A friend of mine recently related an incident involving a drunk and overly familiar co-worker. The story brings up a couple of interesting questions, along the lines of “What would you do in this situation?”
It was a Friday night after work. Happy hour. A group of co-workers dwindled down to just him and one other guy. A guy he knows to be married. To a woman. The married co-worker had too much to drink and was getting friendly. Frisky. His hands were roaming. Grabbing my friend by the crotch. Unbuttoning his pants, slipping his hand inside, and taking hold of what he found there.
Now, my friend was trying to stop him,without much success. He tried telling him that it was inappropriate, and that he was clearly drunk. As friends and co-workers, it was sure to be complicated come Monday morning. As a straight guy (or maybe not so straight,) it was complicated further. Most complicated of all, however, was the wedding ring he was wearing. Its female counterpart being worn by a woman who is acquainted with my single gay friend. Presumably, she knows he is both of those things. Potentially, she suspects her husband may be interested in boys. Single gay boys that, perhaps, he works with?
It would be natural for any woman to let her thoughts wander along those lines. Given the circumstances. Few straight men get a couple of drinks in them and start groping other guys, unless there is already the hint of attraction to other guys. A wife would have to know that is there in her own husband, wouldn’t she?
My reaction upon hearing this was to categorize the issues. First, there is the fact that he is drunk. A major turn-off. Aside from the loud and raucous behavior from the person reeking of alcohol, there is the moral dilemma of how far you yourself are responsible. If you allow a person whose judgement is impaired to pursue intimacy with you, then aren’t you taking advantage of them? Wouldn’t they think so when they are once again sober?
Next, there is the whole straight thing. Been around that particular block too many times not to know that it doesn’t end well. Straight guys may wish to play with boys from time to time, but they rarely fall in love. It’s the playthings that fall, and get hurt. When expectations are not, cannot be, met.
Then there is the most complex question. The one that seems easy to answer from a hypothetical standpoint. From actual experience, however, it’s not so cut and dry. Do you get involved with a married man? For a date, for a night, for an affair? What constitutes an affair? One time, two times, once a week for a month, for more?
I’d always thought married guys are off limits. Completely. Undeniably. Of course they are. They are taken. Married men are also almost always straight, although now that the Supreme Court has struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, and each year more states are legalizing same sex marriage, a man’s sexual identity can no longer be easily determined by whether or not he has a band of metal around the ring finger of his left hand.
Still. Married is married. No room for debate.
I remember once when I was at the supermarket, I had the kind of meeting with a guy that you see in those awful gay movies. You know the ones, where a gay boy meets another gay boy while squeezing tomatoes in the produce aisle. They lock eyes. They go home together. They have sex. There is some unwritten understanding which only gay people have, apparently. It lets them know that all the gay world is promiscuous and that saying hello to a hot hunky stranger will naturally lead to hot steamy sex as soon as they are alone together and can tear one another’s clothes off. Names not necessary.
It was the kind of thing that never happens to me in real life. When I see those scenes in movies, I always laugh at how ridiculous gay stereotypes can be. I’m sure there are guys who do that sort of thing regularly, but I don’t know any of them personally.
I did not have sex with the guy from the grocer’s. He was awfully cute (he looked like Jai Rodriguez with ten pounds on him,) and I was flattered by his attention. I also found the experience fascinating. What made this guy so certain I was interested in him? What made him interested in me? There was a thrill to the flirtation. The sparkling eyes. The coy smiles. His forearm brushing against mine while picking out plums.
He got to the cashier ahead of me, and waited for me to check out. Then he disappeared. I was both embarrassed and excited each time I looked over to find him watching me, and then sad when I saw he was gone.
When I got outside and was walking across the parking lot to my car, he pulled up next to me and rolled down his window.
“Do you live around here?”
It was a strange question. Did he really think I would hop in his car and go have sex with him right then and there?
“No, I don’t.” Not wanting to turn him away, I added, “You’re cute.”
“So are you.”
Then I saw the ring. “You’re married?”
He glanced down at his hand. “Yes, is that a problem?”
Well, of course it was a problem. Here I was thinking I’d found my soulmate. It was the first time I’d ever had this kind of exchange with a stranger. You know, across a crowded room, and like that. This was romantic. It was exhilarating. I was walking on a cloud. The last thing I expected from this man who was surely my destiny was for him to already have a husband, yet ask me if I would care for a quick afternoon fuck.
“I guess not… can I give you my number?”
He immediately understood that he was not going to get laid while unpacking the groceries. Somewhere inside, I wished I was the kind of free spirit who could jump into the hot cutie’s arms and make wild passionate love to him. With complete abandon. Without judgment or care or adherence to pre-subscribed social conventions. Instead, I awkwardly scribbled down my number, hoping that he would call. Not that anything could happen. He was married. End of discussion.
Jai never called.
A couple of years later, I found myself in a similar scenario, but this time I was surprised by my response. The difference was that I knew the husband. In fact, we were good friends.
When David introduced me to his new boyfriend, Kevin, I did not know that they would soon be married. Not legally, but in every other regard. He was young, this Kevin. Much younger than David, who is my age. He did not speak English. Cute boy. Very cute.
As we sat across the table from one another, at a diner, I wasn’t sure, but it seemed as if there were sparks flying between us. David was sitting in the booth next to me. Would his boyfriend be bold enough to engage in a silent flirtation during our meal? Was I reading messages where there were none?
I had cut my finger and went into the bathroom to put a bandaid on it. He followed me. More unspoken signals.
There was a blizzard. The roads would be covered in two feet of snow by morning. Since it was already late, I stayed the night. Chapters from romance novels filled my head while I lay awake.
Could we manage a tryst? Wait, this was my pal David we would be cheating on. What would he think if he found out I was hitting on his young lover? Would he be okay with it? What was I thinking, why would he be okay with it? Put it out of your mind. You’re just imagining things, anyway.
Come morning, David had left early for work. I was shoveling the snow that had covered my car. Kevin stumbled out of slumber to watch. Sleepy hair, sleepy boy. So damn cute. We went back inside for hot chocolate. I turned the conversation, such as it was, with hand signals and broken words in partial English, to David. Hoping to convince myself that it would be wrong to pursue anything romantic with this adorable sleepy boy. If there was anything to pursue, that is.
The problem was that it didn’t feel wrong. I was honestly okay with this unspoken flirtation. In a way, it made it somehow more acceptable that he was David’s lover. Soon to be husband. It was less an unseemly affair, and more an act of sharing the affection he’d found with Kevin. Love between friends. It could work, right?
Besides, with the language barrier and the age difference, who knows if what I was picking up from him was real or just in my imagination? As I crossed the room in front of him, he pulled the hood of my sweatshirt over my head. I laughed and body checked him gently. He spun me around and grabbed me in a hug, with both of his hands on my ass. Okay, no mistaking that.
I was still laughing, enjoying his playfulness. He surrendered his weight over to me, then pressed his erection against my crotch. He arched his back, leaning far enough away to lock eyes with me. Making sure I understood correctly.
We stayed like that for a time, exploring one another, but did not take it any further. He followed me to the front door, where we stood, lingering in a romantic goodbye. I was hoping to see him again. To continue where we were leaving off. There was no doubt in my mind that if we were to spend any more time together alone, I would jump into bed with him. Happily, gladly. With gratitude.
Had I become that free spirit I briefly longed to be? Hardly, but in this particular case, it didn’t matter. I was open to him and felt neither judgment nor guilt.
The next time we saw each other, David was with us, and there was no way to continue what we had started. Unless David initiated, I suppose, but since there had never been any sexual attraction between us, that did not seem likely. We’ve been in touch over the three years since. They are married, or as much married as a gay couple can be in a state that does not yet recognize same sex marriages. Kevin and I still flirt. By text messages. No harm there.
What is most revealing is how the question of “What would you do?” can be answered differently at different times. Under different circumstances. Which, I guess, is as it should be. Realizing that our own actions can surprise us makes it hard to judge other people harshly when they find romance in unexpected places. You never really know what you might do in a given situation. Not always. Sometimes, you are content to let romance carry you away.