A performer releases a flock of paper doves onstage during Hibernation at Truck.

I should take it as an ominous sign when I’m greeted at the door with a chipper: “And you, my dear, are an elephant!”

In all fairness, the man greeting me is dressed in a white bunny costume.

But still, my face reeks of letdown. Afterall, 2010 is supposed to be the best year of my life. Why do I have to be an elephant? Why can’t I be a tiger? Or a lion? How ’bout a penguin? I’ll take a penguin.

He replaces the elephant sticker he’s just patted on my chest with a giraffe sticker.

This is how the night begins at Hibernation, the latest installment of the quarterly gay, animal-themed Zoo SF party, held Saturday night at Truck on 15th and Folsom.

The bar is packed. Can’t get to the bar packed. Can’t even move packed. Which gives my roommate and me a moment to take in the scene: two hundred men — most of them big and beardy — and more than a few dressed as animals. A man with long, shiny, wavy locks of hair is the spitting image of the cowardly lion. Another looks like the bumble bee girl from the Blind Melon video. While some partygoers wear full costumes, some wear not much at all.

“The bartender’s not wearing pants,” my friend duly notes as we push our way toward desperately needed drinks.

But the truth is, we’re relieved. We thought we were walking into a party for furries — the geeky, subcultural set that’s fond of anthropomorphism and supposedly prefers to engage in sex acts while wearing animal mascot suits and other cumbersome costumes. But as we inch our way forward, it dawns on me: Hibernation. This is a party for bears — the grizzlier breed of gay men who don’t try to wax and crunch their bulky bodies to impossible perfection.

Finally, I plop my handbag atop the bar — still not a single other female in sight — and wonder: Are we in unfriendly bear territory? Do bears prefer women keep out of their lair?

“Lady. Lady! There’s a line for the bar, you know,” a short, beardy man snaps at me.

Well, it turns out the bartender is wearing pants. Sort of. His jeans are buttoned snug around his pubic bone — held up by … I can only imagine — but in the back they scoop down, cupping beneath his butt cheeks. Seems like a questionable dress code for a joint that serves burgers, fries and onion rings (and “frings”—a fries/onion rings combo) but I don’t think anyone here minds. I certainly don’t. So it’s a surprise when the guy next to me comments that Mr. Cheeks would be more attractive if he pulled up his pants.

Our first friend! So warm, so friendly, so charming … he sweetly asks what we’re doing here. Why aren’t we at the Triangle?

“Wait, you guys aren’t straight are you?” We reluctantly confess we are.

He tells us he thought we were lipstick lesbians, and you’d think he’d mistaken us for Swiss supermodels, we’re so flattered by the “lipstick” compliment. (Being straight women in a bar full of bears can be humbling.)

It’s only a matter of minutes before we befriend our bartender, too. His name is William (at least that’s what a customers calls him). William is wearing pants. And a shirt, which he lifts from time to time to tweak his nipples. He also lowers his jeans to flaunt crisp, navy briefs.

With William the bartender on our side, we relax and settle in for the night, chatting with anyone who will talk to us. The night flows by. A few beers and a few shots of Patron later, the crowd begins to thin, clearing the space around us. William asks to close out our tab.

He requests a generous tip and I give him one.

I don’t remember if William is still wearing his shirt or not, but I do remember him coming around the bar and treating me to what can only be described as a lap dance that turned into a dirty waltz. He scooped me up, thighs clasping his waist. Dipped me back, hair sweeping the ground. Held me close, kissing my face. Placed me down, getting back to work.

Ah, to be a girl. And not an elephant.

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