Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Email from a gay guy about a guy in his office

The post I did last month about how gay guys recognise each other prompted quite a few emails to be sent to me from various guys. One of the emails was from a gay blogger who has now done his own posting about a dilemma relating to a guy that he fancies at the gym. Another email was as follows:

Dear GB,

I never thought I'd actually write to you for advice, but here I am doing exactly that! I have been a reader of your blog for over a year. I came across your blog on a random Google search. Actually, I think I searched for "gay+investment+bank" on a lazy Sunday afternoon, because I had nothing better to do, and then found myself still reading your blogs after a few hours. I have been a regular since :)

Anyway, I just finished reading your post about how one can tell if the other person is gay. And then I just decided that I must sit down and write to you; tell you my story and ask for advice. So bear with me...

I started this job in an investment bank a few months ago, and came across this guy. I have no idea if he is gay or not but boy is he fun to look at! I couldn't resist the temptation and looked at him a few times (okay, more than a few times) in my first couple weeks. Despite my best effort to be discreet, he caught me staring at him on different occasions. Anyway, after a few more weeks I realized that I was behaving more like a high school girl and tried to put a leash on my "gaze". I wouldn't say I was completely successful but it was getting better. And then, one day I come across him on the street a few blocks away from my office. As soon as I saw him I kept looking straight as if I didn't really see him and he looked the other way pretending to see whatever the fuck was happening in that salad bar. I must say, his looking the other way - weirdly enough - bothered me quite a bit. And that was exactly what I needed at that point to be able to stop.

And then, something interesting happened: I started catching him looking at me. And every time I caught him he would quickly look the other way (which is exactly what I -being painfully shy – used to do myself whenever I got caught). Also, he has to walk past my desk several times a day; he always gets very rigid and only looks straight whenever he walks by me. Whenever I caught him looking at me were actually the times I wasn't supposed to know that he was even around me and looked his way by accident (while sitting next to my colleague looking at a spreadsheet and him walking by the hallway, or me standing next to someone's desk talking about something and him staring at me from the conference room in another corner of the floor…..). The problem here is, I don't really know what exactly is making him look at me. Is he annoyed by the fact that I was so brazen? Is he curious as to who the freak is? Is he simply flattered that someone keeps checking him out? Or is it possible that he finds me attractive? As much as I'd love to, I find the last one hardest to believe.

At this point, I should mention a few facts that would give you a better idea about the complicacy of the situation. The man is a senior manager in the bank (bad), in his early 40's (fine with me), very handsome, unmarried (all good) and very much into sports (not sure what to make of that, as I used to play varsity soccer myself while in college but find that most of my gay friends don't like sports). On the other hand, I am in my mid 20's, “not too unpleasant to look at, but wouldn't call myself attractive either” kinda guy. And needless to say, I am still at the bottom of the barrel as far as corporate hierarchy goes.

Anyway, there's been a couple of incidences in the past few days that got me even more confused about this already muddled up situation. The first incidence was in the restroom: he was walking into the restroom and saw that I was also walking on my way towards the men's room (it was a pure coincidence, honestly). There are three urinals in the restroom, and he took the middle one. I was not left with much choice but to go into close proximity (not that I am complaining). For the whole time, we looked everywhere but at each other's way….and even when we were washing our hands standing side by side all our attention was towards our hands.

And lastly, the following evening I bumped into him in our elevator lobby. As soon as he saw me his face turned red, he flipped his blackberry out and got very busy with it. And funny enough, out of all the elevators, the one I was standing next to, opened. He walked towards the elevator and gestured his hand for me to go in. I literally froze and couldn't move. We both waited for the other one to step in first for a few awkward seconds and then he walked in. Again, we didn't look at each other, and kept our eyes on that little TV screen in the elevator. I thought about looking at him and say hello but in the end decided not to because up until now we never exchanged a single word. Besides all of it happened within less than 30 seconds.

I must say, I don't expect this to turn into something. I never did. I am not willing to put my career into jeopardy by doing something stupid. Yes, what I've already done is quite stupid, and if I hadn't experienced it myself there were no way you could have convinced me that I was capable of doing something like this. At this point, if it's at all possible, I'd really like to make the situation “normal.” Because frankly, it's a pretty uncomfortable situation for both of us and I am the one who started this. But, I also have to admit, I am really dying to know what is going on inside his head. What he thinks still matters to me. And if you ask me why, I certainly wouldn't be able to give you a good answer :) I've always thought of myself as the pragmatic one; but life has a funny way of getting back at you, especially when you feel you are too sure of yourself.

Thanks for reading this rather long email. I would really appreciate a response from you even if it is to tell me that you are unable to give me any advice about what to do and you have no idea what this guy is up to. Because otherwise I'd expectantly wait for a response, hoping that the mighty GB's wisdom is on its way to enlighten me.


I get worried when guys write things like "mighty GB's wisdom" because I'm not some infallible oracle, I'm just a guy with a blog! But I admit that it's nice to be flattered :-).

In terms of the reader's email I've been in these situations myself, where for no immediately obvious reason, being near someone with whom I've never spoken has mysteriously become incredibly uncomfortable. Given that no words have been spoken, the way these situations arise must have something to do with body language. Although the reader's email suggests a few reasons why the guy might be looking back at the reader, in fact there are many many more.

In the straight world where guys don't fancy each other, the guy that the reader has been looking at would naturally deduce that the furtive looks are because the reader has been trying to work out if they know each other. In turn, the guy might now be wondering whether he recognises the reader. So absolutely anything might be going through the guy's mind, for example:
  • Is the reader that guy who dated my younger sister a few years back and left her when he found out she was pregnant?
  • Is the reader a guy who I've spotted a couple of times at that brothel that I go to sometimes, because I really don't want anyone else to know about that?
  • Is the reader that guy who used to work at A.N.Other bank when I used to work there, and who got sacked for inappropriate conduct with Tracy from the finance department, resulting in damage to one of the bank's photocopiers which all got caught on the closed circuit TV system late one evening?
Of course, back in the real world which is gay and straight, there are even more possibilities!

With all this in mind, what should the reader do? The situation is like a big balloon which needs to be burst, and I reckon the only way to do that is for the reader to make small talk with the guy. Building on the fact that a natural reason for furtive looks is when someone is trying to work out whether they recognise the other person, at the earliest opportunity the reader should ask something like
  • Err excuse me, have you ever worked at SomeOther Bank? I'm not sure whether I recognise you from when I used to work there!
  • Err excuse me, you look a lot like one of the professors from when I was at college! Could that have been you, or a relative of yours perhaps?
  • Err excuse me, you look a lot like one of the friends of my older brother when we were growing up in Distant town, have you ever lived there?
Whatever the answer to the question, the situation should be a lot more normal once the ice has been broken like this.

Afterwards it should then be natural for the reader to engage the guy in conversation, whenever they're waiting for a lift together, at the water cooler, or even in the men's room. Standard conversation for straight guys all over the world includes lines like "Did you see the game last night?" although I wouldn't recommend it if the reader didn't see the game last night! However depending on how things go, the reader could drop hints that he's gay by mentioning well known gay bars or clubs that he's been to recently, or by mentioning his gym if he's a member of a gym which is well-known for it's gay clientele. If the guy is gay, then he'll definitely pick up on these kind of references, but if not (or if he isn't interested in the reader) then he'll probably just ignore them.

So I reckon that somehow the reader really needs to start talking to the guy to break the ice. But do any other readers have any other thoughts on this subject?


Caspar said...

Good lord. He got it right when he said he was acting like a schoolgirl!

He really has to start a convo with this guy. No two ways about it. If he's friendly and chatty back, great. If he's rude and dismissive, you know he's not interested. If he's flustered and stutters a bit but still seems keen to talk, then you're onto a winner. You already have something in common - you work in the same place! Even just 'Hey, how's it going?' is a start, and don't be annoyed if you just get 'fine, howre you?' back, it's a start and can lead to more conversations next time.

Anonymous said...

Well it is quiet obvious what is going on here. The older guy is having problems with his sexuality!He is obviously interested in experimenting but dosn't know how!
No guy , gay or bi with a bit of experience would react in this way.
So just be friendly , smile back when you see him looking at you and let things progress from there.
The older guy needs to make the first move...all you need to do is show that you are reseptive.

MadeInScotland said...

so, might we have a light lunch together?


Unknown said...

What a moron. Ok. I do sympathise we have all been there, but let me suggest something. Crack a joke with him. It's an opening. It makes you look confident and it breaks the ice. Whether you are at the canteen or elevator, blah blah blah. It is the easiest way for an opening. Successful speakers always do it. Follow that with a conversation with him. See if he reciprocates. Check out the body language and whether it mirrors. If it goes well, ask him if he'd like to have a drink sometime. If you are too chicken, do it in three stages. First time you see do a joke. Second time do chit chat. Third time go in for the kill.

You are just like I used to be. You think FAR too much. FYI People love the new confident me. Men love being asked out. Especially if you are young and good looking.

Hope it works out. I actually couldn't be bothered to read what GB said this time round, it was all too long.

Discotheque GQ said...

It's funny how a lot of us "used to be that way." I'm still in my 20s, and I've realized life's too short to wait for things to happen to you. I started working at a nightclub last year, and I run into plenty of attractive people every night. It's a straight club, but the only way to find out if a guy is gay or bi (like myself) is to get to know them. I agree with GB and an earlier reader about making small talk. Sometimes that's enough to clue you in. Then again alcohol is plentiful in my environment so it's easier to get stuff out of people.

I do have a guy at work that I feel like a "schoolgirl" around so I sympathize with the reader. I've made some pretty bold moves considering I'm his manager but we'll see what happens.

Anonymous said...

God grief (as thingy in Snoopy used to say, perhaps still does).

Ken Skinner said...

Ordinarily I'd say not to touch the situation with a barge-pole (office stuff = bad). However, given that he's already lit the fire he should probably find a way to control it, which means either finding out what's going on or simply defusing the situation by asking the 'do I know you from somewhere' question or similar.

The only thing that freaks me out is the urinal two-step. Either he wanted to power-play the guy into standing next to him or planned to force him into a stall but that backfired, in which case, why not use a stall himself... unless he simply didn't want to stand in someone else's puddle and picked the closest option.


Ach, work hard, get promoted above him then have him fired for some bulls**t reason. Best option.

Graham said...

you hit the nail on the head re: straight mens world. Why is it that every gay guy thinks that if a guy looks at him it's because he wants something? The rest of the world doesn't think about sex (at least not sex with guys) all the time like we do. The guy may very well be straight and be wondering if he knows you. He might also be straight and is just annoyed that the attention his ego was getting is gone. Who knows. As for advice, the same, you need to break the atmosphere that has built up over nothing. It's not a crime to look at someone, whether they're gay or straight.