Apr 15, 2014

Summer 1998: Wing Man for a Muscle God

In the summer of 1998, just after I returned from visiting Jaan in Estonia (and cruising the Swedish bodybuilder in Tallinn), it was time to travel to Montreal, to the annual conference of the International Sociological Society, where I read a paper on queer theory (and investigated the mystery of Formosan men's endowment).

But I also had plenty of time for sightseeing: the Basilique Notre-Dame, the Musee des Beaux-Arts, the Centre d'histoire de Montréal.

And the Gay Village, an amazingly vibrant neighborhood cluttered with gay bars, restaurants, shops, and saunas.

At the Oasis, a gay sauna on the rue Ste. Catherine, I hung around the spa (a pool-sized hot tub) and started a conversation with an older guy named James, probably in his mid-60s, a member of the English-speaking minority of Montreal.  He didn't learn Québécois French until high school, and he still couldn't parse a sentence in Parisian French.

What was the difference?

Tu as...vouz avons
C'est de valeur...quel domage 
Chatons la pomme...nous flirtons

We were so busy discussing languages that I forgot gay sauna etiquette: casual conversations must be restricted to a few sentences, or the other guy will think you are interested.  And James was definitely cruising me!

He reminded me of John Fiedler, who starred in The Bob Newhart Show in the 1970s: short enough, but rather too old for me, and lacking the other characteristics that I find attractive: he was pale-skinned, scrawny, and unimpressive beneath the belt (James, not John Fiedler).,

But, I figured, we were having a nice conversation, so why not? So when James put his hand on my knee and asked "Do you want to come to our room?" I consented.

Wait...our room?

"Do you mind if my friend joins us?"

Two pale-skinned, scrawny, under-endowed 60-year olds?  But I was in this far...  "No, I don't mind at all.  The more, the merrier."

He turned and addressed someone on the other side of the spa.  "J'ai trouvé un garz!  Eu, Jérôme!" I found a guy!  Hey, Jerome!

Wait -- there weren't any pale-skinned, scrawny 60 year olds around...

But there was a massively-built bodybuilder.  In his 30s,  dark-skinned, rock-hard chest and abs, massive biceps, and more than adequate beneath the belt (see top photo).

He had been giving everyone in the sauna attitude -- including us. But now he raised up on one arm and grinned and said, "Ok, passons-nous à la cabine,"  Let's go to our room.

I was stunned.

When two friends cruised together, the most attractive always acted as the bait, piquing the target's interest so much that he was willing to accept the less attractive one as part of the bargain.

Why did James and Jérôme reverse the pattern?  Surely Jérôme could get any guy he wanted.

It would have been gauche to inquire, so I didn't, but later I surmised: because there was such a blatant difference in attractiveness, some targets in the past had agreed to Jérôme but fled upon seeing James.

The strategy of using James as the bait resulted in fewer hurt feelings.

They both turned out to be nice guys.  Later they took me on a tour of the Gay Village, where we had dinner at Cafe Saigon and finished up the evening watching the show at Le Stud.

See also: Are the Stories about Formosan Men True?