I know that for some people, the end of each year brings on wistful regrets and sentimentality. They get quite depressed as they scrutinise the low points of the past year and the coming challenges of the next. Not so for me.
I used to really enjoy New Year’s Eve in my youth; seeing it as an opportunity to neck as much gin or vodka as possible in a short space of time and dance till I fell over. The licensing laws were limited and I quite liked the novelty of pubs opening late and being able to drink and dance till the early hours. It was a big night for the small gay scene in the provincial city where I lived. The bars would be heaving with people in elaborate drag outfits that had taken months to run up on a singer sewing machine. It was often a spectacular sight to behold.
Ageing and the advent of worsening hangovers knocked the shine off it for me. I don’t drink anymore and rarely go out on the gay scene but I’m equally happy to snuggle up alone with my partner and watch the Hootenanny or to see friends. I wouldn’t be at all gutted if I nodded off at eleven either though.
A few years back, I was newly single, still drinking and I was cajoled into going out on New Year’s Eve by a few gay friends. I wasn’t fully in the mood for revelry; feeling quite fragile from a recent break-up and lacking self confidence. A tiny part of me always retained some romantic optimism, though and this oppressed part would occasionally whisper to me through my cynical shell: “Maybe tonight is the night when you’ll meet a really nice man”.
The chances of me ever meeting a man in a local gay bar were feeling pretty slim. I already knew most of the regulars, was hurtling towards 40 and feeling out of place amongst the younger crowd and if anyone ever looked at me for longer than a mere lingering glance then I’d rush to the loo to check if I had developed some new deformity which was making them stare at me. I couldn’t imagine what else a man could be looking at me for. Even alcohol failed to embolden me. My infrequent attempts to chat up blokes always ended in disaster: one notable occasion was when I spoke to a nervous looking man sitting at the bar and he put down his half finished drink and fled. I’d only said: “Hi”.
I left the house determined to try to enjoy myself. There’s always that risk on these occasions when you’re told how to feel that you’ll somehow fall short. It’s hard to always be happy just because it’s a particular date. There’s usually a lot else going on in your life. Somehow, I did enjoy myself though and with relatively little alcohol was managing to laugh and dance badly. My friends were amusing and the atmosphere was good.
The unthinkable happened when a man began to look at me. He was tall, well built and extremely handsome. I checked my hair for dead animals and looked behind me to make sure there was no Calvin Klein model over my shoulder. Maybe he was cross eyed.
It turned out he wasn’t and we began to talk. Bizarrely, he was relatively sober, really sweet, better looking close up and seemed to really like me. More oddly, he was exactly one day older than me. He was also newly single, having fallen out with his long term partner over Christmas (It happens. Over-heated houses, too much time and nowhere to go: it’s a powder keg). One of my friends came over and whispered hurriedly to me: “Don’t worry about us. We’re all fine. You have important work to do here and we respect that.” He signed off with a wink and the thumbs up.
A few hours later, we were getting on better. I was impressed with his muscular abdomen and firm pectorals. He seemed to like my more willowy torso. We were making each other laugh and were eventually ensconced in a dark corner having a good grope and a snog. Of course it had to end. His mates were leaving and he needed a lift home. Unlike in the fairy tales; I wasn’t left with a slipper but with a mobile phone number and a vague sense that this might be something good.
Luckily I also had the sense to see it for what it probably was: a man who was on the rebound after a traumatic festive row. We exchanged texts for a couple of days or so until he was reconciled back with his ex. He was very sweet about it and I was a little disappointed but not gutted. Romantic disappointments can come thick and fast for the single gay man. You get, almost, used to them.
In reality, we probably had no more in common than the fact that we almost shared a birthday and both found him very attractive. A man who’s just left his partner the week before is never a good romantic bet. I appreciated it for what it was, which was a diverting evening and a boost to the confidence that an excessively attractive man could like me. My friends managed to knock that confidence down a little by creating it into a legend. “You won’t believe how fit the man that Chris pulled on New Year’s Eve was!” became a recurrent theme. The implication being that I’d punched well above my feeble weight.
The other saving grace was that in spite of being almost the same age as me by a matter of days, he was looking better on it. Who wants to spend the next few years with a boyfriend who makes you look older and more worn by comparison? Imagine the scenes which would have followed as people learnt we were born only days apart then tried to hide their shock with a blank expression.
Whatever you’re doing to end the year, enjoy it, even if it’s just sleeping through it. Sleep is a fine occupation.
Chris is a theatre and book obsessed Midlander who escaped to London. He’s usually to be found slumped in a seat in a darkened auditorium.
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