“Chad, what are you wearing?”

I looked down at my clothing choices. “What’s wrong with this?” I was in jean shorts that were a bit too big, white socks with white tennis shoes, and a long-sleeved large button down plaid shirt that hung on me like a tent. The shirt had fit me when I was 75 pounds heavier and I’d never really taken the time to purchase new clothing.

Three of my gay friends made tsk-tsk noises as they looked me over, turning me around. “You are way too handsome to dress like this. What are your shirt and jean sizes?” I told them, and two of them left, leaving me there confused.

I had only been out of the closet for four months, and I had only been to a gay club once, in Spokane, Washington. There had been a line down the block, and I had been extremely nervous to be seen in a club where someone might recognize me since I had just started coming out to my family and wasn’t out publicly or professionally yet. When I was fourth in line, a very drunk gay man walked out with his friends and began rating each man in line by his hotness.

“Oh, you’re ugly, back of the line. You, you’re just okay. You definitely need to to to the back of the line.” And then he had stopped on me. “Oooh, who is this?” His finger had traced over my chest. “This one we can definitely let in the club. Excuse me, someone get this man inside!”

His friends had dragged him down the road as he looked back, making the ‘call me’ sign with his fingers at his ear. I had been both flattered and horrified, strangely happy with the compliment while furious with the others being body shamed. I had a lot to still learn about the gay community.

But now I was in Seattle and it was Pride weekend. I had made new friends who planned to take me out for my first official gay club night dancing. Though I had already decided not to drink, I had agreed to ‘dress up and go out’, as one friend had put it. But they hadn’t liked what I was wearing, and I was feeling like one of those men in the Spokane line who hadn’t been deemed hot enough to enter by the drunk man.

Soon, the two friends returned with a bag from a local clothing shop, and they pulled out a pair of jeans and a blue T-shirt, both with tags still on them. They had bought me clothes! I felt immediate embarrassment wash over me.  They pulled the tags off and ordered me to change, ignoring my protests.

I took off the baggy shirt and too-big shorts, and ignored their taunts about my baggy blue boxer briefs. Then I tugged the very snug jeans up around my waist. One friend catcalled, complimenting the way the jeans made my ass look, and I blushed. Then I pulled the stiff material of the T-shirt around my frame. It was tight, and confining, and it hid nothing. I had never worn something so tight. I turned around with a look of horror on my face.

“I can’t possibly wear this.”

The men just ignored me told me to make sure I had my ID, and walked me right out of the apartment, grabbing my arms so I couldn’t protest. And then soon, we were in a club called the Cuff, and it was packed full of people. I was inclined to find some seat on a wall and just stay there, observing the people in the crowd for the next several hours, but my friends pulled me right on to the dance floor. And for the first time in my life, I started to dance. Not the guys hands on the girls hips gentle sway Mormon kind of dancing, more the hands in the air swaying hips drop it low kind of dancing. My reluctance and stubbornness left and I found myself laughing, having fun, celebrating life.

It was subtle at first, but I began to notice other guys in the club who noticed me. I had noticed hot guys my entire life, slyly so I wouldn’t be noticed. But this was a completely different sensation: men that I noticed were noticing me. Tall, muscular, well-dressed men. Not every man, not by any means, but one here and one there. There were smiles exchanged, a few introductions, and a few gropes. I started getting a bit more bold and flirting back, offering compliments and wider smiles. I was heady with pride and joy, all of it bolstered by the too-loud bass lines of Rihanna and Nicki Minaj songs blaring through the club.

I ended up spending most the evening dancing with a tall beautiful man with thick hair and a wide smile. He was a math teacher on vacation from British Columbia, and he thought I was handsome, and I definitely thought he was handsome. We made out for a while, which drew a celebratory ‘whoop, whoop’ from my friends behind me.

And then the clock struck 2, and the club was closing. The Cinderella ball was over. My fairy godmothers walked me home after I waved one last goodbye to the prince. My tight t-shirt ball gown was still much too tight. The city bus pumpkin coach delivered me back to the hotel. And while I hadn’t left any glass slippers behind, I had certainly discovered a new fairy tale world to be a part of.

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