember, certainly not a night my work colleagues would forget.
It just so happened that that Sunday (10th February) was also the Big Gay Out: a so-called gay celebration in Auckland. Basically, it’s like a flea market with a queer theme. Nothing quite so risquÃ© as one might imagine.
I manned my church’s stand, handing out Ã©clairs to passers by in the hope that they might take a pamphlet off me as well. I was quietly pleased by the reception we had, given that religion isnâ€˜t really considered to be high on your average New Zealanderâ€˜s list of things to do.
While I was there I was roped into completing a survey about sexual behaviour. I am not sure if I should be pleased or disappointed that I had to leave most of the survey blank. One of the questions I didn’t answer properly was: “when last did you have sex with a group of 4 or more men at the same time?”
My answer: “eew”. Personally, with 4 or more men, I’d rather go dancing.