"Oh hey! Do you come here often?"

“Young man! There’s no need to feel down. I said, young man, pick yourself off the ground,” sang the Village People in 1978. Well it took me long enough; but forty years later, I have finally heeded their sound advice and signed up for a membership at the YMCA. Joining a long list of gay men who have come before me, I have been hitting up the gym on the regular these days in an active effort to make better life decisions.   

While I have yet to take advantage of their Aquafit classes, I am happy to report that I have been putting in some serious work on the elliptical. I estimate that each thirty-minute workout I burn approximately one bottle of light-bodied red wine. At this rate, if my calculations are correct, I should begin losing weight when I am dead. But that is neither here nor there because ever since I joined, my chances of meeting a gentleman caller have increased 832%.

It is true what they say about the Y! It is a literal hot spot of gay men that, according to Google, is usually busy between 5:30am and 10:30pm. Like, I don’t know to stress how fabulous this place really is. If I was in a small town and boarded a bus with a one-way ticket to “Gay Town,” it wouldn’t take me to Davie Street, no sir ree bob! It would drop me right off at the Y. If I was in my living room at the Fox Den and said, “Okay Google, please direct me to the end of the rainbow,” it would say “No problem, here are the directions to 955 Burrard Street, go get it Rugged!”

Now, I know I am getting excited here, so we need to pull in the reins for a hot second.

When it comes to the rules of attraction in gym shorts and high kicks, while it is true that most gay men play the short game (ie. one exchanged look and the towels are off) I prefer to endure the long game. This means that whenever I find someone who strikes my fancy, I strategically place myself on an exercise machine in their peripheral vision. Over time, the hope is that one day, with enough exposure, the object of my affection might break from his squats, walk up in his compression shorts and say, “oh hey, do you come here often?”

Now you might be wondering, “Gee Rugged, has this approach ever worked for you yet?” and the answer is no. And while, yes, it could be that my gaze only happens to fall upon men with no peripheral vision, I haven’t the slightest intentions of giving up yet.

Just the other day, by the grace of Meryl, I finally almost met someone. After galloping for a solid thirty, I retired to the stretching area where I laid down a black mat and started thinking about doing push-ups. Sitting cross-legged and deep in thought, I caught the briefest glance from a gorgeous man at the peak of his stomach crunch kitty corner to my mat.

My first instinct was to check if anyone was behind me.

My second was to obtain confirmation that I didn’t make up the entire situation in my head.

And then, there it was! With another abdominal contraction our eyes met again. Silently screaming in excitement, I felt my heart rate suddenly spike with panic. What do I next? I pressed myself. This wasn’t a private webcam show, I couldn’t just sit there and stare! I had to do something and fast. And so, just before his spine returned perpendicular to the ground, mine went parallel and I star-fished.

If this was RENT, I would have started singing the chorus from the song, “Take Me or Leave Me” but this was not a musical, sadly, as it turns out with most moments in life. Bathed in a glow of LED lighting, I had to come up with a plan to establish contact. Maybe if I timed it correctly, I could reach for the spray bottle at the same time as him and say, “oh hey, do you come here often?” Or maybe, I could accidentally bump into him in the change room and say, “oh hey, do you come here often?”

Screw it! I thought. Life is too short, I am going to pick myself back up and smile right back at him.

With unfettered determination, I collapsed my arms to my sides, pushed my heels together and pulled my knees up erect. Then, like a tray table I ascended into an upright and locked position. Ready to make my move, I looked over only to discover that, unfortunately, he was gone.

“Gosh darnit,” I said.