This continues my “Cuddle Chronicles” series, featuring insights gained and lessons learned from forays into physical touch with other men. Check out Part 1, “The First Guy I Ever Cuddled With”, Part 2, “The First Guy I Ever Slept With,” Part 3, “The First Guy I Ever Crossed Physical Boundaries With,” and Part 4, “The First Guy Who Ever Crossed Physical Boundaries With Me.”
At first glance, this post feels out of place amongst all the others in this series: no footsie; no sharing beds; no physical touch that eeked beyond the boundaries of black-and-white into the lingering, questionable grey of previous installments.
But even though no actual touch occurs in this particular chapter of my life doesn’t mean my heart didn’t still hunger, even starve for it. How I attempted to satisfy my touch-starvation was more than a little illicit.
I had tasted all these new intense bursts of touch in recent years, perhaps some healthy and others not so much, and during one isolating season I was desperate to share the warmth of masculine flesh again. I was having trouble making friends with other men, though . . . so where did I turn?
To an app — yes, that one. We don’t like to name specific outlets for temptation on our blog, so let’s call this particular app Fluffy. Fluffy is a popular gay men’s dating app — or maybe “dating” is a more appropriate way to describe it?
To be clear, I wasn’t looking to start dating men. I had heard about Fluffy for years, with never so much a thought, let alone an inclination ever to download it.
But I was lonely. A loneliness unlike anything I’d felt in middle school or college. There’s a difference between feeling lonely before you ever experience intimacy with other men, and then the loneliness that follows.
I’d tasted of this new intimacy. And all I wanted was to keep tasting. Life felt meaningless without physical touch.
I felt like a body-turned-ghost floating from work to church to home life. Invisible to others’ sight, certainly to their touch. How I longed for deep friendship again. Someone with whom to talk (and touch) regularly. Ideally another Christian guy.
Surely some guys must use this particular dating app just to find friends?
I didn’t have any intention to meet up with anyone from Fluffy. That felt scary, a bit much. Conversations would be enough for now. A little spark to my days. I just wanted to connect with someone —
— and yeah, if I’m honest, maybe a little shared flirtation would feel nice too. As long as what happened on Fluffy stayed on Fluffy, of course.
I downloaded the app — I’d finally caved — but I didn’t fill out my profile right away. I scrolled around to get the lay of the land and saw so many guys searching for sexual encounters, digital or otherwise. I immediately felt the stab of disconnect. Didn’t anyone want to talk? Wasn’t anyone on this app normal?
I figured I needed a complete profile, including a picture, to attract anyone who wasn’t a sex-crazed torso’s attention. What was even the point of having the app if I didn’t fill out my profile?
So, I did. Sorta.
I said I was bi, even though I wasn’t; I didn’t want to come across as strictly “gay.”
I wanted to come across as someone attracted to both sexes, someone who enjoyed human connection beyond merely the sexual.
Oh, and another little lie: I uploaded someone else’s picture for my profile. Someone I deemed attractive. Someone I would want to connect with.
Looking back, I wince at what I did. It’s such a gross thing to do — using someone else’s face and body for my benefit. But I couldn’t bear to put my own face or body on that app. I felt I had no other choice if I wanted to “connect” on there.
It was the first time I wore a mask online; sadly, it wouldn’t be the last in my raving search for intimacy.
I started getting messages from other users, many of the stereotypically sexually charged variety. I had no interest; it was maybe the first time I realized I’m not “gay” like other guys are “gay.” I didn’t want sex with men, I’ve never wanted sex with men. Certainly not with a stranger.
I wanted to collide masculine hearts and souls infinitely more than sexual organs.
A couple guys started messaging me in the days to come, and I built a witty rapport with them. Finally, I thought. Guys on this app who actually have personalities and aren’t just faceless horndogs.
Ironic, since I was definitely just as faceless as those horndogs, only using another person’s face.
I talked often with my new “friends,” checking my phone constantly throughout the work day, eager to fill the silence and starvation with another man who could just be there for me. Someone to listen to me be bored at work, someone to respond back, someone to tell he looks cute, someone to hear I look cute too.
It was comforting. It was safe. Hiding behind my phone, hiding behind someone else’s cute face. No risk.
Until that one time I was at Starbucks. You see, Fluffy has a geolocation feature that alerts you how many miles — or less — you are currently away from another user. Every time I chatted with people, they were always ten or twenty or thirty miles away. They might as well have been on the other side of the world, far enough away to be a modern day pen pal.
But then someone I’d been talking with messaged me while I was at this Starbucks:
“Are you at the grocery store too??”
My heart dropped; the app said he was 300 yards away. I looked out the window to the grocery store across the parking lot.
I panicked. Logged out of the app and turned off my phone. Would that erase my location? Would I still show up that close to him? Would he find me? Could he, since I wasn’t even using my real picture?
I just pictured this guy coming into the Starbucks, holding out his phone like a gay metal detector as he stepped closer and closer toward me. The real me.
I deleted the app not too long after that. Those boredom-filling, often flirtatious conversations could never actually go anywhere — a gigantic relational nothingburger if ever there was one to be eaten. And my touch-starvation remained.
I’d bounced between two extremes in recent years: gorging on wildfires of touch with other male friends and then starving many long cold months without.
Friendships with men constantly felt like all or nothing: either I had a best friend with whom to cuddle on a couch, or hug for minutes at a time, or share a bed all night, or I had nothing — nobody — at all.
I had no relational contentment with any of my friends, close or casual, local or Internet-based, in between those rare romps.
Physical intimacy became my obsession, and I lived in search of the next fiery touch. Passing handshakes or fistbumps or half-second hugs weren’t nearly enough.
I wanted more. I needed more.
After too many years of isolation, I felt I deserved more.
Have you struggled with gay dating apps? How do you handle isolation or lack of physical touch? If you’re a physical touch person, do you struggle to find contentment in friendships void of much touch?