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When I was a teenager, flirting wasn’t exactly at the top of my priority list. I did have a few girlfriends and had crushes on a couple of male friends (even though I didn’t even consider the possibility of being gay), but I was really focused on my friendships, school work, comic books, and video games… I thought that once I finished college, I would have a lot of time to become good at dating.
So, you can imagine my joy, as a young single man who just moved to the San Francisco Bay, an area so big on technology, culture and LGBTQABCDEF+ community. I thought I was going to crush it on dates. The first time I went out clubbing in Palo Alto, I struck up a conversation with a very nice girl, thinking I was seducing her big time with my European accent and my sexy moves on the dance floor. Then she asked what kind of car I drove. When I told her I couldn’t afford a car, she stopped dancing with me. It wasn’t until a few years later that I found out that this kind of question is a way to try and find out how much money someone has.
As time passed, I found out that flirting in my post-college life was a lot trickier than I thought. Today, if you can’t succeed in flirting in real life, people turn to dating apps. But what happens when not even my most intelligent, handsome and successful friends can find love on these apps? Maybe it’s because we can’t summarize everything we are in such a short space. Maybe because simple pieces of data, such as height, ethnicity or age, are a factor for immediate rejection.
Today, I feel like it’s almost impossible to talk to strangers when I go to a bar in San Francisco. People are either with their friends or can’t look away from the Grindr screen, trying to get lucky before the night ends. Some people might not even have ventured out of the house and are just swiping through Tinder, trying to get a match. You could even have a nice conversation in the app, but usually, it ends up with being ghosted, which is really emotionally draining. This makes me think about how much these apps are wearing out our willingness to create friendships and relationships within the gay community. Who needs a boyfriend when you can choose someone as if you were ordering sushi from a delivery app?
Recently, I was chatting with my French Uber driver. I asked him what he thought about San Francisco and dating in the area or if he had a girlfriend. He didn’t like the American girls’ vibe, he thought they were too materialistic. He told me that in France, girls were more romantic, and that when people fall in love, nothing else mattered. For him, the best thing is to enjoy the moment, have a beer, enjoy and share the simple things in life together.
This conversation made my mind wander outside of the gay community in San Francisco, that, in my opinion, has been poisoned by this Grindr mood. When I take a moment to think about it, I realize that my best dates have been mostly with people from out of town and out of the apps. I remember the amazing dates I had when traveling to countries such as Brazil and Turkey. When you get out of a culture that is obsessed with youth, six packs and wealth, you would be relieved to meet people who value your personality, who enjoy a nice conversation and are open to an emotional attraction, besides the physical attraction.
When I travelled to São Paulo for work, I went out on a few dates and was in awe when I saw how genuine, welcoming and fun Brazilians were. They are also really laid-back: the dates are more relaxing, in a bar, in a club, in a park… They even ask you out for lunch! Brazilians seem, to me, a lot more chill and outgoing; they like to talk even when they’re with friends in a pub or on the dance floor. Before you know it, you will meet someone and they will kiss you once, twice or three times to greet you.
The last summer I spent in Turkey, I went to a couple of Tinder dates. Two of them turned out to be escorts (a nicer word than hooker). Ironically, the only guy I ended up dating was someone I met at a hotel lobby. I met this friendly and charming guy and couldn’t help myself to talk to him. I asked for his number and asked him out for a drink. We went out the last three weeks I was in Turkey. We had so much fun being ourselves, enjoying each other’s company and laughing about this crazy universe that brought us together in a hotel lobby.
Sometimes, I feel like social media and dating apps are making us dream about perfect people who just don’t exist. Maybe it’s best to focus on people interested in you because of who you are, not because of what you represent or because of the material comfort you can provide. Be more considerate of genuine, honest, kind and thoughtful people. Value the interesting guys who like to read, who have a nice sense of humor and make you laugh – bonus points if they know how to cook!
Right now, it feels like technology is killing the romanticism, but I do believe there’s still hope. The thing is, to experience romance, we need intimacy. We need to expose who we really are and show our vulnerabilities. Of course, we are all scared of rejection and disapproval. And that’s why we hesitate before the first kiss or take down the walls we build that separate us from others. I have a dare for you. I dare you to open yourself up to honesty and vulnerability. Honesty and vulnerability have the power to make authentic connections thrive, the kind that brings real romance, love and joy to our lives. Are you ready to accept the challenge?