Men have always had it easy.
Gay or straight, the laws of online dating have always been balanced. Gay men have Grindr. Straight men have Tinder. But what about straight men looking to woo (or wingman with) other men, you ask?
Say hello to Bro, the app that everyone is talking about.
Launched in early 2016, (but like most other things, making its debut in India a year later) Bro promises that it ‘goes beyond using labels, and is for men that are interested in meeting other guys – it’s as simple as that.’ It doesn’t say it’s a sex app (in those many words) – it’s for men seeking friendships, men who want to date, men who want casual hookups and all the permutations and combinations in between – without the baggage of old labels and questions by older relatives.
Straight, gay or bisexual – Bro is an all-accepting sausage fest, and makes no qualms about it. It’s online dating without typecasting itself as online dating. In fact, Bro advertises itself as the app that welcomes men who don’t feel welcome in the gay community. It finally lets people be what they shouldn’t be embarrassed of being – sexually fluid. Sexuality is a continuum and not a binary, and Bro recognizes that. But beneath the blue and white, straight man-friendly exterior, does it really offer anything that Grindr doesn’t?
Yes, and no. There are less faceless torsos, more happy faces of people doing happy things. There’s always been a grey area between the boundaries of sex, relationships and friendship, and when an app asks you whether you are looking to find friendship, fun or ‘whatever’, Bro wins hands down in the grey department, all fifty shades of it. It’s for men who don’t want to commit – to labels, or a relationship – In fact, men can even ‘fist bump’ each other to show their sign of approval, so that they can be comfortable in their skin when they ultimately do ask each other for a blowjob (they are just one football jersey short of not really questioning their sexuality after using it.) This is my one grouse with the app; it puts heteronormativity on a pedestal.
I am neither a bro, nor am I straight – so I break both the cardinal rules when I decide to try it out – I am not one to shy away from finding true love, even if it’s with a potentially straight man. How do I do as a bro?
Not so well, but I’d let you be the judge of that with my six day gaycation on the app:
I download the app with the vigour and hope that I usually reserve for the first day of a clearance sale. The app’s interface is bright, multi-racial and eye-catching, which is great – because that’s how I like my boys. After a quick sign up where it chides me for my stats, preferences and HIV status, Bro does what no other dating app does.
It asks me to sort myself.
Am I the beefy Jock Bro? A nerdy Brogrammer? A muscular G.I Bro? A preppy Bro? Casual Bro? Suited Bro? Lumber Bro, Hipster Bro or the ‘surprised-to-see-you-here’ fabulous Bro?
I choose the casual Bro because no hipster would ever admit to being one.
Once I am set, a grid of hopefuls show up –I am slightly disappointed. It’s a sea of men I’ve blocked on Grindr, long forgotten exes, a few friends and men I’ve always seen around but never spoken to.
I dive in.
I start my second day with a fresh fist bump. It’s Gautam, a video editor who I went on a date with a few months ago. I’ve swiped right on Gautam on Tinder; Woof’d at him on Scruff, and starred him as a favourite on Grindr. I do the only sensible thing left to be done. I send a fist bump back at him, in the awkward way I would in middle school. (Side note: I’ve never really been great at fist bumping – the last person I fist bumped was my three-year-old nephew.)
‘What are you doing here?’ he texts me.
‘I was going to ask you the same question,’ I text him back.
‘Just checking out the scene on the other side of the tracks, bro,’ he pings back. We both have a laugh over it, ending our abrupt conversation with a crisp LOL from each side. We make plans to meet soon, but we both know that we won’t.
That’s the last I hear from him.
I strike up a conversation with a new face: 27-year-old Ankit’s profile says that he’s spontaneous, funny and charming with a hairy chest. He’s also straight, and inconspicuously (but not surprisingly) from New York.
I say hello with a non-committal ‘Ssup?’ – could this be the start of a sitcom-level bromance (with six season and a movie) where we wingman each other at bars?
I wait for ten minutes. I wait for an hour. I wait for a whole day.
He never replies, killing my sitcom dreams even before we can shoot a pilot.
Still reeling from the rebuttal, I open my bro with no new expectations. The app doesn’t disappoint – apart from two requests for my sexual preference, my message inbox is emptier than my heart. I switch off, vowing to never come back again.
I go back the next day.
I get fist bumped by a girl.
She tells me she’s bisexual; I tell her I am surprised. The awkward silence resonates forever, but my relationship with Bro doesn’t.
Breaking norms and reestablishing sexual fluidity aside, I realize I wouldn’t want to go find bros before my hos. It’s simply not my cup of tea. Instead, I’d pass it over for a keg of beer and a beautiful boy who wants me for a little more than ‘whatever, bro’.
And for that, I’ve got Grindr and my wine shop on speed dial.