So a certain feeling of perma- bachelorhood has driven me to the digital arms of OK Cupid. After months of dallying with a variety of “social” apps, I decided to step into an arena that claims to be less hook-up and more date-centric…..although in my community it seems that boundary is wafer thin.
Grindr, Scruff and other assorted gay apps provide an endless roulette wheel of refreshable thumbnails of men trying to look approachable, sexy, intelligent, caring, creative, considerate and carefree and only a mere .87 miles away. My Hollywood Squares iPhone screen shuffles and stacks these micro portraits like an urgent, erect game of Tetris and hours pass as I engage in a 2012 version of “Mystery Date”.
I continue to make the mistake of trying to stretch the exchanges beyond the expected monosyllabic pleads and promises of ecstatic satisfaction only to be met with silence or at worse…the dreaded “block”. This is a button you can use if someone is stalking, bothering or “creeping” and it effectively erases you and your text history, pics and prods from this digital ether.
Me- “so, how long have you been in Portland?”
Scruffster- “2 mins.”
Me- “are you enjoying it, seeing things?”
“so much to do here and the coast is beautiful!”
“did you know the exterior scenes for The Shining were shot at The Timberline Lodge?”
“micro-brews, pickling, charcuterie, bike?”
Me- “I’m an artist and educator who loves cats, Pinot noir and sunsets!”
“What do you do?”
And so it goes, the odd dance of carnal lust and social exchange all prompted by a postage stamp sized photo and a few well edited, descriptive blurbs that supposedly encapsulate my next potential suitor.
The portrait pictures themselves can often be the first amalgam of red flags, caution cues and telling details. Freshly out of the shower headless torsos carefully cropped at the pubic line are usually just looking for “friends” if their “partner” agrees. Big, bearded, grinning bears posed against waterfalls and woods wouldn’t mind a good Reuben and cuddle and the borderline underage twink “bois/boyz” are just looking to “have fun and party”.
Photos shot in bathroom mirrors have the duel charm of providing both an indication of hair, face and skin product usage from the potions displayed on the sink edge and the subject’s housekeeping prowess. Speckled, smeared or older distorted mirrors often give the reflected body the unintentional look of pox, deformation or excessive acne.
Edit boys, edit.
I obsessively labor over my photo making sure to adjust the canned ham pink tone my skin defaults too and deftly applying the single chin Photoshop filter. Shooting from slightly above and turning my head just so lengthens and thins my face. My background coyly captures a piece of my art or if I’m feeling extra butch it’ll be in my studio with the tools of the trade peeking over the shoulder of my fetishizable coveralls. I lead not with my lunatic grin but one that’s both “hey, I’m a swell approachable guy” and containing a touch of come hither.
My descriptive text tries to be clever and witty without being obtuse or just plain weird and is completely honest… minus 5-10 pounds on the weight line.
Scruff has a function that shows you who has viewed your profile and when.
It reminds me of the Valentine’s Day exchanges of my elementary school days where popularity was revealed by how many valentines were stuffed into your decorated box.
(note to self, change “stuffed into your decorated box”)
Another feature shows you how far away your visitor/viewer is, from >250 feet (OMG) to 7,476 miles (” hi Australian Ethan!”) and provides and interesting local social map of my people’s movement (think Goodall tracking the great apes). Three miles away on a Sunday afternoon is the beer bust at the Eagle, 527 feet away from my art studio is Steam.
But enough of Scruff.
I’ve pressed my shirt, rebuttoned my pants and have now entered the world of OK Cupid.
I was completely paralyzed when it came to writing my expanded profile descriptions.
This was to be my salvation from chronic singleness, my golden door to coupledom, a blossoming of romance, titillation and love…….and I couldn’t pull up the first biographical word to save my life!
My dear friend Christopher, a writer, stepped in and saved the day. We scrolled and strolled through a variety of existing profiles and realized it’s best to land somewhere between the abbreviated, fresh from the penitentiary curtness and the excessive therapeutic monologues that left you with a shudder of fright.
“My therapist highly recommends this as a venue to exorcise the demons acquired from the repetitive abuse I suffered as a child and as a way to empower myself into making correct, healthy choices in spite of my crippling inability to make connections, express affection or appropriately control my sexual urges. Coffee?”
Over a sweaty, palpitating, anxious meal he knocked out the base verbiage and over the next few days I added personal tweaks and eccentricities being careful to not damage the foundation. I had answered a slew of questions to focus and hopefully increase my compatibility percentage and was offering up my availability to a select slice of the masses. A few well chosen pics that both show me engaged in my performance work (might as well put it up front) and some headshots and I was ready to go live.
It’s been 27 minutes and I haven’t fallen in love.
Bag was already packed for the romantic getaway and the online order form for the monogrammed “his and his” towels was bookmarked.
What went wrong……text too vanilla? Pics too clear? Too old? Too heavy?
I finally exhaled and realized that this may indeed take awhile to start up…a few days for the new ripples on the pond from the freshly dropped stone to bump up against others.
Of course there was some overlap from Scruff and the inconsistencies and contradictions were hilarious.”Hungry sub bottom needing it now” magically transformed into “shy sweetheart new to the scene looking for lasting love and spiritual connection.”
The pictures of them cuddling their hounds, weeding their gardens and swaddling fresh orphans contrasted sharply with the more turgid attributes that were dropped onto my screen, solicited or not.
And then a few bites!
A viewing, rating and text had me agreeing to meet a gentleman at a local boozery to see if there was a spark.
Now I’m not a small man (“husky” according to Sears) but I’m pretty upfront about it and have a few pics that show my entire self.
I’ve dated big guys and find them sexy.
Looking back (in hindsight) at this first Cupid connect’s photos I see that they are cropped at the chin and the head is tilted slyly back (a slimming trick I referred to earlier..) so I should not have been so surprised to see the bar go dark as my suitor’s massive frame eclipsed the light from the entry door.
Ok,…he’s big….I’m big….don’t be such an ass,… remember you’re expanding your boundaries and putting it out there…
A cocktail, some snacks, conversation and…there’s nothing.
Time stopped as I suffered through his inane chatter and recounting of past romantic failures and missteps all with a tone of affected disinterest and a “can’t really be bothered” performed cool. I caught my eye wandering to the bartender….wait, isn’t that GreezyFist69 from Scruff? His trip to the bathroom had me in fact peeking at Scruff to see if some other opportunity had “woofed” its way into my future.
I should explain.
There is a button on Scruff that allows you to show interest without even using pesky language or engaged discourse. Pushed, and it sends a primal “woof” to your interest and truly exemplifies the app’s base, rutting intentions.
So we wrapped up the evening and after refusing a rather insistent offer to throw my bike in his jeep for a ride home, I had survived my first OK Cupid outing.
There are odd courting rituals on both Scruff and OK Cupid that take a bit to learn, understand and apply.
When (if ever) do you offer up a more suggestive photo?
This one is tricky.
“Can I see more of you?” becomes a test, a riddle, a barometer of sexual ease and prudish hesitancy. A too early skin drop can end the dance but teasing and being too hesitant traps the exchange in a chaste, pen-pal status. Photos of me on the coast enjoying that landscape have been countered with an almost unrecognizable fleshy tangle of tabs, slots, portals and spires.
When do you transition off the app to your own text, phone or email?
“So hey, this is me off Scruff/OK Cupid if you’re interested-(503) 8**-19**” can be seen as a pretty serious act of commitment. Be prepared for that invitation to be denied or greedily accepted resulting in day and night text assaults and image/video premiers.
Does AT&T have a “block” feature?
Email names can also provide unintended reveals and enlightenment. When the apparently shy, freshly out young man contacts you through PDXReadyHole@gmail.com it warrants a pause and reconsideration…..or the prompt to send that one photo that makes even yourself blush…
A second OK Cupid outing had the character and quality of a really bad sitcom.
Maybe he was actually homeless?
An invitation to go see the sunset on the Broadway bridge sounded charming, eccentric and sweet. Little did I know that it was going to be a stroll soundtracked by a non-stop, rapid fire monolog/diatribe that ricocheted and pinged more than the most active Pachinko game.
If I wasn’t convinced he would be a threat to the institution, I would love to have him come to my performance class and demonstrate endurance, free association, improvisation and character development. Halfway to the bridge I realized I had no real reason to be there because the anecdotes, criticisms, wack job theories and rantings would have just as quickly been dispensed to the curb, the trees, the shadows or clouds. A final “once I gather enough cans to get my bike fixed…we should go for a ride”, had me rushing home to remove him from my queue.
So here I sit.
Multiple profiles bouncing about in the stratosphere hoping to intrigue and entice some Mr Wonderful(s).
Embracing chance, intention, luck, effort and openness as the biggest players in this game and relaxing as the fickle gusts of attraction and seduction whirl about my eager being.
Validation, love, affection and intimacy are as necessary as food and drink and as I continue to hunt and gather I will go forward with humor, lightness, joy…….and perhaps a thinner profile pic.