When “just put yourself out there” won’t cut it as dating advice, how do you really meet someone in 2018?
I’ve now been single for three and a half years. My twenties were a troubled time – by parents died within five years of each other, with both gone by the time I was 26. When Mum was ill I decided to leave the dating to one side; I didn’t feel like anyone was getting to know the real me as my head was invariably elsewhere. After she passed away, I lived in the States for a couple of years and had a tumultuous relationship with an American guy; I fell head over heels in love but ended up broken-hearted and back in London alone.
Close friends, gay and straight, are married and settled, and while I love their company I’ve never felt more lonely. I’ve dabbled with various apps, but not had much luck beyond a few awkward goodnight snogs and other dating disasters.
Which websites do gay men use these days? I’m not even sure how people go on dates anymore outside of swiping apps. After years of trying to not even think about dating, I really feel ready to find the one, but have zero idea how that happens in London anymore.
The Guyliner replies:
The thing with technology making so much of the world available to us, bringing everything and everyone closer to our grasp, is we feel compelled to use it. Because it seems so easy to meet someone at the swipe of a finger, we assume that’s the only way, that cutting out all the build-up and anticipation is the best way to do it. And, I guess, when you’ve been single a while and impatient to change that, you’re going to look for the quickest route. What all this availability also does is make us feel inferior to a degree, like we’re missing out. Everyone else is beating guys off (steady on) with a stick, inboxes crammed with messages from beautiful men, while we are alone, peeling the wax off yet another round of camembert and contemplating a night in away from the action.
But there’s more to finding someone than “websites gay men use” or the dreaded – but very useful, let’s be honest – apps. As you hint, fashions change quickly and what was once super popular is now languishing in the dustbin of history, but you’ll still find all the same people on them; those familiar faces turn up eventually. Before you even think of taking that particular plunge, there’s some business closer to home to take care of: yourself.
Your twenties sounded extraordinarily tough, coupled with the exhilaration and deflation associated with your transatlantic love affair – rollercoaster doesn’t even come close. It’s left you feeling lonely, confused, and disillusioned and, if I’m honest, I don’t think looking for the answer online is likely to change that quickly. Instead – and stay with me on this one, please – give real life a go!
Look, I’m a self-confessed, digital-first, head in my phone, tec groupie, and I’m not going to sell the lie that only real-life interactions count, but in certain circumstances – yours, tbh – they’re more appropriate for what you need. You’ve been living in the cycle of grief, separation, and encroaching loneliness even with close friends, and I think it’s going to take something new to break that. As well-meaning and wonderful as your current friends no doubt are, your issues aren’t relatable to them and it certainly sounds like you’re not getting the sympathetic ear and motivation you need.
Look first, then, at developing yourself rather than trying to hook guys in. Apart from “be in a relationship” what are your goals for yourself? What do you want for yourself for the rest of 2018 and beyond? What are your interests? Instead of trawling online and attempting to filter out those who are unsuitable, surround yourself with like-minded people – be it activity or situation – and get involved in some groups. If you live in a reasonably sized town, there are bound to be LGBTQ-related events happening near you. Sure, the scenes can be small and aren’t exactly Mykonos in the entertainment stakes, but they are usually more supportive and friendly than you might find on the internet – unless you live in [REDACTED BY LEGAL TEAM], of course. Try sports, literary groups, male choirs – popping up everywhere now! – support and discussion groups, music clubs, fan events. All that stuff that makes you who you are, and can make you happy at the same time. It’s a lot more enriching than trying to guess which selfie the online hordes are going to like the best.
Try things you might not otherwise have attempted – how about a dance class? Or drama? The Gay Men’s Dance Company runs dance, pole dancing, drama, choir and yoga clubs all across London. You don’t have to be an expert – all levels are welcome – and every class is filled with guys who don’t expect to be touring with Madonna anytime soon but just want to have fun. I joined the guys for one class and learned a routine to Gimme More – what more do you want? There’s usually drinks after and in the pub two of the guys told me they’d met their boyfriend in the class. When you’re enjoying yourself and feeling good about yourself, you become more attractive, and meeting someone who has something in common with you – even if it is inability to do backflips – is a good foundation for any relationship.
The websites and apps will always be there, with all the usual blokes on them. See this piece I did for GQ for a roundup of the most popular ones. But if you want to stretch yourself and maybe meet someone a little more organically, don’t be scared – just go for it, join a group and see what happens. If it doesn’t work out, at least it’s a funny story to tell your next Grindr date.
You deserve to be happy and fulfilled. Having fun on your way there is a bonus – take advantage. Dance, darling. Dance!
Got a dilemma you want me to help with? I now answer these from anyone, not just LGBT people, so if you inexplicably want my help, get in touch and mark your email “Dilemma”.
Here’s what the great and the good on Twitter had to say. I don’t necessarily endorse or dismiss this advice.
Focus on what your passions are and what makes you happy and see if there are any clubs / courses for gay men in your area. Great way to enjoy a hobby or learn something new AND meet new people. Win win.
— Mark Doonan (@MarkDoonan) February 8, 2018
I met my boyfriend on MySingleFriend. It’s great because you see someone else’s insight into the profiled person. Friends often reflect on characteristics like loyalty, sensitivity and effort that people don’t reflect on when they write about themselves.
— Keir Shiels (@keirshiels) February 8, 2018
How about the matches nights etc, my friend did those, found them a fun night out and less pressure or awkward than swipes & messages etc
— Fashion Worked (@fashionworked) February 8, 2018
Find spaces where meeting someone and being a solo attendee feels natural. LGBT themed groups, clubs etc are places to meet people (also have fun hopefully!)
— Benali Hamdache (@GreenBenali) February 8, 2018
Don’t try to force it. Join a club, take an evening class, anything to get out and meet people and try to counteract your loneliness. You never know what wonderful people you’ll meet when it’s least expected
— Max ❄️ (@MadAlix14) February 8, 2018
You’ve been through a rough ride so take it easy. Sort your shizz out and it kinda just happens. To be approached you’ve got to be approachable and that means working on you first.
— Tom Leavesley (@tomleavesley) February 8, 2018
Get out there! Go join clubs and societies – there’s tonnes of Gay Men’s Choirs/Drama Groups etc. And if you go with the focus of making friends first, you’ll get to meet their friends and widen your social circle which increases the likelihood of meeting someone!
— Doug (@_dogden) February 9, 2018
I've felt crushingly lonely but learning to enjoy my own space and that maybe being paired off isn't all it's cracked up to be is so liberating mentally. I'll concentrate on making new friends because if someone isn't good enough for the friendzone they aren't getting in my bed
— Emmie (@eg_emmie) February 9, 2018
I empathise about your 20s and hope you’ve started to find a way through that
It’s a cliché but they clichés exist for a reason: it’ll happen when you aren’t looking for it. You give off a different vibe when you aren’t and I should know as…
— Tony Jackson (@JacksonT0ny) February 8, 2018
Info: The Gay Men’s Dance Company runs performing arts, fitness, and self defence classes for men AND women across London. They did not pay to appear in this column, but they did invite me to try a session and I really did learn a routine to the second verse and middle-eight of Gimme More. I was shockingly bad but it didn’t seem to matter. Find out more about the GMDC’s work.
Meetup is an app/website that connects you to groups near you based on interest – including LGBTQ groups. I haven’t used it myself, so am not endorsing, but it’s an option. Find out more about Meetup.
Image: From the poster for the movie Weekend, which I still haven’t seen. Don’t @ me.