Editor’s Note: As Pride Month comes to a close, we here at Very Good Light are dedicating an entire week on LGBTQ+ voices, stories, and the beautiful diversity that the community has to offer. Below, a humorous essay on gay dating in New York City and the pitfalls of swiping right.
Some idiot once said that there are no strangers, only friends we haven’t met yet.
This is not true for many obvious reasons, but primarily, it does not account for a third, very essential category: the many people we meet once via dating apps and then never see again (or potentially never want to see again). These men or women or non-binary-conforming individuals are certainly not friends. They’re also not exactly strangers, since we know their names, ages, and, depending on how much time we have to Google before we meet them, the number of siblings they have, where they would like us to know they vacation, and how willing they are to allow unflattering photos to remain live and searchable online, a true barometer of self-acceptance in times like these.
“But we did laugh a lot, didn’t we? That’s not a rhetorical question; I can’t remember.”
In the ten years I’ve been living in New York, I’ve been single for just about five cumulatively, and have a tendency to dive into the dating pool headfirst (for better or for worse) occasionally, to the tune of multiple first dates in the same week. As such, I’ve accrued a long list of one date wonders, men who’ve come and gone like so much handsome dust of varying emotional stability in the wind. Now, as Pride Month comes to a close – as good a time as any to reflect on the gays of our lives – I am left to reminisce about all of the men I’ve bought drinks for, explained my job to, and then promptly parted ways with. The good, the bad, and a lot of dudes named Mike.
There was, for example, the man who said he DVR’s The View every day, because he can’t bother to wake up in time to watch it when it airs live at 11am. The Harvard grad who told me stories that all seemed to end with him doing coke, and the Yale grad who wasn’t much fun, despite wearing a very fun blue fur coat in his profile picture. There was the man who talked excessively about his ex, the man who wanted to hook up in an alley, and the man who suddenly burst into tears and fled my apartment (that was actually all the same man).
There was a former child figure skater, too. I didn’t tell him I had also matched with his ex-husband, but I did show him that I have no qualms about consuming several rounds of gin and tonics in a hotel lobby instead of an actual dinner. But we did laugh a lot, didn’t we? That’s not a rhetorical question; I can’t remember.
I nearly also forgot about the man who met me at a bar in Hell’s Kitchen at 5 p.m. on a weekday –he had tickets to Wicked that night –and almost immediately asked me to remind him of my name and to explain the depths of my familiarity with Marxism. Later, he texted me that Wicked had “one good song,” so at least one of us experienced something remotely pleasurable that night.
I should also mention the guy who rescheduled our first date because he didn’t initially realize that he asked me out on the anniversary of his ex-boyfriend’s suicide. That was a lot to digest, although I do give him points for living in his truth. He cut our eventual first (and only) date short, because he was afraid the pipes in his townhouse had frozen and wanted to go home to check. He was going through a lot.
I’d like to thank the trust fund baby/aspiring personal trainer who helped me discover that my personal dating deal breaker is not when someone discusses his lengthy history of incarceration, nor is it when someone has multiple tattoos devoted to his cat, or when someone says they’d like to change into something more comfortable and emerges from his bedroom in a pair of corduroy shorts. It is, it turns out, when someone has an alarming number of biographies of Hitler on open display in his living room. Thank you for teaching me something about myself, in addition to teaching me that corduroy is a neo-Nazi cat hair magnet.
“Is it the reclaimed barn door and faux distressed countertops that got them both so horny? I may never know!”
Speaking of being covered in hair, shoutout to the Ph.D who ate a slice of pizza so voraciously that much of it got ensnared in his mustache, and remained there for the rest of the evening. I’d love to express gratitude to another mustachio aficionado, the creative director who took me back to his apartment to meet his dog and, like a true gentleman, didn’t rob me when I unceremoniously fell asleep on his couch.
Also a gentleman? The interior designer who explained over beers at an East Village dive bar that he never uses condoms, but always asks if that’s ok first. Oh, yes, and the two guys who I met months apart for drinks in the same old-timey bar, who both said I could touch their boners right there if I wanted to. Is it the reclaimed barn door and faux distressed countertops that got them both so horny? I may never know!
Thank you, as well, to the professor with forearms like tree trunks who told a lengthy story about a closeted lover he had in Egypt who eventually became a heroin addict. He taught me that being an active listener is overrated. Ditto the Australian travel writer, from whom I learned that it is possible to speak uninterrupted for 20 entire minutes and not stumble onto a single interesting topic. I didn’t learn anything from the Québécois who said he liked me because I looked like a young boy, except, of course, how to discreetly pay a bar tab and make a quick exit and how to recognize when someone is about to do that to me, as the guy at the sushi restaurant in the West Village did a few months ago.
Shout out to the man who asked me if I could help him get a new job and the other man who asked if I could write a grant proposal for him. Hit me up, guys. I’ve got some free time this week, and I’d be happy to do what I can to help!
For the cost of a few drinks, a coffee, or a subscription to Tinder that allows unlimited swiping, all of these beautiful creatures have, at the very least, provided fodder for amusing stories
A hello and a sorry to the nice NYU grad, too. In hindsight, yes, it was a mistake to come to your birthday party as the date of your best friend a few weeks after opting out of a second meet-up with you. You live, you learn how to not be a total monster, I guess?
For the cost of a few drinks, a coffee, or a subscription to Tinder that allows unlimited swiping, all of these beautiful creatures have, at the very least, provided fodder for amusing stories at dinner parties and generally served as a hopeful, amusing distractions from the grind of everyday life. Is dating this much exhausting? Yes! Has it also made me that confident that after meeting all these one-and-done homos, I’ll be able to identify my soulmate when we finally cross paths? I fucking hope so.
Oh, and before I forget, I would be remiss not to mention the man with whom I spent several hours at the Brooklyn Inn one crisp fall evening. He later denied ever meeting me and subsequently suggested that my true identity was actually that of a jilted former lover named Jamie. I don’t know what was going on there, but it was very weird, and I am still shook. I’m also single again, though, so call me? I hear the second date is usually the charm.
Steve Dool is a writer based out of New York City. Most recently, he was the deputy style editor at Complex magazine. You can find him on socials @mrdool.