December 7, 2021

The Single Guy Hooking Up in the Gym Steam Room

New York’s Sex Diaries series asks anonymous city dwellers to record a week in their…

Photo-Illustration: James Gallagher

This week, a digital marketer incessantly texting a new crush, FaceTiming an ex, and meeting some strangers at the gym: 28, single, Brooklyn.

DAY ONE

8 a.m. I go to hot yoga. I set the intention of “self-love” for my practice but can’t manage to quiet my mind (can anyone these days?).

10 a.m. Set up my laptop from the desk that’s sandwiched in front of my bed. I’m in digital marketing, and I’ve been working from my bedroom through the pandemic and don’t think I’ll ever willingly go back to the in-office charades. I find I usually work fewer hours and am more efficient at home.

10:06 a.m. Open Tinder and find no new messages (shocker!). I scroll back through old matches and, at random, message a hot six-foot-four photographer we’ll call T.

11 a.m. I’m not sure how I’ll get through the day. There are things I could be doing workwise, but nothing with an urgent deadline, so I sort of meander: I take trips to the kitchen every ten minutes, do some scrolling, masturbate. It’s not that I lack ambition (or at least, I really hope not), it’s just that I work in digital marketing and, after two years of doing the same thing every day, I’ve grown pessimistic about the whole endeavor.

5 p.m. Feels like my green dot on slack has been active for long enough? I leave my computer open and start making dinner. Then I take a nap to prepare for the party tonight.

12 a.m. I’ve made the mistake of ubering to a Bushwick warehouse party so far from my apartment the ride costs as much as my firstborn child. I’ve been here less than 25 minutes and just licked my fingers clean of a shroom chocolate when the lights come on and security guards force us outside. We hear rumors of a smoke alarm violation. The party is vampire themed and groups of gay men covered in fake blood bounce around in search of an after-party that will salvage this tragedy. It smells like cat food and the flashing sirens from the cops cast shadows that look like those old iPod commercials. I snap a photo that I’m sure is art. The shrooms must be kicking in.

1 a.m. I’m waiting in a glacially slow-moving line at a second warehouse location. I’m told this is a “straight” party and, judging by the wide eyes of the rest of the queue, this crowd has never seen so many scantily clad gay men in their lives. At the door, I parrot the passcode “part of the gang” to the bouncer as I flash my vaccination card and move inside. I see the cover is $50 and want to run.

1:30 a.m. I’ve had two tequila sodas, $20 each, and I feel nothing. The dance floor has self-segregated, and in the gay corner, shirts are coming off. The straights remain, thankfully, fully clothed. I wonder how soon I can call a car home and which one of my friends I can convince to split the fare with me. I throw my hands up in the air and search for kindred (tired) spirits.

DAY TWO

11 a.m. I force my eyes open through the fog of hungover slumber. I get up to chug some coconut water and figure out how to revive myself.

2:30 p.m. I’ve somehow managed to drag my body to the gym I just joined last week after deciding my quarantine home workouts were no longer cutting it. I lie on the mat for ten minutes “doing stretches” before deciding I’ve earned the steam room.

2:50 p.m. I’m engaged in what one might call a blowjob train, wherein the gentleman to my left is sucking me off while I simultaneously blow the man to my right. An older man walks in halfway through and we scramble for our towels. He smiles and says, “Carry on,” and … we do.

8 p.m. I’m on the couch watching Succession (Team Gerri!) and eating sushi. I renounced my veganism last summer when it felt like nothing mattered anymore.

DAY THREE

7 a.m. My alarm goes off, rudely. I count down from ten then force myself out of bed. I’m trying to be the kind of person who works out in the morning. I down a glass of lemon water (another new neurosis), wash my face, change, then bike to the gym, trying not to think too much about it.

8 a.m. I’m incapable of self-directing at the gym (too many hot guys and confusing machinery), so this app on my phone shows me my last exercise, which is some sort of glute kickback. Good, I think, because I want a bubble butt. I pass by an old acquaintance and wonder if we really have to stop and chat. Unfortunately he reaches to remove an airpod and I realize we’re doing this. I take a deep breath and relay the horrors of the failed warehouse party because, if nothing else, it makes for good content.

2 p.m. T from Tinder responds, “lol hi.” We’re back in business, baby.

8 p.m. My ex-boyfriend, we’ll call him F, texts me that he doesn’t want to see me anymore … without putting his dick in my mouth. We’ve been broken up for well over two years, but we still meet semiweekly under the pretense of exchanging custody of our Pomeranian. Neither of us have settled into new relationships since the divorce (I call it that because I’m melodramatic and six years together feels like a lifetime), and our mutual solitude is almost enough to trick me into the idea that we’re thwarted soul mates … almost.

8:30 p.m. F sends me a pic of him naked in the gym mirror and I ask to FaceTime. I watch him jerk off in the bathroom and briefly forget I ever wanted to strangle him in his sleep.

9 p.m. After some banter, T gives me his phone number and suggests I text him sometime. I decide I’ll wait till morning. I have restraint!

DAY FOUR

9 a.m. F asks if he can swing by this morning to drop off the dog since he’s going out of town this weekend. I agree but wonder if this means anything more will happen. I worry I’m not up for all that right now, the sun has barely risen! Regardless, I brush my teeth and change into my “nice” sweats.

10 a.m. The door opens and our dog races in and licks my entire face. F follows behind him and gives me a hug that lingers. I reach down to feel his cock (it’s a semi!), and he laughs and pulls away, saying he has a big caseload and can’t stay. I say “of course,” wish him well, and return to my desk without looking him in the eye.

10:30 a.m. F texts me apologizing for running off so quickly. He assures me, “the desire is mutual. I didn’t want you to feel embarrassed for putting yourself out there like that.” I shudder because I wasn’t embarrassed until I received this text, the implication being that I risked some of my dignity by reaching for his crotch? I reject this narrative, but why does he have to be so goddamn nice? I respond, “No stress, GL on the case!” and throw my phone across the room.

11 a.m. I’m relieved that my phone screen is not broken and send T a text, “hi this is your vegans anonymous sponsor” (don’t judge me, we bonded over both loosening our plant-based diets during quar). T responds immediately with a GIF (yes, it seems he’s one of those), and we launch into conversation. It’s flirty, it’s fun, I feel alive. I’m not working.

6 p.m. T asks if I’m the “relationship type,” and I panic before responding “unfortunately” with a slanty face. He responds that he is, too, that his last relationship was six years ago, and that lately he’s been feeling ready to “make mems with someone.” Ding ding ding!

9 p.m. I say, “I love memz,” and imagine a tasteful wedding together.

DAY FIVE 

11 a.m. T and I have been messaging nonstop and it feels like a chemical addiction. I keep looking at my phone and my stomach feels tingly. I’m a teenage girl again.

3 p.m. T asks me, “What’s your sign? I’m stalking your insta.” I immediately open the dreaded app and scroll through my posts and tagged photos from his perspective. That one photo a girlfriend posted with me last New Year’s Eve isn’t quite as flattering as I once thought. I consider untagging. I reply, “I’m a cancer, what does this mean for us? I know nothing of the stars.”

8 p.m. It’s been hours since T has responded — a considerable shift from our initial cadence together. I feel something’s switched off for him and can’t pinpoint the cause. The uncertainty prompts me to fill in the gaps with all of my worst flaws. Perhaps he also found that New Year’s Eve pic of me off-putting.

10 p.m. Still no response. I blur my vision and scroll through our iMessage thread, trying to assess the ratio of blue-to-white blurbs. I worry there’s far too much blue.

DAY SIX

6 a.m. I wake up and run to retrieve my phone from the next room — a farce I’ve created in an effort to reduce screen time. I see a new message from T, “whoops sorry to leave you hangin’” with no further follow-up. What is one to do with that? I screenshot and send to my bestie who recommends that I confirm an IRL meetup, stat. Too much texting before the first date never bodes well. I decide to initiate, “so when are we getting drinks?”

1 p.m. T seems to “leave me hangin’” all day.

4 p.m. Finally T responds that he has a friend’s birthday party this Saturday but that it “could be grool” if we all ended up at the same bar. “Grool” is really the twist of the knife, and I decide he is dead to me. I add “DO NOT TEXT” before his name in my contacts and resist the urge to throw my phone again.

6 p.m. I spend an hour making butternut-squash soup to heal my (teenage) soul. It’s hot girl thotumn, I whisper to myself.

8 p.m. I text my bestie a screenshot of the “grool” message in an effort to own the rejection, and she agrees it’s not good. I ask her why I pour myself into men so quickly. She says she loves that about us, that we’re so giving with our hearts. I think that’s a nice way of framing my desperation.

10 p.m. I bounce between Grindr, Tinder, and Hinge — the trifecta — but everyone repulses me. I consider masturbating before bed but ultimately can’t muster the energy.

DAY SEVEN

7:30 a.m. I’m at the gym when I receive a follow-up text from T that is solely emojis: an eyeball, lips, another eyeball. I wonder what these hieroglyphs could mean and whether we’re really full-grown adult men.

10 a.m. I decide it’s been enough time to respond coolly, “haha sorry. not really what I had in mind for a first date :/ keep me posted tho!” He responds within the minute saying that he understands, that we should do a proper first date. Fancy cocktails, eye contact. He says that we may have to wait until the following week because he has a busy next few days (eye roll). I say, “sounds good, just lemme know.”

11 a.m. T asks if we can still text in the meantime. I try to remember my restraint. I tell him I worry that too much buildup can only lead to disappointment in the end. He says, “But I like texting you,” and I remove “DO NOT TEXT” from his contact.

3 p.m. T and I have been texting all day. I barely have time for lunch. It’s revealed that he’s a big spoon (translation: top), that we find each other sexy, and that we have similar interests. I’m back to smiling dumbly and staring at my phone.

6 p.m. He’s suddenly stopped responding. My “what’re your plans tonight?” message lingers awkwardly in the chat. I decide I’m not going out. I feel foul. That a stranger in my phone has this much power over me is a humiliation.

8 p.m. Still no response. I tell an old friend, fine, I’ll meet him at a gay bar for *one* drink.

11 p.m. I’ve had four tequila sodas and no fun. My phone has one new message: it’s F asking how the dog is. I call a car home.

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