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Gay Dating Is Not Dead

Gay Dating Is Not Dead


The advent of Internet dating for gay men may be more familiar to most as the debut of the "30-minute relationship." The first five minutes are needed to identify a potential mate online. The next five to 10 minutes are made up of a series of messages or online chats exchanging basic information requested by both parties. In the following five to 10 minutes one individual puts on something snazzy -- or at a very basic level it's just moderately clean -- in order to hide depressing portions of his figure before transporting himself to a predetermined location to meet his new "friend." The last five minutes are spent getting off, which leaves the entire remainder of both their lives to ignore each other should they ever cross paths again in real life. I know the "30-minute relationship" well; I've definitely had some of these in my life. What would it take to smash this paradigm open?

On October 1, I set out on an unusual mission with what seemed to be a radical hypothesis. Are there gay men online who want to go on a date (a blind date, no less) with absolutely no expectation of sex, only the promise of some conversation, local activities, and some food? You know, a date! To the surprise of many of my skeptical friends, a thousand individuals from around the country (and the world) sent in date proposals in order to verify that the answer to this hypothetical query is yes.

My first date in New York City (with a guest appearance by New Jersey) lasted 14 hours, over five specifically selected activities, and ended with the exchange of a mix tape followed by a beautiful kiss. Conversing, sharing, laughing, debating, teasing, sporting, lobbying, relating, and connecting made the time pass effortlessly, easily making it one of the best dates in my 32-year-life. But that is not the "happily ever after" story to prove that gay dating has a pulse.

No good scientist would attempt to illustrate findings with an n = 1 data set (I was a molecular and marine biologist for many years -- please forgive me). Mr. Brooklyn was the first of what will be 30 consecutive blind dates over the month of October. Eleven of these dates have already taken place, from the island of Manhattan to the horse ranches outside Houston.

I've met a Christian musician, a Southern lawyer, a classical musician, and even someone who self-describes as "funemployed," all with an openness of heart and a desire for real human connection. Even in my most optimistic predictions for this cross-country dating adventure, I never thought that I would enjoy the company of all 11 men so very much. I left each one thinking how lucky I had been to be able to make, at the very minimum, a unique new friend.

In Roanoke, Va., I met a man whose very first communication to me had been "Do you realize you are the biggest douche ever, and what you are doing is ridiculous ... self-serving ... worthless." The comments were biting, but I felt a need to try to explain why I would choose to embark on such a quest, to explain that I perceived the scales of gay interactions tipping toward anonymous sex, physicality, cliquishness, and the devaluation of personality. "I'm not going to save the gay world," I told him (some could easily argue that there's nothing to save it from), "but I do wish to shine a light on something we may have lost." Two months after our original exchange, my Roanoke date and I stood in a strip mall parking lot saying tearful goodbyes after sharing a day filled with deep connections. Luck and faith were on my side when I took a chance and chose to meet him.

There are 19 more dates awaiting me across the country, but I'm preemptively willing to stake a claim on behalf of gay dating. A pessimistic version of myself would have declared a "gay date" a relic of the past practiced only by those naive enough to believe in outmoded ways of interacting. Now I am thrilled to do a 180-degree reversal. Men who want to find love, friendship, connection, or just wholesome fun in the company of another man who shares their desire do want to go out on a date with you! A real, live date where you eat in a special restaurant, visit a unique location, sit on the ground and talk, or share a tearful, intimate moment. The pulse of gay dating is not only present, it's in no danger of shutting down. I hope there is no obituary ever written for two men getting to know each other "the old-fashioned way," and if what I've seen is any indicator, there's every reason to be hopeful!
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