Savage Love Letter of the Day: Maybe It's Not the Gay Scene? Maybe It's You?

Comments

1
Also, crazy idea: be like a straight person and make friends with people you don't want to fuck. It takes off all the pressure/insecurity of being rejected by potential romantic partners, and you won't lose them if it gets weird after you fuck. Or be like a gay man and make friends with the girls at work. Sheesh.
2
LW: To add to what @1 said, people, whether gay, straight, pan, or other, will tend to stay clear of those who reek of or even hint at desperation. Perhaps, you might consider engaging with those with similar interests (eg, sky diving, knitting, meditating) regardless of their gender or sexual identity. Start from there. Once you’ve made friends with whom you can relate, you might just find gay friends amongst them.
3
it's called THE FREEZE.

You kinda just have to take your non-Nordic cultural heritage and use it to make friends. You'll need to be more explicit than you're used to. A native such as myself wouldn't want to offend you by suggesting that you were a lonely loner without your own plans - the horror - and will assume you have something better to do unless you say it out loud.

That being said, you gotta find your activities. You don't have a social circle built for you, like we did in school or in certain workplaces, you'll have to force one non-naturally. Be a joiner. Join a zogsports teams. Join a meetup group. Hang out with straight people. Be earnest and like what you like unironically.

Whatever you do, DO NOT go to these lame ass "silent reading parties".
4
volunteer volunteer volunteer volunteer, its how weirdos have been making friends for forever

gay city i'm sure could use folks, lifelong and maybe lambert house too if you are aiming for just the gay community, but any org would love your time, you get to meet people through common interests beyond just being gay, and even if its still slow going, you'll feel better about yourself for it, and feel like you really are a part of the community. my entire friend group, 12 years later, has it's core in the zine library i worked at in 2005. it works!
5
“I find myself constantly reaching out to other gays to hang or go out with, but never receive the same invites in return. ”

This is pretty normal, there are plenty of dips who think that “the freeze” is a real thing, Seattle is filled with persons with hobbies/interests and persons far more shy and introverted than yourself that manage to (eventually) find their scene.

It takes a lot of social capital to establish yourself initially, and it’s not easy. But, it’s the nature of not being in high school/college and having persons you see every day. Hobbies, interests, and meetups give a wider base to draw off of, and it’ll eventually lead to meeting more persons, and eventually snowball.

My sympathies, I moved coasts and replanted. In between the friendseeking, keep yourself interested in everything you can.
6
@4: Yes! This is also great. There’s tons of art and performance and persons who’d appreciate you and working alongside. Some of the best people I’ve met working for artists, drag shows, etc.
7
I was raised in Seattle, but I struggled to make friends after moving back (my high school friends had moved away). It's tough. I guess the major difference is, I found my gay friends in life through common interests. I would say find something *removed* from the gay world to volunteer in that has to do with what you actually like (unless all you like is drag and HIV testing). It's amazing how quickly you find common ground with the only other gay person in a room/organization full of straights. The statistics work in your favor here, since there are so many gays in this town.
8
"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."
- Gandhi
9
I second the meetups and volunteer suggestions. Meetups usually have activities every week, and even if you're shy and awkward socially, you can go and have fun. Most of the people at the meetup won't know one another, so you won't have the problem of trying to join an established group of friends. It will take the pressure off, and you can relax and be yourself, knowing that if you don't meet someone whom you can be friends with that time, you can just go to the next meetup.

Volunteering is great - you'll meet caring, passionate people whom share your interests, and perhaps values also, which makes a stronger foundation for friendship.

Keep in mind though, most people are busy just keeping their lives on track in a place like Seattle, and might not have as much time for socializing. Don't expect too much.
10
LW, I'm sorry you're having a hard time finding your fit in the Seattle gay scene. I'm no expert on either Seattle or the gay scene in that lovely city, but I think that wherever you are and whatever your scene, you'll do well by establishing a circle of close friends first - and subsequently choosing the best among them to form your "family of choice." It's not a one-and-done deal. As SJN @2 points out, most people shy away from those who reek of desperation - and someone who's projecting "WANT FRIENDS/FWBs/NEW FAMILY IMMEDIATELY, MUST BE GAY, ALL APPLICANTS ACCEPTED" will certainly have that reek. I'll echo everyone else by suggesting that you need to get involved in a community activity you're passionate about, and you're likely to find your friends/FWBs/new family organically, without having to work so hard (and unsuccessfully) at it. Good luck!
11
I live in Idaho, so girl please... if I can make friends in adulthood, you can too.

I second #1, do not limit yourself to gay men as you are really narrowing your chances, open yourself to women, straight men, etc. I managed to make new friends after years of isolating myself by going through apps and a local gay group. Bars are a toss up, some are small and have regulars to chat with but they also may not attract the people that share your interests.
12
One thing, I hope you're not telling people you want to find a chosen family! Not to the people you're battling to make friends with, they are not there for that talk. It's like going on a first date and explaining how much you want to get married and have a Schnauzorgi. Slow your roll.

(No it's not impossible to talk about your aspirations in a way that leaves them fun and relaxed instead of creepily targeted or desperately untargeted. But it's an advanced move and there's just no shortage of other topics you can use.)
13
Feeling sympathetic, because it's harder for those who are a little shy or maybe even just stuck in some rut to get out there and find (create) a solid social circle.

Here's what not to do: mope, get angry, or overthink things. Personally, I've found the very worst thing when feeling down is to beat myself more- easy to do, though, after being rejected.

Better idea: do positive or even mildly interesting things in life and positive, upbeat, fun people will find you more attractive. Go to events, meetup groups, yoga or any class you like. Volunteer. Or even go out alone sometimes to happy hour after work and bring a kindle. Half the time someone will chat you up or maybe even buy you a drink.

For example, when I was feeling shitty about getting old AF, because of my upcoming 20th high school reunion, did I sit around and mope? Why yes. Yes. I really did. But then said, fuck it..38 isn't even 40 and age is just a number. I put on a cute outfit, went to a nice restaurant, sat at the bar and met a successful, attractive guy who paid my expensive tab. We only went on a few dates, but whatever. It takes a lot of no thanks to get to that person who says yes please.

Whoever said desperation is a turnoff was right, but even worse to me is meeting someone who has that angry vibe like someone somewhere owes them sex. As a female I've met "angry desperate guy" in more than one form and it's not a good look, ok? However, I do recognize that "angry desperate guy" is usually deepdown "sad pathetic lonely guy". But SEATTLE'S letter has that vibe and it is a turn off for any potential partner.

Connecting with others is the only way to get out of a social rut. A lot of that process is awkward and uncomfortable, not to mention weeding out the assholes from your potential new friends. Expect a lot of deadends, ghosting, and barely there connections before anything actually blooms. That's completely normal. Also be ok with drinking buddies that aren't your true blue friends, but serve the purpose of wingman, etc. Or even be willing to have an occassional drink with a coworker as long as it stays professional- good for your work life and it gets you out and about to meet new people.

Been isolated, rejected and lonely in my own life too, but after you're done indulging yourself with the pity party and moping, get out there and make some new friends dammit. Just keep an open mind and be willing to work for it.
14
I wonder if this guy never read (or followed) Dan's Advice to Teenage Boys.
15
I am a Seattle native and I have absolutely no problem making new friends with complete strangers (of all genders, ethnicities, orientations, socioeconomic status, etc.) who have nothing whatsoever with my longtime social network.
Everyone is right about engaging in activities that are of interest to you. Not only will you meet more people, you will be more interesting to those you meet because you are out in the world experiencing things.
Also, while feel I very lucky to have more than a few friends that I consider be more like family, I do not underestimate the value of friendly aquaintances, peripheral friends, activity based friendships, etc., including my regular baristas and bartenders. All these people add up to being my "community". Not everyone who adds value and meaning to your life are going to be people with whom you can share your deepest secrets or hit up for money if times get hard. Focus more finding relationships you enjoy with a variety of people on a variety of levels. Give the relationships time to grow or evolve without anxiety. Intimacy will grow out of some of those. But not all and that's ok too. Understand and appreciate what roles people whom you like play in your life without trying to pressure them for more, having expectations that are inappropriate for the role, or resenting the limitations some of them. Lastly, flakes are everywhere. If you feel like someone is that from the onset, don't take it personally and move on. There is thing that I am careful to do when someone with whom I am in the early stages of building a friendship invites me for plans and I can't make it. I propose alternative dates/times, rather than just saying no. And don't be afraid to be vulnerable.
16
At first I was mad at your response Dan, then I burned with recognition. After thinking that it would be better to take my life (last year), I am working on me. It's not an easy go of it and I hope to hear more about SEATTLE. I'm going to use your advice (and that of your commentators) to help me go forward. Thanks once again.
17
Your life will likely be a lot better once you broaden your sense of community to include people who aren't gay men. Those of us who grew up in conservative places or within conservative cultural communities often get stuck with this fallacy that because we were mistreated and/or felt misunderstood at home, The Only People Who Will Understand And Love Us Are The Gays.

This fallacy works against us in two big ways. Firstly, it is unnecessarily limiting because there are so many lovely and loving people of all genders and sexualities out there who actually don't give a fuck if you're gay or what and if we assume they are homophobic and immediately rule them out as close friend and community material just on the basis of, say, not being gay men, we only impoverish ourselves. Secondly, we assume that other gay folk have shared our experience of growing up as outsiders. This is often and increasingly not the case. It's a wonderful development that so many gay people recall their coming out as a time of love and acceptance or simply as a non-big-deal. But if we think they will relate to our pain as people who came of age as outsiders, we will be left feeling very lonely indeed.

So if you need a place to have your pain and loneliness—from having grown up as an outsider in a homophobic place–understood, really do get therapy. It was a hard time, you deserve to be understood and heard, and you won't find that in a bar. It's the nicest thing you can do for yourself and for your future partners/ lovers/spouse(s). Then take a minute and use your skills of empathy and extrapolation to see that you are not the only person, and gay men are not the only group, to have ever felt alone or to have suffered. Go make yourself useful right now, in this era of extreme xenophobobia, to people who might be feeling alone, be suffering and be the targets of hatred and oppression. They are legion. Extend all the welcome, solidarity and kindness that you wish to have others extend to you. Cool things will happen.
18
Awww Dan, this took me back:

"Gay bathhouses are whorehouses, differing from the hetero variety only in that ours are entirely staffed by volunteers."

This became the source of a longstanding inside joke with a friend who used to refer to his whoring ways as "volunteering." As in "sorry love, can't make it to the movies with you, I'll be out volunteering tonight."
19
As something to look into, OP might benefit from an autism assessment - Aspergers in adults often looks and feels exactly like this - an invisible wall you keep bumping in to that keeps you from making social connections.

If it is ASD then just volunteering more isn't going to help, but some therapy and social skills training might.
20
Hey zpa @16, just wanted to say you did well getting to that recognition instead of deflection / denial. That's hard to do. I hope your work is rewarding and gets you to a good place.
21
Take care of yourself SEATTLE, and avoid going out to bars and parties. Work to improve your health, both physical and financial, and if living in the city sucks, MOVE!
22
SEATTLE, from one introvert to another (but not gay), you have to start be making friends with *people*. Not gay people. Not other men. Not gay men. Just people. Then you can move on from there. Your "friend's" (and I disqualify someone as a friend who doesn't actually like hanging out with you) comment that he doesn't like doing the same things you do is the biggest red flag and something you need to focus on. You need to find those people that *do* like those same things, and then look for fellow gays with that group.

I'll just use the gaming community, since I'm most familiar with them. Seattle recently hosted the Emerald City Comic-Con and there are absolutely spaces there for gaymers. There are also online communities for gaymers.

You also need to use the internet, as that helps with building relationships with people in a safe (for an introvert), low-risk manner in communities you might be interested in. And then from there you again branch out to the gay subset of that group and hopefully find/meet people in Seattle that share those interests.

I know it's hard. I'm sitting in Seattle, also friend-less, because I'm an introvert and don't actually interact with many people on a daily basis. These are the things I would need to do if I wanted that social experience.

There are other gay introverts. I know this because I'm internet-friends with one and acquaintances with a few more. They've even remarked how they have no interest in attending their local pride parade because it's just too many people and too loud. You are one. Not all gay people are social butterflies. The tricky part is in you all finding each other so you can have that shared experience.

Good luck.
23
LW: agree with Dan but, and would add old school dating web sites, volunteering volunteering friends don't have to be gay, meet up, not apps and bars as you've tried that. (Apps and bars good for some not all.) If you are religious / spiritual a welcoming faith community. (Atheist here. Not for me!)

And after trying all that and therapy, if you still don't like Seattle, big cities vary in the "cultures" of their 30-something urban professionals.

A different big city may fit you better.

Some people prefer smaller towns.

A small city 500k people can still have enough gay people so you're not isolated but have a different feel, either a small city in a blue state (gay friendly) or a blue small city in a red state (us against them).
24
I think the LW is thinking of the gay community from an outdated POV - at least, outdated from a Seattle point of view. The Gay Bar is no longer the center of the queer community, and queer people are no longer trauma-bonded to have a tight-knit community of the only other people that don't think they're evil hellbound pervert lepers. Now, if you go to "a gay bar" it's far more just a party scene, because that's the only reason to go to the gay bar. Everyone else is just hanging out at home or in the microbrew gastropub because you can be Gay In A Bar in Seattle and no one cares.

LW needs to stop trying to make friends at the bar and go to some meetups: there's groups for gay men's gardening, outdoor adventure (hiking, not "adventure") board games, vegans, classical music, mindfulness, business owners, buddhists, "intellectual and cultural activities," motorcycle lovers, knitters, and a zillion others.

https://www.meetup.com/topics/gay/us/wa/…
25
IJWTS I think the potential for isolation is at least as great for a guy who isn't gay.
26
Also, LW (and all of you other friend seeking introverts),
Being an introvert is one thing. Being shy or insecure are other things. However those things can all overlap, or any of those can be mistaken for the others without careful introspection (at a minimum). I am an introvert and sometime in my late adolescence when I decoupled my being an introvert from being shy or being insecure, and worked not not being the latter, I became quite comfortable with my introvert status, and as I said earlier in this thread, have an easy time making friends.

Being an introvert just means that being around a lot of people doesn't fuel you, or can drain you in a way that might make you want enjoy the company of others for shorter periods. There is no inherent reason that this should make it difficult to make friends. It might be more work to maintain your friendships, especially if you don't just tell them what they can expect from you as an introvert (you can have emotionally needy friends, but when they want an open ended, long hang out sesh prob shouldn't call you for that, for example).

Being shy or insecure both come with things about them that might make it inherently difficult to make friends. After unpacking whatever shyness or insecurities you may, you may find that you are not even truly an introvert, but if you are one, once it's decoupled from these other things, the friends will come.
27
Are social sports not a thing in Seattle? I'm a climber and probably 80+% of friends I actually see regularly are also climbers. I know folks who have built strong friend groups from ultimate frisbee, trail running, hashing, and volleyball. Endorphins, sweat, personal challenge, and shared triumph are great bonding agents.

Totally agreed with the points about putting something into the pot that other people will want to be around, whether that's some skill or talent, your positive energy and enthusiasm, a caring listening ear, a helping hand, or whatever you have to give. You want a boost? Give a boost. You want to be avoided? Be an energy vampire.
28
From the linked archive :
"Now, some practical tips. Gay life, like straight life, is a series of what? Of choices, snack tray. You make choices about your priorities, your friends, what "scene" you attach yourself to, etc, etc, etc. If your gay life is a miserable one, it's probably because you're making--what? Bad choices."
29
The quick version of what a lot of us are saying: the entire dating scene is challenging whether gay, straight or bi. Making new friends and skills will help you improve your chances of finding that special someone wants the same things you do- even if you don't get many dates out of it, at the very least you will have self-improvement. Also, online dating will help, but don't have unrealistic expectations about instantly meeting the love of your life.
30
It seems like SEATTLE is assuming: "I'm gay! You're gay! Therefore we must be friends!" As Dan might say, Yeah, no. You might have been the only gay in the village back home, but in the big city there are lots of gay (and straight and bi and pan and ace) people who define themselves in ways that aren't necessarily 100% related to their sexual orientation. You're gay, but who are YOU? What do you like to do, aside from "be gay"? Answer that question, find other people (straight or gay or bi or pan or ace) who answer similarly, and there's your tribe.
31
Whose dick do I have to suck to suck a dick around here?
32
@14

I was thinking the same thing!

The whole time I was reading the letter I was thinking "okay, you're gay. And? What do you have to offer?"

Then I read the part about how he spent a lot of time drinking and doing drugs. That stuff is fine in moderation but when it's part of your identity you are perceived as boring, or worse: damaged.

Get out and do something that you want to do because it's fun or useful. Don't do it to meet people. Consider meeting people a bonus and never expect it. Then maybe once you are interesting and have more to offer you will attract the people you want to attract.
33
So, twenty years ago, Mr Savage had better grammar. Hope exists, though I'd still like to know when he picked up the vocabulary of a Trump voter.

(Weirdly, I now really want to see poll figures on that. I made up the statistic of 64% of people who say "lay" when they mean "lie" voting for Mr T, but lately I've been wondering how good an under/over that is.)

Apologies in advance for the shameless plug: As for LW, I shall assume he's not any good at bridge, as being good at bridge gives one access to all the community one could want, besides being better mental provision for one's dotage than, taking Harriet Smith as an example, collecting a book of riddles or charades. And general bridge venues may lead one, especially in the right places, to gay-specific bridge pockets. The late David Rees wrote of numerous bridge parties in San Francisco, and the west coast does have an ongoing gay scene. (While it was not my medal discipline, during the day off of my time in Amsterdam, a new acquaintance from England and I played in an extra two-session pairs even, finished second overall behind a British international player - I remember making an incredibly difficult contract of Three No-Trumps during which early in the hand I had to break the opponents' communications by leading a low diamond early in the hand to take out the only possible entry to the setting trick - and winning a nice, big umbrella that lasted over ten years before it was stolen.)
34
What all these people are saying. It can be intimidating to be in a new city and not feel like you found your tribe. Sometimes it's that one key person who introduces you to their circle and takes you in. (I found this when I was a young man living in the UK and found Brits very difficult to get to know. I ended up falling in with a large group of South African expats).

But yeah, join things (how about a bowling league? You don't even have to be good, that's why they have handicaps), volunteer, put yourself out there. And some of the best friends I ever made were people I tricked with.

And Dan is right. A few months with a therapist might help you unpack this and reduce some of your anxiety about it. There are shitty gay men in the world and there are a lot of wonderful gay men. Sometimes it's not easy to find the good ones.
35
@31

Ahhh... Linda Fiorentino.
36
# 28 has a great point - shy and introvert are not the same thing, and may or may not exist together.

My son is a shy extrovert. There is nothing he loves more than spending time surrounded by people, especially if all those people are having a good time. He's the guy who is ready to head out to another party at 2 am when the first party is winding down.

But those people he's surrounded by need to be people he already knows, or has an "in" to, so he can get over the major hump of introducing himself and talking to someone he doesn't know well.

It makes life really hard for him, because people assume that since he's shy, he won't really want to go anywhere or do anything. And, since he's shy, it's really hard for him to expand his friendship group.
37
Wow, I had no idea "irregardless" was already popular enough in 1996 to show up in a letter to Dan!

I feel bad for this guy. He's clearly bought into the idea that the fantasies presented on TV are representative of reality. And of course he would, if he has no basis for comparison - if all you know is a small town in the sticks, your view of cities is going to be shaped by the way cities are portrayed in media (complete with absurdly large apartments in prime locations that a barista can somehow afford). So the expectation is understandable, but unrealistic.

Doing things with other people is necessary for meeting new people - a shared aim (we're all here to see this band, we're all here to protest this politician, we're all here to mount this production of The Seagull, etc.) provides some basis for sympathetic interaction with others and a reason for everyone to stay in the same place for a long enough time to allow organic conversation. Still, one shared interest doesn't automatically translate to social compatibility, and one must also do more than simply exist in proximity to others to establish a friendly bond. So, while SEATTLE has been pursuing the "do things with other people" part, he's clearly running into trouble somewhere (and maybe he just hates most people, like me, so not forming any new, significant friendships - versus, say, amiable acquaintanceships or hookup sex partners - in five years isn't really unusual).

I wonder if part of SEATTLE's problem might be that he's focused on making gay friends specifically. I appreciate the value of gay spaces and the queer scene in general, and I can understand why it might be particularly appealing to someone coming from a small town, but it's certainly not my only social scene, nor is it even my primary social scene (I tend to spend time in dedicated queer spaces when I'm hanging out with my friends for whom it IS their primary - or sole - social scene). I might behoove him to stop focusing on the "gay scene" exclusively (if he is - that's the impression I got from the letter); there are a lot of straight people who aren't anti-queer, as well as bendy people who exhibit a straight form by default but can and do bend into all kind of other shapes contextually.

If he's focusing on "gay activity/event" over "activity/event in which I'm interested for its own sake, at which making friends is an added bonus but not the sole purpose", that may be directing him away from spending time with people who actually share more of his interests and values than just broad-stroke sexuality. Lots of people like to think that sexuality is the defining aspect of their sense of self, even more so when they've been persecuted becasue of it (like race for people of color or gender for the genderqueer, a lifetime of people around oneself focusing on one particular aspect of oneself, for better or worse, can quite understandably convince one that the aspect in question is the most important, only important, or even fundamentally defining characteristic of oneself), but in practice this is mostly an exaggeration. Since he's looking for friendship rather than/in addition to sex partners, he may well be served by not focusing on sexuality as the primary factor when looking for things to do with other people.

He might also find this Captain Awkward post helpful, as well as the archived letters tagged "Friendship" and "Social Interactions"; I think it's the most comprehensive social strategy guide on that site.
38
And best wishes for zpa @16.
39
@38. Seconded! @16. zpa. Your second decision --to work on yourself--is the better one.

Two things strike me about the letter.

The first is SEATTLE's presumption that he would find his elective family in the city. Perhaps he will, and I'm hoping he does--but I shared many commenters' sense he was jumping the gun. And, in one sense, isn't what defines any sort of family that, beyond a certain point--maybe the point of a certain degree of intimacy or commitment, in queer circles--you don't get a say in who or how they are? The supposition they will surely be gay, too, seemed unwarranted to me as it did to others. These will be the people you're really there for--you can't preempt who they are.

The other thing was the grudging tone about sex. Isn't a good thing about being a coastal gay man that you get to have a lot of sex with lots of people? I won't say a 'definitional' thing, because we all know that some people don't; and, indeed, an experience of isolation or ostracism can seem definitional of queerness for some. But sex is good, yes? Not simply a token in a transaction you hope to parlay up to friendship? Where was the cock-hunger in the letter? Maybe this is too old-skool; maybe identity politics is not so simply and emphatically tied to sexual practices as it was. And I'm certainly not stipulating that SEATTLE goes out and is a gay man in any determinate way. But, still, I hope that SEATTLE can make friends of some of his lovers, friends of people who aren't necessarily his lovers and friends of people who aren't necessarily gay.
40
Mx Harriet - I approve of your "necessarily".
41
I'm sorry to hear you feel rejected. I'm curious what you are bringing to the table. Do you have a knack for fixing cars? Do you have an amazing sense of humor? Is your background in the sciences? Do you do theaters? Do you have a killer body? Can you sing, run, dance, drive...?

There are a gazillion groups for gays in this town. Some of them are called "bars", but others are meet up groups or groups that go camping or ones that go on hikes or ones that ride bikes or ones that go to the movies or ones that do political work.

Join them. Start your own. START. YOUR. OWN. This is a really great time in life to learn this valuable lesson you can use over and over and over again. If you don't see what you want, if you can't find what you are looking for - do it yourself. You want a group of gays that watch horror films - form one. A group to bake things with peanut butter - form one. You want the perfect boyfriend? Be one. Be all the things you are looking for.

And don't rule out non-gay people. They make terrific friends and companions. They really do. And some like to go out to eat. Or see a play. Or go for a walk. ASK THEM. Volunteer to work with the elderly or children or animals. You'll be surprised that almost every single straight, bi and trans person (and all of the rest) in this town have GAY FRIENDS. Eventually you will meet some of them. You might even connect.

And if you just want sex - and ain't nothing wrong with that - get it. VERY easy to do. VERY easy. If you want more than that, put yourself out there. Take risks. If you get rejected by 30 guys, maybe the 31st will be the Prince. You just gotta try.

Good luck.