A lesbian and a straight guy walk into a bar…
In which a clueless socially-inept male gets no more clues or eptness
Susan was trying to get me to go to a pick-up bar with her. We would be each other’s wing men. “Wing persons?” pondered Susan. “Wing… you know what I mean!” Nope, really didn’t.
Background: This was the mid-1980s, in the Washington DC area. Susan and I were both in the Navy; I was a lieutenant running an IT shop that supported microcomputers (desktop PCs) for offices located all over the country, and Susan was my ensign and next-in-charge. We’d been there about a year at that point, starting as colleagues; then I had moved into the lead position when our boss left.
It had not taken me long to figure out that Susan might have a sexual orientation not in accordance with Naval regulations. So I ran interference when our boss noticed things about Susan, but didn’t even try to act surprised when Susan outed herself to me when she and her girlfriend Laurie broke up.
Their break-up was a punching (“You had hand-to-hand training in boot camp and all you gave her was a black eye?”), tears at work (“Susan? She’s fine. A cold, I think.”), Susan staying in my guest room (“You’re right, if I have a guest room I should invest in guest towels, I guess.”), staking out houses waiting for cheating assignations (“Why am I driving?” “You’re my friend, it’s what friends do.”), 3AM phone calls (“Seriously, Laurie, I have no idea where Susan is.”), breaking into the bathroom and grabbing razer blades from a slashing hand (“No big deal, if Laurie was serious she’d have used a straight razor instead of a Trac II.”), passionate 20-something drama sort of mishegaas. It’s how my first wife, Linda, met me (another story). No one died, but not because nobody didn’t want to kill somebody at some point.
And then things calmed down, as such things inevitably do.
By this time, Susan was ready for action again. Which was fine, but somehow she thought I should get involved. I, who at this point [Ha! Like I’m so much more sophisticated thirty years later!] had limited non-professional social skills, had never picked up a woman in a bar and had no clue how to start, was highly nervous around massed people in general and female people in particular in social settings.
“First off, it’s a mixed bar, so — ”
“Susan, I don’t know what that means.”
“It’s gay and straight.”
Oh. There were such things? Okay, so what did I know. “Uh-huh.”
“So what we do, is, we scope out the place together — ”
“I have no idea how to do that.”
“I’ll show you. So we scope out the place, and when we see a girl we like, we go check her out. Then if she’s gay, I’ll take her, and if she’s straight, you’ll take her. See how easy that is?”
It sounded like the most terrifying thing I could ever do socially. Somewhere in the top ten of awful things that might ever happen to me, and this from a man who had already been through a plane crash and a boat crash. “No.”
“You don’t have to take her home if you don’t want to.”
Hadn’t thought it through to realize that was on the menu. At least the plane crash was over quickly. “No.”
“They have volleyball.”
What? Was this something unique to mixed bars? How big was this bar anyway? Wait, doesn’t matter, haven’t played volleyball since high school gym class, sucked at it then, and had no desire to see other people of any gender or sexual orientation playing it. “No.”
“But — ”
“NO, Susan!” In my best boss-lieutenant voice.
So that was that. I never did find out why a bar — any bar — would have volleyball, and to this day I have never tried to pick up a woman at a bar.
When I think of opportunities I missed in my youth, and regrets looking back, this does not appear anywhere in any list whatsoever.
Coda: Years later, when I was living out in the Bay Area in California, my ex-wife Linda, her girlfriend, and three other friends (all lesbian “family,” either Navy, ex-Navy, or Navy-associated civilian) invited me along on New Years Eve to go partying on the town. I was depressed from getting out of the Navy, getting divorced, and getting nowhere in my job hunt during a recession, and Linda and the gang thought I should go out, have fun, and improve my self-image. They meant well.
“Where?” I asked.
“There’s this nice bar the Debs know about. They have New Years specials and great food.”
“Uhhh… Is this a mixed bar?”
Okay. I’d never been out partying on New Year’s Eve in a bar, this would be a chance at a new experience. Maybe there would be volleyball, and someone to explain why. “I’m in.”
When the topic turned to who was driving, I (for some reason) volunteered to be the designated driver. Turns out six people can fit into a 1984 Mercury Capri if they are sufficiently chummy, so that worked.
Got to the bar. Nice bar. Nice food. Nice bartender, who made sure after finding who the designated driver was that I only had diet Cokes, free and in unlimited amounts. Nice people. Ummm…
Turns out a “mixed bar” on the East Coast meant “mixed gay and straight”; a “mixed bar” on the West Coast meant “mixed gay and lesbian.”
So what is the first thing a straight guy worries about in a gay bar? Yeah, getting hit on. [Yes, I realize this is what every woman goes through in a bar, restaurant, bus station, or whatever. I was early 30s, cut me some slack, here.]
So what’s the second thing a straight guy worries about in a gay bar? Not getting hit on. And sure enough, no action. Nada. Zip. I mentioned on the drive home that the bar tender flirted with me… a little. “He works for tips,” piped up Linda from the back seat, “he was flirting with me, too.”
And no volleyball, by the way. Still clueless about that.
Recycled. Originally published early in 2016; deleted in mid-2016. This is based on a draft I unearthed, modified to fix the parts that got it deleted in the first place.