I’m a single gay man who uses cruising apps to meet other gay men. For gay stuff. (Cooking classes, probably. Or maybe antiquing. Doesn’t matter.) I’ve met some amazing guys online over the last few years, but more often than not I find myself walking into the same dozen or so idiot land mines that threaten to dash my gay hopes forever.
Here, in no particular order, are the eleven online cruising nightmares that make me want to smash my phone, take a vow of celibacy, and move to Alabama. (Happily gay hope, for better or for worse, springs eternal.)
1. “I’m Just Looking For Friends”
No you’re not. I know it, you know it, and that shirtless profile pic knows it. Grow a pair and practice saying this out loud in the mirror: “I’m looking for a little nookie sauce on the side, but I don’t want my boyfriend or any of his friends to know what I’m doing. I’m a terrible person who hates God, America, and apple pie. And I probably yell at waiters.”
2. Blurry Photos
You’re not fooling anyone with that tiny photo from a party you went to nine years ago. This is a dead giveaway that you’re not only misrepresenting your appearance, but you don’t think you look as hot as you used to. Don’t sell yourself short—some of us like salt & pepper hair and a dad bod!
3. Headless Profile Pics
Spring cleaning is the only reason to be that deep in the closet. Please deal with your internalized homophobia before subjecting the rest of us to it. In this day and age, no one should be ashamed about looking for love online. I don’t care if you’re a Sunday school teacher. Get the fuck over it or delete your profile.
4. Hats & Shades (And Other Clever Ways To Hide Stuff You’re Ashamed Of)
I recently met up with a good looking guy in his twenties who was rocking some advanced male pattern baldness. It happens that I don’t find chrome domes unattractive, and we had a perfectly lovely evening (if you know what I mean). But the lack of hair was a surprise because he was wearing a hat in his profile pic. This was a clever trick, but then we had to go through that whole “this is the real me, hope you don’t mind” awkwardness when we met in person. Carefully cropped pictures can obscure bulging beer bellies, hats can hide receding hairlines, and dark sunglasses can hide, I want to say, horrifying serial killer eyes. Outside of hiring your own personal special effects crew to follow you around everywhere you go, you’re never going to be able to keep up the facade once you leave the house.
5. “What Is It About Me You Don’t Like?”
I’ve only heard this one a handful of times, but it pissed me off enough that I felt it deserved a spot on this list. Asking this question is the result of not considering your endgame. What exactly are you hoping to hear? Do you really want someone to tell you that they think your frosted tips look dumb and to stop trying to bring 1992 back? No. You don’t want to hear that. So just let it go and savor the mystery. Beauty is subjective, and sometimes we don’t know what turns us on or off about a particular person. If you really want constructive advice on your profile, ask a friend who isn’t afraid to drop some truth bombs.
6. Novella-Length Profile Descriptions
No one is going to read that 600-word manifesto on how complicated and interesting you are. No one. Chop that mess down and put up something fast and easy. If someone is reading your profile description, it probably means he likes your picture and is looking for signs of crazy before messaging you. Don’t give him one.
7. I Never Met A Cliché I Didn’t Like
You’re out at a nightclub when you see the hottie of your dreams drinking alone at the bar. You slide up, introduce yourself, and ask what he’s up to tonight. He looks up from his phone and says, “I’m looking for reason to delete this app.” You raise your eyebrows and look away, but you soldier on because (did I mention?) he’s really, really cute. You pound your drink and work up the courage to ask him if he’s looking for some company. His reply: “What I’m really looking for is a partner in crime.” You pound your forehead against the bar so hard you give yourself a concussion. You wake up in the ER, just as alone and confused as you were the night before. Only now you have a headache.
8: “Guys With [Some Attribute] To The Front Of The Line”
Really. There’s a line. Are you just drowning in cock, you howling one-man douche parade? Because even if you are, I hate you for using this phrase. I hope you suffocate under that pile of dicks. I hope you suffocate and die.
9. Rampant Overuse Of Emoticons
Nothing says “I’m a sixteen year-old posing as a nineteen year-old” like a popcorn bowl full of emoticons. (I could put a bunch of them in this sentence to demonstrate the power of their awfulness right now, but I don’t hate myself. And I don’t hate you. Well, if you use more than one emoticon in your profile I hate you.) I once saw the phrase “partner in crime” sandwiched between two gun emoticons in a profile description. The only reason I didn’t kill myself right then and there is because I was at Macy’s and didn’t want to get blood all over a nice table of designer jeans.
10. “Where You At?”
A friend of mine recently schooled me on this one. If someone comes at you with all the aggression of an invading military force, demands to know where you live and where you are right now, he’s methed out beyond all comprehension. Abort.
11. The Vanishing Act
Look, I get that online dating is an ephemeral business. We’re fussy, we make snap judgments, and we possess the collective attention span of a coked-out ’90s fashion designer. And so of course it’s the exact wrong place to look for good manners. But man does it suck to get the brush off while cruising online—it would just be so weird if it ever happened in real life! Imagine you’re chatting with someone you just met at a party and he walks away in the middle of the conversation without explaining why. And then he pretends to not see you for the rest of the night. You’d be more than annoyed—you’d warn your friends about him. Why is it so hard to say something like, “Sorry man, I guess I’m not interested. No disrespect.” Or, “I just swiped left and met the man of my dreams.” Or even, “I think I left a waffle burning.” Just something, dude.
I recognize the irony of calling for respect after that long rip about how stupid everything is in gay cruising app world, but I guess what I’m calling for isn’t really respect—it’s civility. If we could all be a little more civil with each other, the gay cruising app world would look less like the horrifying dystopia it’s threatening to become and more like a less boozy version of a gay bar. And when you have to hold up a gay bar as an example of civility, you’re in some murky ass waters.