Yes Virginia, there is indeed a first time for everything.
I know. The thought that I have never in all of my (none of your damn business) years ever been in a gay bar is shocking.
I have no idea how I made it this long, and came this far (no pun intended) without stepping foot in an establishment that is filled with some of my very favorite people: Bartenders.
But try as I might, I truly cannot recall another time when I was in a bar that was officially (or unofficially) a "gay bar". Granted, there are long blank spaces in my memory - particularly in the late-night time frame - but I think I would remember something so totally fabulous. Since I am pretty sober these days, I have a clear memory of everything that happened on - and off - the dance floor. I am both open-minded and very familiar with bars and clubs and what goes on in those sorts of places. And this was not like anything I have ever experienced. It was an eye-opener, in the best possible way.
Without further ado, here is a brief summary of the ins and outs of gay bars, as experienced by me, Daffodil, in Waikiki last week.
(You can also watch the video below for reference/musical accompaniment.)
1. No shirt? No problem.
Shirts are strongly optional - nay, discouraged - in the bar I visited. Now, I have no idea if this is an across-the-board kind of rule, so please observe the "no shirt, no shoes no service" guideline until you see otherwise. But considering that even the barbacks were shirtless, I was looking at a whole lot of hairless chests and nipple rings, and the shirtless theme was widespread among employees and patrons. I turned to a friend and said "What is up with the no shirt thing?" "It's hot." she replied. Did she mean the bar was hot (because it was) or being shirtless was hot? Either way, people were digging it. Later I overheard a woman ask her husband (hey, no judgement) why he was shirtless. "I like the attention" he confessed. Hm. That gives me a lot to think about.
2. Handle package with care.
I have never seem so many people - mostly men, but some women* too - massaging each others crotches in public before. Mostly over the pants - but not always. Weird. Also, gross.
(* The women could have also been men. It was a little hard to tell in some cases.)
3. You do not have to dance with the one who brought you.
In fact, dancing just with one person is not an option. The amount of grinding amongst strangers was truly encouraging. It was an equal-opportunity grind-fest. Watch your bum. Because if you don't, someone is going to grind against it at some point - whether you want them to or not.
At one point, there was a couple grinding against each other so hard one of them was hanging on to the wall for support. I actually had to look away, because it was getting a little intense over there.
4. Get it together.
It seemed that in this bar, you had to be fully fabulous at all times. Moisturize, shave, style, and then dress to impress. No one was standing around in their football jersey drinking a beer. And any scruff was carefully cultivated and groomed. This place was full of the fashion-forward, and the people-watching was excellent. I also felt like a total slob.
I will do better next time.
Arrive with your phone fully charged, because you will need it. Whether you are getting someone's number or taking a group photo for social media, you will need all of your battery life to properly document the evening, and find your ride at the end of the night. When the above noted "Selfie" song came on, the entire group next to me sang along, and at the line "Let me take a selfie" they all lifted their phones and took a photo of themselves, then tagged and texted the shit out of it, passing their phones around each time. It wasn't just this song, however, that got everyone engaged. I loved the interactive approach to almost every song. And to the guy videotaping his wife's butt as she danced for him: I was impressed by your enthusiastic appreciation of your spouse, and only sort of weirded out.
The bottom line is that usually, bars have at least an undercurrent of sadness, to match the smell of stale beer. But not this bar. The joy that was exploding out of the club was just amazing. People were smiling, laughing, talking, hugging, letting people cut in front of them in line (and not just to check out their ass, but that definitely seemed to be a part of the motivation). No one was fighting, crying, or sitting alone in a corner. This was the friendliest, most affectionate and welcoming crowd I have ever been lucky enough to spend an evening with. If you walked out on the dance floor, you were instantly a part of their good time. And there was not a whiff of stale beer, mostly because everyone smelled SO LOVELY.
Now, maybe I happened to hit this place on a good night. Maybe, just maybe, I was seeing some of these people being their true - and truly fabulous - selves for the first time in a long time - or perhaps ever. I don't know if it was a unique evening. I do know this - what I saw was inspiring. The quiet boy in glasses ditched his backpack, ripping his shirt off as he climbed up and started gyrating on a pedestal. He was exuding joy, and it was contagious. People walking in alone were immediately being embraced by total strangers, who introduced themselves and let them cut in line to get their first drink ASAP. (This happened to me, so I speak from experience here.) Young couples with heads together and arms around each other's waists, laughing with friends, or talking quietly while they swayed to the music, unaware of the crowd around them. Men proudly dressed in full drag and looking better then most of the women I know - all the second glances they got here were ones of appreciation.
And that is the best word I can come up with for the evening: Appreciation. There was a feeling of appreciation from everyone I came into contact with. Appreciation of being able to be themselves. Appreciation of being in a state that allows marriage equality. Appreciation of the music, the staff, and each other. Appreciation of the moment. And really, I can't ask for more than that.
Today the Ninth Circuit Court is hearing 3 cases regarding marriage equality - including one case from Hawaii. More info can be found here