3, 2, 1, Launch Profile

When I created my profiles for the hook-up apps I’m using for my field research on modern gay dating practices, I opted for a generic face pic — one of several I’ve used here and on Facebook. Anyone who knows me will tell you, what you see is what you get with me. So I included my real age, height, weight, and that I lead an active lifestyle.

Not to sound arrogant or anything, but I know at least some consider me to be handsome. My looks have opened a lot of doors over the years. Being attractive was never something I counted on, or until later in life, even believed to be true. But now that I’ve been working out and everything, I know I’m all that and a bag of chips.

Still, despite my assets, I’m closer to 60 than 50. I wasn’t sure how my entrance into the virtual gay scene here in Athens would be received. I launched myself out into the app-verse with a mix of trepidation and excitement.

The response was immediate and persisted for several weeks. My phone blew up so much I had to keep it plugged into the charger. Heaven forbid I miss a message. Like Pavlov’s dogs, I stopped whatever I was doing to check my phone with every ding, buzz, and chime. You never know. Any one could mean an introduction to my next husband.

With each message I’d check out his photos and profile, see where he lived, read the message (rarely more than five words), and reply with a “thank you” or a compliment. Judging from this experience, I should move to Barcelona or Buenos Aries where dozens of super sexy men think I’m the most gorgeous man in the world. If only I flew.

Some send or unlock private photos and albums. I always look, and like Jimmy Carter — another Georgian — lust in my heart for some of the guys I see. And then there are the pictures I can never un-see. I saw a picture of a wee-wee with so many piercings, it looked like one of those fancy lures in my dad’s old tackle box. And lots and lots and lots of assholes. I don’t even want to think about how one manages to capture some of these images. Maybe they had a friend come over to help.

With very few exceptions, I quit responding to greetings from faraway places after a few days. The ability to chat with attractive men from exotic locations is cool, but a major time killer with little to no chance of ever becoming something more. Lots of guys apparently have nothing else to do but chitchat with guys they’ll never meet in person. I’m not one of those guys.

As I perused hundreds of profiles from all over the world, I identified several common themes around picture selection. Quite a few profiles have no photos. Some users proclaim to ignore picture-less, information-free profiles — a strategy I don’t recommend. Based on my research, some fraction of blank profiles belong to hot men who’ve grown tired of dealing with messages from guys they have no interest in meeting.

In my opinion, profiles with pictures of scenery or some cute graphic warrant caution. They’re not only hiding something, but trying to distract. Here again, exceptions abound. Having no idea who is on the other end is part of the fun, but after the opening salvo, I won’t chat with guys who refuse to share any photos. Folks send pics of their junk willy nilly, but a face pic is harder to come by. For me, as out as I am, reluctance to share face pics is a sign we probably wouldn’t get along anyway.

Self photos range from face shots to headless torsos (with and without shirts) to close-ups of G-rated body parts — like maybe an eyeball, shoulder, or bicep. Some feature interesting angles. A huge percentage of these photographs include mirrors and the subject’s smartphone.

The shirtless, headless torso is, by far, the most popular pose. The vast majority feature washboard abs and/or beefy chests, with and without body hair. Guys as young as 18 and well into their 60s have amazing physiques nowadays. When I came out in the 70s, even super fit guys and Olympic athletes didn’t have bodies like that.

Despite international interest in changing my relationship status, the local response was cool and mostly crazy. I decided to change things up and switched out my generic face pic for the headless torso — the raised t-shirt option. I’m a hairy guy, and a year and a half at the gym has paid off.

My phone blew up as messages came in from guys who’d previously ignored my smiling face. Shallow bitches. A surprising number of attractive young men contacted me for nefarious purposes. My ex, who I was with for twelve years, is 22 years younger than I am. These guys are more like 30 to 35 years younger.

Ah yes. Twenty-two year olds are always the same age, no matter how old I get. I really don’t know what to think. Yes, I’m flattered by the attention, but leery of the motivations. Some seem to think my age means I’m desperate, and therefore, easy. A few ask if I pay to play — a sure-fire way to get blocked. Whether I’d pay isn’t the issue so much as the assumption that paying is my only option.

Most the guys I hear from want a daddy, with each having his own idea about what that means. I’m happy to be an older and wiser mentor to talk with about stuff they’d never discuss with parents. I’m not interested in punishing bad boys (a popular request), being anyone’s sugar daddy, or master/slave situations. Fine for those who are, but anyone who knows me would agree, none of that’s really who I am. I’m not even vanilla — plain yogurt here.

I have made new friends in the area and met a few of them in person. Perhaps one day I’ll meet a guy with a job and his own car who doesn’t live with six other guys to save on rent and utilities. I can dream, can’t I?