I bring a message of hope for any internet dating readers. My message is do not despair. Samuel and I met online, on a gay dating app. Being gay means you are a minority… so we already have a smaller pond to fish from. However, we found each other using ‘Scruff’ and in fact we were the only 2 in Cambridge (at the time). So, you can find love and happiness in the most unlikely of places.
However, internet dating for me was not an overly pleasant experience. It was full of hidden mines, shady characters and enough heart ache to cripple even the most optimistic person.
I came out at 21, in a very quiet rural village called Soham. I didn’t know anybody else who was gay. Although, after a time, I found 2 others who were also out and open, finding a soul mate or a long lasting relationship was never going to happen. Although I frequently travelled into Cambridge to go to the gay clubs, events and pubs… I went infrequently and joined the mass of other country boys who did just the same. So naturally, and like almost everyone else, I turned my search online!
Now, to give the gay community its dues, when I first downloaded an app and talked to guys I never felt pressured or humiliated for my lack of experience. My picture and profile must have screamed ‘late bloomer’. Everyone seemed nice and I chatted to lots and lots of guys. However, to now criticise the gay community, most of this was simply a smoke screen. I was too young and naïve to see that these guys did not have my physical and emotional wellbeing in mind. It wasn’t until they realised that I was too scared to meet them that their true colours came through and I discovered they were simply trying to groom me and ultimately have sex with them. We have all been there right? No one comes out of the womb gay and experienced! We all have a first time! So I am not sure why people could not show me compassion back then. I suppose people who have been hurt tend to hurt others. It’s a vicious cycle!
When you get your heart broken enough times you learn to toughen up and protect yourself. I began to follow the droves of other gay guys and wouldn’t talk to people without profile pictures. I would avoid people with very explicit photos or who were too old or too young for my preferences. I began, what I thought was, shortening the list to make it easier. Sure, there is a certain level of judgement but I had an idea of what I wanted, and I think we are all allowed to have types. It’s just as normal as preferring mint choc-chip ice cream over strawberry.
How about the rest? The ones that passed my initial review? Well, anyone who has been on Grindr, Bender, Gaydar, Scruff, Recon all know these apps work by proximity. Of course, most are looking for the closest and easiest shag… but there are always pages of profiles to go through. Like a million others I began to get messages like ‘hi’ and ‘whats up?’. Not a good conversation starter I admit but usually you follow it up with something else no?…, not just ‘nothing, horny, you?’. So I began to politely avoid these guys. But at least these guys tried to have a conversation, even if brief. The guys that really annoyed me are the ones that just say ‘cut or uncut’, ‘big dick?’, ‘hung?’, ‘top or bottom?’. I mean WOW! I know it’s good to filter your list but really? Is that the most important thing? Would you do that in person? What if you went to an interview and the interviewer said ‘are you a smart or dumb? What is your IQ?’. I mean, this stuff doesn’t happen in face-to-face conversations! Where the hell is the decency? Where is the romance?… So if you take all of these into consideration, that vast ocean becomes a small fish tank! And a stagnant fish tank at that too…
A year or so passed and finally I decided to just play the game! I knew most guys where not looking for love, but looking for lust. And that was OK. Sure, we all have needs and the ones that were open and honest (and obviously hot) I met with and just had fun with. I kept the inner workings of my mind a secret. For me sex required some sort of emotional attachment. That’s what really makes sex good, in my opinion. The mental and physical attraction are one and the same! Figuring things out, testing boundaries, explorations… So yeah, I got attached to some guys and other guys got attached to me. I tried lots of stuff, stuff that I am proud of and some I am not. I even, knowingly, met a few guys in straight relationships. As far as I was concerned, it was them cheating not me, but after a time I knew this wasn’t right. Plus, I didn’t want to waste my time and energy on something that was never going to be more than secretive sex!
Then I met my first boyfriend, probably on Grindr or maybe GayDar… either way… I fell in love with him too quickly, and not just him… I also fell in love with the idea, the promise of a relationship. It was something I always wanted. Anyway, to cut a long story short, it was a spectacular fail and the end was very strange and I didn’t get the closure I needed and it was generally a really messy situation! This is a story for another time, but after a year or so I tried (properly) the dating game again.
The second time around I had more confidence, I was more experienced and a year off gave me new chances and opportunities. Again, I played the game, I decided that my best chance was to meet someone for sex, if they were hot and nice I would try to change their mind by charming their pants off! But that didn’t happen, a made a few pleasant connections and some friends but mostly I just had doomed dates. I had worriers, stalkers, sleaze balls, criers, liars… and so on! But it wasn’t all bad! I did have a few accidental gems who were usually ‘currently unavailable’!
All in all, internet dating is just a numbers game all gay guys have to play. Looking for love and using online dating apps is just like the old saying… you have to kiss loads of frogs to find your prince! And I am so lucky I found mine! And I knew he was a prince from the moment we met, I just knew it deep down and I had high hopes from the beginning (although I didn’t tell him of course).
So why was Samuel so different?…. Well he didn’t have an explicit picture or profile bio. He was handsome but normal. In fact, he actually listed some interesting hobbies on his profile! When we chatted, there were no cock shots, no ‘whats up?’, ‘top or bottom?’ or just ‘hi’. We had real conversations about interesting things. He asked questions ‘oh cool you paint! What do you paint?’. I must admit, I was so used to sending naughty pictures and playing the game… I may have showed my tattoos and a lot more in the process, but it was tactful and I quickly knew he did not like it. I was patient, I took my time because I saw something more. Someone like me. And boy, did it pay off!
So my advice to all you single online daters… Do not loose heart! You can’t go looking for love from the word go. Some people smell this and run a mile. Nice normal people run a mile… why? Because they don’t know yet! And knowing someone else has already decided ‘you’re the one’ almost forces you to make a judgement call immediately… So, play the game, but get really good at knowing the ones bad for you. The liars and the cheats, the flakey meet-ers and sleazy talkers.
Look for someone like you, someone different from the rest. If you find someone, just be yourself, be patient, take your time. Spending a month or two cultivating a good date and experience could leave you with a long life filled with love… and don’t worry about having fun along the way. Just because you have an ideal destination, doesn’t mean you can’t park up and enjoy the scenery and sample some local produce from time to time! It could be a long drive after all! Don’t be afraid, but protect yourself. Approach each person with an open mind and an open heart and once you find out whether or not you want to pursue something, make that decision and tell them either way. Perhaps you don’t like that person enough and realistically you do not feel satisfied… then you move on and respectfully tell that person that it’s not working.
You will not get out of this without having your heart crushed at times and breaking a few hearts yourself. You just can’t. Everyone has their own agenda and ideals… the key is just to identify someone who is compatible with yours (and hot!, I can’t stress enough the importance of attraction).
Now go, go out in to the world and do some mathematics!