FOMO

Man…dating seems to be foremost in my mind recently.

I’ve certainly been doing it, because of optimism or self-hate, I am not entirely sure.

I had lunch with the Little Buddy yesterday and she said something to the effect of “I hated dating and I hate interviewing, I’m not sure how you stand both”.  Remember, that’s an indirectly paraphrased quote.

She and I had both just come from interviews.

She got a call during lunch and said, “I bet that’s a job offer coming in” and blithely let the call roll to voicemail.

My hero of cool.

Sarah Barielles’ Brave just came on Sonos in the background, so I suppose that’s my cue.

FOMO – what is it?

Fear.

Of.

Missing.

Out.

Freaking Millennials.   It’s like they need an acronym for everything.

But that attitude is drastically different from my mindset – and I firmly believe that my mindset was representative of our culture’s at the time I matured in – growing up before the turn of the century.  We wanted it all and were a culture of conspicuous consumers, yet we found satisfaction in setting a goal and obtaining it.  It doesn’t seem so true about subsequent generations, and their dissatisfaction with what they have is bleeding backward into prior generations.

No one is satisfied.

People move house and trade-in vehicles like a runner changes shoes.

TV shows are cancelled after one episode.

Remember how popular small and toy breed dogs became after Paris Hilton got famous with her reality show?  Go to a shelter and check out the number of abandoned small breeds, even now, after all this time.

As far as that pertains to dating, why wouldn’t we throw away people, too.  A friend of mine summed it up beautifully one drunken evening when discussing his relationship with his partner of 20+ years versus my single existence:

“You meet someone in a bar and spend the night talking.  You go home together and they either never leave or you never hear from them again.”

An interesting if not highly figurative observation on his part.  Gay Wisdom?  Perhaps.  A cleverly turned phrase that one with faith in relationships can see gospel in like Catholics can believe in transubstantiation?  I’m sure that’s an easy argument.

But what about the other side of that argument?  What if instead of scuttling a potential truth with jaded jargon loaded arguments we debunk the assertion that it can’t be that simple?

What scuttles modern dating?

Personally, it seems that – anecdotally – even hookups are tough to get someone to commit to.  That being the case, how can anyone hope to get someone to show up for something that doesn’t have the same immediate reward an orgasm does?

So, hooking up and taking care of urgent biological imperatives in the moment over investing in more challenging spiritual needs is surely one possible explanation.  But, I’m sure there are many facets in something so complex as human interaction and relationship building.

Being a career retailer, I have never dreaded the proximity of competition opening near to my particular business.  Competition is generally credited as a positive and mutually beneficial phenomenon in business, but not so with dating.  It seems that the more apps available to shop for mates and the more people participating the more distracted the process becomes.

Why?

Consider these apps might be analogous to retail as an industry in this scenario, but if we cast people as the businesses, that leaves the question of currency.

What is the currency?

Sex.

Oops.  Looks like we have based this experiment on the Greek economy since relationships seem to be suffering.  Our relationships are going bankrupt.  Urgently.

And it points well back to my original point about FOMO.  We have so many choices, that we make none, remaining stuck in the cycle of not deciding.

It’s like we’re all stuck in Seinfeld.  Remember how when he or Elaine or George or Kramer dated someone there was always something wrong?

close talker

He’s a close talker.

She’s a low talker.

Man-hands.

For believing she got gonorrhea from sitting on a tractor seat in a bikini…one of my personal favorites.

Ok, maybe it’s not fair to lay this all at the feet of the Millennials.

But whatever seminal influence the Seinfeld cast and writers may or may not have inadvertently had in this current behavior, at least there were reasons these characters sabotaged their relationships.  Today, I think there is no more reason than simple distraction.

Before ever hearing the term FOMO I had my own name for this phenomenon.  I called guys who couldn’t commit the Queens of the Better Offer.  You’d go to bars and chat with people.  If it went well, you ask them out or for more immediate gratification, back to your place.  Then, I guess, if everything goes well, you rent a U-Haul.  The Queens of the Better Offer would delay accepting an invite, be it of a social or more carnal variety, and hold out for their perceived best opportunity in whatever particular bar they were in.  Frequently, these QotBO ended up finding themselves at the “Sidewalk Sale” after the bar closed and kicked everyone out.

You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.

The QotBO were left with the option to go home alone or settle for someone who wasn’t worthy enough to invest their attention in in the hours leading up to closing time.

Wow.  I just had an a-ha moment to when my grumpy old man-ness began.  When guys would do that to me, I remember telling them that if they had left with me when I asked, they could be home sleeping already instead of just deigning to hit on me.

Early.

Onset.

Grumpiness.

Back to the present shituation (<– Chrisism) and what have these current behaviors created for our culture, not just the gay culture, but within America as a whole?  People.  Lonely people.  Perhaps more entertained than ever before but also lonelier at the core than ever before as well…lonely people who are afraid of missing out, afraid of being alone.

Whether it’s Monkey Daters – who never leave one romantic entanglement before having their next lined up, much like a monkey swinging from branch to branch in the wild – or people that are so busy being busy that they don’t have time to indulge dating someone seriously.  Or won’t risk it.  They’ve got their professional lives, their part time career of gym-going and then myriad distractions from their unnamed loneliness like volleyball leagues or the Gay Men’s Chorus.  Christ, even big brother or other volunteer programs are more of a security blanket protecting against the potential cold of loneliness than they are a legitimate charitable exercise.

But what’s one to do when he still has needs that dating would normally meet but the crippling indecisiveness and chronic overcommitting so prevalent – basic, if you will – amongst us all today makes impossible to achieve?

Here’s the vicious FOMO cycle.

Back to the apps.

Maybe not even to hook up, per se, but to just connect with someone else killing some free time before bed or during a lull at work.  Just to feel desirable enough because someone throws a Woof or an Oink or a Smile your way.  Or even a “Sup”…man, when someone actually uses a real – albeit lame and artless – word with you instead of just pushing a button to send an automated and presumably less risky Wink your way you really should make an effort to lock that down.  The online personal touch is so…touching.

So there’s that benefit of having a dating app.  Mutual acceptance of the situation, this misery your constructed happiness has created.  The camaraderie of people knowing they aren’t the only ones that are too busy leading a happy and incomplete life to have time to date or put effort into a relationship.

That’s a pretty jaded perspective of what the FOMO culture can create.  But I have observed this phenomenon in action.  Not the reality for everyone, of course.

There’s under-booked guys and people out there, too.  Normal people.  People who aren’t missing out on having it all by virtue of having too much.  People such as yours truly, who is really just a watcher to these mind-boggling behaviors and goings-on.  Sure, I see other normal guys out there.  We talk.  Other things happen.  Or don’t.  But I also see guys like I have described.  I call them precious, these QotBO.

But I see another type of guy, too.

The guy that is guys.

Guys who are looking for a third.  What is it about our FOMO culture that creates all these open relationships that I see now?

Too often.

You’ll be glad – or perhaps just unsurprised – to learn that I have a theory.

Not that Poly or Open Relationships aren’t viable pieces of the possible spectrum of human interaction and relationships…but they seem to be too large a piece of the pie nowadays.  People routinely barfing out the expected defenses of “If you haven’t tried it, you can’t knock it” and “It works for us”.

Does it, though?

Really?

Is this what “working” looks like?

Maybe you’re with the wrong person.  Perhaps your response to the FOMO culture was to settle.  A bird in the hand, after all…

I’ve seen Poly and Three-way Relationships disintegrate because there was still no commitment amongst the principles.  Great, now there’s three of you dating.  Why are each of you still looking for hook-ups on the side?  How much dick is enough?  Is not enough dick really the core issue?

For me, the logistics of a Three-way Relationship are non-starters.  Is it always everyone, all the time?  Can two be intimate without the third?  I learned from Big Love that schedules and calendars help.  That kind of takes away the genuineness that spontaneity creates, though.

“Sorry, I can’t drill you in the kitchen because tonight I have to be in someone else’s bed.”

Same with Open Relationships…sure, they just aren’t for me.  I’m traditional.  But how does that work?  I get some on the side while my boyfriend is at work and then he comes home feeling randy.  Well, guess what?  I’m a one-hit-wonder.  Matter of fact, I’m probably good for a few days now.  My days of having sex like I’m brushing my teeth – before bed, when I wake up and sometimes after lunch – are over.  I’ve entered my sexual camel stage, believe it or not.  But still, I think my case is extreme but not abnormal, even the most sexually active would probably lose their enthusiasm for repeated instances of bad timing.

Or their boyfriends would.

Either way, the problem probably just escalates until you have a relationship that crumbles or reaches a NSLP situation…non-sexual life partners.

From what I have gathered, there are lots of reasons for Open or Three-way relationships to work.  Some make me nod my head as I see the potential for the particular rationale; long distance creating an open situation, age-based open relationships to meet the needs of differing libidos.

I’ve also heard some real head-scratchers as far as reasons for opening a relationship up goes:  two bottoms or tops together?  WTH?

You’re not boyfriends if you’re not lovers; you’re friends.

This latter type of phenomenon made me realize that sometimes people respond to the FOMO culture we’re stuck in by not missing out on a relationship…even if it’s with the wrong person.  Those are more often than not the alternate relationships that I see fail.  But, mark my words, those people are the ones that will organize a Poly Pride Parade before admitting that their alternate relationship isn’t what needed acceptance, it was the fact that their relationship was unviable in the first place that needed to be recognized.

Not to switch topics too jarringly, but the other day I was talking about the good old gay days in Portland with a guy over a beer.

Yes, it was a date.  Shut up.

With a guy who didn’t know about the good old gay days because…

He is 25.  More shutting up, please.

I was telling him about how virtually all of the gay bars in Portland used to be on a three block stretch of Stark Street, commonly referred to as Vaseline Alley.  Starting where Stark breaks off of Burnside you had The Eagle, Silverado’s was on the next block which has been completely taken over by the McMenamin’s businesses – I’m not sure why there is a Army Surplus Jeep in the basement that used to be a sex club called Club Portland, but that’s what I hear happened.  On the next block you had Three Sister’s, lovingly called Six Tits, where you could see straight guys strip for gay guy’s discretionary tip money while their girlfriends watched.  And then the big finish of Boxxes, Brig and Panorama across from the original locations for CC Slaughters and Scandals just below 10th Street.  Scandals is the only gay bar left on the street now.  Everything else has scattered to make way for boutique hotels, upscale shops and overpriced hipster cafes and bars.

It’s progress.

Unforgivable in some people’s minds, but for me…completely the opposite.  Half of the displaced bars simply ceased to exist.  The remaining scattered to different quadrants of town from SW to NW to North Portland – affectionately called Portland’s Fifth Quadrant, because Portland does like to be weird.  Or be bad at math and cartography stuff.

What others see as gentrification gone wild I see as diversifying our brand.  We spread the gays out, diluted their entertainment options and kind of forced gays to suddenly have to pick a favorite to invest in since they couldn’t just hopscotch down the road hitting each of the bars in turn.  I think it actually strengthened the community as well as the businesses themselves, which is good for us all.

Capitol Hill in Seattle faces the same fate as gentrification from overpaid, over-imported and overwhelmingly heterosexual tech employees move to the areas adjacent to their new jobs in Seattle’s downtown core and South Lake Union neighborhoods.  The public (gay) outcry was legitimate but probably short sighted.  The gay enclave of Cap Hill needed to be broken up.  We were kind of bullies in our roles as Queen of the Hill.  To each other.  It was a live action version of what I see on line and in app behavior:  you could be talking to someone in a bar or even on a date and not be able to avoid the feeling that they were looking over your shoulder or around the corner to see who was on the horizon.  It’s the Sidewalk Sale all over again.

Talk about someone kissing you with their eyes open.

Just like Portland gays had to make deliberate attempts and decisions in their nightlife after the demise of Vaseline Alley, I see opportunities for the gays of Seattle to come back more into touch with actual one-on-one dating and relationships once they are scattered across the neighboring communities and have less distraction to take their attention off of what’s right in front of them.

So, maybe we’ll grow out of this FOMO culture organically.  At least as it largely impacts relationships within my particular subculture.  But the gays have long been relied upon to be trend setters.  So goes the evolution of dating and relationships with the gays, so follows the country.

We’ll see.

I still think intentional behaviors are better than reactionary behaviors, but that might be asking too much.  Maybe we all need to suffer together in order to grow.  Safety in numbers.  Maybe the solution isn’t so much a Norma Rae type moment where one voice can make a movement – ok, I could have used Gandhi there, not sure why I defaulted to Sally Field – rather, more of a Darwinism type moment where we have to fight to ensure the life and culture that we love survives and what is actually important to us thrives.  Let me tell you, as the Cap Hill enclave has broken up, I have seen more announcements of relationships and marriages than I have announcements of relationships ending.  That’s a positive change from past behavior.  No one in Seattle is going to get in a car for a hook-up.  No piece of ass is worth that traffic nightmare, they will lock down what they have.  Nearby.

Stand by.  You know I’ll be here observing and won’t be shy about vomiting my opinions onto the poor, unsuspecting world-wide web.

FOMO

3 thoughts on “FOMO

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