I recently wrote about a first date that lacked the usual Hollywood version of a “happy ending.”
The evening took a turn when my white companion found out about my Mexican background. He suddenly had questions about my family’s immigration history, musings about hot Latin guys “who look white,” and the true persecuted group: white people.
Roll eyes. Bye-Bye.
I was pretty discouraged. I hadn’t been on a real date in two years. You know, a dinner date with lively conversation and flirtation and a sweet goodnight kiss–maybe a little over-the-pants action at the end.
When I decided to write about my experience, I was hoping people might see themselves in the story–either as me or as my date. Many of us have problematic world views that are just asking to be called out. Many of us are also too willing to compromise even when we know something is not right.
I also had hoped that Ricky Martin would read it and fall in love with me.
But I could never have predicted the reactions.
The story was viewed thousands of times and shared pretty widely on social. My friend, Kyle, texted me, “OMG you are going gay viral. You’re the gay Carrie Bradshaw.”
“No way!” I replied. “But in all seriousness, Carrie Bradshaw is the gay Carrie Bradshaw.”
Placing an imaginary tiara on my head, I opened my phone to look at the comments.
The comments were…not glowing. Some have been moderated (in other words, deleted) by Queerty now, because they were extra AF, but you can still see reactions on Facebook or by searching Twitter.
Some of my favorites, with a couple of edits for clarity:
Brent should stick to his day job and give up on writing fiction – it’s not for him.
Ur the real racist, Brett.
Who would want to date you anyway? You look like Lena Dunham.
One commenter gave me credit for my Designing Women Julia Sugarbaker moment, which made me happy:
I was reading this and thinking, ‘This better end with you slapping a wad of cash on the table and leaving his ignorant ass. Thankfully you did not disappoint.’
And one comment really stuck with me:
This article triggered so much fragility. Instead of engaging with Brent Lomas’ piece, so many commenters just shut down, called it fiction, etc. Why? I [do] wonder why Brent sat at the table as long as he did. Why not just say, I think this date has gone off the rails because I find your comments appalling/insensitive/ill-informed/racist, and can see we’re not going to be compatible, even for a good snuggle or f*ck? He wanted to make the situation into a teachable moment, but it was a total FAIL. Just chalk it up to experience and ask yourself why you picked someone like that guy in the first place.
Why did I stick around for so long? Well, I believe a lot of gay men suffer from the “Best Little Boy in the World” syndrome, and I’m one of them. Spending time in the closet can cultivate an unhealthy perfectionism and drive to succeed at every turn.
This played out on my date because I set up unreasonable expectations from the start. I had tried something new (getting out there), and I wanted to “win.” I wanted my Meg Ryan rom-com moment. It didn’t matter who it was. I could solve any obstacle.
I couldn’t just let his comments go. Justice is part of my identity–and sometimes it outweighs wanting to get laid. I’ve examined equity issues and worked to make a difference throughout my life and professional career, as a teacher, during grad school, and in the work I do now. Maybe I was overconfident.
It can be easy to criticize systemic issues from afar, but when someone in my social life challenged my thinking, I stumbled. In this case, the “win” would have been being true to my values as a good social justice warrior. Giving up on the date challenged my sense of self.
I debated on including the phrase “social justice warrior” in this piece because I know people are triggered by that word. For the record, I think it’s wild that trying to do the right thing has been reframed as naive. We have a lot to be fighting for.
On August 3rd, the El Paso Shooting took 22 innocent lives, injuring 25 others. Authorities have since confirmed that the suspect was explicitly targeting people of Latinx descent, with the shooter’s manifesto decrying a “Hispanic invasion” and “cultural and ethnic replacement.”
My article was published on August 4th. It was never intended to be a response to the horrific violence. It had been scheduled the week prior and was meant to just be an article about the challenges of dating in the modern world. Yet, even as the grisly headlines poured in, some readers had the gall to say that hate doesn’t exist in our country. Some readers denied my community’s experience of discrimination and violence. I shudder to think of the things some readers held back.
Despite those reactions to my article, I’m not discouraged at all. I’m more motivated than ever to kick off discussions about race–and dating and apps and body positivity and coming out and ho life and Gaga and…you get the point.
I feel empowered because the comments mean people actually read my piece. I’m not scared off by the trolls. More importantly, the negative comments represent a small portion of the folks that read and shared the piece. It struck a chord.
One final note: I know some of the criticisms of my last article said the piece was unbelievable, but I have to add a fantastic, 100% true capstone to this saga.
Guess how my latest Hinge match greeted me?
Whoa, I totally read your article on Queerty!
Brent Lomas is a New York City-based communication professional with a background in entertainment, education, and activism.
Brent has hosted cabarets and fundraisers throughout New York City as his alter-ego Ruby Powers since 2014. He also performs regularly as a company member of A Drinking Game: NYC, recreating 80s/90s classic movies for a live audience.