The other night, I went to an event called “Poly Cocktails,” downstairs at a bar called “affaire.” I know it was downstairs, because upstairs, there was a campaign event for Corrine Narrasiguin, the socialist candidate to represent French citizens living in North America to the French National Assembly. I listened to her talk for a few minutes before heading downstairs.
There were two rooms downstairs, one hot, one cold. Each was dark, in a not-particularly-appealing way. There was no music playing. There were a couple of klatches of people who seemed to know one another – mostly seemingly unmarried, attractive people in their early 30s, I would guess, and a larger number of older, single men floating around awkwardly on their own or talking with one another. And there were a few older couples and trios – people in their 50s or 60s. There were probably forty people there altogether, about ten of whom were women, and about half of those ten appeared to be queer-identified.
This is not a scene that plays to my strengths. At all. I do small talk great, but insinuating myself into an already-established crowd? That’s not me.
I introduced myself to a tall, good looking guy in his early 50s at the bar. “Hi, I’m Nick,” I said.
“John,” he said. I had the sense conversation might be work.
“Is this your first time at one of these?” I asked.
“Oh, no,” he said. “I’ve been to lots.”
“Oh, cool,” I said. “It’s my first.”
“Everyone’s very friendly,” he said. “You should walk around and introduce yourself,” he said, excusing himself.
Did I mention the room felt like a disused fraternity basement? It did. Which conjured in me the same social reticence that prevented me from ever getting laid in a fraternity basement.
I walked around, but found the klatches anything but inviting. I tried, but really, in this setting, I can’t be a free agent. As part of a couple, or better, a group? I’m voluble, charming, funny, friendly, outgoing. But on my own? I’m as I was when my all-boys camp had its once-a-summer social with the all-girls camp down the road. I melt into the wall and pray for release.
I walked around some more, and finally, declared defeat and left. There were about eight or ten people there who looked interesting and attractive to me, but they were, predictably, the ones I found most forbidding. I stood on the street pondering reentering, when I saw J, he of the wife with the broken glasses, talking with friends on the street.
Somehow, the news that this was his scene made my departure feel more urgent, and I was gone. Perhaps I’ll return, but definitely not alone.