Even in the most unlikely of places, Trevor Ellestad was able to learn what it means to be a truly authentic and loving human being.
Really, we are not obligated to feel anything when we interact with another human. We tend to hope for the best and with our guards in various stages of install, we then plunge or tiptoe into new depths.
Personally, I am addicted to the absence of conflict and the approval of others, and saying no can feel almost impossible at times. Strangely, when meeting men, this is especially true. Whether I’m newly crushing or doing the full-blown relationship, my need to be seen as the “good guy” often trumps my desire for independence, my sense of self-worth, or at times even, the truth.
I have created for myself a journey of a long line of relationships consisting not only of the ups and downs of the modern consensually sexual tryst, but also of my persistence in being, quite frankly, totally fucked up.
And then the story takes a sudden twist: the 21st century rolls around, and with it, its technological advancements. Shy gay men the world over rejoice as apps like Grindr, Scruff and Hornet become the norm, and unlock at their fingertips, a tempting buffet of men. Each of us, in this new century, the shy and the bold, became even more obnoxiously familiar with the sending and receiving of lewd requests for our deepest darkest desires, all wrapped up in a graphic symphony of self-indulgent photographic invitation.
We needed to prove to the world that Facebook and Twitter weren’t enough for us. We found new ways to pass the time on awkwardly crowded buses and during long, repetitive, empty afternoons in our offices. We were the first generation, self-indulgently dishing up our well-rehearsed selfies, our twitching groins and our fully matured fetishes, online. And just as the straight world seemed to come to grips with the prospect of finding love in places like match.com and eharmony, the gay community became all too familiar with love stories that began with expletives and cock shots.
In 2012, after ending a relationship that dragged on for far too long, I became an initiate in this world. I was late to the party, but filled with intrigue as to the homosexual smorgasbord that I would soon be able to indulge in. But just as quickly as I started downloading and chatting, feeling inflated by the praise of my genetics by others, the unconscious guilt would inevitably set in. A conversation with someone would begin and before I could so much as reply, I would be offered all of someone. I felt immediately empty.
Could it really be this easy?
Was I the only one aware of the parts of all these interactions that seemed to be missing, or perhaps should have been missing?
And what if I did meet someone and it became more than a hookup, more than just a date? What then? Would we always giggle when someone asked us where we met and tell them that the magic began in some modern mail-order-catalogue? Would we stand proudly on the dais on our wedding day and profess our love story to our dearest family and friends with the same heart-warming humor and humility that generations who came before us had? Would we joke with confidence about the dick pics and the dirty conversations that somehow turned into slow Sunday morning walks and adopted children?
And why did it even matter, right? Why did it seem like I was the only one who even baulked at all this? Love is love. Humans have been meeting, greeting, grinding and hooking up in dark, sweaty places for years. Clearly, love stories didn’t always need a romantic beginning to have a happy ending. Still, something wasn’t adding up. Something was definitely missing for me.
These were new worlds without the lingering eye contact across a room. No nerves, no trepidation, no sweaty palms, no grumbling tummy. These were the places where those of us who wanted more than a ten word conversation before jumping into bed with someone, were often looked down upon.
These forums had been shaped and figured by the elite and the alpha man. The confident and the unbashful, the muscular and fierce, the testosterone-ridden and the risk taking. All of them set on taking charge and shaping the culture of this world that would be inhabited by all of us, even the more modest and sentimental. Technology replicating life once again.
I’m no angel. I’ve sent my share of skin across the wire. I’ve followed a new address and taken my clothes off … And then I’ve retracted it all from my life, again and again and again. I’ve considered my body issues being the cause of me being a kind of frigid gentleman, or perhaps it’s just a traditional sentimentality toward a sexual relationship with another human being that keeps me modest. At times, I’ve wished I could change, just please the masses and get down on my knees. But I just can’t.
I clear my life’s cache and it all goes quiet.
Because this isn’t an issue of technology or anthropology for me. I haven’t written this as a plea for the heartfelt evolution of the modern gay man to return to some non-existent sentimentality. No judgement. No brainwashing.
This is forgiveness for wanting to change for someone else. This is forgiveness for wanting them to change for me. This is forgiveness for trying to please others, no matter their request and this is forgiveness for sacrificing myself because of it.
This is me moving on—an uncompromising promise to myself to just be me.
Online and Offline.