The Word is Out
Sydney Mardi Gras, what happens on float stays on float
There are no bloody men on Tinder, my friend lamented loudly to the table, staring into her fizzing Aperol Spritz. With her platinum blonde hair, sparkling green eyes, leggy stature, à la Charlize Theron at the Oscars, it's hard to imagine an online dating world where she isn't fighting off suitors, but then again, she does tend to have lofty Hollywood star tastes. It’s Sydney Eastern Suburbs, she explained. “Most of the men here are gay, so the dating pool for a hetero female hardly exists.”
Another girl at the dinner chimed in, “I agree – it’s a wasteland. Plus, online dating only works if you are under 36, or over 46. Men don’t want to meet a woman in her final fertile years - they are either terrified you won’t be able to have a child with them, or terrified you will have one.” My friend narrowed her eyes, hmphed and downed the rest of her amber-coloured drink before adding, “Yeah? Maybe. But it’s mostly to do with all the gay men.” “Perhaps you could pretend to be 10 years older?,” I suggested (pretty unhelpfully). “Think about it, guys would be marvelling about how great you look for your age… Your postpartum boobs would experience a renaissance! Or what about widening your search to other parts of Sydney, away from the majority of the gay population?”
Hell no, she protested. “I am not dating men from outside of here. They don’t dress well, they don’t pay attention to their chest hair, some of them don’t even whiten their teeth,” she generalised, making it clear to me she wasn’t just after a boyfriend, she wanted a gay boyfriend.
Sydney is a city where many an uncertain gay boy has gingerly stepped out of the closet and proudly strutted into the strobe-lit men-friendly clubs of Darlinghurst. It's the place homosexuals in their twenties from all over the world come to be certain type of gay - flamboyant, fashionable and proudly out.
When you live in the Eastern Suburbs, like I did for 15 years, it can often feel like you are living on the set of boy band video. Everywhere you go – bars, restaurants, the beach - you find yourself surrounded by pockets of young, spic and span, stylish gay men in shrunken shorts. There’s a lot of great hair (especially high hair), bottled tans, tight t-shirts, rolled eyes - oh puh-lease bitch - and drama school flung wrists.
For many years, my friend Lisa and I went to a regular Saturday morning Body Attack class in Bondi Junction which attracted a high ratio of cute gay boys and their designated alpha fag hags. The classes were led by a pair of buff twenty-something gay instructors who were also offscreen lovers, which added to their group appeal.
Being lactating middle-aged mums, the gay boys would look right through us and we would stand amongst them, totally invisible. We could have walked in yodelling, naked, covered in glitter and rainbow feathers and no-one would have blinked an eye. As it was, we always arrived early and positioned ourselves up front in our sensible black high waisted lyrca, but that exciting possibility was always there.
There is something undeniably invigorating about exercising in a room full of gays. There's a buzz in the air, a din of high-pitched fast-talking voices and a collective excitement of being able to show off one’s painstakingly shaped body to Britney Spears remixes.
Before the classes started, the gays always sat together in little Mean Girls clusters, swinging their heads around theatrically to scan the room in waves of lust or mockery, sporadically cackling loudly, throwing their heads back like baby birds being fed. It was similar in a way to what we used to do at my all girls high school but the focus there was practicing cattiness to mask our own deep insecurities, rather than sussing out which stranger might give you a hand job after your workout.
For the class duration of 60 minutes, we would all stare vainly yet unabashedly at our own reflections in the floor-to-ceiling wall mirror, beaming, yelping and performing co-ordinated high kicks straight from the late 80s. When the class ended, the boys would link their hairless arms with their fellow lavender lads and skip out to enjoy their untethered weekends being free and fabulous, while Lisa and I would head home (via croissants and coffee), energised, to our endless overflow of children and chores.
That shield of female invisibility in Gayville was great except when it would tip over to become a wall of obscurity. I remember Tom brought me along to my first yoga class at the Boy Charlton swimming pool, a stunning harbourside pool in the suburb Wooloomooloo and a notorious gay hang out. It has a country club feel to it - elegant glass fencing overlooking the harbour on two sides and modern decking surrounding the entire Olympic sized pool, which is lined by neat rows of oiled-up bronzed torsos, like being on a cruise liner for homosexuals. Here, speedos and sunbathing is mandatory and staring is encouraged.
On that morning, we encountered a particularly enterprising young man with a dark tan, wearing a pair of white speedos with red and blue target rings printed on the butt. There was nothing anyone could do but surrender and let our eyes be drawn in. So, it wasn’t surprising that our yoga teacher here also swung the other way. Excellent I thought. I’d known female friends who'd had untoward experiences with handsy male yoga teachers in the city. There’s so much trust and vulnerability in a yoga session and I wondered, is there anything worse than your yoga teacher hitting on you? It's creepy and wrong.com.
The yoga studio was small and cosy, and the front wall was a giant window giving views across the water to the giant Navy base and its impressive flotilla. The teacher, like myself, noticed the lack of an engagement ring on my finger (I waited 9 long years for that to gem to finally transpire), and mistook Tom as a free man, ready to be converted to Gaydom.
Throughout the class, Tom, who had been practicing yoga for some time, would contort and balance into a perfect yogi position, be it upside down pretzel or sunburnt peacock, and the teacher would consistently hover over him, adjusting his thick ankle with a sweeping caress or placing both his hands firmly and longingly on Tom’s sweaty back, while I would be next to him, flailing, in a wildly incorrect, often potentially dangerous spinal position, as the teacher continually and utterly ignored me.
So, I’ll tell you what’s worse than your yoga teacher hitting on you, your yoga teacher hitting on your potential future husband.
At the end of the class, we sat facing the window and the teacher announced, "Now for what I like to call the Hello Sailor move!", and we hugged our knees into our chests, kicked our legs out to the sides and held our ankles to spread our legs further open. What a salute!
Hey Sydney, my eyes are up here.