Technology has changed dating — gay and straight — forever. Some of you may have used a computer to meet the love of your life, the second or third time around, anyway. But for most readers of this blog, any phone involved in meeting a love interest more likely involved a rotary dial than a touch screen. Before I plunge into a discussion about hook-up apps, here’s a little background to bring my long-married readers up to speed.
No matter your sexual preference, meeting someone datable is tricky stuff. Back in the day, alcohol played a critical role. Waking up with a hangover next to the apparent man of my dreams, my first thought was more often,”What the hell was I thinking?” than “Hello, Mr. Right!” I met three of my four exes that way. In retrospect, falling in love while shit-faced may have been ill-advised.
The last time I was single, more than a dozen years ago, I signed up for an account on gay.com. Users from around the world met in chat rooms — some devoted to particular interests, but most were geographically based. Guys in and around Athens would cut up for hours every evening in our public chat room, opening two-way chat boxes for catty remarks to and from friends or for more graphic discussions with prospective dates.
At least when chatting up some dude in a bar, you have a fairly good idea who he is. Sure, he might lie about his career, whether or not he still lives with his mother, and the length of his resume. But face to face — depending on how much you’ve had to drink — a homely short guy will have a hard time convincing you he’s tall, dark, and handsome.
Virtual dating makes deception a lot easier. Profile information and pictures may or may not reflect the person behind the profile. Some impostors enjoy the fantasy and will chat forever, dangling the prospect of meeting, with no intention of following through and ending the game. If you get involved with someone in this manner, do NOT send pictures — at least, not yours.
The fact you really have no idea who you’re talking to is the best thing about virtual dating. Your imagination fills in the blanks, creating the person you want the guy on the other end to be. You can have a torrid affair with the man of your dreams — as long as you never actually meet the object of your affection.
Meeting in person almost always bursts the bubble. Maybe the pictures he shared are twenty years old, or if more recent, highly photoshopped and/or carefully composed to conceal fatal flaws. Perhaps he smells like the herd of ferrets/cats/reptiles he lives with in his tent under the overpass. Whatever the cause, when the bubble pops, the thrill is gone.
Once the new wears off, virtual dating — whether online or via smartphone app — evolves into a number of sporadic, ongoing conversations with men I just might decide to meet someday, interrupted by random messages from visitors or newcomers who think I might be THE ONE, at least for the moment. Every new interaction offers the excitement of possibility. Could this be THE ONE for me?
Crazy comes out loud and clear in chats — before he knows my name or where I live. Attitude shows too, along with things like desperate, needy, and dumber than ape shit. All things being equal, virtual dating works better than getting drunk in a gay bar. Losing a few hours chatting with undesirables beats the hell out of waking up with them. Trust me.
Stringing him along turns out to be a pretty effective way of sorting the wheat from the chaff. Nice guys keep coming back for more conversation. The more you chat, the more you find out about each other. Eventually, the friendship reaches the point where chemistry and attraction, while nice if we happen to connect on that level, are no longer essential to keep things going.
Motivations for going online, whether good, bad, or indifferent, vary from one guy to the next. Weeks of chatting on gay.com led to a face-to-face meeting with my recent ex, the Finest Man On Earth. We’re friends now because we were friends before we ever became a couple.
Gay.com still exists, barely surviving on a few die-hard users. Nobody chats in the public rooms anymore. Now it’s all about the apps–the subject of my next post.