God in the Gay Bar

He was hot, ok? Can you blame me for being interested? About my height, well dressed, athletic looking. Dark hair, nice smile. Nice smile directed towards me.

Damn. A nice smile.

Jetset had become my bar of choice. This was during the angry hedonistic phase of my life, when I had given up on God’s plan for me but not yet on His existence. I liked Jetset because it was the “classy” gay bar. Drinks were expensive (by Minneapolis standards) and strong (again, by Minneapolis standards). Young professionals wore collared shirts, and women frequently came to just dance and have fun with friends.

The Saloon had much more of a thirsty crowd. Older men stared at guys who could be their sons. Drunk twenty-somethings sometimes lost their shirts. I’ll admit that I lost my shirt at a party once, but I’ll never do that again. Shirtless bar guys are kind of gross. All they do is sweat all over everyone. And I don’t care how many abs you have-–I don’t want your nasty stranger sweat on me when I have to pass by you on my way to get another drink.

Saloon at times also featured dancing men in a “shower” placed on a stage. The clear box came equipped with a little slot for voyeurs to put money in. Even if the sweaty shirtless guys would benefit from a shower, this also grossed me out. I mean, really??? A musty enclosed box on a stage? When was the last time they cleaned that thing? Also, do you really want that wet stranger money at the end of your fake bathing? Guys stood around it and ogled, but I found it weird and unhygienic.

Then there was the Gay 90s… Oh, the 90s… Not really a bar I gravitated towards. I’ve been there maybe three or four times, mostly with friends who insisted on it. I had some fun. But being a privileged upper-middle-class quarter-white guy with a fairly innocent upbringing, I always felt that the 90s was a place you went to catch something or to get followed around by some creeper who thinks you’re into it. I’m not about the 90s. Narrow hallways. Too dark. Too many corners.

Another thing I remember about the 90s is the middle aged men who stood at the edges of the dance floor watching. They didn’t have the hungry look that guys have when they’re going to go for it. They had the dazed look of someone who’s just there to be a part of something because he feels unfulfilled in the rest of his life. These men embodied the stereotypical repressed gay man, wondering into the bar in search of acceptance but paralyzed by an unnamed fear. They stood on the edges with blank stares, not necessarily fixating on anyone or anything in particular, just watching and being there.

It’s one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. At least the guys who were hungry wanted something, felt something. These guys seemed like they stood there because they had lost feeling in the rest of their lives and just needed a place to exist as a gay man on a Saturday night. Even now, thinking of them makes me sad, and I wish there was something I could do for them.

But Jetset… Oh, the young and the beautiful. Jetset had the prettiest guys and the best drinks–-though Saloon had the friendliest bartenders.

Anyways, this attractive guy is looking at me, and you know what I think? Do I think, “I should go talk to him” or, “Maybe if I smile back he’ll come over here”? Nope. The thought that comes to my mind is, “What he really wants isn’t me. What he really desires is the Eucharist.”

Seriously??? I’m in a bar where a well-dressed hot guy is smiling at me, and my first thought is that he’s confused, that he wants the Eucharist? That’s what going out was like for me sometimes. I was basically living a Graham Greene novel.

Experiences like that helped me realize how much Catholicism is embedded within my being. That’s what seventeen years of Catholic education, countless pages of Christian literature, and frequent participation in the sacraments will do to you. Catholicism somehow got saturated into my sensibilities, my habits, my personality. Even when I later became an atheist, I still had this strong sense that in some inescapable way I was Catholic. Somehow I could never escape the deep fact that God loves us deeply, and that somewhere in the deepest and most honest parts of our being, we long to love Him, too.

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