Gone are the days where one can go to a club on your own and just mingle with the crowd. Lately I have realised that partygoers are genuinely afraid of interacting with people they don’t know. Whether it be for reasons of safety, or just out of good old fear of the unknown but somehow they manage to avoid making any sort of contact with anyone who might show an inch of interest. As a result, micro-clusters of individuals circle around each other without ever exploring the possibilities that might exist outside their circle of friends.

People are often completely baffled when I open my mouth to strike up a conversation. Their whole body language seems to say “What on earth are you doing? Why are you talking to me? What do you want?”. I can understand it when these sentiments are directed at someone who walks around selling single roses and fluffy teddy bears, but generally all I have in my hand an ice cold beer and a packet of cigarettes. It almost feels like they pre-empt a certain expectation from my side. A blow job? A hot night of doggy style? A wedding band and a house by the beach? Maybe I didn’t get the latest subtext memo, but how does telling someone that they’re wearing a nice tie translate to a dinner invite? If this is the case, I have unknowingly stood up a whole lot of people in my life. To my further shock, the boy with the nice tie turned to his friend and said, “See, this is the reason why I don’t come to places like this anymore.” What? The sun shines out of your ass? You piss french champagne and you’re God’s gift to gays? Who died and made you the lead singer of their boy band?!

I will admit it right here – I’m no McDreamy, Steamy or Creamy… But in my defense, I’m no bell-ringer from Notre Dame either. However, it’s not hard to guess how the story with Nice Tie-boy ended. Whatever happened to “don’t judge a queen by his highlights?” (Not that I’d like to spend much time defending my highlights,  but that isn’t the point). Maybe Nice Tie-boy doesn’t think so. Perhaps he believes that Jake Gyllenhaal is about to burst through the door and sweep him off his feet. Quite honestly, if that’s his idea of a realistic expectation, then he can keep his gorgeous tie all to himself. I never offered to whisk him away on a yacht, to feed him fresh crab sticks and make sweet passionate love to him at sunset. None of this was ever implied. I simply said “nice tie!”

The response to this daring exchange on my part is as open-ended as a glory hole – it could go either way. You could say something nice back, we exchange names, a few jokes and a drink or two and go on to be friends (with or without benefits). Or you could snub me like you did, and at worst, you could be missing out on a proper conversation with an intelligent human being, (and this is where it becomes interesting), with the possibility of enriching your social repertoire. Stop hiding away behind your habits – master the art of being engaging; and on the flip side – to be engaged. Stop falling into the rut of only talking about the same old things, and start experiencing new things in life. Go home after a night at a club and say to yourself, “Tonight I had fun! I met some great new people.”

Do you believe that it is a prerequisite to find a fuck buddy on a night out? Or more challenging: a potential boyfriend? If so, ask yourself this question: how many times out of ten do you go home feeling disappointed? How many nights of boozing and trying to look pretty have you wasted on something that really doesn’t happen that often? Exactly how fickle are your expectations of a night out on the town? Your answers to these questions might all be “I don’t know”. If so, I have one last question for you: why are you polluting a social environment that exists purely for people who want to have a good time? Standing in the corner of the club with your upturned collar and squeaky clean shoes, looking out on the dance floor – bursting to bust a move, but not willing to risk looking like a fool.

And you, yes you – standing with your toe in the ground… So afraid to go and talk to Collar Boy over there. Stand up for your social rights, readjust your package, check your breath and give it your best shot. What’s the worst that can happen? If he’s at all worth the effort, he’d probably say something nice in return. If not, you’re better off not wasting your minty breath and witty punch lines on him.

Start being brave again. Meet people. Open yourself up to an experience that could be the next chapter in your life. If it doesn’t work out (read: if the person is a total dud), politely excuse yourself and introduce yourself to the next guy. You never know who you might meet. Your future boss. The only person with jumper cables when you’re stuck with a dead battery. Perhaps even the brother of your next boyfriend. But you will never know, unless you get the hell over yourself and respond, “Thank you, I quite like this tie myself. Nice jacket. Is it vintage?”

[Published in The Gay Pages January 2009]