I’m really screwing up this dating thing.
I’m a bisexual man. I like men and women. I like masculinity and femininity. So, I should be lighting the dating world on fire like a queer Caesar striding triumphantly into Rome, right? Instead I’m like a neurotic Nero, analyzing my every dating move and striking down potential mates before they even have a chance to meet me. What am I doing wrong!?
It took 30 years for me to come out as bisexual. After having worked many macho jobs (dairy farm worker in New Zealand and commercial fisherman in Alaska, to name a couple), I decided that it was time to stop wagging the machismo dog and declare to the world what most had already suspected: I was NOT straight.
I did so in the classiest way possible: Facebook. For days after my announcement I danced euphorically in the drops of love that rained down from the Facebook Heavens. Glorious. Empowering.
In the months following, however, I started to feel awkward and uncomfortable. I had declared myself different, listed my sexual orientation as ‘bisexual’ on dating sites, but was still only seriously pursuing heteronormative relationships.
I know this is a bit of a red herring, but I would link some of my trepidation of dating men online to the type of curt messages that quickly rolled into my mailboxes. You know, thoughtful little gems like, ‘Hey, cutie,’ ‘What are you up to 😉 ’ or just, ‘Nice legs.’ I finally understood the complaints of many women who experience mailboxes crammed full of such uncouth drivel from horny drooling men. At the same time, I’ll admit that I was a bit flattered by the attention (Am I right!?)
My reception to the re-occurring ‘nice legs’ comments would oscillate back and forth depending on my self-confidence that day. I’d think either, ‘Oh, youuuu. Aren’t you a cheeky little monkey.’ Or, “Fuck you! I’m very self-conscious of my oddly muscular and overdeveloped calves- only a lover has free-reign to cat-call me, you insensitive prick!’ Of course, I never actually responded, fearing that such a decision could lead to actual conversation, or worse (slight panic attack), an in-person meet-up. I wasn’t at the confidence level to feel sexy in my own body, especially with my then recent sexual orientation declaration, to interpret such messages as compliments and just roll with them.
The empowering feelings associated with my decision to come-out online have faded in the years that have followed. Even though I eliminated any perceived roadblocks to dating men by going public, since that day I have only had a few sexual experiences with men. You’d think that coming out as an adult I should be able to embrace yourself and celebrate this unique opportunity at rebirth. Who is there to stop me, after all?
Well, I’m the only one who has been restraining myself, moving at a pace comfortable for myself, but mostly not moving at all. I think this has been because I’ve been afraid to solidify my bisexuality through real experiences with men. I don’t mind telling people I’m bi, but then find myself unable to take real steps toward dating men. When I look at porn, 95% of the time it’s heterosexul oriented. Is that because I am 95% attracted to women? Or, is that because I am still desperately trying to convince myself that I am straight? I don’t know and I often feel self-conscious that I haven’t figured it out.
Last week, I did something that some (okay, most) humans perceive as pathetic: I went on a first date on my birthday. I decided to tell the lovely woman whom I was with that it was my birthday and that I was not in fact ashamed of the timing (I was). She asked if I was just trying to get laid on my birthday. I said that would be great, but also I wouldn’t have been able to meet her for another week (one full year in online dating) considering my busy schedule. We drank, we laughed, we flirted and ultimately slept together.
The very next day I was a performer in an LGBTQ improv show. I was completely terrified because I felt like a total sham and liar. Not only had I just slept with a woman, I had only limited experience with men. I felt like I was a terrible LGBTQ ambassador and that I didn’t belong in the show. My fellow performers and audience members had created a safe, loving environment, but this time these droplets of love landed cold and heavy on my body, in the form of thick beads of nervous sweat. I completely missed the point of the show.
Afterwards, I spoke to the organizer and gushed about my insecurities. They listened patiently and then responded saying, “You are enough. You are defined by your unique individual experiences. You need nothing more to validate yourself.” Such a simple message which honestly I’m sure we’ve all heard before, but it resonated at a time when I really needed reinforcement.
I need to stop invalidating my own identity as a bisexual man, and embrace the fact that I don’t know what the future holds for me in terms of a partner. More broadly, and beyond just sex, I simply need to be more open to companionship and intimacy, instead of clamoring for reasons why things won’t work out. I’ve spent countless hours in my illustrious online dating career wrongfully obsessing over which search filters to use in order to winnow out all the characteristics I think are deal-breakers in a partner. I’m a master at split second snap-judgments (a hookup app recently told me that I have said ‘no’ to over 9,000 photos of other users). Stop it. Slow down. Give them a chance.
A few days ago I decided to do something terrifying: I messaged a man on Mesh. I desperately hoped I would receive a message saying, “Weird legs. Bye.” Instead, he responded to my thoughtful message with a likewise thoughtful response. In following messages we discovered we had a mutual friend. We now have a meet up scheduled. Maybe we’ll have a great time when we meet. Maybe our real-life personalities won’t be compatible. Maybe we’ll be physically attracted to each other. Maybe not. I’m just glad I decided to keep stepping forward to find out.