Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Finding Prince Charming: 2003

AOG, London

As children of the modern era, gay men are always in tune with whatever fad, vogue, trend and tendency going. That gay men are quick to spot- when not in fact create!- fashions in all aspects of culture is a given. From music to fashion to interior design, gay men are really the muses of western culture.

With this in mind, it is worth investigating the latest addition to the gay universe: the Internet. Yes, many of us have heard the horror stories which are associated with chatting on-line to someone. The first thing to keep in mind is that men, whether gay or straight, lie. “Young 40, my friends say I am attractive” usually translates as: “Aging 50, my Mum thinks I am a peach.” Nothing wrong with him really.

But if this is who you are, then that is who you should say you are. It saves time. In any case, if you lower expectations, chances are that when they meet you they will be pleasantly surprised. But more on that later.

For years, gay men had only the scene and its ‘outdoor’ outlets to help them meet a guy. Whether for the night or for life, the scene was at once maligned and praised as the venue where gay men met. And so it would have continued had it not been for the internet. Aside from free porn (no longer free of course) it quickly became a good source where lonely hearts met. And no heart is as lonely as a gay heart…n’est ce pas?

Instantly, those of us with ‘techhie’ friends began hearing about how great it was to meet people on line. Suddenly the world gay men had spent most of the 80s and 90s visiting was at their bedroom - or cyber-café- door.

Juan from Sitges was talking to John from Sydney. And you lucky sod in London were in on the act. But as with the Bible, soon came tragic revelations. Whereas in a club, the weird-looking chap was the one you avoided, on the net, he was the one seeking you out. This very quickly developed into the ‘no pic, no chat’ protocol still with us. It makes sense.

But this was of course no safeguard. For gay men all have something of Dorian Gray in them, and pics that were… less than recent, were often scanned and pasted as proof of beauty.

Well yes, but faded beauty is no remedy for present tragedy. The net responded by creating interest-specific sites and chat rooms. Do you like older men? There’s a chat room for you. Are bears your thing? Follow this link. What, twinks? Type this URL. And so on and so forth. The bar/club scene suddenly became almost obsolete. Almost but not quite because enough men defied the net and chose instead to opt for human touch as a first point of contact.

Of course that meant that the weird guy you always avoided at the pub was still there. Still cruising, still single. But then again so were you and at least like this you could talk to him without that internet anxiety that accompanies a blind date. If he was strange, you walked away and moved on to the next guy, or the next pint.

So the scene still has its advantages over the net. If you don’t meet anyone, then at least you are out of the house, with some music playing and surrounded by people. Anything may happen under those circumstances. And if not, then you can always place an ad on the net. And boy do they work! Ads are the new thing. Yes it was nice talking to Shawn in Vancouver, but you want Paul in SW2.

The net cannot overcome the immediacy of your local scene, and long-distance love of men you have never met is neither healthy nor productive. That is where personal ads come in. you need a local chap that is X, Z or Y.

Yes, Fred in New Jersey is those things; he is also very far away and not coming to Heathrow anytime soon. Ads are great in that they can be a good tool to give someone a little bio of yourself, and vice versa.

Furthermore, nothing beats the feeling of opening your account in the morning, often at work but that’s another article, and facing a “You Have Mail” notice from a stranger saying those magic words “Hi, I saw your ad.” You can't help but to be excited. And you smile. One email later, you have a date.

So which is better, the net or the scene? Well, being gay, I think we find it hard to choose one over the other and choose both instead. They each have their advantages and their drawbacks. The one for you is the one you feel fulfils your needs better. You can be lonely at home, typing away, and you can be lonely in a Pub, drinking away. Both will help you to be happier if you tailor them to your needs. As all else in life. Now that was deep wasn’t it? And remember, smile!