It only takes a smile… | Photo: Robert Gershinson
I saw a guy at Pride in London the other day, a guy I see most mornings in my local gym.
As he walked past me through the crowds we locked eyes, I’ve never spoken to this guy so I don’t know if he does identify as gay or bisexual but I smiled as if to say: “Hey, we ‘know’ each other from the gym, i didn’t assume you were LGBTI but I am too.”
He completely ignored me, as if he didn’t want to acknowledge our crossing paths.
Now, maybe he’s straight, and was just celebrating Pride, but in the days after, when we both returned to the gym, I tried again to connect with a smile. Nothing.
But, we both know we saw each other there and my ‘gaydar’ tells me we both like men – However I could be completely mistaken and he’s wondering why I smile at him.
Guy in question – If you’re straight and think I fancy you, be happy and take the compliment.
I don’t expect every gay man my path crosses with regularly to give me a smile and a wave, and god knows I’ve been too nervous to talk to men in the gym I’ve seen on dating apps, but I’ve repeatedly attempted to connect with other gay and bisexual men with subtle gestures and been completely rejected.
A smile here and there could lead to a conversation, here and there, and then hopefully a friendship or even more.
Gay and bisexual men seem to live between two worlds which generate a gap of awkward tension; I’ve seen you on Grindr (virtual world), but I can’t or won’t acknowledge you in public (real world).
Why is this? Does it boil down to the human instinct to avoid embarrassment or rejection?
Maybe I’m being too passive and I should just pluck the courage up to speak to other people more often in my gym and maybe it’s insecurity and anxiety that make me think I’m being rejected; maybe this is what we’re all thinking and that’s why we’re stuck in our shells?
But, living in a awkward tension gap-world, where tapping the hot personal trainer at your gym on Grindr is the virtual way of saying hello in the real world, and getting no response is rejection all the same.
Now, writing this, I actually cringe at tapping that PT on Grindr hoping it would spark conversation that could become real-world the next day at the gym. It did not, of course.
I came to London, like many do, to seek connection with new and diverse people; but i feel like attempts to connect are often more thwarted than successful.
I didn’t come here for leagues or stereotypes, and I actually think the reasons why ‘smile-fails’ happen is more complex then I’m able to drill into, but somewhere we have lost the ability to smile at one another, just to give each other that small sign we’re not ‘alone’ and a sense of comradery that lifts one another up and makes life just that bit easier.
I know, for me, being in the gym would be a lot more fun and interesting if my social circles, as well as my muscles, I hope, grew from being there too – like some of the other, mostly muscled, gay and bisexual men I see make friends there.
From the outside, which granted is distorted by my own perception, it seems the best way to avoid ‘smile-fails’ with other gay/bisexual men in the gym is to look a certain way.
We all know what I’m talking about.
But, having said all this, I see barriers broken down between individuals outside of stereotypes and within connection all the time; so maybe I should be the first to proactively break them down, instead of passively tapping from a screen at times.
Is this all in my head? Or do you feel the same sometimes?