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Dear Uncle Mat


Here’s a story for you: I was at my friend’s birthday celebration a few weeks ago and we were out at a restaurant. Immediately, my friends spotted the only hot waiter and ogled him for a bit. They then decided that he was gay and had no further interest in him.

So here’s where I come in. Upon hearing this, I focused the dial of my gaydar to analyze this dude. My readings came back about 80-percent sure. Especially after I asked him a question in passing.

Now, MY gaydar told me that he was definitely batting for the rainbow team ... but yet I didn’t approach him/leave my number. Why, you may ask? Simply because I was scared. Scared that my gaydar WASN’T right and that he WAS possibly straight. I didn’t want to offend him, embarrass myself, or get hatecrimed.

This seems to happen a lot ... and I was wondering if you had any tips on handling the situation: detecting a blip on your gaydar, but not being 100-percent sure. Are there any telltale signs that I’m dealing with “family,” or should I just keep my opinions and judgments to myself until said person in question makes their sexuality clear?

— Sure ... but not sure ... but maybe ...

Dear Wanna Be Sure,

My gaydar doesn’t really work worth a shit. Maybe it’s jealousy or an inability to understand a gift I don’t have, but I generally think a lot of people’s gaydar doesn’t work. Everyone has an innate ability to recognize traits similar to themselves in others. It is human nature to seek out and identify with others with whom we can connect. I often think that this desire and reality can get a bit mixed up, especially when hormones are involved. I could probably rationalize a reasonable argument why I think George W. is a big homo if I wanted to, but I am never that bored or desperate.

I am not saying that you did not, in fact, identify a nice gay hottie at the restaurant. You may have a keen eye for detail and a highly objective barometer for others’ sexual preferences. Asking polite and possibly flirtatious questions is certainly an acceptable and helpful way to aid in your investigation of others’ interest. The key word here is polite. Don’t be crass, confrontational, or overly personal with a stranger. This will solve the question of unnecessarily embarrassing him. To avoid embarrassing yourself and him, I suggest not offering your number in front of a large, or even small, group of people. Don’t follow him to the bathroom or wait outside till his shift ends; show a little discretion.

Now, I do think I have a fairly strong (and hard-earned) sense of character, and I encourage you to focus on developing a “good guy-dar” more than your gaydar. A decent guy, gay or straight, will deflect an unwanted proposition with some grace or kindness. Just because a guy is straight, he shouldn’t react violently to a civil offering of your phone number. If you have any doubt about an intended recipient’s basic decency, I would recommend keeping your digits to yourself. This general idea applies to men in gay bars as well. There can be bad apples on the gay tree, too; be careful with yourself. Getting a trusted friend’s opinion is most often helpful.

Waiting for a guy to make his sexuality, or even mutual interest, clear is a very safe way to avoid an uncomfortable situation or rejection, but you might miss a great opportunity with a great guy. Maybe the waiter was having the same thoughts about you. Hints are much more obvious to the dropper than the receiver. The night I met my first boyfriend, everyone, including his friends, said he was straight. After chatting him up for a bit, I decided they were wrong, asked him out, and six months later had my first broken heart. Ain’t life grand? If finding love or even a hot date was easy, no one would be home alone on Friday nights, bars would be empty, and Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson would be underwear models, not movie stars.

Much love, luck, and a little chance,

Your Uncle Mat

Uncle Mat answers questions about relationships, sex, pets, and art. Email him at or Your true identity is safe with him.

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