(Delete, Rinse, Repeat)
It's June now, and I'm lying in bed, trying to pretend I don't know what I'm going to do, to pretend that I haven't had this plan for a month.
I had had the same phone since sophomore year of college. It was bottom of the line then. I didn't have room to download app updates and my flip phone had had a better camera.
But I'd just gotten an internship, that paid, and looking up directions on a laptop before I left the house was starting to prove an infeasible way to try and catch a constantly shifting array of buses.
And there was a better camera.
I'd opened Grindr on my old phone twice before. Is talked to maybe four guys, I only really remember a conversation with one. I was hamstrung by the fact that any of the pictures taken on my phone made me look like a chubster caught in a low-res snap by the FBI while they busted a counterfeit handbag ring. And boys wouldn't talk to people without a picture.
I won't now either.
And while I tried to keep a conversation going with the two people who would chat with me, I told myself, "when I get a phone with a good camera, ohhhhh boy!"
It was an idle promise I wasn't going to keep. I told myself. I didn't listen.
I bought my phone while I was visiting my parents on a week-long "summer break". Two days after I got back to Seattle I opened went to my room, locked the door and opened Grindr. I told myself, quite firmly "no pictures". This was non negotiable, this was a line I wasn't going to cross. I didn't even believe myself then. I think I changed my mind 15 minutes later.
I went to the bathroom and took off my shirt, felt, electric and nervous and "the fuck are you doing?" and curiously vulnerable. Still wearing pants (not going to cross THAT line) but curiously naked, there alone in the bathroom, preparing to step out in front of hundreds of eyes.
And for the first time in my life I took a bathroom selfie.
I spent more than an hour in the bathroom. Trying filters, poses, states of dress and undress (maybe just in my underwear? Maybe with my pants lower. Or higher. Shirt open? Off?). Trying to find something, to take a picture that didn't gross me out, wrestling with the awkwardness of my shoulders, the weird puffiness of my nipples and the little (truly minuscule) bump of a tummy I'd never really cared about, but now, couldn't possibly seem to turn, or flex or cover my way out of.
That bump is gone now. Whether it's been the extra cardio, the more stable schedule that let me get to the gym more regularly (and motivation of a hundred horny, picking eyes), or forgetting to eat (and maybe not truly forgetting as often as I pretended), it's gone.
Good for me.
I finally left, went back to my room and grabbed that same Batman shirt, that made my pecs look so good then and would do it again a month later: while I walked home with my lips raw and hair in a full Kramer style blowout.
I put it on, lifted it to show my (two) abs and the hint of one (puffy) nipple, opened my mouth in a smile like I was ready for a good time. Bang. Perfect.
I cropped it, just the smile down, I'm not showing my face to these people. I'm still in the closet, still incognito, and I don't want anyone to know who I am.
I threw up the picture and it was... Magic. Suddenly there were so many people to talk to, so many guys. And they all wanted to see more.
So I sent my first nude. He'd opened with an ass pic, and, dang he looked good, and he coaxed me, teased me a little, he seemed nice. And I thought, I owe him. Sure, I owe him fuck it, that works. He wants a dick pic? ("Full frontal" he called it)
I was so nervous. It took me more than 10 minutes. I couldn't get hard (sorry, details, sorry) which seems pretty crucial for a dick pic. I was too nervous, too fat looking, to small downstairs (another lovely detail, I spend a lot of time warning guys they'll need to lower their expectations). But, eventually, success, or, close enough.
And he appreciated it. Liked it quite a bit, actually. He wanted to meet me. Now.
I told him I was really inexperienced (no idea just how inexperienced, and another line I spend a lot of time dropping). He said he'd teach me. I swelled with desire and panic. I managed to fend him off (fend myself off) it was so late, I can't get there, blah blah blah.
I had spent hours doing this. Hours of taking pictures and finding guys. I'd been alone in the apartment when I'd started, now my roommates were back from their shenanigans (smoking, I think).
Did I mention my roommate's gay?
I suddenly realize he's on, he's on Grindr and online, and he can see my profile, my clothes, my body and half my face and my stupid fucking grin. I block him but I'm panicking, and I think I can hear my name in the other room in a loud, shocked stoner-whisper that is really just talking at a slightly higher volume than normal.
I listen at the door, but I can't make anything out. I laugh, but I have a cold pit in the middle of my stomach. I don't want to leave the closet.
I don't know what makes me stop. It's late, maybe that's it. But I know I got back on later.
I finally delete the app at 2 AM. And I'm a wreck. I don't know what I'm doing, how I could have done what I did do. And I don't know what's going to happen next. But I know what I want to happen. And I know that I absolutely Do Not want that to happen, I don't want this to progress any further, I don't want to Get Fucked. (But, I do? I crinkle with pleasure at the thought, then guilt and fear). I want to stay virginal and pure and safe.
I delete the app, the pictures. I listen to Chance the Rapper on the floor. Same Drugs, played twice. I swear never to do it again. I cry a little. I remember God loves me and I go to bed happily. I sleep soundly. I'm going to be ok.
The next day I Google how to get pictures back afer you delete them. In the next few days I download the app again. I get it, frolick, delete. Get it, frolick too hard, progress to something I told myself I would never do (send another nude, send an ass pic, send a face pic, to a cute guy who spent two hours trying to get me to go to his car and "mess around" and pre-empted all his requests with a pic of his own, "I OWED him, Mother") delete, rinse, repeat. The account, all the pictures, all everything. Just to resurrect them.
I learn what it's like to feel like a whore.
It's not the dirty feeling that gets to me. I can kind of like that, if I try, if I don't think so hard.
It's that everyone knows.
Every man I would pass I would think, "Does he know? Was he on last night?"
Did he see me?
I can't stop looking at them either. Every guy I pass, every single one I stare at. I'm making weirdly aggressive eye contact, I've noticed them glance away in an awkward way they never have before. I'm trying to see if they can tell, if they can see I'm gay, if they're down, if they wanna check me out. And I'm watching their arms, their asses, their jawlines and calves and pecs and I can't stop. I don't want to do this but I can't stop watching the parade of men that's surrounding me. The whole world is starting to feel like Grindr.
I feel like I have no control over myself. Every night I think about getting on. Most nights I do, the instant I get back from work, sometimes the instant I get to work. Delete, rinse, repeat. I'm drowning. I can't think straight. This is the worst month I've ever had. Until the next one. Delete, rinse, repeat.