I got GRINDRd this morning...
I woke up this morning and my phone had re-downloaded every app I’ve ever had. It was kind of ridiculous. There was a flurry of hitting “OK” and “accept” without paying much attention to what…banks, social networking, location etc.
I got to the gym and went to use the restroom and, as always, play angry birds when suddenly, a familiar sound came from my phone twelve times over…it was the Grindr.
For those of you who don’t know, Grindr is a gay social network/dating/hookup app (like any tool, it is all in how you use it, not what it is intended for). I laughed as there were messages from six, seven months ago that I’d not read and it reminded me of times past, when the Grindr was a fun way to pass time at the airport and even once got me a ride from Killeen to Austin with a nice young man who wanted to help out a stranded Soldier (and, yes, it was genuinely free and not “free”).
As I began lifting, I began to reflect on the Grindr and on the feelings it brought back.
Before I had an I-Phone, I would sometimes borrow a friend’s phone and make a quick “profile”…nothing more than a photo and age. It was shallow and petty, but it was what I had. I put myself out into the cyber world on just my looks and one line (“I’m pretty nice, my family says so.”) to see what would happen. I never had quite the number of “hits” as other people and often would go days without anyone even saying hello. Friends phones would perk up with the familiar “grind” a dozen times throughout a meal while mine remained silent.
I was searching for validation from the gay community. I wanted to be wanted…it was really that simple. I took it all very personally and as a measurement of myself. I could go into a weekend feeling high on life and come out a Friday night feeling worthless and rejected all because an app didn’t garner me the attention I thought others were getting.
It was more than Grindr…there was Manhunt and A4A, connexion and e-harmony. Even facebook could be used to search for love, lust, dating and friends…and that’s what I did, often. I think back now and realize that I was not only wasting my time, but I was being ridiculously self-defeating. Searching for affirmation outside oneself is futile if you’re not happy with who you are.
My friend Marco, who’s known me since I was a plebe at West Point, was hanging out with me in Austin. I had been drinking and spent a weekend vying for the affections of whomever would show me attention. I had just been dumped and, in retrospect, was trying to compete with someone who would always get more attention than me to begin with. I thought I was having fun but was really, and very transparently, trying to change my behavior to fit what I thought was expected of a young, gay, single man. I built an artifice of alcohol and sex and partying to “fit in” trying to make up for I thought was lacking. (If a gay man didn’t “fit in” with the straight world, he surely doesn’t want to be rejected by the gay culture!) I had met a lot of new friends, with whom I’m still close today, and found myself starting every story with, “really, I NEVER act like this but…” and then delving into stories that generally started with me being “so wasted I…” Marco laughed, and then replied, “you know, New Adam is fun, but I kind of miss Old Adam.”
I was slightly offended. I thought that I was who I was and that was it…who was Marco to imply that I was pretending or changing??
It turns out, he was right. It’s been a slow realization, and one which Peter saw long before I did, but change isn’t always revolutionary. I am the person I was before those days again…someone who is happy with himself and who lives up to expectations that are only his. When one is rejected (or rejects) the popular (heteronormative, in my case) culture, one runs the risk of embracing a similarly definitive culture on the other end, changing his behaviors and expectations just as wildly from his own natural base in order to fit them. For a long while, this is what I did. I changed who I was to fit a culture that I let define me instead of defining myself.
I can’t say why or how I came to realize this, but a large part of it has been the grounding influence of Peter, who has taught me a lot. Honesty with others is sometimes easier than honesty with oneself, but Peter has always seen through the artifice and knew who I really was on the inside.
It made me slightly sick, thinking about those days. Not because they weren’t fun, and not because of the people or even the drinking and partying—none of those are inherently bad or wrong and in no way am I making a value judgment about them—I was sick because I realized that for a long time, almost as much so as when I was in the closet, people I considered friends didn’t know “old Adam”—the real Adam. That I could have wasted so long trying to be someone I was not is so far removed from what I always hoped I stood for, it’s hard not to regret. But, in the words of the Avett Brothers (whose songs are often sad, but not ALWAYS so), “I won’t go back/ and I don’t want to/ ‘cause all my mistakes/ have brought me to you.”
So, I guess my point is just a reflection on how far I’ve come and changed and grown since I’ve met Peter. Sometimes you don’t notice…but it happens. And, I’m glad it has. I prefer genuine Adam to artifice Adam any day…and hopefully other people do as well!