|The 40 In 40 Days Project.|
14. The Amsterdam Weekend (1991)
The Au Pairs
|At the age of
twenty-nine, I decided there were four things which I had to do before
turning thirty. These were: visit New York, go round a maze, ride in a
hot air balloon, and attend a jackoff (J/O) party.
This is the story of how I attained the
fourth of these goals.
If you wanted to J/O in the early
nineties, you really had to go and do it in Amsterdam. We were still
living in more tightly controlled times. I’d been researching the
subject, and had discovered that a J/O party took place at the Spyker
bar on Saturday nights, once a month. So, with K’s amused blessing, I
booked myself two nights at the New York hotel, and hopped over.
Friday night, and I headed for more
familiar territory: the Exit club on Reguliersdwarstraat. This would be
a nice, gentle acclimatisation exercise. It certainly was: his name was
Rudolf, and he was a semi-professional, indeed fanatical, swimmer. With
all the physique which that might imply. As someone who recoils in
horror from all physical exercise save hiking and dancing (and who
cannot swim a stroke, owing to a deep and abiding fear of submerging his
head under water), I was aware that I was already punching above my
weight here – and so I cheerfully took this as a good omen for the
weekend ahead. Back at the hotel, my gratitude was enthusiastically
expressed, at some length, with few words but much attendant volume.
Rudolf left the hotel around dawn, and
a few hours later I emerged for breakfast. Over the breakfast table, I
got talking to a fellow single Brit. I asked him how his night had been.
It had been OK, but he’d had a lousy night’s sleep. His bedroom
walls were paper thin, and there was a couple next door making one hell
of a racket during the night – he’d never heard anything like it.
Sounds awful, I said. What was his room
number? Ah. That would be the one next door to mine, then. I lowered my
head bashfully, and threw that kind of half-blushing, half-smirking
look, of which our dear late Princess of Wales was so fond.
Saturday afternoon, and I decided to
ramp up a notch in preparation for the big night. I’d never been to a
gay sauna before, and maybe this was the time to do it. In truth, I’d
never had the slightest desire to attend one – but if this weekend was
to be about testing limits, then so be it. I nervously entered the
Thermos Day Sauna (one of Europe’s largest), checked in my valuables,
and picked up my towel.
Clothes off, towel wrapped round my
waist, I commenced my perambulations. There were endless corridors, with
doors leading to private cabins, and the occasional public space, such
as a plunge pool. I skulked round, fretfully avoiding eye contact,
feeling about as erotic as a wet dishcloth. At one point, someone very
tall and well-built brushed past me. I glanced up. Dear God, this man
was pornography made flesh. It was almost as if he was walking within
his own private force field of sexual energy. You could almost see the
aura. He looked intent, focussed, determined, in something of a hurry.
Clearly on his way to some rampantly orgiastic rumpy-pumpy somewhere or
other. I compared and contrasted with meek little me, padding dutifully
round the corridors in search of something I didn’t even particularly
want, and sighed inwardly.
There were a few…false starts, shall
we say. Having made my excuses two or three times over by now, it was
with some relief that I found the video lounge. A couple of dozen men
were sitting around watching the screen, towels thankfully in place. It
looked quite safe here. I settled down on the floor to watch.
A few minutes later, someone else
enters the lounge. Oh my God. It’s Pornography Made Flesh. He scans
the room, with commendable professionalism and efficiency. He is coming
towards me. Oh my God, he’s lying down right next to me. He can’t be
interested. Don’t be daft. Oh my God, he’s looking my way. Oh my
God, his leg’s touching mine. I return his glance, as coolly as I can.
His eyes (dark, limpid pools in which men may read many strange and
wonderful things) meet mine. He leans his head (jet black hair, perfect
cheekbones, chiselled jaw) towards mine.
I am now totally under his control. I
have been subsumed into his force field. As such, I can do nothing but
grunt and nod. He gets up and strides out purposefully. I trot along
behind, my heart beating like a wild, wild thing.
To tell the truth, the sex is a bit of
a non-starter, in the way that sex with someone much better looking can
sometimes be. He is simply too much for me. The balance of power seems
to be all about me having to worship him, and I don’t do worship very
easily. He senses my diffidence, and his manner softens. We fall into
conversation instead. To my astonishment, the moment we start talking,
we hit it off instantly. In fact, we start getting on famously well. He
is intelligent, articulate, interesting and interested. Aware that gay
saunas are not normally places to initiate in depth conversations, I am
now thoroughly enjoying the incongruity of my situation. This is more
like it! Who needs all that tedious sex stuff anyway?
The sauna is closing for the afternoon,
but we’re still talking ten to the dozen. He suggests we move on for a
drink at the April bar. We dress. He puts on tight leather trousers, a
tight white T-shirt, a fringed black leather jacket, and biker boots. I
put on nondescript Levis and a comfy sweater. Off we go.
He turns out to be something of a local
gay celebrity. Last night, he took to the stage of the Amsterdam gay
centre’s weekly club event, dressed as a leatherman version of Saint
Nicholas. And did a full strip for the crowd. He has also recently
performed in a safe sex awareness video. This being Amsterdam, it was
a…comprehensive performance, shall we say. Wow, my very own porn star.
This is turning out to be quite some weekend.
I tell him about the purpose of my
mission – the J/O party. He fills me in on what to expect from the
evening. Apparently, the parties are organised by an impeccably worthy
non-profit making community collective, with the aim of promoting safer
sex within the city. There are some strict rules. Clothes to be checked
in on entry, though it’s OK to keep your pants on if you wish. You are
given a drinks card, to be signed by the bar staff each time you order,
and to be stuffed inside your sock for the rest of the time – you pay
The sexual etiquette is as follows.
Strictly J/O only! No lips below the hips! And there’s one more
crucial point of etiquette. At these parties, refusing somebody’s
advances is considered to be the height of bad form. You are supposed to
accept every invitation which comes your way, in a spirit of communal
egalitarianism. Turning someone down because you don’t find them
attractive? Tut tut. That would be – well, there isn’t a word for
it, but I guess “lookist” would fit the bill nicely.
I go back and change – though getting
changed for a night in your underwear seems to be beside the point. The
bar is a short hop from the hotel. I walk in and find what is basically
a typical Saturday night Amsterdam gay bar, of the more traditional,
copper-potted variety, but with all present either naked or (more
usually) in their pants. Polite, sociable chit chat is being made. There
is no J/O-ing going on down here – that all takes place upstairs.
Kit off, but – in the words of the
old Samantha Fox song – the pants stay on, thank you. I wander
upstairs, and take a ring side seat.
It’s an open plan room, with a raised
platform at one end, and bench seating round the perimeter. The lights
are up – you can see the entire room quite clearly. There are
strategically positioned boxes of Kleenex and occasional bowls of body
lotion, laid out as if for a cocktail party. I remember the Victoria
Wood sketch about the couple preparing for a suburban wife-swapping
party (the wife calling up the stairs to her husband: “KY Jelly –
too ostentatious in a dish?”)
And oh my good golly gosh, and crikey.
They’re all at it! Everywhere! Yikes!
I scan the sea of writhing bodies. One
thing quickly becomes apparent. At 29, I am easily one of the youngest
people in the room, by a considerable margin. Well over half the people
here are over fifty years old. Many are in their sixties and seventies.
My eyes trawl round, radar like, looking for someone even remotely
attractive. There are maybe five or six in the whole room, and they all
It may very well be bad form to be
“lookist” here, but frankly, in this context I’m acutely aware of
being hot property. Not that this is helping to stoke my ardour in any
way. If anything, I feel even less erotic than I did in the sauna.
It’s a good job I’ve still got my pants on!
Well, can’t sit here all night. Time
to circulate and mingle. Oh dear. I seem to be the object of repeated
attention. Funny little old men (sorry, but I speak as I find) keep
bobbing up in front of me with gleeful “come play with me”
expressions. I can’t, I just can’t. I keep having to invent urgent
appointments at the other end of the room. More funny little old men
come trotting after me as I cross the floor from corner to corner. Oh,
and I’ve just noticed what music they’re playing. Unbelievably,
someone has chosen one of the “Hooked On Classics” albums to set the
mood: an extended medley of cheerful light classics set to a boom-thwack
drum track. I kid you not: now they’re playing the Can Can, disco
style, wihile funny little old men chase me – and each other – round
and round in circles. Earlier on, I was in a porn movie. Now, I seem to
be in a Benny Hill sketch…
Hmmph, so much for anti-lookism. It
seems to be perfectly acceptable in reverse. However, I am determined to
do what I came here for. I haven’t flown all this way to wimp out now.
Eventually, I make eye contact with a nice looking chap (also British,
as it turns out), around my own age, with a similarly bewildered,
harassed expression. We attempt to, er, bond. It’s not easy, as we are
constantly having to repel invaders, swatting them away like so many
mosquitoes. We persevere, manfully. We really do give it our best shot.
But eventually, the whole thing runs out of steam. We exchange watery,
sheepish smiles and part. And, in true Sunday tabloid style, I decide to
make my excuses and leave. I meet up with my porn star again, and we hit
the clubs together, in what then turns out to be a night of utter
fabulousness. And celibacy. Well, almost…but that, as they say, is
In less than a month’s time, I shall
be turning forty. Ten years on, have I set myself any further “must
Nah. I have drunk deep enough from the cup of experience, methinks. Pass me the wafers of wisdom instead!