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the Locker Room

 

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“My back hurts. I can’t go to gym today. Here’s my doctor’s note.”

The gym teacher looked at me with unfeigned frustration as he considered the note. He was a large man, one who also taught the history class in ninth grade, and he generally seemed bored at his job. I also took history from him, and he seemed bored there, too. (In fact, we had counted during the semester the times he had simply shown a movie to the class instead of actually teaching, and he had shown us the same Michael Jordan special seven times during the year).

The other gym teacher in the school was a very attractive man, and I was relieved he wasn’t the head of my class. I was already distracted by handsome teachers in Algebra and Band, and I hardly needed more distractions.

“So you are saying you can’t participate in class activities?”

I shrugged awkwardly. “Depends on the activity. I can probably do, like, volleyball. But maybe not, like, running and stuff.”

“Well I guess you get to spend an hour doing homework or fitzing around while everyone else exercises. Have fun with that.” He tucked the note into the back of his teacher’s folder, breathing out hard from his nose with frustration. “But for today, we are working on stretches and a bit of lecture. Think you can handle that? Go ahead and dress down.”

I swallowed, embarrassed and a little ashamed. I wondered if the teacher was calling my bluff. My diagnosis of scoliosis was legitimate, as was my back pain, but I had been participating in P.E. class for months prior to this doctor’s note. Now I was looking for a way out of P.E., claiming, with a doctor’s support, that I wasn’t able to do physical activities. I had never been one to push my physical limits in class, but I had always been willing. And now I wasn’t.

But I wasn’t sure how to talk to him about it, how to talk to anyone about it. I was 16 now and things at home were rough, with my step-father’s constant anger and occasional violence, and things felt even worse on the inside. I had thought that once I started dating, maybe my attractions to men would diminish, but they hadn’t. In fact, they had maybe grown worse. I was attracted to my guy friends, to guys who walked by, to guys on television, and I was exhausted by pretending I was attracted to girls, and sick of mentally beating myself up for being distracted by guys.

And now here was the locker room. I hated the locker room. I didn’t fit in with other guys, who talked about sports and girls. And I was attracted to many of them and here they were getting undressed and I was afraid of getting aroused or of getting noticed stealing a glance. And I wasn’t comfortable in my own body, being less athletic than the other guys around me. The locker room tended to expose every insecurity I had, and left me beating myself up for hours afterward. I hated that it was part of school. I could avoid the group shower, but I couldn’t avoid changing.

I stepped in to the locker room and walked directly over to my assigned space. Tuning out distraction around me, I opened the locker and began to change, unbuttoning my shirt and sliding on my gym shirt. Immediately to my right, I saw David pull his jeans and underwear off, and I turned to avoid looking. On the other side, Eddie looked perfect and toned shirtless, and I turned to look back at the locker, containing my frustration. It was impossible not to be distracted in here.

I quickly slid off my jeans, then felt Scott, another guy in my class, flick his towel against my leg, seemingly aiming for my butt.

“Nice tighty whities, Chad!”

I turned to roll my eyes at him, then noticed that David was now completely naked, and was in very good shape. My eyes lingered a bit too long, then I forced them down on the floor. I then forced myself to look back up at Scott, swearing at myself internally. They’re gonna notice that you looked at David. They are gonna notice that you looked at the floor. They are gonna notice that you aren’t joking around with Scott back. Damn it, David is right there. Don’t look or you’ll get aroused and they will for sure notice that.

“Yeah, like yours are any better,” I quipped lamely, and Scott laughed, turning back at his locker.

I turned back to mine again, purposefully avoiding looking at David, who was still naked (damn it! get dressed!), then I swiftly pulled up my shorts, then sat down to put on my shoes. Eddie was dropping his shorts to change them, and across the room an obese kid was putting his arms behind his back and making his stomach shake to make a few people laugh. As someone called him a name, two other guys were talking about the girls they were planning on getting with that weekend while they changed.

I tied my shoes and saw that David was finally putting on his shorts, and I snuck one last glance before grabbing my stuff, closing my locker, and rushing out of the room.

Tomorrow, no matter what the activity in class was, I planned to have a bad back pain day. I needed to not be in that locker room again so soon. If that didn’t work, maybe I could find another place to change, but then everyone would notice. Maybe I should ask a girl out for this weekend so that I would have something to talk about in the locker room on Monday, that would make it easier.

The coach lined us up for stretches, and I got placed between David and Eddie, and as class begin, I did my best not to picture them naked and began singing religious hymns in my head instead. My thoughts were straying and later I would have some repenting to do.

 

The 12 Guys you Meet on Grindr

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Oh, Grindr.

Grindr is a phone app used by gay men to meet other gay men nearby. Urban dictionary defines it as “Location based iPhone/iTouch App for gay, bi, and curious men to meet. Uses GPS technology in your iPhone and WiFi in iPod Touch to determine your exact location and instantly connect you with guys in your area. View pictures, stats, and map locations at a tap. Totally discreet because Grindr doesn’t ask for your email address or require account registration.”

You download the app and create a basic profile, in which you can upload a photograph (some choose to keep this blank), share a few of your statistics (height, weight, relationship status), and type just a few lines about yourself and what you are looking for.

You open the app on your phone by clicking the small yellow box with the black cat mask on it. A grid of boxes opens up, each box representing a man who has the app also opened on his phone, and the boxes arrange in order of how far away they are from you. (In large cities, walking a few blocks means entirely new groupings of men. In more rural areas, the closest man might be 70 miles away). To look at the photo and profile, you simply click on the image, and you click on a message icon if you want to send a message to that person. You can also upload more photographs from your phone, or take live photographs, to send to the man as well. Finally, you can send a GPS ping that shows him exactly where you are on a map, making meetups easy. Often addresses and phone numbers are exchanged, and conversations continue once the app is closed.

Now it is no secret that men, straight or gay, are and always have been very sexually driven. Much energy is given to the thought of, pursuit of, and acquisition of, sex. When straight men are dating women, basic kindness and charm seem to be part of the process. When it comes to men dating men, however, it often seems that all bets are off. And now, in the age of instant gratification, where we can look at a box of photographs and immediately determine our level of sexual interest based on a photo, some shared information, the content of a message, or a misspelled word and determine interest and attraction sight unseen, it has never been easier to find sex.

I find Grindr amusing. When I have it downloaded, I have generally tried two separate approaches in my profile. Approach one: a simple photograph of myself (clothed and smiling) with no other information. Approach two: a simple photograph of myself (clothed and smiling) with a small blurb that lists my age (36), height (5’11), weight (180 lbs), and a few lines saying something like “Educated professional looking for chats, new friends, or dates. Not here for hook-ups. A little charm and consistency go a long way.”

Some guys download Grindr to chat, others to easily get laid, some just to see who is around.

Following are twelve conversations, or variations thereof, you will definitely have on Grindr if you have the app. Maybe you have had some of these word for word.

1. the Bots

His profile: a relatively handsome guy with a basic age and weight listed.

Him: Hey, you’re cute.

Me: Thank you, you too.

Him: I’m new here. My battery is dying. May I have your number?

Me: You’re a bot, aren’t you?

Him: Click this link to come watch me on camera. The credit card request is just to verify you are of age.

Me: *block*

2. the Bros

His profile: generally a headless muscly torso with a tagline that says something like “Masc seeking Masc, not into fems”

Him: Sup.

Me: Hello.

Him: Hey.

Me: Hello.

Him: Looking?

Me: For sex? Not at the moment.

3. The Skanks

His profile: Grindr doesn’t allow nudity in profile photos, but imagine whatever is closest. Photo will be something like a close-up of his underpants, another headless torso, or him in tight shorts turned around and grabbing his rear. A few brief sentences like “Willing bottom, ready to take your load. You host. Ready now. Don’t waste my time with chat. Not into fat guys.”

Him: {unsolicited photo of his penis, or perhaps of him bent over}

Me: Wow. That was… well, good for you.

Him: Looking?

Me: No thanks.

Him: Where’s your pics?

Me: I don’t share nudes.

Him: Come on, you’re hot. Let me take your load.

4. The Very Persistent

His profile: Normal looking guy of any age, a few stats listed about himself. A blurb saying something like “Average guy looking for a real connection.”

Him: Hi.

Him: Hi.

Him: Hello?

Him: You’re cute.

Him: Are you getting my messages?

Him: Hi.

Him: Hi.

Him: Hello?

Him: Are you there?

5. The Martyr

His profile: Usually an average guy of any age with a pleasant smile. Profile reads something like “Aren’t there any good guys left in the world? Tired of being single. Think maybe I’m the only decent guy left.”

Him: Hi there. How are you?

Me: I’m fine, thank you. How are you?

Him: Wanna go out some time?”

Me: I’ve got a pretty busy week with work right now, but we could chat a bit.

Him: Whatever. You’re just like all the other guys. Why won’t you come and meet me?

Me: Well, I’m not looking for sex. And I’m working right now.

Him: Who said I was looking for sex!

Him: Why would you think that about me!

Him: I just want someone to cuddle with! I didn’t even want sex!

Him: You’re just like all the others!

Me: Whoa, I said I’m working right now. Relax, man, it’s Grindr!

Him: #### you! (block)

6. The Cheater

His profile: Good-looking guy, shirt on or off, with a blurb saying something like “Partnered to a good guy, yes he knows I’m on here. Just seeing who is out there. Not interested in sex usually, but you never know.”

Him: You’re hot. Want some company?

Me: You’re partnered…

Him: I am but I want you.

Me: Are you guys open?

Him: Nope but I know he cheats on me and I don’t say anything so it’s my turn. Come over.

7. The Polyamorous

His profile: Generally a photo of two partnered guys (any age or appearance) with some listed stats and a small blurb like “Happily married and occasionally seeking a third for fun. I’m top, he’s bottom.”

Him: My boyfriend and I are looking for a third. Interested?

Me: Not really my style. I’m down for new friends, though.

Him: No thanks.

8. The Very Descriptive

His profile: Usually either a black screen or a stock photo of a sandy beach, a “keep calm and carry on” meme, or a cartoon character. No stats or words listed.

Him: I’m laying all horned up in my hotel room with porn playing on the TV. Looking for two guys to come over and make me their slave while I’m handcuffed and blindfolded. I’ll leave the door unlocked. I’ll take both of your loads and then you can just leave me there. Interested?

Him: {location ping sent}

Him: {photo of genitals}

Me: Well, that is quite a way to begin a conversation. You want all that and you’ve only seen a face photo of me?

Him: {silence. he’s already cut and pasted the same information to every other guy on the app}

9. The Narcissist

His profile: A photo of a very good-looking all-American type guy. A few lines read “Don’t waste my time. Good-looking guy seeking fit athletic masculine guys who are down to clown. If I don’t respond, it means I don’t find you attractive.”

Him: Hey stud.

Me: Hi back.

Him: I’ll get right to the point.

Him: You are one of like 2 per cent of guys that I actually find attractive. I’m a top hosting right now. Why don’t you come over?

Me: You’re certainly very handsome, but I’m not really interested in random sex. Would you like to meet for coffee some time?

Him: I’m not looking for a relationship, dude. Come over, or don’t.

10. The Discreet

His profile: No photo, no words about himself.

Him: Hey there.

Me: Hi back.

Him: Do you have more pics of yourself?

Me: You can already see one of me. Can I see one of you?

Him: Dude, I gotta be discreet. I’m not out yet.

Me: That’s cool. I understand.

Him: Wanna meet up some time?

Me: I still don’t know what you look like.

Him: Yeah, I’m discreet.

Me: Yes, I know. You said that.

Him: So you have more pics?

11. The “Back-in-the-Day” Guy

His profile: An attractive picture of a shirtless relatively fit guy. Age listed at 45. Nothing written.

Him: You’re really cute.

Me: Thank you. I like your photo.

Him: Thank you. Want to get together for a walk some time?

Me: Sure, that sounds fine.

**At the meeting, you realize he is actually 58 and weighs about 30 more pounds than he did in the photo, which was taken 7 years ago. He acts surprised and upset when you comment on his misrepresentation.

12. And finally: The Disappearing Nice Guy

His profile: Good-looking guy with basic stats that seem honest. He actually takes time to write out a basic profile. “Busy professional with lots of interests. Looking to meet a nice guy. Hoping for a relationship, but down for fun in the mean time.”

Him: Hey, I really like your profile.

Me: I like yours too. How is your week going?

Him: Really well. And yours?

Me: Good! Hitting the gym soon. Big plans for your evening?

Him: Just relaxing at home. Would you like to get together for coffee some time?

Me: I would like that. When works for you?

{2 days later} Me: Hey, haven’t heard back from you… Still want to get that coffee?

So after reading all this, you gotta be wondering why I’m on Grindr. Easy answer. I like to believe I’m that ever elusive 13th guy, the one using a convenient phone app in an effort to meet quality guys for dating and hoping for a substantial connection. We all have our reasons for being on Grindr, but ultimately, using the app is like checking the fridge to see what food is there although you aren’t hungry.

You just open the door and hope maybe something will catch your eye.

Boys will be boys

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“Boys will be boys,” parents say, to excuse skinned knees, black eyes, broken windows, and bad smells.

“Boys will be boys,” school officials say, to explain absences, aggressive behavior, and drug and alcohol use.

“Boys will be boys,” wives say, to quiet doubts about late evenings at work, lipstick smudges, raised voices, and household budgets.

“Boys will be boys,” the courts say, to dismiss drug offenses, sexual assaults, and domestic violence.

And in this boy-loving culture, where boys fill the seats of court stands, elected offices, church leadership positions, and chief executive officers, the boys are excused, the bad behavior overlooked and shrugged off. Because, after all, boys couldn’t possibly help their very nature. They are driven toward aggression, sex, and conquest, and it simply can’t be avoided. In fact, boys who aren’t driven toward those things are aberrant and less valuable.

And thus, the politicians go to war over oil and debt and revenge, and millions are killed, while human atrocities are ignored, rape and famine seen as the natural consequences of male behavior. And the fathers smile at their sons, pat them on the back, tell them “I’m so proud of you.”

And this was the world in which Stu Ungar was raised in. Stu, often called “the Kid” affectionately, lived from 1953 to 1998. Stu’s father, Ido, had a wife and a child when he started his bookie business, paying off all those he needed to to keep the cops and the mafia off his back. Ido soon left his wife for one of his mistresses, Fay, a beautiful socialite who liked a lot of attention. But that’s okay for Ido, because boys will be boys.

Fay had two children, and the oldest, Stuey, had an aptitude early on for cards, realizing that a mix of skill in the game and a capability of reading people lead to victory every time. Using contacts from his father’s business, Stuey played a lot of cards and won a lot of money, shirking school to do so, because boys will be boys.

After Ido died, Fay sunk into drugs and depression, and Stuey found a new mentor in Victor Romano, a made mafia man, one who had memorized the entire dictionary during his lengthy prison sentence. Romano got Stuey involved in mafia-led card games of Pinochle, Poker, and Gin Rummy, giving him protection and women and money for as long as he kept winning for them, because boys will be boys.

And as Stuey watched men around him die and disappear in mafia hits, he racked up debts, more than he could pay off, so he ran to Las Vegas to try and make more money. Without a drivers license or a Social Security card, and having never worked for a wage, Stuey drifted from game to game, winning vast sums then losing every dollar within hours, over and over and over, for years, because boys will be boys.

And then Stuey started cheating on his wife, leaving her home with his daughter and stepson and using drugs, disappearing for weeks at a time. But he was great at poker and began winning world championships, and he was celebrated, lauded, and honored, because boys will be boys.

And when Stuey’s stepson committed suicide by hanging himself at a construction site, Stuey grieved by gambling and snorting cocaine, until his nasal cavity finally collapsed in on itself, because boys will be boys.

And when Stuey was found dead at 45, in a hotel room, from a drug overdose, everyone shrugged at the sadness, because boys will be boys.

 

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