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My gay date

Alex Gabriel is deploring the use of euphemisms to mask our desires, and reading it reminded me of my one gay date.

This was ages ago, in 1979, in Eugene, Oregon. I was a fresh new graduate student, living all by myself (I wasn’t married yet) in a strange new town. For socializing, I fell in with a bad crowd: grognards. There was a group of people that met once a week to play wargames.

This was in the days before everyone had computers. I’m talking paper maps, cardboard chits, dice and tables of numbers. That’s how old I am.

Anyway, one evening I was teamed up with a new guy. We were the Russians, trying to hold the line near Smolensk, against the invading Nazis. Our opponents were a pair of grim veterans of the gaming community who were nearly perfectly silent the entire time, carefully and precisely setting up their panzers, while we were just having a good time, chatting and laughing while we were shuttling masses of ill-trained farm boys in box cars to hold the line in unruly ranked masses. We were slaughtered. Sorry, Russia!

But it was just a game, we had fun, I was mainly there to get to know people and have someone to talk to, and my partner was about my age, another student, and we had a lot in common.

Afterwards, he invited me to the cafe downstairs. For coffee.

I know. I was naive. I said sure — I was enjoying our conversation.

We talked for an hour or two, it was getting late, but we were getting along grandly. And then when the bill came, he swept it up and paid for both of us. That was odd, I thought, as my brain slowly began to make associations and recognize that this situation seemed strangely familiar.

And then he said, “My apartment is just around the corner, would you like to come up for a bit?” and it all suddenly sank in. There were alarm bells going off in my head, my ponderous brain was slowly waking up and thinking, “oh, yes, that’s why this is so familiar, only last time I was sitting in his chair, and the person in my chair was a young lady.” I was in a panic.

Not because my friend had done anything wrong. He was a nice fellow and he’d been sending me signals all night long, and I was the stupid one who failed to recognize them, and here I’d gone and led this pleasant young man along. I felt awful because I had missed all the cues.

I stammered out something about having to go home and get a good night’s sleep, my girlfriend from Seattle was coming down to visit (I really did have a girlfriend in Seattle! But she wasn’t actually going to visit any time soon.) It was awkward for both of us.

You know what was worst about this, though? He was polite, he showed no disappointment, but when I bumped into him a few times afterwards, he was civil but we never got into a good conversation again — I think he felt a little embarrassed, too, and he might easily have misread my clumsiness as distaste. And he was a good guy, I liked him and enjoyed our one gay date, and we could have been good friends.

It was an opportunity lost because signals were misunderstood. And you know, it also struck me that many women who have the potential to be my good friends could be feeling exactly what I felt that night — that good company can be made awkward by unreturned desire, and that while there’s nothing wrong with desire, there’s also nothing wrong with lacking it, while sharing other interests.

Comments

  1. says

    My war game playing circle of friends and I never called ourselves grognards. That’s actually a bit disappointing as it would have been fun from a teenagers perspective to have a cool sounding name for ourselves that only we would understand.

    Also, these events are part of life. A very awkward part of life. Learn and move on (as you did). I did not have the experience of “sitting in the seat usually occupied by the woman” until much later in life. It’s a big eye-opener.

  2. Randomfactor says

    I actually had something similar happen, except that it started at a clothing-optional beach and we wound up going dutch. It was hours later before I realized I’d been on a date.

  3. CaitieCat says

    I wish I knew some local people who like playing paper wargames. I’ve got some doozies – The Next War, and Pacific War, and almost-complete ASL, and a whole pile of others.

    Sigh.

  4. says

    My best friend, when I was in college, turned out to be interested in me in ways that I did not understand at the time. We’d been hanging out a great deal for about 3 years and out of the blue, one day, he told me that he was in love with me. It seemed out of the blue to me, anyway – I was completely floored, and I reacted poorly (I ran away) then later went back and apologized and a couple months later he moved out west and I didn’t see him again for a decade. I felt terrible. I assume he felt terrible. I also felt like a complete dipshit for not figuring out what was going on, and I was really pissed off about the cultural barriers that made it impossible for him to have just told me, up front. That experience gave me a whole new perspective on the side effects of keeping things about ourselves secret – or being forced to keep them secret. When I was 18 my head was pretty far up my ass, I guess. I suppose in his mind we’d been dating a couple years. Thinking back on it, I still feel confused and stupid and wish I had somehow handled it better.

  5. redwood says

    When I was a grad student in San Francisco, having moved there from the boonies of Missouri, I was invited by a fellow student to go to his house to discuss a novel we were studying. There were a couple of other students from our class there as well and when they got up to go, so did I. My fellow student and his wife insisted I stay, but I didn’t want to put them out and I was pretty hick/shy/young back then. I left and later found out from other friends that I had been expected to join them in a threesome, though I hadn’t caught the signals at all.

  6. Jacob Schmidt says

    Had a similar situation. I worked in a grocery store that had booths for venders of different services. On of them was a nail salon. One of the employees there often came over to chat with me when he had a spare couple of minutes. I enjoyed the idle chatter; I found it odd that he’d touch me (usually on the arm or shoulder), but he said he was an immigrant so I put it down to cultural differences. Finally, he asked me out to the beach for a picnic. Then, it clicked that a lot of his previous behaviour looked an awful lot like flirting.

    I turned him down. I wasn’t totally sure it was a date, but I didn’t want to validate expectations that wouldn’t be met. It got a little awkward after that.

  7. says

    I wish I knew some local people who like playing paper wargames. I’ve got some doozies – The Next War, and Pacific War, and almost-complete ASL, and a whole pile of others.

    I live in bumfuck, Pa, but about every 5 years some of the old gaming crew from my high school get together and we play Squad Leader. Not the newfangled ASL, but the original (+Cross of Iron, for the more realistic tank rules)

    The best thing was a couple years ago my parents were cleaning up some of the stuff in the attic and when I was down for thanksgiving they gave me a box of old stuff I had stored and forgotten. It included my 1st edition copy of The Anarchists’ Cookbook, and my 2nd printing 3-book boxed set of D&D rules (+Greyhawk, of course) and a shoebox of my early coding – all on paper tape. It felt like a time capsule. Hell, it was a time capsule.

  8. says

    sadunlap
    The term is borrowed from the Imperial Grenadiers of the Grande Armée; it literally means “Groaner” or ‘complainer.’ These days the gaming meaning has shifted somewhat as well, usually referring to someone who insists on using older editions of RPGs, or at least has been playing long enough to be able to reminisce about the good old days when they did use the older versions.

  9. Randomfactor says

    Amazing how it completely warped and ruined each of us* to be considered attractive enough to be asked out by homosexuals. Except for the part where it didn’t.

    (*I was warped and ruined, to be sure, but not by THAT.)

  10. RFW says

    Diktat from the etiquette office:

    If you are straight and receive a proposal from a gay person which translates into “let’s fuck”, the correct and proper response is to day “Thank you for asking, but I bat for the other team.”

    This is also the correct and proper response for gay people to make to advances from the opposite sex.

  11. says

    Is there a polite way to say “I’m a little bi-curious, but you’re not attractive enough to push me over the edge,” or should you just pretend to be straight?

  12. robnyny says

    It’s happened twice to me, but in the opposite direction; Straight married men coming on to me. They both finally blurted it out, one after months, the other after 15 years.

  13. No One says

    There was a key moment in my life when at 17 I tried to get into college. I had no HS diploma and could not get a GED due to my age. I met with a college admissions councilor who had me take the entrance exam, which I passed with flying colors. This man saw potential and admitted me with the promise that I would take the GED when I turned 18 and submit it him for “inclusion” to my records. I am convinced that his compassion for me was the result, in part, of his being gay. He never made an advance or proposition, but I suspect that his view of me as a handsome, intelligent young man kept me off the streets of Detroit.

  14. says

    Heh. As an asexual, I’ve had some exciting fails to recognize attraction in the past.

    There was one girl in high school who was hitting on me and having to be really really obvious because I didn’t really notice that sort of thing. And when I finally did notice, I actually said out loud “Oh, you’re flirting with me, aren’t you?” because I had finally caught it and wanted to confirm. But of course that just ended up sounding to her like I was mocking her and being sarcastic about her affections. I apologized later and we ended up going on two very tame, very platonic dates, but I still feel a little bad for how she must have felt at the time.

    Another incident happened at a gay bar. Me and my partner had just recently moved into the gay neighborhood and we were starting to actually live some of the poly elements that we had set into the relationship a year or two before. My partner was exploring her attraction to women (yeah, this was back when I assumed I was male) and I was supporting her. This club which was usually gay male dominated, but this night was a “ladies night” for lesbians as well (it ended up being a half and half crowd). And while my partner was dancing with a girl she said hi to at the bar, a nice gentleman at a table with a bunch of other gentlemen probably all in their very early 30s struck up a conversation about what the kids are into these days. Which was of course him trying to begin a flirt with what he assumed was a shy young twink. Unfortunately, I did not at all get it and so just answered his questions honestly to the best of my abilities before going home with my partner leaving the poor guy to assume he had mistakenly hit on a straight dude. I also feel a little bad about that because at the time I probably would have at least followed up at a coffee shop if I had realized what was going on and gotten his number (my partner really wanted me to try and date too because she was feeling awkward being the only actively poly person in the relationship).

    Ah well. Both incidents I remember fondly though of course embarassedly for how thoroughly I was oblivious to all signs of interest and all traditional forms of dating and flirting.

    And that’s important to contrast to another incident where I was oblivious to signs and “standard” warning mechanisms surrounding dating and flirting culture and thus misinterpreted my partner and mom’s signs to get away as a command to stay put and endure a panel-long rape.

    The main difference between that event and those other pleasant events? The people flirting with me there were not rapists and were respectful of my boundaries as they tried to make their sexual interest in me known. And I remember them fondly for that.

  15. leftwingfox says

    Is there a polite way to say “I’m a little bi-curious, but you’re not attractive enough to push me over the edge,” or should you just pretend to be straight?

    The polite answer is “No, thank you”, and no details.

    Sorry, but this idea is creepily close to the idea of a flirty woman in a sexy dress “asking for it”. Just because a person is open to the possibility of sex with someone doesn’t translate to a willingness to have sex with anyone.

  16. CaitieCat says

    Marcus Ranum @8: Yeah, i’ve got Squad Leader and its expansions as well. I even have the complete (at the time) Star Fleet Battles, in a huge binder. :)

  17. Randomfactor says

    The polite answer is “No, thank you”, and no details.

    A very useful phrase in many situations. I usually try to put the emphasis on the “thank you” part.

  18. pacal says

    You didn’t handle it perfectly, but you handled it a lot better than some people.

    Some people have fits of hysteria, and others go all “Gay Panic” on you and beat you up. Fortunately neither has happened to me but just to make sure I used to only ask out guys I was absolutely sure were interested.

    In fact it is because of the issue of guarding personal safety and avoiding scenes that Gay people generally have to be careful and guarded about who they ask out. This changes if your in a largely Gay milieu like a Gay Bar. This is especially true for older Gay men who grew up and matured in a heavily closeted situation.

  19. says

    I wish I knew some local people who like playing paper wargames. I’ve got some doozies – The Next War, and Pacific War, and almost-complete ASL, and a whole pile of others.

    The modern equivalent would be something like Battletech. You even get to rig your own designs, with various bits of tech. Worst case I ever had was three people (my side) against two, where we went heavy armorment, and quick kills, with 5 mechs each, and got our asses totally kicked by the other guys, who had like 35 smaller ones. The rigging was based on tonnage. Each team got X tons to work with, and that meant either 5 heavies, which could, in theory, toast the light class with one shot, or close to it, or a lot of smaller, faster, ones. Needless to say, we didn’t consider how damn hard it was to “hit” the smaller, faster ones, when we couldn’t pin them in place, and they kept moving around on us (which, as per the rules, changed the modifier for the dice by a hair too much..) lol I think we killed like 10, and the rest ripped us to shreds.

  20. Holms says

    This was in the days before everyone had computers. I’m talking paper maps, cardboard chits, dice and tables of numbers. That’s how old I am.

    Those games still exist though and I’ve met kids as young as eight or so in hobby stores playing them… so… you’re at least eight?

    More on topic, the one time I went out with a gay dude I was a classless moron. “Hey I have no problems with gay people, except when they hit on me OH LOL!”

    Ugh.

    He was a nice guy, but I sure as hell never got invited out for drinks with him again.

  21. Holms says

    Fresh on the heels of my clueless narcissism we have:

    I am convinced that his compassion for me was the result, in part, of his being gay. He never made an advance or proposition, but I suspect that his view of me as a handsome, intelligent young man kept me off the streets of Detroit.

    Could it be that he was just taking a professional interest in a promising potential student? Nah you’re right, it must be your handsomeness.

  22. says

    (TW: Violence and bullying, sexual assault)

    How many times could I tell this story?

    I had this happen to me consistently for over 20 years – I’d meet someone new and he’d be interesting and fun and good to hang around with – right until he dropped the “So we should have sex now” bomb (though it was actually phrased more like “so this is cool, I’ve never made it with a black girl before”)

    And every time, I’d just be aghast. What? But we’re just hanging around, having a good time, doing hobbies and stuff! What do you mean, sex? I’m not even sure why I’d get caught-flat footed by this, let alone have it happen hundreds of times. But I would always be thinking “cool! new friend!” and not seeing the dating things. Women friends have laughed and told me that I was absolutely hopeless, because somebody or other would start talking to me and I’d just start talking back, and my friends would say “he was totally hitting on you!” and I’d say no, we were just talking, he’s not interested in me.

    I think it was because I never thought of myself as pretty, because while I was tall (but not too tall) and slender I’d been called an ugly ape-girl and had ook ook ook hollered at me in the hallways for years, because I was one of maybe four black kids in the entire school. So I just went with okay, I’m not good looking, no one will ever be interested in me for that, nobody ever falls in love with the black girl. And believed it. For decades. For dude after dude asking me to go for coffee, or to the movies, or even dinner and a movie, asking for my phone number, to concerts. They weren’t asking me out. It never even registered enough for me to consciously think “He’s not asking me out.” There was simply no question in my mind.

    It felt bad. I felt bad. and after a while, I just started feeling scared and angry, because it *kept happening.* And a lot of times, while i was trying to figure out what the hell just happened, the reactions I got were pretty frightening, because (to my mind) we’d been friends for a while/we’d been dating for a month (to his mind.) I’ve been yelled at. I’ve had things near me punched, kicked, and broken. I’ve been ordered out of a car miles from home, after the buses had stopped running, with not enough money for a taxi.

    I’ve been shoved against walls, pushed down to the ground, pinned down. I’ve turned my face away and had it forced back. I’ve had clothes torn, buttons popped. i’ve been hit. i’ve been bruised.

    It’s gone farther than that.

    Now I don’t trust any strange man I meet. I don’t accept invitations to socialize. I shut down conversations by not hitting the ball back – i answer a question as tersely as possible and don’t ask anything in return. when asked for my name, i say, “It doesn’t matter.” when it starts with “my name is (name),” I say, “Nice to meet you,” and don’t offer my name in return.

    No new friends. I don’t know how to recognize them.

  23. scimaths says

    Is there a polite way to say “I’m a little bi-curious, but you’re not attractive enough to push me over the edge,” or should you just pretend to be straight?

    There isn’t a polite way to communicate those details above, consider a response to a heterosexual propostion along the same lines: “well I am mostly het, but I can only get it up with people who match my fantasy straight person, and you’re not it, so no”.

    Also seconding, as a more general rule, that “No thank you” is all that is necessary in a refusal.

  24. says

    I’ve always done “No thank you” if I wanted to turn someone down, myself.

    I’m also a little clueless myself, though gender has never been a strong determiner of attraction for me. I practically have to be handed a notarized form to figure out that someone thinks I’m cute. And then I keep thinking that they’re joking.

  25. says

    I never had this kind of experience with a peer (in looking back at my youth, I can think of a couple older men who paid more attention to me than was strictly necessary, but none of them ever pushed the matter), but I did have a tangentially related encounter:

    I was out at a nightclub with a woman I was casually dating and a female friend of hers. In those days, I was slender and had shoulder-length blond hair (the only thing about me, AFAICT, that was ever pretty), and we were sitting at a round table such that anyone approaching from the dance floor would see the two women’s faces and my back.

    So I feel a tap on my shoulder and turn around to see a pleasant, expectant-looking male face… from which the smile (and all the blood) instantly drained when he saw that I had a reddish-blond beard and mustache to go with my pretty hair! I didn’t really get a chance to find out how I would react, because he stammered out an apology and disappeared in record time.

    I was actually flattered to have been picked out of the crowd as attractive, even if it was based on a mistaken premise. But then again, I was pretty desperate in those days….

  26. Pen says

    I have a lot of interests that are more popular with men than women and it’s incredibly awkward for me to ask men along on activities I’m interested in or interpret their invitations. It’s complicated by the fact that I’m in a monogamous marriage situation, that I might find other men attractive while not wanting to sleep with them and that for reasons of parenting and taste in activities my own husband can’t be my companion all the time (+ you know, everyone can use to see someone else). Basically, every straight male I have had much in common with since I married, we’ve treated each other with distant caution, or he made a pass. I can see that the whole mutual attraction thing is dangerous for people who don’t want to get involved that way, for whatever reason. Plus, I suspect socialising with women for the sake of an activity other than sex isn’t something that occurs to men very often. At last, I have a new neighbour who I think is a gay man (or otherwise disinterested in women sexually) with whom I have many things in common and who seems interested in socialising. Wow… A social life? I’m not sure if I remember what to do!

  27. ledasmom says

    It wasn’t until much later that I realized that the woman I sometimes studied French with in college might have been interested in me, but then I was fairly socially clueless in those days – still am.

  28. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    he’d been sending me signals all night long, and I was the stupid one who failed to recognize them

    >.>

  29. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    …I dunno, actually. Watching allistics get tripped up by the stupid little secret-handshake code rituals they invented to keep people like me from being able to relax while participating in society is kind of exciting for me. ;/

  30. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Azkyroth,

    I somehow doubt these “stupid little secret-handshake rituals” were made just to trouble non-neurotipical people. I’d go with
    1. shaming sexuality
    2. especially sexuality that isn’t hetero
    3. fear of rejection
    4. Gabriel’s post gives some other explanations too

  31. says

    Not only did I miss miss all the signals the other guy was sending me on my gay date, it was actually an arranged date, by a mutual friend who was really into “testing” people. Apparently, she wanted to see if I was actually gay, rather than just bad at meeting people.
     
    Luckily, my failure to freak out when he came back from the bathroom bottomless meant that the awkwardness was pretty short-lived, and we had a pleasant evening going through his record collection and taking in a movie and talking about other times our friend had done weird things to people to see how they’d react.

  32. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Plus, I suspect socialising with women for the sake of an activity other than sex isn’t something that occurs to men very often.

    Narrower brush plz. :/

  33. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    I somehow doubt these “stupid little secret-handshake rituals” were made just to trouble non-neurotipical people.
    I’d go with
    1. shaming sexuality
    2. especially sexuality that isn’t hetero
    3. fear of rejection
    4. Gabriel’s post gives some other explanations too

    Maybe so. It doesn’t change the experience of it, though.

    Also, I think “neurotypical” has been successfully appropriated as the opposite of conditions like depression and such, hence my specific use of “allistic.” :/

  34. says

    I posted my “gay date” experience in a thread around here a few weeks ago, I forget where. I’ve also had the unwelcome threesome experience, although I’m pretty sure that I was kept deliberately in the dark until the boyfriend turned up. In fact, I didn’t work out that it was meant to be a threesome until about twenty years after the fact; I thought it was an angry-boyfriend-finds-girlfriend-in-bed-with-friend scenario at the time and I scarpered before it could turn ugly.

    But there were things that didn’t quite add up at the time or on subsequent meetings, which were disturbingly amicable, and it boiled away in the back of my mind for all that time, until I had the blinding revelation one morning as I was waking up. Why they couldn’t have just come out and said something at the time (or preferably before) I don’t know. On the other hand, I wish I’d known how to turn her down when it started getting heavy, as I wasn’t that interested, really. But I was young and stupid then; I’m older now.

    Bah! I think I’d rather talk about wargames. I was a big fan of SPI’s games, I never got into Squad Leader or many from Avalon Hill. Except for the Starship Troopers game, that was tactically fun. I don’t think I could handle the heavy rules sets these days, though. RPGs aren’t quite the same, especially as I can get away with making up rules when I can’t remember the actual rules, as long as I can keep the game fun.

  35. says

    In 1989 I was a single gay father with two almost-teen sons. I had been out of work for two years and then greatly underemployed for the next year. A former co-worker offered me a much better job that was closer to my home. I never mentioned anything about my sexuality during the hiring process but on the day I started I had eight (!) people come up to me one at a time and tell me they were glad I took the job because the man before me was a “fag”. After that I never talked about my private life.
    A few years later we hired another man. He was younger than me, divorced with a two-year-old son. I never had any sexual attraction to him. We went out to lunch together once. Since he was making less than I was and the job was his only income–I had other sources–I offered to pay for lunch. He caused a huge scene, screaming that he didn’t need my money, he wasn’t attracted to me, he was straight, and he would never have sex with me. I must have triggered something deep within me. Then he went back to work and told everyone I tried to seduce him. People became outright hostile to me. Management did nothing to help. I was stuck there for another three years. It was horrible.

  36. says

    I’m absolutely terrible recognizing attraction. Part of this, I’m sure, is that I was very overweight throughout my teenage years. I went into adulthood with no experience getting asked out (or asking someone out), dating, kissing, etc., all those normal things you’re supposed to learn when you’re a teenager. (There were other things in the way, too, like a very conservative upbringing.)

    So when I was in my early 20s, I had a gastric bypass, and suddenly found myself much more conventionally attractive. The first time a guy asked me out, I was 24 years old, getting some ice cream. A guy sat across the table from me and started talking, and when I finally realized he was flirting with me, I got so freaked out that I literally jumped up and ran away. Afterwards, I felt really bad, because I know I was probably accidentally leading the poor guy on, and running away without a word was not the nicest thing to do. (I hope I didn’t give him a complex or something.) But I had no clue what to do! In my defense, when a girl asked my brother out for the first time, he ran away, too. Granted, he was eleven, but hey. It was a new experience for me, too.

    And it still catches me by surprise almost every time. A couple weeks ago, I started talking to the bus driver because my schedule was out of date and he was helping me figure out how to make my connection and get where I needed to go. Whatever, we chatted, and I ended up staying on the bus till the end of his route; it was the easiest way to get where I needed to go. So by the end, I was one of the only people left on the bus. He was super friendly, funny, the type of person I’d love to see again in a non-dating way, and I didn’t catch that he was flirting until we got to the stop and he asked for my phone number. I mumbled something about not dating guys, sorry, but thanks again for your help.

    I wish this stuff didn’t take me by surprise; I hate thinking I’m hurting someone’s feelings or leading them on. But then, I also wish that people could tell that I’m just not interested, at all, ever, and it has nothing to do with them personally. Because I really enjoy the conversation and meeting new people, until I realize what’s actually going on! Then something that was fun becomes uncomfortable, sometimes scary, and always a little disappointing (for me and for the other person).

  37. Pen says

    @34 Sorry Azkyroth, I should have said I haven’t been fortunate enough to find any – despite living 16 years in an area where a majority of men my age are into the things I’m into. Actually, it’s yet another field that has real problems with sexism – mountaineering and similar outdoor pursuits where machismo is a real issue, outings with women are portrayed as soft – even when said women are more competent than the men who get invited on the ‘macho’ outings – and the laddish culture in the bar afterwards is pretty unbearable. All with the added joy of being automatically assigned to crèche duties, if female. There now, that is an accurate brush.

  38. blf says

    Plus, I suspect socialising with women for the sake of an activity other than sex isn’t something that occurs to men very often.

    Pen, I realise you have replied to previous criticism of this point (in @39, at least). I would just like to add that the above quote, whilst not directly opposite to my own experiences and perceptions, is at a severe angle. I do understand your later-elaborated point / clarification that it does depend, in part, on the “community” (social group) involved, and — again, based on my own experiences and observations — tend to concur with that clarification, albeit with the caveat such things are not fixed in stone and can change.

  39. Rich Woods says

    @ Lee #27:

    http://www.airbattle.co.uk/

    You wrote Nightfighter? Brilliant! I thoroughly enjoy that horribly difficult game. Congratulations, and thank you.

    I’ve just this week been reading R V Jones’ ‘Most Secret War’, which has filled in so much of the background regarding the radar/anti-radar battle. Every time I read the words Lichtenstein or Freya your game came to mind!

  40. carlie says

    The last time I was ever hit on was a straight encounter, but I was 5 months pregnant (unbeknownst to the lovely man who was asking me out). I felt awful letting him down, but I have to admit, it really cheered me up for awhile. (I had not been approached by anyone for at least 5 years prior to that).

  41. carlie says

    (that sounded terrible? I just meant it was nice to be noticed, and asked in such a kind and unassuming way)

  42. Harry Tuttle says

    Ah, it’s been ages since I sat down for a quick game of Squad Leader. Seems like it always ended up half finished at four in the AM after someone drunk and on stilts, proclaiming themselves to be a “Nazi spy satellite”, fell onto the table and wrecked it all (or something similar). In fact, I’m not sure if I’ve ever actually finished a game of SL. We were amateur grognards at best. But professional fuck-ups.

    The only gaming experience directly relating to sex I ever had was a game of Call of Cthulhu where I had to shoot my girlfriend’s character because she had gone insane… twice (we always rolled up a stack of characters for a session of CoC). A bit disturbingly, she found it hot. I think she thumbed through that human flesh-bound folio of forbidden lore on purpose the second time.

  43. Rich Woods says

    @myself #41:

    Given the subject matter of the thread, I’d just like to make it clear that I’m not hitting on Lee at all!

  44. Rich Woods says

    @Harry #44:

    The only gaming experience directly relating to sex I ever had was a game of Call of Cthulhu where I had to shoot my girlfriend’s character because she had gone insane… twice

    I’m reminded of a bloke I worked with a dozen years ago, who first met his wife when they were both AD&D clerics trying to destroy the temple of an evil god. It was a powerful bonding experience, apparently.

  45. thecalmone says

    Well I’m straight (male) and 53 and over the last two years have been propositioned by three different men, none of whom I found attractive. It’s never happened before. Something’s going on, and I don’t know what it is…

  46. DonDueed says

    Wow, it seems like a lot of people have had this sort of experience.

    Mine happened in my early 20s. A colleague at work suggested going out for a few beers after work. I didn’t catch on until he started talking about his time living in California, where people were all laid back and just got it on with whoever they found attractive.

    I beat a hasty retreat, only to discover that the guy had put something in my drink. Fortunately I only had to drive a mile or so to get home, but it was a scary mile.

    I didn’t have much to say to that fellow after that.

  47. tim rowledge, Ersatz Haderach says

    If only we had some mechanism for clearly letting people know whether we are interested in pursuing various forms of friendship and/or intimacy. I’m thinking perhaps making noises with our breathing organs, something with a clear grammatical structure so it can be understood. I’d call it, oh I don’t know, “speeching”. I suppose we’d have to develop some sort of cultural understanding that people would clearly and honestly and politely “say” what they mean and abide by the other persons responses without rancour or whining.

    Nah, it could never happen. People are just too dumb to appreciate a clear, honest, empathic and direct form of communication. And some would still insist that “no, thank you” means “yes, please abuse me against my will”

  48. Yuriel says

    good company can be made awkward by unreturned desire, and that while there’s nothing wrong with desire, there’s also nothing wrong with lacking it, while sharing other interests.

    Let’s also remember that they may *not* be interested in anything “less” than dating. It’s rather arrogant when people basically tell you “oh sorry, I’m not interested… but we can totally be friends!!!”

    Translation: “I don’t share your attraction, but keep hanging around me. Then I can ask you to do all sorts of stuff for me now that I know you’re into me, and I’ll still enjoy everything else we share in common(and even get a little self-esteem bump). I’ll get all the benefits of dating you… *without* having to date you ever. What a deal for me!”

  49. Portia, Slayer of Nefarious Untruths Regarding Heretofore Unvindicated Claims of Pictionary Victory says

    Um…do I sense some Nice Guy Syndrome @50?

  50. Yuriel says

    @51: I dunno what’s going on your head and I don’t care.

    My point was simply adding to what Prof. Myers said:

    1.- There’s nothing wrong with desire.
    2.- There’s nothing wrong with *lacking* desire
    3.- (Me) There’s also nothing wrong with saying “oh ok, take care then, bye” if they’re not interested

    There’s a lot of hate thrown at people in cases #1 and #2, quite wrongly, immediately labelling them a creep for showing interest and immediately labelling them a “bitch,” “stuck-up,” “angry dyke”, etc. for not being interested. But we(at least here) know already why that’s wrong and has to end.

    I was pointing out a case that *doesn’t* usually get defended. People in #3 tend to get attacked as a “typical guy who’s only interested in one thing” “just another perv, ‘gosh, why can’t they just be a friend?, why always sex’”

  51. Yuriel says

    But hey, thanks 50 and 51 for smugly claiming to read my mind. I guess it’s just much more fun to bring out the automatic snark instead of actually giving a toss for what I said.

  52. Portia, Slayer of Nefarious Untruths Regarding Heretofore Unvindicated Claims of Pictionary Victory says

    Yuriel:

    In your scenario in 50, though, the person who is interested in romance is participating in a platonic friendship under false pretenses and then being resentful that it doesn’t become anything besides platonic friendship. That’s an asshole move, not turning down platonic friendship because you want romantic/sexual relationship. (Let’s not forget, plenty of people have romantic relationships without sex)..

  53. Portia, Slayer of Nefarious Untruths Regarding Heretofore Unvindicated Claims of Pictionary Victory says

    smugly claiming to read my mind.

    Drawing inferences from what you wrote≠claiming to read your mind.

  54. says

    Yeah, when I turn down a romantic relationship but still desire a friendship, it has absolutely nothing to do with the

    Then I can ask you to do all sorts of stuff for me now that I know you’re into me, and I’ll still enjoy everything else we share in common(and even get a little self-esteem bump). I’ll get all the benefits of dating you… *without* having to date you ever. What a deal for me!”

    rubbish. It’s pretty much: “Hey, we have mutual interests. We have good conversation. I would enjoy hanging out with you and sharing more conversation. But I’m not interested in rubbing genitals at any point, ok?”

    Why do you assume that a relationship is meaningless or all one-sided if it doesn’t involve sex? Are people incapable of enjoying activities/conversation if it doesn’t lead to sexytimes? Especially if it’s made perfectly clear ahead of time that the possibility of sex is not on the table, why would anyone feel taken advantage of or lead on? The whole scenario makes no sense to me.

  55. Portia, Slayer of Nefarious Untruths Regarding Heretofore Unvindicated Claims of Pictionary Victory says

    The whole scenario makes no sense to me.

    It makes sense if you also believe that you must reject and squash and developing platonic relationships in pursuit of sexy times. “NO! We cannot be friends! I need orgasms and more friends impedes that…somehow.”

  56. Yuriel says

    @55: No, that’s the actual “Nice Guy” of Nice Guy Syndrome fame.

    I was talking about the people on the other side, who can even get offended when you don’t want to “be friends.” I’ve been called nasty things and insulted when, after politely showing interest and they politely decline(so far, no problem), I start saying good-bye. Suddenly it’s not so polite, “Oh so I’m good enough to date but not good enough to be a friend, isn’t friendship worth something too?!”

    In fact(seeing a couple of new comments), you’re exactly doing that, it’s pretty ridiculous:

    57: “Why do you assume that a relationship is meaningless or all one-sided if it doesn’t involve sex? Are people incapable of enjoying activities/conversation if it doesn’t lead to sexytimes? Especially if it’s made perfectly clear ahead of time that the possibility of sex is not on the table, why would anyone feel taken advantage of or lead on? The whole scenario makes no sense to me.”

    58: “It makes sense if you also believe that you must reject and squash and developing platonic relationships in pursuit of sexy times. “NO! We cannot be friends! I need orgasms and more friends impedes that…somehow.””

    Who the crap was talking about forever rejecting platonic relationships?! that things are meaningless and one-sided if there’s no sex? or that anyone who doesn’t accept a romantic relationship but wants a friendship is doing something wrong? I NEVER said any of that, but you seem to have your own little outrage script you like to go through without actually considering what I said.

    This is PRECISELY, why I wanted to point out #3. Because of those shrieks of “CAN’T TWO PEOPLE HAVE A NICE CHASTE RELATIONSHIP TOO, WHY ARE YOU CLOSED TO THAT WONDERFUL POSSIBILITY!!!”

    It’s infuriating how commonly people make their precious little narratives in their heads, so I’ll just repeat myself, in nice, bold letters:

    There’s nothing wrong with desire
    There’s nothing wrong with not sharing that desire
    There’s nothing wrong with not sharing that desire but still wanting a close relationship with them
    AND (my original point) There’s also nothing wrong with not being interested in friendship sometimes.

    I’m not closed to those sort of relationships, but I *have* friends, I *have* wonderful platonic relationships and I don’t need 47 of them, so sometimes I’m just going to say “ok, take care, bye”… and that’s fine too.

    And since you seem to be prone to invent motives and make up supposed “inferences,” no, I’ve never been rejected by girls, ’cause I’ve never been interested in one romantically. I’ve been in love for four years now and foolishly, I thought I’d add something to the subject from my own experience dating that can get overlooked.

  57. neuralobserver says

    Something I rarely do–giving kudos to you Myers for relating a warm, kind and human episode from your past. An actual flower among your your usual bed of weeds.

  58. nightshadequeen says

    An actual flower among your your usual bed of weeds.

    Oh look, a passive-aggressive backwards compliment!

  59. Portia, Slayer of Nefarious Untruths Regarding Heretofore Unvindicated Claims of Pictionary Victory says

    An actual flower among your your usual bed of weeds.

    Oh look, a passive-aggressive backwards compliment!

    Known in the biz as a “complisult.”

    My favorite I ever received was “Wow, you look like you got dressed in the dark today, but you’re the only one who could pull that off!”

    Yuriel:

    Do you not see how ending an interaction at the first indication that it won’t result in sex is the least bit insulting? I don’t think I’m even using hyperbole here, that’s what you’re actually talking about, right?

  60. David Marjanović says

    If you are straight and receive a proposal from a gay person which translates into “let’s fuck”, the correct and proper response is to day “Thank you for asking, but I bat for the other team.”

    Why “thank you”? ~:-| What’d be wrong with “sorry, I bat for the other team” or “sorry, I’m not into [your sex/gender]“?

    Disclaimer: this is all purely hypothetical to me, I haven’t been in the situation.

    Let’s also remember that they may *not* be interested in anything “less” than dating. It’s rather arrogant when people basically tell you “oh sorry, I’m not interested… but we can totally be friends!!!”

    What’s arrogant about that?

    Does it somehow prevent you from saying “nah, not what I want” and leaving?

  61. Portia, Slayer of Nefarious Untruths Regarding Heretofore Unvindicated Claims of Pictionary Victory says

    What’s arrogant about that?

    It’s arrogant because it assumes the Uninterested One has a good enough personality to warrant further socialization without any possibility of sexual intercourse. Narcissistic is what it is.

    (Ok, now I’m getting snarky.)

  62. naturalcynic says

    So, my gay date was with a Catholic Priest.
    About 40 years ago I was bicycling around Europe, camping some and staying in youth hostels in the cities. I was in Flprence and I decided to see Siena[about 60km away], thinking that I would make a quick tour and be back in Florence before nightfall. Just as I was about to start back from Siena, an older [about 50] American Priest approached me, was friendly and showed me some of the more interesting art in several small churches and he offered me dinner and a place to stay the night. By this time it ws late to ride back to Florence, so I took him up on hiis offer when he mentioned that he had a Lazy-boy that he could use for the night. After a nice dinner and interesting conversation, we went back to his studio. He again offered me the bed and he settled in the lounger. Some time later I awoke with him fondling my fanny with his penis just touching between my asscheeks. He got a hip check and landed on the floor. I slept lightly the rest of the night and left my still sleeping host without a good morning.

  63. says

    I haven’t ever had a unintentional gay date*. Unintentional straight dates, yes (dudes, women can have male friends, you know. Sheesh), but those became really obvious really quickly.

    The last time I was asked out by a woman was really sweet. It happened a few years ago: She was a bit younger that I was, and she came up to me and said “I think you’re cute”, handed me a piece of paper with her number on it, and ran like hell before I could respond. I hate to think of the disappointment when she realized that I wasn’t going to call, but on the other hand, it was probably easier than face-to-face rejection (even from a stranger).

    *Well, I’ve never been on any kind of date with a lady.

  64. DLC says

    The last time I heard “grognard” it was not said in a friendly way at all. As a matter of fact, it was aimed at me, and the person who said it sneered and said :”Fucking grognard” .
    So I tend to reject that label.
    But, yes, I used to play ASL, Tactics II, SFB, Battlewagon and military miniatures games. I enjoyed doing them, and would do them again if time permitted.
    I also play or have played D&D, Shadowrun, Vampire, Exalted, Werewolf, GURPS, Champions, Marvel Superheroes and others. I don’t regret doing any of them . . . mostly. . . except for that system Gygax created after leaving TSR. That, I regret. The horrors. . .
    As for socializing : yes, I’ve missed signals from both men and women, and in the opposite sense I misunderstood signals from another person, misinterpreting friendliness as an invitation to flirt. I was rapidly corrected of my misapprehension and left it alone after that. We stayed friendly, but have drifted apart over the years.

  65. Azuma Hazuki says

    The one I love is when they get all angry when you turn them down, press you for an answer, and when you finally go “I’m sorry, I’m not interested in like that” they start on “Ugly fucking dyke, no one would want you anyway” etc etc.

    Well, YOU sure did until a moment ago, babycakes. Good Lord.

  66. says

    Sili: This happened to Zeno, too, as I recall.

    My obtuseness in all such matters is my most epic and embarrassing anti-achievement.

  67. unclefrogy says

    this brings up for me a related subject or a broadening of the subject.
    Some times a relationship develops in to a sexual one for a time.
    Then for the myriad things that relationships a subject to the sexual interest goes away and often I find that so does what before was a wonderful friendship.
    It seems that what I have been reading here is similar in that when sex becomes involved the friendship, the relationship changes and from my experience often seems to be at least the beginning of the end.
    at least for me . I can not pretend I understand it.
    just one of my thoughts on the subject of sex and friendships brought to mind by this thread.

    uncle frogy

  68. leanmeansurvivalmachine says

    @ wilhelmina selby

    For what it’s worth from a stranger on the internet, I am so, so sorry for what you have gone through, and I hope that you have a safe space and good, known, recognized friends whom you can trust. Thank you for sharing your story.

  69. cartomancer says

    Tch, well this is mortally embarrassing. I’ve never had a gay date. I’ve never even had an accidental gay date. And I am gay. (for the record, I’ve never had any straight dates either. Definitely not interested in those…). I’m also an obsessive tabletop fantasy wargamer.

    So it would appear from this thread’s anecdotal evidence that I am roundly cursed by the green-eyed Lady herself. Figures.

    I have been deeply in love with my best friend for well over a decade though – the one I always used to play games against in my golden teenage years. And what do you know, I found out seven years ago that he’s gay too – so one day we’ll be together, and it will all end happily.

    Maybe someone should start a gay tabletop gaming dating site. It’s clearly the biggest untapped market opportunity in human history!

  70. The Mellow Monkey says

    I’ve found myself in some accidental straight dates before, or as straight as anything can be with me when I don’t fully identify as a woman. It was very strange, because all of a sudden I realized the other person was following this “me man, you woman” script. As soon as I noticed that I was being treated like A Lady and not like A Person, I caught onto what was happening.

    It made me feel bad, because there was no malice on their part, but I definitely felt reduced to a stereotype of what a woman on a date was supposed to be instead of just a person with individual tastes and desires.

  71. carlie says

    Yuriel – but why would you want to initiate a romantic relationship with someone you wouldn’t even want to be friends with? That’s the weird part. One night stands maybe, but then you wouldn’t be talking about “dating”. If your romantic relationships are just people you want to fuck but have nothing else in common with, you’re doing it wrong.

  72. opposablethumbs says

    I think carlie has put a finger on what rubbed me the wrong way about Yuriel’s comment as well. The only two times I had a date with another woman, they were both people I liked and admired – and we were friends before and after too.

  73. opposablethumbs says

    Oh, and I meant to say – I’ve never gone out with a man I wasn’t interested in being friends with (except a couple of times I didn’t realise it was a “date” … which pretty much nipped friendship in the bud)

  74. carlie says

    And, in fact, it’s a decent explanation of how sexism hurts us all – when you think that men and women are “so different”, you attribute the fact that the two of you have nothing in common (in a het couple) to the fact that you’re different genders, not to the fact that you have nothing in common and probably shouldn’t be together. Then everyone gets confused later when the relationship falls apart. At least gay couples don’t have that bit of societal conditioning to mess things up.

  75. The Mellow Monkey says

    And, in fact, it’s a decent explanation of how sexism hurts us all – when you think that men and women are “so different”, you attribute the fact that the two of you have nothing in common (in a het couple) to the fact that you’re different genders, not to the fact that you have nothing in common and probably shouldn’t be together.

    Great observation, carlie. I’ve seen this time and again where people will assign differences to gender (and even invent gendered stereotypes on the spot just to try to explain them) instead of looking at what those differences mean for the relationship.

    Then again, there is the fact that even someone in a same sex couple can still hold xirself up as The Exceptional Woman/Man in contrast to xir partner. “All women are like X. I know because I am a woman who dates women, but I’m obviously the exception to X.” – A paraphrase of actual arguments I’ve heard. :/

    Sexism (and heterosexism) really does hurt everyone.

  76. crylock says

    PZ has hit another one of those common threads that most of us share, and it’s been fascinating reading everyone’s similar experiences. I suspect that it’s a defining trait among nerds that we miss social cues. Some of the most nagging regrets of my life were because of missed cues, which resulted in either ruined friendships or missed opportunity. Which I realize long after the fact, often years after. There should be a manual. Well, there should be a society with less stigma and bigotry, but in the absence of that, a manual would be nice.

  77. girlyboy says

    I have to applaud Mr. Myers for not having an outward reaction of disgust or revulsion. Back in 1979 the world was a very different place, and even educated, a-religious heterosexual-culture had really toxic homophobic overtones, heck, it still has those overtones just to a lesser degree… so he really beat the odds there. Kudos.

  78. Cyranothe2nd, ladyporn afficianado says

    Yuriel – but why would you want to initiate a romantic relationship with someone you wouldn’t even want to be friends with?

    I can’t answer for Yuriel, but I am also sometimes not interested in being friends with someone I’m interested in having a romantic and/or sexual relationship with. Sometimes it’s because I feel like my attraction to them would make it hard to be friends. Sometimes it’s because I’m interesting in banging them and that’s it. Most if the time it’s the latter, and I’m usually pretty open about that (ie, I don’t give ppl the impression I want a romantic relationship, when what I want is NSA sex.)

    My point is that I don’t think Yuriel is wrong is what s/he’s saying, necessarily (although @50′s “translation” was totally wrong). I don’t always want to be friends with people I ask out, and I think it’s legit to say, “Sorry, not interested in being friends. Take care!” and call it a day.

  79. Cyranothe2nd, ladyporn afficianado says

    In fact, I would really prefer it if someone said to me, “Hey, so you said you don’t want to go out with me but that we could be friends, but I’m actually not interested in being friends. Thanks and I hope you find what you’re looking for.” It would save a lot of really awkward “friendships” that oh-so-slowly fade out over weeks/months. I am cool with cutting the bullshit. I don’t really think you have to be friends with everyone.

  80. says

    carlie:

    …but why would you want to initiate a romantic relationship with someone you wouldn’t even want to be friends with?

    I agree that it doesn’t make sense to want a romantic relationship with someone you don’t consider “good enough” to be a friend. That said, I can imagine situations in which…

    [a] Friendship, per se, might not happen to be the hole you’re looking to fill at that moment in your life. You might already have all the friends you could possibly want, for instance, but no romance/sex in your life. Or regardless of how many friends you have, you might feel so starved for romantic and/or carnal contact that it’s all you really want. Either way, saying “I’m not really interested in being friends” might not mean “I’m not interested in being friends with you,” but instead, “I’m not really interested in making a new friend right now.”

    or

    [b] you’re just so thoroughly smitten by (or infatuated with or lust-crazed for) the other person that you aren’t actually emotionally capable of “just” being friends, and you know you’d screw it up if you tried.

    In neither of these cases would your rejection of friendship be any sort of denial of the friendworthiness of the other person.

    But then, WTF do I know? I’ve been off the dating market for more than 30 years now, so this whole conversation is all “long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away” for me. ;^)

  81. carlie says

    Good to see you, Bill! :)

    I guess I have a hard time separating the two because to me, attractiveness is very much tied up with having things in common and admiring the person in a similar way there is with people I want to be friends with. It’s the same checklist, but with “that weird attraction feeling you can’t explain where you’re just drawn to that person in a pantsfeelings* way” added to it. I guess I can comprehend the idea of not wanting to have another person to keep track of as friends at the moment (can you ever have too many friends?), just can’t see it as a person you couldn’t at least envision as a friend. But that’s just me.

    * ™CaptainAwkward

  82. carlie says

    ou’re just so thoroughly smitten by (or infatuated with or lust-crazed for) the other person that you aren’t actually emotionally capable of “just” being friends, and you know you’d screw it up if you tried./blockquote>

    That one, absolutely. It’s not just fair, but necessary to avoid being a Nice Person, to say “I don’t think I can, because I’ll just be pining after you the whole time and that’s not good for either of us”. I just didn’t see that kind of nuance at all in Yuriel’s statement.

  83. MjolnirPants says

    This was in the days before everyone had computers. I’m talking paper maps, cardboard chits, dice and tables of numbers. That’s how old I am.
    Hey, those are what my gaming sessions looked like in the late 90′s! Does that make me… Oh wait… I guess it does. Damnit.

  84. shades says

    I usually lurk, but I have to comment just to thank Carlie @84 for giving me the word “Pantsfeelings.” I have a notion I’ll get a lot of use out of that one. :P

    Never been on an accidental gay date; been on a few accidental straight ones with the ensuing how-do-I-make-this-not-a-date scramble, and one where we both were interested but I was totally clueless. Cluelessness seems to be a recurring theme. :P Oddly I found it simpler when I spent a few weeks in France — got hit on a lot more, but usually in a direct-enough way that it was really easy to say “No thanks.” It was an odd perk of what is otherwise a more machismo steeped society. I wish more interactions had that kind of clarity!