My First Internet "Date" - for Nerve's First Time series, but killed

In 2002 I was brave enough -- and finally had a computer with enough juice -- to go on the internet and try to hook up.

My friend told me about this one gay sex site he frequented. I went on and created a little profile that I later discovered was too wordy and chatty and not within the very strict, grunty “Lookin for buds” semblance of masculinity that predominates many sex sites.

I was so nervous. As I watched my anonymous photo download, I felt a naughty, nasty pang – something we have all felt by now – whether it was from the first time you typed in your credit card on Amazon, or that you were drunk and bought vicodin online, or, like me, when you first cast your sexual desires out into the two-dimensional, glowing, public world of the internet. You press “send” that initial time and there is a panic that this could go very, very wrong, but it’s worth it because you’re damn horny. But maybe you are braver and more carefree.

You probably discovered way before me that there are a lot of inexpressive people online – a polite way of saying loonybins. People who have poor typing skills, limited access to their own emotions, or perhaps are just way too busy to tap the spacebar on their keyboards between words. People who write things like “want tobottom for yowere ru” or don’t write anything at all.

After about a week of conversations in this “It puts the lotion in the basket” style, I finally struck up a conversation with some guy who seemed very clearheaded and constructed complete sentences.

He confidently sent me other photos of himself: a smiling face, a flexy chest, a boner close-up, and I processed all the separate images into a possible person he could be, my flat thoughts building up into a whole, like Cubism.

I was surprised to learn he lived 5 blocks from me. He asked me to come over. It seemed too efficient to resist. It was 7 pm, after work, and I walked there among the busy rush of people returning home from dayjobs. As I passed storefronts and apartments with people inside the lit-up windows, I felt a sexual version of that timeless new york idiom– There actually were a million stories in this city, and a lot of the stories involved guys in their underwear with throbbing hard-ons.

He answered the door in a white tank top and was animated and friendly. His apartment was three rooms kept very clean. He was eating cereal and watching TV – Blade with Wesley Snipes on Pay per view. We sat and watched and I talked and talked because that is how I work through my nerves. He was patient and led me into the bedroom and we stripped to our underwear. He knew it was my first time meeting someone online and said supportive things like “Don’t worry, if it doesn’t feel right there is no problem in just stopping,” which is what happened after about 5 minutes. We pulled out our cocks, got hard, but I backed off soon after. Maybe it was the blaring TV in the kitchen/livingroom, or the depressing, empty birdcage in the corner, or the fact that he kept the lights on like we were going to put up wallpaper. I just could not get my body to hum with desire.

I wasn’t accustomed to the inversed schematic of online meetings. You receive details upfront that are normally revealed at a later moment– how they write, their dick size, their idea of their own body, their sense of humor – before you even MEET them. And then, there they are in front of you unfamiliar and always bashful. Even when they are sex addicted jaw-grinding crystal tweekers they seem bashful.

Its almost difficult to recall the time before the internet took over sexuality, when guys had real names and not “hotpuertoricanboi” or “Niptop8inchstud”. It was a purer more organic age, when we gay guys went to bars and clubs and stood there listening to Hole or Yo La Tengo on jukeboxes and patiently waited for someone three dimensional to show up.

Ironically, the internet makes you believe so much more in the unseeable, etheric quality that emanates from people because you are confronted with someone’s vibrations and then have to compare it with the flat profile version of the person you have already filed away in your head. The person has a vaguely unpleasant yogurt smell, or flaky eyebrows or just an all around demonic aura and you learn to respect the potent subtle body and chemical cues you have always trusted.

There are a lot of other new, weird feelings you experience during your foray in that world. For instance, if the meeting isn’t successfully erotic (which is more often than not) you leave with a different style of disappointment that feels quite unique. It’s kind of close to the feeling you had when you find out a really hot movie star is only 5’1”, or when you sat on Santa Claus’ lap as a child, perceived his fake beard and contemporary bifocals, felt his cheap felt suit, and suddenly had to accept him as a falser, flawed all-knowing deity.

We went back into the living room/kitchen and watched Wesley slaughter vampires and spray blood everywhere. He offered me Diet Pepsi. When he found out I was a freelance writer, he assumed correctly that I was dirt poor, and on my way out gave me a bag of clothes he was throwing out...jeans, thermals, and a couple of DKNY shirts. I left with a trash bag of clothes and no orgasm.

Of course my subsequent attempts weren’t so chaste. But that's another story.

Those were some flushed, memorable days for me -- when desire was fusing with the computer world. I went from rookie (“wow! He looks perfect in his boxers!”) to connoisseur (“hm. The diffused lighting and quarter turn of the torso may be hiding a pot belly”) to tired know-it-all (“Yea, SURE you’ve got a 6 pack and monster cock. Creep.”) very quickly. My online education took me about three years – which is the speed of light compared to how long it took me to get sick of the bar scene. God I am such a slow learner.

I swear it was my original intention to find something enduring when I first logged on. But I realized (slowly) that it’s difficult to grasp onto anything permanent when people flip through each other’s profiles like magazines. It does slightly freak me out how the internet has fused advertising with sexual desire. You have to be so attention grabbing and snappy and quick to get noticed, using your sharpest skills at packaging and branding to draw attention to yourself -- like a jingle with pecs. It’s all about selling, it seems. How American. No wonder we are so into it.

Best example of the desperate advertisment tonality of internet sex is this gem that I found on Craigslist:

“Start off your day or evening with a great bj! Got powerful suction. Intimate! Discreet!”

I don’t want to be preachy and negative about hooking up online. Lord knows I’ll probably try it again. I still do believe in the glorious Wired-magazine ethos that our technology connects humanity. I think you can achieve a sense of genuineness and honesty about yourself in your little profiles, and I have met one or two people that I am glad to know. But one thing is for sure, it isn't any less time-consuming than just going out and standing there in a bar with a Rolling Rock for two hours.

I’m not sure I have the time it takes to devote to building a genuine version of myself online, you know? It’s taken me so long to create a grounded identity for myself in the fleshy realm. And now, after trawling the internet for three years, I’ll go to those bars or parties or festivals or restaurants and meet some cute guy, and there they are, jiggering with so much life, and the attraction feels organic -- as though I was buying fresh vegetables at a farmers market.

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