As we sit in this coffee shop, the clinking of spoons against ceramic cups becomes more apparent within the lingering pause in our conversation. We’ve already caught up on each other’s jobs, social lives, and reminisced about the “good ol’ days” of high school, so I can just feel that the conversation is about to go…there, to a place cultivated by an amount of bitterness only known to me and the several blank word documents I’ve talked to about it. I don’t want to get into it, but they’re about to ask, and I know I don’t have enough tact to get the hell away from the conversation without appearing socially anxious. I’m sure as hell not prepared to answer with 100% of the truth, and I feel the cyclone of thoughts whipping through my brain as they ask that dreaded question. In a panic, I let the amount of time I’ve been single slip past my lips, forgetting that human beings are usually more concerned about my single-ness than a blank word document would be. 

“You’ve been single for seven years? Seriously?! How?” 

Ah yes, how could something like that happen? Though I can’t confirm without bias, it could be because I am one ugly-ass guy. All those tea tree facial washes, masks, and the implementation of a regular skincare routine to keep my face from erupting in pockets of pus is what’s keeping the boys away from my face, right? Or maybe it’s the non-chizzled shape of it, and the way my features were just thrown together in a way that doesn’t resemble Ryan Gosling, or whoever is considered the god of beauty among gays, right now. Oh, right, gay boys like six-pack abs, and I definitely don’t have those. Shit, I fucked up. I fucked up bad. How could I let myself go by not keeping up with a seemingly unanimous set of fickle standards? Shouldn’t I know that my worth is completely dependent on whether or not a boy thinks I’m cute? 

Maybe I shouldn’t let them know that I have feelings for them. Here I was, thinking this technique was a helpful way to avoid the infamous “do we like each other or not?” dance. I should have known this would completely backfire on me, though; who the hell even says how they feel about people? Losers, apparently. Only clingy, desperate losers tell love interests that they “seem like a great guy” and “we should go out, sometime.” Since I’ve consecutively used those phrases quite often with guys, I guess that makes me a mega loser who knows nothing about dating. Damn, who knew I was fuckin’ that up for a whole seven years?

I should also try not to be so understanding about them cancelling on me three times before permanently flaking out. I don’t think boys really like that kind of generosity, right? I’m assuming they don’t, since I’ve had a large handful of them go ghost on me after I tell them something along the lines of “don’t worry, I completely understand the feeling of getting sick two hours before we were supposed to meet for sushi,”  so I guess this might actually be an act of rudeness? It’s hard to know, since it’s not all that easy to talk to ghosts. Wait…are men actually ghosts? Do I need to learn how to perform a seance for the sake of a better love life? Damn, where the hell have I been these past seven years?

Should I not be trying to maintain a sense of fashion? I think that could also be why guys haven’t wanted to keep me around; my nice sweaters, button-ups, and moderate-to-above average sense of color coordination must SCREAM that I’m not ready for a relationship. It’s completely logical. Maybe I should dumb it down to cargo shorts and sandals everywhere I go, since caring about how you dress seems to be a concept that men don’t like. I mean, they always say they love the shirts I wear, but I guess that’s the equivalent of a left swipe. 

Am I…am I really this out of touch? 

Thank God that I have a friend who cares enough about my self esteem to ask how I, a boy who hasn’t even existed for a quarter of a century, am not several-years deep into a relationship with the man of his dreams. In the seven years of wondering what the hell I’ve been doing wrong, I’ve definitely never thought about how this could be happening to me. 

…wait, that wasn’t a rhetorical question? I’m actually required to answer a question like that? I didn’t realize that this was becoming a sadist/masochist sort of friendship. Well, do you think you’d want the word-vomit version, or the nice little version that makes me look like I’ve got my shit together?

“I wish I knew.”

Nailed it.

“Well, I have a gay friend that I can set you up with, if you’re interested.”

Oh, well of course I’m interested! We, as gay people are absolutely incapable of knowing what we want in a partner, so the only solution must be to entrust a straight friend to save us from society’s crippling pressure to find love! 

“Maybe. Do you have a picture of him?”

The only reason I’ll ask this question, and the only reason I’ll smile as you slip your phone out of your pocket and start to open the Facebook app, is to trick my brain into thinking this isn’t a complete waste of our time. If only my brain could then trick my heart into fluttering as you shove the screen in my face the same way you’d shove a nervous skydiver out of a plane.

“See? Isn’t he cute?”

Oh, bless your heart, straight friend. No one thought to explain to you that attraction is complicated for gay people, too. What you meant to say is “what do you think, friend with standards that aren’t solely dependent on the suitor’s sexuality?”

But because I’m a hopeless romantic of a human being who’s halfway down a slippery slope to desperation, I look at the picture of your gay friend anyway, performing an internal sigh (that I have to actively prevent from becoming external) as I feel nothing when seeing his face, other than sympathy. Trying to put both of your gay friends into an awkward situation is pretty messed up.

“I mean, he’s okay. Just not really my type.”

Well, he likes all the same geeky stuff that you do. Maybe go out to coffee with him and give him a chance?”

Ah, yes, we’re both gay, and we like the same geeky stuff? Shit, why aren’t we saying our vows right this very moment? Sure, I bet we’d have a grand old time chugging some iced lattes and chatting about the latest episode of Supergirl, but, oh, I don’t know, I feel like being in a relationship with someone is a bit deeper than that? You know, maybe at least feeling some sort of romantic jolt through my veins upon looking at their face? Something that at least tells me “you know, being with this guy would make up for hating myself for the past seven years.” They don’t even have to be drop dead gorgeous, because let’s be real, I’m far from being just plain gorgeous. I just want their face to at least make me feel something.

And as much as I want to blame you for thinking our matching sexual orientations meant we’d be boyfriends for life, I secretly wish that it worked like that. But since that’s not how it works, your assumption actually becomes such a blatant disregard for our complexity as human beings, and that’s no way to make us feel like you’re doing us a favor.

“We’ll see, we’ll see. I just don’t want to waste our time.”

“Well, have you tried online dating?”

Have you tried online dating?

Imagine all of the problems you’d have as a straight person, and double – no, wait, triple – that amount of frustrations, and you’ve got yourself the full experience of being a gay man on a gay dating app. If you don’t look like a white Olympic athlete, you’re knocked down a few pegs on the romantic totem pole. If you don’t at least look like the nice guy who never gets the girl in heterosexual rom-coms, you might as well just delete your account. However, all of this can be reversed if you describe yourself as “masculine.” The Grindr scientists (AKA: real life love experts, obviously) will tell you that this is a proven fact. You could even use “masc” for short, if you really want to show the boys that you’re made of 100% testosterone.

As a boy with a somewhat visible gut, barely toned arms and legs, and a solid balance of masculinity and femininity, I think there’d be some serious repercussions for even looking at my dating profile. The gay gods would surely smite them with some sort of punishment, perhaps condemning them to being single for seven years (at minimum). I guess I lost eighty pounds and became more confident about my identity for no reason!

“Yeah, I’m not having much luck, though.”

“Yeah, online dating can be rough. But you know, sometimes it’s better to just be single, for a bit.” 

You’re absolutely right. I need plenty of time away from the companionship and security of having a boyfriend. I mean, I do enjoy being single, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy being able to just take my pants off after a long day at work, slip on some gym shorts, and play some video games to escape the crippling stress from the day. I’d never be able to do that while in a relationship. Could you imagine doing that when you have a significant other? It would be catastrophic. Think of how your partner of several years would feel about just the thought of you in an oversized shirt and gym shorts, sprawled out on the couch on a Friday night with a PS4 controller in your hand and a slice of pizza on the coffee table, relaxing after a particularly stressful work week. I mean, there’s just no way they’d even be able to comprehend that, right? I should be able to enjoy that for as long as possible. With that said, how long is a good amount of time to wait? Maybe…seven years?

“You’re probably right.” 

“And I mean, you’re only twenty-four, so you have plenty of time.”

You know what? You’re totally right. I mean, you’re too old for romantic consideration in the gay community when you’re…forty, right? Or is it forty-five? Maybe it’s fifty, but only if I can get my shit together and acquire bulging biceps, calves of steel, thighs that could crush boulders, and abs that can slice apples. But even then, my eyes already start getting heavy once eleven o’clock rolls around, even if the horror game I’m playing is inducing stressful amounts of adrenaline, so I guess this transformation into being “too old” is already under way.

I guess I have less time than I thought? Either way, it sounds like I have 16-22 years to find a guy (which, apparently, could take more than seven years), date him enough for him love me, and somehow get him to marry me before the gay community hands me a death certificate, all while trying to achieve personal career goals, maintain a social life, and take at least a moment or two out of the day to tend to my sanity. I have plenty of time! 


“I wouldn’t even worry about it. Being in a relationship is overrated, anyway.”

I know, right? So overrated. That’s probably why I’ve been single for a whole seven years while you have a boyfriend, my best friend is married, and every week, I groan at yet another engagement photo on Facebook of a couple in my age group. I don’t even know why I groan at them, because professing the deepest romantic love for someone, despite all of their flaws and shortcomings, is overrated, right? I shouldn’t even feel jealousy about a luxury in life that the gods are clearly hiding from me, which, according to what you’re implying, must be for my protection. It’s definitely not because they want to see me struggle through conversations like these for seven years (or more).

But I mean, I should just consider this a blessing, right? Having someone to love you so much that they’d want to spend the remainder of their life loving you is just so overrated. Having someone to come home to and hold you while you watch Broad City in bed because you just need a down day, someone to be your partner in crime for all of your shenanigans from baking cookies to fighting the crowds at concerts, and someone to grab you by the shoulders, look directly into your heart through a broken look in your eye, and tell you that you’re more beautiful, more talented, and more valued than your insecurities try to make you believe…I mean, it’s just not what it’s all cracked up to be. It’s just…not a luxury that anyone should want…right?

That must be why couples always look so happy; they’re thinking about dumping each other.


2 responses to “How to Be Single for Seven Years”

  1. Do you really give all guys a try or only those who fit in your preconceived idea of "the guy who looks good next to you?" I ask my self this everytime i get a new notifications from the 32 gay apps. First time reader of your work, im not much of a reader and definitely not much of a writer but i really enjoyed this piece. Anyway I can relate and thought of this article, coincidentally written 7 years ago lol

    1. Jeff Brutlag Avatar
      Jeff Brutlag

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! And yes, interesting how that article had such similar struggles when it was created 7 years ago!

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