Judging A Book By Its Cover
Judging A Book By Its Cover

When I first started going to the baths ten years ago, I was still in denial about who I was. And like many men who are in the closet, the bars and clubs are too risky to be seen in. So the baths becomes the place many closeted men first meet other gay men.

Being closeted, you have a preconceived notion of how gay men look and act. All you have to go on are the stereotypes presented by the mainstream media (Judging such as dressing like a drag queen, or a designer fashion house, or in a flannel and leather ensemble). But the more you go to the baths, the more those stereotypes are broken. It is such an eye-opener. On the street, if you see someone, you cannot be sure if he is gay or not. In a bathhouse, you know for sure that he is gay. Back in my closeted days, it was an educational culture shock. They were of all nationalities, all ages, all shapes and all sizes.

Because of my limited experience interacting with other gay men, I was astonished at the variety of men. I would sit in the lounge at the bathhouse for hours and hours, just amazed. I would see some guy and say to myself, 'Wow! He's gay? He doesn't look gay'. That is because I only had those stereotypes to draw on. Some of the guys I would see, I wouldn't guess in a million years that they were gay. Some of those men looked like the average Joe. Not like the gay flamboyant caricatures you see on television.

These days, it is still fascinating to sit in the lounge and be an observer. I like watching gay men interact and cruise one another in a bathhouse setting. A lot of the times, I'll see some of the same men week after week. And eventually I'll start to analyze their habits. Like the guy who is so picky, that he never does anything with anyone. Or the guy who does nothing but touch guys in the shower. Or the guy who never leaves his room, preferring to have guys come to him.

One favorite game I like to play is the married game. I sit in the lounge and try to spot as many wedding bands as possible. My all-time record is twenty! (Though nowadays with marriage equality being legal, the man sporting a wedding ring could be married to another man). When I see a married man, I try to figure him out. His marriage, his wife, any kids, basically his story. I think, 'How did he find out about the baths' and 'Is he bisexual'. There is one young married man who comes to the baths frequently. Picture a body like Jean-Claude VanDamme, face and hair of a model. Wardrobe consists of ripped jeans and a flannel shirt with no sleeves. Yet he is married, in the closet and comes to the baths. I once over-heard a conversation he had with a guy whom he just finished having sex. He was saying that if there were a pill he could take that would make him straight, he would be the first one in line. It made me think what his life would be like, if he was honest with himself. He would be so popular in the gay community. He sure would not be lonely. Yet he is in the closet and is married. But if I saw him on the street, I would think - straight.

And although you see so many different gay men, there is anonymity to everyone's identity. That is because of the nakedness of the atmosphere. The only thing people are wearing are towels. So there is no class distinction at the baths, (rare for a gay setting) as you have no idea what the other person does for a living. By wearing nothing but a towel, everyone is on an equal level. Truck drivers interact with lawyers and so on. There are some gay men I've seen every week for ten years, and I still have no idea who they are or what they do. But there are other men that I've talked to, after weeks of passing by each other in the hallways. And you wouldn't believe some of their occupations. I've met vice-presidents of corporations, criminal lawyers, insurance adjusters, computer programmers, hairdressers, many small business owners and the list goes on. But the number one job occupation of many bathhouse patrons has got to be teacher. I don't know why there are so many gay teachers in North America. But there is always at least one teacher roaming the halls at the baths.

Because of the anonymity and nakedness of the baths, you develop preconceived notions of the other gay men you see. For instance, I had an encounter with a mentally challenged gay man (read The Mentally Challenged Cuddler) Looking at him, you would think twinkie and circuit queen. But the minute you talk to him, it is apparent that he isn't like that. Appearance wise, you would never guess that he has a disability.

Then, there's another guy that I have seen at the baths for years. We've never exchanged one word, but he gives off an arrogant, macho vibe. He is muscular with many tattoos, and barely speaks. One day 'macho man' brought his 'ex' to the baths. Without knowing they were involved, I had an encounter with the 'ex'. The 'ex' later told me that 'macho man' is not arrogant or conceited. Rather he is very insecure. He's constantly unsure what he wants, and who he wants to do it with, when he is the baths. I would have never guessed that. All I saw was arrogance.

But after going to the baths for so long, there are things you can tell. Just by looking. For instance, the couples that go to the baths together.

First up, the twinkie and the older man. Otherwise known as the hustler and sugar daddy. They usually come in together, having met at a bar or from the hustler's ad. Both hurry to a room that has the biggest bed. After 15 to 30 minutes, the hustler abruptly leaves first. He doesn't even take the time to shower. Gone in a flash. The older man however, usually leaves later. After showering. But, they always leave separately. Very rarely have I seen a hustler and a customer arrive and leave together.

Sometimes a couple comes in together and it is hard to distinguish if they are lovers or friends. If they are a couple, they could have an open relationship. If they are friends, they could have just dropped by to see what was happening. What is difficult is it is virtually impossible to find out what category they fit into. The only way to know for sure is to hook up with one of them. Then you can ask, 'Who is your friend?'

Then you have the men who are having an affair. There are many different combinations. Both men could either straight, or both could be gay. Or one guy is straight and the other guy is gay. Once I saw an Asian and a white blond guy, both in their mid-thirties, arrive at the baths together. They came in (at 2 PM on a weekday afternoon), had wild sex, and showered together and then left together. Both were wearing wedding rings.

But back to the guy I saw on the public transit. As I was still trying to figure him out, he got off in an area that doesn't have much of a gay community. I guess you really can't judge a book by its cover.

6 thoughts on “Judging A Book By Its Cover”

  1. What a great site saving me ten years of experience and research. As a thirty year old just coming out I am happy to have been armed with this knowledge before my first trips to the local bath house that would be scary to say the least.

  2. I have enjoyed your stories and would like to know if you are aware of any web sites that list the cities and the bath houses. Regards, Jason

  3. WOW, I can’t believe I even spotted this on the internet. Your stories are unbelievable. I’ve always wanted to go into a bath-house, and these stories really gave me a better understanding of this. Honestly, I really thank you. I’m not a really great looking guy (but I’m not a Joe Pesci either), so this info gives me a better understanding. Sounds like you are playing your odds when you decide to go there; just a chance of luck if you get hit on. I think I might decide to go now, but it might be out of state in Cali. As a Mexican, I sometimes see White Guys around my age going after other white guys too. But the info is really informative. Believe it or not, I want to go to a bath-house now! I guess it’s not knowing not that nothing much might happen the first time I would go(but might be pushing the old guys away). But’s OK, since I would just be cruising while everyone sees my hard-one. HAHAHAHHA

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *