You know, I'm kind of astonished myself.
This shirt-open thing started as a joke, or maybe not a joke, when some of my friends (ranger1 among them) unbuttoned me and rolled my shirt back and insisted I walk through the bar like that. Obviously I wasn't unwilling here, and it seemed a great joke as the people I knew would shout, "Steven!" and then start rubbing my chest. After that the shirt-opening ceremony became something of a ritual, at the Eagle and at Bear Bar night. Then one Bear Bar night cpj, seeing me after I had been accosted by my crew of strippers, noted that I should button at least one button in order to maintain some dignity. I was quite taken with the idea that there is a specific demarcation point between dignity and no-dignity, and I decided that would be a no-dignity night. Call it ironic sluttiness.
And then I thought about it and realized that I've been accumulating dignity for 48 years, so I've got quite a stockpile to spend. Now I unbutton my own shirt. But you see, already I'm off in a context that makes no sense in the rest of my life, and I'm quite consciously not even using the word "nipples" here.
This bare chest thing felt like a game to me, with maybe a frisson of adolescent underpinnings. But what's been happening is I'm starting to accumulate experiences of meeting people who are not already friends but who want to know me because of my bare chest. It's not really that I have self-esteem issues here, it's just that this isn't the aspect of me that I would consider my greatest draw. But hey, what I'm finding is that I really like this.
I have had the experience of men acting in a manner I could only call worshipful as they stare at (and tentatively stroke) my chest. The other week at Sunday beer bust -- when I watch the musical clips on the video screens at the Bolt next door -- I found myself chatting with a guy whom I know casually. He was being especially friendly that night. I, in my arrogance, thought oh, this guy has noticed that I'm a fun guy to hang out with. But there was something a little excessive about his smile. At one point, mid-sentence, he stopped talking and said, "Oh, I just can't resist any longer" and reached over to stroke my chest. And smiled. Oh.
I tell you, I find this a hoot.
Something similar happened last Sunday. Another young man I was chatting with started to apologize (out of the blue, to my perspective) for staring at my chest. He said he couldn't help it. I tried to tell him there was nothing to apologize for, but he kept going back to the apology as we talked. I gently took his hand and placed it on my chest and held it there and continued the conversation. I did this just because I wanted to see the look on his face, and I was not disappointed.
Now it's not as if these sorts of things characterize all my evening every time I go to the Eagle, but on the other hand they are even milder events than others I could describe. I've started to think of the Eagle as the Temple of Foreplay, where I go to worship on weekend evenings.
And then I go home.
In 1993, sinnabor told me that I should walk around shirtless in a bear context sometime. It took me a dozen years to take him up on his suggestion, but evidently he knew whereof he spoke.
And once again, as I say so very very often, this isn't the world I thought I'd be living in when I grew up.