Train Spotting

That guy is cute. Dark hair. Strong cheekbones. He’s handsome. Dressed in black. Leaning against the train window, looking at the passing scenery. While I’m looking at him.

He looks familiar. Hold on. That’s not some cute guy. That’s me.

Riding on the Long Island Railroad heading into Manhattan. I was looking down the aisle at what I thought was the next compartment, but was actually the reflection of the one in which was seated. That guy was me.

How funny is that? All the times I look at myself in the mirror and never think for a moment that anyone would find me attractive, and yet when I have the odd experience of seeing myself without knowing it was me, I thought I was rather handsome.

That’s quite a trick. Getting outside of your everyday perception, and seeing yourself the way others might see you. Some others, anyway.

When I was younger, and would ride the train into the city all the time, I was used to men hitting on me. Back then, the attention was unwelcome. In fact, it was often unintentional. Many of those guys were straight, and were under the impression they were hitting on a girl. As a teenager, I had that androgynous look that was the fashion then. Long hair, clear skin, pretty eyes, full lips (The strong cheekbones didn’t appear for a few years yet.) I would often wear black eyeliner and some sort of bangles on my wrist, or around my neck. Plus, I was thin as a rail. Still am.

About that. When you’re a teenaged male, skinny can be attractive. Especially when you’re an androgynous looking teenaged male. As you age, skinny becomes less and less desirable. Most guys do not want to be with someone who’s thin. Most gay men want to be with gym bodies, or more likely, other guys who are built the same way they are. Over a certain age, let’s face it, many people start to gain weight. Being with another guy who is gaining a few pounds seems to be okay, but skinny is only flattering on the young.

So there I would be, sitting on the LIRR, with some lecherous older man hitting on me. Thinking I was a girl. It gave me an inkling of what it must be like for girls. Constantly bothered by creeps who thought they had a chance with every female within range of scent. The more I tried to give off signals that I was not interested, the more persistent they became. Eventually, I would speak, and they would figure out I must be a guy. The voice didn’t match the face.

Gay men would hit on me, too, but their attention was usually no more welcome. It was only very rarely that I would meet some young cute guy who was attracted to me, and then I would always be far too nervous to let anything happen. I’d give off the same leave me alone signals, and unfortunately, I’d be more effective at that when what I wanted was the exact opposite.

Spotting the cute guy who will also find me cute is not something I do well. I just don’t seem to have the knack, or perhaps the practice. Mostly, I slip into polite disinterest. An excellent disguise. Of course, I’m not one to make the first move, either. So that leaves me looking at reflections in the windows of trains. Or scanning the facebook photos of friends for possible friends of friends who are cute.

You know you do that, too. A group photo appears in your newsfeed, and before you have any idea which friend has posted the photo, you are already picking out the cute guy. There he is, in the green shorts. Shirtless stud on the beach. Too bad he’s wearing sunglasses, but you can click on his name if he’s tagged, to see the rest of his profile shots. Only then do you get around to looking at the other faces, or up at the name of the original poster.

Oh, how disappointing. It was from a female friend. She’s married, and you don’t really know her all that well, and the studly beach buddy is also married, and straight. He’s too young, anyway. He’d never find you attractive. Not even if you are no longer androgynous and have strong cheekbones and dark hair and look rather handsome at first glance.


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