The other day, I was at the Campus Recreation Center (the gym), and this cute-but-pimply, grinning, physically strong, confident, and presumably-straight freshman comes up to me and asks for a spot. So I spot him on the declined bench press, and of course, his shirt comes up a little bit, exposing his firm tummy and happy trail. I can't help but notice his exposed flesh, though I make a point of hiding the fact that I'm even looking.

That in itself is not so strange, although freshman college students are rarely confident enough at the gym to as much as look at other people, much less talk to them. (And then again, what the hell do I know? I still haven't totally grasped the rules of engagement for interacting with American college males).

But the conversation which followed came directly out of left field. I'm done spotting him, and usually, that's that. You're supposed to grunt a "Thanks" at each other, and then getting the hell away from each other as fast as possible, because spotting someone generally involves a severe temporary transgression of their personal space, (sometimes even sticking your nuts JUST above their forehead, just BARELY avoiding teabagging, an activity in which str8boys are none-too-eager to partake, at least not as the passive participant). Not only do American boys not like to touch each other in any way, they don't even like to get close -- spatially or otherwise.

Of course, these are slight exaggerations on my part. I'm describing a large portion of my own past experiences, but certainly not all of them. I have a lot of male friends who aren't uncomfortable with intimacy, so there are plenty of exceptions, indeed. But the stereotype of the American male is based on a real paradigm of awkwardness that permeates masculinity in American culture.

So back to my story: I finish spotting this kid and he just looks at me and keeps grinning. Very cute. Now wait. I know what you're thinking. But you're wrong. He's NOT gay. Not that the word "gay" has any reliable meaning anyway. But even if it did, he wouldn't be it. You'll just have to trust my gaydar on that one, OK? I can just tell. (Well, in America I can, anyway -- Europe has other rules).

He goes on to start asking me personal questions, mostly relating to my body and workout regimen. (I'm very muscular). Then, he tells me how nice my body is -- as if he were informing me that he is a Criminology major or something -- and returns to his workout! Basically, he acted out about as much of the first few minutes of a gay porn film as he could without taking off his clothes.

I don't get it.