Male, 31, Lincoln Square
In May 2005, I was 27, overweight, habitually celibate, trying to wrap up a master’s thesis, recently laid off and deeply closeted. The weekend I was let go, I took refuge at Berlin nightclub. I’d been a few times before with friends, each time asserting my “straightness,” but this time was different. This time I was alone and in need of love. By 3am, I found it.
On the dance floor, a rugged fellow approached me and spoke the words I’d been waiting to hear all my life: “You’re hot.” Passionate kissing ensued, his stubble igniting a fire I’d long resisted. We quickly discussed our plans: I couldn’t take him back to my place, he wouldn’t take me to his. “I know the perfect place,” he whispered.
Minutes later, we made our way, hand in hand, to our love nest for the night. The line inside Steamworks was like one for an amusement-park ride; while we waited, porn silently played on the monitor overhead. Still holding my hand, Prince Charming led me to the desk, where I showed my ID and the staff politely explained the club’s rules: Wear nothing but a towel and check out by 8am. My man purchased a room for us, a step up from the basic locker, and explained the monitor would display our room’s number once it was cleaned and ready.
We walked a few steps to the locker area and slipped out of our clothes, our eyes lingering over each other’s naked bodies, my erection unwilling to be contained. Clad in just our tiny towels, we took the grand tour: On the first floor were vending machines, pool table, sauna, showers and hot tub; on the second, private rooms, glory holes and jack-off room (complete with a wall of porn and wandering eyes). When our “honeymoon suite” was finally ready, it was game on.
For the first time in my life, sex made sense. I knew then I would only ever feel loved in the arms of another man. Some will have you believe that bathhouses are the playpens of the damned. For me, McSteamy’s was where I finally learned to be comfortable with who I am, where I learned it was okay to love another man and where I could do so safely. My hookup and I dated for eight months, and while it ended tragically, that night I found love.
FIRST TIMER’S TIPS * Be sober. Not only will you be less likely to engage in unsafe behavior (assume everyone has an STD), but you might actually remember your trick’s name. * Learn the protocol. An open towel is an open invitation; a closed towel: Look but don’t touch. If someone is in a room with the door open, he wants company. Face up means the guy is a top; face down, he’s a bottom. * Upgrade to a standard room with a TV. Six hours of sauna, masturbation and a workout in the gym will leave you tired. Your own room will provide respite from the circling masses in the maze, and the 30 channels of porn are enough to keep anyone entertained. * Bring essentials. The vending-machine lube runs about $10, so carry your own. Hair product and cologne will take care of that funky poppers-and-sex smell, leaving you fit to rejoin society.