Mass Marketing

(DISCLAIMER: I have nothing interesting to write about. I mean it. Life is mundane. I thought of writing about “things that fall off my body,” or maybe “that one shirt I saw but decided not to buy because I wasn’t sure if it would go with my tie and I don’t want to buy another tie,” but really, that’s the whole story right there. Oh, sure, I could drag that out into a book if I needed to (meaning: If someone was paying me real cash money to) but this is just a Web site and it’s ever-hungry-for-hits. So now, for your reading pleasure, a rehash of a rehash about online dating. Cue music. Lights. Action!)

Here I go again. If you want to see the real face of terror, venture into the online dating scene, my friend. Go ahead, pin your hopes on three pictures you took of yourself in a room with bad lighting wearing the t-shirt you’ve been wearing for three days and sporting a two-day growth of beard in the hopes it makes you look sexier, or more hunky, or something other than unkempt and dirty—and not Xtina Dirrrty, just plain old dirty.
I don’t like online dating, but I have no choice. What are my options, realistically? I could go to a bar, but I’d end up going alone since all my friends here are either coupled or straight, and picking up a guy while your straight, coupled friends egg you on like parents at a kindergarten pageant is about as embarrassing as it gets. Going alone into a gay bar spells Big Fat Loser in which all the letters are capitalized and have lights in them and they blink in time to Cher’s bass warbling. Going alone into a gay bar, unless you are Abercrombie & Fitchbait or Mr. Six Pack or Mr. Gotbucks or Mr. Porn-on-a-stick (and, let’s face it, if you were any of those you’d never be alone in the first place—at least in my imaginary world which is a lot like TV only with less Jennifer Aniston and more that new Tarzan guy) is an invitation to disaster and depression and way, way, just way too much Sapphire.

So, what are our other options? There’s the “I have a friend who would be perfect for you!” Unfortunately, through some little quirk of Lance, most of my friends here, the gayest gay city in the land of gaydom, are straight. Go figure. And they tend to want to think that because Person A is gay and Person B is gay that they will be perfect together, so much in common, the dick thing and I’ve seen Queer Eye and I know you all get along famously and you’ll have so much to talk about because you’re both gay.
Funny thing is, we usually do have a lot to talk about, and it’s what a horrible mess this first date is, oh my god you are so not my type, but I also want to emphasize that I don’t have a type but if I did you wouldn’t be it, no offense, let’s have pie!
(Because everybody loves pie.)
Then there’s the joining of an organization that will introduce you to people outside the same fucking circle of friends you see every fucking time at every fucking party and your god knows I love them but, Jesus and Mary and their pet goldfish Jones, I see them at every party. For a while I stopped attending parties altogether because all they did was remind me that everyone had someone else and that I had no one and was unlikely to get anyone, me being me and in that state at that time and hello, therapy! and like that. I would inevitably leave feeling worse than when I came, and I’m fairly certain that the word ‘party’ never had that definition.
But we were talking about the joining of things, were we not? If you have Craig’s List in your choice of city, you can find oodles of things to do with other people you’ve never met. Can I just say that the thought of showing up someplace to do something with someone I’ve never met terrifies me? I can’t even fit it into my reality, the one with the less Aniston and the more shirtlessness. Nope, not there.
I mean, there’s so many things to do that it could drive one insane. Because it’s not only the biking and the cooking and the volleyballing, my friend. No, here in San Francisco they’re all creative and shit. It’s the naked volleyball barbecue and cat fanciers club. It’s the gay and straight bicycle alliance for better square dancing. It’s the men who like other men who wear aprons and hairnets while mixing concrete for patios club! I mean, talk about your stereotyping!
Okay, so I nixed that, too. Which leaves me with the hottest new trend in failing dot-coms, the online dating services. Which is another term for nightmare.
There are a slew of gay-focused dating services, I suppose because when you don’t live in a metro area you’re apt to be spending a lot of time surfing for porn and chatting up guys on AOL who live miles from you and you can stay hidden and scared and ashamed just like America wants. Unless you’re sexless and tasteful and armed with quips and can convince straight men to buy more crap, in which case welcome to Bravo. I chose not only for it’s obvious name but also because at any given moment of the day, at least 400 men in San Francisco are hooked in looking for sex.
So, just to be clear, I’m not looking for sex. Rather, I’m not just looking for sex. Me and sex, we’re strangers. We see each other on the street and have a nodding acquaintance. I let sex go first in the 10-items-or-less line and sex lets me touch him every month or so. Sex has a great smile but I never think it’s meant for me. I mean, he smiles at fucking everyone, so how do I know if that’s a smile-smile or a ‘hey you’re hot and I’m horny, too great tastes that taste great together’ smile? Stupid, confounding sex.
Anyway, I’d been there before and I know the rules of the game, which are:

  • The ratio of men whom you ask out to the number who will actually respond to your request for coffee: 7 to 1.
  • The number of men you consider better looking than you who will answer any message at all, even “Help me, my hair is on fire and I live at 451 Linden St.!”: 0
  • The likelihood that the results of any search you perform for a match, no matter how detailed, will include pictures of men who only display their dicks: 100%
  • Of the number of men who respond to your request for coffee, the percentage of which will end up on a second date with you: 10%
  • Of that number, the percentage of which you agreed to go on a second date because you were too much of a pussy to say, “No, actually, I find you boring and your pictures were obviously taken when you were in High School or something”: 50%
  • Finally, the likelihood that you will actually find someone you like who likes you back and something ‘clicks’ and you end up in a relationship together: 1%

Yes, I figure if I date 100 men, one will turn out to like me like I like him and we like each other enough to actually be able to proclaim “I have a boyfriend.”
The reasons for this are as numerous as they are obvious. Number One, if you’re looking online than all those other opportunities I mentioned previously have been tapped. You’re scraping the barrel’s… middle. So you’re already feeling kind of bad about yourself. You couldn’t pick up a guy “in real life” and have to do this, take poorly focused pictures of yourself in the bathroom mirror and lie about your interests in the hopes that someone else will nibble the hook. Suck in your gut perpetually and fluff your porn shots and Photoshop the hell out of your pockmarked, bloaty, weirdly sunburned face so someone, anyone, will notice you from the hundreds of other guys.
I mean, the whole thing is horrible, isn’t it? The looking and the dating and the turning down and being turned down over and over and over. Even when you realize that everyone goes through this and everyone hates it and everyone does it, it still feels like hell. You want to detach yourself from it until it’s over, but if you detach than you’re not giving away the “real you” so you may have found an actual catch but you’re detached so he doesn’t know it and thinks you’re some freak and then it’s too late, the first impression you left is stuck in his head and he’s moved on to bachelor number 43 while you’re sitting in a puddle of self-loathing wondering “why didn’t he like me?”
Not that I’ve been there.
So I’m two weeks into this latest session, but this time I’ve really taken the plunge and rather than sit around and wait for someone to ask me, I’m doing the asking. And if you think having the power to pick and choose is something special, let me just say that there are those who get picked and those who pick, and never the twain shall meet.
Admittedly, some of the guys I wrote to figuring “there’s no way he’s going to respond,” responded. Some. A few. Two. Two of those guys. I’ve assigned myself a goal, you see. I ask five guys a day out for a first date. The whole “I saw your profile and thought, hey! I saw his profile!” thing, where you’re trying to figure out how much of a pathetic and lonely guy are you putting across in as few words as possible.
It’s entirely evident that, as the pursuer, you’re already at a disadvantage. On the other hand, I have to ask myself, “This guy is incredibly handsome. What is he doing on the block? What is wrong with him that he isn’t already in a committed relationship, happy go lucky, having his toys played with on a regular basis?” The answer, probably, is that he’s not interested in that, he wants more sex with more guys in less time, and online is the easiest, fastest and least personally embarrassing way to get it.
Being turned down online is easy to handle. You ask, they never answer. When the same thing happens in a bar (You ask, they don’t answer) you feel like a piece of shit. You feel ugly and stupid and useless. They don’t even look at you. They don’t talk to you. You are nobody, live, and in person.
Online, no answer is easy to shrug off by any number of lies you tell yourself. “They didn’t get the email! So I wasn’t turned down, it’s a network problem!” Or, “It’s that picture of me from the left. That’s my bad side! I’ll change it on the next round!” Or, “He hasn’t updated his profile in two days. He probably met someone. Yeah, that’s it.” Rejection in absentia has many advantages, for both parties, and it’s so much easier to move onto the next profile than to try and gather one’s courage in a bar having been totally snubbed in the open like that and try again three stools down.
So far, I have gone on exactly one date. I’ve been corresponding with, like, seven guys but someone always cancels out. It also takes a hell of a lot of negotiating to get anywhere.
“Do you like coffee?”
“Caffeine gives me a headache.”
“Wine, then?”
“I’m in AA.”
“I’m in Hayes Valley.”
“I’m in San Leandro.”
“I don’t own a car.”
“I work until 8.”
“I own a cat.”
“I’m allergic.”
“Well, this was fun!”
“You’re not my type.”
“Buh bye!”
Someone take me out of this, please? Someone come up with a pill or something, an inflatable boyfriend who can carry on a conversation and has a sense of humor about himself and looks good in jeans or a suit and understands the vital need of $200 dinner bills and really dark glasses of Cabernet and movies in foreign languages and sitting at tables outside in the cold night air for hours making fun of everyone who walks by. That’s all I ask. Sex is purely optional.
Until the third date. When the toys come out.
Postscript: Confidential to C – I still make that face. I think it’s endearing. I am trying to tremble less. Or less obviously.
Post-postscript: Confidential To E – Me neither, but then I’m hardly qualified. Just ask C.

November 12, 2003

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