Saturday, April 25, 2015

The trouble with web sites like

Nice holiday picThis morning, I'm discussing with boyfriend K what hotel we're going to stay in on our next holiday.

"I've actually been there before :-)," I tell boyfriend K, pausing slightly, "because I went there with boyfriend T in 2009!"

Although boyfriend K never met boyfriend T, for some reason he's never comfortable when I mention his name. But on this occasion he doesn't react.

"So …" I continue, pointing to an area on the google map on my computer screen, "this is definitely the best area to stay in."

"But how can you say that?" complains boyfriend K.

"Because I've been there before :-)" I reply, feeling quiet confident in my answer.

"But don't forget you're a posh bitch!" retorts boyfriend K, playfully.

"But does it matter whether I'm rich or poor? That area has the best hotels, the best restaurants, the best night life …"

"Imagine you're a backpacker like I was ten years ago," interrupts boyfriend K.

"So if I'm trying to save money I'd stay here," he continues, pointing to a different location on the map, "and afterwards I'd be telling other backpackers that that's the *Best* place to stay. I'd tell them how cheap it is, and I'd tell them that it costs very little to catch a bus for a day trip to the place that you're talking about!"

I sit back and think about what boyfriend K has just said, and I realise that he's right. I'd forgotten how subjective the word "Best" is. And "Best" for me if I've got a reasonable income isn't going to be the same as "Best" for a budget traveller.

trip advisor logoIn general, I glad that websites like exist, because in theory it ensures that hotels and restaurants always need to be trying to give a good service. Tourists may be one time visitors, but their reports of good or bad experiences on the internet can encourage or deter visitors in the future. However, the conversation that I had with boyfriend K this morning made me realise that the rating systems that all these web site have are fundamentally flawed. In practice, perhaps those websites aren't as useful as they seem?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Email from a gay guy about finding a boyfriend

At the start of the month, a reader who'd written to me before sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

How have you been? It's been ages since we were last in touch!

It's the guy who didn't believe in love at first sight and sent you a few messages about it some 3.5 years ago! I had a serious crush on a guy I met in a guy in a gym in the City around October/November 2011, but I blew it spectacularly. I never got to the point when I was able to have a normal conversation with him - my heart rate went over the roof each time I saw him, my hands began to sweat, my communication ability all but gone. I did make a few attempts to chat him up, but I think I just annoyed him more and more until he eventually turned down my invitation to drinks. This was around July/August 2012 and I hoped it would be the final blow that I needed to take me back to reality. However I saw him again in the gym more than a year later and I was back to square one - sweaty hands, heart in throat, etc. It was like he had a remote control in his pocket with a button saying "Act Like An Idiot."

I mean, it's not like I've had him on my mind all this time LOL. I've moved on with life, got a new job, moved to south London, transferred my gym membership to another club, dated a few guys, moved back to north London, etc. But I would be lying if I said that he doesn't cross my mind every now and then. Even now - in March 2015. Maybe 1-2 times a month or so. But it doesn't hurt any more. It's like one of those things from your past that you've come to accept and move on. I do wonder sometimes how he is doing though, whether he still lives in London or moved to New Zealand or someplace else sufficiently far away from me ;), whether he still looks the same or got a new haircut, found a new job or a long-term partner. I don't know. I just hope that he is happy wherever he is, and that he is getting what he wants out of life - even if it means that he is most likely with someone else by now.

Anyways, I don't want this post to be about him again! You are probably banging your head against the wall already! ;) I want to write about gay relationships in general and more specifically - how does one find a meaningful gay relationship in London?

I know what you are probably going to say. I need to put myself out there, get more social, etc. But I am doing that already and I don't feel I'm getting too far. I do meet quality guys, professional, intelligent, etc. but I rarely get beyond the first few dates.

For example, I went on a few dates with this Canadian architect. We got on really well, had a few dinners, went to the theatre a few times, etc. He was a good looking guy, fit, around my age, intelligent, successful, etc. But I just couldn't get myself excited about seeing him again. He had this strange habit of grabbing me in the middle of a busy street and giving me a long deep kiss with dozens of people passing by. Or he would take me to one of those cosy restaurants in Soho (cosy as in touching-elbows-with-your-neighbours situation) where he would lean across the table as if he wanted to tell me something private, but instead gave me a long deep kiss again. I mean, I totally understand that he wanted to be romantic and spontaneous, and I can certainly appreciate a bit of romance and spontaneity in other guys, but perhaps not in the middle of Leicester Square on a Friday night, or in a packed restaurant where we have an audience watching us while I'm still chewing on my chicken!

Or this other guy - a South African lawyer. Again, an intelligent, good looking and successful guy around my age, with an amazing apartment in Kensington. He was honestly THE best date I've ever had. We met for a mid-afternoon walk in a park, had a coffee and cake, then he took me to dinner to this amazing restaurant in Chelsea where I had the best French wine in my life. And we TALKED all this time - 8 hours of non-stop talking about life, work, politics, economy, family, our past experiences and hopes for the future, etc. I can't remember when I hit it off with another guy so quickly. The problem was - I just wasn't physically attracted to him at all. It was like talking to a brother. The second I saw him I knew there was going to be no chemistry on my side. There was nothing wrong with him at all. He was good looking, tall, fit, etc. Just completely NOT. MY. TYPE. And my first reaction to that? I felt GUILTY. And I couldn't figure it out the whole night. I thought I was being too picky, selfish, etc. The worst thing was that we ended up in his place around midnight, and, well... I had to think of someone else to come to a happy ending LOL. I mean, he was much more experienced than me, very attentive, and wanted to make sure that I was having a good time, etc. but it still didn't do anything. So I just closed my eyes and thought about someone else. I know it sounds horrible when I say it like that, but that's what it was. I stayed in the whole night, he made me breakfast in the morning, got me a taxi back home... and I haven't seen him since. He texted me a few times after that, even sent me a bunch of peacock feathers to work (!!), but I didn't know how to deal with it so I just went silent. I know, very cowardly. But imagine coming to work one morning (where you are still not out to everybody), and finding a bunch of peacock feathers on your desk. Explain that to your colleagues! I texted him a few months later suggesting a drink, but I got no response. I guess that's it then.

I've also tried to socialise with guys I met in the scene, rather than through online dating sites. About a year ago I met these 3 decent professional guys at a Village Drinks event and we agreed to have Sunday lunch together. I was genuinely excited - a proper Sunday roast with 3 other gay guys! I immediately thought Carrie Bradshaw and Sex In The City, soulmates, life-long friendships, etc. Talk about expectations! The first 1-2 hours were great - we talked about our jobs, Village Drinks, relationships, the gay scene, etc. But as we moved on to desserts (and a few bottles of wine later), the discussion somehow turned to all different types of chems, and which body orifice(s) they should be applied through for best effect. Apparently they were all skilled in the topic, while I just wondered why my jaw was on the floor. And believe me, ALL body orifices were discussed in great detail. It just felt surreal. I was having lunch with 3 other gay guys, and I never felt more out of place in my life. I am telling you, apple crumble will never taste the same again!!

I had a similar experience a few months later when I wanted to follow my curiosity and tried to befriend a few guys from the leather scene. I was invited to a birthday party which was attended by about 30 other guys aged 25 to 60 - all very butch and masculine. My heart was racing with excitement! ;) The party went OK, except I never thought I would learn so much about botox injections in one night. I am not judging, I am just saying that Botox was the main guest at the party. By 2am there were still about 6-8 guys in the house, but I left soon after it became clear that they were getting ready for a group fisting session. I mean, I am all for mutual fun between consenting adults - whatever form it may take. But this was the host's 50th birthday party which ended up with a fisting session in his bedroom. For some reason I felt like my heart was going out to the guy. I just wanted to hug him.

I am not a total prude LOL. I am a healthy guy with normal physical needs and I have met a few guys for fun only too, although it didn't go without a few curious incidents. One guy asked me if I was 100% sure that I was gay - as I didn't wear gay underwear... Yep, that's what he said. I Didn't. Wear. Gay. Underwear. I never knew there was such a thing! I was wearing GAP boxers that night, orange or red colour I think, and they looked pretty OK to me. I responded that I am pretty sure that I am gay (otherwise I wouldn't be in his bedroom half naked LOL), and therefore, any underwear I choose to wear on any given day is - by definition - gay. If I choose to wear military boxers with images of Rambo and Terminator on my butt, they would still be classified as gay underwear no matter how straight or macho I would look like. Oh, well... that was probably not the best example haha but you know what I mean, right? ;)

All of this just makes me wonder - is this really all there is to it? How do other guys find meaningful, passionate, long-term gay relationships? Do they first hit it off with a good shag, and then try to find out what they have in common so they can justify staying together? Or do they meet for dates only first, and if they get along as friends they try to make it work even if there's little chemistry between them, hoping they would eventually click physically and emotionally too?

I know, most people would say that relationships take time. You need to talk, invest time to get to know each other, spend time together, make sacrifices, etc.... and then what? You wake up one day and realise that you are in love? How much time is it going to take before it happens? And how do I know that it's probably never going to happen and so I should probably break it off and move on before I fall into a pattern of convenience and stay with someone just to make sense of all the sacrifices and commitments I've already made so far? I mean, consider the South African lawyer above. He was very keen to take it further. He had the looks, the brains, the money, the job, the apartment, the body... he had everything. But there was just ZERO chemistry on my part. I mean, it was our FIRST night together and I had to think of someone else. Was it ever going to get any better? Maybe I should have just faked it for a few months and see what happens. I don't know. I just felt that it would be a wrong and dishonest thing to do. HE deserved better than that.

So, what would be your advice? I guess different things work for different guys when it comes to relationships. For me - I need the initial click, otherwise I can't get myself to commit. This doesn't necessarily mean lust LOL, just the feeling of longing to see someone again if that makes any sense. And when I get that initial click - THEN I am happy to make sacrifices, invest time to get to know each other, etc. I don't know. Maybe I just need to put myself out there much more, especially in social situations with other gay guys, although I still find it a bit silly that I should socialise and choose friends based on their sexual orientation LOL. The weird thing is - I've only met a handful of guys so far who gave me sleepless nights, but every time it happened I wasn't actively looking! I just went on with life as usual and somehow happened to bump into them - in a graduate school in the US, a temporary work placement in Austria, or a gym in the City.

Another weird thing is that they all seemed to have similar characteristics. I guess that would be my "type" then! They were all down to earth, proud, intelligent, determined, confident and wise, perhaps a bit reserved and unapproachable at first, but deep inside very caring, loyal and fiercely protective. Not sure why but I am just naturally drawn towards these guys over and over again, even though I find it difficult to break down the initial barrier. They just make me feel that I could trust them, and that they would be able to make me feel safe and protected. I realise there's an inherent contradiction in what I've just said LOL - as I consider myself quite independent and free spirited - but I do hope to find a strong, reliable guy that I would look forward to coming home to each day, not because I have to, but because that's where I feel I belong. And of course he would be madly in love with me, obviously... ;))

Joking aside, I don't necessarily think that I need to go through half a dozen failed relationships before I find him. It's more of a feeling you have when you find something - and you just KNOW that this is IT. It's almost like buying a house LOL. I know it's a stupid analogy but just for the sake of making my point - Would you buy (and subsequently re-sell) 2-3 houses before you finally find the one that really suits YOU? I mean, in the right neighbourhood, the right size, location, number of rooms, layout, views, garden, etc.? If you ask me personally - I wouldn't. It's just too much hassle, responsibility, and too much time spent on something I'm not 100% sure about. It's a burden. I would rather keep renting until I find a place that I KNOW is perfect for ME. And then I would put all my energy into it.

So maybe my plan should be to do nothing LOL! Just be myself and go on with life, be open to new encounters and experiences and make the most out of each opportunity, hoping that I won't make a complete idiot of myself next time around. If it's supposed to happen it will happen at some point - and I will manage.

What do you think? Thanks

When I started reading this reader's email, I was very glad when I got to the bit that told me that this email was NOT about the "love at first sight" guy! So I sent him an email in which I included the following paragraphs:

For some guys, there's a danger that no one is ever good enough for them, especially in places like London. In London, the population is changing all the time, especially in the 20 year old to 40 year old age group. That means that there are always new guys to meet, so even if a particular guy is OK, maybe the next guy will be better. When people get into that mind-set they never end up getting a boyfriend, which I think is quite sad.

Are you clear about why you want a boyfriend? For me it feels very natural to want a special guy to share my life with, but not everyone is like that.

Many people will say that if you go out looking for a boyfriend, it doesn't happen. Boyfriend K is the fourth guy that I'd call "a boyfriend", but when I started my relationship with all of them, I wasn't actually looking for a boyfriend. With boyfriend number 1 (a.k.a. boyfriend S), I'd only recently come out, so I was looking for friends and casual gay sex experiences. With boyfriend number 2, (a.k.a. boyfriend P), I was in Singapore and I was just looking for *fun* while on a business trip. With boyfriend T, I'd only recently split up with boyfriend number 2, so I was definitely just looking for *fun* to take my mind off him. Lastly with boyfriend K, he's a friend of a friend of mine, so I met him socially and in those social situations I certainly wasn't looking for a boyfriend either.

Perhaps a good idea for you would be to try and build a social circle of gay friends? There are enough gay social groups around. Or just look for shags! That's what I recommended in an old post called The gaydar advantage, and as you can tell from my relationship history, it worked for me :-). (N.B. I guess if I was writing that post today I'd call it "The Grindr advantage", but I'm sure you'll understand the point!)

Does any of that help?

Within a couple of days, he'd sent me a reply:

Thanks GB.

I feel you may have misunderstood my original email. Or maybe I didn't explain myself properly. I mean, it's crystal clear to me why I want a boyfriend - I want someone to grow old with. Perhaps I should have called my original email "Finding a life parter" rather than "Finding a boyfriend." Would that make more sense?

To me, being attached to someone emotionally is not a conscious decision LOL. It's not like I can DECIDE that I am going to have good chemistry with someone because they are good looking and therefore I am supposed to be attracted to them LOL. Or because they are a good shag. Or because it's convenient or comfortable. The way I realise that I am emotionally attached to someone is when I feel the desire to be around them - because it hurts otherwise. Have you ever had a feeling that you just wanted to BE with someone? I mean, just BE with them and spend time together but not necessarily have sex? I begin to find that many guys simply cannot comprehend the concept.

I have to admit I was a little taken aback when you implied that no one is ever good enough for me. Well, maybe you are right. But please believe me that I am not looking for a super human. Far from that. I am certainly not a super human myself LOL. Yes, I consider myself intelligent, educated, happy and loyal, well raised and travelled with goals in life. Mums love me LOL. I can appreciate fine dining and a good bottle of wine, but I am equally happy with a burrito or fried chicken for dinner. Maybe that's why I've never had a six pack LOL. I can also be a bit lazy and sleep until 11am if I don't set my alarm clock. And when I went on a 4-week road trip across the US I didn't shower for 2-3 days a few times and I was as happy as ever LOL. Plus I am hopeless in the kitchen. The last time I invited friends for dinner I got a pre-cooked meal from M&S and I managed to burn it! Must have been the oven's fault, obviously! ;)

Ok, I guess I am not selling myself particularly well here LOL, but that's not the point. The point 't is that I don't feel like I have a long list of requirements that I am looking for in my future partner - because I can't offer one either. Honestly, I couldn't care less about their professional or ethnic background, or even about their body type - unless they are obese LOL. I also don't think that we necessarily need to share the same interests and hobbies. Quite the contrary - I like relationships where people are different so they can learn from each other and explore together. On the other hand - confidence, drive, intelligence and natural, down to earth common sense are certainly some of the traits that I am intuitively attracted to - even without realising it. Yes, often times they tend to translate to professional success, but I view that as a by-product (or a result) of what attracts me in the first place.

As an example - consider the guy I met in Austria during my work placement there. He was shorter than me with thinning hair and a beer belly. Yet he made me cry. But the South African lawyer in London? Good looking, tall and fit - and I didn't feel a thing. I had exactly ZERO desire to see him again. Does this mean that there was something wrong with me? Was I having high standards or being too picky? Because I wasn't attracted to a good looking guy? So how do I explain falling for a shorter guy with a beer belly? Is that high standards too? Physically he was almost everything I would normally describe as off-putting. Could it be that there was something about their personalities and/or the way how they conducted themselves that made all the difference? Again, NONE of this was a conscious decision on my part. It's not like I DECIDED to have chemistry with one guy and not the other lol. It was an intuitive, subconscious, automatic reaction that grew on me for a few hours/days that I spent with them. I mean, how do you make a conscious decision to cry? Or get sweaty hands and heart stuck in throat?

So... how do I get that again? I like your advice that I should build a social circle of gay friends and join a few gay social groups. Do you mean some of those sport clubs like swimming or badminton? Please don't try to lure me into running! I would die before I finish the first half a mile LOL. Would you be able to suggest a few links please?


It was the line in the reader's first email where he wrote "I would rather keep renting until I find a place that I KNOW is perfect for ME" that made me wonder about whether he's the type of gay guy who's always thinks that the next guy might be better.

In any case, having reread the emails this morning, I'm convinced that finding sports or social gay groups would be a good thing for this reader to do. A quick google search found the Time Out list of gay sports clubs in London, so hopefully there's something there that appeals to him :-).

But do any other readers have any thoughts that might help him?