When Ed and I moved to Dallas, it was an exciting time because for the first time, we were able to meet other gay men and women.  However, we were uncomfortable at first because old habits die hard.  Coming from a military environment and having been closeted our entire lives, the new freedom was an did not feel natural.  Although Dallas is a big city, we had to keep in mind Ed was still in the military with a few years remaining before his retirement.  Regardless, after a cautious beginning, we became active in the gay community and made many life-long friends. There were several gay events we participated in every year, one of which was the Gay Pride Parade. Because of the numbers of participating floats and politicians, the parade lasted for hours. We generally went with friends bringing food and drinks in ice chests and marked out territory with a blanket.  Major events like the Gay Pride Parade, Halloween, Black Tie, etc. provide an important service.  It is an opportunity to bring people together, to see friends you haven’t seen all year, keep others from feeling isolated and giving hope to people still living in a closeted world.

Aside from these lofty goals, they are fun, party like and probably the best opportunities for people watching ever. One year, our group was having a great time watching the parade and people passing by feeling the camaraderie.  I turned my head and saw a man who made me agog. I’m a pretty practical guy so I have probably only used the word “agog” three or four times in my life. This man was very tanned, muscular. wearing jeans with no shirt because of the heat and very hairy chested. This look was very common in the crowd and would normally not result in a second glance.  However, this gentleman had one of his nipples pierced.  His nipple ring wa being used as a hanger for his aviator sunglasses. As he walked the sunglasses would rise and then fall back to his chest. What made me agog was how hyper-masculine he appeared to me. I pointed him out to Ed who was not impressed and thought the whole sunglasses thing seemed kind of silly. The gentleman moved on and so did I.

A month or so later, Ed and I decided to stop for a drink one night.  Many people see the gay community as a monolithic group when, in reality, there are many subgroups and for each of these subgroups there are drinking establishments to cater to them. The closest place of us to stop for a drink was a “Leather/Levi” bar.  I like a nice lamb skin jacket as much as the next guy but that’s not the type of leather worn by the other customers in the bar. I’ve told Ed I was going to wear assless chaps for Halloween but that was because it tickled me to see Ed’s reaction.  We were looking at the specials for the night and there were a couple of drinks listed plus a special on nipple piercing. After a couple of drinks and lots of embarrassing begging, Ed agreed to letting me get my nipple pierced.  I went to where the “piercer” was doing his work and waited in line – yes, there was a line. When it was my turn, he told me to take off my shirt, jump up on the pool table and lie down (not instructions you hear every day).  I did as told and the guy got to work. If anyone tells you that having a nipple pierced does not hurt, they are not your friend.   However, the thought of looking like the hyper-masculine guy kept me rooted to the table. Ed grabbed my hand until the operation was successfully completed and I got my final instructions. When I got up and took my hand back, I noticed Ed was still at the front bar while I was in the back. I glanced over to find a very heavy-set hairy man in full leather gear releasing my hand and smiling back. I scampered back to Ed’s side.

In the morning I got up and went straight to the mirror to soak in my new look.  I even had sunglasses on the ready.  After my initial look, I realized I should have considered the differences between us before finalizing my decision.  First, he was a very tanned muscular guy with pronounced pectorals. I am, on the other hand, so fair it is nearly impossible to tan. I like to call myself proportional which doesn’t include pronounced pecs. Unlike his hairy chest, the only hair I’ve ever had on my chest grew out of a hag type mole. A couple years back I had the mole removed because it was truly ugly and the hairs went with it.  In the end, I was looking in at a thin, very white hairless chest with a ring in the nipple.  I was not even close to having an “agog” look. I spent the next two days trying to open the ring enough to take the darn thing out. I was a little embarrassed that I ever wanted it in the first place.

Thinking about this experience constantly for the next few days made me come to one conclusion. It had to be the fault of the alcohol that I was such a willing participant. I decided I’m crazy enough and uninhibited enough already and that alcohol served no purpose in my life. I have not had a drink of alcohol since (unless you count an occasional Nyquil shooter when I have a cold).