On September 13th, 2010, I got an alert from Facebook telling me that someone had messaged me. At the time I didn’t own a fancy iPhone, so all I received was a frantic beeping sound and a text that told me I had a mail. It was from my ‘ex-boyfriend’. I use that term loosely because even though we weren’t ever technically a couple, I had invested a lot, both emotionally and psychically, into the relationship. The subject was headed ‘Hi, Chris. Please read this.’ With great curiosity and a little terror I clicked on the message. It read something like this (I have changed the names.)
‘Hi, Chris. I spoke to Claire last night and she said you told her you were still in love with me. I thought we agreed that we were just having fun and you know I don’t like you in that way. I don’t think we should see each other or spend time together anymore.
One of the saddest feelings in life is when you’re dancing in a really joyful way, totally absorbed in the music, then you hit your head. Another is when you start feeling sexy then trip. The worst though is having someone you love dismiss years of effort as casually as a used tea bag. I can only compare the feeling to opening a biscuit jar but instead of being greeted by cookies you get cock-slapped. I was dumfounded, confused. I was so angry that I was shaking. A sickly knot-in-my-stomach tightened at the thought I wouldn’t be able to see or touch him again. I wanted to write ‘Are you fucking serious?’ I wanted to yell at him. ‘We had sex two nights ago and you came over me. I paid for all your drinks!’ But I couldn’t. I couldn’t write anything. Because he had blocked me.
I called my friend Chole who was in college at the time. With a levelheadedness that was foreign for her she asked me to explain, in detail, what happened. This was ironic because every one of my friends saw this coming – this was just the inevitable outcome to a very blatant situation for them. I left my friend’s Facebook account logged on so I could creep on my ex’s page, refreshing it as thoughtlessly as some twirl their hair. Then one day I saw he’d posted that he’d moved. I was livid. He moved away? And he didn’t even fucking tell me? After me moaning for weeks that I wished he’d move away and not tell me so I didn’t have to worry about bumping into him? For a while I carried about so much self-pity that it gave me a limp and so began the first ever real heartache I ever had.
Years later and that muscle in my chest, which I thought would have withered and died by now, is still taking knocks and fractures but beating steadily on. Currently I’m in that phase between being someone’s kid and being someone’s parent; the one where you fantasise about meeting someone and getting a house together; the stage where you are uniquely narcissistic. It’s a place of deep self-involvement, but not one that’s come from loving myself but rather the opposite. Social Media and Twitter make it really easy to navel-gaze in way we never have before and every time I see another guy get into a relationship, or a couple digitally documenting a milestone, I’m a boiling pot of envy. I think back to all the dates and accumulated months of ‘seeing’ guys that have amounted to little more than disappointment and think ‘What if. What if we had worked and it was us clogging up other peoples’ timeline with our bilious happiness?’ I don’t dwell on what could have been because I miss any of them, but rather because I miss the feeling of possibility. Every so often I’m crippled by the fear that since that fateful overcast day in 2010 I have in fact been cursed to tumble-into and fall-out of every single relationship I’m ever in. As though I am an Olympic runner, capable of great speed and winning the gold, if only I’d stopping having false starts or tripping over my shoe laces.
Dating in the gay world is inherently difficult. I’d go as far as to say that it’s harder than it is for heterosexual couples. Most guys I meet and date spring into my life via the gay scene, which in itself is a problem. If you live in a small-ish city like I do (Glasgow) then chances are you’re going to meet someone with whom you have ‘gays in common’. The possibility you’ve shared sexual partners, or been with someone who’s been with someone that they’ve been with, is very high. It’s all horribly incestuous and seedy. The whole thing instils a sense of cheapness over the whole relationship before you’ve even made it to the second date. I’m always left thinking, I don’t share my food so why would I share my sexual partner? You can also meet guys over dating apps, but that again comes with issues. It affords people the opportunity to ignore you based purely on a photograph, before they’ve even got a snapshot of your personality. Chances are he’ll opt to date the guy with the rippling six-pack because you can’t photograph your sparkling wit.
I go on dates with younger guys and it leaves me disheartened as they are still at the stage I was at a few years ago, where you just want to have fun. I go on dates with older guys and find it hard to navigate the conversation or translate the generational gap. The last two proper dates I went on were with guys younger than me, and it quickly morphed into a hook-up after a few drinks. The one prior to that was with someone fourteen-years older. I thought it went really well until the next morning when I awoke to a text saying he found my ‘constant’ social media presence offensive and it wasn’t for him. I hate the idea of offending people, so I quickly unlinked my Twitter from my Facebook…then posted about the incident. I guess I like to have my cake and Tweet it too. I then try to date someone the same age as me, only to find myself shrinking into my seat as they list all their accomplishments as I try to hide the fact I still have Pokémon Go on my phone.
I keep questioning if my actions are motored by the quest to find a boyfriend or a husband. Every time I see a child and its parents I’m left wondering if I’m going to have a family of my own some day; or if I’ll have a fancy house or finally land in a place of financial security. Maybe I’ll even get a dog or twelve. But if all my decisions are influenced by the promise of gaining one, if not all, of the above, then what am I missing out on? Am I looking in the wrong places? Is there a glittery rock somewhere the all the good gays are hiding under? I meet great guys, but they aren’t psychically my type; a fact that imbues me with a feeling of complete and chocking shallowness. Or I’ll meet someone and at first he’ll like me more than I like him, then we’ll meet and, suddenly, I think I could fall in love with him. Both always result in the same way: me lying alone in my bed, pregnant with crisps, thinking back to that first guy that ever broke my heart; looking at the situation in an entirely different way, one I couldn’t seven years ago. I apply slightly more sound theories as to why he ended things and why he treated me the way he did. Of course, all my explanations for his behaviour are purely conjecture at this point, because seven years later it’s hard for me to tap into the well of desperate emotion the relationship unleashed in me.
I do think that gay singles in their twenties and thirties accept a lesser kind of treatment from potential partners than they would at any other point in their lives. The amount of guys I’ve spoken to that have recanted scenarios befitting the label of sexual assault is disgusting. Last year I woke up to a guy having sex with me. No sex isn’t the right word, because that sounds as though I made an educational choice, when really it didn’t feel like a choice at all. I’d passed out (drunk) and woke up disorientated only to quickly sober up when I realised that this guy was, for lack of a better term, inside me. I put myself in a dangerous situation and a such I got burned and I know a lot of gay men that do the same. We do it because we think they could like us, that maybe it would go somewhere. Having shared this story with a few other guys I know I’ve found out that I’m not the only one this has happened to; it’s in fact alarmingly common.
When you are younger friends take on a romantic role, then later on guys you’re interested in take on the role of a friend. We wouldn’t let friends treat us this way, so why do we let guys do it? Just because they’re offering the possibility of attention or even love? It’s like, someone won’t message us back or will chose when it suits him to flirt or sleep with us and we just let it happen. Relationships often change people, but weirdly for me I’m always the same before and after it, but very different during. I tend to mould my life into whatever shape is most likely to fit with the guy’s needs. But now I’m thinking, is any of it worth it? Months of dating that feel like fifty years; letting myself be batted around and used purely because there’s a chance that he’ll be the one. These constant emotional acrobatics have turned my heart into a hardened little gymnast with a leotard wedgie. A watched pot never boils, that’s something my gran would say to me. I can’t help but feel that perhaps that is applicable to finding someone too? The harder you look, the less likely it is Tinderfella is going to gallop by in his noble Vogue SE Range Rover.