Last year at a party a guy sat down next to me. He slid over so that our bodies were touching and put his arm around me. He knew that I, a straight man, was married to a woman. I’m sure of that because it came up in earlier conversation. Feeling uncomfortable with his arm around me, I got up and talked to somebody else.
That’s all that happened.
There was no awkwardness. The man and I chatted more later on in the night.
I think about that five-second interaction a lot. I ask myself, why did he do that? Rationally speaking, there was such little upside for him. Even if he didn’t know I was married, statistically the chances were that I was not into men. We were also in public. I could have reacted differently. I could have been offended and caused an embarrassing scene. We met for the first time that night, so how did he know I wasn’t a bigot? I could have become aggressive towards him. Why did he take that risk?
I reflect on the days when I was single and trying to meet women. I was shy around girls in high school and continued to be in adulthood. The thought of rejection was bad enough for me. But I never had to risk being insulted or even attacked. I realize that it’s an obstacle that I’ve never had to face as a straight man. I dislike the word because it makes me feel like a snowflake, but I am privileged in society.
Perhaps I’m overthinking it. Maybe the liquor made him act more courageously than usual. Maybe he didn’t care. Maybe I’ve misread the entire situation and he’s just an overly friendly guy. But my gut tells me that he’s a gay or bisexual man who has not yet come out. If I’m right, I wonder whether he thinks about that night, too.