Thursday, January 26, 2012

Confessions of a Grind-a-holic

You're laying in bed, bored to tears and ready to press "play" on your iTunes copy of "All By Myself," when you hear a distinctive "bloop" emote from your phone and/or tablet. Suddenly, things are turning around. The bloops keep on coming, your screen lights up with red circles in the corner of multiple scandalous (and sometimes comical) profile pictures, and you're left not only feeling great about yourself, but enamored and somewhat addicted to the alluring game of flirtation.

Yes, folks, we're talking about Grindr.

It hasn't taken long for dating dynamics to evolve with technology; the Western world has gone from participating in the relationship/dating-oriented online realms of OkCupid and, to becoming even more self-indulgent with casual mobile apps like Grindr and Blendr, which bypass the reading of profiles (which, admittedly, most people don't read anyway) and get right to the point. Within three back-and-forth messages with a person, it has typically already been decided what will happen. You will a) have sex, b) go on a date, or c) continue to flirt, but never actually engage in any in-person activities. The first is the most likely, the second is exceptional but possible and the last is probably the most entertaining aspect of the application(s).

Admittedly, I've quickly become a bit of a Grind-a-holic myself. It isn't very often that I actually meet people I interact with, but I continue to be fascinated and drawn-in by the unknown factors presented by a person whose identity is a complete mystery beyond their "stats" and profile picture. More unpopular, my curiosity is strangely piqued by those creepy, picture-less folk who typically are revealed as 50-year-old men who opt to skip the process of uploading a picture and instead fish for younger men in hopes that they will, essentially, be their self-esteem building tools. Note that I find these people worth mentioning because of the strange number of picture-less people I find that are closeted or discreet rather than sugar daddies - they're the "catch of the day" when they actually turn out to be good-looking, interesting individuals who happen to be on the down-low. Aloof, nonetheless... but intriguing.

Allow me to share one risk-taking experience I found myself involved in on a slow-moving Independence Day eve last summer, an experience that may make you rethink getting together with that curious person who continues to channel messages into your phone:


I sat at my desk on an unseasonably cool summer night, browsing through YouTube videos in an attempt to distract myself from a seemingly endless feeling of boredom. Hearing the hub-bub outside of my window didn't help, and I was left with an urge to do something - anything. "Anything" translated to creating a Grindr account, which I hesitantly did with no real intention of pursuing a get-together, but with every intention of using the app to keep my mind entertained.

An hour later, however, I found myself engrossed in conversation with an archetypical South Philly Italian who could be likened to - judging by the profile picture - the bulky "guido" appearance of Ronnie from Jersey Shore. Not exactly my type, but enough to keep my attention. By this time, he was already interested in meeting, which immediately struck me as sudden and, to a degree, sketchy. However, his nonchalance about seeing me that night mitigated much of my uneasiness, causing me to give in to his pleas and march my curious self south of Snyder.

Passing by a sea of Italian-style barbeques and parties, I safely knew I was no longer in the Philly territory I was familiar with. If it was a preview of what was to come, I was unsure of whether my adventure was actually one worth continuing. But pressing on, I finally found his home, stepping onto his dimly lit porch and reaching to press the door bell. Before my forefinger could mark the button, he opened the door, beckoning me inside.

Unfortunately, with the lighting minimal and my not-so-sensible self already a little buzzed, I didn't catch a glimpse of what he looked like until I crossed the threshold. Before me was a man whose spiked hair had been replaced with a dyed-black, receding hairline; a man whose pearly-white smile had turned into a set of chompers that might be better suited for an 80-year-old smoker; an elder whose smooth face had transformed into a wrinkly, contoured surface that made him look less like a lover and more like a father.

But he had beer, and I had time.

I sat down on the couch across from where he looked to have been sitting before I'd arrived, surveying my surroundings, which consisted of a dusty living room full of aged furniture, a kitchen that was loaded with empty beer bottles and boxes and a putrid smell of dogs that I still can't exorcise from my sensual memory.

But still, he had beer, and I had time.

He quickly grabbed me a drink and sat down, embarking on a Q&A session that promptly turned into the beginning of his memoirs. He expressed his life regrets and continued hopes within less than an hour of conversation, delving into the details of his rebellious teenage years (he claimed to have fathered two children and have lived on his own by age 16), and spending a careful amount of time on exploring the troubles of his many failed relationships. One such relationship, which he elaborated on with a special focus on his general willingness to "give," was with a former Temple student whom he gave plentiful amounts of money to and "supported through school." Naturally, the guy dumped him the second after he graduated. All the while I sat, a Temple student myself, understanding his intentions but - surprising even myself - not particularly caring. Why?

He had beer, and I had time.

Or at least I didn't care until the fifth beer came around and his lips took aim at mine. As I turned my cheek and his kiss landed to the left of my nose, he immediately inquired why I was so "guarded." Humored, slightly embarrassed, and becoming increasingly uncomfortable, I shrugged it off and excused myself to the restroom. I was becoming irritated with his tactics of deception and, finally, had decided to further excuse myself from his restroom back to my boring old bedroom.

I'd had enough beer, and had wasted enough of my time.

I bolted down the stairs, rushed to grab my things, and wished him a good night while narrowly avoiding another awkward sexual advance. Sobering up and beginning to feel anger swirl in my stomach like butterflies-turned-dragonflies, I went home and wasted no time deleting my account, continuing into a deep sleep to eliminate my stewing frustration.

I still receive messages from him every holiday.


This isn't to say that Grindr is a useless tool; the app serves its purpose for those seeking no-strings-attached encounters that are entirely and blissfully superficial. But for the innocent, naive user who believes in their ability to score a romantic date from the app, kindly turn off your phone when you find your trigger-happy finger an inch away from the "download" button.

I promise you, the free beer isn't worth it.

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