What’s up, Bro: An honest review of the dating app for straight, sensible men

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.

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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:

Day 1:

 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.

 Day 2:

 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.

 Day 3:

 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.

 Day 4:

 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.

 Day 5:

 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.

 The Verdict:

 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.

A 25 Boys Not To Date Post Your Valentine’s Day Slump

As you reel out of your Valentine’s Day hangover and pull out the last of the heart-shaped confetti from your hair, know that the worst is behind. You can finally make peace with the fact that you will sip your way through a cat-filled life in the suburbs.

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As you brew your pot of peppermint tea and lay out a platter of biscuits, here are a further 25 men that you should swipe left on, this side of Valentine’s Day:

Continue reading A 25 Boys Not To Date Post Your Valentine’s Day Slump

What we talk about when we talk about love.

What is love?

Is it a constant release of oxytocins or a woeful struggle to become the best version of yourself? Is it a cheaper substitute for cocaine? An attitude that lands you a starring role in every Bollywood blockbuster? Most importantly, is it the premise of every Beatles song?

Love is a lot of things.

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To celebrate Valentine’s Day with my refrigerator full of wine, I spoke to six different LGBT couples about romance and its sweeping presence in their lives – as a day, as a feeling, or as a constant state of being that doesn’t make them want to kill their significant other. Through text, long distance phone calls and two really hot cups of coffee, here’s what we talked about when we talked about love:

Continue reading What we talk about when we talk about love.

14 Reasons Why Valentine’s Day Isn’t All That Bad

 

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It’s that time of the year.

Valentine’s Day. Hearts, flowers, economically destructive sales, ecologically destructive confetti, cheap chocolates and cheaper motives for the whole world to see.

While it’s usually tradition for most of us to dismiss it as a farce that lets stationers and chocolate makers take their annual holiday to the Bahamas, I’ve pledged to be nicer (less cynical) this year. As I look forward to 2017 with a sense of optimism that can only be the result of too many wine spritzers, here are 14 reasons why Valentine’s Day (never call it V-Day) isn’t all that bad:

  1. Your Grindr is going to be very, very busy.

 No one wants to be alone on Valentine’s Day – especially the torso across the street, who asks you for a dick pic every alternate night. Three glasses of red wine and one life-changing Rom Com later, you are going to be swiping right faster than the speed of light.

Because everyone else certainly is.

Continue reading 14 Reasons Why Valentine’s Day Isn’t All That Bad

The Guysexual’s Guide: Every Possible Guy’s Handbook For Attending Pride

 

Pride

Today’s a special day.

Is it my birthday? Is it the day Bradley Cooper finally tells me he loves me? Is it the day I inherit a trust fund? Is it the day I find the miracle cure to obesity?

No. It gets better.

Today is Mumbai’s annual LGBT Pride parade – the city’s ninth, with more than 7000 people marching in from across the city (and the world) – it’s the day we all get to stand together for equality. Stand together for basic rights. Stand together for love, but most importantly; stand together because we make a really good-looking picture.

That includes you, straight folks. Are you a red-blooded heterosexual who doesn’t understand why he needs to walk the talk? (‘Why do I need to meet gay guys?’ the average straight bloke would guffaw in my face, ‘How will it help me?’)

Support for your LGBT friends aside, here are four selfish reasons why you need to keep those PlayStations away and walk for Pride today:

  1. We’ll motivate you to join the gym if you haven’t already.

Let me tell you a secret. We got to Cross Fit when you were still struggling with crunches – it’s no surprise that gay men are more aware of their bodies than their straight counterparts. We might come in all shapes and sizes, but we’ll still make sure we look the best version of ourselves whichever way we are packaged – we are giftwrapped with gym memberships and protein supplements.

And we also do Pilates. Forty-five minutes at Pride can do what hours of staring at fitness videos on YouTube can’t. After that, a few months of motivation is all you need to end up looking like the next big underwear model.

2. Get style advice straight from the expert!

When your idea of making a style statement is cycling through your three Zara shirts with a pair of cream khakis, you need help. I am not saying every gay man is a writer with GQ magazine, but when it comes to fashion, we have the common sense not to wear socks with our sandals. Pride walk is the fashion parade that tells you what works and what doesn’t.

Want to know what colour belt works with your Italian shoes? Do stripes really go with spots? What’s the point of wearing a bow tie? Now you know whom to turn to, oh sweet summer child, so keep your Crocs where they rightfully belong.

Back in your closets.

  1. Find a gay best friend

Carrie Bradshaw isn’t the only person who needs a gay best friend – everyone could do with one. We know the best places to get brunch, we understand how cufflinks work and we’ll honestly tell you what not to say to your girlfriend when she’s threatening to break up with you. We are the Chandler to your Joey, without the girlfriend who got in the way.

  1. And finally stop being homophobic and go!

Fashion tips and gym buddies aside, the main reason you should go walk the pride is to show your support for the LGBT community. Contrary to popular belief, the gay men who are at the parade won’t hit on you. They won’t even look at you. We have other important things to worry about – like inequality and basic rights.

Also, walking for the LGBT Pride won’t make you gay – because surprisingly, things don’t work that way. Throw those old fashioned ideas in the trash can and step out. We did it ages ago, and let me tell you that it’s very fulfilling.

Or at least most gay men did.

‘Why should I go?’ asks Jai, a flamboyant digital marketing manager who’s a year older, but eons cuter. ‘I am not an activist; plus it’s a Saturday afternoon, I’ll rather sleep in!’ he sips at his peppermint tea, handing me his almond biscotti.

Sigh. If only his sensibility matched his swagger.

If like Jai, you are one of the many gay men who don’t think it’s their calling (or place) to participate in the parade, don’t fret. I’ve got you covered too. Here are a few reasons for you to pull back those bed covers and pull up your socks just in time for the walk today:

 

  1. It gives you the same sense of belonging that a clearance sale does.

 Let’s face it – you might love your straight friends to death, but they’d never be able to relate to the bad Grindr date you had last week, the one with the man who thought it’d be okay to get his ex along.

It’s different at the parade – here, as you are surrounded by fun (read: fabulous) people who are just like you, you feel the same way you felt when you bought clothes at half price. Do you know what that lovely feeling is?

It’s the overwhelming sense of community. The feeling that you belong.

Without any dates with exes involved.

  1. It’s better than finding love on Grindr.

Sick of rummaging around the dregs of online dating, sifting through the same pool of shirtless men?

You have more chances of running into the love of your life here than you have of having a decent, fulfilling conversation on Grindr. Can you imagine the possibilities of not having your heart broken by yet another torso that asks you for ‘a dick pic?’

Well, now you can. How about you go say hi to the cute boy waving the pride flag across the road instead? You no longer need to lie to people about meeting your future boyfriend at Starbucks.

  1. A chance to dress fabulously.

Remember that multicoloured jacket you drunkenly bought online after a bitter break-up and an even bitter bottle of wine?

Now’s your chance to tear out the plastic wrapping and wear it like you own it (side note: because in this case, you actually do.) Pride’s the perfect excuse to be proud of your identity and keep the inhibitions at bay – feather boas or floral shirts, if you think you can pull it off, pull it out of your closets right now.

  1. And finally stop the internalized homophobia.

 The only people who hate gay men more than bigoted straight men are gay men themselves. The twinks hate the chubs. The bears hate the cubs. The intellectuals hate the social butterflies. The mascs hate the femmes. The models hate the geeks. The activists hate the slackers. The queens hate the discreet. And everyone hates me.

It’s finally time to end the internalized homophobia, guys, and there’s no better place to start than walk for Pride itself. What about me?

I’ll see you at the finish line.

 

 

 

 

Pssst. Did my words stir you enough to attend? Here are a few quick details for you if you plan to swing by The LGBT Pride Parade later today:

 

Where: August Kranti Maidan, grant Road, Mumbai – 4000036.

 

When: Saturday 28th January, 3 PM onwards!

Hello, 2017: Every gay man’s wish list for the new year

2017

 

Hello, 2017.

Sorry for getting here late, but can we call for some aperitifs?

We might have said our goodbyes to 2016 with a list of resolutions only last week, but I’ve a habit of replacing my calendars faster than I replace my boys. As I bring in the New Year with anti-hangover pills and super-sized bottles of water, here are a few of my out-of-the-spotlight hopes for a more fabulous, less frightening 2017:

1. A dating app that people honestly use to find real dates.

Goodbye, Grindr. It was great knowing you, but I think it’s not working out.

Whatever happened to good ol’ fashioned dating, you ask? 2016 did. Most dating apps are breeding grounds for fuckboys (and other such men) who’d rather have you than the crème brulee you plan to share with them after dinner. How about we go for a movie, have tacos at a concession stand and laugh over how great a time we had over dessert before I decide whether or not I want to be your dessert?

2. A goodbye to Section 377

While Section 377 bans consensual sex between any two gay men, what it really bans is my hope for the future of humanity. It’s finally time to say goodbye to the century old law, just like it’s time to say goodbye to the ex who never called back after the seventh date.

PS: Let’s just keep the regression to our primetime soaps for now?

3. More LGBTIQ inclusive curriculum in schools

Can you imagine a world where boys don’t get bullied for being effeminate? Where derogatory terms aren’t passed around like a joint during recess? Where social hierarchy does not push all the LGBT kids to the bottom rung of the ladder? Where it’s cool to wear brogues to class? Where gay is a quaint little synonym for ‘happy’, not a slur that gets thrown around at school (like I did)?

Neither can I, which is why it is important to pave way for more LGBTIQ inclusive curriculum in schools. The more you expose kids to gay culture; the more sensitive men (and women) you raise for the world (and for theatre).

4. A friendly neighbourhood gay bar

No, we don’t want a bar that seeks us out every other Saturday of the month — we want a bar where we can be ourselves every day of the week. Although we might like drinks and drunken banter at the niche pub halfway across town, we’d love it a lot more if we could have them without the masks and your musky colognes.

5. Fewer stereotypes in cinema

There’s a small part of my brain that plays Karan Johar’s Dostana on loop whenever I feel too cocky about my sexuality. While the Indian film industry could do with equal pay for both men and women, it could also do with gay characters that aren’t the husband-snatching, diva-quoting caricatures that they are often shown to be.

Fawad Khan’s deliciously well-written (and well essayed) role in 2016’s classic Kapoor and Sons is a great place to begin, and 2017 should only welcome more such roles (and actors). What would the movie theatres welcome then?

Me.

6. Clearance sales that actually count

Know that feeling when you walk into a high-end store that boasts of a massive 70 percent discount only to walk out 15 minutes later because it’s only valid on the white V-neck that is two sizes too small?

I bet you do. Let 2017 be that year when a cashmere sweater isn’t as expensive as a two-week trip to Kashmir, and the only thing that is out of my budget is the ridiculously cute store manager who stands by the scarves.

7. A gay man’s handbook for love, sex and relationships that is the norm.

How soon do you text someone back after a great date? Is it okay to wear plaid on a first date? How do I separate the bad boys from the lot? Do I put out before the third meeting? What should my beside drawer hold? Do I ask too many questions? What we really need are answers to all of these and more — maybe a Lonely Planet-like guide for lonely men?

Honestly, 2017 is the year when we could all do with a dating manual, so that the next time we all get our hearts broken (and it will happen again), we know exactly how to fix it back and try all over again.

Just like 2017 is.

The Guysexual’s Guide to ‘Goodbye 2016’

 

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How does the average gay man measure the past year?

In the number of boys he ghosted? The number of times he had his heart broken? The number of times he swore off carbs? The number of messages he deleted? Glasses of wine he consumed? People he came out to? Slices of pizza he looked at lovingly? Sunday brunches? Exes?

If 2016 were a boy, it would be the one that you bump into at a bar fight and never want to see again — until you match with him on Tinder just days later. It’s been a year only a few of us would want to see again, one that we want to replace with starry eyed resolutions and bottles of expensive wine.

What can I say?

It’s time to rinse out the year, and say hello to the next one. While most of us resolve to learn a new skill, cut down on alcohol or spend more time giving back to the world — five days into January, we are back to being our despicable selves all over again. So while you make New Year plans that are full of confetti, cheap champagne and poor judgment, here are a few resolutions for 2017 that aren’t as easy to give up on as your doomed alcohol detox:

Continue reading The Guysexual’s Guide to ‘Goodbye 2016’