25 March 2010

Whoring Around Online

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...


Chedner said...

I guess we'll just have to see who gets there first, Mr. Woogivi... my bets are on you.

I'm a good boy.

MoHoHawaii said...

I think there's a solution to your problem of not being ready for Mr. Right, should he come along. It is this: go slow. I mean, glacially slow. Tell Mr. Possibly C. B. Right that you are an ultra-late bloomer in the romance department. A good guy won't be freaked out by this. It's even charming in its own way. And then, during your unbelievably slow and drawn out courtship, you will do some changing. You won't feel like you do today about every issue. It won't matter that you and Mr. R. date for two years before your first overnight weekend trip together or for five years before you live together. What's the right speed for this? Your speed.

Now I have to tell you something bad, and I mean absolutely no disrespect. You are having your first dating experiences at a much later age than most people. Most people in this situation have to go through a kind of adult adolescence. It's basically delayed sexual development, and it's not something you can just skip over, as unseemly as it is to act like a sixteen year old at age *cough, cough*. My advice here is to enjoy the ride and not be too hard on yourself or on those you might date. You might end up doing something silly like falling for the wrong guy or mooning over a schoolboy crush or writing earnest love poetry that later embarrasses you, but all this is just part of gay adolescence. It's okay to do all of these things because it's part of growing up. Coming out and beginning to date is a developmental milestone. (Your mileage may vary, but I doubt it. Sorry.)

In any case, a sense of humor is extremely useful in these matters. A date is just a date. It usually takes a lot of crappy dates before you find someone who clicks with you. Therefore, use online profiles as a way to meet new people, not screen them out. Meet a larger variety of folks in person than you might at first envision (just get a cup of hot chocolate as a first meeting-- it's no big deal to chat for 15 minutes with someone). If there is chemistry, follow up later with an invitation to go do something together.

Relax. It's going to be okay. Promise.

P.S. Congratulations. To quote Vice-President Biden, this is a big effing deal.

(I know I've just given you a big list of unsolicited and possibly unwelcome advice. I can't help it; God made me this way.)

Original Mohomie said...

Chedner, I am SO...just gonna shut up on this one.

MHH, thanks for the input. The taking it slow thing is probably a good call. I'm taking it SO slow I'm not even dating yet. :-)

As for the adolescence thing, the relationships I've had have gotten me past a lot of the giddy, new stuff. The kind of stuff you mentioned: I've been there. Although I can't deny the probability of an exclusive or "real" relationship with a potential future (rather than one you know will end because neither of you really wanted a relationship to begin with) bringing new dynamics I haven't learned to deal with, I think the gushy romantic thing is not new to me and is pretty manageable.

I am a novice when it comes to the "hey, we've never met, but let's meet up for a date" thing, but I've done that to some extent with guys I've only met once in group settings, so even meeting up with an attractive guy for a one-on-one dinner and conversation is nothing new. I prefer the stability and familiarity of meeting people through friends, but I'm open to meeting a few people through other ways, though I'm slow to warm up and trust people, especially if I don't know anyone they know, so they'll have to be patient.

And I agree: a date is just a date. Although I will do some online screening, not gonna lie. Relaxed I am.

Sean said...

When you're ready you'll know. I wouldn't throw all online sites in to the trash bin. I've been on connexion for several months now. Not trashy at all. My first dating experience was with another Moho guy I met on there. Sadly it didn't turn in to the relationship I was hoping for. But there are plenty of groups religions and otherwise to join in on. Very tasteful site, highly recommended.

MoHoHawaii said...

It's possible that your previous crushes and mini-romances may have inoculated you against gay adolescence. If so, count yourself lucky.

I'm glad you're relaxed. Your post reads as anything but. :- )

It's all good. Wonderful, even. The next couple of years are going to astonish you.

Original Mohomie said...

I understand how it can read that way. I think a lot of people read more anxiety into what I write than I experience, maybe because most people have to be at their wit's end to express the sorts of doubts, questions, and concerns I do, or because I'm just accustomed to ambiguity and questioning more than most, or because I'm one big ball of stress and anxiety all the time, so I'm numb to it now. Ha! Wow, being my friend must be stressful if that's the case. Shoot...is it the case? Meh.

Yes, there's some wariness and maybe even anxiety, but I think most of the "nausea" I mention is really...disgust. Anyway, I've been having fun with this little experiment. It's not like I jumped on there and have been wringing my hands over it. :-)

El Genio said...

"500 Days of Summer was a great movie, but I don't want the experience firsthand."

Odds are the experience is unavoidable anyway. Real relationships involve risk, and it's unhealthy to expend too much effort trying to avoid it.

I'm not a connexion fan. Between the professional headshots and shirtless studs it's just too much for me too handle.

Jon said...

Ugh, I don't know if I could ever do online dating. I realize that statement could come back to bite me. If I were to ever go that direction, I wouldn't be happy about it. To me it feels like knocking doors. Yup. A mission reference. Sorry.

I'm excited that you are venturing in that direction though and I'm looking forward to fabulous and insightful posts.

Original Mohomie said...

El Genio, I get where you're coming from. I'm talking more about being honest with myself and the other person about intentions to avoid unnecessary miscommunication and investment than avoiding all possibility of messiness. Relationships are just probably gonna be a little messy, and you work through it in the ones that are worth it. But yeah, even when you think you're being honest with yourself, sometimes you end up wanting something different from what you though you wanted, too. No way of knowing for sure.

Jon, I'll try to provide you with a voyeuristic glimpse. It'd be more fun if you joined me on there, but I understand if you can't bring yourself to do it. I think it's quite possible to live and happy and fulfilling life without it. Yeah, definitely possible. :-)