And what did you do for Christmas? I'll tell you what I did: I danced in a bear club with a man in a wheelchair!
I've never been a great fan of conventions. Mistletoe and Christmas trees? Pah. Stuff the turkey dinner and the family drama! Traditions are like lantern posts: totally unnecessary if you've got your own searchlight.
I got into my leather pants and took hubby across the river to London's XXL party night. That's 400-plus men in all shapes and sizes, from Tiny Twink to Muscle Mary. As I get on in years, I am finding the bear scene my natural habitat, despite the fact that, sexually, I am not really attracted to thick pectoral forests. What makes places like XXL great is the sheer variety of men welcome there: fat old guys in kilts, spindly queens in rubber, huge muscular guys, young guys with daddy fixations and big daddies who are trying to stay young.
I met a 65-year-old man with the skin tone and abs of a 20-year-old. (How does he do it?) I met Bruno, from Brazil, a professional body builder and escort with a tiny voice. But everything else about him was big, including his winning smile. He dragged me into a group of friends who cannot possibly have daytime jobs, because they looked liked they live in a gym 24/7. I was too shy to take my shirt off in front of them, especially now that my summer abs have gone into hibernation. So you get the picture. Booze, bears, biceps and lots of thumping music played too loudly for my delicate ears.
/>And then I met Dan: 35, cute, with beard stubble and a row of pearly whites, and in a wheelchair. I'd had a few beers when, on the way back from the toilet, I fell over him and straight into his lap. I told him I had just published my seventh novel, about a gay man in a wheelchair. He told me he was a former Army instructor and lost his legs in an accident.
"What does it feel like to be in a place like this, a place of hedonistic body worship?" I asked him. We found a spot near the dance floor and gazed over the masses of heaving, shirtless men. "They don't realize how short-lived all that is," I continued in a rather posh, self-congratulatory voice, still with my shirt on. (I'm trying to be sensible here.) "All that gym training and body worship distracts them from what really counts."
"Oh, don't give me that tosh," said Dan. "I would do it if I could! I love to dance! Gay men are the only people in the world who really have fun as long as they can. We never grow up! Places like this club are fantastic. You can be 70 years old and still dance to Kylie! What do straight people do at 70? Have tea with the vicar? Play bridge?"
I gave it one last try. "Don't you feel... I don't know... When you see these hot, able bodies, and you in your wheelchair... Aren't you torturing yourself by coming here?"
"I have no idea what you are talking about," Dan said. "We are all disabled! Let me show you! See that guy over there? He's hot as fuck, but he's really dumb. Can't even count properly. See that pretty boy there? He's addicted to E and getting raped by strangers. He leaves the door open -- know what I mean? That one over there is just fat. The blond one? He's had seven corrective surgeries of his nose, and it still looks like shit. The one next to him is always broke. And Rudy over there, the one with the perfect abs? He has a very tiny cock. The big guy with the hairy chest? He's got a big one, but he can't get it up. And the hot guy next to him with the tattoo? He hasn't had a relationship lasting more than two days, ever. Each and every one of them: disabled."
"What about that guy dancing on the platform there? Tall, face like a film star, body like a god, and he is packing!"
"He actually is an actor. Does musicals. He is the most disabled of all. He's so fucking arrogant he never talks to guys who are less perfect than he is. Hasn't spoken to anyone in five years."
I stared at Dan in amazement.
"And the sexy lad over there, with the beer can?" he continued. "Absolutely no self-esteem! My wheelchair's nothing compared to his!"
I put a hand on Dan's shoulders, slowly realizing what he was saying.
"The only thing that pisses me off about the wheelchair is that I can't dance anymore, because there is no room!"
I put my beer down and kissed him smack on the lips. "Then we'll make some room!" I said.
And so I wheeled Dan onto the dance floor, where the waves of self-absorbed flesh parted, and all the hot young men suddenly felt very embarrassed when Dan and I danced shirtless, drunk and happy to "Starships," "Moves Like Jagger," "Born this Way" and all the other meaningless songs I can't remember, for almost an hour. I ended up on top of him and discovered my talent for lap dancing! Together we found egregious ways around the pieces of metal that are his permanent home. Dan does an excellent "Gangnam Style"! I picked him up, and we pirouetted to "Your Disco Needs You"! We waltzed and tangoed and jerked and jittered, and soon, all around us, muscle hunks and bear cubs, industriously groomed men in futile pursuit of perfection, started imitating us, breaking the ranks of ecstatic nodding and turning the dancefloor into one wildly shacking mass of brilliantly twitching humanity.
Thank you, Dan, for this amazing Christmas gift.