The impetus for apps like Grindr, Scruff and Hornet (and before that, sites like Manhunt and Adam4Adam) was primarily sexual, giving guys a chance to seek the hookup partners they desire and do the dirty before moving on to the next. But it turns out that lust can evolve into love, and seeing as physical attraction is a healthy component of a good relationship, sometimes a trick turns into an actual situation, especially now, in the era of same sex marriage, when a lot of guys are looking for way more than a quick release. At times like that, the euphemism some of these venues use to promote themselves—“dating sites”—actually seems reasonable. I asked some app users to tell me how that happened for them, and they lustily obliged, whether they were actively looking for a partner or simply fell into the lap of happiness by chance.
Antonio Franco, "gay NYC philosopher"
“I had a two-year relationship and I have a year and a half current one, from Grindr. I’m a firm believer in fucking on the first date, since sexual chemistry is half a relationship, at least early on, so a hookup app made it easier. With the first relationship from Grindr, the sex was epic and marathonic. We both declared disdain for Grindr and seeking a hookup, so we were more than thrilled to shack up for two years in a passion pit. The second relationship was also fueled by the epic sex, but we were both in love with our own loneliness and opted to have weekly all-night romps. After a couple months, we realized we’d fallen in love. In neither case, did we answer 'So where did you guys meet?' with ‘Grindr.’ I think part of the reason for not admitting to a sex app relationship birth is not wanting the world to have their gay stereotype ‘Ah-ha’ reaction. There’s too much stigma attached, and the childish notion of romanticism draws out a love at first sight at a park or coffee shop response.”
Jason, practice manager and dental consultant
“I met a previous boyfriend on Scruff and we dated for close to three years. Amazingly enough, we are also still close, probably based on why we were drawn to each other. I had recently ended a 15-year relationship and had spent some time ‘sowing my oats.’ I had no desire for a serious relationship. Enter Charlie, who had similar sexual tastes, personality and demeanor. I assumed, wrongfully, that if he was online, he was simply looking for sex. We had drinks for the first time, and despite my best attempts, couldn't seal the deal as he stated he was done with his ‘sowing’ and wanted a relationship. So, of course, I tried even harder with the belief that I was merely wearing down his resolve in order to bed him. Instead, I ended up falling for him, hence the relationship. It ended, but he was exactly who I needed at a time when I didn't think another relationship was in the cards for me. It also showed I was capable of one. We became so close that recently, when he relapsed into a prior addiction, I was the one he called and who helped him regain sobriety. So we still trust and rely on each other, all because he was close to me in the grid.”
Jeremy Lyons, a coffee shop manager in Vermont
“I met my boyfriend of two years, Logan Chen, on Jack’d. To be honest, I wasn't expecting much at first. I knew he was only going to be in my hometown for the summer from his profile, and at first I didn't even think of messaging him because I was tired of just meeting people to have sex with. I wanted more and didn't think that was going to happen. I changed my mind one night in July, though, and sent him a 'hello.' It started with a meetup before I had to go to work. He was on a work visa and was working at a nearby resort, so he came to the city I work in and we spent a few hours walking around and chatting. After we parted ways, we exchanged numbers and I texted him later that night, asking if he wanted to get dinner. He agreed and we made plans for later in the week. I picked him up and we went out to a semi-fancy restaurant and ordered burgers, and got to chat more and get to know more about each other. That night, we actually shared our first kiss when I dropped him off at his home.
Neither I nor Logan thought at first we would be long term. It was such a short summer romance, as he had to go back home to China in September. It was weird, though—after our dinner date, we spent every available moment together and Logan spent as many nights at my place as he was able to. We found we had a lot in common and we talked about what would happen when he left and if it was worth us staying together. I told him I wanted to try and make it work, and we have. It has been hard, but in this day and age, it is easy to keep in touch through video chat. I am excited as well for Logan to be coming back to Vermont and spending another summer with me. He just finished up at university and will be starting his bachelor's degree in the fall, so our long distance relationship will continue for a few more years, but our ultimate goal is to live together, either in China or the U.S.”
Ken Moffatt, works at a Toronto university
Ken says he met his boyfriend on Daddyhunt while staying at the Chelsea Hotel in New York. "We have a long distance, eight-year relationship, but we are not looking at marriage," he relates. The two guys had a brief online exchange, then met up in a Village bar. They checked each other out, then hooked up that Friday in Ken’s hotel room. “A plain old hookup,” he says. But it led to going to galleries together—“though we were not an item”—and then they became an item, though nowadays they get together more in Chicago than New York.
Robbie Fletcher, a university worker in Philadelphia
"I met a guy through Adam4Adam. We were supposed to meet for coffee and hook up. Neither of us was looking for anything serious. I was 18, he was 26. We met, had sex a few times, had coffee and split up. That weekend, he hit me up and I spent the weekend. After that, we dated and we’ve been together for seven plus years. It was totally unexpected, but probably what I needed most in life."
Steve Balderson, a film director in LA
"I met a couple of boyfriends from Grindr or Scruff. The last one was especially great. Then, several weeks into it, as soon as he started having actual feelings, he fled. Gay guys in L.A. seem to be afraid of intimacy, and—perhaps this is the case in every big city—fear growing up. He was 43 going on 22. He really seemed to want a boyfriend, but ultimately couldn’t let go of being a party boy.” Gay romantic skittishness? I guess as much as some things change, they sometimes just don’t. But still, I’m sticking to my thesis. Sex apps have become just as much about the search for engagement rings as cock rings. Learn it, heathen!
Take your Grindr husband and go see Sasha Velour’s Nightgowns drag revue next month, if you can. I just saw the event—held at the stunning National Sawdust performance space in Williamsburg—and it was a bold, upbeat, drag-positive potpourri of Brooklyn talent. Whereas the Manhattan gals are slick, the Brooklyn ones are more avant-garde and trend resistant, though in an extremely polished way. The Manhattan drags constantly beg for your cheers and keep seguing quickly into the next number, while these queens take their time, bantering in a relaxed but lively manner.
The evening’s chanteuse, Olive D’Nightlife, welcomed us “monsters and unicorns”—which is less restrictive than “boys and girls”—and told us we were free to be elated, confused or erratic. (“We love all the feelings.”) Out came Sasha Velour (who, of course, is currently on Drag Race) in a sort of babushka and arm wrap, indulging in a very offbeat group lipsynch number that thoroughly hypnotized me. The lighting was wonderfully done, the slides beautifully integrated. “You are now in the space of relaxation,” Sasha assured the audience. “Close your eyes. Let the drag wash over you. Take a deep breath, but not too deep because I haven’t washed this dress.” Speaking of dirt, Olive made mention of Miss Fame’s helpful advice to “bring out the tape” when trying to look younger, and she also noted Alexis Michelle’s “5 o’clock shadow”—but lovingly, I’m sure.
Velour lipsynched “A House is Not a Home” while flipping picture cards to illustrate the lyrics, ending with a small house atop her head. There was a classical pianist, a wild performance by Brooklyn instigator Chris of Hur, who ended upside down on a chair, and drag king K. James, who managed to make Phil Collins palatable by strutting and pulsing machismo to one of Phil’s hits. Drag Race star Aja was another crowd favorite, synching a ballad of hurt while all the horrible tweets and texts that were written about her flashed in the background. But Aja shared that, while things may have not turned out the way she thought, she’s still glad she did it. That’s the way I felt about going back to Brooklyn—it was a mind blowing experience, and it helped confirm my resolve to add more feathers and fringe to my faggotry.
YOU GOTTA GET A GIMMICK
Another great revue is Le Scandal, a neo-burlesque show that’s been running at the Laurie Beechman Theatre for eight years of hormones and hilarity. Wacky host Albert Cadabra brings on the scintillating acts, like the bodaciously sexy and appealing Perle Noire (who commands the stage and is truly a star), the flapper-licious Gin Minsky, the Kim Novak-like Madame Rosebud, and the extraordinary contortionist Topher, who went from flopping around as Ariel the mermaid to spinning a glitzy hoop while his various limbs kept unexpectedly jutting out. There was also an adorably funny juggler/comic named Marcus Monroe, plus various acts of balloon popping and/or swallowing, and pants dropping from invited audience guests. The show’s producer, Bonnie Dunn, even got into the act, singing a lilting tune that went, “Everybody’s fucking but me... My pussy’s only useful when I pee.” Well, my pussy’s not useful at all; she just sits there watching TV. Anyway, Le Scandal is le zippy, arousing journey into stripping and shticking. Cigarette?
LIFE IS A CABERNET
So many theater-related happenings this week! At the Marriott Marquis, the annual New Dramatists luncheon assembled a highly theatrical crowd to celebrate emerging playwrights and also honorees Paula Vogel (who wrote Indecent) and Daryl Roth (who’s produced shows from Fela! to The Normal Heart and beyond). In the tribute to Roth, it was said that she promotes work about marginalized people, stuff which needs to be seen. And then J. Harrison Ghee—the current Lola in Kinky Boots, produced by Roth—did an out-of-drag number that was so moving I almost dropped my butter knife.
Two-time Tony winner Judith Light was honored with a Monte Cristo award, presented by the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, last night, and was celebrated as a “unicorn”—someone who not only does inspired work, but who’s avidly promoted LGBTQ Causes and HIV awareness. During the presentation, Scissor Sister Jake Shears sang beautifully and Hamilton director Thomas Kail said he once saw Judith on the street looking like “a Hassidic Annie Hall, talking to herself,” but she was actually running lines. And Light herself gave a lovely speech praising the O’Neill Center and talking about the power of art in the way it bonds a community, tells our infinite stories, and takes actors outside themselves for gratifying connections. She truly showed us who’s the boss, and she’s funny too. At the event, I congratulated Judith on her Monte Cristo and she laughed, “It’s not an award, it’s a sandwich.” Next year, give her the Reuben Award!
But let me end with a trophy for oafishness. As multicultural, nontraditional casting becomes the norm, Edward Albee’s estate is holding onto old prejudices. Michael Streeter, a director at the Shoebox Theatre in Portland, Oregon, says he cast a black actor as Nick in a production of Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and the estate insisted the actor be replaced by someone white. (The late Albee himself is clearly to blame. He used to say that Woolf is a naturalistic play, so a black actor playing, say, Martha wouldn’t work—as if there couldn’t be a black personage at a university, even a wife! Besides, theater is never literal). When Streeter refused to fire his black Nick, the estate promptly withdrew the rights. Who’s afraid of Edward Albee? I am, George, I am.
Oh, well, I’m off to... find a boyfriend!