Invisible Stranger

Invisible Stranger

Collecting Crises on Old Compton Street and Beyond

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Little Tinker

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Tuesday, October 21, 2003
Bog Standards
I've mentioned before that my gym, even with its reputation for having everything for young men to enjoy, is admirably mixed. (I don't think I could face an all-gay gym anyway: you get enough of other men's dangly bits during last-orders on Old Compton Street, thank you very much.) Apart from the odd hetero- or homophobe, everyone gets on together, and it works OK. Well, for most of the time.

There are five urinals in the gents; let's call them Urinals One, Two, Three, Four and Five. They are ranged against the wall left to right, with Urinal One situated just by the open entrance from the changing rooms, and Urinal Five furthest away in the corner.

Entering the loo area, after your work-out, if you're lucky all five urinals are free, and you may happily choose whichever one you so desire. Heavens, I'm not one to hang around public toilets, you understand, but long years of observation have shown me that, faced with this option, most straight men take the middle way, and head for Urinal Three. There's no "modesty screen" to the left of Urinal One, so people are reluctant to use that one; and if you head straight for Five, the gossipy queens are just going to start wondering what it is you're fiddling with in that corner, out of sight of everyone else.

Things start to get more complicated when another man enters. Urinals Two or Four are definite no-no's. To use either of these would not only be intruding on Number Three's personal space, but might lead him to think that you are, in fact, a Predatory Homosexual trying to come on to him. (This is the YMCA, after all.) So our newcomer will, most certainly opt for Urinal One, which, being nearest the door, also provides a quick and easy exit, should Number Three actually turn out to be the genuine Predatory Homosexual instead.

Now that Number Three is no longer alone, he will adopt a totally different stance and attitude. Where before he was slouching nonchalantly at the urinal and admiring himself in the wall-length mirror to his left, he will now stand ramrod-stiff, and look straight ahead, trying to avoid any eye contact with Number One which might be misconstrued. However, neither of them will be able to avoid a quick half-second's sneaky shufti at what the other is holding in his hands.

(A note to my female readers. This is not a gay thing. All men, gay or straight, check each other out. This is because we are all such insecure individuals and need to know which one of us has the biggest dong of them all.)

Things become even more awkward when a third gym bunny enters, and is forced into choosing between Urinals Two, Four or Five. If he follows One's reasoning, as he most certainly will, and heads for Urinal Five, then everyone will be happy, and bladders will be emptied with the minimum of effort. However, if he chooses Four, then it will be assumed that it is he who is the Predatory Homosexual, and has been spying on Three from behind the pec-deck for ages, and is now so pumped and addled with testosterone that he doesn't care who knows.

This will offend One, who is strictly heterosexual and doesn't like that kind of thing, but at the same time, and being vain, would also like to think he is the most attractive and buffed person in the gym, and is outraged that the newcomer could fancy Three over him. The imagined attention will upset even more the ever-so-straight Three, who will then find himself unable to urinate. As urination is supposedly the whole point of coming into this sort of place, then our newly-arrived gym bunny will naturally assume that Three has other more carnal things on his mind. If gym bunny is straight, he will then promptly head for Urinal Five which is where he should have been in the first place. If he is not straight, then queens being queens being men, he may just make an indiscreet move, in which case he will get a punch in the face.

(However, if the newcomer stakes his place at Urinal Two, between One and Three, then it can safely be assumed by all concerned that he is a proper little slapper.)

Assuming he takes his rightful place at Urinal Five, no-one will be threatened or embarrassed. Or at least, not until the fourth person enters, and he has to decide just which two he is going to stand in between. And if he chooses One and Three, then how is Five going to feel being given the brush-off like that?

And if the next one to enter is just that tiny bit gay, something which happens now and again down the YMCA, then that's, quite literally, a whole different ball game.

Is it any wonder that I always use the cubicle?