How Do We Find Love, In The Time of Tinder?

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It’s the week of Valentine’s Day.

Urvaksh, a 30-something banker, loves plaid, almond milk lattes and artisanal beer. Like most quintessential gay men that I know, Urvaksh is on the lookout for ‘sweep-me-off-my-feet’ love – the kind that you find in dog-eared romance novels and primetime soaps. But as is the case with quintessential gay men, Urvaksh is also ‘hopelessly’ single. A status that stings more so during this painful week; suddenly, Netflix feels lonely, and bar deals (two for the price of one) seem too taxing to finish.

But Urvaksh isn’t one to give up. He takes ‘finding love’ very seriously – a trait that’s equally heartbreaking and heartwarming in gay men around the country.

To further his cause in finding romance, Urvaksh goes out on a new date every week (while sleeping with thrice the number of people in the same time) – and falls in love every fortnight. It’s a tough life, but he survives (and so does his company-provided credit card). But that’s not where his rat race for romance ends. Urvaksh has premium memberships with Grindr Xtra, Scruff Pro and Tinder Plus, which means that he has paid big bucks to find the elusive ‘Mr Right’.

So can ‘Mr Right’ get here right now?

He should. That’s three times the boys (on Tinder), an infinite supply of blocks (on Grindr) and billboard-style exposure (obviously, on Scruff). This way, an unlimited crew of underwear models, upcoming fashion photographers, Type A consultants and highflying entrepreneurs can spot him before anyone else does. The stats are definitely on his side, but the stars?

Not so much.

‘It’s just not working out,’ Urvaksh tells me over a drink, at a gay shindig in January. He’s Super-Liked boys on Tinder, favourited the nicest profiles on Grindr, Woof’d appropriately at hirsute men on Scruff and even looked around more than once on Hinge (although he feels quite unhinged after his experiences there).

‘How hard is it to find someone you can just have a conversation with?’ he asks me, but doesn’t give me time to respond.

‘… And no, I will not have drinks with someone whose username is ‘CockRings7’. Tell me, why are all the nice boys not online (read: available)?’ He blows off steam (and smoke) in my face. Honestly, who’s to blame, when someone ends his Grindr profile with the classic ‘only 9+ cocks apply’?

Urvaksh does, but I don’t bring it up. Instead, what I do tell him is that all the nice boys are online – they are just complaining about the fact that there are no nice boys online.

‘I think I should just go off dating apps, I really can’t do this anymore,’ Urvaksh tells himself, and I wonder why I am even a part of this conversation.

‘Now can you just be my wingman at this party?’ he pleads, finishing his beer with one large chug.

Uh-oh. That’s why.

The Internet says that dating apps make romance conveniently fast and easy; it’s like fast food – deliciously satisfying, but really, really bad for your health.

But when has the Internet ever been right? Anyone who says that finding love on dating apps is easy has never spent hours trying to figure out what the gorgeous photographer means when he sends you an ill-timed ‘eggplant’ emoji. Does he like aubergine or is he just hot and horny? It’s a mindboggling maze of deciphering smiley faces.

And fast?

Nope. I’ve spent months chatting up multiple Mr Right Now’s’ in the search for Mr Right – and it’s been as painful to watch as an episode of Splitsvilla (but then again, equally high on drama).

It’s a tale as old as time; fuckboys, douchebags and dimwits aren’t custom-made at a secret Grindr factory, they’ve been around since eternity. So is Grindr (and the motley crew of matchmaking apps it is part of) killing romance in the dead of the night, behind locked phone screens and locked doors?

Let’s get it straight. It’s not.

Technology has been facing the brunt for being the cause of most of our world’s problems – the television stands shamefaced for its contribution to the rise in gun violence, the refrigerator regrets its hand in rising child obesity, the microwave has been getting in the neck for global warming and the steam iron might as well have been the single reason for frayed denims.

“I wish I could meet someone the old-fashioned way,’ Urvaksh sighs, as I light up another cigarette. What’s the old fashioned way?

Strangers wobbling out of a bar together into 17-odd months of regrets, slurred voicemails and alcohol-induced arguments? Being awkwardly set up by friends at a house party just so that they don’t have to listen to your scrambling singledom survival stories over scrambled eggs at brunch? Bumping into someone while waiting in line at a coffee shop just to realise that they like their coffee with milk, weeks later?

If you think your next big love isn’t hidden behind a mesh of profiles on the dating app of your choice, there’s a very big chance he’s not waiting for you at the bar with free drinks (and if he is, there’s a chance he might put it on your tab). Conventional ways of finding love are dying out and for good reason, because we just don’t have the time (or the hope to leave things on chance). Instant gratification is in.

Sure, Grindr can be that dark dreary place that you’ll be in an on-again, off-again relationship with (because on more than one occasion, you’ll be propositioned for a golden shower at 2 am, that’ll make you want to shower multiple times after), but in this Instagram-obsessed world, it helps you reach out to people like never before – with or without filters. Plus, a relationship built on a dating app is no less real than the one forged over mixed-up orders at your neighborhood coffee shop.

Still struggling over why you are single on Valentine’s Day? Maybe it’s time to introspect – could it be something to do with your personality (or lack thereof)? Could it be something to do with the fact that you are seeking out people’s preferences in bed rather than their preferences in life? Or could it be the fact that your profile description says that you are ‘looking for a soul mate to share a life with’ but you go by ‘WildTop4U’?

Maybe, but I feel like my Netflix rom-com is on its way. Now pardon me, while I go swipe left on every boy on Tinder.

Dear Gay Men, Do We Have A Problem With Promiscuity?

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As the average gay guy would tell you, one of the first things you do as a homosexual man is to reject the notion of homosexuality entirely – ‘I am not like the others’, you tell yourself, stiff-lipped – in fact, you’ll tell anyone who’ll listen – ‘I won’t let this define me’, ‘I won’t be the gay person’, all the way till you reach the quintessential ‘I won’t be who I am uncomfortable being.’

You complain about the stereotypes, over bottomless mimosas at brunch, hating other gay men for experiences you’ll never be able to have. You may hate (and hurt) yourself because you feel like you need to, before anyone else – straight, or from the very community you are reluctant to be a part of – has the chance to hate (and hurt) you first.

And then you download Grindr.

Sure, we crave acceptance like we crave gluten-free bread, but we all like to bite off a little more than we can chew. You are not like the others, you say, you aren’t a threat – and since being gay is linked to sex, that’s what you do – you attack the sex lives of others.

Like a voracious carnivore who’s gone cold turkey vegan, it’s quite the norm for gay men to behave in a certain way once they enter the comforts of a monogamous relationship. Glad to have been finally rescued from the shackles of Grindr, gay bars, and (the occasional) golden shower, they chide the irresponsible and irrelevant men they’ve left behind – lonely men who are still seeking the One in cyber space, or worse, the corner stall of the public restroom.

Never mind the fact that traces of his Hugo Boss still cling to the air in the dark smoking room of his favourite club – the same one with all the sexcapades – but as far as he’s concerned, he has nothing to do with that world anymore. It’s as alien as wearing crocs in public. But that’s the thing, whether we choose to take part in these activities or not, it’s still our world. If the gay community does really exist, which it does, before you point your accusatory (but manicured) fingers at me, then we have to accept that these kinds of things happen, but no, it doesn’t reflect on you in anyway (unless you let it).

Why are people (gay and straight) so obsessed with gay men’s sex lives?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The list of clichés attached to being a gay man can be as endless as the number of attendants at the Zara store, and equally unhelpful – we are stylish, hedonistic, sex-crazed and drug-addled party junkies, to just name a few.

Some of these will be self-perpetuating; there will always be hook-up apps, there will always be drugs, there will always be clubs, and the only reason these clichés exist is because such people exist.

It has always been easy and convenient for a gay man in a monogamous relationship to dismiss others as plastic and promiscuous, simply because it’s the easiest thing to do. “We are the new norm,” they think, “we aren’t ‘like everyone else’ – we are just as good as our ‘straight friends,’” they laugh.

But what they don’t realise is that they are creating new stereotypes of their own, which are just as toxic – the prissy gay man who thinks other gay men shouldn’t behave in a certain way that straight people wouldn’t approve of, so we could ‘fit in’.

There isn’t anything wrong with monogamy; in fact I’ve been in multiple monogamous relationships myself. It’s a wonderful idea, and for a lot of us, it’s the heartwarming dream, the proverbial light at the end of a dark, dreary tunnel. If you really want it, you should go out of your way and fight the odds to get it. Be the Netflix movie that you secretly despise. But that still doesn’t give you any reason to step on and snigger at people who don’t fall in line with your idea of dating.

Nor should those who reject the notion of monogamy scoff at anyone who follows it. It’s not exactly ‘heteronormative’ to want a monogamous relationship – I know plenty of people who have their Tinder on speed dial as well.

But then, the concept of gay monogamy has always had a different tangent from its straight counterpart. Straight relationships usually have set milestones – courtship; engagement; marriage; children; and grandchildren till you reach that constant state of bliss spent bickering over who gets the remote control (or control over the Netflix account) in the end.

What do gay people have? Fall in love, settle in and move in together… and then what? Get a dog? Get a couple of kittens? A twin Vespa? Get matching cardigans and go on a world cruise, maybe?

Until marriage equality and relaxed rules around adoption come into play, gay men will have to wait – and we might as well wait around with some company.