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Man, Woman; DC, Annapolis

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I am responding to Nicole Wilson's article entitled "Gyms- Too Gay or To Gaze?" wherein she compares the gym culture of Washington, DC, and Annapolis, MD.

In a nutshell, Washington is where people go to work and preserve their fragile Professional Services reputations and Annapolis is where people go to play, to sail, and to let off the shackles of oppression, namely the preservation of one's reputation. Of course, this as a straight man living in DC.

All of what Nicole said is true; but, there are other reasons.

Its the culture of the sort of people who live in DC, the men and the women, who make up the problem and since I have been here, and actively straight-and-dating, I believe I might have an insight.

Women in DC, at the gym, detest being checked out and the men know it. This is a city suffused by Student Body Presidents -- the men are generally not very good-looking and although the women are very cute and plentiful, they are not very good at the whole flirting thing. Pretty terrible at it. There are loads of very gorgeous young women who feel absolutely stymied as to the entire dating, hooking-up, flirting, and relationship thing. These are the country's brightest women -- intellectually but not emotionally.

Yes, the women go out to happy hours, for sure, but they also tend to remain in very tight herds; what's a boy to do if he suffers from the same emotional dullness? If he has spent more time in college and at the library and at work late than dating and meeting and pursuing and hooking up himself?

Yeah, there was serious hooking up in college -- but there are no points awarded for taking candy from a baby. University dating doesn't require any sophistication as to the game of seduction, the game of being attractive, of taking some risks, of making some mistakes, of getting shot down and having to just mark it off as experience. In college, all you had to be was on the same floor, in the same class, a little drunk and a lot horny.

We're not in Kansas any more.

But these women are also city girls. And, although they are beginning to wear strappy sandals and the GI Pantyhose has gone into the dustbin, these woman are not Sex in the City quite yet. Looking and walking like a duck is one thing, but there is not enough quacking going on to say with true conviction that these girls are ducks.

DC women are not comfortable with the entire "he's checking out my ass, and he's kind of cute" thing.

I was talking to Joel Nelson, and we were chatting about this and that. Its easier to measure my attractiveness by seeing how Washington's gay men react to me, because its in a form that is not subtle at all. Men don't get subtlety very well. And Joel and I agreed that if a gay man is checking me out at the gym, then so is a straight woman. She is just too subtle. And I have yet to catch the telltale but almost imperceptible eye-dart that invariably happens as she tries not to get caught looking.

I have also learned to make sure that if I so catch her looking -- if I catch her eye -- I have to smile right away. And, I learned something new from my buddy Mark Harrison: the 2-second rule. If I catch a woman's eye for two seconds or more, it is required to approach her right away and say hello. To avoid the mad stalker thing.

So, alas, we all know that all these concerns are lessened when one is on Holiday. And since even English girls kiss boys they don't know while on Holiday in Greece (and girls of a certain class never kiss boys they don't know in the homeland), then I assume that this is the case for reputation-conscious Washingtonians as well. Comparing Annapolis -- with its sea and boat and Naval culture --- and Washington? There's no comparison. There is also the class issue. Overeducated people sexually and emotionally act much differently than folks who work in the Service, Entertainment, and Restaurant industry. For sure.

So, I have no complaints myself. I am happily seeing a Very Lovely Woman, and was dating pretty shamelessly before; but I can see the frustration and I share it. What is to be done? How can this stalemate be resolved? Does anyone have any ideas? And what is the situation in your town or city?

Sep 03, 2002 08:25 AM