Hark back to the summer of 2003 and what do you recall? The scorching Indian summer? Beyoncé’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. 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… Thats another story… 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 it’s alluring, purple exterior. In the back of my mind noting that sooner or later, I would tentatively mince through it’s purple doors. And it was to be sooner. Bored and skint, me and my best friend and future hag had decided to go. One drink, that was it. Walk in, have a look around, absorb it all, the faces, smells. I wasn’t expecting to pull, I probably would’ve run a mile had I been approached.
It was a gorgeous, bright Dublin evening, of 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 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. Every strand of hair was lubricated and gelled to within an inch of its life.
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 were getting to The George, that stupid feeling of naïve terror persisted to tease me. What was so terrifying? It’s the realisation and culmination of it all. We’ve all been there. Wrestle and grapple with al those feelings. 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. We arrived. No fanfare, no epic Europop anthem to soundtrack it all.
I was the youngest thing in there. I could feel every stare and 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, there was only a a very small band of people in there. Less than 10 I think, including the bar staff.
Of course my best friend and I hadn’t a pot to piss in at the time. I was mortified walking up to the bar and ordering two glasses of water. The look he gave me. So no money to even grab a pint to knock back and neutralise the anxiety and self consciousness.
Admittedly it was flattering to get those few, paltry stares. All those older eyes must’ve seen so may awkward new pretenders come and go over the years. And here I was. All scrawny body, farmers tan and badly manicured Craig David beard.
We sat in a quiet corner, as you do, sipped our waters and looked around. 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. 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 was 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 piss intending to make eye contact with everyone, to 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 tonne of free gay listings mags 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 me seat, mine’s a water.
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