I decided to give Grindr a try. I underestimated how intimidating it would be.
There was an article a while back listing 30 things all gay men should do before they turn 30. Besides the cliché items like traveling or being in a long-term relationship (it’s hard to have control over either of those life goals), they suggested trying a Grindr hookup if you’ve never experienced one. I disagree with this suggestion as it assumes sex is unanimously meaningless. We know that it isn’t. But I respect the urge for one to explore their sexuality, and decided to download the app. 4 months had gone by before I so much as uploaded a profile picture. This is the story of my first attempt at a hookup, in two parts:
I clutched a fresh pack of American Spirits in my hand as I walk down a cold empty street in Bay Ridge. I had quit, but it was useless trying to convince myself not to buy a pack that night. I was excited and anxious as I headed towards my destination wearing my neon green backpack as a notifier. It was light, empty besides a small bottle of lube and a condom. I wondered what I was doing, how I could go through with this, who I was.
My Grindr profile says I’m Alex. Alex talks dirty. Alex sends racy photos to strangers. Alex is confident. I convinced myself I was Alex that night, and I smiled taking heavy drags on my cigarette and walking with steps that pushed my hips out like when I wear heels. “Meet me at the corner of 56th and 7th,” I told him. “I’m wearing a lime green backpack.”
I arrived early to our rendezvous point outside a long since closed bodega. I hopped up on the cold railing with a wince and tried a few positions for when he arrived. I crossed my legs and straightened my back looking off in the distance and bringing my hand up slowly for my cigarette. I let the smoke roll out like fog through an open mouth, eyelids heavy with seduction. The Bettie Page. My outfit was all wrong. I shifted my legs into a wide spread and leaned down to rest my forearms on my thighs. I sunk my head low and let my cigarette burn like I wasn’t thinking about it. I looked up with a furrowed brow. The James Dean. He’d never buy it. I dismounted the railing and leaned against it, right leg up on the pole. The “Cowboy Shadow” lawn decoration. For me, it looked more like the albino flamingo. I gave up and stood there positionless.
I waited awhile in the cold, looking ahead of me down the dark residential street lined with old brownstones. A group of teenagers stepped out of a minivan in front of me. Our eyes met, asking, “what the hell are you getting up to tonight,” and both replying, “don’t ask.” They walked away. What were a bunch of party-hopping teenagers doing in Bay Ridge?
I saw shadows of people moving about in the distance and waited for them to come into the light. “Here comes one. He’s shorter than he looked in his picture. And older. Much older. Nope, that’s an old man getting home late from Majong or bridge or something.”
“That might be him. Her?” I squinted. “Yep, her. That’s a woman.” I was fooled again and again. “Wait. Now this one might be him. Right height, right age, right gender, and walking straight towards me. With a Mastiff.”
He stepped into the yellow of the streetlamp across the street, his dog sizing up to his hip. “Dog” is not a euphemism, it was a k9. An attack dog to sniff out any unsavory fellas who pray on the anonymity of Grindr.
He waved from across the street, and my smile grew. What was I about to do? He looked left and right for cars, then stepped into the road. An old pro he seemed, grinning out of politeness, not giddiness.
“I could still make a run for it,” I thought. “He’s in the middle of the street, and I can outrun that old dog for sure. If I empty the bottle of lube behind me, maybe he’ll slip before he could catch me. Like a banana peel in Mario Kart. Why can’t I just go home and play Mario Kart?”
“No. That’s not who I am tonight. Tonight, I’m confident. Tonight, I’m brave. Tonight, I’m horny as fuck.”
He stepped onto the pavement in front of me and approached slowly. “Hi there. Alex?”