On Gay Etiquette in 2008

Given a recent encounter I had with some etiquette in question when a date was canceled without any real explanation or, more importantly, communication, this post from my friend Brad's LJ, a reprint of a GDC article; and my response below, seems appropriate -

The phone rang four times before his well-known message played out to its inevitable beep.
“Hey Handsome it’s Bradford,” I began with the familiarity of a telemarketer, “Since you never answer my calls, and mysteriously get MY voicemail on all your diligent returns, I’m going to venture that you’re using the ‘return message’ feature, rather than the ‘call return’ option. That’s the #2 button instead of the 8 but you know this, and with a little Sherlock Holms action on my part, so do I.

You see, I always think it strange that it never rings when you call, only the voicemail chime letting me know your message is waiting. The time stamp on your last incoming placed you right in the middle of ‘Extreme Home Make-Over,’ and although I tend to dodge calls during a particularly tear-jerking episode, I would have picked up for you. That’s how much I like you.

I’m not complaining, I find it intriguing that I’ve come to know so much about your busy life from your long voicemails. From the plot line of the indie film you saw at New Fest, to your hectic travel itinerary, or the inadequate laundry facilities in your building. I share it all. You’re like my virtual boyfriend and yet you sound so different over the airwaves; so deeply masculine and mysterious - it’s practically role-play. ‘Who is this person’ I think, if your subdued salutation of, ‘It’s me’ doesn’t connect my dots until you start in on a detergent story.

Don’t get me wrong I love sharing your week, albeit it electronically, but it would be nice to actually speak in real-time on occasion. So call me when you get a chance, a real call this time okay? Bye for now.”

For three years I’d been trying to date him, and although we manage an occasional spur-of-the-moment dinner rendezvous, we’ve not yet gotten naked or gone past a goodbye kiss. This is not because I haven’t tried, but he’s slippery. Sly at hopping out of taxis while stopped at red lights, or sliding out the subway doors with a quick peck on the lips before an unexpected exit.

One could say he wasn’t into me, but in person it’s clear we share an undeniable spark. Even in our mutual long-winded voicemails there is a sort of warmth I suppose. The kind of warmth you get listening to the mundane details of the life of someone you care about. It makes me smile listening to the same trivialities I heard a month ago, when last he called.

One could venture he’s a slow mover and I’d have to agree; three years in vague courtship would make even George Bush seem quick. One could also suggest that he’s stringing me along until he figures out how he feels about me. This is likely, although I seem to be okay with his pace since I’m quite fond of him and it’s not like I’m waiting around. I keep trying to date other guys – any guys… Anyone? Anyone? (Insert cricket noises here.)

While phone tag can be annoying, I find his presence comforting. Having him on speeddial feels as if I’m not totally alone in my dating life. Perhaps he feels the same way. Many boys have come and gone since first we met and he’s always there waiting to resume our phone relationship. Maybe it’s enough for us.

Our voicemail affinity is concrete in its’ vagueness. He's more cyber-real than all the Email back n fourths I’ve shared with Internet blind dates. At least I’ve seen him in person and he still calls back. Plus we have the added convenience of not getting annoyed at each other’s schedules, habits, or sexual hang-ups. Maybe this is the future of dating?

It seems normal these days to hide behind telecommunications, be it voicemail, email, or texts. The inherent distance that comes with such elusive ruses is almost secondary to the convenience factor. When was the last time anyone answered their phone when they were really busy at work? And when was the last time anyone wasn’t really busy doing the jobs of three people in our downsized economy? No one has time to talk.

I seem to be of the cellular minority by answering my phone whenever it rings. Be it mid-stream over the toilet bowl (lost three phones that way) or clogging the earpiece with shampoo (two more), I panic if I miss a call. Perhaps that’s just me, as most of the urban world seems to operate from cyberspace.

Is it as romantic to get a heartfelt smiley face icon in a text message, as it is to receive a long-stem rose delivered via FTD? Oddly, many guys would prefer the text. A real gift comes with too many expectations. “What does he mean by that?” We may ask ourselves. God forbid we should ever receive a personalized card in the – dare I say it – mail. “What the fuck?” We might say, “After one date this guy sends me a handwritten letter… TO MY HOME? He’s way too into me.”

I’m not exaggerating; this mindset is common.

In an Internet world of Facebook “pokes,” online chat rooms, and text messaging, have our personal connections become electronically aloof? How much of our modern relationships should be physical rather than virtual? How do we know when it’s time to make a phone call, and why is it scarier than allowing someone to see our “private pics?”

When trying to date a new beau I ask you: With mutual goals to share mealtimes, at what point should communication become real-time?

(Photo: Mandy Ward)

Posted by Bradford Noble on November 14, 2008 in Dating | DIGG THIS | Back to Gay.com

I find myself using the phrase "lots of moving parts" these days, more than ever, because it seems my life, and the lives of my friends and colleagues, are busier than ever - we juggle family obligations, work obligation, social obligations, romantic interests - and the advances of technology has made it so that while you can say the same obligations existed 40 years ago, or even 10 years ago, the intensity of these obligations has far surpassed our ability to keep up with them. Family obligations are intensified - people live longer, and complex medical problems keep them alive (and by extension, in our lives) decades longer than in previous years. Our work - well, this is beating a dead horse, but we can get email while we are "mid-stream" over the toilet, and are expected to respond "mid-stream," or perhaps squeeze it off and use both hands for a faster response. Our social obligations have suffered and benefitted from the same advances - we can send non-committal text messages/emails/twitter that allow someone to simply say, "I didn't read it until it was too late" - sometimes, we say these things because we want to avoid the 'obligation,' but in many cases, it's difficult to keep up with the overwhelming flow of information.

The writer of this article, however, is whining. To have the benefit of a relationship with someone who is understanding of an intensely busy schedule, whose life filled with seeming minutae, would likely complain that the 'real-time' communication is draining and boring. There is something magical about someone willing to share detail that isn't a pressured 160 character response or a cursory followup to an out of office reply from their blackberry.

This is a gentleman of 2008 - someone who cares enough to keep a conversation going, but is aware of the limitations of busy and active lives - if he never met the other for dinner, if he responded to voicemails with a short text, I would say he's an asshole. But he is letting life go to voicemail because it is simply the best option available to him..

How many of us have organised entire bar and dinner dates entirely via text message? How many off us have said "i'm getting our coats, meet me outside" without punctuation or even whole words, simply because walking back through the bar would take more time than it's worth to utter a destination?

Gay men don't benefit from the social proprieties of the 1950's - our romance is far too different than the construct of "proper" established in popular culture. The quest to remain masculine with your date is as well begs the question - Does he think I think he's a pansy if I send him flowers? If I stand when he, my date, leaves the table to use the restroom, am I sending the message that I see him as a woman?

Gay etiquette was one of the things lost in our revolution to mainstream ourselves into popular acceptance. It is expected that we are well-mannered, moreso than our heterosexual male counterparts, but only in the context of our interactions with the heterosexual population. Together, we still lack a sense of code and honour - chivalry certainly isn't dead, but the concern for its reception has taken a forefront that, without precedent, leaves us baffled and questioning.