Dateland: The Ole Grind(r)stone

By Jennifer Parello October 1, 2015

Categories: Dating & Relationships, Our Lives

Earlier this week, I was sitting in a conference room at a client’s office waiting for a meeting to begin. Next to me sat a twentysomething gay man who was furiously swiping the screen of his cell phone.

Because I like to keep up with what the youth of today are doing with their gadgets, I asked, “What are you playing on your phone? PacMan?”

“PacMan! Are you from the 1800s?” he asked. “No, it’s an app called Grindr. It shows you if there are men nearby who want to have sex with you.”

“Good lord!” I exclaimed, clutching my chest.

“Are you judging me?” he asked.

“Well, yes, of course I am. I’m a 50-year-old woman. That’s what we do: judge the actions of the young,” I said. “Now, show me how it works.”

For you middle-aged folks who still have flip phones, Grindr is basically the same thing as closing time at a bar — a desperate hour near dawn when you grab the nearest random stranger and drag them off to have sex. Except Grindr never closes. You simply open the app and a bunch of photos pop up along with details on how close they are to your current location.

“Look,” my young friend said, pointing at a photo, “there’s someone in this office — just a few feet away — who wants to have sex.”

We both pivoted in our chairs and glanced out the conference room windows. There he was, sitting in a cubicle, staring at his phone!

“Are you going to have sex with him?” I asked. Suddenly, this business call just got a lot more interesting.

“Of course not!” he exclaimed. “He’s in a cubicle.”

“Is it because it’s too public or do you just have a prejudice against people who work in cubicles?” I asked.

“A little of both,” he said. “But here’s a guy! Looks like he’s just across the street. And he’s got an office. Hey, cover for me. I’ll be back in 15 minutes.”

As my colleague trotted across the street to perform his dirty little business, I reflected on how dating has changed since I was a girl.

It used to be that you had to make quite an effort to have sex with a stranger. Here’s how it worked:

First you spend a few hours on the phone (a landline!) arguing with friends over the best bar to hit that evening.

Then you dress.

Then you look at yourself in the mirror, shake your head at yourself in disgust, tear off all your clothes and dress again.

On your way to meet your friends, you get your hopes up. Tonight is the night! Something magical is going to happen! You are going to meet your true love at last!!

When you get to the bar, you start drinking and scheming. You scope out the crowd and pick out a target for your affections.

After a few drinks, you work up the nerve to talk to her.

It doesn’t go well.

A few more drinks. A new target. Another attempt to chat her up.

It doesn’t go well.

Repeat above actions a dozen times.

After spending a lot of money and getting very drunk, the bartender announces closing time. While staggering to the door, you accidentally slam into another drunk. She may be beautiful. She may be a gargoyle. Doesn’t matter. You go home together.

My colleague arrived back just as our meeting began. He was covered in sweat and self-satisfaction.

“Did I miss anything?” he whispered.

I thought back to my days of heavy dating labor, when you had to employ a powerful combination of wit and alcohol to lure someone into bed. It could be soul-crushing, but it was also a lot of fun. “Yep,” I said, “you missed a lot.”

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