Grinding on Planet Romeo: The world of gay dating apps

Grinding on Planet Romeo: The world of gay dating apps

The gay dating app is every homosexual man’s paradise: a one-way ticket to companionship (both in and out of bed), all from the comfort of one’s smart phone

Before our smart phones took over and we started swiping right for Mr Right, meeting gay men was as difficult as finding that lone size ‘M’ shirt at Zara (you’ll never find one — forever being shunted between an S that’s too tight, or an L that droops off your shoulders like Drake at the VMAs). It required a trip to gay bar nights or connecting via dubious chat rooms on now-forgotten chat portals (RIP Yahoo!). But, ding ding ding, technology has now allowed us to come together and spread our glorious wings (and sometimes, even our legs) wide.

The gay dating app is thus, every homosexual man’s paradise: a one-way ticket to companionship (both in and out of bed), all from the confines of your smart phone. While there might be multiple dating apps that let you find your potential soul mate based on your picks and your preferences (and sometimes, even fetishes), we’ll review the four horsemen of the gay dating apocalypse:

1. Grindr

Grindr, also known as the ‘most popular gay dating app’, is not only about the sex, lies and videotape (side note: there’s no videotape involved, unless you are into it). In its unfiltered GPS-based glory, it presents a wide spectrum of gay culture. There is every shape, size, colour, and age represented within its Cartesian geo-limits — it’s an online Pride parade. There are smart men, there are witty men, there are hot men, but most importantly there are men who want to meet other men, no strings attached.

With Grindr, it’s all there already — your facts and figures presented like Miss Universe’s vital statistics. No surprises — except the ones you’re lying about. I met a guy on Grindr once (one of many): he was 30-going-on-16, an investment banker with a plush two-bedroom sea-facing apartment in town. The man was gorgeous, had dimples that were deeper than a Murakami novel, and cheekbones so high, they could be on meth. The only glitch in the plan?

He was only five feet tall — a detail we both overlooked; he forgot to mention it, I forgot to ask. I never saw him again, and his digits were lost in the sea of deleted phone numbers, along with all thoughts of moving into his picturesque bachelor pad.

We can’t deny that Grindr demands ultra body confidence — row upon row of glistening torsos (some with heads attached, others cut off just above the Adam’s apple) for your perusal. Nothing on show means one of two things — there’s probably nothing worth seeing or your subject is shy. Here, six-pack after six-pack dance before your tired, jaded eyes; the bodies melding into one skin-coloured blot, where personality is squeezed into a short bio, 150 characters or less. How do you differentiate between the torsos on Grindr then? How can you tell whether the six-pack of your choice belongs to your potential Prince Charming or the pervert that everyone rain checks on?

You take the one off chance, and go meet him. What happens if it doesn’t work out?

Next, please.

2. Planet Romeo

I’ll tell you a secret. We’ve all done it — in a moment of desperation, after a particularly poignant break up, or on one of those bad hair days. It creeps up on you unexpectedly, and before you know it, you are at it like a mad rabbit caught in frenzy, scrambling to your laptop and going to the place of no return.

Planet Romeo — the bane of the homosexual existence, but such a necessary evil.

Planet Romeo can rightly be called the deeper end of the online dating pool. Don’t get me wrong, I found a handful of interesting people there, but it’s like finding a needle in a haystack (in the dark, while in a furnace). For every one interesting person you connect with, you have to sieve through a hundred hopefuls of ‘Hi’s’ and ‘Hello’s’, all with ‘a place’, or worse, a bed.

There’s an odd adrenaline rush every time you log in — the ta-da-ding message alert syncs with your heartbeat (or your libido). Two weeks into Romeo, I was hooked, like a teenager glazed on Internet porn. It was everything I could ever want, all in the confines of my computer. And then the cracks began to appear. The messages asking for sex piled up, and repulsion sunk in. Was this what life would be? Playing connect the dots with a string of strangers? Wasn’t this one step away from sneakily creeping about the back alley streetlight at midnight or rushing into a dingy public toilet, pre-online dating? One step away from becoming pre-rehab Lindsay Lohan?

I logged out, head hung in shame; and swore never to go back.

I went back in three days.

Over the next couple of years, I teetered in and out, deactivating every few weeks, only to go back, weak and wallowing, staring wide-eyed at all the newer profiles, with greedy eyes and a lustful heart — pictures were Instagrammed and pop culture references upgraded. An anonymous friend has multiple profiles up: one is faceless, asking for ‘discreet M2M fun’, another hides behind a tantalising picture of Ranbir Kapoor. A third, with a close-up of his excruciatingly well-defined torso, seeks immediate sexual gratification, while the fourth shows his face in all its glory, dimples et al. I needed to find myself, he says to me — and on his way, he found Rajiv, Faiz, Rishi, Kabir and half a dozen other gay men. He likes the variety, he tells me later, as he meets me for a coffee between two dates. What about settling down with The One? I counter, but he says that there never really is a One, that would only lead to twos, and threes and so on and so forth.

What do I say to that?

I go back online, and I find myself. And find my own set of men on the way.

What about the other two apps that gay men dote (and date) on? Like all good things that can be milked, you just have to wait for the sequel.

Aniruddha Mahale