Some of my best friends are gay.
Many of them swear by the efficacy of Grindr, whether you’re looking for sex for breakfast, love in the afternoon, or a midnight snack. Occasionally, I’ve been told, a boyfriend can be part of the deal. An American friend living in Melbourne recently found his on Grindr. (“I went over there for sex,” he told me, “and we just clicked.”) Another found true blue love.
Frankly, I remain skeptical about Grindr, this mobile app on which horny guys search for Mr. Right Now based on proximity. Since I first heard about it a year and a half ago, I’ve been pretty certain that it’s not for me. Something about all of those shirtless, faceless torsos angling for attention on an iPhone screen overwhelmed me. And a miniature keypad isn’t exactly conducive to real conversation. If I’m going to meet up with a perfect (if I’m lucky, and I rarely am) stranger for drinks, dinner, sex, or all three, it’s imperative that we’ve gotten beyond the “Hi. Top or bottom?” phase.
But I was curious. Before I took the plunge on Grindr, I did my research. Beyond, the testimonials of friends who’d found love in that hopeless place, I interviewed two playwrights who’d written productions about Grindr for a piece in the February issue of Time Out Melbourne. I wasn’t particularly encouraged by anything either had to say.
“If you’re looking for a boyfriend or a relationship, get the fuck off Grindr, mate, it’s not going to happen,” one of them told me. So the benefit would be?… “It takes the awkwardness out of being rejected by someone face to face. If you meet someone on the dance floor and you buy them a drink and ask them if they’re keen, and they say no, it really hurts. It’s a slap on the face. But on Grindr, for some reason, there’s this fake wall where nothing really hurts that much. If you say something to a guy, and he’s not into you, it doesn’t really matter. It’s like it doesn’t count. It’s not real.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but upon my return to Bangkok, I decided to try it anyway. A few things quickly became abundantly clear.
1. Mr. Right (Now) doesn’t generally hide behind torso shots and pictures of beautiful sunsets. As Metallica would sing, sad but true. I’ve had a few message me, and they rarely have faces that are suitable for framing. Sometimes I’ll respond, just to make sure I’m not missing out on something good. That’s why I responded to the Brazilian with his back to me.
Me: “Face, please!”
Pleasant surprise: Although I wouldn’t slip his photo into a picture frame, it didn’t make me want to end the conversation, which wasn’t even much of one.
Him: “Looking for?” He was losing ground quickly. Why must guys on Grindr treat hooking up like a cold, clinical business transaction between a prostitute and a john, only without the exchange of cash? I mean, we weren’t even speaking in complete sentences. Damn that iPhone keypad!
Me: “Cool guys to talk to, drink with and maybe sleep with, too.”
Him: “Cool… We too.” Unfortunately, the guy in the photo with him, the one he sent after he’d secured my tentative interest, wasn’t quite so picture perfect — and although my years of living dangerously are not entirely behind me, I’d rather do windows than couples.
Another guy, one I could have sworn I’d met in real life the last time I was in Bangkok, sent me the following message. “Hi, wanna fuck my friend?” The guy in the photo was cute, but even as a newbie, I knew to avoid Grindr pimps and the guys they’re peddling.
2. Grindr brings out the stupid in people. Though I can think of better ways to begin a conversation, I can live with a simple “Hello” to break the ice. But if I’ve taken the time to write you two complete sentences, and all you can say is “Cool”…
3. Grindr makes people disrespectful. My friend Marcus told me about someone he knows who used to respond to guys he didn’t like with a simple “Yuck.” Harsh, but isn’t that so Australian? Yes, I can say that because I’ve had pretty much every move I’ve made in Oz, including saying that spectacular as Ellen Burstyn was in Requiem for a Dream, Julia Roberts earned her Oscar for Erin Brockovich, chalked up to the fact that I’m an American.
Frankly, I’m floored by how many Grindr profiles — almost always ones that originate Down Under — specify “Sorry not into Asian guys generally,” which is bad enough when you’re in Melbourne, but in Bangkok, shouldn’t one show some respect to the natives of the country that’s hosting you? Yes, I know, I know, it’s a matter of preference, a predictable excuse, and one that doesn’t give you carte blanche to be racist and rude.
4. Grindr is all about sex, which, if it’s anything like those clumsy come-ons, won’t be worth getting out of bed — or into it — for. Love or even normal conversation, if they come, will have to wait. And guys who say they are looking for friends and/or a relationship never really are. My most recent Grindr dialogue.
Him: “Hi. R u top or bottom?”
Me: “If that is your opening line, you gets no love.” (I’ve always wanted to quote Faith Evans in normal conversation.)
Him: “Just curious. Sorry if it makes u inconvenient.”
Now I can delete my profile — experiment and mission: accomplished — and off I go, into the real world to meet people and interact with them the way God intended: face to face.