My friend rages hard. Weekly blackouts, raves every couple of months, and enough drugs to tranquilize a race horse make the staleness of their 9-to-5 tech job a little more bearable. I’ve recently downshifted my partying to the once-a-month frequency and exchanged shots of Fireball in the Castro for espresso shots at my local cafe. This of course is not to pass judgment: as long as my friend gets home at the end of the night with wallet and dignity intact, what they do for fun doesn’t bother me. But the contrast between their weekends and mine brings up the almost comical millennial dilemma of FOMO, or the Fear of Missing Out. The anxiety that my youth, expendable income, and energy are being wasted on a benign existence is a little unsettling, compounded by the fact that I can see everyone else’s seemingly more rewarding experiences constantly trickle down my Facebook newsfeed. I pondered all this last night while curled up in bed with a box of Trisuits and my laptop to (semi) binge-watch the first two episodes of the new season of Looking.
I really love that show by the way. Aside from some obvious flaws (tired character archetypes, limited actor diversity, over-glorification of San Francisco), Looking shines with its quick wit, smart storytelling, and realness. While the characters themselves may seem more like caricatures of gay male paradigms—the narcissistic artist, the aging bachelor, the naive romantic—it’s easy to find a little bit of yourself in each of them. Beauty, success, longevity, commitment—these are all ideals that people struggle to reconcile in their daily lives. But in the microcosm of gay San Francisco, the intensity and pressure to maintain them simultaneously is magnified by competition, shade, and social media. Look as ripped as that cute guy on Instagram. Be as successful as those snobby tech gays. Promise never to become that 50-year old creeper in the rice paddies of Badlands. Mold myself into the perfect boyfriend, buy a condo in SOMA, start a family, and celebrate my silver anniversary by the age of fifty. The expectation in the gay world is to be flawless: scrub yourself of all visible blemishes to make yourself presentable on the off chance that you run into your one true love in the gluten-free aisle of Whole Foods, or Gay Church aka Dolores Park, or the gym sauna.
More often than not though, we are the men of Looking: messy, repressed, self-loathing, struggling to make ends meet, contorted between the desire for commitment and the urge to fuck the next best thing. In our own quest to be flawless, we become intolerant of the flaws of those we date, or chat with, or get into bed with. We forget that flaws are natural, that they’re part of the package. We insist that settling down is one of our priorities, yet we refuse to put in the compromise and effort required to make things work between two imperfect individuals. There’s no shortage of eligible men in this city, so why settle? This, in so many words, is homo FOMO: the aversion towards commitment to meet someone better.
And it quickly becomes a circular trap: maybe that hot top with killer abs doesn’t know how to manage his credit card debt; maybe that charming MBA student has an extreme kink you just can’t quite itch; maybe that lumbersexual hipster who grows crystals on his fireplace mantle is just a little much. So then you trade in again, and again, and again, ad infinitum. But even the men you upgrade to will have issues of their own that will have to be addressed, and maybe you’ll realize halfway down this spiral that you had it better long before, with that sweet graphic designer with a cool tattoo who was just a little monotone.
So then when’s a girl supposed to stop? At what point does settling become less of a dating strategy and more of a commitment? Another friend shared some wisdom that seems to answer this question: It’s so hard to find someone who’s genuinely good to you despite your own flaws, so when that person finds you, try to hold on. Try to make it work.
And I have. It’s hard, but I’m really trying to shake the mentality that I can do better with someone else. Because maybe I can, but the person I’m with will also be constantly evolving, just as I am, to potentially become that better person that I’m hoping to find.
@gregasaurus certainly has a way with words. Homo FOMO. It just rolls off the tongue =P But in all seriousness, Greg addresses an all-too-common phenomenon in the dating life, the “fear” of settling. Settling is often framed as a devaluation of one’s self-worth, lowering one’s standards for a sub-optimal partner. But in fact, the idea of a Prince Charming that perfectly compliments you is a fantasy, a myth. And yet this illusion persists because of, in part, to the easy access to hundreds of gay men at one’s fingertips, a façade of unlimited choices.
Instead, Greg reminds us that a fruitful relationship is based on dedication and compromise because people are imperfect beings. Echoing the growth mindset in a previous post, when two individuals devote time and energy to a relationship, they will both be transformed in the process to become better partners, better suited to accommodate the needs of the other.