I had just typed: "Hey gorgeous," on Grindr and hit send before realizing my phone had corrected it to: "He forgives." Well, might as well lead with something provocative. Gorgeous boy was not phased. "More pics?" he instantly responded.
I flipped through my selfie library and selected the usuals. The one where the Instagram filter blew out my fine lines. Another from last summer, when the tank top was hugging me in a way that showed pecs where there really weren't any.
"Sorry," he quipped back, "Masculine only."
Wait. What? Should I have sent him the picture of me tearing a tiger in half with with my bare hands? Or, perhaps the one where I demolished an entire building with my balls? What did he see in two cell phone snap shots that made him think I was going to rollerblade into his life wearing daisy dukes and waving dance streamers?
Scroll through any of the gay hook-up apps these days, and you'll get a sea of exclusive terminology. "Masc4Masc only." "No Femmes." "Masculine/Muscular ONLY." (Did he mean Mascular?) What's going on here? Is this personal taste in men? Or, is it subtle homophobia with a dash of self loathing?
In elementary school, there was an effeminate little boy. It was the early '80s in small-town Indiana, and the other boys were quite cruel. They really let him have it. Out of fear, I remember making a concerted effort to sit with my legs spread wide, and to speak in the lowest tone my prepubescent voice could muster. To never get too expressive.
It worked. I passed.
Later, in high school, as my sexuality awakened, I was able to fly under the radar as one of the artsy kids. I grew out my hair. Played in a band. Wore a biker jacket. To the untrained eye, I wasn't gay; I was just too cool for school.
As a young adult, I was also on a masculine-only kick. So much so that I developed a tragic ability to fall for straight guys. The moment I saw a flash of girly-ness on your visage, or a swish in your sashay, it was over.
It's a funny thing, how painful and fearful moments from our childhood seem to linger with us forever, subconsciously influencing our behavior. Even funnier still is how time has a way of distancing us from the past. With each passing moment, I step further away from the scared little boy, overly-concerned with surface mannerisms that simply do not matter, and closer to the wise old man who has embraced the diversity of our people. I'm not all the way there yet, but it's the direction I'm heading. It's the direction I choose to go.
Today, I attempt to live without limitations, without preconceived ideas about what might be best for me. For one, being surprised is amazing. Two, living without the constraints of a scared little boy is the better way.