One of the rights of passage after coming out is that first gay bar experience. It’s freaking intimidating. The fact people there could be attracted to you– and, more importantly, are encouraged to show it–is terrifying! Everyone in the room might gawk and smile the second you enter the bar. Worse, they might ignore you completely.
Walking in the front door of JRs, I half-expected rainbows and glitter to blast my face. In the movies, gay bars are extravaganzas, with drag queens swinging from chandeliers. Instead, I found myself looking at a normal place. It had a bar on one end, a small wooden dance floor in the middle, and a couple of pool tables on the far end. It was no different than most straight bars I’d frequented.
Except for the lack of women. Talk about a sausage fest. Guys, laughing and drinking, filled every cubic inch. Two really skinny dudes made out right next to me. I hugged myself; I’d never seen two men kiss in public. I gawked at my friend and wingman, Jason. He grinned.
“Trust me. In a few months, that will be you.”
I flinched and shrugged. In that moment, I figured I’d inch my way in and spend hours hiding in the corner just taking everything in.
Then I eyed a cute stocky Latino playing pool and all that wallflower stuff flew right out the window. He had a sexy goatee and bright hazel eyes that screamed, “I’m amazing! Come stare at me!”
That sounded good to me.
Trying to act all casual, I convinced Jason to grab a table nearby. Actually I didn’t have to convince him of anything. That’s one of the bonuses of being the newly out gay: you call all the shots. Bam.
Nerves rammed into me as I strolled across the bar toward the pool tables. First off, I was initiating project flirt. Second, a few pairs of eyes found me and I got self-conscious. I’d only ever been to straight bars. And when men stare you down at straight bars, it means they’re trying to be macho in front of the ladies. If you stare back, you get a terse, “What the fuck are you looking at?”
At JRs, the looks were followed by smiles and lip-licking. I reached down to make sure I was still wearing my jeans and v-neck t-shirt. Check. Still, I unconsciously covered my “junk” with my hands and scurried the rest of the way to a bar stool Jason pointed at.
Goatee Stud stood over one pool table, cue in hand. He was even more handsome close-up, with chest hair bursting out of his shirt. I gawked. And not in the coquettish way. I was in full on stalker mode.
I snapped out of Goatee Man Land and turned to Jason, who smiled devilishly.
“Crap.” I ran my hands over my face. I hadn’t even realized I was staring. I’ve always had this embarrassing knack of zoning out (or in).
“Go talk to him.”
“No way.” I was not ready for that level of commitment on my first gay outing.
In all honesty, the level of commitment would have been a big honking zero. I just didn’t want to be rejected the first millisecond of my first time in a gay bar. And I was supposed to be in observer mode only!
I settled for pretending to listen to Jason while sneaking glances at Goatee Guy.
My multi-tasking didn’t work too well. From out of nowhere, Jason shoved me off my chair.
Catching myself, I stood up. “Hey!”
“You are NOT going to just sit here and ignore me. If you don’t go talk to him, I’m doing it for you.”
Out of habit, I glanced at Goatee Cub. We made eye contact which I immediately broke.
“I don’t think I’m his type.” I shoved my hands into my pockets.
Jason stood up.
I threw my arms out. “No no no no no! What are you doing?”
“I’m telling him you’re in love.”
Jason and I had a staring contest. He winked. I said a few cuss words in my head, some at Jason but most at myself. If I’d just acted normal and unstalkerish, I wouldn’t be in this position.
Now I was faced with the big question: Do I potentially humiliate myself by talking to the guy or definitely humiliate myself by cowering away?
Put that way, the choice was easy. Without a word to Jason, I turned and made my way to the pool table. Sweat rolled down my back.
Goatee Romeo saw me and smiled. That helped my insecurity a little but kicked the sweating up to level 50.
I took a few more steps. He turned to one of his male friends and said, “Girl, hold my pool stick.”
Goatee Hottie turned back to me and grinned.
I stared at him for about five seconds.
He took a step toward me.
I bolted. Doing that thing where I nodded at some nonexistent person behind him, I race-walked around the table and up a flight of stairs to the patio.
Panting with embarrassment, I ordered a vodka, chugged it, and waited for Jason (I was NOT about to head back down those stairs). After seventy million hours, he appeared, shaking his head. “You wuss!”
I held up my hands. “I didn’t chicken out!”
“Yeah, right. Pussy.”
To make sure no one overheard, I leaned in and whispered, “He called his friend ‘girl’!”
I gestured wildly with my hands. “His friend was a guy!”
Jason face-palmed me. Then, like a parent, he led me to a stool, sat me down, and explained, “Lots of gays call their close friends ‘girl’. And it’s not ‘girl’. It’s gurl. G-U-R-L. With lots of Rs. Gurrrrrl.”
I winced. “But they’re guys! And he wasn’t like in drag or anything.”
Jason smiled. “So? Everyone does it. It’s no big deal.”
“It IS a big deal!”
Jason leaned back with a knowing look. “You’ll say it one day. Trust me.”
I pointed at him. “That will never happen!”
That was the vow I made that day. I liked being a guy. I liked sports and “manly” stuff. The idea of a male calling another male ‘gurl’ repelled me. With that one word, I had suddenly found Goatee Guy hideous. I never talked to him. And I swore I’d never say that word.
Fast forward two years.
I was sitting at a table surrounded by friends from a gay volleyball league. The group consisted of Jonathan, a prissy Asian who wore sunglasses as big as his head, Donovan, a model with a tongue so sharp, he’d made strangers cry with just his words, and Milton, a muscle-bound slut who I’d seen follow someone into a Chili’s bathroom.
Around those guys, I just sat back and watched. It was better than TV.
“So I called Gene a bitch at work today.” Donovan said. He paused for dramatic effect before adding. “In front of Paul.”
“Your manager?” Jonathan said.
Jonathan leaned in. “Are you in trouble?”
“Hell no. Paul loves me. Even called me later and agreed.”
“Is Gene hot?” Milton asked.
Donovan grimaced. “Hell no. Her shirt was longer than her shorts.” He took a drink. “She looked like she was wearing a night gown. When I called her a bitch and Paul just stood there, she sweat more than a whore in church.”
Jonathan laughed, high-fived Donavan, and adjusted his sunglasses. “You called her out.”
“Gurl, that is messed up.”
Every eye at the table turned to me.
YES! IT WAS ME!!
The word just slipped out. Years of being around it had desensitized me. Without even realizing it, I’d become the thing I hated most those years back.
And I didn’t just say, ‘gurl’. I said ‘Gurrrrrrrrrl’. My Rs were rolling all over the place.
I immediately clapped my hands over my mouth as the other three guys stared at me. It was like I’d ripped a huge fart right at the table.
“Did you just say what I think you said?” Jonathan hid his smile.
“No.” I looked around, hoping something in the restaurant would help me. A tree outside caught my attention. “I said squirrel.”
It was the lamest thing I’d ever uttered and I braced myself for the incoming verbal torture.
It never happened. I was so embarrassed and mortified, they couldn’t give me hell.
Instead, Jonathan, with his huge sunglasses and lip gloss (did I mention he wore lip gloss?), put a hand on my shoulder. “Girl, gay speak is just like an accent. You hang around British people enough and you’ll eventually start saying shit like ‘Bloody’ and ‘Let’s watch some telly’. This is the same thing. I even have straight friends who say girl. It’s just an accent. So get over it and embrace it.”
I didn’t think anything would help, but that made the most sense of anything in the world. Gay was an accent. There was nothing wrong with adopting an accent.
I nodded at Jonathan. “Thanks . . . Gurrrrl.”
It was the fastest Come-To-Jesus I’d ever had. And it worked. Just like that, my life became the gayest story never told.
About the Author
Cody Wagner loves to sing, mime (not really), and create. He writes about topics ranging from superpowers to sociopathic kids. His debut novel, The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren, will be out October 27th, 2015. He’s handing out cookie dough to everyone who grabs a copy. Check out his writing and see more of his wackiness at or follow him on Twitter @cfjwagner and Goodreads at