It sounds so harsh: “I’m not really here to make friends.”
But it’s true. I’m not. And I’m not sure I completely understand those who are.
Well, I take that back. When I was living in Texas for two years, the gay community was so fragmented and lacking in—jeez—lacking in just about everything, using hookup apps became a necessary device to find people for platonic socializing. But that was last ditch. It’s nothing I care to repeat. Thankfully, I’m not there anymore, and I feel like I meet enough LGBTQ folks through work and in my day-to-day travels whereby I don’t need to chit-chat with local strangers on a phone app just to find people with whom to spend time. In fact, I don’t understand where that extra time comes from for those engaged in doing it.
When I was in Texas, I was extremely underemployed and, as alluded to above, pretty lonely. Phone hookup apps were just starting to really boom, and especially given that I was already in my 40s, it took a little while to find my footing. Online chat was never my favorite thing. It has always felt stilted and strange to me, but now I do it anyway…live, learn, adapt. Especially with strangers, it’s difficult to know what will fly. It’s a blind exchange. I often try and float something humorous as an icebreaker, but everyone is so easily offended here in the butt-hurt era, I’m perpetually concerned about hitting a nerve. Despite this, I regularly push myself off that cliff and sometimes I land on my feet, sometimes flat on my face. You must learn not to give a shit how you come across, which is especially challenging in a small city like Buffalo.
But when someone on a hookup app is engaging you in nonsexual chit-chat, there’s a gigantic elephant in the room. Which is to say, the elephant is there regardless (there really ought to be a DUMBO hookup app – and it’d complement our current zoology tangent, right?), but when you’re negotiating a sexual encounter with someone, at least you’ve both acknowledged its presence. If the conversation is revolving around Ru, World of Warcraft, or 13 Reasons Why, however, the elephant is just lurking—balls out, tail swatting… let it stand there long enough and it’s going to take a gigantic dump that’ll clear the room. If you’ve ever been to the circus, you know of what I speak.
It feels a lot like wasted time. And if I’m going to waste time, I can think of much more pleasurable ways to manage it than making stilted chit-chat while an elephant busts a grumpy in the background.
There was a time when making cyber-connections was a saving grace. But it wasn’t really intended for city dwellers like us. Rather, online liaisons were a great way for folks in remote places to plug into a network they couldn’t access otherwise. Chat rooms were destinations where folks could catch a 12-step meeting at an off hour or gather with other fans of very specific, obscure things to geek out about them. Sex may be very specific for some, and so the internet can connect you with communities of fetishists that exist outside the mainstream. All of this is very useful.
But for most of us, using online applications to find just plain old sex is a copout. It avoids all the tricky parts. It’s a lame shortcut. You bypass all the cues exchanged between people when they meet in the flesh, all the signs and signals – the buildup. There’s no hot anticipation in app cruising, more just a lot of distrust (and resulting disdain), lifeless conversation and, often, anticlimactic encounters. It all sucks, really. But we’re hooked on these half-assed hookups. Like it or not, it’s how we do it now.
So, to me, using the above described scenario to try and make friends is one toke over the line. Which isn’t to say that I’m completely uninterested in meeting new people or discovering new hobbies. But, at 47, I’m not into gaming (which seems to be a huge talking point with these people), and I barely have time to maintain the friendships that I’ve made organically, the old fashioned way, nor do I have sufficient downtime for the interests I’ve cultivated over my lifetime thus far. If I’m looking for a fast encounter, it’s probably something I can schedule— at best—a day or two in advance, and I definitely don’t have the time (or the patience) for a ton of negotiating. The longer it takes, the greater the chances that the elephant is going to take a crap; it’s a game of beat the clock.
Equally if not more confusing are the couples I encounter on hookup apps. And it’s not because I don’t understand opening up a relationship to an occasional encounter with additional participants – I get that. It’s the euphemistic language so often employed that’s the problem. “We like playing tennis and hitting the gym, gardening, going to see live jazz and drinking craft cocktails.” All fine and well, but the chances of our doing any of that stuff together is mighty slim, so wouldn’t it be better to come clean and put the sexual agenda on the table rather than this litany of useless information? Or maybe make it clearer: “We don’t hookup with just anybody, so you might have to play doubles with us on the court or sit through a Chick Corea show first.” A little obnoxious, but fair enough. Thing is, this wasn’t promoted as a dating app. Aren’t there enough venues for that?
Social media has blurred the lines on all this stuff, so we have different folks with different agendas on the same playing field. I’m all for fluidity in many realms of life, but this might be one area where it backfires. I’ve been approached sexually on facebook, which to me is about pretty much everything besides sex. And I’ve been made to feel stupid for approaching people sexually on hookup apps designed for that purpose by queers that would rather talk about jigglypuff and TV shows. To me, this speaks to a certain level of isolation and a failed understanding of boundaries. At a certain point, you’re not being innovative and ‘bending the rules,’ you’re just in the wrong place barking up the wrong tree. As a result, we end up wasting each other’s time which, in the end, is the most precious commodity of them all.