Fall Back

The first of four times that I have ever ventured to a club alone was when I was in high school. My family took a cruise from Los Angeles to Baja California, and, one night, my parents and younger sister wanted to sleep in our cabin early. Still awake, I somehow convinced my parents to let me roam the vessel; what kind of trouble could an underage minor get into anyway when confined by the rails and walls of a boat?

I don’t know what I was looking for when I wandered into the ship’s (straight) dance club. I had never touched alcohol, nor had I ever rocked a dance floor without a chaperone hovering a dozen yards away. I believed, at the time, that listening to music in a dark room might have been entertaining enough for me. I sat at a table and bounced my head to beats for a few hours. Although I worried about being carded, no one approached; I wore my most adult-looking clothes and passed as a young, bored college student. Not drinking, dancing, or socializing, I’m sure I looked the part.

Three years later, I was an intern in Sacramento. At nineteen, I found myself as the youngest summer employee at my company. Although I imagined myself to be mature for my age, I still couldn’t assimilate into the social circles of the other drinking-age workers. The only source of night life for me was the local 18-and-up gay club. Just on the verge of coming out, though, it was an experience I kept putting off.

I don’t know what I was looking for when I finally—and nervously—drove to the gayborhood, parked my car, and meandered my way to the club. As I stood at the entrance, I desperately avoided eye contact with anyone who might have identified me as an inexperienced homosexual virgin (exactly what I was). In line, I pretended to talk to someone on my phone to keep myself busy and deter any scary gay strangers from starting a conversation. Inside, again, I kept to myself. I sat alone at a high round table near the dance floor. As on the cruise ship, I bounced my head more than I shook my body on the dance floor.

Halfway through the evening, another young guy came to me and asked me why I wasn’t dancing. I shrugged, and not knowing what to do with a flirtatious man, I lied that I didn’t really want to dance. He smiled, nodded, and left to talk with his own friends. I continued with my night, still alone.

It’s the only time in my life I’ve ever been approached by another man at a gay club.

The third outing was on an unlikely night to be by myself: my twenty-first birthday. My family allowed me to celebrate in Las Vegas, which I had always thought would be a fabulous idea. Their permission, however, also came with their presence. Furthermore, the date of my birthday also collided with the start of the several college semesters, leaving my friends unavailable to help me escape from my parents.

I don’t know what I was looking for when I decided to stay out after my family returned to the hotel room for the night. I rambled from hotel to hotel, spent about $20 worth of nickels and quarters at various slot machines, and found the only gay club on the Strip, Krave. I found my way to a counter stool, bought a Corona, and then did something that I thought might make a good twenty-first birthday story: I danced on a pole in Las Vegas. Had I friends surrounding me, it might have been funny; because I was alone, however, I think I gave off a pretentious asshole vibe—what kind of chutzpah did I have, after all, to dance on a pole in Vegas? No sooner had I gotten off the pole did a six-pack-bearing stud rise to my perceived challenge, flipping and sliding the hell out of the pole and making my moves look like a Chuck E. Cheese mascot playing on a stage. I was defeated; I bought another Corona, sat down, and bounced my head to the club’s beats.

Two nights ago, after my tired friends fell asleep early at their respective apartments, I went to a club alone: Houston’s hot spot for gay night life, South Beach. Unlike the other clubs to which I’ve made independent field trips, I had visited this one twice before. It wasn’t a new place, I remembered when cover would be free, and I expected to park in my same curbside spot. I was bored, I had energy to spare—so why not?

I knew exactly what would have been ideal: I would start with a drink, bounce my head to the beat while sitting at a counter, but this time, I would get my ass off the stool, hit the dance floor, and move. I would find a young guy who, like me, was dancing alone. I would step closer to him. I would not hesitate to make eye contact as he approached and we started to dance. And it would not matter to me if that was it—if it was a fleeting moment on the floor, if he left with his friends without me or my number, or if he decided to dance with someone else afterward. Because it would’ve been enough to prove to me that I can make it on my own.

That night, I had two drinks. I bounced my head. And for an hour and a half, I grooved on the dance floor. In the fog, in the flashing reds, yellows, and blues sweeping the floor, I inched toward a few cute guys and good dancers. Nothing. I traveled across the floor. No approaches. No eye contact. There might have been a friend who tried nudging his friend into me; aside from that—nothing.

Last night, a friend messaged me, wanting to make the most of the Fall Back time change and head out to a bar. In the mood to procrastinate, I agreed. We went out, had a few drinks, talked about life, and ended up going back to his place for my first anything in six months. And while it wasn’t the best night ever, it was a little more fruitful than my generally-disappointing nights out alone. Despite that, and as shallow as this sounds, I get the feeling that any sort of success I can earn on my own as an object on the dance floor might mean so much more than a pre-established cuddle and make-out buddy. While I’ve always held it ideal to fall in love with personalities and histories, there is a certain sense of pride and glory that comes from being wanted without spilling a single seed of personal information. It means that no matter how much of a success or failure you are in life, you will always have something to hold onto or to fall back on: your looks. Ironically, this is an ugly truth: that the appeal of his physical attraction is something that a person can prove, in which he can take comfort, all by himself; it is something that I, unfortunately, have yet to prove to myself. How many more outings will it take?

Creative Commons License