Calum McSwiggan

Posts Tagged ‘dating’

The Lovebite

In Eat, Gay, Love on April 2, 2013 at 9:27 pm

Boys kissing

‘Keep your head up, keep your heart strong. Keep your mind set, keep your hair long.’

– Ben Howard

I pushed through the crowded Brick Lane curry house and sat down with the entirety of my best friend’s immediate family. I was desperate to disguise the enormous lovebite protruding from the neckline of my low cut shirt, and so when they asked me where I was last night, I clapped one hand over my neck and fumbled my words as I tried to change the subject.

Nobody had taken any notice, and yet still it burned with the same intense heat of the Indian spices, as if everyone were staring at it. My cheeks flushed and I nervously shuffled back and fourth in my seat, only relaxing when I caught my best friend’s eye across the table. She knew exactly where I was last night, and probably knew that the carousel in the back of my mind was skimming over and over the events of that morning.

The tube bustled noisily in the underground, and was so overcrowded that my body was pressed up firmly against my date’s. I grazed his fingertips out of sight of the commuters and looked longingly into his syrupy brown eyes. He was trying to tell me something in his ever so slightly Essex accent, but I wasn’t really listening. I was too busy counting down the stops until we’d have to part ways.

I’d been in this situation so many times before, and knew I was about to make the same mistake I’d made time and time again. The train’s doors would open and I would leave without a proper goodbye and then probably never see him again.

More and more people left the train, and our bodies were no longer forced together as the carriage began to empty. We gradually grew further and further apart and all I could think about was how I’d let my last date slip away without a goodnight kiss; how I let fear get in the way of me kissing that boy in Berlin; and how badly I wanted to kiss this boy right here and now.

A voice inside my head was screaming itself blue, commanding me to not let another boy disappear on a train, imploring me over and over to just kiss him, but for whatever reason, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

See ya then, I spluttered to my date. I knew I’d let myself down, but as I turned to hop off the train, I felt his lips catch mine, and if only for a second, my soul caught light and I was lifted off my feet. Nobody had ever kissed me in public before, and it gave me the kind of rush I’d wanted from the boy who stood me up in Rome, the kind of rush the boy in Frankfurt failed to give me, the kind of rush that I was searching for when I penned find a boy who gives me butterflies on my list of goals for 2013.

I was so dizzied that I could barely make out his silhouette as I stepped off the train, re-gathered my senses, and watched him disappear into the blackness of the tunnel. I had to stop for a moment to catch my breath, and as if his lips had been sweet amphetamines, my heart rate began to steady and the butterflies in my stomach soared into my chest and propelled me and my feet off of the ground.

I had all but lost sight of finding a boy who gives me butterflies until that unexpected kiss. The passion that lead to the lovebite on my neck meant nothing in comparison to the intensity of that moment, and it was that memory that left me wordless as I scanned the table of friendly faces in the curry house. I knew that I would soon be departing back to a life of work and stress, a life of responsibility and pressure, a life away from the warmth of familiar company and the pleasure of sweet lips, but now things suddenly didn’t seem so bad.

In the company of good food and good friends, everything seemed perfect. A little kick of warmth and acceptance rose from the pit of my stomach and I relaxed and dropped my hand from my neck. I was secretly quite proud as I raised my head up and caught sight of the lovebite in my reflection across the room, because for now, if only for a moment, it was a reminder of both the adventures in my past, and the adventures yet to come.

The Ex & The Ecstasy

In Eat on March 10, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Ibiza Rave

‘A drug is not bad. A drug is a chemical compound. The problem comes in when people who take drugs treat them like a licence to behave like an asshole.’

– Frank Zappa 

I popped the pill onto my tongue, threw back my head and enveloped myself into the surging crowd of ravers.  The flashing lights consumed me and the thumping electro sound absorbed my entire being. It took a long time for anything to happen, but when it did, everything happened all at once.

I reached my hands up to the sky and tried to catch the lasers that danced between my fingers, and as I span on the spot, wrapping myself tightly amongst the music and the crowd, I smiled at the pair of DJs who’d shared with me their supply.

We’re not here for the girls, they told me, as I watched the girls brazenly tearing off their tops and gyrating tastelessly beneath the neon lights. We’re here for the music. The three of us danced until our legs couldn’t bear it another moment and then we collapsed on the beach to welcome the glowing Ibiza sunrise. Dazzled by the pleasure coursing through my veins, I slipped in and out of a lucid dream, remembering my last run in with the drug.

 I stared at the ceiling unable to fall asleep, my eyes tracing the marbled patterns and then darting back towards the door every couple of seconds, willing him to come home. I had just started University and the boy I was dating had abandoned me in the pursuit of ecstasy. The moment I saw him slip that pill between his lips, I was gone, I didn’t want to be a part of it.

I looked at my phone, fighting the temptation to call him, but eventually gave in and hit dial.  Nervously listening as the phone rang off, I tried over and over until he finally answered. I could hear a ruffling sound and far away voices. What’s a boy like you doing here kissing a boy like me? Let’s go somewhere private. I can’t wait to take off that belt and…

I woke my flat mate by banging on his door, and without saying a word I handed him the phone. He put it to his ear as I stared solemnly at the floor and he instantly realised what was happening. He put his arm around me as I sat down on his bed, and together we listened to the phone call.  Hang up, he told me, you don’t need to hear this. A faint moan and a gasp escaped from the receiver, and I hurled it across the room.

My flat mate confronted my ex when he eventually slinked through the front door. He screamed abuse, called him a miserable excuse for a human being, and insisted that he leave. He didn’t leave, though, he pushed his way into my bedroom and curled himself into a ball on the floor. I turned him over, stared into his milky vacant eyes, and I didn’t know who he was anymore. The slurred smile on his lips was everything but his own, and as he laid eyes on me, he screamed in terror, and begged me not to hurt him.

Take everything, take my money, take the T.V, take the fridge, just don’t hurt me. 

I’m fully aware of the mind altering capacities of drugs but that person who lay on my floor that night wasn’t anybody I knew. So when one of those DJ’s unfolded their palm and offered me this tiny pill, I withdrew for a second, recalling these memories before popping it onto my tongue. I couldn’t visit the Mecca of the rave scene without taking ecstasy, that would be like going to Egypt and not seeing the pyramids or going to Hanoi and not drinking snake’s blood. It was a decision I’d made from the moment that monster lay on my bedroom floor, and many years later, I was going to learn what it was like.

My heart beat in time with the music, and I felt like if I stopped dancing that I would cease to go on living. It was the same rush I’d felt when I’d had my drink spiked in Munich, only this time it was more intense. I was overcome with a rush of happiness and I became increasingly tactile with my beautiful new friends. I caressed their arms and mussed their hair and insisted on hugging them every fifteen seconds. I was in a state of serenity that I didn’t know was possible, and as glitter and streamers rained down overhead, I didn’t know what was and wasn’t real anymore. It was electric, eclectic, eccentric.

My new friends woke me up and helped me into a taxi, and I woke up later that day tucked up safely in my hotel room. Ecstasy was responsible for one of the best experiences of my life, but it was also responsible for one of the worst. Every time you slip that pill between your lips, you’re taking a gamble with your emotions and your life. It’s a game of roulette where the only outcomes are pleasure and despair, and after only playing twice, I’m taking all my chips off of the table.

The Dating Game

In Eat, Gay, Love on February 17, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Gay Piggy Back

‘I hear the birds on the summer breeze, I drive fast, I am alone in the night. Been trying hard not to get into trouble but I’ve got a war in my mind.’

– Lana Del Rey

I stepped out of the blood clinic and made my way across London to meet one of my closest friends. By legally donating blood after a year without sex, I had ticked one item off my list of goals for 2013. The truth, though, was that I had a secondary motive for my short time in England. There was another goal I wanted to accomplish.

Everything was beginning to shape up exactly how I’d planned it would. I’d had to dodge a few curve-balls and make a few last minute decisions but it seemed like I was on the right track to ticking off every item on my list. Lessons were being learned, travel arrangements had been made, and I was making bold steps in terms of my writing and my career.

There was only one goal that was being left in the dust. The pursuit of romance was being forgotten about amidst the other exciting steps I was taking, and it was seeming less and less likely that I would find that man who’d give me butterflies.

Living in Spain, an hour’s drive from the nearest gay bar, makes dating seem almost unfathomable. In England I could open Grindr to find that the nearest suitor was a few metres away, but here it’s a couple of miles. I’d like to be able to go down to one of the local bars and flirt precariously with a hot stranger but my fear holds me back.

The language barrier doesn’t worry me, that never stopped me before, but it’s terrifying to hit on a man knowing that they’re most likely straight and you don’t know how they’ll react. Some gay men have the confidence to do it without first loading up on liquor, but memories of past homophobia prevent me. Even when I catch the eye of a stranger and offer them a friendly smile, I’ve a constant fear that they might react violently to even my most subtle advances. I rarely make a move on anyone outside the safety of gay friendly establishments.

The internet is one way I can pursue boys that I like. There’s hundreds of good looking boys I could taken on a date if only they were on my doorstep. I regularly flirt with gorgeous Italians, cute Scotts, and stunning Americans, but without taking time off work and splashing out on an expensive flight, they’re way out of my reach.

So, knowing that I was flying back to England just before Valentine’s Day, I knew that it would be the best shot I’d have at romance until I finally moved to New York. I decided that I’d donate my pint of blood and then spend an evening wining and dining somebody special to celebrate, and all I had to do was find them.

With time ticking away, I had to act quickly. My fingers tapped on every gay dating app available, scrolling through thousands of gay men’s profiles, trying to find the small handful of people that jumped out at me. Plucking a few London based suitors from the masses, I set about laying the usual groundwork. Finding out about their interests, showering them with compliments, and building myself up to the big question of asking them on a date.

It really highlighted how bizarre the concept of dating really is. If we like somebody, instead of showing them how incredible we are, we bombard them with praise and tell them how incredible they are. It’s so far removed from every other aspect of our lives. Dating should be more like a job interview, that’s something I understand. We should be able to unashamedly boast about our personality and our best traits, exaggerate about what a compassionate partner we would be and how good we are in bed, and then give them a list of references from our ex-partners.

Instead, we do the equivalent of walking into a job interview and showering the interviewer with praise. We tell our potential employer that we think they’re amazing, tell them how gorgeous they are, and then without sharing with them any of our best qualities, we awkwardly ask them for a job.

It’s all backwards. It’s a game where the majority of us end up making complete fools of ourselves and yet we continue to play because we want the end prize so badly. I always make the mistake of coming on too strong, finding a gay man I’m attracted to comes so rarely that I get way ahead of myself and start planning our third date before we’ve had the first.

I played the dating game to the very best of my ability, but when the moment came to strike with my offer of dinner and a show, I was met with tumble-weed on each and every occasion. So I resigned myself to the fact that romance just wasn’t something I could force. I can plan and make arrangements for everything I want to achieve this year, but when it comes to romance, I’m well and truly blind.

I did what I should have done in the first place and offered to take one of my closest friends out instead. I had such a good time that I almost forgot about my search for romance, and when a cute Londoner invited me to come for a drink, I passed up his offer and stuck with my friend. As much as I loathe to admit it, it really is true what they say. You can’t go looking for love, you have to wait for it to find you.

There’s an on going war in my mind between me and my inner control freak, it’s hard to sit by and just let fate guide me towards romance, but I know kicking and screaming won’t help. Sometimes you’ve just got to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Boys Will Be Boys

In Eat, Gay, Love on January 25, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Hot Gay Guys

‘Boys will be boys, and even that wouldn’t matter if we could prevent girls from being girls.’

– Anne Frank

It’s that time of year when the excitement of a fresh start begins to wane and the big love day is almost on top of us, and for the majority of the single population, we start to panic about the fact that we don’t have a partner. I’m no exception, and over the past few days I’ve noticed an emptiness that just can’t seem to be filled, and while searching for something to fill that void, I stumbled upon some tweets from last summer that pinpoint exactly what it is I’m looking for.

Calum McSwiggan Twitter

The family I was staying with had gone to the beach and neglected to leave me a key, and after thoroughly searching for an open window or an unlocked door, my attention was caught by a faint roar catching on the wind. My ears pricked up, and as I wound through the olive gardens, following the sound across the Italian countryside, I found myself standing before the local football stadium.

I pushed my way through the crowd and leaned up against the railings with a group of twenty-something Italian men. What’s the score? I asked in the most dishevelled Italian anyone has ever spoken, and they interrupted their flurry of cheers and profanity to tell me. I spent the rest of the afternoon attempting to join in with their foreign football chants, and when the match was over and the stands began to empty, I realised that despite years of fulfilling the gay stereotype and openly proclaiming my hatred for soccer, this was actually quite enjoyable. It was just the beginning of a new-found obsession.

Calum McSwiggan TwitterI found myself suddenly spending my evenings watching the football at home with my host family or out at a bar with the local teenagers, and this surprising new love of football even started bleeding into my work. Twice a week I told my students to put away their books and brought them outside for a ninety minute match under the warmth of the Tuscan sun. I just couldn’t get enough. And yet despite all this, alongside my daily intake of pasta, when I finally left Italy behind for the summer, I left my passion for soccer behind too, and it’s only now whilst reading back through my own words that I realise how much I miss it.

Calum McSwiggan Twitter

 But it’s not the football I miss, not really. It’s the feeling of being part of something masculine, and being accepted as one of the lads. Since the end of my last relationship, male companionship is something I’ve been lacking, and that’s what I really miss. It isn’t that I’m lonely, I have plenty of friends to keep me company, nor is it a craving for sex, I could quite easily toss aside my celibacy vow and pick up a guy if that’s really what I wanted- the thing that I’m really missing is somebody I can be a boy with.

I think somewhere in the process of coming out and redefining my new identity, I embraced all of those repressed feminine parts of my personality, but in doing so I lost sight of the masculine. Suddenly it was okay to dance to Britney and admit I liked One Direction but I forgot that once upon a time I liked football, skateboards and video games.

With very few straight friends I have nobody to embrace these parts of my personality with. I love going out to gossip at fancy French restaurants but sometimes it’d be nice to have a boy over to eat greasy take-out with while nuking the shit out of zombies in our underwear. Instead of being the gay best friend and asserting my much needed opinion over dresses in boutiques on the high street, it’d be nice to dip into Foot Locker and have somebody help me choose a new pair of high tops. Instead of going ice skating and holding hands while we skate in slow romantic circles, it’d be nice to drop the pretence and race them across the rink.

I’m looking for somebody who would wrestle me to the floor when I try to change the channel, somebody who thinks yes, it would be a good idea to roll down that sand dune, somebody who can educate me about the offside rule, teach me to burp the alphabet, and call me a girl when I cry at the Titanic. Maybe that’s why I’m so often attracted to the straight acting guy, I’m more interested in bromance than romance, and that’s why in the lead up to Valentine’s this year, I’m not looking for a boyfriend, I’m just looking for a boy to be my friend.

These Scars of Mine

In Gay, Love on November 14, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Gay Teenage Love

‘Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.’

– Cormac McCarthy

Beneath the darkness of some slasher flick I found his hand in the darkness, and as the blood of some helpless teen spattered against the cinema screen, I entwined it with mine. I’d pursued him for almost a year, sending him valentines, sketches, and piano recordings of his favourite songs, and finally, when we both found ourselves on British soil, we endeavoured to go on our first date.

The moon hung gingerly in the sky as I stood on the open platform waiting to catch the last train home; we were both out of breath from running through the underground, and as the train noisily pulled up behind me, I stared at his perfect lips, and dreamed about kissing them. I didn’t want to get on the train without first sharing a goodnight kiss, I’d made that mistake before, but as I stood there staring into his innocent brown eyes, I let my scars remind me that I couldn’t.

I wear every one of my scars with pride, each one tells its own story, each teaches its own lesson. The cigarette burns on my arm remind me not to trust Italian teenagers, the scar on my eyelid reminds me not to stand behind golfers before they take a swing, and the scar on my forearm reminds me that my best friend’s mother was probably right- he really shouldn’t play with knives. All of these scars remind me of the mistakes I’ve made and the pain I’ve witnessed, but it is the scar on my bottom lip that truly reminds me of the frightening reality of the world we live in.

I was sixteen and hadn’t long come out of the closet when it happened. My friend and I were laughing so hard that we hadn’t realised we were being followed as we walked home, and it wasn’t until after I hugged him goodbye that I found the three boys stood in my path. I recognised them, they were the boys who malevolently assaulted my friends in school, the ones who had always backed down when someone stood up to them, the ones who I thought were in my past.

My body recoiled as they spouted off a colourful array of insults about my newly realised sexuality; I tried to ignore them and push past, but when I heard the word faggot caught on a whisper of the wind, I couldn’t help myself. The word grabbed me, asked me if I was going to take that, spun me around, and marched me back towards them.

I don’t know where such stupidity came from but before I knew it I was standing inches away from the ringleader’s face, grinding my teeth and attempting to stare him down- it’d always made him stand down in the past but this time there was no fear in his eyes, only hatred. Somehow the realisation that I was gay had diminished any ideas of my being a threat. He wasn’t scared of me anymore.

The other boys seized an arm each and held them behind my back, and as he raised his fist, the black stud in his ring glistened in the sunlight, temporarily blinding me, before it lodged itself beneath my eye, in the side of my head, in the crook of my nose, and finally in my bottom lip. It buried itself in the flesh, shattering three of my teeth, and when he yanked it free, he took a small chunk of my face, my heart, and my strength, with it.

Managing to wrestle my arms free and seize both of his fists, I spat blood and shards of broken tooth into his face before turning on my heel and making a swift get away. Blood poured freely from my face, and when I tried to stop the flow with my hands, the blood only seeped through my fingers and dripped down onto my clothes. The look on my mother’s face when she answered the front door is lodged within my memory, it truly resonates, and I can only imagine the pain in the eyes of the families who answer the door to find that their children aren’t coming home at all.

For we all bear these scars of mine, they don’t just tell my story, they tell the story of every gay and lesbian individual out there- just a few weeks ago a friend of mine returned from a nightclub bruised and bloodied from a routine gay-bashing, but both he and I were lucky, some don’t return with just scars, some don’t return at all.

It’s for this reason that I’m proud of every gay couple I see sharing their affection out in the open, because that takes real courage. I’d love to one day be like the beautiful boys I saw kissing in Budapest, but until we live in a more tolerant world, with every public kiss we’re risking abuse, and where I’m willing to accept that risk unto myself, I’m not willing to subject any one of my partners to that torment.

I can only remain hopeful that one day we can openly share a kiss on that platform without harbouring even a spark of fear of persecution- but until then, I’ll continue to let those beautiful brown eyes slip away from me, and will never feel those soft delicate lips pressed tenderly against mine.

The Lights of Berlin

In Eat, Gay, Love on October 15, 2012 at 9:25 am

Berlin City Lights

“I was in the winter of my life, and the men I met along the road were my only summer.”

– Lana Del Rey

I tipped my head back, downed the remnants of my wine and stared out of the kitchen window and down into the moonlit valley below. I had my best friend at my side, and there was a magic in the air, the kind of magic that can only be found in Italy. Atop our hidden mountaintop village we were free, nomadic adventurers from across the globe coming and going as we pleased, inspiring one another with whispered stories and laughing into the night.

It was as we all sat down at the table on the terrace outside when I first noticed him. I’m from New York but I’m moving to Berlin, he said and immediately drew my full undivided attention. Two places I’ve dreamed of visiting, two places that fascinate me, two places combined into one being, he intrigued me, and like all of the men who’d intrigued me before him, I had to know his story.

I hung on his every word, laughed at his every joke, and caught his every glance, I thought it could have been the start of a long and meaningful friendship but deep down I knew that when I disappeared on the train the following morning, like the many other amazing people I met that night, I’d probably never see him again.

But to my surprise it seemed that wherever I went people seemed to mention his name- my best friend, a work colleague, a stranger- and so when I closed my summer chapter and sought out my next adventure, I knew I wanted to make him part of it.

A distant promise of a visit quickly turned to reality and I found myself stood on his balcony in the cold autumn air, sipping wine, and looking out over Berlin. It all seemed very symmetrical, like we had been here before, and in a way we had, just in a different time and place.

The hours turned to days and what seemed like moments after my arrival I was already making my way to the train station with his jacket around my shoulders, we walked in silence and the whole time all I could think was that I wanted to kiss him, to cease him in front of all of Berlin just to say thank you for the inspiration, for the good times, and for the story, but instead I uttered a few empty words, hugged him, and left.

It didn’t hit me how saddened I was until I sat down on the midnight train and thought about the short time we’d spent together, a familiar lump caught in my throat and my eyes began to glaze over, I’d said goodbye so many times that I thought I’d become desensitised to it, but my stomach clenched as the butterflies were consumed in bile, and all I could think was why didn’t you kiss him goodbye?

Parting was inevitable but I wanted the chance to stay just one more night, to have the chance to say goodbye properly, to share a snapshot of romance before continuing on in search of something new, it wasn’t that I didn’t want it to end, I just wanted to end it right. I’m going to get off the train, I told myself.

My eyes fixed on the clock as I watched the last two minutes slowly ticking away. I’m going to get off, I said aloud, clearing the lump from my throat and rising to my feet. I wrestled my suitcase down from the luggage rack and as the seconds rapidly slipped away from me, I ran through the carriage and leapt off the train just before the whistle blew and the doors slammed shut behind me. Somebody was yelling at me in the distance, and I could hear the train pulling out of the station behind me, but I didn’t care. I ran through Berlin as fast and as far as my legs would carry me, burst through his front door in an overly theatrical Ross-And-Rachel-I-Got-Off-The-Plane-Style-Moment, and fell helplessly into his arms.

Except that I didn’t.

I sat and watched the seconds tick away into nothingness and let the train pull me away from him and take me somewhere new. I felt like crying, I swallowed hard and stared at my own watery eyes in the reflection of the window, and just before I turned away and fell into a heartbroken sleep, I caught glimpse of an explosion on the horizon.

I pressed my face up to the glass as one explosion followed another and the whole city erupted with colour. Bursts of neon blue and sparkling greens filled the carriage as the stars fell from the sky, night became day, and the festival of lights glowed on the horizon. Whilst consumed in the city I hadn’t seen them, yet from a distance they were breathtaking, and I knew that right there and then Berlin was giving me a proper goodbye, a good old fashioned firework send off.

And so I accepted that it was okay that we didn’t have a dramatic passion filled goodbye, sometimes goodbye is just goodbye, it doesn’t have to be filled with mad dashes through the airport and kissing in the rain, because after all, a goodbye can only ever mean as little or as much as the time you spent together. 

Make Love, Not Warcraft

In Eat, Love on August 22, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Make Love, Not Warcraft

‘Life is a dream for the wise, a game for the fool, a comedy for the rich, a tragedy for the poor.’

– Sholom Aleichem

It was the first real date I’d been on since I split with my ex, and after five years of being out of the game, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. After he’d taken me for dinner and for a drive in the countryside, I found myself sat on the edge of his bed, watching as he peeled off his shirt to reveal his bulging biceps and washboard abs. I was half expecting him to start unbuttoning his jeans or to start tearing off my clothes, but instead he threw on another t-shirt, sat down next to me, and handed me a joystick.

I was a little taken aback by his offer but found it strangely endearing and oddly romantic. I accepted and we played side by side, only interrupting game play every couple of minutes to lean over for a soft and tender kiss.

It was this memory that played on my mind as I watched two beautiful Australian Shepherds springing through the tall grasses in the Viennese countryside- I’d known these dogs since they were puppies, they belonged to some of my oldest friends, and although I’d known them for as long as I could remember, until that morning we’d never officially met.

We were the modern-day equivalent of pen pals, we’d met in an online game when I was a young teenager and, through the power of Facebook, I’d watched their relationship blossom, seen them get married, and over time began to consider them some of my closest friends.

After being tricked by a hot boy with a fake profile, I’m all too familiar with the dangers of making friends over the internet, but this was somehow different. They were friends who had always been there, they’d been there for the lengthy duration of my past relationship, offered their sincerest congratulations when we got engaged, consoled me when it all fell apart, and encouraged my exploits in my newfound singledom. They knew me so well that they were able to point out boys who were my type before I’d even clocked them, and they even included the skate park and local cruising spots in my personalised tour of Vienna.

Aren’t they those children you want to have sex with? they asked, pointing at One Direction as we curled up on the sofa and watched the closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympics. They knew me inside out regardless of the fact that we’d only ever conversed via the internet. It seemed strange that many years ago we’d probably strolled through some virtual forest together, and now here we were, laughing and making jokes in the real thing.

Despite the reams of conversations we’d had over the years, though, there was still one unanswered question that lingered on my lips. I’d never asked them how they’d met, and when they gave me the answer I was surprised to find out that they too had found each other in an online game. After endless virtual conversations, they agreed to meet and shortly after fell head over heels in love.

And so as we sat side by side at their computer desk, guised as virtual prostitutes hustling young elves out of their hard earned gold, I was met with a pang of nostalgia. As I saw them playing together, like they had done for many years, I saw a beautiful yet unconventional connection and truly witnessed how in love they were. Unconventional love was something I was familiar with, a man loving a man, a woman loving a woman, an Italian mother loving her adopted Vietnamese son, it was something I could understand.

So when I hugged my oldest friends goodbye, I thought of the boy who wanted to play computer games on the first date, and for the first time I realised how lucky I’d be to meet another one just like him.

Table For One

In Eat, Gay, Love on July 31, 2012 at 5:58 am

Cute Boys Holding Hands

‘Listen carefully to the sound of your loneliness, like a heartbeat that drives you mad, in the stillness of remembering what you had, and what you lost.’

– Fleetwood Mac

His fingers wrapped around mine as he took me down yet another Roman backstreet, I didn’t know where he was taking me, but he had my trust. He kept promising to show me the real Rome, and lead me further and further away from the obnoxious glare of the tourists’ flashing cameras.

Tugging me inside a bustling Italian bar for aperitivo, he waved to some of his friends and lead me to the quiet upstairs for more privacy. We drank our drinks and said nothing whilst he longingly held my stare from the other side of the table. I tried using my best Italian to compliment his shoes but he just laughed quietly and silenced me by placing one soft finger upon my lips.

My heart raced as he reached over and massaged my fingers with his own, separating them and entwining our grasp, not breaking eye contact for even one moment. When the time came to leave, he wrapped his jacket around my shoulders to protect me from the rain and then walked me to the train station, holding my hand the whole way, not caring about those who stopped to stare at the pair of faggots holding hands.

And then as I boarded the train away, I cleared my throat, and coyly asked him for a kiss. He silently stepped up onto the train, pressed his warm lips against mine, and then slinked away with a heartfelt smile just as the carriage doors slammed shut.

That’s how it happened in my imagination, anyway, a fleeting romance that I’d tell people about for years to come- but as my life isn’t a fairytale, here’s what actually happened.

With the promise of a date with a beautiful Roman I had met briefly on my last visit, I sat by the fountain in the piazza watching the grey clouds slowly gathering overhead, impatiently tapping my phone and constantly checking the time – he was late.

I watched the Italian couples unashamedly making out wherever it took their fancy, and longed for some human contact. And then as the minutes turned to hours, I realised he wasn’t coming.

Determined to not let it ruin my evening, I found myself a quaint little back-street restaurant and asked for a table for one. Usually this inspires feelings of independence and freedom, but knowing full well that it should have been a table for two replaced such feelings with only shame and humiliation.

I ordered a plate of my favourite Italian food to try to compensate for the lack of a date, but when it arrived it only tasted bitter. The loneliness of the evening lead me to revisit bold and vivid images of my past failed relationship, and for a moment I was consumed with grief.

I left the restaurant, walked to the station alone in the rain, with no hand to hold and no jacket to wrap around my shoulders, and boarded the train away without a goodnight kiss. Although the logical person inside me tells me that I need to stop setting myself up for disappointment, I’m a romantic at heart, and I can’t help but imagine that every date will be the best date of my life.

I left Rome feeling sour and betrayed, but as my train arrived on The Italian Riviera the following morning, just one glance at my best friend waiting on the platform made all the negative feelings dissipate, and I was reminded of what I had known all along- you don’t need a man to make you happy, as long as you’ve got good friends.

Don’t Talk About AIDS

In Gay, Love on June 1, 2012 at 8:18 am

‘The subject no longer has to be mentioned by name. Someone is sick. Someone else is feeling better now. A friend has just gone back into the hospital. Another has died. The unspoken name, of course, is AIDS’

– David W. Dunlap

A couple of months ago I went on a date with a boy I met on Grindr, we did the usual dinner and drinks combination, and he slipped away at the end of the evening with a gentle goodnight kiss.

We got on really well, and I eagerly messaged him the next day asking if he’d like to meet again, but disappointingly I received no response. Just to be sure that my previous message hadn’t been lost in the cyberspace, I tried getting in touch about a week later. I asked how he was, asked whether he’d like to meet again, and this time he responded.

 ‘Hey… I had a really nice time but you having aids really scares me, I’m sorry but I don’t think we should meet again’ 

I was well and truly baffled as to where he’d drawn this assumption, I don’t have HIV/AIDS, and never alluded to the fact that I might. By the time I attempted to correct him and explain that it was all a big misunderstanding, though, he had already blocked and deleted me from both Grindr and Facebook.

After some deliberation I recalled that we had had a conversation about AIDS over dinner, where I had explained the difference between HIV and AIDS to him, and told him I knew of some people living with HIV in the local area. He must have confused what I was telling him, and assumed that I was a carrier myself.

When sharing this story with friends, they all had the same painstakingly obvious advice for me: when you’re on a first date, don’t talk about AIDS. It goes without saying that bringing up a potentially fatal illness over dinner doesn’t exactly scream romance, but then it dawned on me that those out there living with HIV don’t really have a choice.

People living with HIV commonly consider it their responsibility to make it known that they are a carrier as soon as possible, and to be constantly slammed down with rejection in response can’t be anything but soul-destroying.

UKPositiveLad anonymously blogs about his experiences of living with HIV, and after reading extracts about his dating life, and how he was once almost driven to suicide, I was well and truly moved to tears.

As a community we attach such a negative stigma to HIV/AIDS- we slap the HIV positive with the label of being a slut, we make jokes about them, refering to AIDS as the Anally Injected Death Sentence, and some even deny that HIV/AIDs exists at all. It’s truly revolting that we can behave this way.

Without the risk of pregnancy, it’s become pretty common for gay men to have regular unprotected sex without concern, not truly realising what risks they are really exposing themselves to- HIV/AIDS isn’t just a myth made up to stop us having fun, it’s real and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

I think one of the main problems with AIDS awareness is that nobody is talking about it- it’s a hard subject to deal with but I think it’s important that we do. I recommend watching House of Boys and Philadelphia, both are heartbreaking stories about gay men living with HIV/AIDs, and they’re both likely to spark up conversation.

Do your part to spread AIDS awareness today

 Let’s talk about AIDS.

Grinding Grindr

In Gay on April 28, 2012 at 1:11 pm

You can find the nearest cruising homosexual with one of those?’

– Jeremy Clarkson on Grindr 

Grindr, if you’re unfamiliar, is a gay dating app for smartphones that uses GPS to show you the location of the nearest gay men. I’ve been using this app for over a year now, initially just out of curiosity whilst I was in a long-term relationship, and recently to search for potential suitors.

I recently wrote about the lack of support for equal rights for gay men, and I can’t help but think that the way certain gay men conduct themselves doesn’t really help our cause. I’m aware that grindr is used most commonly as a cruising app, Stephen Fry himself admits that, but some of the obscene and lewd messages I receive are just down-right worrying.

Sloppy hole. SLOPPY HOLE. Oh my god.

I mean, where are you supposed to go with that? How can you possibly reply to such perversity? I simply ignore these messages, and am often bombarded with why are you ignoring me?

Uhm, maybe because you just asked me to fist your sloppy hole without so much as a how d’ya do?

I’m not the only one who finds these messages both hilarious and repulsive, Douchebags of Grindr, pinpoints and satirises them on the daily. However, when a 62 year old man is sending you pictures of his penis and is only 35 metres away, it’s rather disconcerting and it can be hard to see the funny side.

I’d like to think that these people are just textrovert- through the internet they feel that they have a license to do and say things they wouldn’t in real life- but some of the behaviour I’ve witnessed in the local gay clubs isn’t much more civilised; I’ve had a middle aged man offer to rim me down an alleyway once. What happened to a simple Hi, can I buy you a drink?

It is inarguably a revolutionary piece of software though, and can be very addictive. It’s extremely difficult for gay men to date in the real world; we’re often confined to a clubbing scene that revolves around drugs and casual sex and to a promiscuous cyber reality- having the opportunity to see all the single gay men in your area is definititely a positive thing. With talk of similar apps opening up to the straight community, however, one journalist voices her worries that these technological advancements could be the end of monogamy.

It’s a difficult and fascinating argument, there is no denying that society has become far less monogomous over time, but this does not give us the right to act massively inappropriately in the realms of the internet.  As gay men, we have a responsibility to ourselves to not fulfil the sleazy stereotypes society has built for us. If you wouldn’t walk up to a stranger and hand them a picture of your penis in real life, you probably shouldn’t do it on the internet.