Wanna Skex. ” The message comes up on my screen on Grindr. Initially I think it’s a typo. “We can’t have sex, its a pandemic chat room for thai…Remember – Stay at home save the NHS…” I say.
How little I knew. Skex, it turns out, is what sexting is to texting, but refers to Skype, and has emerged as a popular lockdown activity.
I’m 41 and started using Grindr five years ago. In fact, I met my last partner on it. Given that we were together for more than three years and fell madly in love at first sight, hope remains for more Grindr success. I am still in the residual grieving stage of my last relationship, working out what I want.
Before the pandemic, it was sex – as a friend jokes, “you can get a delivery on Grindr faster than Deliveroo”. But since we have all become confined to our houses, chatting on Grindr has been a lifeline. I’m not the only one who feels this way. Covid has meant that use of the app has ramped right up and I have been struck by how readily we are sharing with strangers online.
Of course, there is Skex too but it’s the chats that are keeping me going. I don’t know where they’ll lead but they represent the promise of something beyond this stay-at-home existence.
There are the encounters where you chat. Build a rapport. Talk about the pandemic and how you’ve been coping. You exchange some pictures – not necessarily nude ones, images of their dog, their houseplants and dinner preparations. You swap numbers and continue to chat on a less sex-based platform. Before Covid, people didn’t divulge their digits (phone numbers that is) unless meeting up was a certainty, but that has changed.
In fact, getting off Grindr to chat on WhatsApp or iChat has become a kind of “second base”. Almost like “going steady”. As the restrictions on our freedom have stopped us from meeting for casual sex, moving the chat onto an alternative platform is the alternative.
We can’t have random sex now, so why torture ourselves and continue to chat on an app which previously so readily delivered it?
As for actual physical dating, well, one person is allowed to meet another outside – and we have all the time in the world to do that.
I went on a dog walk with a fellow pet owner I was courting online that made me reconsider how the pandemic has changed my approach to dating. We met on Hampstead Heath and I recognised his tan cocker spaniel from the pictures.
But the man behind it looked less familiar. He was a total catfish who looked absolutely nothing like his image. I immediately felt duped as I said hello and could only fake a smile momentarily before diverting my attention to the dogs. I tried – the pandemic has made me less judgemental and he was smart and funny but I did not want to kiss him.
Would I have been more likely to go for a kiss in the good old days of vodka-saturated nights out? The answer is probably yes. Not only because the booze goggles work so very well – but because the likelihood of kissing someone who had lied about how they look is simply a non-starter in real life.
After that awkward date Skexing seemed a far safer, less arduous way of dating. As lockdown continues with no end in sight, I feel as though I’ve completed close-quarters Grindr.
Sure, I’m still chatting to the few golden nuggets I’ve found but with travel restricted and no new arrivals within the proximity of home, I am searching further afield, broadening my horizons.
In a moment of genius, or so I think, I moved my search field to Land’s End in Cornwall. A friend has recently moved there and I will visit when we’re granted free movement again. The talent seems to be either 60 and married or 20 and horny – neither, unfortunately, my bag. In another inspired thought, I try the North-East of England because I love the Newcastle accent, made real to me by Christopher Eccelston and Daniel Craig in the Nineties BBC series Our Friends in the North. I decide to watch it again as the pandemic has forced me to “complete” Netflix as well as nearby Grindr talent. As things stand, I’m currently searching for an Eccleston or Craig type circa 1996. Thankfully, the talent there is very good and Northerners have the best sense of humour. Banter flows freely, even more so than with the pool of Londoners.
My revelation is that even in these restricted times, there’s a whole world of gay men out there to explore, albeit virtually, and we have technology to thank. NYC here I come.
Best LGBTQ+ apps
Co-founded by Made in Chelsea’s Ollie Locke, Chappy is backed by Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe. It features a chappy scale, offering Mr Right as well as Mr Right Now, and puts a focus on safety, with users verified through Facebook.
Originally launched as “Grindr for girls”, Robyn Exton’s LGBTQ dating app has grown to be the biggest community for lesbian, bisexual and queer women worldwide. The app mixes dating and social networking, with a timeline to read the news, find out what’s happening in your city and make connections.
Taimi is the world’s largest LGBTQ+ social platform, with almost nine million users and social features from chat-based networking to video streaming.
Use this app to find relationships and friendships within the full spectrum of LGBTQ sexual orientations and gender identities. Its paid-for rainbow subscription lets you browse users who liked you and see if your match read your message.