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We interrupt our regularly scheduled program…

I started this blog so I could share funny stories from my woefully tragic dating life.  I started this blog because I was spending too much time trolling the dating apps, sites and bars and it was driving me crazy.  I started this blog to entertain and to fill the hole that being single created.

But once in a while I come across something so ignorant, so virulent, so damaging that I must stop what I’m doing and call attention to the big pile of bull shit some one is trying to pass off as a red velvet cupcake.  (Can you imagine a more heinous offense?)

The other day, I read a post on Thought Catalog that was entitled “I’m Not Racist, I’m Just Not Attracted to Black Men.” (I’ll give you a moment to let your eyes roll back to the screen.)  The author, Anonymous, bravely explains how his distaste for black men does not mean that he is a racist.  It’s simply a preference and is not meant to hurt any one.

He continues on bemoaning the response he receives from people on Grindr when they see his “white for white only” tag line.  As if everyone who reads that and takes offense, black, white or otherwise, is patently wrong for chastising him.

I won’t waste my time summarizing the whole thing but if you wish to read it, click here.

I know I’ve made sweeping statements like that about a whole type of human being.  We probably all have.  And I’m the first to admit it’s pretty fucked up. But everyone is entitled to having preferences and a type.  For example, my type is a hilariously intelligent, gorgeous, wealthy, single, non-sex offending, sane man who texts back (If you know any one who matches this description, please send him my way.)

Identifying what we want in a partner is a critical part of finding love.  So if Anonymous here “just doesn’t feel a sexual attraction to them,” (“them” meaning black men, in case you forgot) then shouldn’t we respect that that is his preference and back the hell off?

Sure.  But the problem, and what is really rubbing me raw here, is that he is trying to justify that his preference isn’t racist.  It is.  It is undoubtedly racist.  Whenever you lump a group of people together on the basis of race and then draw one conclusion about them, you are being definitively racist.

By claiming that Anonymous is not attracted to any black man on the planet, what he’s really saying is, “I will only see you, black men, solely for your color.  And because I feel that your skin color and all of the assumptions that I make because of it are undesirable, I will never allow myself to consider the possibility that we might enter into a meaningful intimate relationship despite any compatibility of our personalities.”

What’s worse is that he references a conversation he had with his many gay black friends as if it validates his statement.  A “Don’t worry, my black friends are cool with it” ethos.  Only he doesn’t actually reveal to them his Whites Only sexual policy.  Rather he expounds upon an argument he had with a black friend who shares his proclivity for the White wiener.  (For the record: I would also argue that the black friend is being sort of racist too.  And no “reverse racism” isn’t a thing, but I’m not here for that right now.)

I wonder why he doesn’t tell the room filled with black gay men that he’s not buying what they’re selling.  I wonder if on some level he recognizes that it might not be well received by this dinner party of wall to wall black gay men when he admits that by virtue of their skin tone he finds them all sexually repugnant.  I bet he knows he would be casting a shade so deep we may never again see the light of day!

I’m going to make an assumption that this man is probably some where close to my age because he’s writing on this blog that seems geared to people of my generation.  Like me, he probably first learned what “racism” is in social studies when our teachers covered the Civil Rights movement (because no one calls it “racism” when they are actually practicing it.)  They taught us about segregation, sit-ins, fire hoses, lynchings and other horror stories from the Deep South.

But things are different now and we don’t live it that world with those overt displays of hatred, right? We live in a world where black and white kids go to school together and a black man is even president.  We get that we need to be tolerant of all peoples.  We’re not like they were in the Jim Crow South.  So we’re ok, right?

Wrong.  And what Anonymous is demonstrating here is that he doesn’t actually understand what racism is.  Sure, he may not be depriving gay black men the ability to be employed or sit where they want on a bus, but he is replacing their individuality with their color. And he’s trying to justify it publically.

I’m very lucky.  Like Anonymous, I grew up in an almost entirely white community (wait, that’s not why I’m lucky. Keep reading!)  In fact, when my hometown was established just after WWII, the sale of homes to any person of color was strictly prohibited.  Racism runs deep there.  But many of my mentors, collaborators, peers, and friends (some of whom are more like family) are of various races, ethnicities, orientations, sexes, and levels of crazy.  And they have challenged me to have these hard conversations.  I have learned from them because I have listened. (Admittedly, not always without crossing my arms, pouting my lips and getting defensive but I’m a work in progress.)

I’m not a paragon of equality and political correctness and, honestly, I’ve never dated any one outside of my own race (this probably has more to do with their lack of interest than mine… which is actually a trend that seems to transcend all races at the moment.)  But honey, I work at it every damn day.  I don’t think anything Anonymous’ gay black friends said at that dinner party sunk in.  I get the distinct impression that Anonymous hasn’t been paying attention.    And I’m pretty sure he’s not the only one.

Sometimes, my fellow white gay men make me uneasy.

A few months ago, I had a one-night stand with a white man.  Let’s call him Cranston.  (Prepare yourselves for a bad date story because I can’t help myself!)  This isn’t something I do often.  I met Cranston at a bar.  He was relatively funny and looked vaguely like a man from Michigan I once loved.  So I invited him back to my place.

We were in my room and I started asking him probing questions in an attempt to get to know him better. (I’m really bad at these casual encounters.)  Eventually, we started sharing our coming out stories and talked about our families because seriously I have no idea what the hell I’m doing.

He told me coming out was challenging because his family is “very small minded.”  Sure, I get that.  My coming out was a struggle too.  But he insisted his family is worse than mine or anyone else’s for that matter.   Then to demonstrate how bigoted they are he tells me this charming anecdote about a family party where his grandfather went on a racist rant.  And in order to further prove his point, Cranston dropped at least 4 N-bombs recounting Pop-pop’s tirade right there in my boudoir.

I delivered a side eye so wicked, my cats scurried under the bed.  Aware that he said something wrong, Cranston looked confusedly at my cross face and said, “What? That word? It’s ok. I’m not a racist, I’m gay.”

Alllllrriiiight.

Let’s decode the meaning behind his cryptic choice of words, shall we?  The idealist in me wanted to believe the subtext was, “Please understand that now being a part of a marginalized group, I am critically aware of systems of oppression.  I decided to appropriate that word so I may further the discourse of hate speech.  I meant no harm or disrespect.  I’m sorry.”

But I wonder if what he was really saying was “Hey man, we’re minorities now.  We have license to say anything we want because we’re in the Oppressed Peoples club.  We get it what it’s like.  Don’t be so offended.”

But, really?  We were two people, absolute strangers, and he made an assumption that he could freely use that word because somehow the fact that we were two gay men together granted us that permission.

This isn’t the first conversation I’ve had like this.   And so I worry.

We, as gay people, understand oppression.  I starting noticing my attraction to men at puberty, I had my first gay experience when I was 17 and didn’t come out until I was almost 21.  In all that time, external factors of my environment made me afraid and ashamed to admit who I was.   That is a system of oppression.

But our queer identity is quite unique when you look at other marginalized people.  For many of us, it’s not something that is necessarily visible.   Stick with me for a minute.

For a number of years I worked in a coffee shop in a massive office building.  Every day, I would serve hundreds of 9-5ers, many of whom were much older and had probably not interacted with (m)any gay people.  I’m not particularly masculine; I’m usually gesticulating with my hands too much and referencing some broadway show or pop diva in conversation.  I sit into my hips when I stand.  And yet, I could regale you with countless stories of when a male customer would make an inappropriate comment about my female coworkers and their attractiveness when they weren’t around or of when a female customer thought that my lady coworker and I would make a cute couple.

They were so conditioned to expect that everyone is just like them that they compulsively assumed I was heterosexual.  I “passed.”

For many of us (but certainly not all), we can tuck away our sexuality.  How many times have you been to a grocery store and some dick drop an F-bomb to his friend at the check out counter?  Do we always confront Joe Dumbdick?  Probably not.  Should we?  Absolutely.  But sometimes, I’m just trying to get my eggs and get on with my day.

We face these little coming out moments every day and sometimes, for the sake of our own convenience, we keep ourselves closeted because ain’t nobody always got time to be teaching life lessons.  But I worry that sometimes those of us who are white gay men forget that in these little moments when we decide to “pass,” we jump back into our seat of white male privilege.

So what am I getting at here?  Opinion pieces like the one written by Anonymous, by a gay white man, horrify me.  Because they make me think that we, white gay men, forget that there are people out there who have it worse than us.  Who undergo more layers of oppression that are far more complex and damaging then our own.

Don’t get me wrong.  Being gay is a struggle for all of us.  We face laws that block our basic freedoms, bullying, being disowned, violence, and a host of other fucked up shit.  And arguing over who has it worse is pointless.  I think most people at some point have a shitty go at life.  The actual amount of people on this planet who have never felt marginalized in some way is probably ridiculously small.  It might just be George Clooney.

But when we, white gay men, come out and accept ourselves for the beautiful creatures we are and join this community of love and support, we are not freed from the responsibility of critically examining our culture and ourselves.  No one is.  So when some Anonymous boy says something as foolish as “I think black men are icky, but I’m totally not a racist for that,” it’s our duty to politely say, “Yes, ma’am, you are.  I love you, but you are.”

We don’t need to run out and have sex with a person of every race like we’re trying to earn our “Egalitarian Lover” badge at the next troupe meeting. (Oh man, if the boy scouts gave out badges like that I might have lasted longer than two meetings.)  But why draw a firm line in the sands of sex and love and declare that one type of person may not pass?   Aren’t we just closing ourselves off to unfathomable possibilities.

Rant, over.

audra mic drop

Because I could never resist this GIF, not in a million years.

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Cupid, draw back your bow. No, seriously.

Perhaps the most complicated relationship I’ve been in is with my OkCupid account.

It all began in February of 2010.  I moved to Philadelphia the November before that and very shortly after I met and fell madly in love with a man who lived in Michigan.  Suffice it to say it did not last.

During our brief courtship, Michigan Man off handedly mentioned that he had an OkCupid Account.  I, having remembered this detail, created mine solely with the purpose of remotely monitoring his love life in Michigan.  (Oh, yes, by the way, I’m a crazy person.)

After finally accepting the fact that Michigan Man’s trysts were beyond my reach, I started using OkCupid for its intended purpose.   I went on one date that ended with the guy saying, “Well, you were a lot nicer than I expected.  Let’s do this again.” And then I met the Ex.

Truth be told, the Ex and I never closed our accounts.  I did change my status to “Seeing Someone” and honestly, I never initiated a conversation with anyone while we were together.  But I guess deep down I knew I would need it again.  Ok, so it wasn’t buried that deeply.

The first Monday after the Ex and I called it quits, he went on a date with the man who ultimately was the catalyst for the break up (that’s another damn story for another damn time.)   He was beginning a new relationship while I was home rekindling an old flame.

link wink

The world of online dating is a strange one.  In theory it’s great: an open play ground for single people trying to find Mr. or Ms. or Mx or (ideally) Dr. Right.  More often than not, however, they’re mostly just a breeding ground for uncomfortable encounters and weird sex stories.

I kept things casual that first month.  Not only was I moving to a new place, a show I was performing in was opening.   I didn’t exactly have time for innocuous messaging.  Eventually, the show wrapped up and my boxes were unpacked.  I was ready for love.

We all know how these things go.  You browse around, see a profile you like, visit it one or nine times until you finally summon the courage to send a message, and then if you’re lucky, three days later you get a response.

One fateful night, the most miraculous thing happened.  I messaged a guy who not only was “online” BUT he responded right away.  He even asked me a question he sincerely wanted me to answer.  This cycle went on all night.  We had a full-blown conversation!

Our correspondence wasn’t limited to that one night, either, like so many of these fleeting cyber romances.  Over the next two days, things started getting digitally real.  We were learning about each other’s families, sharing deep dark secrets of our pasts, we even created an inside joke!  AN INSIDE JOKE! Something about opening a Pumpkin Beer Brewery and running ourselves out of business drinking the whole supply… swoon much?

This was getting serious, folks.  He convinced me to meditate! Like I was some rich lady or a bike messenger!  I fell asleep doing it but still this was big.  The Ex had tried many times over to get me to meditate with him only sort of succeeding twice in three years.  Even the silly X-Box mediation game he bought couldn’t fool me.

Kristen-Wiig-Aunt-Linda-Oh-brother

“Oh, brother indeed”

It was time to meet.  I don’t remember who initiated the plan but we set a date, time, and location.  At that point in the online dating process, I typically close communication until the real meet-up.  You know, so as not to exhaust all of the usual first date prattle.  And, still, he continued to message me! Some one was certainly gunning to be Future Husband.

The big day arrived.  It must be said, I don’t get nervous before a date.  I don’t.  Small talk is my jam.  But, this guy, he had me on edge.  And I’m not talking like a little extra nervous sweat.  In the frenzy that was my pre-date preparations, I actually locked myself out of the bathroom and had to remove the door from the hinges using only a butter knife.  (Did you know you can do that?)  I was a mess.

calm down woman

The text I sent myself

It was 45 minutes before the date and a message came through the Cupid App, POTENTIAL_FH says “Hey, I had a long day and need a drink STAT.” (he was a med student, bonus points!) “I’m heading over now.  I’ll see you when you get here. :)” Well, I put on my favorite blue plaid shirt, did my hair, and peddled my cute little buns over to the bar as fast as I could!

The bar was crowded as it was a Friday night during Happy Hour in Center City.  I did a lap and couldn’t find him.  This didn’t raise any alarms immediately because his pictures were sort of vague.  In one picture he was wearing sunglasses and the other had a grainy Instragram Filter.  He could have been any blurry sunglass wearing 20 something in the bar that night (which if you’ve been to Moriarty’s is half of the crowd.)  No matter.  I sent him a message telling him I was here.  He didn’t give me his number when I gave him mine so my communiqués had to come through the app.  Wait, is that weird?  No.  It’s fine.  I’ll just grab two seats at the bar.

Two pumpkin beers, please.  How lovely.  He’ll find me, sitting here; prepared with the drink that was so important to us.  (If you know me at all, you know I almost never offer to buy the first drink.  I was in it to win it.)  I started sipping my beer while waiting for a reply or for Future Husband himself to tap me on the shoulder and say something cliche like “Waiting for some one?” or “What’s a beautiful lady like you doing drinking alone?” Ugh, he’s so lame, I thought, blushing.

My beer was getting emptier until eventually I finished it.  No reply.  Ok, I’m a bit nervous so I guess I’ll start drinking his beer now.  Calm the nerves.  He won’t know I bought it for him any way.  A half hour passed and I was nearly two beers deep.  I checked my phone because, you know, sometimes it doesn’t send you an alert.  Nothing.

I suddenly started to notice the frustrated patrons around me.  I had been holding this seat for thirty minutes now while at least 5 people were standing behind me eyeing it up like we were a group of people stranded on a dessert island and I was holding the last Luna Bar. Didn’t they get I was saving this seat for my Future Husband?  Back up! BACK UP! And wipe that look off of your face! He’s coming, dammit! Won’t you look stupid when he gets here and you see what a great time we’ll be having!

But still…

I sent a text to my friend David.

“How long do you wait for a date to show up?”

“15 minutes.”

“I think I’m being stood up.”

“Girl, get out of there.  I’m going to a party.  You can come with me.”

I order one more beer because it’s happy hour for ten more minutes and beers are half priced… and I can wait ten more minutes, I guess.

I finished the third beer, paid my tab, offered my seat to the guy wearing a Phillies Hat and his lady friend with the high pony tail and headed directly to David’s.  This was my first time being stood up.  I sort of thought it was something TV writers made up so they could play the sad music before the commercial break.  Good thing there wasn’t a composer scoring my life right now…

Oh what’s that?  A homeless man playing “Memory” on a broken violin? Yes, that is PRECISELY what was awaiting me outside of David’s apartment.  (He lived on South Street so this probably wasn’t an uncommon occurrence.) You’re a sassy bitch, you know that, Universe?

David’s the perfect friend to have when a man wrongs you.  He gives you his version of the “You is smart” speech from The Help, plenty of alcohol, and when possible will walk up to that scumbag and read him to filth.  He is the perfect medicine for a broken heart.

help gif

After my treatment, we hopped in a cab and went to this party for his friend’s birthday.  Unfortunately, no one told me it was “Pink” themed for a group of gays my friends and I affectionately refer to as “The Plastics.”  (Can we gays go a day without a Mean Girls reference?)  So there I was, the only man in a sea of pink-clad, perfectly quaffed, ripped gays wearing blue and feeling blue.  (Also, I was the only one eating the enchiladas.  Did the caterer really think these boys would be caught dead eating?)

The next morning, it dawned on me!  Maybe something terrible happened! I didn’t want something bad to happen to him.  But if the last thing he said was “I’m on the way” then doesn’t it stand to reason that just maybe he was hit by a cab or something?  Was this my An Affair to Remember?  Now, that was of course this last thing I would wish for him or anyone.  But I have to admit, a cab accident would have really pulled me out of a funk.

an affair to remember

So I messaged him.  I told him if he didn’t want to see it me it would was OK, I can take it, but I’m genuinely worried now that maybe he was lying in a hospital room somewhere.  I asked that he please write back with an explanation post haste so I could at least put my worried mind at ease.  No reply that day.

It was Sunday night and I was tending to my usual post-Saturday hangover, which in light of recent events was particularly heinous.  My phone started buzzing.  “POTENTIAL_FH has sent you a message.  You better take this.  And, hey, whatever happens, you’re great,” alerted my OkCupid app.

I’ll give you the abridged version of his reply: “Hey, so listen.  I’m not dead or in a coma. The truth is these pictures are not mine.  The profile is fake.  I am recently single and just wanted to see what was out there.  I didn’t expect to find some one I would be so interested in so quickly.  I was at the bar but I was too afraid to come clean so I left.  I hope you understand.”

Wait, what?

what-the-what

I think my reaction was a mixture of utter shock, blind rage, and the gluttonous hunger.  Do you mean to tell me that you’ve been lying to me?  That you were at the bar?  That you may have been even sitting next to me?  You watched me order beers for the two of us, hold a seat for you, drink alone and said nothing!?!

Now usually when presented any type of fuckery, I am inclined to flick my wrist with a “Girl, bye” and go about my business with nary a hair out of place. But this was fuckery on a new level.  This was some Lifetime Original Movie starring Gina Gershon shit.  Some one better get my erasers and chalk because I’m about to school this child.

grumpy amy

I won’t make you read my whole long response but I will give you the most important part:

“You might see this [OkCupid] as a safe fun place to anonymously browse hot guys.  But there are real people here hoping that we’ll find the person we’re looking to potentially share the rest of our lives with.   You’re not responsible for the way I react to your bullshit, but you are responsible for treating ALL people with respect.  You’re not ready for this, little boy, and you don’t deserve to be here.”

He closed his account that evening and good riddance.  I sometimes wonder if I was too harsh.  After all, he was 22 and lord knows 22 year olds don’t have a good goddamn clue.  I don’t care what you say, Taylor Swift.  But some one needed to set the record straight for all of us out there.

tswift shock

There is no room for some one like that in the world of online dating.  While most people probably aren’t so irresponsible, I think we take for granted how difficult online dating is.  Simply by signing up for a profile we are all broadcasting to the world, “I’m utterly single and lonely and desperately want to find love.”  And yet most of us, myself included, seem to forget that behind the carefully selected album of pictures and diligently crafted personal essays beats a real heart riddled with insecurities and vulnerabilities just like ourselves.

We’ve all been there.  You send some one a thoughtful message; you see they visited your profile, implying they have read your greeting, and then nothing.  Something, a face you made, an answer to a question, a movie you like, your interests, your size, shape, race, penchant for cats convinced them you aren’t worth the courtesy  of a “hello.” We’ve all done that too.

I know I’m guilty of some online dating transgressions.  I’m not perfect.  And I’m not necessarily suggesting we develop LTRs with every guy who notices you.  I don’t have the time or money for that type of consideration.  But it’s important that we remind ourselves once in a while that we’re dealing with people who feel and hurt and are more than a few pictures and words.

That little boy was probably exceptionally offensive.  But I think this story is indicative of our growing lack of empathy that stems from these sterile online interactions.   When you can’t see some one’s face, it’s way easier to act like a total dick and think nothing of it.  If some one came up to one of us at a bar and said “Hello,” would we look them up and down and turn away as if nothing happened?

I hope not.  I hope our communication doesn’t regress to that.

But if you did, you’d be a real douche-toot.

Epilogue:

A few weeks later, my dear friend Brian updated his Grindr picture, which just so happened to have my face in the background.  We’re not posed together in the picture.  I’m just part of the mis-en-scene, like an extra bush or cloud.  Brian’s profile states he is in a relationship so every now and again some one would figure I was the boyfriend and suggest the three of us get together (obviously we’d make an adorable couple.)  One evening, Brian sent me a screen shot of a conversation he was having where the person said “Tell Tim I said hey.”  The guy also included a picture.  I wasn’t familiar with his face and asked Brian to find out how he knew me.  The guy replied “Tell him I’m sorry I missed him that night for our pumpkin beers.”

Girl, bye.

bernadette gif