It had been one of those days where I was completely drained of all life and hope and any cheery molecules. It was one of those days that show up in my hair—the worse things get, the more my hair stands straight out, like I’m touching one of those electricity balls at the science center. What I’m saying to you is: I was having a bad day.
“What you need is a night at Chemistry,” my friend told me. At least that’s what I think he told me. Try hearing a phone when your 40-feet-thick, stand-uppy hair is in the way. And you know what? It was what I needed. So I grabbed his cross-dressing, frilly-slip-covered ass and off we went.
Hi, my name is Karen, I’m straight and love the gay bar.
Don’t get me wrong: Sometimes I’m a big fan of a regular old straight-people tavern, too. There’s a very fancy hotel bar I like to frequent, where the appetizers are great and you can hear yourself talk. And there’s a dark pub where my boyfriend and I go late at night sometimes, to eat Irish stew and people-watch.
But neither compares to a night at Chemistry. It’s my local gay bar, and I realize the idea of gay bars in the South might seem to be a contradiction in terms. Did you even know there were out gay people in the South? I didn’t, for the longest time. When I moved here from Los Angeles, it seemed like every gay man I met was married and played organ for his church. I started wondering if organ stores were the bathhouses of Dixie.
But my gay local bar has all the things I loved about gay bars everywhere else I’ve lived. There’s great music that I don’t normally listen to: Lady Gaga, Cher (yes, Cher, still), Icona Pop, Fantasia. Somehow, when you’re watching a beautiful man or a gorgeous drag queen dancing to these songs, they sound better.
And that’s the other great part: Sure, you got your boring, run-of-the-mill gay men there, but more often you get to look at beautifully dressed, beautiful men, young and old. And drag queens who are way prettier than me, and how those bitches dance in those heels I'll never know. Plus, you got your hot young lesbians, and your world-weary old lesbians who could kick my ass, and probably will, if I don’t stop eyeing up all their hotties. What I’m saying to you is the people-watching is phenomenal.
Plus, I feel completely accepted at the gay bar. I’m a middle-aged straight woman. Who cares? The place is filled with people who are khaki-clad accountants by day, leather queens by night. No one gives two hoots that I’m there.
I can spend the whole night dancing with people I don’t know. The night of my electric-hair rotten day, my cross-dressing friend was having an unfortunate Spanx struggle, so two sturdy gay women asked me to join them for their birthday celebration dance, and the next thing you know, a very young boy in a pink hoodie was grinding on me, and then a straight couple joined us. No one rejects anyone else, and how often can you say that in a regular old bar?
Regular bars can sometimes depress me. No matter how secure I feel, it still stings when a young man looks right through me. I think I’ve aged out of the bar scene, but I haven’t aged out of wanting to dance until my feet fall off. Fortunately, there is a solution, and that solution is the place where the men drink appletinis and the women slam tequila and we all love each other for it.
I feel attractive and interesting when I’m at Chemistry, even though I am probably no longer either. I try to convince myself I’m the Judy Garland of the place: older, wiser, maybe sadder, but forever beloved. The gay bar is my somewhere over the rainbow. And I highly recommend it. Go find your local homosexual hangout, and tell them you heard of this place once in a lullaby.