No one here believes I’m a top,” I thought to myself while taking the first sip of my second overpriced beer. I was less than halfway through a night of gay speed dating for “bottoms” and “tops” and had already been asked three times if I was in the right group. “I mean, I don’t blame them, but it’s not like I had a choice,” I continued thinking to myself while mindlessly nodding along to what my fifth date was saying. “The online ‘bottoms’ sign-up sheet was all filled up! There were, as usual, too many bottoms! If I wanted to sail with the boys on this gay Noah’s ark, I had to maybe fib to myself a little.”
And look where that got me.
The event, which was held in the confines of a cavernous bar downtown, had a surprisingly large turnout. I happened to be one of the first guys to register with the organizer, and I took the opportunity to grab a beer and watch the men herd into line to register like cattle to the slaughter.
“Are you a top or a bottom?” the organizer asked one man, who responded with a nervous chuckle. There was a drizzle of uneasy laughter from the men in line. “What?!” laughed the organizer. “I need to know for his name tag!”
I looked at my name tag, which was peeling off already, as if it knew that the “T” written on it was all some horrible lie.
“Look at you!” it whispered like a wraith. “They all know you’re a liar. Get a couple of drinks in you and what are you? You’re gayer than Judy Garland’s Christmas ornaments. You’re a sham!”
I eventually “lost” my name tag at some point in the night.
Once everyone had registered, our organizer separated us into our respective groups. “Bottoms? Bottoms? Come over here!” he yelled, throwing them to one side of the proverbial gymnasium. And just like that, there we were: bottoms vs. tops. It was like a nightmarish game of dodgeball that would air on LOGO.
I was surprised to see that of the 30-ish men there, only three (including me) were dressed up. Far too many of the men, who were essentially about to go on at least 15 first dates, were wearing T-shirts and tank tops. Whereas I tried to look as though I had just gotten off my fancy job as a writer, a majority of the men looked as though they had just left their shift at Aeropostale. Had all these men lost hope? Why were they dressed like that dude from high school who always tries to sell you knives when you run into him every trip back home? If you learn anything from me at all, it’s that you should always dress how you want to feel, not how you actually feel.
That, and never buy knives from that dude from high school.
To be blunt, most of the men on either side (including me) were average-looking — sometimes aggressively so. These men weren’t the living mannequins you see gliding on the roller skates of their good looks through Chelsea. (I’d like to go on record and say those men are horrible, and the human equivalent of a parfait.) The men here were normal dudes: mostly over 30, and mostly in custody of faces I almost instantly forgot.
Well, except for one dude.
Have you ever been at a party and realized, with a cold sweat and a shiver of dread, that you were the smartest one in the room? It’s happened to me once before; I realized that if I was the smartest person in the room, then we were all screwed. That’s how I imagine this gentleman felt, except that instead of being the smartest man in the room, he was the best-looking. This was only heightened by the fact that most of the men at the event were, as I said, aggressively average — like, community-college average.
Don’t get me wrong. Most of the men were hilarious — unintentionally, that is. One gentleman, for example, interrupted me halfway throughout our introductions and asked with a smile, “Are you a Greek god?”
Convinced I had misheard him, I asked him to repeat that.
“Are you a Greek god?” he said again.
I gave him the ol’ side eye and sipped out of my beer suspiciously.
“You’re just so handsome,” he grinned. “I would love to take you back to my apartment to photograph you.”
Flattered, and with a bit of beer foam dribbling out of my mouth, I politely declined. I know how that scenario usually ends: a rain coat, an axe and “Hip to Be Square” by Huey Lewis and the News blasting from a stereo.
By the end of the night, I had met about 16 different men, and I can tell you that the look of disappointment that flashed on their faces upon seeing me never got old. I tried my best to be my most “top” self (like trying to polish a turd, as they say). I tried to make my chest seem bigger, deepened my voice and swigged my sh***y beer like I was in a square state. Alas, despite my greatest efforts, I was not a very convincing top. I might have had better luck convincing them I was a a very lost and confused lesbian.
There is nothing speedy about speed dating. I was bottoming out after talking to guy after guy for four hours. My voice was so hoarse that it was one broken leg away from a glue factory, and my personality had a heavy case of whiskey d**k. By the time I got to the handsomest man in the room, I could tell we were both exhausted. I was tired from putting on the performance of my life, and he was tired from all the normals he’d had to speak to. I had no desire to impress or pretend to be interested in anything that wasn’t sleep — or pizza, or a burrito, or both at the same time — which is a shame, because this gentleman was like a surprisingly nice dessert section in a really bad buffet. I could still tell he had a great personality to match his Prince Eric looks. Unfortunately, we were both the human equivalents of melted ice at the bottom of a cooler previously filled with beer, dreams and the empty promise of a good time.
Speed dating, even the kind tailored toward your preferred sexual role, is a great alternative to the more obvious option: online dating. The human race must have really pissed off a love god from some pantheon to be punished with the literal hell that is OKStupid.
Although I have no plans to meet with any of the men from my speed-dating event, I’m glad I went. It was incredibly refreshing to meet people in real life, for once. Stretching my social muscles was a good exercise, and it’s fun trying to make strangers laugh.
Some of the men were veterans of speed dating, and from the sound of it, they had not lost hope. They went into this round with just as much enthusiasm and vigor as they’d done the first time — even if they were wearing T-shirts.
Love is truly a numbers game, and these men knew this. That, my friends, was the biggest takeaway — that, and the fact that a doe-eyed, 5-foot-10, 150-pound Asian man does not make a convincing top.