Whatever happened to dating?
If my quick internet search is any indication, a lot of people are asking that question. There are about a billion sites addressing this question and they all seem to agree that dating has devolved into this amorphous and fuzzy thing called “hanging out.” Of the 20 or so sites that I peeked at addressing this switch, everyone seems to agree: hanging out came about because people are afraid of rejection. The fact that it helps keep the whole self-help, self-esteem-building “hug and cry and learn and grow” industry in business is just an added bonus. But I shouldn’t be such a bitch; therapists have to eat too, you know.
Dating has always been…an adventure for me. I’ve gone on some pretty terrible dates. The first blind date I ever went on, the guy was cute, charming, funny. The main problem with that budding romance was that he brought his boyfriend on the date with us. Seriously. That put me off blind dates for a while. When I finally agreed to go on another one, I was 23 and my friend swore that she had a really sweet guy for me to meet, even if he was a “little bit older.” I agreed to meet him; I mean, age is just a number right? On the phone, he told me he was 37. I was a little nervous, but I decided this was just my ageism rearing it’s ugly head. I showed up to dinner to meet my date, who turned out to be 53. He looked a little bit like Santa. With crazy eyes. He fessed up right away, telling me how hard it was to meet young men who would give him a chance if he was honest about his age up front. “But what about men closer to your own age?” I had asked him. His response? “Why would I want to go out with some old guy?” That pretty much ended that date. I didn’t see him again; I did, however, get an email from him a couple of days later asking if we could at least have sex. He said he wanted to “pull [my] pants down and spank [me] like a naughty grandchild.” Good times. Haven’t been on another blind date since; I also stopped calling that friend back. I heard she later moved to Quebec. They can have her. Let’s just call it payback for Celine Dion.
But in the 7 or so years that I’ve been “off the market,” dating for gay men seems to have gotten worse. Gay culture has always been obsessed with youth and beauty and perfect bodies, at least as long as I’ve been out, but now with the magics of the interweb, we can now hate ourselves and each other at the speed of light. We don’t need to be tied to our home computers (a desktop computer?? that’s so RETRO!) or even look for a wifi hotspot for our laptops: with smartphones, we can look for uglies to bump wherever and whenever with such amazing developments as GRINDR. Even if I were smart enough to use a smartphone (which I’m not), I wouldn’t use GRINDR. Maybe I’ve seen Single White Female one too many times, but I don’t think I need to broadcast my exact GPS location to every stalker with an iPhone. What can I say, I like to retain an air of mystery.
Not that there is much mystery left in gay culture, just mixed messages and a lot of nudity. I recently saw an ad for someone who was adamant that he was only looking for friendships and he was deeply offended that people would proposition him for sexual activities. His profile photo was a headless nude shot with a full erection; his favorite activities were volleyball, water sports, and porn. And people thought he was online looking for sex? Weird…
The sad thing is, that ad isn’t all that different from most of what you see out there. Gay culture is brimming with sex; it’s inescapable. I’m all for sex positivity, but that isn’t the same thing as more, more, more! If you just want to find some cool people to hang out with, that’s fine – we don’t need to see your dick. In fact, a good rule of thumb is that unless you are actually looking for sex, we don’t need to see your dick. We know, you’re really proud of it. It’s your best friend. It’s been there for you when no one else was. We get it. But it has nothing to do with whether to not you can actually make decent conversation, it doesn’t convince us you’d fit in with our Thursday night movie group, and it certainly won’t net you an invite to the book club. The same goes for shirtless pics, especially those of the headless variety. Certainly physical attraction is part of the equation, but if a set of abs is the only thing you’re bringing to the table, I’ll take a pass; I have no interest in buying dinner for a pair of nipples. If you aren’t having any luck finding what you are looking for, think about how you are presenting yourself. Try something new. After all, if you do what you always did, you get what you always got. Maybe put up a nice face pic or something that better represents who you are as a person. And keep the junk packed away…at least until the third date, whore.
If sites for gay connections aren’t all about sex, then they go 180 degrees the other way. In a moment of weakness I decided I’d try putting a profile up on Match.com and see if anything came of it. Throughout the whole process of filling out the profile, the site kept promising me that I was on my way to finding “the one,” that eternal wedded bliss was just around the corner (but would arrive much faster, mind you, if I paid to upgrade to a premium membership!). Thanks but no thanks, Match.com; I was already married, and we see how well THAT turned out. I’m not sure if I ever want to get married again, and if I do it won’t be any time soon. I just wanted to go out on a date, get to know someone. But Match.com had the stink of desperation on it, as though single people couldn’t possibly feel whole and complete on their own and need someone to “complete” them lest their empty shells begin to rot and fester, suitable only to act as bait for camera crews hoping to catch a feeding frenzy during shark week. How’s that for a romantic metaphor? And as for Match.com, I never got to see if it held the key to my dreams: my profile wasn’t approved because “some members might find it inappropriate,” and my moment of weakness passed before I got around to revising it. The questionnaire said to be authentic; can I help it if my authentic self likes to say bad words? Besides, if you’re going to blush and wet yourself every time you hear an f-bomb get dropped, we are not headed toward a love connection.
Instead, I’m left looking around, wondering whatever happened to good old-fashioned dating. Well, not too old-fashioned; I’m not so frustrated with gay culture that I’m turning straight or anything. Unless Tabatha Coffey wants to strap it on for me; she can take over MY salon anytime.
No wonder I’m still alone…
Tags: dating, dating profiles, gay culture, gay dating, gay marriage, hanging out, hanging out vs. dating, internet dating, Janessa, Janessa Jaye, Janessa Jaye Champagne, love, match.com, personals, romance, same sex marriage, sex positive, Tabatha Coffee