I moved to Los Angeles back in the summer of 2013 when I transferred from a small community college in Northern California to UCLA. I was only 20 years old, and although I had visited Los Angeles multiple times before moving here, I really did not know what to expect as an actual resident of Los Angeles. My many visits to the city prior to the summer of 2013 had been engulfed in heavy partying, drinking (making use of my Rhode Island fake ID), and becoming familiar with faces in the West Hollywood crowd that I would eventually one day call my neighbors. To me, Los Angeles existed as an uncomfortable, crowded, yet exciting collection of never-ending parties and debauchery. Any sense of normality or quiet living in LA was a distant thought to me, yet I still chose to move here and experience it for myself.
Rather than living close to campus in Westwood like any sensible student, I decided to move directly to West Hollywood and endure two years of commuting. I justified this choice with a multitude of reasoning such as lower rent in Weho, my sole affinity to campus life is attending class, and whatnot, but in reality, I obviously moved here to be part of the scene. Like any 20-year-old gay boy new to Los Angeles, I was enamored by the beautiful boys, the lit parties, the emphasis on health and fashion, and a culmination of other factors that I recognized as a distinct and attractive way of life.
Now at age 24 and having lived in this city for almost 4 years, I have developed an entangled, often estranged, yet always endearing relationship with this place I call home. Although certain parties, small storefronts, tourists, and food trucks come and go, the city ultimately remains unchanged. It’s the people who live here that change, and if you stick around long enough you’ll come to realize that this is the most entertaining part about living here.
1. Most friends come and go
Looking back at the group I used to hang out with during my first few months living in West Hollywood, I can hardly remember half of their names. I sometimes now see them out at bars and exchange friendly greetings and walk away wondering who they were. Having worked at multiple WeHo-based clothing stores and nightclubs as an undergraduate, much of my crowd consisted of people I worked with and went out without of convenience. It’s not that I do not like these people. We simply do not exist in the same circles of work and play any longer, and as a result, we fell out of touch.
I feel that meeting people in this city only requires contact with one person who invites you to that one party from which an endless web of acquaintances is possible. Exchanging information and making plans to continue to go out is the easy part. Maintaining these relationships is near impossible.
2. Your exes are everywhere
That guy you hooked up with off Grindr and decided to go on a few dates with? It just so happens that his favorite bar is the one just down from your street. Your ex-boyfriend of two years who you met at that one clothing store? He now goes to your gym. They’re everywhere. And what’s more, is their friends are everywhere too. Dating in West Hollywood is a treacherous, yet entertaining ordeal, and whether your exes actually live in WeHo or not is irrelevant – you are bound to encounter them one way or another. Given the inevitability of these run-ins, the best thing you can do is become friends, or at the very least maintain friendly relations with them.
3. Gym membership is a common talking point
My friends from New York comment that they find it peculiar that most gays in Los Angeles shy away from talking about what they do for a living, whereas with NY gays (or any NY residents for that matter) often lead with “so, what do you do?” Instead, I have noticed that one’s gym membership is almost always brought up somewhere early in a conversation between two West Hollywood gays. Guys have chatted with me on Grindr, leading with “Hey, I think we go to the same gym.” At one of my favorite bars, the bouncer recognizes me from his gym and allows us to get in without paying cover.
It’s curious to me that gym membership in Los Angeles cultivates these separate tribes of affinity among the gays. Just as the small selection of gyms in WeHo has seemingly taken on very distinct and separate personalities, their members must identify each other as sharing some baseline commonality in choosing the same place to lift weights.
4. The concept of “Relationships” is locally defined
I’ve noticed that dating is altogether a cloudy subject in the WeHo community. For some, it’s normal to be seeing multiple guys at one time, accepting and going on dates with several people in the same week, only becoming “exclusive” (marking the beginning of the actual relationship) when these words are explicitly spoken. Others assume that going on one date or hooking up one time marks the beginning of some unspoken commitment. As a general note, I’ve observed that communication seems to be the factor most often neglected, leaving both parties on different pages.
I am also friends with guys who are in triad relationships, open relationships, semi-open, a combination of the triad and open…the list goes on. To most (straight people especially), these types of relationships would be deemed unusual. Here, they are common.
5. The same people go to the same bars
I briefly worked part-time at Micky’s West Hollywood nightclub and bar as an undergraduate. Like clockwork, the same crowds or individuals would arrive (on specific nights, too), as if it was part of their weekly routine. Even within my circle of friends, we have a tendency to frequent the same clubs on certain nights of the week, rarely venturing out to other gay pockets of Los Angeles such as Silverlake or Downtown. Does it get old? Definitely. Do we do anything about it? Probably not.
6. Everyone knows your business
If people know who you are through friend acquaintances but have not directly had contact with you, it is likely that they know a thing or two about you without you having to share. If you tell one person you’re a top, you better expect that a good proportion of their network will eventually know too. If you share details about your dick size on Grindr, be prepared that this information is likely to leak to others that might interact with you on Grindr. Your exes? Everyone knows who they are.
7. It’s hard to tell who’s a real person
Like any city, West Hollywood is demographically divided between people who live here because it is convenient to get to work and enjoy the nightlife, those who work in the WeHo community (nightlife scene, retail stores, local Starbucks, etc), and those who insist on living here despite their 3-hour roundtrip commute to work. Going out in this city can be addicting, and it’s clear that many people you see constantly out and about are just scraping by to feed this lifestyle. Does it matter that the gorgeous guy you met at The Abbey works full-time as a server with a college degree and no aspirations or plans to further his career? Is it worth it commuting to Long Beach every day for your 9-5 just so you can have weekends of freedom spent at the same bars on Santa Monica blvd? You tell me.
8. Making friends is easy (if you’re young and attractive)
I would imagine that it would be very difficult moving here as a middle-aged or older man and trying to make friends without having any former connections here. Although there are plenty of case exceptions, I would argue that on a general scale, most LA gays are more likely to approach you if you are young or attractive. This goes hand-in-hand with the sentiment I hear so often about LA gays (and LA residents as a whole) being shallow and only taking interest if they think you have something of value to offer. Although this is a bleak generalization that I would hope most “real” people in LA would try to refute, I don’t think it is entirely inaccurate. Bonus points if you are white and have money.
9. The circuit queens either love or hate each other
The circuit scene in LA is basically the gay scene on steroids…Literally. And what comes with this is overblown drug-induced drama, treacherous friend circles that have constant issues for no apparent reason, and other pettiness. On the other hand, given that the circuit community is such a small subsection of the regular gay community, there also seems to be a sense of affinity and family between members that do get along. Only extremes with no in-between.
10. Gay life here is exhausting
Living here takes a heavy toll on you, both emotionally and physically. The incessant partying, drama, traffic, and smog complete a package of exhausting living that is definitely unhealthy. Not to mention that you simply do not encounter many middle-aged or older gay couples living in West Hollywood or the surrounding areas. There’s a reason Palm Springs exists.