In the darkness and privacy of my bedroom, with my half-undressed body illuminated only by the glow of my mobile. All it took was a check in the right box and I was transformed from a straight-identifying, lady-seeking bloke, to one in search of bromance.
If Tinder is the avenue for fighting desperation and loneliness in Canberra, then I sped down that road without hesitation, though fully aware of the potential for whispers to spread about me being closeted, a liar or a freak. Within minutes a buffet of Canberra bros were identified for sorting. I simply needed to swipe left to dismiss an unsavoury match, or swipe right to engage in some hardcore man chat. Though I found myself hanging left more often than not, after a few hours I’d amassed an intriguing array of personalities, sexual preferences and looks.
There was Mr AFL Blondie, Bearded Bro, German Diver & Mr Mates & Dates. I even found a friend-of-a-friend with whom I’d meant to indulge in the delights of the culinary arts for ages, although it hadn’t happened due to the absence of mutual friends to mediate our union. Thanks to Tinder, we were finally matched for some finger-licking fun.
All my men displayed similar characteristics: athletic, outdoorsy, interdisciplinary, 24-33 year old, world travellers.
All were on Tinder, just like me, yearning to be matched with a manly man. All, like me, were looking for mates. Yup, just mates…at least for starts.
They were scattered along the spectrum of sexuality, something that surfaced during the course of the conversation. My instincts were right: contrary to popular belief, most matches didn’t pop the question of sexuality outright, but were more interested in my personality and interests, instead of whether I’d end up betwixt the sheets with them.
Before I began Tinder-ing I noticed a trend in the app’s recommenders; they were seeking broader networks. Not just dates and hook ups (good on ya though!), but the chance to join other circles within this tiny national capital and beyond.
Of course, I began using Tinder strictly for dating women, but soon realised that I didn’t crave serial dates, the endless onslaught of coffee shop commitments or casual drinks. That shit gets expensive and there are not enough feminists available who’d foot their own bill. Besides, I know many cheap bastards who’ve found love.
I needed companions with whom to relax; bros who would enjoy a footy match, a bike ride, a beer or a movie, bruddles (bro+cuddles) optional.
A brutal aspect of male friendship in my experience is the tendency to employ a narrow set of tolerable traits among friends. This is especially applicable to the sexual identity of one’s mates. Despite talk of diversity and equity, a straight-identifying man’s sexuality is called into question when connecting with non-straight peers; a gay man potentially taunted for having a ‘straight-crush,’ despite the absence of romantic interest. Mention bisexuality and a flurry of speculations arise. Even if there is some sexual tension… who the fuck cares! Men should be able to show genuine interest in each other’s company without having to defend what does or doesn’t transpire between their genitals.
In essence, I publicly confessed to being lonely in Canberra, a recent addition to the city who was ready to risk public perception for the sake of meaningful connections. I needed a shortcut to friendships, one that didn’t require signing onto every sports club in the ACT, wrecking my liver from pub-crawls, or enduring mateships that didn’t quite sit well with me.
I saw familiar men (and women) on Tinder and initially worried that my preferences would come under fire. Yet I was more worried that these folks were just like me, longing to connect to the wider community while also seeking specific qualities… and was sad that they had found only familiar faces. I felt empathy, along with the hope that they’d be sorted right.
And yes, a few of my Tinder-bros were keen on more action than I’d entertain. One wanted to play but didn’t specify which sport, although he did offer a protein shake. No shock on my part though: with a few lines of text I clarified that I wasn’t keen on muscle milk.