Since returning from my nine month holiday where I had the fright of my life, I’ve cut right back on my alcohol consumption. I had a rare night out recently in Dublin which was eye opening.
A friend of mine, who I hadn’t seen for a few months was in the City on a business trip and we decided to hit the town for a night out.
He is gay and been ‘out’ for a couple of years but hadn’t yet experienced the scene in Dublin so I decided to play tour guide and show him some of the sights. Although my knowledge of the best hangouts was fairly limited, I was aware of a couple of places on Georges St., namely the popular pubs ‘The George‘ and ‘The Dragon‘.
This would be a good time to point out that I’m straight. In my 31 years I have stepped foot in three gay bars in my life (on reflection probably more than most straight guys).
- Montpellier, the South of France my friend and I stumbled into the Premier Gay Hotspot of the City and quickly fled after finding ourselves cornered on the dancefloor, suddenly realising there wasn’t a single woman in the place.
- Edinburgh, Scotland where I have vague recollections of drunkenly approaching every lesbian couple in sight.
- The aforementioned Dragon bar where I brought a date. In my insecurity (fuelled by copious amounts of booze) I had wanted to bring her to a safe haven where I thought she wouldn’t get hit on by other guys!
My buddy and I sampled a few quiet straight bars nearby to catch up first. Good conversation and we were able to talk openly and compare our own experiences and current challenges finding someone compatible.
He was drinking, and with my current health kick I was abstaining from alcohol but getting my sugar rush from Coke and Lucozades.
Around 10pm, we decided to try The George, probably the most famous gay bar in Dublin. Although I was nervous and apprehensive as we walked to the club my friend was in good spirits and his excitement was infectious.
As silly as it may sound, in my head I had visions of a seedy, sweaty den, guys having sex in darkened corners, half naked cage dancers covered in luminous war paint gyrating to electro-pop music blaring from the speakers. I imagined people pinching my ass, eyes like daggers slicing the layers off my body, and little sober me squirming in a corner, praying for it all to end.
Whatever lay behind the doors, we never got to find out. The bouncer refused us entry. Dublin being Dublin, we weren’t given any specific reason, so we made the short journey to The Dragon instead – 10 euro entrance, and 7 euro drinks. Quite steep, but I didn’t have a Plan C so we entered.
A drag queen met us at the ticket booth, and I began to feel like such an imposter. What would I say if someone approached me?
My friend had accompanied me to dozens of straight bars over the years so I figured that the least I could do was to be his wingman for the night.
We entered the main room, and found a lounge area away from the dance floor. Nice layout and not too noisy, so we could chat and he could scour for talent.
We stayed there for a few hours and here are some of my key learnings:
- I need to work on my eye contact. I had absolutely no idea where to look in the gay bar. I didn’t make eye contact with a single soul I suppose for the reason that I didn’t want to invite any attention. I was extremely tense.
- I was painfully conscious of my surroundings when my friend went to the bar, or toilet. Left alone for more than 5 minutes, I buried my head in my phone, pretending to distract myself from the discomfort of the moment.
- My preconceptions of gay bars changed considerably after this experience. I really enjoyed the music and the people were very friendly. There were very few lecherous drunks around (compared to a straight bar). No aggro, and there was a nice vibe from the place where people just wanted to have fun.
- Gay guys certainly make more of an effort than straight guys when it comes to making themselves look good on a night out. A lot of us straight guys should probably take note.
- One person approached me whilst I was alone. He was friendly, but I didn’t know how to react and I probably appeared hostile. I guess I need to loosen up a little and not take things too seriously when outside my comfort zone.
On this particular night the attendees were 80% male. I was half expecting to see a lot of women there, and (secretly) hoping that a lesbian couple might take this frightened young bird under their wing!
The gay bar we went to was not particularly sleazy. Certainly no more or less than any typical straight bar. People still act with a bit of decorum, and the fear of approaching was clearly still there for many of the clubbers. It wasn’t a cattle market, but clearly there were various different agenda’s and ability levels present. I saw groups of young guys seated together chatting, affluent older businessmen in suits sitting idly by hoping to be approached, pea cocking transsexuals in six inch heels flirting with staff, while yours truly – a wallflower hanging onto his mobile phone for dear life.
Did I enjoy myself? I didn’t NOT enjoy it. It was a refreshing change of scenery and I’m grateful for the experience and sober perspective. As Neale Donald Walshe says, Life begins at the end of your comfort zone, and I’ve been trying to do get out of my own in recent years. Building courage to consciously grow by trying new things and challenging myself.
Would I go again? Probably not, but at least now I have no qualms about entering a gay bar if the opportunity arises. This experience helped dispel some of the myths I had believed through hearsay and lad culture. There really is nothing to be afraid of and that’s a lesson I wouldn’t have realised if I had been drinking.