A Week Of Pick-up Places

7 days, countless chances to meet someone. But which places proved most promising? Listen to one gay man’s story.

By Bill Keith

ven though summer’s here — with its easy, breezy ways to meet someone — this time of year can still be a bit bleak on the romance front. Suddenly the streets are swarming with happy, loving couples who’ve come out of hibernation. Nevertheless, I committed myself to a week of pounding the pavement, putting myself out there and seeing what sort of action I might get at the likeliest of pick-up spots around town. Here’s what I learned. Let this information guide your mingling efforts.

Monday: The gym
Admittedly, the gym can be a tricky pick-up spot for gays, because the line between flirting and being Creepy Gym Guy can be very fine
“I scan the room at Barnes & Noble and realize someone is eyeing me.”
(especially when there’s a locker room involved). Today I decide to take an urban rebounding class. It’s also a way around another key problem that can happen at the gym—accidentally flirting with a straight guy. But, if there’s a man in a class that involves bouncing on a mini-trampoline to the sounds of Kelly Clarkson, you can bet he watches LOGO. Classes are really only good for scoping out talent and exchanging meaningful glances, but these both can lead to quality after-class banter, as they did today. In line at the drinking fountain, it couldn’t have been more natural for me to find out if my new friend Carl regularly attends Monday night’s class by asking what he thinks of the instructor. Since he said he was a regular, I felt no pressure to exchange numbers yet; I’ll let this one build over a couple classes.

Tuesday: The grocery store
As a rule, I try to avoid these places, but I’ve heard they have quite a singles scene, so I head on over. I contemplate making a list but soon determine this is probably behavior reserved for mothers and the kind of guy I have no business dating, so I head in empty-handed, flying blindly. I grab hold of a cart and begin ambling down the aisles and realize I have absolutely no idea: a) what I’m doing here, b) where anything is, or c) what I’m supposed to be buying. I see a cute guy eyeing some spices (what does that say about him?), and then I see he’s looking at me. I think things may be going well until I see his wife approaching and realize he’s just looking at me because I’m staring at him like I’m Dian Fosse and he’s a gorilla in the mist. Also, I notice everyone is carrying baskets, not pushing a cart, and after 20 minutes I’ve only managed to cruise one (straight) guy and pick up a tub of hummus, a six-pack of beer and some beets. Lesson learned—I need to stay within my comfort zone. Though if I do decide to get back on the horse again, I’m going armed with a recipe that will at least guide me around the store and give me the opportunity to ask an unsuspecting stranger to help me find the cumin.

Wednesday: Special night at my favorite gay bar
I’m not what you’d call a gay bar regular, but I have a place I like to go to that has a great special on Wednesday nights. I decide to go solo tonight, figuring this will be an ideal way to make myself look available and not alienate anyone with my obnoxious friends. Tonight everyone seems to be up for the same thing, and I notice that when you show up before nine, people seem to mean business—and by business I mean they’re here to meet people and have longer, more meaningful conversations. They’re not just there to grab someone at the end of the night. After finding a solo stool in the middle of the bar, it wasn’t hard to strike up a conversation because that’s what most of the other guys were there to do. If I weren’t unfathomably bad at pool, I would have
“At the supermarket, I only manage to cruise one (straight) guy.”
put down some quarters to get in on the next game. Instead, I threw some cash in the jukebox and hung out there for a while. Talking about music is easy—everyone has an opinion about what’s playing or what should play next. And offering your credits to someone is a good way to engage other guys near the juke. I walked out with three numbers and two iTunes purchase recommendations.

Thursday: A bookstore
A news anchor of debatable sexuality is talking tonight at Barnes & Noble, which I figure will draw a pretty cute group of literate guys. I hang toward the back of the room to get a better look at the crowd and have easy access to exits. Inevitably these things run long, people start to let their eyes wander, and I’m hoping that by the time there’s a break in the action, I will have locked eyes several times with someone who would like to move the conversation to the magazine aisle or, even better, the café. After 20 minutes, things are winding down, and I scan the room in earnest; then I realize someone is targeting me. He’s not exactly my type, but I appreciate that he’s got the same idea I do. I head over to the café area and grab a table for myself maintaining intermittent eye contact with him, hopefully without creeping him out. Sure enough, he follows, grabs a coffee and asks if he can grab the seat across from mine. After 20 or so minutes of talking I realize he’s not my type, but he’s nice enough, and he gives me some enjoyable secondhand gossip about the news anchor. All in all, not the worst time I’ve had in the stacks.

Friday: A friend’s birthday party
I’m pretty sure I’m going to know everyone at my friend’s birthday party — we have known each other for 10 years now — but there’s always the chance someone’s gay brother or new co-worker will decide to come along. I go in with low expectations, which ends up being a good thing because I know everyone at the party, including an ex-boyfriend. No game here tonight, but a fun party nonetheless (and I do meet a cute girl who wants to fix me up with her best friend, so the evening isn’t a total loss). Next time, though, it might be best to try to angle in on a friend of a friend’s birthday party. Though I run the risk of throwing myself into a group of strangers I don’t gel with, at least it widens my pool of potential dates and matchmakers.

Saturday: An art museum
Cultural institutions are hotbeds for cute gay guys—plus there are all sorts of different routes to take in a museum that allow you to strategically and coyly bump into the same person a few times, look surprised and smile. In the first room of the exhibit, there’s a cute guy with glasses who is interested enough in the artwork, but he’s also clearly scanning the room to see who’s around. It’s always good to look for the guy rolling solo—groups in museums can be difficult to infiltrate, but at the very least a lone ranger will be able to say something about how the art makes him feel, even if it just confuses him. After eyeing Glasses Guy in three different galleries, I decide to ask him what section of the museum he’s headed to next, as we seem to have similar tastes. He tells me he’s off to the Egyptian Room, which is sort of an un-favorite of mine, but I follow along anyway and give him my number when we get there. I explain that I only carved out enough time this afternoon for the contemporary stuff but would love to get together in the future to talk about the other things he manages to see that day. I’d say there’s a 50 percent chance he’ll call me, and that’s good enough.

Sunday: Brunch with a friend
This may seem like a desperate plan, but I figure: Why not try to pick up a cute waiter or bartender at a popular restaurant around the corner from my apartment? I have my friend Erin meet me there and tell her my plan. First we hit the bar to see if the bartender is cute enough to grab a mimosa from, but today it’s a woman. As for the waiters, there is one clearly gay guy, one who’s questionable, a pathologically straight guy and a woman. We decide to play a little Russian roulette with the wait-staff and pray the hostess seats us with one of the cute waiters, and she does! But it is he of questionable sexuality, which now pits Erin and me against one another. This could get good, but it seems this guy is hoping to get big tips out of both of us and is talking out of both sides of his mouth. In between courses I tell Erin I’m over playing this game, and that I’m going to ask the clearly gay waiter for some ketchup and see where that gets me. He sharply tells me that I need to ask my server, which tells me this plan has left entirely too much to chance.

But that’s OK: It’s been seven days of this, and I do have some, “Hey, let’s get together sometime” calls to return.

Bill Keith is a freelance writer living in New York.
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