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Saturday, 7 April 2012

My First Daunting Time to a Gay Sauna Alone

Recounting my first visit to a gay sauna alone and ending up in a bar.

About 3 months ago, I took a train and returned to a capital city I previously lived in. While I was living there, I was still heavily in the closet and in denial. I used to walk past the gay venues from a distance and would curiously turn my head. 

So being back and alone on familiar ground this time months after my conversation with R and my first gay barI decided to take the opportunity and spend it as an anonymous gay tourist in order to open up myself even more and see where it leads me. Although the risk of running into people I know in this city is fairly high, but somehow rather the urge to throw myself out of my comfort zone is much higher as my personal development takes priority at this moment.

Hence, in the spirit of progress and "making an effort", I did some research and decided to visit a gay sauna this time. All of the exact emotions, thoughts and anxiety from my first visit to a gaybar last year came rushing back, except that this time it would require triple the amount of courage along with the fear of rejection and being stupid. Again I was nervous and in order to take the pressure off, I told myself that I was not me. I'm a nobody and I'm anonymous.

Arriving at the reception, I kept cool, acted like I've done this before, paid the entrance fee and went in. The locker room was the easiest part as I took my time to strip down to just a towel around my waist before leaving the neutral zone. The sauna was indeed very spacious as it had everything, from a huge jacuzzi to seating areas and secluded cubicles for "activities". 

Not knowing how to begin, I started by wandering around the complex while observing my surroundings in order to learn about the practicalities of cruising. Throughout the whole time, I felt extremely anxious and awkwardly out of place. But I wasn't going to let my insecurities ruin my plan. Therefore even if nothing was ever going to happen, at least I'll know I made an effort by exploring my possibilities in a gay sauna.

Walking around, I was actually very surprised to find a much older crowd which wasn't at all my expectation nor very exciting. In fact, it was awkward. After much hanging about, I started chatting to the only young guy in his 30s, whom after some conversational warm up, thought he might help a clueless guy out (even after my failed attempt to cruise him).

He asked:
"So what are you doing here? What are you looking for, what do you like?"

"Erm, I don't know. It's actually my first time here, I have no idea!"

"Do you like older men? Younger guys? What are you looking for?"

Me: [smiling]
"Hmm... I don't know! But I like guys like you!"

He: [smiles]
"Then what are you doing here? This is not the best place to be."
"Look, you're really young. Go! Go have an ad-ven-ture!" 
"I know if I were in your shoes, I would."
"Here, check out this map..." 

(With some free brochures and publications in the seating area, he pointed me to places I should be going.)

He: [smiling]
"So now you've got your map, you've got your places... Go!" 
"Go have an adventure!"
"And I'm gonna leave you now to go wander around for a bit. You take care now!"

Back in the locker room, I felt so uncertain as to why am I putting myself through all of these when it's supposed to be an enjoyable process? Disappointed with the outcome at the sauna, I dragged myself to one of the recommended bars in the gay district. After having seen the inside of a gay sauna, a bar is now so much more less daunting, even if it's only my second time.

I walked in bought a drink and sat at a corner. Despite feeling a bit pathetic about how the day went, I couldn't care less about being alone. However to my surprise, a nice guy came over and invited me to go sit with him and his friend. I gladly accepted and we chatted for about 30 minutes before they decided to move on to another bar and I wanted to stay.

After he left, an American guy and his friend sparked a conversation by curiously asking me about the gay publication map I was holding in my hand. Throughout the next hour and a half, we hung out and talked generously about life and the many aspects of being gay. Sitting there, it felt really positive and happy to see how well these guys carried themselves and talked about their amazing gay experiences.

Then came a moment while looking at them, I was drenched by a tide of emotions as I felt sad about my own struggles and how things were not going well on my side despite me trying to make an effort. It was a moment of vulnerability as I almost teared up with the urge to talk and open up about all that I'm going through. At that moment, I didn't see them as strangers who happen to be at a bar, but rather like-minded guys who would understand me. However, it seems like advanced gay guys are so comfortably confident with themselves nowadays that they no longer remember what it feels like to be diffident, inadequate and inexperienced in the past.

A friend of mine once told me to understand that these guys are probably done with whatever struggles they previously had and are now way ahead from the early stages of self-discovery and assimilation into gay life. Hence even if they might be able to relate or sympathise with all that I'm going through, all forms of expectation should now be thrown away because it's not their job to "hold my hand", even at moments of vulnerability. Nevertheless after an enjoyable evening, we exchanged contacts as the night ended with me feeling more positive about myself and gaining a bit more confidence as I planned my visit to another gay sauna the next day.

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