I recently reached out to a hot black guy on Grindr who didn’t want me back. No answer = not interested. Got it. Since I rarely make the first move on dating apps, the wordless rejection stung.
But I recovered quickly and didn’t try to goad him into responding.
“Are you really going to ignore a brother?”
I didn’t write it–another “brother” in Kiev did. He started messaging me the day I arrived here. Apparently, Ukraine is a popular destination for gay black men. At least a half-dozen “tapped” me and/or messaged me on Grindr during my first five weeks in the white-as-snow Eastern European country. That’s more than the number of black men who approached me the entire year I spent living in Cape Town!
Despite the fact that the “brother” didn’t say anything particularly compelling and his profile only had a photo of a thigh that was shot so that it didn’t reveal his race, I felt guilty. How could I ignore a brother? And worse: Was that precisely why I ignored him?
I knew I was being ridiculous. Before he played the “brother” card, I had no idea what color he was. Then I looked at his profile again and noticed for the first time that his “Ethnicity” was “Black.” I knew I probably wouldn’t have anything in common with a guy, white or black, who uses “brother” to mean anything other than an actual sibling.
Clearly, his emotional blackmail worked anyway. Overcome by guilt or stupidity, I took the bait. The conversation was as blah as I expected it to be. And the face pic he never sent didn’t increase his appeal. When he asked if I wanted to meet, I made my excuses and left.
The guilt, however, stayed, only to be compounded the next day by someone else, a French guy who also played the “brother” card when I ignored him: “you do not know a black brother, not even a reaction from you,” he wrote.
“Brother” No. 2 sent a face pic with his first message, but the photo failed to sway me. I may not have bitten the bait that time, but that didn’t mean his “brother”-shaming wasn’t effective. What was up with all the guilt-tripping? Were they interested in hooking up or just looking for black camaraderie in a white country? I reject at least a dozen white men on Grindr every day. Why was I so worked up over two black ones?
Even before they brought up race, I’d always felt a little weird every time I didn’t respond to a black guy on a dating app. It doesn’t happen often. They rarely approach me–?in real life or online. A few did in Paris, but none of them interested me enough to try to jump the language barrier.
When I was living in Sydney, I had long-distance virtual Scruff flings with three black guys?–one based in some Brazilian town I’d never heard of, one in Perth, and another in the Toronto. There was also a black Brazilian who lived on Bondi Beach and had me at “Hello.” Then he started sending me multiple photos of himself in various stages of undress.
He was one of the hottest guys to message me over the two and a half years that I was based in Sydney, but I reacted to him the way I react to every sexy guy who sends me multiple unsolicited c*c?k shots. I drooled, screen-grabbed for potential future masturbatory purposes, and proceeded to the next message.
As in Sydney, the Grindr grids in Eastern Europe, where I’ve spent all of 2018 so far, aren’t brimming with black faces. I can’t recall seeing more than one or two all year before Ukraine. Technically, I’ve only seen one or two in Ukraine, too, since every black guy who has approached me here has had a faceless profile, with either a photo of a body part or no pic at all.
“No face pic = no chat” applies to all ethnicities for me, but once the race card was played, ?nagging questions persisted: When I ignore a “brother,” is it because I’m not attracted to him specifically or because of internalized racism?
In second-guessing my non-reactions, am I trying to prove something to myself because of my dating history with white and Latino men? Did all the black guys I’ve messaged in the past who didn’t answer back have the same internal dialogue with themselves? Were those black beauties who responded to me on Scruff really interested or just doing their “brother”-ly duty?
I haven’t connected with most of the guys who’ve reached out to me in Kiev, white ones included, but there was a young black man in Odessa whose cute face pic, not our shared race, caught my attention. His name was Sam, and he was a lovely Nigerian who was studying in Odessa. He first messaged me when I was still in Romania, and he was among the first to greet me upon my arrival in the so-called “Pearl on the Black Sea.”
Unfortunately, my allergies to ambrosia pollen flared up like a flame during my six days in dreadful Odessa, preventing me from meeting either of my favorite Grindr guys there: Sam and a local Ukrainian named Valentin who could have passed for Zayn Malik’s brother.
Sam didn’t have much to say, but he was so sweet and understanding that when I left Odessa without having met him, I felt regret?–?and although he didn’t lay it on me, a twinge of guilt.
I’m going to have to learn to let that go. Black guys on Grindr, including myself, deserve better. Connecting just because of guilt–?or shared skin tone–isn’t really connecting at all.