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Love in the Time of Grindr and Ghosting

Love in the Time of Grindr and Ghosting

Love in the Time of Grindr and Ghosting

Can meaningful relationships happen in an era of online hook-ups and "netflix and chill?"


Photo: Josh Felise

We’ve all read pieces about how dating in the millennial age is a hopeless clusterfuck. These "woe-is-me" articles love to spew on about how chivalry and dating culture are dead, and the only thing left is Grindr, ephemeral connections, and heartbreak. While I’m all for a good pity party every now and again, this tired trope needs to stop. I don’t want to victim blame you for your own unhappiness, but I think there’s something to be said about using “millennial dating” as an excuse. There have always been, and always will be, new sets of dating challenges that are specific to the era you live in, especially if you’re gay or queer. Think about same-sex dating 100 years ago, even 50 years ago. It was a lot more closeted and hush-hush than it is today. I bet your gay uncle would kill to have the options to meet other gay men that you have today.

There is a solution to the millennial dating problem. It requires vulnerability and opening yourself up to more rejection. Yeah, it sucks, but being a mature adult sometimes sucks.

There’s no denying though, the proliferation of dating and hook-up apps in the modern age is a game changer. While we can connect with more queer men than ever across the globe, we tend to connect in a more superficial manner. Instead of going out on dates, we invite people over for "netflix and chill." Instead of attempting to foster one (or a few) meaningful relationships, we have multiple meaningless ones. We spread ourselves too thin. Why do we do this? Because we don’t want to have all of our eggs in one basket, so we always keep men on the back burner and create an escape plan in case things get “too serious” with one guy.

I’ve also seen many men out at gay clubs, glued to their phones, aggressively messaging on hookup apps. I’ve had men reject me in person, only to hit me up on Grindr later that evening. (Thanks for making me feel like a last resort, bud…)  

Oh, and another unpleasant component of millennial dating? Ghosting. The phenomenon isn’t particularly new, but it’s becoming more ubiquitous. After a nice night out, your date never responds to your texts. Ghosting is terrible. It’s cowardly. It’s confusing. It’s disrespectful. It’s also a term we misuse often.

Many friends of mine have me told they were “ghosted” when in fact, quite the opposite happened. A close friend of mine, we’ll call him Josh, recently went on a date with another good friend of mine, Dan. They both said the date went well, and after the second date, Josh was bitter because Dan “ghosted” him. Now I know Dan, and he’s not the type of person to ghost, so I pried a little.

What had actually happened was Dan wrote Josh a very kind and upfront text saying that he recently got out of a serious relationship and wasn’t looking for anything serious. Something he told Josh before they even met!

After initially getting a little upset (“That’s the nicest text ever! He did the exact opposite of ghosting you. He was honest and forward with you.”), I eventually cooled off and told Josh I’m sorry he got rejected, but also explained to him that what happened to him wasn’t ghosting.

Ghosting isn’t actually that common. Is it the most respectful way to say you’re no longer interested? No. Is it a cop out? Yes, but it’s also not ghosting. It’s a rejection. Take it a such and move on.  

I have been ghosted once in my life. People have definitely faded away from texting. Or rescheduled and canceled. But actually getting no response after a nice date, that’s only happened once.

We went on two dates and were texting in between. I asked her to hang out again after the second date. Twice. Once I called and once I texted. She never responded. I learned later from a mutual friend that she was turned off by the fact that I’m bi. That was the only time I was truly ghosted. And yeah, I was crushed.

I get it. Dating as a gay or bi man in the 21st century isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination. Dating is now all about walking a fine line. We're dating in an era full of ironies and catch-22s. We have multiple means to connect with people via the internet, but it’s actually creating further distance. Many of us are looking for love, but aren’t allowed to express it when we’ve found it, fearing we’ll come off as “clingy.” We’re looking for an honest man, but get turned off by when men are forthcoming. We claim we hate playing hard to get, but then send cryptic texts.

So how do we find love? Or if that bar is set too high, how do we find a meaningful connection with someone when men are more prevalent than fish in the sea, and vulnerability is praised as emotionally mature while simultaneously deemed insecure?  

It’s not easy. It’s also not impossible. You’re going to have to play the game a little bit. And not the hard-to-get game. A whole new game. You’re going to have to play the mature vulnerability game, also known as being an adult. You’re going to have to embody the ironic dichotomy of a “chill vulnerability.”

Yes, it's hard. It’s also a shame that this is what it comes down to, but as far as dating etiquette goes in the modern era, “chill vulnerability” is by far the best. It allows for communication and honesty, as well as space.

What do I mean by "chill vulnerability?" (Yes, I know it sounds ridiculous, but just hear me out.) An openness about your affection in a way that doesn't guilt him to be with you. In a way that doesn’t deter him because you seem too “serious.” You have to make it easy for them to reject you, so instead of ghosting or lying, they come out and say they're not interested.

“I like you and would like to see you more. I’m not sure what your schedule is like or what you’re looking for right now, but I wanted to let you know,” or “I like you, and I can see myself really liking you if we hung out more. If you have the time and are looking for something more consistent, I’d like to give it a try if you're up for it,” are both things I have said to everyone I’ve ever dated seriously.

I’m honest and forward, without putting on too much pressure. I also give them a simple way out if they’re not interested. And what I usually get back is a “My schedule is too busy,” or “That’s not what I’m looking for right now.”

When that happens, I enjoy the time I do have with them as a person in my life on a casual level. There’s no ambiguity. If that relationship is too tough because I want something more from them, I tell them just that. We then, unfortunately, stop interacting at this point. But sometimes, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Dating isn’t the hopeless mystery we think it is. We make it more complicated than it needs to be.

In being honest, direct, and vulnerable, I open myself up to more rejection, and rejection stings, no matter how many times it’s happened before. Just remember that the first cut is always the deepest. It does get easier, and it does pay off. By being vulnerable and opening myself up to more rejection, I also open myself up to deeper and meaningful relationships.

The choice is yours. Put yourself out there in a half-assed manner and play into all the games that other men are playing or soar past the insecure gays to find the men who are ready for a more meaningful relationship.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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Zachary Zane

Zachary Zane is a writer, YouTube influencer, and activist whose work focuses on (bi)sexuality, gender, dating, relationships, and identity politics. Check out his YouTube channel here.

Zachary Zane is a writer, YouTube influencer, and activist whose work focuses on (bi)sexuality, gender, dating, relationships, and identity politics. Check out his YouTube channel here.