I don’t fit in well with men. I never have. I’m certain that comes, in no small part, from being a closeted gay kid/teen/young adult who was in complete denial.
I’m certain it comes, in no small part, from being a closeted gay kid/teen/young adult who was in complete denial and carried wounds from a lifetime of torment from my peers making fun of me and calling me names.
I’m certain it comes, in no small part, from being a closeted gay kid/teen/young adult who was in complete denial and carried wounds from a lifetime of torment from my peers making fun of me and calling me names and fearing that I’d incur the rath of more homophobic straight men if I so much as gave a hint of having paid any attention to, or noticing them.
It is my custom, therefore, to keep my head down and try not to be noticed, in general, but especially not while I’m noticing those around me.
I’ll make no qualms against the idea that this experience has contributed to this feeling, but I’ve always found it annoying when I see guys apparently running into an acquaintance, in the gym. There I am, walking on the treadmill, or using some weights or piece of equipment and I see a guy strutting through the gym, in no hurry to get anywhere and suddenly he see’s a guy, frequently of similar complexion and features, sitting on a bench with some dumbbells in his hands and they both stop to chat. If I can hear their conversation it’s usually some random pleasantries that may be legitimate, but could just as easily be BSing each other and those around them.
I usually roll my eyes – because far be it from me to mind my own business and not form an opinion about things I know nothing about – and think to myself, “What bullshit. I bet they don’t even know each other particularly well. They just had to make a display for everybody else about how popular and manly they are. I mean seriously! You’re at the gym! Just do what you came here to do and get out. Other people want to use the equipment too!”
It’s so annoying, to me, to be at the gym when it’s crowded. It seems like there’s always people in the way, from the moment I walk into the locker room to find a locker that’s not in a congested area, to the line to use the treadmills, to the crowded weight room where someone always seems to be using the item I need, to the moment I go back into the locker room where it seems like, no matter how long they had been in the gym before I got there, the men using all the lockers anywhere near the one I selected seem to be in the locker room and in the showers at the same time that I need to be there, affording me absolutely no privacy and in very confined spaces. “Just do what you came here to do, and get out!”
Today as I was leaving the gym, having already had my crowded workout, empty (for a change) shower and crowded locker room experience for the day, I strolled out of the locker room and through the gym toward the exit, surreptitiously examining the view on my way through, something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. A nice looking young-ish African-American man in black track pants and a plain white t-shirt with unimaginably clear, smooth skin and a neatly trimmed goatee was sitting on the seat of some machine or other. “He looks familiar,” I thought as I continued to walk through, “but I don’t think I know him from work.” And then just as he saw me and smiled it dawned on me that he was one of my classmates from my EMT class.
I stopped, shook hands with him, and chatted for a few minutes before heading back to the office. And as I walked away, I thought, “Ha! Now I’m popular and ‘manly’ too.” And then I rolled my eyes at myself and, having done what I came there to do, I got out!