For those who don’t know the significance of gay bathhouses, here is a link that will explain it in detail.
And, shock of shocks, bathhouses still exist. There’s even a blog (I think I once interviewed this blogger for best gay blogs years ago). Though I’ve only been to one bathhouse in my entire life, I have good friends, from all walks of life, who frequent them often. I even know a couple who have been together for over twenty-five years who met at a bathhouse in Philadelphia. For them, this is romance. For them, this is part of what being gay is all about.
The bathhouse experience never did much for me. I found it too impersonal and too furtive. You’re just as likely to meet the love of your life there as you are to meet you’re next door neighbor’s husband sneaking around on the down low.
And I’ve never written a bathhouse scene until now. I did it in HOT ITALIAN LOVER in order to push the impending romance forward. Without getting into any spoilers, I wanted the bathhouse scene to be accurate, but also a little satirical. The main character, Joey, normally wouldn’t be the type to go to a bathhouse.
Here’s an unedited, unpublished excerpt, where Joey first walks into the bathhouse.
Joey had to admit this was easier than he’d anticipated, and now that he was inside the bathhouse he wasn’t as nervous as he’d been outside: filled with dread and anticipation. Though this was Joey’s first time in a bathhouse, he knew how they worked. In many ways, for gay men, bathhouses just like this had always been a comfort zone, a home away from home, and a place where gay men could be themselves without anyone judging them or bothering them. Joey thought it was ironic that even in this day and age, when so many people seem to be so open to accept gay men and so willing to invite them into mainstream society, that he would still find such quiet, simple comfort being here with his own kind. He felt as if he’d just walked into a playground, or a secret club that only allowed certain people to belong. Joey almost felt a little guilty about it, because he’d always been so interested in equal rights and frowned upon gay men who strictly confined themselves to nothing but gay circles.
He passed a middle aged man who wore nothing but a towel wrapped around his waist. He had salt and pepper hair, a well-trimmed goatee, and a slight paunch. The guy looked Joey up and down and Joey nodded at him without stopping. Although Joey wasn’t sure what he was going to do there, or whether or not he’d actually have sex with anyone, he wanted to take his time and adjust to the surroundings before he sent anyone an inviting glance.