Informant: “You came up to a door that was open, and the guy’s splayed out with his ass in the air and he sees you in the mirror or something and if he doesn’t like you, or it’s not necessarily that he doesn’t like you, but he doesn’t want you to fuck him, he says, “Oh, no, I’m just resting.”
This practice is observed in gay men’s bathhouses in the United States. It is part of bathhouse code, a verbal and nonverbal communication system used between gay men to express sexual preference within the bathhouse setting.
My informant is a 44 year old gay massage therapist and lives in Pasadena, CA. I asked him to describe how he learned this euphemism.
“I learned it from experiencing it. It was at this one [bathhouse] in North Hollywood and I used to live right next to it. I just remember this guy, like I said, he was just totally hot, blah, blah, blah, layin’ there, ass in the air. And the mirror is on the back wall opposite the door, so, you know, you can face away and still keep an eye. And he sees me and I was just standin’ there like, you know, half-jackin’ it under my towel. He’s just like “I’m resting!” [laughs] and I went away.”
I asked my informant why he enjoys this piece of folklore:
“I appreciate the primal nature of, I don’t know, the gays, I guess you could say, the primal nature of the homosexuals, homosexual men anyway. Not having to speak female language, you know. It’s a lot easier to sex to male.”
I think this phrase speaks to a larger culture of simple, direct communication about sex among homosexual men. I also think it speaks to a standard of kindness and maturity that can be found within some gay communities. I think my informant appreciates the fact that there is an established code phrase for saying “no thank you” in a way that will not hurt someone’s feelings. It shows a careful consideration of the vulnerability and effort required of someone looking for sexual intercourse. I also find it really interesting that the phrase “I’m resting” has nothing to do with sexuality. I think this is left over from a tradition of coded terminology employed by gay men for much of the twentieth century. They were not allowed to openly discuss their sexuality, and so had to codify their language to communicate with each other while still retaining social standing within a heteronormative world.