Ryan Lee

Ryan Lee: Big crowd cruising during ATL festival season

As a moderate drinker, I find such promise in a noontime buzz. I assume the magic of being tipsy just after breakfast diminishes with frequency.

My early drinking is usually limited to holidays and football months daylight liquor enhancing the seasonal optimism of both. But nothing commits oneself to having a damn good day like an occasional margarita while doing Saturday-morning chores.

My friends and I had glorious plans to start drinking around noon at the pool in my apartment complex, then walk with our cocktails to Piedmont Park for the Dogwood Festival. Our meet-up was delayed several hours since one of us was boo’d-up Saturday morning, but we were able to achieve that daytime tingle before celebrating the kickoff of the Summer Festival Cruising Season.

Here’s a basic guide for semi-responsible mingling:

Wear sunglasses
There’s a risk of looking undignified when scanning crowds for eye candy, and sunglasses allow your gaze to sometimes linger. However, shades don’t protect you from appearing shady, so stay respectful with how long or intensely you admire anyone.

Three is the magic number
I’ve enjoyed festivals solo or with a friend, but the ideal entourage for big-crowd cruising is a threesome. Moseying through a festival with just one other person creates ambiguity about your relationship status, and it can be daunting (even logistically) for someone to approach you in a crowd of four or more.

Use real-world manners
You’ll be surprised by how many guys you see who you know only by their screen names and thumbnails. You’ll see former hook-ups with their family, friends, co-workers or a lover. Stay mindful of whether these sightings call for a hug, wave, nod or nothing.

Names aren’t necessary
When greeting someone you know in the most limited context, a simple, “Hey there,” or “What’s Up,” usually suffices. Spare Carl the awkwardness of explaining to his friends why you called him DJ.

Establish a cone of privacy
When someone in your group stops to greet a gentleman of interest, it’s respectful for the rest of the group to walk three or four additional steps to allow for reminiscing or making arrangements. Enjoy some scenery or a vendor booth until it’s clear whether your friend considers group introductions necessary.

Stroll courteously
Whether you run into a favorite regular or an old friend you now only see on social media, limit reunions to two or three minutes so that your festival companions aren’t idling or becoming mosquito colonies. It’s almost expected that everyone in the group will come across folks and chat, but don’t interrupt the festival flow with a living tour of your little black book.

Share cautiously
Prepare a cache of neutral settings in case your friends ask how you know a familiar passerby. It’s not so much lying to say “from the office,” or “at the gym,” as respecting someone’s private affairs when you’re surrounded by 5,000 people. Likewise, resist spilling details of you all’s previous encounters, although it’s fair—and just—to widen your eyes to signal your bestie that the encounter was memorable.

Own your secrets
The tips thus far have been for single gay men of a certain disposition, but the final one is for those who may be less liberated: If you are closeted, or partnered while still hooking up on the side, it is no one’s responsibility to shelter your deception.

If you’re a man of many secrets, fried pickles and funnel cakes might be too messy for you.

(Ryan Lee is an Atlanta writer.)