Two Glasses of Water and a Gay Mag
One man's recollection of his first, tentative steps into a Dublin gay bar . . . @PowerWayne (Twitter)
Hark back to the summer of 2003 and what do you recall ? The scorching Indian summer? Beyonce’s ‘Crazy In Love’ blasting out of every radio, Topshop, hair salon and car stereo?
Me? Well I was fresh out of college with the usual aspirations of world domination. The comedown from the heady student days was starting to kick in and my newfound residency at the dole queue was another bone of contention. My battle with my sexuality was nearing a denouement. After all the soul searching and pathetic, half-arsed attempts at being a hetty, I had as good as conceded a blissful, euphoric defeat to queerness.
It was time to take the plunge, albeit gradually. At the time I was spending a summer of discontent in Dublin dossing around with my best mate and the hot straight guy from college I was convinced I could turn. There comes a time in every novice homo’s life when they have to take that rite of passage (no not that one, all in good time) the other one. Yes, your first visit to a gay bar. Funnily enough the song of the same name by Electric Six was a hit at the time. Sang to me at regular intervals by the hot straight guy from college I was convinced I could turn.
The pub in question for me was the granddaddy of them all on the Dublin gay scene . . . THE GEORGE!
Located in Central Dublin, I had often walked by and stared at its alluring purple exterior, in the back of my mind noting that sooner or later, I would tentatively mince through its purple doors. It turned out that it would be sooner! Bored and skint, me and my best friend (and future hag hag) had decided to go. One drink and that would be it. We would walk in, have a look around, and absorb it all, the faces and smells. I wasn’t expecting to pull; I probably would have run a mile had I been approached. It was a gorgeous bright Dublin evening, the type you can just get lost in. I didn’t worry about what to wear; it was a whistle stop visit after all. I settled on a tight, casual green top from what I can remember (that would extenuate the appalling farmers tan I had accumulated that summer) and the obligatory pair of jeans. I made sure that very strand of hair was lubricated and gelled to within an inch of its life and off we went. My stomach spoke of pure terror. I walked briskly through the inner city streets, talking a mile a minute to disguise how tense I was feeling. It wasn’t all one way though.
"There were overwhelming pangs of excitement. All these feelings danced and collided together with such a life affirming gush. Time to taste the rainbow."
The closer we got to The George, that more the stupid feeling of naïve terror persisted to tease me. What was so terrifying? It was the realisation of what I was about to do and culmination of it all. We’ve all been there; wrestling and grappling with those feelings before taking that great leap of faith. I wasn’t blessed with much confidence back then. I envy the younger generation of confident and relaxed gay youths with their heads seemingly screwed on.
The purple cauldron of The George was just in sight as we waited at the traffic lights on Dame Street and then we got there. No fanfare and no epic Europop anthem to soundtrack it all. I was the youngest thing in there. I could feel every stare and sense every head that turned. Unbeknown to me at the time, this was the part of the bar frequented by the older clientele. Granted, there were a few relics propping up the bar, and there was only a very small band of people in there in total; less than 10 I think - including the bar staff.
"Admittedly it was flattering to get those few, paltry stares. All those older eyes must have seen so many awkward new pretenders come and go over the years."
And here I was, all scrawny in body, with farmers tan and a badly manicured Craig David beard.
Of course me and my best friend hadn’t got a pot to pee in at the time. I was mortified to walk up to the bar and order two glasses of water. The look he gave me… We didn’t even have enough money to grab a pint to knock back and neutralise the anxiety and self consciousness. So we sat in a quiet corner, as you do, sipped our waters and looked around. We absorbed; took it all in. Sitting in a gay bar in Dublin, knocking back a glass of water - talk about living the dream! I laugh now but at the time I felt like I’d scaled Everest and erased world poverty. There was nothing to see. I don’t even know what I wanted to see. I just knew I wanted to be there, even if there were only a handful of people clutching cigarettes and drinks, sheltered from the impending July dusk.
We didn’t do much the pair of us. I went for a wee intending to make eye contact with everyone. And I did. Let them know I was here. On the way back from the toilet I did the same thing. We then found ourselves transfixed by a couple snogging the faces off each other. We tried not to look, but when we did we giggled incessantly like two schoolgirls. My mate’s face was priceless. We finished our waters, grabbed a ton of free gay listings magazines and left. A bit of an anti climax but a worthy one. As I laughed my way through the sunlit streets of Dublin, I knew I’d be back. Keep my seat, mine’s a water.