Eye Contact
Eye Contact

You walk down the street and catch some guy’s eye. You do not stop to continue the gaze with a nod and a friendly smile; you continue to walk. Grocery shopping, your eyes meet with another guy briefly before you look away. At the gym, so many guys with so many eyes. But you keep your head lowered or look right past everybody, so you do not make eye contact. For every gay man out there, making eye contact with a guy always happens, whether or not it is intentional. But with eye contact comes the superficial thought many gay men have, “I’m I getting cruised again?” Why does eye contact, being friendly, and giving some acknowledgment to the other guy, make that guy in question feel like he is getting cruised?

They say the eyes are a window to a person’s soul. It is a way for two people to become intimate at a distance. Maintaining eye contact with someone is in itself a language. For most gay men, consciously or subconsciously, eye contact is the number one language used to cruise. Gay men are guilty of it, as it is in our blood. But the problem is the paranoid feeling of being cruised in other places. Whether on the street, in the bank, at the supermarket, at the gym, or everywhere. These are everyday situations where eye contact can happen. It seems that many guys will avoid eye contact and adopt this “pissed-off” look on their faces most of the time. That look telegraphs the message – “Do not come near me,” “Do not approach me,” and “I am not interested” – to other guys. But in reality, that look masks the vast insecurity that almost all gay men carry – low self-esteem.

Recently, I’ve started sitting right in front of the main bathhouse entrance. That way, I can see which new customers are arriving at the baths. 85% of the men that enter avoid all eye contact with me. There is no acknowledgment, nod, or even a ‘Hi.’ Since the baths are known for their anonymity, that’s a given. However, there are some guys I’ve seen at the baths for years. Walking in, they turn their heads and avoid looking at me altogether. Despite the fact, I’m sitting right in front of them.

I’m not cruising, chasing, or even being threatening to anyone. I’m just sitting there. What is so threatening about that? But eyes are avoided, which is a sign the guy has self-esteem issues (like most gay men). You might be thinking, ‘Well, maybe he is shy?’ No. Shy people would need more guts to enter a place like the baths. I’m recognizable by sitting in the same spot, week after week. Self-confident men wouldn’t even feel the slightest bit of a threat by me. They would give me a nod, or a hello, or even stop to chat. The guys who avoid eye contact or even the slightest acknowledgment of me have issues. That is a guy with low self-esteem.

Let’s talk about eye contact in cruising locations. Like it or not, eye contact is the language used when checking out a guy. What better place than the baths to use your powers of eye contact with someone you like? It is where hardly any direct communication goes on, as the eyes do all the talking. Many men have written to me saying it is frustrating when no one approaches them at the baths. But eye contact is the best way to see whether the other person is interested. If I happen to come across a guy I like, but he doesn’t return eye contact or looks and sees right through me, I know this person has zero interest in me. I do not have to waste my time chasing this person; I can move on to someone else. Also, when the guy seems to have a pissed-off look, I know he is projecting a vibe for other guys to stay away.

I remember seeing a GORGEOUS and MUSCULAR blond guy who looked like a porn star. He kept his jeans on but was shirtless and wore sunglasses. It was the summer, and during that season, the baths felt more like a pool house. Men would come in and out from the outdoor patio. They would be completely naked or be wearing a towel, having spent their time swimming or tanning (yes, the bathhouse I go to does allow nude tanning and swimming!) The blond guy stood in the hallway for an hour with nothing to show. Finally, he approached me (my approachable face again) and asked me what was wrong with all these guys. Excuse me, I said. He told me he was from out of town and dropped in to check out the bathhouse situation in my city. He could not understand what was wrong with all of the local guys. Why was no one approaching him? I explained that

1. by wearing sunglasses, no one could make eye contact to see where his interest lay.
2. with his jeans on, he signals that he is not to be approached and is probably only interested in receiving a blowjob.
3. Many guys think they are out of his league with his looks and incredible body.

It was the signal he was projecting, “I am unapproachable.” He thought briefly and said, “Nah, It must be the guys here.” With that, he left to go to another bathhouse. But the fact is, his demeanor gave off the signal that “I am not to be talked to – unless I approach you.”

I remember a different GORGEOUS guy at the baths in the porn room with a full erection. He stroked himself up and down, all ripe and ready to receive oral. Sounds like he wanted anyone to blow him, right? WRONG! Whenever anyone even entered the porn room, this gorgeous guy would shoot daggers with his eyes. His eyes showed us that we were all to ‘GET THE HELL OUT.’ I guess he was waiting for someone more to his liking, whatever those standards may be.

But I can’t stand guys who go out of their way to avoid me. Even after I have gotten the message, they have no interest in me, and I leave them alone. I have to admit that I am sensitive and thinned-skinned. But when someone avoids me like the plague, I take it badly. Such as leaving a room when I enter, taking a different route in the hallways to steer clear of me, and even walking the long way around the halls so passing my room doesn’t happen. It is hard to desensitize oneself from that type of blatant rejection. I know I should not take it personally, but it is hard. What else are they rejecting – the chair I’m sitting in? The towel I am wearing? Of course not; they are rejecting me. But I can also understand them acting that way. Because many Asian men repeatedly hit on Gay White Men. I see it at the baths all the time. After being cruised by so many Asian men, many gay men lump all gay Asians as desperate and continually chase after them.

I also cannot stand it when guys have a major attitude, acting like everybody is cruising them, and it is exhausting for them to deal with all those eyes staring at them. But they are only average-looking, and nobody pays attention to them. It is especially true with overweight and out-of-shape guys who run into Asians in the hallways. As I mentioned before, because Asians are stereotyped for going after any Gay White Men, these guys think we are cruising them! So they turn their heads, look away, and give off an attitude if any Asian guy enters a room as if we would even be interested in them! Forget about just making a conversation with someone cute. As I mentioned, even acknowledging someone with eye contact in the lounge makes men think they are getting cruised. So they become unresponsive to a conversation, so they can get that person to stop ‘cruising’ them.

Now to put the shoe on the other foot, I have been in situations where older men in their sixties cruise me to the point they are stalking me. It hurts me to do this, but I must resort to the behavior I’ve talked about to shake off the older guy. It is almost like these older guys do not know how to take no for an answer. Sometimes, an older man stands outside my room, trying to make eye contact with me while massaging his genitals. I am looking away, turning my head, staring at the ceiling, and signaling that I have no interest. Usually, that works. But on more than one occasion, I am looking away for more than five minutes, and the older guy still hasn’t given up. At this point, I will usually say, ‘I am just resting.’ The older guy leaves but continues to cruise and give me eye contact for the rest of my stay.

One time I was in the whirlpool, and this 70-year-old man got in and sat near me. I was not interested, and I tried to make that transparent. I sat away from him, positioned myself to face a wall, and curled up in a fetal position. You would think that he would get the message. But what did he do? He tried to play footsie with me underneath the water. I did not expect him to touch me, and when he did, I was so surprised that I yelled and sprang up! Then he took offense to my outburst. Excuse me, but who was cruising whom? Is it not evident by my actions that I was not interested? But of course, you all know my theory of why older guys chase after Asians.

While I am still looking for someone my age, plenty of older guys are available for the pickings. It upsets me that I have to treat these older gentlemen this way because of my work at the Gay Elder Center. But unfortunately, sometimes you have to be blunt to show someone you have no interest in. But many older men approach me for conversation because I am very approachable. I have no problem with that, but I always clarify that it is just a conversation.

I’ve seen regulars at the Baths that I don’t talk to. However, I always attempt to acknowledge the person with some eye contact and a nod. Some guys appreciate the acknowledgment and return with a nod. Others look right past me without even a return glance. I always say hello when I encounter someone I’ve hooked up with. But only some guys do that. Usually, they act as if they have never seen you before. They are dealing with their insecurities and problems to be rude. But on the flip side, there are other guys I have seen several times who have taken things further. Nods that turn into hellos, which turn into conversations every time we run into each other.

For four years, I have seen one guy my age at the baths every Saturday afternoon. If there were a Saturday afternoon regular, it would be the two of us. But it took us years to get to where we would nod and say hello to each other. Now we have brief conversations, like the weather. That is because we have seen each other so many times. Friendships at the baths are tenuous and superficial. I sometimes wonder about him, what makes him tick, and why he comes to the baths. We may go out for coffee outside the bathhouse and learn more about him. I will have to keep you posted.

7 thoughts on “Eye Contact”

  1. Bathhouses are a great place to party. I used to go to two different ones to smoke crack and snort powder. I loved it and would love to go back and do it all over again and again.

  2. While I’ve not been to a gay bathhouse as such I do reguarly visit what is marketed as a Korean Style Bathhouse, seperate male and female facilities so completely nude. Not a sex or gay venue but the vast majority of male customers are definately not straight and well you get the idea. I’ve unfortunately had the avoidance experience on numerous occasions by guys who will always leave the sauna or tub as soon as I enter, it does hurt but I’ve decided not to let it stop me going there or they win, it’s just a form of bullying as far as I’m concerned. Besides I don’t go there to get off, I enjoy the facilities and the scenery and occasional hanky panky is a nice bonus.

  3. I just found your bathhouse stories and find them interesting. I live in New Orleans and visited the bath houses her for some time. I do miss going to them though. I have not read all your stores yet, but did I miss the location where the majority of your stories are from? PS: I’m attracted to Asians, but find very little here in New Orleans.

  4. Thank you for the articles and your perspectives, as well as others responses. While many responded to the racism issue (which I find to be inherent to human nature), I was intrigued by the “eye contact” essay. I have concluded not to make eye contact with men anymore. It just is not worth the aggravation/response I receive from men. Perhaps you can write more about the subject.

  5. I think I will come back here and read more of your stories, even though those I’ve read so far have seemed rather shallow and unimpressive. Still, it’s an interesting attempt to write about something I, too, have experienced and marveled at. I’ve found a few very dear friends at the Baths and had great pleasure there as well. I’ve also caught STD’s (in pre-AIDS days) a few times and come away as lonely as when I went in, despite my sexual gratification.

    I was glad to read that you volunteer at a gay elder center. I hope you, in all your youthful beauty (which does not last forever, by the way) might learn some wisdom from these men as well as compassion. I am an old, but still handsome and in shape “rice queen,” I guess. As far as you’re concerned, completely off the gaydar and probably not even a possible friend. Well, dear, there is a reason you frequent the baths so much and endure so much rejection while searching for your ideal partner. It is because you have put up barriers to true friendship and love. Sometimes life surprises us and presents a friendship that blossoms into love. What a lovely thing that is! Often it is with a type that we never even thought of before.

    When we are young we usually search for ourselves or an idealized version of ourselves. But as we mature we realize there are other quite satisfying choices if we only look. In my case, I gradually became aware that men who were quite different from me – a red-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian – were as thrilling to me as gay white youth. In fact, they were often more exciting lovers. Gradually, I became quite entranced with the Asian male, but not because of the cliche reasons. There is something special there that contrasts so nicely with the Western man and his concepts. There is also an almost Greek acceptance of older-younger relationships that benefit the younger while rewarding the older as well. This pairing may be viewed by cynical outsiders as exploitation, but the participants know it is not. It is warm and friendly and caring, but not boring. It is not for everyone, but don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.

    I hope you can get out of the bathhouse soon and find a nice cuddler who appreciates your physical beauty and personality. In order to be cherished you might try looking in some new directions and letting yourself fall in love with kindness and consideration rather than sexual athleticism. Find someone who enriches your life as well as thrilling you in bed from time to time. Just cuddling the one you love can be better that all night sex with a stranger.

    As far as America is concerned, you just have to realize that the ideal is the Brad Pitt blue-eyed blond. He’s equivalent to the gorgeous blonde babe with the big tits- e.g., Marilyn Monroe – for straight men. But wiser, more international men will recognize your excellence. EM Forester, the famous author, was gay and chided the British in Colonial India for not being able to see the beauty of the natives who were all around them. Because they weren’t white (and socially equal), they were invisible to the Brits. It was their loss, wasn’t it?

    Please, forgive me for going on so long. I wish you happiness and would welcome your reply, if you choose to make one. Please remember that I haven’t read all your stories. Perhaps I will change my mind about you when I have read more.

    PS: Not satisfying your partner fully is the mark of a lousy lover, gay or straight. But in the baths, many are selfish.

    1. Wow! It´s very touchy what you say here, at least for me. It´s a wise lesson beyond the superficial hornyness that drive us to have a sexual encounter which we dispose just seconds after the last shot of cum.

  6. I enjoyed reading your stories. I’ve only been to a bath-house (we call them saunas down here) once ever and it was such a disaster I’ve never gone back! Although I’m quite often complimented about my looks, I had no ideas what the rules were. Because I’m shy, every time someone looked at me, I’d look away – sheer force of habit – and blush, even if I was interested. Consequently, after a while no one was even pretending to notice I was there anymore. I was devastated! I thought I must either be extremely ugly after all or have committed some cardinal sin only sauna-patrons know about. I holed up in a corner in the porn room for a while (not the best solution!), gave up, had a wank, raced home and had a cry. I’ve never gone back – I think clubs are more my thing. Looking back on it now, I guess it was just my naiveté and shyness that must have made me seem hyper-aloof to everyone else there, and when I think back on it now I have a good laugh! I still haven’t plucked up the courage to go back though, even with my partner, who goes quite regularly. Anyway, that’s my (very limited) experience of bath-houses.

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