Category Archives: The Dates

Meet the men 2.0: The Gym Freak

 

Gym Lover

Open up your Grindr, lads. Now tell me what you see?

It’s the same story everywhere.

When every fourth guy on Grindr looks like he has stepped out of an Abercrombie and Fitch underwear catalogue, you know you might have a problem. It’s no surprise that we’ve been trained to get out of the closet, and go straight to the gym, but now we are doing so on our spinning cycles.

It’s simple, if there’s one thing you need as a gay man today, it’s a body. You might want to think differently, but eight out of 10 times you are not going to get a great deal of interest from another gay man just because you look like you listen to Mozart, and devour literary classics for breakfast. Sadly, muscles are in and they are never going to go out of style (they are sort of like florals during spring, only better). We might have reached the age of technology, but deep down, we’d rather be men of steel.

Now, most gay men like to remove their flimsy cotton V-necks at a moment’s notice, showcasing their kilometer-wide chests and xylophone abs as if they were starring in an Indian remake of Magic Mike. They make other men (like me) gulp and vow to start going to the gym from next Monday.

Or next month.

But who are these men again? The ones who spend hours preening at the gym, and promise to split their post-workout protein shake with you, when they’d rather be splitting your legs in the showers instead?

You might have met the Hipster a few weeks ago, How do you sort the gym rats from the ones that scour the food court at the mall (like me again)? Here’s how you spot one, when he’s not asking you to spot him as he weight trains at the gym:

The Gym Freak hates it when people call him a gym freak, or worse, a gym rat. He prefers the term Fitness Enthusiast. He has a vest with the same emblazoned on it.

He has eye-popping biceps, billboard-worthy pecs, a tray of abs that can balance half a dozen eggs and broad shoulders that are the shape of a cozy armchair. You can even sit on him, but only when he’s doing a plank.

He says he does not have a ‘type’, but will proudly put up #Masc4Masc on his Grindr profile.

He follows it with a succinct ‘No fats, no femmes’ in his bio.

And a photo of his glistening abs (more than six, less than eight) as his picture.

He has a day for Triceps. It’s on Thursday.

He dresses up sexily for the gym.

He wears trainers that match his gym shorts. Sometimes, when he’s feeling attractive, he wears leggings.

The only time he cheated was when he cheated on his diet plan with a double cheese hamburger five Sundays ago. He’s not forgiven himself ever since.

He doesn’t need an alarm clock. He is the alarm clock.

The Gym Freak counts his calories every day. He allows himself 500 calories for breakfast, 400 for lunch and a mere 300 calories for dinner.

His protein shake accounts for 500 calories every serving.

His gym face is his orgasm face.

He spends two hours hitting the gym every day, and another two hours thinking about it.

He hates it when people typecast gay men as the quintessential gym-obsessed fitness freaks. He’ll tell you all about it as you help him count his reps at the free weight section.

He has all of The Body Coach’s workouts saved in his internet browser. He watches it whenever he has free time. While on the treadmill. On his way to work. At dinner. Just before he falls asleep. While jerking off. In the loo. At his best friend’s wedding.

The last time he ate a French fry was back in 2010. Whenever he gets the occasional craving, he realises that abs are not built over potatoes. He cries himself to sleep then.

He hates going on long vacations, because it breaks his strict regime.

But when he does, he looks for a hotel with a 24/7 gym, and a heated indoor pool. He gets excited if they have a massage room.

On more than one occasion, he’s thanked God for great genes, and grilled chicken.

He takes a #TransformationTuesday picture every week. And every day of the week.

When he can’t, he makes his personal trainer take one for him.

He’ll use any chance that he gets to go shirtless. At the beach. In the sauna. By the swimming pool. On a run. When he’s reading at home. While going grocery shopping.

He’ll tell you that your vodka and soda has 85 calories as you order your drink, when you are out on a date with him.

He knows because he looked it up online.

He’ll then call for a Caesar salad, with extra chicken. He’ll tell the waiter to hold the croutons, and the vinaigrette dressing.

He has an app that reminds him to drink water every hour. He has an app that reminds him that he has to run every other day. He has an app that reminds him he’s overshot his calorie intake for the day. He wishes he had an app that tells him where he can find someone to go the gym with.

He has a separate drawer for his Lycra gym wear. It’s right beside his bed.

His iPhone gallery is littered with gym selfies. And the occasional shot of sunrise from his morning jogs at the beach.

He will tell you that the Mint Chocolate Chip protein shake will taste like Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream, but he’ll know that he’s lying to you.

He knows the exact benefits of whey protein.

One night, over wheat crackers and low-fat cheese, he’ll cry to his friends about how all the gay boys only love him for his body.

But he’ll forget to mention that his Grindr profile picture is an aesthetic shot of his chiseled torso.

Which mentions that he’s looking for ‘gym-fit muscular men only’.

He’ll only touch beer if it’s gluten free.

He’ll tell everyone who listens how he likes it raw. When you cock your eyebrows at him, he’ll guffaw loudly and tell you that he’s talking about his special nutritionist-prescribed diet. The one with dehydrated sunflower seed crackers, juiced kale and dried goji berries. What he won’t tell you is that he secretly hopes that raw walnuts taste like bacon.

He gets serious separation anxiety if he skips the gym a day. He skips dinner the same night.

He hates flirting with other men at the gym, because how would he train otherwise?

He goes on a juice cleanse twice every month.

He uses the hash tag #NoPainNoGain, but he doesn’t use it ironically.

When he pictures his future with any potential plus one, he pictures the two of them breaking into a sweat (both in and out of bed) and grabbing a protein smoothie to go after. They exchange rings at the beach, after which they run off (literally) into the sunset.

He knows the exact days when all the personal trainers at the gym are on holiday, and when their birthdays fall. He gets them gluten-free cupcakes then.

Without any frosting.

The Gym Freak is never going to be happy with the way he looks. He’ll always have something to complain about. Too much fat. Too little muscle. Too much cardio. Too little sweat. He’ll go to the gym the very next day, and work on the part of his body that bothers him, even though he knows that spot reduction doesn’t work.

But that’s the thing.

I want to be a gym freak myself.

Meet The Men 1.0 : The Hipster

The hipster.jpg

 

We are almost halfway through 2017.

They say the age of the hipsters might be finally coming to an end, but can gay men ever let a good thing go?

We are still here, writing in our moleskin notebooks, riding our 12-gear bikes, using our organic moustache wax and stocking up on our ironic print t-shirts. It’s safe to say that the gay hipsters aren’t disappearing into the dregs of their black coffee mugs just yet. Jahangir, 27 and Subhashish, 26, would agree. The creative designer and casting director share an apartment in one of the quieter back alleys of Mumbai — a home that is littered with curios, knickknacks and pop culture references.

And they don’t plan to leave anytime soon. Do you want to know what makes the quintessential gay hipster, apart from his love for beer, bowties and his beard? Here are a few helpful hints:

The hipster doesn’t own a television. He’ll also make sure he tells everyone he knows about it. While on a date. At a casual lunch. During a work meeting. At a birthday party. In the bus. At the grocery store. While at a funeral.

He has his own complicated order at the coffee shop: like a Grande, iced, sugar-free vanilla latté with soymilk. It’s his standard go-to drink every morning on his way to work (as a graphic designer at an independent media house).

But most often, the barista can’t make it, so he has a large decaf.

He had a Tumblr profile back in 2012 that was called the TheUnfairKnightReturns. It is an archive of his button poetry, millennial rap and a motley collection of dark and depressing thoughts. He doesn’t like talking about it.

His best friend makes organic hemp t-shirts, which he freely wears and advertises. He’s always equipped with a card for her Facebook page. It doesn’t list any numbers, but has a standalone QR code.

The Hipster owns a coffee table book with vaguely pornographic pictures. It’s usually on top of his bedside drawer because he doesn’t have the money to invest in a coffee table.

He talks about how he hates Forever 21 — and yet it looks like all his clothes came from there. Especially when they have their clearance sales.

He saw 13 Reasons Why, but thought the book was a lot better than the Netflix original. He even wrote a long rant on Facebook pointing out all the differences between the two — all thirteen of them.

The Hipster believes in participating in No Shave November. All year around.

He buys all his groceries from the farmer’s market — you’d know because he Snapchats the entire experience.

And then he’d make it his Instagram Story, so that no one misses out.

He has five sets of bowties: casual, semi-casual, formal, party and street-chic-that-shows-I-don’t-care-about-trying-to-hard.

He doesn’t watch Game Of Thrones, because ‘it’s become so mainstream’. He won’t think twice before telling you that he’s read all the books though. Right down to all the companion books.

Sometimes, he bicycles to work.

He’ll complain about how the city just doesn’t have the space, or the infrastructure for cyclists. He’ll still use UberPool.

He rolls his eyes when people tell him they listen to EDM. He rolls his eyes even more when they tell him they haven’t heard of his favourite indie (but also very obscure) band. He gives up when they say that they think Alt-J is cool.

He’ll pester you to try out seaweed, which is the new kale, which was the new quinoa.

The Hipster doesn’t love flannel. He lives it.

For your birthday, he’ll gift you a mixed tape of all his favourite indie music. He’ll make you play it at the party.

If not that, he’ll gift you a potted miniature cactus. It’s a little sapling from the terrarium he’s working on.

He has an Instamax camera that he takes pictures of. The camera is in mint condition, and looks best when edited with the Juno filter on Instagram. It’s hidden away in his closet, and only makes an appearance when his friends are over, or when he’s packing a suitcase for a holiday.

Which would most definitely be a backpacking trip across Vietnam and Cambodia.

His favourite author is Margaret Atwood, and he’s read Handmaiden’s Tale twice. He cried the second time.

He knows the show adaption won’t be half as good.

But he’ll still live stream it the moment it releases.

He’ll deny it, but he got excited when he heard IKEA might open up a warehouse in the country.

When he realised that was a rumour, he commiserated by drinking an entire bottle of Coca Cola. It’s a secret he’ll take to the grave.

The last time the Hipster ate at a McDonalds was back in 2013. You remember because he tells you every time you meet him.

He’ll make faces at you when you devour your burger nonetheless.

He’ll swear that The Royal Tenenbaums is his favourite film by Wes Anderson, whom he adores. He scoffs at you when you tell him you thought Fantastic Mr Fox was cute. He’s not heard of Moonrise Kingdom.

He has a typewriter that he typed out quotes by Charles Bukowski from. They are all framed and hung in his living room. The typewriter hasn’t been used ever since. He covers it up with fairy lights.

He gets pissed at his flat mate for not knowing what sourdough bread is.

The Hipster constantly bums off cigarettes off people while out at a pub, claiming he doesn’t smoke. He looks bummed off if you don’t have a Davidoff. He’ll have a Marlboro in that case, because ‘Classic Milds just doesn’t do it for him.’

He has a manicured beard that looks like a permanent five o’clock shadow. He pays extra so that it looks just the right amount of messy. The stylist is given a free pass to NH7 so that she won’t tell anyone.

When he does run into the stylist at a music festival, he’ll pretend she’s a friend he has ‘collaborated’ with.

It was an art project that was so niche, they’ve been told not to talk about it.

He drinks only artisanal beer, and likes to tell people how ‘beer is the new wine’.

He absolutely despises brands. But he’s still counting down the days for the big iPhone 8 launch. It’s marked as a reminder on his iPhone 7.

He doesn’t believe in credit cards.

He’ll always be short of cash while splitting the cheque with his date.

And that’ll probably be you.

Number Fifteen: The Therapist

unnamed
Art Work: Aakash Dewan.

It’s a sweaty Friday afternoon – but we are indoors, wolfing down second helpings of chicken schezwan noodles, and trying to get the waiter to get our drinks (two large pegs of rum with a little cola, topped all the way with ice) to our table. The air is heavy with cigarette smoke and endless chatter – you can smell the waywardness of our lives. I want to ask him whether he would like to share a smoke – but first, I have something more important up my sleeve –

‘What’s your name?’

Continue reading Number Fifteen: The Therapist

Number Fourteen: The Analyst.

 

fourteen
Art Work: Siddha Kannur.

It’s Independence Day. August has never been crisper. It’s cool and fresh, and smells of the holidays.

I stare closely at Fourteen as he smokes his joint – he has a traveller’s face – mousy, windswept hair on a lean stubbled face. His features boast of a deep tan, and a glow that only comes with not having wasted your life at an office desk for months. Is he an analyst with a tech giant or an IT junkie? Is he a writer? Is he a travel journalist? A baker, a butcher, a candlestick-maker? What does he really do? I’ve always been an unreliable narrator. However, we have more important things to think about. Is he going to pass it? Is he not? It’s such an exciting game –

I splutter and burst out into giggles.

He stares.

‘Take it all the way in, and then blow it out deep and slow.

That line is so infested with innuendoes; we’d need an exterminator (or probably two). He grins. The smile is only slightly lopsided, but that’s not a problem when my mind is fuddled with fumes, and running on overdrive.

What am I doing here?

He passes the spliff to me.

Yes, that.

We are at his house, a modest one-bedroom home in the depths of Andheri – any closer, and he would be a next-door neighbor, any further, and I’d never make the effort to meet him again. The house is sparse – it looks like one that lets you pack up and leave at an instant. There are bulging bookcases, but no wardrobe. He practically lives out of a suitcase unless his parents are visiting, he says. That’s when all his clothes go under the kitchen counter.

I spot William Darylmple’s City of Djinns on his book stand by the bed (single mattress, faded bedspread that smells only slightly of mothballs.) ‘It’s my favourite book,’ he tells me. I lie that I love it too. I don’t have a clue what it’s about – I’ve not really read it. But that’s the rest of his bookshelf – it’s full of books I’ll never have the patience to read, but will never tell the world. I take a closer look – there are some titles on sexuality and homoerotica.

‘Are you out to your parents?’ I ask – visiting parents would hardly glaze over a copy of Queer Science. He laughs. They found out a year ago – chanced upon his diary.

He has a diary?

Not of the conventional sort – it was a journal of his sexual encounters, in all its lurid glory. It’s my time to have a laugh now – where have we heard that before?

How did they take it?

The same way most parents do – there was some crying, some ‘where-did-we-go-wrong?’, some ‘are-you-sure?’ but in the end, it was all good. They came out stronger as a family, and he came out stronger as a gay man. It’s been a year since.

Where does he see himself a year later?

Travelling, he replies almost instantaneously.

I cough; he thinks it’s the joint. I’ve heard this one so many times; I have it tattooed into my mind from one of those cheap tattoo parlours at the mall. It’s a classic answer. A gay man lusting after the idea of travel is like gay men lusting after, well, other gay men. There’s always that one off chance that you’d find love while on vacation, something more than a vacation fling – something so remarkably beautiful that it has an airport story to it – for the quintessential homosexual, it’s the next best thing to saying that you met your future boyfriend at Starbucks.

Where then? I ask him.

He spent the last two months in the hills (and that explains the tan), searching for substance or spirit, and sometimes even both. But one thing that’s common – he’s always searching for himself. I find it all very confusing. Gay men often find themselves in the strangest of places – the hills, the beach, at the opera, a fashion show, the runway, and sometimes even in abandoned restrooms a little after midnight.

I usually head to the bookstore, and find myself in a book.

‘Sometimes I wish I could just pack up and leave.’ He’s excited about quitting his job and leaving with a suitcase and an undecided ticket. The man wants to live his dreams through his travels – scuba diving by the Andaman Islands, building bonfires in Rishikesh, attending local rave parties in Kasol. Instead, in exactly a year, he’d head on to work for a major political campaign, and then find himself at business school. But that’s all in the future. For now, his dreams and aspirations are as pure the Malana cream we are smoking.

“Have you been to Parvati Valley? I spent a month there. It was fascinating! Can you imagine sleeping under the stars and waking up to the morning sun?”

Yes, I almost say – it’s the morning after every night of drunken debauchery. Sometimes I even forget where my pants are.

‘I’d want to go back there, and never come back,’ he says wistfully. You know something else that isn’t coming back?

The joint.

He takes a long drag, and blows out the fumes in concentric circles. I can hear him breathe. It’s deeply unsettling.

‘You know what I was thinking-‘

What can it be? Why is the sky blue? How do touchscreens work? Where does life come from? Am I eyeing the joint too much?

He exhales. I can be at peace. He hands it over. That’s another dose of peace.

‘What?’ I ask. If this were a B-Grade softcore thriller, now would be the point that he would pull out his machete and hack me into pieces. Instead –

‘Want to see me hula hoop?’

Why not?

He heads inside, and comes out with hula rings and a pair of clackers. Soon, the speakers are playing EDM on loop, the strobe lights are on and we are at the toys like kids on a mad sugar rush – we might as well as be the music video for the next M83 song – it’s that trippy. The hula-hoop lies unnoticed. ‘I know just the thing that will help,’ he quips and darts back inside.

Ten minutes (or forty) pass, and he’s been inside the kitchen for too long. My paranoia could be the third wheel on this date. Maybe he does have a machete. If I end up sleeping with the fish tonight, I won’t be surprised. I’ve a good life, seen great loves, understood joy –

He comes out right one cue. There’s no gleaming knife; only a pack of chips and some salsa dip. As the English say, a good spliff deserves some good food. I’d even eat an old shoe right about now. Thirty minutes and two packets of chips later, we are satiated. Well, almost.

‘So what do we do now?’ he asks, expectantly. We fade to black.

‘Let me know if you ever want to come over again?’ he asks, as I prepare to leave half hour later. I smile, but hesitate at the same time. It’s a now-or-never situation.

‘I will, but I had a question. Where do you buy your stuff from?’ I ask, tying my shoelaces. I don’t give away my eagerness. He gives me a peck on my cheek.

He has a supplier who stays close – she’s a twenty-minute phone call away – any closer, and she could be my mother. I take down her number, and accidentally delete his.

 

The Date-o-meter: 6.5/10

Does this have a sequel? : Yes.

If this date were a song, it would be: ‘Paradise Circus‘ By Massive Attack.

 

 

 

Number Thirteen: The Doppelganger.

 

13 Doppelganger
Art Work: Siddha Kannur.

Churchgate

It’s a blind date, but I can recognize him anywhere. I’ve been told we look alike, but Thirteen, a writer with twinkling eyes is younger, brighter and happier. How do I know?

He’s waving at me across the station – dopey grin with a cornucopia of curls – and also I’ve only spent the last two days guiltlessly stalking him on Facebook. I laughed out loud with his status updates, sighed at his vacation pictures, pondered over his notes, judged his check-ins, scrutinized every freckle on his face, every friend on his list – well, you know the gist. His life is an open book. I am surprised by how minimal his privacy settings are. Do you know that one quirk we all adhere to?

We keep our friends close, our enemies closer, and our Facebook friends closest. Do I want other gay men to know who else I am flirting with? Our friend lists are like our little black books: full of old conquests, exes, one-night stands and those standalones whom you occasionally flirt with on messenger but have no intentions of meeting. Would I share my address book, lay it out bare? Not at all. It’s an unspoken rule: Hide your friends like you hide your prescription meds.

‘Hi!’ says the boy, he sounds breathless. How long was I breaking the fourth wall?

‘Hi!’ I grin back, full of hope. He was in the neighborhood, I was in the neighborhood – we decided to make the most of it – plus it makes a great story to tell. The greatest love stories begin at train stations.

‘Do you want to take this one?’ he asks, pointing at the train that’s just pulled in. Waves of people rush past, but we don’t lose each other. At least not yet.

‘Lead the way,’ I say.

He grins.

Grant Road

His work as an intern with a reputed tabloid – writes blurbs and whatnots – helps him earn a byline every now and then. There is a lot of ‘go get-me-some-coffee’ and ‘did-you-call-that-celebrity?’ or some ‘have-you-written-the-review-I-asked-you-to-write?’ if he’s lucky, but he’s always wanted to be a writer and he knows that’s how writers start. I cough involuntarily. Is that what he really wants to do?

No.

He wants to write stories about food – talk about it the way people talk about love – all-consumingly. Taste is an emotion – can a bit of chocolate tart give you butterflies in your stomach? Do you whimper with pleasure when you dig into a portion of freshly made Eggs Benedict? If your answer is yes, He is the right question.

Wait. Has he seen Ratatouille?

‘Everyone asks me that,’ he sighs. He loves food and even though he’s only a home baker, it is – hello, when do we get married?

He laughs aloud, and tells me I am funny.

Bombay Central

He’s telling me the perfect way to bake brownies (Let your eggs sit out of the fridge for a half hour before baking. They ensure that the brownies are gooey, and have a delicious crust) when –

‘You should come over for dinner sometime, I cook really well.’

Would there be brownies? I ask. We both giggle. A horde of travellers gets off the emptying train, but we don’t move apart.

Lower Parel

It’s difficult to discern whether you’ve made an impression on someone when you are being closely watched by everyone around you. A hundred pair of eyes. His are large and expressive, full of hope that I am too scared to crush.

‘Can I tell you something, you promise you won’t tell anyone?’

Uh-oh. I don’t like secrets that I can’t share.

‘The last time I went out on a date, I almost got mauled in an auto rickshaw,’ he blushes. I laugh loudly. The men around us are not amused. What did he do then?

He pushed him away (The him-in-question being a feisty television producer quite like number Eleven), jumped out of the rickshaw and never looked back once. Every gay man is a collection of short stories. Snippets shared over unlimited sangria and cigarette breaks or discussed behind dinner plates and closed bedroom doors. He is an anthology.

The train ride ahead is full of them – an S&M loving architect who designs celebrity homes. A thirty-something media mogul who has a weakness for twenty two year olds. A young fresh-faced doctor who had his first kiss at the age of twenty-one. If I weren’t in a northbound local back home, I would have thought I was auditioning for an episode of Gossip Girl. I take my chances and tell him so. He scrunches his eyebrows. Did I say something wrong? Did I lose my chance?

‘Are you team Blair Waldorf or team Serena van der Woodsen?’ he asks. I sigh. I think I should just go buy him a ring.

Mahim

He’s heading off to London in two months. Is he now?

Yes, for a writing program – and then he can kiss the internship goodbye. It’s going to be so exciting- the pubs, the food, the clothes, the English life, the aww’s instead of the aah’s – can you believe all the tea and scones I will have?

‘You should come visit if you are in that part of the world,’ he says to me. The train screeches to a halt in unison. I’ve never appreciated a signal so much.

It might be too soon to tell him that I am broke, but I know that he’s going to go places. Over the next couple of years, he will finish his Masters degree, work with a popular food magazine, start his own blog and get his heart broken multiple times. But where do we start?

With me.

On cue, a disembodied voice tells us that Bandra is next. Are we there yet already?

Bandra

It’s time. One of us has to go. ‘Do I see you again?’ one of us asks. It’s a pity that the two of us have different destinations to head to. The other one nods.

He beams as he gets off the train, and waves at me through the sea of faces that separate us. I wave past the faceless men and women, as the train pulls at my heartstrings. The others fade away, he doesn’t.

He texts me later, saying that I had him at hello. So did he, I almost tell him.

I never hit ‘Send‘.

 

The Date-o-meter: 8/10

Does this have a sequel? : Yes.

If this date were a song, it would be: ‘Wonderwall’ By Oasis.

 

 

 

 

Number Twelve : The It-Boy

Art  Work: Siddha Kannur
Art Work: Siddha Kannur

Twelve. Where do I begin?

Grindr’s geo-location tag says that he stays three blocks away. For gay men, that’s the same as being next door neighbours. ‘Three blocks?’ one might say, ‘Think of that as three hundred and sixty two meters to someone who could possibly be the next love of your life.’ Any closer, and he could practically duck-walk his way home, in thirty minutes or less. There’s a pizza commercial in there somewhere.

His name flashes on my phone – ‘What are you doing now ‘. Is that a question? Does it have an answer?

Continue reading Number Twelve : The It-Boy

Number Eleven: The Producer.

Art Work: Siddha Kannur.
Art Work: Siddha Kannur.

I grate my fingers on the underside of the sunmica table, as Eleven guffaws at his joke. It’s unfunny, in a I-would-laugh-if-I-could-but-I-really-don’t-want-to kind of way, especially when he’s fifteen minutes late and the joke is at my expense. I look at him closely. Why am I doing this again?

He looks like a bloated version of a Bollywood heartthrob, which is his only redeeming quality. He looks thinner in his pictures. It’s early 2011; everybody looks thinner in their pictures in 2011. He’s short, but not too short. He’s fat, but not too fat. I am here, but I am not too here. He’s fun, but not too-

No, wait. He’s not fun at all. Do you know what I mean?

Continue reading Number Eleven: The Producer.