Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Social Circles

When one of his siblings says or does something my 13 year old thinks is stupid, he'll berate them with, "That's an EPIC FAIL!!"

My last post can be called an EPIC FAIL - at least according to the (supportive) trouncing I took from both friends' and newcomers' comments. I must have done a very poor job of making my point.

Should I try again? Or should I simply say "thank you" and move on to a different topic?

I've decided to try again. Maybe I'll get beaten to a pulp again (with good intentions by all - I understand) but, for whatever reason, I'm finding it difficult to let this go.

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Given my situation, figuring out how to meet the right kind of men is a tricky issue.

Although I'm convinced that OKCupid is the best dating site out there, I no longer think it's the best site for me. It's time that I pursue other options.

Turning away from OKCupid is disappointing. It's like switching from a new Apple computer to an eight year old PC. Why would I want to do that??!

I've realized that OKCupid mostly attracts a demographic that is not my own. As much as I would like to be a part of that demographic, I really don't think I can do it properly. I feel like I'm trying to shoe-horn again. That is, trying to get my foot into a shoe that almost fits, but doesn't quite.

What I'm talking about comes down to social circles.

Whether we're aware of it, or like to admit it, it's human nature to want to hang out with people who are similar to ourselves. Being with our own people makes us feel comfortable. It makes us feel safe and at ease with ourselves. There's a reason why different ethnicities tend to segregate themselves. We're all most comfortable among the people most like us.

When it comes to social circles, economic status and educational backgrounds can be more powerful than race. I have friends of many ethnic backgrounds but they're all college educated and they're all professionals. I have much more in common with them than I do with most white high school educated tradesmen.

Lifestyle and age often dictate social circles. Most people have friends in their own age group and most people have friends that live a similar lifestyle.

The intensity of friendships change as we move through the stages of life. As some friendships heat up and others cool down that signifies that the focus of our life is changing. We always make our closest friends the center of our social circle. As the circle changes, we change friends. That's why single people often complain that they need new friends after all of their old ones get married.

The gay community is its own social circle. This is evidenced by the fact that many large cities have gay neighborhoods. Gays and lesbians want a place where they are comfortable and are among their own kind, the same way people of different ethnicities want the same sense of community.

Like ethnic neighborhoods, gay neighborhoods have their own personality. Although individual personalities can be very different than neighborhood personalities the fact that a person chooses to live in a certain neighborhood indicates that they feel most comfortable with that neighborhood's personality. If they weren't comfortable, they'd live somewhere else.

I live near San Francisco, one of the gayest cities on Earth. Most gays in San Francisco live within a two mile radius of Castro and Market Streets, the center of "The Castro." The urban lifestyle they live is very different from the one I do. If I wasn't gay I wouldn't venture down to the Castro any more often than I do Japantown. Also, if I wasn't gay and I wanted to live in the City I wouldn't live in the Castro. Why? Because the center of my social circle would not be there.

It might sound like I'm implying that I don't want to date a guy who lives in an urban, gay neighborhood. That's not true. At this point, I'd be happy to date anyone who can fog a mirror.

What I'm saying is I have my social circle. I'm a suburban dad raising three bratty kids in a location filled other bratty, spoiled white kids and their often obnoxious parents. I have a routine that is centered on my kids and whether I like that routine or not, it doesn't matter. I'm committed, they are my responsibility and no one else, including my someday-ex-wife is willing and able to be their primary parent.

Urban gay men have their social circle. Mostly, it is dominated by other urban gay men. They have routines too. My guess is that their routines are more fun than mine.

Now, just because two people have very different social circles doesn't mean that they can't be friends. Of course not. It happens all the time. And it certainly doesn't mean two people can't be lovers. But here's the problem: in order for a relationship to grow, social circles have to adjust. If two people stay locked in different social circles then it creates conflict and, unless someone adjusts, almost certainly the relationship will end. Normally I would be happy to adjust. But with my responsibilities, I'm largely locked in. That means my potential partner would need to accommodate me. Why should a gay San Franciscan do that when there is an endless supply of other gay men within two miles of his home? He won't. And it's not just about supply. It's also about being comfortable and melding similar social circles.

The reason I think I'd stand a better chance for accommodation in a place like Kansas City or in suburban parts of San Francisco is because the lifestyle differences are less and the choices are fewer.

To have the best chance for dating success, I need to interact with people who are most similar to me. OKCupid is not the best venue for that.

I'm always going to have the same hurdles but cursory explorations of Match, Manhunt and Adam4Adam seem to indicate that they all have more divorced men, and, a greater portion of their users live in the suburbs than OKCupid. I think OKCupid is wicked cool but when it comes to online sites for middle aged, divorced men who are raising kids, it's not the best choice.

I should say that, although I'm somewhat obsessed with OKCupid, I'm not obsessed with on-line dating. In fact, more and more I'm feeling like finding a boyfriend is a lot like finding a job. You can send a resume into a generic job website, or, you can network with real people who have a similar social circle. Chances are, it's real people who are going to help you find success, not the on-line job site.

As for my 41yo teacher...my shoulder-bag wielding urban hipster...I have no intention of emailing him any time soon. He's my top-choice on OKCupid. But, as I'm learning, I need to expand my options. I suspect that if I make an effort with other sites, I'll find quite a few other guys who would make a better match than my geeky friend.

Am I going to get scolded again? Or am I making more sense now?

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Many thanks to the guys who take the time to read my posts and make thoughtful comments. I'm not always good about replying but I do savor every word you guys say. I really wanted to respond individually to everyone this time, but since you all mostly hit a different note in the same song, I decided to go with a full post.

Big thanks to Mark, Jason_M, Jim, Amtop, Austin, Jack, Biki and Jayson.

8 comments:

  1. I'm late to the party again. I read your posts in reverse order. I see your point - and agree somewhat. But I do think you're over generalizing. Not every gay man living in the Castro is happy there. Maybe your 41 year old teacher is longing for a change.

    I say send him that email. What's the worst that can happen? He won't reply. That happens to me all the time. So I send out more messages to other people. Eventually someone takes the bait.

    But we love you no matter what you choose to do. Best of luck.

    -nl

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  3. Ok, this explains your thought process. However, you can't speak for what someone wants/likes/desires if you don't even know them.

    I think you would be very surprised if you knew the back story to many couples. Here, listen to mine and then give your reasonings a new look.

    I grew up in Indianapolis, and was totally a big city lover. Museum goer, classical music concerts on the lawn at the botanical gardens attendee, mall crawler, gallery lookie-loo-er. Went to college in the souther part of the state, thought i had did something horribly wrong in a past life to be exciled to such a tiny town. Met TH (the husband) at college while he was visiting his sister.

    He grew up and lived in a tiny teeny village (360 pop) in Alaska. Isn't interested in going to museums, art gallerys, malls or classical concerts. And we have been married for 33 years, happily I might add.

    Now does any of that sound like we moved in the same social circles? Or really had all that much in common at the beginning? No, it doesn't. But what makes us work so very well as a couple is the very fact that we are such different people. We spice up each others lives with experiences that we share with each other. Had I married someone exactally the same as I lived, how dull and drab that would be.

    I exchanged big city lights and nights, for the northern lights. Nights out in the winter, meant dressing in our heaviest winter gear and going out and laying in the yard to watch the northern lights fly and flicker across the sky. Camping, fishing, all of these experiences are from being with TH.

    TH learned to love cuisine from different countries, how to enjoy people watching at malls, and how to spin tales about them. He grew up in a home that was barren of imagination, and I'm full to the brim with it.

    So, stop making excuses and start contacting some of these guys that interest you! If you don't ask, there is no way to receive an answer.

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  4. I think you are over thinking it. Write to the teacher. You never know, maybe he is tired of the noise and activity of "urban" life. Maybe he would like quiet times with his partner and some kids.

    In any case you have nothing to lose.

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  5. So, the "scolding" comes in assuming that everyone who goes to "The Castro" (or any other so-called "gay mecca") fits into a specific type.

    The point I was trying to make last time is that you can find people of all types in these places.

    For example, I hang out in West Hollywood. Yes, most of the major club goers are circuit-types. That is not the sum total of people who go to West Hollywood, however. There are bars or coffee houses where you can find all sorts of different types, microcosms of subcultures.

    In my experience, in fact, Castro is *not* where the urbanite gays go; yes, they live there, but most of what I consider party boys or circuit types go to clubs outside of Castro specifically because the Castro bars and clubs aren't their kind of place. I, personally, don't like Castro because I find it too slow. But then, I *am* an "urban gay".

    However, this is less about the specifics of the locations and more about blanket assumptions.

    The main point, which you seem to have arrived at, is "get out there and meet people" - wherever it is, whether Castro of Market Street or some of the huge warehouse clubs in the wharf or out in the suburbs or wherever. You also might find that your personal situation is more fluid than you think (hint: there are urban dads as well as suburban dads) or that other people are more amenable than you expect.

    The main point is, keep an open mind and reject options *after* you experience them, not before. Writing off a huge portion of the community just on hearsay is a bad idea.

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  6. I agree with the others - but sorry your being short sighted. I came out a year ago, moving out of the family home next week - still doing the family urba life - but I now have a BF of three months that is in the gay community and does not like the drama that it brings & is comforable hanging out with me (as & when it fits my schedule, which suits him as he has his gay life still to suppliment our time apart)...its going to be this way for a long while for me & he's cool with it....the gay life can be hard work & the smart ones want a way out of it - we married guys can provide that. Nick, Fort Wayne, IN

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  7. try this site

    http://www.daddyhunt.com/daddies/

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  8. Thanks for the shout-out, Cam.

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