By Kevin OKeeffe
Originally published on Advocate.com January 20 2014 3:21 AM ET
Flying defiantly against the sky-high expectations set on its shoulders, the recent premiere of Looking on HBO was surprisingly tame. Viewers were introduced to the show's version of San Francisco quite gently (more "meet the cutie on the Muni" than "Folsom Street Fair") and the three lead characters were similarly shown to be pleasant and good-hearted.
Nevertheless, for your straight friends watching with you, there might have been a few bits lost in translation.
Here are five of our favorites:
"Why is that guy in the woods? And what's cruising?"
Looking starts with adorkable lead Patrick (Jonathan Groff) on the hunt for some speedy relief in the park, but he's about as oblivious to the traditions and customs of cruising as your friends might've been. A child of the Grindr age, Patrick is more concerned with his partner's name than sexual release — even getting a tsk-tsk for trying to kiss the man preoccupied with his package. No wonder he bails when he gets a call from friends Agustín (Frankie J. Alvarez) and Dom (Murray Bartlett) – he feels as awkward as you will when your friends ask about your cruising history.
"Is facial hair a thing for gays again?"
Scruff: It's not just an app on your iPhone anymore. According to Looking, if you are a gay man living in San Francisco, there's a 99.9 percent chance you have facial hair. (If you're in the outlier, you look like Jonathan Groff.) Compared to the shaved-clean image that was once synonymous with gay men, this can come as a shock to audiences outside of LGBT culture. Things get particularly hairy when we see Agustín at work as an artist's assistant drilling some wooden chairs together with new hire Scotty. Consider this a preview question for whenever Looking has its very special bear episode.
"Drug and disease free? Is that something doctors say?"
Unless your friends see your Gay.com profile on a "Online and Looking For Right Now" kind of day, it's unlikely you've shared your DDF status with them. So when Patrick's loser doctor date, Benjamin, asks if he's drug and disease free, you might've had to pause the show and explain. It's jarring to hear Benjamin say it so bluntly over a friendly glass of wine, which makes Patrick's disdain for him all the more understandable. He's much luckier with the far scruffier Richie (Raúl Castillo) on the Muni, who prefers to talk about Patrick's pretty blue eyes instead of his status upon first meeting.
"Wow, he's kissing another man right in front of his boyfr–oh my God, they're gonna have a threesome!"
Perhaps the most titillating moment of the premiere, the clear declaration of "Toto, I don't think we're in Will & Grace anymore," Agustín and his soon-to-be-cohabitating boyfriend Frank (O. T. Fagbenle) decide three is the magic number when they meet Scotty. They chat for a bit in front of the odd chair sculpture before Scotty shows off his new tattoo – Dolly Parton's signature – and Agustín moves in for a closer look. After he and Frank share a glance, he dives right in for a kiss. Interestingly, Frank later hints that he might not be the threesome type as the two settle into their domesticity together, putting this development squarely above pure shock value and firmly in the bin of intriguing story developments.
"Are all gay men as aggressive as Dom?"
You might've found Dom's full speed ahead flirtation with his young co-worker hot (even if it was ultimately unsuccessful), but for others in your viewing group, it might've been surprisingly forward. Still, this one's easy: Just point them towards the gentle lamb Patrick and they'll soon come to realize that not all gay men can be put in one box. (Thanks for that helpful lesson, Looking!)
BONUS: "Do gay men wear hoodies and backpacks everywhere now – even on their way to dates?"
No. That's not a thing.
Follow Kevin O'Keeffe on Twitter @kevinpokeeffe.