I belong to a couple of dating sites and apps. Jack’d, OKCupid, and Tinder as of right now. I think I’ve been on almost all of them at some point or another. It’s easy, convenient, and play into my insecurities of approaching men in public because of my crippling fear of rejection. I can admit those things, whether they sound awful or not.
My first taste at online dating was when I was 17. It was after Adam died and a classmate kept asking me, “Are you downe?” “What the fuck does downe mean,” I eventually asked because normally I’d just ignore him. He sent me a link to Downelink.com through Friendster and I signed up. I wasn’t too new to the internet dating thing because I would talk to twinks and men in the AOL chat rooms and on XYMag but it was rather harmless and I had no real clue as to who I was talking to or what I was doing. Downelink was like Myspace, and it’s still up and running, but for gay people. At the time, it was filled with a bunch of Gaysians (gay asians) and lesbians (note: Lesbians still love Downelink 12 years later). I posted suggestive pics on there that I took in the bathroom with the kodak digital camera I got for Christmas. It was just me in my underwear, because at an early age I knew how to sell a masterpiece. I received a bunch of messages and one stuck out. Jose lived in Salinas, about 40 minutes away from me but he drove. We chatted and he wanted to come visit me. I lived at home and refused to have men in my mother’s house so I had him drive up to meet me at Starbucks across the street from my house. In hindsight, he looked like Roger Klotz from Nickelodeon’s Doug, but I went a long with it. He told me to get in his car and we went for a ride around town. We talked and I showed him around. He was sweet. I ended up giving him head in the car, because even at an early age I knew when people RSVP for a party it’s your duty to come.
12 years later, I’m still online dating. I often hear that people refuse to utilize dating apps and services when they reach a certain age because they feel that it’s for young people. Too, I wonder how long am I going to remain using dating apps and services. After my hospital visit, however, I began to think that there’s no time limit on discovering companionship.
I was never taught how to be a Black gay man…and the Black gay men who happen to be reading this weren’t reared to be such either. In some form or another, we were taught to be Black straight men. I was always taught how to treat women as that was a part of not only being a good person, but being a man. Which, yes, it is, but what about how to treat a man in a romantic sense? The men in my life taught me how to talk to women in a romantic sense. “You have to go up to her and compliment her on her outfit.” “Take her on a nice date.” “Bring her flowers.” “Make her laugh.” I was taught all the things, but never what to do about dating a man. Dating apps and services is one of the largest and relatively safest spaces we have as Black gay men to communicate with each other on a romantic level sans reproach. We don’t have the spaces that they do to commune and just be gay and meet folks. If we go, it’s the club or some forum about HIV/AIDS. Frankly, ain’t nobody got time for that.
So, I guess I’ll be on them until…