Oh, the joys of online dating! Although I dabbled intermittently when I lived in New York City, I have always been a sucker for meeting cute, you know, Meg Ryan romantic comedy-style. But when in Rome, or Buenos Aires, you must do as the Romans (and the Martins and the Federicos and the Sebastians and... oh, you get the picture!) do.
Here in BA, where there's a cyber cafe on every block, so many gay guys seem to do little else with their free time besides play their mating games online. Windows Live Messenger. Facebook. Gaydar. Manhunt. Hor Or Not. Any self-respecting queen worth his weight in sex appeal has a profile on at least four sites. This week, I joined the club. Thank you, Manhunt.
Now before you go and dismiss me as desperate but not serious, remember, I still prefer to conduct the majority of my manhunting without a computer. But as I explained to Marcos, whom I found on Facebook nearly two months ago but have yet to set eyes upon, talking to these names and faces without real personalities is a great way for me to practice my Spanish. Really, it is! If it weren't for hours of meaningless MSN small talk and reading the subtitles on the Sony and Warner channels, my Spanish wouldn't be half as good as it is.
But this week, after creating my Manhunt account, it all started to get to me. Again. (I'm talking about the meaningless Internet chit chat, on and off MSN, which I uninstalled a few months ago only to have my computer's system recovery automatically reinstall it weeks later). Maybe it's the proliferation of private body parts on display, but the website seems to bring out the worst in everyone who logs on. It doesn't matter that I pretty much ignore messages from anyone without a photo or anyone who sums up their physical identity in a penis money shot or anyone who goes on and on and on about how much he loves the "morenos" (that's dark-skinned boys en español). I still somehow end up in a circus zone surrounded by clowns.
The other day I was having my second MSN conversation with Leandro, who found me on Manhunt minutes after I created my profile on Saturday. Some guys prefer to conduct all online communication on the website of first contact, while others push for an MSN upgrade almost immediately. Leandro fell into the second camp. But what he and I ended up having was more an interrogation than a conversation. "What are you doing here in Buenos Aires?" (What an obnoxiously worded question, by the way! It's like they're sneering at the computer screen and thinking, You don't belong here.) "What are you looking for?" (On Manhunt? In life? On top of that questionable-looking porción de tarta de atun?) "Do you have a boyfriend?" "Are you wearing underwear?"
These are all valid questions (except for the last one, which Leandro didn't actually ask), but surely they must know that I get asked each one at least a thousand times a day (except for the last one, which I secretly wish someone would ask). Leandro must have sensed my frustration, because he told me to tell him if he was asking too many questions. I didn't want to be rude, so I simply said, "Well, why don't you tell me something about you?" His response: "Because it's easier to ask the questions." Oh, I got it. These guys aren't really interested in knowing anything about me. They're just driving on auto pilot. They want me to do all the heavy lifting. I was about to write Leandro off, but somehow he started to win me over. It helped that he was boring me to tears in serviceable English, which made all that heavy lifting less of a burden. We ended up making a date for Friday afternoon.
Next was Jonan, who is visiting BA from Barcelona, who contacted me on Gaydar weeks ago and who seems to speak flawless English. Yesterday, we talked for the first time via MSN, and he immediately went for the kill, asking me questions about my work as quickly as I could answer them. I leveled with him: My "work" is not the most interesting thing about me. I knew what was coming next, and he didn't disappoint. "So what is the most interesting thing about you?" I directed him to my blog, figuring that would get rid of him fast. It did. (Let's hope he ends up reading this post and gets a clue.)
So today Marcos, my aforementioned MSN mystery man, dinged me. He'd apparently found my Manhunt profile and commented on how "todos estamos en Manhunt" (translation: we are all on Manhunt). I wasn't 100% sure to whom he was referring, other than himself and me, but I got the impression that he'd collected quite a list of MSN contacts through the four websites where I'd spotted his profile and that he'd never met or would never meet 99% of them. (To Marcos' credit, he did recently send me a text message trying to arrange a last-minute meet and greet, but it was too little too late, and I declined.) I told him about my main objective (practicing my Spanish--and collecting blog material). Some of us, I thought haughtily, don't have to log on to meet jerks.
To save face or not to save face, he said that he did it to practice his English "y otras cosas" (translation: and other things). I didn't bother to confirm what he meant by "otras cosas," but I got the picture. I'm not sure which turned me off most, his mocking tone, the cheesy innuendo or the fact that he'd not once tried to practice his English with me. Whatever. I knew that enough was enough. Game over.