I feel mildly ill.
Facing the prospect of actually dating (men) has been interesting, daunting, exciting, and somewhat nauseating (in a not-so-great way). I've always just met friends of friends and naturally gravitated towards certain guys who I got flirty or romantic with, and we had to try to be "just friends". But if I am going to be open to a relationship, it sure as heck ain't gonna be with a conflicted moho, which almost all of my friends-of-friends are, but with someone who is more settled, more mature, looking for something real to actually commit to.
To experiment or test the waters, even though I'm not ready to "actively look" (I have way too much other stuff to figure out without bringing someone else into the uncertainty that is my life right now or distracting myself with a relationship), I set up profiles on a couple of sites where they survey you and match you up with others based on your answers (personality, preferences, etc). Very few results interest me, but occasionally they match me with someone I'd consider a first date with. But I had a realization: I found one match I actually thought had real potential, and he said he wanted a lifetime relationship and kids. My initial response was, "That's what I've always wanted." My follow-up response was a sinking feeling in my stomach and a blow to the head: there was no way in Hades I was ready for anything like that, even if that's what I thought I wanted. It was an odd sort of realization, but the thought of actually meeting someone, falling in love, and living with them the rest of my life and adopting children to be raised by two daddies was just too much yet. So I can't honestly say I'm looking, right now, for a lifetime commitment, but I also don't want to look for a "just for fun" kind of relationship to offer temporary companionship.
When I've fallen for someone or felt attracted, it's easy to imagine being together, but it's also never been in the cards for us to actually commit to anything. It's never been on the table at all. When faced with the potential reality, some things become clear. And I have to wonder if this is why I've fallen for guys who are, in fact, "unavailable", whether because they're emotionally detached types or say they want to find a wife and have kids. It's "safe" to fall for them, and I don't have to force myself to either face commitment or face the fact that I'm in a temporary relationship.
I probably still haven't fully come to terms with the more objective "idea" of a male life partner. More appealing, still, is the idea of meeting a great woman I'm genuinely attracted to and having children together, our own offspring we raise as equally invested biological parents. But what if we couldn't have kids? Would I have the same reservation? Is this more about kids, or is it more about my unshaken paradigms about the morality of same-sex partnership? Is it the Spirit whispering me away from a damning path, or simple fear of commitment to something new and uncharted? Is it a healthy recognition of what I am and am not ready for, emotionally, financially, mentally?
Whatever it is, I realized I was, in fact, looking for a "learning relationship", one that could potentially progress to more but would more likely be a stepping stone relationship, since I've never even had a "real" relationship to begin with. And this realization made it hard to know what to look for. Would I even want to date someone who is willing to date such a red flag: a guy my age who's never been in a relationship? Do I look for someone who isn't looking for a lifetime relationship? Then we're both understanding that it's temporary? But what if I fell for him and wanted to spend my life with him, and he ended up saying, "Hey, I told you I wasn't looking for anything serious"? 500 Days of Summer was a great movie, but I don't want the experience firsthand. But if I found someone looking for a lifetime relationship, and they fell for me, and I wasn't ready for it, and I ended up losing out on a great relationship because I jumped in before I was personally ready to make of it what it could have been...? Yeah, that's when I decided there are just too many "what ifs", and you just have to do the best you can, recognizing your own limitations and taking some risks, trusting there are plenty of fish in the gay sea. ...which I still struggle to believe.
I wanted to explore this idea of finding potential dates more, while I'm still not actually wanting to do anything about it, so I set up a profile on a gay social networking site that's hugely popular here and is one of the less cruisy sites, as far as I can tell. But judging from the onslaught of messages that consist of nothing more than, "Hey, how's your night?" and "Thought I'd say hi," I'm feeling a little gross about being there. Seriously, dude? Your pic shows you in underwear with your legs spread--not to mention our tastes and interests don't match up at all--and you expect me to respond to you when my profile clearly says I'm not looking for hook-ups? Sick. I feel cheap just being somewhere where people do this. I don't want to be anywhere near that scene, let alone affiliated with it. I'm no manwhore...well, Chedner might beg to differ, but I expect him to eat those words after his latest declaration. ;-)
Fortunately, not everyone there is like that. I have a few friends there who I don't think are just looking to hook up. And while I must admit I don't see why you'd have a profile on a gay site unless you were at least partially testing the dating waters or wanted to maintain gay-centered social circles, there are people on there I'm pretty sure aren't using it for hooking up or even dating but just to keep in touch with friends and connections, somewhat like LDS people on sites like LDS Linkup, or LDS Singles.
I set up a profile on LDS Linkup back in the day to make friend connections, but I didn't even use that 'cause it seemed limiting and one-dimensional, based on one common thread. It weirded me out that many people used more profile space talking about their callings and missions and desires for eternal companionship than about who they really are as a person. But let's be honest: while LDS culture has its downsides, they're typically much less trashy than sex-centric "gay culture". No, not all gay people are trashy or promiscuous, but what holds "gay culture" together is not religion, or profession, or ethnicity, or cultural tradition, but homosexuality in and of itself: romance and sexuality. That's really not that much to build a culture around. So when I see someone's profile who only has pictures with gay friends at clubs and beaches, I'm turned off because they're portraying their life as one-dimensional gayness. I'm interested in people who live beyond the club.
So Facebook is my social network of choice because it's more like real life to me, with profiles that are more natural and usually based on more than one facet of people's lives. But now I have this profile (on a trial basis, mind you) on a gay-themed site, partially out of curiosity, partially to see if I can approach the prospect of dating (though I have to admit, it hasn't been especially encouraging, and I am a friends-of-friends kinda guy), and while I've discovered there are some good guys out there, some of whom seem to be genuinely interested in "real" relationships rather than getting action, the dominant tendency seems to be this lusty, shallow connection based on shirtless mirror pics (a big turn-off in a potential date, by the way, though I won't pretend not to enjoy some hotness), and I can't get over how unhealthy and immature these guys seem. Mind you, this isn't necessarily completely unique to gay guys. I have a couple of female friends who have done the online dating thing and been propositioned and felt cheap because of the response they've received, too. Guys are pigs.
Last night, I was chatting with a friend and sharing with him a few of the profiles of people who contacted me (apparently putting pictures on your profile and being logged in multiplies your profile views by 10 and garners messages...go fig...), and there were a couple of guys I thought were really cute, but when discussing it with him, I was forced to look beyond the "cuteness" and realize they probably weren't good matches. The more I told him which profiles were interesting to me, the more I realized I wasn't finding much of what I would actually be interested in when I started dating. I was being shallow. Ew. ...until one. Yes, he's friends with a couple of people I've met and thought seemed like decent guys, he seems down-to-earth, he's over 23 (*whew*), we have some common interests, he's not a total hotbod, he's potentially kinda nerdy...that could work.
So maybe there's hope to at least meet some decent guys who aren't embroiled in moho conflicted culture but also haven't fallen for the ridiculous trappings of pop gay culture, lured by the idea that promiscuity, substance abuse, and shallow pop culture are the only alternative to being active LDS.
Oh, got another short, come-on message while writing this. I'm feeling nauseous again...I kinda wanna run screaming from the gay fresh-meat vultures and consider doing something for real when I'm actually ready to date, but I'm the kinda guy who forces himself to wait until emotional reactions subside a bit before deciding...
Addendum: ...and then there's the random guy you find whom you knew years ago and suspected incidentally but never imagined having a bit of an underwear fetish, let alone seeing pictures of him in...costume...
...and then there's that random guy who totally knows you and your "anonymous" blog, but you're sure he must be thinking of someone else until he says "So it is you!" when you post about having created a profile, which is kinda wiggy until he says who he is, and you realize he's someone you've heard about for years but never figured you'd have direct contact with (behold the power of the small, gay world), and he points out superfluous hyphenation, so you remove at least one thoughtless hyphen from your latest post and wonder what possessed you to use it there...