Things I have noticed about how dating has changed (from someone who has been out of the game for 9 years)
That's right, I've been getting back on that proverbial horse except that horse has now turned into a phone and getting on has a whole new meaning. I haven't dated in 9 years. The last time I was on the market, the iPhone was no more than a twinkle of a concept (that had probably been set in place years before and was right on track for release a few years later), but nonetheless it didn't exist. Nokia still ruled the world of mobiles and it used to take at least 10 minutes to spell out a text; punching 44 (gH) wait a second, 444 (ghI) ok I spelled Hi, now to start on "How's it going?"
I remember that for me dating was about heading to a gay bar. Making sure you got there before cover started (so like 8pm), grabbing a few drinks so that you could summon up the courage to talk to someone, then spending the remainder of that evening investing in the conversation, buying them a drink or 5, dancing with them and then that moment where you would have a sneaky pash on the dance floor before he smelled the butterscotch schnapps you spilled down yourself earlier and decided that maybe he wasn't going to head back to yours; at which point you would wait at the bar till close, and as soon as the lights came on, make a dive for all the cash people dropped at the bar throughout the evening. What? Was it only me who did that?
Now as a new single gay man I have ben introduced to a dating world where the thumb rules supreme and not necessarily in the kinky kind of way our mothers have all read about on a train thanks to 50 shades. I have discovered a lot in the last 3 months of being new to gay dating all over again and have compiled a list of things that I have noticed after the many fumblings, swipings and endless images of disembodied genitals I have been sent, so here goes.
6 Things I didn't realised about gay dating after being in a relationship since 2006.
1. Everyone knows exactly what they want (but not really)
I think it's probably been an incredibly positive aspect of the app based dating world. Now people who are only into amputee bears over 35 who enjoy water sports can stop wasting their time wining and dining someone who isn't. Just like a massive sex based game of "Guess Who" a few filters will knock out anyone who isn't strictly fitting into their desired traits so that they won't ever have to have that awkward, "So I noticed you have all your limbs" conversation. In all seriousness I do think it's valuable for people to be able to have their needs met without fear of being judged. I do however feel it leads to a very insular way of life. I remember as a fresh young gay, I thought I knew exactly what I was 'into' but to be honest it wasn't until I met people different from me and developed more of an open mind that I really began to understand that there is a whole world of sex and relationships out there that I am yet to explore. Call me crazy but I actually feel your "Masc top only into masc bottoms, no fatties no fems no asians," not only to be offensive, but to be frank, it's vanilla. Which brings me to the next thing I've noticed...
2. I don't remember gays being this racist.
Maybe in my early 20's I was blissfully ignorant. I am white. So white that when I told people I was moving to Iceland, a lot of friends asked, "Are you going home?" I have no idea what it is like to be discriminated against because of my race. I can't imagine how bad it would feel to not even get a chance to have a conversation with someone because I have a different origin to them. I am so uncomfortable with the level of sexual racism in gay dating that at times it makes me ashamed to be part of the gay community. In my dating experiences I have heard stories of shocking behaviour. I've been shown abusive messages guys have been sent and heard about all the things they quote, "Have to do," to get guys to talk to them. I find it quite disgusting and I think it's ramped up once again by the instant gratification world we live in paired with a fixation on being able to answer the question, "what are you into?" There isn't any light to make of this one. It's sad. I just don't understand why in this world we now live in where the barriers to exploration have been blurred and even erased in many cases, why would you only ever want one kind of guy? When I was a child, it was exciting to get neapolitan ice-cream, now they make wasabi flavoured ice-cream.. why would you just pick vanilla?
3. Beware the Narcissists.
As a failed Psych student I can tell you that there are an abnormal amount of gay men our there with narcissistic personality disorder. They work in our banks, they work in our governments, they might even work at your local supermarket. They are everywhere. It's a real thing. Narcissistic personality disorder is a personality disorder in which a person is excessively preoccupied with personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity. They are mentally unable to see the destructive damage they are causing to themselves and others. People with this personality disorder roughly make up 1% of the population and a higher proportion of those with the disorder are men.. and I'm going to go out on a limb and say I think most of those men are gay. They're pretty easy to spot. Immaculate, often Gym obsessed, with jobs in positions of high power and prestige. A dead giveaway is when a guy with these traits has a boyfriend who looks almost exactly like him. Like remember when Brad Pitt and Gwyneth Paltrow were doing that twin thing for a while before he met Jen. Yes, you guessed it, Gwyneth Paltrow is a gay man with narcissistic personality disorder. I don't think those of us without this disorder need to stress about it so much. To be honest, unless you look like them or reflect a certain quality they perceive as adequate, you won't even get a second look. However, there are the odd occasions where for some reason they date out of their perceived league, and that's when the rest of us can get caught in the crossfire. Like for instance one date I went on in Melbourne. This one particular specimen (who refused to eat carbs, alcohol or anything that had been prepared on the same bench as gluten) asked what I was doing to help myself feel better about things, post breakup. I responded by saying that I had hired a trainer and was working on my fitness. His exact response was, "that's wonderful. Soon you'll be in a place where your much more desirable sexually than you are now." I was initially offended but realised 10 minutes later that I had a real winner when he brought up out of nowhere that if he was stranded on a desert island with other people, he would be sharpening rocks instead of looking for food, but he would be kind enough to start eating them from the feet first so they would stay alive longer. I left the date with my dignity and at least 10 minutes of stand up material. The lesson to learn here is not to be offended by the narcissists and just be glad that you have the foresight to tap out, and not end up being murdered on YouTube (let's not forget Luca Magnotta ).
4. It's a little bit formulaic.
I'm a top.
Ok that's nice good for you, My name is Jono.
This is a conversation that seems to happen over and over again through the apps. I was of the opinion that this is only an online phenomenon till it started happening in person. I was out at a bar and noticed this guy (was easy to, he was the only one not looking at his phone). I struck up a conversation starting with the old fav 'Hello, I'm Jono." I know I've been out of the game for a while but I think this is still a standard winner for starting a conversation. I'm not joking when I say that within 5 minutes of our chat, this man who I will forever refer to as chadbtm had established that he's a bottom only into daddies so there was no point in me talking to him because I am not a daddy.
I wasn't really sure how to take this. Yes I am not a daddy, but does that mean we can't have a chat? He wasn't talking to anyone else in the establishment and neither was I. I was in the mood to talk to someone other than the people in my head (who at times can be a little draining) so I reached out. He effectively blocked me in real life. Now I don't have a problem with the fact that it's painfully obvious that chadbtm was in that venue looking for fulfil a very specific need (possibly with an amputee who knows); it's the world we live in now; but I do feel it's a lonelier world. Perhaps one day chadbtm will regret not having a chat with that blonde Aussie at the bar, who would have been really fun until he became a drunk white girl and tried to fondle him in the toilets. Sadly, we'll never know.
5. Oh no, I forgot to get abs!
I am reminded of this overtime I look in the mirror. The standards of beauty have raised a lot in the last decade and boy did I let myself go. I can have a little bit of leeway from the few months where I got divorced and became a puffy alcoholic, but is this really what men look like now? There is an endless sea of headless torsos bulging with tight muscles every time I look at my phone. I tell myself all the time, "Just because someone looks like a men's fitness magazine model, doesn't mean they only want to be with people like that." I believe it for like a second, then I jump on the treadmill, all the time thinking "Nobody fucks a fatty."
6. I'm holding out for the one.. I think.
All jokes aside, I think apps play an important role in modern dating but I have noticed an almost unspoken unhappiness among gay men that I didn't realise existed. There are those who aren't interested in long-term relationships who are liberated and enjoying their experience; but I have noticed there is another group of people who aren't having such a great time. These are the men who are looking for Mr Right, not Mr Right Now. This seems just as attainable from the outset however I'm not sure it's actually possible. From the many conversations I've had with men through dates and apps over the last few months I've discovered that often those who really want a long-term relationship, also aren't really sure how to operate within one. The swiping culture we now live in could be changing our hardwiring a bit. You only need to move to a new location and switch on Grindr to see how crazy your alerts are for a few hours. Stay there more than a day and you're no longer new and exciting leaving silences which were once filled with familiar alert noises. What I take from this is that I think it might be even more difficult now for a lot of gay men to actually be in successful long-term relationships. The reason for this is that I think our new hardwiring might put us in a position where we will always be holding out for someone better, for that bronzed headless torso with just a little less body fat than the one we are constantly with. I've been asked a lot lately if I feel I will end up in a long-term relationship again, and to be honest I don't think I will because I don't think the world we now live in makes it easy. I'm ok with that though because despite the fact that I am now single, I got to have a husband for 9 years. I got to meet someone organically and share life with them as we went on adventures in a world where neither of us was distracted by a ping or a tweet. I got to have that once, if you can ever get to experience it I highly recommend. So maybe the next time you're out with friends or at an event, put down the phone for a few minutes and make eye contact with someone. It might be a fun ride.