Sunday, April 29, 2012

Email from a gay guy who didn't believe in love at first sight

Last December I exchanged emails with a reader that who had developed a crush on a guy who he'd seen at his gym. Although that's quite a long time ago, as I said last month, by then I had started sending readers immediate responses to any such requests for advice.

The emails leave you in no doubt that the reader really does have an intense crush on the guy in question. The first email was as follows:

Dear GB,

Apologies in advance for the novel I'm about to write. I've been following your blog for some time now and I would like to know your opinion/advice.

I'm a 33 year old professional guy working in the City, down to earth, not entirely bad looking with a reasonably successful career. I can certainly hold a conversation and most people find me quite funny with a good sense of humour. However, I came out very late and am still not 100% confident approaching other guys and asking them out for drinks, etc. which is especially true for guys that I find attractive. I'm also not sure if I understand the signals correctly that other guys may be sending my way. I have no problem whatsoever arranging a personal meet/drinks/date with guys through online dating sites such gaydar, etc. but in real life I find it incredibly difficult to make the first move.

I'm a member of a gym in the City, and there is a guy in my gym that I've had an incredibly strong and completely irrational crush on. Don't take me wrong. This is not just another crush. This is a major crush that consumes me entirely. When I first noticed him in the locker room in mid-September I completely froze for 2-3 seconds - my body was simply not able to move. If I believed in Cupid I'd say I was struck by his arrow right that very second! It was that sharp and intense - like a slap in the face. The next few times I ran into him I got the impression that he was checking me out. He would start working out on a machine right in front of me, giving me a peek every now and then, etc.

The thing is I've been unable to approach him and strike up even the simplest of conversations. I'm normally an outspoken and articulate guy, but for some reason I go completely dumb when he is around (dumb as in both silent and stupid LOL). It's driving me mad. Every time I see him my heart gets stuck in my throat, my hands begin to sweat and I rather pretend I'm super involved with my workout. I know, very pathetic. After the first few days of staring at him and not doing anything I got the impression that he started to avoid me - he would walk away when he saw me approaching, or he would turn his back on me in the locker room or look in another direction, etc. This prompted me to action - I couldn't stand him ignoring me any longer. I approached him and asked him if we had met before, outside of the gym, as I had a feeling that I recognised him from somewhere. This was, of course, not true. I knew very well that I had never seen him outside of the gym, but that was the best ice breaker I could come up with - and it took me a few days of practice in front of the mirror to get the right tone of voice and a relaxed expression on my face! He said he didn't recognise me from anywhere and that was it. End of discussion. But at least I'd broken ice.

After that I didn't see him for 1-2 weeks. Then he showed up one day about 40-50 mintues before the closing time so there were only a few other people in the gym. He greeted me with a smile and started his cardio exercise only 2 treadmills away from me! What a fantastic chance to strike up a conversation! Dozens of questions I could ask him. Does he live/work in the area, how he likes the gym, what is his workout routine, etc.

So what did I do? NOTHING. I completely blew it. My eyes firmly fixed on the control panel, watching my heart rate rise beyond 190 beats per minute, my cold sweaty hands clutched onto the bar in front of me while I try to look relaxed and generally uninterested. He left after about 10 minutes.

I got so angry and frustrated with myself. I finished my cardio exercise soon after he left and I lay down on the floor to calm down. I decided that my silly behaviour must end right there and then. Otherwise I will never be able to approach guys that I really like. I prepared a few sentences in my head and set off to find him in the gym so I could ask him out for a drink or a coffee. After all, what's the worst thing that could happen? He would say No. The sun would still rise in the morning! And at least I would know for sure that he is not into me. But I couldn't find him anywhere in the gym. I checked every machine I had ever seen him working on before, the treadmill area, the stretching area, everywhere. He was GONE.

This was about 4 weeks ago and I haven't seen him since. My life has been hell. I've been going to the gym almost every single day since I last saw him, hoping that I would run into him again, just that I get one more chance to ask him out for a coffee.
I've never worked out so much in my entire life - I'm exhausted, my whole body hurts and I'm down to 165 lbs which was my weight when I was 21 LOL, but I can't help it. I need to go there. He is the first thing on my mind when I wake up, I feel this sharp pain in my chest every time I enter the gym floor, I burst out to tears when I'm alone in the steam room or sauna, etc.

I can't quite believe this is happening to me. This whole situation is just so absurd. I don't even know his name LOL. There are many other guys in my gym that I find hot and attractive, and I get a feeling that some of them are checking me out every now and then, but none of them has had an effect on me even remotely close to what I'm going through right now. Plus I'm also out there meeting other guys for drinks, dinner, theatre, etc. - some of them very nice and hot - but I just haven't met anyone yet that would make me feel that extra little something and make me go weak in my knees.

I have a feeling that I will never see him again. I guess I am just hoping for some kind of a closure. Any closure. Perhaps he's not gay at all and I got all his eye contact wrong, or perhaps he is gay but I'm not his type, or perhaps I AM his type but he just got annoyed by all my stupid behaviour, etc. I guess I will never know. What gets me most is this feeling of a lost opportunity, the feeling of what could have been if only I found enough courage some 15 minutes earlier that day. Fifteen. Minutes. I spend more time in the bathroom every morning LOL. But now I'm only left with this regret and all the words I had left unspoken in my heart. It's killing me.

I caught myself thinking the other day that he may well have turned out to be a complete jerk, pretentious, arrogant dumb-ass with a ridiculously small dick LOL, or something similar that would help me get him out of my mind, but deep inside I know that I was only making excuses to help me feel better about how I fucked it up.

Please don't get this wrong. I am not a wreck or a crazy psycho. I know I will get over it eventually. I can be deadly rational and analytical; once I was even accused of being emotionless. Until a few months ago I would be the first person to joke about people who believe in love at first sight. And here I am now - hopelessly dreaming about a complete stranger. I don't quite understand why it's so hard for me to let it go. I guess I just don't want to give up on this feeling once I've found it. Perhaps this is exactly what I'd been hoping to find all along while being busy making other plans re: my career, job, etc. This feeling of longing, cold sweaty hands, heart stuck in throat, this incredible, all-consuming desire to see someone, touch them and feel them, or just simply watch them in silence and awe.

I've already considered a couple of options of what I could do now, ranging from "do nothing and just suck it up" through "join another gym" to "come up with some story for the gym staff that would get me his phone number" - something like I'm worried about an old friend whom I haven't seen for a few weeks, etc. What would be your advice?


Within a couple of days I'd sent him an email, which contained the following section:

I think it's important to realise that when people get strong crushes like the one you describe, then those people can't be objective. The way you describe the events, then he could certainly be gay and have been interested in you. However, they're the events seen through your un-objective eyes and through his eyes things might look very different, for example he could well be straight!

Apart from the passage of time, I think the best cure to your obsession will be to find another guy who can be the focus of your passion. You may well never see this guy again, so I think that should be your working assumption given that you haven't seen him now for several weeks.

However, if you do see him again, then be careful. Since you're not used to approaching guys face to face, it seems quite likely to me that you might end up making a fool of yourself when you talk to him, given what you feel inside! The way you started talking to him, asking him if you'd met before, was a brilliant idea :-). If he is gay, my guess is that you probably executed it in an awkward way that put him off you, so the same thing could happen again. As in all dating situations, the key is to be open, relaxed, confident, i.e. cool :-). Start very very slowly - and don't ask him out until you've got a much better idea whether he's gay. Working out the right kind of behaviour is a skill, so I'd suggest that you spend a bit of time looking for guys in gay bars and clubs to help you practice.

Within a few days the reader had sent me another email, a much longer email this time, which again leaves no doubt that the reader has become completely obsessed with this guy:

Hey GB,

Many thanks for your response and for your quick thoughts, much appreciated, especially as you don't have much time for blogging at the moment.

Anyways, I've got huge news - I ran into the guy again about three days ago - THE DAY I SENT YOU MY FIRST EMAIL!!! It was not in the gym though, but in the tube station on my way home from the gym. It was about 10:15pm and I'd just touched in with my Oyster, approaching the stairs on to the platform level, when he passed by me walking in the opposite direction - on his way out of the station! I am not sure if he saw me or not. He'd let his hair grow a bit longer, about half-inch or so, and he looked like he'd lost some weight too - his cheeks were a bit less full than I remembered. By the time I composed myself he had touched out and was well on his way to the street level.

I stood still for a moment, unable to move, and then just followed my instinct without really thinking about what I was doing. I made a U-turn, quickly ran upstairs taking 2-3 steps at a time hoping I would catch a glimpse of his back walking away from the station. I felt incredibly silly, verging on creepy. What was I thinking of doing? Follow him all the way to his house LOL? I don't know, I guess I wasn't thinking. Anyways, I couldn't see him at first, but was lucky to spot him just a few seconds before he disappeared in the Tesco Express near the tube station. I had a plan in an instant - I would walk in, pretend to do my shopping and then bump into him as if by a complete chance, looking surprised.

So off I went. I walked in, noticed him on the right hand side in my peripheral view (I didn't turn my head to look at him), and chose the fruit aisle right opposite the main entrance as my base where I'd wait for the right moment. I knew he was in the next aisle. I walked up and down for about 30 seconds, my mind frantically trying to come up with something smart and funny to say. I grabbed a pack of grapes so I don't look like a complete idiot. He got to the end of his aisle, I knew he could see me any moment now. I approached him when he was reaching for something on the shelf in front of him. I think he noticed me shortly before I greeted him. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: Oh, HEY! (wide smile on my face, looking excited) You're the guy from the gym!
Him: (No response. He didn't even look at me when I talked to him. He reached for something on the shelf.)
Me (still smiling): How have you been? Haven't seen you for ages!
Him: Sorry? (He looked at me as if he just noticed me)
Me: Uhm, I'm sorry. Are you a member at the gym just across the road?
Him: No, I'm not.
Me: (Gasp)
Him: I go to a gym near work (He looked back on the shelf).
Me: Oh, uhm. I'm really sorry. I must have confused you with someone else.
Him: That's alright (reached for something on the shelf again, as if I was not there).

I quickly walked away to one of the self-checkout stations. It took me about 5 minutes to pay for the stupid pack of grapes. I kept selecting "pay by cash" on the screen while sticking my card in and out of the payment terminal and entering my PIN code multiple times. It took three failed payment attempts for my mind to realise that I was doing something wrong! I got out of the store as fast as I could, ran to the tube station and stared in front of me the whole journey back home, my mind completely blank.

Needless to say, I didn't sleep very well. It wasn't until the following morning that I was able to think clearly about what happened. I think I was ready for anything but this. I expected he would say something like "Oh hey, I've been out of town for work" or "I've been sick" or something similar, but not that he would pretend we had never met. I am 99.99% sure it WAS him. Yes, he'd lost some weight and let his hair grow a bit, but his eyes were the same, his chin, nose, forehead, his body posture or the way he moved when I saw him walking away from the station - I would recognise him from among 100 people just by the way he walks.

I came up with a number of explanations of what could have happened:
  1. It was him. He is gay and was interested in me, perhaps even had a crush on me too. He joined another gym because he wanted to get over me after all my stupid behaviour. (I know. Talk about gay fantasising and wishful thinking LOL).
  2. It was him. He is straight (or gay but was never really interested in me) and he joined another gym because he found me annoying.
  3. It was him. He joined another gym for other reasons. Nothing to do with me, his sexual orientation irrelevant.
  4. It wasn't him. I talked to a complete stranger who had never been a member of Virgin Active and I made a complete fool of myself.
I fully understand that the way I've been experiencing everything is purely subjective, seen through my own lenses, biased and likely influenced by my wishful thinking. However, I am way too rational to jump into quick conclusions, especially in matters that are important to me, and I had analysed all my encounters with this guy in great detail to make sure that I'm being as objective as possible. I'm 99.99% convinced that he is gay. We weren't checking each other out on the gym floor only. We also exchanged a few peeks in the sauna, the locker room and the shower area. Sometimes he wouldn't wrap his towel around his waist; he would only hold it in front of his private areas with one hand, leaving his hips and backside exposed while walking around. On one occasion he even walked in to one of the disabled-access showers and he kept looking at me while he was pulling the curtain (with the other disabled shower right next to the one he was getting into, separated only by an internal curtain that can be easily pulled off to create one open space). It wasn't until a few weeks later when I realised that many guys use the disabled showers for all different purposes but taking shower LOL.

Again, I can only give my account of our brief conversation in the locker room some 2 months ago (when I asked him if we'd met before), but I don't think that I executed it in an awkward way that would make him feel uncomfortable. I'd just got to the gym from work and was changing to my workout clothes when he suddenly appeared about 3-4 lockers to my right, just out of the showers after his workout. As far as I can recall our conversation went something like this:

Me: Excuse me, can I ask you something? (wide smile on my face, trying to sound relaxed, my whole body facing him)
Him: Sure. (turning only his head in my direction with the rest of his body facing the locker, with a subtle, almost unnoticeable, smile on his face)
Me: Have we met before? I mean, outside of the gym?
Him: I don't think so. Why?
Me: I have this feeling that I recognise you from somewhere but I can't quite put my finger on it. I don't want to keep staring at you like a complete twat so I thought I'd just ask.
Him (smiling): I'm sorry, I don't recognise you.
Me: Oh well, never mind.
This was followed by about 2 minutes of silence while we were changing. And then, as I was leaving:
Him: See you later. (note that HE was the first one to break the silence)
Me: See you.

I then didn't see him until about 1-2 weeks later, when he showed up 40-50 minutes before the closing time. I was already on a treadmill doing my cardio exercise when, for some reason, I turned my head to the right and saw him about 4 treadmills away, just about to get started. He looked at me, stepped down from his treadmill, walked in my direction saying something like "Hey mate you alright?" while stumbling on one of the treadmills along the way, walked behind me and started his cardio exercise only 2 treadmills to my left! Note that there are two rows of 12-15 treadmills each, all of which were free at the time, except about 1-2 other people on the opposite end of the row behind me.

That's when I completely blew it. My mind went blank and I had no idea what to say. My hands sweating, my heart rate on the control panel rising above 190 beats per minute, etc. I remember that shortly before he left he looked at me for 3-4 seconds, as if he expected me to do/say something, then he walked away. This was about 4-5 weeks ago and I hadn't seen him since then until our encounter in the tube station and the Tesco fiasco that followed.

Am I wrong thinking that he is gay and was interested in me? Even if I discount all evidence, I don't think that my body would be reacting so strongly to someone who is straight. If you've ever had a "gut feeling" about anything in life you know what I'm talking about. You know it in your guts.

I've already considered a couple of options of what I could do now:
  1. Join the gym that I think he joined and hope to run into him again.
  2. Set up a tent in front of the Tesco Express and start my own "Occupy Groceries" campaign until he shows up again LOL. He did his grocery shopping there before, he will do it again.
  3. Do nothing. I've already fucked this up on so many fronts. Put it behind me and move on with life.
What would you do in my case? Sometimes I catch myself thinking that it was all meant to happen just the way it did, e.g. the day when I ran into him in the tube station - had I spent less time drying my hair in the locker room or had I not paused for a little to fill in my bottle at the water tank shortly before I left, I would have got to the station 30 seconds earlier and would have never ran into him. Guess these are my Benjamin Button moments! But then I immediately scorn myself for being ridiculously pathetic - all this thinking about fate and "meant-to-be" stuff. Feels like a constant battle between my reason and heart. Crap I can't believe the mess this whole thing got me into. Any opinion/advice would be much appreciated.

I think you may be right about finding another guy who can be the focus of my passion. But the thing is, you can't really plan this ahead, can you? It's not like I can make a DECISION now to focus my passion on a particular guy. The passion is either there or is not. I can't fake sweaty hands or my heart stuck in throat. I have profiles on about 8-10 dating/social networking sites and I am out there meeting other guys for drinks, coffee, dinner, theatre, etc. including social events organised by Jake and Village Drinks. But as I said before, none of the guys I've met through online dating/networking sites so far has had an effect on me anywhere close to what I'm experiencing now. And it's certainly not their fault. They can be smart, good looking professionals around my age, lawyers, doctors, bankers, charity guys, TV/radio presenters, civil servants, etc., and I can talk to them for hours about work, life, politics, culture, gay scene, etc. but if the spark is not there it's just NOT THERE. So should I simply pick a guy that I'm reasonably comfortable with? I certainly know that I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of a similar choice made by someone else.

Ok, I guess I better cut it now before I completely scare you off LOL.

Thanks for reading!

Hopefully the reader has now got over this crush, but nonetheless, I thought it was worth posting this email because it may be instructive to other people in similar situations.

The reader said that he came out very late, so my guess is that like me, he didn't learn the fundamentals of dating and relationships during his teenage years when our straight brothers are busy doing all that stuff. So this whole experience is just part of a delayed gay adolescence.

Re-reading the emails again, my guesses are that
  • The guy may well have been gay, but was put off the reader by his failure to act consistently in the right way, e.g. when they were both on nearby treadmills.
  • The reader didn't see the guy in the gym again for reasons that are completely unrelated to the reader. I think it would have to be quite an extreme situation for one gym member to change gym because of another gym member (e.g. failed long term relationship). Perhaps the guy just moved away, or changed jobs and hence his workout schedule, or something.
  • The guy in Tescos wasn't the guy. But at that point the reader was so obsessed that, in spite of his assertions that he can be rational, the crush had overwhelmed his rationality!
Regarding the three courses of action that the reader suggested towards the end of his second email, the "do nothing" option seems like the right one to me. Hopefully that's what he did. In my last email to him, I said

... I still think you need to find another guy to find another guy who can be your focus. But it sounds as though the guys that you're currently meeting aren't the right ones, so perhaps you need to find new sources of men to meet, to make it more likely that you'll find the right kind of guy?

Although it's an old story, in the future some people may read this who're in a similar situation. So do any other readers have any thoughts?

Epilogue, 15th August 2012: This morning there was an email from this reader in my inbox, which was as follows:

Hey GB,

I know it's been some time since we were last in touch but I just wanted to give you a quick update on recent developments.

The guy is back at my gym. I've run into him about 4-5 times in the past month or so. I tried to have a quick chat with him every time I saw him, but for some reason it didn't work out. Not sure how to explain it. I just felt that I needed to talk to him, but it didn't come naturally and I had to force it. Last time I talked to him I asked him if he'd like to grab a drink or coffee sometime. He said no. It was a bit awkward and I got the impression that he found me annoying so I killed it, told him to take care of himself and walked away. Now I only give him a nod and a smile when I see him, even try to avoid him as the feeling of embarrassment hasn't fully sunk in yet.

Not sure what to make out of this. I thought I was completely over him, but for some reason I am still not being myself when he's around. My hands still sweat a little and my heart begins to beat faster, but once he is out of sight I get back to normal relatively fast and pretty much forget about him. Guess I somehow managed to neutralise his effect on me in the last half a year when I didn't see him. I never got rid of the feeling completely, but it doesn't mess me up any more. It's like one of those situations when you really want something very bad, but you learn to let it go because you realise that you can never have it. So why torture yourself.

I've also been through the comments that other readers left on your website about my emails and I agree with most of them. I fully agree that I'm going through delayed adolescence now due to my late coming out and I need to improve my social skills with other gay guys in the real world rather than behind a computer screen. However I disagree that my affection for this guy was just a misdirected lust. Most of the time when I fantasized about him it was entirely non-sexual. I often found myself wishing that we could spend more time together so we get a chance to get to know each other better. Not necessarily in bed lol - could be dinner, drinks, cinema, weekend getaways etc.

Luckily I won't have to bear the embarrassment for much longer. The work project that's been keeping me in that area for almost 3 years now will soon come to an end and I will most likely transfer my gym membership to another branch closer to home. Guess that's the only way how I can bring this whole thing to a closure lol. It's certainly been a rollercoaster for me, but I don't regret a single day. I am grateful to have experienced such a powerful and amazing feeling, plus I've learned that I'm not as cynical as I thought and am still capable of dreaming, longing and hoping. What a lesson!

All the best,

I did a post about this epilogue in August 2012, just to let readers know that I'd updated this original posting. So a few further comments about all this can be found here :-).