OpEd: To All the Other Like-minded RVA Hopeless Romantics, You’re Not Alone
I recall asking an older patron at Cary Street Cafe, “What did Richmonders do before Grindr?” To which he laughingly replied, “Craigslist.”
I hope not to mislead anyone; this isn’t a how-to guide on same-sex dating in RVA. Rather, it’s the culmination of experiences and opinions had by me and close friends on the subject of Gay 20-somethings and the River City.
Admittedly I am a bit of a late bloomer (coming out at 25 on Brown’s Island during Friday Cheers) after struggling through many relationships, sexual and otherwise, to find myself. Yet, after much deliberation and encouragement by friends there I was, gay, and in the middle of an island of strangers.
Over the past few years it’s become apparent that being gay in RVA is a lot like my “coming out” on Brown’s Island. You’re surrounded by people who politely bump past as they make their way through the crowd. I still felt that way and it’s scary and often lonely.
At the time I felt as though I was the only single gay man on the island of thousands. I was wrong of course, but it takes time to spot the subtle nuances of a Richmond flirt.
I’ve spent the early part of my new gay life tearing through the few gay clubs in Richmond; crying to the closing doors of Nations, dancing feverishly on the epic dance floor at NU, feeling way to old to go to Godfrey’s on a Wednesday, wandering aimlessly between the patio and bar at Barcode and playing volleyball with some awesome ladies at Babes.
I’ve also been fortunate (or not) to have the social media boom on my side and the advent of Grindr. Just like night clubs, there’s an addiction that quickly forms. Grindr is temperamental, not just in my experience, but those of my friends. It’s a social platform for meeting “like-minded” individuals, but no where in the fine print does it say “match-making.”
In fact that behavior almost feels discouraged. Most people who use Grindr in hopes of satisfying the need for an LTR (Long Term Relationship) are sadly disappointed to find that it’s not the exact answer they are looking for. Not to say you can’t find love on Grindr, I know people who have. But you get what you put into it, and for me that’s been patience. My love, hate, love relationship with Grindr continues to this day.
I recall asking an older patron at Cary Street Cafe, “What did Richmonders do before Grindr?”
To which he laughingly replied, “Craigslist.”
In Richmond (or otherwise) there are so many subcultures within the gay culture. There’s Bears, Twinks, Daddy’s, Silver Fox’s, Otters, Wolves, Cubs, oh my! But within those subcultures are even more subcultures, between tops, bottoms, versatile’s, Dom’s, Sub’s…But every time you make a split the population gets that much smaller.
Thinking about it statistically, I realized that finding a partner within the gay populace of Richmond, who is near my age, with the same sexual attraction, interests, and STD status felt impossible. I wanted to give up and crawling into an A-sexual vortex.
Friends from more populated cities made remarks about the lack of opportunity in RVA, for meeting a partner, or a good night out for that matter. Expats (former Richmonders) are always the worst. They moved away, got a great job, fell in love, but are only visiting for the weekend…they’ll be back, they always come back. Regardless they seems to discourage anything other than moving away. I love my city for its faults and cracks, but I began to think there was merit in their advice.
The most convincing anecdote came from a friend of a friend who lived in New York. He explained that Richmond has a big, small-town feel. It wants the thrills of a large city, but enjoys the ease of a small town. The “Goldilocks syndrome” and in the gay world that adds stress when trying to meet people.
“In Richmond, it’s hard to walk up to someone you find attractive and start talking to them. The are often in a large group of people and you have to make your way into the good graces of the group first. Then it’s possible to refine your approach. In larger cities people are out to meet people and they are more open to such experiences. They often expect a person to pull them aside for conversation.”
I had heard enough convincing evidence to dissuade my attempts and to make matters worse I reached my gay nightclub limit. I wasn’t quite sure what to do. After all, that’s the only way I knew how to participate in Richmond gay culture.
Friends, gay and straight, reassured me that I would find the right person. That love only happens when you stop looking for it. I think only people in relationships say that, actually. Regardless, they helped me realized that I was looking in all the wrong places. Even my understanding of Buddhism teaches that happiness comes from within, and not to seek it without.
My new mantra reflects such quips. I realize that everyone deals with these situations differently and that to some, attraction, love and lust may come in different forms, or feel easier to attain. But to all the other like-minded RVA hopeless romantics, you’re not alone and even though I’d like to end this with a great romance, perhaps describe the details of a perfect summer romance that turned into an engagement, that hasn’t happened, yet. But I remain optimistic.
He was beaten nonstop for an entire hour and suffered a bruised diaphragm as a result.March 4, 2016
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