Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Of Shot Boys, Age and Authenticity

"Cover's $4. Unless you're pretty enough. Then you don't have to pay." The doorman extended his hand to take my money - I didn't make the cut. I stepped into the darkened club, the sound of ear-piercing music vibrating through me, and made it to a balcony. Looking down, I saw a square raised podium, crammed with gorgeous, young writhing bodies and surrounded by a crush of pulsating people. And, flitting through the massed crowds, barely-clothed angels with trays of luminous nectar.

Bracing myself against the railing with one hand, the other cupping my ear to save at least half my hearing, I think to myself: "Wow. I'm unpretty, and I'm ten years too old."...

Have you ever been to Mirabar in Providence, RI? It's worth a visit - the image is of me and one of the bar's great institutions, the "shot boy" - gorgeous young guys in their underwear who go around serving shots (including one which, for a fee, they will squirt into your mouth). I had a fantastic time there after Providence's Pride Parade (say that ten times fast), and will certainly return.

But my first visit to the club, just weeks after coming out, was less successful. The guy on the door had some serious attitude, as the vignette which began this piece suggests, which made me uneasy from the start. Then, the shot boys - what could I possibly have to complain about when it comes to near naked young men? Well, as I suggested above, for the first time since coming out, I regretted my age. Of course, I understand that I am really very young, and have so much to look forward to. I also want to affirm that my relationships with women were life-changing and magnificent, and I wouldn't give them back for the world.

Nonetheless, on this single occasion, I felt a pang of loss: I will never know what sort of gay guy I would have been had I come out at 16, and been a shot boy by 21. I will never have the experiences of an out gay teenager, and I think I regret that.

What I do not regret, however, is coming to this stage in my identity development at a time in my life when I have eradicated pretty much all of my self-esteem issues. I do not regret my conviction that, even though for many years I was confused about my sexuality, I was thoroughly happy with who I was as a person, and was confident to project that. And this is why I link this experience with authenticity: I would hate to transition from a life that was not fully authentic, for lack of acceptance of my sexuality, to another inauthentic space in which I am entrapped by others' standards of youth and beauty.

That's why, just the other day, I headed to Providence for Pride, and it was me up on that podium...

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