¡hola papi!

‘How Do I Make a Move Without Coming Off As Creepy?’

Illustration: Pedro Nekoi

This column first ran in John Paul Brammer’s Hola Papi newsletter, which you can subscribe to on Substack.

¡Hola, Papi!

I’m a 26-year-old gay virgin who’s never been in a relationship or on a date. I’m looking to get my love life started, and there’s this guy I like in my gay sports league. I’ve spotted him at a local bar a couple of times, and I’m pretty sure we locked eyes once. Whenever I see him, I can’t help but sneak a look at him. I’ve even found him on Instagram and we seem to have many things in common (music, travel, similar birthdays, came out at around the same time, etc.). However, I always feel shy and awkward around him, so I find talking to him really difficult. 

We’re on different teams, and I want to get to know him better without coming off as a creep. What should I say to him? How should I make contact? I’m pretty sure we have mutual friends. Should I ask them to introduce us?

Shy Baby Gay

Hey there, SBG!

Are we still doing the concept of virginity? I’m legitimately asking, because I don’t know. It’s been so long since such a thing has been relevant to me. I think The Prestige was in theaters at the time. Great film. One of Christopher Nolan’s best. No idea what the guy has been up to these days.

I can’t quite tell if you’re new to Gay or just new to Gay Dating. Either way, welcome! Forget everything you may have heard. It’s actually fine here. Everything is fine and nothing hurts. I mean, just look at me. I’m fine. Do not put it in the papers that I’m not fine.

Moving on.

I have some questions. The first and most important one being, what is a “similar birthday”? Are we talking, like, “we’re both water signs,” or “he was born on June 28, and I was born on June 30,” or “we were born in the same year”? Maybe you are a student of the Secret Language of Birthdays and your dates of birth, though seemingly quite different, carry similar significance. For example, today (as I sit and write this column) is July 23. It is the day of Uncertainty Resolvers, a compassionate, crisis-prone group of people. If you even care.

My next question is, how do you know all this information about this guy? I’m guessing you’ve had an actual conversation with him before and that you didn’t glean all it from his Instagram? You seem to have at least a cursory grasp on his lore, so I’m a bit confused is all. Regardless, let’s pump the brakes on the cyberstalking and get to some good old-fashioned in-person attempts at establishing contact that might make us cringe in retrospect. Just like our ancestors once did.

The fact that he is in a gay sports league in the first place signals to me that he’s down to make friends. I have to imagine that’s the only reason anyone would sign up for a gay sports league, unless more homosexuals have a genuine passion for kickball than I thought. I am open to being corrected on this front.

Honestly, the “different teams” thing is even better. How very Montagues versus Capulets. I would sidle up next to him in the uniform of the enemy and be like, “Looks like you wandered into the wrong side of town, handsome fella.” Well, no I wouldn’t. But you know what I mean. You can play with the rivalry thing, and then you can be like, “Anyway, I know the exact date of your birthday. Mine is similar.”

Jokes aside, social groups like this exist to give you free parking in the conversation game. You can quite literally just walk up to him and ask him about the gay sports league, how he found it, who he knows in it, where he’s from, and so on. You can then ask to hang out sometime. It might go somewhere and it might not, but that’s showbiz. The important thing is that you practice getting to know people.

I get that the prospect might sound intimidating. There’s a chance you will be rejected, shrugged off, or even perhaps thought of as a person who is a bit forward. We definitely want to avoid coming off as, yes, “a creep.” There is tact and subtlety involved in this game, as well as, I’ll be frank, risk. I field letters every week from people asking how to navigate the dating world. I should ostensibly be knowledgeable and confident about this sort of thing. But even I live in fear of saying something on a dating app that ends up in a viral Twitter screenshot. It’s scary! Of course it is.

Despite it all, I recognize these things about the world: that it can be a lonely place. That some of the wonderful people in my life are here because I took the initiative to reach out across that loneliness, to be the one to break the silence. That it is possible for people to be attracted to me and to return my interest, and if a person isn’t interested in establishing a connection, then that’s fine. We can keep it moving. I have value I can bring to the lives of others, and vice versa. I don’t want my fear of rejection to trump my desire to make meaningful connections with others.

There’s nothing pushy about any of that. It just requires having a firm grasp on who you are and what you’re here to do. It will still be scary at times. But as for me, a person with debilitating anxiety, I have simply learned to fear the silence more than making a fool of myself. I mean, just the other day I struck up a conversation with a cute guy who turned out to be straight. I felt a bit silly for half a minute, and then it was fine. Remember when I told you before that it was fine? Well, I meant it.

You made a great choice joining the sports league! That’s basically half the battle: electing to be perceived in the first place. Next time you see him out and about, do a little sign of the cross and take the plunge. That’s where it all starts.

I’m wishing you luck and success, SBG! Even if things don’t shake out the way you’re hoping, you will still gain experience, which is very necessary if we want to make a hasty exit from calling ourselves a “baby” in any capacity at 26, which is definitely also a goal here.

Con mucho amor,

Originally published July 24, 2023.

This column first ran in John Paul Brammer’s Hola Papi newsletter, which you can subscribe to on Substack. Purchase JP Brammer’s book Hola Papi: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessonshere.

‘How Do I Make a Move Without Coming Off As Creepy?’