The 2010's have been riddled with app after app after app for gay men to peruse in an attempt to steer us away from the normalcy of approaching someone you like at a gay bar to the comfort of a woof button from your very own bedroom.
Sure, these things have their perks. You, for the most part, get to know who the person is in terms of what their likes are, albeit sexual or not, so you already have an idea of what you're getting yourself into. But what would happen, god forbid, if the internet and these apps went away and we were forced back into doing something completely shocking: actually approaching someone we like in real life?
My particular generation came about with the usage of internet hookup and dating sites like Adam4Adam, Bear411 and Manhunt before that parlayed into the usage of apps like Scruff, Growlr and Grindr. This time period rarely allowed our generation (I'm talking about the super late in the game Gen-x'ers to the early millennials) to explore the cruising elements that gay bars became known for thirty or forty years prior to us entering into it.
This of course, can be very frustrating for guys around my age, because it limits us in terms of how we can really approach someone that we like at said bar or any social environment. I consider myself to be someone who is very friendly, amicable, fun, and easy-to-like so I have no problem fitting into a lot of social groups yet I have a very hard time saying hello to someone I find physically desirable.
Am I afraid of rejection? Sure. Everyone is. There are "cheat" ways of approaching someone without having to directly do it, though, that I do find work for me. Situations like them being in a group of guys that I happen to know someone in can make it easier to go in "for the kill" per se. You can also find yourself talking with someone else and they interject into whatever you are talking about. Those are all and good, and can make everything less complicated, but what happens when you actually have to approach someone?
I can't remember the last time I actually said "Can I get your number?" It sounds archaic almost, in that a lot of dates that I go on now don't even involve the number trade, it's more chatting on an app first prior to meeting up. Then, if there is chemistry, the numbers get exchanged and we go from there.
My therapist recommended (yes I see one, we all should no matter where we are in life) that I try and actually go up to a guy and say "Hello." I usually don't go to gay bars by myself, unless its for a quick drink prior to an engagement later on that evening, but I actually did try twice this past week to go solo and actually approach someone at a popular bar in New York City.
It was happy hour which meant that the crowd was a bit lively, scattered, and diverse in terms of the kind of guy you could go for. I gravitate towards many a kind, but I did find someone very attractive that had a solid beard, nice build, and great smile and eyes. He was casually chatting with someone else, and when that person got their coat and left, I noticed he did not. He, like me, was alone. So what would actually happen if I really did approach him? Would he reject me immediately, not even talk to me, find it weird that I wanted to talk to him first or maybe, just maybe, actually talked to me back?
I noticed he was watching some sort of Olympics recap, and given that they had Gus Kenworthy's adorable face on the screen, I knew I had a way in. "Isn't he just so fucking cute?," I said to the guy nervously. "Yeah, I've seen his Instagram and he definitely knows how to showcase his assets." (Laughter). "I'm Ryan." "I'm John."
I wanted to quickly switch the convo from how great Gus' ass was into more about who John was, who I am, and if this was just a friendly conversation. It became that, as he happened to have a boyfriend and they are not open (womp womp), but, I accomplished something that truly terrified me and I'm glad that I did it.
I can't be alone in this situation in terms of approaching someone you like at a gay bar, so I asked some of my friends if they have done the same (this includes straight people as well at a straight bar). Surprisingly, most of them have, and it led to a serious relationship and even… marriage.
So maybe the idea of approaching someone you like isn't as dead as I thought it was, maybe it was me shielding myself in my bedroom from something great that could truly happen. I think this was a life lesson for anyone out there who fears rejection the most: it happens. It will happen, but at some point you'll get lucky and those anxiety-ridden thoughts will disappear for good.