Last night I attended a business event set atop a downtown hotel with dramatic views of the Atlanta skyline. One thousand miles from home and I did not know a single attendee. On top of that, the invitation noted that there would be hand rolled cigars and cabaret dancers (women) with fire. “Oh, yay” I thought to myself. It was a business event that was clearly planned by a straight man. And that’s OK if you are a straight man. But as a gay man I was thinking big yawn.

I have spent so many years in the corporate world pretending to be straight and because I don’t do that anymore, I was dreading the event just a little bit. But, here’s the thing. When you don’t care if people think you are gay, life is so much more enjoyable. You get to be yourself.

Before I was out, I used to worry that the little things I did or said would give me away. I would shop for Old Navy pleated khakis to go with a blue button down shirt. You know, the “Man uniform”. And no need to try them on for God sakes. Why would I care about the fit? I’m a man, we don’t shop, we buy!

Now, I spend time looking for the right fit and color. I will notice and comment on a woman’s (or a man’s) haircut and shoes. Does that make me Gay? No, but even if someone told me that was gay, my reply would be “Thank you!”

Back to the event: I have found that grabbing a drink and a plate of food and then finding a spot at a cocktail table with others is the perfect way to meet people. Opening with “Do you mind if I park here?” seems to be always met with “Not at all!” And that is how I met two attractive women from South Dakota.

While other men were clumsily trying to pick them up, I was being myself and having a lot of laughs with them. In short, the other men were acting like “men” and missing out. At one point, a guy walked up and asked the two women if they needed a refill on their drinks. Marcia, one of the women, turned to him and said "You betcha'! Bill needs a refill." I told him any kind of red wine would do and we watched the poor bastard stumble off to the bar in a daze, clearly bothered to be fetching a man a drink.  Marcia laughed and said “You’re not like the typical IT person, you’re a people person!” I think she got that half right. I am a people person and I am an IT person, but I do not act like the typical man.

As the three of us watched the cabaret dancers light different appendages on fire and prance around the floor we laughed and enjoyed the show. I thanked my drink fetcher for being a good sport and introduced him to Marcia and Stacey and watched the wall around him come down.  I began to think that really, I can have a good time anywhere because I have learned not to care what other people think of me. Straight men would do well to do the same.

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