by LA Jamison
One of the biggest complaints I have had for a number for years in coming out is what appears (notice I say "appears") to be a large focus on being sex driven in the gay community. A culture that I didn't feel I belonged to because I wanted relationships. As Sam Smith laments, "I'm not good at a one night stand". To make my argument to this effect much simpler and add a voice to that argument other than my own, read this article here on The Gay Buzzer. It is by a young man who feels he doesn't belong in the gay community for this very reason (be sure to note the response the article notes from Reddit.)
I was reminded after reading this article of my first visit to an LGBT center where a man invited me for coffee across the street. He wasn't my type and his metal teeth weren't giving me a twinkle in my eyes but rather a wrinkle in my brow. Still, he was insistent. I knew he would want more than just the coffee, but I thought what would coffee hurt? I wanted to go out in "gay town" and there's no better place in my area to do that than downtown Ferndale. The place was a popular gay sex depot that just so happened to sell coffee too. So there we sat at the one table in the joint with huge dildos on the walls and pornography all around us and all I could think was where was the rest of the human anatomy to hang up on the wall (with a sarcastic wink)? Why not just hang it all up lol. As a guy new to coming out with a religious background, this was not exactly a first comfortable experience. This outing would sadly be the beginning of in and out frustrations around meeting men who were centered on discreet sex and identities cloaked in lies. For a long while, I was okay with it. I was experimenting myself but it was never something I was truly comfortable with. If I really enjoyed my sexual experiences, I usually wanted more relationally and the other guy did not.
Dating and hook up apps like Grindr Gay apps are hard to get away from. They are the go-to addictions of our gay generation. They offer an immediate connection not just to one person but a menu of persons! Do you want soul food, Chinese, Italian, a little flavor of the Middle East? It all seems to say "you can have it all!". Take your pick! I kind of hear that song in my head, Mambo No. 5, where the singer says, "A little bit of Monica in my life, a little bit of Erica by my side
A little bit of Rita is all I need, a little bit of Tina is what I see
A little bit of Sandra in the sun, a little bit of Mary all night long
A little bit of Jessica here I am, a little bit of you makes me your man"
Read more: Lou Bega - Mambo No. 5 Lyrics | MetroLyrics
With online apps, it is like a 24/7 selection that just so happens to lead nowhere. But, we like to ignore that fact for "hope springs eternal". Myself included. The menu of people these apps and clubs provide often strokes our need for "more". MORE than we have RIGHT NOW. And there seems to be nothing more addicting to the human nature than something that even attempts to feed our desire for "more". More choices, more variety, more entertainment etc. We think we like the immediate solution of these sources because it fills those empty spaces. Those empty spaces that make us nervous, anxious, and even angry. It is the space where not much is happening and all is silent. We may feel we aren't being productive enough in those empty spaces. There can be this lingering desire to make our lives more complete and enjoyable (and probably would be if we paid attention more to what we do have already). In reality, we may hear our own soul much clearer in the silence and enjoy our lives more than the time we are spending scrolling through online profiles like shuffling a deck of cards. But, there's no time or reflection in this day and age of 24 online access. This how many of us choose to live our lives; distracted. Some go to theses apps like Grindr and Growler for what these apps are designed for, hookups. Duh! However, even there you will find profiles where the guy is asking for more than a discreet sexual encounter. The amount of profiles where people are saying that they are on these apps only as a last resort is growing. Sometimes the profiles read as bitter laments and a long list of requirements reflect the person's anger. It makes me want to both laugh and cry because the chances of a person finding a match for relationship on these online brothels has to be pretty small. So, what's left? Well, you have guys like me that rather get "some" now and again than nothing at all.
I only have one app on my phone right now and I do a club now and again if friends are going. However, every time I notice my eyes doing that Terminator-like Eye Scan, combing through grids of men in the area on my app, or at the bar, I also am aware the base common denominator that I'm resorting to. You reap what you sow. Don't get wrong. I know people have met their life partners this way. I've met them. I've know both straight and gay couples who met on these kind of apps and sometimes sex came first. So, you can't count anything out, but is it wise to put your whole investment there? I don't think so, Nor do I believe we have to throw away what physically appeals to our eyes either. There should be attraction there and that's what we often notice first. It is just that clubs and apps can get us into habitually scanning through grids of people for "more" and that can be a dangerous habit where we are never truly satisfied. Not everything is a wise choice "in the meantime" and we single people need to be thoughtful about what we choose as outlets. They can indeed instill some habits we may regret.
We can go through people on these apps as quickly as we go through bucket of popcorn. It is easy to deceive ourselves into believing we are accomplishing something until we hit the bed and realize we are just as lonely as when we started searching. Just be aware of the app's or even a night club's purpose and you won't frustrate yourself if and when you pull that slot lever to see who you find. For example, if you really want to "date" you might want to try Match.com instead of apps like "Grindr". Yes, something like Match costs more but just because something else is free and easy doesn't mean it is going to give you the results you really want and need. Many gays on their profiles complain how a hookup app isn't doing anything for them but drawing in men who only want sex. The common phrase used is "give me an excuse to delete this app". But, hooking up is what apps like Grindr are designed for! Hello? You don't go to a brothel to find a girl who wants to marry you, do you? Yet, that is what many often do on hookup apps probably because they are free and readily available. You really can't blame the app or the men for using them for discreet hook-ups. Instead, you need to change your avenue or take your chances with the apps. To make bitter profiles about how people aren't fitting the bill isn't doing you any good. No one cares and most assuredly no one wants an angry, bitter date or hookup.
So, what are some better means, if there are any? I've asked many group leader and counselor. This is what really works according to the counselors I spoke with, according to suggestion in the article I referred you to in the beginning, and well...according to me because though I don't have a boyfriend, I have big benefits from it.
First, we have to move beyond the gay apps and clubs that lure us single guys into habits that die hard. It doesn't mean leave them completely but don't invest there solely. For those of us who are looking for more, we are fortunate now to have things like gay churches, sports clubs, social clubs and all sorts of hobbies and discussion groups where you can find real people doing things you mutually enjoy. Your gay life truly doesn't just have to be about the sex we all celebrate and should celebrate. It can be more. And these better avenues are the building blocks for forming good, healthy relationships. A great resource is Affirmations in Ferndale, Michigan that has a whole host of resources of what is going on in the community or your own LGBT community center. For me it started with a Coming Out Group, then onward to a gay friendly place of worship, dabbling in sports clubs and ending up in a gay men's choir. I would probably be bald right now from pulling my hair out if it wasn't for these avenues and the people I have met through them. But it goes beyond that, I came out more and also discovered gifts and talents that were frozen in time of years of suppression. There is also MeetUp.com where you can find groups of people according to your interest and yes, LGBT groups too!
The goal in whatever avenue shouldn't be romance. I know that sounds weird. It was a tough one for me to swallow too because I was in love with being in love. It should be friends to start or you arrive with meat market eyes and that drives people away. I've seen it, you've seen it, let's not be it. If you really want a romantic relationship, it takes getting to know people under the hood anyway and appearance does not tell you too much about what is on the inside. Looking and seeing and lusting does not count as a first date or a conversation (even though you may have one playing in your head lol). This is not something society as a whole even fosters but rather the opposite so if you want something real, you gotta fly a little counter-culture. Though I don't presently have a boyfriend myself at the moment and you may want to squawk that who am I then to advise you, I have developed some fantastic relationships and experiences I will treasure forever by playing this dance between frivolous entertainment and where I truly invest my time. I am now choosing to invest in worthwhile relationships through mutual interests and groups. You won't find that in largely discreet and dark corners in cyberspace. One way I do this is by putting this rule in place for myself; glance and gaze. Keep but a "glance" to those you are physically attracted to but keep your "gaze" on those who are willing to relate to you from the inside-out. This way if you look under the hood of a person you are attracted to and there is nothing there that matches with you, you still have some real full relationships to rely on that bring meaning to your life. If you don't find a lover, at the very least, you will have fulfilling friendships! Glance and gaze boys, glance and gaze. And for Pete's sakes, try some better outlets than where people cruise for sex.