Court­ing ex­pec­ta­tion and frus­tra­tion

GA Voice - - Columnists -

I re­cently walked in on two fe­male co­work­ers com­mis­er­at­ing over the im­ma­tu­rity and aver­sion to com­mit­ment shown by straight men. One of them as­sumed their bit­ter­ness was for­eign to me, since the gay dat­ing scene (she as­sumed) at­tracted up­stand­ing, lov­ing men who were ea­ger to marry.

“This con­ver­sa­tion could be a tem­plate for half the pro­files I see on gay dat­ing sites,” I said. “Ev­ery other guy is like, ‘Gay men are no good,’ and ‘All gay men think about is sex,’ and ‘Ev­ery­body just wants to play games.’”

I’ve al­ways thought it was dan­ger­ous for gay men, or any mi­nor­ity, to view them­selves and their peo­ple as uniquely de­fi­cient in any area; in this case, the pre­sump­tion that we lack a sex­ual re­straint and emo­tional ca­pac­ity that het­ero­sex­ual men possess. This mind­set not only frus­trates gay men’s search for love, but can sab­o­tage the po­ten­tial for friend­ship.

Many of my friends are guys I met on a gay hookup site—some for­mer sex­ual part­ners, but most with whom a friend­ship de­vel­oped over shared in­ter­ests in ten­nis, pol­i­tics, nightlife or mar­i­juana. There is an abun­dance of op­por­tu­ni­ties for pla­tonic bonds to de­velop be­tween gay men, if only so many of us didn’t view our in­ter­ac­tions with each other as tainted.

About a year ago I sent a friend re­quest to some­one with whom I shared sev­eral mu­tual Face­book friends. I’d en­joyed his com­ments on var­i­ous threads. Af­ter read­ing a few weeks of his sta­tus up­dates, see­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties in our in­ter­ests and thought pro­cesses, I sent a mes­sage ask­ing if he would be in­ter­ested in meet­ing in real life for a movie or drink.

In fairness and full dis­clo­sure, he was an at­trac­tive man, and I likely wouldn’t have sent the friend re­quest or mes­sage had he not been. Still, it was an earnest in­vi­ta­tion to some­one whose world­view seemed to har­mo­nize with mine that was re­ceived, and re­jected, as a sex­ual ad­vance.

He later posted his frus­tra­tion with gay men turn­ing Face­book into a hookup site, and I cringed at be­ing per­ceived as a troll. I’m se­cure in my in­ten­tions given that I am “I’ve al­ways thought it was dan­ger­ous for gay men, or any mi­nor­ity, to view them­selves and their peo­ple as uniquely de­fi­cient in any area; in this case, the pre­sump­tion that we lack a sex­ual re­straint and emo­tional ca­pac­ity that het­ero­sex­ual men possess.” not look­ing for a boyfriend and sex with­out pre­tense is one of my fa­vorite parts about be­ing gay, and fur­ther com­forted by the knowl­edge of how straight men em­ploy an arse­nal of “likes” and in­box mes­sages to pursue women they wish they could fuck.

De­spite be­ing singed by some­one I’ve con­tin­ued to ad­mire, and who has since ex­pressed ap­pre­ci­a­tion for my per­spec­tive on is­sues, I re­peated this se­quence with an­other guy who had mu­tual friends, who had in­trigu­ing opin­ions, who hap­pened to be at­trac­tive...

Based on his posts and com­ments, I thought he might be in­ter­ested in an ex­hibit at the High Mu­seum this past Jan­uary. We got to­gether for brunch be­fore the mu­seum, en­joyed the nov­elty of ex­plor­ing fine art with a stranger, and kept the good time go­ing with din­ner at Henry’s.

There was a glow to our con­ver­sa­tion that caused some­one to ap­proach our ta­ble and guess that we were on a first date. My Face­book friend and I looked at each other and couldn’t deny that our day was filled with idyl­lic courtship, and we shared the hope that a friend­ship would de­velop.

One of the things I’m most thank­ful for over the last year is the growth of our bond, go­ing to art shows, sym­phonies and night­clubs, talk­ing about pol­i­tics, pas­sions and sex­ual philoso­phies and be­hav­iors. It’s gen­er­ally dif­fi­cult to make friends in adult­hood, and I think it’s a mis­take for gay men to let dis­trust of to­day’s tools and peo­ple to make it harder.

Ryan Lee is an At­lanta writer.

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